Food & Drink, Healthier, kitchen

Packed lunches don’t have to be boring.

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imag0200This blog post is maybe a little bit of a side step from our usual posts but it’s one of those things which has taken a long time for us to get right and so the info is maybe useful for some of you. Especially since most of the info out on the interweb seems to be about kids lunches for school. Bah! Adults want fun, tasty lunches too.  So ….lunches or more importantly packed lunches.

For a long time, Kate and I bought lunch on work days, meaning it was pretty expensive and we both had a tendency to eat a lot of junk. That all changed about a year ago when we both started trying to be a bit more sensible about what we were eating and realised that it was actually quite difficult to get good, healthy but filling lunches from our normal quick-lunch stops near work, so we began making packed lunches and oh what a fun journey it has been.

I’m going to give you the big reveal right up front instead of making you wait through an entire post of my thoughts – the most important thing about having healthy, fun, and non-boring packed lunches is… YOUR LUNCHBOX.

That’s right the lunchbox is everything.

So here is our story.

Firstly I must confess, you are about to see the ridiculous amount of plastic food boxes we own, but this is entirely my fault. Kate is in no way to blame for my obsession. It all started when I was a kid and was given packed lunches for school (my sister and I recollect this memory over unhealthy snacks and glasses of wine sometimes – usually while watching Bridget Jones’ Diary). As I said, we were packed lunch kids but we were the kids with the faulty lunch boxes which leaked. Always, leaked and as we grew up this really became an annoyance, so now I have an unhealthy obsession with plastic food boxes, that say they don’t leak. Oh, I have tested them all, I know which say they won’t leak and then do and which ones you can rely on.

So with my strangeness aside, Kate and I have discovered that there are basically 3 types of lunch that you have to cater to and if you can find one lunch box that does all three, you are sorted.

Lunch number 1 – standard packed lunch

Mini quiche, cocktail sausages and cherry tomatoes with a sandwich
Mini quiche, cocktail sausages and cherry tomatoes with a sandwich

Book lunch box

Cold and dry, usually a sandwich of some description, yyoghurtand maybe a snack like crisps or some fruit. Basically for this as long as your lunch box can hold all of the pieces of your lunch then you are good to go. One tip though, I very much like to have lots of different little nibbles as part of my lunch, I’m a grazer, but I found out that if you have multiple little snacks all in one compartment or box, it’s really easy for the flavours and smells to transfer. Trust me, having your choc chip muffin taste of cocktail sausages is not pleasant. So if you can find a lunch box that has separate little compartments then you are onto a winner.

If not, I have discovered that you can put the different items into little separate cupcake wrappers (you can buy washable, reusable silicon ones too).

This lunch box is from Black and Blum and I bought purely for the fun fact that it looks like a book. After all ,Kate is a librarian.

  • Pluses: fit loads into it and it’s fun.
  • Negatives: not leak proof, not microwavable and big. Kate struggles to fit it in her bike bag. Oh ,and it only has to compartments.

Lunch number 2 – hot or cold lunch box

Left overs make a great lunch, especially if you are lucky enough to have a microwave at work and during the cold winter months they are a real treat. The problem however is that you really need to check that you have a lunchbox that can stand up to the microwave. The book one can’t but after our many searches ,we have found two microwave safe lunch containers that we use a lot, both from the same company as the book one funnily enough.

Another thing to be aware of is that your lunch box will need to be leak proof if you want to have anything that might have any kind of sauce with it. Like pasta or noodles or what about soup? Well ,we’ve got that covered too.

Small hot and cold lunch boxThis one is the smaller microwavable lunch box which has a compartment sliders so that you can separate different foods and a little container for things like salad dressings. It’s only downside is that the slider doesn’t stop foods leaking into each other as it’s not liquid tight. It is a great and versatile lunch box though. Kate uses this one a lot for her standard sandwich lunch as she finds the size really convenient. The clear plastic lid also means your work-mates can get jealous of your lovely lunch when it’s in the office fridge (has happened to me).

Also, with both these lunch boxes, the lid has a shallow circle hollow in it, this is so you can use it for dipping, pour soy sauce in there and dip your sushi for example 🙂

  • Pluses: leak proof, microwavable, nice size
  • Negatives: bit small if you like a normal sized sandwich and really doesn’t hold a lot. Sandwich and some cherry tomatoes and that’s about it.

Lunch number 3 – hot or cold and liquids

Large micro safe lunchbox

box-appetit
Image from http://filozofiasmaku.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/make-bento-not-war-test-pojemnika-na.html

This lunch box is our bigger hot food box, but is actually great for sandwiches etc as well. It comes with a little corner box for salad dressing or sauce and a bigger corner box for a HALF sandwich or salad.

Neither of these inside boxes are leak proof though so be warned. It’s a great size for left overs and although we rarely use the compartments, they have been handy for salads and things for summer lunches. A great lunch was courgette fritters and some salad in the bigger corner box and sweet chili sauce in the little corner box.

Noodle dishes also look fantastic in these and again cause work mate envy when it’s in the office fridge.

Pluses: great size, microwavable and leak proof

Negatives: the little inside boxes aren’t leak proof or microwavable

 Soup

Soup containerWell ,we have another container just for soup.  This is basically a big microwavable cup with a lid which has a steam vent on it. Means you don’t mess up the office microwave which is always a good thing.  Again it’s leak proof so perfect for taking soup to work. Think cold winter days and cream of tomato soup. Heaven!

It’s a brand called Sistema but we bought them in our local super market or you can grab them online. They do lots of other  plastic food boxes too.

  • Pluses: It’s big, holds quite a lot of soup and it’s leak proof
  • Negatives:  I can’t think of any

Leak proof

Ok ,leak-proof is a big deal for me. I’m quite strict about whether I agree with the manufacturer on whether or not their tubs are leak proof to my standards and I’m happy to say that these last 3 are in my opinion leak proof.

We have had a couple of incidents where there has been a tiny bit of leakage, but we are talking tiny and it had been when the container was in our bike bags getting thrown around and ended up spending the journey upended or on its side. So given the circumstances ,I don’t think it was enough leakage to warrant that I throw them out. So yup they have the Ar Bruadair seal of approval.

It is something to watch out for though, a lot of the brands out there will say their tubs are leak proof, but they mean it will cope with thick items like yogurt or a sauce. They won’t cope with more watery liquids. We have given these tubs a damn good testing though so I am happy to recommend them. Eli & Kate on the bikes to work is a great test for any lunch box.

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One Comment

  1. Richard (Triumph Brewing)

    Its a great blog Eli, love reading it, Cheers

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