Lisa’s Letters Home: Sorta, Kinda Bento Box

Lisa’s Letters Home: Sorta, Kinda Bento Box

So what kind of lunch do you pack for a little girl who doesn’t really like bread or wraps? (I know – I’m amazed we share genes, sometimes.) She had her very first corndog the last time we were in the US, and she meticulously picked the batter off and just ate the hotdog. She eats the toppings off pizza and leaves the crust. She unravels wraps and dissects its innards. Bread products just ain’t happening in her lunchbox.


At home, she loves having “meat and cheese platters”, which is just a fancy way of saying slices of meat with chunks of cheese on the side. She’s more about eating lots of little things, which led me to think of making her a bento. Now before you start getting all huffy and accuse me of being a show-off, let me explain that I don’t really put that much effort into my bentos. I don’t cut foods into jaunty shapes and I don’t carve small animals out of carrots. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. Some bentos I’ve seen have been amazing. Little works of art, which is very much a part of Japanese cooking. I just don’t have the time or patience for it. I also don’t want my kids expecting everything I make to look pretty, because some days it’s just gonna be frozen fish fingers on a plastic plate.

I found some great lunchboxes from Sistema that have a compartment on the bottom thick enough for sandwiches, and three smaller compartments on top. Even if you don’t do a bento, they’re so useful because you don’t have to wrap everything up in plastic to keep it separate. They also come with little bottles so I put a little diluted juice in them instead of spending the extra money on juice boxes. I am both environmentally friendly and cheap!

I found some silicon cupcake liners on sale, and snapped them up for the lunchboxes. They work really well to keep all of Mia’s little bits separate. My son Jack loves them, too. He said to me one day, “Mummy, I really love your pack lunches. I like them so much more than school dinners.” Awww how lovely, I thought – he prefers mummy’s food to the school’s! Then he added, “I can go outside and play quicker when you pack my lunch. I don’t have to stand in line and wait for a school dinner.” Oh. Alrighty then.

My bentos are pretty simple: meats (ham and other deli meats), cheese, fruit, hummus with veggies, and crackers. I did once, in a fit of insanity, use cookie cutters to trim the crusts off sandwiches for my son. I’m sorry, I thought it was cute. I was spending quite a lot of time on Pinterest back then, and it was giving me all sorts of ideas.

Bento boxes don’t have to be about one-upmomship; they’re fun and I think they’re a little easier. Especially if I stay away from the cookie cutters.

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  1. Julie Crooks
    May 04, 10:06 Reply

    Love this – where did you get the boxes? Meg’s ok with wraps & sandwiches now again but would prefer something like this (& I cut the crusts off for her otherwise she throws half the sandwich out with the crust she leaves). Dan also hates sandwiches, many bread products & butter/spread (he eats dry toast) so these would be great for school trips, scouts etc. You must give me your sources.

  2. Lisa Durbin
    May 04, 11:18 Reply

    Hi Julie – I got them on Amazon. They do the bigger ones like the one in the photo, and smaller ones. I bought both – I think I’m a bit addicted!

  3. Jan @Family Bites
    May 06, 09:03 Reply

    Cute! We do the same thing for lunch and call it a Parisian Picnic – cured meats, cheeses, grapes, snap peas…but we always have to have a baguette too!

  4. Anne
    May 06, 22:42 Reply

    These fabulous lunchboxes actually come from New Zealand. They have lots of different types and over the past year they have been turning up at Old Navy. We have about 4-5 different kinds – from small containers to ones for salad and an all in one lunchbox. The fact that they are colourful as well is an added bonus.

  5. Lisa Durbin
    May 08, 16:38 Reply

    I like the Parisian Picnic idea! Similarly, we were saying the other day that our daughter must be part French. That’s definitely how she likes to eat.

    Anne, ah I never knew that, thanks! I’m also a fan of their Klip It containers.

  6. Romana
    August 30, 11:53 Reply

    Great idea, but I have a question. Do the food items not fall all over the place, inside the “bento” box, since they are only separated by being placed in silicone cup cake moulds, sans lids? My kids put their lunch packs in sideways into their back packs. Then their back packs are tossed in all sorts of directions on the way to and from school. It would be a lunch salad inside their bento boxes! Thanks!

  7. Lisa Durbin
    December 03, 06:31 Reply

    Oh sorry Romana, I only just saw your comment now! No, the silicon cups stay in place because the compartment is so shallow – the upper bit that closes down keeps it secure. The bottom is about the height of a sandwich, the cups are held in when shut. The only thing that doesn’t stay put is hummous, so I now put it in a very slim Klip-it box instead of the silicon cups.

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