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!
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.
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!