Bento School Lunches

**Hi there. I’ve moved and have been blogging at howaboutcookie.com with lots of new school lunch and food art ideas. See you there!**

I’ve always admired bento bloggers and the lunches they’d whip up for their little eaters. I never thought I’d become one of them, though. I mean, the time it takes to craft panda-shaped patties or Angry Birds out of babybel cheese? No thanks. I’d rather sleep in. Plus, I don’t cook. Some of these bentos I see online are like mini Top Chef dishes. I cook enough to get by, but I’ve really only got 5 good dishes under my belt, and anything beyond dice-sautee-serve and I feel myself getting sleepy.

This year though, I caved. With my 5-year-old starting kindergarten, I knew I’d need to give the guy some incentive to finish–at least mostly–his lunch. He’s a notoriously slow, selective (trying to wean myself from labeling him “picky”) eater. And being in school for seven hours with strange new people would be hard on anyone. I wanted him to have something to look forward to, a piece of home to soothe the homesickness, and a fun way to hopefully change his relationship with food.

So after scouring the internets for ideas, I started putting bentos together for him and for my 3rd grader. After the first few days I realized that there’s no turning back. First, the bar has been raised. Now that the boys think their lunches are cool, I can’t go back to pb&j in a plastic baggie. Second, making these is actually kinda fun. I get to play with their food, and there’s this weirdly immense satisfaction in figuring out how to pack everything so it all fits or choosing complementary colors. There are a lot of things about parenting that I feel a little crazy about, things I probably should have under control but I don’t. Being able to feed the kids and show them my love in this small way feels like a mommy win.

So feel free to follow me on Instagram, where I post daily pics of their lunches.

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And browse some bento blogs for inspiration:

happy little bento
wendolonia
following in my shoes
bent on better lunches
a boy and his lunch
bento zen

bento monsters

Those last two are pretty ridiculous. As in ridiculously jaw-dropping. Those are just pure eye candy. I scroll through their Hello Kitty-shaped pizzas and cheese-and-nori matryoshka dolls and stuff my face with kettle corn as if it were movie night.

A lot of it, I realize, has to do with having the right tools. Products that seem to be the “best” and favored by bloggers:

1. Lunchbots, particularly the ones with built-in dividers, like the Trio.

in action via bentonbetterlunches:

2. Easy Lunchboxes (which look a lot like what I use. I use the cheap ziploc version but plan to upgrade soon):

in action via following in my shoes:


3. Ecolunchbox, particularly the three-in-one tiffin-style set:

in action via happy little bento:

4. Silicone muffin cups. Keeps everything neat and tidy, and the squishability makes them versatile. Target has them right now in their dollar spot, a 2-pack for $1.

5. All kinds of cute accessories, mainly found on the browsing black hole that is allthingsforsale:

So. Are these time-consuming? Yes and no. If I’m smart and cut up a week’s worth of veggies, I feel like an unstoppable one-woman machine. If I don’t plan ahead, I have to start these things at 6am and I want to tear my hair out. We’ll see how long I last, but I’d like to stick with it the entire school year.

Famous last words, right? I still don’t cook so this should get interesting.

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