Bento box lunches for kids : The Mommy Files
Japanese bento boxes, stuffed with everything from berry salads to cat-shaped pieces of tofu, are all the rage when it comes to kids' school lunches. One local mom with an incredible knack for bento-lunch making has become a leader in this trend and shares her expertise in the popular blog Wendolonia.
Several years ago, Wendy Copley started packing very simple lunches in Japanese bento boxes to take to work. The El Cerrito mom's interest in them took off when her oldest son started preschool.
"I decided to have a little fun with the daily chore of packing his lunches by dressing them up and it turned into a full-fledged hobby," says Copley, mom of 2 boys, ages 6 and 2. "Some of the things I like best about packing bento lunches are that it's environmentally friendly -- my kids' lunches generate very little packaging waste -- and that it's creative and fun for me."
Copley buys a lot of her boxes at Ichiban Kan (stores in San Bruno, El Cerrito, and San Francisco) and Daiso (stores in San Jose, Daly City, Union City, Mountain View, Newark, and Cupertino). She also uses a Laptop Lunch, a lunchbox equipped with bento-style boxes.
She stuffs her boxes with a colorful variety of foods: berries, animal cookies, deli meats, pasta, dried fruits... And she has a lot of fun getting creative, by using cookie cutters to make cat-shaped sandwiches and food markers to put a smiley face on a hard-boiled egg.
Copley shares lunch-packing tips and images of her fabulous creations in her blog Wendolonia.
Here are some of the cutest school lunches that you've ever seen from Copley's blog (view more here):
Copley's best lunch-packing tips:
•Send foods that are lots of different colors: I try to have at least three different colors in each lunch I send but 4 or 5 is better. It's appealing to the eye, but it also is a good way to ensure that your child is getting fruits and veggies.
•Get creative with shapes: One of the fastest ways to make foods appealing to kids is to cut them into shapes. You probably already have some cookie cutters in your cabinets, or you can invest in some basic shapes like circles, stars or flowers. You can also use a regular knife to cut sandwiches into strips or triangles or cheese into matchsticks or cubes.
•Vary the textures of the foods you send: Soft, crunchy, chewy, creamy. It makes lunch more interesting.
•Give foods some kind of order. Stack crackers or line carrot sticks up into neat piles -- it makes the food look prettier and more appetizing.
•Find out what foods your kids' like: Take a few minutes to write up a list of foods that your kids like to eat and post it on your refrigerator (or you can just print Wendy's list: click here). On days when you just can't think of anything to put in your child's lunch, this list will get your brain going and save you a ton of time.
•Pack the bento box completely: If you don't pack the food snugly and right up to the top rim of the box, everything will mix together in transit and the little bit of extra time you spent to make the lunch attractive will have been wasted.