Back To Basics: Bento Lunches

bento-lunch

If you've been in this space before, this post is not surprising. 

What is surprising, is that I waited a whole week before bringing up the word that sends waves of despair through our standing-in-the-kitchen-gulping-caffeine selves: 

LUNCH.

Throw this word into conversation during the months of September-October-November-December-January-February-March-April-May-June and hair-pulling, dramatic sighing, and foot stomping is the norm (and I'm talking about the adults, not the kids). 

I GET IT, YOU GUYS

I've been making lunches for a full decade now. I have kids that are temperature-sensitive. I have kids that are texture-sensitive. I have kids that are mixing-of-foods-sensitive. I have kids who can't stop looking around the room and talking-sensitive. I've faced all of it.

And OH BOY, have I ever become an expert in predicting hangry levels by the weight of a lunch box at the end of a school day. 

It wasn't until I switched to the bento style lunch box that I started to make progress in solving all of the above problems for all of my kids. With the flip-open-top and individual containers, all the food is on display, it's easily accessible, it's separate (!).

This lunch box is often accused of being a display case for showing off. But that's not how I see it at all. For me, it's like packing a mini-buffet or picnic of sorts. And most kids in their early years, prefer to eat this way anyway — nibbling and snacking throughout the day.

Just think about how much attention they need to invest in getting through a school day. Having to pick up individual containers, peel open lids, decide whether they feel like eating what's inside at that particular moment, only adds more "thinking" to a time of day that's meant for recharging and re-fuelling and, yes, socializing.

In short, this lunch box was a game-changer for us. And since I've started blogging and instragramming about it, it's become a game-changer for other families, too. 

Here's a recent post I wrote offering some of the tips I've picked up over my five years of using this system. I promise, there's nothing I'm putting into those lunch boxes that's worthy of a museum. It's just food. I do my best to keep it healthy and the four containers help me (and my older kids, who like to help) remember to follow a system of: veggie, fruit, protein, snack when packing it. 

How To Bento Like A Boss

To see older posts, I've written about bentos, click here and here.

I share photos on Instagram and other helpful pages on Pinterest. I also love the book The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches On The Planet.

If you've ever thought of making a change, let me help you get started. I've once again partnered with my favourite online store Fenigo to give one lucky reader an amazing bento start up prize. 

bento-lunch

Leave me a comment below letting me know how the lunch-making is going at your house, and you'll be entered to win. Canadian residents only. Contest will be open until Friday, September, 17th. 

A Week of Bento School Lunches

bento-box-lunch

Every Sunday afternoon, I drop my tiny dancer off at class and head to the grocery store nearby to stock up for the school week ahead. It's a newer ritual I've started in the past few months, to help me stay organized when it comes to my bento school lunches — something I'm still learning and perfecting after 10 years of lunch-making (somebody pin a medal on me).

Now I realize some of you may find it ridiculous that I make a dedicated trip to the grocery store for school lunches, but I find it keeps me on track for planning and only buying what we need. I also end up with less impulse purchases this way. It helps that I only have 45 minutes before I need to go back for my daughter, leaving me no time for distracted browsing.

I couldn't do it without my list. And, yes, I use one for my weekly grocery trips, too. I created a specific lunch box list on my favourite app, and it's been so helpful (it's easy to add and delete items when changing things up week-to-week. Or you can just ignore an item, but leave it on the list so it's there for a future trip). 

So how do I come up with my list? I map out a week of lunches — taking into account glorious pizza and hot lunch days — and then take a peek in my refrigerator and cupboards to see what needs to get topped up. Sometimes, I do a Pinterest search (I've been slowly building a board) for new ideas and add a new food/recipe to the weekly rotation (best not to try too many new things in a week). The kids are allowed (and encouraged) to throw their ideas in the ring, too. I also love this cookbook: The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches On The Planet.

bento-box-lunch

I recently wrote a piece for Savvymoms about how I put my bento boxes together, but here is my simple formula for planning out the week: bite-sized + easy + colourful + familiar + healthy. 

I always include one or two foods I know my child will willingly eat, and then I might try something different or not as favoured (but healthy, nonetheless) in the other containers. By not overfilling the bento with too many options, I have also found they are more likely to eat what's there. 

bento-box-lunch

Last week, I saved my list so I could share it with all of you for some inspiration/ideas (note: photos don't necessarily correspond with menu...I'm not THAT organized)

Day One:

Day Two:

  • bagel and cream cheese (I toast it in the morning, put together, and wrap in foil)
  • berry and pineapple fruit salad (left overs from a weekend fruit platter)
  • carrot sticks
  • muffin (again, from my freezer stock)
  • veggie straws

Day Three:

  • leftover beef stew (in a thermos)
  • watermelon slices
  • edamame beans
  • air popped popcorn (sprinkle some nutritional yeast on for cheesy, vitamin-packed flavour)
bento-box-lunch

Day Four:

  • mini quiches
  • orange slices
  • red pepper strips
  • mini muffin
  • cheddar rice crackers

Day Five: 

  • mini naan bread pizzas (naan + pizza/tomato sauce + shredded mozarella for 8 mins at 375)
  • grapes
  • cauliflower and broccoli florets (and ranch dip in a dippers container)
  • tortilla chips and guacamole
bento-box-lunch

I'm always happy to share more ideas or talk shop with my readers. Feel free to find me on Instagram, where I do the most sharing of the insides of my kids' lunch boxes. 

{Giveaway} Healthy and Easy-to-Make School Lunches (No, Really)

Bentolunches

If you've spent anytime hanging out with me here, you already know my not-so-secret secret. 

I like making school lunches, and I use bentos. 

Hold on, hold on. Before you start accusing me of making dinosaur sandwiches and Minecraft creepers out of cheese, I'm more of a practical make it healthy and bite-sized and they will eat it kind of parent. 

And it has been a journey for me. I went through a phase of resentment and loathing, too. 

Nothing got me hotter around the collar than seeing those lunch boxes come home filled with food. And they did, over and over again. It wasn't until I volunteered in my son's classroom that I realized he was spending a lot of time fiddling with lids and getting overwhelmed by what to eat first. Lunch breaks are actually quite short for kids who need to fit in some socializing, too. 

I knew I had to make some big changes, because I was standing at the start of a long road of lunch box filling and had to find a way to make it easier. Since switching to the bento style lunch system, the impact has been a positive one for all of us.

My post last year for Today's Parent, Bento box lunch ideas your kids will love, was a big success because it helped show other parents there isn't a lot of extra elbow grease that goes into the way I pack my kids' lunches. It was more of a mind shift about what I put into them and how the food is organized and presented for maximum appeal. 

My kids no longer struggle with individual lids and deciding what to eat and when to eat it. They pop the top of their Bentology container and everything is there for them to see. They can easily access their food without any worry about spilling or mixing. I started my three oldest kids with this lunch box system as soon as they were in full day school, and I'll be breaking in a new box for my youngest this year (wah!). 

I follow an easy: protein/veggie/fruit/wild card pattern when I fill my boxes, but there are also a lot of great resources to be found online. The first step for me was to begin imagining their desk at school being no different than the table in our kitchen. Once I stopped thinking of school lunches as being something more difficult than any other time I feed my kids, the rest came easily.

To get you started and inspired for the upcoming school year, I've partnered with my all-time favourite Canadian lunch box retailer FENIGO.COM to bring you a fantastic giveaway.

Bentologyphotoone

One lucky Canadian reader will receive:

  • 1 insulated Bentology bag (of your choice and there are SO many cute bags!)
  • 1 Bentology lunch box system
  • 1 ice pack

Go ahead and explore the site and enter below. I'm happy to answer any questions you have, too. 

Fenigo can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Good luck!

 

 

 

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A Yumbox Giveaway

school-lunches

Okay, Team Lunches.

We are just over thirty lunches into the school year, with about 200 more to get to the finish line. 

Why do I compare school lunches to miles? 

Because for some of us, it can feel like a really long race.

For some of us, it can be hard to push through.

And for some of us (ME!) attitude makes all the difference.

Because the uneaten lunches and cranky kids caused by hungry bellies weren't working for us.

I had to rethink my approach.

I had to see this chore as a chance to get smarter and better at feeding my children.

I had to let go of the frustration and remind myself that it's not a chore. It's a privilege. 

So I challenged myself to do it better than I had been.

In doing so, I realized how much I want my children to view food with joyful and grateful eyes.

And how much I want that joy and gratitude to stay with them.

I hope they learn to make good choices, yes, but that they also see food given and shared as a gesture of love and a chance for togetherness. 

And if I'm already making an effort to make that happen at the dinner table each night, then why can't I do my best when they're eating somewhere else?

So I taught myself a new lunch system that I thought might work

And I am still learning.

My lunches aren't 100% heathy and whole and balanced.

But they are better than they were.

And I hope they'll get better still.

school-lunches

I recently started using the YUMBOX system for my JK daughter. It's perfect for her, and she loves it.

The YUMBOX has a one piece lid-free compartment in a sturdy container with an easy-to-open latch. It is BPA-free and leak proof. There are a couple of options for layout, too.

And it allows for the perfect portion sizes for someone her age. She loves the layout and the quick access to her food. And it fits perfectly into most insulated lunch bags. They are also compact enough to be doubled/stacked for older kids with larger appetites. 

Lunch four

I'm so glad to be able to give one of these great YUMBOX systems with a lucky (Canadian) reader—thanks to the generosity of my all-time favourite lunch box destination: FENIGO.COM

Enter below and tell me whether you're already using the bento style lunch system or if it's something you've been thinking of trying. I'll randomly select a winner on October 31st. Good luck!

For more great lunch box inspiration, you can follow both Yumbox and Fenigo on Pinterest.

Fenigo

And if you're looking for ideas and inspiration for your kids' lunches, make sure you're following Fenigo's Faecbook page—for pictures and a chance to swap ideas with other lunch makers. 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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