Making extra food at dinner and saving it for packed lunches is a handy way to speed up lunch prep. Think about the size of what you’re making; can you make miniature versions that would fit nicely into a bento box, like shepherd’s pie?
Today’s lunches both use leftover mini-hamburgers that I had my husband grill at the same time as he grilled the rest of our burgers for dinner. You can take the same burger leftovers in different directions: a traditional cheeseburger, or a lower-carb version with cut-up burgers. I’ve also had tiny appetizer burgers on golf ball-sized buns, secured with a toothpick, that would be the perfect size for a bento lunch. Get creative!
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Mini cheeseburger with cheddar cheese in pita bread, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, kiwifruit, and cherry tomatoes.
Morning prep time: 5 minutes, using a leftover mini-burger, onions and mushrooms. In the morning I briefly warmed the burger in the microwave to revive the texture, cut the kiwi, and packed the lunch. A quickie. If you don’t have entire cooked burgers already made up, break off a square of ground meat that you’ve frozen in individual portions, thaw it out, and quickly pan-fry it. (Read on for packing details and an additional burger lunch with inarizushi stuffed sushi.)
Packing: I used reusable silicone baking cups to separate the savory vegetables from the sweet fruit. The kiwifruit is cut into eighths, and I threw in a little food pick from Daiso to make eating easier for little hands. For the burger, I cut a whole pita bread round into quarters, added a triangle of sliced cheddar cheese, and cut the mini-burger in half horizontally so it would fit into the pita comfortably. The whole lunch is packed in a 450ml Disney Cars bento box with a removable subdivider.
Verdict: Home run! Bug ate the entire lunch at preschool and didn’t leave anything.
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Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Inarizushi (sushi rice stuffed into pre-packaged abura-age seasoned tofu wrappers), hamburger patty with ketchup, mini carrots, grapes and blueberries.
Morning prep time: 8 minutes, using leftover inarizushi and hamburger, and a pre-filled sauce container of ketchup. In the morning I briefly microwaved the refrigerated inarizushi and hamburger to restore the texture, and cut up the burger. You can also make inarizushi in advance, wrapping and freezing the inarizushi for speedy lunch prep.
Packing: I put the burger into a reusable silicone baking cup to keep it away from the fruit and vegetables, and threw in a little food pick for easy eating. The ketchup went into a little squeeze bottle with a tomato-shaped flip top. The whole lunch is packed in a 415ml two-tier Hakoya bento box that I picked up at Kamei on the cheap in San Francisco. When Bug was finished eating, he turned the empty top tier over and nested it down inside the larger bottom tier to save room in his lunch bag.
Verdict: Good except for the carrots; Bug ate everything else but left two of the carrots, saying they were two hard. Dunno why, he ate a pile of them raw just a few days prior.
- Inarizushi with toppings and cooking/freezing tips
- Miniature Shepherd’s pie lunches
- Lunch in a Box reader forum about bento and packed lunches
- Bento FAQ and Biggie’s list of top speed tips, tutorials and reviews