Remember those classic late 1980’s lunch boxes? The colourful plastic standup lunch box. Can you almost hear the snap of the two clasps on the front? The opened lid that 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 stays warm and cheesey. Whether your 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 the 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, send 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!
Other Hot Lunch Ideas
Okay, the options are seriously endless. Fill your thermos with lasagna. Keep chicken nuggets or fish sticks warm in the thermos. A thermos full of stew and a biscuit on the side would be amazing. Send a container of cooked rice and a thermos full of curry chicken. Absolutely anything can be kept warm inside a thermos.
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 8 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 12 ounce container – This is the other Thermos we use. It has a little more capacity than the Funtainer. My kids use this one when we are packing larger quantities of food. 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 are too complicated (and are spots where mold can grow). I prefer sending the kids with small spoons and forks. I bought a pack of small, metal cutlery from IKEA (dessert forks and teaspoons) 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.
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.
Lunch box favourite greek pasta salad – super kid friendly