How do you plan your bentos?

maki
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Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 1 day 5 hours ago.

(or do you plan them at all?)

I've just posted a new planning form: The Weekly Menu Planner with Bento Lunch Box. I've been working on the layout and testing it out for the past few weeks, and I've found it quite useful, though more complicated perhaps than the original Weekly Bento Planner.

I'm curious though - do you plan your bentos? If so, what do you use? What do you take account of in your plans?

____________________________________

The Big Onigiri.

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eilismaura
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 4 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Planning is one of my goals for the challenge as I have different needs (due to health issues) than my husband and son and yet want to NOT turn into a short order cook!

I also am home full time and will be looking at using bento for 2 out of 5/6 meals a day so planning would be helpful there (I hope) and I would be looking at full 7 day week rather than 5 "work" days.

As it is now I am not doing as well as I would like re eating (not as regular, not as much variety, not always enjoyable, etc).

Eilish

____________________________________

~ Begin by knowing you have already arrived ~
my blog - http://honeysheistwisted.blogspot.com/

BarbJ
Bento-ing from: Cupertino › California › USA
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 17 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I should plan them but more often I don't. I tend to just look in the fridge for any leftovers and use that. But one of my resolutions is to plan more.
I have a great rice maker with a timer and I finally used that feature yesterday. It was nice to come into the kitchen in the morning with fresh rice all ready! Made my teenage daughter two onigiri with dried salmon filling for her bento lunch. My husband and I were home all day, so lunch was leftovers and rice and it got finished in the afternoon as more onigiri for snacks. I used just a bit too much water and the rice was pretty moist in the AM but that worked out since I left it on 'warm' all day, it didn't get too dried out and the last servings were fine.
Wow, sorry about rambling on like that. ^_^

____________________________________

BarbJ
http://barbsblab.blogspot.com/

Basil80
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 24 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I do a weekly meal plan for lunches and dinners, leaving off weekends (something always seems to come up or we have leftovers) and that's just part of my process. I use a legal pad so that I have enough space, but otherwise, it's pretty boring stuff.

I'm really looking forward to checking out your form, however! I used to use your bento planner religiously when I was making separate bento for my partner and myself.

____________________________________

My bento blog: http://basil80bento.livejournal.com/

Brit-chan
Bento-ing from: Lafayette › Louisiana › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 3 days ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I wish i planned out my stuff, unfortunatly i don't! The last bentos I made were American bentos... I have two bento boxes which are both 2-tier boxes. I used one tier to put a salad of just simply lettuce, grape tomatoes, match stick carrots, and cucumbers if they are in season. I usually try to use a Balsalmic vinagrette or low-fat italian, but sometimes Thousand Island is good.

I've either done a turkey and chesse sandwhich which i cut into small pieces or sometimes it's been left overs. Once I used fried rice and chicken teriyaki that I made.

and that's about it. XD

____________________________________

Yum yum bento yum yum!

Ryukei
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Hello,

The problem is that I make bento just for myself.
So if I buy a cauly-flower or whatever, I'm going to eat almost the same meals everyday of the week.
So I plan my bento lunches on saturday, do the shopping and cook on sunday.

Plus, it's not possible for me to re-heat my food at lunch time.
So I have to think a lot to prepare meals that will be eaten cold, as various as possible with a few ingredients... :S

I really need ideas! I can't stand salads anymore !!!

____________________________________

~~ Ryukei

clarissa
Bento-ing from: Berlin › Germany
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 46 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Until now I have not planed my Bentos. But there have not been many so far. This week I tried your weekly-bento-planner and I realised that I'm not so got in sticking to the plan. The things I made have been more than I expected so I had to use the leftovers.
I hope to get better in planning during the challange

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Harper
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Hmm. So far I haven't really planned my bentos [when I manage to make one] so they usually consist of leftovers. Boy, that rice cooker with a timer sure sounds great. I have a huge rice cooker so I tend to make a big batch and freeze 1 cup portions. I only cook for myself so, like Ryukei, I tend to eat the same thing for the week. Which can sometimes lead to my lunch staying in the office fridge while I go out to a restaurant.

I want to have more variety in my diet so I am going to try and use the bento planner. I love that the spaces are pretty equivalent to the recommended portions. I also want to start using make-ahead items that can be frozen then quickly assembled into a bento in the morning. I'm also hoping that in the course of preparing a bento in the morning, I make breakfast too! Right now that almost always consists of a fiber bar and green tea at my desk.

Harper
Denver, Colorado USA

julieone
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I usually plan because I make them when I get up and I don't have more than 30 minutes to spend on the task. So I write out menus and make what I can the night before. I have a folder of recipes to try that seem bento friendly and use those while planning my menus. I keep the successful ones and toss those that aren't enjoyed. I also keep my weekly menus so I can use them for ideas. But the menu planning also helps me make sure daughter is getting fruits and veggies, etc. And she's asked for more protein on her workout days 2 x weekly so I've incorporated that into the bentos too. More protein/food on Mondays and Wednesdays!

Having said all of that, I didn't do a menu this week so had to punt this morning! I made a chicken parmesan sandwich (heated chicken patty in olive oil, micro'd to melt the provolone cheese, warmed pizza sauce to put on top, and placed all on english muffin). I boiled an egg in my hotpot and molded it into a heart, cut up a spear of fresh pineapple and prepared a cucumber salad (rice vinegar, splenda, salt, onion, cucumbers). So that was my ad-lib bento for today!

I'm doing menus for next week tonight as I only have to make one more this week. So I'll do menus and some food prep this weekend and hopefully be able to make quick bentos next week.

jskidmoreca
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

It used to be pack whatever leftovers I had in my box until I realized what the volume of my box was (bigger than I thought althoug it looks relatively small) - which made my calorie count much higher than I expected so now I have adapted a bit. I plan day to day not by the week - with 2 teenagers and a husband in the house, I can't count on the food, that I planned on using, being there at the end of the week.

I now tend to look for smaller boxes (and using bulkier foods to fill up the boxes that I already have without adding an undo amuont of calories). I am also using a 1200 calorie/day daily servings check off sheet (somewhat like WW check off list before they switched over to points) 1/3 of the total goes towards each bento box, leaving 1/3 for dinner (approximately). This way I am assured I am eating well balanced meals - not avoiding certain food groups (consciously or unconsciously)

____________________________________

Jo
Northern California

Lorena
Bento-ing from: San Diego › California › USA
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 33 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

It really depends on how busy I am and if I remember to use a bento planner or not. I started making bentos last year and my planning fell apart as the fall semester wore on (I work full-time as a staff member at a university, go to grad school and TA part-time). But, I've resolved to make my bentos more nutritious and attractive, which requires more planning.

So, this weekend, I'll sit down and plan my lunches, go to the store if needed, and cook food for the week. Of course, I always use leftovers as appropriate, so I'm sure that will change up a few lunches since my husband and I don't really do meal planning for dinners.

jskidmoreca
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

tried to post this under Ryukei post (by clicking on reply) since it was a response to her, but it didn't quite work out that way...anywho,

Ryukei
I used to waste a lot of veggies due to not using them up quickly enough - now, if I can buy it frozen, that is what I do that way I can eat it in my own time rather than feel like I have to eat the same veggie every day till it is gone. If you eat your cauliflower cooked, this would work.

I don't like to prepare salad so I have been eating easy to make raw veggies - I use sliced (or large chunks - that way they take up more space in the larger bentos) cucumbers, jicama & red, green or yellow peppers a lot. I can prep them and they last a few days without going bad. Celery, I haven't figured out yet, it immediately turns brown/grey on me (good thing I don't like celery all that much)

p3trus
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

The only week I wanted to try the "maki bento planner", many food was spoiled, because
1° I have been invited twice to the restaurant and
2° I didn't think about the remaining ingredients of a bento lunch (living alone, it's harder to cook all)

I think I need to be more experienced in bento-lunch cooking. Then, I will be able to anticipate the food and its remains and to organize them in a whole week.

But it's alreday good to talk about it in this forum. Now, I have a better idea on bento-planning.

____________________________________

http://holybento.canalblog.com

MinamiTanaka
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 33 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I don't usually plan mine at all, just if i want something i'll go to the shop and buy the ingredients and the way home from work and then make it up the next day. i'm trying to get into the habit of planning and keeping stuff frozen too.

nakji
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I only loosely plan my bento.

My husband shops at our local market on Saturdays, and buys whatever is cheap and voluminous - usually seasonal vegetables. They determine the sorts of dishes I'll be preparing during the week. On Sunday, I go to the supermarket for meat and staples to match the vegetables. I usually plan a couple of dinners that will leave leftovers, and at least one soup to be frozen for lunch later in the week, when I'm stressed out and don't have a lot of time to prep. I always make a point of buying one or two "bento back-ups" in the meat department - for example, some chicken filets, pre-made tsukune, or some ground chicken for soboro. Then I make the soup and freeze it, and sit down and write the plan for the week.

I tried doing it the other way 'round - planning, and then shopping - but it didn't work, since I found myself running around, trying to find this and that ingredient, wasting money and time. Now I work with what I have at hand, which means I don't have to spend a lot of time thinking up what to put into my lunch. Now I look at a pile of vegetables and think, "Okay, I have carrots, daikon, potato, and renkon. What can I make?"

My fridge is too small for me to fit a week's worth of groceries, so I plan a "staples" day midway through the week, and have a shopping reload trip as well. I freeze a lot of vegetables, and make some into pickles which will keep all week. This means I get some variety.

I also have my cookbooks tabbed seasonally, so I can find recipes for ingredients easier.

DianaQ
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I'm fairly new to the bento world, but have been planning meals for a while.
What I did, was fiddle around with a template on Word for weekly meals, printed out and laminated it using self laminating sheets.

I keep it on the fridge door, with magnets and since it's laminated, it acts as a whiteboard.
On Saturday or Sunday, I sit down and plan the menu and then wipe out the previous menu on Sunday and write the new one on.

The cool part about doing it this way, is that my husband and anyone who comes to the house adds their own comments on the menu.

red_the_opinionated
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Every morning I make a bento for my 6 year old daughter and myself. It's become our routine to start Sunday morning with a bit of mise en place...

*rice - steamed, portioned, frozen.
*Mini-burgers cooked and frozen (Over rice for me, sliders for her!)
*chicken breasts marinated, grilled, frozen
*whatever else sounds good.......or was on sale!.....that can be frozen
*hard-boiled eggs, as my child could live on these alone.
*a few days of veggie prep (I do this every three days or so)........carrots sliced.....blanched broccolli, asparagus, whatever....anything to make our mornings more "grab and go"

Every morning, my goal is to make our lunches in 15 minutes or less. If I'm running behind, I worry more about the kiddo. I work in a hotel restaurant, and can score all my veggie goodness from the boys in the pantry. These days I just pack my rice and protein.

The kiddo is cranky upon wake-up. Every morning it's a battle to get her to school without being smelly, tangled, and hungry. This includes pickiness about her lunch. If I have plenty of quick options, then I can successfully make her lunches with not too much effort. Usually some kind of peanut butter sandwich or rice-ball, a soy-sauce egg, some carrots and some rice or potatoes or soybeans or any other random thing she has decided is her new most favoritest thing in the whole big wide world.

I don't go into my week with any real idea what I'm making for us, it's more a matter of making sure I have the bits and pieces to make good spur of the moment decisions. I treat my home kitchen like my work kitchen - gotta have good mise en place. I am a confirmed scatterbrain, and I love to plan not to plan.

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http://charity-brock.livejournal.com/

Foxxy_leigh
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I sometimes plan mine and also mostly dont lol. I think about it during spare time at work and sometimes plan character designs but mostly it revolves around what I end up with for dinner or what leftovers I have. Planning is deffinately a good thing tho as they always end up realy super nice!

The crazy rat lady @
http://foxxy-leigh.livejournal.com/

Shadowcat
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I have several days a week when I will have to make 2 Bentos a day to take to school so Planning will be important...I will be doing my cooking on Sundays so I can just throw everything in my box every morning

arglebargle
Joined: 9 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I try to plan. But you know what they say about plans...

I used to cook and freeze a lot of little things. Lately I've been just putting whatever I can find in my box (or going out to lunch...mmmm cheeseburgers...).

But I intend to plan a lot more! And hopefully my bentos will be better for it!

Alice
Bento-ing from: Leicester › UK
Joined: 9 Jun 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 19 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

My planning goes like this:
What will the creature eat? OK, do we have the ingredients? No. What do we have? Will he eat that?
Then I usually run through a list of stuff I could make off the top of my head and he finds one vaugly acceptable. Then I make both lunches the same. Eccept obviously mine is usually smaller, the vegetables vary a little, his is less decorative touches on his.

This is the only planning method I find practical, as no one in my family will tell me when they are shopping for food and what their buying, so getting stuff specially is currently not an option. Also, my dad throws out anything me or mum put in the freezer to make space for his stuff, so I can't make things and freze them.

Ryukei
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Hi jskidmoreca !
Thanks for your answer.
I'll try to freeze the more veggies I can. The problem is that I live with my parents and my mother don't like to share her kitchen. So there isn't much space left in the freezer for me!
Anyway, thank you for your ideas
(I don't like celery either!!)

Eleven Clovers
Bento-ing from: Warsaw › Poland
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 26 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I never really plan, since a lot of what goes into my bento depends on what my mother has cooked the previous night. My bentos are usually leftovers from dinner the previous night and anything else I can think of in the morning to add to it, after some brief rummaging in the fridge. I'm still in high school, and not particularly experienced in cooking and don't tend to try fixing that (I should ^^'). Besides, there are only two people in our household and it doesn't make a lot of sense for my mother and me to cook separately. She's used to cooking for three, so now the third person's portion I take with myself to school.

Even if I DID try to plan... well I second what arglebargle said about plans ;)

____________________________________

"A common way to tell if it is well cooked is to throw the sausage onto a hard surface; if it bounces, the sausage is good."

My bento photos w/ detail and my blog.

mead_chick
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 28 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I tend to plan in several stages. First, I plan my meat options for several weeks - things like meatballs, mini-burgers, steak, etc. - but not exactly when I'll eat it. Second, I make a general plan once I get my produce box for the week. I always know what's going to be in it, but never exactly how much. Then, once I know what dishes I'm going to have for sure, I start planning the meals, usually no more than a day in advance, and sometimes not until I start packing the lunch. However, I do make sure to pick up extra items that complement the things I know I will have in my lunches. I do try to have a sort of joubisai, but it's mostly the meat.

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http://brewtobento.blogspot.com/

alioc
Joined: 9 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 33 weeks ago.
Bento-making for one

Hi Ryukei,

I usually make bentos just for me as well, and we don't end up with much leftovers so I have a similar issue. To keep it interesting, I make a lot of bento-stash items and keep them in the freezer to use in the morning. I find that if I keep varying the protein & carbs, I don't mind if I eat broccoli every day!

I have run my stash down just before Christmas, but as I'm returning to work on Monday, tomorrow I'm making:

Carrot kinpira (not in freezer)
Chicken tsukune
Meat soboro
Salted salmon
Cooked to death peppers (not in freezer)
Spinach with sesame sauce
5 bento size serves of rice

I don't do this much every week, but as I said, my stash is running low, but the stuff that goes in the freezer will last me up to a month. I can then rotate through all the bits and pieces (in addition to occasional dinner leftovers) and it doesn't get boring. You'll notice these are all Maki's recipes: I have found them all to be yummy and foolproof.

I hope this helps!

Ali

alioc
Joined: 9 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 33 weeks ago.
Bento-making for one

Hi Ryukei,

I usually make bentos just for me as well, and we don't end up with much leftovers so I have a similar issue. To keep it interesting, I make a lot of bento-stash items and keep them in the freezer to use in the morning. I find that if I keep varying the protein & carbs, I don't mind if I eat broccoli every day!

I have run my stash down just before Christmas, but as I'm returning to work on Monday, tomorrow I'm making:

Carrot kinpira (not in freezer)
Chicken tsukune
Meat soboro
Salted salmon
Cooked to death peppers (not in freezer)
Spinach with sesame sauce
5 bento size serves of rice

I don't do this much every week, but as I said, my stash is running low, but the stuff that goes in the freezer will last me up to a month. I can then rotate through all the bits and pieces (in addition to occasional dinner leftovers) and it doesn't get boring. You'll notice these are all Maki's recipes: I have found them all to be yummy and foolproof.

I hope this helps!

Ali

Jo
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I am bleary eyed when I make a bento for my hubby at 4:45am. I have a bit less than half an hour to get it made and packed. He eats it in 15 minutes without leaving his desk.
I use Maki's planner, but with modified labels to show the 3 cups of the Classic Bento thermal container I use, plus dinner. I try to list the things we have on hand that need to be used up, including leftovers. Sometimes I end up writing in what I made after I made it, but I try to plan ahead a few days.
I use a rice cooker with a timer to make sure the rice is ready at 4:30am, and put the kettle on right away for hot water for soup (usually instant miso) for the bottom cup. The top cup alternates between salad, vege side dish or fruit (sometimes canned). I aim to include 5 colors of food. The protein and the vege is the main thing I have to think about in advance. I try to pre-cut meat before I freeze it, and sometimes I pre-cut veges to save time and fingers :)
If I'm having a bad day he gets canned fruit salad, canned mystery meat (spam or corned beef hash, both of which he likes!), rice and canned soup. Better than the same-every-day lunchmeat and cheese sandwich he used to make himself.
If I haven't made a plan the night before I usually end up dreaming about what I will make.

Sakura
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I only make one bento a week for my boyfriend (since we don't live together) and plan what I want to make 2-3 days in advance. I usually browse some bentosites and cookbooks to find something I didn't do before. Sometimes I look for recipes with certain ingredients my boyfriend asked for, or which I happen to have lying around.
Then I do the full bento in the evening before, so I won't have any stress in the morning and can eat any leftovers (and there are always enough) for diner. ;)

Stephanie
Bento-ing from: San Lorenzo › California › USA
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 11 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I wish I could get my husband to plan more. I think that I will have to insist starting this weekend, because I will be starting night classes again next week [packing 2 bentos for myself on some days].

I really will not have time to time to go back and forth with him about what he wants, to have him give me no input. He eats meat and I do not, so I really have no vested interest in what meat he is going to be eating that week or how it is cooked. So lately, unless he gives me specifics of what he wants, I do not cook anything for him. Plus he is not a fan of the bentos, so he is on his own, unless he gives me specific of what exactly he wants.

But I do a lot of lose planning for myself, I have a lot of staples in the freezer [instant soup balls, mini burgers, frozen veggies, frozen rice, etc.] I try to make at least one thing every weekend to add to my stash, so I have a bit more variety.

I also do not really plan out the ingredients I use. I usually go with whatever fresh vegetables are on sale and stock up on staples that are on sale. I also try to cook the vegetables in different ways, making smaller portions of them so I do not get tired of having everything cooked exactly the same way every day that week.

UnicornChow
Bento-ing from: St. Louis › Missouri › USA
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 27 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I don't really plan my meals out. I try to decide what I'm going to have the evening before, but sometimes I just wing it. I'm trying to plan a little more now that I've started this challenge, but I think learning to plan will be harder for me than other aspects of the challenge.

eilismaura
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 4 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I love your form!!!! Where did you find it? Eilish

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
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Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Ryukei - try to think of ALL meals, not just lunches. If you buy a cauliflower, for instance, you can use half of it to make a soup that can be frozen in plastic bags to have for dinner at home some time in the future. You can also freeze raw cauliflower - but it takes up a bit of space in the freezer. I'm assuming that you do have a freezer of course! If you don't, you'll just have to take a friend shopping with you and cut the cauliflower and broccoli heads in half.

____________________________________

Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

Veriest
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 26 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I wasn't going to plan my meals out, until I found that when I was prepping late at night my mind was just as blank as it used to be in the mornings. Then I caved yesterday in and made this (very much inspired by Maki's form):

It helped my mornings a lot more than just staring at lists of foods, but I find that usually pencilling in a list of things I've got on hand the day before on my lecture notes is enough to get me by. (Unless it's the same list as the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that as well...)

Veriest
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 26 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I made it in MS word with the objects drawing tool and a bunch of columns. ^^;

Aleria
Bento-ing from: Vancouver › British Columbia › Canada
Joined: 20 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 42 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I actually use Maki's Meal Planner forms.The only change is that instead of the bottom one being snacks, it's notes. My mom and I sit down and plan them out two weeks in advance (just before payday). Since I do the cooking, but she's more used to it, it takes both of us. Some things change, inevitably, especially on the weekend, but it's nice to not have to panic about what to make, which is what we're used to doing.

Katy
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I usually plan it the night before, but do consider it when shopping as well. I make two, three or four lunches in one go. I only make lunch for my husband if he has done the dishes and left me space to do it! Sometimes I am lazy and eat out, but I have to make lunch for my kids regardless.

We do half and half Japanese or western style. My kids prefer Japanese. Their favourite lunch is rice with furikake, egg rolls and hiyayakko tofu with katusobushi and soy sauce. I keep the tofu in tupperware covered with water, and it goes straight into the fridge at creche, so it's fine. They also bring fruit to share, so I figure it's pretty balanced.

Today's lunch is ham, cheese and marmite sandwiches, leftover penne with tomato and home grown zucchini, and custard over tinned pears. Not in a bento box today!

Gin.net
Bento-ing from: Lausanne area › Switzerland
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 32 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I also try to plan my meals ahead. During the 5 weeks challenge, there has been a week I didn't plan, and it was an poor bento week. I live alone, so it's quite important for me to plan if I don't wand to throw away to much food. My freezer is just a small compartment in the fridge, which is not very large itself. And I'm not so much used to freeze food, my freezer is mostly used for things I buy already frozen. I generally go shopping once a week on Saturdays, as I don't really have time during the week. So I shop first and then plan ahead with what I bought, as it depends on what was on sale and what looked good in the shop. I try to stick to season vegetables and local products, and organic products as much as I can. Beside this I always have canned or pickled products. I have enough food at home for some time to be honnest, but I prefer fresh food as much as I can. I don't like empty cupboards I suppose ;-)

So I plan a week ahead, lunch and supper, but I often eat the same thing in various recipes... one cabbage lasts a week in four meals, when I cook rice it's also used in three or four meals. I just use a small cardboard white board and it's OK. I don't always stick to the plan as I may be invited or come home to late for cooking, so I have to adjust the planning according to the most perishable goods. But I like not to have to think to much in the moring and just read the plan.

Pat
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I find myself planning bentos around what I have in the fridge and what my activity would be for that day. Some days, I play tennis or go to the gym after work, so I have to pack heavier lunch and a banana. Lately, I've been preparing 2 days worth of bento at a time, and it's always rice w/ side dish(es). Except for Friday, when I don't do anything strenuous after work, I'd bring simple onigiri or sandwich, or eat out.

Jiza
Bento-ing from: Madrid › Spain
Joined: 13 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 41 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

i don't plan them because, due to my job, i don't know if I'll be able to actually eat it or not. I mean, sudden meetings and such things. There have been lots of times that i plan a cool meal that stays in its box until night :(
That's the reason that I also buy my food daily (or try to do so) because most of the times it spoils sitting in my fridge.

So when i can make a bento i cook it with the food i have. Mostly pasta and some veggies.

I hate my job, lol xD

____________________________________

My bento blog: http://justbento.com/blog/1305
My art blog: http://jizaacaso.deviantart.com

heidi
Bento-ing from: NYC
Joined: 30 Jul 2010
User offline. Last seen 4 years 3 days ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I do something similar to what a lot of the folks above do.

There is a Saturday farmers' market a few minutes' walk away in the local park. I'm there quite early, to see what's good and what's ample. A lot of it is less costly than what's stocked in fancy supermarkets, but none of it is cheap; this is New York City (borough of Manhattan) and most of these farmers bring in their goods from as far away as the forks of Long Island and even central New York State (prime farm country, where I was born). That's a minimum four-hour trip one way. Farmers are pragmatic; they're not taking their precious kids off the growing and harvesting to pay gas & tolls into the city In Order To Lose Money. Many of them make arrangements with neighborhood NYC people to run the stall for them, so that the farm kid drivers can do a straight round trip and bring that needed truck back ASAP.

Most of what's offered is not "certified organic." Certification is expensive, invasive, and takes a great deal of could-otherwise-be-productive time in sample taking and record keeping and fooling around with stuff that ain't farm work. [Knowing what I know, I'd rather eat pastured eggs than 'organic' eggs. That's just for starters.] I simply ask the farmer, bee keeper, rancher, dairyman, goat minder (or whoever's behind the table) whether they follow organic standards. When I get an old-fashioned look and a flea in my ear about how they do a lot better than GOvernment ORganic! well, I know I'm home. Those are the folks I seek out first, every time after. :-)

There is a husband and wife who drive 9 hours round-trip to bring us their excellent Finger Lakes wines. I went to school up there and remember the unique quality of the local drinkables. The mirin of the West? it's a thought. Hey, I'd never even heard of mirin when I lived there, so who knew? I DID know Rieslings though, intimately. When these people first showed up at our greenmarket last year, I stood gabbing with them in the rain for half an hour. Wondrous vintners! The Blonde was bowled over by what I brought back that day. You'd think an Austrian would have some fondness for Eiswein; not he, until then. Their Rieslings? Spectacular! SO good. Right up there with Prum! Beyond, even! Very exciting!

This may seem like an odd thing to say, but take it for what it's worth: the market provides food, but it's not just about food; it's about our lives, and the lives of those who actually produce what we need to live... as well as what makes living a joy, a mystery, a maze, and just plain magnificent. Please don't limit yourself from experiencing all of it!

Anyhoo, I key my menus according to what's really good at that market. Usually I then put in an order to our butcher for pick-up in the afternoon, and/or I check the local (asian) fishmonger for goodies. For mid-week, I make a fill-in delivery request from the fairly dependable organic grocer, and monthly I subway down to Whole Foods for certain items difficult or too expensive to Internet order/phone order/beg for/get anywhere else (a belly laugh since people call it Whole Paycheck with good reason, but our health is paramount to us and we steadfastly spend more on food-as-our-medicine than anything else). Two or three times per year, I make a bulk order of things like oils, sea salts, soba, kuzu, glass-jarred juices, grass-fed butter, Ujitawara tea, rice, all kinds and shapes and colors of rice pastas from Tinkyada, and various 'organic' whole, white, and sprouted flour grains: amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, rice, spelt and teff. The whole spices and such we obtain from an excellent supplier only every 5 years or so, and grind as needed. Cooking and preserving of the week's acquisitions happen early Sunday morning.

Next week I'll start doing bentos for four adults and a five-year-old girl. Since this post went Tolstoy-long, maybe it's best I start a new one for the individual planning of the bentos.

Luce
Joined: 22 Aug 2010
User offline. Last seen 3 years 50 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

grinding your own spice! what an inspiration you are :-)

BFGuru
Bento-ing from: Somewhere in momville. › Pennsylvania
Joined: 29 Jul 2010
User offline. Last seen 3 years 51 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Plan? What's that? I don't. I do however make double batches at meal times and freeze small single portions. Then I look in the freezer and toss stuff in a box. I have to make bentos the night before because I make for 5 of us and have to get up at 5:30 for work anyway without working out. I'd never sleep if I woke up to make them in the morning. So I guess my idea of planning is to make them the night before.

____________________________________

Just the new girl around here looking for some lunch ideas.

heidi
Bento-ing from: NYC
Joined: 30 Jul 2010
User offline. Last seen 4 years 3 days ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I've just about set up my Bento Planner for the two adults & child (plus Man & Me) whom I'll be doing for. Mostly, I've been testing about 50 recipes in small batches, and I am here to tell you that Maki's Just Gorgeous (aw shoot, I keep making that error for some reason, hee hee)... Just BENTO Cookbook is da bomb. I am so grateful for it.

So, a friend was to come over early this morning to sort through clothing. She and I do distributions in some of the poorer neighborhoods around NYC. I usually have breakfast ready on these occasions, and thought it would be fun to construct a bento breakfast for us as my [formal] maiden voyage on this enchanting sea. ;-)

I did a 3-egg tamagoyaki layered with some thin-sliced smoked turkey, a blanched red chard leaf, a bit of horseradish mustard and sprinklings of raw minced sweet red onion. (The colors... so pretty!)

Then, a silicone cupcake mold full of sushi rice mixed with leftover 'nori dust' and topped with a little chrysanthemum pattern made from paper thin slices of the steamed chard stem. (Took 12 minutes to do that deco on two cups.) Tucked around the lower edge of each cup was a fan of bitty slices of the last of my precious nukazuke (is that the word? it's bran-pickled daikon).

Finally, cold triangular chunks of deep red watermelon in their own lime green square Laptop Lunches cups; I gave her the "Kaze" black bento box and used my Fukuro brown one, but all this food (almost) filled only one level, albeit _fairly_ stylishly! ;->

The tamagoyaki, though I say so myself, was knock yer mama down delicious. We both started with a few pieces of watermelon, moved to the rice, tucked into the tama, and... started slowing down.

She is what I'd call a bigger eater, and can put away all kinds of breakfast fare. Breakfast is my biggest meal of the day, too: usually a sort of curried mixed veg and lamb stew topped with scrambled eggs & KAL yeast & hot salsa. I never considered how small a Quantity of it I eat.

This Bento dealio is mysterious! One single level of these largish (but very little in the hand) boxes holds a whoopload of food. Neither of us could finish it all! We kept picking away at it until we gave up, leaving 1/4 the rice, 1/4 of the tamago and half the watermelon. Whuhh!?

If we'd tried eating a classic construction of 2/3 of the level filled with rice topped with veg and 1/3 with meat-ish okaze, I may have lain down and not gotten up.

Gadz! Does anyone else notice this is one Hail of a lotta ingestibles? Maki, does your husband ever bring back part of his boxed bennies? Anyone else have thoughts? I mean, woo!

moonshae
Bento-ing from: Melbourne › Australia
Joined: 9 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 19 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Hi Heidi!
Sometimes I do find that I can't eat all my bento. But reading Maki's guide to buying the right size bento box was so helpful!! I was using a big box because it "looked" the right size. Now I'm down more than 200ml to a 2 tier 500ml box and it's much better. But even then I need to make sure a big chunk is a vege or fruit (something lighter) otherwise it's just too much some days.

The amount you can fit in a bento is still mysterious to me! I had a bento break for months and coming back into it I'm needing to relearn how much to cook for just one box. I ended up making two at once the other day because I steamed too much of everything.

heidi
Bento-ing from: NYC
Joined: 30 Jul 2010
User offline. Last seen 4 years 3 days ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

You & me, moonshae! Maybe it's the vertical aspect of the boxes which allows packing more food than a plate... sheesh, I dunno, but it gives us ideas, eh?

Well, I promised a bento plan and here it (sort of) is. I think it's more a concept than a plan, since I need to stay loose on this one. Coincidentally, it's a temporary one and in a narrative form rather than a nice useful graph but some folks might find it helpful, so here goes!

I met Sean and Cleo through a Q&A blog I wrote years ago on a doctor's site. By chance and good luck we all fired up a friendship, exchanged visits and became very close friends. They since had a daughter, Tessa, who's now 5 and ready for a big trip to our house! :-)

Bento planning for September & October, the 'meal cascade' looks like this:
(1) early breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack for me;
(2) non-bento breakfast for five;
(3) bento lunch for The Blonde;
(4) bento encompassing one or two meals for S/C/T day trips including snacks; and
(5) non-bento dinner arrangements for however many show up.

Thank Gates for the Excel Spreadsheet, the one bit of Windoze Software that truly rules.

I set one up with multiple columns: S/C/T are all blood group AB (lucky!), which once upon a time I was accustomed to cooking for; then I'm O, & The Blonde is A.

Goat, lamb, rabbit and turkey are the meats I'm stocking on a rotating basis. There are a dozen cans each of tuna and wild salmon in the cupboards; and for white fish I've got a chilled half-pound of smoked whitefish and readily-available fresh turbot and cod. None of us tolerates corn, so various rices, crackers and sprouted-spelt bread provide the basic group carbs. They don't eat sweet potato, and we don't eat regular potato; the're fine with wheat and rye, which we ain't; but that's it for dissonance in the menu flow... besides, it's fun to have an expanded foodset to cook with!

Monthly or so, I cook and freeze the 'glop' I prefer for ['second'] breakfast: a curried mix of vegetables and ground lamb.

Sunday mornings, I'll be baking and preparing staples for the week. Last Sunday starting at 1:30am, made the week's mayonnaise then transformed three pounds of languishing carrots into carrot & celery kinpira and carrots with miso, tahini and nut paste. Also, hard-boiled two dozen quail eggs and simmered up a batch of cooked-to-death sweet & hot peppers and a few containers of tuna soboro with ginger. At that point the heat and humidity drove me out of the kitchen, so I'm taking next Saturday same time for the breads and various meat/spiced sausage or fish or lentil patties. Very happy the weather has finally cooled. I'm a bit nervous that the freezer is groaning already and I haven't yet pre-prepped the green veggies, replaced my raw turkey sausage stash & varied patties, nor finished bread & muffin baking; I'll now focus on finishing the preliminary work, then move Sunday/Monday/Tuesday things into the fridge.

1. 1:30am -- I slap this bento together after dinner daily, taking no more than 5 minutes using either leftovers or prepped foods from the early Sunday cooking:

a. Daily early meal for me ("First Breakfast" for the Hobbits among us) is some plain homemade chicken or dashi/miso broth, and a few rice crackers topped with whatever spread I have at hand: egg and olive, tuna and capers, or smoked whitefish and/or canned salmon mixed with katsuobushi, green onions and homemade spicy mayo. Shredded Romaine/arugula tops the spread.

-- Pack the crackers in the bottom of the red WanWan box, the spread/lettuces in the lidded center compartment, and the soup in the black Ojyu bottle (pre-heated with boiling water) to be served in the top Wan bowl. No utensils, as I just dip with the crackers and sip from the bowl. Band the box & stick it in the fridge and leave the bottle on the counter. Summer beverage is iced gyokuro karigane, brewed with the perfect-temperature water discarded from pre-heating the soup bottle then poured into an old vodka set (a wee glass which fits over a 16-oz (250ml) bottle) and stashed in the fridge.

[Often I'll substitute some sort of baked patties, sliced meatloaf or leftover sashimi for the crackers and line the lower bowl with bits of romaine lettuce as 'grabbers,' with red or green salsa, chive mayonnaise, or a yuzu-based dipping sauce in the lidded compartment. Lately I've developed a bug-eyed addiction to nukezuke (bran-pickled daikon), and expect to stack a few pieces atop the sauce compartment to crunch on at will.]

b. Make up a Fukuro-box pack of salad greens, some simple oil/lemon/garlic dressing, then perhaps a handful of nuts, hard-boiled or deviled eggs, broccoli aemono, carrot kinpira, or mixed steamed quinoa or a couple onigiri or bits of leftover meat/fish, whatever's good, as a big lunching/snack pack. Band and toss into back of fridge.

c. 1:30am - Retrieve previously deposited WanWan and a napkin, tuck soup bottle under my arm, grab nice cold tea, and tote all into the office area and get to work.

2. 6:10am -- wake from dawn nap, and prepare Non-Bento Group Breakfast, ideally the largest meal of the day.

--Warm up a few spoonsful of my 'glop,' top with a tablespoon of KAL yeast and two eggs any convenient style, dot with homemade chili garlic sauce or green tomatillo salsa. For The B, spelt toast with butter & jam, accompanied by sunny-side up or scrambled egg. That's standard, and real quick... and now for the fun part.

-- A traditional (albeit porkless) Irish fry-up in the 12" iron pan! Applegate Farms make a decent organic turkey bacon; I make a rather good turkey sausage patty which will serve; a few sliced cherry tomatoes, some thinly sliced potatoes, and three small bundles of (pre-)blanched chards or kales, all fried in the olive oil and sausage fat; then six of our very lovely pastured eggs broken into the lot, and the lid applied for three minutes. Kill flame, wait another three minutes, remove lid and let cool off a bit. Cut & serve. Think "Irish Tortilla," lol. A side slice or two of crusty buttered rye or soda bread for each of the three happy eaters; then they'll either be ready to conquer the world or to stagger back to bed. ~;=D

3. Bento for The Blonde: Lunch

There are four basic patterns for B-bentos, alternating among veg-or-pasta salads, sushi rolls, rice-based "don" styles, soboro-topped styles, or onigiri, and sandwiches or little spelt flatbreads rolled with goodies; miso soup always welcome.

He's the one I need to walk a very straight-and-narrow path with, as he needs an extremely light hand with toasted sesame oil, can't abide many of my favorite veg and seaweeds, leans toward the sweet side in sauces, dressings, mustards and vinegars (unlike me) although he dislikes "sweets;" he wants a spoon even with clear soup -- and no potential messiness at all in items to be eaten by hand (which he'd rather not have anyway, but will enjoy if properly presented - besides, he's got a brand-new hachibori for hand-wiping). Leftovers are out; this 'supertaster' can tell if it's not absolutely fresh veg/fish/meat, preferably rice too. The frozen kinpira(s) and green-pea patties will be an experiment... !

4. I wash my First Breakfast Boxes/Bottles and start three lunch bentos during the breakfast cooking. I'm counting on about 30 minutes from the end of breakfast to the departure of The Folk. Daily menu is drawn from the rice cooker, fridged onigiri fillers, the dashi stock, breads/flatbreads for sandwiches or quick rolls, and the quick-defrostables such as soboros, muffins, kinpiras and legume patties. A weekly batch of a dozen hard-boiled quail or chicken eggs, quick-fried sausage from the freezer stock, toasted pignoli, diced sweet onion, fresh sliced or cooked-to-death peppers or pepper/onion confit, and fresh salad greens give me loads of leeway in construction of the bentos. I have a big stash of 100% buckwheat soba and rice stick, which can slot in for a nice cool lunch with gomadofu & side dip of kaeshi, or a fully loaded sesame sauce & cold sliced smoked meat & scrambled egg & green onion extravaganza. The ABs can enjoy a number of soft cheeses and things like sour cream & yogurt, further expanding the repertoire. I'm also having so much silly fun making tamagoyaki and tea- or veg-dyed molded hard-boiled eggs that I almost think this project will go off without a hitch. {optimistic grin}

(a) The two Wan boxes go with the Irish, rotating between soups and steamed veg/rice/onigiri; soboro & cute egg-topped rice; patties or breads with dipping sauces; and salads with varied accoutrements (depending on whether it's a one- or a two-meal pack for their plans that day). One of the Wan bowls carries a bag of fruit/nut/grain/chocolate dry snack foods, somewhat modeled on trail mix. They have both the black and red Ojyu bottles on soup days; the "Kaze" black big box goes with The Blonde, with the red Ojyu bottle filled with miso (or similar) soup on his soup days. I'm using odd/even days for this determination.

(b) At my wake-from-midday-naptime (11:10am), I snatch up my booty in the form of the fridged Fukuro along with a glass of ice and a bottle of organic grape juice, and go back to work.

Just want to take a breath here and send HUGE PROPS TO MAKI. The detail and variety you've provided in your recipes is a godsend. ok. :-)

5. Dinner is planned when I hear from The Travellers, lol. Either a quick salad & fixin's for the B & Me, or a light salad plus tapas-style plate for five. Finding little dishes in the stocked stuff will be a breeze. On weekends I like to roast a chicken with lemon, garlic and parsley, but we'll skip chicken while the ABs roost wid' us.

That's the concept, to be implemented according to appetites and how the volumes flow over the next two months. Once the beloved visitors leave, I'll mourn the loss of their company -- but I may almost feel like a real cook. :-)

Please wish me luck!

Gnoe
Bento-ing from: Utrecht › Netherlands (Holland, Europe)
Joined: 1 Jul 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 37 weeks ago.
Re: Please wish me luck!

Aw, awfully late... but GOOD LUCK anyway!

How did you do? Did your plan work? Any pictures to find on the web? (It's a lot of text so I sort of lost track on your plans ;)

[You can find me at Graasland!]

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Luce
Joined: 22 Aug 2010
User offline. Last seen 3 years 50 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

wow heidi!!!
how's it all going??

LadyAmalthea
Joined: 19 Feb 2011
User offline. Last seen 3 years 25 weeks ago.
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

I didn't really use to plan my dinners / lunches at all, just tried to get to the grocery store in time after work, and every day thinking about what to cook for dinner, what to make for lunch... I was getting annoyed with it, so now I always plan the meals for a whole week in advance. I also do all my shopping on sundays, unless there is something that won't keep long, of course. I also learned how to use my freezer much more effectively. I am a lot more relaxed about our meals now & can just come home and enjoy a little bit of cooking after work.

Sash7
Re: How do you plan your bentos?

Is this okay for a bento box meal? Please help me out.

http://instagr.am/p/TYuVDJQoA6/

http://instagr.am/p/TYuUN7woA5/

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