Non-Refrigerated Lunch Ideas

Updated on February 03, 2011
K.S. asks from Gilbert, AZ
15 answers

Hi mamas! My son (2.5) goes to a daycare twice a week. I have to pack him a lunch that doesn't require refrigeration. Nothing that needs to be heated up. The only thing I can think of is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I would love some other ideas since I know the day is coming when he is tired of the pb&j!

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answers from Phoenix on

My son is now in 3rd grade but I'm still always looking for ideas!

Home made Lunchables are great - keep it simple for preschoolers tho- make them PB& cracker sandwiches instead of bread sandwiches.

I've done things like spread cream cheese and thin lunchmeat on tortilla, roll up and slice into circles. But that goes into an insulated lunch box with a small bottle of water that has had about 1/3 of it frozen in the fridge to act like an ice pack.

Veggies are best eaten when there is a small dipping container like ranch. Or salt for cucumber slices.

I do grilled cheese tortillas (quesadillas) and they are great. mm I think I'll go make me one for lunch right now! ;-)

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answers from Chicago on

My son loves a Cinnamon and Bagel, Fruit Salad, Applesauce & Crackers and cheese, and even cold pizza in his lunch. I know you are concerned about keeping things cold but I have never had a problem packing turkey or ham sandwiches. Freeze yougurt and put in in the lunch box with a plastic spoon. It will keep things cold and still be a nice treat for you child! .

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answers from Phoenix on

when my kids were smaller they took chicken nuggets, cooked hot dogs, lunch meats, sliced cheese or cheese sticks, applesauce cups, puddings, crackers, chips, go-gurts, fresh fruits like banana's, sliced apples and oranges and clementines. you can also put an ice pack in to help keep things cold.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I feel stupid that I'm drawing a blank here. But, in the event something needs to be refridgerated (kept cold for a few short hours) I would put a frozen go-gurt or capri sun (or juice box) in the lunch. It would thaw by lunch and keep food cold. I do this when I send my son with (peeled) boiled eggs or ham and turkey rollups, ect....maybe a cheap (non toxic) ice pack would work too?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

There are ways of keeping cold things cold and hot things hot without the aid of a refrigerator or oven. Expand your thinking to include thermoses and "blue ice" style freezer blocks, which even come in kid-friendly shapes and patterns. Celery, carrot, and cheese sticks are nicer with a cold-boost, as is juice.

Think also about alternatives to the bread in sandwiches. I've used cucumber (Sliced cucumber spread with a soft cheese (i.e., boursin) and a slice of ham) and tortillas (cut into circles using a small cup).

I've had good luck with hard-boiled eggs. Peel the egg and put it in a baggie. Tape a salt packet to the bag.

Small yogurt cups can last for hours without refrigeration. Just don't forget the spoon.



answers from Phoenix on

I have a kid who graduated from high school who NEVER got tired of his peanut butter sandwiches and i made him lunch everyday since he was 3.
He did not like a cold sandwich so when i put the frozen mini water bottle in his siblings lunches for their salads, chips and salsas, yogurts, cheese and crackers, turkey roll ups(using tortillas)....i could never put one in his or put it far away from his sandwich.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Technically ALL cooked meats, sliced/cut fruit/fruit salad and yogurt should be refrigerated - the USDA has a great food safety site. We had this problem (not enough refrigeration space at daycare) and the health department was willing to accept the 'fridge in a bag' brand lunch bag as having enough evidence supporting its keeping food at safe temperatures.

Things that are safe are whole grain crackers, raisins and other dried fruit, hard cheeses (not soft or semi-soft ones), unopened fruit products labelled for room temperature storage, unopened canned fish (salmon or tuna if you use tuna - but he will need help with this), peanut and other nut butters



answers from New York on

For items that don't require refrigeration..
granola bars
fruits (banana, clemintine, grapes)

Can't you pack an ice pack with his lunch? Or do they require that it be disposable?

You could always freeze his water bottle which would act as an icepack and keep refrigerated foods cold.

Does he like yogurt? Freeze a yogurt as part of his lunch and it will keep the other foods cold.

Is he allowed a thermos? You could send mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, pizza bites, ramen noodles, chilli, etc.



answers from Boise on

Anything that can go in a thermos (soup, mac n cheese, pasta or rice or fruit salads, ravioli), you can add a cold pack in the lunch box so its cool enough for things like yogurt and lunch meat, and you can always do cream cheese and jelly roll ups (or just about anything in a tortilla roll up).



answers from Memphis on

My son's (21 month old) lunchbox has 2 compartments. I put an ice pack in the bottom compartment and his lunch in the top one. We have gone the route of homemade lunchables - meat, cheese, crackers, and fruit. I tried to give him a veggie too but I ended that futile exercise. I vary the variety of meat, cheese, and crackers. Fruit is a little more narrow in focus but unsweetened applesauce or bananas are the most common. His daycare has a strict NO PEANUT policy. When he moves up to the next room he will have a NO TREE NUT policy as well (classmate with tree nut allergy). Unfortunately, you may have to start getting him used to a non-peanut butter lunch in case he goes to a school which forbides it.



answers from Norfolk on

Do they allow peanut butter at the daycare? I know some schools don't want kids to bring PB&J because of the allergic kids.
The only things I can think of are more like glorified snacks-- celery and carrot sticks, crackers, string cheese, granola bars. You could give him a lunchbox with an ice pack in it so the refrigeration isn't such an issue. Sandwiches are always a good option.
I know they make those Lunchables things but I personally think they're gross so I can't recommend them with a good conscience.



answers from Phoenix on

Would it be possible for him to use a thermos? My children often take preheated ravioli, spaghetti, or various leftovers in a small thermos for their lunch. Or would he be able to carry an icepak in his lunchbox? Finally, it would seem to me a collection of wheat crackers with peanut butter or cheese slices along with fruit and veggie slices might make a well rounded lunch. It would seem the cheese could make it a little longer without refrigeration than lunch meat.


answers from Phoenix on

A few other moms have already suggested this, so I am just adding my opinion to theirs - I would suggest getting an insulated lunch box in which you can pack an ice pack/blue ice block. I bought my 3 school age sons an insulated lunch box from Land's End, and when they get home from school, it is STILL cold inside. Best lunch box we have ever used - and we've used many! You can buy blue ice blocks at just about any store - Frys, Target, etc... That way you can pack a variety of things besides PB&J - because you're right...that will get old after a while! Without being able to keep it cold, your choices really are quite limited to pb&j, granola bars, and fruit and cereal bars. With an ice pack in an insulated lunch box, you are only limited by your imagination for what you can pack! Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

I pack my son's lunch everyday for preschool, and I give him turkey and cheese sandwiches in one of those sandwich containers and he has never complained that it was gross or anything because it was not refrigerated. I also give him Lunchables once every 2 weeks, since they are loaded with sodium I limit them. So I alternate between turkey and pb&j. He never gets sick of it and it has been over a year. I pack the sandwich, chips or carrots, fruit and juice. Sometimes a fruit roll-up or fruit snacks, but always some kind of fresh fruit or fruit cup. I have even done turkey and cheese rolled up without the bread and he loved it.



answers from Los Angeles on

Get one of those really good insulated lunch bags with an ice pack. Once you find one that can keep the food cool until they eat, the possibilities are endless.

Egg salad with cheese
Turkey and avocado
Cream cheese and jelly
Almond butter and honey
chicken salad with tomato

Do they need to take food that doesn't require the teachers to assist a lot? For example, can the little ones take a thermos and will the teacher help them open it if they need them too?

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