There's a fine balance between writing down every last item you are going to pack inside a bento for the week and winging it in the morning. Here's a list of items that I must keep stocked in my pantry ONLY as a back up, in case I am running low on fresh ingredients which are always my first go to.
In our home, I feel like we are always out of bread, so I make sure my backups are in stock, all the time!
2-3 Cans of fruit
Any fruit in 100% juice, not corn syrup. I don't stock mandarin oranges that are sourced from Asia. I try to avoid foreign grown canned fruit.
Serve as a great bread alternative, my girls prefer the "light rye" over other dense types.
2-3 Boxes of Annie's Organic Macaroni and Cheese
Probably the most labor intensive lunch I make, but it is faster than going to the store. You choose the lesser of two evils when you're tired on a Thursday am.
2-3 Cans of Amy's Organic ABC Soup
We don't eat any other canned soup, this is a backup, especially in winter.
We don't have any nut restrictions on lunches in our school. Almonds are a big part of our diet.
Black and Pinto Beans
My girls will eat beans as a side in their lunches, goes great with a cheese quesadilla lightly toasted.
I try to keep this to a minimum in lunches, but I only purchase 100% fruit dried fruit. I do not buy dried fruit with added sugar (most conventional brands or say from Costco). Fruit does NOT need sugar, Mother Nature does a great job of that in the first place. The girls love banana chips, mango, raisins, and papaya.
We always have pasta on hand, I typically use left over pasta from dinner for lunch the next day. I rarely make it fresh in the morning, but like to know it's there.
La Mariposa Organic Whole Wheat Tortillas (made in Colorado)
If your tortillas don't need to be refrigerated, you are buying the wrong kind! Ingredient list from La Mariposa: Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Organic Wheat flour, Water, Organic Sunflower Oil, Salt, Citric Acid. If you buy conventional tortillas, rethink your alternatives, try to remove any hydrogenated oils from your child's diet! Amazing how I can read the label with ease and know what every ingredient is! Plus if you are buying a National brand, it's likely they are full of GMO's.
I always keep a bag in the freezer, seeing green in a bento is good. Avoid non-organic as it is more than likely grown from Genetically Modified soy.
Frozen waffles are a great back up for a sandwich alternative and they are a fun surprise! We buy whole grain waffles typically with flax.
That's a great place to start, I'll update pantry items in a month to reflect upon what my most go-to items are. I tend to go through phases and when I find something new that packs wonderfully in a bento, I'll be sure to share it!