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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back To School Organizing Part 3: 5 Easy Steps To Packing School Lunches

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Hello there!
This week we are talking about Back To School Organizing and I am sharing strategies & ideas to help you get organized for the back to school season.
On Monday, we talked about Wardrobe Wrangling and getting that school wardrobe whipped into shape.
On Tuesday, we talked about Sorting Out School Supplies & Study Spaces.
Today, we are talking about the things that Moms dread the most....packing school lunches.
***
First off, if you are looking for lunches that are super cute or made into smiley animal characters...this is not what this post is about. Remember I said EASY people EASY!! lol. I want to share with you my 5 Easy Steps For Packing School Lunches.
My goal is to pack lunches which are healthy & economical for the food/grocery budget.
Over the last 11 years of packing lunches for school, I have come up with this formula which I stick to for sending my children to school with healthy, 'real food' lunches.
I try to avoid pre-packaged snacks as much as possible. For one, they are expensive to buy. Two-they are full of unhealthy ingredients {with the exception of yogurt, cheese strings, applesauce and a few others}. Three-they are not good for the environment with all the extra-packaging, etc.
So I use a lot of BPA-free plastic containers because they are recyclable.
It helps to have a lot of different sizes to use for different things.
And I can make our own pre-packaged lunch foods for the week!
Small sizes, in particular, are great for small servings & salad dressings.

1. Start with a Main Course.
A main course can be a sandwich.
Now, I am the first to admit that sandwiches can be horribly boring, but one thing that I find helps is if different types of breads are used....wraps, french baguette, rolls, or buns. I have a child who loves regular bread and I have a child who prefers french baguette or anything but regular bread, so I use both.
My daughter loves these new little buns that just came out this spring for her sandwiches:
So I make sandwiches for each child using his/her favorite...mainly because I want them to actually EAT their lunch. I usually make sandwiches for the next day while I am cooking dinner.
We have a local deli which has lunch meats without nitrates, so I buy lunch meats there.
I also like to use leftover turkey, chicken  & roast beef when we have it.
A main course can be soup in a thermos.
When the weather is cold, my kids love soup in a thermos. I like to use these sturdy stainless steel thermoses...they don't leach chemicals and they are indestructible.
 A main course can also be a salad
...like a pasta salad...with dressing that can be added before eating.
My daughter loves salad for lunch in the spring.



2. Add Fresh Veggies.
I add fresh veggies to my kids' lunches every day. I make up little containers of veggies at the beginning of the week so I only have to pop a container of veggies into the lunch each day.
I start with little containers:
My son likes his veggies with ranch dressing, so I add a little right into the bottom of the container:
 It looks like this:
And I add fresh veggies on top for our own little veggies & dip:

 My daughter likes her veggies as is:


3. Add Fresh Fruit.
Apple, bananas, grapes, nectarines, etc. They are all perfect for lunches. I often make up our own pre-packaged mixes of fresh fruit.These containers have a mix of pineapple, honeydew melon, cantaloupe and watermelon. It changes from week to week.
And if you are crazy busy and all this chopping of fresh fruit & veggies seems overwhelming, these are great helpers to use:

4. Add A Treat.
Yes...every lunch deserves a little treat. I try to keep treats homemade like cookies, brownies, rice crispy treats or muffins. I make the treats in batches, wrap in single servings and place in the freezer to pull out as needed. Here I have added a chocolate chip cookie to each child`s lunch.

Here you can see Hunter`s lunch with her sandwich, servings of fresh veggies & fruit in the orange containers, and her cookie. She likes her lunch in a small container that she can easily pop into her bag.
She is in High School and is not interested in carrying an actual lunch bag.
Here you can see Tyler`s mumbo jumbo sandwich with his containers of fruit & veggies and his cookie.

5. Add A Drink & A Napkin.
I always add 100% juice or milk and a napkin. If the napkin isn`t used, I put it back in the lunch the next day. I have used rubbermaid drink containers in the past and re-filled them each night, but these often got left outside at recess and lost, so I switched to juice boxes instead.

***
To make life really easy, you can prepackage the fruits & veggies for the entire week and keep them together in a container in the fridge.
I have been doing this for years and it makes lunch packing in the morning so much better!
 Here we are...healthy pre-packaged fresh food made at home.
***
Last winter I attended a ``Healthy Family Foods`` session at our local library which was organized by Public Health Nurses. It was brought up by the Nurses, who visit local area schools to teach about healthy foods, how pre-packaged foods are being over-used in children`s lunches...to the detriment of their health because they are not getting REAL food.
I so agree with this assessment. It makes me sad to visit my child`s class at lunch time and see what types of junk foods are being given to children for lunch...pop, chips, fruit roll-ups, pre-packaged cookies & treats of all kinds, ``healthy`` granola bars, etc.
I am not saying that I never give my children these things, but I do my best to really, really limit these things and stick to my formula!

Thanks so much for visiting me and make sure you come back tomorrow as I talk about organizing a School Launching & Landing Pad!

If you liked this post, you might like to check out these posts:
5 Easy Steps To Meal Planning
Active Kids & Healthy Snacks & Drinks
Feeding Kids Afterschool
10 Best Ways To Save Money On Groceries Without Couponing
Organizing A Kithen Into Zones
10 Best Camping Recipes & Tips

And these boards on Pinterest:
Organized Kitchens
Freezer Meal Ideas To Love
Back To School Ideas
Organized Mudrooms
Camping Recipes & Food Ideas
Cleaning Tips & Tricks

Thank you so much for visiting!
 




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back To School Organizing Part 2: Sorting Out School Supplies & Study Spaces...

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This week we are talking about BACK TO SCHOOL ORGANIZING!
And I am sharing with you some of the strategies I use in my home to keep things organized during the school year.
On Monday, we talked about Wardrobe Wrangling...how to get your children's wardrobes whipped into shape.
Today we are talking about Sorting Out School Supplies & Study Spaces.
***

The List. The List.
We all have that Back to School List of things our children will need to begin a new school year.
And right now, the supplies are all on sale at rock bottom prices...
which makes it a great time to stock up for the whole year, so when you child comes home saying that they need more______ or they can't find their____, you are not running out to a store and paying 3 times more for the price of the item than it was in August or September.
I always take advantage of the sales this time of year and stock up.
And I like to have a home for the these extra supplies so the kids and I are not running all over the house looking for something when we need it.
A few years ago I purchased a simple plastic storage tower with drawers to keep everything organized.
It stores new School Supplies as well as things that are perfectly good & can be used again.
I used the label maker to label each of the drawers.
It's like having a little store in your own home!
Very handy.





This set of handy dandy drawers is stored in the laundry room and the kids know where to look if they need anything.
On another shelf in the laundry room is a huge stack of loose leaf and binders that the kids can help themselves to when needed.
Although this storage solution works for our home, a simpler method like an under the bed box would work just as well...or a box in a closet.
The key is to keep these items together somewhere in your house.
***
Another project we tackle at back to school time is
Study Spaces.
My goal is to make sure that my children have comfortable spaces in which to do their homework.
And I also like for them to have choices...they can do homework at the kitchen table as I prepare dinner, or if they would like a quieter space with no distractions...they both have desks in their bedrooms.

My son is in Elementary School, so he prefers to do his homework at the kitchen table.
We have a Homework Caddy to move around to make a Homework Station at the kitchen table, or our games table in the family room in our basement.
The Homework Caddy is filled with goodies for homework like pencils, markers, glue, scissors, etc. I like it because it has a handle so it can be moved around easily from table to table. It's actually meant for silverware, and I use it in the summer for our camping trips.

Here is the Homework Caddy working in our games area in our family room in the basement.
Tyler likes to do homework here with Dad sometimes.
Part of getting ready for back to school is making sure that desks are clean & tidy with a lamp and pens & pencils, etc.
These spaces are not 'magazine styled' my friends...they are the real deal...exactly as my kids like their spaces!
My son's space is below...this is all he wants on his desk....and he loves his office chair.
 And the hazards of living in a 'hockey house'... what?, you mean your son doesn't have a life size poster of his favourite hockey player on the wall behind his desk? You are totally missing out!
{This sticker is called a "Fat Head". It was a gift to my son for Christmas, and this is where he wanted it to go! I am hoping to relocate it when I re-do his room.}
My daughter is starting High School this year. She doesn't like an office chair with her desk...she prefers an old wooden chair.
Remember in yesterday's post I told you about the ZEN-like feel my daughter has happening in her bedroom right now?
Behold the clutter free desk:
She also likes to study on her bed sometimes, so for that she has a lap desk:
So there you have it...some ideas on how to organize school supplies and study spaces.
I hope you found at least one idea that you can take away to use in your home!

And yesterday I promised you some 'eye candy' and this is what I wanted to share with you.
Take a look at these fabulous study spaces I found on the Canadian House & Home website.

How about this cool mirror & chair?
I love this vintage feel of this space. The wicker is a wonderful touch.
I adore the framed maps in this space.
This is a simple, but cozy corner.
And here is a fantastic eclectic feel.
  Come back & visit me tomorrow as share my 5 easy steps to packing school lunches!

Thanks so much for visiting me!


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