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Posted on Sep 11, 2007 in Equipment, Parent Hacks, Shopping, Tips, Tutorial or How-to | 33 comments

Cheap boxes at The Dollar Tree and customizing

Cheap boxes at The Dollar Tree and customizing


How-to: Custom Mayo Cup
Originally uploaded by pkoceres

Evidently there’s a selection of US$1 bento boxes for sale now at The Dollar Tree, a U.S.-based chain of dollar stores (the Dollar Tree website has a store locater in the upper right hand corner). Part of a back-to-school push, they’ve got two-tier and one-tier boxes with movable dividers (click for photos of the Dollar Tree bento gear).

They all have Hello Kitty logos on them — which is great if you’re into it, not so much if you’re not. If you’d rather have a plain box, buyers say that the logo scratches off pretty easily if you try. If you’d rather have a customized box, Flickr user pkoceres has created a how-to guide to replacing bento gear logos with custom stickers that will stand up to washing. Check it out, as well as her incredible bento food art on pkoceres’ Flickr photostream.

(Edited to Add: Crafty reader Anna on the Moon recommends a different method of customizing bento gear in her detailed comment. Thanks, Anna!)



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  1. I’ve been pretty excited because the giagantic Korean market that just opened by me has a huge selection of Lock and Lock boxes! Maybe I’ll head over to dollar tree, too - can’t beat $1.

  2. The local $1 store has the 2 tier and the one with the divider, along with a water bottle that is not insulated. The local big lots has the plates and bowls and the one with the lid and a few sizes of cups for $1 also. They have a Mexican insulated lunch container with 3 tiers that slide inside, 2 square and 1 round at Big Lots as well.
    I was so excited to see these boxes at $ tree. They are left overs from 2005. If anyone finds any little mayo cups or the like at a $1 store let us know. The local Asian store only has HUGE family size Bento. My kids are not into character boxes But I teach 3 yr olds and love the themed boxes.
    Thanks for all the tips Biggie!

  3. Oooh! Great info! I think we have a Dollar Tree around here somewhere. I think I may take a little walkabout this afternoon to see if I can find anything.

  4. Just got back from my Dollar Tree, they don’t have any. :( I was just there a couple days ago, too, so I know they didn’t just run out. Oh well, I was really hoping to get a Hello Kitty for my 3yo. She loves her. I guess I’ll have to pay the big online prices. :)

  5. I called the Dollar Trees near me, and they don’t have the Hello Kitty bento. The manager said to check back a couple of times because each district can get things at a different time.

  6. Well, I scored big time. My Dollar Store has three different Hello Kitty styles in kelly green and light blue. I got a single tier snap-close box with no divider, a single tier box with an unmovable divider and a little fork in a slide open container on the lid, and a two tier “traditional” bento box. Woohoo! Alas, no mayo containers but I’m thrilled with my three dollar purchase. They did have a couple of different water bottles but I didn’t get any of those.

  7. I saw the Hello Kitty boxes at Ross, so you might want to try there, too.

  8. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way. Especially if the box has a domed lid - no matter how carefully you place a sticker and tape onto a domed lid, there will always be some kind of crease created on it. Plus, I think packing tape would look bad/too shiny and it can pick up fingerprints and get gross looking easily. also, as much as people want to say packing tape is waterproof - it’s actually not. If you submerse your bento into water and leave it to “soak” or anything like that, water WILL get under the tape and ruin your sticker, and tape also can lose it’s stickiness if water gets under it. Then again, I’m a crafting kind of person.

    My way of personalizing would be to take paint pens or sharpies and create your design, stencil your design, or even use rub-ons or mod podge on an image (you could use a sticker, but only if the bento box has a FLAT lid). Wait til the design you make dries and then coat it in several thin layers of clear, non-toxic crafting varnish. The varnish takes about 30 minutes to dry between each later, and I’d apply at least two (more layers if it’s for a child or if you tend to knock your box around in your bag). Then, the lid will be waterproof and it won’t get that sticker/tape bumpy look to it. If for some reason you can’t get an original logo off a box, you can always pick up spray paint and give the box lid 2-3 coats of spray paint before adding your design, but then remember to paint over the entire lid with the varnish, or your paint could rub off over time.

    After you give your item a final coat of varnish, let it dry overnight before using it. Mod Podge could be substituted for varnish in a pinch, but then you would need to apply many more layers.

  9. @1 from Meredith: I’m a big Lock & Lock fan — they really stand up to my tough treatment. Can’t really beat $1, though!

  10. @8 from AnnaOnTheMoon: Thanks so much for cross-posting your comment from the LiveJournal Bentolunch community! Very helpful as I’m not a crafty person — beyond my knowledge base. I edited the blog entry to call your comment out.

  11. Thanks for the tip, I got a couple of the two tier right as they were taking them off the shelves to make room for the Halloween products.

  12. I got the 2 tier one at the dollar tree but i didn’t see any of the ones with the movable dividers :( anyways, what a great find!! thanks :)

  13. Thanks so much for the tip. I headed right over to my local Dollar Tree and bought three two tier bentos. Big lots had the plates and and double handled bowls with lids, among many other things.

    Dollar Tree also had adorable flip top drink bottles with a carry strap.

    I was so excited!

  14. @11 from Courtney: Wow, I guess this entry was very ‘nick of time’ then — good info that they’re changing inventory and taking the boxes down for Halloween. Thanks for the heads up!

  15. @12 from girlrobot: Glad you were able to find the two-tiers! Too bad about the single-tiers, though.

  16. @13 from Samantha: Oh, I’m glad they still had them after reading that they’re starting to change out inventory!

  17. @4 from Monica: Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t find any, Monica! I’m kicking myself for not posting this earlier…

  18. @2 from Viki: Ah, Big Lots! Another good source — I should go there more often to scope out the inventory.

  19. @5 from Jenn: I’m disappointed for you that they were out of the boxes (and now am sorry I didn’t post this entry earlier…)

  20. @7 from gingerpeach: Ross! Ah, of course! Who would have known that these boxes were so widely available at good, cheap stores?

  21. @6 from Beanbean: SCORE! Man, $1 is so the right price for everyday bento boxes — I’m glad you were able to find them.

  22. IF at first you don’t succeed try to shop again! Evidently $ stores pack up stuff that doesn’t sell out in one area and send it to another store in the chain.
    2 weeks ago, I bought the one tier. Last week I bought the 2 tier. Maybe tomorrow they’ll have the one tier with the fork?
    Of course very few people that work at $tree have any idea what these little plastic boxes are. They also move stuff around a lot. So check over in the area with the coffee cups and plastic glasses or the tupperware type container areas.

    Oh and my first day of teaching for the year was yesterday. I took a bento of course. One of my kids is asian this year, he had shrimp and peaches and blueberries for lunch.

  23. @22 from Viki: Good info about Dollar Tree inventory — I wasn’t aware that’s what they did. Shrimp, peaches & blueberries? Sounds delicious!

  24. Thanks for the tip!
    I picked up a bunch of the boxes at the local Dollar tree. What a deal!

    I also found a Hello Kitty box with a tray at Ross on the clearance rack. There was no price and I ended up getting it for 49 cents.

  25. @24 from Kaits: Ah, Ross again! Good tip for folks whose Dollar Tree stores are out of the bento boxes.

  26. Thanks!! I got two 2-tier hellokitty from $Tree..


  27. @26 from smks: Excellent! Glad to hear you found some.

  28. Thanks for the lead! I can’t believe my local St Louis $Tree had these. I got the two tier in pink and blue, the single in green and blue and the water bottle.

  29. Oops. Just looked at the photos again. The water bottle I got is different. It’s more of a thermos with a strap, but definitely not for hot things.

  30. @28 from Devil’s Lunchbox: Great news — I’m so pleased that people are able to find these cheap all across the States.

  31. My local Dollar Tree only had these, (sans dividers) but having two wonderful new Hello Kitty boxen for a buck each makes me perfectly happy. ^_^

  32. @32 from chaobell: That’s great — having some super-cheap boxes gives a wonderful feeling of plenty (i.e. if there’s an accident and one tier gets lost or damaged, no big deal — it’s not like you spent $20 plus shipping on it).

  33. can u make bento box