Making bento for just yourself?

Bento-ing from: › ------------ › USA
Joined: 20 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 9 years 8 weeks ago.

Hello, I'm new to this site, though I have been looking at the pages for a couple months now. I'm a high-schooler currently, and really want to pick up the habit of making bento (/just packing lunch in general) for this school year, seeing as normally I completely skip lunch, or just eat junk food.

My family handles dinner etc, so I don't really have the control to make foods for dinner that I can save and toss in a bento for lunch the next day. It'll be just me doing this, and I don't eat a huge amount, so it'll be all too easy for me to end up with food being left over and going bad. I feel like this might be my main issue, as it seems like many of the recipes on this site have many, many parts to them, and for the little I'd have to make for just myself I don't think it's be worth the time. And I wouldn't want to make large servings, because given the choice, I'd rather make too-small servings rather than too-big and watching them go bad, seeing as I'm used to skipping lunch.

And I guess it'd be easiest to say that, while I'm not vegetarian, I don't really eat much meat or seafood. Out of them, chicken's probably the only meat I actually like. And I feel like meat would also be harder for me to make than other foods. On the plus side, I love rice and fruits, which are easy/effortless. I think I'd love cooked vegetables, but I don't really have any recipes for them that I've tried.

So I was wondering if anyone had any recipes, advice, or tips?

I'm sorry for the really long post everyone. I feel really bad now, because I'm so picky. =(
And... This seemed to be the right forum to post this in? I'm not too sure, but I think there are a few topics that are slightly similar, but I'm really sorry if this is misplaced.

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Bento-ing from: San Francisco
Joined: 5 Jul 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 36 weeks ago.
Re: Making bento for just yourself?

Hi, Sugar! Great that you want to get involved with bento making; you will be eating better, saving money and exercising a creative part of yourself. You may even find that you have more energy in the afternoon because you won't have that late afternoon blood sugar drop.

You say that your family takes care of dinner, how about getting involved in food prep? For instance, if you are in charge of making the salad, make it a little bit bigger and then just before adding the dressing, put some in your bento box for the next day. Then come morning, add some tasty toppings: chicken, salami, tuna, cheese, hard boiled eggs, whatever sounds good to you. Put some dressing in a small container/bottle and toss just before eating. Remember that dinner leftovers can be great in a lunch bento. If you help with dinner clean up, you can pick and choose things for your bento as food is being put away. If you have access to a microwave at school even better! Once your family realizes what you are doing, not only will they appreciate your help in the kitchen, they might even try to plan meals that will support your efforts -- they may even join you!

A few months ago I thought I'd try bento making by making one bento a week for my husband to take to work (that's now up to twice a week) I also began making bento for our plane trips and an occasional snack bento. Then a few weeks ago I realized that if I made a bento for myself at the same time that I made my husband's, it would only take a few minutes more. Now after I've been running around doing my errands and other household chores, it's wonderful to come home and open up my cute little bento box and find a beautifully arranged and tasty meal. It sez that someone cares about me. *_*

Bento-ing from: Brigham › Utah › USA
Joined: 6 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 8 years 47 weeks ago.
Re: Making bento for just yourself?

One thing is that... if you make something with a lot, you can always freeze what you have left for another lunch. I also suggest starting to get involved with dinner prep. Or even just requesting some smaller things.

To me, making my bento really became a way to sort of... love myself. It takes some effort, but once you get used to it, you can generally put together a lot of it the night before to make in the morning. And viola! A bento that will make others jealous, making them wonder who loves you enough to make such beautiful food.

And, eventually, you could start doing bentos for other people in your family. I make my sister one, and on days when I don't have to go to school, for whatever reason, I make one for my Mom and I to enjoy together.

As for recipes... honestly, this is one of the best sites for bento recipes. A lot of them are really, really simple.

Joined: 14 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 6 years 47 weeks ago.
Re: Making bento for just yourself?

I'm currently only making bento for myself as the sprog isn't back to school. I have a freezer stash, I do this when I have enough space and I bulk cook for the freezer. My stash includes things like portions of rice, tonkatsu pork, spring rolls, gyozas, sui mai. Frozen veggies are fantastic for bento, you just grab a handful from the bag and staem them while you're making something else for your box. A box of pre cut veggies lives in my fridge during the week too. I chop them all up on a Sunday night and keep them in lock&lock tubs. I now can throw my lunch together in 10 minutes the night before I need it. Then it lives in the fridge until the next day. I pack it in an insulated bag and I have a few small gel ccol packs that I throw in the bag next morning with my bento before I leave for work. If I'm making something warm like rice, I preheat my rice pot and nuke the rice from my freezer stash while I eat my breakfast. Easy peasey!


Re: Making bento for just yourself?

an idea if you plan on making small portions, try and invest in some silicon cupcake/muffin cases
you can set out individual portions and freeze them inside a tub (to prevent freezerburn/easier to handle) then just remove a portion the day before you need it for your lunch. they also look cute and add a bit extra colour to your bento.
suggest to your parents (if its possible) setting aside some time on a weekend to have a little cooking session, pick out some recipes that you want to try, get the stuff in and make and freeze some to use through the week, you'll have fun experimenting with new food and spend some quality time with your family while you do it :)

Bento-ing from: › USA
Joined: 12 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 7 years 9 weeks ago.
Re: Making bento for just yourself?

I also make bento only for myself. I only cook for myself, period, but despite the fact that I COULD make leftovers intended for bento, I've realized that I seldom do.

Rice is really easy to keep frozen, especially if you freeze it in the shape of your bento so you just have to pop it in.
Vegetables, I usually make fresh. They never seem to work well left over.
Gyoza are super-easy to deal with in the morning from frozen. You could make them yourself so they're healthier. (boil and coat with a drop of olive oil so they don't stick)
Soba noodles are also super-easy to deal with in the morning, and frozen sauce cubes keep them fresh.
Anything that you can marinate overnight and cook in the morning is good. My favorite is Maki's teriyaki chicken recipe.

All the pretty bento pictures SEEM to have many parts, but they don't have to. Mine is usually divided into carb/starch on the bottom, protein and veg on the top. Since I cook everything in small pieces (bite-sized chicken or broccoli pieces) I seldom have to deal with gap fillers, so my bentos are plain-looking but healthy.

I usually plan my bento by picking a protein from Maki's recipes, then adding veg and rice. I also don't mind eating the same thing for a week straight, so my food never goes bad. Decrease the proportion of food in the recipes for smaller amounts, and you shouldn't have a problem.

Congrats on making bentos! (Don't apologize for your long post; ours are long too!) I think the #1 thing for you to do, as everyone has suggested, would be to get involved in dinner prep. Remember, you don't have to cook the whole dinner every night. I'm sure your family would be happy if you did some work with the main course and let them handle the side dishes. Good luck! ^^

Bento-ing from: › ------------ › USA
Joined: 20 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 9 years 8 weeks ago.
Re: Making bento for just yourself?

Wow. I was not expecting so many replies. Thanks everyone!
I think I'm going to have to make a note page with all your advice. (But that's a good thing!)
Really, thank you a ton everyone. :D

Bento-ing from: Spokane › Washington › USA
Joined: 9 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 8 years 46 weeks ago.
You are so cool!

Sugar, what an impressive post. You've really organized your thoughts regarding what will and what won't work for you in bento-ing. It took me some practice to realize I couldn't just apply what worked for everyone else to my own bentos, and you seem to have figured this out beforehand. Good show!

The grandson who lives with me is younger than you are, but he's certainly in the same position in terms of not being in charge of most household meals. What works for him is to regard his bento-making as a sort of treasure hunt. He looks in the fridge to see what's already there that he might turn into bento "gold." A dab of cream cheese and some grated cheddar might get mixed with a splash of hot sauce and used to stuff celery from the bottom drawer, and put beside an egg he boiled the night before--that kind of thing. Since you're not in charge of grocery shopping, planning ahead might be less feasible than just training yourself to make "art" out of found materials in the cupboards.

Bento-ing from: Binghamton › New York › USA
Joined: 4 Oct 2009
User offline. Last seen 8 years 32 weeks ago.
Re: Making bento for just yourself?

Don't try to keep this a secret from your parents. If you outline the general reasons why you want to do this (health, saving money, not eating junk food) they are far more likely to be supportive than to brush you off. If you tell your (primary food-buy-and-cooker) that you want to learn to cook some quick things, they will probably be flattered and excited to teach you. By browsing this website I think you'll learn how to cook relatively healthy things very quickly - you can even get (primary food-buy-and-cooker) in on it - if you agree to cook the rice for a week every Sunday with help, you can portion out for the dinner meal, say 4 or 6 cups to feed the family in a big tupperware, and a smaller tupperware with 1/2 cup portions for your bento. Tell your parental unit that you will keep the fridge and freezer organized and clean in exchange for real estate inside of it - I know my mom is horrible at keeping her fridge organized and usually has half-dead veggies and approximately 6 lbs of cheese at any given time because she doesn't keep a running inventory. Whenever I go home on vacation (I'm a college kid) they invariably have several nights worth of leftovers in the fridge - your parents will probably be happy to see leftovers getting consumed with aplomb instead of rotting and getting wasted.

So in summary, my advice is - enlist help. Maybe make a bento for one of your parents every week to show them how awesome it is. If you've got kid brothers or sisters, offer to make a mini-bento of healthy stuff for them too sometimes to help out (primary-caretaker). If you show your parents you're being responsible not only for yourself but your family, they will be more likely to support you, and maybe buy fancy furikake, onigiri molds, or a sweet cinnamaroll box ;D

Bento-ing from: South Jersey › New Jersey › USA
Joined: 23 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 7 years 23 weeks ago.
Re: Making bento for just yourself?

I agree completely! For all of you who may have replied to my forum about a morning bento schedule, this is really what I wanted to get across (It seems like a stretch, I know) but this seems to be a pretty-common problem for bentoing high-schoolers. Now that I've read a couple more topics it seems I'm not the only one!!


Foodies do it better.

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