Brown bag lunches become more appealing when you include a surprise inside, whether it's a fun food or a touching note. These readers have made bag lunches a meal to remember.

  • Pack a moistened washcloth in a plastic bag—it's great for cleaning fingers before and after eating!
    —Marilyn S., Larsen, Wisconsin
  • Spread mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, etc. between slices of meat or cheese instead of directly on the bread. No more soggy sandwiches!
    —Sue M., Lyons, Georgia
  • Ice cream in a brown bag? Certainly! Just fill a short thermos with your favorite frozen flavor and store in the freezer. Packed with lunch in the morning, by noon it'll still be thick, creamy and mmm-good!
    —Leona L., West Burlington, Iowa
  • Create your own "lunchables" for a delicious change of pace. Buy deli meats (salami, ham, turkey, etc.) and sliced cheeses. Cut the meat and cheese into squares and pack along with assorted crackers. It's less expensive than the prepackaged assortments, and you'll always get your favorite selection!
    —Jackie R., Holland, Michigan
  • My daughter loves it when I pack a "surprise" roll-up sandwich in her lunch. Just trim the crust off a slice of bread and roll the bread flat. Add meat, cheese or a favorite spread, roll up and secure with a pretzel stick or toothpick. It's easy and fun to eat!
    —Sue M., Lyons, Georgia
  • To perk up my three sons' lunches, I use large cookie cutters in seasonal shapes to make their sandwiches and pack them in decorated resealable plastic bags. My 4-year-old especially enjoys heart-, clover- or egg-shaped peanut butter sandwiches—plus the fact that the bread crust is trimmed away!
    —Kelly H., Cape Coral, Florida
  • If my children were tired or sad as they got ready for school, I'd draw a smiling face on the banana I put in their lunch bags. Sometimes I'd add a few words of encouragement, as if the banana were talking to them.
    —Darlene O., Cincinnati, Ohio
  • With two children in elementary school, I pack 10 lunches a week. Having the "same old, same old" gets boring for them to eat and for me to make. So every now and then, I pack the fixings for them to assemble a bug. I include a short poem like this: "In your lunch you will find the parts to build a bug of some kind. With celery antennae and wings of cheese, build a butterfly if you please."
    —Sandy K., Elmhurst, Illinois
  • When our three kids were in elementary school, I rarely let a day go by without including a little extra something in their lunch bags. At the very least, it was an "I love you" note written on their napkins. Sometimes I'd write a riddle for them to figure out. On their birthdays, I would wrap each food item in festive paper and ribbons. That let everyone know it was a special day!
    —Karen B., Gasport, New York
  • When our daughter started preschool, I wanted her to know her dad and I were thinking of her. I attached a photo of the three of us to the inside of her lunch box, wrote "We love you" above the picture with a permanent marker, then protected it with clear Con-Tact adhesive paper. Now she checks to make sure it's still there when I pack her lunch.
    —Aimee L., Havelock, North Carolina
  • My daughter, Rebecca, loves olives. So each day I put one in a tiny plastic bag that I buy in bulk at a craft store and hide it in her lunch box. When she finds it, she knows it's my "coded" message: "Olive you!"
    Betsey D., Chelmsford, Massachusetts