Tips To Safely Pack A Hot And Cold Lunch For Back-To-School 

Foods can quickly go from safe to unsafe if they aren’t stored properly, and the last thing you want is for your kid to miss school due to food poisoning. There are ways that you can safely pack both hot and cold items in your children’s lunchboxes with no risk of illness. 

A lunchbox container filled with lunchbox kebobs sits next to some books and crayons.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

1. Clean Prep

A man cleaning a countertop.
Photo Credit: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock.

Before you begin packing your lunches, make sure that your food preparation space has been cleaned and sanitized and that your hands are washed. Most bacteria are transferred to our bodies from our hands. 

2. Don’t Touch

A man rubbing his face.
Photo Credit: Nenad Cavoski/Shutterstock.

Don’t touch your phone, hair, or face while you are doing your lunch prep because it can transfer bacteria to your food. If you have to stop and touch your phone, wash your hands before continuing your lunch prep. 

3. Plan Ahead

A female packing a school lunch into a lunchbox.
Photo Credit: Pixel-Shot and Shutterstock.

Pack your cold lunch the night before. This gives it all night to get good and cold, so it has a good head start once you take it out of the refrigerator. 

4. Use Ice Packs

Ice packs in a lunch bag.
Photo Credit: fotosv/Shutterstock.

Use at least two ice packs to keep things good and cold. You can purchase ice packs that are specifically designed to fit inside a lunch box. 

5. Freeze Foods

Frozen food in a freezer.
Photo Credit: Ahanov Michael/Shutterstock.

If your lunch boxes include yogurt, juice boxes, or water, freeze them the night before. They will help to keep everything cold and still be thawed by lunchtime. 

6. Proper Placement

Components of a lunch with dressing and dip wrapped individually and laid on a table.
Photo Credit: Johnathan Ball/Shutterstock.

If you are packing any dips or dressings into your child’s lunch, be sure to pack those in a separate small container and put them on top of a cold pack. 

7. Wash Produce

A person rinsing a red bell pepper under running water over a sink.
Photo Credit: Morakod1977/Shutterstock.

Wash and dry all produce, even apples, thoroughly before you place them inside the lunch box. Moisture can breed germs, and you don’t want anyone getting sick. 

8. Use A Thermos

An open thermos sitting on a white background.
Photo Credit: Alexandra Harashchenko/Shutterstock.

Any hot foods that you are packing in your child’s lunch need to be packed into a thermos. You can find them in all different sizes, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one to fit in your child’s lunchbox. 

Preheat your thermos before packing your food into it. Preheat the thermos with boiling water for a few minutes, then empty it and add the hot food. This allows your food to stay hot instead of cooling in temperature to warm the thermos up. 

9. Insulate

An open, insulated lunch bag.
Photo Credit: MVelishchuk/Shutterstock.

Pack both hot and cold lunches in an insulated lunch bag. An insulated bag will do a much better job of keeping your food warm or cold than a plain paper bag or a metal box. 

10. Clean Up

Lunch dishes and thermoses in soapy water in a sink.
Photo Credit: Oola Patel/Shutterstock.

After school, make sure to empty your child’s lunchbox and wash and dry everything thoroughly before packing lunch for the next day. Need more tips for safely packing hot and cold lunches, then check this out

Prefer Sandwiches? Try One Of These!

A closeup of a Carolina Gold BBQ Chicken sandwich topped with creamy coleslaw on a whole grain bun.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

If you prefer sandwiches to wraps, I’ve gotcha covered there too. Here’s a fabulous collection of sandwich recipes that taste amazing and might actually be good for you too.

Need Dinner Ideas Too?

A dutch oven with a cooked whole chicken topped with rosemary twigs.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

Sick of the same ol’ chicken for dinner… again? Here are 101 new ways to level up your dinner game tonight.

Healthy Ground Turkey Dinner Ideas That Actually Taste Good

A skillet filled with ground turkey, chopped tomatoes, chopped avocado and garnished with fresh parsley.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

Lean ground turkey is a great replacement for ground beef if you are working on your health. Here, we give you 17 Meals with ground turkey that are surprisingly good for you.

This originally appeared on The Gracious Pantry.

Author: Tiffany McCauley

Title: Food and Travel Journalist

Expertise: Food, cooking, travel


Tiffany McCauley is a nationally syndicated journalist and an award-winning cookbook author and food blogger. She has been featured on MSN, Huffington Post, Country Living Magazine, HealthLine, Redbook, and many more. Her food specialty is healthy comfort food recipes.

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