Back-to-school means back to packing lunches. And when packing lunches, it’s important to always keep food safety in mind. Perishable foods must be kept cold until eaten. It’s also important to note that when lunches are being prepared, the preparer must wash their hands with soap and water before packing lunches, as well as using clean and safe cutting boards, utensils, and work surfaces.
The best lunch boxes or bags are those that are insulated. If you’re packing perishable foods, you should place two sources of ice in the lunch box or bag, such as two frozen gel packs, a frozen gel pack AND a frozen juice box, or a frozen gel pack AND a frozen bottle of water. Sandwich foods between the two sources of ice so that there is a cooling source on both the top and bottom of the lunch box or bag.
When packing lunches, only pack the amount of food you know your kid(s) will eat, while keeping daily nutritional amounts in mind. Another plus to only packing the amount of food you know your kid(s) will eat is that it will help reduce food waste. And if your child comes home from school with uneaten foods, if they’re perishable foods, make sure the food is discarded.
If you’ll be packing perishable foods that need to be cooked first, cook the foods well ahead of time. For example, if you’re cooking chicken breast for a chicken sandwich, you will want to cook it so that you have enough time to properly chill it before packing. To speed up cooling/chilling time, cut larger pieces into smaller pieces to store in shallow containers. Keep cooked foods refrigerated until it’s time to pack the lunch box or bag and leave the house.
For hot foods, you’ll want to use a leak-proof insulated container. Before putting the hot food into the container, fill the container with boiling water; let it stand for a few minutes before empting the water from the container and filling it with the hot food. The insulated container should be kept closed until ready to eat.