By Jennifer Howard from Chasing the Firefly
My two youngest children began going to school long enough this year to require a lunch. These two are the picky eaters of the family. One lives on air and Pixy Stix, the other would be happy drinking milk all day long. I knew I would have to be a little more creative when making their lunches. I decided that making Bento Box lunches would work perfectly.
There are many reasons why I chose to make Bento lunches but the biggest reasons would be:
They are easy to make. There is something about filling individual compartments that makes it easier for me to cover food groups.
More options for fresh foods. I love the variety of colorful fruits and vegetables that can easily be prepared and used in lunches.
Little, if any, pre-packaged items. This is probably one of my most favorite reasons to begin making Bento lunches.
To begin preparing Bento Box lunches I had to find appropriate containers. I ended up purchasing themed boxes with snap lids. My kids love the movie Totoro so they chose that as their theme, although, most any container will do. Just be sure to pick containers that aren’t too big. My boxes look small, but they can hold a good amount of food. It’s also a good idea to pick a shallow container. Bento lunches work best when there is very little wiggle room between the food in the box.
Now the fun begins. Fill your Bento Box with some yummy food. This is where dividers come in handy. My box has one divider that can be moved from side to side. This is great for splitting the space in half. I then use paper baking cups to divide the spaces further, into fourths. Many people like to use silicone cups, but I prefer using seasonally decorated paper cups. I like the variety of them and, frankly, I just don’t like washing out silicone baking cups. Another “must have” items would be small cookie cutters. I use these two items daily. I prefer to keep my bento simple. I have found that there is a fine line to what the kids will and will not eat. If the food is very intricate and handled a lot to make it more ornamental, they tend to shy away from it. If it’s colorful and easy to eat, I notice a lot less comes back home with them.
Speaking of food that returns home! Another great plus I have found since doing this style of lunch, when they come home with food left in their boxes, I just re-open them and serve as an after school snack. The leftovers are still fresh and the kids seems to appreciate the opportunity to finish the food they ignored earlier.
Other items that you can use:
Hot Dog Cutters
All of these can easily be found on the internet. I rarely use them. I did get a bunch of tiny circular bead containers with screw tops to hold ranch dip when I pack carrot sticks.
Here are a few examples of Bento Box lunches.
The basics of each lunch would be a sandwich cut with a cookie cutter, adding a nice variety of sides. I usually use this lunch to get fruit into my kids’ day. They need a little more coaxing with veggies and I can do that at home during dinner. My Kindergartner does really enjoy edamame or carrot sticks so I use those at least once a week. I try to make homemade items for their sweets. Fluffer nutter bites, krispy treats and marbled banana bread has been popular. When I’m out of those items, I will surprise them with a sweet cereal or packaged cookies. I try to avoid these as much as I can, but I’m OK with serving them in small doses. One of my kids leans towards the leaner side so I add nuts to her lunches for a healthy fat choice.
Have fun creating your Bento boxes, but fair warning, I’ve had more than one teacher approach me and ask if I can make their lunches for them too!
Are you a fan of Bento lunches? Do you have any tips?