Your Guide to Bento Lunch Boxes

One evening my wife Michelle asked me if I wanted to get a new lunch box like hers. She got something like this.

But this lead me to think, “I need to do some research.” So I searched adult lunch boxes. One of the results was for Mr. Bento.

Mr. Bento is a stainless steal cylinder. It looks like a very larger thermos. Inside it are 4 containers. The bottom container is for soup, next up is the main meal bowl, then a large side dish bowl and finally a small side dish bowl. All the bowls are plastic (BPA free). You can microwave the bowls but not the lids. The soup bowl stays very hot for a long time, while the meal bowl stays warm and the top two bowls stay at room temperature. Cold food stays cold as well. This is a good picture depicting how the bento box works.

Mr. Bento also comes with a spork and a carrying bag.  All these containers also help you have a variety of food.  A review on Amazon lays out the intended organization well:

This unit is optimally designed for the Japanese style lunch. A soup, Rice, entrée and pickled/salted vegetables. Normally you’d put your soup in the bottom container, fill the middle container up with rice. Your entrée would go in the third and the veggies in the fourth. Since the soup and the rice container both have insulated tops they stay warm.

I thought of it like this:  soup bowl gets soup; main bowl gets the main entree; large side dish bowl gets fruit; small side dish bowl gets veggies.  But in reality I usually use that small bowl for chips/cookies/trail mix.  I figure that at least that stuff is in the small bowl so I don’t have that much of it.

As for size, the amount of food in it is way more than enough.  I’m never hungry after lunch.  I’m very satisfied.  The thing is pretty big.  I’m not a small person either.

The reviews on the Amazon page great. They really helped me make a great decision and let me know the draw backs. For example, the bowls will stain and are not dishwasher safe. This hasn’t bothered me at all. It doesn’t take long to wash the bowls by hand. Also, I thought filling them up in the mornings would take a long time, but I’m done in 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how complicated the meal is to prepare. Also in the reviews of Mr. Bento they mention the flickr group, which I joined right away and have been posting pictures of my meals. It is a fantastic way to find great ideas for filling up your bento.

Cold quick bento today

It has been awesome having a warm meal int he middle of the day. Whatever I pack is just what I want to eat and I don’t have to settle for whatever fast food place is close, or whatever the cafe at work has that day. I can make just what I want to eat! It is really fantastic.

Mr. Bento for 2/9/2012

Another reason I bought Mr. Bento was to try to reduce the amount of food I eat at lunch. The portions at restaurants are huge and I don’t want to be eating that much. As Makiko Itoh says in The Just Bento Cookbook,

“Incorporating healthy homemade bentos into your weight-loss program is a great idea. Their compact size makes portion control easier, and also means you don’t get into the bad habit of eating fast food and high-calorie snack food for lunch…”

My First Mr. Bento Lunch

By the way the reviewers on the Mr. Bento page and on the The Just Bento Cookbook page agree that Ms. Itoh’s book is the best bento book around and after reading it I would have to agree with them! I borrowed it from the library and now I will have to buy it. I can tell it is one of those books I will constantly be going back to for great recipes. This is the only book you need. I checked out a few others and was very disappointed.

Anyone thinking about changing their lunch routine or looking to keep their portion sizes down, should really give Mr. Bento a try. I’ve had mine for a few weeks now and I’m not getting bored of it. I still use it everyday I go to work and I look forward to a great lunch everyday!

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