Brown Bag Bliss – It’s Lunch Time

brown bag lunch options


By Mary Ellen Psaltis

brown bag lunch optionsLunch is my favorite meal of the day. Breakfast for me is usually light, because my stomach is slow to wake up.  By late morning it’s time for real food. I bring along my lunch, and now that school is getting underway, packing lunches becomes part of many daily routines. Trendy, cutting edge food is fun, but sometimes revisiting the familiar basics is a great way to get the season going. Here are a few thoughts.

The Sandwich

Check out the deli counter at Bayview or Ralph’s Thriftway stores. They are featuring Hempler’s meats, a Washington company started by Hans Hempler in Bellingham in 1934. Hempler began his sausage apprenticeship in Germany and made his way to the United States and purchased the B.B. Meat and Sausage Company, which then became Hempler’s. It’s been in the family ever since. Their collection of smoked meats is made totally free of allergens, MSG and gluten. The thinly sliced ham was highly approved by my tasters who also liked the Artisan Chicken Roast with Sundried Tomato Basil Flavor (not just plain chicken).

Remember the classic turkey sandwich? Maybe this sandwich is nostalgic for some – maybe it just tastes great. Piles of turkey, layers of crispy iceberg lettuce, a slather of mayo and a shake of salt. Yes, that poor iceberg lettuce has been nutritionally bashed but if you like it and your kids will eat it – use it. The crunch, color and quantity will cheer you up as it fills you up. These days I don’t eat much white bread, but local varieties are made without preservatives and chemicals, and it’s fine to include it in your menu of lunches.

For those in your family who don’t like sandwiches, you can roll up meat slices around pickles, cheese or pineapple chunks and include a few crackers. 

brown bag lunch optionsPeanut Butter

Now there’s a perennial favorite. Choose peanut butter like Adam’s that has no added sugar or hydrogenated oils. Starting a jar where the oil has separated can be a little messy but it’s worth it to me. You have at least two choices. Either scrape out the entire contents in a bowl, stir and then fill up the jar again. Or, get a long spoon and stir up the contents in the jar. If you keep this in your cupboard, it will stay mostly mixed until the jar is empty. Now you are good to go.

A peanut butter sandwich made with a seedy or whole grain bread can please even finicky eaters. For variety, sprinkle coconut manna across the peanut butter, which is whole coconut and can be used like mayonnaise or butter. Bananas and apples go well with peanut butter, but don’t have to be in the sandwich.

While you are at locally owned Thriftway stores make your way through the produce department. Cherry tomatoes, figs and grapes are perfect finger foods. Then there are apples. Everyone in my family likes something different. Good thing there are plenty of choices. However, finding a whole apple in your lunch does not seem to inspire healthy nibbling. The apple gets mileage coming and going from home (uneaten). Instead, use a corer/slicer then put the apple in a bag – it looks uncut but it’s not. Much easier to eat. Lately, I’ve been cutting my apples into quarters then slicing each quarter horizontally (instead of the typical vertical slices) into many pieces. It’s the same apple, but variety nevertheless. That may sound silly, but I’ve enjoyed the change.


Bayview has a big selection of salads and other side dishes. This is a way to buy a little to see who likes what. An unexpected lunch addition such as Greek with Envy or Broccoli Crunch keeps lunch goers coming back for more.

lunch apple slicedPacking lunches takes a few minutes but the benefits are profound:

  • It’s ultimately cheaper than eating out.
  • You know what you are eating.
  • You’ve controlled the portions.
  • It’s nutritionally superior to most take out options.
  • It’s tastes fabulous.

I’m still big on having reusable containers for packing lunches. It keeps the juices separate and allows the diner to make choices, which is a reason Lunchables are so popular. Check out this complete article that highlights awesome options for reusable bags, containers, and lunch boxes.

Here’s a P.S. about Hempler’s:

In addition to deli meats, their line includes whole hams, sausages, uncured beef franks, bratwurst, bacon and much more. Sounds like breakfast options with the possibility of leftovers for lunch.

Eat Well – Be Well


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