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March 18, 2016

Stepping Up Our Game With Bento Box-Style Lunches!

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My son (and my husband, believe it or not) loves to eat those pre-packaged lunch meals. They usually contain cheese, meat, crackers, and some kind of dessert-y treat, but I just can not with those. They are expensive, full of sodium, and the meat is always sweaty for some reason. While my son and husband seem to be okay with that, I usually pass. But my son loves the finger-foody options that those meals offer, so I had to find a way to re-create that without sweaty meat.

As I have said before, I am not naturally talented in the kitchen. Thankfully, bento boxes are all the rage, so I have that in my favor! Bento boxes can range in styles, from very simple to highly personalized, and are compartmentalized containers for food. My first bento experience was in a Japanese restaurant when my sushi was serves in a cool, wooden box. Each lovely little piece of sushi was nestled into its own little space. Sushi is a very visual food to begin with, and the box just made it look so lovely and fun!

The sushi box was a very sophisticated version, but bento boxes are the perfect solution if you are looking to add some fun to the usual sandwich, chips and fruit you toss into your child’s lunchbox. You can find all of the things you need at your local Shop Rite- there’s no exotic foods or other such weirdness involved. A bento box can be a parents dream- cheap, easy, nutritious and fun!

BentoCollageI was making my son PJ’s lunch this morning and since I had already had some coffee, I had enough brain function to think to grab my camera and snap a few shots. This is a very simple version of bento lunch, and that’s the beauty of it! You can make it as simple or intricate as you want!

I stop by my Shop Rite deli counter and ask for a 1/2 pound of turkey, cut into one thick slice. This is enough for two school lunches and a grilled cheese and turkey sandwich on the weekend. I slice the turkey into squares, tuck in some cheese slices, and then add a cracker item (Goldfish, mini peanut butter crackers, buttery crackers, etc)  into a reusable cupcake liner. Sliced fruit goes into the other compartment, and done! I fill another container with something snacky (my son has been loving the Veggie Straws, and it’s a fun way to sneak in some extra veggie action!) and slip a little treat into one last box. There was a sale on Oreo’s at Shop Rite last week, so my son is the grateful beneficiary of said savings!

I keep my boxes kind of no-frills, but lately I have been checking out ways to spice things up. Off to Pinterest I went, and was thrilled to see that a few inexpensive investments would help create fun meals for my kindergarten kiddo. Cookie cutters, the reusable cupcake liners, cute little picks to embellish a handful of fruit- these are all fun, cheap, and sustainable/reusable ways to brighten up that PB&J and apple slices. It does not have to be fancy- think compartments and color! Those are the two mainstays of the bento box. After that, get as creative as you want! A fish-shaped sandwich with grape bubbles, carrot slices that look like flowers, or a turkey and cheese train; just be creative and the sky’s the limit!

Have you engaged into some Bento Box action that you’re particularly proud of? Do you have any tips for Bento beginners? Leave your photos and suggestions in the comments- we would love to share them with other PotLuck readers in a future post!

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