Are Bento Really Cheaper?

I was going over some prices trying to decide if bento are really cheaper than bringing a more standard lunch.  It will quickly become obvious that a bento is much cheaper than going out for lunch, even getting fast food!

After talking with a friend of mine and doing some research for a class I want to do, I sat down with some of my old receipts and started pricing out bento I have actually made.  The prices involve the food alone.  I don’t count the cost of plates for dinner and if you’re buying hundreds of dollars in bento equipment, you have no-one but yourself to blame.   My stash cost a LOT less than that. Just sayin’.

So, on to the food.  A really cheap bento might cost me a buck.  I only did that once, and it wasn’t as balanced as I like.  The most expensive one I’ve actually made cost $1.76, and was using some pre-packaged food.  The average amount I usually spend on food for a bento is somewhere around $1.25.  While it’s not at the dollar a meal food stamp level, I’m fortunate enough not to have to go there right now.  I consider spending a buck and a quarter on a meal completely acceptable.  I was not necessarily going for the cheapest meal I could make in making these things, but just buying meat cheaply and not sweating anything otherwise.

It’s cheaper than a school lunch ($2.35 at my son’s school).

So what about the classic fruit and a sandwich?

It depends.   Right now, a bananna and peanut butter sandwhich is pricing out at about $0.73.  More expensive fruit, and a sandwich with lunch meat and veggies is going to run you closer to $1.75.  That’s still hardly bank-breaking, though close to my most expensive bento.  For an  entire working month, that bento is going to come out as ten dollars cheaper, if you’re bringing the apple and lunch meat sandwich with veggies.  Start throwing in chips and the price goes up a little.  I have no idea what chips cost.  I don’t buy them.


That’s also going to depend on what you usually eat.  For my household, it would be comperable to my usual bento.

If you’re buying lunch, you’re probably spending at least five dollars a day doing it.  So, the takeaway here is that bringing your lunch is astronomically cheaper. Bento is just a fairly frugal hobby if you do it right.

Bad Mama Bento

Bad Mama BentoI’m a Bad Mama.  The stuff in the top tier are some sort of pseudo-food pizza pocket thingies you make in the toaster oven.

However, since my son just completed the best school year of his life, topping it off with the best report card he’s ever gotten, I think he can have a pizza pocket lunch for his last day at school, don’t you?

Many of us in the bento maker community do get a bit self-congratulatory about our healthy lunches.  To be honest, a desire to eat healthily is a driving factor for many people who make bento in the US.  It doesn’t have to be.  You can put M&Ms in a bento (and I just realized I’m going to have to repack this lunch, as I’d promised my son a Lindt truffle in his lunch for tomorrow), you can put in fried processed food.  You can put anything into a bento.

But that’s the real beauty of bento making — its flexibility.  Sure, sure, for the most part people who make ’em try to give some attention to making sure that there are lots of colors in the veggies (ensuring a good nutritional variety), and generally don’t use a lot of pre-packaged stuff.  But you really could cut up a twinkie, and arrange it sushi-like in one of the tiers if your heart so desired.

In fact, I would totally make these Twinkie sushi as a snack bento if it were something Really Special, like a long trip, or… say trying to convert my little nephews to the joy of bento so they’ll whine for them and drive my brother crazy.

Though with my luck, and knowing  my seafood-loving little bro, they’re already into the real thing.

Push Reel Mower and Being the Designated Control Freak

My household, when we moved to our present home, did not own a lawnmower.  The man of the house, who claimed the job of mowing the lawn as his, decided he wanted a push reel mower.  Me?

I figured this fell under the role of Designated Control Freak (or DCF).  He wanted to be The Mower of the Lawn, he could get whatever he wanted to accomplish the job.  It seemed a bit goofy to me, but since it wasn’t my problem, I didn’t figure I needed a say.

Well, it was a few years before I used it.  You see, it took that long before the lawn got too high for me to want to tolerate, so of course that made me the lawn DCF.  (The usual lawn DCF being in the throes of an insanely busy work schedule).  I hauled it out without much enthusiasm, but with great curiosity, as I’d never tried it before.  Since it was a gadget rather than a big, indimidating noisy machine like the snow blower, I figured it was worth a go.

I found out something.  Push reel mowers are fun!  They do make a low-level rattling noise, and there is an art to keeping the blades spinning to get the appropriate cut, but they’re more fun than the gas thing I occasionally used as a kid. (My theory is that like the man of the house here, my father liked mowing the lawn, so I was rarely asked to do it).

We got one mostly because they’re cheap to buy, they don’t use gas, so they’re cheap to use, and they’re not noisy.  While yes yes yes, they’re pretty environmentally sound, the choice was more about saving money than saving the environment.  Though as I often maintain, conservation and such is often the more economical way to go.

Being an Athlete

I was called athletic today.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love being called that. Tickles the hell out of me. But I really don’t see myself that way.  Yeah, yeah, I know, what else does being an athlete require but spending some time on a sport on a regular basis?

I’ve mused on this before, but I still haven’t internalized the idea that I wanted to — that being an athlete merely requires something physical you love and do on a relatively frequent basis.  I mean, I just swam over a mile today!

Am I a great athlete?  No.  Am I even a fast swimmer?  Hell, no!

I think part of it is that I do sometimes slog through a swim.  Goodness knows I did today.  I was constantly telling myself, “C’mon.  You decided to put in a 2,000 today.  Just keep doing it.  You’ve got one more length in you.”   This was not one of those glorious swims where I feel like a god. (Though I like those a lot better).

Now, a lot of why I’m doing the 50 mile swim is because I’ll get a t-shirt at the end of it that I intend to wear when I’m working the front desk at the gym.  So very often women built like me are scared to come to the gym.  They’re scared their goals won’t be listened to.  They’re scared of being judged.  The gym I go to is about getting moving on a regular basis and not about getting down to 12% body fat, but there are gyms that feel otherwise about it, and goodness knows that can put someone off.

Although maybe I’ll be taking away hope when I prove that exercise doesn’t automagically make you skinny.  Who knows?

Swimming and Athletic Performance

I got called a fish today. I was absurdly pleased. What was cool about it to me was that it was by someone who has decided to train for a triathlon. For those of you who’ve done a tri, we’re definitely talking Clydesdale1 here.

The guy is not particularly a skilled swimmer, but I’ve seen him swim and have seen him move on dryland.  He’s got good body control, so I don’t think it’s going to take too long for him to relax enough for him to get his form down.   What pleased me so was that this muscular, athletic man tried my sport, has seen me perform, and respects what I do.  In truth, he’ll soon outpace me.    I been swimming seriously for about three years, and consider it a great swim if I can do 2,000 in under 50 minutes.  He’s already doing a 1,000 in half an hour, just a few weeks into training.  Though I did make a snarky crack that I was not going to let him beat me swimming, he’s gonna get a lot faster than ever I can.

It means a lot to me as a heavy woman to be respected for athletic stuff, especially when it’s not framed in terms of what it makes me look like, but performance.

1This is a category for men over 200 lbs. They may be fat, or just big, heavy and muscular. This guy is big, heavy and muscular, and truly rather reminiscent of a draft horse in power.  The female equivalent is called an Athena.  I think the weight cutoff is something like 145.