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Posted on Feb 16, 2007 in Equipment, Organize, Parent Hacks, Tips | 33 comments

Organization madness: Lunch accessories

Organization madness: Lunch accessories

My bento lunch accessories were threatening to take over my kitchen, so I took some drastic organization measures. This is my obsessive way of keeping them neat and within reach when I’m packing lunch in the kitchen. The first is a US$0.99 metal strip from Ikea, and oversized magnetic spice canisters from Ikea (3 for US$4.99) with food picks and sauce bottles (both empty and pre-filled for speed). Click on a photo for notes on what’s stored where.

Lunch accessories organized #2

The plastic boxes on the microwave (from a Japanese dollar store) hold less-used things, while the wooden under-cabinet shelf with drawers holds the most frequently used accessories. The wall shelf with drawers is from Ikea’s FÖRHÖJA line — the wood drawers hold more than the glass drawer option (which were pointed in the back and didn’t fully utilize available space). Great idea from Flickr user Yurippe.

Lunch accessories organized #1

This is a little box I picked up from Ichiban Kan (a Japanese dollar store) for US$0.99 — perfect for seeing all sizes of food dividers (“baran”) available. Someone help me — it’s an illness… Anyone have any good lunch gear organization ideas? (EDIT: I ran a lunch gear organization event and contest; here’s the event round-up and my kitchen reorganization using some of the ideas from it.)

Lunch dividers organized

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  1. I love your accessory organizers. That’s something I need badly. Where do you keep your boxes though? I know you have lots and lots, hehe. That’s my biggest problem since I only have 1 big oversized plastic box to keep everything in. I have to dig into it every morning and the next day after organizing it, it’s such a mess since I, well, have to dig into it. ^_^;;

  2. lol mine are a mess. I love all of your tutorials lately, they’re the best.

  3. FÖRHÖJA is the best for organizing! I better get some more for my bento stuff, my collection has definetely gotten out of hand now ^_^

    The bento is so cute, I love the elephant!

  4. I was wondering how people organize they’re stuff as well. Mine has over grown it’s space and now is in a clear locking bin on top of the fridge. Even then it won’t all fit.

  5. wow are those all cutting boards next to your microwave?

    i love your storage ideas! :)

  6. @1 from kaoko_cow: Uh, my box organization is nothing to brag about at the moment — that’s why no photos! They’re in three cabinet shelves, scattered about (all thermal lunch jars and Laptop Lunchbox on one bottom shelf, small side dish boxes on another shelf, larger boxes on a third shelf). I had to do SOMETHING about the accessories, though. One day last month I opened up a cabinet and an egg mold fell onto the countertop below, shattering a really nice crystal wineglass. It became really easy to rationalize the Ikea organizer expense after that — crystal breakage adds up fast!

  7. @2 from madlovescience: Thanks, madlovescience!

  8. @3 from amvn: I so hear you! My egg molds attacked a nice crystal wine glass last month, and had to be tamed…

  9. @4 from melancholywings: It seems like there’s no end, doesn’t it? Just as you get your current collection under control, it outgrows its cage.

  10. ah ha! that totally explains it. and i remember when had to go through a similar kitchenware purge when she thought her hubby had celiac disease! isn’t it handy to have multiple cutting boards though? i only have one and am thinking of buying like 3 more. :P where did you get yours?

  11. p.s. i hope your hubby is better now!

  12. @11 from clearbright: I got mine at a local Asian restaurant/kitchen supply store called Kamei — very cheap. It really is handy to have lots; so when people want to help me in the kitchen we can set up multiple workspaces. Hubby’s all better now, BTW — thanks!

  13. @11 from clearbright: Oh yeah — I was the one who told mmmbento at Cooking Cute about the cross-contamination issue and the need to purge her kitchenware last year. CD really wreaks havoc on the kitchen because even small traces of gluten can lead to serious gastrointestinal damage in true celiacs. Can even lead to permanent damage of the intestinal villi (and your celiac could permanently lose the ability to digest food — would have to use a feeding tube or IV). Talk about incentive to stay truly gluten free!

  14. Hi there! I found your LJ from and I am very pleased!

    I just wanted to say I really enjoy looking at the bento lunches that you pack for your son, husband, and yourself! Makes me motivated to make my own bento. I’ll be adding you to see more bentos from you. =)

  15. I found this journal from http://mmmbento.livejournal.com And I love your ideas! That’s so clever, I’m new to bento and was thinking how people organize all the various things. o-o; And that’s a great idea, I was looking at those metal tins wondering what to use them for, thanks. =)

    I added you because of my bento interest, hope you don’t mind. =)

  16. @15 from urylia: Welcome and hi urylia! Thanks for the nice comments — I’ll be posting another speed bento tip (and bento) tomorrow!

  17. @16 from neptunestears: Thank you, neptunestears! I’ve been eyeing those metal tins for years now, but my spices and pantry have always pretty much under control without them (darn). I must confess I was a little tickled when I realized that I actually had a good use for the tins!

  18. ooh is kamei in SF? i’ll totally check it out the next time i’m in the neighborhood — thanks! :)

    and eek about the serious GI damage from gluten hiding in cookware and cutting boards, etc!! that’s such a scary thing that i think wouldn’t be immediately apparent!!

  19. @19 from clearbright: Yup, Kamei is in SF on Clement Street around 8th Ave — total recommend! Their prices are excellent on pretty much everything; the only places you’ll find stuff cheaper would be at the Japanese dollar stores: Ichiban Kan (Japantown) or Daiso (Daly City).

    We’re totally relieved about not having to keep a GF kitchen any more. Whew!

  20. What a brilliant and stylish idea…I have hardly got anything yet for my (projected) future bento madness, as I’ve only just started..but this is great anyway, even if it’s for spices….I’m suffering from accessory envy! What would Mr Freud have to say about that, I wonder?! Best wishes from Bowhaus!

  21. @21 from anonymous/Bowhaus: Hey Bowhaus! Accessories are fun, but not a must or anything — if you’re creative you can find all sorts of other things locally that can stand in (cheaper than ordering off of eBay). But I know I have an illness with lunch gear — it got out of control once Daiso opened up near me a few months ago!

  22. I know you’re obviously in america – and I’m in the uk – but I’m just wondering where you get all your japanese supplies from, (like the little soy bottles etc).

  23. @23 from dreamy_falls: I’m fortunate in that there are Asian restaurant supply stores (Kamei, etc.) and Japanese dollar stores (Daiso, Ichiban Kan) here in San Francisco, so I can pick most of them up locally for very little money. Sometimes Japanese friends bring little accessories back for me, and once I ordered on eBay from Tokyo_Gift. I really enjoy using things I find locally (originally not for bento) in a bento context, like the cream cheese cups or covered condiment cups for juice jello cups. You shouldn’t have to spend an arm and a leg lining an eBay seller’s pocket just to pack your own lunch, darn it!

  24. ha ha – yes I agree, its fun to find your own original things. :)

  25. I love your idea of organizing your food dividers like that. But I do have a question about it. If you open up all your dividers and organize it like that, would it make the anti-bacterial dividers ineffective? since it is out in the open?

  26. @26 from anonymous: Most of my dividers are not antibacterial — only the short, rectangular sushi grass from the “food safety” post is — so all the stuff in the box is fine. I keep the antibacterial dividers separate, in the little plastic pouches that they came in.

  27. @28 from Ashley: Thanks Ashley! Ikea definitely still has the strips — I was there the other week getting kids’ furniture and I noticed them there. Mind you, the strips themselves aren’t magnetic — the little canisters are. Ikea does sell a cheap magnetic strip for knives, etc., though — I think it’s under US$10.

  28. I actually use one of these…

    (hope that works) Sterilite 4 drawer cart. Mine’s actually black. It’s about hip high to me, and does double duty when I do dishes I put a towel on it and my dish drainer. I have very little counter space and NONE next to the sink (poor planning to my apartment). I keep my cutters/molds/baran/sauce bottles/picks/silicone stuff/etc in the top two smaller drawers, and my boxes (I’m up to 7 Japanese boxes, and a few American ones!) in the third drawer. The bottom drawer I keep dishtowels for now. It’s great to keep everything in one place.

  29. @30 from Sile: Hmm, I can’t see your link to the cart, but I have a rough idea. It sounds like a good solution for you! My little accessories and boxes are pretty well organized, but right now it’s the larger accessories (rice molds, etc.) that are giving me problems. I’ve started looking at boxes and organizers for scrapbooking, and have a couple of kitchen carts downstairs in the basement at the moment. I’d kind of given up on the kitchen cart with 4 drawers, but maybe it’s time to reconsider (thanks for the idea!). I’m trying to figure out the right solution for my kitchen layout and gear — we’re all different!

  30. hmm. No way to edit my post, but I found the same item on Amazon:

    (cart on Amazon)

    pardon the long url. :)

  31. Wow, what a great idea. i’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and i’m waiting for my first real bento boxes (from Japan). I’ve been using a laptop lunch set for a bit.

    Its easy to see how you would accumulate so much! Everything is so adorable. We don’t have much here in Rochester NY (at least not that i’ve found)

    Those containers are great though and i have i few things that would probably work great in them.

    Thanks for the heads up. Great job!

  32. @33 from Jackie: I’m currently mulling over how to organize my larger accessories like onigiri rice ball molds or snack boxes. They’re out of control!!! I’m hoping someone will submit a brilliant entry to my organization event that will solve my problem… Fingers crossed!

  33. WOW, Biggie! I just discovered Ichiban Kan’s online store, and all of the bento boxes are amazingly CHEAP! The other online shops that I’ve browsed through all sell them around $8+ (some going into the $20+ range T___T). So my logic is, since there’s an ongoing special of $8 flat shipping, if you buy -multiple- bentos, it’ll all be worth it!

    Did you order from their online store or did you walk into the dollar store (if you live near it)? =] I’m pretty psyched and excited that I found this…this way, I’ll be able to actually afford all of the lovely supplies needed for bento when each box is around $1.50 each ~

    Thanks as always, biggie! I’m loving your blog and I’m wishing the best for you and your blog! ^ o ^

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