Bento bento bento

Speaking of samplers, Rainer and I are rather transfixed by bento boxes.  These little Japanese lunch boxes are samplers of tasty tidbits, portability, cuteness, elegance…bentos seem to have it all.  Supreme coolness points go to anything stack-able.  There’s also so much to be said for a lunchbox about which the following can be written: “In the peaceful and prosperous Edo Period (1603 to 1867), bento culture spread and became more refined.” Wikipedia Bento

Rainer needs to pay better attention to his lunch and snacks at work.  He exercises a lot and hasn’t found the right balance of food and timing. He also hasn’t found the right way to get himself paying attention to food before a last-minute dash out the door.  Similarly, the kids’ lunches could use a little attention.  I make mine super-healthy and filling, but since I’ve usually just popped off the treadmill, I’m not always creative and lower my standards a bit for the kids’ lunches.


“Let’s talk lunches.”

Want to follow me down the rabbit hole?  Here are some wonderful links to get you interested:

Step One: Get Inspired

Here’s  a YouTube video that will knock your socks off with cuteness. While a lot of time and effort goes into making bentos that are works of art and insanely cute, that’s not how we’re going to go about it.  Perhaps the occasional foray just to try it out, but not often. Totoro is a favourite here, and there are enough Totoro bentos to give me plenty of ideas.

French Bento: decorated and pleasing to the eye, the food is very French, opening up the possibilities for the sorts of food that pack together well. Tarts and quiche and ragout, oh my!

A tutorial on how to make a sheep rice ball, that your sheep may frolic and gambol on fields of green with other farm creatures.

Step Two: Do Some Realistic Research

Just Bento: this extremely thorough site is the one that has completely swallowed me.  Health-conscious, non-cutesey, extremely practical.  Recipes with time-lines and calorie counts, a commitment to 20 minutes or less of prep time, and articles.  If you can’t find me, odds are I’m at this website digging through the mound of inspiration.

A few favourites from the site:

  1. Tamagoyaki: easy layered egg rolls.  We tried this the other day.  That slightly sweet egg taste you always get at sushi restaurants.
  2. Potato Salad and Curry Bento
  3. Choosing the right bento box
  4. Bento calorie control tips

Two bento systems we’re considering for Rainer down the road: Mr Bento and Happy Tiffin.  These are stack-able, very portable, and look like they’d handle a soup meal, a salad meal, or leftovers, as well as snacks.

Step Three: Plan

Along with some silicon muffin liners to hold food (see here or here), we’ve bought a few glass containers – there being no source for bentos locally or online in Canada that we can see.  If we turn out to be non-bento-ers, the containers can just hold leftovers.

Now, using Just Bento’s Weekly Planner, we need to brainstorm foods that we think will pack well and meet our standards for nutrition, taste, and speed.  For the kids and I, packing won’t need to be precise, but a tightly-packed bento seems to be the key for keeping foods attractive and separate.  Some of the foods that we’ve thought of: quesadillas, pitas and hummus, curry and rice, chef salad, boiled eggs, barley salad, chili…

We hope to get the kids involved in this, although not all 4 of us every day.  I’m not planning on making these for us at home every day of the week, but maybe for the three school-days on which I run right before lunch.

Overwhelmed?  Try Muffin Tin Monday, an at-home version of the lunch fun.


14 thoughts on “Bento bento bento

  1. lorchick says:

    There is a little asian store at the Forks, if you’re ever in that area, I think it’s in the upstairs of the little court thing. I don’t know for sure they have bento but if anywhere does it would be there! (I haven’t been there for years and years, though. For all i know its not even there anymore)

  2. GailV says:

    My younger dd and I became enamored of bento over the summer. Mothering magazine recently ran an article on it — the same issue that talked about breastmilk being the national food of Mongolia, whatever issue that was (I hadn’t read Mothering for a few years, and it was a fun, fun issue).

    And I’ll admit that I’d really, really like one of those egg molds.

    I’ve been told that being a Cancerian makes me susceptible to the charms of little boxes (like little crab shells!) and fixing food. Maybe that’s why I can spend way too much time exploring these websites and figuring out ways to stuff little pieces of veggies into a box.

  3. Kika says:

    We have a big Asian market in the nearest city in addition to China Town and I wonder if you’d be able to find bento boxes in these type of locations.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Hi Sarah

    Great post – I love all the anime inspired bento boxes.

    You may quite enjoy the Vegan Lunch Box blog for inspiriational lunch ideas. She now has two books out – yes, they are vegan, but the omnivores can embellish with meat as they see fit! And she’s a big fan of the bento (and other cool containers for lunches).

    BTW, there is a Canadian site that sells a stainless bento-style (2-story) lunch container. They are out of Vancouver and I just learned about them this summer. We are trying to minimize our plastic use/purchasing, so this is perfect for us! (I really like the look of the Mr. Bento but wish they’d made the inside containers stainless, too!)

    Happy healthy lunching!


  5. Mariah says:

    We usually eat leftovers for lunch. We use glass containers when we need to pack a lunch. And we pack up lunches as we clear dinner. This is all fine — but not near as lovely as what I saw on your links. What a treat! And I saw some recipes I want to try just for meals at home. Thanks for sharing.

    On another note — do you know this site?

    Today it’s embroidery. Enjoy.

  6. Melissa says:

    We love to pack our tiffins for portable meals. We also have some small stainless containers that fit inside for hummus, goat cheese, PB, dressings, etc. All stainless, other than the tops for the sauce container, so not microwavable, if that is a requirement. We will also pick up a stainless thermos for soup, as it can be heated and packed, staying warm enough for hours.

    By the way, the second picture of the “sleek beauties” came up as an interesting collage of “beauties,” not of the bento box line.

    I love your blog and find it truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing.


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