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It’s hard to believe summer is over and school is back in session, but along with homework and sports practice, packing lunches is one more thing you can add to your daily agenda.  As a mom, I know how difficult it can be to create lunches that are healthy and will be something your child will eat (translation: won’t end up in the school trashcan!).  I also think this is an even bigger challenge for moms of elementary school-aged kids since that group is still developing their tastes and can tend to be a bit picky about certain foods.

Since social media is part of my job, I’ve become quite familiar with Pinterest over the past few months and I’ve seen some very interesting photos of lunch ideas that got me thinking about healthy versions specifically for kids.  Start with the basic idea of a “bento box,” which is a box-shaped container with different sized compartments for various food items.  I think the key to successfully getting kids to eat their lunch is to keep them interested in what their eating–a bunch of different items in small portions are is way to accomplish this.  Your child will almost feel like he’s snacking, but all these “snacks” will provide him with a well-balanced meal.  Here are some options you could pack in your child’s box:

  • Baby carrots or grape tomatoes & a small container of low-fat ranch dip
  • Dried fruit & nut mix
  • String cheese & grapes
  • Whole grain crackers with peanut butter
  • Turkey breast or ham with cheese “roll-ups” on whole grain tortillas (rolled and then sliced into pinwheels)
  • Celery sticks with low-fat cream cheese
  • Fruit cup or applesauce

Try to add fun touches as well such as a little note or a silly sticker.  Use a cookie cutter to create fun shapes out of melon slices or a peanut butter and banana sandwichon whole grain bread.  The more appealing you make your child’s lunch look, the more he’s going to want to eat it.  Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has a few more back-to-school ideas you may find help you get settled in to the new school year.  With a little effort your child’s lunch will look so good he won’t even realize it’s also good for him!

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Learning how to create and live within a budget is a skill and sadly I find that many folks, especially in younger generations, are lacking that skill today.  I learned from my mother who, in turn, learned from my grandmother how important it was to create a budget and plan ahead each week prior to going grocery shopping.

My grandmother is the all-time master of how to save at the supermarket.  She tells me how she would visit the butcher and buy a specific cut of meat knowing how she could get three meals from it (one for a roast, one using the bone to make vegetable soup and another using the leftover meat to create a hearty stew).  She would shop for fruits and vegetables in season and grow certain varieties in her backyard during summer.  She relied heavily on canned fruits and veggies during the winter months.

While things have changed since the days when my grandmother was my age and cooking for her family, I still follow many of the budget and meal planning steps she’s passed along.

  • Check the circular: Look through the weekly circular for the supermarket(s) you frequent to see what’s on sale before you go shopping.  It’s better to know ahead of time so you won’t miss out on any good deals and that way you can add it to your grocery list …which leads me to my next point!
  • Make a list: Going to the supermarket without a list is a sure fire way to spend more money than you have to and forget to buy something you need (which means making another trip to the store and wasting gas doing so!).  Try to stick to buying only what is on your list, I think you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll save doing this.
  • Plan your meals for the week: I typically do this step first or right after I’ve checked the circular.  Plan out what you’ll be cooking for your family that week.  I will also take into account what my schedule looks like that week, if I’ve got any evening appointments.  That way I know if I need to plan something I can whip up quickly on a specific night or maybe that particular day I throw something into the crockpot in the morning so that it’s ready when I get home that evening.

After doing this a few weeks you’ll be really good at judging how much of certain things you’ll need to buy to get you through the week.  It’s amazing how much less waste you’ll have and how much money you’ll save by simply planning ahead and sticking to a budget.  The Fruits & Veggies–More Matters website has a terrific Healthy Meal Planning Guide and Fruits & Vegetables on a Budget section that can provide you with additional tips.  A few extra minutes a week will be well worth the results!

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We’ve all done it (I know I have!)–we’re too busy to exercise or cook a healthy meal.  Yet, we somehow find time to fit in other things we want to do.  It’s all about priorities and typically maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be one of the first things to get sacrificed when life gets hectic.  I bring this up because we’re about to get into the crazy season of back-to-school, fall sports practices and countless other responsibilities that limit our free time.  While it may be more difficult, what we need to do is adjust our schedules and plan accordingly so that our health doesn’t take a back seat to the demands of the season.

I know it’s tough, but it can be done and whenever I start to waiver I think about my friend Ben who drives for a living.  His profession can demand that he be on the road for up to two months at a time.  Talk about throwing your schedule for a loop!  He’s told me stories about many other drivers who are in poor health because of food choices they make while on the road as well as lack of exercise.  It would make sense because of the nature of the job, but Ben decided early on that he would make his health a priority.  He buys a variety of fruits and vegetables, keeps them in a mini refrigerator in his cab and relies on the microwave at truck stops and convenience stores for cooking methods.  He also eats a lot of salads with canned tuna or hard boiled eggs.  Snacks are fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts or applesauce.  When he gets a few hours to himself, he’ll spend it exploring the town he’s in, walking around and getting some exercise.

Ben is certainly not the stereotypical driver, but after seeing the long term effects that poor health choices have had on his colleagues, he’s determined he won’t make the same mistakes.  I know he’s glad when he’s home and it’s much easier to make healthy choices, but with some extra planning and effort he’s been able to sustain a healthy lifestyle whether at home or on the road.

If you’re up to the challenge, Fruits & Veggies–More Matters has some tips to make it a bit easier for you.  The Healthy Meal Planning Guide has tons of great advice on pulling together healthy meals quickly and keeping them within your budget.  Take a minute to check it out before things get crazy next month and you’ll be ready to take on your hectic schedule.

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