How Long Can A Lunchable Sit Out? [Plus Kids-Friendly Options]

Lunch will never be the same. Lunchables are convenient, prepackaged meals that are perfect for parents who are always on the go! From stackable snacks to kid-approved sandwiches and even sweet treats for after soccer practice, Kraft Heinz has made mealtime easy with these simple eatables.

However, many parents may wonder how long can a Lunchable sit out? We have the details to make sure that your kids stay safe!

Kraft Heinz states that Lunchable meals can sit out at room temperature between three and four hours. Conversely, the USDA and FDA note that perishable foods should remain at room temperature for no more than two hours.

No matter which recommendation you choose, it is always best to utilize an insulated lunch bag with ice packs to keep your children’s foods in peak condition. This will also better guarantee their safety. 

While freezing may seem like a simple solution for keeping the meal cool for longer, the company advises against it. If you choose to ignore this guidance, make a point to remove the included beverage, which could explode upon freezing. 

Moreover, be prepared for texture and consistency changes in the food.

Best Practices For Storing A Lunchable – How Long They Can Sit Out

Do Not Let Lunchable Meals Sit Out For Extended Periods Of Time

Lunchables are a simple and easy meal solution for busy parents. Unfortunately, while we would love it if our kids would ask to have their meal placed in a refrigerator, this is a big ask for children of certain ages. Furthermore, this is not an option in most schools. 

Kraft Heinz notes on their website that “it is safe to consume this product if it has been out of refrigeration for a maximum of 3-4 hours, but special care should be taken to avoid direct sunlight and unusually warm conditions such as storing it in a closed car during the Summer.”

In contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made it clear that food will not be considered safe for consumption when left at room temperature for more than two hours. 

What is important to remember is that no matter which Lunchable you choose — the Pizza with Pepperoni, the Nachos, Cheese Dip + Salsa, or the ever-popular Ham + Cheddar with Crackers — these guidelines should always be followed. Every Lunchables meal contains some combination of perishable ingredients, so spoilage can become an issue.

As a parent, it is your job to take these recommendations into consideration. You can decide what is best for your child. Since cold storage is the best method for preservation, many parents assume that freezing is a fantastic solution that will allow the Lunchable to sit out for longer. This is regrettably not the case. 

Do Not Freeze Lunchables Products

The company has made it clear on their packaging that their products must remain refrigerated. Moreover, Lunchables should never be frozen.

While you can technically freeze certain ingredients, like Oscar Mayer meats, other foods will not fare quite as well in these types of extreme temperatures. This is especially true of the products that include a beverage. 

Due to expansion that occurs in the cold temperatures, these drink pouches will burst in these conditions. In addition, food items like crackers, certain meats, bread products, and salsa will experience changes in texture and consistency. This can become a big problem for parents with picky eaters. 

Furthermore, removing the products that do not freeze well takes away the convenience of the pre-packaged meal. This could also lead to the seal breaking on other sections of the container, in turn, leading to spoilage. So how do you ensure that your kid’s food stays cold and safe?Lunchables

Invest In Insulated Lunch Bags And Ice Packs

Safeguarding your kids’ food starts with the packaging. A brown bag is a great option for non-perishable items. Conversely, an insulated lunch bag is a great tool for maintaining an optimal temperature for foods that need to stay cool. 

However, just like with a fridge, you need both a container to hold the food and a way to facilitate the cold temperatures. Thus, you must also purchase an ice pack to keep the food chilled.

Keep in mind, the larger the meal, the more ice packs you will need. Usually, it is best to have one situated on each side of the Lunchable for optimal cooling.

With an insulated lunch box and a chilled freezer gel pack, perishable food can stay cold and safe to eat until lunch. You can find re-usable cold sources at the store (right next to the lunch boxes) or make your own by filling a water bottle or plastic container with water and freezing it.” 

It is important to note that even when using this method of storage, if your child does not eat their Lunchable meal and allows it to sit out for the entire school day, or longer, Kraft Heinz recommends throwing it out. This is also the case if the meal is left out overnight.

What To Look For In A Lunch Bag

The top qualities to look for in a lunch bag are proper insulation, water-resistant or leak-proof fabric, and a lightweight, yet durable design. You also want a container that has plenty of space and can easily hold Lunchables meals.

Additional features that can be beneficial are a food-safe lining, extra exterior pockets, and a convenient carrying handle. Multiple compartments are another great option.

This can provide space for items that fare better at room temperature (e.g. chips, cookies, ect). The goal should be to find a lightweight, durable, and safe lunch box that is easy to clean!

For the parents who want to upgrade from the basic lunch bag, consider buying a PackIt. These ingenious containers eliminate the need for an ice pack thanks to the built-in freezable gel!

Therefore, as long as parents can remember to slide the lunch bag into the freezer when their kids get home, they will have one less item they need to pack!

Lunchable Products That Can Sit Out

As mentioned, anything purchased in the refrigerator section in your local grocery or convenience store needs to remain in cold storage in order to stay safe to eat. However, the company has a line of Lunchable snack products that can sit out without the worry of spoilage!

Lunchables Snacks like Cookie Dunks and S’mores Dippers are akin to the 90’s favorite, Dunkaroos. These sweet treats are shelf-stable and do not require cold temperatures to stay fresh and ready to eat.

Best Freezing Practices For Lunchables 

Freezing Lunchables is not advised. Nevertheless, for the parents who decide to forego the company’s advice, make sure to remove any drinks prior to freezing.

Next, freeze the Lunchable prior to the “Best By” date. Remember that there will be changes in texture and consistency in some of the ingredients once the meal has thawed. 

Thus, the less time that the Lunchables remain in the freezer, the better off you will be. Additionally, do not freeze these products for more than two months. Moreover, in order to limit these types of changes, defrost the products slowly.

Place the meal in the fridge 24 hours before you plan on your child eating it. In addition, make sure to use it within three to four days of defrosting. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: NEVER let your Lunchable sit out on the counter to thaw. This can lead to dangerous bacteria growth and the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Consider Making Your Own Lunchable Meals That Can Sit Out For Longer

For the parents who are a bit more health-conscious, there are plenty of easy alternatives to throw together! Both Smuckers Uncrustables and Gogurt are delicious and kid-approved meal components that can be frozen and then thrown directly into a lunch box before the kids head off to school. By lunchtime, they will be ready to eat! 

In fact, Smuckers notes that “unrefrigerated Uncrustables Sandwiches should be eaten within 6-8 hours of thawing.” This leaves a much larger window for safe consumption.

Additionally, LARABAR Kids, string cheese, veggie crisps, Rice Krispie Treats and fruits like oranges and bananas are simple solutions for those parents in a rush!

Best of all, most of these products can sit out for longer than two hours, making them a great alternative to Lunchable meals. Not to mention, when purchased in bulk, the overall cost of your kid’s lunch will greatly decrease!

Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club have great, healthy, and affordable lunch option alternatives. 

Final Thoughts

Lunchables are perfect for lunch, a field trip, or a quick dinner in between your kid’s events! They are also a fantastic solution for busy parents, but they cannot sit out for too long.

These eatables will go bad if they remain unrefrigerated for more than a few hours. Thankfully, insulated containers are an easy solution to this issue! 

Therefore, no matter if your child is obsessed with the pizza Lunchables, the chicken kabobbles, or the classic crackers with ham and cheese, make sure to slide their scrumptious spread into a sealable container with an ice pack.

Finally, since you cannot truly inspect the meal before they consume it, remind your kids to look for signs of spoilage before eating. Advise them to pay attention to changes in smell, color, texture, and flavor.

If they notice these alterations, throw out the meal and purchase something at the school. Giving them emergency money for these instances is always a good idea!

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