How to be a kick-ass Solo Mom and provide a healthy meal
Solo Moms are so busy. When it comes time to pack lunch, practical efficiency is key—we don’t have time for foo-foo oolalas. Packing bento box lunches will get you the most bang for your buck in terms of time spent, eating satisfaction, and actual money.
Here are the facts of bento box lunches:
- They don’t take more time than packing a boring old lunch.
- They make you feel like you are a kick-ass mom.
- They make your kids feel like they have a kick-ass mom.
- They’re good for portion control and nutrition balance.
- They’re cheap.
- They’re fun to make and fun to eat.
- But most importantly, they will shows up that wannabe June Cleaver who looks at you with judgy eyes because you are dating a young hottie “in front of your kids.” You can say, “Oh yeah? What does your kid’s lunch look like? That’s what I thought. An ugly, boring old sandwich and an apple. And the apple isn’t even cut in bunny shapes.”
The key to making an awesome, easy bento is to not be intimidated by all those Pinterest pictures. Don’t worry about them. You should really think of packing bento boxes as making a glorified Lunchable. There are a lot of bento gadgets out there but you only need three very cheap, very simple things that will make your kids the envy of the lunchroom:
- A two-tiered, kawaii bento box. This one doesn’t come with a strap to keep the box closed, but a hair tie or a rubber band that comes on veggies like asparagus or broccoli does the trick.
- Silicone cupcake cups.
- Heart and star shaped cookie cutters.
You can get these supplies on Amazon. If there is a Daiso store near you, you can get them even cheaper there.
Assembling the bento box
The traditional bento box sections help you think about nutritional balance. The five sections are:
When you put the silicon cups into the top level, you will end up with five sections total: two silicon cup sections, one section between the cups, and the bottom level. Where’s the fifth section? You’ll see!
The categories are pretty self-explanatory, but here are examples of what can go in each section:
- Ham, turkey, salami, bologna, roast beef
- Cut up chicken pieces (leftover from dinner)
- Peanut butter
- Hard-boiled egg, halved or sliced
- Apple pieces
- Orange pieces
- Canned fruit
- Green beans
- Cherry tomatoes
- Puffed rice
- Cut up bread or toast (you know those days that you realize that you have run out of everything except old bread?)
- Tortilla chips
- One piece of Starburst (in wrapper)
- 5 M&Ms or Skittles (wrapped in plastic wrap)
- A bite-size candy bar (in wrapper)
- 4 pieces of fruit snacks (wrapped in plastic wrap)
- On the top tier, put in two silicon cupcake liners.
- Cut up protein in heart and star shapes. Keep cutting out partial shapes with what’s left over after you’ve gotten all the complete shapes you can—no waste! And the tiny bits that are finally left over? A little treat for mom.
- Put fruit in the other liner.
- Put a few pieces of veggies in between the two liners.
- Put carbohydrates in the lower level.
- Hide the sweets in the carbohydrates—this is the secret fifth section! I know you may be doubtful that these portions of sweets are enough to satisfy. Trust me. Something about a small treat sparks joy.
See? Isn’t that so easy?
If you can put all bento supplies in one place, it will take you five minutes to assemble lunch. It can even be assembled the night before. And your kids will think you are awesome. So what if you won’t have time to make dinner tonight? So what if you had too many margaritas at happy hour on Friday and were too hungover on Saturday to take the kids to the zoo like you said? So what if you forgot the parent-teacher conference? So what? So what? You are still totally Mother of the Year! Because no other mom packs such an awesome lunch.
I do warn you, once you start making bento lunches, you might become an addict. Maybe even a fanatic who writes about bento box lunches. You might start wanting those other gadgets that make Totoro-shaped cheese pieces or Hello Kitty–shaped boiled eggs. You might even want to start cutting pieces of apple into bunnies (in which case you should visit Debra Samuel’s super fun website: where you will find a video on how to do this). You might, in fact, turn into a Japanesified version of June Cleaver.
What’s the next step to Solo-Mom awesomeness? Teach your kids how to pack you bento box lunches!
Mika Yamamoto, ESME's Guide for Public Assistance, has successfully nurtured two children as a Solo Mom and now hopes to achieve the same results as a plant nanny.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.