Keri’s first day of 3rd grade

School is here!  I say that as a negative and positive thing.. negative in the way that we have had a wonderful summer together!  We have gone to Sea World, swimming, playdates, sleep overs, and spent lots of time together – it has been wonderful!  So, boo to school.  But, positive in the way that Keri gets to see her school friends that she hasnt seen all summer (she is very excited to see them!!), and also I get to start making Bento lunches again, YES!  This year will be different, however.  First, I now work PRN.  So, I work roughly 8 shift per month (minimum of 8, but I can work more and have worked more when needed).  This is because working full time was too difficult to do with school!  I am still in graduate school too – but no matter, I can handle my schedule a lot more easily now.. a lot less stressful compared to the beginning of this year!  Anyways, back to the bento lunches.  Keri put a few stipulations on the bento lunches.  First, she said absolutely no cookie cutters other than a cat, dog, or bird.  Awesome.  Not. But okay, I’ll respect that.. maybe.  I asked her about an Apple Lunch, she said no.. but.. it was too cute.. so.. I did it anyways.. and she was kinda sorta upset the first morning of school (oops).  I didnt mention this, btw, she is in 3rd grade – ACK!  This will be the 4th year I’ll be doing bento lunches for her 🙂  I’ll switch in between the Yubo and Planet Box, just fyi.

So, the first lunch was an apple lunch on 08/25/14.  It was a big apple sandwich with mini apple sandwiches, homemade caramel dipping sauce for her freshly cut apples (dunked in apple juice to prevent browning), apple balls (prepackaged, didnt make those), and homemade apple shaped cinnamon honey graham crackers.

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Here is a picture of Keri with her Bento lunch:

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Okay.. and because I have to (cant resist), here are two pictures of Keri’s first day back to school.. Third Grade!

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And.. of course the puppy.  Oh.. the puppy.  This was a picture of Keri and Kali (puppy) before Kali got a haircut.

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Back to the Bentos!  This is Tuesday, 08/26/14’s lunch: A bird lunch!  Nothing too special here – birdy sandwiches, berry mix for the fruit, mini bird homemade graham crackers, yogurt, and circle cheese.

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Next, Wednesday, 08/27/14 lunch:  Beef bites.  These were suppose to be made with pork or sausage or turkey.. I got the wrong thing.. oops.  So, I’m calling them crescent beef bites b/c I used ground beef and cream cheese.  Keri loved them!  In all fairness, there was suppose to be homemade potato chips there too.. but I forgot the potato.  Oops.  So, instead, pringles (which.. she didnt eat, I might add).  Then some crackers and cheese, and berries.

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This last lunch, Thursday, 08/28/14 is my pride and joy lunch.. Homemade Spaghettios!  They are healthy, actually!  I made a big pot of them, and it was enough for today’s lunch plus 4 to freeze.. YES!  Jackpot, b/c Keri LOVED them!  I was so happy.. they have purred carrots in them.. ssssshhh – dont tell my daughter that 🙂  The spaghettios and turkey meatballs were 100% homemade.  I had to buy the noodles off Amazon, b/c I didnt know where there were any European stores near me, so probably spent too much on the noodles than necessary, but that is okay, it was worth it!  The turkey meatballs – I used the recipe linked up above, but used flax seed in replace of the egg.  They worked out beautifully!  I made mini turkey meatballs, and Keri said she loved the meatballs in particular – so yay!

turkey meatballs

homemade spaghettios

And here is her lunch that day:  Homemade spaghettios with turkey meatballs, mixed fruit, cheese pretzels and yogurt.  Huge hit!  And, I have four more in the freezer.. ready to go 🙂  Yay!

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Week one.. done.  So, what you can expect this year as far as Bentos go.  Well, I’ve been “forbidden” to do cute kind of lunches.  I’ll try to squeeze some in there every now and then when I think Keri is okay with it (i.e. wont get that mad at me.. ha!) – but she loves the hot lunches.  So, I plan on making a whole bunch of new bento recipes to try out for her.  I’ve already pinned several recipes regarding soups, and different things I can freeze – make a big pot of it.. and boom, several lunches!  So, look for those.  I’m so happy she has access to use a microwave.. dont know what I’d do without it!  But, that is the first week in a wrap for Keri’s bento lunches – welcome to Third Grade Keri.. so proud of you!!

2nd Grade Bento Lunches

Oh-My!  I’m so behind!  Short pathetic back story.. then I’ll get to the good stuff!

So, bento lunches for my daughter’s second year of Montessori – 2013-2014.  A couple things changed that year.  First, I switched regularly between the plant box and the yubo lunch boxes.  I enjoyed the variety!  Second, after Christmas, Keri politely asked me to stop making her lunches so “cute” – she wanted plain / normal lunches.  Ha.  She refused to let me use any cookie cutters – so all the sandwiches are incredibly boring!  She also wanted more hot lunches rather than cold lunches.  So.. okay.  A few changes had to be made along the school year.  But, I passed my NCLEX (nursing board exam) in September, and became a psychiatric nurse in October 2013.  By law, I had to work full time for the first six months.  So, from October 2013 – April 2014, I worked full time on the weekends – man, it was hard!  I thought it was perfect at first.. I work 16 hours on Saturday (7am – 11:00pm) and do it all over again on Sunday.  Physically, I worked 32 hours, but got paid for 40 (called the Baylor shift).  It drained me!  I was completely exhausted and drained by Monday, so Monday lunches were often very boring because I hadnt been to the grocery store all weekend due to working, and I was exhausted!  And on Friday’s, Keri eats pizza – so no bento lunches on Fridays.  And, to top it off, I started graduate school in January – so from January 2014 to April 2014, I was working full time AND going to graduate school part time (2 classes) – Ouch!  Those few months in particular were the hardest, by far.  Then.. school was kinda over!

Okay – there was the backstory.  So, this post is just going to show case the best bento lunches I made throughout Keri’s 2nd grade school year.  Enjoy!

This first lunch is from 09/11/13 – puppy dog lunch.  I took biscuits, cut the dough into shapes of dogs, used black beans for the eyes and nose, and inserted a hot dog as the mouth.  There are also cut out cheese bones, and homemade potato chips in here as well.  For the fruit, it is peaches and grapes.  I loved how cute this lunch was!

 

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This next lunch is from 09/17/2013.  The sandwich may seem plain, bu I love the colors here and the little details – from the chicks, the hearts, carrot chips, and the homemade strawberry oatmeal bars.

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The next three pictures are in the month of October.. Halloween!  I was pretty creative this month – I wasnt at school yet, and was able to concentrate more in cuteness.  I love a lot of Halloween ones, but these three are my favorites.

First one is on 10/01/2013 – The first Halloween lunch of the year!  (Btw – Halloween is my favorite holiday, which is why I go so all for Halloween bentos!)  This is the Frankenstein lunch.  They are actually square chicken tacos (so.. take a tortilla, put in chicken and cheese, shape it in a square and hold it with a toothpick.. and tell the child there is a tooth pick in there and not to eat the toothpick!) – love this lunch!  (The green circles are cut up cucumbers and green yogurt).

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The next Halloween lunch is from 10/02/13.  This is the ghost lunch!  I have a thing for ghosts – I love them!  I actually did a few ghost lunches, but this is one of the originals, and Keri’s favorite.  It is a ghost cheese quesadilla, homemade ghost sugar / cinnamon chips with fruit salsa in the circle, ghost cheese sticks, ghost marshmallow, and ghost yogurt.  Love ghosts!

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The last Halloween lunch I’ll show you was from Halloween itself, 10/31/2013.  Yippie!  Tried to make this one fun and to emulate trick or treating – the fruit is suppose to be “candy” – get it?  Loved this lunch!

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Moving on.. to Christmas!  Have two bentos to show you from Christmas.. and I’ll stop there, b/c as I said, from January to April, the bentos are quite boring due to the issues listed up above (sorry!!).  This one is from 12/02/13.  Love the white and red colors!  And, I adore the mini little circle sandwich bites – I think they are so cute cut up this way.

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The last lunch is from 12/09/13. This is the Christmas tree lunch.  I wanted the pirates booty to be like snow – then you got the mini Christmas tree sandwiches, and the veggie straws as grass.  Then of course the cute little fruit in red / green colors.

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Check out the rest of the bento lunches on my Pinterest board:  Bento lunches for Keri

Bento Lunch Box Reviews

I’ve been asked quite a few times which bento lunch box I recommend to others, so I thought I would write a little bit about the different bento boxes that I have as well as a few others.  This review contains my opinions about several bento lunch boxes that we personally own, or that I do not own but have done extensive research on.  They include the Planetbox, Yubo, Kid Konserve, Lunchopolis, Laptop lunchbox system, Go Green Lunch Box and the Easy Lunch Box system.

I put together a convenient chart comparing these different systems, but note that this chart and review is only my opinion based on my own personal use with the system and/or doing extensive research on the different systems. Below the chart, I break down in detail the different Pros and Cons of each lunch box system.  Hope this helps you determine which one is right for you and/or your kids!

1 Microwaving plastics is never recommended; however, these particular lunch boxes have containers that are microwavable.

2 Only in the little / big dipper.

UPDATE:  Planetbox does have an ice pack for their lunch box systems; however, it is not included in their lunch box systems.  Instead, it is available for purchase for an additional $7.95 on their accessory website.

Planetbox:  This is our first official bento box, and for good reason – It is one of my favorites!

Pros:

  • Easy for kids to open – a three year old would be able to easily open this box!  Even the little dipper and big dipper are fairly easy for the young ones to open (although, the big dipper took some “practice” for my daughter who was 4 years old at the time – but she quickly learned how to open it).
  • Food stays cold!  This is a metal lunch box.  It has a little dipper and a big dipper that are also metal.  Whatever food you put in here will stay cold until lunch time, especially with the ice pack in the lunch box.  This is a huge plus compared to other bento boxes, as keeping food cool is very important.
  • Easy to clean.  It is one simple box.  Even the little and big dipper are easy to clean.  Planetbox claims that this lunch box is dishwasher safe, but never once did I put this lunchbox in the dishwasher.. especially since it only takes a couple minutes to clean.
  • The food stays where you want it to stay – okay, so, in the bento world, this would be as simple as a bento lunch box as you can get it.  There are several compartments, and whatever food you put in those compartments, stay in those compartments.  There is no mixing of food.  You can put sausage / meat in one compartment and fruit in another compartment without any concern of the food touching each other – Nice!
  • Excellent customer service!  When we first bought the lunch carrier for Keri’s planet box, the pouch for the drink carrier ripped about 3 days after using it.  I was so disappointed!  Fast forward to 3 weeks after school started.. I finally contact Planetbox via email, told them about the situation and sent them a picture of the planetbox.. and they promptly sent me another lunch box carrier – for free!  They apologized about it and we had a new lunch box carrier within a week.  Now, that is customer service!

Cons:

  • The lunch carrier – This is probably my worst “complaint” about the Planetbox is the lunch carrier.  We bought the pink one because my daughter LOVES pink!  However, it gets dirty.. and dirty bad.  Kids love to put their lunch boxes on the ground while waiting to be picked up / taken to school, and on occasion if you had a fruit not in a dipper (such as raspberries, for instance) inside the planet box, the juices would leak out on the lunch carrier.  This would make the lunch carrier so dirty, and I constantly had to clean it.  It became a pain to keep this lunch carrier clean.
  • No ice pack included – no biggie.. you can pick up one of those blue ice packs at Target or such, but when paying this much for a lunch box, it would have been nice if they would include an ice pack that fits in their lunch carrier.  UPDATE:  Planet box does have an ice pack for their lunch boxes!  When I first typed up this post (early Fall, 2012) and when I ordered my daughter her planetbox 2 years ago (summer of 2011), Planetbox did not have any ice packs at all.  Now, the ice pack is not included with their lunch box systems, but they do have one you can purchase for an additional $7.95 on their accessory page.  Whether this updated information is a pro / con.. up to you to decide!
  • The price – this turns a lot of people off.  For the planet box, big/little dipper, and lunch carrier, I paid about $90 for all of it.  For a lunch box.. that is quite pricey!  Now, the lunch box lasts forever – a year after we bought it, that lunch box and dippers are still “like new” – however, that lunch carrier is something that should be replaced on a yearly basis, it gets quite grungy quickly.
  • No drink bottle!  Why?!  Have yet to understand why most bento boxes do not carry their own drink bottle to fit in their lunch boxes.  This is yet another item you have to buy at a local store in addition to the lunch box.
  • The version one of the Planetbox (called the “Rover”), which was the only one available at the time we bought Keri’s, isnt very big for kiddos who have a big appetite.  Now, this has been fixed by their new version, called the “Launch” – but a caveat to this is definitely the cost.. the Launch is more expensive, of course.  Keri never had an issue with the amount of food put in her Planetbox, however, I could definitely see those kids who have a big appetite having an issue with how much food (or lack of) in the Rover system.
  • “Wet” fruits will leak in the lunch box if not in the dippers.  Yes.. sad, but true.  Fruits, such as raspberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, etc. will leak their juices within other compartments of the lunch – so, be careful when you pack these fruits without a dipper.  Granted, I packed them all the time without a dipper, just “dried” them as much as I could.  Also, watch out for raspberries – the juices will leak out and stain the lunch box if you have a lighter color lunch carrier (yes, that lunch carrier that is extremely hard to keep clean!!)

Overall Impression:  Awesome.  This is definitely an amazing lunch box system to have and I thoroughly enjoyed making bento lunches for Keri using this lunch box!

planetbox

The Yubo Bento Lunch Box:  This is Keri’s new bento lunch box.. the Yubo!  Keri really, really wanted a new lunch box this year (dont all kids?!) – but, mommy wanted a bento lunch box (of course…!) – so, after an extensive search to find the perfect new lunch box.. we went with Yubo.

Pros:

  • A “true” bento box!  Finally, I get to use all the muffin containers, picks,  skewers, and bento supplies to create an actual bento box.  The compartments in the Planetbox are nice, but there was only so much creativity you have with those compartments.. with the Yubo, I am able to make a “story” happen with the lunch, and I love it!  The basic set comes with one square and two little circle containers.  I bought 4 rectangle containers in addition to this (they come in packages of 2, and I wanted 3 for some lunches.. to do 3 rectangles in the box, hence the 4).  You can do so many different combinations:  square and 2 circles; square and 1 rectangle; 3 rectangles; or 2 rectangles and 2 circles.  Love  the possibilities of creativity you have with this lunch box!
  • The face plates!  How neat is this?!  With the Planetbox, you are given magnets to decorate the box; however, you dont get to “show-off” your lunch box b/c the magnets are concealed in the lunch carrier (make sense?) – with the Yubo, you have face plates.   There are dozens to choose from, you can get them personalized (prices range from $7 – $10, and they regularly have specials on these things), AND, they have seasonal ones.  You better believe that I have Halloween and Christmas face plates 🙂  This is a HUGE thing for me – and Keri – being able to change out and personalize the face plates, we love this feature!
  • Its a box.. and it’s washable!  Yep, the faceplate too.  This lunch box stays clean and it is so easy to keep this lunch box looking like new (unlike the planet box carrier) – love this!
  • Again, containers so easy to clean.  I never put these containers in the dishwasher either simply because they are so easy to keep clean and wash out upon Keri arriving home from school.
  • The clear containers do not stain!!!  (NOTE:  see the “Con” about the lids) – I was extremely worried the moment I put red sauce into these clear containers, that it would tint the clear containers a red color.. but nope.  That, is awesome  🙂
  • The containers are 100% leak proof – LOVE!  Do I need to say anymore?  I am able to send apple sauce and yogurt with Keri without worry of it leaking.
  • The cost is reasonable.  You can get the basic lunch box for about $35ish.  If you want the extra containers, drink holder, and personalized place plate like me.. it will be $70.  Still cheaper than planet box!

Cons:

  • The ice pack – its horrible!  This is my absolute major complaint about this bento lunch box.. the ice pack does not keep things very cool.  But, remember, this is a regular box.. not insulating.  No metal containers, and no metal lunch box – all you have is the ice to keep food cold, and the ice pack they send does not do a very good job in keeping the food cold.  I’m very happy that Yubo sends an ice pack that fits in their box, but it does a horrible job.  I usually put a blue ice pack in there instead of the included by Yubo.. tends to keep food colder this way.
  • No drink bottle.. again, why?! 🙂  They have an awesome drink carrier that attaches to the lunch box, but no drink bottle to go in it – so, you have to buy one from a local store.
  • The containers – This is not a problem for Keri.. but, she is 6.  I can definitely see this being an issue for younger kiddos who are 3-4 years old though.  Each container has its own lid.  You have to be able to open these containers!  I do not see little ones having the capability of opening these containers by themselves, much less putting them back on before packing up the lunch box after they are done eating (and I admit, Keri doesnt always put the lids back on the containers either).
  • Once again, if your kiddo has a big appetite – I cant recommend this lunch box!  These containers are perfect for my little eater, as there is often food brought home.  However, if your kiddo does eat a lot, a simple remedy is to just use the actual lunch box without the containers inside.. seem to fit more in there this way – but, that takes away from the bento style of having a bento lunch box!
  • The white lid stains!  Boo.  However, only the inside stains (obviously, where the red sauce touches it) – and thankfully, the clear container does not stain.. that is the important part.  You cant ever see the inside of the lid b/c well, its covering the food!  So, not a biggie – just note that the white lids do stain when in contact with red sauce.

Overall Impression:  We love this lunch box so much!  It has exceeded our expectations of a lunchbox, and other than a few insulation / cold issues, this is an excellent bento lunch box!

yubo

Kids Konserve Bento:  My newest acquisition in the bento world!  However, I bought this for myself.. not my daughter.. 🙂

Pros:

  • This is a very simple looking lunch box system!  It is not a box, but a bag – no designs, magnets, face plates, just a bag.  For older kiddos getting out of this sort of stuff (or adults), this is perfect.  It is very “adult” like – which is why I bought it for me!
  • It finally comes with a drink bottle.. YES!  And, its metal.  The system comes with the two large containers, sandwich wrapper, napkin / placemat thing (either or, I think), the drink bottle and the bag.  The two small metal containers are extra containers I bought (plan on using them from time to time in Keri’s yubo lunch box.. as the smaller containers do fit in the square container of the Yubo!)  All the containers are metal.. which contain the cold / heat.. awesome 🙂
  • Easy to open containers.. that are leak proof!  Keri even opened these containers without hesitation – so easy to open.  And, they are leak proof, which of course is a huge added bonus.

Cons:

  • The lunch bag is not insulated.  This isnt a big issue for me, but for a kids lunch.. this may be an issue.  This lunch bag is cloth – no insulation, so even sticking an ice pack in there will do absolutely no good after an hour (trust me, I tried).
  • I’m going to list the cost under the “cons” simply b/c I do think it is a little pricey.. for what you get.  Everything you see in that picture was $60.  Without the little containers, the system is $45.  Will let you ultimately decide if the cost is too pricey or just right for this system!
  • Risk of getting the sandwich smashed.  As neat as the wrapper is – there is a risk that the sandwich will not be.. well, a sandwich by the time a kiddo eats it!  For adults, I dont see this being an issue, but you know how kids are – they swing their lunch boxes up and down, and especially with this one, since it is a bag.. with string.. I can totally see this lunchbox doing a 180 on the way up to the school building.. cant you?!  Even with the sandwich on top of the containers, this lunchbox has to be handled with care if that sandwich is in there.
  • Cleaning – I have not had Keri use this lunch box, and I do not foresee her using it.. (ITS MINE!!) – however, I foresee the exact same problem with this lunch bag as with the planet box lunch carrier – it will get dirty and will need constant cleaning if a kiddo uses it for their lunch.  Beware about this one 🙂
  • Condensation – as mentioned, this lunch bag is cloth.  Well, condensation from the metal water bottle (which, had ice in) will definitely make this lunch bag completely wet.  This is a huge drawback that I did not think about before purchasing this lunch box system!
  • Practicality – lets face it, this bento lunch system is more for snacks than a child’s lunch.  No insulation, easily gets dirty, easily gets wet from cold stuff (i.e. condensation), and you simply cant put enough food in here to fill up a kiddo – unless your kiddo eats hardly anything!  I’m very glad I purchased the two additional little metal containers.. but still, this system is more for snacks rather than for lunches – just simply not practical to keep your kiddo’s lunch cold for 4 hours before they get to it and be enough to fill them up.

Overall Impression: I love this bag bento, but it is for me – not for my daughter.  It just isnt practical for her to take to school for lunch!  I will continue to use it for my lunch and will definitely use it for snacks for her for when we go to places.

Lunchopolis Bento Box:  I do not personally own this lunchbox, however, they sell these products at a local organic store nearby, and so I’ve seen them and would like to offer my review on them the best I can!

Pros:

  • Insulated lunch box!  Finally!  In the inner liner of this lunchbox is insulated – just like what you would see in a cooler, the thin foil like insulation.  Perfect!
  • Affordable – very.  Prices range from $20 – $35 depending on the location.  This is an amazing price for a bento lunch box!
  • Microwavable – Yes!  These containers can go into the microwave!  Leftovers for dinner?  No need to pack in separate container.. just pack in here, refrigerate, and its ready to go to heat up the next day.
  • Kit includes 4 containers -definitely enough containers to have a variety of food if you aren’t into the creative bento food designs 🙂
  • Everything – yes, everything – fits in this lunch box.. including the water bottle!  Love this.  The major lunch box systems all have a separate carrying case for the water bottle.  This means over time, the drink gets to be room temperature (lets face, even the insulated ones get “warmer” over time).  So, I love the fact that you can put the water bottle inside the lunch box to keep it cold!

Cons:

  • Ice packs – this is a slight issue for me.  The website recommends putting ice in the water bottle to keep lunch box cold.  When examining these at the store.. I know why.  There is no room for an ice pack!  No sleeve to slip one in, and the containers are snug in there.  Yes, all 4 containers AND the water bottle to fit in this bag (amazing huh?), however, that leaves no room for an ice pack.  Granted, if you have a thin one (a very thin one), you could probably pack one in there, but this was a huge disappointment to me.  Why not leave an inch at the top of the lunch box to put an ice pack in this awesome insulating case?!
  • Plastic – Issues with plastic on the bento world, or perhaps its just me.  Yes, I love plastic containers because they are microwavable, however, I worry about foods staining the plastic.  I cannot attest to whether food (i.e. red sauce) will stain these plastic containers, so this is definitely an issue for me at least.
  • This system may be one of the more affordable ones out there, but the containers are made quite cheaply.  They remind me tupperware products – like the ziploc containers you can buy at the local store.  The lids are similar, and the “cheapness” of the plastic containers bother me.  I worry how they will hold up over time.
  • The designs – well, look at them.  You can go see the ones online too, but the designs are more “adult like” rather than kid friendly.  I’m sure a high schooler (or a middle schooler) wouldnt mind this fact, but to a young kiddo.. this is so boring!

Overall Impression:  This is an affordable system perfect for someone just starting out in the bento world.  I honestly do not think I could “sell” this lunch box to my daughter based on the design.  I do think, however, that this would make an excellent lunch box for a working adult who has access to a microwave – one of my favorites for this reason!

Click for larger image.

Laptop Lunches:  I have debated about this lunch box system for a very long time. I have done extensive research on it, read so many reviews.. so, these are my pros / cons about this lunch box system.. and ultimately why we do not own it is after seeing this lunch box in person.. I can’t justify buying it.  What I see in person does simply does not match up with the rant and rave that their website claims.

Pros:

  • Kid-friendly!  Out of the bento lunch box systems, this one is definitely kid friendly.  So many colors and lunch box systems to choose from.  Kids love colors, and I personally love how colorful this system is!
  • Semi-Affordable.  You can get the whole system for about $40 locally or online.  Not too bad for a bento box.
  • Myplate – ever heard of it?  Surely you have heard of the Food Pyramid, yes?  Well, MyPlate replaces the Food Pyramid 🙂 This bento lunch box system is suppose to mimic myplate regarding the food portions.  I find this very intriguing, however, knowing me… I would not adhere to that and go off on my own bento creative craziness!  But, love the intention behind making 5 containers to adhere to the MyPlate food portion recommendations!
  • This is the only lunch box system that I have found that actually has a carrier that holds the lunch box horiztonally rather than vertically.  Granted, its only a couple of carriers.. neither one my daughter liked (of course) – but still, this is a bento creators dream.. to have a lunch box carrier that the kiddo doesnt invert and “destroy” the creations that are made!!
  • This is also one of hte few bento retailers that actually offers a water bottle (for an additional price, of course.. of $20 – pricey..?!)  –  but, they do offer one that fits into their carriers, unlike Planetbox and Yubo.

Cons:

  • The containers – This is the the absolute main reason why I dont want to get this system.  These containers in person feel so cheaply made to me!  And, sure enough, you can buy the actual lunch box (with the 5 containers) for about $20 – this is does not include the carrier, which is another $20, so that would explain why these containers feel pretty cheap.. they are.
  • Leak Proof Issues – Their website claims these containers are leak proof.  However, several, several reviews that I have read claim otherwise.  (Note:  Some reviews do claim they are leak proof though).  I am flat out now willing to buy this if I know others are having issue with leaking – simple as that!
  • Lid issues – Many reviews I have read say they have issues getting the lids on / off (huge issue for the little ones!  A 6 year old could probably handle this, but for a little one.. doubtful).  Also – getting the lids on may be difficult for the kids.. 5 containers for this lunch box, each has a lid – you really think a kiddo is going to take the time to line up the threading of the box with the lid and put all 5 lids back on?  Doubtful – I have a hard enough issue getting my 6 year old to put two lids on (that just snap in place quite easily!)

Overall Impression:  I wouldnt get this system.  The containers are just too “cheaply” made once we got our hands on them at our local Whole Foods, who sells this system.  I did not like the way these containers were made, the lids caused me a huge concern / issue, and ultimately, I would not get this system.. even though I think the concept behind the containers is adorable!

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Go Green Lunch Box:  Honestly, I wanted this lunch box for this school year for my daughter.  It was my first choice, however, Keri thought it resembled the Planet Box too much and I was unable to talk her into it.  Boo.  Someday.. Someday…. 🙂

Pros:

  • 4 compartments… all insulated and leak proof!  HUGE advantage over the Planet Box!  You have 4 compartments here – no individual lids to mess with, and each compartment fits snuggly due to the lid (see picture) – and it makes these compartments leak proof.
  • Less to wash – lets face it, dealing with multiple containers / lids.. blah.  Okay, its not that bad, but still – this thing looks so incredibly easy to wash!  (Much like the Planet Box is) – love this fact!  No individual containers to mess with.
  • Simple – no creativity required for this box.  Granted, of course you can get creative with it (like I would obviously do), but each compartment is separate so you dont need to mix food together (as in the Yubo).  Did I mention the compartments are leak proof..?
  • The water bottle fits in the lunch box – say what?!  One of my favorite features!  I love the fact that there is no separate bulky carrier for the water / drink bottle.  This set comes with a water bottle that is part of the actual lunch box system – I love this fact!
  • Dry erase board – okay, am I the only one who is in love with this feature?!  See the picture.. they have a unique dry erase board that you can write notes on to your kiddo that fits int he lunch box (or, is apart of it.. not quite sure on that one).  Now granted, I dont know how well this unique feature works (i.e. if the marker “wears” off by rubbing before the kiddo opens and reads it and how easily the marker erases from the board once the kiddo gets home) – but I just love this concept.. and hoping it works and lives up to my expectations!
  • One lid.. not more than one! Granted, I do not know if this belongs in the Pro or Con section – so, keep this in mind, but the lid secures to the lunch box by tabs on each side.  So, you have multiple tabs to “pop” open and “click” shut.  Sounds pretty simple to me.. but in reality, is it for kids?  Not sure.  But, one lid makes this system appealing!
  • Affordable:  Yep, about $35 for this entire kit!  In my opinion, seeing the features of this lunch box compared with the price.. amazing.  Plastic will always be cheaper than metal, so this lunch box is an excellent alternative to those who feel Planet Box is too expensive.  They have many similar features!

Cons:

  • The lunch box carrier is eerily similar to PlanetBox.  (That is, other than the unique dry erase feature).  I am afraid that keeping this carrier clean will be an issue.. the same as with the Planet Box.  Just observing the carrier seems as if it will pick up all kinds of dirt and get dirty, quickly.
  • No ice packs!   Gotta buy your own 🙂
  • Not dishwasher safe.  Doesnt matter – I never put my bento boxes in the diswasher anyways (why?  Its so easy to clean these things by hand.. seriously, takes just a minute to clean!)
  • Not for large appetites – Again, not an issue over here for my small appetite eater, but I can easily see how this lunch box would be an issue for those kiddos who have a bigger appetite – so please note this!

Overall Impression:  I love this lunch box!  As mentioned, this is the lunch box I wanted for my daughter.. but she wouldnt have it.  It wasnt “pretty” enough for her.  Oh-well, she liked the Yubo this year, so that is what we got.  But, I would have definitely bought this lunch box in a heart beat if it was approved for my daughter to do so!

Easy Lunchboxes:  Extremely simple eco-friendly lunch box that is perfect for the beginner bento, small kids, and those who just want to be eco-friendly!  Pretty new system, but if you google “Bneto Boxes” – this will always come up!

Pros:

  • Easy to open for small kids – The lids are very easy to open, even for the smallest kids.
  • Affordable – Out of all the lunch box systems, this is probably the most affordable for being economically friendly!
  • Microwavable – Yep 🙂
  • Dishwasher safe – Although I still don’t see why you would put any bento box in the dishwasher.. they are so easy to clean!
  • Insulated lunch box – always a plus!
  • If only using one container, the drink bottle will fit into the lunch carrier – which is great!
  • Excellent lunch system for multiple kids!  The kit comes with 4 containers; you could easily just buy one system an an extra lunch box for the kiddos and be set – extremely affordable for the family with more than one kiddo.

Cons:

  • Not leak proof – Nope.  The compartments themselves are not leak proof; however, for an extra charge you can get several small leak proof containers that fit in the big containers – convenient!  Just an extra charge.  And, the little containers are not big enough to fit main course meals in.. just small items such as yogurt or applesauce.
  • Not for kiddos with a big appetite – Definitely not!  Well, I suppose you could fit 2 containers in there.. and leave out a drink bottle.  Just wouldnt recommend this system for the kiddos who eat a lot.
  • Does this system remind you of anything?  Tupperware perhaps?  Quite havent figured out any major differences between tupperware containers and these.  You could easily just buy tupperware at the local store and a lunch box to put them in – So, to me, this system is not a unique bento box.. but, since it shows up in every Google search regarding bentos, thought I needed to include it.

Overall Impression:  This is a very simplified lunch box system that is eco-friendly, over-simplified to use, and easy for kids to open.  I would definitely not buy this system for my daughter.. just because its too simple for me.  I prefer a more “true” bento style lunch box.

easy

And, thats it 🙂  Hopefully this review guide  has given you a lot to think about regarding which lunch box system you will be getting for you and/or your family!  Comments are definitely welcome on your experiences with these lunch box systems to add to what I already have written.

Happy Bento Making!

(NOTE:  I typed up this review in Fall, 2012, but never did post it, for whatever reason, so I’m just now getting around to posting it.  I still stand by Yubo and Planet box for making exceptionally amazing Bento lunches!  But, whatever lunch box you choose, I’m hoping this post helps you make a decision!)

First Week To School – Bento Lunches!

It’s been a while!  Sorry about that.. kinda been tied up with something called.. oh Nursing School? 🙂  But you dont want to know about that.. you want to know about how Keri’s first week of school went!  No?  Okay fine, bento lunches!!

First, you’ll notice a change in lunch box!  I’m still trying to get use to it.. I think I like it, but heavily missing the planet box right now (last year’s bento lunch box).  I still have it.. and still plan to use it from time to time, but right now, Keri is in love with her new bento box!  So, I’ll work with it.  She wanted a new lunch box, I wanted it to be Bento.. so, we came up with the Yubo lunch box (www.getyubo.com) – Cheaper than the Planetbox, so that was a plus, and still adorable!  The only drawback to this bento box is it doesnt keep things cold very long.. That ice pack is kinda worthless.  Thinking about changing the ice pack out to something more efficient for next week.. will have to play with it, see what fits!  But, the bento box is pretty neat and the changing face plates is another plus!  Plan on ordering Halloween and Christmas ones soon too 🙂  Oh, and one more note – I would not recommend this lunch box for kiddos in Kinder or younger.  It took Keri (who is 6 – in first grade) some practice to open up these containers!  Each container has a lid (unlike planetbox, where its a tray of sorts) – and they can be a little difficult to open, so fyi on that.

First day of school.. what to do, what to do.. Ah yes, how about a Hungry Caterpillar lunch?  I have been wanting to do this lunch all summer long.  We got this book a few months ago at Kohls (for their “Kohls Care” thing) – and I thought that would be an awesome lunch to do!  And, sure enough, others thought so too.  Google it.. it comes up!  So, I sent Keri off today with a Hungry Caterpillar Lunch!

 

Keri loved this lunch!  In fact, she didnt want to wake up and go to school this first day.. but when I told her about her lunch and she saw it.. it just brightened her day – love her smile!

 

Second day, an apple lunch.. with amazingly, no apples 🙂

 

Third day.. RAIN!  Can we please get some rain here in San Antonio?!  Was hoping it would rain.. we got sprinkles the other day, but I dont call that rain when it hits the ground and immediately evaporates (or sizzles, ha!) – So.. rain lunch 🙂

 

And for the record.. Every lunch that has had veggie straws in it, she leaves the veggie straws.  Why?!  She use to eat these things all the time and the mimic “grass” nicely!  Argh!  She’ll eat it.. just watch.. will continue to use it for grass.. she will eventually eat it!

Fourth day – pizza rolls – a hot lunch!  Remember, Keri has microwaves in her class, so she can heat lunches up.  She loves these homemade pizza rolls!

 

Last day (FRIDAY!) was a bunny lunch!  Was suppose to be a rainbow lunch, but forgot to get the stuff to make alfredo sauce.. (or be lazy and buy it in a jar, either way, I forgot to buy it the night before) – so.. bunny lunch it is!  Looks a tad bit different in this lunch box vs. the planetbox, eh?

 

As I said.. still getting use to the box, but will become more creative with these things as time goes on.. promise!  This is just the first week.  Oh, and GREAT news!  Keri lunches at school – she can order the pizza every Friday now so I dont have to send her left over pizza to school!  They changed it this year, so every Friday it is now a personal pan cheese pizza from CiCi’s and a fruit cup – perfect 🙂  So, only doing 4 Bentos a week.. but thats okay, I never took any pictures of Friday pizza days last year either b/c all you would see is pizza wrapped in foil!

I’ll leave you with this.. my little first grader on her first day of school.. I love this little girl!!

 

(Yes, I know the picture is not the best quality.. forgive me!  The subject though is still pretty darn cute!!)

Easter Lunches

Oh how I love holidays!  They allow me to do themed lunches for my daughter.. and I love every moment of it 🙂  This week was Easter Lunches.  Tomorrow is a school holiday (Good Friday), so I only did 4 of them.. but knowing me, I’m not done and she’ll get a few more Easter related lunches next week too!

Monday – April 2nd – Bunny Lunch

Simple bunny lunch.. Keri has a thing for bunnies.  She was given a bunny lovey when she was about 14 months old as a late birthday gift from a family friend.  She immediately took to it and it became her comfort item.  I searched high and low and ordered 2 more bunnies as back up from eBay (very over priced.. but had no choice! Had to clean the original bunny!) – It took her a while to adapt to the new bunny.. so, she has two bunnies that she named Bunny and Other Bunny.  Other Bunny is in good condition – but Bunny I switch out every few months to keep the wear / tear down!

Anyhow – so, she has this thing for bunnies.. so we do a lot of bunny lunches 🙂

This lunch has two bunny jelly sandwiches, bunny cantaloupe, cheddar bunnies, oranges / bunny cheese and orange bunny gummies.

Tuesday – April 3rd – Bunny Lunch #2

Bunnies come in all different forms.. so.. bunny lunch #2 🙂  This lunch was a huge hit with Keri – her lunchbox was completely empty when she came home – she ate everything in it!

This lunch includes bunny biscuits (I used pillsbury biscuits, rolled them out to kinda thin, and used a mini bunny cookie cutter to cut out the bunnies to make “bunny biscuits”), bunny watermelon, applesauce & babybel bunny circle cheese, homemade bunny graham crackers, and marshmallow bunnies.

Wednesday – April 4th – Spring Lunch

Its Spring!  Okay, feels like summer.. but we havent hit the triple digits yet, so its Spring!  (80 / low 90s is classified as “spring” here!)  So this is a simple flower lunch.. oddly enough, this lunch took the most time to prepare out of all the others – simply because it has so many parts to it!  Keri thought this lunch was pretty.

The Spring Lunch has mini flower sandwiches with mozzarella string cheese and veggie straws, flower watermelon and cantaloupe, applesauce / string bean chips / mini flower bread bites (using breadstick dough from the dinner the night before, rolled out a strip, took a mini flower cookie cutter to cut out the shapes and baked them with the rest of the breadsticks), preztel sticks with mini flower cheese and jelly beans.

Thursday – April 5th – Easter Egg Lunch

This is my personal favorite lunch of the week!  Last night, we made homemade pizza (because its fun.. Keriloves to make homemade pizza and to decorate it).  So, I made some extra pizza dough, rolled it out, used an egg cookie cutter to cut out an egg shape and made her an Easter Egg pizza for today’s lunch.  The rest of the lunch just kinda falls into place.. I tried to be colorful!

Easter Egg Lunch – Easter egg pizza, an assortment of Easter egg fruits (grapes, strawberries, watermelon and cantaloupe), homemade Easter egg graham crackers, applesauce / babybel Easter egg circle cheese and a mixture of colorful jelly beans.

I had a carrot lunch that I made last week.. and next week I’ll definitely be making a “Lion & Lamb” lunch – Just more spring / Easter type lunches, but these are the lunches that I made for Keri this week 🙂

Homemade Crackers

I love homemade crackers!  They are perfect for the bento lunches that I make for Keri because I can make my own shapes using mini cookie cutters.  In addition to cute cracker shapes, homemade recipes taste just the same as the real deal (if not better) and are generally much healthier for you compared to the store bought crackers!

This week, I made two different types of homemade crackers.  First are the ritz crackers.. just looking a little bit different!  I wanted to do a frog lunch for Keri, and wanted some frog crackers.  I found this recipe for Homemade Ritz Crackers from a website called The Cupcake Project and thought I would try them out.  It appeared she worked very hard and did a lot of trial and error to find the perfect ritz cracker, so it was worth a shot.. and ended up not working so well.  I’m not much on crackers to be honest – just not.   Keri is though, and she said she did not like these crackers.  After I tasted one, they did taste like Ritz crackers.. however, the homemade ritz crackers were not up her alley.  Anyhow, here are the crackers I made:

 

Next, I made homemade graham crackers for an owl lunch that I had planned for Keri this week.  I have made this recipe several times before, as my daughter loves these little crackers!  They definitely taste like graham crackers.. no question about it.  In fact, if you make the dough a little bit thicker, they turn out more like graham cookies – which is a huge hit with kids too.  The recipe I use is from Allrecipes:  Homemade Graham Crackers.  The only thing I change is add a little bit of cinnamon sugar on top of the shapes prior to baking.  These crackers are beyond delicious.. hence why we make them probably on a monthly basis!

And.. on to the lunches.. check out these lunches.. Keri loved them – especially the owl lunch (okay, little bias here, but how cute is this owl lunch??!)

Frog Lunch – 02/06/12 – Jelly frog sandwiches with meat sticks (“logs”), frog honeydew, yogurt & frog cheese, frog ritz crackers on top of veggie straws and green holiday mints.

Owl Lunch – 02/09/12 – Owl jelly sandwiches with candied eyes and veggie straws, owl graham crackers, owl cantaloupe with blueberries, apple sauce with owl cheese and yogurt chips.

Will leave this post with a picture of Keri and her frog lunch!

The Angry Bird Lunch

I have always wanted to do an angry bird lunch from the moment I started making bento lunches for Keri.  But how?  I knew the lunch would take forever to make, and last semester I was in school full time.. how would I ever get the time to do one?  Well, with me taking this semester to study for my CLEP exam, getting vaccinations, taking online training classes and running all sorts of errands prepping for nursing school.. I was determined to make time.. and here you have it.. An Angry Bird Bento Lunch 🙂

How did I make it?  Well of course I had some inspirations!  I began making the fruit birds yesterday.  I used watermelon for the red bird and pineapple for the yellow bird.  The bellies and eyes are made from coconut.  I used the cake tips to cut the circles out for the eyes.  The center of the eyes and eyebrows were made out of black licorice twizzlers.  For the red bird, the beak was made out of pineapple.  For the yellow bird, the beak was made out of orange peel slithers.  Here’s a closeup of the fruit birds:

Source inspiration for the fruit birds

For the angry bird cheese:  I used a Babybel original cheese.  I cut the peel off the bottom to make the belly of the bird.  The eyes were made out of mozzarella cheese and the beak was made out of cheddar cheese.  Now, the website used nori paper for the eyebrows and tail, but Keri does not like nori paper (why would she?!  its seaweed!) – so instead, I used the black licorice  twizzlers.  Thought he turned out cute!

Source inspiration for the bird cheese

For the sandwiches:  I think these are my favorite (seriously!!) – These are the King Pen sandwiches 🙂  I used the sandwich thin bread (whole grain white, as Keri doesnt like the wheat ones).  These are Jelly Sandwiches – Keri has a severe allergy to peanut butter, so no peanut butter in this house.. she is happy with just jelly 🙂  I printed out a little crown from the computer, cut it, taped it to a tooth pic and inserted it in through the top.  The ears are just little circles (cut using a decorating tip, think size 1A) and inserted using a tooth pic.  the nose is just cut by hand, and the nostrils I used a small circle decorating tip.  Eyes are made from mozzarella cheese, and the pupils are just a dab of chocolate.

Source inspiration for the King Pens

For the little King Pens:  I used grapes for this, mozzarella cheese (cut by a small decorating tip) and dabs of chocolate.  Hand cut the nose and used a very small hole decorating tip for the nostrils.  I was running a little late for time.. so those noses arent as clean cut as I’d like, but nevertheless, still cute 🙂  Obviously, the veggie straws are used to be the stones covering the mini king pens!

Source:  I do not have the source for this one!  I did see these little King Pens somewhere on the net, but it was before my time at Pinterest (I love pinning.. my new little guilty pleasure), and I did not bookmark that site at all.  I have tried to find the picture of these guys to give the original creator credit, but I cant find it anymore!

I used raspberries and veggie straws for “fillers” in the bento lunch.  I’m proud of it!

So.. you may be asking.. how did I get this lunch to Keri’s school?  Simple – I hand delivered it!  I think I embarrassed Keri though, unintentionally of course!  She got quite a lot of attention, and was just anxious to get everything out of the lunch onto her plate and eat.. and so I took a quick picture of her with the lunch and left just as fast as I came.  When I was leaving, all the other kids were crowded around her looking at her lunch – My apologies for causing a huge distraction at lunch time.. and hoping her teacher, Ms. Maribeth was able to get the kids back on track quickly after I left 😉

Anyways – Keri is why I do these lunches.. so, I will leave this blog post with a picture of Keri and her Angry Bird Bento Lunch.. and dont worry, this lunch only took me 2 hours to make and assemble.. and was probably devoured in less than 10 minutes.. awesome 🙂