So the good old government has introduced free school lunches for all infants as of this September. Quite how some schools are going to cope with all the extra demand is unclear, but what is certain is that the packed-lunch-eaters are going to be in the minority.
Biggest (7) has always had a packed lunch and flatly refuses to eat a school dinner, which has obviously had an impact on Littlest (4) who is about to start school and, despite the offer of a free lunch, is adamant that she is having a packed lunch, too. I must confess, as much of a hassle as it sometimes is, I quite like them having a packed lunch as I a) know what they’re eating and it’s healthy b) I have to think of interesting things to put in it (this point can be good and bad) and c) I quite like all the packed lunch paraphernalia – lunchbox, cooler bag, drinks bottles etc. I think this taps into my food container obsession… (see my Twitter feed for more on this!)
I was, therefore, delighted to receive for review a Framboise Pink Yumbox from the UK distributor of these American-designed lunchboxes, which are styled on the traditional Bento box. The interior tray comprises six small compartments for different kinds of foods – grains, protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables, with an illustration and the name of each food group printed inside, as well as a small receptacle for dip, dressing or yogurt. I was quite excited to see you can pack wet foods (not liquid) in the Yumbox, as it’s leakproof, which is pretty cool.
My first impression was that is quite heavy. The plastic outer box is no heavier than your average lunchbox, but once you slot in the interior tray, and consider that it would then have food in it too, it is quite weighty in my opinion. Not off-putting, but heavier than the Sistema lunchbox I use for my son, for instance.
The next question was ‘Where does the sandwich go?’ – and this was my husband’s first question too. I can see this would be an issue for some, for whom a packed lunch equals a sandwich and few other bits. However, for my daughter, who while she is not a picky eater, doesn’t love huge sandwiches and prefers finger foods, I could actually see that this could really work for her. I like the compartments, which remind you to make the packed lunch healthy and interesting – ‘Have I added some vegetables?’ ‘What dip could I put in the little pot?’ – and the compartments are just the right size. Initially I thought they might be too small but they’re not, they’re just perfect for little ones (and big ones!) and this provides an ample lunch.
The first time we used the Yumbox was at the beginning of the summer. We went on a picnic with a group of friends, and I have to admit that it did get some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ when I pulled it out the bag as it’s quite unlike anything else. All the other mums were very interested, and agreed that for little children in particular, eating this way i.e. a bit of this, and a bit of that, was very appealing. It looks really attractive, and filling the compartments makes you think about the visual look of the food and want to add a bit of colour from fruit or vegetables or add in different textures and interesting things because the compartments are so beguiling. Lunch becomes a visual feast and an exciting experience.
Littlest loved it – she actually ate more than she usually would – she is renowned for leaving half her roll or sandwich – and on this occasion she ate her cucumber and pepper, then her cherries and crackers and then the other bits and pieces and enjoyed dipping the vegetables into the mayonnaise.
I would say the Yumbox offers a new packed lunch or picnic experience and has its pros and cons. The interior tray is a bit of a faff to wash up, as you can’t really leave it to drain easily I found, as water gets in the nooks and crannies, so is probably best in the dishwasher (top rack). It is quite heavy, as mentioned, and it does require a different attitude to lunch, i.e. beyond the sandwich. Arguably this takes up more time, as you have to think what you’re going to put in the compartments, and some one-handed cooks (parents) may find that off-putting. But all in all, having gone on to use it several times over the summer, I think it’s great for the reasons above, not least because it makes you think about providing a balanced, healthy lunch and not just sticking a slice of ham between two slices of bread. I’ve used it myself to take lunch to work and it’s great if you are trying to reduce the amount of bread you eat, for instance.
For visual inspiration, go to the Yumbox website or look on Pinterest where there are a gazillion inspirational Yumbox photos – I am including a couple of photos of the lunches I made for Littlest over the summer, which are quite boring in comparison, but at least it shows that even with relatively ‘unexciting’ ingredients – ham, crackers, cherry tomatoes, olives, or cheese, cut-up rolls, beetroot and homemade chutney – you can create something visually appealing, healthy and portable. In short, lunch heaven.
The Yumbox retails at £24.95 and is available from the website in a variety of lovely colours.
With thanks to Yumbox www.yumbox-uk.co.uk for the chance to review this lunchbox.
More soon on my new obsession – jam-making and plums galore!
Disclaimer: I was sent a Framboise Pink Yumbox for free to review on The One-Handed Cook blog. All opinions are my own.