Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your questions and comments about bentos

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Happy New Year everyone!

The start of a brand new year is the time for resolutions of course, and many of you reading this may have made bentos part of your plans for 2013. So, if you have any questions or comments about bento-ing - anything at all - this is an open thread post for you to pose them. If you are brand new to bento making, don’t be shy and ask anything you like - I know that going through the hundreds of articles here on JustBento can be a bit intimidating. On the other hand, if you’re a bento veteran you may want to let the newbies know what about bento making has worked, and what hasn’t, for you. And whatever your level of bento-making expertise, if you like let us know what your goals for 2013 are. I’ll be answering the most frequently asked and/or interesting questions together in future posts. (Note: I’ll be reading your comments on Facebook too but it’s best to post your comment here on the site, right below.)

Here’s to a great bento 2013!

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

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Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

I'm not doing bento so much as freezer onigiri this year. I made huge batches of them to prepare for this winter; salmon flake, unknown white fish, shrimp, soy chicken, and even a couple mayo. I still haven't gotten around to my experiment with leftover ham or my tuna ones, but I'm getting there.

I find that onigiri can be really good for using up simple leftovers like salmon, barbecued meat, maybe some steamed veggies, and other things. My tasty dinners will become tasty and cheap lunches!

Now if only I could actually get up the gumption to pack anything other than rice balls I'd be in bento business...

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Freezer onigiri sounds great! What an awesome idea.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

How do you make freezer Onigiri? Does it thaw well? Do you heat it in a microwave to thaw, or at room temperature. My rice maker makes three times more rice than I need per day (using the minimum amount of sushi rice indicated), so I freeze it in individual servings and thaw in the microwave to use it. However, it would be so much better if I could make all the onigiri at one time and the freeze the extra. Please let me know how you do this.

Best regards and Happy New Year,
Kerry S

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Just wanted to say I have been reading up on your articles, recipes and bento plans. Printed out my weekly planners and started to plan my bentos for the weeks as 2013 is the year of the Bento for me.

Really glad I fund this site as I was getting sick of cous cous salad every day. I have even treated myself to a pretty bento box and a rice cooker.

I hope I will have many fun Bentos in 2013!

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

That's how I got started! I treated myself to a box, and committed to making bentos. I don't plan as well as Maki does, but I use a leftovers-from-dinner approach as the basis for my tasty lunches. Good luck - I have a feeling you're going to love bento!

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

I love that so many bento dishes have super-intense flavor, but I seem to have a fair bit of trouble planning my bentos so that the flavors harmonize nicely. Any hints?

thanks! :)

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

The dishes with the intense flavours are usually balanced out with dishes that are more natural or bland tasting, for example, a curry with rice, or a more simple quinoa or couscous salad but with some dried fruit for a hit of sweetness and nuts for crunch. What is nice about bento over a sandwich for lunch is that you do get to experience several different textures and tastes, and the small portions mean that fewer bites of higher intensity actually make for a great tasting experience.

Stick to flavours that you like already - I'm British, so curry is one of my favourite things! - and experiment. If something doesn't go so well, don't try it again. The joy of bento lunches is that it pushes one to combine things they otherwise might not think to try.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

If I'm packing a rice-based Japanese-style bento I try to include 3 side dishes: one savoury, one sweet, and one sour/tart. One of the 3 might also be spicy or more strongly flavoured than the others, but never all 3. If all side dishes are mild-flavoured, I flavour the rice with some furikake or other mix-ins.

"Flavours nicely harmonized" can be pretty subjective though. Think about when you make your other meals and/or eat out and what sort of flavour combinations you personally enjoy. Also, not everyone likes mixing flavours and a bento doesn't need numerous side dishes. Some rice with a mixed dish of a protein and veggies flavoured to your liking might be what you're looking for.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Hi Maki. Here's wishing you a much better 2013 than 2012!

Refrigeration?

Happy New Year, Maki, and best wishes for a healthy, joyous, and prosperous 2013.

I'm a USA home economics trained cook. We were always taught that just about everything needs refrigeration, especially meat, should be kept at temperatures below 40 degrees F., and usually reheated to 160 F.

But, bentos don't seem to follow this rule. Your cookbook (I own and love it) has one page of safety tips. But almost all seems to be kept and eaten at room temperature. Would love to see a further discussion of which bentos need to be kept cool, which should be reheated for best flavor, the time limits between prep and eating, and such.

Re: Refrigeration?

It really depends on the person, I have a top-noch immume system and can eat basically anything that doesn't have a significant layer of mold on it, but I wouldn't dare serving my boyfriend meat that isn't heated thoroughly. He'll spend the whole day with diarreah.

To keep your food nice, you could play with natural perservers. Sugar, salt, vinegar and lemon juice are the ones I use most. Umeboshi, of course, is a familiar one in bento making. Rice with some kind of perserver (such as rice vinegar) should safely hold from morning til lunch time. Meat should be fine for days and days, given that it's completely heated (without any red in the middle). Small fruits with skins, such as cherries or strawberries, hold well for days. If you have fruit that can easily get brown when bumped (such as raspberries), make sure they cannot move at all. If you cut fruits (think apples or pears), dip them in sugar or lemon juice to prevent them from leaking and turning brown. As for the fish, if it's perserved (canned tuna, smoked salmon) it should hold well for a day, I have no experienced with other types of fish, so I can't help you with that.

Adding a cooling pad during summer is never a bad idea, and I find the taste of cold food in the heat much better than when my food is warmed by the sun. Of course, a cooling pad should also be added if you carry yoghurt or anything like that. Better to be safe than sorry. Cooling sandwiches actually makes the bread last shorter. I prefer soup heated, as well as bento that are based on spaghetti meatballs or mashed potatoe.

Re: Refrigeration?

This is a self-guilt (because I would hurt no one but myself) issue of mine too, and I haven't figured it all out either. I have a very long commute to work (an hour), but I could refrigerate my lunch after that. I don't though, because the rice texture really goes to heck with refrigeration, unless it gets reheated, which is easy to overdo.

One thing I do now. though. to help cool down the temp of the box after loading in the morning, is that I use frozen vegies straight out of the freezer. Frozen already cooked edamame (shelled, so it doesn't take up so much room) works the best, but I'll use frozen broccoli too, and one could pre-freeze some vegie dishes, as long as they are in ready-to-pack shapes, say in those silicone cupcake holders.

I did take frozen baggies of rice into work once, to heat up and show how to make onigiri rice balls for a Toastmaster presentation. Rice can be warmed successfully just before eating that way, but it kind of short circuits the concept of the bento being ready to eat.

Re: Refrigeration?

Honestly, I think a lot of food safety is being overly cautious. I'd want that in my restaurants and grocery stores and in cooking for guests, but I can afford to be a little more daring with my own cooking and consuming.

Over the year I've been bento-ing, I find I am more likely to prepare everything totally in advance and pack it cold at 5am. Then I put it in an insulated jar or regular bento box in an insulated bag. I keep the bag at my desk unless the office temp is abnormally high. (Oh, and this is after a 90 minute commute via motorcycle and public transportation. If it's a blazing hot summer day, I put a freezer pack in the insulated bag.) I eat it over the course of the day at 6:30am, 9am, 11:30am, and 2pm. Generally, I find that it has warmed to a little less than room temperature by the 11:30 meal. I eat it at that temperature and enjoy it. Occassionally, I will microwave the food first, but that's rare. If I really want it hot, I heat it up at home and pack it in the insulated jar. For the 2pm meal, I either pack a separate side dish with a cold pack or decide on something that doesn't require refrigeration (cheese and crackers, for instance). These actions keep my food safe enough to satisfy me, though likely not completely by the book! But that's where the whole "overly cautious" thing comes in.

But, like Emma, I've got one of those great digestive systems that isn't bothered by anything. And I have taken Maki's instant pickles totally to heart; the acid helps keep the likelihood of germs down.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

I've lost the interest to Bento lately, mostly due to all the fancy holiday foods that bombarded us the last 8 weeks. I could use something to spark my taste buds --- pickled veggie recipes perhaps?

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Just got your book and excited to start bento-ing this year. Happy 2013!

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

So glad you are feeling better, and best wishes for continued recovery through 2013! I gave my 17-year-old niece your book for her (December) birthday, and for Christmas I gave her some food-prep accessories. She is so excited about making bento lunches for school!

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Thank you for a great blog. All the very best for a happy, healthy and blessed New Year to you and your family.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Happy New Year Maki-san,

I hope that your recovery keeps going smoothly and that 2013 is a wonderful year for you and your family. I want to say I really enjoy all of your blogs, and my husband and I think "The Guy" is great! I'm so happy for you that you have such great support and a husband who can cook!

As to the question about how to weekly plan, I often plan even my dinners around bento. For instance, Maki's vegetarian chili is great for dinner and the next day I can pack chili, pumpkin yogurt muffins (also Maki's) and rice into a bento. Then, since I already have the muffins, I might make say Chicken Karage out of Maki's cookbook the next day but that means for dinner I have something with chicken so that I can cut the meat for the karage the night before so it will be ready to go in the morning. You can prep the ingredients you will need for bento the night before so they will be ready ahead of time and it is more convenient this way. I highly recommend using Maki's weekly bento planner with dinner section on it--and my kids get really excited when I post this on the fridge so they look forward to lunch AND dinner all week--and these are teens I'm talking about!

Also, investing in a good quality rice cooker is a must! I really prefer Zojirushi, and it can have your rice ready in the morning--so again, less work in the morning.

Concerning food safety, sometimes you can get layered bento boxes that will keep one layer hot and refrigerate the other layer. You definitely want to keep salads/soba noodles cold. I have never had a problem with chicken, pork, or beef in a bento at room temperature. I am finished making a bento by 6 a.m. and the kids usually eat it between 10-11 a.m. and my husband at 12-1 p.m. However, I am a little iffy myself if this is a seafood item. I use a bit more caution if it is shellfish in particular--I would refrigerate this for sure. However, I have not had any problems with salmon--and I think this is because the ingredients you use in marinading it like soy sauce or rice vinegar have the effect of salt preserving food. I would love your take on this as well Maki-san.

As always, thank you so much for a wonderful blog! I have been following both Just Hungry and Just Bento for a couple years now, and I never cease to be impressed by your creativity and ingenuity. Happy New Year!

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

I'm a leftovers-user too. Sometimes I make up a whole suite of dishes for my week's bentos (I did this week to start the year off right), but mostly I make a few side dishes and pack last night's dinner in small portions. Sometimes, depending on what we're having, I'll make a main dish and use last night's dinner as side dishes! I especially like to do this with the tofu, as I love the stuff and my husband doesn't. Maki's tofu mini burgers (of all varieties) are awesome! My favorite is the one from the book with the miso, edamame, and tofu, panfried. It's a protein powerhouse, and so tasty!

EZ Bento

Hello, and happy new year. I am a long-time lurker. Unfortunately, I didn't get your book for Christmas (it was on my list, but Santa chose otherwise), but I still have it on my list of wants, so I hope to be getting it soon! My question as a working mom is: how can I make bento more user-friendly to create? The shots I see of bento boxes, here and elsewhere, are so lovely, and look like they probably take a good amount of time to prepare. I want to bento, but I don't have that kind of time. Do you have any shortcuts that you can recommend, for a bento-making wannabe?

I like the idea of freezer onigiri, so that is certainly one thing I can implement. I know that I can also buy precut veggies, if I want to pay a bit more (maybe; it would depend on how much more), but what about mains and sides? For instance, is it still bento if I'm not putting all the "flair" in it? (Or is there a way to predo the flair that works reliably?) Another example: I wish I could purchase oshinko where I live, but I cannot. Maybe there are easy oshinko recipes somewhere, or do you perhaps know of a good online source that you'd recommend?

Any advice or tips are appreciated! I don't necessarily want to shortcut the art involved, but if I want bento (hai!), I have to find some way to make it happen for me. Thank you!

Re: EZ Bento

Hi Wen! I'm a mom, myself, so my time is tight too. LOL. I make bento for my kids' lunches, but occasionally make them for myself, too. To answer your question about how to make them on a tight time schedule, I've found that it helps if I sneak food prep for bento into little tasks here and there. For instance, if I'm chopping green onions or carrots while prepping for dinner, I either save back some or cut a little more, and store it in a zip loc baggie to use in my bento. Then it will be ready when I need it. Just go to the fridge, take out the bag, and apply. I have a Trader Joe's in my neighborhood that sells frozen gyoza. I boil up a dozen at a time, toss with a light oil to keep it from sticking, and store them in the fridge. When I need three, I pull three and the rest are saved for later.

Another poster has already mentioned saving back/making extra entree items while cooking dinner and that is also something I do to save time. If you have a tiny piece of steak left over on the platter, a few string beans left in the serving bowl, a potato chuck or two--you've got the makings of a great bento lunch. And it's practically prepped--the pieces are already small and there's less trimming involved to make it fit. Just pack it in the corners along with your rice and you're good to go. ^_^

If I have time on the weekend, I make more elaborate items for my bento: cutting shapes out of veggie slices with special cutters, trimming veggies into matchsticks, etc. I take lunchmeat and sliced cheese and roll them up and then cut them into coins. I don't do it often but when I have an hour free, I indulge.

Most of my "flair" comes from the color and variety of the food, rather than how it's cut or prepared. Three whole strawberries with blueberries sprinkled on top looks great tucked into a corner of your bento box or in a cup. Plain rice with basil flakes and a dash of red paprika is colorful AND tasty. Lining my bento box with spinach leaves before putting three potstickers on it, then sprinkling with black sesame seed and drizzling sesame oil or a thin ribbon of bbq sauce .... yum. There's no prep involved, just pack, sprinkle, and go.

One last tip: whenever possible, I make my bentos the day before, when I am awake and have the energy to devote to them. I've tried waking up early in the morning to make them just before my kids go to school and I just couldn't do it. Most of the time I throw them together when I'm cooking dinner--most of the ingredients are already there and there are moments during cooking that you don't have to tend to anything on the stove. That's when I prep or assemble the bentos. That way I can usually relax at dinner knowing that lunch for the next day is already made.

I hope this helps and I hope you have fun with your bento. Cheers! ;)

Re: EZ Bento

I am also a working mother, who is also working on a Master's and I have two teens, so I know how stressful it can be to get meals on the table or for lunch time when you are pressed for time. I find that with prep ahead of time (night before) and rice cooker with a timer, bentos take me 30 minutes in the morning to prepare or less. As I replied in a previous post "I often plan my dinners around bento. For instance, Maki's vegetarian chili is great for dinner and the next day I can pack chili, pumpkin yogurt muffins (also Maki's) and rice into a bento. Then, since I already have the muffins, I might make say Chicken Karage out of Maki's cookbook the next day but that means for dinner I have something with chicken so that I can cut the meat for the karage the night before so it will be ready to go in the morning."

The only vegetable I really buy prepared is sometimes jullianned carrots because really they are a pain to do manually right? Rachel Ray always said to prep veggies when you get home from the store but I'm too tired to do that when I get home or don't have a lot of time for extra work. So, I find taking a little time on the weekend to write out my meals ahead of time so that I can use similar vegetables that can be prepped with a dinner and kept for the next day is the way to go. You really should grab Maki's cookbook--it gives you an estimate of how long it should take to prepare each one. I also recommend Kentaro Kobayashi's cookbook "Easy Japanese Cooking: Bento Love" and he also has a donburi one (topping on rice). You don't have to fancy it up like you see in so many bentos--I think it is most important that it be functional and taste good--besides, my husband would not like a bunny in his bento LOL although my kids do, but I usually don't have time.

Sometimes, you can also use leftovers and combine small side items pre-prepared to make a quick bento. For instance, if I make a fairly solid Indian curry the night before, I might put that in the box and just fry up some frozen samosas or eggrolls in the morning and put that in, or if I have extra time, I might stir-fry some carrots and drizzle with soy sauce (takes 5 minutes). Fresh fruit is also a good side option. Kentaro's books have options for sides in the back of the book you can make ahead, and Maki's recipes in her book all give you tons of different options at the bottom of the recipe for extra sides, alternative ingredients, etc.

On some websites like J-box.com and others usually advertised on Maki's site, you can find onigiri and sushi molds that speed up making rice balls. Also you can get sandwich punches that take the crusts off of bread and add a cute shape or seaweed punches that make faces, animals, etc. that can be put on rice balls if you want something cute and fast to prepare.

Hope this helps! Have fun bento-ing. Try to keep in simple and then experiment when you have time and see what works best for you!

Re: EZ Bento

Thank you so much for all the tips, those are great!

Re: EZ Bento

Thank you for all the info, too - these comments are incredibly helpful and I appreciate it!

Re: EZ Bento

Of course it's still bento without the flair!

If you're not looking for overly cute characters or art in your bentos, bento is very easy to put together. I usually make mine the night before, as I'm in the kitchen already then (and I'm definitely not a morning person!). If I'm having rice for dinner, I cook extra for bentos the next day, and it can be placed into the box quickly. When I'm cutting vegetables for dinner, it's easy to keep a couple of pieces of each one aside to use as 'bento fillers'. Then it's a quick foray into the fridge for a source of protein or two, or I use leftovers from the entree at dinner.

Bento can be as elaborate or as easy as you make them. Make the bento on your terms. Mine are usually not at all cute, but tasty, mostly quick to make, and always delicious!

Re: EZ Bento

This is awesome and really helpful - thanks so much for the reply!

Re: EZ Bento

Another good alternative to "flair" is to use colorful bento boxes and silicone dividers. As long as you've got a good variety of nutrients in your food (and yes, natural colors are a good way of telling whether you've accomplished this!) you don't need a lot of decorative touches to make your bento look and feel really special.

When I want something cuter, though, or want to save time, I like to use the following:

- Pre-cut nori with a paper punch. I've done it so that I have both "confetti" bits, and strips with decorative cut-outs, to minimize waste. That way, if I want cute nori in my bento, it's already cut for me, no fuss or wasted time.

- Furikake for my rice. I don't like the way plain rice looks or tastes, so preparing a bit of furikake beforehand to sprinkle on can be nice. If you have a stencil, then you've got instant cute pictures in seconds.

- Freezer staples. Go through on the weekend and make several of those johbisai and freeze them. Nobody will know that you've "cheated" and saved all that time, and the food will still be just as healthy and tasty as if you'd made it fresh. Then, you have time to put in one or two cute items from scratch, if you'd like. :)

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

The only super essential equipment for me, when it comes to bento, is a rice cooker and a few silicone baking cups. If the bento box (or any other container) is a little short for the baking cups, you can always take a good pair of scissors or exacto knife and trim around the edge. Sounds totally uninteresting, yes, but I tell you this has revolutionized my bento-making, and I was way more excited than I should have been when this brainwave hit. Often I will have a pasta salad or a mixed rice dish (with a good, healthy veggie-to-carb ratio) that I will put in the bigger, top tier of my bento box, but will still need some sort of cup in my smaller tier to separate, say, frozen fruit from my other side. As such, having one or two designated DIY small cups is really handy.

After roughly 1 1/2 years of sporadic bento-making, this idea only hit me about a week ago, followed by a kid-you-not facepalm.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Oh My God Yes. I could like this post 1000 times. When I finally decided to buy silicone baking cups (large and mini), the way I made bentos completely changed. Actually, the way I handled leftovers completely changed too! Now I love having "little bits" leftover from dinner to stick in a bento later that week. I went out a couple of months later and bought a bunch of tiny tupperware containers just for them. I can even put more liquidy things in there like yogurt or dip, and slap some plastic wrap around them. It won't spill and get all into the other food.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Having retired I only get to take my Bento out once a week - Go to Meeting Sundays. That means I can cook and prepare bento style for lunch every day but I get to serve it in dishes on the table. Having had a very physical active occupation it was easy to put on the pounds when I retired. Bento is the perfect way to lose weight if one has some knowledge of calorie counts. Just Bento is my go to site when I am trying to figure out what to do with a bit of something in the fridge. Namasu is my latest favorite, will be trying it with Kohl Rabbi instead of Daikon later on today. My very best wishes for 2013 and especially for Makiko may this be a really good and healthy for you.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

I am interested in a list of ingredients or food that one can safely store or serve at room temperature. If I had such a list, I could get more creative with my bento entrees without the fear that I might accidentally poison my kids. At the moment, I have three or four tried-and-true combinations and I'm sure my kids are getting MIGHTY tired of eating them nearly every day.

Does anyone have a list like what I'm looking for?

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Happy New Year
looking forward to lots of fun more bentos.. Hope your year is blessed and fun.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Happy New Year Maki! I just wanted to say that I've been a long time reader of JustBento and JustHungry, and hope that 2013 brings you lots of success and health and happiness! Ganbatte!

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Happy New Year Maki! Best wishes for a great 2013!

I'm going to try to get back to making my husband bentos at least a couple of times a week. We all need to eat better overall, and I think the planning I'd need to do for packing a bento would improve all our meals! I've got to pull your cookbook back out and start planning!

I am loving all the time saving tips- it's tough to get things together when you're not really awake before people leave in the mornings, and with a toddler 'helping' at the same time. ^_^ Any idea to make bentos faster is one I love.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Hello, Maki. Happy new year and I hope you're getting better. My mom had cancer too, but she's not so lucky. A level 4 breast cancer, we're still fighting though. Anyway, I want to try bento-ing this year. But I'm not a mom, and I went home at 11 pm, so no night prep for me. Even if I could prep, maybe for half and hour or something. So it seem I might used my off day on tuesday to prep staples. But then it hit me. I had to wash my clothes, went shopping, prep staples, clean the house, iron my clothes, and store everything away all in one day!? Wish me luck, I need a whole lot of it... T.T!!!

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Hello, Maki. Happy new year and I hope you're getting better. My mom had cancer too, but she's not so lucky. A level 4 breast cancer, we're still fighting though. Anyway, I want to try bento-ing this year. But I'm not a mom, and I went home at 11 pm, so no night prep for me. Even if I could prep, maybe for half and hour or something. So it seem I might used my off day on tuesday to prep staples. But then it hit me. I had to wash my clothes, went shopping, prep staples, clean the house, iron my clothes, and store everything away all in one day!? Wish me luck, I need a whole lot of it... T.T!!!

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Happy new year, everyone!

I'm a student and I haven't been doing much bento-ing this past year, I've usually just been skipping lunch. But there's some asian food stores in my city I have yet to check out, and I really want to get back into the habit of making bentos for myself. I'm not much of a cook, but there's some really easy recipes on this site which I love, I need to go through and find them again. ^_^ What's everyone's favourite easy bento recipe?

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Maki's instant pickles, without question. It's the perfect quick and easy side dish. If I can throw them together at 4:45am before coffee, anybody can do it.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Happy New Year Maki-chan!

*hugs*

I'm happy you're feeling better. You may have explained this in a long ago post but my question.

How do you figure up how many calories a bento can hold in relation to the size of the bento?

For example, my calories break down (for 3 meals and 2 snacks) to 320 calories per section. In my mind that would be a "medium" bento...is my thinking correct?

Also, rectangle, round, metal, star shaped. Any new thoughts concerning various bento shapes they have out now?

Thank you dear. Hope you're having an awesome new years

Terri

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Hi Terri,

A general rule of thumb is that the volume of your bento box in ml is equal to the caloric content. So, for instance, a densely packed 600ml bento box contains a meal of approximately 600kcal.
The packaging of most bento boxes will list its volume, and online bento stores will also usually include the volume in their specifications. If you are not sure what the volume of your box is, you can measure it simply by filling it with water and then pouring the water in a measuring cup to see how much went into your box.

I guess shape would be a matter of personal preference, just like material.
But I think round or rectangular, and made of plastic or metal would be most efficient with regards to packing and maintenance.

Best regards,
Claudia

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

I'm new to bento and all excited about it! Are there any recipes or plans for complete boxes for beginners?

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Look at the Complete Bentos for bentos for many levels, mostly quite easy. The Guy Does Bento series is especially geared towards beginners, but there are many other easy examples in the other Complete Bentos too.

A noobie's new years resolution ^_^

Hello Maki and happy new year to you!

I stumbled upon your website a few months ago and I have been reading your posts and looking up bento recipes online but I have yet to actually start making bentos. I have a limited selection of bento items to work with and only 3 bento boxes. This year I want to dive into bento making and start a collection of bento supplies and bento boxes but I don't know exactly where to start should I buy the supplies first or should I just start trying out recipes?

Re: A noobie's new years resolution ^_^

Oh recipes first, definitely! Then you will know what you like and thus what you will want to pack. The instant pickles have already been mentioned in this thread. Lately I've can't make enough of the potato oyaki (YUM!) made with either white potatoes or with sweet potatoes. In the white potatoe version I like to add a bit of curry powder, ginger and cumin. The tuna soboro is also good.
Don't waste a moment fretting about "bento supplies" Really, any decent-sized tupperware will do, & some lettuce leaves for dividers if you need them. I was also helped by finding silicon baking cups, and an American-style bento box at Whole Foods. It has inner containers, so all I had to do was put something in each one. Maki has plenty of good getting started advice.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Is there any way to drain the grease from beef when making soboro or the meat and potato dish? I made some the other night and the only beef I could get organically was 85% lean so there was a lot of grease in the leftovers. It freaks me out a little since I was raised to always drain that fat!! :) Maybe I need to just get over it?

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

"85% lean" means 15% fat, which is pretty high in fat actually. (And as a sidenote I hate that kind of labelling on meat...it's so deceptive!) Try looking for leaner beef, or drain off the excess fat that comes out during cooking. Alternatively you can use ground turkey, which won't have the same flavor as beef but is inherently lower in fat.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

I just stumbled across bento yesterday, while I was looking up recipes. Your whole site is fantastic, and I'm learning a bunch.

I've been slowly and steadily losing weight for the last year, and I'm finally below 200 lbs! Now, I want to start balancing out my daily meals; I have a bad habit of eating nothing at all until dinner, and then making one big meal. Breakfast is a no go, since just the thought of food in the morning makes me queasy, but bento seems like a great way to start eating a healthy, balanced lunch regularly.

I just have a general question for anyone who wants to reply: About how long did it take you to build up a decent sized johbisai? And which items are "essentials", stuff you can't do without when making bento? I'm on a very limited budget at the moment, and I'm trying to figure out how to get the best start I can while absolutely broke.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

it didn't take me very long to build up my bento stash, about a month or so, but i just moved and don't have easy access to grocery stores, especially asian ones, so it took me a little longer than usual. even so, my bento lunches are basically whatever i made for dinner the night before. :) i'm chinese, so that colors what i consider to be pantry "essentials." some of my essentials include the following: soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, frozen beef balls, dumplings, pasta, cherry tomatoes, miso, tofu, scallions, eggs, ramen, wakame seaweed, some kind of salad, onions & of course, rice. ^_^

what's nice about bento-ing is that it can basically be anything you want, so if you're on a budget, you might want to start with just making more of what you generally eat. buying fresh produce and cutting and preparing things yourself helps a lot price-wise as well. i have also found that buying produce at an asian supermarket tends to be cheaper, but that's only if you have access to one.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

It's great to see you here and looking at bentos! Just out of curiosity, have you tried eating breakfast on days when you don't have a meal or have a very small meal in the evenings? I work near a lot of people in the medical field, and we hear that that's what causes morning nuasea all the time.

Re: Here's to a great bento year! Open thread for your ...

Hello, Maki and the justbento community. I'm kinda new to the whole bento bussiness, so I had some questions in store. You see, I am living alone and working 13 to 14 hours a day (The salary isn't good, but I'm not well educated so...), I barely had time to cook. Adding to that, I had a really thin cookbook. Any tips on how I can start bento-ing? Number 2, what kind of precook foods do you all normally stored for bento? Number 3, if you make carrot flowers what do you do with the tiny bits? Number 4, anyone can share easy recipies for broccoli and cauliflower? Number 5, for Maki. Please add some more recipies for bento fillers/side dishes. Theres lots of recipies for main, but not so much for sides. Thank you, sorry for asking so much. And wish you all a great year ahead.

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