My Adventures In Bento

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Adventures in Bento: The First Week of School Aug 25-29, 2014

Well, I have survived. Five whole days of getting up two hours earlier than I did all summer. Five whole days of reminding Delaney that we now need to get dressed and ready quickly instead of lollygagging like she did last month. Five whole days of preparing healthy lunches for my girls to take to school. And I did it!  Woohoo!!!

Starting out making lunches again felt very awkward. Not only had I taken the entire summer off and had gone so far as to just letting them “find something” in the kitchen the last week or two, but I had gotten lazy on the bentos even while school was still in session last year. Around mid year last year, I happened upon a Japanese supply store and bought great lunch boxes that had four separations. (I will show that to you in a later blog) After a while, I found myself using that box every day and, since I no longer needed to get clever with my packing, I ended up getting rather lazy. So, it’s been a very long time since I bentoed properly. However, after Monday’s awkwardness, it started coming back to me and I’m really enjoying things.  I’m hoping I can really keep it up at this level all year. Both girls have come home this week and told me how their friends think their lunches are so cute and how they wish their moms would make them lunches like that. It was really good to hear that my work is being appreciated. :o)

Another change from last year is that I’m sending the girls with morning snacks as well. Now, I sent Delaney a snack for kindergarten last year, but it normally ended up being a granola bar or applesauce pouch and a small box of raisins. Boring and it produced a lot of trash with the wrappers. This year I am utilizing some of the smaller single tier boxes that I have and sending the girls with some fruit and crackers instead. I’m eliminating the waste of the wrappers, saving money (those applesauce pouches are pricey!), and finding a great use for boxes that are super cute, but too small for a whole lunch. Win/win/win!

(Side note: I have decided to start writing reviews and posts about the specific equipment I use for bento. When I first started, I really wanted to be able to find detailed pictures, dimensions, prices, and ideas on how to use certain items. While I was able to find information on certain items, others I couldn’t and I ended up having to trial and error a lot of things. I’m hoping that I can help other newbies to bento avoid that hassle. So keep your eyes open for these informational posts. I will do one post per item so I can be as informative as possible)

But, onto this week’s bento!!

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Monday’s lunch was fairly simple, but I did get to try the waffle sandwiches I saw in Wendy Thorpe Copley’s book Everyday Bento.  The waffles are mini chocolate chip frozen waffles that I got on a whim from Sprouts. They come four stuck together, which makes them easy to toast. After they cooled, I put peanut butter on one side, jelly on the other, and then sliced a fresh raspberry for the middle. The girls LOVED them. They also got cheese sandwich crackers, grape tomatoes, fresh blueberries with a pick, and 2 Gummy Tummies. The Gummy Tummies and crackers both came from Trader Joes. I love that store for lunch items because they have great, healthy options and the prices are nice. (I paid $2.69 for the crackers and $1.69 for the gummies, I believe) Plus, because they come in small and cute shapes, they’re perfect for bento lunches.

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Tuesday came and I decided to pull out my CutezCute sandwich cutters. Because this box is deep, but not very big, I did a lot of layering. The girls got kitty PB&J sandwiches that are resting on cheese sandwich crackers. They also got red grapes, which are laying on celery sticks, cut red apple with an apple star on top, and 2 Gummy Tummies. The Gummy Tummies are laying on a small container of ranch dressing for the celery.

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Wednesday, I used the CutezCute cutters again, only this time we had panda ham sandwiches. Also included was the cheese sandwich crackers (Delaney really likes these), champagne grapes, and alphabet cinnamon cookies. Both the grapes and the cookies came from Trader Joe’s. I told you they have great, cute stuff for lunches. (I can’t remember how much the grapes were, but it was less than $4 for the carton, and the cookies were, I think, $2.69) (Oh, and I live in California, where everything is more expensive, so you might find even better prices at your Trader Joes)

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I really liked how Thursday’s lunch turned out. I personally love this lunch box, but am limited on the shapes of sandwiches that will fit in it because it’s so narrow. However, elephant sandwiches fit splendidly. :o) (By the by, this is the first box I will be doing an in depth informational post on, so be ready for that coming in the next few days) The elephant sandwiches were PB&J again, and they got more apple, this time with a flower apple on top, flower cucumbers, and fresh blackberries. Delaney has decided she doesn’t like cucumbers, but she’s going through a picky phase, so I thought she might eat them if they were in flower shapes. However, I was wrong. I’m still going to try to sneak one or two slices in every so often in an effort to get her to eat them. Tatem, however, loves cucumbers and asked for there to be more in her lunch next time. :o)

One of the reasons I love this box so much is because it comes with a small top layer. It’s supposed to be for chopsticks, but I find it’s perfect for small cookies and other treats. I took the opportunity to spell out a simple word for each girl. (The words are completely random. They were just the first words I could make out of the letters I happened to grab. This was Delaney’s. Tatem’s said jump)

A note about the apples. As you probably surmised, the girls aren’t getting a whole apple in their lunch each day. I can get about a quarter of the apple to fit, using one half each time I make lunches. So, I save the other half in a baggie in the fridge and use it in a later lunch. A lot of people have issues with browning, but I haven’t really had any problems. I squeeze all the air out of the baggie and it sits fine in the fridge. When I go to use the rest of the apple, I may have to cut a thin slice off the cut side and discard it, but it’s not much. As far as the apples browning while in the girls lunches, I’ve asked and they say they’re not brown when they go to eat, so… However, I have hear that Ball’s Fruit-Fresh is great at combating that if you have that issue.

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And, lastly, we have Friday’s lunch. I took a break from sandwiches and gave them turkey dogs instead. Before I started assembling the lunches, I took 3 dogs out of the fridge, sliced them, and then pan fried them in a small amount of butter. Once they cooled, I divvied them up in the lunch boxes. I gave the girls each an animal fork so they can dip their hot dogs in the ketchup, which is in the little panda container. I picked up some mini pitas, so sliced those up and put them in too in the top tier. The bottom tier has sliced grape tomatoes, fresh raspberries and Gummy Tummies. (The Gummy Tummies are penguins, btw, in case you can’t tell in the photo) :o)  The pitas and tomatoes also came from Trader Joes. I told you they’re great for lunch stuff!. :o)

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Adventures in Bento: The New School Year!

So sorry I dropped off the face of the earth last year, folks!  I continued to make bento lunches for my girls, but got really lazy about taking a photo and blogging it. I’m hoping to start back up with the blog again this year, but I think I’m going to follow the example of my favorite bento blogger, Wendolona, and only post bento lunch photos once a week. 

Today is the first day of school and I woke up early to make sure I had enough time to make the girls a proper lunch. However, I didn’t take into account how rusty I am at this since I had the whole summer off, and I found it awkward. I just received a new bento book in the mail this past weekend, though, and was able to get some great ideas from it that I used for today’s lunch.  What is this great book, you ask? Well, it’s Everyday Bento by Wendy Thorpe Copley of Wendolonia!  When I heard she had written a bento book, I rush over to Amazon to order a copy. She’s pretty much the whole reason why I bento, after all. Her photos on her blog gave me the confidence to try it out myself.  I thoroughly suggest you get a copy if you’re thinking about making bento lunches for your kids. Not only does she offer 50 different bento lunches with instructions, but she also goes over food ideas and tools that you can use. And, bonus, of those 50, a dozen are adult bento ideas! I am looking to go back to work full time soon and am hoping to make my own bento lunches when I do.

I fought the urge to got hog wild on Amazon and buy a bunch of new bento supplies. One of the really nice things about bento lunches is that almost everything can be used again and again. So I really didn’t need anything. However, I did see these that are meant to make frozen pops, but I thought might be good for snacks. The girls each get a recess and I figured a snack would be good to have then. Today I put some pretzels in Tatem’s and some sandwich crackers in Delaney’s. We’ll see how well they work out. They are all silicon, so the lids don’t seem to stay on real well, which may be an issue. Tatem, being in fourth grade, can get into her lunch at recess and pick out her snack, therefore it can stay in the lunch box safe until it’s ready for eating. However, Delaney’s first grade teacher wants the kids to put all their snacks in one bucket and all their lunchboxes in another. I fear the tube in the bucket without any protection means the lid will come off and the contents end up in the bottom of the bucket. I may have to come up with a better solution. Worse comes to worse, I can still use them for freezer pops.

(photos from Amazon)

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