40+ ideas for Hot packed lunches

Last year I mentioned that I’ve started using thermo containers for the kid’s packed lunches. They love it (Toby was pretty miffed that I gave him a sandwich this morning to be honest) especially in winter when it’s chilly and they want something in their tums to keep them warm until the end of the day.

One of the messages I get frequently on instagram is what the hell do you put in the kid’s thermo containers? Once we’ve gone past soup (which my kid’s are just awful with and usually refuse to eat) people get a it stumped, but actually there is SO much you can put in them, practically anything, so I figured it would be useful to put together a list of my fave ideas for what to put in the kid’s hot lunch boxes! As an FYI – everything I’m sharing here is either made in advance and freezable, batchable or takes the same time it would for you to make a sandwich.

Beef & Lamb

  • Spaghetti Bolognese – always a winner and the best part (for me) is that it’s SUPER easy to batch cook. You can even batch cook it and turn the bolognese into…
  • Chilli con carne – with rice ideally but you can easily do it with a potato too! I’d remove the skin from the potato for ease at school.
  • Cottage pie – again, another one that is easy to make and freeze ahead of time so you aren’t farting about on a morning.
  • Lasagne – cut into shape or cut up like a ‘broken’ lasagne is a good idea for ease.
  • Beef curries – curry is so popular in this house, the kid’s love it and, you’re going to get sick of me saying this, I make a huge portion and freeze portions for ease! The one above is from One pot recipes.
  • Beef noodles/stir fry – think like a beef chow mein. Super easy, takes about 10 mins in a morning (less if you pre-prep any veg you want the night before whilst you’re cooking dinner)
  • Leftover Sunday lamb or beef slices in gravy with mash – using up leftover Sunday roasts for the win.
  • Lamb tagine – tagines are actually a really good way to get some hidden fruit and veg into the kids. Apricots make a nice addition to the dish and some hidden grated carrots in there. Mine really enjoy it, you can send them with cous cous or rice!
  • Beef or Lamb stew – perfect for those chilly winter days and you can either send it with a piece of good chunky veg, or mash. Beef stew is probably one of the easiest and cheapest meals you can make in winter too.
  • Moussaka – my kid’s can be a bit funny with this one, and I’m not the biggest fan myself but I know so many people that love it! It’s very similar to lasagne in the sense that you can batch it and cut up squares for the following day. The one above is from Cooking with Bry.
  • Lamb Hotpot – again. so cheap and easy to cook over the weekend, freeze for later in the week. Or even leave to slow cook overnight.
  • Lamb or Beef ragu with pasta or potato – very similar to bolognese but usually beef chunks and not mince.
  • Beef Burritos or fajitas – easy for kids to pick up and eat, as well as being incredibly filling!
  • Meatballs – easy to make and freeze or shop bought.
  • Burger – I do this by heating the burger and then wrapping it to avoid it going soggy, then putting it in the thermo. The other idea is to cook the burger, add the cheese and put it in the container, wrapping the bun on the outside. It’s not one we have done often (once in fact ha!) but it went down a storm and used up that one leftover burger I had in the freezer.

Veggie ideas

  • Any pasta dish (this could also be with meat) – we usually like pesto pasta, or for Edith buttered pasta (she will sometimes take this cold in summer too!) Leftover fajita pasta is another popular one.
  • Mac N Cheese – get’s its own mention because its the most obvious one and so very popular.
  • Soups – I mean, any. They can drink it straight from the container/flask and you can send with some bread.
  • Vegetable substitutes for any meaty dishes like spag bol etc – lentil versions? You betcha. Big fan of a veggie lasagne here, which we’ve had on a number of occasions.
  • Baked potato – again, I would take the skin off or cut it up for my children, but what you put on it would be up to you!
  • Chickpea Meatballs – these from Dishing out Health take 20 mins (see above) and you could make them in advance!
  • Falafel wraps – not a fave for my kids (can be served cold) but if your kid’s like falafel then don’t exclude it!

Chicken & Pork

  • Pizza chicken – always a winner. I don’t usually do pizza and if I do, I send it cold (it doesn’t stay hot very well) so this is a yummy way to do it. Again, I cut it up so it’s in biteable portions. Add in some green beans and boiled potatoes. The above recipe is from Low Carb life.
  • Chicken curry – sameas with beef, lamb or a veg curry, this is one of our faves and one of the easiest.
  • Sausage and mash – lots of gravy and you’re away!
  • Chicken noodles – chow mein, curried, thai… whatever, easy to make in a morning and takes less than 10 mins.
  • Chicken fajitas – I love this – I whack into the thermal sliced peppers, sliced onions, sliced chicken to stay hot and then I put some lettuce and tomato slices into another pot, finally some cheese in a final pot and lay the wraps in the bottom. Its a make your own! They love it, everything get’s eaten and it’s a fun one!
  • Chicken nuggets/dippers – I’ve done this with potatoes/veg and with just bread and butter with fruit on the side. Simple and tasty.
  • Chicken/Pork casseroles – especially in Autumn with rice or mashed potatoes.
  • Sausages or bacon to make butties – I’ve done this for the boys and they honestly acted like a was genius. I was in stitches because I feckin love cooking, but I’ve peaked at a sausage. Anyway, keep the bread bun or bread slices wrapped as you would a sandwich. Put your cooked bacon/sausage into the thermos and they can take it out when they are ready to make their butty.
  • White chicken Lasagne – such a yummy twist on a classic lasagne. The above is from Carl’s Bad Cravings.
  • Chicken skewers – any flavour, easy and tasty, just make sure they aren’t sharp.
  • Toad in the hole – add gravy and mash, this is absolutely one for leftovers.
  • Chicken Gyros – you can do this in exactly the same way as chicken fajitas. Obvs for younger children BYO is a little bit more tricky!
  • Chicken burrito bowls – basically a deconstucted wrap-free burrito. It’s a huge fave in this house but so filling so we always have some leftover. Perfect for the next day’s lunch. As it’s rice you will want to be cautious with how you store it overnight to avoid food poisoning.
  • Sausage casserole – another super popular one (and cheap to make if you’re using beans etc)
  • Jambalaya – a little pricey to make (I think) but if you make it then you don’t want to waste any so this is a way to use up leftovers!
  • Hot sandwiches like pork roast sandwiches – great for using up leftover roast meat, if you pop it in the themos with a bit of gravy and add a bread roll to the lunch box separately, it’s a win!


  • Fish pie – easy to make in advance and freeze.
  • Fish fingers – either served with boiled potatoes and peas or just with bread on the side and fruit.
  • Fish curry – I really could have just put curry at the top couldn’t I?
  • Fish n Chips – yes really. It’s do able. I don’t think that chips actually survive that well (bit like pizza) so I prefer to do roasted wedges and cheat a bit on the chip front.
  • Salmon fillet with stir fried veg – easy and quick, serve with noodles or rice. This teriyaki salmon from Dinner at the Zoo is lush and perfect for marinading. Just cut the veg up the night before, flash fry, cook your noodles, mix up and lay the salmon on top before closing the lid. BOSH.
  • Fish cakes – same as fish fingers!

Ok! I think that will do – just… don’t be afraid to try it. It’s cut down our wastage, I’m not spending a fortune on the school lunches that the kids would come home complaining about or telling me they didn’t eat any veg with. It’s super easy and 100% doesn’t add time to our morning routine, if anything, it’s less effort to whack something in the oven or microwave and then go away to get the kid’s ready for their day. A friend’s son has been doing this for himself too, and converted a few of his friends! It’s not just for tinies.



  1. Avatar
    September 16, 2021 / 5:11 am

    Does the food into the container need to contains sauce? I’m thinking maybe if it doesn’t it will dry out. That’s the only thing putting me off trying basically.

    • Harriet September 16, 2021 / 11:05 am

      I don’t think so, but I have noticed it’s better with sauce. When I did sausages for the boys, they stayed warm, but not as hot as something like chilli con carne.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.