Monday, August 23, 2010

Little Lunch Notes

Show your kids you are thinking of them during the day by including a note in their lunch. Write a few ahead of time, buy some prepackaged ones or look for any of a myriad of printable ones online. Make it easy on yourself though and have a few on hand for days when you don't have time to cut out cute sandwich shapes or do a themed lunch, just grab one of these (Little Lunches Mama hides them in a mug in the cupboard) and toss it in their lunch to show you are thinking of them. Here are some you can print onto Avery Labels #5371. If you need the original PDF file please just shoot me an email.

Happy Packing!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Healthy Snacks - Prepackaged Items - Stocking Up

Of course it would be great if we could all find and prioritize the time to make everything from scratch but in reality (my reality at least) finding the best easy to take and pack snacks comes in a close second. Cookie Magazine (a victim of the recesssion, sadly, but more on that in a minute) had a great article a few years back that showcased, "These healthy lunch-box essentials and snacks are sure to pull weight at the daily cafeteria stock exchange, but they're so tasty that your kids won't even try to trade."

Back to School time feels to me a bit like New Year's, we have really good intentions, we try to make resolutions and change habits and improve our lot. Fresh school supplies, new haircuts, freckled noses and sun-streaked hair - the first day of school. A month later - homework, soccer, homework, "what's for dinner," laundry on the floor and the best laid plans go out the window.

I don't think I can solve that for you, or for myself - my laundry room clearly has gypsies living in it who leave additional clothing behind in it each day. What I can do is help you find ways to keep your kids lunches relatively healthy and keep it easy on you. A few packaged things in a lunch are a good idea since who knows when the kids will need a snack, especially after summer break when they could raid the fridge and cupboard whenever you weren't looking.

Read the labels, find three or four go-to items, shop around a bit and then stock up. My girls love the Kids Clif Bars, I have found them at the local grocery stores priced from 49 cents to 89 cents. Clearly when I find the 49 cent ones it's time to buy a box. Somethings, like little crackers in packages seem odd to me - the per package price is enormous compared to buying in bulk and filtering them into little snack packs. Other things - raisins for example - seem to be pretty close in comparison buying the tiny boxes or a big bag so I get the boxes to save myself the sticky mess of transferring from one container to another.

If you live near a Costco or Sam's Club you can often stock up on things at a bulk price. If you don't, another great option is setting up a subscription on to your favorite staple items. They will just show up at your doorstep at the time you have determined you will need them again. Save yourself a trip to the store and have some of the key lunch items on hand.

To change the subject for just a minute, early in my post I mentioned something about Cookie Magazine. The editors and some of the writers from what was my favorite parenting publication have created a new place for information called Momfilter. Right now it's only on Facebook but the website is coming soon and we are all eager with anticipation.

Apple Raisin Mini Muffins (orginally posted November 2008)

I bought a Wilton miniature muffin pan at Michael's recently. I made Apple Raisin Mini Muffins from a Paula Deen recipe. In the end I had 60 mini muffins. I froze most of them, thawing out five or ten at a time for snacks, breakfasts or to go in my daughter's lunch. Sure, it took a while to bake them because I only have the one pan but I could do other things in the 15 minute increments and I had muffins for her breakfast or snacks for the last two months.

They thawed really well.

Apple Raisin Muffins from Paula Deen, The Lady & Sons, too!

Here's the recipe:
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated apples
2 cups raisins
1 cup butter - two sticks
2 tspn cinnamon
2 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tspn ground cloves
1 cup chopped walnuts (I left these out)
2 tspn baking soda
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350. Combine water, sugar, apples, raisins, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove the pan for the heat and cool completely. (*this takes more than an hour so I wouldn't actually preheat the oven at the beginning of this recipe)

In a large bowl, stir the nuts and baking soda into the flour. Add the cooled mixture to the bowl, and stir until blended. Fill greased miniature muffin tins with batter to the top. (*I used mini cupcake papers) Bake 15 minutes.

School is just around the corner!!

Granted, my kids are still too little for Back To School to be a totally big deal. My oldest is in her second year of preschool and I am counting down to the middle one's 1/2 birthday (two and a half) to really go full bore on the potty training so she can join sis. That doesn't stop me from feeling the need to get ready for back to school. I stood in the school supply section of Target last week just breathing in the smell of No. 2 pencils and thinking of that feeling of infinite possibility that new school supplies bring me.

Summer has been filled with lots of things. We have been really busy, the kids were all sick for a while, work comes and goes, anyway, it's time to get focused again. So, I am preparing for Back To School by teaching a Little Lunches class for the local Park & Rec. I am also putting together my schedule of posts and updates for the school year. Please check back later in the week and see what I have been up to.

I have a huge list of resources - lunch planners, menus, nutritional ideas, school lunch program information and packing tips - I am going through them and putting them in themed posts so you can take advantage of them. Lots of good stuff!!

How much of your back to school shopping/prep is done?