Wednesday, March 31, 2010


A friend from my Botany class found these cookies in Dubai and got a package for each of his classmates. He gave them out on a test day too!
They are small biscuit cookies, perfect for a bento dessert. I just used a few in a box for a friend. (Yes, I just made ANOTHER box. This time I used a normal deli container and used cupcake papers as both dividers and as a way to separate the top from the salad. It is basically a Grape Bento but with three cookies in addition too it because the box had some space left. I would have taken a picture, but my camera died. The picture above is from the webcam built into my laptop.)

Boxes in Advance

Today I made a bunch of lunches in advance. I have three part-time jobs and go to school practically full time and am often on the go. As a result my bentos are pretty "boring," consisting of items I KNOW will keep in the fridge and will not require reheating. Occasionally I make more interesting boxes with cooked foods, if I have time in the morning before I go someplace, but these boxes are examples of my routine, made in advance, lunches.
Box A: Basic Grape
Tier 1- grapes, saltines, cheese stars
Tier 2- almonds, celery, baby spinach, snow peas, broccoli, carrots
Box B: Basic Apple
Tier 1- apple slices, saltines, cheese acorns
Tier 2- same salad as Box A
Box C: Basic Banana (actually, the first time I have USED banana in a bento)
same salad as Box A, banana slices, saltines, cheese leaves
Box D: I Had Half An Apple Left (and did something a little different)
apple slices, raisins, celery, saltines, cheese slices (no shape this time)

I am one of those people who will eat the same thing every day if it works. This does, but I also want to try more things and work in some "actually Japanese" foods. I am a picky eater who is trying to branch out slowly, which will hopefully be helped by blogging. It would be boring if I only posted apple bentos, wouldn't it?

The dollar store Bob the Builder box is about the same size as the Snufkin one-tier, the only set back being the lack of divider. Luckily, apples and cupcake papers solved that "problem." (I may go back to the dollar store and grab the Strawberry Shortcake box of the same size at some point, but I do not think I will need it.)

I have left an open invitation to my little sister to take one of the boxes to school if she wants to. We will have to see if she does!

EDIT: Mom is taking the bird box tomorrow (replaced the saltines with rice crackers), kid brother is taking a one tier (not sure which), little sister possibly taking the other. I will take the apple bento because it is my favorite box and my favorite lunch all in one! If the family likes the lunches I may HAVE to get the other dollar store one tier in order to keep up.

A Bento For My Mom

I made this box on Sunday night for my mother to take to work with her. She had seen me making "apple bento" before and wanted one for her own. I asked her to take a picture of what was inside!

This is the top tier, the botton was a salad. I do not usually make an "apple bento" in this box because of its shape, but it is nice to know I can! In this tier: cheese slices cookie-cuttered into maple leaves, Late July saltine crackers, apple slices.
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Dollar Store Bento Finds

I LOVE dollar stores. There is a Dollar Tree by my school and today I stopped in to see if there was anything "bento" about. I found these guys in the "Baby" section!

Fun fact: Giraffes are very much a Joneko thing. I am sending these in my next package to her! The small canisters come in sets of two that include the spoon. They are meant for baby food, but are also good for small portions of chili, soup or applesauce or... whatever. (No rule saying you cannot use them for dry foods too!) The larger container is almost as big as a classic one-tier bento. Perfect for a light lunch.

(I put some cupcake papers in the large container for sending to Jo. They make good, inexpensive dividers. Alas, they are not sustainable. I am looking into a set of silicone baking cups that I can reuse.)

I picked up some koalas for myself because... really, it was a dollar for two and a spoon. I am fond of taking leftover chili with me to school and these are just perfect!

My final find was this little "sandwich" box. I actually got this on a previous dollar store run, but they are still in stock.
There are also a similar sized matching snack canister, which are round. I was not interested in them though, round containers are more difficult to pack sometimes. Both were by the "boring" tupperware and plastic organizers. This box is "small," I used it last night for a "dinner snack" while working at the library. It held a small salad, five ravioli "pillows" and a cupcake paper full of raisins without my having to smosh anything!

P.S. My "non-dollar store" bento boxes were posted on my other blog. Instead of reiterating the posts here I think I will just link you to the "bento box" catagory/label on that blog:

Celery - Nature's Bento Divider

I really do need to invest in some real dividers...the celery only works so well. Mmm apples and cheddar sitting in Cali Slaw sauce. Carrot sticks work well too, but only if you cut them right -- round does not work well for liquid-proof stacking.

(That is a saran-wrapped oblong tuna onigiri, or rice ball, with sesame seeds. My onigiri are always infamously lazy. I really adore the ones you can buy wrapped and ready-made at Japanese groceries. The plastic kept it from the same fate as the cheese-and-apples.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

American Bento?

You're going to notice as we post our lunches/dinners/whatever meal our bento is for the day that I don't really have a lot of the pretty supplies that Colleen does. Rather, mine aren't traditionally "bento." I do actually have a two-tiered, very typically male bento (with the henohenomoheji face even!), but components were lost in the wash by family members and thus it's far from air-tight. That, and since I'm trying to be a little healthier and slim down a little bit, allowing myself a nearly 900-calorie bento meal isn't very helpful.

But then I stumbled upon the most random end-cap at Waldbaums ever (not that I'm complaining):

Now...what does this look like to you? Because to me it looks like a bento set -- complete with box, snack container, and silverware. In fact, it looks like a perfect facsimile of a single-tier, even down to the size. (The Cars container, which was supposed to come with the round bowl and lid you see on the greenish set in back, is about... 5"x7" I want to say. I'll have to take a proper ruler to it to be sure.)

I passed this end-cap every time I got groceries, and I can't seem to keep myself from going at least once or twice a week. It was part in amusement and part in total fascination -- "What's with these American bentos?" I ended up buying a couple of snack containers for Colleen because they ended up being about thirty cents each. Eventually I got myself a sandwich box...which I've so far used for guacamole.

Finally, because Lightning McQueen there kept watching me go, I checked the price, assuming it'd be at least ten bucks. So when it said it was less than two...well come on, I did need a new lunch box.

It just goes to show you that these things can crop up in the strangest, most unexpected places, so keep your eyes open. Granted our friends on the clearance end-caps might not have been popular enough to make it in the mainstream supermarket, but the better for us!

Food-making is Serious Business

The fun thing about a bento is that you have to think not only of what goes into one, but where that food comes from. I don't know how long Colleen has been trying for, but I've been attempting a decent food garden since I was in grade school. It's only last year that I actually got a clue as to what I was actually doing!

So, as a reward for being so productive today (including getting groceries, partly for said bento-making), I went out to Home Despot to pick up the beginnings of the season's seed-starting. (I have no idea what it is with me and hyphenated nonwords tonight.)

Tonight's purchases:
Burpee ecofriendly seed starting 36-cell greenhouse kit
1 x "" Catnip
1 x "" Basil
1 x "" Pea, Super Sugar Snap
1 x "" Carrot, Royal Kuroda
1 x "" Cucumber, Early Pride Hybrid
1 x "" Tomato, Sweet Snack Hybrid
1 x "" Tomato, Super Sweet 100 Hybrid
1 x "" Spinach, Bloomsdale Long-Standing
1 x "" Spinach, Early Prolific Hybrid
1 x "" Sunflower, Super Snack Hybrid
1 x Burpee Booster, soil inoculant for beans and peas (I have no idea if this will work, but it was on a limited run so I figured I would grab one of the three there before they were gone.)

First off, you'll notice I have two different kinds of some plants. I'm going to be watching them pretty closely; the Sweet Snack Hybrid tomato is more a grape size and one of Burpee's "Prizewinner" line, and the Super Sweet 100 Hybrid is a cherry type billed as being very prolific. Prolific in my small space is good. As for the spinach, the Early Prolific is ready for harvest only about a week before the Long-Standing, but they both have different resiliencies (Bloomsdale is slow to bolt, giving more harvest time, but the Early Prolific is resistant to rust), and I don't know what's going to crop up this year (haha, "crop" up), so I want to be prepared.

At worst, I will have a LOT of spinach.

These may or may not be the only plants that end up in the garden -- it's a lot considering the 6' x 8' space I'm working in, which gets limited light and seems to have fairly poor soil. I'm going to see what I can do about rigging some sort of reflection cape to make the most of what we're getting. The space is right under the overhang of a tree that I couldn't possibly hurt just for the sunlight. I'm also going to see what all I can't do about setting up some tiers or raised beds, if that might make things a little easier/allow for more plants. I do know that I'd like, eventually, some strawberries and cantaloupe.

I just crunched one of the Super Sweet 100 seeds with my elbow. Might move these now.

And then, there's the seed-starter -- last year, I used cardboard egg cartons and potting soil sitting on a cooking pan too big for the stove. I wanted so badly to be eco. It didn't work well -- the cardboard didn't like being so wet so frequently, and our cats did. Potting soil and water consistently ALL OVER the windowsill. Bad move. So this year -- something different.

True to its eco name, you can see that it has very limited packaging, I would hardly call it "excess" -- that shiny lump of plastic wrap is the only part that isn't specifically useful or biodegradable. I was super-pleased to find too, on taking off the cardboard collar, a "Burpee Plant-O-Gram to help you keep track of your seedlings," even if I can pretty much guarantee I'm going to lose it immediately.

The kit also comes with a little packet of plant food, and each cell is equipped with a "super growing pellet." I figure when the seeds are germinated, I can move them to another container and start another set in the cells with new pellets. The pellet refills were refreshingly cheap -- only three dollars for the 36 -- and when you've used the greenhouse cells as long as you care too, they're made of PLA, a completely biodegradable plant-based plastic.

So, this is what I'm up to at this hour...that, and trying to figure out what's going into the bento for tomorrow.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bombshellcat's Buyer's Guide

There are SO many lists for bento box shopping, but most of the listings are expensive. Some people are luckier than myself and live near Japanese groceries or dollar stores. I DO have a few somewhat local options living in Western Massachusetts, but they are a little on the pricey scale. Support them if you can/are local too- but if you cannot, which I totally understand. I also listed some of the least pricey online options I have found so far.


88 Main St., Northampton, MA
28 Amity St., Amherst, MA
OR, online,

Pricey but cute bentos, including onigiri (meant for riceballs) boxes, can be found here. They also have some bento accessories like rice molds, mini-dressing/soy sauce bottles, sandwich boxes, ect.

Cornucopia Foods
150 Main St., Northampton, MA (inside Thorn’s Marketplace)

Carries “Laptop Lunches”, an American off-shoot of the bento box. “Pricey” $20-30 sets include box, inner boxes, silverware and an idea/recipe guide. Also a great place to get fun, healthy foods to fill your bento with!

Also highly recommend looking around at dollar stores.

Dollar stores have been known to carry bento and bento-like items at complete random. Dollar Tree, for example, often has “snack boxes” that work well for small meals on the go. They are also a good place to find small baking cups to use as dividers (including reusable ones!)
There is no rule saying it has to be an "official" bento box! Many people use Tupperware or other food storage containers. (I used a plastic deli box until I found a bento box I liked. )


All Things For Sale

Carries sets, accessories, boxes and bags, generally for very low, reasonable cost. Very good for starting out, since you can get a set with a box, a bad to carry it in, chopsticks, bento band, and sometimes even silverware for less than thirty dollars! Have not ordered from here so I am not sure about the shipping cost.

Fit Japan Store

A great place for inexpensive boxes. The shipping is $10 no matter how many boxes you buy. Suggest teaming up with other interested parties to take advantage of the flat shipping rate. Boxes themselves range from $2-$4 ! The closest you will probably find to a Japanese dollar store online! The boxes are fairly good quality too, so don’t let the price make you think something is wrong! Also has a good variety of accessories.


Try searching “bento box”, “lunch box”, and “snack box/container” and something you like is bound to come up. Sometimes the boxes are pricey, but if you look carefully (or get lucky with an auction that starts at $0.99 and never goes up) you can find cute, cool inexpensive boxes and accessories- and sometimes sets. (Look up “putifresh” for some cute fruit themed sets with bag, box and utensils!) Shipping and customer service varies from seller to seller, so watch out!

Enjoy your box search! But more importantly: enjoy your lunch!

-B. Cat