Save Money with Bento

Now, I do own some cute bento boxes, but I’m finding some serious limitations to the cute little Japanese ones.

  1. They’re delicate. The ones you generally find don’t stand up to rough treatment and you can’t really put them in the microwave or the dishwasher.  You can buy bento that can go in the microwave and the dishwasher, but they’re…
  2. Expensive. ‘Nuff said.

I could buy a $30 box from Japan (adding in, of course, the price of international shipping.  Or, as my bento collection slowly disappears through breakage, I’m more likely to use plastic ware from the local department store, or even those cheap Gladware babies (which last longer than the bento boxes.  Go figure).

Here’s a step by step bento I did for my husband.  This one is a larger box,  (750 ml) so is more for a larger appetite. (<cough>Teenaged Boy</cough>).

So, we start with fried rice.  I’d had some rice left over, so figured that’d be tasty.  I’ve got this spread all over the bottom of the container so that it will cool.

Then I slide the rice over to save space. The green veggies holding the rice in place is cucumber slices cut in half, then arranged in an alternating pattern to make the structure a little stronger.  Engineering and art!  Who says they’re diametrically opposed?

Remember all that money I was saving cutting up chicken parts?  Drumsticks are great for bento, so that’s exactly what I used here.

One of the things that’s important when you make a bento is to make sure that you stuff the box full enough that the food doesn’t have much room to move.  Veggies are great for this.  Go for color as much as possible, as that means you’re getting a wider range of vitamins and a healthier meal.  Yes, it’s prettier, too.

Speaking of color, just green, brown and red aren’t enough for my own tastes, so I added a bit of yellow.  Since this was suggestive of a flower, I kinda ran with it.

I put some blueberries inside the flower, more because there wasn’t any fruit in the bento and Dear Hoosband likes a bit of sweetness with a meal.

I did cook the fried rice (had half of it for dinner, NOM) and the drumstick, but I could have just as easily used leftovers in the fridge (and often do).

The rice and cooking the drumstick was what made the bento more time-consuming.  Assembling it, even taking the time to take pictures in the process, only took me about five minutes.  All in all, it was still less than half an hour, and I started the drumsticks cooking while I set up a curry for a crock pot dinner tomorrow.  So, it was very little “extra” time that I took to make this.

But notice, this is a cute bento, and it was made with ingredients and materials you’re likely to  have around the house.  I mention this because making your food look nice is often a way to make something inexpensive special.  In these economic times, it’s nice for the brown-bag lunch to seem like a treat rather than a letdown.

2 Replies to “Save Money with Bento”

  1. I’ve been using gladware and other semi-disposables, and I think what makes yours more Bento and less ‘leftovers’ is the creativity you put into arranging the food 🙂
    My Dd peeked over my shoulder and commented that we ought to do more of that, so perhaps I can get HER to start arranging the pretty,lol!

  2. Well, when it comes down to it, a bento is a meal in a single-serving container.

    Plenty of Japanese people have rice and curry (NOT arranged pretty) as their lunch. Leftovers, again not arranged beautifully, are hardly unknown in Japan.

    I’ve always had rather a fascination with nicely-arranged food. Even when I was in Brownie scouts, I was completely inspired by a “salad” made of fruits and veggies to look like a clown.

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