Hot Lunch vs. Cold Lunch Considerations

When school is in session it is not uncommon for a parent and a student to get to the point where they wonder if a hot school lunch or cold school lunch is the better choice. Both types of school lunch have their pros and cons. Knowing what those pros and cons are will help you to decide what is best for you.


If you are trying to save a few dollars, a cold school lunch may be the best choice. It is very simple to pack a cold meal at a cost lower than what schools charge for a typical school lunch. However, don’t expect to save a whole bunch of money. Chances are you can save anywhere from nothing to a dollar a day. Still, saving is saving so if you are on a budget a cold lunch will help.


The hot lunch wins hands down in the convenience department. When you pack a meal at home you have to do the prep at home and clean up at night if you use things like sandwich containers or a thermos. That’s more work for you. A hot lunch is just there waiting for a student and when lunch is over it’s the school’s cafeteria employees who have to clean it up.


This one depends on you. It is certainly easier to make a healthy cold lunch than it is to insure your student will eat a healthy hot lunch at school. Many school lunches contain things like pizza or cheeseburgers and sugary things like ketchup and syrup. They pack a calorie and fat punch. With a meal packed at home you can pack a salad and carrots. It’s up to you. Of course, you can also pack donuts and cookies so you have to be aware of the nutrition you are packing in your cold lunch.


It is easier to mix in a great deal of variety with a cold lunch. Most school lunch programs rotate among a relatively small set of meals and others have foods like pizza every day so your student could choose that each time if they want to. With a cold lunch the variety is up to you, so you can mix it up.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, if you want a quick meal that is little work for you and you are good with the cost of the lunch fee, go with the hot lunch. If you want to control the nutrition, variety, or cost of your students lunches, cold lunch is for you.

If you want the best of both worlds, consider sending a cold lunch with your student most of the time and let them choose one hot lunch per week, so you know what they are eating and they get to pick their favorite meal.