The winner of the Back to School Bento Tips contest is...

With so many great ideas, it was really hard to pick a winner! But it finally came down to the great ideas from one busy lady: vesper h, who is a mom of 2, and works full time at a university. Here’s part of her winning entry:

We make and freeze our bento staples on the weekends, which makes it easier for me to pull together a lunch in the painfully-early morning. I try to keep the freezer stocked with onigiri-esque rice cubes (formed in an ice cube tray), rice balls (formed with a small ice cream scoop), and more traditional triangle shapes formed in an ice tray we bought at IKEA. Other freezer staples: garlicky, spicy mini-kibbe, made with ground beef and bulgur; Italian-style meatballs; Southwestern-style mini chicken patties; purchased frozen dumplings; homemade cheese biscuits or cheese-and-ham biscuits; and bunches of homemade muffins—pumpkin, zucchini, oatmeal and gingerbread. All of these get warmed in the microwave before packing.

Leftovers from dinner are also bento staples—I can use up bits of cooked meat or pasta that are not enough to make a whole meal in themselves. (My thrifty self loves this). Unsauced pasta is a favorite bento item for my girls; sauced pasta not so much, as they don’t think it tastes great at room temperature.
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We started packing bentos at the beginning of the last school year, and at first I was afraid my kids wouldn’t be getting enough food. Those boxes look small! But it worked out so well—there was always plenty to eat, they always had a variety of healthy foods, and the lunches were always so colorful and pretty. I never realized what a difference that makes.

Read the rest of her winning entry. Vesper h will be receiving a $30 gift certificate from J-List!

Be sure to check out the other great back-to-school bento tips and ideas - there’s something for everyone, from moms making bentos for their kids to students dealing with dorm conditions. And teachers and other school employees too!

Thank you so much to everyone for entering!

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: The winner of the Back to School Bento Tips contest ...

Congrats Vesper H! I always feel reluctant to freeze and microwave things because i never know how much to microwave certain foods for. (I have the tendency to over microwave). I remember once i microwaved frozen onigiri but the inside was still cold/frozen after i bite into it. But I see that alot of people have done this. I might try it again just with a longer time spent in the microwave. xD

Its also refreshing to hear that bentos are capable of filling people up. I still havent made one yet. I dont eat much to begin with but I never really know what to put in there that'll taste good at room temp.

Re: The winner of the Back to School Bento Tips contest ...

Well, if the measure of a "good" post is how many times one will return to it for specific ideas, then Vesper H was really a good choice of winner! So many good pointers--onigiri in ice cube trays, tiny pizza bites, foil on the chicken bone--gosh, these made me think. That post also made me feel a little better about one major way I "violate" bento tradition: My bentos have a way lower percentage of carbs than other nutrients. Every time I packed one in the past, I acted a little furtive about putting in my token little pile of noodles or whatever. It's amazing how liberating it feels to have someone else admit to breaking the rules!

And thanks, Maki, for inspiring everyone to share such good ideas in one spot. I can see why it was hard to pick a winner.

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