Food For Thought-Lucky Lunch and Beneficial Bento Boxes

Posted by Annette Bellisari on

Lucky Lunch and Beneficial Bento Boxes
Bento boxes filled with food decorated to look like animals.

It’s no secret packing your lunch and taking it to work/school can save you tons of money over the course of the year.  Plus it can be so much healthier than ordering food or going out for lunch!

But what do you do when those others for whom you so kindly prepare lunch, are also getting tired of plain old sandwiches?  How do you prevent them from spending money unnecessarily and buying their lunches?

Bento boxes have a lot going for them. They're easy to pack because it's basically putting whole foods in separate sections, kids love them because they're special, and they're not peanut butter sandwiches. And you can get crazy creative! People have created everything from Cinderella themed lunches to hilarious farm animals.

Not sure you're ready to commit to an entire bento box diorama? Keep it simple (but impactful) with an adorable sandwich cutter. All it takes is a regular sandwich and a little bit of muscle. Voila! An everyday PB & J is transformed into a highly edible (and purr-worthy) kitty-cat.

Who doesn't love food with personality? Take two minutes and dress up ordinary cling wrap with funny faces that are guaranteed to elicit giggles. Maki from Just Bento makes her own stickers but you could also keep it super-easy and buy a variety of googly-eyed stickers to get you through the school year.

Bento box lunches are a great way to pack for lunch on-the-go. Choose an assortment of healthy ingredients for vibrant meals and balanced nutrition that’s utterly convenient for work or school. The best part? You often don’t need to heat them up. So all you have to do is open the box, dig in, and enjoy.

If you tend to pack potato chips and chocolate chip cookies in your packed lunch, it might not be much healthier than a lunch you could purchase at school. But if you’re careful about the types of goodies you choose, packed lunches offer you a better opportunity to enjoy your favorite healthy foods. And good nutrition is only one reason why bringing your lunch is a better idea than shuffling through the school lunch line.

Packing lunch at home allows you to have more control over the types of food you enjoy at your mid-day meal. Many school lunches provide little opportunity to choose -- you get whatever the cafeteria is serving for the day. But if you pack your food at home, you decide what goes into your bag. And if you make healthy choices, this food freedom could actually ensure that you eat a lunch healthier than the one you could have bought at school. If you dislike the canned green beans and corn served in the cafeteria, the lunch you eat will be void of veggies because you'll likely dump them into the garbage. However, if you pack your favorite baby carrots and cucumbers, for example, you’re sure to fill your belly with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Many schools have a weekly menu, with items that change from one day to the next. However, the meals are often repeated several times throughout the month -- how boring! But if you bring lunch from home, you can pack different items every school day. Main dish ideas include sandwiches on whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta salad, salad, leftover veggie pizza or turkey meatballs stuffed into a pita wedge. Side dish ideas include fresh veggies with hummus, fresh fruit kabobs, unsalted tortilla chips with salsa and yogurt.

In August 2012, the Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia compared the cost of packed lunches and school lunches in their system. According to the website, the average cost of a lunch packed at home was around $3.79, while the average cost of a school lunch was $2.65 for elementary school and $2.75 for middle and high school. But you might find that your food choices aren't as costly as those included in the Fairfax County Public Schools' estimate. If your family buys food in bulk or you pack less expensive items -- pasta and rice dishes, perhaps -- you might find that packing lunch at home is a much more cost-effective choice.

However, keep in mind that many schools offer free or reduced lunches to students who meet the financial requirements. In some cases, this might be a more economical option for students or families.

Food safety can be an issue if you’re packing foods improperly. For foods that require refrigeration, use a thermal lunch box with an ice pack. Allowing cold foods to reach room temperature allows dangerous bacteria to grow. Pack food in reusable containers as much as possible to reduce waste and cut costs on food wrappings, such as plastic wrap and foil.

A bento box adds fun, whimsy, and creative joy to any midday meal. And the best is that YOU get to choose what goes in! This is one time when you get to build a lunch just the way you like it. Click the “Recipes” tab on our home page, and you are sure to find many recipes for using any and all of our Bellisari’s gourmet sauces and spreads! 

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