Thursday 23 September 2010

Bento Basics 弁当

I was talking to Liz over the summer about making packed lunches more interesting, and she said she has started taking a Bento Box to work. Bento (written 弁当) is the Japanese word for “Meal in a Box” and you can find a useful and informative website all about it here.


Liz said she’d bought herself a Lock’n’Lock box with three compartments, and she had been planning a week’s worth of meals in advance. Also, every weekend, she was cooking a large amount of rice, and freezing it in individual portions, so that she can easily defrost a day’s worth.


There is a cookbook associated with the JustBento website- but the site itself has so many brilliant ideas that I can’t see the point of paying out for it.

Well, I got my box [thank you John Lewis] and planned my meal last night.

Left over couscous, with nuts, plus a mixed salad, and some red and white grapes.

[Carbs; couscous, Protein; nuts & beans, Fruit&veg; salad & grapes]


I thought it looked very tasty and I popped a fork and paper napkin in the top and snapped the lid on. Then I went to school and put it in the fridge. However two of my 1-1 pupils were absent – so I came home at 12.30 and was able to eat my lunch with Bob!

This is the second week that I have ended up with a free Thursday afternoon. This time I managed to do the ironing and go with Bob to a Care Home Service. However, I am unexpectedly in school tomorrow, so I had better start planning something for my lunch!

I like the system explained on the website [the menus given include information on both time taken and calorific content]

  • Use bentos to incorporate more healthy food into daily eating. Use as much vegetables/vegetable products as possible, watch the amount of oil and fat, and try to stay away from processed foods.
  • Try to keep the total caloric value of bentos to under 600 calories.
  • Keep maximum time spent on assembling at 30 minutes, but most of the time aim at well under 20 minutes.
  • Choose food which is tasty and safe to eat at room temperature, leak- and spoil-resistant, and filling.
  • Keep things simple, but they should look appetizing
  • Try to keep the cost down as much as possible.

Liz helpfully emailed me and said she likes these recipes

Tsukune (made with turkey mince as it's easier to get and cheaper)

Kinpira (good with carrots or broccoli stem)

Tofu burgers, Lentil burgers, Baked tofu, Tofu cutlets

Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette)

[A lot of her bentos involve some form of mini burger, but at least there's variety in whether it's meat, tofu, or bean based. But I loathe tofu, so I won’t be doing mini tofu burgers]

I hope to try some of these out next week [Bob is away at 2 conferences] They will make a pleasant change from the sandwich, yogurt, orange combination which has been my standard staffroom lunch for 30 years! Although it is possible to make even a humble ham sandwich a little more exciting if you try!


Thank you for the idea, Liz!


  1. Sounds very healthy Ang.I remember when I was teaching, we just used to send a child down to the Canteen with a request for a was one of those old village school sites with buildings everywhere.

  2. Lovely blog (I came over from Troc, Broc and Recup). I read loads, which is always a good sign, isn't it? Drop by my place some time, you'll be very welcome.

  3. Cute sandwich idea!
    We sometimes get a Bento Box at a local Japanese restaurant. Good idea for lunches. Thanks for the links.


  4. I have never heard of this before, I'll have to check it out! Have a great day!


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