Welcome to Week 4 of the 5 week Getting Started Bento Challenge!
A reminder of the outline of this and upcoming Challenge weeks.
So far, we’ve mainly concentrated on bentos for you. But many people make bentos for their family members, in addition to or instead of for themselves. This week’s focus is on how to get your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or kids to love their bento, and how you can keep up with bento making without going crazy. Fortunately, you can use all the skills and tactics discussed so far to make your loving bento efforts go smoothly.
We started out this challenge by working on mise en place, getting organized and planning ahead . If you are making more than one bento at a time, organization is even more important. I make two bentos, one for myself and one for The Guy. Usually I just make the same thing for both of us, and pack more food in his box. Still, I estimate that making one more bento with the same ingredients adds about 5 minutes of extra time. And more often than not I make something extra for his bento, like a meat item or something. So having everything in order and knowing what to make is critical.
In connection with being organized: If you have been following along with the recommendations both during the Challenge and on Just Bento in general, you know the critical role of bento ‘johbisai’ or stash foods in speeding up your bento making, as well as adding variety. One problem I used ot run into a lot was someone other than me diving into the fridge or, much less frequently the freezer, and eating up my bento stash, wreaking havoc on my plans!
To prevent this, I freeze as many things as possible (in a drawer of my freezer that is dedicated as the ‘bento stuff drawer’, see Week 3 ), or put it away in a plastic container way in the back of the refrigerator. You may need to take stronger measures if your house has more than one Fridge Marauder, and/or teenagers.
Note that I am not that qualified to talk about bentos for kids, since I don’t have kids of my own. My sister has two kids, and I’ve talked to her about making her son, who is a bit picky, eat his lunch (the younger one, my niece, eats everything). Some of her ideas are incorporated here. And there are many other bento blogs that are specifically about bentos for children (see favorite bento blogs .) Of course, picky and demanding eaters come in all sizes and ages!
So, you are all gung-ho about bentos - healthier lunches! more variety! cut down the family food budget! But your picky family members are resistant. What to do? I have been lucky in that The Guy is not that picky about food, but I did have to start him off slowly. Here are some ideas:
If you are making bentos for your spouse/SO or kids, you might consider packing a bento for yourself as well. This way, not only do you not have to bother about your own lunch, you also get to taste how the bento is after several hours, and make adjustments as necessary.
So, on to this week’s tasks!
Whatever level you decide to tackle, you should do the following:
Just one more week to go in the Challenge! The most important thing is to just Do It - make bento at least a couple of times a week. If at the end of the Challenge, bento making has become part of your routine, you’ve passed with flying colors!
Your Weight Loss Challenge tasks are a continuation of the things discussed in previous week, especially
Basic: Your main goal is to make bentos part of your daily routine, so keep putting together those bentos, even if they are very basic ones!
Going Deeper: Figure out how to make your family members and others love bento (or love bento even more).
Weight Loss: Review your weight loss and your past bentos. Are you losing weight? Do you feel healthy and fitter?
Just one more week to go in the Challenge after this. It’s all smooth sailing from here…right? Right!
My Week 4 was quite interesting and relevatory for me. More below…
Week 4’s challenge theme was Bentos For Others . To that end, I made it a point of making bentos, or lunch boxes, that might appeal to people who were not necessary into the traditional type bento of rice plus something. I wanted to show that it was possible to put together a tasty lunch that wasn’t boring.
Did I succeed? Maybe halfway. I ended up making two sandwich lunches (this was partly because I was also super busy this week). There is nothing at all wrong with sandwiches, and I did use not-typical fillings, but I think I could have jazzed up the sandwich based lunches a bit more.
Anyway, here’s a look at all the bentos from this week.
Monday’s bento was a sandwich, filled with slices of roast pork that was left over from Sunday dinner, It was delicious and very easy to assemble. I was going to add a soup or something, but just ran out of time.
Tuesday’s bento. This is actually not mine (I forgot to take a photo of mine!) but is The Guy’s. I made it to demonstrate a non-bento bento. It’s detailed in Bento no. 61 .
Wednesday’s bento. This was quite a success - both The Guy and I loved it. I made a batch of 10 mini-meatloaves; we had 2 for dinner, 1 1/2 for this bento, 1 1/2 for Thursday’s bento. So I still have 5 plump little meatloaves ready to go in the freezer, which is a good feeling. This bento is described in detail as Bento no. 62 .
Thursday’s bento is another sandwich, filled with that meatloaf again. There’s a picture of the fillings at the bottom of Bento no. 62 .
Friday’s bento was very different - just the results of an experiment I did trying to come up with a vegan, gluten-free version of jijimi or chijimi, a Korean pancake. I don’t think I have worked out the kinks yet, but these chijimi were pretty good anyway.
This week felt like a lot of work for me, even though two lunches were sandwiches. This is because I’ve become so used to making bentos that are rice or other grain, plus two okazu (sides) that trying to break out of that box so to speak felt way more complicated. I think this is proof that once you get into a rhythm with bento, it’s no more complicated than putting together a sandwich lunch.
I also found out that my creative juices seem to flow a lot more when I’m trying to think up vegetarian or vegan bento items than meat-based ones. This is something that has been going on overall in my food life for a couple of years actually. While we are still an omnivore household, meat is a bit on the boring side for me anyway, and there just seems to be more to discover in the herbivore’s world. Of course, this may change at any time in the future. Nevertheless, the chicken wing combo and tortelloni-based bentos were very well received, so I will probably use them again in the future.
As for other goals, my exercise level was up a bit, and I did lose another pound (500g or so) so overall I declare the week a success.
How was your week? Talk about it in the forum !
(Photo courtesy of juanknowsspanish )
My husband doesn’t like bentos but he does like things that he can assemble at work for a couple of days. So he has some turkey burgers with avocado, cheese, ketchup, and mayo on flat bread for lunch along with some carrot sticks. And also a couple of snack bars and pretzels for the morning and afternoon.
I think this is a nice solution for people who are resistant to the idea of (or their idea of) a bento in a neat box, or for kids who might be teased if they have a traditional-type of bento at school. You can still get variety into their lunch and make it healthier than something they might buy (not to mention the money savings).
Some other not-very-traditional-bento like bento lunch ideas, none of which are based on rice:
Keep in mind that a bento does not have to be rice-based. All of the above would, in Japan, still be called bento! In our household, we have on average about 1 or 2 non-Japanese bentos per week, just for variety.