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Prepared - Modular meal prep system

How can we help people with realising their individual nutrition in daily working life?

Individual nutrition will become increasingly demanding in the future. For various reasons like health or ethic, more and more people attach importance to an individual nutrition, which is not answered by the growing offer of conventional food. If you cook by yourself, you have control about ingredients and the quality of your food. Nevertheless, the majority of the population has difficulties integrating cooking into the hectic daily work routine. One main factor is missing time.

Date: 2017
Type of project: Bachelor thesis
Project time: 6 months
Original title: Preparation, storage & transport of daily food in working life

convenience products in supermarket

Meal prep as an approach to the main problem "missing time".

Inspiration can be found online, in social media like Instagram. Topics like health, ethic or fitness are reasons why a lot of people follow these bloggers. The question is, how can we improve the factor time? Interesting here is the fitness scene, which deals with the problem “not enough time” in form of “meal prep”. The idea is to prepare several meals in advance. In a survey, in which 115 people participated, 75% of them could imagine meal prep for their everyday working life. Meal prep - a first approach to the problem “missing time”.

research lunchbox chaos
research modular mealprep
research plastic bag

There are planers and spontaneous, both with different needs.

To understand more about problems and potentials, which occur while preparing food and bringing it to work, I analysed the process, containing purchase, preparation, storage, transport and warming up. Interesting here, were the two groups of purchasers. The “planers”, who write lists, before buying food and the “spontaneous”, who let themself inspire by the supermarket’s offer. One disadvantage of meal prep is the management, if you ever prepared a three-course dinner, you may know this. Another problem is preparing the right amount of portion. Especially if you have just a limited space in the fridge or freezer. And meal prep needs space. Modular storage in boxes enables flexible combination of side dishes, but also requires different box and lid sizes. As a consequence, there is chaos in most people’s storage.

Most people want to put lunch boxes horizontal, but in reality they just fit vertical in bags.

When transporting, boxes will fly around in bags, and to protect valuables from leaking fluids and condensed water, lunch boxes are put in extra plastic bags. 56% of participants in my study revealed to pay attention to a horizontal transport of their lunch boxes. Nevertheless, most lunch boxes have to be turned around to fit in bags. After warming up, the lunch box is too hot to be picked out of the microwave with bare hands. To sum up, I realised, there is a need for a box system for transport and storage and an intelligent system for purchase and preparation.

global concepts
design sketch
lunchbox and app

Intelligent system

The design entails an intelligent system in form of an application for purchase and preparation, a transport and storage system and an additional lunch bag. Prepared helps to prepare meals in advance and thus the first system specialised on meal prep. Various recipes are automatically combined. The user will be supported in planning and also usage of purchases. Ingredients can be exchanged if necessary, recipe suggestions can be created on the basis of their own purchase and a step by step guide leads through the summarized recipes.
The system contributes to the reduction of food waste because it helps you to plan ahead which and how much ingredients you need for the week. And, how to use the food you already have at home. If you cook yourself, you can define your portion size. This way less food has to be thrown away. Moreover, reusable lunch boxes help to diminish plastic waste in form of food packaging.

Hover over the screens below to see them in action (tapping on mobile)!

overview screens
bag and lunchbox

Transport and storage system

The portions or individual supplements are adapted to the modular transport system. The volume of the individual containers is only changed by the height. The containers can thus be freely interconnected, inserted into one another and closed with any cover. The boxes fit vertically into typical bags. The handles serve as a closing mechanism, protection against burns after heating up and act as a connecting element for the containers.
The cork lunch bag protects valuables from leaking fluids and condensed water. Cork is sustainable, water repellent, isolating and antibacterial. The closing mechanism is magnetic and closes the bag air tight and ensures simple opening and closing. Sewed with a cotton thread, which enlarges after first contact with water, holes are closed, which emerged while stitching.

testing night cam
building tangible table
stapled lunchbox
testing night cam
building tangible table
closeup bag and logo