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6 Fun Ideas to Give Boring Brown Bag Lunches a Makover

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Kim from Thrifty Little Mom is a firm believer that bagged lunches don’t have to be boring! Use these 6 brown bag lunch ideas to kick your lunch up a notch, and give school-aged kiddos food that makes them smile. They will love helping out with #4!

Bagged lunches don't have to be boring! Use these 6 brown bag lunch ideas to kick your lunch up a notch, and give school-aged kiddos food that makes them smile. They will love helping out with #4!

When I was young, there were times I would glance over at the French fries on the plate of my class mate and sigh.

Reluctantly, I’d unwrap my turkey & cheese sandwich, peel back the bread and find to my dismay that my mother had once again placed two raw onion rings between the meat and cheese. For this reason, I hated brown bags. But I knew this was a cheaper options for my parents and more than likely my mother had inadvertently given me my dad’s sandwich, so I tried not to complain…..too much.

Despite my resentment as a child, taking a brown bag to work or school is a great way to save money every day, and I’ve tried to instill this principle in my own family as well. Here are my 6 tips for keeping your brown bags from being boring while staying under budget!

1. Add a Favorite Snack

One thing you can do to ensure that your family members look forward to their brown bag is to throw in a little something they really enjoy. In my case, my son loves clementine oranges. If nothing else in the bag gets eaten {or traded} I know he will eat and really enjoy his orange.

Think about your kids and spouse’s favorite snack. Divide the treat into single serve baggies and add it to their lunch box for a guaranteed smile!

2. Make Lunch More Filling

Refined carbs have a tendency to give us a quick dose of energy followed by a crash. Eating whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and veggies keep us feeling fuller, longer. Think about these elements as you pack your family’s lunch.

Instead of potato chips, pack whole grain chips or crackers. Replace fruit snacks with grapes or clementines. Swap cheese puffs for cheese sticks. These simple switches can make lunch for your family members more filling so they can keep their energy up all day long.

3. Write a Joke or a Note

Keep a stack of brightly colored index cards in your kitchen drawer with a pen and write your kids and spouse a note each day. It can be endearing, encouraging or even a silly doodle.

Add these printable lunch notes to your kiddos {or husband's} lunches and instantly brighten their day with love and encouragement. Three versions are available for FREE as an instant download!

If you need a little help in the creative department, consider getting a set of Lunchbox Jokes from Amazon to encourage a few laughs, or download these FREE printable lunch notes to tuck inside. Your kids will look forward to sharing both with their classmates each day!

4. Let Your Kids “Personalize” Lunch

Let your kids help build their own lunch pack. Place several options on the counter the night before and let your kids pick and choose what they want in their lunchbox for the next day.

You can also consider cutting their sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters. It only takes a few extra seconds and your kids will enjoy having a fun shaped lunch.

If your kids are old enough, have them make their own sandwich. They are more likely to eat it and enjoy it if they had some say in what they got that day. It also keeps you from scrambling around the next morning while you are trying to get everyone out the door!

5. Think Outside the Loaf

Bread is a super frugal option, but after a few weeks it can get really boring. Try switching out PB&J for deviled eggs in your sandwich. Consider making your own meat and cheese cracker stacks instead of buying the expensive ones from the store. Or you could make mini sandwich wraps, pita pockets or hoagies.

You can usually get these more expensive bakery items for less than the cost of a loaf of bread by checking the “reduced for quick sale” section. One of these shelves, or carts, can be found in every store with a bakery.

Psst….for even more quick lunch ideas, there are some great resources on this Pinterest board.

6. Pack Popular Leftovers

If you are planning a meal that you know is a family favorite, go ahead and make up a little extra. Then pack that in everyone’s lunch bags the next day. Lunch box containers make this super simple and keep everything separate so it’s easier to pack.

My husband typically prefers leftovers in his lunch when it’s one of his best loved meals like homemade pizza or chili, so I make sure to always double the recipe when I put those meals on our weekly menu plan.

Brown bags are not only thrifty, but also something that your family looks forward to if you’re willing to make a few simple tweaks to your normal routine.

Planning ahead each week by deciding what you need and how many you need can help as well. I hope that you find these tips helpful as you pack your family lunches in the months ahead!

What’s your favorite way to kick lunches up a notch?

Kim Anderson | Thrifty Little MomKim Anderson’s blog Thrifty Little Mom is dedicated to helping families pursue freedom from debt while finding joy in frugal living. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her electrical engineer husband, her 3 year old son and Beagle named Bit.

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.


Just one more thing…

Don’t let the stress of a new school year ruin important family time. These easy weeknight dinners come together FAST, and are loved by everyone!

Does the school year have you panicking about what to make for dinner? It shouldn't! These simple school night suppers are perfect for busy weeknights, and won't leave you stranded in the kitchen all afternoon. They're kid-friendly and parent-approved, and go from grocery bag to dinner table in 29 minutes or less!

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2 Comments

  1. While I don’t have kids, I do pack my own lunch! I have to say they’re getting kind of boring. I need to get easier recipes that work well for “take your lunch to work” types of meals.

    1. I feel the EXACT same way. The ham and cheese sandwich gets really old after a while!

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