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In praise of packed lunch

We Make it and Menders love packed lunches! Why do we love them? They’re thrifty - a great way to use up leftovers and prepare lovely food at the fraction of the cost of shop bought sandwiches and drinks. They’re creative - thinking ‘inside the lunchbox’ extends beyond sandwiches and rolls. They cut back on waste - fewer plastic sandwich wrappers and paper coffee cups generated when you buy lunch at delis and coffee bars.

So, rediscover the packed lunch by trying a few of our ideas below. Plus…

hugh book cover» Packed lunch suggestions we’ve received from fellow Make and Menders

Download our Packed Lunch Inspiration – put a copy on the fridge to remind you why packed lunches are lovely. Make a packed lunch for a loved one and place a personalised  message inside… » Packed Lunch Inspiration from MIAMI

»Flasks, drink containers, lunchboxes and lunch on the move  accessories

The history of the packed lunch

The packed lunch has been around as long as we have. Even early man understood the concept of saving a little food that could be eaten the next day. We started out as hunter-gatherers so it’s in our nature to worry about where are next meal is coming from. Taking your lunch with you is soooo reassuring to your inner caveman.

walnutsThe original packed lunches were based around food stuffs that came in their own ‘packs’. for example, if you ever lived in an old house – 19th century or earlier and found walnut shells under the old floors, you’re probably looking at the packed lunch containers for one of the original builders of your home. Walnuts were highly nutritious and the shells kept them clean until they were cracked.

curry puffsKeeping your packed lunch grit and dust free was a challenge before the advent of modern lunch boxes and the ubiquitous Tupperware. The Cornish Pasty was invented by the wives of Cornish tin miners to seal meat and even jam inside a protective pastry case with a thick rim of folded pastry that could be held by grimy hands. The original’ lunch box’ was often an old tobacco tin. The ‘lunch pail’ was basically a small bucket. The first bespoke lunchboxes didn’t emerge until the 1920s or 30s.

How to make the perfect packed lunch

eatwell plateBalance - you need a combination or carbohydrate, protein, fresh fruit / veg. Avoid too many fast food items, like biscuits and crisps, as they tend to be high in sugar and salt.

To get the ratios roughly right use the Eatwell Plate created by the UK Food Standards Agency (click on the image to visit the Food Standards site and more about the Eatwell plate).

Dried fruit is great for packed lunches. It satisfies a sweet tooth but provides your body with energy over a longer period than a chocolate or biscuit bar.

Creativity - don’t restrict your ideas to what can be comfortably contained within two slices of bread. Invest in good sandwich boxes that are leak-proof so you can experiment with salads and leftovers, such as last night’s pasta. A wide-lipped flask can be used for soups and stews.

Daily bread, baps, bagels, wraps…

breadNot that there’s anything wrong with a sandwich: experiment with different types of break such as Spelt and Rye. Wraps are great for weight watchers as they contain fewer calories than the amount of bread you would need to safely wrap the same amount of filling. Pitta pockets are great for salads.

Think beyond butter and margerine - flavoured mayonnaises, pesto sauce and that Mediterranean favourite of rubbing bread with half a cut tomato into which a half clove of garlic has been inserted, are great alternatives.

Fruit - a lot of it comes ‘ready wrapped’ like oranges and bananas, which makes it great for lunches on the go. Try freezing grapes overnight. They stay lovely and chilled until lunchtime.

Turning leftover roast meats into sandwich fillings - if you’ve enjoyed a roast chicken, or beef or lamb over the weekend, even small scraps can be turned into midweek sandwich fillings. Try this: Finely chop the meat, mix with a dollop of mayonaise and a small sprinkle of curry powder. Add raisins and nuts for a more exotic combo.

little boy eatingChildren - get them involved in the preparation of packed lunches for school. Picky eaters are often more enthusiastic about food they’ve helped prepare themselves.

Packed lunch psychology - try not to eat it at your desk. Find somewhere restful, ideally outside in the better weather. When you prepare your own packed lunch try and make it with as much care and enthusiasm as you if you were making it for someone else. Show yourself a little love and attention.

Salad dressings and sauces - transport them in a separate bottle and add to the food just before you eat.

“Psychologically taking something from your home to your place of work is really special and lunch boxes are a way to do that.” Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall

Download our Packed Lunch Inspiration – put a copy on the fridge to remind you why packed lunches are lovely. Make a packed lunch for a loved one and place a personalised message inside… » Packed Lunch Inspiration from MIAMI


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There are 12 comments

  1. Posted by Beardog on January 3, 2010 at 9:54am

    I love packed Lunches. I always start the year with good intentions and these are usually to do with eating sensibly. My Lunch box becomes a little gift to myself every day. I try to include tasty morsels to keep my motivation going so I'm not feeling deprived. I love big crunchy salads, or little portions of left over curry or shepherd's pie.

  2. Posted by Anne Caborn on January 3, 2010 at 1:49pm

    Enter our competition beardog. Just follow the link on the page. We'd love to hear your ideas for tasty morsels.

  3. Posted by Ara on January 4, 2010 at 1:48pm

    Wow! That's right! But I suggest we should start our year with a more safe and healthy living. When it comes to packed lunches, why not try to use a more convenient, eco-friendly and stylish steel container instead of plastic containers. Through that we can also protect our environment from the harmful effects of plastic materials. We can also save our love ones from the dangerous chemicals that other containers have. So as for a change, let's switch to stainless steel containers.

  4. Posted by Shena Cooper on January 7, 2010 at 6:36pm

    At Secret Seed we whole heartedly agree that children will eat food when they have been involved with the preparation. at this time of year there is not much fresh food accessible in the garden (if any) and so its great to get children involved with sprouting beans and seeds to provide tasty fresh greens. Did you know that by sprouting beans and seeds it is much easier for the human digestion to access all the goodness inside. You can get ideas for store cupboard sprouting from our web site www.secretseedsociety.com and you can send us a picture of what tasty snack your children dream up for their lunch box. (metal of course).

  5. Posted by Jeff on January 12, 2010 at 9:16am

    So, is a meal consisting of: Sandwich of salami, or home roast pork, beef, or quorn slices Portion of cucumber, cherry tomatoes, celery or suchlike A BabyBel, Portion of grapes Small piece of cake on birthday OK? Jeff

  6. Posted by Jeff on January 12, 2010 at 9:17am

    Sorry meant to say - for a 5 year old......

  7. Posted by Anne Caborn on January 12, 2010 at 9:34am

    Hi Jeff. Can I ask to you to submit that idea to our competition by emailing it to info@makeitandmendit.com?

  8. Posted by Helen on January 12, 2010 at 10:53am

    Hi Jeff - saw your post on the Guardian - it sounds like a good balance to me (but by the way, I don't have children and am not claiming to be an expert!).

  9. Posted by Myf on January 12, 2010 at 5:03pm

    'Fraid your PDF link is broken.

  10. Posted by Anne Caborn on January 12, 2010 at 5:19pm

    PDF is working now. Sorry you had a problem.

  11. Posted by Barbara on January 12, 2010 at 9:35pm

    I saw your comment on the guardian article. I'm hoping to move away from school lunches fro my kid but I need to do a lot of experimenting to get food that my 8 year old likes. I disagree with many of our (US) school district's priorities for healthy eating. I prefer eating natural and portion control. They emphasize fat and calorie avoidance and favor highly processed foods which may contain artificial sweeteners tio keep the calorie count down. The only common ground we have is avoidance of foods with minimal nutritional value.

  12. Posted by Kids in Sussex on January 12, 2011 at 9:27pm

    For a quick, easy, tasty, non-messy packed lunch sandwich get a baguette, hollow a hole with a butter knife (with butter on it if you like and spread around, or mayo or marmite, whatever your preference), rip off some lettuce and squash that in, ditto chunks of cheese (or ham or tuna etc..) the best bit is cherry tomatoes. There's no need to cut them, they'll burst open when you eat the sandwich but none will leak out as the sides of the baguette remain closed. This also prevents the bread getting soggy prior to eating. I like to lay the baguette on a pretty napkin then wrap it up and tie with a ribbon. The baguette should be durable enough not to need additional protection in your bag. When you unwrap the parcel the napkin is ideal to lay the food on and wipe your hands afterwards. Perfect.

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