Rule #1 - 3 Parts Vegetable, 2 Parts Protein, 2 Parts Carbohydrate, 1 Part Fruit
This is a departure from the typical 3:2:1 Carb, Veggie, Protein formula typically found in traditional Japanese bentos and I impose this rule mainly to ensure I consume enough vegetables to counteract the temptations that lurk around my office. I feel much better digestive wise when my meals are half fruits and veggies. BUT, I don't intend on weighing or even accurately measuring my portions to ensure the proper balance....I'm just going to play this by ear.
Rule #2 - All Items Must be Edible by Chopsticks or the Utensils Contained Within the Box
I am constantly on the go - 75% of the time I am eating lunch in the car or on a park bench outside of my next destination. I always carry a pair of bamboo chopsticks in my purse and cannot say the same for a fork and spoon. I have found (often through desperation) that I enjoy my food more if I eat each bite purposefully rather than in a mad dash with a fork or spoon.
Rule #3 - 75% Whole, Unprocessed Foods
Story of my life. Processed foods often contain hidden gluten and can completely wreck my evenings. The processed foods within my lunch are kept to a minimum by necessity and I take this as a challenge, not a punishment. Certain items are unavoidable (GF Soy Sauce, Ketchup, Tofu and very seldomly - Pop Chips.) Looking over my grocery bills from the past year, minimizing processed foods has cut my food costs by 20%....and if I did not splurge in the produce department, it might be close to 40%.
Rule #4 - Special Equipment Kept to a Minimum
Bento shopping can add up quickly. I splurged during my first trip to the local Japanese market and bought a real bento box, some onigiri molds and those cute little containers that hold liquidy sauces. However, anyone can bento with the equipment already found in your kitchen. This is the roughest rule for me to follow because it is all so adorable (and I may or may not have a few more items on order....)
Rule #5 - Time is of the Essence
I am not a morning person so every bento here will require 5 minutes or fewer in the morning.
Rule #6 - Nothing Goes to Waste
You will notice that I repeat ingredients frequently throughout the week...and this is intentional. If I find the most amazing strawberries at the farmer's market, you will see them in every box that week...and perhaps a few frozen ones the next week.