|Cookingcute.com, a great resource, although no longer live.|
Bento are often readily available to buy at locations like train stations in Japan--featuring local specialties. For the mothers of children just starting school, entire magazines are devoted to ideas for making the bento nutritious, as well as highly decorative. The goal is to not only entice the child to eat, but to be a reminder of home and mother as they learn to fit into the very structured system within Japanese schools. Multiple American blogs and websites are now devoted to the bento, with ideas for both children and adults. While there's some fantastic bento art out there, I want to focus on what is doable for a busy family.
One of my personal favorites would be The Vegan Lunch Box. I started keeping an eye on her blog back in 2006 or 2007, and over the past few years, Jennifer McCann has grown in popularity, writing a cookbook, and helping to design the bento box above. Even if one isn't vegetarian or vegan themselves, it's hard not to love her creations. Using the basic concepts of bento, she uses foods and flavors from all over the world to create a lunch that is colorful, fun, and diverse. Great ideas for using variety and color for even the die-hard carnivore!
Luch in a Box, another site designed by a mother, has perfect proportions for a kindergartner or early grade school child. I love her sensible boxes, often utilizing leftovers, or items that she made in bulk and then froze. Having lived just outside of San Francisco (her hometown), I'm familiar with the stores she mentions, particularly in Japantown, and know that many of them have websites now, and will ship to other parts of the US(something to keep in mind when my daughter goes to Kindergarten next fall).
Just Bento is a complete tool box for bento building. The author links ideas from other sites on a regular basis, and provides The Bento Challenge, a complete list of ingredients, calories, how much time it will take to make, and pictures for TWO MONTHS of bento, just to get you started! An insane number of recipes as well.
So get out there, try some new foods and pack a lunch or two this coming week! While this isn't a lunch your Great Grandmother would be familiar with, what grandmother wouldn't approve of nutrition and thrift in such a neat little package?
For more bento basics, check out Food.com's Back to School Special.