Remember those classic late 1980s lunch boxes? The colourful plastic standup lunch box. Can you almost hear the snap of the two clasps on the front? The opened lid revealed all the vast empty space inside. Remember what was always held in the upper lid of the lunch box? A thermos. A trusty thermos.
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In the last couple of years of daily lunch preparations, the thermos has become my secret lunch box weapon.
My kids aren’t super keen to eat sandwiches every single day. One day I happened upon a cute little thermos at the store, it reminded me of the thermos from my childhood lunch box. I picked it up and decided to give it a try. Genius! Suddenly the door opened to warm food. Tired leftovers become cozy lunchtime dishes. Seriously changed our lunch box lives. So, I’ve gathered together a few of my kids’ favourite thermos meals.
How to Use a Thermos
Let’s start with a few tips for using a thermos. Wondering how to keep food hot in a thermos? In order for a thermos to keep food warm, it has to be prepared properly. Fill your thermos with boiling water in the morning as you prepare the lunch – let the thermos sit filled with boiling water for at least ten minutes. Right before you add the hot food, pour out the boiling water and pour in the food. Twist the lid on quickly – don’t let the food cool down. Done. Your thermos will keep the food warm until lunchtime.
Keep your thermos clean. Look for a thermos that doesn’t have little nooks and crannies, where food can stick. Be sure to clean the thermos after every use. For best results, clean the thermos in the sink – not in the dishwasher. Check the requirements for your thermos – but to really extend the life of a thermos – don’t clean it in the dishwasher.
Make sure your kids can open the thermos. This might seem logical, but it’s an important reminder. Let your child test twisting off the lid. Some thermoses have snap lids, some have twist lids and some are built right into a bento-style lunch box. A thermos is only helpful if your kid can actually open it.
Buy the right size thermos. A smaller thermos that is full, is better than a large thermos that is half full. The thermos will retain the heat (or cold) much better if it is full. Also, kids can carry a smaller thermos much more easily than a large thermos. So keep the size in mind. You can pack a lot of food in a smaller thermos.
How to keep your food cold in a thermos. Store your thermos in the fridge to keep it cool. To cool your thermos quickly, fill it with ice cubes and let it sit for 10 minutes. A thermos is great for storing cold drinks, cold pasta salads and any other cold dishes.
Kids Thermos Lunch Dishes They’ll Actually Eat
Alphabet Soup Kids love alphabet soup. Whether you have a favourite store-bought variety or make it from scratch, everyone loves searching for those little letters. Can you spell your name?
Mac and Cheese Before we had a thermos, macaroni and cheese sent to school would become cold and lumpy. Mac and cheese in a thermos can totally stay warm and cheesy. Whether you are making our homemade bacon mac and cheese or using your favourite boxed mac and cheese – the kids are going to love opening up a thermos of cheesy mac.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches Leftovers are the easiest lunch options. Never send another soggy pulled pork sandwich – it’s impossible to keep a moist sandwich from turning into a soggy sandwich. Instead, pile our slow cooker BBQ pulled pork into a warm thermos and send the bun separately. Your child can build the sandwich at lunchtime – ta-da! Perfectly delicious pulled pork sandwich. Go ahead and make that big batch of slow cooker pulled pork, and send it to school all week long.
Chicken Noodle Soup When the kids are a little under the weather I love sending a loving, warm thermos filled with chicken noodle soup. Sending chicken noodle soup is like sending your kid a big hug. Don’t forget the spoon!
More Thermos Lunch Ideas for Kids
Check out our round-up of 40+ thermos lunch ideas for kids. You’ll find pasta dishes, soups, stews, noodle dishes and more!
Our favourite thermos for kids
Thermos Funtainer – 10 ounce container – We have two of these thermoses and my girls have been using them for years…I mean like 10 years. They are sturdy and the wide-mouth opening gives easy access to the food. They heat up or cool down easily. They are easy to clean. This thermos is also available in a WIDE variety of colours…which makes it fun too.
Thermos FOOGo 10 ounce container – This is the other Thermos we use. All the benefits of the Funtainer, but with a twist off lid. Another great option for the lunch box – it isn’t too big.
As for cutlery and kids. Some thermoses come with spoons and forks that click into the lid of the thermos. To me, these can be too complicated (and are spots where mould can grow). I prefer sending the kids with small spoons and forks. I bought a pack of small, metal cutlery from IKEA when my kids started school and they’ve lost a few over the years, but they are inexpensive to replace and can be washed in the dishwasher. This cutlery set from Annova is very similar and should last many years.
Packing a child’s lunch with convenient, healthy, delicious and flavourful food is a priority, but it can be a real challenge. Using a thermos gives parents another handy option.
What’s in your child’s thermos? Share any of your kid-approved hot lunch ideas below…I’d love to see what you’re filling your thermos with.
Another one of our lunch box favourites greek pasta salad – super kid friendly
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