My kids are very excited about packing their lunches from home this year, for some reason. They have always enjoyed school lunch in the past, but each year is different, I suppose. I have been researching some ideas, and I am posting them below. Thanks to my super organized and thrifty friend, Jen, for some great ideas, too! I hope they will help you out.
An edit to this post: I think I have figured out how to upload a Word document to blogger and you can print it from your computer instead of having to scroll through all the suggestions below. Hope it works. Click to view document for sack lunch ideas. If it works, comment and let me know! Thanks!
As for packing lunch for an adult, consider if there is access to a microwave. If not, purchase a good quality thermos food jar that can keep foods hot or cold. You might also want one for beverage. They come in kids' varieties (smaller and cuter) and adult & teen varieties. They even have some for babies. I personally really like the thermos brand. I have been extremely impressed with them. I got mine at Target. They also have them at Walmart, Amazon.com, and Shopko, etc. so look around. Initially, the cost of investing in these seems very expensive (that's because it is!). When you purchase a nice quality lunch sack, a beverage thermos and a food jar, it can be over $30-35. But the thermos, insulated bag and food jar I bought for my son when he was in Kindergarten are all still in great condition and he is now in 5th grade, so I figure it was a good investment. They have been extremely durable (and no, I am not getting paid for anything I am suggesting!!) You might also look into thrift shops for used thermoses if you can find them. (And my kids have been lectured on how much they cost and that they'd better keep track of their stuff!! lol)
NOTE: if you "preheat" the food jar by filling it with hot water for about 5 minutes before you fill it with food, it will stay hotter longer. You also want to use plastic silverware so you don't scratch the protective surface on the food jar.
The lunch sacks I bought for my kids have a small zippered pouch on the outside, where I have stashed a small Ziploc back filled with quarters. They can use this to purchase a milk box at school if they want to. Our school charges $0.25 for milk.
I also purchased some small plastic containers to put the food in. Wal-mart has some sandwich containers that are easy for little hands to open. I think they were about $1 a piece, and then you don't have to keep purchasing Ziploc bags. If you really want to be frugal, you can use cloth napkins, too. Also, pick up a small ice pack at Wal-mart or Target for around $1 and you can keep a sandwich or yogurt nice and cold until lunch time.
Food ideas:Bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter. If your child only will eat 1/2 a bagel, then cover the topping with a piece of plastic wrap.
Sandwiches (cold cuts or PB&J, tuna fish, chicken salad, egg salad, etc.)
Crackers and cheese
Crackers with peanut butter between them (cracker sandwiches)
Spaghettios, ravioli, spaghetti, soups, macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, baked potato
Tuna salad with crackers
Burrito roll ups
Any kind of leftovers
Chips and salsa
Pita pockets or tortillas (rolled up "wrap" style) or English muffins used for sandwiches to provide variety
Chili (you can add chips like Tostitos scoops, Fritos, etc.)
Homemade lunchables (i.e, pepperoni & cheese & crackers; cut up bologna w/cheese & crackers, etc.) Look at the Lunchables varieties to spark your brain for some ideas.
Cold pizza (if your family member likes that.)
Cold cereal (send the milk in the thermos and pack the dry cereal in the food jar)
Canned or fresh fruit (grapes, peaches, Mandarin oranges, apples, bananas, nectarines, kiwi, oranges, plums, watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew, strawberries, raspberries, etc.)
Veggies and dip (carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, cherry or grape tomatoes, etc.)
Cheese sticks (make your own by cutting up a block-- it's far cheaper)
Granola bars (you can make your own. There are lots of recipes out there.)
Dried fruit (Craisins, raisins, blueberries, apricots, banana chips, apples, pineapple, prunes, etc.)
Fruit salad ("frog-eyed" salad or ancini de pepe, Waldorf salad, etc.)
Nuts (if they are allowed at your school. Check because some kids have allergies)
Freeze juice boxes and allow them to thaw until lunch time
Juice, milk, water or Kool-aid (sometimes) will stay cold in a thermos
Occasionally you can offer them strawberry or chocolate milk, (or even an instant breakfast shake for an adult).
Buy milk at school
Also, check out Kraftfoods.com for some great ideas and recipes for kids' lunches and budget adult lunches. Enjoy!!