Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back To School Bento Guide With Photos!

If you arrived here for the first time via Eat Play Love, WELCOME! I've taken summer off, but this blog will now be updated regularly. School starts in a couple of weeks, so I will share how we are preparing for back to school and diving head on back into lunch packing.

I first put my hands on a bento box from Japan a little over 4 years ago. My husband returned from a business trip with one as a gift for our daughter, who at the time was in preschool. Within the next year, when he returned to Japan, I handed him a list of must have bento supplies for him to seek out. Luckily for most of you reading this, bentos are continuing to become much more mainstream and finding them online now is easy.

Packing bento style lunches changed our lives. My goal is simply to share what type of bento boxes I use every single day.

Laptop Lunches:
I have two styles of Laptop Lunches, one has squared containers that fit inside, the lid pops down to keep each compartment from spilling into another, not great for true liquids. The second Laptop Lunches I have has containers inside that are rounded, each container has a lid to help seal contents, which is especially great for packing liquids like yogurt or applesauce. I pack liquids maybe 2-4 times a month, so the original works perfect for us. Use coupon code "EatPlayLove" for 10% off your order, code never expires. 

Laptop Lunches come with an insulated bag, there is enough space for a place to put a flat cool pack inside. There is also silverware, a zippered exterior pocket, an interior mesh pocket, and space for a water bottle on the side. Our original LL came with a water bottle that fits inside the bag. LOVE that feature. I always include a cloth napkin in my daughter's lunch.

Size?
Laptop Lunches are the largest bentos we own. There is plenty of space and if you have a child that would require a snack and lunch at school, the LL would most easily handle that need.

Issues closing lid? 
One of the biggest questions I get from people is wondering if we have trouble closing the top on a Laptop Lunches. We do not have this issue.

In general, I highly suggest to pack a lunch for your child a few times before school starts at home or take it on a picnic. You can help them learn the best way to handle their new lunch box. That way you avoid any in school frustration. 
A few examples of Laptop Lunches packed bentos:



Original style Laptop Lunches (Squared edges, lid seals top). 
Orange, berries, cheese quesadilla, salad. Small container with lid to store salad dressing. 




Mixed style Laptop Lunches. Notice rounded containers and squared, both work fine together, but must be stored in LL that fits the LIDDED inside containers (lidded do not work in original style). 
Turkey meatballs, organic ketchup, grapes, (a rare special treat sponge cake), 
snap peas, baby carrots, and booty. 


Panda Japanese Bento:
Panda is one of my favorite bentos from Japan, it's a two tiered bento and the shape of it lends itself to packing a fair amount of food for lunch. I rely heavily on silicone cupcake cups to make my lunch packing easy and waste free! Plus, I never used them for actual cupcakes, so I feel much better repurposing them.

The way panda works, as with most two tiered bentos, is the top container closes the bottom container, then the inside top portion has a special lid to help seal the contents before putting the actual lid on. An elastic band holds the two compartments together and is perfect for little hands to open with ease. Note, this bento was purchased at a local kitchen shop in Boulder, CO and it can easily be found online.


The plain white container on the right is the one that goes on the top and has a sealable lid. 
Fruit, carrots, vegetarian dumplings.  


Sandwich alternatives:
Mac n cheese, vege booty, fruit raisins.
Leftover pasta, cheddar, pepperoni, grapes, pickles. (antipasti style, 4yo's favorite) 


Japanese dinner leftovers for lunch (for 7yo):
Dumpling, spring roll, noodles, veges, chicken. 

Flat, rectangular snap lid style Bento Box:
I have two of these from Japan and both of them have either dividers that are moveable inside or small cups that fit inside perfectly. As you will notice, I still rely on my silicone cupcake cups to help me out and don't always use the original components.

Perfect alternative:
Pick up a lock box style rectangular food storage container and have your child decorate it with stickers or with special markers/paint pens. Easy enough and very cheap! It's always great to have extras.


Sandwich, fruit kabob, veges, bbq booty, cookie.
Yes, sometimes I include a treat. Not daily. 


Sandwiches (cookie cutter cut outs), fruit, veges, animal crackers, Japanese biscuits. 


Regular Rectangle Two Tiered Bento:


Sandwich, crackers/cream cheese, fruit, booty. 
Inside top container has individual lid to help seal container before putting top on. 


These are the bentos I most frequently go to for my daughter that has a big appetite. I will feature my other bentos in an upcoming post. Yes, bento packing is endless and so are the supplies!!!

Bento Size, Is it big enough???
For the most part, bento packing needs to be looked at in a slightly different way than just throwing some food in a plastic baggie. Most of the time you want to cut fruit and vegetables down to size, you may want to cut a sandwich into 4 triangles instead of just 2 big halves. 

After a week or so, you'll get a good sense of the way things work best for the shape and size bento you have. Even the tiniest bentos we own would hold enough food for my girls' lunches. Believe it or not, it takes a bit of thinking out of the box!

Feel free to use the labels on the right side bar to see examples of Laptop Lunches, panda, or other "kid bentos". I even have a "leftovers" label. You can also catch a glimpse of my 20+ bento lunch box collection, including stainless steel and  hot liquid insulated bentos!

Please feel free to email me with any questions!

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Disclaimer, I am a Laptop Lunches affiliate. I was first a satisfied customer. All information is this post is a reflection of my everyday experience. 






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