Ever since we came up with the original freezable lunch bag, we’ve always wondered if there was one superior lunch that was perfect for a PackIt. Thousands of fresh meals taste amazing when they're chilled. But are some just a little more nutritious, affordable and convenient than the others? And, more importantly, will you want to eat them again and again? There has to be one to rule them all—and we’re on a mission to find it.
First, we did a little research, asking PackIt fans for their favorite to-go meals on social media. Classics like ham and Swiss and fresh veggie salads abounded, along with all manner of chicken wraps, salads and sandwiches. (Boy, do you guys like your bird!) With those tastes in mind, we scoured the web for the best lunch recipes and put them head-to-head in tournament-style competition.
Here’s how it works: Today we’re announcing the first round of 16 recipe competitors from some of our favorite food experts. There's something for everyone here: meat, veggies, kid-friendly ideas, sandwiches, salads, wraps, grain bowls, and of course, your beloved chicken. Trust us, the bench is deep.
Over the next week, we’ll pit these 16 meals against each other on important factors, including price, nutrition and ease of preparation. The eight highest scorers will advance to next round, and this Friday you can weigh in on your favorites for a chance to win PackIt swag. In fact, you can comment on each round on this blog or social media every Friday through April 1st. Each time you comment, you’ll be eligible to win PackIt bags and other fun prizes.
THE SWEET SIXTEEN
Before we get into the good stuff, a few notes on eligibility for each meal:
• Must taste good while chilled. While PackIt is perfect for keeping reheatable food safe on the go, not everyone has access to a microwave or oven at lunchtime. To make all things equal, each recipe has to be chilled on the go and eaten cold or at room temperature. One exception: We included a couple sandwiches that call for toasted bread, but only because you can toast before packing or skip toasting altogether.
• Must be easy to transport. From our crossbody coolers to our cute lunch boxes and handbag styles, there are tons of options for taking your lunch in a PackIt. But if a recipe requires you to carry 14 little bottles precisely level or buy a special bulky container, well, that’s just too fussy for us.
• Ingredients must be easily accessible and relatively affordable.
• Must be able to prep the night before or the morning of your meal. Basically, it shouldn’t require days of cooking or to be assembled on the spot.
• Must be customizable for one person. Your math skills shouldn't be overly taxed to figure out a solo portion, nor should you be stuck with 45 extra puff pastries when you only need enough for one meal.
• Must be substitution-friendly. What we’re looking for are solid base recipes that can handle a little improv. If you leave out an ingredient or two, or sub in something (say pesto for basil leaves), it shouldn’t throw off the balance.
• Must be something that won’t offend your fellow students or co-workers. We’re all for letting your freak flag fly at lunch—the stranger, the better! But if a meal requires industrial strength mints just to make it through post-lunch conversations, it probably doesn't belong on the all-time greatest hits list.
Now, for the beautiful bracket. Check out the 16 recipes of the first round and tell us in a comment below which one meal you think will win it all. We’ll check back at the end of the tournament, and each person who correctly predicts the winner will get $20 to spend at packit.com! (Deadline to comment is March 17th.)
Sandwiches and wraps:
1. Curry tarragon cherry chicken salad sandwich from Fit Men Cook
Yeah, the name is a mouthful. But it’s a delicious one.
2. The best Philly-style Italian hoagie from Baker By Nature
That venerated concoction where too much meat is never enough.
3. The Arnold Palmer sandwich from Bon Appetit
Combines tuna salad and egg salad in one glorious sammy. Why didn’t we think of this earlier?
4. Shrimp salad sandwich with chorizo from Food52
A fahn-cy version of a shrimp roll with a decidedly Spanish accent.
5. The best turkey club sandwich from Epicurious
Usually you just don’t mess with classics. But in this case, you can perfect them.
6. Mashed chickpea salad sandwich from Smitten Kitchen
A crunchy, elegantly-spiced twist on the beloved hummus sandwich.
7. Fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwich with balsamic glaze from Bowl of Delicious
There’s only one thing to say about a fresh caprese: Mangia!
Salads and grain bowls:
8. Southwestern chicken fajita mason jar salad from MJ and Hungry Man
Hungry ladies and dudes will savor this Tex-mex riff on the popular jar salad.
9. Greek lentil salad from Greatist
This light legume salad is packed with protein and plenty of European flair.
10. Caesar pasta salad from Good Housekeeping
Your lunchtime noodles have never been so well-dressed.
11. Sesame ginger soba noodle salad from PopSugar
A gorgeous, veggie-packed take on a Japanese staple.
12. Brown rice power bowl from The Pioneer Woman
An all-purpose grain bowl that’s so healthy and endlessly customizable.
13. Take to school taco bar from Food Network
Not just for students or Taco Tuesdays, we encourage these bad boys anywhere and any day of the week.
14. Veggie sushi from Minimalist Baker
You don’t need mad sushi rolling skillz, just an appetite for a fresh, filling veggie treat.
15. Rainbow spring rolls from Thirsty For Tea
So beautiful and fun to dip, they’re worth a little extra effort to prep.
16. Buffalo chicken lettuce wraps from Sugar Dish Me
Saucy strips with a little healthy quinoa thrown in for good measure.
Which meal do YOU think will triumph? Tell us in a comment by 3/17 for a chance to win $20 to packit.com!