Brown Bag Lunches – Part 2

…”For example, one of my favorite ways to prepare is…TO BE CONTINUED”

Did you like the ending of last weeks post? My guess is probably not. As someone who hates cliffhangers, the words “to be continued” can be a major turn off. It’s like “Seriously? Just tell me the rest already! I ain’t got time for this!”

Well, turn it back on friends because the “continued” part has arrived! The three day wait wasn’t really that bad, was it? Sit back, get comfy, and ready yourself for the next 5 brown bag lunch inspirations PLUS tips and tricks to set your week up for success.


Is there anything better than chili in the Fall? One of my favorite things that happens when the weather temperatures drop is the return of chili, soups, and casseroles. The warmth touches my soul, not just my throat. Comfort food at it’s finest!

Why should the food you take for lunch be any different? Can you imagine sitting in the breakroom after a long morning indulging on a hot thermos of chili and cornbread?

It’s also great for school lunchboxes because it’s easy to make, filling, and doesn’t require a lot of side dishes. You can easily make chili a well balanced meal by sneaking peppers, onions, chopped greens, and other veggies into it. The chili seasoning is a great way to mask some of your child’s not-so-favorite flavors. Just be sure to dice them small so they don’t SEE them instead of TASTING them.

Brown Bag Lunches

Make It…


  1. Substitute diced sweet potatoes for beans, or eliminate completely.
  2. Use sugar free tomato sauce.
  3. Make your own chili seasoning.
  4. Scoop a spoonful of chili on top of a bed of spring mix lettuce for a nutrient rich salad.

Allergy Friendly

  1. Top chili with dairy free cheese and unsweetened coconut milk yogurt instead of cheddar and sour cream.
  2. Make allergy friendly croutons (like in my post Zucchini Lasagna) for crunch instead of crackers.

For Picky Eaters

  1. Keep toppings separate.
  2. Hide nutritious veggies in the sauce by dicing them really small.
  3. Add one new topping to their lunchbox to expose your child to new textures, shapes, and smells.

Pork Stir Fry

If you’ve read my post Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken, you know how much my family loves making Chinese at home. The food allergies and dietary restrictions in our house make it nearly impossible to find safe Asian restaurants. So, I’ve spent the last several years honing my skills to make takeout-worthy cuisine.

For this post, I chose pork stir fry…quite honestly because I already had it on my weekly meal plan. But, you can substitute for whatever favorite Chinese dish you prefer. My favorites rotate between sweet and sour chicken, beef or pork stir fry, and fried rice. They’re quick, easy, and nutritious!

Don’t forget to complete your Asian inspired lunch with my favorite crab rangoon recipe in the post Paleo Ramen.

Brown Bag Lunches

Make It…


  1. Replace white rice with cauliflower rice.
  2. Use coconut aminos in place of soy sauce.
  3. Make the paleo sweet and sour sauce in Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken.
  4. Add bok choy or an Asian side salad for extra nutrition.

Allergy Friendly

  1. Replace soy sauce with coconut aminos.
  2. Eliminate eggs in fried rice or replace them with quail eggs.

For Picky Eaters

  1. Instead of mixing everything together, keep elements separate in bento boxes or 2oz disposable cups.
  2. Add one new food item to expose your child to new textures, shapes, and smells.

Chicken Nuggets And Mashed Potatoes

Where’s all my picky-eater mommas at? I’m right there with you! My son is extremely picky when it comes to food. Whenever we ask him what he wants for dinner, he always responds with “chicken and flies!” (he switches R’s for L’s when he talks, so yes, you read that right. LOL)

This brown bag lunch idea is dedicated to all the beige-food connoisseurs. Surprisingly enough, chicken nuggets can stay warm in my child’s thermos until school lunch.

If I have time, I bake them before tossing them in. But, if I don’t, a microwave does just fine in a pinch. IF your child is older and has access to a microwave, you can even throw them in the bag frozen too. Pair them with another beige-food-fan-favorite…mashed potatoes…for a primo picky-eater special.

Brown Bag Lunches

Make It…


  1. Use mashed sweet potatoes made with almond milk instead.
  2. Make homemade chicken nuggets using the recipe in Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken.
  3. Instead of gravy, top potatoes with a slice of Country Crock Plant Butter.
  4. Add spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, or a side salad for extra nutrition.

Allergy Friendly

  1. Mix mashed potatoes with almond milk or starchy potato water instead of with dairy.
  2. Make homemade chicken nuggets using the recipe in Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken.

For Picky Eaters

  1. Buy dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets.
  2. Arrange potatoes into a volcano shape filled with gravy (or butter) lava.
  3. Finish with steamed broccoli “trees” to complete the fun prehistoric food-scape.
  4. Add one new food item to expose your child to new textures, shapes, and smells.

Chicken Noodle Soup and Grilled Cheese

If chili is on the menu, you know soup isn’t far behind. Chicken noodle, broccoli cheese, vegetable beef, cheeseburger soup, Zuppa…SOMEBODY STOP ME!

I love ALL the soups! Fortunately for me, they are easy to double batch and use for quick brown bag lunches. Much like chili, soups are easy to make nutritiously complete without adding a bunch of side dishes.

You can even custom craft soups from the leftovers in your fridge. I’ve made Thanksgiving soups using leftover turkey, potatoes, gravy, and veggies. I’ve also turned leftover stir fry into a spicy ginger soup. Delicious as well as economical!

Make It…


  1. Use shredded cabbage or zucchini instead of noodles.
  2. Lose the sandwich or use my Grain Free Charcuterie Bread in place of wheat bread.
  3. Pair with a side salad for extra nutrition.

Allergy Friendly

  1. Purchase gluten free bread or use my Grain Free Charcuterie Bread in place of wheat bread (or eliminate the sandwich completely).
  2. Smear the bread with plant butter or Sir Kensington’s Mayonnaise before grilling.
  3. Use vegan, or dairy free cheese.

For Picky Eaters

  1. Keep the soup simple by replacing vegetables with more noodles.
  2. Diced veggies small or cookie cutter them into fun shapes.
  3. Use fun shaped pasta.
  4. Add the crunchy croutons from my Zucchini Lasagna post to add interesting texture.
  5. Make a grilled cheese uncrustable with the sandwich makers below.
  6. Add one new food item to expose your child to new textures, shapes, and smells.

Breakfast For Lunch

One night, shortly after my husband and I were married I made breakfast for dinner. I’ll never forget the look of confusion on his face when I passed him the plate of morning inspired goodness. Apparently, he had never heard of it. My mind was blown!

Much like breakfast for dinner, breakfast for lunch is overlooked and underrated. Especially, since most of us don’t have time to make a feast worthy meal first thing in the a.m. Rushing to get everyone ready within constricting time frames can leave morning food options limited to grab-n-go. Sitting down to a full blown breakfast at any time of the day would be a treat!

You can make pancakes or waffles. Add bacon, sausage, ham, or eggs for protein. Toss in some fruits and veggies and you’re good to go! The best part is that most breakfast food can be made in bulk ahead of time to used grab-n-go style throughout the week.

Brown Bag Lunches

Make It…


  1. Swap biscuits and gravy for Paleo Chocolate Chip Pancakes.
  2. Pack diced sweet potato hash in place of hashbrown.
  3. Use almond milk to scramble the eggs.
  4. Add spinach, broccoli, or Brussel sprouts for extra nutrition.

Allergy Friendly

  1. Scramble quail eggs or an egg free vegan substitute.
  2. Replace biscuits and gravy with sausage patties and vegetables.

For Picky Eaters

  1. Cut biscuits into fun shapes using cookie cutters.
  2. Keep gravy separate.
  3. Make a smiley face pancake instead of biscuits and gravy.
  4. Add one new food item to expose your child to new textures, shapes, and smells.

Tips For Weekly Success

The best piece of advice I can give you in regards to starting anything new (like packing cold lunches) is it needs to be FUN, it needs to be FAST, and it needs to be EASY. It also needs to FIT into the routines you already have established.

For example, when I wanted my family to start doing daily devotions, I picked an easy daily-read book and plopped it in the middle of our dining room table. Every night at dinner, the book would be sitting right in front of us. Since we were all already sitting in one place, and the book was with in arm’s reach, picking it up and reading the short paragraphs was hard NOT to do. The same can be said for packing brown bag lunches.

Does It Fit?

In order to set yourself up for success, you first need to look at what you’re already doing. Do you lay your work or kid’s outfits out the night before? Add packing lunchboxes to that list. Do you meal plan or prep on the weekends? Account for what your weekly lunch needs will be and add those in. Expand on what you’re already doing.

Also, think about which foods you like and only try one new thing at a time. Don’t overhaul your meal plans just because of these posts. Start slow. Find what you like. Then, expand.

Is It Fast And Easy?

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that we’re living in an era of instant gratification. The faster the results, the shorter the video, the less amount of work…the more likely people are to enjoy it. It’s just human nature egged on by a fast paced world.

Think of packing cold lunches the same way. What ingredients do you already have accessible? Are their leftovers from last night’s dinner? Will it make a ton of dishes are require a large amount of prep time? All good questions to ask yourself when planning your weekly mid-day meals. Choose meals that use quick and easy recipes to increase your chances of success.

Also, taking a minute at the beginning of each week, or month, to make a meal plan (like the one pictured here) can keep things running smoothly. As an added bonus, it can make weekly grocery shopping a breeze and more cost efficient.

Is It Fun?

Let’s face it…anything that involves effort isn’t always fun. There will already be a little self discipline involved. However, there are ways to making lunches more enjoyable and maybe even something you look forward to.

Is the container you pack your food in pretty? Is your food fun and inspiring to look at? Does your lunch make you laugh or feel like a moment of self care? Think about what you would look forward to the most and make it happen.

Some examples would buying a fancy chocolate bar to divide up during the week. Add a couple pieces to your lunch every day to give you something to look forward to. Drop a funny joke card in your child’s lunch to make them smile. Purchase pretty food cutters to make your lunch as pleasing to the eye as it is to your stomach. Think about what suits you best, then make it happen.


Brown bag lunches don’t have to be a chore. They can be fun as well as nutritious. Whether you’re packing a meal for yourself, or for your children, get creative and have a blast doing it!

Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…..drum roll please!…Your free copy of the Ultimate List of Brown Bag Lunches is here! This printable will make your lunching life so much easier! Simply print it, hang it, and when it’s time…pick an item from each category to create your weekly brown bag lunch menu. Talk about fun, fast, and easy!

I hope you enjoyed the Brown Bag Lunch series! If you want to see more posts like this, or want more free downloads, be sure to reach out on my Contact page to let me know. I love hearing your feedback!

Hit DOWNLOAD to get your FREE copy of The Ultimate List of Brown Bag Lunches!

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