Imagine: you’re busy working and somehow, it’s already lunchtime! Quick, what do you do?
Option A: Walk 10 min to a sit-down restaurant and just hope it’s not too busy so you aren’t late for that afternoon meeting
Option B: Get an over-priced sandwich and some potato chips at a food-truck
Option C Save money by not going out. Eat a sad can of unopened tuna you had in your desk drawer.
Option D You’re working from home so you try to quickly cook up something decent with random ingredients in the fridge.
What if you had a better option? Like a filling, delicious, and economical bento lunch you prepared in advance for yourself!
Delicious salmon bento by @Fuumiiii1221 (IG) in a Magewappa wooden bento box.
A bento, which has Japanese origins, is simply a lunch that is packed inside a bento box, or a designated container. The culture of bento has a long history in Japan. In fact, there are records from the 5th century of Japanese people carrying Hoshii (dried steamed rice that is rehydrated with hot water) with them in pouches to eat while doing farm work, during wars or when traveling. The actual word “bento” though, started to spread in the 16th century in Japan after daimyo Oda Nobunaga had single serving meals prepared and distributed to the many people in his castle. Bento culture spread even more throughout the Edo period as bento was enjoyed during picnic outings, or served to playgoers during intermission. Later on, train stations began to sell bento lunches using regional ingredients, a tradition that continues to this day! Today, hundreds of thousands of people in Japan bring bento lunches with them to school, to work and to picnics.
When you’re “hangry” (so hungry you start getting angry) you risk making bad decisions, like spending WAY more on food than you normally would, or overeating random foods that make you feel ill afterwards. A nice bento lunch stops any of that from happening. In fact, at Bento&co, we believe packing a bento for yourself has the potential to change your life! This might sound like a grandiose claim but bear with us here.
Let’s unpack five reasons why we think this is true.
1. It’ll save you money
Eating out at lunch, even if it’s only $5 to $10 a meal, can quickly add up. By making it a habit of packing lunch for yourself using last night’s leftovers or even by whipping up something simple and tasty to pack, your wallet will be happy! Use the money you saved from not eating out at lunch towards other things that are important to you.
Yummy onigiri bento lunch in the Gel-Cool Rectangle Bento Box | Gorgonzola Blue
2. It’ll save you time
Along the lines of saving money, bento lunches will save you time. No more waiting around for your takeout order to arrive, or sitting hungrily at crowded restaurants. Your lunch break is a precious opportunity to decompress a bit during the middle of a busy day, and a packed lunch will help you make the best of it. Is the line to use the microwave at the office really long? Save even more time and skip the microwave by using an insulated bento or soup jar for your lunch. P.S One of our favorite time-saving bento hacks is using some furikake (rice seasoning) on your rice, vegetables, or meat, to add instant flavor.
Filling bento by @ michiography (IG) with tamagoyaki, edamame and ground meat.
3. It’ll reduce your plastic waste
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an estimated 14.5 million tons of plastic containers and packaging were generated in 2017 in the US alone. Much of this packaging comes from single use containers used to transport our food from home and restaurants. By making the conscious decision to transport meals and leftovers in a bento box, you help reduce this waste! It's a small step that creates a huge impact over time. If you’re interested in eliminating plastic completely, we also offer bento boxes made from stainless steel and wood.
4. It’ll help you make healthy choicesEating out at a good restaurant is one of life’s many pleasures. More often than not though, restaurant foods tend to be heavily salted, with higher amounts of sugar and unhealthy fats than home-cooked food and so can impact our health if eaten over the long run. Enjoy complete control over portion size and what ingredients and foods you choose to consume with a bento. Need help deciding what size bento box is best for you? See here.
5. It’s a great way to practice self-care (and care for others)Making yourself a bento is an act of caring for your future self. And of course, care towards your loved ones if you’re making them a bento too (how kind of you!) Adopting Japanese bento practices of preparing tasty and aesthetically pleasing bento will delight your senses, even on the most hectic of days. Remember, your bento doesn’t have to be fancy and of course, it doesn’t have to contain Japanese foods. Start with simple foods you like and gradually level up your bento skills over time. Bento boxes with multiple compartments can make your food look fancier, and food picks also effortlessly add a bit of fun (and convenience) to your meal!
Onigiri Picks ($3)
If making bento lunches is something new to you, we’ve got some tips here to get you started. Even during this COVID crisis, where many of us work and study remotely, preparing a bento lunch can be a beautiful ritual and routine to help you stay energized. What other ways has bento changed your life? Let us know in the comments below!