National Brown Bag It Day: Hacks for Health and Savings

May 24, 2024

National Brown Bag It Day, celebrated annually on May 25th, reminds us of the importance of making mindful choices regarding food. This day encourages us to take a break from eating out and instead pack our lunches in brown bags, a simple act that significantly benefits our health, wallet, and the environment. 

History of Brown Bags and National Brown-Bag It Day

National Brown-Bag It Day is a relatively recent celebration observed for less than a decade. While its origins are unknown, its purpose is clear: to encourage people to pack their lunches and enjoy the numerous benefits that come with it. 

Using brown bags for packing lunches dates back to the 19th century. Initially, these bags were envelope-style, but the modern flat-bottom paper bag was invented by Margaret E. Knight, who founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company in 1870. Her innovation made it easier to pack and carry food, paving the way for the brown bag lunch to become a staple in our daily lives. 

People have been brown-bagging their lunches to school or work for a long time. However, with increasingly hectic schedules, this practice has slowed down. Between 2012 and 2013, Americans spent an astonishing $1,000 on lunch each year. Imagine the savings and health benefits if more people embraced brown-bagging their lunches. National Brown-Bag It Day is the perfect occasion to bring this practice back into style and encourage more people to make this beneficial lifestyle change. 

Benefits of Packing Your Lunch

Packing your lunch comes with a multitude of benefits: 

  1. Cost Savings: Eating out daily can quickly add up, making a significant dent in your budget. By packing your lunch, you can save substantial money over time.
  2. Healthier Options: When you prepare your meals, you have complete control over the ingredients and portion sizes. This allows you to make healthier choices and avoid the excessive calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats often found in restaurant meals. 
  3. Customization: Everyone has unique dietary preferences and restrictions. Packing your lunch allows you to tailor your meals to suit your individual needs, ensuring you always have something you enjoy and can eat.
  4.  Environmental Impact: Packing lunches in brown bags is environmentally friendly. They can be reused and are compostable, reducing waste. This is a greener option than the disposable packaging that typically accompanies takeout and restaurant meals.

Tips for Packing Your Lunch

To make the most out of your brown bag lunches, here are some practical tips:

  1. Plan Ahead: Take some time each week to plan your meals. This will ensure you have all the necessary ingredients on hand and help you avoid the last-minute scramble. Recipe ideas below! 
  2.  Make-Ahead Meal Options: Prepare large batches of meals like soups, salads, or casseroles that can be portioned out for multiple lunches. Alternatively, make extra servings at dinner and pack those for lunch the next day.
  3. Invest in Quality Containers: Durable, reusable containers that are microwave—and dishwasher-safe are worthwhile investments. They make it easier to store, transport, and reheat meals.
  4.  Pack Balanced Meals: Ensure your lunches include a variety of food groups such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This helps keep you satisfied and energized throughout the day.
  5. Don't Forget Snacks: Healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, or yogurt can help curb midday hunger and prevent overeating at meal times. 

You've Got This in the Bag

National Brown Bag It Day is more than just a fun observance; it is an opportunity to make positive changes in our daily lives. By packing our lunches, we can save money, eat healthier, and reduce our environmental footprint. Whether it is a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich—honored on PB&J Day on April 2—or a more elaborate meal, let us embrace this simple yet impactful practice not just on May 25th but throughout the year. Happy Brown-Bagging! 

Recipe Ideas

Here are some simple easy to make ahead recipe ideas that would be perfect for a brown bag lunch:

Classic Turkey and Avocado Sandwich 

  • Ingredients: Whole grain bread, sliced turkey breast, avocado, lettuce, tomato, mustard.
  • Instructions: Layer turkey, avocado slices, lettuce, and tomato between two slices of whole grain bread. Spread mustard on the bread for extra flavor

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

  •  Ingredients: Cooked quinoa, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss with lemon juice and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste

Chicken Caesar Salad

  •  Ingredients: Grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, Caesar dressing, croutons.
  • Instructions: Toss romaine, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan with Caesar dressing. Top with sliced grilled chicken and croutons. Pack dressing separately to keep salad fresh.

Roasted Veggie and Hummus Wrap

  • Ingredients: Whole wheat tortilla, hummus, roasted vegetables (zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant), spinach, balsamic glaze.
  • Instructions: Spread hummus on a whole wheat tortilla, layer with roasted vegetables and fresh spinach. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, then roll up tightly.

Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad

  •  Ingredients: Rice noodles, shredded carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, edamame, green onions, cilantro, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, sriracha, maple syrup, garlic.
  • Instructions: Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Mix peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, sriracha, maple syrup, and minced garlic for the dressing. Toss noodles with shredded carrots, sliced bell peppers, cucumber, edamame, chopped green onions, and cilantro. Add dressing and mix well. 

Greek Yogurt Parfait

  • Ingredients: Greek yogurt, granola, mixed berries, honey.
  • Instructions: Layer Greek yogurt with granola and mixed berries in a container. Drizzle with honey before serving. 

Caprese Pasta Salad

  •  Ingredients: Cooked pasta (penne or rotini), cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, fresh basil, balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Instructions: Toss pasta with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and mix well.