Happy 2022! Hope everyone surviving well so far. Kids are finally back to school and Bento making starts again. Before having kids, whenever I see any cute and yummilicious school bento, it becomes my dream to make bento for my kids. I even attended a food art lesson with my friends! Finally, when Yi He started her Primary school 4 years ago and I get to realize my dream! But the reality is always cruel, 现实总是残忍的. Soon I realized doing cute bento not only required skills, practice and time. Time is always not on our side if you are doing bento early in the morning unless you don’t mind waking up 1-2hrs earlier, but not for me.
Morning can be a stressful thing, rushing to get kids getting dressed, getting them to eat their breakfast and preparing their bento. With friends and followers asking me for tips on bento making, I have listed down what I have experienced and learned through these 4 years of bento making! Hope all this will help you a little easier in your bento making!
1. Getting The Right Bento Box
The first step, of course, is getting the right bento box. I have tried various bento boxes, all have their pros and cons, but I decided to stick with the Sistema lunch box. Because it’s lightweight, doesn’t grow mould easily and is easy to clean. Choosing the right bento box still depends on your needs and budget.
Yumbox, the popular lunch box French, is well-liked in a lot of parenting bento making groups. Its colourful design, various compartment makes bento making a lot easier when you plan to pack a variety of food for your child. They have various designs to suit your needs, because of that, a lot of parents like to buy the whole range of collections.
A cute cartoon stainless steel lunchbox is commonly found in most of those cute bento making photos. It’s small, so it makes bento making design a lot easier and nicer. Because it’s small, the food design will be quite compact, so the food design will stay during transportation. This also prevents over packing of food if your child is a small or slow eater.
Here comes my favourite lunchbox, Sistema. Sistema is a well-known food storage container from New Zealand. Like I mentioned previously, it is lightweight and easy to clean. I have 3 different designs, but what I like most is their Snack Attack Duo and Small Split.
2. Bento Mould, shape cutters and pins
Since we are making kids bento, how can we miss out on all the cute little mould and cutters? If you are not good at cutting, all the cute moulds and cutters can help you save a lot of time. You can get most of these bento accessories from Daiso or an online store like Shopee or Box and Pins (key “qiqi10” for 10% discount). All these moulds and cutters can help to speed things faster, but also make your child’s bento more appetising.
3. Prepare ahead
Always prepare ahead. You can plan a week of bento so you can buy the ingredients over the weekend.
Like you can cook rice the night before, or set the cooking timer.
Defrost or marinate the meat the night before. All this preparation will cut short your preparation time.
Besides the main recess food, I always prepare a snack for the kids, so I will bake bread/cake or cook dessert the night before. This method is excellent, especially if you only plan to prepare 1 snack for your child.
4. Use frozen food
I used quite a lot of frozen food for the kid’s bento, especially the vegetables. Initially, I buy fresh vegetables and I realised they can’t keep very long even though I cook every day. And the kids end up eating it for lunch and dinner because I’m trying to use it before it gets spoiled.
Frozen broccoli, cauliflower, lotus, etc are good bento ingredients. They are also very easy to prepare by microwaving, steam or boiling. And according to research, frozen vegetables generally retain many of their nutrients. Although certain vegetables may decrease their nutritional value. But bear in mind, for fresh vegetables, the way you keep, how long you keep and the cooking method will also decrease the vegetable nutritional value. So frozen vegetables’ benefit outweighs fresh vegetables (unless freshly pluck immediately). Most importantly, they can last very long!
5. Use of kitchen gadgets
Getting a smart gadget can help you speed up your cooking process. You can use a cooker with a timer, Thermomix or Ninja. While the gadgets doing their “work”, I will take this time to prepare myself and the kids.
Preparing bento early in the morning can be a stressful thing, especially when you are rushing for time and chasing the kids to prepare. But with proper planning and early preparation, it can be a fulfilling and an enjoyable thing.
Whatever reason that makes you want to prepare bento, just remember to treasure the moment, because I don’t think they will want bento when they go to secondary school.
Hope my tips helps!