My Adventures In Bento

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Bento Supply Expose: Bentgo

You guys, I have been so excited about getting these new bento boxes from Bentgo They’re the first new boxes I’ve gotten this year. Everything else is leftover from last school year. It’s always exciting to play with new toys, isn’t it?

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A dear friend gave me an Amazon gift card as part of a trade. Even though I had originally planned to buy something for myself, I simply couldn’t pass up these boxes. There are four great colors to choose from, blue, purple, green, and grey. I very nearly ordered the green one, because it’s my personal favorite, but I remembered these are for the girls, not me, so I got purple and blue. I will probably end up getting the green and grey ones later on for Ron and myself, though, because these would be great for family picnics.

I’m happy to report these boxes are both dishwasher and microwave safe. (Though they do not recommend you put the lids in the microwave.) They are also BPA-free and FDA approved. Lastly, they come with a 2 year warranty, which I love.

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You can see I also got the matching Bentgo cups. These are awesome, really. They’re not huge, only 12 oz., but they are a perfect addition to lunches. The girls too often forget to take their water bottles with them to the lunch room, and so have to eat without anything to drink. I’ve tried putting one of our other water bottles in their lunch bags, but it’s always such a tight fit. These smaller cups are the perfect size. So the girls have fresh water to drink with their lunch. And, since they’re made for liquids, they’re leak proof. I have read some reviews that folks have a hard time cleaning the seal on the lid, but I haven’t had them long enough to know if that is a problem. If you’re not interested in having a water cup in your lunch, you could also use this for soup, yogurt, or applesauce. You could also use it as a snack container for a tot and fill it with grapes or carrots. The possibilities are endless.

I was concerned that Delaney would have issues opening and closing it properly. She’s only 6 and has a rare neurological condition that causes her muscles to cramp, so opening things can be a challenge. However, I handed her the cup and she made quick work of taking the lid off and putting it back on. I think it would work well for preschoolers as well, though you might want to practice with them a bit to make sure they know how to clip in all four clips.

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The Bentgo is a stacking box. (and we all know how much I love stacking boxes!) There are two tiers, a large one on the bottom, and a smaller top that is divided. Let me tell you, in comparison to the other boxes I use for the girls, these are huge! According to their website, the bottom tier is 7″ x 4.5″ x 2.5″, and the top is 6.8″ x 4.3″ x 1.7″ total, 3.4″ x 4.3″ x 1.7″ per divided section.

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The lid for the bottom tier also houses the included plastic silverware. I love that these come with knife, fork, spoon and an elastic band. My girls won’t have a lot need for the silverware, since most of the food they eat at lunch is fin for fingers. However, this is a great perk to have for an adult’s lunch. I will say, though, that the spoon is rather shallow, so you wouldn’t want to use it for soups. Which brings up another point. According to the website, the lunchboxes are not leak proof. Both lids are sealed, but not enough, apparently for soups. The lid for the top tier has a nice looking seal, similar to the cups, but the lid is a bit concave, so if you were to put, say, yogurt into one side, there’s nothing to keep it from going to the other side and all over the inside of the tier. Better to serve yogurt in a separate container or just not at all.

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I was at first concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find enough food to fill it, and thought I would have to use only a single tier for the girls. I may still do that sometimes, but I managed to play with them a bit for today’s lunches and seemed to do alright with filling them. It is a bit more food than the girls normally get, but it’s just extra fruits and veggies and that’s never a bad thing, is it?

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On the bottom tier, I put four mini frozen tacos from Trader Joe’s. The girls really love these for dinner, so I’m hoping they do well for lunch as well. I also included some sour cream for dipping the tacos in the little cup at the top of the photo. (Incidentally, I found those cups at the dollar spot in Target. They’re perfect for sauces. They’re bigger than the little containers I normally put ketchup in, though, so it didn’t fit in the Bentgo. They’re the perfect size for dressing for an adult salad, though.)

In that same tier, I also included some herb popcorn, also from Trader Joe’s. We all love this popcorn at my house. Now, I’m a firm believer in homemade air popped popcorn, but I normally only put seasoned salt on it with butter. I picked up a bag of this herb popcorn to try for lunches and we all gobbled it up. I’ve got to find a recipe for making it at home, though, because it’s much too pricey considering how much cheaper I can make it at home. If any of you have a recipe you like, please feel free to pass it on to me.

On the top tier, I put lots of colorful fruits and veggies! On one side, we’ve got carrot coins cut from these massive carrots I got at the farmer’s market on Friday. There’s also these funny shaped yellow tomatoes, also from the farmer’s market. On the other side there are slices of golden kiwi that I got from 99 Ranch. We’ve never tried these kiwi before, but the girls like regular kiwi. I upped the cute factor by adding a kitty fork to eat the kiwi with. 🙂 I also included some grapes to fill the extra space, and dates in a bus cup. Since Delaney doesn’t like dates, her bus cup held raisins instead.

So, there’s more food in there, but not too much, I don’t think. I told the girls to make sure to eat the tacos and kiwis first because I figured those would be in the worst shape by the end of school. The rest should be just fine to eat after school if they run out of time at lunch.

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As evident by the links throughout this post, you can buy the Bentgo lunchboxes and accesories from Bentgo directly. You’ll also notice that, in addition to the boxes and cups, they also have insulated lunch bags and sauce containers. I am fully planning on getting sauce containers ASAP. They are meant to fit in the bottom tier, which would be perfect for us. They also sell extra bands and silverware, should yours go missing. Also, while the girls have their own insulated lunch bags that match their school backpacks, I am considering purchasing the Bentgo ones anyway since they are designed to keep the whole thing upright. Plus, I like that it has a mesh pocket in the lid to hold an ice pack in place. That is something my girls’ current lunch bags do not have.

If you’re not keen on purchasing from the company website directly, Bentgo also sells them through Amazon. They carry the boxes, cups, bags, and sauce containers, and all for the same price.

(I have not been given any incentive by Bentgo to write this post. I’m just really that excited about these boxes. 🙂 )

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Adventures In Bento: September 15-19, 2014

So very sorry this post is a day late. Yesterday was my 16th wedding anniversary and I was running around all day trying to get everything done to that Ron and I could have a nice evening out. However, we must be getting old because our original plan of going to dinner, the movies, and then desert and a conversation at home before bed turned into dinner, a trip to Trader Joe’s and then falling asleep mid conversation at 9pm. LOL!

Anyway, onto the bentos! This week the girls have taken a much more active role in the lunches. They took turns helping me pick out what boxes to use and what to put in them.

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Monday morning Tatem specifically requested the clapping march boxes, and who was I to refuse. However, I wasn’t feeling the elephant or penguin sandwich cutters I normally use and so decided to try stars. The bigger one barely fit, but I think they came out cute. And the girls were squeeing over the single bite mini star sandwiches. They are definitely my daughters, we all the tiny wee things! 🙂 This lunch also contained pretzel sticks and grapes. And I tried yogurt in the silicon cup to see if that would work better than the applesauce from the other week. Delaney reported no mess whatsoever and liked having yogurt in her lunch. Tatem said hers spilled, but I think Tatem is just rougher with her lunchbox, honestly. Either way, they both ate it all, and I was smart enough to put only grapes in the tier with the yogurt and not crackers. Grapes covered in yogurt are tasty. 🙂 Also, I believe I put some Schoolbook cookies on the very top tier, but forgot to take a photo.

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Tuesday I was trying out another non-sandwich lunch and included turkey rolls and a Babybel cheese. Each girl picked out which shape they wanted cut out of their cheese. This was Delaney’s. The turkey rolls were an experiment. I often see this technique used in bento, but my girls, while loving meat sandwiches, have never eaten lunch meat plain. However it seemed to go ok, though Delaney said there were too many rolls and she didn’t finish them all. She said she’d like to have it again, only with less meat. Noted.

On that same tier I added some goldfish and Haribo mini gummy bears. There is a German yarn company that sends little bags of these gummy bears with every order and the girls love them when we get some. On the top tier I put a somewhat colorful assortment of grapes. Ralph’s had both black and red grapes on sale last week, so I got them both. The girls enjoyed comparing the flavors of the two colors.

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Wednesday was another day for experimentation. I gave the girls frozen edamame. They love it when I serve edamame in the shells for dinner, but haven’t had it cold like this. However, both girls loved them and said they were fully defrosted by lunch time. Also in this lunch was apple bits, pretzels, citrus gumdrops from Trader Joe’s, and a bagel with strawberry cream cheese. The girls absolutely love it when I put bagels in their lunches. As an added treat and cuteness, I cut some shapes into a fruit leather. I get the fruit leathers from Trader Joe’s. At mine, they’re right next to the registers. They go for about 50 cents a piece and I can decorate both lunches like this with one. Delaney loves when I do because then she gets to eat the scraps leftover. 🙂 I used to go to Costco a lot and once bought a huge case of a similar fruit leather. Because it was in bulk, each leather was cheaper than Trader Joe’s, but I don’t often go to Costco now and don’t mind spending a buck or two on fruit leathers every so often.

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Thursday morning Tatem woke up early with a bad dream and so was already up, dressed, and watching TV when I awoke. Normally, the TV does not go on on school mornings, but she was up at about 5:30, and couldn’t go back to sleep. Because she was so fully awake she felt helpful and not only had herself almost fully ready by the time I woke up, but had also pulled out clothes for her sister and the lunch stuff for me. Then she started going through my cookie cutters while I was trying to make my coffee and the girls picked out ones for their sandwiches. That is why, in the middle of September, they have a bat and a clover sandwich. :o)

The sandwiches were turkey, and I also included some Gummy Tummies from Trader Joe’s in a little airplane silicon cup. On the other tier, I put some apple bits with flowers on the top, cheese sandwich crackers, and some dates. The dates were another experiment. I bought them for a dinner, but had lots leftover, so I thought the girls might like them in their lunch. Delaney tried one piece and declared them yucky. However, Tatem loved them and ate Delaney’s leftovers after school.

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Yesterday morning Delaney raced to get dressed so that she could help me with lunch. When I went through her options for a main course, she hollered “bagel and cream cheese!” before I even got halfway through the list. Ok, kid, bagel and cream cheese it is.:) Unfortunately, yesterday was shopping day, so I was limited on what I could use. That’s why a lot of the items are repeats from earlier in the week. The girls also got goldfish, apples, fruit leather cut outs, and Gummy Tummies and raisins in a bus silicon cup.

Yesterday was also a great day for bento supplies. After dropping the girls off at school, I went by a local farmer’s market that’s held every Friday morning and got some strawberries, yellow tomatoes, and guavas. We all tried the guavas last night, but they weren’t a hit. I think they are over ripe, honestly. I might be able to use them in a smoothie.

Then, when I got home, I saw I had a package from a friend and in it were two new BentGo lunchboxes and cups for the girls! I am super duper excited about trying these out! They’re much bigger than the boxes we have, though, so I might end up just using one tier. However, I’m seriously considering getting the other two colors for lunches for Ron and I. I will use them a bit and do an expose in a few weeks letting you know what I think. :o)

Later in the afternoon, I went with a friend to 99 Ranch. I had never been there before, but knew I could find fun treats for lunches there. My friend is Filipino, so she was able to give me details about certain items and make suggestions. I got things like Hello Panda cookies and Pocky, of course, but I also got some fun fruit like golden kiwis. Look for these new items in next week’s bento lunches!

Have a great weekend!

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Bento Supply Expose: Rubbermaid Lunch Blox Kit

It’s time for another in depth look at bento boxes! Today’s lunch box is one you can get most anywhere. It isn’t Japanese box, but rather made by Rubbermaid. I’m talking about the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox Kit. Now, if you followed that link to the Rubbermaid site, you saw that there were several options in the Lunch Blox family. Today I’m going to be focusing on the Lunch Blox Kids, which is the one I own. And it looks like this:

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Now, you may be saying to yourself, “But Cristi’s colors don’t match the ones in the link”, and you would be right. That is simply because I have both sets and have had them for over a year and there are pieces that have wandered off. :o) So this is a conglomeration of what I could find, lol.

(This is normally where I would put the measurements, but Rubbermaid has so awesomely provided those on theri website, so I’m going to skip it)

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According to Rubbermaid, you would put a sandwich in the bigger bottom box, and then snacks or sides in the two top. The ice pack fits in between them and everything snaps into place. However, I have found that the bigger bottom box is plenty big for a full lunch for my girls, so I only use that when I pack their lunches. Don’t fear that the top boxes go to waste, because they don’t. I sometimes use them to pack a morning snack for the girls. And one is always in use on my counter to hold a stick of butter. It’s the perfect size, I’ve found, and the lid keeps the butter safe. (I realize I should just get a butter dish, but I’m lazy and this works out so well, so I don’t really see the point of spending the money.

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You may have noticed that I do not use these as often as I do the others. That’s true, I don’t. I personally like the stacking boxes better and find it much easier to pack those. With this box, because it’s deeper, I have to get more creative with my packing and often have to resort to stacking foods. And that’s ok, but it’s not as pretty when you cannot see all the food. It’s purely just a personal preference.

However, I do use it on occasion, like this past weekend when I made these lunches for the girls as we drove up to Grandpa’s house.

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As you can see, the box holds a decent amount of food, plenty for my under 10 daughters. If I had older children I would probably use the top containers as well. Or if I was using it for my own or Ron’s lunch. However, I would like to point out that if you stack the 3 boxes together with the ice pack, then it will not fit in a regular insulated lunch pouch. You would need a taller lunch bag for it.

The really nice thing about these is that they are so easy to obtain. You can find them easily at stores like Target, Walmart, or even your local grocers. You can also find them at Amazon. The price is slightly higher than the other boxes I have shown you, but remember that these come with a fitted ice pack. That’s a nice thing to have. You never have to worry about the ice pack sliding to the bottom of the lunch bag and not keeping the food cold.

(I’d also like to bring your attention to the Sandwich kit that has a medium and two small containers instead of just two medium. I personally would love to have those smaller containers for things like jello, yogurt, and applesauce.)

Here are other lunches I’ve made using this box.

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Special Weekend Family Bentos!

On Saturdays we often drive up to my father in law’s house, which is an hour away, and take care of things he needs. He’s in very poor health now, and can no longer do his own shopping or heavy housework. We’re also working to get him moved down closer to us to make it easier to care for him. The hour drive is not only time consuming, but it costs a decent amount in gas. And then there’s the fact that we need to eat….

Up until recently, we’ve ended up picking up fast food on the way home. However, we hate to do that. It’s super expensive, high calorie, not all that good tasting crap. Last time we went up, I packed a few snacks for the girls and that seemed to help, but Ron and I were starving by the time we got home, so this time I decided I should put all my bento knowledge to a good use and made us all bento lunches to eat on the road home.

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You’ll only see two photos because Ron’s and my lunches were exactly the same, and so were the girls’. Ron and I got salami, turkey, and cheddar sandwiches on yummy Hawaiian hamburger buns. I used some of Trader Joe’s Herb Salad Mix for the greens and I have found I prefer this to iceberg lettuce any day. Also included was a half Golden Delicious apple and a handful of goldfish crackers. I realize this lunch is rather bland looking, but we were in a bit of a hurry and I spent more time on the girls’ lunches.

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They got a half tortilla PB&J roll up, apple breakfast bar from Trader Joe’s, grape tomatoes, pretzels and colorful carrots. Super surprisingly, Delaney at all her carrots lickety split and Tatem had to be reminded to finish them. Then I added two new treats. The first are the gum drops. When I stopped by Trader Joe’s the other day, Delaney was anxious to get a treat. I don’t normally give into them when they ask for treats, but it was the end of the week and they’d been good. Delaney spotted the gum drops and asked in her cutest way, “Please, Mommy!”. They were only $1.99 and there was plenty in the bag to be able to use for several lunches, so I agreed. I like them because they’re not you’re regular flavors, they’re citrus. So there’s grapefruit, tangerine, lemon,and key lime. And they’re pretty yummy. The other new thing is the Babybel cheese. As I mentioned recently, the girls have said they would try cheese in their lunches since they see the cute things that can be done with it. I especially love these Babybels and see them all over bento blogs, so I was happy to try them. I cut out a simple star from the wax and held my breath when the girls opened their lunch in the car. Not only did they love the star, but they both took one bite and declared the cheese super yummy! Score! Of course, I won’t be putting it in every lunch because it can get pretty pricey, but I love that I can add it to the lunch options.

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Adventures in Bento: September 8-12, 2014

I feel fairly confident in my bento making skills this week. I started noticing in the past weeks that I make the girls a lot of sandwiches. Cute sandwiches of course, but sandwiches none the less. So this week I tried to come up with other things I could put in their lunches. This, of course, took more time than normal because it hasn’t become routine, but it wasn’t all that much extra time and the extra cute factor was worth it.

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Monday’s lunch included PB&J tortilla roll ups. (I realize this is still close to a sandwich, but it was different enough for me, lol) I cut them into almost bite sized pieces to get them to fit in the box, but Delaney, who has very recently lost her two front teeth on top, struggled a bit with biting into them. While both girls liked them and want them again, I may wait until Delaney has a few more teeth or cut them smaller for her. Also included was celery strips with ranch dressing (in the pink bunny container) and pretzels. Both of those are hard to see because they’re hiding under the other food. This particular box is a fairly small square, but it’s a bit deep, so I have to stack things in there.

You might also see a bit of dark green in that bottom level. That stuff is food dividers, or baran, that is disposable. I have a big box of 1000, I believe. It’s literally the only bento supply I do not reuse. There is reusable baran and I’m hoping to get my hands on some really soon. Not only do I like the fact I can reuse it, but they’re so much cuter than what I have, which is the exact same stuff they put the wasabi on when you buy California roll from the corner market.

But I digress, the top layer of lunch includes some Gummy Tummies, a small yellow tomato cut into quarters, and cut strawberries. Delaney scolded me when I picked them up because I did not include a fork pick to eat her strawberries and tomatoes with and her fingers got wet. :o)

You might recognize this lunch from the post I wrote a few days ago about Tatem stacking all her empty supplies up and our talking about what they want in their lunch. While Tatem ate everything but a single celery stick, Delaney’s lunch came back with the pretzels and celery untouched, and the ranch container open so there was ranch dressing everywhere. I hate cleaning up a lunch like that, so much food wasted and what a mess. That’s what really prompted the talk we had that day.

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Tuesday the girls begged me to let them take canned pasta. Now, I don’t let them have it very often, but I do keep a can or two of Chef Boyardee ABC’s & 123’s with Meatballs in the house. The girls split a can even if they eat it at home, so I don’t feel too bad about it. The pasta was kept in these new thermos containers my mom picked up for us during the summer and this was their debut. I like them because they come with a spoon that’s hidden in a bottom removable compartment. I also gave each girl a large portion of strawberries because they needed to be eaten up.

This brings me to an issue I am having. Ever since Ron and I first got married, I have always done my grocery shopping on Fridays. And it’s never been an issue. It’s the day Ron gets paid, so it makes sense that I would fill the pantry and fridge then. However when I buy delicate fruit like berries on Friday, they are often less than desirable come Tuesday. I think I need to save my lunch fruit buying until Sunday to that the fruit will last longer. That being said, neither girl complained about their plethora of strawberries. :o)

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Wednesday we tried something new. I often buy frozen turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s and the girls love having them for dinner. I cook them with some Marsala Simmer Sauce and Ginger Mango Chutney that I also get from Trader Joe’s and it’s so yummy! However, it is too spicy for the girls, so I just give them the meatballs plain with ketchup. Since they always cheer when we have them for dinner, I thought I’d try them for lunch. One of my favorite bento bloggers, Wendolonia gives her sons the meatballs often for lunch, so I can’t take credit for the idea. :o) I wasn’t sure how the girls would like eating them cold, but they both said they were yummy, so, score! I just cut them into quarters and added a giraffe fork and ketchup in the little container.

However, the other new thing we tried was the applesauce. I’ve seen yogurt sent in silicon cupcake liners without lids in other bento lunches and the bloggers swear the yogurt doesn’t leak. However, what I didn’t take into consideration was how much more watery applesauce can be than yogurt. Yeah. So their second tier ended up being a mess. Lesson learned. There’s nothing worse than soggy goldfish crackers, so I wasn’t upset when neither girl ate them. However, they did both love the tomatoes. Those are from a friend’s garden. I don’t know what kind they are, but the girls loved them. The skin of the tomato kind of reminded me of a pluot.

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Yesterday they did get a sandwich, but I even stepped up the game a bit on that. When we had our talk about what to put in lunches, I explained to the girls that I could do really cute things with cheese slices, but that they had to eat the cheese. This was mainly directed at Tatem who often says she doesn’t like cheese and then changes her mind a day later. For this catwich I filled it with turkey and then cut the details of the cat face out a slice of cheese. I used American cheese which started to get harder to deal with once it warmed up. Also, I was a bit rushed, so I got sloppy with the mayo that I used to glue the cheese to the face. Along with the cat, they got goldfish crackers, small chunks of apple (with a pick so Delaney’s hands could stay dry), fruit leather stars on the apple, and some colored carrots. Tatem loves carrots and so when I saw a bag of colored carrots at Trader Joe’s, I just had to buy them. On this day I used white and purple, but there is also yellow and orange (carrot colored) carrots in the bag. Tatem, of course, loved them. Delaney still isn’t sold. As you can see, I cut the carrots into flower shapes. Cutting fruit, veggies, and things like cheese and fruit leathers into shapes is such a great and easy way to set the cute level to 11 on a bento lunch. And it really only takes an extra minute or two to do.

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Yesterday I decided to clean out the refrigerator while the girls were at school. I discovered a nearly full carton of eggs. I don’t normally buy eggs because my parents have chickens and I get their eggs for free. However, I picked up this carton for some reason and they were just sitting there, so I decided to boil the batch to have in the fridge for a snack. Since I was already boiling them, I decided to go ahead and try out my egg molds. I have only used the mold one other time and it was a disaster. The eggs ripped down the middle. However, that time I was trying to make them quickly in the morning and I thought if I let them set in the fridge overnight, I might get better results. I was right.

In today’s lunch Tatem got a fish shaped hard boiled egg, pretzels sticks, 2 pieces of salami and cream cheese rolls, apple chunks, fruit leather stars, and ants on a log in bite sized pieces. I’m sorry you can’t see the fish on the egg better, but trust me that it came out super cute. Because I was worried the eggs would rip on me again, I actually made 3. And none ripped, so the girls each got to eat half a star egg with their breakfast this morning.

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I don’t normally take photos of both girls’ lunches since they are often exactly the same, but this morning each girl got slightly different lunches. Delaney got a car shaped egg. (She was the first one dressed since Tatem had to take a shower, so she got first pick on what shape she wanted in her lunch) You’ll notice he also got twice as many salami rolls. This is because Delaney really likes salami and cream cheese. We sometimes have carpet picnics and salami rolls are a favorite for her. I know she probably would have eaten another 5 or 6, but they’re really not the healthiest thing to eat, are they? :o) Also included in her lunch was cheese sandwich crackers, apple chunks, fruit leather stars, and ant on a log.

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Bento Supply Expose: Oval Bento Box

If you’ve read my blog ever, you should recognize this box from Color Life. I use it a lot, a whole lot. I like the oval shape, (it lets me have a a lot of options for making lunches) I like the colors, (I’ve got orange and green, but there’s also blue and pink) and you all know how much I love stacking boxes (a whole lot!). In fact, this is probably the box I use the most. Now, a few of you might be asking yourself why I use this one so much if the Clapping Mark one I talked about last week is my favorite. It’s really simply because this one is easier to pack. The Clapping one limits me a bit on sandwiches and I can put any of my sandwich shapes in here.

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You can see it’s similar to the Clapping March in that it has a top tier, bottom tier, and lids. The differences are that in this box, the top tier serves as the lid for the bottom tier, instead of fitting in the lid of the bottom tier. And, in this box, the bigger tier is on the bottom. The bottom tier is 5″ long, 3 1/4″ wide and 1 1/2″ deep. It holds a nice amount of stuff, really, and I use it mostly for sandwiches and crackers. The girls love getting mini bagel sandwiches and they fit perfectly in here. The other boxes I have are not deep enough for the bagels. The top tier, which comes with the white lid, is 4 1/2″ long, 2 3/4″ wide and 1 1/4″ deep. As you can see, it’s quite a bit smaller than the other tier, but it fits silicon cupcake liners perfectly, and I can fit two in there with a little room to spare. Here’s how the tiers fit together.

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(I’ve recently realized that almost all the photos I take with this box is with the green one only. I don’t know why I do that. Since the lunches are almost always identical, I only photograph one, but I don’t know why I always seem to pick green. Orange is my favorite color.)

And then here is the box with the lid.

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Not photographed is the band I put around the boxes. It’s important that you know these boxes do not come with bands, but in my opinion, they need bands. The white lid on the top tier is pretty tightly sealed, but the top tier is not sealed to the bottom tier at all and could easily come apart in a lunch bag. Not to fret, though, bands are relatively cheap at bento suppliers and, if you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can easily make on yourself with some elastic and a cute button. My mom made bands for these lunches with flower buttons and the girls love them.

Storing the box is easy. You just turn the top tier upside down and put it in the bottom tier like this.

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Then put the lid on.

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I just stack them in my pantry like that. When I get the other colors, and I am of course planning to get the other colors, I will see how they look mixing them up. I love lots of colors, personally. :o)

Here’s this box in action:

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Now, I got mine from Amazon, (links above), but you can also get them from Sears, apparently. However, they are twice as expensive from Sears. Oh, and I’ve seen that Amazon have a three tiered one that I’m keen to try. I’ll let you know how I like those once I can get my hands on them. :o)

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Proof That I’m Raising Them Right

The title of this blog is totally tongue in cheek, but I thought I needed to share with you how Tatem’s lunch box came home last night. It made me giggle.

Now, those of you who know me in real life, know I like things organized. (That does not refer to housework, Mom, btw) CDs, DVDs, books, and the like are always in order by author/artist and I get great joy out of going through my cedar chest and reorganizing my yarn. Or, even better, organizing someone else’s yarn! I love things that stack and love having a place for all the little stuff. That’s why when I opened Tatem’s lunch last night, I felt a little swell of pride…

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In the lunch were 2 regular sized silicon cupcake liners, which she stacked and then topped with a smaller silicon cupcake liner and her container of ranch. But my favorite part was that she took the green food dividers I had use and fanned them out like a flower.

For those of you who are wondering, Delaney’s lunchbox was a hot mess. Not only did she not stack anything, but she didn’t hardly eat anything either. That lead to a long discussion with both girls about what they want in their lunch. I have noticed that the ranch isn’t getting touched when I add it for celery or carrots. Both girls have decided they do not care for ranch, which really isn’t a bad thing since it’s really not healthy, but it’s something I have used in the past to get them, Delaney especially, to eat veggies. So, we talked and at first they both were saying I should just not put celery or carrots in their lunch, but I pointed out that that really wasn’t an option. They need veggies and I am not going to give them grape tomatoes every single day. (I realize tomatoes are a fruit, but they’ll always be veggies in my head) So I asked if they would eat the celery if I put some peanut butter in their little containers and they both liked that idea and then requested ants on a log some days instead of a sandwich, which I’m happy to comply with. Then we all three sat down at the table and started going through Everyday Bento photo by photo and they each were able to tell me what they would like or wouldn’t like. (They’ve looked through the book before, but never this closely.)

All in all, it was a very good talk. I was able to convey to the girls how important it was that they eat what I put in their lunch because we don’t have the money to waste the food; and they were able to tell me what they don’t like. And then together we were able to come up with alternatives to replace the stuff they wanted me to take out. It was very productive. I would suggest every parent have a discussion like this with their kids. It can really make lunches more satisfying for everyone.

And we all agreed that there are certain new bento tools that I must get ASAP. For instance, food safe markers. Wendy uses them several times in both her book and blog and the girls have always been especially keen on those lunches, so I really must pick them up.

So tell me in the comments, what’s the bento supply you’re just dying to buy?

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Easy Ways To Get Bento Supplies

When my friends first discover that I make bento lunches for my girls, the first comment is almost always, “Wow, those are so cute!”, which is often followed by, “I wish I had the time/imagination/money to do that”. And that’s when I explain how quickly the lunches actually go together each morning, how easy it is to make a lunch cute and how many ideas are out there to help in books and blogs, and how I’m actually saving a decent amount of money instead of spending more. The next comment tends to be asking me where they can find bento supplies. Many folks assume that bento supplies must be super duper expensive. But that’s not the case. In fact, it’s really the opposite. There are several ways to get inexpensive bento supplies.  I’ll name a few, but, by all means, this is not a full list. I’m still learning about new bento suppliers all the time.

Amazon

Amazon is probably the first place I go to look for bento stuff, but that’s mostly because I’m a Prime subscriber and am completely addicted to free 2-day shipping. :o) You will find a large selection of bento supplies there, though, and for pretty good prices. I recently discovered that you can make multiple wishlists on Amazon, so I have one that’s dedicated to only bento supplies. I also like using the universal wishlist that Amazon has available for when I come across items on other websites that I want. This way I have all the things I want all in one place and I can easily email my wishlist to family when they have questions about what to get me for Christmas or my birthdays.

BentoUSA

There are a few bento supply websites out there, but this is my favorite one. And not just mine, I see it recommended by other bento bloggers often. AllThingsForSale.com has just a ridiculous amount of bento supplies. Seriously, be prepared to spend the next 3 days adding things to your wishlist because it’s amazing how much stuff they have.

Daiso

The Daiso store. If you have one local, consider yourself a lucky duck. This is essentially a Japanese dollar store. However, I believe everything in the store is $1.50. But, even at that price, it’s a steal for bento supplies. Not only can you get killer bento supplies, but you can also find fun Japanese treats to add to your bento lunches. Don’t know if you have a Daiso store nearby? Go here and find out. Unfortunately, I don’t have one terribly local. The closest to me is about 45 minutes away, so I haven’t been to it yet. However, I am planning a trip out there next month, so expect a post showing you my haul afterwards.

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There still may be those of you who do not like to order things online and don’t have a local Daiso store. You may be asking what choices you have for bento supplies. My answer to you is places like Target, Walmart, and any dollar store. You can easily find cute cupcake picks, wrappers and cookie cutters to add cute factor to a bento lunch. Also, I have heard that sandwich cutters are often found in dollar stores. Not only that, but there are often seasonal decorations that can be used to spruce up a lunch. For example, in spring, there are a plethora of shaped plastic Easter eggs all over these stores. Those are great for filling with small things like blueberries or raisins and sticking into a lunch. Last year my mom picked up some plastic leaves for me and I used those to give the girls’ lunches an autumn feel. You can get really creative with stuff from the dollar store. :o)

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I think, though, that I like the Target Dollar Spot the best. They often have things that work perfectly for bento and I’m noticing more and more that I’m finding things that are actually made for bento there. For example, I was there on Friday and picked up these:

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These are on the small size, so I can’t use them for lunches, but they are perfect for their morning snack. And I love the water bottles. They fit inside the girls’ lunchboxes, which is ideal because Delaney constantly forgets to bring her bigger water bottle with her to lunch and then gets thirsty. And I really scored on these because, even though they were priced for a dollar, which is a great price already, Target was offering all their Dollar Spot stuff at 70% off, so I only paid 30 cents a piece! Cannot beat that. Here is one in action with this morning’s snack in it.

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All this to say, you do not need to drop $150 to get set up with bento supplies. Depending on what stores you have close to you, you could get the basic supplies for $10-$50. And those are all reusable supplies, so you will only need to spend that money once. (of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up picking up new supplies here and there because they’re just so stinkin’ cute!)

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Adventures in Bento: September 1-5, 2014

This week was a short one with Monday being a holiday, so I only have four kid lunches to show you this week. Overall, I felt much more comfortable making this week’s lunches than I did last week. I guess it’s like riding a bike, you never forget how, but you’re a little wobbly after a long hiatus from it. :o)

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Tuesday’s lunch included a star PB&J sandwich, pretzel sticks, grape tomatoes cut in half, the last of the champagne grapes, and 2 birthday cake flavored Oreos. I don’t normally buy Oreos because I’ll eat them all if they’re in the house, but our church had a family game night and I brought cookies and chips to contribute to the snacks and these were leftover. The girls loved them and I did very good in not eating one. :o) This is packed in a Daiso oval box.

About the champagne grapes, which Delaney thought were small, purple blueberries, they are great for bento lunches if you can find them. They very small, which makes them perfect for filling in little leftover spots you may have in the box. Plus, if your kids are anything like my kids, they’ll love the fact that the grapes are teeny.

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At the request of Tatem, on Wednesday I made mini waffle PB&Js again. Please excuse the slightly fuzzy photo. I make all the lunches and take photos in the mornings and some mornings I’m more put together than others, lol. In addition to the waffles, the girls got cheese sandwich crackers from Trader Joe’s, fresh raspberries with a bear fork, Cinnamon Schoolbook cookies, also from Trader Joe’s, and grape tomatoes cut in half. I cut the tomatoes because they seem to fit better in these boxes that way. This lunch was packed in the Clapping March box I just posted about yesterday.

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Yesterday morning was a very stressful one. I ended up having to go in for jury duty and needed to be there about 15 minutes before my daughters’ school opened up for drop off. I already knew that I would be late for jury duty since I wasn’t about to drop my girls off at school a half hour before it was open, but I was rushing to try to get us all there the minute the gates opened. That meant leaving about 15 minutes earlier than normal, which is hard on its own, but I also had to get myself ready to go as well. Now, I never drop my kids off while still in my jammies, but I normally just throw on clothes and don’t worry about anything else since I’m going straight back home anyway. But days when I have to go somewhere else right after dropping them off are always more hectic than normal ones, and yesterday was no exception. So, because I was in a rush, I grabbed the super easy, mom needs a day off lunch boxes. These are great for those kinds of days because they are already separated and all I have to do if fill up the four small containers.

So, I gave the girls some puzzle shaped PB&Js, apple, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, ranch dip in the panda cup, and bbq chips (which were also left over from the church game night). I did try to spruce up the lunch a wee bit by putting in some apple flowers, but otherwise everything just got tossed in.

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I wanted to make up for the somewhat sloppy lunch from yesterday, so I walked into the kitchen this morning determined to make the girls a proper bento lunch. However, it’s shopping day and so my fridge was pretty bare. I did manage to put enough together, but I am looking forward to restocking today.

Today’s lunch is in the Clapping March box again and included turkey hot dogs that I pan fried in a small amount of butter to give them a great flavor. I added a giraffe fork to eat them with and a small tub of ketchup in the bunny cup for dipping. On the top tier, I put two baking cups filled with nectarine pieces and some cheese sandwich crackers. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I used the chopsticks tier to house some Schoolbook cookies. For Delaney’s, I opted to spell out a word, belts, because she’s focusing on her reading in class, but Tatem has been bringing home multiplication pages, so I gave her a simple multiplication problem. She watched me as I built the problem and I made her answer before I put the 8 cookie down.

So that’s it for the girl’s lunches this week. I didn’t manage to do much for Ron, but I did get one semi bento made for him yesterday. (Since his lunches are mainly leftovers from dinner and he leaves for work before I get out of bed, I make his lunches the night before. That’s why his Thursday lunch wasn’t rushed like the girls’ was)

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I say it was semi bento because I didn’t do much to it, really. For dinner on Wednesday we had masala chicken thighs, brown rice, and soycutash from Trader Joe’s. Ron got the leftovers and I just cut up the chicken and laid in on the bed of rice. Trust me, it tasted much better than it looks. :o)

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Bento Supply Expose: Clapping March Double

As I said a few days ago, I am planning on taking my bento supplies and doing somewhat in depth posts about them. When I first started buying bento stuff, especially the boxes, I had such a hard time imagining how big they really were and how to use them. I’m hoping these posts will help future bento newbies.

The first piece of equipment I’d like to discuss is probably my favorite bento box that I have at the moment. I have about 4 boxes that I use for the girls’ lunches and none of them are the more hip, but way awesome, boxes that you see in many of the blogs. It’s not that I don’t want the awesome hip boxes, I so totally do, but I can’t really work their higher prices into my budget right at the moment, especially when I still have four perfectly good boxes to use. One day I will be back in the working force and will buy bento boxes galore, but until then, let’s discuss this totally awesome, yet very reasonably priced Clapping March Double box.

 

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As you can see, it’s a stacking bento box and I personally love the stacking boxes. They look so sleek and clever. I love that I can make each layer different, instead of piling all the food together. I often use one layer for the sandwich and crackers, and the other for the produce.

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The two main tiers are slightly different in size. The smaller one, which goes on the bottom, is 6″ long, just under 2.5″ wide, and almost 1″ deep. The smaller lid fits on it nicely and provides a fitted seat for the larger tier. The larger tier is essentially 1/8 larger than the smaller. So it is 6 1/8″ long, 2 5/8″ wide and 1 1/8″ deep. I find that the top tier is exactly the right size for silicone baking cups. I can fit two in there, fill them with fruit or veggies, and then still have a bit of room in between for a small something. The top tier also has a lid, (the bigger white one in the photo) and it’s meant to hold chopsticks. However, my girls do not use chopsticks, so I use that quarter inch deep tier to hold flat things like cookies. It’s perfect for that. And then the cookies are kept safe by the clear lid that has the cute animal scene on it. Since the clear lid is raised, there’s about 3/4 of an inch of space on that top tier with the lid on. It’s all held together by an elastic band and looks like this when assembled.

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And here’s a top view in which you can see the awesome cookie level.

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Cute, huh? And if you’re worried about being able to get enough food in there, it’s plenty spacious for a small child’s lunch. I use it for both my 9 and 6 year olds and they’ve never once come home saying they didn’t have enough food at lunch. I will say, however that it does limit me on the shape of the sandwich cutter I can use, since it’s so narrow. I only have 2 right now that make sandwiches that fit. However, elephants and penguins are super cute, so I’m not too upset about it. Here are 2 examples of what I did with these lunch boxes last year.

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Now, I’ve seen these in Etsy stores before, but cannot find them there now. However, they are for sale on Amazon at the moment for a very good price. And that’s one thing I really like about these boxes, the price. On my limited budget, it’s nice to now I can spend less than $8 and get a really cute box for my girls to take their lunch in.

So there you have it. Please let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you’d like to know about these boxes. I’m happy to answer any questions if I can.

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