Clockwise from top left: organic carrot flowers, crackers, Stonyfield organic yogurt topped with home-grown watermelon stars, more watermelon, organic grapes, tuna salad topped with more carrot flowers. Yum!!
In less than a week Emily will be starting first grade, which means we’ll be packing up lunches for her to take to school. Have you jumped on the bento bandwagon yet? If not, you should consider it! Bento lunches promote healthy eating habits, and they can be very budget-friendly. Here are some tips to make up quick & easy bento lunches that won’t break the bank!
- Be Creative with Leftovers — Wherever possible, incorporate leftovers into your child’s lunch. A little clever arrangement, or help from some cookie cutters can go a long way towards making leftovers more appealing.
- Think COLOR — We try to include about five different colors in each bento lunch. It is an easy reminder to pack a variety of healthy foods.
- Aim for a Waste-Free Lunch — Avoid single-serve convenience foods with packaging that ends up in the landfill, and opt for reusable containers, stainless steel cutlery, and cloth napkins instead. It’s better for the environment, and you will save money in the long-run since you won’t have to buy packages of plastic sandwich baggies, plastic-ware, and paper napkins over and over again.
- Buy in Bulk — My girls are crazy for Stonyfield organic yogurt, and we found the large 32oz. containers are very reasonable (at around $3) and provide about 8 servings of 1/2 cup of yogurt each. Buying in bulk means less of your money is wasted on the cost of packaging.
- Make Your Own Accessories — Making your own decorated toothpicks is cheaper and a lot more fun! I love these owl cupcake toppers from Executive Homemaker, and they are FREE for you to print out! Of course, I wouldn’t limit their use to only cupcakes. These would be fun for mini-fruit and cheese kabobs, or sandwiches too!
- Pack the Night Before — After dinner, I pack a lunch (using the leftovers) for Mark to take to work, and one for Emily to take to school (I’ve already started doing this, even though she hasn’t started school yet!). The next morning, I might add some cut up fruit or some other treat to the box, and that’s it. By packing lunch the night before, Mark is a lot less likely to buy a lunch because of mornings when we are too tired or too busy to pack it then. And yes, I sometimes make him super-cute bento lunches too… just to make his co-workers at the office jealous! Ha!!
Bento lunches can be so much fun to make and eat!!
Have a tip I forgot to mention? Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!!