Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ikea Bento : Quick & Cheap Ideas

Yes, I'm still bento-ing! In fits and starts, I've managed to use my bento gear to bring leftovers for lunch, though the fare has been very utilitarian lately. The upcoming holiday and the change to cold weather has cut back on the budget and time available to prepare good bento - there was precious little of either to begin with!

This is a time of year, however, when many people find themselves in a store at some point, whether you support the idea of shopping til you drop or being more realistic. I found myself in an Ikea last week for the first time in a good long while, and found a couple of items in their kitchen storage and prepared foods section that sparked a bento-prep renewal of sorts.

In their freezer section, you can find all sorts of good things, but the Swedish pancakes caught my attention. Roughly $3, if memory serves, and you get 12 generous, eggy, lightly-browned pancakes that are simply heat-and-eat. Add your favorite sweet or savory topping, and you're ready to roll. One would be enough to make a meal for a child, two would satisfy most adults, with the appropriate sides.

All I had to do for the pictured pancake bento/take-along was toss two pancakes in a zip-lock bag and add lingonberry preserves with peanut butter to my bento box and lunch was settled. I'm still feeling a bit under the weather, so I purchased some lentil soup in the cafeteria as something warm to round out my meal.

In the kitchen ware and storage section, Ikea has a lot of different choices for plasticware, but there is a small container with a flip-up lid that spoke to me. It's around $1.50, has a clear bottom and an opaque lid that lifts off, or you can open the half-lid if you're using it to store something in the cupboard. Small, but the perfect size for bento-ing side dishes or when you're running late in the morning and don't have time or the appetite to prepare a lot of food. Rice in one half, a protein in the other, and you're set for a quick, prepared lunch.

Many mornings I'm up before sunrise and it's enough of an effort just to become conscious. Having two of these to mix-and-match and throw together has saved a few of my work days from the hassle of having to buy my lunch at a price I don't like or from hearing my stomach growl at my desk. They're inexpensive as well. There's no rule that says bento boxes have to be $30 kawaii character masterpieces!



  1. Wow, I've been doing bento for years, and didn't even know it. 8^) Well, a loose application in the spirit of the theme.

    I usually bring leftovers for lunch during the work week. They get packed in those reusable Glad/Ziplock rectangular, plastic containers.

    I like your "quick bento ideas". I may have to borrow a few.

  2. @kiteflyer - thanks for the comment! It's all in how you look at it. Bento or brown-bag, it's pretty much the same idea, though in Japan they take it up a few notches sometimes with decoration. I imagine there are few of us who have the time for that. There's even an Americanized "bento" gear company whose wares are simply the Gladlock-style containers just with an extra compartment or two.
    Cheers! c:_: