Back To School Bentos: Containers

July 29, 2014

The school year cometh, meaning you’ve already been pinning lunch ideas, fall outfits, and celebratory mommy mocktails like crazy. You’re almost there, mama; just a few weeks of summer left.

Which means, though, just a few weeks to get your lunchbox plans together. If you haven’t given it a second thought yet, not to worry: I’m starting a new back-to-school bento series with packing tips, product recommendations, and links to meal ideas.

First things first: containers. I blogged about them a while ago based on stainless steel vs. plastic, but this time, I’m rounding up top picks based on the number of compartments. If you’re a beginner, a divided container takes a lot of guesswork out of lunch-making and forces you to pack more variety–which gives your kid more healthy options.

In a lot of ways, picking the “right” one is personal, so consider all factors when buying, like:

  • budget
  • material
  • ease of use
  • ease of cleaning
  • best fit with your kid’s eating habits

My original advice still stands and is worth a quick read. After a full year of bento-making, consider these other pointers, too:

  1. Think vertically. Stacking sandwich halves on top of each other, for example, opens up space for more food vs. leaving a whole sandwich flat with dead space above it. Think of it like packing a box when you’re moving instead of like laying out a meal on a plate.
  2. Get multiple containers. No need to buy out whole shelves; but different containers fit different needs. What’s more, if you make lunch often, switching off helps each container last longer, especially if you’re using plastic.
  3. But don’t go crazy. I know that it seems like I’m pushing all these products on you, but don’t buy for buying’s sake. Read reviews, google image examples, and see what fits you and your child best.

Some products do consistently stand out, though, and ae popular among bento bloggers because they get the job done. So here are my recommendations, with links to buy for each.

 

school bento containers two sections framed

TOP: lunchbots duo $18.99 | goodbyn small meal $6.50 | BUILTNY bento (part of a set) $29.99
BOTTOM: U-Konserve $15.95 | planetbox shuttle $39.95 | steeltainer snack size $12.95

 

school lunch bento containers 3 sections framed TOP: easylunchboxes set of 4 $13.95 | lunchbots trio $21 (a new bigger size here for $28) | goodbyn hero with sauce containers $12.95
BOTTOM: yumbox panino $30 | goodbyn bynto $8.99 | ecolunchbox 3 in 1 $26

 

school bentos 4 section containers framed

(shown with food to show how much will fit, Which is, a lot.)
TOP: lock n lock quad $6.75,  image via momables | lunchbots quad $21.99, image via bentoriffic | laptop lunches $23.99, image via another lunch
BOTTOM: lunchbots cinco $29.99, image via lunchbots | planetbox rover $39.95, image via wendolonia | yumbox original $28, image via wendolonia

Now here’s a peek at a few containers I own, most listed above. Three-sections seem the most straightforward (sandwich, two sides). Take a look at how they compare in size:

three section bento containers comparison

TOP: goodbyn hero | goodbyn bynto | easylunchboxes
BOTTOM: ecolunchbox 3 in 1 | lock n lock quad (one side taken out) | BUILTNY bento set

A final word: Don’t discount no-compartment containers. Silicone muffin cups make great dividers. A few for size reference:

one section bento container comparison

TOP: ecolunchbox blue water bento $22.50 (review)| BUILTNY bento | steeltainer
BOTTOM: frego $17.95 (review) | lunchbots clicks small $24.99 (part of a set) | innobaby $16 (review)

Does this help, or just make things more confusing? ;) Ask away in the comments below.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+share this

You say Celery, I say Log Cabin

July 25, 2014

Some people are bemoaning the cool summer weather we’ve been having, but I, for one, love it. It reminds me of the beginnings of fall weather, which I love.

celery log cabin food art

Celery might not be a top comfort food or a snack to cozy down with, but turn it into a homey log cabin and your kids just might fight over who gets to eat most of it. True story.

Ingredients:

  • celery
  • baby kale, baby spinach, and baby chard
  • organic cheddar cheese
  • orange slice

Easy peasy. For the roof, cut the celery pieces underneath so that it resembles a pixelated pyramid (the best way I can describe it), then just balance the two angled pieces on top. My goal is to do more photo-by-photo tutorials in the future so you can see the smoke and mirrors magic that goes behind the food art!

 

Review: Frego Glass Container

July 22, 2014

When I started researching bento containers, glass wasn’t high on the list. Clearly, glass and kids don’t often mix well. But at some point in the school year, my 9-year-old casually mentioned that his teacher had a microwave in her classroom and that kids were using it to heat up their lunches. The floodgates of lunch-packing, dinner-leftover-using possibilities were flung open.

Just one problem: my favorite bento containers were stainless steel, which made me resort to plastic. I get squeamish microwaving plastic. But it was a hit I was willing to take, and I’d put reheatables in silicone cups as much as possible. Still, it wasn’t the perfect solution.

Enter the Frego.  I discovered this mom-invented brand recently, and wish I had sooner. It’s a 2-cup glass container nestled in a sturdy silicone sleeve. Both the borosilicate glass and silicone skin are nice and thick; I can’t imagine the glass shattering even if it slipped out of my kids’ hands.

Photo (1)

Photo (2)

There are a few other silicone-sleeved glass containers out there, but this is the first I’ve seen that has so much air space between the sleeve and glass, meaning it’ll act as a cushion if it ever gets dropped. The lid is, in a word, awesome. It covers both the glass and the sleeve, making it leakproof. Observe:

Frego Glass Container

A few fast facts worth noting:

  • BPA, PVC, polystyrene and lead-free: no nasty stuff leaching into food
  • Freezer, fridge, microwave, oven, and dishwasher-safe (LOVE this. And the silicone sleeve means my guy can grab it out of the microwave without burning his fingers.)
  • Borosilicate glass is super sturdy and durable
  • Holds two cups/16.9 ounces
  • Multiple colors available

I took it for a spin while running errands, and it held up beautifully:

frego full

Now if there were only a way to make glass containers with built-in dividers, that would be the perfect bento box! The Frego retails for $17.95 on the website, or $17.99 at The Container Store. 

Frego Glass Container color options

Disclaimer: I received the Frego container to review, but all opinions are my own.

 

Organization in the Bag

July 21, 2014

You should see my purse. Actually, it’s not even a purse; it’s whatever I found last minute in the pit of my closet because of chocolate milk spilled all over the other last-minute bag I was using. Because, you know, I’m on my third kid, which makes me an expert in what I need vs. what I don’t need, and a dedicated diaper bag with a waterproof interior is so only for first-timers.

I’m a bit of a mess.

When I was younger, I’d roll my eyes as my mom would rummage through her purse in a frantic search for her keys, tossing out balled-up napkins and used-up pens in the process. Even as a kid I knew it was pretty ridiculous.

But now that’s me. I’m my mother. And it’s pretty ridiculous.

Because on top of balled-up napkins I’ve got cracker dust, a few bribe lollipops, band-aids, eos lip balm embedded with toddler teeth marks, leaves my kids gathered from a walk a few weeks ago, and quite a few broken crayons.

Clearly, I need help. It came in the form of a collaboration with Reuseit not too long ago to showcase these reusable plastic baggies. They’re by Blue Avocado, and they’re called (re)zips. I’ve seen them at Target, so they’re readily available, and come in several different sizes with thick and pliable material, satisfying zipper closures, even gussets on a couple of them. I put together this little montage on Instagram to show how versatile they are.

blue avocado rezips

It’s nice to feel organized. Instead of rummaging through my bag and hoping for the best, I just have to whip out what I need and everything else stays in place. Not to worry, though; cracker dust and stray lollipops–some half-eaten–still live in my purse. Now if there were just a product to organize one’s brain…

Food Art-Friendly Ice Cube Trays

July 15, 2014

Several months ago I picked up this ice cube tray from Target and made some fun smoothie yogurt-toppers out of them:

bird coulis

Now that we’re in the thick of summer, I figured an ice cube tray roundup was in order. Think of the possibilities: fruit-infused ice shapes for your kids’ drinks, green smoothie shapes, jello, or mini popsicles. You could even mold granola bites or rice for savory snacks. After browsing Amazon for way too long, here are some fun finds:

 

71UtpgbulfL._SL1500_

smiley face

symbols tray

symbols

pacman ice cube tray

pacman

octopus ice cube tray

octopus

legos ice cube tray

lego

ring ice cube tray

ring

numbers ice cube tray

numbers

mustache men ice cube tray

gentlemen

music notes ice cube tray

music notes

star wars ice cube tray

storm troopers

letters tray

alphabet set

fishy ice cube tray

fish

Go crazy! Let me know if you pick up any of these–I’m partial to the fish bones and the typography ones.