Friday 10 April 2015

Packed Lunch Ideas and Lunchbox Reviews

Whether you take a sandwich to work or make a packed lunch for your children I think there are few British people who haven’t made a meal at home and taken it with them to eat later. In the US a packed lunch is traditionally known as a bagged lunch and from what I’ve seen on television, Americans usually put their sandwiches in a brown paper bag. I’m not sure if this is completely accurate; to my mind, a packed lunch in a paper bag would get squashed! Surely American children must use lunchboxes as well – or is this a very British thing?

When I was at primary school, your lunchbox was a huge status symbol. They were square plastic boxes with handles, which fit a plastic flask inside (which came with the box), and were often decorated with the latest cartoon characters. I actually had a metal (tin) one at one point with a garden scene on the front, which I loved – until I was too cool for it any more and wanted a Care Bears one!
As an adult I used a plain Tupperware box with a white lid, and I’m not adverse to keeping plastic takeaway containers and reusing those for sandwiches or taking leftovers to work. But as I take a packed lunch to work almost every day it’s nice to have some better quality, attractive and even fun lunchboxes! I need a few in case one is in the dishwasher or I have something larger than usual, or sometimes I take different elements of a meal which need to be in separate containers.

So it was great when Flamingo Gifts offered to send me a few products from their website to review and as I wanted to test out food, drink and kitchen-related products I chose a couple of lunchboxes.
Flamingo Gifts has a wide range of gifts though – as well as kitchenware and gifts for the baker and cook in your life, there is jewellery, stationery, accessories like bags and purses, baby gifts, homewares like cushions and clocks…. The site is also divided into sections allowing you to browse for ideas for your boyfriend, grandmother, teenage girls and so on. The prices are very reasonable, and at the time of writing, a special deal offering 10% off and 1p first class delivery on all orders. I had great fun browsing the site and making a wish list!

I love Happy Jackson products with their fun and sometimes irreverent slogans. This lunchbox really makes me smile, from the sunny yellow colour with the jazzy band holding it together, to the message “Yay, lunch” – which is pretty much how I feel when it gets to midday!

The elastic band holds the two parts of the lunchbox together securely – though I wouldn’t put a liquid (such as leftovers in a runny sauce) into this in case it seeps out in your bag (if like me you have a long commute in the morning, or you have a child who will be carrying this around all day). There is plenty of space for a sandwich and piece of fruit and a KitKat for instance - or whatever you are having for your lunch.

One word of advice, I wouldn’t put this in the dishwasher; I also have their lunchbox which says “my very healthy snacks” on the front – and when you take the elastic band off you see the words “yeah right”! – and the words partly came off after one wash in the dishwasher.

It is really good value at only £5.94.

The second lunchbox I was sent to review is more of a bento box. I often take lunches into work that require assembly when I get there - for instance things that would go soggy if put together in the morning. I also like to take different salad ingredients and there's something nice about having them all separate rather than tossed together in one box, and this little lunchbox lets you do that.

It's from Ted Baker - also available on Flamingo Gifts - and is bright pink with a little metal bow on the elastic. The RRP is £12.99. It's very clever as the two sections can be carried separately with different contents and when they are empty, one fits inside the other to take up less space in your bag - ingenious!

The boxes are fairly small - it is 8 x 15 x 7cm when expanded - and only 5cm when shut. So this might not be enough for your entire lunch - I prefer to use it as a snack box and put for instance some crudites in one section and these Slimming World beef wraps in the other:

They are very easy to make. Take a slice of cooked beef - the kind you get in packets like ham -and spread with a thin layer of Quark and sprinkle over a dash of lemon juice and some salt. Fill with rocket and other lettuce if desired, roll up, and eat as a wrap.

Finally I selected this farmyard compartment tray - it's aimed at kids but I think it's really cute! The RRP is £9.31 which is a little more expensive but I think families with young children would get a lot of use out of it. The reason I like it is because as I said I sometimes like to have different things for my lunch which are all bite-sized, e.g. a portion of potato salad, some roast chicken slices, some carrot sticks and so on. The compartments are deep enough that you could put a dip in one section and perhaps the carrot sticks in the rectangle next to it. When I have lunch at my desk I eat out of a lunchbox -so it would be nice to  put this out in front of you! It also comes in a floral 'secret garden' design.

What do you take your packed lunch to work in?

Thanks to Flamingo Gifts for sending me the three items to review. All opinions are my own.

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