Table for Five

Healthy Lunches that Don’t Need Refrigeration

Although summer is just beginning, school season is just around the corner. In fact, in some areas, schools start as early as August which is NEXT MONTH! This means you might only have a few weeks to plan healthy lunches and snacks to carry your kids through the school day – I know! So lets look at options to consider now:

While it’s true that a lot of schools have on-site cafeterias and vending machines, these offerings might not be as healthy as stuff you can bring from home. Even if the lunch is healthy, unless you are on a subsidized lunch program, the cafeteria offerings could be more expensive than a box lunch.

sample packed lunch

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But one of the major issues with packing lunch for school is finding foods that are healthy that will also keep in a non-refrigerated environment, like a school locker or backpack. Sure, you can always use an ice pack, but it’s still a good idea to have foods that can go for hours without refrigeration – in case you forget to pack the ice.

Not only that, but it’s so hard to distinguish your child’s lunches with the other childrens’. Because of all the similar lunches and lunchboxes, you should purchase a custom bag from a place like the Personal Creations website, and your child can have a unique bag all his own. Having a unique bag not only helps your child express his personal style, it will also keep him from taking someone else’s bag by mistake, or vice-versa.

Below are several suggestions for healthy lunch and snack options that don’t need to be refrigerated during the day.

Nut and Seed Butters

Peanut butter is a school lunch classic for many reasons, not only is it relatively cheap, but it doesn’t have to be refrigerated, and it provides a complete protein when combined with a grain-based food – like crackers or bread. Peanut butter sandwiches are also one of the many things that kids can make on their own.

Thanks to the increased awareness of food allergies, there are several peanut butter alternatives. Butters made from almonds, cashews, and pecans can substitute for peanut butter in people with peanut allergies. You can also find nut butter blends for more variety. Seed butters, like apricot kernel and sesame seed, can provide alternatives for those allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Soy butters, are great for people who want a complete protein without having to combine a grain product.

Charcuterie (also known as fancy foodie word lol)

Charcuterie is the French word for cured meats. Cured meats are designed to be stored at room temperature and to keep for a long time. Rather than packing the usual lunch meat sandwich, consider including an assortment of cured meats, some packets of mustard, and crackers.


Many cheeses will actually keep for several hours at room temperature. Not only that, but warming up to room temperature actually makes the flavor richer. Consider packing an open-faced cheese sandwich made with French bread, fruit spread, and a sharp cheese like cheddar or gouda.

Pasta Salads

Pasta salads with a vinegar or oil-based dressing, and a hard or semi-soft cheese, will keep for several hours at room temperature. Consider mixing cooked pasta with chopped vegetables and a cheese like smoked mozzarella, or feta. You can add some cured meats for additional protein. Dress it with a savory vinaigrette dressing, or basil or tomato-based pesto.

Berry Salad

Kept whole, berries will keep at room temperature. Mix blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries together for a quick and healthy snack. The berry salad can be eaten alone, or you can substitute the berries for the fruit spread on the open-faced cheese sandwich.

While you are thinking of ways to create healthy, shelf-stable lunches for your kids, you should also consider getting your kids personalized lunch bags and backpacks. Buy a bag from your local store and it’s likely that several other kids will have the same bag.


What are some of your tips for summer lunches? What if you can’t send a cooler bag, do you change what foods you pack? I love reading your comments!

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Elizabeth (1821 Posts)

I'm Elizabeth, a 40-something Michigan wife and mother of three. I created Table for Five in 2005 as a way to connect with other Moms, and I've been blogging ever since. Please click the About tab at the top of the page to read more about me and my family! email:

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