The only problem? People had a lot of questions!!!
Rather than making this a looooooong post, I’m going to break the questions up over the next few weeks.
Easier for everyone, don’t you think?
Today, we’ll focus on easy boxes and next week I’ll share some of my favorite “fun accessories” (picks, dividers, etc).
First: What is Bento?
(from Alisha) What is a bento lunch, where can you buy supplies, what’s it’s purpose…ya know, the whole shabang.
(from Greeta) How is a bento different from a regular lunch? Ive been confused about this for quite a while now..
(from Rachel) What type of lunch is considered “bento” ?
Bento lunches aren’t a new fad circulating among moms. It’s a centuries old tradition from Japan, where the beauty of food and food presentation is just as important as the taste. There, using rice and other staples, lunches are packed into small, compact containers but the focus is on a visually stimulating and appealing presentation of the food.
In the U.S., there are many that prepare bento lunches in the traditional Japanese style but a growing number of moms and dads have tweaked the idea, creating fun and creative lunches for their students.
(Mr. Boy’s Dino Bento I shared on Instagram last week: pasta with peas and carrots, cheese dino, blueberries, yogurt raisins, sliced deli ham)
I got started making bento lunches because the Little Lady started life as a very underweight, picky eater. I discovered that presenting meals in a visually stimulating way put more food and nutritious calories in her mouth.
Do bento lunches HAVE to be all about “cutesy,” cookie cutter shaped foods? Absolutely not — you can create beautiful lunches based on color or natural shapes. The lunch I share at the bottom of the page was created WITHOUT a single cookie cutter or cupcake pick. It can be done!
Highlights of The Modern (Western) Bento
- No baggies or disposable waste! All of the food goes into one box — and the bento containers are reusable day and day out.
- Small size still reigns supreme. Obviously, you want a box that will hold enough food to fill your hungry student’s tummy, but we aren’t talking about sending 8×8 casserole dishes to school. Boxes and containers that fit in your student’s lunch-bag are ideal.
- Make the food appealing to your kids. This doesn’t mean Twinkies and Bologna sandwiches! The key feature of a bento lunch is that the food is creatively presented within the box so that the kids are drawn to it and have fun eating it!
Second: Getting Started With a Bento Box
(from Misty) I would like to know what you would recommend for us beginners…..what tools you would consider “essential” and how to start when you have nothing. 🙂
(my morning bento station)
If I had to give one piece of advice to someone new to the bento world, it’s this: don’t stress over supplies!
Packing your child’s lunch in the “bento style” shouldn’t be stressful at any stage of the game, but it certainly shouldn’t be in the beginning. If it becomes chaotic for you, you won’t keep it up and you won’t enjoy it . .. and your child probably won’t enjoy it.
Make it easy on yourself: start simple and focus on what you can easily find at your local stores. I promise you can find enough locally to begin making fun and creative lunches for your student.
Basic Supply #1: Pick out a good box that works for YOU and YOUR CHILD.
A reusable box is THE essential supply in the bento world… they can be incredibly expensive or incredibly cheap.
My FAVORITE, “use every day boxes” are sandwich boxes. Those things can hold a LOT, they are cheap, and dishwasher safe.
Target, WalMart, and even grocery stores carry food containers and sandwich boxes that work well for bentos. They are BPA-free, seal well, and some even come with dividers and/or freezer packs to keep things cool.
Side by side comparison of a “large sandwich box” (that has a freezer insert) and a typical sandwich box.
Now, below, are both boxes, each containing the same amount of food. The larger box could hold about twice as much, but I just don’t pack much more than this because the Little Lady won’t eat it.
(each lunch has a sunbutter/jelly sandwich, veggies, grapes, and cheese cut-outs)
The larger sandwich box (purchased from the “Back to School” section at Target):
- has a built-in shelf for a freezer pack to keep food cold
- is large enough for silicone muffin cup dividers, sauce containers, sandwiches and more.
- Dishwasher safe!
The smaller sandwich box (purchased from the Dollar Spot at Target!):
- No built in cold packs
- isn’t big enough for silicone dividers but can still be packed with all the same foods
- Dishwasher safe
Start with a sandwich box before investing in the pricier lunchboxes out there. They work beautifully and give you a chance to try “the bento thing” out inexpensively.
For more info on bento boxes, check out this post I write last year that breaks down the basics of bento supplies.
Share Your School Lunch!
Today, I sent the Kidlets to school with a bento showcasing the colors of Fall.
- Sweet Pepper stuffed with Cream Cheese
- Autumn Pasta cooked in chicken stock and french onion soup (the Lipton soup mix)
- Grapes and Nectarines
- Roasted Chickpeas
This year, I’ve decided to offer an opportunity to link your school lunches and/or bento lunches! I ADORE getting inspiration and ideas (and even “THAT’S how you do that” moments) from others out there … so share your photos!
You can link to a blog post or flickr photos — this linky is for any kind of healthy school lunch, regardless if it is Bento-style or not. I want to celebrate our efforts to provide good and enjoyable school lunches for our children!
Want to know more about Bento? Here are other posts that will explain the basics, give you resources and tips for successful lunch planning and preparation. I hope they help!
I’m going to offer the linky every Tuesday when I share our Bento lunches so you’ll be able to add your lunches every week. My only request is that you either add a link back to this post or include the Lunch Graphic (which links back) to your post so others can get here to view the linked lunches too!