When the temperature dips, nothing warms the heart better than sending your child to school with some hot and comforting lunch. Soups and stews are perfect since in most cases; their flavors improve in time. A sandwich with a warm beverage also fits the bill. Furthermore, packing that lunch can help you control what goes into your child’s diet at school.
However, there are right and wrong ways of packing hot lunch. Having consulted USDA’s Food Safety guidelines, together with a few food publications out there, I have arrived at this summary of 6 easy steps to packing a safe hot lunch.
- You should invest in a few good quality thermal containers for food and beverages. Keep a few sizes around. Always check for leaks. Nothing is more embarrassing than to have soups and stews leaking from the food jar when you are having lunch with your buddies.
- Always pre-heat the containers by pouring boiling water into the jar and let the water sit for a few minutes; my usual time is 5 minutes. Discard the water only right before you are ready to fill up the jar.
- Heat up the food to piping hot before filling up the food jars. While heating up the food, give it a few stirs to ensure even heating.
- After filling up, put the prepared food jars in a thermal carrying bag.
- Not all food jars have serving cups. Therefore, you should also include an unbreakable serving mug with napkins and a spoon in case your child needs to pour the contents out to cool before eating.
- Instruct your child not to open the jar until it is time for lunch. That way the food stays hot and safe – 140F (60C) or above.
So what is a quality thermal food jar? There is no shortage of food jars in the stores. Good Housekeeping has tested 19 of these jars, but many of them failed USDA’s food safety guidelines. Luckily, they found one winner for a beverage holder for bigger kids or adults and one for a food jar for younger kids.
- The Sigg Thermal Bottle Fashion Line (product information) – Sigg specializes in making eco-friendly food containers and has gained quite a colt following. This bottle can safely hold hot or cold beverages for up to 6 hours. That means it can handle cold drink, hot soup, coffee, hot cocoa safely. It is available as flat or ring top, available in Amazon.
- Thermos Funtainer Food Jar Series (product information) – Thermos has been making thermal food jars for quite some time. I am glad to see that this line of containers passes the food safety test. These food jar can hold hot (not cold) food for up to 6 hours. With the wide-mouth design and fun exterior. Your child’s hot lunch can be both fun and safe. They are available in Amazon, and at Target.
From MyHLI kitchen tests, I have found out that there are two more options that passed the USDA’s standards. They are the 17 oz Stanley’s Classic and the Zujirushi Mr. and Ms. Bento Series. Stanley’s Classic, in particular, has superior performance in holding food temperature. Also from the design standpoint, Zujirushi’s Mr.or Ms. Bento is more suitable for moms and dads. You can read more about Mr. and Ms. Bento in Soups and Stews – Make Them and Take Them. The ordering information for both of these food jars is listed in Tools You Can Use – Winter Lunch Containers.
Of course, no hot lunch is complete without some recipes. For a start, you may be interested in trying these soups recipes.
Hot lunch for cold days. It is one of the best ways to enjoy a mid-day meal. With these tips and products information in mind, you can assure that your child will be safely enjoying some nutritious hot food made by you, and seasoned with just a little love.
~Lunch on.Pin It