Get Started Bento Challenge: Week 5

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Welcome to the 5th and final week of the Getting Started Bento Challenge!

Where did the time go? For me, the Challenge weeks have just flown by!

Since this is the last week, the focus is on: Putting it all together, and moving forward.

(Click here to skip down to the task descriptions, or just the summary.)

Reviewing the weekly topics

A special focus throughout the Challenge was on using bentos for losing weight.

What have you learned? What can you work on?

I thought that I was a fairly experience hand at making bentos. Still, I have learned a lot about my own bento making habits and what I have to work on during this Challenge.

For me, I discovered that I was not really taking into account the food preferences of the person that I was making bentos for other than myself (The Guy). Since he is not a picky eater and basically gobbles up everything that I make without complaint, I wasn’t really aware until last week that he really loves stuff like chicken wings in his bento. So, going forward I am going to try put in more of his favorites in our daily bentos.

Is there any area of focus that was a stumbling block for you? Perhaps it’s the planning-ahead aspect, or mise en place (putting your gear out ready to make bento). Or maybe you have trouble making your bentos as healthy and well-balanced, or as low-calorie as you like. Or, are you buying a lot of stuff (e.g. prepared foods, snacks) especially for your bento lunches, and not saving enough money? This is the time to try to work out those kinks in your bento making routine.

Where do bentos fit in your life?

If it has been a struggle to keep up with the Challenges, try to figure out why that is.

  • Perhaps making bentos in the morning is too much? You can try assembling them the night before, or even (as some challenge participants have done) putting together whole or partial bentos on the weekend and freezing them.
  • Assembling a good variety of ‘bento stash’ or johbisai items is a key for making people to long-term bento making.
  • Or if making a bento every day is too much, maybe aim for a couple a week.
  • Is making bentos for you and your partner too much? See who will benefit the most from bringing bentos to work or school, and consider making them just for that person at least for a while.

Think of the positives

There’s no way around the fact that making bentos daily is extra work for most people, unless it becomes a hobby for you, as it is for many charben artists for example. Me, for the most part I mostly prefer to express my artistic side in other ways. What makes that work all worthwhile for me, is the money-saving, the health benefits, and just the fact of having a tasty lunch that I know the contents and calorie count of waiting for me every day.

So ask yourself: What makes bentos worthwhile for you? When the routine gets boring or difficult, it’s good to remind yourself of those benefits.

Your tasks and goals for this week

The last week to do the following!

  • Photo. At lunchtime, take a photo of your bento, and upload it either to flickr (and add to the Just Bento flickr pool) or to your preferred photo hosting service.
  • Report. At the end of the week, report back here in forum with how it went for you! (Or link to your blog post with your report.)

Basic

  • Make a list of the reasons you want to continue making bentos.
  • Take a look back at your Challenge weeks, and see what areas are or were giving you trouble, and how you could deal with them.
  • Consider scaling back or changing your bento-oriented goals if necessary.
  • Optional: Choose the 1 or 2 main reasons you want to make bentos a part of your life. Print them out in a large font, and stick it up where you will see it daily - on your refrigerator for example.

Going Deeper

One thing that I find to be just about essential in quick, varied bentos on a daily basis is building up a stash of prepared foods, called johbisai. I have explained the concept of johbisai or staples in detail here. If you haven’t started a bento stash already, consider starting one this week. For instance:

  • Make 2 or 3 favorites that you can stash in the freezer.
  • Get into the habit of making more of something you need at a time, for dinner or for a bento, and storing the rest in the refrigerator to use later in the week.
  • Frozen vegetables are great staples to stock.
  • Don’t forget your pantry. Stock up on things like canned and dried beans, canned tuna and other fish, canned meats (Spam!), instant soups, herbs and so on, as well as Japanese things like furikake, nori seaweed, etc. Of course, such staples are not just limited to bento use!

There are plenty of ideas for bento staple items in the johbisai section of the site.

What are your favorite staples, both storebought and homemade?

Weight loss

For bento-dieters, this is the week to review your progress. Have you lost some weight? If you have, congratulations and keep it up! If not, why do you think that is? Perhaps your bentos were higher in calories than you intended. Or, maybe you were focusing too much on a healthy bento and forgetting to manage your other meals? Maybe you need more exercise?

If you find you really love bentos, consider extending the bento concept to other meals, especially dinner. The very fact that a dimensions and capacity of a bento box is so finite can really help with portion control. If you are making dinner and eating it right away, there is no need to let it cool and so on as you have to with a lunchtime bento; just put your dinner in a bento box and eat it right away.

Another interesting exercise is to take your normal dinner portion that you are eating spread out on a plate or several plates, and try packing it into a bento just to see how much you are really eating. You might be surprised!

Summary

Basic: Take a look back, and see how you can keep up what you have learned.

Going Deeper: Work on your bento stash!

Weight Loss: Review your progress. See what you can improve. Bentos for dinner?

Let’s get to the finish line together!

What are your goals for and thoughts about this week’s Challenge? Talk about it in the 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.

2 comments

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Re: Get Started Bento Challenge: Week 5

I just love your illustrations! A ring of kawaii onigiri! {cute overload}

Re: Get Started Bento Challenge: Week 5

Agreed on the photo: it's awesome!

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