How to Keep Your Lunch Cold Without Refrigeration?

keep lunch cold without refrigeration

Keeping food cold can be an extremely difficult task without a refrigerator. So, if you are at school, in the office or anywhere else during lunchtime, how can you ensure that your food will remain safe and fresh? In this article, let’s learn more about how to keep lunch cold without refrigeration? What food should you pack for lunch when there is no fridge?

What foods are perishable?

Typically, your lunch will include one of the following foods:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Egg
  • Milk products
  • Anything raw

They are all perishable and must be stored in the refrigerator. If you’re going to eat any of these for lunch, you should prepare it the night before. This way, your meal stays cold for longer.

Perishable foods
Perishable foods

To ensure nutrition and good health, you should cook and freeze your food properly. Otherwise, there is a high chance that the food is contaminated with dangerous bacteria, which is definitely not good for your health.

Further reading: The 7 Best Small Freezers for Home

What foods are safe to eat for lunch that don’t need to be refrigerated?

It’s easy for adults to bring a cold lunch to work because most of the time they have a refrigerator. On the other hand, children may have to keep their packed lunches in a locker or in a backpack.

The following foods are the safest and easiest to pack for lunch if you don’t have a fridge:

  • Grain bowls
  • Cheddar muffins
  • Skewers Pasta salad
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Dried meat like salami or pepperoni
  • Hummus & vegetable rolls or veggie wrap

How long do insulated lunch bags keep food cold?

An insulated lunch bag is a better update from a brown paper bag, when it comes to keeping meals cold and fresh until lunchtime. Also, it keeps meals at the right temperature. Moreover, recyclable lunch boxes are better and safer for the environment.

With an ice pack, the insulated lunch bag will stay cold for about 2 to 2.5 hours. You should always try to put food in the refrigerator as soon as possible, otherwise it will be very dangerous to eat.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the bacterial danger zone is between 40°F and 140°F. If left unrefrigerated for too long, your lunch bag can easily climb into that area and your food might be affected by bacteria.

Do insulated lunch bags need to be refrigerated?

Insulated lunch bags need to be refrigerated, especially if you plan to eat your foods after two hours. The insulated bag will keep your food tasty and safe until it’s official lunchtime. You should put your lunch bag in the coldest place you can find.

Your typical refrigerator has a cool temperature of 35°F, which is outside the bacteria danger zone. A lunch full of meat, milk or any other perishable food should be in that cooler as soon as possible.

Ways to keep your lunch cold without refrigeration

1. Use an ice pack

You can keep perishable food cold and safe to consume until lunch with an ice pack.

Ice packs are inexpensive and simple to use. Just put the ice packs on top or bottom in your lunch bag. For things like spaghetti boxes for soup, you’ll first need a zippered bag.

2. Freeze your meal

If you have prepared and refrigerated your food, then there’s no need to worry about keeping it cool for lunchtime.

Preparing meals in advance means you can package them up and put them in your freezer. This way, you’ll be able to put your food back in without having to worry about the bacteria staying out for too long. However, don’t let your food go through multiple freeze and thaw cycles as it won’t have that long shelf life.

Further reading:  Can You Freeze Tuna?

At noon, when it’s time for lunch, take out what you want and put it back in your desk drawer or bag if you want to keep it cold. You can keep it until dinnertime – even if it’s left at room temperature.

3. Try using metal containers

Meals stored in metal containers are cooler than any other container. If you put your lunch in a metal container, the chances of it getting hot due to room temperature are lower.

You should invest in some steel containers for food. This method is the simplest of them all. All you have to do is buy some of these boxes and put meals in them.

4. Use Bento boxes

Bento boxes are designed with separate containers so you can split your lunch. Perishable foods, like eggs or meat, should be kept in separate containers so they stay fresh. You should choose a model with several removable trays that fit together. It is more flexible than a model with only one tray, and you’re less likely to lose items.

5. Use Thermos containers

Thermos are a great way to keep your lunch cold or hot, especially if you’re carrying soup, drinks, or other liquids.  Thermos don’t leak or spill, helping to keep your lunch bag clean and dry. You should buy a 2-layer thermos for best insulation.

THERMOS All-In-One Vacuum Insulated

Tips and Tricks to keep your lunch cold without refrigeration

If you want your lunch bag to be as cold as possible, try any of the following tips:

Say “no” to paper

It can be said that the days of brown bag lunches are long gone, so you should also change your daily habits. It is better for your health and the environment to pack your lunch in an insulated bag.

The insulated lunch cooler can keep ice up to 24 hours. It’s a great choice for Picnics, BBQs, Camping, Tailgating & Outdoor Activities

Coleman Soft Cooler Bag

Don’t cut the fruit

Fruit lasts significantly longer if it is whole. If you need to cut apples or oranges, wait until you’re ready to eat them.

Freeze a juice box or grapes

Even if your commute is short, it’s still a good idea to keep an ice pack in your bag. Boxes of frozen juice or frozen grapes also have the same effect.

Be wise with your food choices

It’s better to travel with foods that can last the longest. There’s a reason peanut butter and jelly are classic and preferred.

Watch out for summer by using a frozen water bottle

During the summer, your food will only be safe for about an hour in the hot sun. You should pack a frozen water bottle with your ice pack as an extra precaution.

Throw away leftovers

If you don’t finish your lunch, you’re better off throwing it away. This is especially true if it sits for longer than two hours.


Luckily, there are a few ways to keep your lunch cold when you’re not using the fridge or no refrigeration. Even some methods don’t even cost money. To make sure your meal is cold, safe, and healthy at lunchtime, you can use one or all the above suggestions.

The best solution is that you should invest in a good thermos container or stainless steel container. It may cost money, but you will use it for a long time and good for your health.



How Long Do Lunch Bags Stay Cold,, Retrieved on April 2, 2023


Jenny Brown
Hi, I’m Jenny. On my blog, you will find helpful advice about using and organizing the kitchen appliances. You will also receive the recommendations on choosing a compact refrigerator or freezer that best fits your demands. Besides, frozen meals from the freezer bring many incredible benefits because they ensure freshness, deliciousness, and full nutrients. Many helpful tips from experts on frozen meals will also be found.