A couple of weeks ago, Ellie was in an all day summer space camp and as I went to make her a packed bento lunch on the first day of camp, I froze. I didn't know what to do!
I had completely forgotten how to pack a healthy bento lunch!
In 6 weeks, all of my bento packing skills were gone!
Didn't I even write a book about bento lunches, yep I sure did!
So I pulled out our favorite bento boxes, dug deep into my memory, cleared all of our summer snack foods out of the way and finally got to work on some healthy summer bento lunches.
Once I started, I realized how overwhelming packing lunches can be!! That wasn't good. Packing lunches is my happy place, I love love love packing healthy and colorful lunches for my girls but it does take some time to get into the swing of it.
So while I have posted a ton of recipes, inspiration and thoughts on bento boxes, I decided to pull it all together into one info packed post for you <--------- yourwelcome:)
Below you will find my favorite bento boxes and bento accessories, my go-to school lunch recipes and tons of bento inspiration! If you have any more questions, hit me up in the comments section.
Here's to a happy and yummy new school year!
The first thing you have to get for your kid for lunch school lunches is the perfect bento box. After personally trying over 20 different bento boxes (not even exaggerating here) while I was writing Little Bento, the bento boxes below are hands-down my favorite boxes on the market. They hold up well, are all leak-proof and have several different compartments that are the perfect size for kids. While they range in price from cheap to what-the-heck-did-I-just-pay-for-a-lunch-box, no matter which one you pick, you will use it over and over again, which to me makes it completely worth their price.
Best Bento Boxes for Preschoolers and Kids
OmieBox Bento - this is a new one for us and we have been loving it! It has a thermos that fits right into the bento for hot (I also use for cold food) items such as soups, pastas, rices, meatballs, etc. I really love this feature because now I don't have to pack a bento and a separate thermos. The thermos also comes out so you can use it like a typical bento box. I love that each compartment is leakproof as well as the entire container!
While I find this has a great deal of space for food, if you have an older kid or a big eater you may want to go with a bigger bento.
The PlantetBox is one of the most expensive bento boxes on the market, and for good reason, they are amazing! I have both the Rover and the Shuttle and we use them all the time. They are made with food-grade stainless steel, so if you are trying to avoid plastic, this is the bento for you. I love this bento because while there are a ton of compartments, they are relatively flat with rounded edges, which makes eating out of them easy for little kids. These bentos are built tough and will last you for years.
The one thing that does kinda bug me about these bentos its that each compartment is not completely leak-proof. With each box you get round lidded containers for runny or wet foods (hummus, dressing, yogurt, etc) but I had to order some extra lidded containers to have on hand in case I was packing something that might leak. This doesn't bug me enough to deter from me using them, just thought I would point it out.
Sunsella Buddy Boxes, pack of 4 - these are the cheapest of the bunch and it's crazy how much use we have gotten out of them. They are lightweight, easy to fill and completely leak proof! These are the bentos I use when I am packing lunches for the entire family. It's a small thing, but I love that each bento has a different color lid because it is then easy to know which lunch belongs to which person because as much as I try to pack the same lunches it usually turns out that all of our lunches are slightly different. And because they are so cheap you won't mind if your kid forgets to bring it home or decides they want to use their lunch box in some weird dirt science experiment. And because they go right into the dishwasher, I have never actually had to replace these boxes and we have now had them for over 4 years!
Best Bento Boxes for Toddlers
Want more in detailed explanation of my pro/cons of each style of bentos - then check out my complete guide here.
The best part of using bento boxes, I think, are the accessories that goes with them!
Here is a short list of what I think you need in your bento accessory stash -
Silicon Cupcake Holders - Not just for muffins, these holders are great for sectioning off different foods from each other (crackers in one and cheese in a another). I have several different shapes and brands of these holders, but these flower ones and this brand in any shape are my favorite.
Cutters - great for fruits, veggies, cheese and small sandwiches. I seriously use these flowers cutters all the time but I also just ordered these for this school years lunches and can't wait to try out the little animals, so cute!
Small Cute Dip Containers - people ask me all the time where I get my small and cute dip containers that I use for dips, dressings and even small treats like chocolate chips and jelly beans. They come in dot/stripe, rainbow/star or panda/bunny set.
Small Sticks - these are perfect for making fruit kababs or sandwiches-on-a-stick. I use both the 6" wood skewers and these lollipop sticks for the younger kids so they don't hurt themselves with the pointy end.
Click here for even more of my favorite bento accessories - all of which I use on a daily or weekly basis. Don't worry, the accessories are the cheap part:)
Here are 36 of my all-time favorite school lunch recipes! They are easy to make and healthy to eat. I promise you that you will use them over and over again throughout the year.
Here are over 68 bento boxes for you to get inspired by! You can find even more on my Instagram account or check back later and I will update this when I take pictures of this years lunches.
Want even more inspiration - then check out my book - Little Bento: 32 Irresistible Bento Box Lunches for Kids! It's filled with over 100 delicious and nutritious recipes to pack in your bento.
Disclaimer - some of the links above are from affiliate links, but 100% of the opinions are my own, I really love and use each and every product I have listed above.