Bento Lunches – A How To Guide

I have not always sent my kids to school with cool lunches. I started Andrew’s preschool days feeding him pasta and chicken nuggets over and over again. I’d toss a few blueberries in a baggie and call it good. Poor kid. He didn’t complain, but he was only two so he just didn’t know what he was missing. :)

Now most of his lunches look something like this:

FrogBoxHotdog

Or this:

Laptop Fruit

After a small investment in a few (well, maybe more than a few, ha!) bento supplies and a little bit of digging for some inspiration I’m able to send Andrew and Caroline to school with awesome, healthy lunches that they really want to eat!

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Get Started Creating Bentos!

Here is what you need to get started packing a lunch your kids are excited to eat :

1. Bento Boxes

Compartment Style Bento Boxes

I use these compartment style boxes all the time. They make packing lunches so easy! You just need to find enough healthy foods to fill up the containers and you have a colorful well-divided lunch. My favorites are the PlanetBox, Yumbox and the Laptop Lunch.

Bento Containers

These boxes are just plain cute! That dancing bear and bunny box has held some of my very favorite lunches. The frog box is a great size for preschoolers, and the Lego block box is Andrew’s favorite. The Yubo inserts go with the Yubo lunchbox which is handy, but pretty heavy. The inserts though are awesome and the lock&lock box is great for days when you just want to throw some food in a container and get going.

Circus Animals

Most of these containers will easily fit into your standard lunchbox that you’re probably already using. I’ve found the only exception to be the PlanetBox, which comes with its own carrying case.

I recommend starting with a box in each of these categories – something practical and easy to fill and something more cute and charming.

2. Silicone Cups

Silicone Cups for Bentos

There are lots of choices out there for silicone cups. I use these to hold food inside the open space style containers and also in the Laptop Lunch box. These are such an easy way to add some color and pop to a lunch and they’re also very practical. They keep foods divided and separated which is pretty important to lots of kids.

You can find standard Wilton baking cups on Amazon or at your local Michael’s. I’m always stopping by their baking aisle to see if they have anything new. I love some of the fun shapes you can find at BentoUSA like the flowers and hearts and the fruits and veggies.

These are easy to collect over time, and I often share cups from bigger sets with my sister or friends who are also packing lunches. No one needs 12 heart cups, but if you split them with a friend buying in bulk doesn’t seem so wasteful.

3. Cutters and Stampers

Cutters and Stamps for Lunches

These are great for adding a little whimsy to your lunches. The CuteZCute cutter is a must for any lunch packer!

This is a good example of what you can do with sandwich stampers:

LegoBoxBunnies

I used this set of bunny, bear and flower stampers to make the adorable turkey sandwiches. Basic shape cookie cutters come in handy too because you can use them in so many different lunches. I love my stars and flowers.

4. Accessories – food picks, sauce cups and dividers

Bento Accessories

These are like the jewelry in your bento boxes. They’re so cute and fun and can make your lunch really stand out. The sauce cups are great for ketchup, peanut butter and hummus for dipping. The elastic bands are needed to hold some of the two-tier boxes together. The leaf and other baran sheets are great for dividing food within boxes or spicing up a boring sandwich. :)

I could buy food picks all day long. I like to use different styles for various holidays and the standard animals and robots and hello kitty picks are just fun.

PandaBox

Bento Lunchbox

A few items from each of these categories are all you need to get started packing healthy and exciting school lunches for your kids.

So I’ve got my supplies – now what?

1. Make a list – what do your kids like to eat? Also, what can you include as an experiment to see if they’ll eat it? I try to do one food a week that I don’t think they’ll eat and see what happens. Usually it’s a bust, but I’ve been surprised before!

2. Make a plan – if you don’t want to make your lunches the night before, lay out your boxes, your supplies and your pantry foods that you plan to use the next day. No sense winging it in the morning when everyone is rushed and trying to get out the door.

3. Fill it up – You need to make your boxes nice and full to keep the food from moving around in transport. I think this is key to good looking lunches, and I often look for shallow boxes to make it easier.

4. Involve the kids – if your kids are old enough to be interested, ask them what they’d like for lunch. I usually give two or three choices on an item or two and then fill in the rest on my own. It’s nice for them to feel some ownership over their lunch. Also, I love these little notes from Say Please and as soon as Andrew’s reading on his own I plan to send words of encouragement in his lunchbox.

5. Marvel at your beautiful work and wait for your kids to tell you how much fun lunchtime was! Okay – maybe this won’t happen, but I bet your kids will enjoy lunchtime way more than before. And if you post your lunches on Instagram, please tag me (@MeaganMusing) I’d LOVE to see what you’ve created!

Getting started packing healthy and lovable lunches can seem a little daunting, but with just a little planning and investment you can be off to a great start before you know it! Your kiddos will thank you! :)

You can see all my lunches here on the blog, or you can see the photos all in one place on Flickr.

There’s also lots of wonderful inspiration out there on the web. A few of my favorites:

Meet the Dubiens – she’s a true artist!
Wendolonia – she has a book coming out this spring!
Weelicious – her lunches and cookbook are amazing!

Now go pack an awesome lunch! :)

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