Some schools used to let their students reheat their lunch with microwaves in the lunchroom. But the COVID-19 crisis has changed the game. A lot of parents are now looking for alternatives and best practices to make sure their kids can still enjoy a hot lunch at school.
What food can we pack in an insulated lunchbox container that will actually look appetizing? And, How to keep food warm in an insulated container until lunchtime? I am Alexandra, co-founder of Teuko.com. I am a mom of 2 children who attend The Lycee Francais de San Francisco, where the microwaves were banned last year. I had to reinvent lunch packing and use an insulated container daily. Follow my real-life tips and tricks to prepare hot, easy, and delicious lunches for the kids at school.
Tips & Tricks to Keep Food Warm until Lunchtime
If you have decided to use an insulated container, there are a few tricks to know that will ensure that the food you send to school stays warm until lunchtime.
1. Prepare dinner with extra servings or prepare dinner and lunch at the same time, so that you can set portions aside in a food storage container overnight in the fridge. Match the capacity of the food storage container (glass container if possible) with the capacity of the insulated lunch container. It will make the transfer easier the following morning, and it will help avoid food waste!
We noticed that the small Glasslock containers had the same capacity as the Thermos Funtainer (10oz). Bigger Glasslock containers have the same capacity as other Thermos or containers like S’nack by Swell 24oz. We like to use smaller insulated lunch boxes when we add an extra side, and bigger insulated containers when there is only one main dish.
2. In the morning, reheat the insulated lunch container first. When you wake up, reheat your insulated lunch container. Boil water, 212C/100C (very easy with an electric kettle). Fill your insulated lunch container at full capacity, close it, and let it stand. You’ll have then plenty of time to eat your breakfast, get ready and or finish preparing the rest of the lunch.
3. Before leaving the house, reheat the lunch. Take what you prepared out of the fridge and reheat it until it’s super hot. We like to use a pan or saucepan, which takes about 5-7 minutes. You can also use a microwave, which takes about 2-3 minutes, but depending on your microwave oven, the final result (your kid getting a hot lunch) may not be as expected.
4. Transfer the hot food to the hot insulated container. Empty the hot water from the insulated container. Pour the hot food into the insulated container. Note that liquids tend to stay warmer than solid foods and that solid foods tend to stay warmer if you compress well and fill in the insulated container at maximum capacity.
5. Place everything in the lunch bag, close carefully, and voilà! Your kids will be very happy to enjoy a warm meal, especially during cold, windy, foggy days like what we have in San Francisco.
What Food Should You Pack In an Insulated Container?
Here are kid-approved hot lunch ideas popular on Teuko.com that are easy to prepare and that hold up well in an insulated container.
1. Hot Lunch Idea #1: Soup
If you are looking for nutritious and stress-free hot lunch recipe ideas, soups are a must-try. They actually allow you to get a nutritious and tasty meal in no time while not requiring any specific culinary know-how nor a recipe. Find below 4 of the most popular soup ideas you need to know for the lunchbox:
- Hot or cold, tomato soups are perfect with grilled cheese for the lunchbox.
- Peas and spinach make a simple and healthy green soup.
- Mix zucchinis with your kids’ favorite cheese and enjoy. Our kids learned to love zucchinis by mixing the Laughing Cow creamy cheese, or brie.
- The sweet taste of carrots will welcome any other vegetable or spice. Start easy with our carrot pumpkin puree.
2. Hot Lunch Idea #2: Pasta
It’s a no-brainer, pasta lunches will always make meal preparation simpler than ever. The good news is that pasta will always look appetizing to your kids, including in an insulated container. No need to make it complicated, think about mac and cheese, pesto pasta, bolognese, tuna pasta. Families like to add some veggies like carrots or peas to plain pasta. In any case, go and have fun trying all the varieties of pasta available: alphabet pasta, penne, shells…
3. Hot Lunch Idea #3: Scrambled eggs with cheese
Add a salad and some fruits, and you’ll get one of the kids’ favorite breakfast for lunch ideas that holds perfectly in any insulated container. Pro tip: scrambled eggs can be prepared at the very last minute in the morning, on the stovetop, or with a microwave if you are in a rush.
4. Hot Lunch Idea #4: Lentils or beans
It’s easy to enhance the taste of these foods by combining sausages, meat, carrots, tomatoes…Dinner leftovers work usually greatly mixed all together with beans or lentils!
5. Hot Lunch Idea #5: Rice, couscous, or quinoa
The most adventurous kids will certainly appreciate a mix of veggies like carrots, zucchinis, broccoli, and peas, combined with grains such as rice, couscous, or quinoa. This is also a great way to reuse leftovers of veggies at home. No time to cut and prepare veggies? Use tomato sauce that you can always improve with garlic, onions, or any meat left.
Isn’t it easier than you thought to send a hot and tasty lunch to school?