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10 Reasons to Pack a Bento Lunch for Your Child

When my oldest child was born, he was breastfed exclusively.  Six months later, he was dining on carefully crafted homemade baby food. None of that mattered as he became a typical picky toddler asking for pizza, pop-tarts, and macaroni for every meal by the age of two.  I sadly sent him off to kindergarten with a constant rotation of PB+J and turkey sandwiches.

Before the next school year, I began researching lunch ideas and came across what’s referred to as a “bento” lunch.  Originally a Japanese concept, a “bento” is simply a home-packed lunch of a single serving size in a reusable container and often made decorative.  They can be quite elaborate, or they can be quite simple.  I decided to try it with my kids, and it was a smashing success.  We are still packing bento lunches even as my oldest heads to sixth grade.

bento lunch

The lunches are less cute now, but there are many other reasons to pack bento style:

  1.  I save money by using reusable containers.  We have been using the same containers for years.  I use Sistema lunch cubes and divided Ziploc containers (which have been discontinued, but you can find a similar container HERE.)  Zip baggies are rarely seen in a lunchbox around here.
  2. I save money on food.  I’m able to efficiently utilize leftovers by immediately packing them into the containers. I rarely purchase individually packaged foods since the containers hold individual servings from larger packages.
  3. I control the portion sizes.  I have growing boys, and 5 crackers in a Lunchable don’t really cut it.  When I make the homemade version, I can give them good slices of meat, real cheese, and plenty of crackers.
  4. Everything is ready to eat.  Most of the time, my kids can open the lid and start eating.  While other kids are opening multiple packages or waiting for help from a lunch monitor, mine are eating.  When they only get 15-20 minutes for lunch, this one is a biggie.  When they were smaller, things were also cut bite size to let the feasting happen even easier.
  5. It is so much faster to pack.  Having the containers actually makes the choices easier, even with the simplest of lunches.  Sandwich, goldfish, apple slices, fruit snacks–all in their sections in a snap.
  6. I know what my kids are eating, both quality and quantity.  I’ve taught my kids to bring their containers home without throwing anything away so I can see if they’re finishing their food. After working for a year in our school cafeteria, I was shocked by how much food (and money!) gets thrown away at school.
  7. I can make it fun.  This was a large factor when they were younger and picky, and they were so much more willing to try things when they were presented in a fun way.  If cucumbers are more delicious when cut into stars, then by all means!  My youngest is 8, and she still appreciates a fun shaped sandwich or decoration.  I like to surprise the boys every once in a while, too, but I know those days are numbered.
  8. I can offer them unique options.  Even when it’s not cute, it can be different.  Nachos have been a big hit in our containers, as well as breakfast choices like sausage & gravy or pancakes & sausage.  It’s also easier to individualize their lunches to their preferences.
  9. It’s easy for the kids to do it themselves.  As they’ve gotten older, they have started to pack their own lunches more.  The containers are an easy guide and allow the perfect amounts.
  10. INTENTIONALITY.  I believe that anything we do with intention and purpose is going to be better.  I’ve shown my kids that their nutrition and health is important and that I value them enough to make an effort.

That picky little boy of mine has turned into a fruit & veggie devourer, and I honestly believe that good lunch packing has made all the difference. We gave him choices without the frustration of a dinnertime confrontation, and he rose to the occasion.

bento lunch

We pack lunches like this during the summer for fun on-the-go, and we often use our containers for snacks after school or for movie nights as well.  It encourages me to pack my lunch when running errands or joining the kids at school for a little one-on-one time, and I find myself making healthier choices, too.

Have you ever tried bento style lunch packing? What questions do you have? Or what are your best tips? Share with us!

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6 Responses to 10 Reasons to Pack a Bento Lunch for Your Child

  1. April September 7, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

    I was just wondering how you keep your apple slices from turning brown. Thanks

    • Brie Clark
      Brie Clark September 7, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

      Hi April! You can try dipping or soaking them in lemon water or lemon-lime soda like Sprite, especially if you’re cutting them ahead of time. However, if I’m cutting them and putting them straight into a sealed bento box, I don’t do anything and they’re okay for the couple of hours til lunch. Hope that helps!

  2. Michelle September 20, 2016 at 6:57 am #

    On fruit (he only likes the jarred mandarin oranges. With other containers he complains that the juice mixes with the other foods. Do thenones u use do that? Thx!

    • Brie September 29, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

      Hi Michelle! I use my Ziploc containers when I have a fruit with juice or anything “saucy”. Unfortunately, the divided Ziploc container is no longer available. I used to have a container made by Gerber that had a silicon-lined lid on one section that was very leakproof. And sometimes I just send separate containers altogether if that’s just the best way it works.

  3. Tamisah Quick September 29, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

    Hi! Seen your Facebook post an I’ve been packing my daughter lunch this year! I’m new to the game kindergarten! I did want to know about the cheese you pack. What cheese do you use an to keep it cool?

    • Brie September 29, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

      Hi Tamisah! I pack all sorts of different cheeses, usually based on what I get a good deal on since I’m a couponer. String cheese and babybel cheese are great as side items. When I pack it with a homemade lunchable, like cracker stacker style, I just make sure to use REAL cheese. I love a processed american slice on a burger, but it melts horribly in a lunchbox. My kids each have a different favorite cheese, of course, but it does better in the lunchbox as long as it’s a real natural cheese. As far as keeping it cool, you can freeze it a bit, but that might make it crumbly. Otherwise a lunchbox ice pack works

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