Monday, July 02, 2012

Our Version of the Bento Box


A bento box is traditionally a plastic or lacquered wood "box" containing small, individual compartments ... which hold a Japanese meal (particularly lunch). They can get pretty elaborate (just do an image search for "bento boxes"). For a couple of years now, I have taken that idea and made our version of bento boxes for my kids to take to school for lunch or for us to take in the van on the go. I have always found that kids prefer a variety of things to choose from when eating ... and they like little bite-size items. My kids love having their own little "box" of goodies and tell me that their friends at the lunch table think it is super cool! 

Although you can purchase authentic bento boxes in all sorts of sizes, colors and shapes online (and in a few stores like, Target), they are rather pricey. I picked up a couple of small, plastic storage boxes for a couple of bucks in the craft section at Wal-Mart and they work wonderfully (see NOTE at bottom of post). These fit perfectly in my kids' lunch bags, too! Throw in some juice and an ice pack and they're all set!

Some of our go-to items for bento boxes are:
  • Cut-up cheese
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruits
  • Cut-up veggies and fruit
  • Crackers
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cubed deli turkey or ham
  • Cut-up pickles
  • Sliced salami or pepperoni
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Fruit snacks
  • Mini PB&J sandwiches (cut into little bite-size squares)
  • Pretzels
  • Leftover grilled chicken (cut into small pieces)
  • Mini muffins

These are a really nice alternative to the regular sandwich and chips for a kid's lunch!  Here are a few recent ones I've made them:

And, for adults or older children, you can send them with some pita or cut a tortilla in a few smaller pieces ... and pack all the components for a wrap. I always save those little mayo, mustard and salad dressing packets from take-out and keep them in the fridge. So, when I do something like this, I can send them with condiments, too.

And, for my four-year old, we like to take along something for the van ride when we're out running errands or taking the older kids to practices and activities. So, as silly as this sounds, I bought a couple of pencil boxes with little compartments on both sides. These work perfectly for little portions for her.

Here's one side filled with goodies:

And the other side:

NOTE:  The issue of some plastic containers not being "food safe" has been brought to my attention since publishing this post. If you are concerned, you can look for containers that are specifically made for food use.  ~ Angela


  1. these r awesome ideas thank you :)

    from melissa

  2. I love this idea! I just bought a regular plastic pencil box today at target for 99cents and thoughts to myself, "I could totally turn this into a bento box!" Yes it's not "food safe" but that's also why sandwich bags, small containers, and silicone cupcake liners exist. Wonderful idea!