School lunches – it’s all about the container

The daily packing of school lunches can resemble a game of Jenga played backwards. From a precarious pile of assorted containers and random items from the pantry, you must create a healthy meal and some snacks, neatly stacked in leak-proof packs that fit perfectly into an inappropriately shaped backpack and zipped up. You have to do this daily, pre-coffee, on minimal sleep and before the bus leaves.

Compartmentalised plastic lunch boxes in lurid colours, little containers with missing lids, lids with missing containers, drink bottles branded with movie characters, and  insulated bags that fit none of the above once an ice-pack is involved. And somehow the addition of more containers makes things worse, not better. You have cupboards filled with enough plastic to rival the Great Pacific Garbage Patch yet you have “nothing” to fill with the food your children probably won’t eat anyway.

But for decades in India the lunch box dilemma has simply not existed. Generations of mothers have happily packed lunch-boxes with delicious home-made fare and keep their husbands and children fed and happy – no fuss, no angst and NO PLASTIC! Since the late 1800’s, dabbawalas (tiffin delivery men) have miraculously collected and delivered meals from homes to work-places and returned them again. Every day, in cities as populated and chaotic as Mumbai, this seamless service has been performed. While we can only dream of a delivery service such as that for school children here, what we can do is embrace the tiffin.


A tiffin is a stack of three or four round containers that clip together. The lid at the top has a handle for transportation. Each layer is generously sized and good tiffins are made of stainless steel. They’re tough. And they seem to imbued with some kind of magic that takes some of the angst out of school lunches. Which is weird. But good. As Jo Turnbull of Lunchbox Mania says

I actually feel that these tiffins enhance people’s lives.

TiffinOnWhiteAnything that makes school lunches less of a chore clearly needs so serious investigation and The Family Beast can say, from first hand experience – they’re really quite good. Pre-preparing the night before and leaving overnight in the fridge will help keep the food cold for longer the next day, as well as buying you at least half an hour the next morning to enjoy a coffee, or search for lost readers, or braid hair, or…).

If you’ve reached your use-by date with cupboard loads of containers, maybe it’s time to try a tiffin.

And now for something to put INTO your tiffin:
The Lunchbox Revolution
All in one Salad
Non cooking meals
Three different meals from a single mixture

 Please note: The Family Beast is not for sale. Any products or services mentioned or featured on this site have been mentioned or featured because The Family Beast likes them – nobody paid for them to be here.

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