Unpopular opinion: bento lunchboxes are the greatest waste of money ever

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Marketing machines are evil. They prey on our parent guilt or, even worse, our parent aspirations, and they make us think we need things that we really, truly don't.

We are weak and defenceless against their suggestions that our children would definitely have a higher IQ and be better socially adjusted if we just bought this one key thing.

Case in point today: bento box lunchboxes.

Bento box lunchboxes are an evil conspiracy, because not only do lunchbox companies want us to invest in their fancy-pants lunchboxes (you can get a personalised one online for the bargain price of $59.95), but there are also throngs of parenting bloggers sharing their 27 favourite bento box lunch ideas.

Those ideas range from the pleasantly rustic – such as sandwiches cut up into tiny fingers – to intricate and laughable – I'm sorry, but exactly zero parents are spending their school mornings creating frog faces out of cucumber skin and egg whites. 

And look, if you love bento box lunchboxes for your little raindrop, then you do you. But I've been packing school lunches now for 11 years – and I still have quite a few ahead of me, and I've come to understand one simple truth about children when they're at school.

They just want to throw something in their mouth and then go play.

That's it. They don't stop to appreciate the artistry of your creations, and they certainly don't want to spend their time pulling honey soy tofu off skewers with little hearts on the end.  

Sure, they may appreciate the reminder that you love them on that little post-it note you popped in there, but that's about it.

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How do I know this? Because I've tried it. Okay, not the frog face, and the tofu skewers, but I tried filling all those little square boxes with different treats because I thought it might be fun. 

It was not.

Now my three kids take the same thing every day. It's literally the most boring lunch possible: a Vegemite sandwich, an apple, and a packet of something salty like pretzels or seaweed crackers. Sometimes, when my youngest is feeling fancy, she might take a yoghurt.

I've asked them if they want something else. I've asked them if they get bored. 

Their answer: "nah". They just don't care.

Because kids have stuff to do and places to be. They've got soccer on the oval, books to return to the library, drama club to get to. They don't want to think about lunch, they just want to have eaten it.

So when it comes time to replace my children's lunchboxes each year (does anyone's ever last longer than that?), I'm the parent buying those cheapies from the supermarket that have just one big section for everything. 

And maybe a freezable water bottle because we live in Queensland and a sweaty Vegemite sandwich is not okay.

Those bento box parents clearly have more time on their hands than I do, and either their children aren't as busy as mine, or they're throwing half of their lunch in the bin.