School Lunch Packing Time is Here! Keep Lunches HOT or COLD Easily

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lunch containers and lunchboxes on a table

Are you back in the hectic routine of packing warm or cold school lunches? No need to stress about how to keep perishable food safe to eat. Here are some helpful and easy tips for keeping those lunches WARM or COLD until it’s time for your kiddos to eat lunch! 😊

Warm lunch tips

Thermos Lunch Containers for Hot Lunch

The best way to pack a warm lunch is to first invest in a good leak-proof insulated food container. Then you can just heat up leftovers, or whatever warm food your kids enjoy eating and send it with them.

We have both the Thermos FOOGO 10 oz. Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Food Jar, and the Thermos Funtainer 10 oz. Food Jar. They are both great options for keeping food warm on the go until lunchtime. One other tip to make sure that the food stays nice and warm,  take a few minutes to preheat the inside of the jars and then add your hot food.

pouring warm water into a thermos to heat the thermos

To Preheat Your Food Jars…

Warm up some water in the microwave to boiling or very hot. Carefully pour the water in the empty container and close the lid. Let the water heat the container for a few minutes while you warm up the food you’d like to pack. Then just pour the water out, replace with the food, and the close lid. That’s it!

(P.S. I have tested this for myself at home by using this method for heating up piping hot soup in the morning and it is still very warm at lunchtime. It’s not super hot, but definitely warm.)

Hot Lunch Ideas for Kids including noodle soup, corn dogs bites, and teriyaki chicken

Use leftovers or purposely make extra dinner for school lunches.

Here are some great WARM lunch ideas your kiddos may enjoy:

Cold lunch tips


Freezer Packs and Frozen Juice Box Hip2Save.comUse at least two cold sources for safely packing cold lunches, plus an insulated lunch bag. As an idea, use a frozen juice box or water bottle, plus a frozen gel ice pack to keep perishable food chilled below 44 degrees. The ice packs I use are these Fit & Fresh Cool Coolers – the slim fit is easy to pack and they’ve lasted a very long time with no issues.

Thermos Lunch Containers for Hot Lunch

In addition, the Thermos insulated food containers can also be used to keep food COLD! Both the highly-rated Thermos Funtainer and Thermos FOOGO say they keep food hot for 5 hours and cold for 7 hours. For maximum thermal efficiency, pre-chill the inside by filling with ice water for a few minutes before filling with cold food.

Lunch Containers with Freezer Packs

Looking for Budget-Friendly Food Containers?

I also wanted to mention the convenient and inexpensive food containers I like to use for packing my kiddos lunches.  This 14 piece Fit & Fresh Kids Set is awesome to have on hand! I love that it includes a good assortment of sizes plus it has two containers with removable ice pack lids to keep items cold.  Just freeze the insert overnight and place inside the lid to use. More Fit & Fresh sets are found on Amazon.

PlanetBox metal lunchboxesAlso, if school lunch packing has gotcha down đŸ˜© , be sure to check out this post for some winning tips to make your life much easier when it comes to packing lunches!

Join The Discussion

Comments 38

  1. Jen

    The larger packit lunch bag … No joke 10 hours later still very cold…daughter forgets to bring it inside sometimes
    But you need to remember to put it back in freezer after school

  2. Liz

    Ditto about the PackIt lunch bags. They even withstand Phoenix temps & keep cold until lunch time.

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      I will have to check those out!! đŸ‘đŸ» thanks

    • Mandee

      Ditto. We have been a packit lunchbox family for 3 years. We love them!

    • Susie

      I love the idea of these, but how do you clean them? I wipe out our Lands End boxes daily, and then run through clothes washer weekly.

  3. Heather

    Thanks for the ideas! I love the lunch ideas but I have the three pickiest children in the world. My girls eat pretty good, they just don’t like trying new things. My son (who’s 4) literally eats four things. If you put something new in front of him, he will fold his arms and stare at it for an hour (a very strong minded child). He’s such a sweet boy but how he eats stresses me out and gets me really down sometimes 🙁 I’d love to know if anyone has been in a similar situation and had any success?

    • Ellen

      My son who is 9, is the same way. Will not try anything new, eats the same foods and all carbs. Would love to hear some suggestions.

      • patato

        Ellen DeGeneres

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Hang in there! We can all relate. Don’t be hard on yourself! I do have picky eater kids too but finding as they are aging it gets a little better as they are willing to try more foods 😀 It’ll be okay Heather!

    • Scnewport

      Yes Heather! I literally carried a bag of rice and a few packets of oatmeal in my purse so I could still feed my son. Forward 4 years, he now has added hamburgers, corn dogs, fried flounder, shrimp, crab,….as his favorites. Hang in there. My son thought everything was spicy (even some fruit). My doctor said as long as he’s thriving (gaining weight) let him eat what he wants. Now, he often asks to try new things. I did rice since it was a food he’d eat in different ways; with egg or rolled into balls, cold cut into shapes,… Then praise him for trying it. I think it made the transition to different foods easier since he always loved the rice.

    • Lynne

      I have a very picky 6 yo. A few months ago I started having a ‘try a new food’ night. I gave my daughter a 2 day warning and made it seem like a big deal. I made one thing she loved (chicken nuggets), but also made a few other things she had never had. The deal was we needed to try one new food at supper that night, she could pick what looked best. If she didn’t like it, fine, but she needed to finish one bite. The first time we tried was kinda a disaster cuz she didn’t want to try anything it all looked ‘yucky’. We tried again the following week and had better success, she ate 2 bites before she decided it wasn’t for her. We have continued to have a ‘new food’ night at least every other week. She has since found a few new foods she likes, and when it comes time to try something new we don’t have a giant meltdown anymore.

    • Angela

      My son who is now 12 used to be that way. as well as my 4 almost 5 year old daughter. The way I fixed it is let him/her starve (will not LITERALLY!). If he didn’t want to eat what was for dinner then he can not eat dinner or not eat breakfast etc whatever the meal is. He went without dinner ONE night. He now will eat whatever I put in front of him. He might not be happy about it but oh well. Im not a short order cook. I cook one meal. I might make some variations to it (i.e. no sauce for one, no onions for another) but I will not make a whole another meal for one person.

      • Erin

        Ditto! When my son was three, he refused to try most (dinner) foods, even though he had been a good eater until that point. It was tough because we are foodies who rarely eat the same dinner twice. We told him he had to eat his dinner if he wanted dessert and that he had to at least taste it before saying he didn’t like it. He threw wicked tantrums but he came around. He’s ten and an awesome eater now. He’s willing to try anything, though there are a few things he really doesn’t like any way I’ve prepared them (e.g., beets) so I usually give him an option for sides that he doesn’t like, but I still ask him to try them when I prepare them in new ways. That said, his five year old sister is a much harder nut to crack! Most nights she simply doesn’t eat dinner, even when foods are prepared very plainly. She’s learned to “stock up” at breakfast and lunch (which happen to be our less challenging meals). We’ve taken a different tack with her, encouraging her to at least taste everything, and I’m not as hardcore about having to eat everything in order to get dessert. For example, last night we had marinated chicken breasts wrapped in proscuitto, lemon poppy seed noodles, and corn on the cob. She loves corn on the cob, so no problem there, but she doesn’t care for noodles and is often reluctant to eat meat (other than steak, clams, hot dogs, and burgers). I’ve decided to give her a pass on starches like noodles and rice because I’d rather her stretch herself to try new vegetables. Once she ate the chicken and tried her noodles, she got dessert. Very often, though, she chooses to skip dinner, often based on appearance alone (she doesn’t like “mixed-up” foods–casseroles, stews, one-pot meals, etc.). I try to accommodate within reason (kid friendly but healthy breakfast and lunches and some options at dinner when possible), but I don’t worry too much because if kids are hungry, they WILL eat (barring a medical problem). I’ve noticed that many picky eaters get a lot of snacks or junk food or the parents cave and feed them what they want (rather than what they should have), so they are probably rarely hungry, and there is no incentive to try new things.

      • Erin

        I did that with my son, offering him the same meal over and over. The first time I tried it, he went without THREE meals before he finally are what I’d given him, and he said, “yum!”
        I thought that had fixed it (it was torture for me!) But I had to do it again, and this time he he went without FOUR meals before I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I gave in. :-p

        • patato

          i like turrrrrds

    • Jess

      Have you thought about food therapy for your son? Maybe there is a texture aversion or something deeper that is making him avoid other foods? Aspiration or gagging or something psychological or perhaps behavioral? I personally am not a fan of the eat it or starve method. I would suggest instead patience, creativity, understanding and therapy. Best of luck!

    • Nel

      How blessed are our kids (and us) that they/we can choose to refuse food in front of them because we have more than we need and options. We recently participated in a Feed My Starving Children mobile food pack and my kids helped pack the meals of vitamins, veggies, rice & soy. It was an eye opener for all of us to be so thankful for the food we have. I think our attitudes of thankfulness/or crabbing about cooking when we’d rather eat our affect how kids (especially older ones) look at food.

      • Erin

        Yes. Pickiness is definitely a first-world “problem.” It wasn’t tolerated in my house–yet my dad was the pickiest person I know! Unfortunately, my daughter’s eating behavior reminds me a lot of his.

    • Mrs. B

      In order to get my kids to try new things, we had a rule… you had to try it but, you could spit it out if you didn’t like it. We, of course, only did this at home. But, it worked! My kids thought it was great because they didn’t have to eat it if they didn’t like it. But, they were required to try it again next time I made it. My kids are not picky eaters at all. Since it takes quite a few times of introducing a new food to acquire the taste for it, this did the trick. I have a 15 and 12 year old, one boy and one girl. To this day, they will both still try new foods at least once! 😉😉

  4. Ashley

    was looking for a post like this. I have my first kid going to kindergarten this year and wasn’t sure what was the best lunch box, lunch containers, thermos, water bottle, etc.

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Awesome! Yes you’ll like the thermos containers. 😀

  5. Kathy

    We’ve been using the pack-it lunch bags for years and have several that we rotate to keep them frozen. I pack my lunch and my daughters at the same time. If she wants a hot lunch, we use the thermos containers (and a regular tote) after filling them with hot water, and they stay hot until lunch too. I always prefer my lunches from home!

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Great advice Kathy! Thanks

    • Heather

      This is going to sound silly, but I have the pack-it bags too. Can you use them frozen and put a warm thermos inside? I’m thinking my kiddo would love a warm lunch but cold food (like cheese and apples) for snack. What would you do in this case? Thanks!!

  6. Sherri

    I loved the thermos for hot food until I realized you have to dig the seal/gasket out every time and wash it or it gets slimy. The seal then gets stretched out after using for a while and starts to leak. I’m still looking for a good food thermos that doesn’t require a gasket for a seal.

  7. Jess

    I just wanted to add that the Planetbox lunch kit featured at the bottom of the post is amazing! My sons special ed teacher loved it! It gave my son independence in opening his own lunch instead of him needing assistance from the teachers while keeping his food seperated. This was also great for my shy younger guy as he was too shy to ever raise his hand to ask for help. They are pricey but we have had ours for about 4 years and they are in perfect condition.

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      That’s great to know! Thanks Jess!

  8. Lisa

    What is the difference between the FOOGO and Fun thermos you discuss? I just can’t seem to get what the difference is other than the names…


    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Hi Lisa, I think they are super similar. The Foogo has a nonslip bottom and the Funtainers come in all sorts of licensed character designs. 😀

  9. JA

    Something that was a big hit with my kids when they were younger was cereal for lunch. I would pack cereal in a bowl and have them buy a milk or put milk in the Thermos and cereal in a bag.

  10. Linz

    I’m a big fan of the Sistema Klip containers. We have them in various sizes for things like snacks and fruit. I have the sandwich size and the cube as well. It isn’t for hot foods or overly liquid foods but for everything else they work wonderfully and are easy for my son to use.

  11. Mom24girls+1boy

    I am not a fan of the Fit and Fresh containers. The concept is great but the ice packs never seemed to stay locked in place and the lids do not fit the containers well at all!

    • Emma

      Try the ones from dollar tree! The ice pack stays in place! I bought a couples from there and they work fine.

      • Mom24girls+1boy

        Thanks for the tip Emma. I will have to try those 😀.

  12. Jessi

    We love our Foogo thermos! We’ve had it for 2 years now and it still stays very warm until lunch. My daughter says she has to blow on her food (but she’s very sensitive to heat!).

  13. Melissa

    I bought a Yumbox for my son, it is sooo amazing. It has separate compartments that are all leakproof. So you can put yogurt, apple sauce, ranch, salsa, etc. and it won’t leak. Saves a ton of money instead of having to buy the individual squeezy applesauce is and yogurts, and he loves it!!!
    It is Bento style so for all those kid snackers that love variety it is awesome

    • Lina (Hip's Modern Martha)

      Oh sweet – thanks for the recommendation Melissa!

  14. Amy

    I love the rubbermaid Lunch Blox containers and ice packs. I use with a thermal lunch bag. They come in a lot of sizes with coordinating ice packs. I do not like the ice packs to touch my food like the fit n fresh ones do, I prefer them on the outside of the container. I got my first Thermos Funtainers this summer to try this year thanks to the 75% off barnes and noble sale we scored the Star Wars ones for $4.XX!

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