Fresh “Bento” Boxes: Portable Meal Ideas for Summer

Ahh, summer – the long, blissful days of sunshine and warm nights, with extra time to spend together with our kids! I love summer, yet I’m always smacked by the reality of how much time I spend preparing food on the days my kids are home. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks galore – and the kitchen is, unfortunately, not yet showing any signs of cleaning up after itself.

I try to find ways to bring joy into the process of meal prep (and clean-up), and planning for picnics and meals away from the house is a great way to add variety and make meals feel fun again. We have a little picnic table on our front porch, and my kids love to tuck into that and eat outside. We also keep an easily wipeable picnic blanket (that folds up and has a carrying strap!) in the car, which is always an enjoyable way to transform an outing to the playground or to downtown.

I spent time researching bento boxes a year ago, when my kids were first needing to cart their lunches to school, and while I loved their convenience and portability, I was not willing to invest the funds in the “official” bento boxes at that point in time. Instead, I went with these sturdy containers with built-in cups and dividers. Our family of four has used these four containers daily for the past year and they still look as good as new! And, with the school year now over I can say that no pieces were left behind or thrown away, which is an absolute win in my Mom Book.

If you’re like me, you did a victory dance on the last day of packing lunches for the school year, so I really needed a creative reboot for our summer picnic-meal planning. Here are four fresh combos to boost your family’s eating-on-the-go vibes! Just add a box or four to your cooler bag, grab your picnic blanket, and you’re ready for the perfect meal away from home.

Box #1:

  • Salami, colby (cut in shapes, if you’re crafty. Cut in half if you’re not.)
  • Crackers or pita wedges
  • Grapes, halved or quartered depending on child’s age
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Yogurt raisins

Box #2:

  • Cucumber and cream cheese tortilla roll-up halved
  • Strawberries stemmed and quartered
  • Baby carrots, sliced depending on child’s age
  • Snap pea crisps

Box #3:

  • Jelly and salted butter sandwiches halved
  • Cheese puffs
  • Mini bell peppers, de-stemmed and seeded
  • Halved cherry tomatoes, salted
  • Guacamole cup for dipping

Box #4:

  • Hard boiled egg, halved and salted
  • Cold cooked pasta (with olive oil and salt)
  • Sliced apples, sprinkled with cinnamon
  • Graham cookies

The best part about these combos is that they are absolutely adult-friendly, too! The day I made these sample boxes I made extras for our family’s upcoming road trip. My husband devoured it all and especially enjoyed the cucumber and cream cheese tortilla roll-up.

What are your family’s favorite picnic combos? We’d love to hear!


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