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How to Keep School Lunches Cool

Keeping the kid’s packed school lunches cool…if you’re like me then you’ve tried absolutely EVERYTHING in the book! From fancy insulated school lunch boxes to those flexible gel ice packs that have been known to on occasion spontaneously burst and spill throughout your child’s whole backpack (grr, that clean-up!)

ABC Kids Cubes

Keeping your children’s school lunches cool is key to avoiding food poisoning. The Australian Food Safety Information Council says that perishable food becomes unsafe to eat when stored between 5C and 60C for four hours.

Children are particularly vulnerable to getting food poisoning so it is essential to find a way to keep their lunchbox contents cool throughout the school day.

Here are the methods I have tried so far to keep school lunches cool…make sure you read until the end to get in on the best-kept secret!

Frozen drinks or yogurt tubes

Freeze a drink bottle and pop this in your child’s lunchbox – it will keep the rest of their school lunch cold and be defrosted and ready to drink by lunch time!

The downside?

If you’re anything like me then you have the memory of a goldfish and will definitely forget to wash and re-freeze it every night in preparation for the next school day. Other options are frozen juice boxes or yogurt tubes. And make if you’re using drink bottles that you leave some room for expansion so they don’t burst.

Insulated lunch boxes or cooler bags

These are a great invention! They can be picked up pretty cheap from supermarkets or discount stores, and are super easy to keep to clean.

Ice packs

Flexible gel ice packs don’t take up too much space and can be used over and over without any wastage so they’re great for the environment as well.

I was a SERIOUS advocate for these until one burst and went absolutely eveeeeerywhere. Trust me, you don’t want to have to deal with that cleanup! But I may have just been unlucky as I know tons of mums who swear by these.

Just remember to freeze them every night, or better yet buy a few so you always have a back-up if you forget.


Okay, here’s my holy grail! In my experience, old school still beats out all the fancy new stuff almost every time. No chemicals, cheap, safe and low fuss – it ticks all the boxes.

All you need is the following: cheap sponges or washcloths and some sandwich bags.

Simply wet the sponges (or you can use paper towels if you’re worried that the sponges might mysteriously be lost by your child!) and seal them in the zip lock bags to freeze. You can make a whole heap at once and not have to worry about replacing them daily! And they keep the school lunches cool for just as long as all the fancier store bought options.

A few other handy tips to keep school lunches cool…
  • Don’t pack room temperature or warm foods
  • Prepare and refrigerate foods like salads and sandwiches at least a few hours before you pack them
  • Pack foods that are safe to eat without being kept cool such as whole fruits, bread, and crackers.

Have you got an even better tip? We’d love to hear it!

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For more information on Food Safety check out the Food Safety Information Council website: http://foodsafety.asn.au/

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