So...you've bought a thermos, or a thermal container...and you want to send the kids to school with an awesome hot lunch. But where to start? I'll show you how to prep your thermal container, how to prep your food and 15+ hot lunches for thermal containers to get you started.
If you need help choosing a thermal container, check out our thermal container review here. If you're looking for an all in one solution for packing hot lunches, check out our review of the Omie Box, which allows you to send hot an cold food to school in the one container.
So...for food to stay bacteria free for the time it is being sent to school and the time it is sitting in the school bag before lunch, there are some important considerations. We want food to not be above 4 degrees celsius or below 60 degrees celsius if it is being stored for any extended period. By extended I mean 2-4 hours. Which is pretty much how long it is sitting around in school bags.
So hot food needs to be kept above 60 degrees celsius. Cold food below 5 degrees celsius. Simple right? So how can we do that? Simple: cold food straight from the fridge goes in a cooler bag with good quality icebricks. How food goes in a thermal container when absolutely too hot to eat. If you want more information, check out these helpful food safety hints.
How to prep your thermal container
The first step to sending a hot lunch to school is making sure it has the best chance of keeping your hot lunch hot. To do so we need to prep the container. And this is how we do it.
- First, fill the thermal container with boiling water.
- Close it and leave it to sit for 5 minutes.
- Empty and refill with boiled water.
- Meanwhile, prep the food by heating beyond hot.
- Reheat in the microwave or on the stove until near boiling.
- Pour the boiling water from the thermos and fill immediately with the hot food.
What not to pack in a thermal container?
As always, some things do better in a thermal container than others. We don't pack anything that will go soggy, no pastries, or nuggets etc.
What works well in a thermal container?
Fill your thermal container as high as you can! It will help it to retain heat as there is no airspace that will chill quickly. Leftovers are awesome in a thermal container and these recipes will all make enough to make lunch packing the next day quick and simple.
When it comes to hot lunches, leftover pasta is our go to!
Noodles are also a great option for the lunchbox and when you DIY, they are much better for you than 2 minute noodles!
The options for putting rice in a thermos are almost endless! So many great ideas, risottos and fried rice are perfect for a hot lunch.
Soups are great in thermal containers as you can fill it up to the top and then it will stay super warm. Just make sure you pack a spoon!
Pack and fork and fill them up with some leftover casseroles and stews! Great for warming them up on a winter's day.