I’ve packed more than 1800 lunches for my kids over the past few years and I think in that time I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I’ve got a shelf full of lunch boxes, an over flowing basket of cookie cutters and a list of lunch box ideas posted on my fridge, but even with all that I frequently get stumped when it’s time to pack the lunches in the morning.
When the lunch box doldrums hit me or my kids start complaining about seeing the same foods in their bento boxes day after day, I find I almost always get invigorated by reading a book filled with lunch box inspiration. In the past few years a number of excellent lunch box books have hit the shelves and I’ve purchased lots of them. Today I’m going to share some of my favorites with you so you can get your lunch box gears turning too!
Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for a fun giveaway!
The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet by Laura Fuentes
The most recent addition to my collection is The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet by Laura Fuentes. Laura runs the popular lunch box menu planning service, Momables, so she has lunch boxes down pat. Her book is full of the kind of recipes kids love — not the kind of recipes that parents wish kids loved — and they’re made with whole foods and full of good nutrition. When I asked my son to sit down with it and mark some recipes he would like to try, I was surprised and thrilled to see that he’d flagged dozens of recipes. Fuentes offers tons of tips for planning and cooking in advance throughout the book and the end features a super helpful feedbakc chart where kids can mark off each recipe they’ve tried with a star rating.
Beating the Lunch Box Blues by J.M. Hirsch
Released at back to school time last year, Beating the Lunch Box Blues by J.M. Hirsch is jam-packed with gorgeous photos and dozens of interesting and unusual ideas. It’s important to note that this is not a recipe book — not really. Rather it’s filled with photos that provide inspiration for lunches and short notes with ideas for assembling meals to go quickly and with little fuss. There are a a dozen dinner recipes sprinkled throughout with ideas for repurposing the leftovers for lunch the next day, but mostly you’ll find ideas for combining ingredients in your fridge to make quick and tasty lunches. Over the past year I’ve found myself flipping through this book several times to get my idea flowing for my own lunches as well as for my kids’. Read my full review of this book.
Weelicious Lunches by Catherine McCord
Catherine McCord of the mega-popular kids’ food site, Weelicious, published this book last year and it’s a real winner. Weelicious Lunches is filled with recipes that provide a fresh take on lunch box staples. There are dozens of recipes for variations on sandwiches, dips, and treats and peanut butter and jelly even gets it’s own chapter. Some of my favorite recipes in the book are her homemade — and much healthier — versions of packaged favorites: cheese crackers, animal cookies, cereal bars and fruit leather, just to name a few. In addition, McCord provides lots of information about lunch box basics. Her section on food allergies is top-notch and she even provides a helpful chart listing allergen information for every recipe in the book. Read my full review of this book here.
Yum-Yum Bento Box by Maki Ogawa and Crystal Watanabe
Looking for ideas for cute bento lunches? Yum-Yum Bento Box by Maki Ogawa and Crystal Watanabe will give you plenty of ideas for incredibly adorable lunches. I’ve had this book for a few years now, but I still love flipping through it for all of the inspiration it provides. The authors are especially adept at creating cute characters and nearly every bento box sports a person or animal with a smiling face. To go along with that theme, they’ve included a chart with ideas for making different elements of faces — eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, ears, etc. — from different types of food which is really helpful when you are brainstorming your own creations. The book tends to lean more toward Asian ingredients for crafting the decorative elements of the lunches (there’s a lot of rice in this book), so if your kid is a strict peanut-butter-and-jelly-atarian and you want to follow instructions exactly this might not be a perfect fit. But no matter what types of food you pack for your kids you will find a lot of fun ideas here.
Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches to Go by Wendy Thorpe Copley
May I be so bold as to suggest my own book as a source of inspiration? Obviously, I’m not going to be able to give you an unbiased review, but my book, Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches to Go is packed with ideas for fun and tasty bento lunches. It opens with information about basic bento packing techniques, types of bento boxes and all the fun tools we all love so much. The meat of the book shows fifty different bento lunches along with detailed photo tutorials explaining exactly how to recreate them in your kitchen. Most of the bentos have a fun theme – rainbow, robot, butterfly, rock ‘n’ roll, holidays — but there are more grown-up options intended for adults as well. I break down all the steps for bento beginners and I’ve been pleased to hear reports that kids are using the book to make their own lunches. Bento pros will find some more challenging techniques as well.
Would you like a little lunch box inspiration to hold in your own hands? I have five copies of Everyday Bento to giveaway to five Wendolonia readers! Enter below for your chance to win:
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