Bento Lunches 101

I always thought I would love packing lunches for the kiddos…until I actually had to start packing them. I would always start out strong - cutting off the crusts, packing everything fresh that morning, a handwritten note and special surprise - until about a month in when I was throwing whatever I could find in the fridge and pantry. Basically by the end of year one, Brody probably could have packed a better lunch than me. Yikes.

Enter my saving grace, the bento box. They’re small, easy to clean (can I get an “Amen” for dishwasher safe containers?!) and have enough space for the perfect amount of food. They take a little prep on the front-end, but after you get your system set-up, you will love how easy it is to get lunches packed and kids out the door.

Bento Box 101 | Momma Society

P.S. If you need the list of our favorite lunch gear – bento boxes, water bottles, silicone cups, etc., check out my Best of Back to School Accessories Roundup!

The Lunchbox Cabinet

I know what you’re thinking – forfeit an entire cabinets’ worth of space for lunchboxes? No way. However, by keeping everything lunch and lunchbox related in one cabinet, you clean out space in your other areas that can be used for whatever was occupying the space before. Plus, keeping everything out of the kiddo danger zone means it stays organized.

The Lunchbox Cabinet | Momma Society

After a few weeks of using our lunchbox cabinet space, this is what I’ve found most useful for working the space to its full potential. Bonus points if you can get everything in a cabinet above or near counter space – that way you can prep the lunchboxes in the same space that you store them!

  • Keep dry snacks like popcorn, pretzels, and cookies in glass jars. This makes it easy to see how much food is remaining and will help keep everything fresher longer. I keep four jars for snack-y foods and refill them each week with different items.

  • Label where things go. This might seem over the top, but it will help keep your items in order even when you aren’t the one using the cabinet.

  • Keep the “fun” stuff in a container. Food toothpicks, lunch notes, cookie cutters, etc. can all be stored in the same bin.

  • Keep a jar for extra cutlery. Leftover spoons and forks from takeout work great for lunch boxes and fit perfectly in a mason or canning jar.

  • Have a backup of everything: lunch box, bento box, water bottle, etc. This is a lifesaver when a lunchbox is left at school or if you haven’t washed the bento from yesterday’s lunch.

What’s in my Lunchbox?

Once you have your gear, you’re good to go – right? Between the small compartments and your toddler refusing to eat anything but cheese and ketchup, packing a lunch can tend to be a more daunting task that you realize. To help keep you out of a bind, I put together a packing list for your bento boxes that will take the panic out of the morning routine. It’s like those “What’s in My Purse” segments from Vogue except way tastier and jillion times more useful.

Packing a Bento Box Lunch | Momma Society

Proteins

  • Boiled eggs

  • Chicken sausage

  • Chicken nuggets

  • Lunch meat

  • Pepperoni

  • Nut butters

  • Hummus

  • Black beans

  • Hot dogs

  • Baked tofu

  • Chicken salad

  • Rotisserie chicken

  • Avocado

Grains

  • Popcorn

  • Pretzels

  • Pasta salad

  • Veggie straws

  • Waffles

  • Bagels

  • Cereal

  • Crackers

  • Granola

  • Rice cakes

  • Tortillas

  • Baked chips

Veggies

  • Celery sticks

  • Baby carrots

  • Cucumber spirals

  • Bell peppers

  • Edamame

  • Frozen peas

  • Pickles/olives

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Green beans

Fruits

  • Grapes

  • Cherries

  • Apple slices

  • Orange slices

  • Berries

  • Dried fruit

  • Freeze dried fruit

  • Banana slices

  • Apple sauce

Dairy

  • Cheese cubes

  • Cottage cheese

  • Yogurt

  • Quesadillas

  • Cheese sticks

Treats

  • Chocolate chips

  • Animal crackers

  • Mini cookies

  • Marshmallows

  • Fruit leather

  • Rice krispie treats

  • Pudding

  • Trail mix

  • Kettle corn

Can you say yum? Because your kids sure will! Let me know what bento secrets are working for you by tagging @MommaSociety on social media!

Related: The Best of Toddler Lunchboxes