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21 Hot lunch ideas for your child’s thermos

by Kristen

About a mid-school year, my kids started to get sick of peanut butter sandwiches in their lunch and started asking for hot lunches in their thermos.¬† There’s nothing like a nutritious hot lunch to help you get through your school day.¬† ¬†Here are some hot lunch ideas that your kiddos will enjoy at lunchtime at school.¬† ¬†You can pack some of these recipes as dinner leftovers or make some specifically for your kid’s lunch box.¬† Especially during the winter, it can be nice for kids to have hot food for lunch, even if they don’t like hot school lunches.¬† I have rounded up an assortment of kid-approved hot school lunch ideas you can pack in your kid’s thermos.¬†¬†

There are several good reasons to pack a hot lunch for your child in a thermos.

  1. It’s Healthier-¬†My kid’s cafeteria actually has a decent menu with lots of fruits and vegetables, but still, there is nothing as healthy as a home-cooked meal.¬† One thing that I am starting to notice is that my kids behave much better when they are eating healthier foods that are low in sugar.¬† ¬†Many “cold lunches” are filled with processed snacks that also aren’t the healthiest.
  2. It’s less wasteful-¬†Something that has been bothering me lately is how many foods have excess packaging.¬† ¬†I try to use compostable packaging whenever I can, but when it comes to helping the environment, packing a homecooked meal in a thermos creates no extra throwaway waste.
  3. It’s less expensive –¬†If you’re on a budget, making homemade meals at home is a great way to save money!¬† School lunches aren’t as expensive as eating out, but they can add up if you get them for multiple children every day.
  4. You’re cooking anyway-¬† These days, there are so many shortcuts you can take when preparing healthy meals for your family.¬† Grocery pick-up and grocery delivery services, slow cookers, Instant Pots, and tons of meal-prepping tools are out there to help busy parents make healthy meals for their families.¬† ¬†If you’re making dinner, why not make a double batch and have lunch for the family the next day?¬† You can also make a few extra meals on Sunday to have for lunch during the week.¬† There are lots of meals that last several days in the fridge.


Here are some tips to consider when packing your kids a hot lunch in their Thermos

  1. Know your kid’s likes and dislikes.¬† Pack meals in your Thermos that are tried and true in your house.¬† ¬†I would feel so bad if my child ended up being hungry at school because they didn’t like the dish I packed.
  2. If you are packing thermos lunches for a large family, consider putting the soup, stew, or chili in the slow cooker before bed.¬† That way, you won’t have to spend a bunch of time heating meals up in the microwave all morning.
  3. You can send pulled meat such as pork, chicken, or ground beef recipes in your child’s thermos with a bun.
  4. Consider keeping your thermos in a warm spot– or you can heat your thermos in boiling water before filling it with food. Heating your thermos will help keep your food warm until lunch.
  5. Hot breakfast items like eggs, waffles, pancakes, sausage, and bacon can be packed in your child’s thermos too.
  6. Make sure you purchase stainless steel, a durable thermos, or an insulated food container that keeps food warm. Cold hot lunches don’t taste good!¬† You should also consider getting food jars or other food containers so you can pack lunches your kids will love.

Here are some delicious, kid-friendly thermos lunch ideas that would make excellent thermos lunches for your kids and parents too! 

Click on either the recipe name or the photo to get directed to each recipe.

1.  Pasta e Fagioli soup 

This pasta vegetable tomato soup is always a hit with my kids and makes an excellent lunch!  You can use frozen meatballs in this soup to save time!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Quinoa Casserole 

You can make this casserole with leftover ham or lunchmeat ham.

3. Homemade spaghetti-os

4. Homemade freezable Chicken Nuggets 

In addition to chicken nuggets. You can also pack chicken strips or pizza rolls in your kid’s thermos!

5. Super Easy Mac and Cheese

kids always love macaroni and cheese at lunchtime!  Your favorite mac and cheese recipe will be perfect for any thermos lunch!  You can always add peas or broccoli to round out the meal.

6. Applesauce Pulled Chicken 

You can make these sandwiches in advance and wrap them in foil.  Your kids will love the flavor of apple in this pulled chicken. This sandwich tastes great with sharp cheddar cheese!

7. Peanut Butter Noodles 

You can make these noodles using regular spaghetti, OR you can make this using Ramen Noodles.

8. Lasagna Soup

Your kids will be excited when they find this soup in their thermos container!

9. Zucchini Nuggets 

Here is a delicious way to get in veggies!  Remember to pack a dipping sauce!

10. Sweet Baked Beans Chili 

Your kids will be excited when they open the lid to their thermos and find this chili!   My kids love the sweet beans in this chili.

11. Creamy Chicken Soup with Rice 

This creamy, comforting soup is packed with chicken, carrots, and celery! Don’t forget to pack a spoon!

12. Pizza Chicken 

This pizza chicken is topped with tomato sauce and pizza toppings!

13. Beef and Barley Soup 

This delicious beef and barley soup is filled with protein and will please the kids!¬† If you don’t think your kids will eat barley, you can make this soup using brown rice!

14. Sloppy Joe’s

Sloppy Joes are the ultimate kid-pleasing sandwich!  You might want to pack a fork in case they get sloppy!  I would also pack the bun separately.

15.  Cheeseburger Quinoa Casserole 

Here is a great casserole to make for those gluten-free kids!

16. Shepherds Pie 

Your kids will be excited when they pull homemade shepherd’s pie out of their school bags.

17. Chili Mac and Cheese Bites 

Here is a fun take on macaroni cheese!

18. Easy Weeknight Jambalaya 

19. Mini Breakfast Pizzas 

You can also add potatoes or bacon to these mini breakfast pizzas.  Last year, I started filling the thermos with other breakfast items as well.  French Toast Sticks, Mini Pancakes, and hashbrowns.

20. Pizza Chili 

21 Parmesan Mac and Cheese 

This Parmesan cheese sauce is a favorite in our house!

Did you make any of these recipes?  Please tag me on social media or comment below and let me know how they turned out for you!  You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.



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