Thinking Outside the {Bento} Box

Emily from little momma & co. is back again today! This time she is turning our attention to the plight of the brown bag lunch. By taking a cue from Bento boxes, it doesn’t have to be a squished PB&J anymore!

japanese food

photo by luckysundae on flickr

While searching for new ideas for my children’s lunch box last year, I ran across a bunch of very detailed pictures showcasing lunch as an elaborate, edible art form– not only the way to fill the time (and your belly) between morning and afternoon.



photo by luckysundae on flickr

Truthfully, I’ve spent hours looking and day dreaming over such artistry! If given the opportunity, I think I would feel slightly guilty eating something that had such a cute face. But, I’ve tried to take inspiration from books and photos and implement them into my daily lunch-box-packing routine.

japanese food

Bento "spa" by sakurako kitsa on flikr

I know what your are thinking! How can someone find the time to do this? I mean, I couldn’t get all the laundry folded today, the vacuuming awaits, and there is dishes in the sink– who’s to say that I have time to roll rice into a ball face and cut ears out of cucumbers. Who has the time to make a whole vegetable scene inspired by Rogers and Hammerstein’s, The King and I? I certainly do not. But, I can I can grab a bit of inspiration here, a dollop of creativity there– and at least throw them in my back pocket for a rainy day.

By just studying photos and books about Bento, we can pick a few elements and apply them to the typical brown bag.

1. The Box:

Bento uses a box as it’s foundation. Not only is this more eco friendly than throwing away a paper bag daily, (and multiple plastic baggies) it’s sturdy– and would survive the bottom of a backpack quite well. (Unlike my son’s poor squished sandwiches!)

2. Color:

We eat with our eyes first, right? Luckily fruits and veggies come in a vast array of colors. Think outside the box too, vibrant hard boiled egg yolks, pink lunch meat, dark brown rye bread, cheeses, and for the extra brave and dedicated– Nori, or dried seaweed.

3. Contrast:

Use a variety of dark and light colors, textures, and flavors.

4. Get Creative:

Radish flowers, carrot noses, sesame seed freckles, kabobs or toothpicks, dips or sauces, anything that sparks a bit of thought!

5. Think Cute:

The cuter the better in this case. Add faces to everything. Garnish, garnish, garnish! This is one of the true tokens of Bento. Go overboard!

Don’t be afraid and think outside the {Bento} box!


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About Francesca

One of two behind The SITS Girls and Bloggy Boot Camp. Believer that this community is a movement, and not just a website. Currently on a quest for unending free WiFi & stronger caffeine. I'd love to get to know you better: Find me on Twitter @FranBanducci and on Google+.


  1. This is absolutely AWESOME! I wouldn’t want to eat it! I so miss living in Japan…
    Regina recently posted..Button Jewlery

  2. I wish I could be half as creative as this!
    Ninisays recently posted..Living through these times

  3. I’ve been wanting a bento box for a while now. The meals in the photos are amazing, but I probably couldn’t bring myself to eat them. They’re too pretty.
    Grams recently posted..The Substitute Diaries – The Teacher Gets Schooled

  4. OMG I’m totally not that crafty! I’m off to investigate more, though.
    Mothers’ Hideaway recently posted..She Tried to Kill Me

  5. I MIGHT have a problem eating the spa face. Everything else looks delicious though!
    More Than A Mom recently posted..Parenting When Tragedy Strikes

  6. Love love love these! How brilliant!
    Rach recently posted..Daily Dose of Cuteness

  7. Oh my gosh!!!!!!!!! GORGEOUS.
    Life with Kaishon recently everywhere! from the city to the country

  8. I love that this came up today! My husband just asked me the other day what exactly a Bento Box was and now I can show him!
    Stephanie @ Our Marriage Adventure recently posted..A Spot of Sunshine

    • Perfect! I’ve worked the word “bento” into some of my recent conversations lately and have noticed that a lot of people don’t know what it is. Isn’t it fun?! I love it!!

  9. First of all: these photos are too adorable:) Secondly, I 2nd the love of bento boxes….that other people make for me…!Well done

  10. Wow, are those beautifully done, I love them. :)
    Marie Cole recently posted..Spring BreakPart 2

  11. I love bento! I am not nearly as artistic as these photos though!
    Jayme recently posted..Wordless Wednesday- I don’t know how photographers do it

  12. What in the world! This is SO CUTE! I love them!!!

  13. How FUN!! Brought the kidlets over to share this post and they loved seeing the pics. My wee girl adores the Hello Kitty (of course) on the banner. :>
    Karen @ Time Crafted recently posted..I thought nothing could ruin dinner faster

  14. beautiful
    Denine Anderson-Regan recently posted..Strawberry Muffins with Oat-Streusel Topping

  15. Those are really cool. Too bad Bento falls under the category of “fiddly things” for me and I don’t have the patience (or the dexterity) for fiddly things. I usually throw whatever I can grab into a container, slap on a lid and call it lunch.
    Madison recently posted..Help Keith Richards Help Japan

  16. I use bento boxes for my daughters lunch at school. Love them.
    Krysta MacGray recently posted..Olivias Favorite Buckwheat Pancakes vegan and delicious

  17. So inspiring! I shared a link on my FB fan page.

    I found some wonderful little bento boxes up in San Francisco last summer and my girls have enjoyed using them in their school lunches all year!
    Jenn Erickson/Rook No. 17 recently posted..C is for Cheesecake – The ABCs of A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME

  18. These are fantastic pictures and great ideas. I was just thinking the other day about how my grandma used to make me a salad that looked like a face when I was little. I ate every bite. It had carrots for hair and olives or raisins for eyes. I’ve been trying to remember the other elements so I could make fun to eat healthy stuff for my grandchildren.
    Sharon E. Russell recently posted..Oatmeal Maple Muffins with Golden Raisins

  19. i have always loved bentos and looking at the pics of the artistry. unfortunately, i’m not patient enough to do the work :o/
    ciara recently posted..Beastly- Gotta Get Past the Ugly to See the Beauty

  20. WOW, These look amazing!!! I love it!
    Savannah Hawkins recently posted..Family Sign tutorial

  21. Wow! Those are awesome!!!
    Kelly recently posted..I Love To Laugh

  22. OMG – these are insanely cute! What lucky kids! This is such a piece of art – who wouldnt want to take this for lunch?

  23. i am a huge bento box fan.. did a few posts on it.. and I love doing things for kids and adults that are food displayed beautifully or fun.
    lisa fogarty recently

  24. They are absolutely adorable, but I’m not sure I could pull one of these off at 5:45a.
    Lanita recently posted..Cottage Cheese and Rolling Pins

  25. Yum!

    The question is…who can I get to make those for ME? ;)
    Mama Kat recently posted..Writing Prompts

  26. I have been following a bento box blogger in Paris and I am addicted, I am thrilled there is someone else to read as I find this to be so incredibly creative!
    Andi recently posted..Not quite Wordless Wednesday 103

  27. Completely adorable! I so want to make one of these now. Maybe eating/making lunch would be a lot more enjoyable if I did this. Thanks for sharing!
    Randa recently posted..About Camping

  28. I LOVE THESE!!!! Definitely a fun way to brighten up a lunch :)

  29. These are so stinking cute! I love bento boxes!
    Lindsay recently posted..Sleep Deprivation

  30. How cute! Sadly my husband is in charge of the morning routine since I’m at work already.
    Elizabeth recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – Ruby- our newest family member

  31. I think that putting anything into a bento box makes it look more cool! Love these boxes! I wonder what my husband would think if he opened his box to find a woman staring back at him? :-)
    Living the Balanced Life recently posted..Staying focused as a work-at-home mom

  32. Those are fabulous!
    Karen@WaistingTime recently posted..It’s Not Easy Beaning Green

  33. Thanks for posting on this, I love the Bento Box idea but at first seemed so overwhelming! Thanks for giving some “easy” tips on how to still create the basic ideas of the lunch!!!!
    Stephanie recently posted..Pain

  34. Wow!!! Those are works of art. Thanks for sharing the concept.
    Maggie S. recently posted..Spring Break 11

  35. I’ve always been wanting to do the Bento Box thing (ever since Sailor Moon!) but I’ve never gotten around to it. I think I need like a book or to research it an find out what I can do with it :D

    LOVE this post :D
    Jenny recently posted..Light Reading pt 2

  36. Those are truly amazing!
    Jen recently posted..If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

  37. These bento boxes are AMAZING! Edible works of art! I could certainly use some tips on how to make my 3.5 year old’s lunch more appealing to him.

  38. I LOVE bento box lunches! I need some inspiration- my lunches are tending to be the same thing lately….very uninspiring. I can’t imagine spending the hours it takes to make the cute bento box lunches in the photos but maybe I can take some elements of them to use in my lunches. (I like drawing cute faces on my daughter’s sandwiches with edible ink)
    Astrid recently posted..Black Sand Beach and Kilauea Volcano

  39. Those are adorable. You can definitely take inspiration from them without spending hours on something your kids will eat in a few minutes.

  40. I have came across a lot of bento boxes but not one with a woman with her facial mask! All these bento boxes are too cute for words.

    Thanks for sharing! It makes me smile.


  1. [...] I follow several blogs dedicated to this foodie art form. The SITS girls highlighted some really amazing versions on their blog this past [...]

  2. [...] I follow several blogs dedicated to this foodie art form. The SITS girls highlighted some really amazing versions on their blog this past [...]

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