Photo: Emily Wyckoff
Emily Wyckoff

10 Out-of-the-Box Uses for Paper Lunch Bags

I always seem to have paper lunch bags in my pantry. They’re one of those items I repeatedly buy when I forget I already have some in the cupboard. Some of the camps my kids go to require a lunch in a brown paper bag, my kids sometimes need them for school projects, and I frequently pack up cookies to give to friends and neighbors in paper bags.

So, if you’re like me and have extra paper lunch bags in your cupboard, here are 10 ways to use them up. Some ideas are so handy, you just may add lunch bags to your standing grocery list! (But make sure you don’t have any first!)

Here are 10 out-of-the-box bag ideas you can try:

1. Make popcorn: Forget microwave popcorn – make your own! Put a handful of popcorn (about a 1/4  to 1/2 cup) in a paper bag, fold tightly two times to seal, and place the bag in the microwave standing up with the flat bottom of the bag down. Set your time for 3 minutes, but stand by and stop the microwave when the popping has slowed. Add melted butter, salt, and any other seasonings you like to the popped popcorn, shake it up in the bag, and enjoy!

Photo: Emily Wyckoff

Photo: Emily Wyckoff

2. Birthday party goody bags: Make goody bags for your child’s next birthday party. Decorate paper bags with stickers, markers, glitter, or whatever you have on-hand. This is a great activity for the birthday boy or girl to help prepare for the party, or it makes a great activity at the event itself for creative kiddos.

3. Baked good gifting: Place homemade cookies, muffins or brownies in a paper bag for your next hostess gift. Staple the  bag shut, poke a hole in the top and tie a bow, or even affix a label if you’d like. If you’re feeling creative, you can decorate the bag with a rubber stamps as well.

4. Mushroom keeper: Mushrooms keep much longer if you store them in a paper bag in the fridge. The mushrooms’ moisture is absorbed so they don’t get slimy.

5. Light the way with luminaries: Line your walkway or decorate any outdoor space for your next party with luminaries. Cut out decorative shapes (like stars and hearts) from the sides of paper bags. Then, pour a few inches of sand in the bottom of each bag, and place a votive candle in the bottom  of each. More is more with luminaries, so make a lot – they are lovely in a large grouping!

6. Roast asparagus: This is a delicious way to cook asparagus. Place a pound of trimmed asparagus in a paper bag along with half of a sliced lemon and salt and pepper. Tightly fold the bag closed, place on a cookie sheet and drizzle a little bit of olive oil on the paper bag. Roast for 20 minutes at 350 F. Carefully open the bag (it will be hot!) and serve.

asparagis in bag overhead[12]

7. Ripen fruit: Speed up the ripening process for bananas, avocados, tomatoes and peaches by placing fruit in a paper bag on the counter and rolling down the top of the bag to seal. In a day or two, your produce will be perfectly softened.

8. Rehydrate stale bread or rolls: Place bread or rolls in a paper bag, run the bag under a bit of water and place in a low oven. They will get steamed and become moist in 10 minutes or so.

9. Crafts! Set out paper bags, scissors, glue, ribbon, glitter, stickers, googly eyes, pop-poms, etc. and let your kids’ imagination go wild. Some craft ideas include puppets, masks, and planters.

10. Wrap small gifts: Cut a paper bag into a flat piece and wrap small gifts. You can keep the presentation classic and tie with a piece of raffia or let your kids have fun and decorate the “wrapping” paper.

Feeling creative? Try:

10 Handy Uses for Parchment Paper
10 Out-of-the-Box Uses for Aluminum Foil


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