Bento: a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. Bento’s can be arranged in “kyaraben” style (character bento) to look like popular anime or comic book characters or they can be “oekakiben” (picture bento) style to look like people, animals, flowers, etc. (Source: Wikipedia)
In the US we can adapt traditional bento’s to make lunch fun for our kids (and ourselves) using regular lunch ingredients with fun bento boxes and accessories. It’s a great way to encourage your kids to eat healthier and is so much more fun than PB&J. My kids went back to school this week and it’s been a fun project for us to do as a family to prepare for the next day of school.
- Reusable lunch containers. Preferably BPA-free, metal, glass, or fabric. Come in a variety of sizes and may be traditional bento style or our more modern “tupperware” type containers. Some traditional bento boxes even come with stackable tiers for holding more food.
- Food picks and forks. Reusable plastic, bamboo, or glass toothpicks that are decorative. Used to hold small pieces of food together or for decorative purposes.
- Muffin liners, molds, and dividers. Reusable silicone muffin liners or plastic food dividers to keep food separated in your bento. Muffin liners can also be used as food molds with rice, jello, or yogurt.
- Cutters. Metal or plastic cookie cutters to cut shapes out of bread, cheese, or other food items.
- Egg molds. A reusable plastic mold used to shape warm hard boiled eggs in fun shapes.
- Bands. A reusable elastic band that can be used for decoration or to hold several smaller containers together as a set.
- Utensils. Reusable utensils if you will need forks or spoons to eat the food.
You can get really creative with all of the accessories or you can keep things simple. It really depends on the day and how much time we devote to our bento’s as to how elaborate we get. As a working mom of 2 I usually keep things pretty simple.
What can you put into your bento for lunch? Anything really. We have a peanut-free classroom which makes it more challenging to buy prepackaged food. It actually forces me to be more creative and feed my kids a more balanced lunch now that we have to skip the PB&J.
Easy to pack, bento-friendly foods:
- Sandwich meat
- Grape tomatoes
- Carrot sticks
- Flat bread
- Hot dogs
- GoGo Squeeze
- Late July chips
- Stonyfield yogurts
- YumEarth fruit snacks
Where do I get my bento supplies?
1. Bento a day on Etsy. My virtual friend April lives in Japan and stocks her store frequently with goodies she finds in Japan. It’s fun to get mail from overseas!
2 and 3. BJ’s Wholesale Club. Check the back to school section of your local BJ’s Wholesale for these fun lunch kids and bento boxes.
4. Publix or your local grocery store. In the small container section of the store I found a few small reusable boxes. They are by the same company as the bento kids at BJ’s (Fit n’ Fresh).
5 & 6. Target $1 Section. Again in their back to school section of the dollar aisle you’ll find some fun items you can use to pack lunches.
Other fun places to shop for lunch supplies:
2 & 4. Paperless Kitchen
Tomorrow we’re going to have a taco themed bento with Late July tortilla chips, black beans, corn, tomatoes, cheese and avocados. If you want to see what that lunch ends up looking like be sure to follow me on Instagram, I like to share my bentos. Just use the hashtags #bento, #bentoaday, #bentos, or #bittybentos to see what myself and others have created with our bento’s.
How do you make lunch fun for your kids?Disclosure: Affiliate links may appear in this post. I received some of the products mentioned as a gift from the companies. Others I have purchased myself with my own funds. School lunches have to get made everyday regardless of where my supplies come from and my opinions are my own. How’s that for a disclosure statement!
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I love bento! Thanks for sharing these ideas.