As adults, we can’t help but feel a tinge of nostalgia whenever we see those colorful, compartmentalized packages of lunchables in the refrigerated section of the grocery store!
These packs (in all sorts and varieties that they come in) have been a staple in children’s lunchboxes for a very long time, providing a convenient and fun way for them to enjoy a midday meal.
But today, singing songs of praises for the wonder kiddies box isn’t the agenda for the article, but to find out whether or not lunchables ever expire and need to be refrigerated.
Without wasting time, let’s get to it.
Do Lunchables Need To Be Refrigerated?
Yes, all types of lunchables from pizza to Turkey and cheddar (with the exception of Dirt Cake, S’mores Dippers and Cookie Dunks) need to be refrigerated to keep them at optimal condition.
The exceptions typically have the “No Need To Refrigerate” instruction slapped somewhere on their packaging and are typically products without meat or perishable commodities like cheese in them, for example purely flour baked goods!
For other lunchables — those that contain meat and cheese, they are susceptible to spoilage and bacterial growth when exposed to warmer temperatures for extended periods because of the perishable commodities, thus refrigeration is the only logical way to keep them at optimal condition while also ensuring they are safe for consumption.
What If I Can’t Refrigerate My Lunchable Right Away?
I get it – sometimes life gets busy, and keeping your beloved box of lunchable in the chilly confinement of the refrigerator might not be an option right away.
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t be scared, as there is still good news!
Most Lunchables can withstand a few hours at room temperature before they begin to go bad, because they have just the right amount of preservatives to keep them safe.
Just remember that the longer the Lunchables stay unrefrigerated, the higher the risk of spoilage or bacterial growth.
If you want to greatly minimize this risk on days when refrigeration isn’t readily available (for example on field trips or picnics), consider packing your Lunchable with an ice pack stuffed in an insulated lunch bag to help keep it cool until you’re ready to enjoy it.
How Long Do Lunchables Last?
Each Lunchable comes with a “best by” or “use by” date printed on the packaging and is typically highlighted in red on the top of the cardboard packaging or stamped with a black ink at the side of the plastic container.
This date indicates when the product is at its peak freshness and quality.
Typically, unopened Lunchables can last anywhere from two weeks to two months in your refrigerator, depending on the type of lunchable you have as well as the storage conditions.
Typically, the meat type lunchables are more prone to spoilage than other types of lunchables, especially at fluctuating temperatures!
Once opened, it’s best to consume a Lunchable within one sitting as it contains perishable ingredients like meats and cheeses that can spoil quickly if left out too long.
If you must save leftovers for later consumption, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place them back into the fridge promptly. Use within a couple of days!
When it comes to preserving lunchables, proper storage is key.
Always store your unopened Lunchables in their original packaging inside your refrigerator at temperatures between 34°F – 40°F (1°C – 4°C). Keep them away from moisture or areas prone to temperature fluctuations.
Is It Okay To Eat Expired Lunchables?
Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between “best by” or “sell by” dates and actual expiration dates.
The former are not definitive indicators of food safety but rather suggestions for when your product will be at its peak quality.
So if your Lunchable is past its “best by” date, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe to eat, although it could still be for other reasons such as broken packaging that has allowed air with contaminants to enter and cause spoilage etc..
Always use your senses to determine whether an expired Lunchable is still good enough for consumption before you dive straight in.
Check for any off-odors or unusual colors on the meats and other ingredients and if you find anything strange, it’s best to discard the lunchable.
In addition to that, consider how the Lunchable has been stored previously.
If it’s been kept consistently refrigerated at a temperature below 40°F (4°C), there’s a higher chance that it might still be okay to consume past its “best by” date.
On the other hand, if the package has been exposed to fluctuating temperatures or left out of refrigeration for extended periods, then bacteria growth may have accelerated – making it unsafe to eat.
Why Shouldn’t You Freeze Lunchables?
While freezing lunchables might seem like a good idea, it really isn’t!
Firstly, the company itself warns against freezing most of their products! It’s there on the packaging in case you weren’t paying close attention!
Secondly, the texture and quality of certain components can be compromised when frozen.
Crackers, for example, may become soggy and lose their crunch once thawed, and cheeses might not texture the same after building ice crystals in them. The same goes for other items like cookies and cakes.
Again, freezing can affect the taste of certain items within a Lunchable. Cold temperatures can alter the flavor profile of ingredients like cheese and deli meats, making them less enjoyable when consumed later.
In addition to that, freezing Lunchables could lead to uneven thawing.
When you’re ready to enjoy your snack, some parts might still be frozen while others have already thawed.
This inconsistency in temperature can make it difficult to enjoy your meal as intended.