Do you ever look at photos of beautiful bento-box lunches and think, I could never do that?
Oh, but you could, according to bento box Pinterest queen Wendy Copley, a mother of two. She shared some baby steps to better lunches to TODAY Parents.
“At heart, it’s just putting food in a box! Start simply! You don’t have to make super-complicated food art to make lunches fun for your children,” says Copley, who lives in El Cerrito, California and blogs at Wendolonia. Last year, she wrote Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches to Go, and offers readers a bento gallery on her blog, highlighting the lunches she packs for sons Wyatt, 10, and Augie, 6.
While working on a year-end wrap up of lunches created in 2014, Copley recently created a video beautifully displaying 365 bento boxes she had made throughout the year.
“Bentos add a bit of fun and creativity to lunch-packing — an activity that can easily turn into a dreaded chore,” said Copley, who lets her boys help in creations ranging from robots and animals to Star Wars characters. She also finds satisfaction in filling up bentos with leftovers and limiting the waste created by her family.
Copley says there are misconceptions about the difficulty of bento-box-making, adding that these types of lunches aren’t as complicated to put together as people think.
For those who watch Copley’s video and doubt their own ability to create similar lunches, here are her five foolproof tips for bento success:
1. Mix it up. Go for a balance of flavors and textures in each lunch. Add some foods that are savory, others that are sweet, crunchy, creamy, etc.
2. Go big with color. Try to pack three to five different colors in each box. Doing so will naturally result in lots of healthy fruits and vegetables in each lunch.
3. Packing matters. Neatly pack the food into different sections in the lunch box. Even if this is all you do, the lunch will look beautiful! A divided lunch box helps a lot with this, but you can also use a flat food storage container and cupcake wrappers to keep food from mixing together (silicone cups work especially well for this.) Make sure you pack the box tightly so that the food doesn’t all mix together.
4. Be a cut up. Most kitchens already have a few cookie cutters tucked away in a drawer – use them! Sandwiches are perfect for cutting into shapes, but you can also cut cheese, sliced deli meat, fruits and vegetables. Kids love this!
5. Get picky. When kids are old enough to handle them safely, cupcake picks (toothpicks with paper designs) are a fun and inexpensive way to incorporate kids’ interests in a lunch box. Use them to make little skewers of grapes, cheese cubes, or cherry tomatoes.