I pack anywhere from 7-15 lunches per week. I tend to fall into a brown-bag rut, relying on old standbys. In the chaos of the morning rush, I lack creativity and run out of new ideas.

Understanding that my husband and children need that boost of energy and protein in the afternoon to see them through the afternoon without a slump or drop in energy, I want to pack lunches that they WANT to eat AND lunches that will meet their needs.

As a former teacher, my students sometimes came to school with lunches jam-packed with garbage and sugar. While I happily  “Give You Permission to Eat”,  and use a variety of “short-cut” foods myself, I don’t like relying solely on processed and pre-packaged food to fill the lunchboxes. I wanted to come up with a list of lunchbox ideas that are easy, budget-friendly, and use a mix of healthy whole foods AND convenience foods.

My hope is that this list of options will spark a few new ideas or forgotten favorites for you. Whenever I pack something new or different for my husband or children, they are delighted. Have fun keeping things interesting as you pack sack lunches in the coming weeks.

brown bag lunch ideas

Sandwich/Entree Ideas

  • Meat & Cheese  Sandwich (use a variety of meats and cheeses to keep things interesting!)
  • Peanut butter and Jelly Sandwich (mix it up with different jellies, Nutella, or almond butter)
  • Mayo-based sandwiches (tuna, egg salad, chicken salad, etc.)
  • Bagel w/cream cheese
  • Tortilla wrap (a big favorite at our house is chicken strips, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and Ranch)
  • Homemade “Lunchable” (crackers, slices of cheese, and sliced deli meat)
  • Salad (pack in a tupperware, and add meat, cheese, or eggs to make it more “hearty.” You can also do pasta salad, etc.)
  • Left-overs! (This is a good choice for spouses who have access to a microwave.)
  • Mix up the type of bread you use! (Hoagie rolls, flavors of bread (rye, onion, potato, cinnamon, etc.), ciabatta, pita,  etc.)
  • Make “sliders” using small dinner rolls. Two or three small sandwiches will make lunch new and interesting.
  • Cereal! Pack cold cereal and a thermos of milk. (Elementary students can also simply purchase a milk at school.)
  • Cold pizza
  • Pack left-over cooked chicken. It’s delicious cold, on a sandwich, or cut up and put on a salad.
  • Hummus and pita squares or crisps


Fruit & Veggies

  • Fresh whole fruit like bananas, grapes, or berries
  • Apple slices (I like to include a small dish of peanut butter or Nutella for dipping!)
  • Pack melon balls or slices in tupperware containers
  • Cuties or Halos (small, easy-peel oranges) are great for kids!
  • Celery with peanut butter and raisins
  • Include a small cup of Ranch dip for cut carrot sticks
  • Mix up the veggies with broccoli or cauliflower florets, sugar snap peas, or sliced cucumbers.
  • Applesauce
  • Fruit cups (great for when fresh fruit is not available, and super convenient)


Dairy Choices

  • Yogurt (Mix it up with new flavors or varieties, pack toppings like granola or fruit, Gogurts (a frozen Gogurt will be the right temperature by lunch-time, and will help keep the lunch cold!), yogurt smoothies, etc.)
  • string cheese
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Babybel or other individual cheese snacks
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • small container of cottage cheese (just make sure to keep the lunchbox cold with a freezer pack!)


Salty/Crunchy Snacks

  • Chips (The individual chip bags are an over-priced item I admit to buying. They help the chip addicts in our house eat only ONE portion, and give us good variety.) Think outside the norm with items like pita chips too!
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn (who says this can’t be in a lunch?)
  • Chex Mix
  • Crackers (The variety of crackers is astonishing! From graham to cheese to artisnal varieties, you can keep this interesting for weeks!)
  • Nuts
  • Granola
  • pickle (I packed a pickle in my son’s lunch once, and he thought it was the coolest thing ever!)


Sweet Things

  • Fruit Snacks
  • Granola Bars (So many varieties exist. From crunchy to chewy to chocolate dipped, the choices at the store will keep things interesting. I’ve also had good success making homemade granola bars.)
  • Graham cracker sandwiches (Spread peanut butter, nutella, or frosting in the middle.)
  • Jell-O (My kids love it when I pack jigglers in their lunch box!)
  • ONE homemade cookie (One small cookie will satisfy a child’s sweet tooth without a sugar high.)
  • Cupboard Mix (This was the most popular snack when I worked at a daycare. Mix Cheerios, raisins, marshmallows, and chocolate chips. A small scoop will make your child smile.)
  • box of raisins or craisins
  • yogurt covered pretzels or raisins (usually available in bulk)
  • dried fruit

Happy lunch making everyone! Let me know YOUR favorite sack lunch ideas in the comments!!