Lettuce wraps

Making Lunch Fun Again – Bento Boxes

Let’s face it, the traditional idea of taking lunch to work is boring (well, at least here in the U.S.). It usually involves a sandwich or some leftovers from last night’s dinner, and after a while it can get boring to even think about.

For me, I usually end up having no idea what I want to take for lunch, and if I don’t grab something I end up eating Jimmy Johns, or something from the food court in my building (which actually isn’t bad).

Last week, I came across a site that has awakened my excitement for making my own lunches again. Makiko Itoh of JustBento has wonderful guidelines and tips for getting into the bento-style (the Japanese way) of making lunches. The main differences to regular packed lunch is the focus on healthy food that can be eaten at room temperature, is packed compactly to avoid a messy lunch, and a great presentation. Some people like to get really creative and make charaben, a way of making your lunch into characters.

Wouldn’t you love a lunch that looked like this? Photo: Justbento.com

Over the past week, here are a couple of the bento-inspired lunches I have made:

meatballs and salad
Chicken meatballs, hard boiled egg, and salad.

The container I used for this is one of my Pyrex glass container, it holds 2 cups/ 470 ml of contents. This was definitely too small, and I had trouble getting everything in there.

Lettuce wraps
Ingredients for making lettuce wraps: romaine lettuce, pepperjack cheese, smoked turkey, beef pastrami, shredded carrots, tomatoes, hard boiled egg.

On the second day, I decided I wanted to make lettuce wraps. The container I used is 7 x 5 x 1.5 inches, holds 3 cups/ 750 ml of content. While it is tightly packed, this size was a lot easier to use and there wasn’t any overcrowding. I put the diced tomatoes in some foil so they wouldn’t get the other ingredients soggy. I didn’t have a container to use for dressing on either day, so I just bought individual dressing packs at the food court at work. I also did keep both in the fridge at work until I was ready to eat

I don’t think it will be easy to find a bento box in the stores stateside, but there are plenty of places to buy them online. For now, I found this lunch box set at Target.

lunch box containers
Stackable lunch box set.

It includes:
– 1 sandwich container that holds 2.6 cups/ 615 ml
– 1 side container that holds 1.2 cups/ 283 ml
– 2 snack containers that each hold 0.5 cups/ 118 ml
– 1 ice pack

What I like about this set, is that the components are stackable and it will easily fit into either of the lunch carriers that I have, and that I have containers to use for multiple dishes or snacks.

I’m looking forward to planning more lunches (planning is definitely needed for this), especially now that I’ll be at the office five days a week now.

How do you make the lunches you pack (for you or your kids) exciting?

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