Brown-bagging is the new power lunch! It’s healthier, cheaper, and more accommodating than eating out. If you do it right, it’s even more convenient. If you find yourself wincing over memories of the cream-cheese-and-jelly sandwiches of your youth, take heart: It’s a whole new age of lunchbox packing, and you’re on the vanguard. Here are 10 super BYO lunch ideas to help you pack a lunch that will make you the envy of all your lunching-out colleagues.

our Pinterest board has 22 more great lunch ideas!

Think outside the bread. Try replacing your basic sandwich bread with ciabatta rolls, whole-grain demi-baguettes, bagels, or hearty peasant bread. To keep your rolls first-day fresh, buy a dozen, slice them, and freeze them in resealable plastic bags. Take one out at night to thaw and make your sandwich on fresh bread in the morning. To keep sandwich fillings from making your bread soggy, spread each piece with a thin layer of butter.

Switch up your spreads. Mix a little sriracha, a no-salt herb blend, or Dijon mustard into your mayonnaise. Use hummus, guacamole, or herbed goat cheese as a sandwich spread. Try coleslaw, baby spinach, alfalfa sprouts, or spring mix in place of iceberg lettuce on your sandwich.

Salad days. Salads don’t have to be made up only of leafy greens. Make a salad of leftover quinoa, rice, or pasta. Throw in chopped fresh or cooked vegetables; leftover chicken, shrimp, or ham; cheese crumbles; toasted nuts; raisins or dried cranberries; and toss with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Upgrade your PB&J. Take advantage of the wide variety of nut butters available and push the boundaries of this brown-bag classic. Try almond butter with sliced bananas and strawberries, peanut butter with crispy bacon, cashew butter with thinly sliced green apples and a drizzle of honey.

Pack a desk picnic. Pack yourself a few slices of cheese, a bunch of grapes, some roasted almonds, a few whole-grain crackers, a salt-and-peppered hard-boiled egg, and a cold chicken leg. 

Try tapas. Bring olives, a hunk of Manchego or cabrales, some good crusty bread, anchovies or sardines (but be mindful of these in close quarters…you don’t want to make enemies in the lunchroom), and ripe tomato wedges.

Eat breakfast for lunch. Making pancakes for the kids’ breakfast? Save a couple to sandwich cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, sliced strawberries, and chopped toasted pecans. Add a small container of maple syrup for dipping and a fruit salad.

Wrap it up. Use whole-grain tortillas to add interest to your lunch. Spread a tortilla with goat cheese, top with slices of smoked turkey breast, jarred roasted red peppers, and a handful of baby spinach leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and smoked paprika. Roll up, slice, and secure each slice with a toothpick.  

Deconstruct your sandwich. Bring tuna, egg, or seafood salad in a container and eat with pretzel sticks, pita chips, or multi-grain crackers as dippers.

Liquid lunch. Invest in a good-quality thermos and fill it with hot soup, stew, or even last-night’s leftover casserole. You’ll be looking forward to lunch all day!


About our guest author:

Sandy Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in Las Vegas, NV. Her nonfiction writing focuses on real food, trail and ultra running, craft beer, and artisan cocktails. A transplant from New York's Mid-Hudson Valley, she enjoys traveling and exploring the trails and brewpubs of the West Coast. You can follow Sandy on Twitter at @Eat_Real.


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