20 Freezable Lunch Ideas for School

If you want to send your child off to school with wholesome, “real food” lunches this year, planning ahead is key! I know it’s tempting to just grab and go with those little prepackaged bags of cheese crackers and tubes of flavored yogurt, but giving your child nutritious foods throughout the school day can help them stay alert and do their best.

Now if I had to wake up each morning and make homemade “real food” school lunch recipes from scratch, well…that would just never happen! So instead I make lunch items when it is convenient for me and freeze them. This way—even on those nights when I am feeling tired and uninspired—I can quickly pack school lunches with ease. I would seriously never survive this chore otherwise!

School Lunch Tips

My Top School Lunch Packing “Tricks”

  1. I think it’s safe to say freezing foods in advance is my number one school lunch “trick” that makes the lunches I pack even possible.
  2. And my number two school lunch trick is to always pack—or at least start packing lunch—the night before!

So before we dive right into the list of things you should make and freeze right now at the beginning of the school year, here are a few freezing tips…

How to Freeze and Defrost Recipes for School Lunches

  • For Soups, Pastas, Meatballs, Refried Beans, Stews, Etc: Freeze the finished dish in individual portions using small jelly jars, small Tupperware containers, or even freezer-safe Ziploc bags (once the food has cooled). Note: If using glass jars leave room at the top for the soup to expand!
    The day/night before school: Take out the frozen item of choice and let it defrost in its container in the fridge overnight. On the morning of school heat up the item (we usually use a small pot on the stove, but the microwave would work as well) in a heat-proof container and then transfer it to a thermos container in order to keep it warm at school. Be sure to check out our post on how to select and use a thermos. I try to send “hot lunch” (usually a soup) every Wednesday because it’s a nice break in the middle of the week, and I am now in a routine to remember to pick out something to defrost on Tuesdays.
    tomato bisque for freezer
  • For Whole-Grain Muffins, Waffles, Pancakes, Quick Breads, Pizza Crusts, Store Bought Breads/Pitas, Etc: There are two ways to freeze bread items: 1. Freeze them in one layer on a baking sheet. Then once they are frozen transfer them to a big Ziploc bag or other freezer-safe container. 2. Eliminate a step by separating the layers of food with pieces of wax paper in your freezer-safe container/bag (so nothing sticks together). With certain foods (like muffins) I find that I don’t even need the wax paper.
    The day/night before school: Pull out the desired individual frozen bread item, put it in the divided lunch container, and let it defrost in the fridge overnight with the other items you’ve packed. If you are just defrosting a bread item alone and it is not already packed with a perishable item then it can defrost on the counter at room temperature.
    frozen waffles
  • For Smoothies: I freeze our smoothies in reusable silicone freezie pop molds and do not take them out until the morning of school. These do not need to defrost overnight! Instead they will actually slowly defrost throughout the school morning. My kids say they are kind of half frozen, half not by lunchtime (Note: I pack their lunch in insulated bags with 3 or 4 frozen ice packs).

20 Freezable Lunch Ideas for School

  1. Whole-Wheat Pancakes or Waffles.
    We use these to make sandwiches with all sorts of fillings like cream cheese, jam, cinnamon, raisins, and even peanut butter (or other nut butters).
    Waffle Sandwich

  2. Spaghetti and Meatballs.
    Our family thinks homemade meatballs are pretty awesome. Combine them with cooked whole-grain noodles and organic sauce and freeze them in a jar – you now have yourself a lunch to get excited about. (See freezing notes above.)
    spaghetti and meatballs

  3. Pizza Crust (or Finished Pizza).
    Whether you make and bake your own plain pizza crust or just cut store bought whole-wheat pitas into triangles and freeze them, it is a great item to have on hand. Pack with grated cheese and tomato sauce and you officially have a homemade “lunchable.” Alternatively, pizza that has already been baked with sauce and cheese freezes beautifully so don’t be afraid to go that route as well.
    pizza crusts
  4. Chicken Noodle Soup.
    Who doesn’t love homemade chicken noodle soup… especially on a cold winter day? Make and freeze this now and you will be SO thankful in a couple months when fall arrives. (See freezing notes above.)
    chicken noodle soup
  5. Smoothies.
    We love smoothies in our house and one of the best parts about them is that you can easily add in greens and peanut butter and other good stuff. We freeze them and send them in colorful reusable smoothie pop molds, and they are the envy of the lunch table. (See notes above.)
    smoothie pop
  6. Whole-Grain Pumpkin Muffins (or Mini-Muffins).
    They don’t have to be pumpkin flavored…blueberry, cinnamon/raisin, raspberry, or banana/nut would do! The important thing is that you make the muffins. And freeze them of course! :)
    pumpkin muffin
  7. Tomato Bisque.
    This is my 8-year-old daughter’s most favorite soup. She would eat it every week and it would never get old to her. She especially loves it when I boil some whole-wheat macaroni or penne noodles (the day before of course) and then add them to the soup when heating it up in the morning before school. (See freezing notes above.)
    tomato bisque
  8. Homemade Pop Tarts.
    If I actually have enough extra homemade pop tarts on hand to freeze and then I later find them in the freezer (after a period of forgetfulness), they are like the golden nuggets of the school lunch world to me. I am just being honest – it is the best.
    pop tarts
  9. Whole-Wheat Zucchini Bread or Cinnamon Raisin Bread.
    These can be a great stand-in for sandwich bread as well. Just add some cream cheese in-between two layers and you are ready to go.
    cinnamon raisin bread sandwich
  10. Slow Cooker Refried Beans or Baked Beans.
    Ya okay so beans aren’t for everyone. But I didn’t think they were for me either until I tried these recipes – so just give them a chance! It’s hard to beat cheap, real, and filling.
    refried beans

11. Whole-Wheat Lemon Raspberry or Carrot Applesauce Muffins
Whether it’s to accompany a serving of warm soup or to beef up a snacky cold lunch, my daughters never met a muffin of mine they didn’t like! And these in particular are two of their favorites.

lemon rasberry muffins

12. Homemade Uncrustables
So even though my daughters don’t actually mind the crust, they still think uncrustables are fun to make and eat. Plus, the fact that I can make and freeze a big batch makes my life so much easier on some days!

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Homemade Uncrustables) on 100 Days of #RealFood

13. Homemade Pieces of Pizza
Pizza that’s been made (and cooled) surprisingly freezes beautifully! And if you don’t want to make your own crust, you can cheat and use whole-wheat pitas. :) (P.S. That’s a Yumbox that’s pictured, and you can get 15% off with our “SWEET15” code.)

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Homemade Pizza) on 100 Days of #RealFood

14. Slow Cooker Potato Soup (recipe is in my cookbook)
This is one of our new favorite soups. I love how hearty and filling it is, and my daughters love that I put (organic) bacon on top. (P.S. If you use jars to freeze individual portions like I did, don’t forget to leave room at the top for the food to expand.)

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Potato Soup) on 100 Days of #RealFood

15. Chili
It’s hard to go wrong with chili this time of year! But I have two options for you (both made in the slow cooker) – either Steak Chili or Red and Green Veggie Chili.

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Steak Chili) on 100 Days of #RealFood

16. Whole-Wheat Crepes
Leftover crepes are not commonplace around here, but you could always make a double batch for a fun surprise in a breakfast-themed school lunch.

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Whole-Wheat Crepes) on 100 Days of #RealFood

17. Lunchbox Quiches (recipe is in my cookbook)

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Lunchbox Quiches) on 100 Days of #RealFood

18. Whole-Wheat Bread or Cinnamon Raisin Bread
When you find a good source for bread, it’s a great idea to stock up. I divide loaves from Great Harvest into three or four Ziploc bags and freeze them. I love how their honey whole-wheat loaf is made with only five ingredients (whole-wheat flour, yeast, salt, water, and honey) and holds up really well in the freezer. You can always make your own too, of course!

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Bread) on 100 Days of #RealFood

19. Broccoli Cheese Soup
This soup is a great way to get a dose of green veggies. I sometimes even add noodles to it when I pack it in the lunch box, which my kids love.

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Broccoli Cheese Soup) on 100 Days of #RealFoodd

20. Tortillas (Corn or Flour)
If I have a couple tortillas on hand, I can always use that as a starting point for a great school lunch. Whether I use them to make a quick cheese quesadilla or pack them along with leftover taco fixings, my daughters like Mexican food so much, they don’t mind eating it cold. :)

10 Recipes to Freeze for #SchoolLunches (Tortillas) on 100 Days of #RealFoodd

Bonus Freezing Tips

  • You can also freeze sauces like spaghetti sauce (for making your own pizza “lunchables”), organic applesauce (store bought or homemade), and pesto in little ice cube trays. These are great to have on hand for school lunch boxes as well!
  • I also love to freeze fresh organic berries in the summer to use all winter long to top off yogurt and add to muffins for the lunch box!

How many of these items do you already have in your freezer? :) Please share your freezing ahead tips for school lunches in the comments below.

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

284 thoughts on “20 Freezable Lunch Ideas for School”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Hello,
    I just found your website and absolutely love your ideas and recipes without processed foods! Do you have some suggestions for gluten-free ingredient substitutions for your recipes that use wheat? Maybe rice flour or coconut flour? Any thoughts would be appreciated, thanks!

  2. Love all these suggestions! I do a lot of make ahead things on Sunday (pre-pack the veggies, make the snack bags of raw trail mix and whole grain crackers, make lentil salad for the week and so on) but I had NOT thought to freeze things! This is a brilliant idea. Make a little extra of dinners or just a special batch of something and use my empty jelly jars and not only does this make life easier it expands the lunch menu! Fabulous. Thank you!

  3. I’m so glad I found your web site. With my son now in Kindergarten, I am trying to work out his eating routine – He eats lunch early (10:30 am)we eat dinner late (6:30 pm), so he needs healthy and hearty snacks when he comes home from school at 3:30. Your ideas will work very well for us!

  4. I am LOVING your site! It’s such an amazing resource… I just quit my 9 to 5 job to stay at home with my 3 year old and 1 year old and am relying on your site for recipe ideas… THANK YOU! I’m also a holistic health counselor and am recommending your site to all of my clients! THANK YOU for all that you do!

  5. i really like your lunch box healthy options, as iv been trying to steer our sons lunches in this direction … ps the meatballs idea is so awesome, its his favorite thing, he eats at home, will try this at least twice a week now, never look at it ,as a school idea … awesome just awesome keep up he revolution on healthy options

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Christine. No, but you should make sure yours are freezer safe. Also, leave room at the top for expanding. ~Amy

  6. Can you freeze grilled cheese sandwiches? I make quesadillas for my kids and freeze those in advance but thought grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches would make a nice variety and I think they’d taste fine cold – any thoughts?

  7. I just used the 8oz mason jars to freeze some smothered pork chops and dumplings as well as meatballs and sauce. Such a great idea for left overs. Can’t wait to pull these out for yummy lunches. Thanks for the great ideas!!

  8. Do you put the morning and afternoon snacks in a separate insulated bag? My son like his lunch hot and cold for both his morning snack and drink. I bought one of those double compartment insulated lunch bag but it was useless.

    1. Hi Marion – Our girls take hot oatmeal in a thermos for their morning snack almost every day. We put it in a separate cloth drawstring bag with a cloth napkin, the thermos, and a spoon. Lunch is in the insulated bag (both hot and cold stuff in there). They have an afternoon snack when the get off the bus at home, so we don’t have to pack that. – Jason

  9. Love this blog! I recommend it to everyone! I tried the smoothie pops, ordered the silicone holders, made a great smoothie, put them in the holders, froze them overnight and put them in my kid’s lunches and they leaked all over everything! I had to scrub their new insulated lunch bags down tonight. Any tips to avoid that in the future? I didn’t fill them all the way and I closed them shut and had a big ice pack in their insulated bag. I love the idea of frozen smoothie pops and I don’t want to give up yet!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Tina. Take note of the #5 photo-Lisa wedges the molds into the Ziploc container to keep them securely in place. You have to do it that way to assure a leak free fit. :) ~Amy

  10. Can you freeze the noodles in with the sauce and meatballs? Does frozen pita bread once its defrosted, taste good?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Allison. Sure, you can freeze it all together. I freeze pita bread all the time with no negative effects. Just get as much air out of the bag as possible. ~Amy

  11. Such great ideas! My best friend, who lives out of town, just had a baby, and I’m going to visit her this weekend — and cook a bunch of freezer-friendly meals for her and her husband to eat after I leave. This list is perfect. And I love the focus on healthy eats. Thanks so much!

  12. I am trying to get into using my freezer more, but I have had some issues…. 1. when i freeze things with whole wheat noodles in them, so far I have noticed that the pasta is sort of gummy and doesn’t hold up when re-heated. 2. I tried a batch of muffins, and they didn’t seem as fresh/moist when they were thawed. Am i missing something or do you just accept a lesser quality when you are striving for the convenience of having the food already made an available? Maybe my expectations are too high?! LOL :) Any advice would be appreciated!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Chrissy. Well, freezing does change the texture, moisture, and consistency of foods. There is no way to avoid it completely but the more airtight your containers/bags are the better. One advantage of bags over other containers is the ability to get most of the air out. Some foods are affected more than others so you just have to decide what passes the test for you and what you only want to prepare fresh. It requires some trial and error. I’ve found that most things freeze up and prepare pretty well. One note: be sure that your backed goods are fully cooled before you package and freeze them, otherwise they can be too moist/mushy when thawed. Hope that helps. ~Amy

  13. I just want to thank you for all your wonderful ideas. With help from your site I changed a lot of what I packed for my daughters lunches (6 and 11) I start with your crock pot chicken recipe so my girls have chicken and spinach pitas or chicken salads. Living in the south I don’t pack any hot soups and such but I do a lot of your other lunch suggestions. My daughters now love to take thier lunches to school. Thank you again!

  14. Donette Mullinix

    Thanks for the great ideas! My kids are grown but I teach and take my lunch every day so I love new healthy ideas! The students and other teachers always have lots of questions about what I am eating. It’s a great way to talk about healthy eating choices with them.

  15. Thanks for the great ideas! One tip I have is buying plastic drink stirrers you can use to pack kebobs. I typically make fruit kebobs, but you could use them for olives/veggies, meat and cheese or anything you can put on a stick. It makes it fun for them to eat!

  16. How long do these items stay good in the freezer? I’m just wondering how far in advance should you make stuff. thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Candice. Yes. I use ice trays that fit two trays to one large Ziplock bag. You could use whatever system works best for you. ~Amy

  17. I Use Ice Cube Trays to I Q F and store everything ! Calzones ,the staple of Napoleon’s Armies , travel well and have many varieties .

  18. Thank you for this article,I think this is a great .
    I hope more parents are going to encourage the children to eat healthy ,natural food by learning from this good Ideas.

  19. Thank you Lisa for these great ideas! They are super helpful, even for a busy homeschool mama like me. I’m always looking for a way to escape from Pb&j every day, but without a lot of prep time.

  20. Thank you for the ideas! I don’t have kids but I pack my own lunch every morning. I like to have soup in the winter time and I want to start making my own, but didn’t know what to put it in that would be safe for the microwave. I don’t want to microwave in plastic anymore. I never thought of canning jars to freeze in.

      1. It would be easier to just take the canning jar to work with me. Then I don’t have to worry about remembering to thaw the soup the night before and I won’t have to wash a thermos every night.

  21. One thing occurred to me… some schools have microwaves available in the lunch room. The school my oldest 3 go to does.

    If this is the case, you could just send the soups/leftovers in a glass-jar or a plastic lunch container and they can heat it in the micro… no need to use a thermos then.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Word of caution: Please don’t microwave food in plastic containers. Chemicals easily leach into foods when heated in plastic. ~Amy

      1. Hi Sarah, I sent all my sons food in small mason jars last pre-school year and not one broken. They are sturdy and don’t easily break when dropped. We have turfed all plastics from our house and the glass jars are being used by a few other parents now and they love them!! BTW my son is 3.5 :-)

  22. What peanut butter do you use? Looking for a good, yet economical option. I use it a lot for granola, granola bars, etc.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kam. Look for an organic peanut butter with only peanuts and maybe a little salt as ingredients. ~Amy

  23. My son, who has gluten and peanut allergies, went to the National Scout Jamboree this summer: 10 days, no refrigeration. They were having pie two of the nights and I racked my brain and then the internet for a solution: pie-in-a-jar! I decided this would be the right solution since I saw so many talking about shipping them to soldiers (meaning weeks to months unrefrigerated).
    Simply take your pie crust and line the sides and bottom of a half-pint jar, spoon in your filling and top with another circle of dough. Bake (45-50min at 350?) by setting the jars on a cookie sheet (no lids). Once done, as quickly as possible, clean the rim of each jar and add a (boiled?) canning lid and ring. If you got them clean, they should seal (all of mine did).
    It would probably be wise to consult a canning book before applying this to much beyond fruit pies, but these worked great for him, and I sent the last one (now a month old) in his lunch today for the first day of school.

    1. Richard,
      I like this idea! My brother is currently serving our country overseas so I can make a ton of these for school and to send to him as well! Thank you so much :)

  24. Hi! I don’t have to pack lunches for my preschooler and kindergardener (they prepare their lunches at school!), BUT I’m loving these ideas so much for just getting lunch on the table quickly at home… seems nap is always late because I’m taking too long preparing lunch. Just wondering if you’d heard of the product Zipzicles? My daughter received these as a party favor, and it is really fun to have something like Flavor Ice pops (those kinds in the plastic tube), but yummier and “real.” Thanks for so many wonderful suggestions for all meals of the day!

      1. We have tried the zipsicles they are great for just liquids. When we put smoothies in them they snapped in half and we very hard to clean out. I was bummed.

      2. I did a smoothie the first time I used them with no problem, but they were pretty fat. Maybe you have to be more careful not to overfill with smoothies. I will admit that I just went ahead and chunked the bags afterwards, did not attempt to clean them :). My kids do just love them though.

    1. Yes heather schools prepare lunches!! But some of us Chose to provide our children with lunches that are healthier than what the schools provide. Chicken nuggets and French fries and maybe a smal side of canned fruit drenched in corn syrup isn’t my idea of a nutritious meal for my child. I’m sorry if I sounded snappy but school lunches get me very upset.

      1. Before making judgements (if you have to make judgements at all) find out what her school lunches are. Here in the Seattle area, many schools make very healthy, sometimes organic lunches. Obviously, just by visiting this site, OP is showing she cares about what she feeds her family. If we moms could be a little less snarky toward each other, that would be really great. Let’s be supportive.

      2. Hi Jaimee, Yes I do completely understand your frustration with school lunches. I was just writing a quick little comment, and didn’t take the time to be clear about what I meant about my kids preparing their lunches at their preschool. What I meant is that the kids to actually cook and prepare their own meal (with help) there at school. It’s part of the curriculum, and a pretty amazing program. Each month, their lunches represent a culture they are studying, and are real foods from that culture. Any pastas or breads are made completely from scratch. My kids have made and eaten “real” foods from all kinds of cultures. I have made many of the recipes a part of my regular dinner rotation at home, it’s just good “real” food. Of course it’s not always perfect. There are times when they use white rice instead of brown, or white flour. My son is only there 2 days/week so no biggie. My daughter is 5 days/week this year, so I’ll be sending her lunch on days when the meal at school is a compromise.

  25. Hi! Love your website. My hubby now wants to start eating healthier & clean food but he drives all day for a living and has no access to microwaves. Do you have any ideas for lunch packing that do not involve sandwiches, salads, chicken or tuna salad? Those foods overstayed their welcome with my hubby. I struggoe because he has higher caloric needs.

    1. I ordered a Ms Bento for my son on Amazon.com. It has 3 separate compartments and it vacuum seals to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Your husband may need full size thermoses, however, being a grown man :) Fill the thermos with boiling water and let it sit for about 2 minutes, then pour out the water and add hot food. It should stay hot for several hours.

    2. Hi – my husband and I eat a hot meal for lunch everyday at work – we take our lunches in a food flask. I use a thermos one, he uses a Stanley one. We take, casserole, stir fry, curries, stews etc in the flask and an additional Tupperware of rice. Although the rice is cold it all heats up when we pour on the hot contents of the flask :) My husband has a big appetite so his food flask is slightly larger than mine. It’s transformed out lunchtimes :) Happy eating!

  26. My kids are older now, but I used to pack homemade pizza breadsticks (breadsticks with cheese and/or pepperoni in the dough). A small container of sauce and another of shredded cheese to dip the breadsticks in. Or a thermos of hot water with a hot dog in it, along with a bun packed separately. Their friends thought I was the BEST. MOM. EVER.!! LOL

  27. My son would love homemade hot items at lunchtime such as soups or pasta but I cant seem to find a good container that not only he can open but does not leak before or after his lunch. Any recommendations?

  28. School starts next Monday for us! We are not able to afford to pack a lunch every day (the kids are on free lunch) but I will do it 2 days a week. Over the summer, we really tried a bunch of your recipes and others Ive found all over the place for “real food” and my kids LOVE everything! They were a ham and cheese or PB&J kids and now they are expecting their homemade “lunchable” or build your own pizza and wafflewiches…Im so glad I found this website! I cant wait to try all of your ideas!

  29. Do the freezie pop molds leak at all when the smoothies start to melt?

    I just purchased about everything shown here from Amazon so I can do this with my son’s lunch! Thanks so much for the amazing tips!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Mollie. If you pack them the way Lisa does here, they hold together really well. Best of luck with the new school year. ~Amy

  30. Hi there, I have a son that is going into pre-school this year and I find I am having a hard time with something. My son and I are mostly GMO-free, organic and try to stay away from processed foods as much as we can. All the rest of my family thinks I am crazy and that makes it hard on me to explain to him “why our family doesn’t want to be healthy.” (Direct words from him!) He is very smart for his age and I am worried about him going to school and seeing someone eating food he knows has dyes/gmo’s in it and telling them not to eat their food. Do you guys have any suggestions for me and my son? Thanks so much!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kailee. I have faced this myself. I think that it is fine to let your kids know that it is okay to share why they eat what they eat if they are asked, such as: “because I want to put healthy things in my body to help it work right”. But, it is also important to help them understand that it can be unintentionally hurtful to make comments about the foods that others are eating similar to if he made comments about their clothes or the home that they live in. Start there, and then as he gets older you can help him understand that old habits/choices can be hard for people to change which is why you are helping him learn to make good choices now. Hope that helps a little. ~Amy