Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

PirateFoxy
Joined: 6 Jan 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 42 weeks ago.

I have 9 hours of college classes in one day this term, and the food on campus is AWFUL, so I want to get myself in gear and start doing a proper bento type thing so I'm not starving and end up hitting up vending machines for food.

The catch is that I need something easily portable that will actually hold either two reasonably sized meals, or a decent meal and a couple of hearty snacks. (I can always get something to eat when I get home late, if I haven't had enough, but I need to at least be not actually distractingly hungry, you know?)

I was looking at the Happy Tiffin website and considering a medium or large two-tier, plus one of their lunch bowls just to see what they're like[1]. I had originally been looking at the Laptop Lunch, but several folks told me they thought that might be a bit too small for my needs.

Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? I'm also curious what the Happy Tiffin bags are like, since I would like an insulated carrier for it, but the ones they have are pretty expensive.

[1] - My mom is on chemo right now and may be having a bone marrow transplant soon, and has been told that during that process, while her immune system is recovering, she shouldn't use plastic containers that are reusable because they can get micro-scratches in them that can harbor bacteria. So the thought is perhaps we'll get a few more for her to use if they seem well-designed.

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maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 4 weeks 16 hours ago.
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

I would just use two bento boxes, rather than straining to look for a 2-in-one solution. That also helps you differentiate between the two. Be sure to pack things in the dinner bento box that really keep well, or use an ice pack with it, for safety reasons.

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PirateFoxy
Joined: 6 Jan 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 42 weeks ago.
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

I'm not against having two distinct boxes, so long as they can be packed in some way that would keep them together and easy to carry. (Like if they'd sit side-by-side in a nice insulated bag, for example, so I'd just have the one lunch bag in addition to my backpack.) That was one of my thoughts about the tiffins - one level for lunch, one level for dinner.

I am wondering a bit how I'll keep the dinner bento 'safe' - I suspect there will be a lot of tucking in little ice packets (from those blankets you can cut up?) and also using frozen things like edible ice packs. (I don't start classes for another week, so next week I plan to spend some time making fruit-juice jelly cups to freeze, since they can then be edible ice packs plus provide dessert. :) )

I don't really want to eat after 9pm, when I get home, but I may also end up, just for safety reasons, packing more of a 'snack' dinner bento and then having something waiting at home for the real meal, since a lot of snack food type items (fresh vegetables with a frozen container of dressing, for example) do keep better at room temperature.

Joyce
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

I have a three tier tiffin, and it's perfect for two meals + snacks, 1 thing per layer (I'm usually packing breakfast + lunch). Mine is a To-Go Ware one (http://www.to-goware.com/) and I've been nothing but pleased. The bottom two layers are about 2 cups each, and the top if 2.5 cups, and it snaps off into its own layer (handy if you have a class day where you just need lunch and want to carry the whole thing.) I find it a lot easier than wrestling with multiple containers/two boxes/what have you, but your mileage will vary and all that.

PirateFoxy
Joined: 6 Jan 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 42 weeks ago.
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

I got a Happy Tiffin two-layer large (6" diameter) - I drew circles out on paper and it looks like it should be a reasonable size for packing decent meals even if sometimes I do bulkier stuff like a sandwich. I also got an insulated lunch bag that (at least online) looks more like a purse than a lunch bag, and should be able to fit a water bottle or insulated thermos jar also. So fingers crossed it'll work out. :)

(I also got a couple of their lunch bowl things that supposedly seal really well - I want to see how they hold up; I'm thinking if they are leak proof like they claim then I could also use the small one for taking something like yogurt as a snack - plain yogurt with frozen fruit 'cubes' plunked in to keep it cool, and then wrapped in a layer of quilted fabric - I wouldn't count on it to stay cold for the whole 9 hours, but it'd be a nice snack to have during a short break.)

(Of course, there is also a thermal bento set on ebay I have wanted forever that is taunting me - I just really like the design on it - but I am trying to resist. This is how it starts, isn't it? You buy one, and then your kitchen is overrun...)

Actually, speaking of - since you also use a tiffin, are there any bento accessory type items that you really find indispensable? I have a pile of cupcake liner things already (yay, holiday sales) but I'm trying to convince myself that no, I do not actually need heart and star shaped egg molds at this time, or those pink and blue pig bottles that come with wing stickers. (Flying pigs! They crack me up! But I hardly ever use soy sauce as a condiment so what would I use them for?)

Look for a microwave

You should check for microwave ovens on campus as well. Thermal products are great, but they are heavy. If you know there's a convenient microwave, you can use lighter containers.

Most Japanese bento containers can be microwaved without their lids on. Tupperware has some nifty containers that have steam vents, so you don't have to remove the lid at all.

asuvas
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

Regarding the cute egg molds and pig-shaped bottles: You don't NEED them, but they are very cheerful. For my gluten-free kids, bento lunch means their friends envy them instead of feeling sorry for them, so cute egg molds are worth a little money, and they're pretty cheap on Amazon. The pig bottles can hold olive oil and vinegar, or catsup that is a bit watered down. If you have room for them and a bit of spare cash, they are good conversation starters and make your lunch more fun.

PirateFoxy
Joined: 6 Jan 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 42 weeks ago.
Re: Look for a microwave

There is *a* microwave (just one!) but I'm waiting to see what the room assignments will be so I can find out if I'll have time to use it. (We don't really have a campus, since the college is in the middle of downtown and has just sort of grown here and there as space in buildings became available, so some of the buildings are quite close and you'd have time to run and use the microwave, and others aren't.)

I have a thermal jar/mug thing already - I think for warm meals I may be stuck doing something like getting the jar and a stew or chili or curry really quite warm, and then pouring that out over room-temperature rice to eat. (Possibly not ideal from the perspective of food safety, combining two temperatures like that, but if I eat it right away it shouldn't be too much of a problem since it won't be in the 'risk zone' for that long.)

April Dawn
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

I have several tiffin tins, three of which I bough at HappyTiffin.com. The other one I bought at World Market Cost Plus (I live in Pacific Northwest/Seattle region) and although its an inferior design and stainless quality, it still does the job. I love stainless containers for several reasons - durability, no nasties leeching into food, super easy to clean, darn good looking - and have never been disappointed in my choice. I have bought several as gifts and they're always well received (and they're gender-neutral, so guys love them too). My large two-tier tiffins are awesome for packing a lot of food. I either wrap the tin and accessories (chopsticks/silverware, etc) in a furoshiki cloth or stick it in my neoprene insulated bag and toss in an ice pack if I know it's going to be warm weather. Works terrific for keeping food chilled for several hours!

I also have a number of bento boxes in various sizes and shapes and they're great for getting my bento on, but for sheer performance and functionality, I grab my tiffin every time, and I can still pack it bento-style with how I arrange my food. My personal preference on microwaving is that I *do not* microwave *at all*. I am against using them and choose to either eat room temperature food or pack a thermos if I know I'll be in need of something hot. The added bulkiness is totally worth it for me because I am making a choice to maintain the integrity of food that I took the time to prepare in the most healthful way. As far as thermoses keeping food hot for long periods of time - I always preheat my vessel with boiling water for at least five minutes prior to filling it with the extremely hot (boiling, if possible) food. I can open my thermos many hours later and it will be very hot. Preheating is key!

The little squeeze bottles are great fun factor and I put hot sauce, vinegar, oils, mayo, honey, and soy sauce in mine. I also have small glass containers and stainless tins that I picked up very cheap at specialtybottle.com. You can buy any quantity you wish and most items are less than a dollar each! I have used them for years and have never had one break. I have found buying from that site is actually cheaper than going to the dollar store and looking for alternative plastic sauce bottles that may or may not be food safe. With glass and stainless, I can't go wrong.

I hope you enjoy your tiffin tin and good luck with your classes. That's an incredibly grueling schedule!

Melissa
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

Hi i have been looking for a lunch pale to keep all my healthy food cold and i finally found the solution! Packit! Im gone from 8am till 11pm and was so sick of either buying all my meals or my food going bad like cheese and yogurt. My friend showed me one day her new personal cooler/ lunch bag, she said its keeps everything refrigerator cold for atleast 10 hours. I didnt believe her so she let me barrow it for a week bc she has more then one because she liked a couple looks they had. So i used it the first day and was in amazed that at 7pm i reached for my cheese and my cheese was still hard and not all soft and mushy! From that day on i always bring my meals with me!

i did research on this project and basically here is what i found!
its amazing its a foldable, freezable lunch bag! the non toxic gel is actually built right into the liner of the bag. you simply fold the bags and store them in the freezer until you need them. pull them out, pack healthy foods you never could before, and GO! they keep everything refrigerator cold for 10 hours with out the bulkyness of added ice or gel packs. And its echo friendly!!!!

there website is www.packit.com its worth looking at!

Melissa
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

Hi i have been looking for a lunch pale to keep all my healthy food cold and i finally found the solution! Packit! Im gone from 8am till 11pm and was so sick of either buying all my meals or my food going bad like cheese and yogurt. My friend showed me one day her new personal cooler/ lunch bag, she said its keeps everything refrigerator cold for atleast 10 hours. I didnt believe her so she let me barrow it for a week bc she has more then one because she liked a couple looks they had. So i used it the first day and was in amazed that at 7pm i reached for my cheese and my cheese was still hard and not all soft and mushy! From that day on i always bring my meals with me!

i did research on this project and basically here is what i found!
its amazing its a foldable, freezable lunch bag! the non toxic gel is actually built right into the liner of the bag. you simply fold the bags and store them in the freezer until you need them. pull them out, pack healthy foods you never could before, and GO! they keep everything refrigerator cold for 10 hours with out the bulkyness of added ice or gel packs. And it reusable, PVC free, lead free tested!!!

there website is www.packit.com its worth looking at!

PirateFoxy
Joined: 6 Jan 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 42 weeks ago.
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

Since I asked, I thought I'd comment again now that I've used the Happy Tiffin I got -

First, I'm pleased with the overall construction of it. It's pretty easy to get open (I struggle a little bit with the top, which fits on with a friction fit, but that's something I always have trouble with) and holds together very nicely.

The large size with two layers is EASILY plenty of food for a lunch and dinner for me, at least when packed in a traditional bento style with rice. The bottom with a layer of brown rice and a quick 'chicken salad' made by mixing some canned chicken breast with soy sauce and some seasonings (I was in a hurry) was actually almost too much, and it wasn't even full to the top. The top (thinner) layer was my lunch layer, and I had plenty there, as well, although I just took a sandwich of peanut butter on raisin bread, plus some random snack items like a couple of squares of chocolate.

My first outing definitely had something to be desired in terms of variety (next time, more fresh vegetables and fruit, for a start) but overall it sees like the tiffin should work out pretty well. Someone with a smaller appetite would probably do better with a medium (or even a small, if you generally pack rice-dense meals.)

I have an insulated lunch bag that it fits into nicely, and I helped it keep cold by putting a bottle of water in the freezer and then packing that in with the tiffin. By the time I was ready for dinner the bottle was melted enough to drink, and the bottom layer, while not totally chilled, was an acceptably cold temperature. (I probably still wouldn't pack something likely to go off, like a mayo-based salad, for dinner, but I'm reasonably happy I'm not likely to give myself food poisoning as long as I'm sensible about my choices.)

Also, while it's not really marketed this way, I'm pretty sure the top tier (with the friction-fit lid) could be used independently if you wanted to do so - maybe put a bento band around it for added security, or tie it up in a napkin, but the lid does fit pretty reasonably. I will quite probably use just the top tier later in the term, when I have a 4 hour class on Saturdays, to take a selection of snacks.

When I pack something that actually looks nice and has had some thought put into it, I'll take photos. :)

April Dawn
Re: Portable bento for lunch AND dinner?

Thanks for the update; glad its working out for you! Look forward to the photos =)

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