How To Make Bento お弁当の作り方

How To Make Bento  | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Many of Just One Cookbook readers have asked me to write a post about how to make bento since last year. I was hesitant at first because bento making is not something I specialized in, and there are so many great bento blogs out there that feature elaborate bentos that I wish to have for my lunch.

However, I continue to receive requests from readers so I’ve decided to share how I make everyday bentos (not a fancy one!) for my children.

I also included my very first video in this post! :)

How To Make Bento | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

I grew up eating mom’s homemade bento in school, and I even help packed my brother’s and my own bento in the morning with my mom when I was in high school (I was actually a morning person decades ago). My mom taught me the basic bento rule of thumb and I still follow the same guideline, which I will show you in this post.

For your information, I make bentos that can be all consumed in 10 minutes by my 5 year old daughter and 7 year old son.

This bento post is just to show you some ideas and tips that may be helpful for you to pack homemade lunches in bento box. Food does NOT have to be Japanese food. You can pack your own meals in bento box based on the guidelines below. Also, please adjust your bento box size and amount of food you put according to your needs.

Now let’s begin!

What You Need

  • Bento Box (Lunch Box)

It doesn’t have to be a Japanese bento box. You will need some sort of container or lunch box to put your food in. I use thermal lunch boxes for warm food like pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches. I also find it convenient when an ice pack is already attached to the bento box lid to keep food safe (read more about food safety tips for bento here).

Bento Boxes | Quick & Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

  • Silicon Baking Cups and Dividers

The cups are great for keeping wet things away from dry things and holding loose items like blueberries in one place. The dividers help separating one food from the other, without mixing up the flavors.

Usually silicone cups and dividers come in bright and cheerful colors which improves the presentation for bento. They are reusable and come in many different sizes and colors. You can also use edible separators such lettuce, shiso leaves, cucumber slices, etc.

Silicon Cups and Dividers | Quick & Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

  • Colorful picks and Sauce containers

The picks come in many shapes, patterns, and colors and some picks are really playful and cute (like my little panda picks below)! They are helpful to put small foods together (like meatballs and berries) and also add extra color to your bento. Children are more likely to become interested in eating foods with those picks. The sauce containers helps you store the sauce separately so that the food will stay dry until the lunch time. It’s not so pleasant when the sauce end up getting mixed up with foods it’s not meant for.

Picks and Sauce Containers | Quick & Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Bento Rule of Thumb

Now that you have a bento box ready, let’s go over the basic rule of thumb on bento making!
How To Make Bento | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Rule 1: Divide the Meal Proportionally

Dividing the meal proportionally will help you assemble a nutritiously balanced meal. It should at least have 4 types of food: carbs (carbohydrates), proteins, vegetables, and fruits. Be conscious about what types of foods to put in bento box when you are packing lunch.

My children’s bento ratio is 4 : 2 : 1 : 1 (4 parts carbs : 2 parts protein : 1 part vegetables : 1 part fruits). I sometimes pack 2 parts of veggies inside the bento (skip fruit section) and prepare a separate container just for fruits.
Bento Proportions | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Rule 2: Keep in Mind to Add Colors

When making choices of which foods to include in the bento box, choose bold colors to provide visual impact. Not only do colorful vegetables and fruits add beautiful colors, but they are often the healthiest.

Food Color | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Red: tomato, carrot, red radish, bell pepper, apple, grapes, strawberries, plum, raspberries, nectarines, etc.

Yellow & Orange: corn, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell pepper, orange, lemon, banana, etc

Green: lettuce, cucumber, green onion, edamame, broccoli, spinach, okra, shiso, snap peas, asparagus, parsley, bok choy, green beans, Brussels sprouts, green peas, kiwi, etc

White: daikon radish, potato, onion, lotus root, enoki mushroom, white sesame seeds

Black & Brown: blueberries, shiitake mushroom, gobo (burdock root), wakame (dried seaweed), nori (dried seaweed sheet), hijiki (dried seaweed), black sesame seeds, etc.

If I have similarly colored dishes like broccoli and asparagus, I separate them and put other foods in between to make the bento more visually appealing. Sprinkling colorful furikake (rice seasonings) or garnishing with chopped parsley and green onion gives nice accents to overall presentation.

Rule 3: Pack the Foods Tightly

It’s important to pack the foods tightly to prevent the food from shifting in bento box. You don’t want to see messy bento when you (or your children) open the bento box at lunch time. Try packing in following order.

  1. Pack pre-shaped or bulky food first.
  2. Then put more flexible-shape food in remaining spaces.
  3. Finally add some small accent food like cherry tomatoes and steamed broccoli to fill in the small gaps to prevent from shifting.

Pack Bento Tightly | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Now Let’s Pack Bento!

Step 1: Put Carbs

Bento Step 1 | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

I usually fill 1/2 of bento box with carbs. Of course, you can pack brown rice, pasta, wraps, sandwich, bread, etc instead of white rice.

Step 2: Put Proteins

Bento Step 2 | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com
Any kind of beef, chicken, pork, tofu, beans, eggs, or other protein source can be packed in 1/4 of bento box. If possible, add 2 kinds of protein dishes in the spot.

Step 3: Put Vegetables & Fruits

Bento Step 3 | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

Vegetables and fruits should be filled up in the remaining 1/4 of bento box. Packing at least 2 kinds of vegetable dishes is ideal. If you have more vegetable dishes, pack the fruits in a separate container.

5 Helpful Tips

Now how can you improve your bento making? Here are some helpful tips to make a tastier bento quickly!

Tip 1: Use Pre-Cooked Meals to Save Time

If you want to pack bento quickly, use leftovers from previous dinner and a stash of frozen precooked meals. When I make bento-friendly menus, I always make a big batch of food, reserve a portion or two for that week, then freeze individual portions for later use. All I need to do in the morning is to re-heat pre-portioned food and pack into the bento. If you really want to make things easy, you can also pre-cut fresh veggies and fruits, cook a big batch of rice, and make many other dishes ahead of time.

Tip 2: Keep Dry Foods Dry

To make sure not to spoil foods easily, separate wet foods from dry foods to keep them from getting soggy and unappetizing. Always drain sauce/dressing before packing into bento box. If you like to add some sauce, put on top of shredded cabbage/lettuce and put the food on top to avoid from spilling. You can also use a sauce container and pour it at meal time.

Tip 3: Use Different Texture and Flavors

Eating different texture and flavor of foods will increase more appetite. If the main dish is seasoned with soy sauce base, avoid adding other similar flavor dish and try putting refreshing veggies instead.

Also, keep in mind that food at room temperature tastes better when the food has more flavor. Use extra seasoning for bento portion or make the sauce more concentrated before taking away for bento portion.

Tip 4: Reheat & Cool Down Food Completely!

Food safety is especially important for bento.  Always remember to wash your hands and use clean utensils when you touch food.  I highly recommend you to re-heat the food before packing, and cool down the food completely before closing the bento.  And don’t forget to keep ice packs in lunch bag!  To read more about Food Safety Tips for Bento, click HERE.

Tip 5: Plan Ahead

I know, for some people including myself, “planning ahead” can be hard. But once you get the hang of it, planning actually helps you save time and money, and you will always be more prepared despite your busy schedule.

You just need to make 15-30 minutes of your time during the week and figure out what you have in the refrigerator, what you will be cooking throughout the week, and what you will need from grocery stores.

A friend of mine in Japan uses a meal planner to organize her dinner and bento menus. I adapted hers and made a simplified Bento Calendar. With this calendar, you can visually plan out your weekly dinners and bento menus. If you would like a copy, please Click HERE.

Weekly Bento Calendar | Easy Japanese Recipes at JustOneCookbook.com

To Summarize…

Click to see our 2 minute video tutorial on how to make bento!

Final Thoughts

Honestly speaking, packing bento does take longer than packing a sandwich and it’s more work than eating out. Why do we go through extra steps when our life is already busy?

I believe bento is much healthier overall and it’s less expensive than eating out. But the most of all, I want to brighten my children’s day with colorful, cute bento. They look forward to their lunch time, just like how I used to look forward to my mom’s homemade bento. And it only requires a little bit of time and effort to make bento once you get used to making bento.

I also hope this Japanese bento culture and technique will improve your eating habit to stay healthy and make everyone’s lunchtime more fun. Thank you for reading!

Useful Bento Resources on JOC

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  1. That is so helpful, Nami. And you explain it all so well. I have never made Bento and don’t have any of the equipment. I would like to make it as it all looks so colourful and healthy. xx

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  2. Oh gosh, I love your tutorial! You include all the important pieces of information, Nami. It will be a very good reference for the parents in your readership! I love your bento!

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  3. April Luera

    Everything looks so yummy!! I think I’d take less than 10 minutes to eat it all! Thanks for the great tips! Bentos are a staple in Hawaii!

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  4. Wow – what a detailed, well thought-out tutorial this is! You really put a lot of work into it and it shows. Your kids are so lucky, and you were lucky to grow up having bento box lunches! These are great ideas and many things I have never thought of before. Great tips now that school is back in session. Great job, Nami!

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  5. You are the expert in Bentos, and it’s great that your kids eat all what you cook to them. My kids are very difficult with food, well, maybe not my son, but my daughter is very, very spacial with food, I hope someday she will eat fruits

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  6. G’day! I must admit, I love all things Bento Nami and enjoy your blog today, true!
    I have never made one, but love the silicon cup suggestions and have seen Bento boxes that are themed i.e. animals too!
    Cheers! Joanne
    @mickeydownunder

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  7. Hello Nami,
    Your bento input was a mentor for me to start my bento making for my 5 year old son. He loves his bento everyday and he doesn’t even want to try the canteen lunch.
    However, food variety is very limited in the location we are living at the moment, besides my boy isn’t a great veggie lover. The only veggie he would eat, is the cucumber I put in his maki roll 😉
    Thank you again!!
    Love your blog!!

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    • Thank you Penny! In my Bento FAQs, I included a small advice about bento making for children (http://www.justonecookbook.com/bento-how-to/bento-faq/). Try adding (hiding) just one kind of new veggie at a time. When it’s only a bit, he may try it as long as he doesn’t see it. Since he loves maki rolls, it’s a great “hiding” spot. I’d roll some veggie with meat rolled up inside the maki sushi. He “may” not notice. 😀 As long as he’s used to eating the flavor it’s easier to encourage him later without hiding it. :) Good luck!

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  8. Omg I love this post! Thank you so much for putting in so much effort to share the step-by-step with us. Love the colours, and keen to give it a go one day. Now that you’ve broken it down, it doesn’t seem that very difficult as I thought before. :)

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  9. I have a Daiso very close to my place which I visit quite often and in fact have a lot of what you’ve used. I purchased even without knowing the really usage Nami. You are super cool in giving a detailed instruction, very helpful and quite nutritious meal.
    I am going to try making them, let’s see how that goes.

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  10. Wow Nami, that is a lot of work! I am so impressed with Japanese mummies who packed bentos for their kids, salute! Singapore’s weather is too hot for kids to carry bento to schools I think. But ofcos mommy (me) is lazy to pack :p I usually pack bread (store-bought or sandwich bread with fry egg) for my girl :p Your bentos look very pretty and healthy, taking care of carbo, protein, and vegs/fruits. Superb! :)

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    • Currently I’m working and living in Indonesia 35-39 Celcius and I still cook for my children lunchbox /bento. mainly rice / porridge, noodle, and if I really don’t have time I just make toasted/grilled sandwich with eggs, chicken or other protein sources.
      My son always eat whatever I cook (spaghetti, chicken katsu, japanese curry, etc), but he doesn’t like veggie.
      My daughter, on the other hand, is a picky eater, sometime she doesn’t touch anything… sometimes bite 1-2 items and bring back home the rest.. then she let our dogs ate those leftovers.
      Please keep posting new articles for bento, Nami. Thanks :)

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  11. those bentos look so beautiful….is the perfect way to make children go to school after these vacations….you have explained the process so clearly,would love to try this out soon,thanks a lot for sharing :-)

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  12. I love all your bento tips, tricks and information. I’m back to packing school lunches for my kids and that’s one of my biggest hassles in the morning. You impress me so much with your artful lunches… I’m barely able to get a juice box, sandwich and some snacks thrown in. Someday I will take the bento challenge and do the beautiful job you do. :)
    PS… thanks so much for voting for my burger. :)

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  13. Sandra

    Nami, thank you for the tutorial. This may seem time consuming but at least you know what you are eating, how it was prepared, the freshness factor etc. More bento inspirations please!

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    • Thank you for reading my tutorial post (I know it is a long one). I only use Japanese food because that’s what I cook, but whatever you cook and use that leftover to pack – and add some colors (veggies and fruits). Your lunch will be lovely! :)

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  14. ハイカラおばあちゃんのお弁当で育った私にとってはお弁当って懐かしい!あまり詰める機会が無い生活です。本当に美味しそう!

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  15. So cute! I’m sure your kids’ friends are jealous of their lunches! Two of my kids love their homemade chicken noodle soup. I make a giant batch EVERY WEEK and they eat it every day, whether it’s hot or cold outside! That’s my way of packing in the veggies, protein and carbs for my kiddos. Great job on the video!

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    • You just need to soak in 0.5% salt water (for 1 apple: 2 cups water + 1/2 tsp. salt). It prevent from changing colors. We use salt water in Japan but I hear we use lemon juice in the U.S. Salt water always works for me. :)

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  16. Denise

    I always like your recipes, they are very well explained and I get to learn new ideas and tricks everytime. I really like the useful bento resources this time, the tricks that I picked up for sure will make my life easier.

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  17. Growing up, we never could buy food – it wasn’t available, so always took lunch boxes with us. We call them tiffins. We have great looking lunch boxes, but unfortunately my Mom wasn’t very creative when it came to creating tiffins. So we had years of bland unappetizing food. Of course, when we got back home hot food waited at the table, so we never really minded. But it’s different for the kids here, and I try to make them as many different ‘bentos’ as possible, but they are no where near to your kind of perfection. I am going to bookmark this and make improvements. Thank you so much for sharing this. Where do you buy thermal lunch boxes from?

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    • Hi Minnie! You’re very kind, thank you. And thanks for sharing your story with us. It’s a bit tricky to choose what food works for bento (eaten at room temperature). I’m used to eating bento growing up, so I really enjoy some food at room temperature (plus, seasonings is stronger for that purpose so it has nice flavor eaten at room temperature).

      For the thermal lunch box, I got Thermos brand in Target, but can be bought online on Amazon etc. Hope that helps. :)

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      • Stronger spices…..makes sense. My older one leaves for school at 6.45,
        At times it can get difficult to cool down hot food. So a thermal box could be the answer. Thanks so much. Also, any tip that can prevent from bread becoming soggy?

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        • Minnie, the food at room temp tastes better when the flavor is strong. :)

          I assume you pack bread when it is still warm (so the condensation/moisture makes the bread soggy). For deep fried foods etc, I usually use oven toaster to make it crispy, then leave it out to completely cool down (kids usually eat breakfast during this time), then pack. It is not crispy like right out of the oven toaster, but it is still okay, not soggy. Hope this works for you! :)

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    • Thank you Evelyne! The 30 minute recess includes lunch and playtime. They are required to sit down for first 15 minutes, but I know their actual eating time is 10 minutes especially my kids who love to talk… :/ I remember my school lunch time (aside from playtime) was at least 30 minutes, then have a break (playtime). Very different these days.

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  18. Carmen

    You are great!!!
    I never found a tutorial with so many detail. I made bento for my husband for lunch in his work but I didn’t know all of these rules. Fantastic work!!
    Thank you.

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    • Thanks so much Carmen! It took me a long time to organize my thoughts in head. I really wanted to make it short (so it is not overwhelming) but I think it is a bit too much info in one post. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this post. Thank you for your kind feedback! :)

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  19. Ina

    Your bento meals look so cheerful, fresh and pretty. :) What a contrast with the packaged foods, snacks and drinks the grocery stores advertise as proper fare for school children!

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  20. I’m having bentos for myself. Simply love them, and its a way to eat less and save money. I was spending a lot of money having lunch out of office. Beside that, I feel more satisfied with the home food, and I’m eating healthier.
    This is a master post, Namy. Thanks a lot. I love the idea of using a calendar.
    Love the video 2 😉
    Have a great weekend,
    Vero

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  21. Nami, you must have worked for weeks on this impressive post! And your very first video! Congratulations!
    I’m proud to notice I practice all the tips for myself (though due to my constant waistline watch the ratios are a bit different, with much more vegetables). I must say I often put fruits in a different container because it’s usually a part of my “tea”, the small meal I need if I work late. I don’t need to worry about the safety because as soon as I arrive at the office, I put my bento into the fridge and it waits there till lunch time. Of course school bentos have slightly different requirements.
    I have bought myself such a marvellous “double decker” bento box recently! It’s a French brand which makes bentos from non-toxic plastic material which not only is healthy, but also has a “soft touch”. It goes to the dishwasher, microwave oven and even freezer! And it’s beautiful too…
    When I go to Japan I must look out for the cute picks and containers to make my adult bento a bit merrier :-)
    I agree that bento making doesn’t take as much time as people think and just like you say, I often put European food into it: salads, pasta, etc. I should really be more disciplined and start organising the bento calendar one day…
    Congratulations once more for this helpful and so detailed post! I’m sure many people will start making bentos after reading it. You have inspired me to make more of furikake (for now it’s limited to toasted sesame seeds I’m addicted to 😉 ).

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  22. How cute! Your bento boxes and food preparation reminded me of those days when I used to make lunches for my sons everyday. I miss those days, no matter how hectic they were. You did a good job of showing parents how to make lunches more appealing to kids. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips. Have a great back to school month!

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  23. I love your post! It’s perfect and very helpful to many of us…especially this time of the year when we’re still adjusting the “back to school” routine. :) I’m sure my kids would love to see these lovely bento boxes as their lunches too. And you did an awesome job on the video! Very upbeat and fun to watch. I’m going to show my kids your post so they can pick a bento to try and I’ll pack that for them next week. Thanks for sharing. :)

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  24. I always enjoy your excelent posts Nami , but this time your surpassed yourself.
    Your step by step instructions are practical and you make everything look so easy.
    Thanks for this great post!

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  25. I just purchased Liv a little bento-like lunch box. As she leaves the house at 7 AM and I don’t pick her up from school until 5, she’s definitely needing full meals, and I’m loving your ideas!! I actually have some of those silicone shapes, and never thought of using them, but what a fabulous idea!
    and well done on the video, did Shen have a hand in that??! :) I’ve been eager to see it since I saw you mention it on FB the other day. Good job!

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    • Kim, thank you for your kind words. Yes, we are working on videos now. I don’t know how one person can do this alone (I know some bloggers do!). I think we added extra amount of work. I still take step-by-step pictures too, so photo shoot takes even extra long hours. Hope it’s worth it! :)

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  26. I’m so glad you did this post Nami! You know how I adore the bentos that you make for your children’s lunches. This is so thorough and well thought out. Thank you!
    How is the school year going? I hope that everything is off to a wonderful start. :)

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  27. I’m so inspired by this, Nami! Not so much for the boys as for my husband and I. We work together at our business and eat out for lunch most days. It would be so much healthier and less expensive to pack our lunches and you’re right, it just takes a little advance planning. I’m in love with all of your cute Bento boxes and accessories! I think it would be fun to collect them.

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  28. Wow…Nami!! I am seriously impressed with your bento-making post. It’s almost like a virtual tutorial class – the one that I really enjoyed sitting through! Since we have no kids, I don’t usually give much thoughts about our lunch-packing at all as long as there are lots of veggies & fruits. After this post, you have completely changed my mind about lunch-packing. I can certainly apply some of the rule of thumb of bento-making into my adult-lunch packing. By the way, I am eyeing your salmon bento…

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  29. Forget the kids, I need one of these for myself. Lol. I wish I still had little lunch to pack up, these are so cool. You put so much care into all your food Nami, I’m sure the kids beam with pride when then open their lunches.
    -Gina-

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  30. This is amazing. What a great post and so cute and detailed. So Japanese too :) I bet your kids have all their school supplies organized so cute too. I love the Japanes kids supply stores, as a kid in Korea i could spend hour in the supply stores cause everything was so cute. :).

    So i make 3 lunches daily inlcuding myself. For my little one bento will not work since they have snack times. So she gets little containers but once she gets bigger she will get bento boxes.

    But what amazes me is the 10 minutes. I have heard that kids only get 15 minutes to eat. That is horrible, no time to chew. :( When did lunch change grom 30 minutes to 15?

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    • Thank you Ewa! I can imagine you make wonderful lunches! I was surprised about 15 minute lunch time – of course if you haven’t finished, you can continue to sit down and spend another 15 minutes to eat… but when your friends are all playing, it’s less likely that my kids would continue to eat… and they are chatty and I’m sure out of 15 minutes, they probably spend less than 10 minutes to actually eat food. >_< I think my lunch time back in school was more than 30 minutes. But it’s so long ago I don’t really remember too well. =P

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  31. Thank you, Nami! It is so beautiful. You are right about packing all kinds of food. You made it look easy – I was overwhelmed in the beginning of my lunch packing. Japanese bento always look so complicated to make. Thank you for easy to follow tips.

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  32. Vicki Bensinger

    Wow Nami I’m so glad I stopped by. Your tutorial is wonderful and the video too. I was excited thinking I’d see you in the video but even still it was so well done.

    It’s a shame when my kids were growing up that Bento Boxes weren’t all the rage. Instead it was Lunchables – the most unhealthy lunch box ever and packed with sodium. A heart attack even for a child!

    Your Bento is lovely and colorful. They say the way to eat is by Eating the Colors of the Rainbow. Great for the body and packed with nutrition. Your Bento Box provides all that and more. I’m saving this. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  33. Nami, I have to tell you that I am in awe of all the time and effort that you invested in your bento post – incredible! You took the greatest of care when putting this post together and there is so much helpful and wonderful information in this post, that I believe we should all be using this post of yours as a reference in the future! What an awesome post and how lucky your children (family) is that you put so much thought and effort in your food preparation! Respect, dear friend, respect!

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  34. I really love this! Our kids were home educated but we used the same principles for their lunches at home. This is a terrific option for kids eating in school – the food looks amazing and it will impress their friends to want to eat well too. Thanks for a great post and love your blog – I’m a new subscriber!

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  35. Looking at your vibrant rainbow-like Bento, I feel like having children right now 😀
    Thanks, darl, for putting up so much helpful info along with those lovely photos for us.
    Loved every single inch of this post of yours.
    Hugs.

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  36. Congrats on the first video! It looks really good. Clean and straight forward. Your bentos always look amazing. I don’t really make lunch for my husband to take to work. But these cute bentos would be good surprises every once a while. 😀 Thanks for sharing some great tips!

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  37. Nami, I am so fascinated by how beautiful your bento boxes for your children are and that they eat so healthy unlike most children today. I bet all the kids at school love looking at what your kids bring for lunch each day. I made Michelle’s lunch for her all last year for school (my kids bought their lunches :( ) She loved eating healthy food and it was fun packing her a lunch, I was never super creative but she said the kids were always looking at her lunches and asking it her host mom made it :) Also thank you for your sweet comments on my blog.

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  38. Nami-san, I wish you had made this video 4 years ago when I was in Japan as I needed some severe mentoring. Great tutorial. It was very stressful trying to compete against all those seasoned Japanese moms who have been making bentos for decades. I was lucky if I could get my rice balls round.. LOL However, I did learn a lot along the way and bento boxes are a great way to use up the left overs from last nights dinner.

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  39. Very cool Nami! I love all the cute little items that dress up the boxes and your creativity 😉 Wonderful instructional bento video-hope to see more of these, thanks!

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  40. Kimmi

    I’m behind the curve with seeing this post, but wanted to drop a note and say that it’s fantastic!! The tips, photos, and video are wonderful. =) I know how long it can take to make videos, so I really appreciate you putting the time into helping us learn how to make beautiful bentos as you do.

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words! It was a lot of work, but was also a great learning experience for future video making. :) Have a nice day Kimmi! xo :)

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  41. this is such a great post – I’m bookmarking it. I love bentos but have never made one myself. Can’t wait for my son to be a bit older (he’s only 2 right now) so I can pack his lunch this way.
    You’ve listed out such detailed instructions – thank you for taking the time and trouble.

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  42. Beautiful bento pictures and great post!
    Making beautiful bento is one of the things I did’t learn well in Japan…
    A tasty and healthy lunch box is not only for kids, since I still bring lunch to work everyday, in order to save money eating outside and more importantly, eat healthy. But I never have the patient to pack such a nice variety and colorful bento… I like your bento ideas and I will try them out. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  43. Love the video Nami! I should make bento for myself it is a special healthy way to have lunch. Those sauce containers are the cutest things ever! Looking forward to more videos.

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  44. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this incredible tutorial Nami! This definitely gives me great inspiration to create some bento meals for my son, your kids must love opening their lunch bentos everyday :) This is so helpful, thank you again Nami!

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  45. I also sent a message in FB, I hope you take time to reply. I have been following you and thank you for inspiring me in making Bento. Thanks and continue to share amazing ideas about Bento!!

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  46. Petitecuisine

    I like this post very much, I like your other intructions (included step-by-step photo) too. Thank you so much for your helful posts and nice photo guidelines.

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  47. Sergio Varela

    Hi! I have a few questiosn, mainly regarding with timing and organization, my schedule is a bit hectic, usually my day goes from 7:00 am to 2:00/3:00 am, as you can see, there´s no much time for cooking in the morning, barely I can prepare myself for breakfast a sandwich, a bottle of yogurth, a small pack of juice, and sometimes half an apple (the whole apple is way too much for me), my concerning is dinner (for us, dinner, our strongest meal is around 2:00 pm), late last year I had a gallbladder surgery, the inflammation process (a very severe one) detonated in me diabethes mellitus type II, which I had a 75% chance to develop in case my health deteriorated, and it did, not the usual way (overweight), but it did, I have not (and I hadn´t) overweight, I don´t drink heavely, actually I drank too little, I don´t smoke, so my case is kind of particular; short story, I need to observe my meals for those two causes, digestion and DM II, specially dinner, in your experience how should organize myself in order to take bento to workplace?, a very healthy option as I can realize? how good is to prepare sushi in several hours anticipation? seaweed wouldn´t turn gummy? cooking and schedule don´t seem to get along too well, so I´ll appreciate your experience, thanks in advance! :)

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    • Hi Sergio! First of all, sushi is not something you usually pack in lunch unless you know how to keep it cold and safe. If you don’t have much time to pack in the morning, you can pack your lunch before you go to bed (or after your dinner to pack the leftover). I usually pack leftover to save time, and don’t make something new unless I have to. However, you need to keep it in refregerator and need to pick the food that works. For example, soup may not be a good idea as you can’t keep it warm till your lunch time. Well, that also depends if you have a microwave at your work, etc. There are too many factors involved, and it’s a bit hard to discuss without knowing your lifestyle and health condition. If you want to discuss further, please email me. We can talk about it one topic at a time? :)

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  48. I came upon your blog through Hapanom and so glad I did! I never actually thought there were “rules” in bento making! I make bento lunches for my daughters as well (on special occasions) to surprise them at school. I have the cute little picks and dividers even the fun egg shapers! But I never actually paid attention to proportions. I may have to reexamine my approach, I think! Anyway, great blog! Will definitely be coming back. :)

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    • Hi Kristina! Well, it’s more like a guideline actually, instead of fixed rules. :) The suggested proportion helps you pack more nutritiously balanced meals and being aware of what “color” of food means also help packing more healthy ingredients. Thanks so much for your kind comment! :)

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  49. Love this guide! It’s so helpful. I hope to start to make my own colorful bentos soon! I just need a little practice. I have a few questions if you don’t mind me asking: would you recommend to reheat leftover rice before packing it? About how long does it usually take to completely cool down food? And I love eggs, but I’m most paranoid about leaving those unrefridgerated for tbat long… I swe that you also pack eggs for your children so it should be fine after cooking it and letting cool down?
    Thanks so much!

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    • Hi Mallory! Thank you so much. I wish I could put more information, but maybe next time… :) With practice, it’ll get easier to pack bento for sure. Here’re my answers to your question.

      1) I always do. Even though you have to let it cool again. It’s just my habit from making bento in Japan… we always reheat (except for some food). Most of time, I freeze rice on previous day (even though I use it the following day – it tastes much better and keep the moisture in!). So I have to reheat it. However, if you are going to keep your bento cool till lunch time, you can just pack cold rice into bento box and keep it cool till lunch time.

      2) It depends on season and how I cool down… but maybe 30 minutes? I make bento first before preparing breakfast. I pack up everything right before I leave the house with kids. So it can be a little bit longer than 30. If I don’t have time, I use ice pack. I put bento on top of ice pack to let it cool quickly.

      3) Egg is okay if it’s cooked. For example, I won’t let my kids eat leftover bento when they come home… the food should be consumed by lunch time, especially if it wasn’t refrigerated all the time. I include ice packs too, but I don’t think it’s VERY cold when they open their lunch bag…

      Hope this helps! :)

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  50. Jane

    This is such wonderful inspiration! I am a teacher and one of my students always has the most wonderful and delicious-looking bento lunches and I could never figure out what the foods were. This post helps tremendously in my search for more delicious and healthy lunches for myself! In the “Step 1: Put Carbs” picture, the seasoning on the rice looks incredibly scrumptious. What is it? Thank you for all these good tips!

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  51. Ariel

    대박! Thank you so much. This is the perfect guide for bento. Would you make character ones too? Maybe make pictures out of food?

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  52. Ames

    Hey! I am considering trying my hand at bento making, again. The first time I didn’t have your specs on making it look so pretty! Thank you for that.
    Also I wanted to ask what is the seasoning you put on the rice on the left side of the picture. A friend of mine brought a bento to school with something similar and said it was Asian seasoning….

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    • Hi Samantha! You can make Paleo bento! What do you normally prepare for your meal? To pack bento, you need several items. I put carbs in half of bento, but you have to replace that space with more veggies/meat/fruits. To make it visually and nutritiously appealing, make sure to keep good balance of each food group. :)

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  53. Ella

    Your blog has some of the nicest Bento examples! Hope you keep it up with more ideas.
    I just started making Bento boxes and I’m wondering what do you do with the excess food? For example, after you cut out a sandwich with a cookie cutter, what can one do with all those little bits leftover?

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    • Hi Ella! Thank you so much for your kind words! Well, I usually eat leftover pieces if I can’t find any other use for bento or regular meals. I don’t normally make character bento so I rarely have extra food left. Hope that helps. Feel free to ask me if you have a specific food leftover for ideas. :)

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  54. Iris

    Hello Nami,
    I like your bento recipes. It gives me better direction in preparing bentos. Something my mum never taught me and something my children would appreciate in their lunchbox while in school … Looking forward to great recipes from you. Thumbs-up from me!
    Iris

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  55. Junko

    Hi Nami-san,
    I loved how you explained the bento-making process with all important tips! It will help me explain it to my friends here in the US.
    Thank you!

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    • Hi Junko-san! Thank you so much for your comment. I’m happy to hear you liked my tutorial and hope your friends find it helpful as well. Thank you!! :)

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  56. As a Pakistani child, my mum used to make me bento boxes like the Japanese culture.
    When I started high school I asked my mum to stop making them because they were embarrassing O-o
    When I turned 14 I went through a phase in which I become almost anorexic which came out worse because I’m already an ill teenager.
    Now that I’m 15, I eat from a Bento at least twice a week…
    This got me into Japanese culture and language… I fully speak Japanese and I read manga like if it’s a source of breathing…:)

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    • Hi +Aqua Charms! Your mom is wonderful to make bento boxes! I’m so happy to hear you like Japanese culture and the language, and you can fully speak Japanese! Sugoi!!! :) Thank you so much for writing! I hope you enjoy cooking Japanese food too. :)

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  57. Caitlin

    I really like to make gyudon for dinner but I’m nto sure what the best way to pack the left overs in my bento would be. I noticed above you mention keeping sauces and wet food away from dry food. Is it ok to just put my meat on my rice in the morning or should I place it on the rice once I go to eat it?

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    • Hi Caitlin! Gyudon is great for bento! First of all, what kind of bento box are you using? If it’s like Thermos (thermal jar type), you can put hot rice and hot gyudon on top (I’d even pour a bit of sauce). If your bento box is a flat, typical bento box, then I’d avoid the sauce, especially if you have other ingredients packed inside. The sauce could move to other ingredients too. So You would put rice, then meat on top. Or, you could keep the rice separate from the meat. When you eat, you can eat separately or put it on top while you eat… It’s up to you how you like it. :) Hope this helps!

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  58. Jess

    Hey Nami, this is really cool. I’ve always wanted to know how to make one of these mostly for myself though I can share this with my family. This is helpful to me so now I can make one of these for my niece. Thanks so much for sharing this.

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    • Hi Elaine! It depends – If I leave it out for a longer time, I usually cover half way and let it cool. I don’t want other foods to be dried out so that’s why I cover partially. However, I always remove the condensation from the lid before closing. Depending on your food/menu in the bento, you can remove the lid completely and let it cool down. :)

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  59. AIMEE

    Good evening. I just came across this site. I love how you prepare the bento lunch boxes! I am new to this and was wondering where you purchased your bento box listed in the photos with the coordinating dividers as well as the accessories. I have a 4 year old little girl who will be going to pre-k in August and I am adamant about learning on how to prepare these delicious meals for her. Do you have toddler friendly recipes that do not contain any sort of nuts? Her school does not allow me to pack her any nuts, hot dogs, grapes.

    Desperately seeking advise and directions on how to begin this journey.

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    • Hi Aimee! Welcome to my blog! I hope your daughter will enjoy bringing bento box! Most of my recipes don’t include nuts and I hope you find some recipes for making bento! Will continue making and sharing bento recipes in the future. :)

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