Sunday, November 23, 2014

School Lunch Ideas

This year I have two in school and they both take their lunch every day.  My youngest daughter is my picky eater so I have had to get a little creative when it comes to packing lunches.  I do not like to spend my evenings on this task so I came up with a list of things my girls will eat and have it on the side of our fridge so I can get some quick ideas.  Here's some things we pack...

Homemade lunchables:
1.       Pizza-open up a whole grain English muffin, put sauce on both sides and put the two sides back together.  Pack shredded cheese and small turkey pepperonis for them to add to pizza at lunch time (at lunch take the English muffin apart and have two small pizzas, sprinkle cheese and pepperonis on each half)

2.       Crackers sandwiches-whole wheat round crackers, lunch meat torn into small pieces, and cheese slices torn into small pieces.  

I love using these silicon muffin cups for packing several things in one container.
 Bagels-My girls prefer the smaller bagels and they like cream cheese or butter on them.  Or you could make sandwiches using them instead of sliced bread.

-pizza (put pepperoni and melt cheese then wrap up. Can add a side of marinara                                      sauce for dipping)
-pretty much anything you would make a sandwich out of you can make into a wrap                                    (pb&j, turkey, ham & cheese, etc)

Greek yogurt-add honey or fruit or granola

Greek yogurt with honey on top, granola on the side to mix in at lunch time.
Fruit kabobs-make a pattern of fruit on a skewer (grapes, blueberries, pineapple, clementine slice, strawberries, etc) You can add cheese cubes too.

Leftovers from dinner-if its something that needs to stay warm, use the containers that will keep food warm/cold for several hours 

Soup-use stay warm containers and pack with crackers or corn muffin

Tuna-mix some mayo, mustard, salt and pepper and send with crackers (put in stay warm/cold container)

Waffle Sandwich-heat up two whole grain waffles and put PB or Nutella if school is PB free, cream cheese, or almond butter, (my younger daughter loves pumpkin butter on hers) between the two waffles to make a sandwich

English Muffin-I like to get the seasonal flavors when they have them or whole wheat when they don't and add cream cheese (plain or flavored).  Sometimes, instead of cream cheese, I will do a pb&j or lunchmeat sandwich.
Whole wheat English muffin with pumpkin cream cheese

Roll-ups-Take a slice of lunch meat and a slice of cheese and roll them up together (might need to hold together with a toothpick)

Quesadilla Strips-Take a whole grain flour tortilla, sprinkle shredded cheese on it, heat in microwave (until cheese is melted-30ish seconds), fold tortilla in half then cut folded tortilla into smaller strips.  Send salsa or sour cream to dip strips in.

Italian Pasta-Take whole grain, cooked noodles and pour Italian dressing on, mix well.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.  Take in a stay warm/cold container.

Mac and Cheese-serve in a stay warm/cold container(my girls love a can of tuna mixed in)

Crackers-Whole wheat round crackers with a spoonful of pb in the middle.  Make sure you know if your child's cafeteria is peanut-free before sending these!

Favorite lunch side items/school snacks:
-granola bar
-small bagel
-Pirates Booty
-Babybel cheese, cheese sticks/bars/cubes
-cereal mix (1-2 cereals, maybe add in some raisins)
-fruit (apple, clementine, pear, container of grapes, strawberries, pineapple)
-squeezable applesauce
-pretzels (w/ or w/o hummus to dip)
-Go-gurt (stick in the freezer overnight & it will thaw by lunch time)
-homemade muffin (pumpkin is my kids' favorite, here's the recipe)
-Fig bars (we love these! Costco carries them.)

**My girls are not sandwich lovers so when I do pack a sandwich (and sometimes do this to waffle sandwiches, too) I cut them with a cookie cutter to make sandwich into a fun shape. My girls love it (and I don't hear "Mom why did you pack me a sandwich?" when they get home in the afternoons!)
**You don’t always have to pack a “Main Dish.”  Sometimes we just pack several “sides” (applesauce, homemade muffin, cheese stick, yogurt, apple, granola bar, veggies w/ ranch, pretzels, etc)

I hope some of these ideas help you and if you have any good ones, I'd love to hear...I'm always looking to add to my list!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Freezer Cooking: new tips and links

For those of you who have followed along for a while, you know I have loved doing freezer cooking in the past. Well recently (with the start of the new school year) I got back into it. Since it'd been about a year since I had done this regularly, I decided to stick with my old favorite recipes.  But I have already started searching for some recipes to try next time.  

For those of you new to this, check out a previous post I did on Freezer Cooking Tips! And I have some new ones for you below...

1.  Try swapping meals.  Find a friend or family member who likes to or wants to try Freezer Meals.  I tried this out for the first time recently and it was a great way to switch things up.  I made 14 meals (each recipe makes two meals worth) and swapped with someone and ended up with 28 different meals in my freezer...enough to last my family for more than a month.

2.  Buy bulk bags of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the meals that call for chicken.

3.  Let your kids help.  This was the first time I have had one of my kids help with preparing meals.  My almost 8 year old daughter and I had a blast doing this together.  Even for those of you with slightly younger kids, letting them pour some of the ingredients in the bags lets them feel important.  And I have found that when my kids help with dinner, they are less likely to complain about it. 

4.  I like to do all my grocery shopping for meal ingredients in one big trip.  Saves time and gas and money.  And don't go food shopping when you're'll end up spending money on things not on your list-I know from experience ;)

5.  Know your crockpot.  Mine cooks very fast so I learned (the hard way) that it won't take 8 hours for mine to cook any meal.  If you aren't sure how fast or slow your crockpot settings cook, you might want to try a meal out on a weekend or day you're at home so you can be there to keep an eye on it.

6.  There are different containers to store your freezer meals in but my favorite way is with gallon size freezer bags.  They are easier to get all the air out of when you are sealing it up and they take up less room in the freezer.  Some meals, like the ones you will put in the oven, need to be stored in a different type container.  Since you can squeeze all the air out of these containers, make sure you seal them up tightly. 

7.  Clean your freezer out before you start preparing meals.  I got rid of bulky boxes I had in my freezer (that waffles, black bean burgers, etc come in) and put those things in freezer bags.  Just doing this (and tossing a few things that had been pushed to the back and forgotten about) made a huge difference in the room I had in my small freezer!
I didn't think there was any way to fit all these meals into my freezer...amazing what a little reorganizing can do!

8.  Organize your recipes!  I found the easiest way to do this was print off the recipe when I find one I like (either by using the print button on the website or copy/paste into a Word document) and then putting them into the clear plastic page protectors and sticking those into a binder.  I have organized my binder by chicken, beef, pasta, sandwiches, soups, etc so all the recipes are easy to find.  And printing them out lets me make my own notes (such as family favorite, or perfect for when company comes, or even side dishes that go great with them) on each recipe.

Here's a list of some of the sites where I have found great recipes...

Or if you are looking for something in particular (breakfast freezer meals, gluten free freezer meals, etc.) head on over to Pinterest for lots of ideas!!  

More to come soon...Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Blessing of Being a Single Mom

I never thought I'd hear myself referred to as a "single mom" but here I am, going on almost 2 years of that title under my belt...and it's been a huge blessing to my life!  What??? you ask, how can that be a blessing?

The old me...
I used to be one of those "everything has to be perfect" children's outfits had to match or at least coordinate, they had to have cute themed birthday parties every year, I had to say yes to help out/volunteer/organize every class party, team get together, play date, and so on. But since becoming a single mom, I've realized I can not do it all and yet miraculously the world still goes round! 

Me now...
Hand me down clothes are my favorite, my kids get a cake and special family meal for their birthdays, and more importantly I've learned to say no sometimes.  I get frequent comments on how exhausting it must be to be a single parent and carry it all on my shoulders.  But I'd rather be in my shoes than have unrealistic expectations and always demand way too much of that's exhausting!  Yes, there's a lot on my shoulders but I get to pick and chose what it is I really want to "carry."  Being a single mom has helped me appreciate what I do have rather than focus on what I don't. I thank God for my blessings and my struggles every single day instead of constantly asking Him "Why me?"  

So fellow mamas, here's what I'm trying to say...
Stop being so hard on yourselves!  Let your kids pick out their clothes occasionally (even if your 2 year old son insists on wearing his sister's gold sparkly church shoes-true story), eat cereal for dinner every once in a while (we just did the other day), forget those Pinterest-perfect birthday parties, learn to say no and not feel bad about it and most importantly go easy on yourselves...there's not a single one of us who is perfect...let's lift each other up, laugh at our mistakes, share our stories, and praise God for allowing us to be mothers-single or not!

Monday, September 8, 2014 it!

Finding time to do it-You might be thinking..."I don't have time to fit exercise into my already busy schedule." Maybe you can't workout for an hour every single day and that's ok. Try 30 minutes 3-4 days a week and work up to more if you can. Are you a dvd workout person?, a class at the Y person?, a runner?, or all of the above? Figure out what you like best and build that/those thing(s) into your workout routine. Switching things up often is what works for me.  Right now, I mix up the dvd workouts with Asylum, P90X3 and T25 (ps P90X3 is only 30 min and T25 is only 25 min for those of you who are short on time), running, strength, core, stretching/flexibility and rest days into my routine.

Making it a priority-I have definitely had to learn to prioritize things in order to get done what I have to each day.  My kids and their activities come first so I often find myself doing my workouts after I put them to bed. But having my workout to do in the evenings, keeps us on schedule and gets my kids in bed by a certain time each night.  Maybe you are an early riser and working out first thing in the morning would be better for you? When I was a stay-at-home mom, working out during nap time was the easiest for me.  Figure out what time of the day is best for you and make that time a priority to becoming a better and healthier you!

Doing it with your kids-When I do my shorter video workouts, I always ask my girls (ages 6 and almost 8) if they want to join me and they usually say yes.  I let them go put out their "workout outfit" on and we have fun together.  We laugh when we are doing silly looking exercises and we cheer each other on.  Some of the exercises might require more coordination the girls have so I let them do it best they can and don't criticize.  The last thing I want to do is discourage them from getting active!  

I also do an outside group workout at least once a week.  Going outside is even easier to get the kids involved.  I let my kids pick a riding toy and a soccer ball to take when they go with me to my group workouts.  They play and stay active while I'm working out.  It's a win/win!
If you want to run or walk, let your older kids do it with you.  If you have younger kids, get a jogging stroller (bought mine off Craigslist for $60 and when my kids grew out of it, I sold it on Craigslist for $50).  Here's an easy Couch to 5K training schedule you can do with your kids and work towards running a race together.  Here's a few links that might help you out...
Couch to 5k training program
Couch to 5k Treadmill training  
*There's also apps you can download onto your smartphone, Facebook pages you can like and follow for tips and guidance and local groups (check out Fleet Feet or a similar store or the YMCA in your area to see what's available).

Setting realistic goals-Everyone wants results but you have to put the work in to get them.  Just make sure they are realistic.  Setting goals that are too hard to reach leads to frustration and eventually giving up.  I like to set short term goals for myself so I can feel a sense of accomplishment as I reach each one.  There's nothing more motivating than being able to say "I did it!"

Accountability partner/group-I was always a loner when it came to exercising until I joined a running group. It was there that I realized how beneficial it was to have someone there to push you harder and cheer you on and it made exercising more enjoyable.  I only went one evening a week but that ended up being my favorite day.  Then this summer (as I was taking time off from running for an injury) my brother and sister in law started a workout group with a few friends.  They have been my accountability partners for the past few months.  In that time, I have stuck with my commitment to exercising better than I ever have before.  It's been such a success that they are thinking creating more small groups for others (in the Winston area) who might be interested.  Check out the Red Fury Fitness website to see what we do!

I'd love to hear about the ways you stay active!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Saving Money at Target

Saving money is a must for me these days so I have learned a few, easy ways to do so at my favorite store and wanted to share them with you...

It's no secret, I am a Target lover and I know many of you are too.  There are several ways to save money when shopping at Target, that don't include clipping coupons.  (I have tried to be a couponer and just can't ever seem to stay with it. I envy those of you who can!)

1.  Always take your own bags when shopping there.  They will take off $.05 for each bag used.  I know that doesn't sound like a lot but every penny counts in my book  :)

2.  Get the Target debit card.  It took me a while to do this because I thought it was a credit's not! They link it up to your bank account and it's a debit card that can only be used at Target.  Each time you use this card, you save 5% on your entire purchase AND when you use your card to order from, shipping is FREE and you save 5%. Last time I ordered online, I saved more money than I ended up spending because of the free shipping!!  Here's an article and review on the advantages and disadvantages of the Target debit card.

3.  Cartwheel App-its a free app you can download on your phone and can save 5% + on all kinds of things.  You don't have to spend lots of time picking out which deals you want because the app has a scanner option.  Last time I went Target shopping, I had my list of what I needed and when I picked up the item, I scanned the barcode and it automatically told me if there were any money saving offers on that particular item.  Five of the things on my list ended up having 5-20% off deals on Cartwheel which saved me a total of $7.84. Here's a website that explains Cartwheel in detail and answers those FAQs you might have.

4.  The hardest part for me is not wandering around the store and finding things I "need."  I have learned to make myself a list and stick to it.  I occasionally will have a coupon or two and I write that on my list beside the item that it's for.  I hate to know how many times, I've gotten home and realized I had a coupon for something I purchased and totally forgot to use it.  Making a note on my list has really helped when my "mommy brain" kicks in :)

UPDATE:  Thanks to a friend who reminded me about the Target mobile coupons.  No clipping needed and can be used with paper coupons and Cartwheel.  How could I forget about that!?!  Thanks Lynsey!!  Sign up for mobile coupons here!!

Ok, I'd love to hear ways, tips and tricks to help you save money at Target!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back at it

I have missed the blogging world so much and have vowed to get back into it. It's not going to be easy to find the time since life has changed a lot for us.  (I'm a single, working mom these days, raising my three precious smarties.) But I want to continue to share my mommy moments, fun ideas, time savers, freezer cooking experiences, etc with you.  Posts won't come as often as I wish I could get them out but I hope you will bear with me and enjoy!  First one is coming soon...stay tuned :)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Happy Birthday Harper Ellyson!

This special, precious, beautiful girl made me a mommy 7 years ago!  I can't imagine my life without her and even though she's only 7, we have been through so much together that she's also my best little friend!  I love you to the moon and back my little mini-me!!
My little dark eyed, black haired baby turned into my blue eyed, (thickest ever) curly blonde hair big girl...

How did this happen so fast?

Happy Birthday Harper!