Two years ago, I read this post about bento boxes by one of my colleagues at Colorado Springs Moms Blog.
A lightbulb flashed in my head.
One of our sons was born prematurely and getting him to eat—especially to eat quickly—had been a never-ending struggle. His first couple of years in elementary school, I think he survived on organic Goldfish crackers. He wasn’t interested in hot lunch unless I came to school to walk through the line with him. So every day, I packed a robust lunch full of things he liked. And every day, his lunchbox was nearly full when he arrived home at the end of the school day.
I tried to remain calm, explaining that he really should try to eat more of his lunch. He said he didn’t have time, despite a 25-minute lunch hour. He was more interested in visiting with his friends than sifting through a pile of food-filled baggies. Most days, he came home grouchy. The only cure was calories, so I fed him big after-school snacks. But then, he wasn’t hungry for dinner. We were in a terrible cycle.
I worried. I tried various “solutions.” I worried some more.
Hmmmm…. Bento Boxes?
Then, I read the above post on bento boxes and ordered one that evening online. How our lives have changed since that day. He eats most (sometimes all) of his lunch. He has energy for an afternoon of school. And he walks through the front door relaxed and ready for whatever activities await. I still offer a snack after school. But it’s small, so he’s hungry for dinner.
Here are the nuts and bolts of the bento box. His happens to have six little compartments in it. Sometimes, I fill five compartments; sometimes all six.
At lunch time, all he needs to do is open one latch. Then, a kid-sized buffet sits before him. He doesn’t have to think about which baggie to open first or dig around. Everything is ready to eat.
I admire those parents who craft each piece of food into a cute animal or a tic-tac-toe game piece. But I will never be that parent. I buy things he likes (or things I think he might like) and put one small serving in each compartment. Sometimes, I cut them into bite sized pieces to add more speed to the lunchtime equation.
This little Japanese-style lunchbox allows him precious social time with his friends AND plenty of time to eat his entire lunch. He has gone through a major growth spurt. We are both happier.
A Few Ideas:
- Half sandwich, cut into two squares
- Slice of cheese cut into bite-sized chunks
- Two small cookies
- Small crackers, like Goldfish
- Leftover chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
- Carrot sticks
- Ranch dip in the smallest compartment for dipping
- Oranges, cut into bite-sized pieces
- Small fork, tucked into the long compartment
- Quesadillas, cut into pieces that will fit into compartment
- Salsa in the smallest compartment for dipping
- Leftover steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
- Small spoon, tucked into the long compartment
The possibilities are endless. Our bento box (Yum Box) simply fits into a traditional lunchbox. I throw in a napkin and a small juice box and it’s ready to roll. Our other son initially said he preferred a traditional lunch with his food in baggies. But after seeing his brother’s meal each day for about a year, he decided to go the bento box route, too. Fortunately, they’re durable—both boys are still on their first cases.
It takes me about 5 minutes longer to pack bento boxes each day. But it saves me countless boxes of baggies and so much wasted food. And sending my kids to school, knowing they’ll eat lunch? Priceless.