Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fast and Budget Friendly Bento

 As I'm sure you all know by now, we love to make lunch fun in this house! I like to think that whenever a loved one is opening a lunch hours after leaving the house, they get a little love jumping out! It's a taste of home and a hug from Mommy!
When my kids were at home in their youngest years before school, I always made fun and cute lunches for them and they LOVED them, I wanted to continue to do so as they went off to school and may or not be homesick on those first days. With 3 kids in 3 different schools and my oldest starting at 7:45, I constantly hear 2 comments most about my lunches. 1. How do you do it? I would never ever have enough time to do something like that everyday. 2. Bento is so expensive and I don't have any places that sell the supplies around here. I figured I would tackle these 2 comments with todays post.

I do all the lunches in the evening before bed, so that they are ready to go in the morning and that alone saves me tons of time! For this post though, I decided to do it in the morning in addition to everything else, just to prove that bento does not have to take a lot of time! The lunch shown in the first photo took a total of 12 minutes and that is WITH photo staging and taking! (This was also to make 3 lunches! Remember to save time by making the EXACT same thing for everyone!)

Cost? You don't need the fancy containers that you see online! You can turn ANYTHING into a bento container, in fact to prove this point I went shopping for something cute and fun, just to prove a point! I have many containers that I will share in future posts, for this first one I want to share these. I found them right upon entering TARGET, in their Dollar Spot! I spent 2.00 on these containers and ended up getting 2 coupons on things we actually do purchase there! 1 was .50 off a kids meal and the other was a package of free Milano cookies. That's 3.50 in coupons for 2.00 spent!!

When it comes to 'supplies' you need to remember that cute doesn't always have to mean expensive! A popular way to separate your food is with silicone dividers that usually run around 8.00 for a set of around 6. This could easily be brought down with 40% off coupons printed off and heading to your favorite craft store! The budget friendly way is with cupcake liners! I pick some up WHENEVER I see them on clearance! Even at full price for this post, I found them in my grocery store baking aisle for .79 on sale!

Fancy food picks get to be an addiction and believe me their costs can definitely add up, I like to use stickers and toothpicks! It's really that easy. To make fun shapes, just use cookie cutters. The small ones start as low as .35 cents at Hobby Lobby, but can easily be found on clearance after holidays. Stars after Christmas and flowers after Easter!

 A crinkle cutter costs less than 3.00 and makes a world of difference on boring veggies!! This little cutter was  found at Bed Bath and Beyond and with a 20% off coupon it was a steal! I can get my kids to eat pretty much anything when I give it a little sprucing up and make it inviting!!
 I also love to add a little handmade note! I printed up these mini menus from DeliciousAmbiguity and have had so many complements from the kids and even their teachers! I like to write up what they are eating and also include a brief note from Mom. (Good luck on a test, stay quiet in Mass, Don't forget you have Chinese class today! Love you more than words can say!!). My kids also have classes after school, so I always pack a little more than they need and some extra snacks for their morning snack in class and an after school snack before their classes.

Small condiment containers cost around 5.00 for the lids and bottoms and work WONDERS in these lunches! I like to store ranch dressing for veggies, yogurt dips for fruits, granola, small snacks etc.

Lunches can be made cute and with love in no time at all and for hardly any money invested to start off! I will share all of my supplies in future posts and also share some more fun lunches.

Quick Tips To Make Lunches Quicker:
1. I wash and cut up all my veggies and fruits AS SOON as they come home from the store, if I just pop them in the fridge they get forgotten or I keep waiting on using them because I don't have time to peel and cut.

2. Cucumbers are a huge fan favorite at our house and while we wait for them to grow into our garden, we buy English ones, they are a bit more expensive, but the skin tastes great on!

3.  Low on time? Even a ham and cheese sandwich can be made with love with a simple cookie cutter in a heart shape, (Large ones are at the dollar store!) and an I LOVE YOU post it note.

4. We buy a lot of pre packaged snacks for grab and go eats, because the kids are in quite a bit of classes that seem to have us on the road a lot! These are great for a little boost, while eaten with a yogurt or fruit cup! The tip to easily personalize these is to make your own label with paper from your scrap bin. I open the boxes as soon as they enter the home and tape little I LOVE YOU labels on them! So quick and uses up paper scraps.

5. Keep a station in your kitchen your lunch prep station. I have a SMALL kitchen and can still carve out a corner for my stuff. This means I am not looking for ANYTHING in the morning. I have a cutting board, knives and the like all in my little corner! I never wander around aimlessly, everything is done with a purpose. I will share this little Corner of My Home in a future post too!

As this has become a novel, I will share more another time! Enjoy your day! We are off on an all day field trip with my oldest! She goes to a private school and we are off on an all school pilgrimage!



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