I really enjoy making fun lunches for my 11 year old. It gets hectic and crazy during the week and it's tough to find the time, but I really think it's worth the praise when I do something really special.
I started packing my son's lunch about 2 years ago when I realized how disgustingly unhealthy the food he was being served at school. It was super-processed and lacked any real nutritional value. So, out of necessity, I started packing his lunches. It was really tough at first, but eventually I got the hang of it. My schedule really doesn't give me much time in the evenings, so I've learned to become more efficient with my lunch-packing. I used to make him something separate from mine; my lunches being leftovers. But now, I pack him leftovers, usually re-purposed to keep things interesting. Now, instead of packing up dinner, I pack it immediately into our lunches and save any leftovers after that. I find that usually saves me time instead of refrigerating the dinner leftovers, then coming back to make our lunches.
I used to pack him the standard: sandwich and stuff. He eventually got so sick of sandwiches that he asked if he could start eating school lunches again. Not wanting him to eat that muck, I decided to try to see what I could find out there. I was inspired by the beautiful bento boxes I saw and re-evaluated my list of acceptable items for his lunch. Why couldn't I pack leftovers and stuff for his lunch? He liked it at dinner the night before, why not at lunchtime? So, I bought some of those Glad containers, some with two compartments and some with 3 compartments. It was fairly cheap and easy to replace; you see, my son has a habit of losing his lunchboxes.
I packed leftovers and other things for a while and then for Halloween, I decided to get creative and test my had at Bento:
I made a small sandwich with whole wheat bread and almond butter and cut it out like a ghost. I put some cooked uncured bacon for "zombie guts" and made goul mouths with apples and almond slivers. I made witches fingers out of mozzarella cheese sticks and red bell pepper and put them on a bed of greens. And I threw in a couple of cookies I made for an office fundraiser; one is sugar cookies made to look like candy corn and the other is a nutter butter dipped in white chocolate with a scream face painted on it. (I won best halloween themed dessert in the office fundraiser by the way) I know the cookies weren't exactly healthy, but they were just super-fun and I couldn't resist. :) My son went nuts over this and all his friends thought he was sooo cool for having such a cool lunch.
Now, it looks nothing like the beautiful bento boxes I saw online, but I was pretty stinkin' proud of it.
I got a bento inspiration again a week ago when we had broiled salmon and rice. I remembered how to make rice balls and was making them for my lunch the next day and decided to make some for him as well. He really liked how I used the dried nori to make faces on them. And I've learned that anything can look appetizing when it's put on top of a nice lettuce leaf. I also threw in some crackers and cheese and sliced up some purple carrots I got at the farmers market. I put a banana in there for something sweet and as always, I put a salad (I used baby spinach and sweet red turnip) in there as well. It's actually gotten to the point to when my son makes his own lunch on nights I'm just too busy, he adds a salad to it without being told. Now, that's one of my many proud momma moments.