The results and comments so far for the most recent poll question: Do bentos help you save money?  are very interesting. (The poll will be open for another week or so, so if you haven’t already cast your vote and tell us what you think!) While the majority of you say you either save a lot (39%) or a little (31%) by making bentos, the rest of you are not sure, or think you might be spending more money.
When it comes to bentos, it’s not the food that racks up the expenses usually - it’s the boxes and accessories. Now, I have said here several times already over the past few months that it’s not necessary to buy all those cute accessories and bento boxes in order to bring bento lunches to work or school. But I know how irresistible those things can be too. I fall victim to the ‘ooh, I want that’ urge more than I want to myself.
My thinking has changed a bit on the subject of bento-accesory buying. To be very pragmatic and strict, you can ‘do bento’ with inexpensive food containers and the most utalitarian of accessories. But on the other hand, having your lunch in a box that you love, with little colorful sauce holders and so on, makes lunchtime so much more colorful and fun. Recently i’ve mostly been using one of two stainless steel bento boxes instead of plastic ones, and I love their smoothly engineered quality, and the way the lids click on so precisely. I’m also thinking of using a lacquered wood one that my mother sent me - so far I’ve just been using it at home , but I keep imagining how nice it would be to open up that in the middle of the day.
The reasons why we buy pretty, beautiful bento boxes and accessories are the same as the reasons we want to spends lots of money on nice china. We could eat just as well off of paper plates, but having your meals off dinnerware that we love makes meals just a bit special.
My bento-accessory buying has slowed down a lot recently though. One reason of course is because I already have a lot of stuff. But the main reason is that too much cheap and cheerful stuff just becomes clutter after a while. I’m gradually upgrading my supplies, as I can afford them. By having fewer but nicer things, I feel I can appreciate what I have a lot more, while stopping my bento supply storage area from becoming a disaster zone*.
In any case, if you have been captivated by the world of bento accessories, don’t feel too bad about accumulating them. Just buy cafefully, select what you love, and treat your collection well. They’ll repay you many times over by making everyday lunches - for yourself or your family - just a little special.
(* My bento storage area used to take up a whole tall kitchen cabinet, but through a lot of weeding out I’ve pared it down to just 2 drawers worth. It’s so much easier to take care of!)