Bento boxes are a great way to portion your meals and save money. Originating in Japan, they are now widely available here in the states and are one of my secret weapons for staying on budget and in shape.
Bento Box History
The bento box originated in Japan hundreds of years ago as a way for travelers and workers to carry meals with them to eat on the road, since many people had to travel great distances for work and would not be able to get home for meals everyday. The word Bento actually describes a simple mea, and the original bento boxes were simple, they usually only carried rice balls. Most bento were one compartment and would hold fish, (usually sushi), rice, and vegetables. They then became popular at theaters, (during intermission), as well as on the Japanese rail system where one could buy a bento meal at the station before a trip. That was as early as the early 1900s.
Today, Bento boxes are sold all over the world in a variety of sizes, compartments and textures. I have seen everything from bamboo and stainless steel to ornately decorated lacquer and even china. Here in New York, you can buy a Bento box from a Japanese restaurant or even a deli in a disposable container. You can also buy your own (which is what I do) and they can be as simple or as complicated as you would like. Bento boxes can be square or round, have one level or several tiers, but the compartments are never usually bigger than 1 cup (8 oz), which is perfect when you’re counting calories or trying to keep your portions at a reasonable size. ’70’s)
And no, they’re not just for Japanese food.
There’s a variety of ways in which to pack a Bento box, but the easiest way I think is to divide the compartment in half and load up your starch and your vegetables, and then add your protein on top. I have also put full salads inside of my Bento. Many boxes comes with a built in set of chopsticks and/or silverware as well as a small cup with a top to carry dressing or sauces in. American companies are getting in on the action selling their version of a Bento with multiple compartments in one tier. (They kind of remind me of those TV dinner containers from the The only thing I would suggest is if you’re going to buy a Bento made of plastic, make sure that it’s BPA free. Also, metal Bentos are also popular, but they were made for carrying cold or room temperature food, or to be put in an oven. So the metal type might not be the best solution for work if all you have access to is a microwave. You can get really creative with your bento box. There are people who even make their food look like animals and flowers! For some great ideas on how to take your box to the next level, or if you’re looking for some great recipes check out Just Bento.
During #NoBuyMonth, Bento boxes are a great way to save money on eating out. If you have to bring your lunch/or dinner everyday, you can easily bring it in a Bento. I LOVE my tall bento with several compartments for those long days when I’m at my desk through lunch AND dinner. (And it’s comes with it’s own carrying case!) They are also great for kids lunches.
Imagine how much fun they’ll have eating a lunch like that everyday! Also, bento boxes you fix yourself are a great way to help the environment, because there’s less plastic and garbage going into landfills. Try it, with a little planning you could save money, save the environment and lose weight!
- Do you use Bento boxes for yourself or your family? How do you pack them?
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