A thoughtfully packed lunch will unwrap delights just as appealing and fresh as when you packed it.
A badly packed lunch can spell disaster and disappointment.
Read this guide for handy tips.
THE DOS & DON'TS OF PACKING LUNCH
Soggy sandwiches, stale bread, oily leaks and warm salad.
These are just a few of the problems you can encounter with a badly packed lunch.
Disappointment doesn't begin to cover the feeling when you've worked hard all morning and the thought of that tasty lunch is all that's keeping you going.
Pack the right way and you'll never be disappointed.
There are so many lunch box options to choose from. Here are a few options.
- Tupperware - all shapes and sizes, a good all-rounder
- Bento boxes - multiple compartments to keep food separate
- Tiffin carrier - lidded containers that stack one on top of another & clip together
- Bamboo boxes - environmentally friendly but often not leak-proof
- Stainless steel lunch boxes - odour-free, dishwasher safe and long-lasting
- Glass jars - in various sizes, good for salads, salad dressing, nuts & seeds and noodles.
- Dual snack tubs - these are usually long with two compartments for crunchy veg, fruit or min breadsticks and a dip
- Dual cereal tubs - a lidded bowl for cereal with a compartment for milk
- Thermos flask - good for keeping drinks and smooth soups hot
- Food Flasks - are similar to a thermos flask, but are wider so good for chunky soup, noodles, pasta and stew
KEEPING IT COOL
Keep your lunch cool with these simple tips. An insulated lunch bag also helps, often these have a silver lining.
- Freezer blocks - pop them in the freezer overnight, then add them to your lunch bag in the morning.
- Water bottle - first make sure your water bottle is freezer-friendly, if it is fill it at night and pop it in the freezer. Add it to your lunch bag in the morning and it will keep your lunch cool until lunchtime and as a bonus you'll have chilled water to drink too.
- Grapes - freeze grapes and add them to your lunch bag, they'll help to keep everything else cool and you can then eat them too. No grapes? Use blueberries or strawberries.
- Stainless steel containers - these can be frozen overnight, filled and added to an insulated lunch bag to keep lunch cool.
THE WORST LUNCH HACK!
You may have seen a trending hack online where you fill a sealable freezer bag with washing up liquid, freeze it and add it to your lunch bag to keep your lunch cool.
DON'T DO IT!
Once it defrosts, it's washing liquid again. Just think of it bursting or being pierced accidentally and all that washing up liquid over your formerly delicious lunch.
Try one of the above tips instead.
PACKING SANDWICHES & WRAPS
The traditional way to wrap sandwiches or wraps is in clingfilm or tinfoil.
You can do that, but if you want to be more environmentally friendly why not buy a sandwich wrap which can be wiped and used again.
Alternatively, you could use unbleached parchment paper to wrap your sandwiches and filled wraps.
Another tip is to spread your bread with dairy-free spread, mayo or mustard, this will build a barrier between your filling and the bread to help it from going soggy.
Also, make sure you dry salad leaves and greens thoroughly so you're not adding more moisture.
PACKING PASTA SALAD & NOODLES
A leak-proof airtight container is best for pasta and noodles.
If it's airtight, you can add a sauce or dressing, but if you aren't sure take the sauce or dressing in a small jar and add when you are ready to eat.
Rice noodles can be packed in a Kilner style jar with some finely chopped or sliced veg (or dehydrated vegetables), miso paste, curry paste, stock cube or even peanut butter.
When you are ready to have lunch just add boiling water and stir.
You can make these ahead for the week.
An airtight container.
If you are adding pickled beetroot, dry it off on kitchen paper or your whole salad with turn pink.
Pack your salad dressing separately and add when you are ready to eat otherwise your salad will go soggy and limp.
Croutons, seeds and nuts should be packed separately too and added at the last minute to keep them crunchy.
The secret to a good bento lunch is to find a bento box that doesn't leak between the compartments.
For the last 6 years, since my son started school we've been using Yumboxes.
They come with different size compartments and a small space for dip, seeds or nuts. The rubber on the inside of the lid provides a tight seal on the compartments so you never have leakage.
You can even add yoghurt or mayo and it never leaks.
We have two with the smaller compartments and one with a bigger section that is good for pastries, sandwiches or wraps.
Yumbox are expensive at the £25 mark, but they have lasted us 6 years so far and are dishwasher friendly so they are well worth it.
I found a discount code when I bought mine, so was happy to buy three.
I highly recommend them, but no I don't have any connection to the company.
A jumbo ice cube tray with a lid is a cheaper option but generally not leakproof, so keep your dip separate.
A good quality thermos flask is the best option for soup, but you may have trouble pouring it if it's thick or chunky.
For a thicker soup or stew look for a good quality food flask.
They are like a thermos flask, but shorter and thicker with a wider opening so you can eat directly from the flask or pour a thick soup or stew with ease.
HEAT YOUR FLASK PROPERLY
Just remember to take the time to heat the flask first for the best results.
Fill with boiling water from the kettle and screw on the lid, then leave for 5-10 minutes to give it time to heat, before pouring out the water and adding your hot soup or stew.
I hope these tips will help you plan the perfect lunch. For lunch recipes check out my recipe index.