Back to Bento Basics

Good morning, and welcome to another day of the Eats Amazing Back to School 2014 Giveaway Bonanza! Over the course of this week I have been helping you to prepare for the new school year in style with several reviews and some fantastic giveaways (10 prizes in all!) of some of my favourite lunch-making supplies.  For today’s prize I am offering a special ‘bento starter kit’ from the Eats Amazing Shop, so be sure to read on to find out how you can enter for a chance to win this brilliant prize!

Eats Amazing UK - Back to School 2014 massive Giveaway Bonanza - 6 days - 10 prizes - fantastic bento lunch gear to be won - enter here

If you are a new visitor to my blog, you may be wondering what this ‘bento’ that I keep referring to is, so I thought I’d go back to basics with a little explanation.  Bento is a Japanese word, meaning ‘convenient’, and it refers to a meal, packed in a box, most commonly for lunch.  It’s basically the Japanese equivalent of packed lunches.  What makes bento different from the packed lunches that we are used to here in the UK though is that all the food is packed tightly into one box and arranged so as to be pleasing to the eye as well as the taste buds.  There is no need for any excess packaging such as cling film, tin foil or plastic bags, and you can be really flexible with the kinds of foods you pack, which means that packing a healthy lunch couldn’t be easier!

Japanese Mums have been packing bento lunches for their children for years, and in some cases they get incredibly creative, sculpting elaborate designs such as cartoon characters or portraits of famous people from rice!  In recent years the idea of bento has also been taken up in other parts of the world, particularly America and more recently here in the UK, as bento offers an interesting and healthy alternative to our ‘traditional’ sandwich style lunch.  The Japanese tend to fill their bento boxes with the rice and vegetables that comprise the usual Japanese diet, but when it comes to the kind of foods you can put in your own bentos, there are no rules but instead, endless possibilities!

I started making bento lunches myself nearly two years ago when Small Child started school.  I stumbled across the idea entirely by accident, and was instantly attracted to it, as I had already struggled to come up with fresh ideas when I was packing lunches just for the two days a week that he was at pre-school.  Initially I just wanted to pack something healthy for him, but I soon discovered the joy of getting creative with food too.  Bento lunches don’t have to be ‘fancy’ though, and they are a lot easier to make then they may at first appear – just pop some food in a box, it’s that simple!

Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Make a list of foods that your child will eat and pin it to your fridge door for inspiration when you’re out of ideas.  For plenty of food ideas and a downloadable list visit my Lunch Box Food Ideas section.
  • Cut food into bite-size pieces – start with simple cubes or sticks or try fun shapes using mini bento cutters.
  • Use reusable silicone cups to separate different foods and help with portion control, whilst adding a splash of colour to the lunch.  You can use standard cupcake or muffin cases, or specialist bento cups (like these fun animal ones) that come in a range of fun shapes, colours and sizes.
  • Cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters or even play-dough cutters! Specialist sandwich cutters like these dinosaur, heart or butterfly cutters are great for avoiding too much bread waste, and cutter sets like the CuteZcute cutters make it easy to make a really fun bento lunch.
  • Use your leftovers! Chop leftover meat or veggies into small pieces and add to leftover rice, pasta or cous-cous to make a simple but tasty salad.
  • If you want to make a plain lunch instantly more fun add some bento food picks or cupcake picks.  They are used both for decoration and as a fun way for your child to pick up their food.

I hope that I have managed to show that making bento lunches doesn’t have to be complicated, and maybe inspired you to try it yourself?  In order to help one lucky Eats Amazing reader get started on their own bento journey, I’ve put together a lovely bento starter kit from the Eats Amazing Shop. The prize consists of one strawberry shaped Japanese bento box, one set of alphabet food picks, one set of crayon cupcake picks and a set of mini flower shaped silicone cups.  All items are brand new and unused and will be posted free of charge to the lucky winner.

Eats Amazing UK - Win  a fun bento box and starter kit including alphabet food picks crayon picks and silicone cups - click here to enter

 To enter, please use the rafflecopter below, and don’t forget to leave your comment on the blog post. Be sure to come back to the blog tomorrow to see what I have for you in my last giveaway of the week too!
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note the following giveaway terms & conditions:

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours of the giveaway ending.  If no response is received from the winner within 28 days then a new winner will be selected.

If extra entries are earned by following Eats Amazing on Facebook or Twitter, the winner must still be following Eats Amazing when the giveaway ends in order to claim their prize.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only.

Comments

  1. Sarah says

    I would love to try the Luxury Silicone Fruit and Veg Cups as they would be perfect to add a bit more variety and divide up small pieces of different veggies or berries.

  2. Sarina Scholes says

    I think the food picks and the cuteZcute animal palz are top of a long wish list. They would make my lunches for the girl and boy more interesting and might convert the boy to sandwiches! Thanks

  3. Toni Vesper says

    My daughter is starting Kindergarten next week. This is the first year she will be able to bring her own lunch. This is also the first year I will be doing Bento lunches! So very excited to get started. Thank for all the inspiration!

  4. Jessica catterall says

    I will start making bento luches for my son in september. He already has these kind of lunches but nowhere near as fun and its all jumbled up in his lunch box!

  5. Anna says

    We would just love this! I cannot express how excited I would be – let alone my children. I love everything this stands for – I’m definitely converted xx

  6. Christine Evans says

    Love that strawberry lunch box, thanks for the chance to win. Your blog is so full of inspiration I really love it, thanks!

  7. Amy Beckett says

    Love the Butterfly Sandwich Cutter – Can’t wait to make pack lunches. I know my partner will beat me with the creativity though.

  8. Melissa Overcash says

    This is EXACTLY what I need! I have been in that lunch box rut, and these creative ideas are so perfect! Thanks for sharing such awesome ideas!

  9. Susan Elai Carter says

    The Crayon cupcake picks in the giveaway as they look really fun and just the right size for little hands to grasp. From the shop I like the £2.95
    6 Piece Bento Cutter Set 7 as it would make the preparation of the food easier and look better than my trying freehand.

  10. Esther says

    Eeeek! So many gorgeous things to try with my daughter. She would love them all – I think the silicone cups, strawberry box and the sauce pots are particularly fabulous. Thank you for your inspiration! Xx

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