Title:
Sandwich and storage bag slide
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A tray and bag combination. The tray has tapered side walls at a front end for easy insertion of the tray into the bag. The bag is opened as the tray enters the bag. A sandwich sized to fit the tray can then be slid onto and along the tray bottom and into the bag.



Inventors:
Mcginnis, John E. (Milwaukie, OR, US)
Application Number:
10/132971
Publication Date:
04/24/2003
Filing Date:
04/26/2002
Assignee:
MCGINNIS JOHN E.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65B25/16; B65B67/04; (IPC1-7): B65D1/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BUI, LUAN KIM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Robert L. Harrington (Suite 1920 1211 S.W. Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR, 97204-3713, US)
Claims:

The invention claimed is:



1. A combination bagging tray and bag for bagging food items comprising: a flexible bag defining an enclosure having a determined size as when expanded to receive and contain a food item, said bag having a closeable open end and an opposing closed end spaced a determined distance from said open end; a tray having a bottom and sides having a defined length and further defining an open top and open opposed front and rear ends; said sides defining similar upper side wall edges extended from a position proximate the bottom wall at the front edge upwardly and rearwardly to position at a midway distance of the tray length, said position at the midway distance having a height at least as great as the thickness of food items to be packaged; said bag opening and said tray cooperatively sized for the bag opening to receive the front end of the tray and slideable onto the tray to a midway position at or rearward of said midway position of said inclined wall edges, and as positioned at said midway position, said closed end of the bag extended beyond said front end of the tray whereby a sandwich slideable from the rear end of the tray toward the front end of the tray is fitted through said bag opening and into the bag enclosure.

2. A combination bagging tray and bag defined in claim 1 wherein a lip is formed at each side wall edge at said midway position of said bag opening.

3. A combination bagging tray and bag as defined in claim 2 wherein said side wall edges are extended horizontally from the top of said lip to a second lip, said second lip defining a second mid position for a bag and accommodating a plurality of bag sizes.

4. A combination bagging tray and bag as defined in claim 1 including a finger slot in the tray bottom extending along the tray length from a position toward the front of the tray whereby a bag bottom when exposed through the slot can be pressed against a support surface as the tray is pushed forward into the bag.

5. A combination bagging tray and bag as defined in claim 1 wherein the tray is sized in width and height to accommodate a sandwich for bagging a sandwich as the food item.

6. A combination as defined in claim 5 wherein the tray bottom is provided to have a thickness at its rear end that allows a sandwich to be readily slid along a support surface and over the rear end with minimal edge interference.

7. A combination as defined in claim 6 wherein the tray bottom rear end has a thickness no greater than about 0.050 inch.

8. A combination as defined in claim 7 wherein the tray bottom rear end has a thickness no greater than about 0.035 inch.

9. A combination as defined in claim 8 wherein the tray bottom rear end has a thickness no greater than about 0.020 inch.

10. A combination as defined in claim 6 wherein the tray sides and bottom of the tray are of similar minimal thickness to minimize the volume displacement of the tray inserted in the bag opening.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority based on provisional application Serial No. 60/287,637 DATED 4/30/01.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] This invention relates to an apparatus that facilitates the insertion of food products into storage bags and particularly the insertion of sandwiches into sandwich bags.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] It is common for children and adults alike to take their lunch to work and school. Preparing the take along lunches is a morning chore for a large percentage of the American population. Such prepared lunches very often include a sandwich made of two slices of bread, between which is placed innumerable delicacies and often combinations of food items such as lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, meats and even potato chips and pickles, etc. Because bread becomes stale when exposed to air and because the food items between the bread slices can create messes inside, e.g., a lunch box or bag, the sandwich is invariably wrapped. In recent years, wrapping of sandwiches has been replaced by plastic sandwich bags and millions of the plastic bags are purchased and used by American households each day.

[0004] The bags are specifically sized to contain a sandwich and the household lunch preparer (hereafter “user”) upon making his/her sandwich, inserts the sandwich in a bag and then secures the open end which likely has been simplified by the bag manufacturer, e.g., the ZIPLOC™ storage or sandwich bag.

[0005] A draw back of the above operation is the actual insertion of the sandwich into the bag. The bag is typically sized to fit the sandwich so that when closed there is minimal air in the bag and the combination of sandwich and bag forms a reasonably compact package to be housed in a lunch box or the like. The bag material, e.g., of plastic, is flimsy, highly flexible and for package shipping and storage purposes, is typically two sheets of plastic sealed together on three sides (a fourth side forming the insertion end and closure) with the sheets pressed together so that many bags can be stacked and provided to the user in a compact container.

[0006] Upon preparation of a sandwich, the user extracts a bag from the container and proceeds to open the unsealed insertion end and hold it open with one hand while maneuvering the sandwich with the other hand for insertion through the bag opening.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] The present invention is intended to facilitate the procedure for inserting sandwiches (and other food items) into sandwich or storage bags. A tray is configured with a blade-like leading end that extends rearwardly as a flat plane or base plate. Side walls are formed at the sides of the base plate and are configured to angularly progress from the blade end upwardly to about midway of the length of the tray. The height of the side walls are established to accommodate the thickness of a large sandwich. The side walls then extend horizontally and rearwardly from the defined height of the angled side walls to the rear end of the base plate. Preferably a lip is formed at each side wall at the juncture between the angled and horizontal extensions of the side walls. The tray bottom and sides are thin, e.g., 0.020 inch to minimize the space taken up inside the bag and also to allow sliding of the sandwich along a table top and over the rear edge of the tray and into the bag.

[0008] The user lays a retrieved bag (e.g., retrieved from a bag container) on a flat surface, inserts the blade end of the tray between the sheets at the open end and then pulls the open end of the bag up the angled sides, e.g., to the lip. The tray is configured in size to avoid full insertion of the blade into the bag when the upper end is positioned at the lip. The bag opening is thereby formed into a rectangular-like shape that substantially maximizes the bag opening (particularly as compared to hand opening) and which will readily accept a user-made sandwich. A sandwich as made by the user is typically lying on, e.g., a counter or table top and the tray is placed low adjacent the sandwich. The user simply slides the sandwich over the rear end of the tray (which has a desirably thin, e.g., 0.020 inch edge) and along the tray bottom and into the bag.

[0009] Whereas the above describes the use of the tray for inserting sandwiches into a plastic bag, the reader will appreciate the application of the tray for inserting other items, particularly food items, into a bag, e.g., as may be desirable for bagging food items for freezer storage.

[0010] The invention will be more fully appreciated upon reference to the following detailed description having reference to the accompanying drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] FIG. 1 is one embodiment of the invention illustrating the mounting of a plastic bag onto the bagging tray and further indicating the insertion of a sandwich into the bag;

[0012] FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate the tray of FIG. 1 showing application thereof to different sizes of bags; and

[0013] FIGS. 4 and 5 illustrate an alternative embodiment of the tray and the manner of mounting a bag to the tray.

[0014] Whereas the above description refers to plastic sandwich bags, they are what is most commonly available nationwide and it is presumed that bag types displaying the same difficulties for insertion of food items therein may not be accurately referred to as plastic food or sandwich bags. Accordingly, the reader should understand that reference herein to “plastic sandwich bags” is not limited strictly to bagging sandwiches and it is not limited strictly to plastic bags.

[0015] With reference to FIG. 1, illustrated is a bagging tray 10 shown with a bag 12 mounted thereon. Also shown in dash lines is a sandwich 14 that has been positioned (slid) onto the rear of the tray and in the process of being further slid into the bag 12.

[0016] As shown in FIGS. 1-3, the tray 10 has a blade end 16 having tapered side edges 18, 20 that join with tray sides or outer walls 22, 24. Tray sides 22, 24 are similar in configuration and include rearwardly inclined side edges 26, 28. It is not necessary for the side edges to be a straight edge and may even preferably be somewhat slightly curved. The inclined edges extend to a mid-position whereat the side edge is formed into a lip 30 shown most clearly in FIG. 3.

[0017] The inclined side edges 26, 28 are angled, e.g., at about a 30 degree angle so as to locate lip 30 at a desired height 32 (see FIG. 3) to accommodate the height of a typical sandwich bag, e.g., a height of about 1½ inches from the top of the tray bottom 34 to the bottom level of the lip 30, and at a desired distance 36 from the blade end 16, e.g., about 5 inches. At the top level of the lip 30, the side edges 26, 28 extend substantially horizontally to a second lip 38 having an increased height 39 (FIG. 2), e.g., a height of about 1¾ inch and then extends horizontally, e.g., at a height of about 2 inches to the rear end 42. The total length 40 of the tray, blade end 16 to rear end 42, is about 9½ inches.

[0018] The width of the tray bottom between the sides 22, 24 is about 5 inches. However, it will be understood that the dimensions are selected to satisfy the particular bagging needs. Whereas particular sized bags may be adapted to fit particular sized bread slices and sandwiches up to a particular height, the tray 10 is selected to accommodate a variety of bag sizes so that when slid onto the tray and, e.g., either to lip 30 or lip 38 (see FIG. 3), the closed end of the bag is extended beyond the blade end 16. With the extended bag end, that end is accordingly allowed to open as the sandwich is fully inserted, i.e., into engagement with the closed bag end. Whereas only two lips (30, 38) are shown, additional lips can be provided and in any event, the user will be able to use any of the available sandwich bag sizes, a number of which may be positioned at either of the lips or at different positions along the length of the tray sides. The existence of the lips is not a requirement and can function primarily as an indicator for the user.

[0019] The reader will appreciate that a problem that is addressed by the invention is the avoidance of having to pick up the sandwich after it is made. Assuming the bread to be fresh and the sandwich ingredients to be varied and likely messy, any hand gripping of the sandwich (when picking it up) will likely result in the sandwich slices being somewhat squeezed together and with the ingredients falling out of the sandwich and the sandwich itself being misshapen. This problem is exasperated by the necessity of having to use one hand to open the bag which cannot be easily opened to its full capacity for receiving the sandwich. The problem is further exasperated when the sandwich is cut in half (as seen in FIG. 5) and more so if cut into quarters.

[0020] Accordingly, it is a desirable feature of the tray with the tray bottom having a minimal thickness to allow the sandwich to be slid from the counter or table top (on which the sandwich was made) over the rear edge of the tray and onto the tray. A second benefit is achieved by providing both the tray bottom and sides to have this minimal thickness. Because the tray is partially inserted into the bag and because the sandwich and tray both have to occupy the interior of the bag during the insertion process, the thickness of the tray bottom and sides can interfere with the fitting of the sandwich to a tightly sized bag interior. This interference is minimized by the minimal thickness of the tray size and bottom. Optimally, the thinner the sides and bottom, the better. Experiments have determined that the thickness can be reduced to 0.020 inch and provide the desired benefits. Such thickness might be reduced even further but a 0.020 inch thickness has been shown to provide the needed rigidity, (e.g., for a metal tray) to force the bag into the desired shape and is sufficiently thin to allow easy sliding of a sandwich over the rear edge of the tray. Of course, a thicker bottom wall can be used and the rear edge tapered to facilitate sliding of the sandwich onto the tray, but as explained, the thinner bottom and side walls additionally provide less interference, i.e., occupies less space inside the bag.

[0021] Whereas 0.020 inch has been found to be a very satisfactory thickness for the above desired benefits, a thickness up to 0.035 is also considered satisfactory. A bag having a thickness greater than 0.050 inch is considered too thick for the preferred embodiment of the invention.

[0022] Reference is now made to FIGS. 4 and 5 which illustrate a second embodiment of the bagging tray. The bottom of the tray 44 is provided with a finger slot 46. As shown in FIG. 4, with the bag 12 inserted over the blade end 44, the bottom side of the bag (note dash lines 50) is extended to a position that underlies the end 52 of slot 46. The user simply places his finger through the slot 46 at end 50 to press and thereby hold the bag, e.g., pressed against the table top 54. The user then pushes the tray (with his other hand as indicated by arrow 56) to effect sliding of the tray into the bag. In the manner previously described for FIGS. 1-3, the sandwich 14 is placed on the tray and slid along the tray bottom into the bag. Although not shown, the type of bag that maximizes the use of such slot, is the type referred to as having a fold over top. The “fold over top” is an extension portion of one of the sheets, i.e., it extends beyond the opening of the bag and it is that side of the bag that is laid on the table top. Thus, the top of the bag is exposed through the slot with minimal insertion of the tray into the bag opening and it is the top portion that is pressed against the table top as the tray is slid into the bag.

[0023] The reader should understand that there are a large variety of sandwich bags. Many of the bags have two sheets bonded at three side edges as previously discussed. Others are formed to have side dimensions and even closed end dimensions. All are flexible and will conform to the tray configuration as discussed and illustrated. As will be noted, the tray of FIGS. 4 and 5 is provided with one lip instead of two lips. All dimensions will vary depending on need. The primary benefit is the avoidance of having to hand shape a bag opening while at the same time manipulating the sandwich (or, e.g., other food item) into the bag. During such insertion by hand, ingredients such as relish, mustard, mayonnaise and the like will drop out of the sandwich or be squeezed out of the sandwich and at best is a cumbersome process to which the present invention addresses.

[0024] As previously explained, the disclosed “sandwich” bagging tray has other uses, e.g., for filling storage bags for freezer storage and for use generally as a funnel for insertion of food items into a bag.

[0025] Those skilled in the art will conceive of numerous modifications and variations without departing from the scope of the invention as defined by the accompanying claims, the terms of which are intended to have their general and everyday meaning.