Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

In my brief absence (I was trotting through parts of Japan, doing serious bento research - honest! ^_^;) I’ve noticed quite a lot of new visitors to the site again. A lot of them are coming from this post on the New York Times Diner’s Journal blog by Samatha Storey, who wrote an article last year which helped to bring homemade bentos to the attention of a lot of people. There are also people coming from various forum threads, such as this one on Ravelry.

I could point all the new visitors and potential bento fans to various Getting Started articles here as I periodically do, but I’ve already done that over on the left sidebar (points over there). So instead, I thought I’d turn the microphone over as it were, to all the current JustBento readers and bento veterans. Tell the new people, why do you make bentos? What articles on JustBento do you find particularly useful? Which recipes do you like? What other useful bento sites are out there (self-linking allowed)? Help to evangelize the cult of bento! ^_^ Also, please let them/us know who you are (e.g. graduate student, full time mom, athlete, lawyer, etc), where you’re from (town/state/country etc) and general age, just so people know what kinds of people make bentos. (I know we’ve had posts like this before, but I plan to keep this at the top where new visitors can find it easily.)

For myself, I think the one post I’d point to to read first might be my Top 10 Bento Rules. And then the Bento Basics section and our friendly forum!

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

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Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento? Take #2

I already commented once, but I'll poke my head back in very briefly... I just got two new bento boxes shipped straight from Japan! ^_^

To be more serious, however, I've noticed that a lot of people who have ever mentioned reasons for packaging lunches for their children mention food allergies and/or autism as a big reason.

I'm fortunately not that picky an eater, but I still eat "with my eyes", and I really care about aesthetics, so though food items can touch, (I know that to some children it is an issue, but I grew out of it, fortunately), they have to be visually appealing, and tasty!

I'm a "best case scenario" of what an autist can grow into food-wise, and have actually turned food into a passion. I'd like to remind every parent out there that your child is special, and with your love and support, will grow to a balanced individual. However I still prefer the bento style meals at Japanese restaurants over some of the other dishes, as well as Korean cuisine for its multiple smaller plates you can pick and choose from.

Being picky about food will partially pass. Just make sure that if your child ever starts taking "stimulants", they are either prescribed by doctors or legal as-is. My "drug" of choice is good Sencha green tea for work (comes in tea bags that I can sneak into my bento box under the top lid in the compartment that holds my chopsticks), and Matcha green tea powder at home! :)

I don't blog solely about food, but I do occasionally share recipes, that are also bento appropriate, as well as pictures taken with my cell phone camera at lunchtime at work. The reason to this is that I believe that it gives a more realistic image of how well the food stays together and pretty after running panicked to a bus and into the office before you're supposed to be chained to a computer and telephone at a call centre.

I only get two 10 minute breaks total at work during my 6 hour shift, so I tend to combine these into one 15 minute break and two smaller "bathroom/tea fetching breaks" to be able to enjoy my food better.

For this, the smallish ~650-700ml bento boxes and a sachet of instant soup are a good combo. The soup can be enjoyed with the food, or separately between calls.

This is a sample post, with a shredded carrot salad.

My diet is largely lacto-ovo-vegetarian, no added sugar, high in fibre and gluten free, but I am an omnivore, with only a few minor food allergies... I just do not consider it necessary to increase my carbon footprint any extra by consuming meat more than once a week.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I love Bento for its practicality: an easy lunch to bring to work

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

hello bento world!

I make bento's for a few years now.
I am totaly crazy about all kawaii stuff. Like totoro, pochaco, panda kopanda,... For some odd reason I've always thought this was because of my asian genes as I seemed to be lonely here adoring all the cuteness.
As you can't buy all these kawaii stuff in Belgian stores and if you find it, it is so expensive a charaben is a cheap way to have the luxury of having kawaii stuff on regular base.
So I make them for my 3 year old boy. He adores it! And he is always so happy when he get's a bento.

Since I'm more focussed on my private life and not working day and night anymore I found tons of time and things that interest me. I am crazy about studying the traditional chinese dietetics as yin and yang food so I combine my boys bento's with a balanced yin & yang bento.
Now he eats everything! Amazing. He eats brussels sprouts, chicory,...

There is no day that goes by I don't think about bento...

xxx

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Very excited! I got a bento box and the just bento book. I love all the recipes and can't wait to start trying them out!

Why bento? Why not!

The question: "Why bento?" Why not?
I am not a veteran of bento making; in fact, this year past year I made very few bento lunches. But when I did, I was glad I had the time to make (and eat) these fantastic lunches.
I am an honors student with very little free time, but when I have the time to make bentos, I do. First, it's easier to make a healthy bento, versus a sandwich. Sure, PB&J isn't bad for you, but the monotony of eating sandwiches ruins diversifying one's diet. Bentos, however, often allow one to be creative with their food; various sites and cookbooks cover the spectrum of bento making, from charaben (cute bento) to normal, everyday lunches (like the ones on this site). It allows a person to try different foods, control what they're eating, and use leftovers. Hooray!
Second, bentos brighten the day. A new, interesting lunch, such as tamagoyaki, onigiri, and a personal salad has put a smile on my face; it's a break from the day and a time to enjoy good food, not just inhaling a sandwich in chorus. Also, if one uses healthier food, it can raise her energy levels. Woo-hoo!
Third, bento is fun and educational for the new cook. As a student, I haven't had much cooking experience. However, trying new meals to put in my bento has expanded my cooking knowledge, from books, blogs, and my parents. I often talk to my dad about making different dishes, and we try new foods - such as nori seaweed - together. I used to hate grocery shopping; now I can stand it, even dragging my parents to the Asian market. Cooking is fun, too. I get to assemble my food the way I want, take a break from trig and Shakespeare and "Quis mater est illa?" I've become more responsible about my lunches, safer in the kitchen, and - hey! - I even learn about Japanese culture.
So, if you're new to bento, I recommend trying it. Even if you can't make a bento lunch everyday, the occasional lunchbox is a fun, healthy way to sit, relax, and eat.

P.S. - Maki, I wanted to thank you for this site; I was searching for onigiri for a menu project, found your site, and now I enjoy bento. I received your book for Christmas, and I'm excited to try the recipes for both lunch and dinner! "Bona fortuna" in the future & thanks!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Bento is symbol of light healthy easy to carry lunch box
You inspired me in varying my lunch box: way more vibrant, enjoyable and healthy

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Since losing my job ten days prior to my husband dying in March 2009, I have spent a lot of time on the internet researching anything related to food, as I am a self-taught home cook that loves to try new recipes, techniques, and learn about anything in the culinary world AND cooking/feeding others is a kind of therapy for me. I cannot say how I stumbled onto JustBento and JustHungry, but it only took one look to bookmark this site. Every aspect of bentos appealed to me: portion control, variety, flexibility, nutrition value, aesthetics, frugality - you name it, I was hooked!

A little eBaying and some savvy shopping have me outfitted with some nice bentos and accessories for very little cost (I even got into furoshiki's). Now, all I need is a job! lol! I have introduced my sister and her teen daughter to bento making and they love it as well, although it is taking them a bit longer to "catch the fever". Having all the extra time on my hands has allowed me the luxury of exploring every avenue related to bento'ing. I pack my grown daughter's bento for her job and she enjoys new things like quail eggs (she won't eat a hard-boiled chicken egg, go figure!) and the cute factor of an egg that has a face pressed into it makes her squeal "that's soooo cuuuute!" and can't wait to show her co-workers. I also slowly introduce new foods to her since she's extremely particular about what she eats (read: picky picky picky! hehe!).

Recently I realized I could pack myself a bento to eat at lunch time like some stay-at-home people do. It also encourages me to grab my bento and go sit at the park and enjoy the sunshine. I have taken "unhurried" steps to learn the bento basics and build a bit of a stash, but I know once I am working again, the foundation will have been set and any transitions will be easy because of my gained knowledge.

Having said all that - I'd just like to say BENTOS ARE JUST PLAIN FUN! Some day I hope to own Maki's book and build on my bento lovin' through her inspiring writings; for now I visit this site every day and browse through recipes and techniques. I share what I know with my sister and her kids (especially my niece) and they all think Auntie April is pretty cool, if not a little quirky. This Sunday we are all going to Uwajimaya - a Seattle-based store that is everything Asian and my sole source of quail eggs and nori - so we can really kick our bento'ing into high gear; I can't wait!

To anyone thinking of starting this kind of hobby, I say this: just start by arranging some leftovers neatly in any food container to take for lunch. You'd be surprised how inspired you'll get and soon you'll be bento'ing in ways you never imagined. It's very rewarding on a number of levels and you only get into it as much as you want to. Bottom line is that you are building a healthy, beautiful eating habit that has fantastic benefits!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I have been bentoing for a couple years now, but I feel that I've only truly gotten the essence of it from Maki's book. I think the biggest mistake that I made was only making Japanese food that I wasn't used to all the time. While it was fine at times, I would quickly get sick and tired of it. Then I would eventually stop making bentos, until I went and tried again and the whole cycle just started another loop.

Just because it's a bento, doesn't mean that you have to use Japanese food! It's only a style of arranging one's lunch in a manner that makes it easier and more fun to eat. Japanese people just use their own food because they're comfortable with it; you can use your own food too. If you keep that in mind, bentos will truly rock your world.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I have been bentoing for a couple years now, but I feel that I've only truly gotten the essence of it from Maki's book. I think the biggest mistake that I made was only making Japanese food that I wasn't used to all the time. While it was fine at times, I would quickly get sick and tired of it. Then I would eventually stop making bentos, until I went and tried again and the whole cycle just started another loop.

Just because it's a bento, doesn't mean that you have to use Japanese food! It's only a style of arranging one's lunch in a manner that makes it easier and more fun to eat. Japanese people just use their own food because they're comfortable with it; you can use your own food too. If you keep that in mind, bentos will truly rock your world.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

One taste of Bento from a Japanese restaurant, and I was hooked! Not only is bento nutritious, it is beautiful. I am a stay at home mother and wife, with two beautiful sons adopted internationally. Among my sons, husband, and I, we encompass a gene pool from Germany, Switzerland, the Madiera Islands, Hungary, Syria, Peru, Guatemala, Spain and, last but not least, Japan. Our family's dinner is an international food fest, but our lunch very often is Bento! Preparing Bento is an act of mindfulness, and chopping and arranging the Bento goodies is a challenging exercise in creativity. Tonight olive, potato and curried tofu frittata leftovers will take their place in a cold Bento tomorrow for #1 son and I, vegetarians. Dad and #2 son will get leftover meatballs, rice, and pickled cabbage, along with a mini bruschetta and tiny cup of homemade minestrone. Scarfing down Bento is not allowed! Mindfulness comes into play again, eating with chopsticks and sipping green tea. I can't say for sure, but Bento must have been a factor in my 55 lb weight loss last year.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Hi everyone! I'm Beatriz from Brazil, married, 26, and I work outside home for 8-9 hours everyday. I have always brought food from home to work because there was no cheap-healthy-tasty meals available near where I worked. As I lived with my mother and she was not only a great cook but also cared a lot about what I ate, I didn't have to worry at all about it.

But I left home last January, got married, and had to start doing the bentos myself. I have been following Maki's Just Bento posts for almost a year now, and what I find most usefull is the ideas of basic recipes with simple ingredients. In Brazil we are lucky to have a huge variaty of cheap fruits, vegetables and beans the whole year, so I can experiment a lot with recipes like the kinpira, the muffins, instant soups etc.

I am also very fond of everyday japanese home made food, so I get the opportunity to learn some tricks and recipes (since I have no japanese mom or granny to teach me!). I am always checking out ingredients in japanese groceries (luckily, there are plenty here in Sao Paulo, where you find the biggest japanese community outside japan).

Anyway, Maki gives precious and VERY PRACTICAL advice on every post, and is a wonderful source of inspiration to my almost-everyday bento preparation.

why bento?

Bento - despite the Japanese sounding name - is more than just Japanese styled pack lunch. It is a chance to showcase one's creativity and explore the beauty of cooking, whether or not you fancy cooking or not. Personally, I would have never thought that I could have made my own food and get healthy, but it is a step by step process, and justbento.com has been so helpful and I am jolly glad that I have come across the site

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Did want to add one thing: Bento principles mean you can pack a full meal into a very small space.

I know, who cares, right?

I care and this is why:

* I can take a healthy meal on a train or airplane and not hemorrhage money on bad food when traveling.

* If my family is planning a day trip, three bentos just don't take up much space.

* If I'm going to be out for the day for an indeterminate length of time, one of these babies can go into my purse and I'll have a healthy, filling meal all ready to go when I want one. (I had this happen yesterday. Many of the people around me were cranky and upset from not being able to get a meal and eating provided snack food all day. I eschewed the snacks and just had my little lunch).

In addition to how easy it is to make one of these little things to toss in my purse when I'm out and about, it's convenient at home as well. I'm self-employed and work from home more often than not. If I make a bento, I don't nibble all day while working. I get up and have a real meal and eat my lunch like a civilized person.

My husband and son also love bento because it's easy and convenient to bring with them to work and school. They get a tasty, healthy meal that's attractive. While not into food art, I do pay attention to color and layout. They both find the attractiveness of the meal to be emotionally satisfying as well as physically so.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Wow, lots of great answers! And long, lol. I will be relatively brief:

Buying lunch = stupid waste of money, unhealthy
Making lunch = economical, healthier
Making bento = economical, healthy, attractive, fun (even just using a bento box and chopsticks instead of a ziploc container makes lunch better!)

Me = 40, female, married, NO kids by choice, data analyst in San Francisco

Maki & JustBento = FAB! I love multi-cultural recipes for bento, and recipes that can be translated into other cuisines (I love Japanese but I also love American ... and Mexican ... and Greek ... and Spanish ... and Swedish ... etc. etc. etc.). This is actually the only bento blog I have favorited :)

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I am a 17- year old from Canada. I started bento making a year ago, when I saw the amazing- looking lunches the asian students at my school had. I have always been interested in Japanese food and am definately a bit-of-this, bit-of-that eater, so it all works out! As a lacto- ovo vegetarian, Maki's site is really helpful, with so many non- meat bento ideas. Finding specific Japanese ingredients is no problem, Vancouver is such a multicultural city. I really like the lunches, and other students are jealous of my beautiful, tasty food.
Thanks for all the inspiration, Maki!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Hello, I'm Richard, a 33 year old web designer in Manchester. I've been visiting Just Bento for about 2 years all in, and I've been making them on and off for about 3 years, though I have them about 90% of the time. My dad was a chef so I've always cooked, but I often find it a little uninspiring to just take the leftovers from last night into work for dinner, and I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination so I can't really be bothered with a great deal of food prep first thing TBH. Bento works for me because I can spend all Sunday just having a big cooking session cobbling together a johbisai stash and then I'm pretty much set for the rest of the week. Then, I can pick and choose during the week what I feel like, and anything left over usually ends up being Friday night's tea!

I don't think there are any real hard and fast rules for people new to bento, but from my own experience (and others) a few things I would suggest are:

Just because bento comes from Japan, don't think it all has to be Japanese food! I like to mix it up with a bit of Korean, Lebanese, Indian: alsorts really, plus you may find some bento staples just aren't you're cup of tea (I'm looking at you, Umeboshi...)

If it's your first time trying a new recipe out, just do a bit before you commit to having it potentially in your bento box everyday. I've found a couple of Maki's recipes haven't really been to my taste the day (or more) after, even though they are delicious fresh. That's not a diss, Maki!

Don't think this has to be a new way of life either. If you're getting a bit tired of bento after a while, give yourself a break! I felt like I was going through the motions with it a bit a year ago and wasn't really enjoying it like I used to, so I had a month off and then came back to it excited again, especially in the light of the often bland fair that presents itself for lunch on the street.

That came out a lot longer than I was expecting! But I guess I'd just like to thank Maki for all the fantastic recipes on here and Just Hungry. to infinity, AND BEYOND!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Hi everyone, I'm a 20-something married woman, currently living in Seoul, Korea. I used to visit this site a lot more often when I lived in Washington, D.C. back in 2008-09 because I was actively making bento then (just hasn't been practical here for various reasons). There was a period of about 9 months where I was making bento regularly for myself and my husband almost every weekday and sometimes on weekends, too. Maki's sites (Just Bento and Just Hungry) were really an inspiration to me and provided the tools I needed to get started and keep going (the Weekly Bento Planners in particular were a great help, and every recipe I've used from her has worked out beautifully). In late 2008-2009 I took Maki's bento challenge which actually led to me starting my own little bento service of sorts (we called it a "society"), providing bento lunches to my coworkers 3 days a week for several months. It was a lot of fun and a creative outlet for me. Plus, my coworkers really seemed to appreciate it. Most of them were used to paying more than what I was charging for takeout every day, and my bento lunches provided a healthier, cheaper option. If you're curious, here's the site that I set up for my coworkers: http://aidanbentosociety.blogspot.com

These are the top reasons for me to make bento:
1. Allows me to be creative: I like the challenge of trying to compose something that looks good and tastes great within the confines of whatever container you're working with
2. Relationships - can help you connect with the people in your life and show appreciation
3. Nutrition: I felt like I ate better (more variety) and less (portion control)
4. Quality of life - you really feel like you're taking care of yourself when you sit down to a nicely composed lunch

On top of all this, if you're thoughtful about what you choose to make, you can actually save a lot of money by bentoing.

I miss making bento; reading the other responses on here didn't help! Recently, my husband started going to the office more regularly (he tends to work from home) and I just bought a tiffin container while visiting Kuala Lumpur - hoping to get back into it on a smaller scale soon!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

For a broke student, the transition from a meat/cheese based diet to a rice based diet was a Godsend. Makikoh basically taught me how to cook. I had no idea rice could be frozen! Thank you, Makikoh!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I started packing bentos because my lunches were boring me to tears and I was eating out (expensively and not so healthily) all the time. Bad, expensive, unsatisfying food = unhappy and unhealthy me.

For me, the challenge of making visually appealing, healthy meals with lots of little organizing containers has made my lunch fun, interesting, satisfying, and more affordable. Can't get a better endorsement than that.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Simple things in life make us happy :)

Hi, I started Bento when I was working a temporary job. It's in the city area and the food is just awfully expensive!

1) I started with a $2 bento box I got from Daiso. And after a month, I realised I've saved up to $150!
Save money.

2) A daily goal/purpose. "What's for Bento tomorrow..?" I wonder.
Exciting and fun (spend time with yourself or your children)

3) Break out of the norm! Here in Singapore, students don't eat from lunch boxes. They often buy theirs. Hence, bringing your own bento(esp with cute decorations) will make you feel proud of your own tiny 'creation' =) and you'll look forward to lunch!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I've been a follower of JustBento for a while now. Why bentos? I am a college student and we all know that the meals served in the dining hall are loaded with fat and salt. By packing my own bentos, I am ensuring that I am eating a healthy, filling meal. It also is a little shallow of me but I like opening my cute container and seeing food nicely arranged - like opening a present!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Wow! How Exciting to find this OBENTO website...I can't wait to check it all out! I am so sick & tired of America's obsession with high calorie burgers & sandwiches! I am 59, half Japanese so crave the "taste" of Japan!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

After recently finding out that I was diabetic at 29, I had to change my eating habits, and where I was working, didnt leave me many options. (fast food, deli counter, or nothing at all). So i decided I needed to start taking my lunch, but not being a sandwich person, I went online searching for options and found bentos, and Ive been doing it ever since.
- its healthy
- its cheaper then eating on the fly ( i saved an average of 40 - 50 dollars a week)
- it gets the creativity flowing
- my children love the fact they dont have to eat school lunches, and they love the attention they get from their little boxes.
- i enjoy knowing my family is getting a healthy homemade meal
- the boxes have a built in portion control, Ive lost 20 lbs!!!!!
As for this site, it is one of the most informative ive found

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I started visiting Maki's website almoat 3 years ago.
It's actually funny...
3 years ago I reaaaaaaally liked this Japanese international student at my college and wanted to go out with him. I decided the only way to reach his heart is through his stomach! So I asked him what his favorite food was and he said nikujaaga! So i found Mak'is website and made it for him! Before that, I could barely manage a toaster or a microwave...but that all changed thanks to Maki's website!! Now, I make lunch for my wonderful boyfriend who enjoys eating food similar to his home in Japan =D And when Maki made Justbento, I was ecstatic because now I can even make more Japanese food! of course, I live In San Diego, California where there are tons of Japanese stores and buildings due to the high Japanese population so I feel so lucky and fortunate.
It's almost funny, I learned how to cook for a guy, not myself! >.<"

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I never knew what a bento box was until I started working for a company that makes them! I enjoy using my creativity to pack my lunch for work, or any meal I eat on the go. It's not only a great way to eat a well-balanced meal, but it really helps me eat my leftovers! Otherwise, they might just sit in my fridge until they went bad.

I also like eating a little bit of a bunch of different things. Bento boxes are great for that! I can make 4-5 "snacks" into a meal, and still feel satisfied.

If anyone's looking for bento recipe ideas, this is from my work, Laptop Lunches:

http://www.laptoplunches.com/bento-menus/

It's a menu library using bento boxes, and divided by season. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I'm 12 and I started making bentos at the start of this year (in September), because I saw an article in the New York Times about bentoing and decided to try it. I don't really like sandwiches and I like to be creative with my food. I usually do karaben, or character bento. I like how it looks and I also like that I actually eat good food, because good food makes me feel good. I make my bentos the night before for school, and if I have meat (I usually use leftovers from dinner if I have meat) then I put my bento box in the fridge. I love having a good lunch at school, and all my friends like to see what I've made that day. I often use AnnaTheRed's Bento Factory for inspiration, but I don't think I could come close to copying her.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Lately, I am interested in making bentos to save money and to eat heathly. I always thought that women are better at making these bentos because they are so complicated and delicate for men to make. But I was wrong when I saw this news article on Nikkei news today, I guess bento man is becoming a boom in Japan!

I noticed your pictures and articles, and thought you might be interested. Cheers!

http://www.nikkei.com/life/living/article/g=96958A88889DE3EBE3EBE1E5EBE2...

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I'm a 38 yr old pharmacy tech from the USA who stumbled upon bento boxes less than a year ago. I like using my creativity and I like the idea of limiting how much I eat. It always brings a smile to my face to see cute designs at lunch. I am not a morning person so I don't do a lot of wild designs but it is easy to cut slices of apples into a shape or something along that line. Don't let the task become overwhelming or stressful, just have fun with it and know you are eating healthier! GOD BLESS JAPAN!!!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I must admit, for me it started with the boxes. The first bento box I ever saw in my life I fell in love with.

You must know i'm from Belgium so we don't have bento boxes over here. We have the very boring plastic containers with very boring sandwiches (cheese, choco or jam) insides.

But as a foodie I fell for these boxes and started experimenting. I came across this website and wow, the good thing is that the ingredients are very common, you don't have to go to a toko to get everything.

Recently I started with weight watchers and it fits in great with my weightloss plan.

My top reasons:
It's fun
It's yummy
It's healthy
It's safes money

It's just bento :)

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I work from home now (I actually craft bags inspired by bento bags), so I don't really make bentos in the normal sense.

But when I worked outside my home, I liked them because it was a fun and tasty way to have a healthy lunch. With only a 30 minute break, I didn't want to spend a lot of time waiting for the microwave, so I was able to enjoy my entire lunch break, and with a tasty, homemade meal to boot.

Now that I'm at home, I do have access to a full kitchen every day, but I still try to use the principles of bento in my lunches-- making sure they have balance, and using Ms. Itoh's tips to keep things healthy (mostly...). I enjoy cooking for my lunches now, and having variety in each meal makes it easier to control portions (I feel more satisfied having a little bit of everything than a big hunk of one thing).

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I started packing lunch for my then boyfriend (hubby now!) since 3 years ago, not necessarily in "bento" style, but always well balanced and nice looking for sure.
Growing up in Asia, eating out back home wasn't really boring or unhealthy because instead of the mainstream, MSG packed and greasy "Asian food" served in the Western countries, real Asian lunch places have endless variety of healthy meals if you care to eat well. So when I first came to Australia, I was quite shocked to learn how unhealthy and expensive eating out was. My husband is of Eastern European descent and loves Asian food, especially Japanese. But 90% of the Japanese restaurants in Melbourne is disgusting and dirty, not to mention overpriced for very low quality food.
At first I started cooking extra portions for dinner so he could bring the leftover for lunch, and then I wanted to find more suitable recipes for lunch boxes and stumbled upon Maki's sites where I learned how to separate each food, assemble a cute and balanced bento fairly quickly and lots of tasty and easy to make dishes!
I'm a self-taught artist so bento making is also a creative outlet to me. My hubby loves when he gets envious glares from his colleagues whenever he opens his lunch box too!
My favourites are all of Maki's furikake recipes and the articles about different types of rice, miso etc. I'm not new to Japanese food and culture but there's always something new to learn from Maki ^^

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Well i am quite a newcomer to bento... 2-3 years. I am 23, Asian studying in Egypt. Try living there, you will know how hardto find a nutritional and healthy food. I am still studying in university and with the long hour of class and the food at the cafeteria not actually very edible, i have to improvise. Prior to making bento, i literally starving myself since i have to go to class at 6 a.m in the morning and end at 5p.m in the evening with very short interval between classes. Usually I arrive home, tired and starving.

I end becoming hypoglycemic, hypotension and anaemic with reflux oesophagitis due to my erratic food consumption. Mostly all the food that being sell is either junk food or fried food. Extremely unhealthy. Several reason i start making bento:

i) There are extremely healthy and nutritional
ii) I got to regulate my eating time
iii) There are cute and colorful, at least you become happy seeing it, after all the classes and lectures.
iv) Artistic outlet and gain knowledge too
v) Improve your cooking skill

Well at first, its quite hard making bento (living in country where there are not much variety of food). I actually learn making all thing from scratch. I learn how to make homemade tofu, gyoza, (even the gyoza wrapper) growing vegetable all from scratch and i am really enjoying it. ^_^

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I stumbled onto Maki's website when I was trying to find out how to make tofu. Having been recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes I saw that making bento lunches was just what I needed to do to help structure my meals and improve my blood sugar. Sure enough, six months later my numbers are much better, I've lost 20 (!) lbs and I am now a proud owner of a rice-cooker that I use every morning to make perfect brown rice for my bento lunches. Thank you so much Makiko for making me healthier! Now I'm working on converting my diabetic relatives to the "Bento way".

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

Before finding this website, I had been taking a peanutbutter sandwich and a small apple everyday to school for lunch... for five years of my life. If I wanted something different, I would add honey to the peanutbutter... depressing, right?

When I entered high school, I not only wanted something different, I needed it. The lunches offered in the cafeteria were horrible, and I couldn't afford to buy them even if I did want to eat them.

I was looking up simple recipes for lunch, when I thought, why not try those cute little japanese-styled lunches. I found the name, Bento, and I googled recipes for it. That's when I found this website, and after looking at the recipes, I was very motivated. I saved up enough money to buy a bento-box, and I started trying out various dishes. They were amazing and, being 14 years old with no experience of cooking apart from boiling water, simple and just great. I'm 16 now and still very happy with my lunches. The thought of a peanutbutter sandwich makes me feel nauseous; and I decided to have a future career in culinary arts.

My favorite is the Miso Tamago, it's too delicious to describe!!!

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I've been learning how to make bentos because I'm a student who's also working full time, I often go from working overnights at my job straight to class and barely get there on time even without stopping for food. I'm also a Celiac and on dietary restrictions because I have to keep everything strictly gluten free, so it's just much easier for me to pack lunches. I have a 580mL bento that easily makes 2 small meals when packed tightly, so the only other thing I have to carry in my bookbag is maybe a piece of string cheese or mini orange.

If you can find gluten free sauces Japanese food lends itself very well to a Celiac's diet (sandwiches don't - gluten free bread is pretty bad), and it's so compact and convenient and great for traveling it just fits my lifestyle well, and lots of leftovers can be reworked as a bento quite easily. Chipotle burrito bowls actually work very well in a bento! I don't care much about the cuteness factor, just that it's reasonably healthy and will fill me up and bento accomplishes that.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I am an American, twenty-something college grad working in a tourist-town theater, patiently beginning my climb up the theater management ladder. Growing up with poor eating and exercise habits, which only got worse in college, it follows logically that I have been overweight the vast majority of my life. I got into bento-making as an off-shoot from my love of Japanese food, but only a couple months ago began the practice itself. As new as I still am, it's a good thing that I don't leave for work until 1pm; as such I have plenty of time to be slow if I need it.

If I don't bring a bento, I end up either going out for a sub sandwich (which gets expensive) or eating in the theater's diner (which gets expensive and unhealthy). So my reasons in summary, with a few not yet mentioned:

- fits my lifestyle well
- healthy
- cost-effective
- fun and delicious
- expands my cooking repertoire
- just makes me happy

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I've been doing Bento before I knew it was called Bento honestly - though I am just now finally working my way through this wonderful site.

with a large family, with many food allergies, and a TIGHT budget - I started packing lunches for my middle school age daughter, my boyfriend, and roommates when they would go off for work before settling down for the "night" and sleeping away the afternoon before getting up to enjoy dinner before heading off to work with my own "lunch"

As my daughter hit high school, she started taking japanese and proudly came home and thanked me for making her "bentos" for lunches and would I try some japanese recipes like rice balls and rice rolls. I shrugged and started off on a world of discovery. 5 years later, I have added 3 more kids to the mix (2 foster teenagers and a toddler) and both myself and my sister who lives with me are disabled.

It has been fun for me, feeding this family household of 8 a healthy mixture of foods that cater to everyones allergies, yet leave no one feeling slighted. Even as various foster children have come in and out of our home, I have been told by repeated social workers that the simple care put into each lunch means more to each of those kids because even though they were strange - they were THEIR lunches.

I am SO overjoyed to find this site - I love finding new recipes and now I get to discover a whole new world

Re: Bento newbie, tell the people - why bento?

I am a 56 year old Maths teacher from Christchurch, NZ. I have been interested in Japan from childhood as my father imported Japanese cotton fabric for his manufacturing business and the companies used to send him calendars and diaries and flexible white 45s which played Japanese music strange to my ear.
I chanced on Maki's book in the new book section in one of the few libraries we have left after the earthquakes. I have spent the weekend poring over it and feasting my eyes.
I love sandwiches but recently discovered that I am gluten intolerant so am keen to enjoy guilt-free, tasty and varied lunches again.
Besides these reasons, from my experience all Maths teachers are a little bit obsessive-compulsive. I myself am either in a mess or organised to the max.
Bento Just appeals.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I'm a 23 year old stay at home mom with a toddler. I've been making bentos for about 2 and 1/2 years now, but recently a lot less often. I used to make the bentos for my husband to take to work in the semi-disposable Glad Wear containers (the flat square ones work really well). I used to pack his lunch with white rice, leftover meat and veggies with a little plastic zip-lock baggie of fruit. When he'd microwave his lunch at work, everyone was so jealous. Every once in a while I'd make a large bento-style lunch for his friends at work. They all loved it.

Now I don't make as many bento (since my husband's work schedule changed), usually just when we go out for the afternoon (to save money on eating out) or for picnic lunches.

I only bought real bento boxes about a year ago, so you can do a lot with whatever plastic containers you have around the house. I didn't buy bento boxes because I thought they'd work better, I bought them because they're cute:)

You don't have to spend any additional money to start making bento. It's just like packing a normal lunch, only with Japanese food (especially if you have a fridge/microwave available- then you don't even have to worry about the types of food you pack). It's a great way to use up leftovers. I think the popular part of bento making is the cuteness of it- which is totally worth the extra time and effort, but it's not necessary.

Because I'm worth it!

In an attempt to become more frugal and stop buying lunches, I started bringing my own lunch in to work with me. I found this site whilst looking for lunch boxes and I haven't looked back since. Thank you so much, Maki, for the wonderful posts and recipes. I've copied some of them off to print and keep handy in my kitchen.

Today, I have just opened my lunchbox (a 'Sistema' lunch cube that works well for my bentos) and have beside me while I type, the following beautiful meal.

In the large compartment:
Salad of lambs lettuce with cherry tomatoes and some rolled sliced salt beef that needed using today.
Nestled amongst the salad, a wedge of a fritata I made last night with leftover vegetables from another meal (potatoes, sweet potato, broccoli, red chilli, peas and carrot).

In half of the small compartment
I've crammed in my take on Yuzu scented winter vegetable tsukemono that I made last night (no yuzu here, so I've subbed with lemon and grapefruit zest) with radish, cauliflower, carrot, cucumber and red pepper. It's very fragrant.

In the other half
Two mini babybel light cheeses. A silicone cupcake thingy filled with grapes. Some more cherry tomatoes and my miso ball was in there but I've made it into a cup of warm soup. I used to really dislike miso but decided to try again. Found the Clearspring brown rice miso and now can't get enough of it. I've even started having a cup of miso for breakfast every other day.

I bought a small squeezy bottle of dressing for my salad, made with mirin, rice vinegar and some umeboshi paste (also Clearspring), shaken up.

I can't believe how bright, fresh and appetising this meal is. As someone who has been guilty of bolting my food for most of my life, this lunch makes me want to slow right down with my eating, to savour every bite. It smells and looks out of this world and tastes even better. In the month I've been bento-ing, I've lost 5lbs and have never enjoyed my lunch as much in the process. I really do feel like I'm treating myself with farm more care than I ever had in the past, by bringing bento to work for lunch. It makes me smile and feel happy. I've never eaten so well.

Re: Bento veterans, tell the new people - why bento?

I started to bento as a means of ensuring a nutritionally balanced meal I would actually look forward to eating. I use a square sistema box, so it's very easy to visually divide it into quarters (1/4 protein, 1/4 carb, 1/2 veg), and it's therefore difficult to accidentally overeat. It has an upper compartment into which I put fruit, and a little round bit in the middle which is meant for salad dressing, but which I find perfect for cheese (especially babybel). If my veggies look more appetizing, I'm far more likely to eat them. The general mindfulness that bento necessitates makes it easier to eat healthily. I'm also one of those picky eaters who doesn't like certain illogical things to touch, and I've found silicon muffin molds work wonderfully for this!

I'm not much of a cook, but I find ways to have interesting, varied lunches using bento. Today for lunch I'm having baby green spinach, chopped peppers, boiled new potatoes and flaked salmon, with a fruit salad and babybel for afters. And this took me no time to prepare as I cooked the potatoes and salmon with my evening meal a couple of nights ago, and chopped up the veg while stuff was cooking.

The only problem I have with bento is sometimes I'm so looking forward to my box, it's a struggle to wait until lunchtime!

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