Simple Bento-Making Tips & Ideas for the Not-So-Artistic Moms

Bento in Japanese means a compact, healthy, and visually appealing meal served in a box. It is usually composed by your go, grow, and glow food group to ensure that the meal you are serving has healthy components. But ultimately, bento means convenient.

Bento meals I think became a big thing back during the Meteor Garden (a Taiwanese series) days where the lead actress San Cai had a scene where she prepared a kawaii (I'll explain further later) bento for her love interest Dao Ming Si. However, in Japan, bento-making has been a tradition in preparing meals for their spouses and children. Over the years, the bento-style food preparation has been adapted by Asian countries, and Hawaii. 

Back then, I used to think bento-making was challenging and complicated. I also thought I was not artistic or creative enough to whip up an attractive yet appetizing finished product. But hey, I'd like to believe that I'm winning at trying. Maybe because my son is easy to please and I'm at my 3rd week of bento-making and so far, I haven't given up. 

So, if you're like me who is A) A noob and B) not-so-artistic, then let me share these 5 simple tips and tricks to guide you in your bento-making journey. Hey, I don't claim to be an expert, but I hope these tips will help. 

My growing pile of Bento tools. Some were bought and some were gifts from supportive Mommy friends.

1. Have the basic tools (at least)

Well, you wouldn't go to war without the basics, right? In bento-making, it pays to be prepared. You need to have the basic tools in order to come up with a good bento meal. Like I said earlier, there are different types of bento meals but presently, I am trying to become an expert in Kawaii design. 

Kawaii - are bento meals designed to look like cute characters like animals, cartoon characters, or different shapes. Since my son is just 6-years old, this helps in making the meals more appealing to him. I am slowly trying to incorporate fruits and vegetables into his meals.

So, what are the basic tools that you need to have?

One of my favorite bento lunchbox to use. Bought it for only P80 pesos. 

  1. A good-quality lunchbox - from a secure lid, to adequate division/compartment. Always consider the food that you will prepare in choosing a bento/lunchbox.
  2. Food picks - food picks will not only make it easier to eat small portions of food but it is also an added design to the story you are trying to tell through your bento box.
  3. Rice/Sandwich molders - though there are designs that you can easily make by hand, there are shapes that can only be perfectly done through shapers. There are different shapes and designs available to make your bento presentation more appealing to your child/spouse. 
  4. Silicone cups - these versatile tools can either be used for baking or a food dividers for your bento. The cups can separate your sauce from the fruits or candies. 
  5. Punchers - ever wondered how bento mama's shape those winking, sleeping, heart-shaped, or even round eyes and smiling mouths? Well, that's through punch tools for nori. 
These are the punch tools I have so far. 

2. Plan Ahead

Bento-making can be easy peasy by planning your designs ahead. This way, you will have an idea and a clearer picture of what you want your bento meals to look like for each day of the week. It is also helpful to ask your child or spouse what they prefer for the week so you can base the stocks you will buy on what they want. 

Again, I'm a noob when it comes to bento-making so right now, though I try to plan ahead, I usually just wake up a little earlier than usual so I can cook fresh rice and browse through our fridge for the food I am going to prepare. For me, asking my son the night before helps a whole lot too. 

But at the end of the day, planning ahead is the best thing to do. And where do I usually look for ideas? Pinterest! This platform has hundreds of bento design ideas from other bento-making mamas. From simple to more elaborate designs - I turn to Pinterest when I do my planning. 

Bento Ideas from Pinterest.

And of course, since I am not-so-artistic, I just base my designs on these masterpieces, and though they don't usually come out as perfectly similar, at least they come close. Haha

One of my bento designs for my son's early lunch at school. "Bear" with me. 

3. Buy your ingredients weekly

Bento-making can be costly too if you don't include planning your expenses on the food that you will prepare. There are a few which you can buy at the beginning of the week and still be able to use for the rest of the month like nori, cheese, gummies/candies, eggs, hotdogs, and canned foods.

But everything else that needs to be fresh like veggies or meats, you need to buy them and plan the portions ahead so you won't risk spoiling or wasting your ingredients. Saving money must be a priority too, 

4. Remember your "who" and "why"

Again, bento-making specially for moms like us who are not experts on the artistic department, it is a must to remember for whom we are creating these bento boxes for. You don't have to come up with competition-winning pieces at all. 

As long as you know why you are creating your own masterpiece and why you want to make your loved ones happy through bento, then you are already winning. 

I have moments where it feels like my bento designs look mediocre but when I see my son's eyes light up or how hearty his laugh is whenever I show him the finished product - I feel really good inside. You see, the only approval that we will need is from the people we love who will be thrilled seeing and eating our bento creations. 

Some of my bento creations based on the design inspirations I see on Pinterest. 

5. Have fun and follow your instinct

Mommas, you don't need to put yourself under pressure to produce an award-winning bento piece. For me, the key ingredient in whipping up my bento creations for Choi is - having fun. Do not take the enjoyment out of the process. If you think you won't have time in the morning, prepare all that you will need the night before. So in the morning, you will only need to play your favorite music while finishing your day's bento baon.

I am not an artistic person, well, not in every sense of the word. I can't draw even if my life depended on it, but with the right tools, good intentions, a simple guide (mostly found on Pinterest), and following my instincts - I am proud of my day to day bento meals for my little boy.

I am not out to compete with other moms who "bento" themselves, I am just a mother thinking of ways to make my son's everyday meals in school more appealing and enjoyable.

So, if you are like me, a not-so-artistic bento mom, let's journey together, you know what they say, an expert was once an amateur too.

For more of my super basic, super simple, and super easy bento creations, you can check out my Facebook page or my Instagram account. I promise, you will feel no pressure at all. (wink!wink!) Let's bento!

Rolled Into One Mom

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