When I first discovered the art of bento packing, I wanted to give it a try but I didn't have any real bento boxes or accessories. So, I made my lunches in tupperware or the Fit and Fresh boxes that I already had. I used disposable cupcake cups (which I still use in almost every lunch) and regular toothpicks. Soon, I discovered that a lot of regular stores have items that are perfect for bento packing.
First, Michael's Crafts, or any craft store that has a baking section. The Michael's near me has an aisle of Wilton cake products which includes mini fondant cookie cutters and decorative picks.
Next is the party store. I have several different party stores near me and they are great for disposable items like wet naps, takeout containers (for days when you want something disposable), silicon baking cups, paper baking cups, and character napkins. I have amassed a silly collection of Harry Potter, Hello Kitty, Happy Bunny... etc. napkins. Plus, they are usually very inexpensive.
But my absolute favorite find is from the outdoors store EMS. I pack a lot of salads for my lunches, even on my non-bento days, and had a hell of a time finding a good salad dressing container. The small tupperwares were too big, the bento sauce bottles too small. Plus, a lot of containers I tried leaked, or I spilled them while popping the top off (I'm really clumsy). When I discovered these mini Nalgene bottles in the camp kitchen section of EMS I nearly cried:
I believe I got the 1/2 oz and 1 oz containers. The 1/2 oz is great for vinegarettes on a bento-sized salad (about one full 500 ml box). The 1 oz container is good for creamy dressings because it has a larger mouth, or other condiments like ketchup, but doesn't fit easily into shallow bento boxes. They cost between $0.75 - $1.50 depending on what size you get.
The other fantastic item I found at EMS are these neat sporks:
Now, these are a little big for small lunches, but I usually pack a pretty large bag with my breakfast, lunch, and snacks for a full day at work. I tuck one of these sporks in, and no matter what I am eating, I know I have the right silverware. It is hard to tell in this photo, but one side of the fork side is a serrated knife. Of course, if I am packing something like sushi, I have to remember to pack the chopsticks, so I keep an extra set at my desk in case I forget. These are just a few examples. EMS, and I am sure your local camping store, have a lot of products designed to make cooking at a campsite, or eating on a hike, easier. This means that they are compact and durable.
I'm not affilated with EMS or Michael's Crafts. I linked the Fit and Fresh boxes to Amazon.com to which I am an "associate." FYI
So I am wondering what other bento gems are hidden away at our regular shopping spots. Any suggestions?