Last week we talked about why parents might want to try packing bento boxes for their children’s school lunches. This week let’s talk about the equipment you can use to make bento packing easier.
Having the right equipment on hand makes this type of lunch packing simple and fun. With just a few inexpensive items stored in your cupboards, you can whip up a bento lunch with very little time or effort.
The most important item you’ll need to start packing bento lunches is a box. (They are called bento boxes, after all!) The first thing you should look for in a box is that it’s fairly shallow – about 1 ½-2 inches deep. It also shouldn’t be too large. Selecting a smaller box allows you to pack the food in tightly and right up to the top rim of the box, which in turn keeps the food from moving around in transit.
For a younger child I would look for something about 4 by 6 inches. An older child probably has the appetite to use something a bit larger. You can buy boxes specifically made for bento lunches at specialty stores, online, or you can use something from your local supermarket just as easily.
Silicone Baking Cups
I use reusable silicone baking cups (typically used for cupcakes) in my kids’ bento boxes almost every day. They are great for containing smaller items like snack crackers or berries, and they also serve as a barrier between wet and dry foods. You can use paper cupcake liners of course, but they don’t work as well to contain liquid.
I’ve found that children are more likely to eat foods – particularly fruits and vegetables – if they are cut into bite-sized pieces. A good, sharp knife can be used to cut food into cubes, strips and other shapes that appeal to kids. They also look attractive in the box!
An easy way to add a little extra zing to a lunch is to swap a cookie cutter for a knife when cutting food. I’ve found smaller cutters in basic shapes like stars, circles and flowers to be quite versatile, but I also have a few cutters that cater to my children’s specific interests. A cat-shaped sandwich, for example, delights my kitty-loving toddler. Cutters can be plastic or metal and chances are you probably already have something suitable in your cupboards.
I have a wide assortment of decorative picks in my collection that I use to skewer chunky foods like fruit, cherry tomatoes and cubes of meat and cheese. Of course, you’ll only want to give these to kids who are responsible enough to refrain from poking their neighbor at the lunch table!
- JBox.com – This Japan-based site (written in English) has a large selection of bento boxes and accessories.
- Amazon.com – A search for “bento” on this site will turn up a nice list of bento boxes and supplies along with a few bento idea books.
- Craft stores – craft stores such as Michael’s and JoAnn stock silicone baking cups and decorative picks meant for cupcakes in their baking supply areas.
Wendy Copley writes about cooking, crafts, parenting and her obsession with lunch boxes at Wendolonia.
- Bento Boxes 101: Why Bento?
- Better Lunch
- Are School Lunches Healthy for Our Kids?
- And on Top of Everything Else, There’s Lunch