**Every season, I post a set of goals that I set out to accomplish. I track my progress here on my blog. I like the challenge of setting goals – it helps me to accomplish so much more. This post features one of my Spring 13 goals**
Not too long ago, I put out a call for bento related questions. Here’s my answers, and maybe a bit more additional info too.
Where can I purchase bento boxes like yours?
I have different bento boxes for breakfast and lunch. I use two different styles of LunchBots for breakfast: the Trio and the Quad. I use a Laptop Lunches Bento Box with a set of Bento Buddies for lunch. Both are available on Amazon, which are the links I posted above (Disclaimer – I do get a small kickback if you purchase Amazon products through my links). Here’s links to the company websites: Lunchbots, Laptop Lunches.
I know that they’re not as cheap as a traditional lunchbox, but they’re so worth it. I’ve been using my Laptop lunches bento for three years now everyday at work, and my Lunchbots for about ten months. When you consider how much it would have cost me to buy lunch each of those days, and how much better my health is for bringing my own food, my bentos have paid for themselves over and over again.
How do you plan your boxes? They always seem so well-rounded.
I’ll let you in on a secret – I have a set of “templates” that I use to plan each bento box. These are pretty general and vary with configurations, but they basically consist of protein, veggies, dip and fruit. I’ve got two breakfast templates – the one with sweet potatoes is the one I have when I go to Crossfit before work. The other is my regular one. As far as the actual items that go in them – it depends on what’s already in my fridge. I don’t cook special meals for my bentos – these are leftovers. So if I have some leftover chicken, I’ll throw it over some spinach, chop up some tomatoes and make a salad. If I have leftover pot roast, I’ll put it in it’s own container, put some leftover veggies in the other, etc. There’s a lot of repeats too, which makes planning so much easier.
Sometimes your bentos have dishes that are both hot and cold — do you refrigerate them during the day or leave them at room temperature?
I use an ice pack in my lunch box to keep my meals cold. I don’t have access to a refrigerator at work, but I do have a microwave. I eat my breakfasts cold because you can’t heat metal. I often heat the entrees in my lunches in the microwave. Laptop lunches are BPA free, and while I know it’s not super good to heat food in plastic, I’m taking my chances. I know some people take their lunches in glass containers, but I haven’t seen a glass bento set, and I’m so clumsy that I’d be nervous to have one anyhow.
How long does it take to put the bentos together? Do you make them daily, or ahead of time?
The actual prep itself only takes 10 to 15 minutes most days. I make my lunch daily, and my breakfasts every other day (I make two days at once). I eventually want to buy a second Laptop Lunch set so that I can make two days of lunches at once too.
I use leftovers and I prep most of my fruits and veggies on the weekend, so most days I’m just assembling everything together. I start by taking everything out of the fridge that I intend to use. For example, for the above lunch, I pulled out: a tupperware of piccadillo, a tupperware of mashed cauliflower, some chives (I don’t often garnish, but I got these in my produce delivery that week), a tupperware of carrots and celery sticks I prepped that weeked, a jar of mayo I made over the weekend, strawberries and bananas. The only foods I actually had to prep were the fruits, since they could go bad if I prep them too early. It took me about 10 minutes to put it all together.
What was your biggest bento mistake?
Whatever it was, I’ve probably blotted it out from my memory, and I probably didn’t take a picture of it 🙂
The first time I tried coconut butter, I got so excited that I put it in my fruits/desserts container along with some strawberries. When I got to lunch, it was hard as a rock – coconut butter has to be room temperature to be soft. Of course, microwaved coconut butter is awesome too.
I’ve also tried putting soup in my bento lunches, only to have them leak on everything else. I use a thermos for soups now – the Laptop containers are pretty watertight, but not perfect.
I think that my worst bento mistake has been leaving my lunchbox at home and having to buy food at the school cafeteria 🙂
How do you keep your avocado from turning brown?
I don’t. I take the picture right when I put it together, but often by the time I eat my bento the next day, it’s brown. It still tastes just fine, so it doesn’t bother me. If it’s an issue for you, sprinkling a little lemon juice on them helps.
***Got any other questions that weren’t answered here? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll answer them for you!***