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Bento definatly help us save money. Many times I make just a little bit extra with dinner, then use leftovers for bentos. I think its usaly cheaper to make a bit extra than a whole new meal. I also make extras of things such as rice or meatballs and freeze them for future bentos. We spend a lot less on groceries for the week, than if the two of us bought lunch everyday (probably about 20 bucks a day or so as we dont eat fast food). It also helps us eat healthier. That way im not tempted by things I should not be eating!
I’ve never cost compared and broken it down (what I save on lunch versus what I spend on accessories, lol) but I’m pretty sure I save a lot. Even if I wasn’t bento’ing, I’d be packing lunch and using leftovers, but probably packing lunches too big for me to lose weight or be comfortable, so I’d be spending more cuz I’d be eating more too, if that makes sense. This way I use only a little leftovers a bit at a time! And lunch every day would work out to $5 (if I’m lucky or not picky and eat in the subsidized cafeteria) to $10 (more normal) every day. That’s $25-$50 a week! Ok, definitely save then because I spend that much on bento stuff very rarely now…
On average my university’s cafe charges about $5 per meal. Sometimes these can be really filling and can cover two meals, but often it’s cheaper to bring a lunch. Sometimes I will mix it up too by bringing a lunch but also buying a small side order for $1.
My best cheap lunch to date was pumpkin chili I brought from home with some corn tortillas and refried beans - a total cost of about 75 cents for a bunch of food. Then I got a side of cheesy potatoes from the cafè. It was going to be a double order - $2 - but after the manager wanted to show an employee how to cancel a transaction she gave me the side for free. I ended up having leftovers to take home :)
For a few years, we’ve always saved money on lunch because I make a pot/pan of something big on Sunday and my husband and I eat it for lunch that week (we don’t mind leftovers). When we worked in the same office, we’d just bring it all in big containers and feed our coworkers too. After he got a new job last December, we had to split up the food and take it in separately. Now that we pack bento style, we’re not feeding extra people every day. Now we save even more because I don’t cook as much food as I used to. Of course, my coworkers had a little adjusting to do, but they still get my cooking at the potlucks!
The smaller portions really help me to economise- I get full on bento-sized lunches just the same as an ordinary lunch. It’s taught me to make good meals out of leftovers. Plus being at university, it’s much cheaper to take a packed lunch rather than spend a fortune at the campus diner. And best of all, the main reason for my switch to bento, it’s healthier too! ^_^
Making your own food is always a saver. However, I splurged a little too much on cute bento boxes last year, esp. without checking their volume and washing/care instructions first. You can make really nice bento with just tupperware and a cotton cloth. I’m saving my bento box money for now.
Agreed, making your own food is way cheaper. Sometimes I buy food at school and it costs me a fortune everytime!
Because of bento lunches, my boyfriend has no need to buy lunch at work which can add up to a lot. Also, leftovers have a place. They don’t just sit in the far corners of the refrigerator; they actually get eaten and enjoyed.
Also packing bento lunches saves me time, water, and energy costs. I can pack leftovers the night before, and only using 2 small bento boxes to pack all the food together, I have less individual containers to wash.
It also saves money for weird gift giving people like me. I like to randomly surprise my boyfriend (and other family) with little gifts from time to time. It makes me feel good to see them happy. With bentos, I can create an ornate lunch for them using all their favorite foods and spend less money but still feel like I am giving them something! It works for everyone!
A decent lunch at the cafeteria at my office runs $6… before drinks or dessert! Add those and you’re easily talking $9-$10 a day for meals. Just bringing leftovers wasn’t working for me, as a big container of what I ate last night would sometime drive me to buy lunch just from boredom. Packing bento means I eat less and have a variety of tastes to keep me interested. And it’s all food I have around the house anyway, just prepared and packed with a little more care.
I used to take leftovers for lunch or forget all together and then end up spending loads on lunch and leave half of it anyway. I have found I portion food a lot better now and things last me over double what they would of before, Im eating a lot less rubbish and having a healthy balanced and mixed diet at lunch now. With smart shopping and cooking extras with dinner its a money saver which is healthy!
right now, i’m doing alot of buying of the cute bento gadgets. since i buy them from ichibankan, it hasn’t been too expensive. my son’s lunch at school costs $1.75 so the bento doesn’t exactly save money, BUT, the school only gives him 30 min for lunch which is insane for a 1st grader. and part of that 30 min could be standing in line getting a hot lunch. so he loves it now that i make him a lunch and he actually can find a place to eat amongst his friends and actually get to each his lunch. i had leftover rice the other day and froze the rice like you suggested. microwaved it a bit in the morning couple days later and put it in his lunch. it was fantastic, fast and the rice was very moist. i normally only make 2 cups of rice at a time because there’s just the two of us and i want fresh rice, but i’ll be making more since the freezing technique is wonderful.
Lunch in the teachers’ caf usually runs about $6 or so. Over 180 school days, that’s $1080. Now that I’m packing my lunch daily, I save at least half of that, and I’m eating much healthier, as well.
Only my son takes lunches, for school. But I haven’t convinced him to take a bento type lunch yet.
Where we do use them: I often try to incorporate bento type thing into regular meals. Not only to save $, but to help us have a healthier idea of how much we need to eat. We don’t need huge amounts of meat to do bento type things as main dishes. (And my youngest loves when we do apple bunnies!) I’m slowly incorporating more bento ideas into regular use and it’s fun.
My favorite bento use so far was for our last picnic. We had good and simple home made food that was made from what I had, reasonable servings in a compact reusable container, and we didn’t need a large cooler to take it with us. (I used a home made furoshiki to budle it with ice packs.) Bonus!
I don’t only take bento to work, where it helps me save money (leftovers I would usually have to throw out and a little rice make a great meal - compared to 2 buns with fillings from my supermarket around the corner for a total of 6-7 € it’s well worth the time)
I also take bento to sports competitions (I play underwater rugby). Before bento, I would usually eat chocolate and bananas all day and feel unhappy in the water. Not i try to fit in a lunch break somewhere (when I know i don’t need to be back in play before an hour or so) eat my bento and everybody is jealous of my foooood!
And I’ve lost weight!
And my best friend sends me bento supplies from Japan in exchange for local from home stuff she can’t get there…
Great blog, by the way!
Bentos definitely help me save money in that I don’t go out for lunch every day now. I never could stand lunch boxes before, but now I have reason to enjoy them!
On the other hand, I do buy more food now, and quite a bunch more exotic or higher quality food for use in bentos. I’ve also taken to stocking lettuce and other decorative vegetables, and growing some amounts of it at home.
If I didn’t pack my lunch I would spend too much money on lunch. I often just pack a steamed bun or rice with raw veggies, eggs sometimes, and often something sweet like mochi or a piece of fruit. Ultimately it’s a lot cheaper than buying a sandwich or salad somewhere. When I consider how much the food in my bento actually costs compared to how much I would spend on the same food eating out, I’m saving a lot! In a restaurant a single egg can cost a dollar or more which is crazy when you consider how cheap a dozen are. On average, I spend about $2-3 on bento packing a day and that’s to pack 2 bentos, one for me and one for my boyfriend.
Since I’m not yet that experienced in cooking, most of my bentos are usually leftovers, which is good because we no longer have to deal with the problem of cooking too much food in one go, and not eating it all (there’s only my mother and me, and my mother doesn’t eat much anyway). I can save up to like $35 dollars a week, and that way I can go have coffee (or cake!)whatever with my friends after class :)
They probably don’t save much time though, since I’m not yet that great at assembling a bento quickly, whilst having breakfast (mmmm pancakes), and besides I’m so used to sleeping in until last minute :P
It can get so expensive to buy lunch at work or school every day, especially if you are trying to eat something healthful! Even bringing lunch from home can be expensive if you have to keep buying TV dinners, energy bars, or what have you. Packing a bento gives me a way to make my leftovers and odds and ends more appealing, so it saves me from having to buy cafeteria lunches or overpriced prepackaged items, and stops me from wasting food at home. Sure, it’s possible to go broke buying all the cute accessories, but I’ve been doing just fine with a $5 box and making decorations and dividers out of the food I’m packing.
I’m guessing they save me money because I don’t throw any leftovers away now, no matter how miniscule.
Also I pack bento for outings on which I’d usually stop for restaurant food. So that saves me a little.
At this point bento definitely has me spending more money- on boxes and gear and trying new foods.
All these are good though.
I have needed to expand what I am eating and I have lost a few pounds due to the smaller portions.
Definitely. If I bring lunch, then I’m not buying lunch, which is usually $7-8 around my office. And the stuff I pack in a bento tends to be very cheap, too - a $7 piece of salmon makes enough furikake for 5 days and even organic rice is less than $1/lb. The fruit and veggies are the most expensive part of my lunch, but it’s still less than half the cost of buying lunch.
I work on Magazine Street in New Orleans, which has lots of boutiques and restaurants. I don’t own a car, so I’m rather limited to lunches within walking distance or delivery, which will run me anywhere from $7 (crappy chinese from convenience store hot box) to $15+.
I hadn’t been making lunches because I couldn’t get the soggy PB&J sandwich idea out of my head. And then I figured out bento.
My grocery bills haven’t really gone up, I’m eating slightly less for dinner (since I’ve got a plan for leftovers, instead of stuffing down what would have been a smidgen of whatever that sat in the fridge indefinitely), and I’m not spending $10 /day on lunches.
I’m also not spending tons of cash on cute bento stuff… I typically pack in an 8”x 8”x 1.5” gladware box, and am creative about using recycled condiment/yogurt/sour cream jars/tubs or other items for sauces, dips, dressings and sprinkles. My favorite is the Surprise containers that come in KinderSurprise chocolate eggs from Not-USA.
Before I started packing bentos, all the little odds and ends that weren’t enough to save got tossed. Now, the pair of broccoli pieces and single cherry tomato add zest and variety to a bento rather than my trash can! ((Laughing))
As well, the bento keeps portion control easy, so food goes farther.
Great blog you’ve got here!
My lunches are definitely cheaper per lunch than eating out or buying nasty tv dinners to heat up. The problem is that I sometimes buy more expensive foods (which also get eaten during other meals) and I have spent a small fortune on bento boxes, pics, etc. Now that I feel satisfied with my bento box collection, I think the savings will start to become more noticeable.
I think it’ll save me some money after I stop spending it to buy bento boxes and supplies!
I just started Weight Watcher and thought about my old bento box. I took it out and low and behold found your site with wonderful ideas and information.
Keep up the grat work!
It’s a tough call for me, I have celiac sprue so my options are limited. It wouldn’t be so bad if I still lived in Boston, but here in Hawaii I can’t eat anything. My GF foods are more expensive normally, on my island they cost even more (think an extra dollar or two for every item). My version of eating out here consists of visiting the bakery where I get a muffin (the only GF bakery on HI is on my island). So if I want my bento to save me money they have to cost less than $3.75 (the price of a muffin so big I can’t ever finish it), and that just never happens. Back home in Boston it seems like everyone either has celiac or is related to someone who does, this saves a lot of worry in resturants. I never had problems going where everyone else went, even asian resturants. I use a chlid size box even though I’m 5’10” so a resturant meal has on many occasions lasted me a couple of days. So a ten or fifteen dollar plate from Fridays or Salem Beer Works was always reasonable. I’m trying to get better, my ultimate goal is to get my boxes down to around four dollars.
I’d have to say with the price of groceries and then compared to getting food while i’m at school or work; it evens out. Though they are nice when i have no money at all to buy food, but still have things to make cute little sandwiches, fried rice, some left over chicken or whatever.
Heck, i’ll just have a whole salad bento with some crackers and cheese (not bad when you are trying to lose weight!) XD
It definitely does. I’m a 15 year old (male too), and the school lunches here are around 4 dollars, and if you want more than the small lunches you get, it costs even more. Even though my school tries to get healthy, they did it wrong, and all the food tastes awful (not that healthy either). A bento costs about .50 to 2 dollars, considering I make mostly all of my food, and even with the fruits and veggies it’s cheap, delicious, and very healthy.
While it’s not huge savings, it’s definitely enough for me!
In order to eat lunch from home it has to be more alluring than the very well-prepared cheeseburger, crisp hot french fries and Coke that I can get for $9.50 (including tip) at the shop downstairs. Bento meals cause me to plan something exciting. I really look forward to them, they are so much healthier, and I save a bundle. What makes the savings unique to Bento? I used to bring a sandwich, or frozen prepared meal, and half the time I ignored it at lunch and went out to eat anyway. That doesn’t happen with Bento.
Before I was making bentos I was in a bad habit of stopping at fast food places between schools. I keep myself from doing that by keeping my lunches interesting and tasty. I have spent a little bit on accessories, but I don’t really figure that into the “cost” of lunch, as it’s money I can afford to spend, I don’t need those, and they also will last longer than the fast food I used to eat.
I’m also doing this to eat healthier lunches. I have a very active job, but even then, fast food isn’t the best diet for somebody in their early 30s.
An addition is that when I ended up with major car repairs last month- I was able to make it through the rest of the month on very little money because I could use stuff from my kitchen for lunch, rather than buying lunch at school, between schools or prepackaged for lunch. (which is another trap I fall into)
…..packing bentos means that we’re not guying at restaurants. I’m spending a bit more on groceries, but a lot less on restaurant expenses for dh and I. The school lunches for my boys are relatively inexpensive ($1.50), but not particularly healthy. My oldest also doesn’t particularly like the cafeteria food, so on those days where he’s buying he always comes home starving, having thrown half his lunch away. OTOH, they suck down all the food from their bentos pretty reliably.
Each of us has a single bento box and I don’t really spend on accessories, so we’re coming out fine on that front as well.
I haven’t been keeping track too closely, but I know that I’m able to forgo my university’s meal plan ($2,400 a semester) and eat on my own for less than $1,600 a semester with the help of my bento lunches! Plus, the food I cook and pack is much tastier and healthier than anything I could buy at school, and my friends are always commenting about how good my lunches look ;-D.
We’ve saved a lot. When there’s dinner leftovers I pack them for lunch for me and the girls. On other days, I have a freezer stash of homemade foods that I pack in the morning. The girls are actually eating their lunches and not just throwing the boring school lunches away and thus money away. Plus, the girls are eating healthier and a larger variety of foods.
Cheaper and healthier!
I turned up as a vegetarian so the cost of my meals went down too. But bento helps me to avoid going out for lunch and to eat a healthier meal. And, it’s better than going home and do the meal as I’d be cooking a quick meal while hungry and this is the best way to eat whatsoever and too much!
By having it packed, it spares money (we use the leftovers), time (I don’t have to go out, wait for my order, nor do I have to go back home and prepare lunch), and it’s much healthier. I do love bentos!
I’d say that I spend roughly the same - sometimes more and sometimes less - than when I used to do the boring sandwich-crisps-fruit packed lunch. I’ve never eaten out for lunch, so I don’t count bento vs. restaurant as “saving money” for me.
The ingredients needed to supplement a bento DO sometimes run a bit pricier than just buying bread & lunchmeat, since I get stuff now like Babybel cheese or sushi rice or gyoza wrappers. However, I suppose if I was really persistant and ONLY packed ‘smart’ bentos using primarily leftovers and on-hand foods, they would probably come out slightly cheaper than my previous sandwich lunches (which were generally a sandwich, piece of fruit, small bag of crisps and a bag of carrot sticks). Also, I find that I need to pack less ‘volume’ than the sandwich lunch because things like rice or gyoza are much denser and filling than a sandwich and crisps :).
Very long-winded answer to a simple question!!
I guess another question might be if bentos have made you more aware of the food you eat, or even a better cook! (maybe another poll down the line :))
If anyone has missed it, a very handy tool that can help you plan and save money in the process is the Weekly Bento Planner.
I have been making bento for my husband, grown college-age son, and myself since school started this semester. Packing a lunch hasn’t been that big of a saving for me, but my husband claims he is saving over $20 a week.
Saving money aside… Your comment about become more aware of what we are eating is the real plus. I wanted to make bentos to help me continue my Asian inspired weight loss program. As a result of sharing and making bentos for my husband and son, they are lossing weight too.
Thanks for the Weekly Bento Planner - if your readers aren’t using it, I highly recommend that they do. It saves me so much time during the week!
I think I’ve been saving money and eating better. It is just as easy to do lunch for my husband too, so neither of us have been buying lunches. This week was crazy, so I didn’t have time to do the bentos. I’ve discovered that I miss them and am not as eager to eat out as I used to be.
I suppose I fall under the yes and no category, too, as, prior to taking a bento lunch, I simply didn’t (frequently) take any lunch at all. Perhaps a granola bar and a container of yogurt. So, in that sense, bento has not saved me money, specifically, but I am now eating a healthy lunch and feeling much better throughout the day. (And it would be cheaper than purchasing lunch on campus, though I seldom do that.)
One thing that I am still trying to master is the balance of having fresh fruits and vegetables in a variety that appeals to me while not losing half of my produce to spoilage. Some of the problem is my own finickyness—I don’t want the same thing in my lunch every day long enough to use up, say, a whole yellow squash. I have become very disciplined about making good use of my freezer for rice and proteins and fruits, but I drop the ball on my vegetables something fierce.
I also find myself buying international foods to try (that may be quite a bit more expensive than what I would regularly purchase), and while I don’t think that’s a problem, necessarily, sometimes I find I dislike the thing, and there I am with a whole jar of a condiment I cannot bring myself to eat. (And, unfortunately, I live in a place where it’s not actually all that easy to give those things away.)
It definitely does. Bento-ing is much cheaper and healthier than eating out. The best alternative to eat out when not bento-ing is subway.. and the menus are pretty boring :c
I can use the money saved to buy other things and cute bento accessories ^^
Thank you for sharing!
When I started college I always opted for something bought from the cafeteria, but I spent easily 50-60 dollars per week like that. Then I found these site and some more, bought myself some tupperware and a bento box (a real one from a Jap. store) and I’ve saved money like crazy. Not only that, since I choose what goes in my lunch box, I always get healthy choices. Not only my pocket is saved, my diet is too!
I want to add a thank you for creating such a good website, thank you so much!
Not really, ‘cause if I don’t bring bento I usually don’t eat at all…
If I don’t make a bento, I don’t bother eating either!
The school I attend is very new (two years old) and it doesn’t have a cafeteria. To buy food, I’d have to go to the hospital beside my school and buy from the food court or the staff cafeteria. There’s also a strip of three restaurants in front. Those options are expensive if you eat out every school day. Not to mention there aren’t that many healthy foods available (strange, huh? considering it’s a hospital).
It comes out a lot cheaper because I make bento for myself and two brothers. Some leftovers from dinner and a bit extra makes really healthy lunch for the next day. I also don’t worry that my brothers are eating poorly at work.
Thanks for keeping up this blog! I love reading it. ^_^
I voted for not sure because although my lunch money has been saved up, but sometimes the money that goes to the bento supplies (which sometimes ain’t cheap at all!) and also the food that I buy as I don’t always use leftovers.
hi maki! i know this has nothing to do with this post.. but can couscous be used in place of rice in bento.. and do you have any bento ideas using couscous?
I’m not Maki, but I do put couscous in bentos. It works really well, I usually pair it with leftover chicken, or pork. I sort of consider rice, couscous and quinoa interchangeable depending on what else I am putting in my bento that day.
As furina says, couscous can be used for bento quite successfully. I like to flavor it up a bit and mix it with vegetables and so on - see this couscous (sort of) bento or this quinoa salad bento (you could use couscous instead of quinoa, though quinoa is more nutritious.)
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