Friday, August 30, 2013

Organizing School lunches - Part 2

Four more sleeps............

Not sure if I'm more excited or my kids!  For some reason the last week has seemed long.  The kids are bored and getting under each other's skin.  It has been too hot to be outside and all the teenagers seem to want to do is screen related.  They need to get back into routine.  We all do.

I had planned to do the rest of my school prep baking this week (muffins and cookies), but it was too hot to do that too.  Tomorrow's forecast is for rain so my daughter and I will be finishing up those couple of things (and doing a week's worth of laundry too).  I did make one batch of muffins last week that were delicious and will post the recipe soon.  I'm going to make another patch of those since the kids almost ate them all.

To finish off my school lunch binder, I prepared a monthly summary sheet with the list of all things that need to be made in advance that I can use as a checklist, and any changes that need to be made for the month.  I then printed off all four weeks worth of menus and added a few sheets for notes for the following month.   I also included a section for any recipes I made for the month.  The binder will 'live' in my cupboard with all of the other lunch prep items.

First page in the binder that I'll change every month

Week #1 Menu

I'm hoping being organized in advance will help the kids get their lunches packed a little more smoothly and we'll all have a little less chaos in the mornings.

Linked to:  Chic on a shoestring, Tatertots and Jello Strut Your Stuff, Life with the Crust cut off, Diana Rambles, beBetsy, Remodelaholic

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Record Table

I saw a pin of a table similar to this quite awhile ago and finally got around to making a couple for the kid's music room.  It may sound silly to have a music room but my oldest son teaches quitar lessons, so we really needed a dedicated room for this purpose. 

I altered the original plan slightly to make it a little sturdier but even with that it was still easy peasy!  I bought a couple of plant stands on clearance at Walmart for $5/ea and records for $1/ea at a garage sale, so pretty cheap too.

In addition to the plant stand and records, I used some leftover foam core board and some black duck tape.  I traced the records onto the foam board, cut them out using an exacto knife then covered the edges with a thin strip of duct tape so the white foam couldn't be seen.  I then used a hot glue gun to attach the records to the board and then the board to the plant stand.   

Even strong enough to hold my teenager's supersized coffee mug. He'd really like to get rid of the 90's style burgandy couch and loveseat, but his music room is pretty low on the list for new furniture.  If much more money is spent on that room it will be to add more sound proofing! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Planning for school lunches - part 1

My kids start back at school next week which means I'm back to packing lunches. My eldest is about to enter 11th grade, so I've been packing lunches for about 10 years and have come up with some ideas for making it easier although there is always the need to tweak my methods.

    1. The biggest step is planning in advance. For the last couple of years I have always included my kid's lunches on my weekly menu plan but this year I have gone even further. I planned out four weeks worth of school lunch menus. Each week includes five days of lunches, a grocery list which I can add to my main list, and the prep required on the weekend. The 'main course' is different for each of the 20 days which should help keep the kids from getting bored with their lunches and if all works well I hope to be able to repeat using the same menu plan each month. I'll try making different types of muffins and cookies to add a bit of variety.

    2. Have items in the freezer ready to pack. Over the past week I have prepared chili, taco soup, seasoned taco meat, precooked some sausages and made vegetable soup. This week I will be making muffins and cookies as well as grilling some chicken breasts and making chicken noodle soup. It sounds like a lot of extra work, but I have just made larger batches of items that I was preparing anyway. When freezing items, I measured out how much I need to fill each of the kid's thermos' and froze in those sized glass containers. I then labelled everything by week and day.

    3. Prepare in advance. I spend about a half an hour on the weekend or on the Monday preparing a few things in advance. I cut up vegetables such as carrot and celery sticks, use the bread machine to make a loaf or some rolls, cook up rice or quinoa to be used in salads, etc. I keep these in a labelled container in the fridge ready to go.
      4. Make it healthy. I am a big proponent of eating real food, with as few preservatives as possible. Each day I include at least one fruit, one vegetable, a source of protein and some form of whole grains. In my menu plan, I have left it open as to which fruit or vegetable I will pack based on what is in season. I also have found some healthy snacks and baking recipes so the kids feel like they are still getting a treat once in awhile. There is a lot of information available with healthy alternatives for lunches. One site that I particularly like is

      5. Adjust for each child. When putting together the plan, I had to put each child's interests and needs into account. My 17 year old needs a larger lunch and can't be bothered with having snacks and finger food. He also has assured me that no other high school students even pack lunch, so it needs to be something he can eat quick and they join his friends. He also has a few after school activities so I pack a box of snacks that he keeps in his locker for 'emergencies' and some days even an extra meal if he'll be staying quite late. He can also pack items with nuts whereas the other two attend a nut-free school.
      6. Have good containers in duplicate. The kids have always liked hot meals a couple times a week so we have good quality thermos, with the boys having larger ones. In addition to those, I have upgraded to have sectioned lunch boxes for the younger two and a couple of other sets that fit together with ice packs built in. With the ice packs, I feel better about packing items such as yogurt. In the past I was using mutliple small containers which were frequently cracking or getting 'lost' before they arrived home. The sectioned containers work so much better! I also just purchased reusable snack bags this week and we'll see how that goes.

      7. Store lunch prep items in one location. I have a dedicated area where the lunch kits, containers, bags, etc. are all located. Now if I could only get the kids to unpack, wash and put them back there!

      It may seem like a lot of extra effort but I know the time I put in now will make things better every morning and the kids will have much healthier, well-rounded lunches. If everything is ready to go, it's easy for the kids to help pack their own lunches and get everyone out the door smoother.

      I will post our Week #1 menu after we give it a test run, and provide links for some of the recipes I used for baking once they get the a-okay from the kids.

      linked to Give Me the Goods, Home Stories A to Z,Sugar Bee Crafts,Not Just a Housewife, Hope Studios, Carolyn's Homework, Time to Sparkle,A Bowl full of Lemons  It's Overflowing

Friday, August 23, 2013

Great to know it isn't just me .......

 I find these cards so funny.  It must be the fact I didn't sleep well last night that I find these especially funny today.

Hi. Welcome to my new blog.

I'm starting a new blog for a couple of reasons:

a)  to hopefully complete a few of the projects I intend to get done.  Maybe if I tell 'someone' I'm going to do it, then it will get me moving my butt quicker to get it done.

b) to credit some of the other bloggers out there who I have gotten ideas and inspiration from.

c) to share some things that have worked for me and hopefully someone else will find useful.

I became a stay at home almost 17 years ago when my oldest son was born.  I was learning by the seat of my pants and enjoying it enough to add two more children to our family, another son and a daughter.  At that point, things switched into survival mode and I got very few of my organizing goals accomplished.

When our youngest was three (8 years ago) we also had our own home built adding to the turmoil we were living in.  I designed our home and have been overall very happy with it.  After eight years though, there are some areas that need attention, artwork that was never hung, kids rooms that need updating, etc.etc.  While I've been busy organizing meal time, kids schedules, vacations, etc. the house has been overlooked and I want to get at it!

I have always been interested in organizing, but I'm also enough of a perfectionist that if I couldn't 'do it right' then I didn't do it at all.  As result, a lot  most of the time I'm very frustrated by the state of our home.  I've made a pledge to myself that I'm going to just start doing something - not perfect, but progress.  As a mom, September always feels like the beginning of a new year to me, so while my kids are starting school, I'm starting to get our home looking better and running smoother.  Wish me luck!!