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Posted on Sep 25, 2008 in Bento, Equipment, For Kids, Sandwich Case, Sandwich or Wrap | 49 comments

Sandwiches in combo bento/sandwich case

Sandwiches in combo bento/sandwich case

Keroppi combo bento box and collapsible sandwich case I regularly use bento boxes and as well as collapsible sandwich cases, both of which have their own pros and cons. A while ago, though, I stumbled across an ingenious box that combined both types in two tiers. This allows me to pack a bulky sandwich or rolls in the top, and moist food in food cups in the bottom. When lunch is over, just collapse the sandwich case portion and set it on top of the bento box — this saves room in the bag while still allowing me to use hard reusable food cups and picks. A full review follows; click on any photo for a larger view.

Sandwich and fruit lunch for preschoolerContents of preschooler bento lunch: Dinosaur-shaped sandwich of cream cheese and sugar-free strawberry jam on wheat bread, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, kiwifruit, Concord grapes, orange slices, and a raspberry. No peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunches for Bug because of the peanut ban at his school.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes. In the morning I made the simple sandwich and cut it into two dinosaur shapes with the DynoBytes sandwich cutter I described earlier. Slice the fruit, and we’re done. (Read on for full box and lunch details, plus two additional sandwich lunches.)

Dinosaur-shaped sandwich cutterPacking: Because of the regular bento box on the bottom, I was able to use a hard plastic food bucket and food pick for the kiwi without worrying about where to put them after folding up the sandwich case. Bug didn’t like the girliness of the pink bento band that kept the two layers together, so I used a plain black band of adjustable length from one of my husband’s bento boxes. It wasn’t the most beautiful color combination or anything, but it meant that I could use this box without complaint or fear of teasing from his schoolmates. I used little tomatoes as gap fillers to keep the sandwich from sliding around in transit.

Verdict: Good over time. Bug ate the sandwich portion and the kiwi at preschool, and the fruit as a snack after school. This is too large for a single meal for an almost four-year-old according to the bento box size guidelines. Not surprisingly, the delicate raspberry got a little squished in transit. Somebody remind me to follow my own rules of thumb about what makes a good gap filler!

* * * * *

Keroppi combo bento box and collapsible sandwich case (exploded)

Combo bento box & sandwich case (collapsed)Gear: Here are all of the components of the Keroppi frog 2-in-1 box from Sanrio. The inner lid with built-in fork goes on top of the bento box (NOT a watertight seal), creating a platform where the collapsible sandwich case sits. The Keroppi frog lid goes on top of the sandwich case, and the elastic bento band goes around the whole thing to keep the two tiers together in transit. The elastic bento band is longer than the standard band that comes with two-tier bento boxes, in order to contain the larger size sandwich case.

The bottom bento box is small at 300ml, but the collapsible sandwich case above it is somewhat larger. Together they hold a good-sized lunch for a young student (still a bit too large for a preschooler). Dimensions are approximately 4 3/8″(11cm) x 5 3/8″ (13.5cm) x 3.5″ (9cm) (H x W x D) fully packed,  and when the sandwich case is empty and folded up, the height reduces down to 2 3/8″ (6cm). I’ve only seen this box once in person in a little hole-in-the-wall cutesy store in San Francisco (US$8 at S&V Collections, 2227 Irving in the Sunset), but Yvo from All My Bento Are Belong To Me says she’s seen them online in other designs. (10/2008 UPDATE: Ichiban Kan’s online store now carries pink combo sandwich case / bento boxes for US$1.50, along with regular sandwich cases listed in their Sandwich Case category.)

* * * * *

I’m still experimenting to find the perfect way to deal with the ventilated sides of the sandwich cases. Pack the sandwich straight in the case without a lining, and crumbs escape into your bag (which is why I’ve generally carried sandwich cases inside of a lunch bag). Plastic wrap is quite effective at containing crumbs, but winds up sticking to itself and posing a challenge to my easily frustrated three-year-old when he’s eating on his own. It’s also a bit frustrating for me to pack, as it folds over and clings to itself. I hit the Japanese bento books in search of other options, and saw pictures of sandwich cases lined with wax paper or paper napkins.

Egg muffin sandwich lunch for preschooler

I lined the case with wax paper today, and was pleased with the results: the sticky cheese and egg filling didn’t stick to the paper or the holes, but there were enough ventilation holes open that the hot sandwich was able to cool effectively without creating in-box condensation. I think I’ll use this technique again to contain gooey sandwich fillings that might leak out.

Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Egg and Monterey jack cheese sandwich on a toasted English muffin: think an Egg McMuffin without the ham (Bug doesn’t want ham inside). Different colored cherry tomatoes, steamed broccoli, and a black Mission fig round out the lunch.

Morning prep time: 12 minutes. I made eggs for the family breakfast this morning, so I cooked the egg for lunch at the same time.

Child's collapsible sandwich casePacking: See the notes above about using waxed paper as a liner; this was a definite thumbs up for sandwiches with gooey fillings. I cut the fig in half for easy preschooler eating. Packed in a child-sized Snoopy-themed collapsible sandwich case.

Verdict: Thumbs up over time. Bug ate all of the sandwich at preschool, and then the figs and broccoli at the playground after school. He passed on the cherry tomatoes — I think I’ve been using them so much lately that he’s burned out on them for the moment.

* * * * *

This lunch is from a while back, when I was experimenting with colored plastic wrap to line the sandwich box. Bug had had jicama at a friend’s house, and liked it so much that he requested it for his bento. Kid begging for raw vegetables? No problem! I was pleased to humor him on this.

Sandwich & jicama lunch for preschoolerContents of preschooler bento lunch: Sandwich strips of cream cheese and jam (no peanut butter due to school lunchroom restrictions), raw jicama sticks tossed with lime juice, cherry tomatoes, decorative banana wedge (see the tutorial), and a mango mini pudding cup. I haven’t been able to find my favorite little Kiku-brand Petit Pudding cups lately, so I picked up a good-sized box of the little mango puddings from New May Wah in the Richmond for about US$1.50 (see the list of my favorite ethnic markets in San Francisco for store information). The mango puddings are artificially flavored, so they’re not my first choice — just a little treat. I also picked up some mini gelatin cups made with 100% juice from the same store (delicious!), but they’re a little larger than the mango version.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes. In the morning I made the sandwich, and cut the jicama and banana. Lime juice gives the jicama sticks a nice tangy accent and keeps the cut banana surface from turning brown.

Red plastic wrapPacking: In this earlier lunch, I lined the sandwich case with colored plastic wrap (see notes above on lining the sandwich cases). I used a plastic baran lunch divider to keep the jicama awa from the sandwich. The lunch dividers are supposed to be disposable, but I’m so cheap that I hand-wash and reuse them. Packed in the same child-sized Snoopy-themed collapsible sandwich case as above.

Verdict: Big thumbs up. Bug ate everything at preschool, no leftovers.How to make decorative banana wedges

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  1. SUCH an adorable bento/sandwich case!!

  2. When I pack sandwiches in wax paper the bread seems a little dry when it gets to lunch time. Do you ever have this problem with the sandwich boxes? How do you stop bread from drying out?

  3. Looks convenient but I seldom “only” have sandwich for lunch. This is a bento box I can actually not hunt all over the world to get my hands on ;) ;)

  4. I got a pink (god I hate that color!) sandwich box from Ichiban Kan, because it was the only one they offered. Haven’t used it yet, but today’s post makes me want to go home and redo my lunch! :D

  5. Like Metanoia, I have issues with dryness, but my son’s preschool teachers transfer lunch to a paper plate for serving so I don’t have to worry about what little hands can handle. I pack sandwiches in a foldover sandwich baggie (cheaper than zip top bags) – I think a preschooler might be able to handle that easier than plastic wrap.

  6. I use was paper because I live in a SUPER-moist environment and it helps keep the texture normal. All of these look so yummy. I will have to try some of these on the hubs… bigger though!

  7. Thanks for being willing to accommodate the peanut/milk ban so graciously! The least I can do is give you two of my best replacements for PB&J. Sunbutter (made with sunflower seeds) is hands down the best sub for PB. I’ve heard from some peanut allergic individuals that the taste and smell are so similar, that they are put off by the spread.
    Also, my son’s favorite sandwich spread is avocado mashed with (non-dairy) cream cheese and a few drops of lemon juice.
    Hope you can use these!

  8. Heck yes! I have this adorable little bento, and it was great! I don’t eat a ton, so it was enough space for me to use. I put some hummus and carrots in the bottom, and then draped a napkin in the top with some breadsticks.

  9. Neither Ichiban kan nor Daiso currently has the collapsible sandwich box. Rats! Where else could I try, I wonder? Sanrio?

  10. Hey! I have that same cute little bento box with the collapsible sandwich top. We bought it in Seattle this summer. Funny thing is, today is the first day we’ve used it. When I clicked on your link and saw this morning’s box pictured there it gave me quite the surprise!

    I packed my daughter some sushi-style veggie rolls, a hard boiled egg, and a cheese wedge in the bottom, and in the top, a roll and some apples wrapped in plastic wrap. I was really baffled about what to do with the open-sided top when I bought it, and I’ve been enjoying reading your comments on these collapsible cases. I’m not sure how the roll will fare today in the open case, but we’re trying it out and she’ll let me know tonight. I do think that with the apples squished in, the case is holding the perfect amount of food for a ten-year-old.

  11. I want that two tier box!!

  12. Such a nifty idea, to have both the sandwich case and the hard container! Where did you buy said container?

  13. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been reading your site for a while now and LOVE it! I live in SF too and go to Japantown quite often so I’ve seen a lot of cute Bento boxes. You totally make me wish I had a preschooler myself! Maybe one day! :)

  14. Here’s an idea for sandwich-case sides and dividers for other bentos:

    If you buy lox, it often comes in a package with a hard plastic sheet (so you can slide it out of the packaging and it still looks nice). You could cut it to size and use it to line the sides of the sandwich case, or cut smaller to use it as a non-cutesy food divider.

  15. I have this sandwich bento box too. I found it at Sanrio. I use it everyday for breakfast. I put fruit in the bootom tier, and toasted bagel or bread on top. I usually drape the top with a napkin, but the waxed paper looks more tailored. I’ll try that.

  16. I bought this box at Sanrio in San Jose. It works perfect for my 10yo to take some rollups on top (he didn’t complain of it drying out) with Fruit/Veg on bottom.

  17. I’m sure you’ve tried this before, but I’ve found that lining with lettuce works well too when it comes to the ventilated sides of sandwich boxes (example).
    =) I generally just stuff the lettuce lining into my sandwich to eat come lunch time.

    Also, I’ve seen those Keroppi boxes, and other character sandwich boxes, in the Hello Kitty store at the Pacific East Mall in Richmond.

  18. @2 from Metanoia: I think some of the dryness issues may stem from how humid it is where you live and how long the sandwich is going to sit before you eat it. As San Francisco is right by the water (Japan too, where these cases are popular) and Bug eats his lunch about 2.5 hours after I pack it, I don’t tend to have a big problem with things drying out. I also pop the whole sandwich case into a lunch bag, which might help. I do remember a reader in dry Arizona who reported having a problem with bread drying out.

  19. @8 from Angela James: Good point on food safety for egg sandwiches, Angela James. I packed this lunch in an insulated lunch bag (the trusty Shinkansen one with zipper) and an ice pack so it wouldn’t spoil. I probably should have written that in the full post.. Something to keep in mind for future posts, anyway!

  20. @11 from Valerie: Wow, that IS a coincidence! Thanks for the feedback on size; I know it’s too big for Bug, but it’s good to know you’ve had good results with your 10-year-old.

  21. @13 from silverkeys: I got it from a tiny store in San Francisco (S&V Collections, info in the post above). Sorry not to have a good online source for you!

  22. @15 from Shana: Excellent creative idea to use the coated sheet from under smoked salmon as a reusable divider! I’ll have to try that out. Very frugal — I like it!

  23. @19 from vampyra1: I think you got ripped off if you didn’t get the pink bento band with it — mine came with one and it’s a good thing as it’s longer than my standard bento bands (to accommodate the larger box size). So sorry!

    As for making sandwiches fit, I’d say try using smaller bread (smaller sandwich loaves, or English muffins or mini bagels) or cutouts. Feel free to trim off crust to fit the box before making it, and maybe try fitting the sandwich bits in horizontally instead of vertically across the box…

  24. @20 from Karen: Nice idea to use lettuce as an edible liner for the sandwich cases! I’ve done this with bento boxes and maybe sandwich cases before, but it totally slipped my mind.

    Thanks for the shopping tip on where to find the Keroppi box in Richmond; this sort of thing would be a perfect comment to add to the store’s entry in the Bento Store Locator if you’re up to it.

  25. I have a similar two tier sandwich box, from ichiban kan- http://www.ichibankanusa.com/s.nl/it.A/id.3960/.f?sc=7&category=8550 I haven’t used it yet (I’m a little strange about making my own sandwiches, but egg salad sandwiches sound good!)

    I am going down to the south bay next weekend and trying to decide if I will be able to head into san jose for some shopping after the event.

  26. Hi everyone,
    I am always on the lookout for bentos and recently went to the Sanrio store at the Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, CA. They have several of this same bento box. It was about 10 days ago so call them before you go if you are near that mall and are looking for this same bento. I think it was less than $10.00 My children are not into sandwiches so I didn’t pick one up although I thought it was cute. I now own about 12 plus bento boxes for my 2 kids so I think I should stop buying more… Yikes! Thought I would pass on this info. for those of you in search of this particular one.

  27. That box is so cute! Plus, I love the idea! Normally, I just pack up a side car if I’m using a sandwich box.

    I’ve used Aluminum foil to line a sandwich box before. It was when I packed California rolls for lunch. It worked pretty well and I was able to put messy wasabi in the box and throw the insides away for easy cleanup(I was traveling).

  28. I have that bento box, too! Got it at a Sanrio store. Used it for the first time earlier this week. :) Fried rice on the bottom; grape tomatoes (with ranch), hard-boiled egg, string cheese, and a small pack of gummies on top. It was actually pretty filling. :)

  29. Won’t the bread become very dry in an open box like that? In Norway where I live very few people use the sliced, soft bread that lasts for weeks that you get in the States, maybe that’s why?

  30. Instead of lining the box, wrap the sandwich in the wax paper folded side down. Or wrap in a piece of fabric.

  31. I found this box today at the Bel/Red Uwajimiya in WA. They had 4 of them for $10. I was very tempted to buy it because of this post. But $10 is $10. :(

  32. I have the same lunchbox, and I noticed that the collapsible sandwich part is just the right size to fit three onigiri made in those typical triangular molds. The other nice thing is, you don’t have to worry about smushing your food, trying to pry it out of the box in which you packed it so snugly: to get the food out, you just disconnect the sides of the box. So it’s really nice for soft sandwiches like egg salad.

  33. I have a similar 2-tier sandwich bento, red with butterflies on it. (I love the Keroppi one, though! The Sanrio store around here doesn’t usually have lunch stuff.)

    I usually use it for a nice chicken salad sandwich. I like the larger Pepperidge Farms whole wheat breads, which seem to be a little drier breads. I actually like how the ventilation holes dry the bread a little, make it a little crusty on the outside and absolutely no sogginess from the chicken salad. I do keep it in a lunch bag, so it’s not exposed to open air. Since the bread I like is pretty large, I will sometimes slice into 3 sections, up and down, which makes a pretty presentation in the case. If I do a thicker sandwich, with lettuce and cheese, I will just slice it in half lengthwise and it fits just fine. Both ways keep the sandwich tight enough that it doesn’t fall apart, even standing up on end.

    I’m in Kansas, and in the summer it gets quite humid. Any sandwich in a plastic baggie can get pretty soggy by lunchtime. Winter air can be really dry, so if I put the case in a lunch bag, the bread doesn’t turn to rock.

  34. Ahhh that’s the cutest bento box ever and I need to have it! :) I’ve never seen a Sanrio store before (I live in NH), but I have seen Sanrio products at select stores. Any idea where else I can look?

  35. HELP!

    Hi,

    My work has just brought me in the US for 3 months (in the boston area) I was not able to take some Bento goodies with me (and to be honest, I was just thinking that could be a good excuse to buy some new ones here) but I am a bit lost. In which kind of store or brand can I find some? When I look on the Internet for bento, I found restaurant. The only address was for Kam Man Market but it is something like 90min buses from my places.
    Do you have some tips to save my sad lunches?

    Thanks,
    Fiquo

  36. This is the design I saw : http://www.ichibankanusa.com/s.nl;jsessionid=0a0101441f4320253eb6146b43c5877cbe8110c51192.e3eSc3uNaNuTe34Pa38Ta38Naxb0?it=A&id=3960&sc=7&category=8550 but I couldn’t find the site I saw it on, weird. And now I see Ichiban Kan had them… and I missed out! Boooo… I’m forever packing lidded containers into the sandwich box I have (since it’s huge), and then not collapsing afterwards. Must try the wax paper thing… will help with crumbs I think :)

    PS NYC weather is a bit odd admittedly, not dry or humid all the time, a mix, but I’ve had different results with my bread drying out in the sandwich case – only once has it done so, but I think that was the type of bread, not so much the weather.

  37. Genius! I love this double decker collapsible bento…I can see breakfast below (oatmeal w/fruit, bagel w/cream cheese and fruit on the side…)or frozen soup below w/ the bagel on top. Now, is it available w/out the graphics? I’m not sure my DH would like the Sanrio designs :)
    Love the dino sandwich cutter. I also have the heart shaped one. Easy to use and they make big impression at lunchtime with my little ones.

  38. OMG
    I love the keropi bento/collapsible sandwich case
    Where I live there’s no place near (closest one is 11 miles away) where to buy bento & bento accesories.
    I’m dying to get a bento/collapsible sandwhich box, and would absolutly die for the keropi one. Do you know any sites online that sell them? or anyone who might be thinking about selling?
    (I actually saw one online but was more appropriate for a 5 yr old. I’m lookin for a bigger one if possible

    Thanks.
    Long Time Reader

  39. I got mine at the Portland, Oregon area Uwajimaya, and I too did not get the elastic band, in fact, some of them didn’t even have the collapsible part. I had to search to find the one I knew went with the box. Now I don’t know how to keep the lid on :-(

  40. I can’t find these anywhere in Central US. :( Anyone know where I can buy them online?

  41. Sara:
    You can try making one yourself
    just buy some colored elastic (or plain white), and an iron-on applique or patch (like this one: http://www.laughinglizards.com/hippie-flower-iron-patch-applique-ll641-p-270.html?osCsid=f25610a188803073ede502096fcf17a0)

    sew the elastic together (measure around sandwich case/bento box so that it fits tight and does not slide) and just iron on your design!!
    i will try and make one and write a blog about it and let you know how it went
    t!

  42. Natalie:

    That is such a good idea, the applique’s and such. I will definitely try that.

  43. Biggie:

    Thanks for all the great posts
    and i recently got the pink collapsible sandwich/bento from Ichiban Kan (along with other bento supplies) and I love it! only wish it could be a little bit bigger for me!
    (also got the penguin mayo container, so so cute!!)

  44. I can’t believe those dividers are meant to be disposable. How wasteful! I always wash them and reuse them also.

  45. @56 from Tiffany: This week I saw (and picked up) some cute silicone dividers at Ichiban Kan. They’re more durable than the “disposable” kind that I wash and reuse.