10 really good thermos lunches to keep kids warm


Hunter's chicken stew recipe from A Year of Simple Family Food

Winter is here and that means our high schoolers are spending lunch times shivering behind B block trying to keep warm. Now is a good time to up your repertoire of thermos lunches. Thermos lunches are a lovely hit of home in the middle of a bone-chilling school day.

Or maybe it’s not even all that cold where you live. I mean, I’m in Sydney, so right now the kids’ legs may be all shades of purple as they go about the school day, it’s only because none of them will put on long pants. What is it with kids and warm clothing?

Luckily, thermos lunches are a great option no matter the weather. This is all due to one word: leftovers. Making lunchboxes out of last night’s dinner is a gift. Not needing to bother with sandwiches, fritters or slices – just heat up the leftovers, plonk them into a good-quality thermos, and lunch is ready to roll.

All of the recipes here will make a brilliant family dinner. To have thermos lunches at the ready, simply make a few extra serves to heat and pack in the morning. How delicious would any of these recipes be in the middle of a school day? You’re welcome, kids.

1. Lamb curry

Marie's lamb curry is perfect for family dinner

Image: Supplied

A hearty serve of Marie’s lamb curry in a thermos is where it’s at. It’s full of goodness and is a hit with kids of all ages. Top tip: add the heated curry to the thermos, then put any rice you want to serve with it on top.

2. Mushroom risotto

Mixed mushroom risotto by Marley Spoon

Image: Supplied

Another recipe that keeps well overnight and is welcome for lunch the next day. This vego mushroom risotto is packed with smart carbs that will power the kiddos through their afternoon. I like to add extra protein and vitamins by stirring through seeds like flax, pepitas and sunflower seeds. Your kids might like that, too. 

3. Chicken stew

Hunter's chicken stew recipe from A Year of Simple Family Food

Image: Supplied

Could there be anything more warming on a cold winter’s day than Hunter’s chicken stew? It’s a Julia Busuttil Nishimura recipe from her new book,  A Year of Simple Family Food. You really have to try this one, it’s fast becoming one of my kids’ most-loved thermos lunches.

4. Butter chicken

Slow cooker butter chicken recipe

Image: Maxabella

Sold out in school canteens everywhere, it’s easy to pack your own butter chicken for lunch. The beauty of this particular recipe is that it’s a slow cooker version. So put it on the night before and it’s ready to pack in the lunches tomorrow.

5. Veggie fried rice

Egg and veg fried rice - your new go-to midweek meal

Image: Maxabella

My kids would eat this fried rice for dinner, breakfast and, yep, you guessed it, lunch. It’s quick to make for dinner, and will keep for one night in the fridge ready to heat well and pack the next day. Don’t keep rice for any longer than that.

6. Mac ‘n’ cheese

Mac and cheese - the best dish for a little comfort-food

Image: Lauren Matheson

Mac ‘n’ cheese is one of the world’s great comfort foods. Just what many kids need in the middle of a school day: comfort. Lauren’s recipe is so tasty and making your cheesy mac from scratch is a comfort in itself. This is one the kids can quickly master to cook for themselves.

7. Vegetarian chilli

Image: Cookie + Kate

Do your kids love a bit of heat like mine? They’ve been raised on chilli, hot sauce and pepper, so mine are well up for it. You can dial the heat up or down in this vego chilli recipe from Cookie + Kate. It’s the chilli recipe I keep returning to, even when I stray to try others.

8. Parma meatballs

Chicken parmigiana meatballs

Image: Lauren Matheson

Chicken meatballs smothered in a parmigiana sauce are welcome any time of day. Make this delicious dish for dinner and then set some aside to make the ultimate thermos lunches. 

9. Pesto pasta

Pesto pasta

Image: Danielle Colley

In a pinch, you could cook some plain wholemeal pasta and stir through a shop-bought pesto sauce to pack. Nothing wrong with that. If you’ve got time, making your own pesto pasta from scratch is rewarding. With a good food processor, it’s also extremely simple to do.

10. Chickpea korma

Cook Republic's chickpea korma is a favourite for thermos lunches

Image: Sneh Roy

Cook Republic’s chickpea korma is one of our very favourite dinners – and therefore one of our favourite thermos lunches too. Sneh packs in the spices and veggies to make a dish that warms from toes to tops. And what kid doesn’t love pumpkin? Don’t miss this one!

Do your kids take thermos lunches to school?

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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