Education Week: The Working Mom’s Guide to Bento Lunches, Part II


As I said in my previous post, bento lunches are not out of reach for the working or busy mom. Bentos can be done on a budget, both a time and food budget, using tools and food you have on hand. There’s a lot of quick, easy and cute things you can make for lunch. Bento lunches are healthy, fun, pretty, and reduce waste. They can also tempt picky or busy eaters.

One easy thing I love for bentos is the sandwich ball. It’s a sandwich rolled into a ball and from it you can then form into people and animals. They can range from the easy things I’m going to show you to more complicated ones like Po from Kung Fu Panda.

To make my little lions, I took a slice of soft white bread (other breads can work, soft and fresh tend to stick best and not break when you try to shape them). I cut as big of a circle as possible; you can also use a cookie cutter. I added a tiny bit of filling (you don’t want to overfill), for this one she wanted shrimp and rice, so I used one cooked shrimp per sandwich ball and a little rice on top of it. I gathered up the edges using my hands, pinched together the edges, and used my hands to form it into a tight ball. You can also use plastic wrap instead of your hands. I used a toothpick and food coloring to make the eyes, nose, and cheeks, and made manes out of cheese (I just cut it with a knife.)

You can also make smaller sandwich balls and pair two small and one large to make a bear or even pinch them into triangles to make a cat. By making some long, the same way you make the balls, you can make a puppy or floppy eared rabbit.

To make the ears, I took a second piece of bread and cut off the crusts, then sliced it down the center to make two rectangles. I added a tiny bit of filling (for this sandwich I used jam), then pinched the edges together and rolled them into logs. I then shaped them into ears.

I haven’t used sandwich balls to make faces yet, but I recently made a caterpillar. It probably would have been better had I used food coloring to color the bread first. I made it with three jam-filled mini sandwich balls and used strawberries for antenna and food coloring for the face. The bread was from the bottom of the bag, so you can see where it broke a little and the jam leaked out, but she ate them anyway.

Here’s more instructions on making sandwich balls in case you’re still confused. She uses meat floss (which I think is some kind of shredded jerky), but you can use anything in your sandwich balls from PB&J to meat. Just remember, you don’t need much filling.

Here’s some more ideas for cute animal bentos. She uses a lot of nori (seaweed) for decoration, but food coloring and a toothpick also works. So do olives.

I’m going to be doing a post on things made from rice and on bento snacks, which is a great way to try bento out. Is there anything else you’d like to see or learn?

What are some thing you’d make from sandwich balls?

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3 thoughts on “Education Week: The Working Mom’s Guide to Bento Lunches, Part II

  1. So here’s my question – how does it hold together in transit? I know how my kids carry their bag to school, so does it all look cool by the time they get to lunch, or is it one big mush in the middle?

    1. I’ve found that either using a divided container and/or packing the food tight, helps. If you pack the lunch in tight–like fill every corner with food, then the pretty lunch can’t shift around as much Also, the lid helps keep everything together.

    2. Using items like silicone baking cups, or even cupcake liners, can help separate and pad items, keeping them from rolling around. You can also use lettuce to keep things separated and non-moving. Also, how you pack the food has a lot to do with keeping it from shifting around, too. And as Suzanne pointed out, the lid keeps everything together.

      Experiment! That’s how you figure it out! Have fun!

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