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ERIN SULLEY: Bye-bye boring lunches, hello Bento

Say goodbye to dreary brown bag lunches and hello to fun and attractive lunches that the kiddies will devour.  – Paul Pickett photo
Say goodbye to dreary brown bag lunches and hello to fun and attractive lunches that the kiddies will devour. – Paul Pickett photo - Contributed

Finally, a lunch kids will gobble up

Ah, back to school. How exciting! The time of year families start settling back into a routine. When parents either say, thanks be to goodness or they’re crying over another first. Heck, it’s probably a bit of both.

“When I was in school I had two favourite subjects, lunch and recess.” – Unknown

Have you given any thought to what you’re going to put in those lunch bags this school year?  Have the kids picked up any bad eating habits or have they become the worst picky eaters over the summer? Are you dreading the days when they come home with their lunch bags and the lunch you so lovingly prepared is still in the bag? The anger is already stirring inside isn’t it?

I have a creative and fun solution – bento box to the rescue! Bento boxes are a great way to jazz up an otherwise boring lunch. I promise it will bring a smile to their little faces and fill those hungry tummies. Who am I kidding, I love these even as an adult and would bring one to work tomorrow.

Bento boxes have a long history. They first originated thousands of years ago in Japan when dried rice was developed to take to work. Over the years the bento box has gone through a number of makeovers with the addition of more food divided into sections in the box. The one thing that remains consistent is the idea of one container that holds everything. The word bento is slang for convenient. Let’s face it, a lot of things nowadays come down to pure convenience.

Time to put on the creative cap and turn a regular lunch into a colourful, fun and yummy lunch box. There are two simple rules — variety and creativity. What can you put in a bento box? Absolutely anything your little heart desires. What I like most is that you can add a little of this and a little of that.

They’re really handy when that’s literally all you have in the fridge. It’s also a great way to repurpose leftovers.

Isn’t this the cutest? A couple of extra minutes spent on creativity is well worth it when the kids come home from school with an empty lunch bag.
Isn’t this the cutest? A couple of extra minutes spent on creativity is well worth it when the kids come home from school with an empty lunch bag.

Let’s bring your bento lunch box to the next level. Why? Why not! To make the food more appealing, use cookies cutters to make different shapes or turn the food into characters they are familiar with. The goal: turn the bland into irresistible.

“Mom pro tip: If you’re old enough to critique what I put in your lunch, you’re old enough to make it yourself.” – Unknown

Get the kids involved. Let them take ownership of how their lunch is prepared by setting all the healthy ingredients out on the counter for them to choose and place inside the bento box.

Let’s face it, you’ll become the cool parent(s). Don’t deny it, as soon as you’re called “cool parent(s)” you’re going to up your bento box game. An idea for that too — themes! Oh yeah. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, sports day — the possibilities are endless.

Cookie cutters are a great tool for jazzing up fruit and cheese. A simple step can make all the difference to a child’s eye. – Erin Sulley photo
Cookie cutters are a great tool for jazzing up fruit and cheese. A simple step can make all the difference to a child’s eye. – Erin Sulley photo

That’s the fun of food. There’s no problem treating yourself by making your food not only tasty but fun. In fact, I’ve left little messages in my hubby’s lunch bag several times. I’ve written little notes on the banana peel or a napkin. I’m a big believer in the little things. No matter how old you are, a little note to say “hi” and “have a great day” can certainly go a long way.

“I’m a lunch lady, what’s your superpower.” – Unknown

How about putting in a lunch box fruit joke on a piece of paper or a napkin as a surprise when they open the lunch box? Try one of these: Why did the banana go to the doctor? Because it wasn’t “peeling” well. Why did the orange stop half way across the road? Because it ran out of juice! Wait, wait, one more. What do you call an apple that plays the trumpet? A tooty fruity.
Hubs is going to have a few eye rolls when he opens his lunch bag next week.

Ah, a good pun always gives me a few chuckles. OK, even bad ones. Bento boxes are definitely fit to eat. I hope you and your family enjoy to the fullest.

Erin Sulley is a self-confessed foodie who lives in Mount Pearl. Email erinmsulley@gmail.comTwitter: @ErinSulley Instagram: @erinsulley.


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