The Weekly Bento Planner is a simple one-page form that I use to plan out my week, bento-wise. I don't really bother to plan out my other meals, but since time is at such a premium in the morning when I'm assembling bentos, I spend a few minutes on the weekend writing out what I intend to make for bentos during the upcoming week.
I'm always looking for ways to shave a few minutes off bento prep time. One way to do this is to look at the containers the condiments, sauces and other ingredients that you use frequently come in.
I use honey quite a lot as a sweetener. Measuring it out of a glass jar is a sticky, messy business, that more often than not requires washing of a spoon, wiping drips around the lid and jar, and other little things that add up in terms of wasted time. So, for morning preperations I rely on the neat runny honey in a squeeze bottle. It's not rare gourmet honey gathered from bees who suckle on rare alpine flora (I save that kind for leisurely cups of lemon-honey-water), but it sure cuts down on bento making time in the morning.
Popular types of homemade bento, with example sites and books
As I touched upon briefly in Bento Basics, there are different kinds of bento box meals, and this site is primarily concerned with bento lunch boxes. Even these come in different varieties.
There are three main types of homemade bento lunches that are popular in Japan at the moment. Here I'll try to describe them, with example blogs and books from Japan. (Please note that all book links are Amazon or other associate links, which help to support Just Bento and Just Hungry.)
Prepping for the upcoming week's bento making on the weekend
During the week I often get so rushed and busy with everyday life that I barely have time to stop and think about anything, including making bento lunches. So I try to do a little prepping over the weekend, when I have some extra time. I'm not really talking about spending hours in the kitchen, but easy things that can be done either in a few minutes, or unattended while I do the laundry or just take a long nap.
Onigiri On Parade: A guide to onigiri (omusubi) rice ball shapes, types and fun
Onigiri (or omusubi, the other name for the same thing), the cute little rice ball, has really become popular outside of Japan in the last few years, in large part it seems due to its iconic status in anime and manga. While the onigiri is not limited in Japanese food culture to just bento use, it's an indispensable part of the bento maker's repertoire.
Streamlining the bento making process: Preparation and washing up
As you read about making bento, you might wonder how this is all possible to do in the busy morning. It is possible, since millions of Japanese people do it every day - and no, not all of them are stay-at-home mothers (and who is busier and more time-constrained more than a mom anyway?) Practice makes perfect, so the more you make bento the faster you get. But a little bit of preparation and forethought goes a long way towards streamlining your bento making.