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

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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.

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284 thoughts on “20 Freezable Lunch Ideas for School”

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    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Radha. Absolutely. Just be sure you put in in an airtight container or bag removing as much air as possible. I save old bread bags for homemade loaves. ~Amy

  1. I just went to Amazon to purchase the Ziploc divided containers you introduced us to (absolutely LOVE these)… and they are “currently unavailable”. Do you have a second best recommendation? I’m down to my last two Ziploc containers.. and they are cracked on the corners… so I need to get something quickly!!! Thanks! :-)

  2. I loved your info on school lunches do you have a book on all this stuff that you posted on the website. What is your website? thanks

  3. I saw in an earlier comment you don’t have to go through the canning process to freeze things like soup, can I reuse any glass jar? Or should it be a canning type jar?

    I am new to the whole freezing/canning world.


  4. I made waffles yesterday and stuck them in the freezer. If I make a waffle sandwich with peanut butter to go in my son’s lunch, when would I put the peanut butter on the waffle? Would you still advise to defrost the waffle overnight in the fridge? Put the peanut butter on in the morning before I pack it? Would you still use an ice pack in the lunch since I will be putting strawberries and cheese in the lunch as well? I’m just worried the waffle will end up soggy. Thanks so much for the tips!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi LD. You could put peanut butter on the frozen waffles and they would thaw by lunch time. I would keep the strawberries and cream cheese cold, too, with an ice pack. ~Amy

  5. I am sure you might have discussed this . But how much it affects the nutrition of the soups when we freeze , thaw and re-heat them ? I am just comparing the option of actually making the soup every morning vs your steps of make-freeze-thaw-heat. Thanks a lot for any input !

  6. I make a BBQ variation of your meatballs I use stuffing as bread crumbs when I make them Italian for spaghetti but I use plain & ditch the parm then coat them in BBQ sauce abd freezer for another variation that’s easy! I also use flax eggs but that’s an allergy thing. My boys love them! I made a quadruple batch this past wknd (4# of organic grass fed beef!) and after my boys attacked I had 9 lunches to put up
    Kinda makes me sad it wasn’t more but with a new baby coming Halloween every little bit helps!

  7. My biggest challenge is to get anything into the freezer before my kids eat it all. I make double recipes and it’s still not enough 😕

  8. Hi,
    Is your cookbook easy to adapt to gluten free diets? I know you use a lot of whole wheat and was wondering if I should still purchase it.

    Thanks!!! Love your ideas and love your website!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Holly. About a third of the recipes are gluten free. Many of the others can be easily converted by swapping out with a whole grain gluten free flour blend or a gluten free pasta. :) ~Amy

  9. Do you have links to the great lunch box containers you showed (like the one for pizza, the thermos, etc)? And what lunch bag do you get that will hold all of this?

  10. Do you have a link to some of the smoothie combinations that you put in the smoothie pop molds? We make a a lot of smoothies at home but I am wondering if they will taste more watered down after being frozen and then rethawed? Our most common one is almond milk, banana, peanut butter, with some flax seed. Would I skip the ice if I am freezing it? TIA

  11. Thank you for all the great suggestions! I just spend a fortune on amazon and have reorganized my whole kitchen around lunch prep cupboard :)

    Question that might be silly…. Do you need to go through the actual canning process when freezing the soups in the canning jars? Or are you ok just setting the lid on and screwing the band around it?

  12. Are your kids allowed to warm foods at school?? Ours are not, which SEVERELY limits our lunch choices to raw foods and sandwiches. It always surprises me when schools have microwaves for kids to warm foods in. Seems the line would be so long, that some kids wouldn’t get to eat, with 20-minute lunch periods.

    1. Jema, use thermos for warm food. I fill mine with boiling water while preparing their food. Dump the water & fill with hot/warm food. My boys say it’s still warm at lunch time.

  13. Hello. I love your ideas, my husband is a truck driver that delivers Azure Standard its an organic and whole foods company in OR we are on the road constantly with our almost 2 year old son, we love eating fresh and grilling our own meals, I love the smoothie tubes and the metal food containers shown in the above photos! What brand are they and where can I buy them? : )

  14. I really appreciate this article. Any ideas for lunches for toddlers that don’t require heating? My son is one year and his child care center cannot heat up foods. I’m struggling to find new things for him.

  15. love your lunch box solutions. I haven’t figured out how to adapt them for very hungry high school boys however. Any ideas?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Dawn. You have to tailor them to their needs by increasing the serving sizes. That may require a larger lunch box and containers. :)

  16. I see dates on the freezer bags. Do you make these weekly or how long can you keep the frozen items considering there are no preservatives?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Many things you can keep in your freezer for up to 6 months. I typically use three months as a rule of thumb or my freezer becomes too packed. :)

  17. My daughter is 6 years old. She eats breakfast at 7am before going to school. Her school has a recess time at 9:30am then lunch time at 12pm. I want her to have a little snack (e.g. fruit or nut) and drink (water) at the recess. She doesn’t want to take the snack and water bottle out from her lunch bag. I would like to get some ideas how others to pack snack and lunch for school days. (e.g. put both into the same lunch bag? Bring two lunch bags?!…)

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Amy. Lisa packs snack in a little cinched bag for the girls separate from their lunch bags. I do pretty much the same and put it it in the front zipper pocket of their backpacks where it is easily accessible. ~Amy

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  19. Sure wish there was a way to make/sew a thermos keeper for those truly expensive thermos sets… I’m thinking like using rubber band type leash that can be wedged tightly onto the thermos lid and cup. That way, both the lid and the cup cannot get separated… especially if said rubber keeper(leash) was sewn into a corner of your kids lunchbox seam or even clipped to a loop that you have sewn onto inside seam of the lunch pack. Ideally, this would have to be made tight enough so that an adult could slide it onto the thermos lid and container, and just too difficult for a smaller child to remove easily.

    Has anyone else seen examples of this??

  20. Jen, there is quite a difference among thermoses. We had a really well-insulated small metal one that kept food so hot that hours later it was still too hot to eat. This thermos was more expensive than the plastic Crayola type. Unfortunately, it got lost. However, even the plastic ones will stay warm enough if you follow the tip that Kymm shared. I use those all the time, and never get complaints of cold food. Good luck!

  21. Jen, have you tried boiling water and putting in the thermos with the lid screwed on tight for 10 minutes before filling it? I just pour out the hot water and put int he food (heated to much hotter than my child could possibly handle). Four hours after filling it, my daughter STILL has to blow on it before she takes a bite!

  22. I have a son in college and a 16 yr old. They said that even with the thermos everything ended up lukewarm to cold at school (not your ideas just any heated stuff). Unfortunately I eventually gave up giving them hot stuff since they didn’t like/eat it anyway. I sure wish there was a microwave at school. I remember that when I went to school thermos things were always hot at lunchtime so it’s a shame that the ones we find nowadays are no good. Do you recommend a different item?

    1. I also heat the thermos first with the boiling water and boil what goes in it before filling it. I pack it with a kitchen towel around it and put it in the lunchbox with other room temp foods like raisins, crackers, grapes, etc. that don’t need to be kept cold. My son buys a juice or milk at school but you could send 2 thermos’ and put hot chocolate or warmed apple cider in it so the entire meal is a warm one with no foods to keep cold.

    2. I’ve took soup to work in a thermos and it stayed hot for over over 4 hours before i could get to it. Might need a new thermos or make sure the soup is HOT before you put it in!

    3. You need to get a better thermos. I use one all the time – even in the dead of winter being outside for hours ice fishing and no matter what I put in it, it stays steaming hot for at least 5 hours. I have a thermos made from LL Bean. The idea of having a microwave available at school – think about that – there are 100’s of kids so do you expect them to all stand in line to take turns with 1-2 microwaves or for the school to have dozens of them. Yes, I have worked for schools and microwaves are not the answer.

      1. I went to high school with 1600 kids -there were two microwaves available for student use during lunch and I rarely had to wait long for it -if I had to wait at all!

  23. do you have any other easy homemade lunch ideas that would cater to three year olds? I currently have to take my daughter to daycare 3 days a week and she has to bring her own lunch. We do the whole grain sandwiches and i tried the the sandwich waffles but am having a hard time finding something easy to prepare and pack that she will actually eat… Granted we have only started three weeks ago. Any tips? She eats everything at home and until now has always been at home with mom so this is a big change for both of us.

    1. Mimi, we pack scrambled eggs, ham and cheese roll – ups, quesadillas, avocado and cheese wraps, macaroni and cheese, brown rice with chicken and avocado and a little bit of soy sauce, pita bread and hummus, spaghetti and meatballs, sliced sausages and steamed broccoli for our 3 and 4 year olds at daycare. It helps if they are willing to warm things up for you but the thermos would work well too. Good luck!

  24. I too like to make rwal food for my kids school lunched.
    And my little miss likes to NOT follow rhe crowd..everyone has sandwiches..so she does not want to…lol.
    So she happily eats left overs…and in this house whenever I cook I make extra to freeze for lunches for my daughter and also my partner.
    My daughters absolute favourite lunches are spaghetti bolognese…tuna mornay…potato bake…or a veggie slice.
    All of which freeze beautifully…brimg out night before dflefrost in fridge and heat in the morning.

  25. I just found your website today and love all the great ideas I have three school age kids 9-16 and am at a loss on what to fix my oldest child is very very picky in the past I have frozen sandwiches,muffins,and I do use heat soups for them to take they also love to have salads I buy cheap small containers at dollor store to hold the dressings and salad toppings in so they can add later once at school.

  26. Hi! I have a 9 year old boy that is very picky and only likes a few veggies. I was always afraid to pack hot food due to spoiling. Thank you for these tips – I would love to experiment with many of your ideas. His school is a “nut free” school, so that cuts out the PB&J and PB with apples. Do you have any other suggestions to replace the peanut butter? Thanks!

    1. You can also get soy butter (I got mine from Walmart lol). I actually like it better than peanut butter :)

  27. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate you going out of your way to share your ideas & help people. You make a positive influence. Love your page on Facebook.
    Thank you,
    Gina Cook
    Vancouver, WA

  28. Hi! I have a question in regards to your smoothie molds. I followed the link to Amazon, and several of the reviewers for that product mentioned a strange “plasticy” odor after several uses. Have you had any problems like that? Do they need to be washed in any particular manner to avoid that? Thanks for your reply! I make tons of healthy smoothies for my kiddos and have been looking for a way to freeze them for later.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Jessica. We’ve not had an issue with that but have heard it from other. Mine do not have an odor nor do Lisa’a. We clean them both by hand and in the dishwasher. ~Amy

  29. Do the waffles get mushy by lunch time? I always worry about things getting mushy or soggy
    Is there a way to avoid when packing lunch?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Jenn. It helps when you have separate compartments (like in the Ziplock divided containers) so no moisture gets to the items you want to keep dry. You can find tiny little condiment containers for things like syrup, too. ~Amy

  30. What we do is make extra at dinnertime and freeze leftovers in Ziplock bags. Then I flatten and stack them on a cookie sheet. This way I can store more in my little apartment size freezer because they are less bulky than jars. If I freeze a bigger portion than I need in one bag, I just snap it In two and take out half without needing to defrost the whole thing.

  31. I have two teenage boys and have always packed them healthy school lunches. 16 years of packing lunches is a lot of work and gets boring. I often run out of ideas and they end up with a PB&J. Thanks so much for some great new ideas. I can’t wait to use them.

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