“It looked bigger in the picture”
We spoke recently about weighing food ready to sell, in this instalment we’ll look at picking the correct size container for your food. Perhaps you have that great new food line sat in a bowl or the bottom of the saucepan and now you need to sort some packaging out. This guide should look and sound familiar enough to many busy chefs, often short of time – you know how it is, a million things going on at once and you’re doing it all at the wrong end of the day. Websites are great, packed full of information and photos, capacities too. But it’s just not the same is it?
“Yeah, but I can take a rough guess”
You can, and many do. A couple of days later, we’re talking to customers looking to return something as it’s not quite right. If you’ve ever played this game, it’s costly, wastes time and it’s a whole load of faff isn’t it? A slightly too big container = potential overfill, loss of profit and/or feedback from your customers that you’re skimping on portions. This method works for liquid, dry, solid and somewhere in between food – so pretty much everything.
“Makes sense, I’ve wasted so much time and money in the past. Show me how it’s done then.”
Alright, here we go. All you need are a set of scales, and something big enough to hold an intended portion of your food. (In this case, cooked rice) If your kitchen jug is in the back of the fridge with baked beans in it, no problems. You can use anything – mug, jug, pint glass, vase, as long as you can put it on your scales and see the read out.
- This is a bulk batch of rice, just cooked off. (Smells great!) It’s too big for a portion though.
- The rice in the bowl is the portion I want to sell, so I need a container for it.
- I’ve found an old 800ml Tamper Evident Container in the back of the cupboard. It’s too big as the empty space is basically wasted money.
- This leads us to the last picture. Flatten the rice in the container, and make a mark on the outside to indicate the level the rice fills to. I’ve used masking tape, but if you’ve had a rough day, a nick with your knife will do the job, a blue plaster, elastic band, marker – you get my drift. Make use of what is to hand!
Empty your rice out, and give the container a rinse out. Weigh the container whilst its empty and make a note.
Fill the container with water to your knife nick / plaster / elastic band / masking tape line. This is the volume your rice takes up. Remember, 1ml of cold water = 1 gram. In this example, our rice needs a container with a capacity of at least 400ml (the container weighs 16g)
How easy is that? A 10 minute exercise has likely saved you an hour of hassle and the best part of £20 in collection and re-delivery fees. (We also call this profit) I’ve put my rice in a 500cc Clear Rectangular Plastic Container and Lid. Although 100g odd bigger in volume than I need, I’ll be freezing my rice so want to allow a little room for expansion. We also know that my portion of rice weighs 260g.
You now know how to work out both the weight and the volume of your food – whatever it may be, which should make hunting out the right sized container MUCH easier as you’re now making an informed decision rather than an educated guess.
At the very least, you need a 15oz / 420ml container. My 800ml container that was way too big should actually be more like a 440ml Tamper Evident Container, or maybe a 16oz/482ml Clear Round Container. Feel like going the non plastic route? How about a 16oz Noodle Box? All are very different shapes, but they all have the same capacity.
So now you know what you’re selling, how much it weighs and the size of container it needs. If you sell pre-packed food for direct sale, new rules are coming into force in October 2021. This will be a legal requirement as a direct result of the passing of Natashas Law in 2019 and relates to how you label food for sale. We will cover names, ingredients, allergens, sell by / best before dates and cooking/ re-heating guidelines.
One last thing, we measure the capacity of our products with a set of scales and tap water. Works every time.