The Ultimate Guide to Winter Lunchbox Ideas That Kids Will Love

The Ultimate Guide to Winter Lunchbox Ideas That Kids Will Love

When the chilly wind is howling, a hot meal tastes sooo good!


By Lorraine Allen

When the weather is cool -- or even bitter, frigid, teeth-chattering cold­ -- it’s a smart idea to try to pack a hot lunch for kids heading off to school. But of course, who has time to wake up and cook a hot lunch in addition to making breakfast, packing snacks, and getting everyone out the door on time? Not this mom! Still, there are plenty of ways you can repurpose standard leftovers (or cook things the night before or over the weekends, then freeze and heat in the morning), to offer your little ones a warm meal in the middle of a cold winter or early spring day. Here are some of our favorite hearty, and hot lunchbox ideas.

1. Rice and beans with side of guacamole: This is a great use of leftovers. Warm the rice in beans in the morning, put them in a thermos, and serve with a side of guacamole and tortillas. You can also wrap up the rice and beans in a hot tortilla shell, and add cheese or leftover meat, and the guacamole inside, then wrap it all well in foil for a delicious hot burrito lunch. My kid loves to add little tomatoes in her burritos, too.

2. Pasta with veggies or pasta with sausage: Two easy dishes to throw together with plain leftover pasta or orzo, and any leftover veggies. Just heat in the morning, adding leftover veggies or sausage, and cheese, and pack in a thermos. A kid favorite every time.

3. Shredded roast chicken, beef, or pulled pork slider: This delicious, fast, and easy hot lunch makes great use of any leftover meat you have, from a roast to a stew. Simply tear or chop up the meat, heat it quickly, either plain or with a splash of BBQ sauce or some cheese, and pack in a thermos. Pack the bun on the side, and some crunchy veggies or a salad to go with it, and your kids will be thrilled for this very special hot meal. (Don’t forget to pack a fork for this one, even though it’s a sandwich!)

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4. Mashed or baked potatoes (with favorite fixins served on the side): This is always beloved by kids, and it only takes minutes to heat up pre-baked or mashed potatoes. Serve in thermos or wrapped well in foil, with favorite toppings like shredded cheese, bacon bits, and scallions on the side, and some fresh veggies to complete the meal.

5. Hot soup! There are countless ways to make soup, of course, but a few great kid favorites for hot school lunches include traditional chicken noodle, beef barley, butternut squash, or tomato soup. Serve with some bread on the side for dunking, and add extra veggies to make this delicious hot lunch extra hearty and satisfying to little tummies on a bitter cold day.

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6. Dumplings: You can buy these frozen, but you can also make them with your kids one weekend, and just freeze several batches. We make our own simply by cooking ground pork and chicken with a little soy sauce, onion, garlic, and fresh grated ginger, then wrapping the mixture (once cooled) in wonton or dumpling wrappers. To cook, just steam, pan fry, or boil the pre-made dumplings in broth or water for a few minutes. Pack in a hot thermos with a dipping sauce on the side, or in hot broth as an extra special soup for a very special hot lunch. Serve with a side of veggies or Asian slaw.

7. Mini meatballs: Kids love finger food, and if it’s hot and hearty, all the better! Next time you prepare meatballs for dinner, just make some extra and freeze them for a perfect, hot school lunch. Reheat, once thawed, either plain or in some tomato sauce for just a few minutes in the morning, and pack for school in a thermos, with hot leftover pasta, rice, or potatoes.

What are your kids’ favorite hot, hearty school lunches?


Lorraine Allen is a writer, and mom and personal chef to one spunky 6-year-old girl with severe food allergies. You can enjoy their delicious recipes and follow their amusing family cooking adventures at Feeding Lina.

Image ©iStock.com/PoppyB


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