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Plastic-Free, Waste-Free Bento Lunches

Updated on June 24, 2012

Simple, Healthy, No-Fuss Lunches

Making a healthy lunch in the morning should be quick and easy, right? Wrong.

Making lunches is actually trickier than most people think. If you're heading out for a 9 hour workday, it can be difficult to pack enough food to keep you alert and all day. Bento boxes are helpful because they encourage you to pack healthy, whole foods like meat, beans, grains, vegetables and fruits rather than empty calories in the form of chips and cheese puffs. You can also buy a stainless steel thermos bottle for soups, stews and chili.

Stainless steel bento boxes are also inherently healthier than lunches packed in tupperware containers or plastic bags, because stainless steel is non-reactive and will not leach toxic plastic chemicals into your food.

Bentos are also wallet-friendly, for after the initial cost of buying the box, you won't have to buy any more of the aforesaid plastic containers or bags. When you're not using your bento box to carry your lunch, you can also use it to store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.

The Art of Making a Bento Box

Bento-making can be quick and easy, or long and involved, depending on what you're trying to achieve. Bentos are somewhat famous now for intricate arrangement of foods and cute presentations - but it doesn't have to be like that! For adults in particular, it's really just about the food.

I made the two bentos above for my own lunches. They were made in the same week, and as you can see they are somewhat similar. I cooked up a bunch of chicken over the weekend and used it for lunches for the whole week. I also used a mix of fruit and veggies in one side of the box. Since the bento isn't that large, I always supplement it with another snack on the side.

You can put almost anything into a bento, as long as it isn't too soupy or saucy (made with a sauce, that is - not, you know... frisky). Any veggies and fruits go well in a bento, as well as meats (cooked at home or from the deli), chunks of cheese, rice, pasta, beans, and more. I have even cooked sweet potatoes and put them in - they're fine cold!

I separate foods that I don't want to touch by using silicone baking cups, or wax paper. (I am on the lookout for a non-plastic, non-wax separator.) It doesn't bother me if the foods in the box don't really "go" with each other. It's just about making a quick, frugal lunch that is healthy and tasty, so don't worry about what you put in the bento.

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