Since my boy has started schooling, I have been making lunchbox for him to enjoy during his recess time. I have totally no idea what to do and like everyone else, I turned to the Internet for help. Just typing in bento or lunch box ideas, you will get swarmed with tons and tons of beautiful pictures. It’s so tempting to make all of them. Don’t you think?
It’s easy to find ideas but how about maintaining and making sure your food is safe for your child to eat. I started to get stressed over this instead of what to prepare and did some research. After researching on food safety, I realized these are the basic 5 precautionary steps we need to take note of. If you follow these 5 steps, the precious food that you have spent your precious time to prepare should potentially be safe to tuck in.
Step 1: Clean hands, utensils, and equipment/tools
Make sure all your utensils and equipment that you used for making your lunch boxes are thoroughly washed and cleaned. Not forgetting your hands too! This may sound really simple and easy but waking up in the wee hours preparing lunch boxes can make one’s mind unfocus and hazy.
Step 2: Fully cooked food and fully cooled down food before packing (unless you are using thermal container)
Make sure your food is fully, 100% cooked! No uncooked or undercooked food. Thoroughly cooked food destroy the bacteria or microorganisms. This is particularly important when you are dealing with meat, fish, and even vegetable proteins e.g. tofu.
If you are reheating food, please use a pan instead of the microwave because bacteria or microorganisms are usually formed on the surface. Using a pan will kill all of them immediately.
Avoid undercooked meat/proteins e.g. tofu that is undercooked is not safe. It is best avoided especially under our hot and humid weather as it will breed uninviting little things on your food. Tofu especially turned bad rather easily and quickly. Do take note of this when you are preparing tofu in the lunch boxes.
Packing pre-made salads is fine to have it packed directly from the fridge. But, please remember, DO NOT pack food that is more than 3 days old. I don’t even pack food that are 2 days old! When you are in any slightest doubt about the food, heat it thoroughly and cool it down thoroughly before packing otherwise chuck it away!
Step 3: Use freshly cooked rice or frozen rice
Understand that all, if not most, of our children are in the morning session and you have very limited to cook the rice and prepare the dishes all at the same time. It’s so tempting to cook the rice the day before or even days before so that you can ration and prepare few days of lunch boxes for your child. Be warned! Plain rice can actually go bad pretty fast since it is extremely moist and bacteria love love love to grow in this kind of warm moist environment.
Try to prepare it fresh on the day. Best if you have a rice cooker with a timer, make use of that! If time is really an issue and you really need to cook rice the day before then make sure it is wrapped up completely before storing in the refrigerator. Or if you want to prepare cooked rice days before and ration it for few days then it is best that you freeze it. When you use the frozen rice, just make sure you heat it up completely in the microwave or by steaming, and let it cool down completely before packing.
Step 4: To keep foods longer and fresher
Salt and vinegar are preservers: food that you put salt in is not just for flavor, it is also to keep the food fresher for a longer period of time.
Sugar act as a preservative as well, but do use it in small quantity because you don’t want a hyperactive child later on and get a call from the teacher.
Salty or vinegary foods keep longer than foods with little or no seasoning.
Step 5: Try not to over-handle the food
Bentos are really cute and pretty and it helps to entice your child to eat too. But do note that too much handling of the food using hands, can be really dangerous. Those bento experts always use tools to doll up their bento NOT hands. Remember that!
Always remember to practice food safety and enjoy your food!
Hope this little tips helped and if you are still wondering what should or should not be done, do feel free to comment or drop me a message. I’ll be sharing our bento/lunch box ideas next…do stay tuned!