The bento pictured here is a good example of what I pack most days. The lower, shallower tier contains two halves of a fried macaroni and cheese ball, and two frozen chicken nugget balls. The macaroni and cheese was left over from the previous night’s Cheesecake Factory takeout, and the chicken nuggets are Ian’s brand. It turns out neither Alex nor Tyler cared for the Ian’s chicken nuggets so I’ll have to find another brand that uses organic chicken. (Any suggestions would be appreciated.) I packed the chicken nuggets in a doubled paper cupcake liner to keep them separated from the mac and cheese.
The upper, larger tier contains two silicone cupcake liners with organic grapes, and a Trader Joe’s vanilla wafer. There are probably a couple of Trader Joe’s animal crackers tucked under the wafer, but it’s hard to tell from the picture. I would prefer to pack a fruit and a vegetable, or even two different types of fruit, but Alex in particular has rejected just about everything I offer lately. I would have used a silicone liner in the bottom tier for the nuggets, but the container is too shallow and it’s easier to crush the paper ones down.
I get a lot of great tips on packing lunches from Biggie at Lunch in a Box, which is where I learned to use the silicone cupcake holders as separators. I use them almost every day no matter what I’m packing. Biggie also turned me onto Ichibankan, a discount Japanese store that sells lots of bento gear at very reasonable prices. They have a varied selection of two-tier bento boxes, as well as other supplies like sauce containers and picks. If you’re looking for bento gear, you may also want to check out Biggie’s Bento Store Locator to see if there’s some place local where you can pick some things up.