Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing this right

Egwana
Bento-ing from: Cheboygan › Michigan › USA
Joined: 16 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 5 weeks ago.

I know there are tons of helpful posts on packing a safe lunch and I've tried to read them all, however I would really appreciate some more personal help since, well, maybe I'm spoiled! To get to the point, I'm a college student, and come the start of the semester on Tuesday I will be stuck at school four days of the week for 7-12 hours depending (I finish packing my bento at 9 then hit the road to make it to class by 10, then on most days I'm at the college until 10 at night) on the day. I will not have access to a microwave or a fridge. I figure that I'll need to pack at least two bento's to keep me sustained throughout the day. Is it necessary I keep everything absolutely cold, like with an ice pack, until I eat it? I'm not really a huge fan of cold rice or tofu, or anything, (heck, I heat up fruit in the microwave before I eat it) so would it be safe to keep them at room temperature for several hours (sometimes 8)? One thought I had was that I could pack one bento, the one I eat later in the day, completely with my frozen stash like Maki's mini-meatloaves made vegetarian, rice, and frozen vegetables, perhaps it will be defrosted by the time I'm ready to chow down? Any suggestions or information would be really appreciated and I'm sorry if these are silly questions.

____________________________________

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
-Carl Sagan

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Tab
Bento-ing from: › Finland
Joined: 27 Oct 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 6 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Maybe you could have something that doesn't spoil so easily for the later bento? It might be harder to come up with balanced and very filling bento but how about slices of bread (wholegrain etc that will keep the hunger away longer than white bread) and some vegetables like a tomato, some cucumber, lettuce etc , maybe prepacked hard cheese too so you can fill the sandwich with fresh ingredients only just before you eat? And if you have access to a kettle or can keep hot water in thermal bottle you could bring maybe some miso soup or other soup base (ready made certainly won't get bad although they're often not so delicious as homemade bases) and some prepacked udon, nori etc that you can mix in the soup to go with that. Or tomato soup that you enhance with diced fresh tomato or bread croutons etc.
I know prepacked stuff has all kind of added artificial substances and are not as good as homemade stuff but if you combine them with fresh ingredients you might be able to find a good balance and even have enjoy your meal :)

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 31 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Your idea of putting frozen things from your stash into the later bento is a good one. You could also put in things like cheese and fruit that don't need to be kept cold. It probably depends on what the weather is like too - I pack mine the night before, and mostly don't put it in the fridge overnight. But it's been winter here and I don't keep the room where I leave my bento heated.

____________________________________

Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

Laura
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Egwana, you might search out possible microwave locations around campus. On my campus, there is a microwave in the small convenience store across from the main building I'm in, and there's usually ones near the food court in the student center, student lounges in libraries, etc. That way, you could keep food cold with a cold pack/insulated lunch box, and still eat hot food!

Laura
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

ETA: just be sure your bento container is microwave safe :) I've warped my bento box to where it doesn't close nicely anymore due to microwaving...

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 4 days 8 hours ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

In fall/winter in Michigan, you probably don't have to bother with an ice pack unless you are in overheated rooms indoors all the time. If you follow general bento safety principles - not closing the lid until everything has cooled down properly, etc - you shouldn't have to worry too much. The number one cause of bento spoilage is condensation inside the box, which keeps the contents too moist = creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

There are some food items that will keep for longer, in general: dry food, salty food, vinegary or sour food, and sugary foods. So for your evening bentos, you could carry things like dried nuts and fruits, crackers and cheese, even pickles and things. Fresh unpeeled fruit keeps for some time at room temperature of course.

At the moment I'm having to go back and forth between two locations that are a 7-8 hour drive apart, and I usually pack things like onigiri (well salted on the outside), hardboiled eggs in their shells, boxes of marinated veg, cheese, raw almonds, and so on for snacks, plus a regular bento each.

____________________________________

The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

Egwana
Bento-ing from: Cheboygan › Michigan › USA
Joined: 16 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 5 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Oh, that sucks! I've had that happen before and that's probably why I'm not too interested in the microwave even if I do manage to find one. What's the point of having all those pretty bento boxes (*cough* twelve *cough*) if I can't use them?

Egwana
Bento-ing from: Cheboygan › Michigan › USA
Joined: 16 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 5 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

You answered one of the questions I had in the back of my mind, "Will my onigiri survive?!"
Eggs will last if hard boiled and kept in it's shell?
Thanks!

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 4 days 8 hours ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

If the eggs are fresh to begin with I find that they last fine for a day with the shells kept on. Don't keep then in a place that's too warm though!

Bear
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Raw eggs from healthy chickens are proven to have intrinsic antibacterial qualities, but all those qualities cease to be active the moment they are cooked. Hard cooked eggs are questionable without refrigeration for any length of time, but I have found an egg carrier and a microwave egg cooker which I love on the road; it’s a funny looking thing shaped like an egg with a face and feet, which works wonderfully. The microwave might be a worthwhile goal for some searching… Best of luck.

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 4 days 8 hours ago.
eggs

Anecdotally, while eggs are usually sold/displayed in refrigerated cases in US supermarkets, in Europe and Japan eggs are sold at regular room temperature. Keeping in mind of course that Japanese people eat eggs raw all the time. Also, in Switzerland and other European countries, they sell hard boiled eggs (usually dyed a brilliant color for the current holiday season, e.g. red with a white cross for Swiss National Day around August 1, Easter colors around Easter, etc), again at room temperature.

Given the scary reports about salmonella-contaminated eggs in the US I may be a bit wary of eggs in general there, unless the source is known and reliable. In any case, it really pays to verify the sell-by dates or laid-on-this-day dates (depending on where you are I think one or the other is stamped on) for eggs. (I often see Japanese bento boxes that have fried eggs with soft-set yolks; in Japan that might be ok but I would never do that for a worldwide audience.)

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 31 weeks ago.
Re: eggs

Our eggs are sold at room temp, and I keep them like that too. I think if you put them in the fridge the innards get colder and shrink, sucking any badness from the outside of the shell in. But we don't have salmonella issues with our eggs. Once there are bugs in the eggs you'd definitely want to keep them cold to stop the bugs from multiplying.

Unnamed
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

I am not sure about hardboiled eggs, this is why I found this forum. If I hardboiled them and then salted the shell, would it keep for a few hours at ambient temperature? (read: 70-80 F [FL weather]) Probably not, I am vegetarian so it would be my only protein source, or tofu, but have no time to cook that in the morning. This far nuts are probably my only option. I have found a good site for veggie bentos: Were rabbits on Wordpress.com

But from what I can tell of what I've read so far tonight, the US needs to refrigerate its eggs because they thoroughly wash them before shipping. While this may seem like common sense to you, keep in mind that eggs keep under chickens for weeks for a reason. When a healthy chicken lays an egg, they have an outer membrane around the shell that keeps microbes out but lets O2 in. Once washed, it is destroyed. So if the Japanese and Europeans do not wash their eggs, this membrane is still intact. Obviously once boiled, this does not exist any longer.

I guess I would have to make do with pickled eggs once I figure out how to do it. I apologize for such a long post, but I thought it would be more polite explaining than just linking something and say there you go.

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 31 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Hard boiled eggs keep OK until lunchtime in my office, which is quite warm. Remember that the process of boiling them kills whatever bacteria were on them in the first place, so for them to go off they have to first pick up new bacteria and then they need to multiply.

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 4 days 8 hours ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Instead of salting the eggs or pickling them, why not carry along an ice pack and pack your lunch in an insulated bag when the weather is hot? I've been to Florida several times, and the weather there is comparable to the weather in Tokyo. Keep in mind that tofu can also spoil easily in hot/humid conditions, so I'd definitely consider going the ice pack/insulated carrier route.

rehfilet
Bento-ing from: › Germany
Joined: 11 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 10 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

my grandma used to pack boiled eggs when we went hiking or swimming. they survived a day in a rucksack just fine and none of us ever got sick from eating them. the only hazard was that sometimes, we forgot to pack salt.
i keep my raw eggs at room temperature , but i generally cool boiled eggs if i have access to a fridge and want t keep some for the next day. not sure why, maybe it's one of those "because this is how it's DONE" things.
i buy eggs from happy chickens and they are definitely unwashed. i wash my hands after handling them raw in the kitchen, just like with meat or fish. once they are cooked, the shells are clean anyway and every possible bug should be dead for the time being. washing raw eggs before sale? oh, america. you're weird. and, apparently, american fridges are laaarge.

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 4 days 8 hours ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

The U.S. has some serious problems with egg safety (esp. recently) unfortunately, unlike Europe and elsewhere, which is why people are concerned.

rehfilet
Bento-ing from: › Germany
Joined: 11 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 10 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

what's up with their chickins then? you can't get bad eggs from healthy birds..

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 31 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Yes well, from all accounts, the less said about that the better. They feed them antibiotics all the time and keep them in cages.

ruskie
Bento-ing from: Ljubljana › Slovenia
Joined: 1 Jun 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 40 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Hmmm I've eaten hardboiled egs as far as a week old without any probs. Usually around easter. So I wouldn't really be worried about eggs. But then this is Europe we're talking about. And I buy non-battery eggs.

Guruman
Bento-ing from: Middle Earth
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 1 year 24 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Actually, they say that chickens are immune to salmonella. So, a chicken can have salmonella and be healthy...

rosenquartz
Bento-ing from: › Tennessee › USA
Joined: 24 Jul 2009
User offline. Last seen 3 years 40 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Is it alright to have hard-boiled eggs for a few hours in your bento with an ice pack? Or even with no ice pack?

____________________________________

I'm really hungry! x__X

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 31 weeks ago.
Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

Yes. Even without an ice pack. When I was a child hard boiled eggs were a standard component of picnics at the beach on hot sunny days, and ice packs hadn't even been invented then.

Re: Safe bento lunch - I just want to make sure I'm doing ...

we (America) have problems with all of our food, our food standards are ATROCIOUS and Americans are largely unaware of it, or think that our food safety issue is intrinsically true of all other countries, for example the raw egg thing. Most Americans would never think to eat raw eggs because they are "unsafe" and would be horrified to learn that people eat them raw all the time, or store them on a shelf, because we have been taught that raw eggs are inherently bad and full of germs and doom about to spoil.

and our milk takes 2 months to expire. Seriously that's really weird >.>

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

New forum activity since your last visit

TitleAuthorAnswersLast Postsort icon
Sesame salad dressing Supertaster91 year 6 weeks ago
Authentic paella? maki101 year 7 weeks ago
IMPORTANT: If you have a blog on JustBento... maki21 year 10 weeks ago
Shiso - uses for this herb Loretta01 year 12 weeks ago
Fuki (Japanese Butterbur) Tsukemono Recipes kumo51 year 12 weeks ago