Last year I read an article about the popularity of Japanese Bento Boxes in the US as a clever alternative to packing kids’ school lunches (although plenty of grownups use them for lunch, airline travel, etc.). I was so inspired I bought a box for my daughter and we had a great time coming up with ideas. Mind you at my daughter’s school (probably like most schools), she has no ability to refrigerate her lunch so I used an flat ice pack that fit in the pouch in the bento carrying case (don’t tell her but the ice pack I used said “Madela” on it. Some of you will know exactly where it came from!).
I bought mine at Whole Foods but you can get them online from a company called Laptop Lunches. They are a little pricy but they are good quality, non-BPA plastic, dishwasher safe and all fit nicely into the carrier. I think they’re worth it. If you’re worried about your kids losing the components write their names on the bottom of each piece with a Sharpie. There are many, many creative lunch ideas on the Laptop Lunches site and you can also “like” the company on Facebook and get new Bento ideas regularly. Here are a few of ours from last year.
Not only can you make healthy lunches for your kids (or yourself) but many of us also appreciate the fact that these are “no-waste” lunches; that is, when the food is all gone you contribute nothing to the cafeteria garbage can. Yes, it’s environmentally friendly but it also appeals to those of us who hate spending money on Ziploc bags. And there’s also something about putting leftovers into these cute little containers that somehow makes them feel less like, well, leftovers.