If you pack a lunch to take to work or have to pack lunches for your spouse or kids you know how quickly everyone tires of the same old lunch. Recently Sue asked me for some suggestions on packing lunches. I have years of experience in packing lunches for my two kids! Daughter Katy did not like sandwiches so I had to get creative. Now my “kids” are in college and they still like to pack a lunch to save money and to have a more nutritional meal but they don’t always allow time in the morning for the prep! It does require some advance planning and cooking to pull off a great brown bag lunch!
If you have access to a microwave at lunch time you have a lot more choices. Not everyone is so lucky and it requires a little more creativity to add spark to your midday meal. If you own a good quality thermos it opens up so many more possibilities for lunch! During the cold of Winter who doesn’t want the comfort of hot soup or left over pasta? Perhaps you prefer a salad or a side dish that will stay cold, the thermos does that too. Check out Thermos brand with the folding spoon that fits in the lid, its so convenient. We have had these two for at least 10 years! Love it!
Hot Lunch In A Thermos
Pre – heat the thermos by filling it with boiling water and let sit for a few minutes before filling with hot food.
- Homemade soup, stew, chili, lentils or canned or boxed soup
- Left over pasta with sauce topped with pre-cut Melt in Your Mouth Italian Sausages
- Left over casseroles
- Mashed potatoes on the bottom and meat on the top (chicken cutlet, mini meatloaf, veggie burger, etc)
- Two uncured hot dogs heated, placed in thermos that is filled with very hot water, wheat buns and condiments on the side, this works so well. You will be amazed!
- Chicken fried rice
- Macaroni and cheese
- Chicken with Garlic Sauce Stir fry
- Baked potato – hot, toppings on the side in little containers
- Perfect Brown Rice and black beans, salsa, chips or tortilla on the side
The containers from Fit & Fresh have a little freezer insert that fits into the lid to help keep things cold for a few hours. Keeps your sandwich chilled or fruit, yogurt and cheese nice and cold. The little 1 cup bowl has measure marks on it in 1/4 cup increments which makes for easy portion control. Love that! Check out the Fit & Fresh store finder here. There is also a container made just for salads with a compartment for dressing and a fork that fits in the lid. Very cool.
Keeping Cool In A Small Thermos or A Fit & Fresh Container
Pop the thermos in the freezer for a while to get it good and cold. Freeze the Fit & Fresh blue ice pack over night.
- Light Cheese squares or wedges, light salami, turkey or ham, whole grain Akmak crackers on the side (it’s a healthy lunchable)
- Cottage cheese & fruit
- Chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, pita bread or whole grain Akmak crackers
- Homemade Hummus or store bought, pita bread and veggie dippers
- Low fat Mexican dip, layer FF refried beans, light sour cream, avocado, green onions, light cheese, salsa, tortilla chips or veggie dippers
- Edamame in the shell with coarse salt, soy sauce to dip them in.
- Yogurt, fruit with my favorite home made healthy granola or cereal to top it
- Milk, dry cereal in a bowl with a lid
- Boiled eggs
- Three bean salad
- Peanut butter or your favorite nut butter with apple dippers
Sandwiches, Wraps, Pitas & Salads
Be creative and think about the combinations that your favorite sandwich shop makes and recreate it yourself.
Prep your produce by washing it on the weekend so you are ready to slice and dice all week.
Try subbing something new for mayo – like cranberry sauce, avocado, hummus or Light Laughing Cow Cheese wedges, specialty mustard or pesto.
For toppings use sliced pepperoncinis, bell peppers, thinly slice red onion,cucumber, shredded carrots, baby spinach, baby greens, sprouts, thinly sliced apples, pears or tomatoes.
This is my version of a Subway sandwich made on a good roll from the bakery with lots of toppings. The trick to keep it from getting mushy and wet it to dry the condiments between two layers of paper towels. Wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic wrap to hold it together.
A wrap works the same way. Spread a wedge of light Laughing Cow cheese over a flat bread, or hummus, add some lunch meat (low sodium uncured) add lots of veggies for crunch and nutrition, season with black pepper and roll up tightly bound in plastic wrap to hold it together. Delicious!
- Turkey, ham or roast beef with your favorite cheese and toppings
- Subway made my way, my son thinks this is just as good as Subway!
- Smoked Gouda with thinly sliced apple or pear on whole wheat bread
- Grilled veggies and hummus in a whole wheat lavash wrap
- Turkey, cranberry chutney, feta cheese, baby greens in a whole wheat lavash wrap
- Nut butter and Trader Joe’s low sugar preserves on Eziekel Bread
- Egg salad, ham salad or tuna salad with shredded carrots and sprouts in whole wheat pita bread
- Pack your favorite salads with the dressing on the side. Romaine lettuce stand up well even if it’s pre-dressed as Taco Rice Salad or like in this Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad, or use premade slaw for a Chinese Chicken Salad
Fruits, Veggies, Dairy & Munchies
- Pack a couple of your favorite fresh fruits and veggies
- Individual cartons of yogurt
- Almonds, cashew, walnuts, peanuts
- Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
- Dried fruit
- Kale Chips
- Light String Cheese, Light Baby Bell, Light Laughing Cow Cheese Wedges
- Turkey Jerky or Beef Jerky
- Make a batch of Oatmeal Spice Breakfast Cookies or healthy Muffins,wrap individually, freeze then pull one out as needed for the lunch bag, they will thaw out by lunch time.
- Z Bars, Cliff Bars, Larabars, Kashi bars
- Protein drinks
- Brown Rice Crispy Treats, Banana Nut Muffin Tops,
When I was a kid my mom packed our lunches and it usually consisted of a bologna sandwich on white bread with mayo, a few chips, a banana and a Hostess cupcake or twinkie sometimes we had metal lunch boxes and sometimes it was a brown paper bag! I would put some potato chips in my sandwich – mashing them down and I thought it was delicious! When mom ran out of lunch meat and money was tight she would fry eggs and put that on white bread with mayo – I didn’t like that but I didn’t tell her. She worked hard to stretch the food budget in those days and with 4 kids to feed, three of them being growing boys who needed tons of calories it was no small challenge!
Have you seen the really cool bento lunch boxes? If I had to pack my lunch I would want one of them. There is even a blog devoted to showing Laptop Lunches, every post shows a creative lunch see it at Vegetarian Lunchbox. I like to look at the photos. This isn’t your Mama’s lunch box!
I get to eat lunch at home most days so I can heat up leftovers, make a Boca burger, a wrap or enjoy some soup.
If you have to brown bag it or are packing lunches for your spouse or children I hope the ideas here help inspire you with a few new ideas!
Have fun with your lunch!
Add Your Thoughts
Do you pack lunches for yourself a spouse or children?
What are some of your lunch ideas, hints or products you like?