Thinking Outside the {Bento} Box for Meal Time


woman, mother, girl, daughter, cooking, kitchenWe know that it can be easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to feeding our families. When you are contending with picky eaters, time constraints, and sleep deprivation, meal planning and food prep can often feel overwhelming. The BVTMB team along with our sponsor, Healthy Living, is here to provide some fresh perspective and inspiration in the kitchen! From meal ideas to how to feed those picky eaters, we are excited to talk about all things food these next few weeks in our “Growing Up Gourmet, Beyond the PB&J” series.

Thinking Outside the {Bento} Box for Meal Time

Bento box

When it comes to feeding my 3-year old daughter, Charlotte, I have two things working against me: One, like many kids her age, she’s a picky eater. Two, on a tight budget, I can’t afford to be constantly experimenting with food choices for my finicky kid.

Nothing will make me count beans faster than seeing her take only two bites out of a meal and leave the rest untouched. I have tried a number of ways to get her to eat.

I would tell her that those yummy green beans want to go to the party in her tummy!! (Thanks! Yo Gabba Gabba) but this approach only worked a handful of times.

It turns out, according to my daughter; only jelly beans want to party in her tummy.

I tried the nonchalant approach.

“Oh this . . .this is just food. Go ahead and eat it. Or not. No big deal. Mommy could care less,” as I hid behind the kitchen doorway praying for her to eat. All of my tricks faded away and left me full of leftovers and growling at the bank.

After a particularly frustrating day, I vented to my husband and started looking inward. What was it about my own issues around food that made my daughter so picky. He said,“ Hun, you HATE when your food touches. Also, you make it a pretty big deal when you don’t like something. Also, YOU have issues with trying new things, so it’s no surprise she does as well.”

Well-served my good man like mother, like daughter. No seconds for me.

It was time for a better plan. So, I decided to literally think outside of the box.

I am in love with Japanese bento boxes where each food has its own section.  Genius! Charlotte’s food simply needs to be fun, organized, and compartmentalized.   

cupcake tin food

I didn’t have a fancy bento box, but I did have an ordinary cupcake tin. Then I added fun cupcake holders with designs on them like robots, owls, and things a three-year old might find appealing.

cupcake liners

When we go the grocery store, I let Charlotte pick out her favorite fruits and veggies, snacks, cheeses and meats. Then at meal time, sometimes, she helps me put it together and sometimes I surprise her. It’s all in the presentation, no matter the food.

cupcake tin food 2

And when I present it to her, I make it a really special event. IT’S YOUR SUPER AWESOME AMAZING LUNCH!!!! She freaks out. NKOTB reunion kind of freak out! Well, that’s how I feel after I see the empty cupcake tins at the end of her meal. 

woman, mother, girl, daughter, cooking, kitchen

Written by Erika Will

Erika bio picErika is a California native who moved to Vermont in 2006. She is raising her 2 daughters with her husband in the great Green Mountain state. She is a former makeup artist and cosmetology instructor who is now a SAHM to her 3 year old and 7 week old girls. She enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters exploring Vermont, taking road trips, and discovering all the amazing food this state has to offer. 


  1. I love this. It’s exactly how my girls love to eat… Fresh, mostly raw in neatly little piles. Great. BUT…now my oldest is almost 6 and she WILL NOT eat foods like…lasagna, chicken pot pie, stir fry…foods that are cooked together. Add some kind of sauce – forget it! Thoughts??


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