As the weather changes, our tastebuds change with it. We find ourselves starting to crave meals that give us comfort and keep us warm. Our kids are no different. Recently, my youngest asked if I could start packing hot foods in his lunch. I simply smiled, and I’ll tell you why.
My youngest is picky on a good day. He doesn’t like sandwiches. He turns his nose up at wraps. He doesn’t like cold vegetables. He won’t eat cheese. He hates yogurt with the “chunks” in it. He’ll only eat plain vanilla. Watermelon is too squishy. Oranges are too juicy. He’s the kid that will tell me he likes something one week and then stop eating it the next. He’d live off buns, mac and cheese, muffins, and croutons if you let him. Yes, croutons.
When it comes to packing lunches, he’s a challenge to put it mildly. So, when he tells me he wants hot food in his lunch, I know this will probably only last a week before he tells me he doesn’t like hot food in his lunch anymore. I think a week might be generous.
If I’m going to give this hot lunch thing a whirl though, I’m going to do it right! So, I did a bit of research, talked to some Mom friends who have kids that actually like food, and I came up with a few tips to make sure packing hot lunches this winter goes smoothly.
Tip #1 – Buy a Good Thermos
You know the saying “you get what you pay for”? Well, it’s probably true in this case. If your kids are anything like my youngest, they can be a little rough on things. So, you’ll want to invest in a thermos that will not only keep things hot but will also withstand being bumped all over the place! (We’re on water bottle #3 already this year!)
Tip #2 – Keep Food Hot
Okay, so most of us think if we put the food into the thermos steaming hot, it will still be steaming hot at lunch time, right? Well, not always. So, here’s what you do – boil a pot of water and pour it into the thermos while you’re preparing lunches. Then, drain the thermos right before you add in the food. The heat from the water will warm up the thermos to keep food hot until it’s ready to eat.
Tip #3 – Prevent Sogginess
Kids love chicken nuggets, right? But they don’t love soggy chicken nuggets. Trust me. So, stuff the bottom of the thermos with a paper towel to absorb all the liquid and prevent foods from getting soggy. Brilliant, isn’t it? I’d love to take the credit for this one, but I read it online somewhere and I just thought it was genius!
The best items to keep hot are always liquids like soups, stews and saucy pastas!
Tip #4 – Variety
That thermos isn’t just for soup and chicken nuggets! There are so many delicious items you can pack so the kids still have a hot lunch without getting bored. Think chili, pasta dishes, pizza rolls, even dinner leftovers like meatloaf or stir fry. I mean, my kid won’t eat half of those things, but I’m hoping yours will.
It also helps to engage them with their lunch, so keep things fun and kid-friendly by packing condiments/snacks on the side for dipping or sprinkling, like crackers or cheese to go with soup or pasta. When they can engage with their food it makes for an exciting lunchtime!
Packing lunches is not always easy, but I hope these tips help as we head into those winter months. Oh, and if you’re a hot lunch packing pro, we’d love to hear from you! Share any tips we may have missed in the comments below.