Another busy day today, so I was glad to open my lunchbox around lunchtime and find all kinds of stuff that I enjoy eating and which gave me enough energy to pull through another four hours (I’m a student-assistent, so those were four long library hours).
My Lunch pictured below contained: some frozen raspberries; a piece of ontbijtkoek, a bento-favorite; some star-shaped cucumber; a cheese triangle; onigiri with mixed in green and red shiso and a dumpling.
Well, since I am a student and seem to be constantly broke, I try to make my bento’s as cheap as possible. Because even though I really like my bento’s, if it costs more than a normal sandwhich and a piece of fruit would, I can’t afford it. Luckily, it doesn’t. Yay~!
It’s not really relevant to estimate what my lunch has cost my, because first of all it would be only an estimation, and second of all, prices vary from location to location and season to season. But I do have some tips!
(Behind the cut, the promised tips and my boyfriend’s lunch)
First off, my boyfriend’s very fruity lunch. It contained frozen
raspberries; two cucumberslices; a cheese triangle; seedless grapes; two onigiri with mixed in purple and green shiso; woo-tip dumpling.
Morning preparation time for the two bento’s together was 12 minutes. I microwaved the frozen rice, mixed in the shiso and made onigiri out of them, while chopping, mixing and microwaving I boiled some water in my waterboiler thingy and once boiled put it in a pan to let it boil further, on top of that pan I placed one of those good old bamboo steam baskets with the dumplings in it and the lid on. This way the dumplings were done by the time I was done chopping etc. I cut the grapes in half and used my vegetable cutter to slice cute stars out of cumcumber.
Cheap-o tips ‘n tricks:
Preparing a bento is not as hard as it looks but you have to keep a good eye on expenses. Even though you might come across loads of cute things in your grocery store, don’t be tempted to buy it everytime, otherwise you’ll face a whole-lot-of month at the end of your money! But ofcourse you can make your bento cute, have different foods in it everytime, have a nutricious lunch and maybe even save some money.
1) Buy your stuff in the right season and preferably local!
Trying to buy strawberries in the winter in Norway will cost you…(as will trying to buy strawberries in winter anywhere.) It’s really not difficult trying to figure out when certain fruit’s or vegetable’s seasons are. If you seem to be seeing it a lot whereas you didn’t before, it’s in the season. Think of the same strawberries or asparagus for instance. Same goes for the price, if you catch yourself thinking whoa, why is this so expensive? stay away from it and try again in a month or two (or seven).
2) Don’t waste food!
In today’s lunch I used my star cutter to make cute star-shaped cucumber slices. What you can’t see in the picture is that I didn’t throw away the left-overs from the stars. They’re hiding under the stars in my bento and serving as perfect gap-fillers and stabilizers.
3) Anything goes in a bento!
Don’t be tempted to use exclusively Japanese products. A bento may be a traditional Japanese lunchbox, but it’s just a lunch, it is not a better bento if it contains endamame or onigiri. If you would rather eat pasta instead of rice, go with pasta. If you like bell pepper, like I do, use it! I like fruit in my bento better as opposed to vegetables like brocolli and zucchini etc. I do like those vegetables hot, but I don’t particularly like them cold, as does my boyfriend. So the sollution is simple, fruit and raw veggies it is.
4) Don’t be a fashion-slave!
These bento-boxes, gear and equipment are all very cute and oh-so handy, but they are also expensive. Do you really need them? Or are you just taken by the cute picture on top of your whatever? Your gear does not need to come from ebay and it does not need to be expensive in any way. I will make a post on cheap, local bento later.
5) Do use your left-overs!
If you are cooking dinner, why not cook a little extra rice for the onigiri for tomorrow’s bento, or a little extra pasta if that floats your boat. This way, it will save you a lot of time in the morning, and more importantly it will save you money. Normally when I cook rice for just two onigiri I find myself cooking too much and throwing away some. Be making your onigiri at night you can save the rest of the rice for dinner. If you have any leftovers from dinner, like small pieces of chicken or maybe a bit of vegetables or even a yummy-sauce, save it overnight in the fridge, and in the bento it goes in the morning. Easy-as-pie, fast and so cheap.
6) Love your freezer…
Making big batches of stuff like meatballs, will pay off. Not only will it save you time in the morning when you just pop it into the microwave, things like meat etc. are usually cheaper in larger quantities. It’s also a good idea to be on the look out for large batches of dumplings if you like those, and stuff like frozen fruit which is usually a lot cheaper than normal fruit. My raspberries cost me about 3 dollars for a 500 gram box. Yay!
7) Think green…
While you’re at in, try to think about the environment a bit. By using re-usable cups, sauce bottles and dividers you are not only being environmental-friendly but you also save a lot of money on cute items that are disposable. Just wash up your stuff instead of throwing it out.
Well, that’s it for now!