Effortless Bento Box Lunches (that look like you made an effort!)

As back to school time approaches, one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is lunch. What to pack, how to pack, and how much to pack for a selective 3 year old seems like it will be a huge challenge. I’ve always been attracted to the super cute bento box style lunches on Pinterest, they look like so much fun! But you know what doesn’t look like fun? Actually executing said bento boxes in the real world. Not only am I not keen on stamping shapes out of bread and cheese, I am also not a fan of having all kinds of stamps, punches, molds, picks, and accessories of all kind cluttering my tiny home and draining my even tinier bank account! Afterall, there are lunches, not baby books (which reminds me, I need to finish his baby book... and start his sisters...).

Tonya and I actually thought we’d do this post as a “real moms try out fancy bento boxes” experiment that would likely end in disastrous hilarity. But just the effort that would be required to do it for a laugh was enough for us to call the whole thing off. And I love doing just about anything for the sake of comedy, so you know it’s serious if I won’t do it!

However, being a seasoned expert in packing little kid school lunches, Tonya gave me some great suggestions for making lunches more fun and visually appealing and that inspired me to put together some creative, but effortless bento boxes. I love thinking outside the box (pun totally intended) and I can't resist a good theme, so by using some of her tips and keeping it really simple, I actually enjoyed putting these lunches together and it was no more time consuming than packing a typical lunch.

A few notes:

The containers I used are the two compartment Sistema (found at Marshalls). I chose them over other traditional bento style boxes because two stackable containers were preferable for fitting in our lunch bag and they are super easy to open. I also occassionally used some smaller, similar snap side containers from the dollar store.

My son is about 99% vegetarian and since nuts are off the menu at school you'll notice not a whole load of protein options. Obviously you can adjust the ideas presented here to suit your childs preferences whether it's adding or taking things away or including homemade breads, bars, cookies, etc. And, of course, make sure you're following your school's guidlines on restricted food items (peanut butter, nut products, etc) so as not to make a classmate ill.

Now, on to the lunches!

Dine with Dinos

Pasta salad made with dino shaped noodles, dino eggs (mini eggs), dino poop (raisins), boulders (grapes) and dino claws (snap peas). Switch it up by using different fun shaped pasta (Marshall's has a bunch of neat ones) and using that as a guide for your own theme.

Nacho Man

Multigrain tortilla chips, shredded cheese, diced bell peppers, strawberries (cut in slices to give them a triangle nacho chip look!). Switch it up by including salsa or guac for dipping, use colourful tortilla chips or mix some black beans in with the veggies.

Circle Time

Small whole wheat bagel with Wow Butter, mini Oreos, blueberries, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes. Switch it up with mini sandwiches made on slider buns, adding baby mozzarella balls or making melon balls. If you want to get really crazy go square instead with crackers, cheese cubes, and diced fruit and veggies!

Snack Attack

Pretzels, popcorn, protein bar, raisins and yogurt bites, apple. Switch it up with whatever your childs favourite healthy(ish) snack foods are or make it a breakfast snack style meal with mini muffins, yogurt and fruit.

Under The Sea

Goldfish crackers, pebbles (raisins), seaweed (green peppers), water (blueberries), octopus (string cheese). Switch it up with cheddar bunny crackers and use your imagination!

Over The Rainbow

Rainbow goldfish crackers, string cheese (see what I did there?!), rainbow of fruit and veggies, Skittles. Switch it up by focusing on a single colour or themed colours for a holiday.

Teddy Bears Picnic

Trail mix (Cheerios, raisins, pumpkin seeds), Teddy Grahams, picnic blanket (cherry tomatoes with string cheese cut into rounds), grass (snap peas), fruit salad. Switch it up to a teddy bears tea party by cutting some sandwiches into small squares and adding in a scone or tea biscuit.

Busy Bee

Honeycomb cereal, black and yellow ju jubes, black plum and yellow apple slices, yellow bell pepper, yogurt with black and yellow sprinkles. Switch it up by using your favourite fun shaped dry cereal for inspiration - there are endless possibilities!

There you have it! 8 different lunches that are full of fun and visual appeal without mom and dad requiring a degree in art or getting up at 5am to get started! I hope they inspire you to add just a touch of whimsy to you school lunches this year!

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