When my youngest son moved to France for his placement year at University, like every mother I was concerned that he might not be eating properly. I’ve heard his stories about living off packaged noodles and ready meals when he’s away living with friends, so I always used to take along lots of tins of vegetables and pulses when we drove him back to his student house after the holidays to make sure he was getting at least some nutrition.
I thought this might not be able to happen while he was in France. I wondered how all that food would fare being sent such a long way, especially as nobody wants to be wiping tinned peas off everything else in a box! This is why I decided to come up with a packaging strategy to make sure everything would arrive safe and sound and my son would still get at least a couple of his five-a-day.
The first thing to do is to find yourself a sturdy box and figure out how many cans you’ll be able to fit in, allowing for the packaging you’ll be using. It’s no good filling it completely with tins if you can’t fit in any sort of buffer to keep them safe. And, on a different note, it’ll cost a lot to transport a box filled to the brim with heavy tins! I like to add, on average, two inches of filling material to each side of the box, so measure the box, subtract four inches from the length, width and height and you’ll be able to figure out how much room is left for food.
The next thing to do is decide whether you want to wrap each individual can in clingfilm or a small plastic sandwich bag to make sure it doesn’t spill if it gets damaged. If you decide to do this, make sure you tie or tape it securely. Prepare the box to be filled by reinforcing each ‘seam’ with heavy duty packing tape.
Then fill the bottom of the box with a layer of filler. I like to use bubblewrap, as the plastic surface tends to help the cans ‘stick’ in place. Then place in your cans as close together as possible, not forgetting to add the same two inches of filler to each side of the box. If you find you have large gaps between the cans, you might want to fill these with an absorbent material such as newspaper just in case there is any leakage.
Finally, place the final layer of filling on top of the cans and shut the box. If there is any leeway when you push firmly on the top of the box, add some more filler to reduce the extra space. When you’re satisfied that the lid of the box feels solid and sits flat atop the packaging and cans, tape it with lots of packing tape across both the lid and all of the seams. Write the address on the top, and include an instruction to keep the box the correct way up. You could send your box at the Post Office, but with such a big, heavy parcel, I manage to find better rates sending it with a courier.
If you follow these steps, your food should arrive safely in another country and survive its long journey. Nice to know my son will be eating some vitamins for a while at least!
Claire Jameson blogs about her experiences as a full time mother in between cleaning up after her family!