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FAMILY/ Kids/Family/ Simplifying

10 Awesome Back-To-School Hacks For Moms



These 10 back-to-school hacks are to help Moms survive the back-to-school whirlwind that is taking place in many of our homes right now! You will find a few specifically for Moms of teens, as that is the season I am in right now. If you don’t have teens, you will before you know it–don’t blink!


Ice Cold Water Bottles

My girls love taking water bottles to school and like them ice-cold. To keep them cold until lunchtime,  fill half way with water and place the water bottle  on its side in the freezer over-night, then fill the rest with tap water in the morning.


Snapshot School Schedule & Locker Combo

Learning a new schedule can be easy if you keep it front and center on the first day. Have your teens take a snapshot of it and use it as their phone or screen saver. Have them take one of  their locker combination, too.


Use Google In A Unique Way

Google is amazing, but to research information for school essays, try using for more relevant information. When your kids are finished with an essay, have them copy and paste it into Google Translate, and listen to it. This is an easy way to find mistakes.




Refrigerator Chia Oats To-Go Breakfast

If you have not ever had chia oats, back-to-school is the perfect time to try them. They are filling, healthy–and if made in a mason jar–portable!


Keep School ID Or Library Books In Back Pack

Encourage your high schoolers to put their student ID right into a side pocket of their backpack when that take it off. It is usually in the care when they discover they forgot it, and it will be right there in their backpack, ready to put on. The same trick will work for those library books. If they are always stored in the back pack after reading, they will always be ready to be returned!




Protein After School Snack

Hard boiled eggs are a great way to get some protein into your kids as part of their after-school snack. They would also make a great addition to an easy breakfast. Have you ever tried to bake your hard-boiled eggs? I have not but I keep seeing that it is a thing!


Freeze a Wet Sponge

Sponges are an inexpensive way to keep those lunch boxes nice and cool. Icepacks can produce quite a bit of condensation, which can leave things soggy. Instead, freeze a wet sponge. Because the sponge absorbs liquids, it won’t leak while in the lunch box.


The Good Sandwich Guide

Tired of overlapping lunch meats with edges hanging off the sides of the bread? Use this trick to reduce overlapping and allow for a good bite even in the corners! Cut 2 slices of circular lunch meat and cheese and cheese in half. Lay on top of a piece of bread with rounded side facing in, so the straight edges fill the bread. Top with another piece of bread and slice down the center.  I personally don’t buy circular lunch meat, as most of those have nitrates in them, but we do buy circular cheese, so I like this hack!




Pomodoro Method For Studying

Help your older kids take the most of those studying sessions. Encourage them to follow this guide.

~25 minutes hard work

~5 minute break

~Every 3rd break = 15 minutes long



Use PayPal App

If you need to pay a tutor on the spot, want to school supply shop while laying in bed, and donate to your favorite charities with a click, you must use PayPal.

We use the PayPal app all the time, and I truly don’t know what I’d do without the convenience it brings! We use it to pay our tutor, with just a push of a button I can hear her phone ding right when I send it, which makes us both smile, knowing she is getting her payment before she even leaves our home.

PayPal One Touch:

When Back-to-School shopping on an app or website that allows you to pay with PayPal, there is no need to type in credit card information or re-enter usernames an passwords. Personally, the fewer passwords I need the better life is, and I am always relieved when I see a website allows you to pay with PayPal, which I find on many sites! You can log in and then are given the choice to opt-in to “stay logged in” for the same device and browser combo, across eligible PayPal merchants. Easy shopping, paid with a click, while lying in my bed? Yes, I will take that.

Charitable Giving

I just learned that with the same easy click of a button, PayPal helps support our favorite causes with the in-app donation feature called the PayPal Giving Fund.  100% of the proceeds go to selected partnering charity organizations, such as Let Girls LearnYMCA, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. My Todd works for a non-profit charitable organization, so I know how amazing this feature is both for the charity and for the giver.

You can donate to your favorite charities, whether responding on the spot to a natural disaster or simply supporting a local cause, in-app donations is a quick and secure way to discover and donate to certified charities around the world with just a click using PayPal.

During back-to-school season, and donations made through the Pay Pal Giving Fund will receive a 1% match from PayPal! Pay Pal is partnering with select charities dedicated to providing access to education and extracurricular enrichment to children from August 12-August 31, 2016. Learn more about the PayPal Giving Fund & how to donate by going to


Are YOUR kids back-to-school yet? Do you have teens?

Do you shop for school supplies online? Are you familiar with the PayPal App?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

FAMILY/ Healthy Eating/ HOME/ How-Tos/ Organizing/ Parenting/ RECIPES

How To Establish a Balance Between Healthy Recipes and Non-Healthy Recipes For The Family

A Reader Question:
I can’t help but notice all the healthy things you post about and pin, and yet perusing through your pinterest pages I see that you aren’t shy about ‘non-healthy’ recipes as well.  I am starting to try to eat clean but am wanting to find a balance where I can still go on Pinterest and not have to shy away from everything I see and being able to bake with my kids and actually have them enjoy the finished product, etc.  How do you establish this balance for yourself and your family?

My Answer:
Great question!  We save the fun, unhealthy recipes for our Friday Family nights and for birthdays, holidays and special occasions.  On normal days, we still have some sweets, but they are made with healthy ingredients, like the Apple Pie Bites I just posted.  Most of the time the sweetest thing in the house is frozen or fresh fruit which is great, because then the kids will grab it and eat it!  I work very hard at not having junk in the house during the week, but then always make sure we have a treat on the weekend.

Expanded Answer:
We love food around here, so I make a point of finding a balance between healthy eating and less healthy eating.  I feel good about the fact that we eat very healthy during the week, but then indulge on the weekends or during special occasions.  It is amazing how often special occasions come about, so believe me, my kids are not deprived.  If anything they appreciate food and have a healthy understanding of food that is nourishing and food that is not. They also are aware of how good healthy food makes them feel and how crappy they feel after eating too many sweets….not that it stops them from indulging but it makes them appreciate the necessity of good, nourishing food.

I think key to eating clean and healthy is to know what you are eating.  You are already winning the battle if you are eating from home and making things homemade.  This eliminates fast food & processed foods, artificial flavors and colors, and chemical ingredients that are next to impossible to pronounce.
Another key is finding sweet recipes that have ingredients that are profitable for the body and health.  Below are a few great examples, and my Vegan Desserts board on Pinterest has a bunch more ideas.

Our Favorite Healthy Snacks

Lastly, get your kids involved in the cooking and baking process.  Explain to them why honey is better than processed white sugar, and why whole wheat flour is better than white flour.  Get them used to making recipes with wholesome ingredients and talk about what each of those ingredients will do for the body–i.e. nuts…they have lots of protein that help build strong muscles and give energy!  
My girls are so used to cooking in a mindful manner that this Thanksgiving my 10 year old was appalled at how much sugar we used to make a Cranberry Cake.  It was 1 1/2 cups, and I love that she noticed that it was not the way we usually bake treats.  We also made Potato Casserole and she had NO IDEA what cream of chicken soup was.  I never buy it, and she just couldn’t understand why anyone would want creamed chicken! Then I told her it was really just flavored like chicken, which she very dramatically responded “eww!”  It was a good example to me of how much our eating habits have changed over the years.  A few years ago just about every dinner I made had cream of ‘something’ soup in it…and cheese…and sour cream…and butter.  
Our Not So Healthy Favorite Snacks

Funky Fritos – we make these once a year during football season

I think a balance is important, and I am very comfortable with how we have chosen to eat in our family.  If you are trying to change your family’s eating habits, take it a little at a time, explain why you are making each change as you do, and be patient.  They will eventually adjust and might just start to appreciate mindful, healthy eating.

Drinks/ FUN/DIY/ Healthy Eating/ RECIPES

My New Favorite Way To Drink Lemon Water – The Aqua Zinger

The Aqua Zinger

Benefits of lemon water

If you have read my post, 5 Reasons To Drink Lemon Water In The Morning, you will know I’m a HUGE fan of lemon water.  I feel like I can’t function well in the morning without hydrating with lemon water, and I always have it before my cup of coffee in the morning.

two lemon halves

Now that I know about this awesome water bottle called AquaZinger, I have been drinking lemon water all day long!

aqua zinger grinder

This is really the coolest thing.  It is a water bottle that has a built in grinder in the bottom.  It also has a filter, so seeds and chunks stay at the bottom.

Aqua zinger grinder

You simply start by cutting a lemon in half.  I’ve learned that by cutting off the very end of the lemon, it makes grinding a whole lot easier!  When I first purchased my water bottle, I felt frustrated at how much muscle it took to do the grinding.  Now that I watched the below “tips” video and know the tricks, it is easy and I love it!

Filter of aqua zinger

You then take the filter piece and push it down into the fruit.

aqua zinger grinder and filter

Like so…

aqua zinger water bottle

…then you take the water bottle part and twist it on.  The twisting action is what grinds the fruit.

Grinding a lemon in the aqua zinger

See?  Isn’t that so nifty? It really is easy.

AquaZinger bottle

Here is a view inside the AquaZinger bottle.  That filter keeps all the seeds and chunks of fruit from going down your throat!

Cold filtered water in water bottle

Add cold, filtered water.  Then give it a little shake.

lemon water made from the AquaZinger

I refill it all throughout the day, and usually only use one lemon half a day, sometimes two if I am extra thirsty and find myself filling it up more often.



 5 Reasons To Drink Lemon Water Every Morning 


Number 1

It balances pH–Lemon is an acidic food, but once metabolized, it becomes alkaline.  I work very hard at keeping my body alkaline.  Why?

To put it most simply, alkalies help keep the oxygen in our blood at a safe pH level, and this helps our body heal itself, assimilate nutrients and fight off unwanted sickness.

-Nicole Bennet

Number 2
It keeps skin clear and glowing!   I have noticed this.  Hydration from drinking lemon water is great for moisturizing our skin from the inside out.  Lemon also contains lots of Vitamin C, which helps with wrinkles and blemishes.
Number 3
It kick starts the digestive system–a big glass of lemon water is a great way to start the day.  It encourages the liver to produce bile which in turn aids in digestion.  It increases urination which helps purify it.  It also helps with heartburn and constipation.
Number 4
It helps with weight loss–I have read that keeping the body in an alkaline state helps people lose weight faster.  Lemons are high in fiber pectin, which helps keep one full, longer.  They also have a diuretic effect, which helps with water weight gain.
Number 5
It helps control the coffee habit–I will drink coffee sometimes, but only if I have had my entire glass of lemon water.  Many days I feel like the lemon water wakes me up more than coffee does…
…which brings me to bonus Number 6:
It helps kick the pop habit--I have found that adding lemon to sparkling water and adding a whole lot of ice satisfies any soda craving I might have.  I gave up soda pop the minute I was diagnosed a year ago, and I really don’t miss it.  I don’t think I could stand the sweetness of it now, but I DO miss the fizz, so my “Lemon Spritzer”–lemon +sparkling water+ice–is the perfect solution!

AquaZinger and CitrusZinger

My sister-in-law has the Citrus Zinger and loves it.  I may eventually get one of these, too, but I have really grown to love my Aqua Zinger.  I like that it grinds the lemon peel up, too, so the lemon flavor is extra strong and I get the benefits of the essential oils in the peel.  If you watch the video below, you will see that the Aqua Grinder is not just for lemons, but for any type of fruit.  I have not experimented much with other types of fruit, but when I do I will let you know!


To purchase the Aqua Zinger & Citrus Zinger – Click here.

To purchase the Aqua Zinger- Click here.

To purchase the Citrus Zinger – Click here.


HEALTH/ Healthy Eating/ How-Tos/ RECIPES

The Amazing Benefits Of Coconut Oil + Ways To Use It Topically & In Recipes

Nutiva coconut oil

I am a HUGE fan of coconut oil, for many reasons.  I LOVE IT!
The main way I started using coconut oil was topically.  This was because I read about how so many body lotions contain parabens and chemicals, and with my cancer history, I am being very purposeful about getting rid of as many toxins in this house and on my body as possible! 
Its been all over the news that they are finding parabens in the breast cancer survivors breast tissue.  My ears perked up with this because I have been in the beauty business for years as a cosmetologist, and parabans seem to be in EVERY beauty product.  I have also met way too many young hairstylists that also battled breast cancer, and it has made us all say “hmm.”
Parabens are a group of compounds widely used as antimicrobial preservatives in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, including underarm deodorants. Parabens are absorbed through intact skin and from the gastrointestinal tract and blood.
Measurable concentrations of six different parabens have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors (Darbre, 2004). The particular parabens were found in relative concentrations that closely parallel their use in the synthesis of cosmetic products (Rastogi, 1995). Parabens have also been found in almost all urine samples examined from a demographically diverse sample of U.S. adults (Ye, 2006a).
Parabens are estrogen mimickers, with the potency of the agonistic response being related to the chemical structure (Darbre, 2008). They can bind to the cellular estrogen receptor (Routledge, 1998). They also increase the expression of many genes that are usually regulated by estradiol and cause human breast tumor cells (MCF-7 cells) to grow and proliferate in vitro (Byford, 2002; Pugazhendhi, 2007). Nevertheless, parabens as a class do not fully mimic estradiol in the changes in cellular gene expression nor are the effects of all parabens identical (Sadler, 2009).
    Parabens are estrogen mimickers.”  This really made me pause, as my cancer and the majority of breast cancers are fed by hormones.  I had symptoms of estrogen dominance for years and I often wonder if this contributed to my diagnosis.
    As I have been trying to avoid parabens, I have been on a kick of making my own beauty products. There are some wonderful healthy organic body products out there, but they usually end up costing “an arm and a leg,” so have been quite motivated to make my own or to figure out a simple, inexpensive & healthy alternative.

    Coconut oil used for shaving

    My Favorite Pre-Shave & Post-Shave For The Softest Legs

    homemade natural lip balm

    Homemade Natural Lip Balm 

    homemade coconut lime sugar scrub

    Homemade Coconut Lime Sugar Scrub

    I’ve also used coconut oil as my main cooking and baking oil for a couple of years now.  The below recipe has been viewed over 632,238 times! It is one of the most popular recipes here at New Nostalgia, and for good reason.  It is delicious. Funny how my most popular recipe was created by a mess up!
    chocolate recipe

    The Best Recipe I’ve Ever Messed Up

    oatmeal whole wheat quick bread

    Oatmeal Whole Wheat Quick Bread

    The above Oatmeal Whole Wheat Quick Bread is a great recipe to have on hand.  It takes just minutes to throw together and it is good for you.  I often make it when we are having pasta and I need a quick bread to dip in the sauce.

    nutiva coconut oil

    –I buy a large container on Amazon, I love the Nutiva brand.  It is organic and wonderful.  Trader Joes also started carrying coconut oil.  Yay!
    –Coconut oil is very unique.  It is a solid up to I think 76 degrees, then becomes a liquid.  So depending on the temperature of your house, you will either be scooping the oil if solid, or pouring it if liquid.  
    — For beauty purposes, I scoop some out and store in a small 8 oz mason jar.  I love the Elite series glass jars.  They have a nice wide mouth and are a cute shape.  I also keep coconut oil in a small 4oz jar to throw into my gym bag.

    benefits of using Coconut Oil
    –From Lindsey @ Passionate Homemaking-
    Part 1 Part 2 – detailing the best oil choices being coconut oil & olive oil
    –From Kitchen Stewardship-
    great post about the controversy surrounding coconut oil

    Have you ever tried coconut oil?
    What are ways you use coconut oil?

    GF, Vegan & Raw/ HEALTH/ Healthy Eating/ How-Tos/ RECIPES

    Steps To Healthy Living — A Request From My Sister

    mother and daughter
    {My sister & niece. Oh how I love them!}

    My lil’ sis of Beauty Divine Design has been asking me all kinds of questions about how we eat, as they are wanting to eat a more plant strong diet.

    Here is a Facebook chat we recently had:

    Think I overwhelmed her with my crazy run-on sentences and gazillion suggestions?  Yep, I did.  She then sent a message with some more specific questions she had, and I have decided to tackle all of her questions, little by little, on this blog.  

    I know she sent these messages without thinking that I would share them publicly.  I left all our typos, casual language and misspellings to keep things ‘authentic.’ Tee hee.  

    Questions for eating plant-based

    Okay a ton of questions but you don’t have to get to them all immediately… whenever.

    What can you use instead of milk for cooking- does almond and soy milk work the same? Which one tastes the best for adding to cereal? 

    You can use almond milk and coconut milk for cooking.  Plain almond milk is what we use.  We use almond milk exclusively, I can’t have soy and I don’t trust soy anyway.  You could also try rice milk or coconut milk.  We like almond milk, especially on cereal. There was an adjustment period, my kids grumbled at first, but when it was the only thing in the house they gave in and ate it, now we are so used to it that none of us can stand the taste of cow milk.  I think the kind that you can get in the cold milk section tastes the best.

    What do u use instead of butter, whipping cream, cheese etc. does any of it actually taste good? Lol

    I use soy free Earth Balance. It is a super popular butter substitute with vegans. It tastes good. If you use real butter at least make sure it is organic. There are vegan cheeses but I think they are nasty and made up of way too many ingredients…processed.  If we eat cheese, it is organic.  This makes it expensive so we eat very, very little cheese.  Even on tacos or pizza I use about 1/4 of what we used to use, and I pick it off my finished piece completely.  Lots of vegans soak cashews, then put them in a food processor which makes a creamy, cheesy like sauce.  I have done this a couple times and liked it but want to experiment more.   I don’t use whipping cream unless we are making a special occasion dessert and if so we use the real thing because it is so rare.  I buy organic cream cheese for the girls and their whole wheat bagels, but I’ve noticed they only put a super thin layer on.  I think they are losing their taste for this, which keeps happening with animal products. They just have slowly stopped wanting them. It is kinda crazy!

    Which oils to avoid? Is olive oil ok?

    Some, like Rip E in the below video don’t use oil at all.  Happy Herbivore is another plant based eater that rarely uses oil…her recipes are great. I use small amounts of olive oil for marinades, pestos & homemade salad dressings.  It has a low smoke point so it is ok to cook with as long as the heat is med or lower.  I use coconut oil for high heat cooking/frying/sauteing.  I also use coconut oil for baking.  I believe coconut oil is very good for you…see this post for more on coconut oil. There are two types, one that tastes and smells like coconut and one that doesn’t.    I often use applesauce in place of oil in baking recipes.

    Is soy good or bad? I feel like I’ve heard both.

    Most of the soy in the US is genetically modified and I don’t trust it.  My Oncologist wants me to stay away from it because my caner was estrogen positive.  They do eat soy in lots of Asian countries where cancer rates are low, but they mostly eat it fermented and as more of a condiment or seasoning, less as a main dish as many vegans in the US do.  There is controversy with soy, but following my Oncologist orders makes it easy for me to just stay away from it.  Plus, most vegan soy foods are highly processed…not whole foods.  I’m not a fan of companies turning soy into something that is supposed to taste and feel like meat.  Blech. So fake.

    Are any animal products better than others? Can I sneak some chicken in every once in awhile haha

    Sure you can.  It does not have to be all or nothing.  I call myself a “plant eater sometimes cheater” and I eat fish and eggs at times. I was willing to make meat for my family a couple times a week, but they have all lost their taste for meat for the most part.  They can eat it if it is in something, like a casserole (which I don’t make anymore)  but the texture of chicken and red meat is a bit off- putting to them now.  I was surprised this happened.  I now have 3 little bean- eating girls with vegetarian palates! Never thought I would see the day!  It has just slowly happened.  If you do eat meat, stay away from red meat as much as possible, and buy your chicken organic.  It is more expensive but worth it.  

    What are your go- to meals each week?  Top 5 regulars maybe? 

    ~Chili No Meat
    ~Tacos made with beans–I love the crockpot beans in this post, we’ve also made the homemade tortillas in the same post and they were AMAZING.
    ~Spaghetti, homemade tomato sauce, no meat.  I use this recipe sometimes, too.
    ~Soups–we love French Lentil Soup & Vegan Creamy Broccoli soup.
    ~Breakfast for dinner–whole grain pancakes, organic eggs

    I will write a more detailed post about this.

    Replacement snacks/desserts that are sweet but not loaded up with ickies? 
    I will write a post about this, in the meantime, read this post titled, Healthy Snack Ideas For Kids

    New Nostalgia

    How do u know if something is processed? Like our whole wheat bread has like 27 ingredients but it is whole wheat and my homemade bread tastes like cardboard.  

    Lol!  Cardboard?!  You need to try this recipe…we love it. I just made it tonight to go with our spaghetti dinner and my Teagan said “Mom this bread is the best!” It does get more dry by day 3 or 4, but then it makes the BEST toast.  Here is a post I wrote about store bought bread.  Look for no high fructose corn syrup, 3-4 grams of fiber per serving & make sure it says 100% whole wheat bread.  My rule is try to eat food as close to whole as possible.  This post on my Favorite Food Rules might be helpful, these simple suggestions really helped me in my journey of eating clean.

    Meal ideas for kids cuz Little Man only likes PB and J or chicken nuggets right now as a main course. Sometimes pizza or Mac n cheese but won’t even try anything else. He does good with fruits and veggies as a side.

    This is hard.  Kids are picky, but eventually he would get hungry enough to eat something new.  Keep trying new things more than once.  If they get used to seeing it around, they are more likely to eat it.  I wish I was more tough with my kids when they were little and didn’t give in so much to what they wanted instead of what they needed. Keep up the fruits and veggies, try making them the main dish.  I will write more about this another time.  Hopefully my readers will chime in on this one!

    lime and sparkling water

    How to break pop addiction?! I’m seriously an addict!
    Ha!  Is it the caffeine or the bubbly sweet that you love?  If it is the bubbly sweet, then mixing juice with sparkling water is a good substitute.  I love this Fresh Lime Soda & also this Lemonade Spritzer. If it is a caffeine thing, cut down slowly and replace with herbal teas.  Even black coffee is better than pop.  Diet has aspartame and regular has HFCS.  Even the “healthy” pops have loads of sugar.  The best way to break this is to know what it is that you are putting in your body, when I learned how sugar affects the body, it made me want it less. Read about lemon water and why it is good for you…drink it every morning for a week and I bet you will be hooked on water…you will start becoming very thirsty and nothing will quench that thirst but water.  

    Here is a bit more inspiration for you:
    Steps To Healthy Living

    And short and great video on eating plant strong:

    There ya go my sis! Browse the links, watch the video, and let me know your thoughts.  I love your questions!
    Readers, I would love your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.  

    Healthy Eating/ How-Tos/ RECIPES

    Eating Healthy On Vacation–Or At Least Trying To!

    It is interesting trying to eat healthy while on vacation.  We have been gone a week. 3 days at Florida’s St. Pete’s Beach and now we are doing the Disney thing. We are having a blast, and eating is a big part of that fun. Really, it has been much easier to find healthy foods than I thought it would be.

    Now, don’t get me wrong–I have had my fill of sugar and treats that I normally would not eat, after all, we ARE at Disney.  Here is a sampling of some of the desserts we have had.  Oh. My. Yum.

    But, my body is used to getting an abundance of plants and is now at the point where I crave them if I don’t get them.  Fortunately, I have been able to eat some type of green everyday.  We have been blessed to be able to eat at a sit down type restaurant at least once each day, and when we do, I make sure I order something leafy and green as part of my meal.  I also always get a side of vegetables.  I have been eating a lot of fish while vacationing.  No beef.  No chicken.  No pork.

    Fast food and airport food has been a little harder, but I’ve been able to get creative.  Breakfast at the airport one day was grapes and a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and sliced bananas on it.

    Fast food lunch & airport lunch have been wraps and rice with vegetables. I also had a bean burrito.

    We were at a water park the other day and there was not a thing for vegetarians.  I got a chicken Caesar wrap and picked out the chicken.  Thank goodness it had quite a bit of greens in it.  I got hungry quickly after that but fortunately we had an amazing dinner that night–I ordered Roasted Carrot Ravioli–Carrot Silk, Fava Beans, Chanterelles,  Pinot Noir Syrup and Lemon Dill Foam.

    It was one of the BEST meals I have ever eaten! It was a dark restaurant, so the photo does not do it justice, but it was delish & so pretty!

    I ended the meal with Bananas & Caramel–Crispy Baked Phyllo Squares Layered with Banana, Mascarpone Mousse, and Caramelized Banana.  Yes, it made me feel sick due to the milk products in it, but it was SOOO worth it!

    Breakfast is easy.  We have stayed in a room that has a little kitchenette, so we hit up a grocery store for breakfast foods and snacks on our first day.  The girls have enjoyed whole grain bagels because I bought cinnamon cream cheese, something they are not used to eating.  That has been a treat for them.  I also made sure they get plenty of fruit for breakfast–bananas, clementines, grapes and apples.  We also have oatmeal topped with dried cranberries & cereal with almond milk.  Eating breakfast in our room has saved us a ton of money!

    Snacks at the parks are not to great, so we load our backpack with some healthier snacks.  Here are some of our favorites:

    ~Sabra Hummus Dip with Pretzels

    ~Cliff Bars
    In the parks, I have been happy to see that they have these Edy’s Strawberry Bars.  They are high sugar, but they do not contain high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors or flavors.  They are strawberries & sugar.  They are colored with beet juice & turmeric. Much better than all the crazy colored Micky ice cream bars out there!  
    What are your favorite ways to eat healthy on vacation?  Any snack ideas for me?

    HOME/ How-Tos/ Meals/ Organizing/ RECIPES

    School Lunch Plan-No More Baggies & A Free Weekly Lunch Plan Printable

    Like I said in this post, I am on a mission this year to make school lunches something my kids look forward to.  I also want to feel good about the food I am serving them.  By the end of last year, if they had to eat one more peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which they had in their lunch every day) my girls would look at me like I was asking them to eat dirt.  Thankfully, over the summer their taste for pb & j has returned, and I want to keep it that way.
    I also wanted to get rid of baggies.  I hated spending the money on zip baggies, not to mention the waste!  I started early on my search for the perfect lunch bag & containers, and after using them for almost a week, I can say I am super excited about how smoothly packing school lunches has been going.  
    The lunch bags I found are Nike brand.  I found them at Shopko, but you can also order them here on Amazon.  These are perfect.  They have 2 pockets, and are deep enough to fit the water bottle inside with the lunch.  I love that I can fit the sandwich size container in the front pocket, which leaves the large back pocket open for water bottle & whatever else I want to fit in there.  The zippers are heavy duty and the bag is really well made.  I also found the BPA free water bottles at Shopko, my girls LOVE these. They are also Aladdin brand and they unscrew on the top like a regular water bottle, but they also unscrew further down to fit ice in if desired.

    The blue containers are Aladdin brand and are AWESOME.  I found them at Target, but they can also be purchased here.  The sandwich size container is deep and comes with a removable ice pack…love that! The smaller blue container also has a removable ice pack.  The little green containers are from Rubbermaid also from Target.  They are perfect for a single cookie, nuts, dips, dried apricots, etc.  I bought each girl one large sandwich container, one side container, and two small green lid containers.  It has worked perfectly for lunches so far.
    I was concerned about washing them out every night, but it really is not a big deal.  Usually we just wipe them out, but if the food is messy, we throw them in the dishwasher.  The girls empty their lunch bags as part of their afternoon routine, and they know that filling their water bottles and putting them in the refrigerator, putting their ice packs in the freezer, and emptying their containers are all part of their chart.  

    Click Here To Download Free Printable
    So how am I keeping this all organized and easy peasy?  With the help of our sponsor, Clean Mama.  She makes beautiful printables that keep ones home running smoothly, and she made free Weekly Lunch Plan for us!  I just love it!  It has definitely helped in keeping my mind less frazzled in trying to remember what to serve for lunch.  I especially like the area for ideas, it reminds me of food that might otherwise sit in the refrigerator and go to waste.  If you love the above printable, make sure you check out Clean Mama’s shop, which is full of more!

    Here is what is on our idea list this week:
    Turkey Sandwich
    PB & J Sandwich
    Cheese Tortellini
    Bean Burrito
    Frozen Berries (thawed perfectly by lunch)
    Shredded carrots
    Spinach Salad
    Pepper strips
    Protein & Dairy
    I skip these because we don’t eat dairy in our home, or at least very little.  
    My girls drink water every day.  I believe juice is just too expensive and full of sugar.  Even 100 percent juice has natural sugars in it that can spike blood sugar levels since the fiber is removed from it. I can’t tell you how much money we save by just being water drinkers in our home!
    Whole grain bars
    Chocolate bars
    Dried cranberries
    Dried apricots
    Here is our lunch plan for this week:

    No School
    Turkey Sandwich
    Cheese Tortellini
    Bread Cubes
    Italian Dressing for both
    Whole Grain Bar
    Dried Cranberries
    Pb & Jelly Sandwich
    Granola bar
    Dried Apricots

    Bean Tacos
    Chips & Salsa
    Granola Bar

    I also bought them each a new thermos, same Alladin brand.  I will save that and my ideas for another post!

    Need MORE School Lunch Food Ideas?  Click here.