Easy Hot Lunches for Your Child’s Lunch Box

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Now that fall is here and the days are starting to get colder, you may be starting to think about packing easy hot lunches for school instead of cold sandwiches, salads, and other late summer options. But what should you pack and how should you do it? 

On a cool, crisp day, your child is sure to appreciate a nice warm homemade lunch. With these hot lunch ideas and packing tips, you will soon be a lunchtime hero. 

hot lunch for school lunch box

Hot lunch ideas for school

Soup and a hot sandwich 

Who doesn’t love soup and a hot sandwich for lunch on a cool, crisp, fall day? One of the most popular and comforting easy hot lunches is soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. If you wonder if it’s really possible to send this to school with your child in their lunch box, the answer is yes! 

All you need is a small thermos, some aluminum foil, and an insulated lunch box. 

Make the soup the day before from scratch, or heat some canned soup in the morning, right before school. Don’t forget to pack a spoon!

Lastly, make the hot sandwich. Grilled cheese or grilled ham and cheese are always a favorite. If you have a panini press, get more creative, and make a panini. 

Mix and match the soup and sandwich combos for endless portable lunch possibilities. 

Chili and Stew

Don’t limit yourself to just soup. A nice hearty beef stew or a bowl of chili with some corn chips or a side of homemade cornbread would make a welcome addition to any lunch box. 

Making a batch of chili or stew is a great option because it’s so easy to make ahead to use for lunches all week or freeze for later. One batch could be used for hot lunches for the kids and the adults in your family for a nice easy change-up. 


Whether it’s homemade or takeout, don’t forget to use up those leftovers. They make for great lunch box additions. 

If your child is lucky enough to have access to a microwave, you can pack just about any leftover that can be warmed up at school. Find a few microwave-safe plastic containers that work well and fit your child’s lunch box, and you’re good to go.

If they don’t have access to a microwave, there is a wide variety of thermal containers for school lunches out there that can hold any kind of leftover food you can think of.

Leftover ideas that make great hot school lunches

  • Pasta dishes
  • Casseroles
  • Chicken tenders
  • Leftover takeout
  • Meatloaf
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Fried chicken
  • Tacos and fajitas
  • Hot dogs
  • Shepherds pie


printable school lunch planner

How to keep food hot for hours

  • Pour some hot or boiling water in a wide-mouth thermos container or insulated food jar to get the inside as warm as possible. 
  • Get your food piping hot, then pour the hot soup or leftovers into the warm thermos. 
  • Make hot sandwiches as you usually would, then wrap them in several layers of aluminum foil. 
  • If you’re worried about the bread getting soggy, wrap it in a paper towel first, then the foil. 
  • Keep the sandwich in the insulated lunch box; everything should stay toasty warm for hours. 

What is the best container to keep food hot?

Many containers on the market can keep drinks, soups, and other foods hot until lunchtime. It’s worth purchasing a few different sizes and shapes, so you pack a variety of hot foods in your child’s lunch box.

Insulated Lunch Box

When looking for an insulated lunch bag for hot food, it’s essential that it’s durable, easy to clean, fits your containers, and is the right style for your child.

The best insulated lunch box that checks all of the boxes is the L.L. Bean Flip-Top Lunch Box or the traditional L.L. Bean Lunch Box.

Wide-mouth Thermos

Perfect for pasta, chili, and more. A wide-mouth Thermos container is one of the most versatile insulated food containers. It is small enough to fit easily in a lunch box and large enough for many different foods.

Insulated Food Jar

Like the wide-mouth Thermos but taller, an insulated food jar is a good choice for soups, stews, and even hot dogs.

S’well 10-ounce Stainless Steel Container

The Snack by S’well Stainless Steel Container is a lower bowl shape that is easier to pack into smaller lunch boxes. This high-quality container will keep foods hot (and cold) for hours.

S’well 24-ounce Stainless Steel Container

We love the Large Snack by S’well Stainless Steel Container for larger meals. This large, Great for chicken tenders, mini calzones, hot dogs, burgers, and more.

Insulated Bento Lunch Box

Make sending hot and cold meals easier with an insulated bento lunch box. This bento box has an insulated section for hot foods and convenient compartments for cold foods. Sending soup, a sandwich, veggies, and a dessert all in one has never been easier!

When it comes to packing easy hot lunches for school, there aren’t any rules. The most important thing to remember is to have the best container for your needs. Make sure they will keep the food warm, won’t leak, and are the right fit for your child’s lunch box.

Whether it’s pasta, grilled cheese, or pizza, what you put in your child’s lunch is only limited by your imagination and the contents of your refrigerator.

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