Preparing to Pack School Lunches

School starts for Miss Peanut one month from today, which is just absolutely crazy to me. Regardless, it’s time to start really preparing a few things. Honestly, I’ve been preparing things for a long time, like slowly buying things off the supply list her teacher has up on her class blog so it’s not so much at once. And even longer than that, as long as I can remember really, I’ve know I’m going to pack her lunch to school.

Peanut eating lunch at our local Free Summer Lunch program

First I want to say that I know schools do what they can. Many of the lunches are free or reduced and even before accounting for that, it’s not like the school gets a lot of money to work with when it comes to buying and prepping food. And I know that to many families that school lunch is a godsend. That’s not the point.

Twig eating lunch at our local Free Summer Lunch program

The point is that “good enough” isn’t what I want for my family. Our nation’s school lunch (along with many other things) is in a sad state. Looking at the lunches my girls had at the free summer lunch program, there are definitely some good parts and none of it is what I’d consider horrible food, but there are a lot of what I call “sometimes” foods and I just don’t want my kids eating that every day at school. Our school lunch system a lot of improving to do, so in the meantime I’ll take care of her lunch myself.

So here’s the game plan. First, of course, the meal plan. We’re still loving our Super Healthy Kids meal planning service and I’ve happily noted that pretty much every lunch is easy to pack. Of course they’re also loaded with fresh fruits and veggies. I even asked Peanut this week if she wants to do school lunch one day a week (a suggestion I read on Super Healthy Kids) and she said no, she’d rather have my yummy healthy lunches every day. Happy mama here! I’m sure we’ll revisit this concept once she sees her friends eating school lunch, but for now I’m planning on packing it 5 days a week. If she changes her mind, I’m going to stick with Wednesdays as our school lunch day since my husband gets tacos that day and maybe Twig, Banana, and I will have leftovers or go out to lunch ourselves.

Our Laptop Lunchbox bag

Our Laptop Lunchbox

Next, the gear. I have a Laptop Lunchbox that I used myself while I was in school (and I’ll happily buy a second one for myself when I go back to school next year, they’re great!) and extra containers. Since the lunchbox is an older version, the new containers don’t fit in it (they’re a tad bit taller), but that’s not a big deal. I also have one of their lunchbox holders that has plenty of room up top for the other containers. Peanut is super excited to use it!

I’m also planning on getting a bunch (well, maybe not as much as this lady!) of cute bento stuff to make her lunches more fun. I’m sure we’ll hit the point where she feels bored or sad or whatever and these can definitely make lunch more fun. And I’m sure she’ll love them because she loves cute stuff. I’m also planning on printing off lunch notes (and writing my own at times) to give her a little fun pick me up.

Lastly, the plan. I will pack (or at least start packing) lunch the night before, as suggested here. That’s my biggest plan for actually getting her out the door on time. We also have been working on getting ready before breakfast (they have a “before breakfast” to do list that is pretty much just getting ready for the day) so that I’m not constantly harping on her to get dressed and brush her teeth and can focus on getting breakfast on the table and the last bit of lunch packed.

So there it is! Our plan for school lunch this fall. I’ll check up with ya’ll later about how it’s coming along. I’m sure there will be some more obstacles along the way since we’ve never had to pack a school lunch before! She’s getting so big!

Do you pack school lunch? Any tips or tricks you’ve learned?

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Some Quinoa and Part of an Avocado

It’s Food Waste Friday! This week I feel like we did a pretty good job. Not 100% waste-free, but a lot of good work. First, the bad.

Some quinoa got wasted. I was planning on using it Saturday in a recipe, but then we ended up doing a different one that had been skipped earlier in the week. It was already pushing it time-wise to use it in Saturday’s recipe, so I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and this was trash. The good news is that we’ve found that we do sometimes like quinoa (depends on what it’s in) from some of the recipes in our meal planning service, so go go healthy food!

And second, part of an avocado. I was able to salvage some of the insides for the recipe I was making today, but the outer edges were all slimy. Yuck. It’s hard to get through avocados in our house because, while I absolutely adore them, my family is more on the fence. I work hard to make sure that they get used up before they go bad now (and I buy less of them than the meal plan says to), but this one just got away from me.

In good news, I was able to use up all of our leftovers from meals that needed to be used this week. We still have some meatballs, but they have a few more days, so I think we’ll be good. I also worked on saving parts of meals that the kids didn’t want to finish, like when Peanut decided she didn’t want any more orange. I gave it back to her later (after storing it in the fridge, obviously) and she ate it happily. And this is all with two produce drawers so full that I have to use shelves for the extras every week! I love that we’ve gotten to a place where what we buy at the store is at least 50% from the produce section.

Now just to keep this momentum going for next week! Anyone else working on reducing their food waste? How’d you do this week?

Peanut Butter Green Smoothie

Gotta get those greens in these kids!

Gotta get those greens in these kids!

Today I’m sharing with you one of my favorite recipes from the Super Healthy Kids meal plan: Peanut Butter Green Smoothies! My whole family loves them and they keep us full which has always been an issue with smoothies in the past. And they’re healthy!

Peanut Butter Green Smoothies

2 cups – almond milk, unsweetened
1 teaspoon – cinnamon
2 scoops – vanilla protein powder
2 medium – banana
2 cups – spinach, raw
4 tablespoons – peanut butter, all-natural

Directions: Toss all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if a thicker consistency is desired. Serve immediately.

So there you go! I hope you all try this smoothie. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a free year of Super Healthy Kids meal plans! The giveaway ends this Wednesday and there are shockingly few entries! If you’ve already entered, find some other way to enter! You can enter many, many different ways! If you haven’t entered yet and the website is still down when you see this (they’re having a bit of a technical issue), go ahead and skip the first mandatory entry.

Super Healthy Kids Meal Planning Membership Review

One of our lunches. Easy, healthy, and surprisingly delicious.

Y’all know me, I don’t often pay someone to do something that I can do myself. Meal planning is most certainly something I can do myself, I’ve done so in the past. But the issue with doing that myself is that it never gets done. So I would plan things out with the best of intentions for a couple of weeks, then it would fall to the wayside. So why not try a service that plans it all for me? Especially one that’s made for kids to like it and to be “super healthy”? Let’s do this!

So I contacted the ladies at Super Healthy Kids, a website I’ve been following for years and love, to ask if I could do a review of their meal planning service. They graciously obliged and I was able to try out their service for three whole months! It’s been three months of some downs and definitely lots of ups and I’m excited to report that not only did we like it, but we’ve decided to continue with the service on our own dime. Even my husband agrees! And isn’t that the true show of a good reviewed product, buying it myself?

Let’s get on with the actual review.

So keeping in mind that it was all resolved in the end, there was a bit of a learning curve. I think 3 months billed at a time is perfect because I may have given up after one month if it was an option. Really what it all boils down to is someone else is planning everything. I had to find ways to make it our own. First off, I had to re-arrange the meals. Being a family of five with three of those being small (and therefore not eating a ton, though the oldest is starting to), I had to add two leftovers nights a week. Then I add a third every week for Sundays, which are often spent with family. This encompasses both the times that we need to eat the extras from other nights as well as the times that we decide to get pizza or something else not made at home.

Bunny pancakes!

The other thing I did to mitigate the over-abundance of food was to edit the meals to the correct size. My husband often takes leftovers to work or goes out with co-workers, so he only eats a couple of the lunches that I make a week. Then some of the meals are made with serving sizes of 6, which we’ll never be able to make it through, so I edit those totals down. For now, I print off the recipes (which I found out is my preferred way of doing it anyway) and manually going through and editing totals. Amy assured me that they’re working on putting in the function that edits it for you, so I’ll be on the lookout for that in the future.

The other big learning curve was the price. I’m not talking about the $24 every three months for the service, but rather how much I was spending at the grocery store each month. To be fair, I was spending a very low amount at the store each month in comparison to others I’ve talked to about it. Generally about $300/month, not including WIC and frozen meat we have from the farm (which we don’t use a ton of because it’s mostly the stuff we don’t use much at this point). Adding in that our country is in a sad state where crap processed food is cheaper than fresh fruits and veggies, we by definition had to spend more to eat healthier. In the beginning, we were spending a LOT more though. More like $500-600 a month. With the things I mentioned above and some smart shopping (substituting things I already had in my cupboards for things I’d have to buy, though I’ve had to do that less and less as I’ve used stuff up), I got it down to around $400 a month, which is definitely livable. And we stopped eating out as much, so things are balancing out really well.

Not every meal is a hit (really, they aren’t when I pull new recipes off the internet either), but I was surprised at how much we really did like the recipes. We tried things we wouldn’t have normally. New fruits and veggies, new ways of eating things, all sorts of new. And I actually liked probably about 90% of it. The kids are probably more like 70%, but there’s always enough of the familiar that they still eat what they need and they’re always at least trying the new things. And I’ve noticed that with time as they get used to it that they’re complaining less. The biggest thing I think they’re happy about is the abundance of fresh produce. They both LOVE fruits and veggies, so having them at every single meal makes them crazy happy. Often it’s something simple like orange slices and cucumbers on the side. All the meals are simple to make.

Something really unexpected to me as been how good it is for me to eat these foods. I’ve been working on losing weight for the past about 4 months and starting this meal plan is when I really started to shed the weight. I’ll write more on this later, but I’ve lost about 15 lbs so far and I’ve had treats nearly every day (yeah, probably shouldn’t do that). This meal plan is leaving me that wiggle room and it’s worked out really great for me. And I feel great every day, never hungry, and I can tell I’m eating healthier because I just *feel* better. Super healthy kids and super healthy mama!

Do you want to be super healthy too!? Well, you can right now with 25% off (expires July 1st)! Just use the code claire25 when you sign up! And one lucky reader will win a one year subscription! Giveaway ended. Congrats Danielle!

First off, make sure to leave a comment for each entrySo if the item you accomplish says 2 entries, leave two comments! I try my best to check through and make sure everyone gets all the entries they should, but I’m not perfect! Make sure to get credit where credit’s due!

Mandatory first entry: Go to the Super Healthy Kids blog and check it out! Leave a comment here telling me which recipe you’re going to try! Be sure to use an email you can be contacted at in case you win!

1 entry: follow me on Twitter. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entryfollow Super Healthy Kids on Twitter. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry: Tweet about this giveaway (leave a link to the tweet in the comment). You can tweet about this giveaway once every day for an entry. That’s up to 15 entries just from tweeting!

1 entry: follow me on Pinterest. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry: follow Super Healthy Kids on Pinterest. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry: become a fan of The Adventures of Lactating Girl on Facebook. If you’re already a fan, you still get an entry!

1 entry: become a fan of Super Healthy Kids on Facebook. If you’re already a fan, you still get an entry!

1 entry: Write a post on your Facebook page about this giveaway! Make sure you link to The Adventures of Lactating Girl on Facebook and Super Healthy Kids on Facebook in the post and leave a comment here each time you do it. You can do it once per day! That’s up to 15 entries!

1 entry: follow Super Healthy Kids on Instagram. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

1 entry: follow Super Healthy Kids on Google+. If you already follow, you still get an entry!

2 entries (don’t forget to comment twice!): follow this blog by email (or other following mechanism of your choosing).  If you already follow, you still get an entry!

2 entries: sign up for the Super Healthy Kids newsletter (just scroll down a bit to the “Join Our Newsletter” section). If you already get the newsletter, you still get an entry!

The winner will be chosen on Wednesday, June 10th at 5PM Mountain Standard Time by random. The winner will be emailed and must respond to the email within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck everyone!

Meal Plans and Food Waste

Have you guys heard of Super Healthy Kids? They’re pretty awesome. These ladies make food that is healthy and kids enjoy. Well, they do a pre-planned meal plan that we’ve been trying for a review (look for that coming up soon!). I’ve been really enjoying it, but there has been a bit of a learning curve.

A big part of that learning curve has been food waste. It’s always an issue for me when I meal plan, to be honest. When I’m not meal planning, we just eat whatever is there. We make what we have work, so not a ton ends up wasted. When going by a meal plan, I have to be much more conscious of what’s already in the fridge. I also have to work around meals getting skipped because life gets in the way. One day we’re invited to dinner by our parents. Another day we decide we really want to order a pizza. Normal things that I do try to plan for, but some things don’t give me a week forewarning.

So I decided to start holding myself accountable again by showing the internet our food waste. Hopefully this gives me an extra push to get everything used up in the fridge before it goes bad.

This week we have three items. First, the clementines. Three little clementines that got past their prime.

Next item on the list doesn’t have a photo because I forgot. I was pretty upset about these, actually. You see, as part of the meal plan I made muffins last Saturday for breakfast. They were on a bag on the counter, which is generally how I store muffins that I’m not freezing. They never stick around long enough to get moldy, but a combination of not eating these fast enough and the muffins growing a tiny spot of mold sooner than they generally would (they were particularly moist) meant about a half dozen went in the trash.

Lastly, this poor little avocado. I’m the only one in my family that really likes avocados. Thanks to the meal plan, I’m finding out a lot of different ways my family will tolerate them. Still though, I haven’t been using them nearly as fast as I should be by meal plan standards. This is not our first avocado casualty in the recent past.

So there you go! Other than these three things, we’re doing pretty good. We’re on track to use up (hopefully) all our leftovers and all the produce in our fridge is looking good. I did have a few wins this week with substituting items that needed to be used. And of course our bunny does a good job of eating not only the scraps, but also the produce that isn’t completely bad. She got a whole romaine lettuce heart this week! Lucky bunny!

Removing Milk Stains From Baby Clothes

The clothes go into storage looking great, but when they come out they’re covered in yellow stains. What’s going on?!? Milk stains!

It turns out there’s something about breast milk that causes these stains to pop up with time. Possibly with formula too (as the lady at the consignment store actually called them “formula stains”), though I don’t have first-hand experience there and I’m guessing the same techniques wouldn’t get them out since it’s not a bodily fluid. Anywho, I digress.

Well I’m here to tell you that these stains are ridiculously easy to get out of your baby clothes. Seriously, you will be amazed. No special products. No real effort. When I was pulling things out before Banana was born I found these stains once again and decided to share with you all the process of removing them. First, wash the clothes as normal (we just wash on cold, by the way, since there’s no real reason to wash clothes on hot). Second, hang them in the sun to dry! That’s all! Well, there’s a third optional step of either washing them again or spraying them with a little lemon water and letting them sun some more if the first time doesn’t work.

Want to see some before and after pictures so you can see how well this works? Well you’re gonna!

Before: 

During: 

With my umbrella clothesline, I make sure the most stained clothes are on the outside and I try to stagger the layers of clothing.

After:

Isn’t it awesome?! They’re completely gone! This nice little trick works with any bodily fluid, so if you get something like blood on your clothes this will help too. Yay sunshine!

Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets.

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As you know, we are happy owners of two wonderful dogs. Curie and Pascal are important parts of our family and we love them dearly. Before getting Curie though, we had Kerrigan.

Kerrigan was also loved and cherished, but sadly suffered from brain abnormalities that caused her to be aggressive (likely due to being a puppy mill dog). After many years of attempting to train her out of her aggressive tendencies, we made the hard decision to put her down about 4 years ago. It still upsets me to this day, but I am certain we made the right decision. When she threatened the safety of Peanut and the vet told us there was no way to really keep our child(ren) safe, it was time.

When we decided to get another dog (I’m a big animal lover and very quickly missed the presence of a dog in our home), I did A LOT of research to be certain we could avoid being in the same scenario again. So today I’m going to share with you My Tips on How to Pick the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog.

1. Consider getting a puppy. Yes, I know this is not politically correct and that there are PLENTY of adult dogs who are great with children. From my experience though, there’s just no way to make up for a dog getting manhandled while growing up. A dog who is mauled (with love) by a toddler every day as it grows will simply be more tolerant of it as an adult. If you’d like an older dog, it definitely can be done. Just make sure to pay special attention to the rest of the steps.

2. Research breeds. Of course every dog has its own personality, but breed does matter when it comes to kid-friendliness. Some breeds are very well known for their ability to tolerate small kids, while others are known for their inability. Some dogs you may not want around toddlers because they’re fragile (Pomeranian). Some dogs you may not want around toddlers because the toddler is fragile (Great Dane). So keep breed in mind and definitely research the breed of any dog you’re considering, but don’t completely discount a dog because of its breed. If you’re really hitting it off with a pooch, move onto step three (while keeping breed traits in mind).

3. Perform Puppy Tests. This list of tests is by far the best I’ve found for determining the personality of your dog. And they don’t have to be a puppy either! You can test out any age of dog, thought possibly with the help of another person if they’re a large breed. This will not only show any aggression, but other traits that are useful to know. Maybe your dog has had a bad owner in the past and you find that out from the hand-shy test. Maybe your dog is very domineering (though not aggressive) and you find this out by the dominant stare test. These are all useful things to know in step 4.

4. Train your pooch! Once you have that dog home, your work is far from done. Get your new (or new to you) dog into a training class ASAP! Ask around (your vet is a good place to ask) for a good trainer in your area. And I’m not talking about the little phooey training classes offered by your local big box pet store. A REAL training class taught by someone who has been doing this 20+ years for a living. Pay real attention in your class, ask questions, work on everything. Having a dog that will listen to your every command (or at least close) is even more important when small children are around. When your two year old goes chasing after your dog who is running off, you want that dog to come back to you when you call! When you have play dates and little friends are afraid of the dogs (or at least shy at first), you want to be able to keep your dogs off that kid. It’s even more difficult to keep up with training when you have small children, but trust me, it’s worth it.

5. Train your kids! The training doesn’t just happen with the dog! Children, whether they own pets or not, need to understand how to properly treat an animal. We have a few simple rules in our family about pets.

  1. Never pet a dog without the owner’s permission.
  2. Do not pull tails.
  3. Never bother an animal while its eating.
  4. Stay back from the dogs while they’re rough housing.
  5. Treat all living things with respect.

These are the scenarios where I feel like it’s completely the child’s (or really, the parents’) fault if they get hurt. It’s important to keep the dog (and other animals for that matter) safe as well as the child. Any animal can get aggressive in the right scenario.

6. Lastly, trust your gut. When you get that feeling while petting a perspective dog, walk away. When you can tell your dog is reaching his/her limit, intervene. If you just don’t feel 100% right about a situation, don’t allow it to continue. This is a good rule of thumb for general life, but especially important with animals around children. Your gut often tells you when something is about to go horribly wrong, so don’t ignore it.

I hope this helps some of you find the dog of your dreams. It is completely possible for you to own the perfect dog for your family, regardless of the age of your children. And it’s great for their immunity to boot!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • What Animal Rescue is Teaching My Children
  • Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shares some tips she’s learned on how to find the perfect child-friendly dog for your family.
  • All New Animals Are “Woof” — Baby Boy is still learning animals. Life Breath Present doesn’t yet have any at home, but he still believes that all animals are “woof.” Here’s the proof.
  • Dude, where’s my Horse? — Adora loves horses, but Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different really doesn’t. However, Adora’s longing wins out; learn about their interactions with horses here.
  • Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet — When is a family ready for a pet? Donna at Eco-Mothering discusses her worries as well as the benefits of adopting a dog, including how it will affect her seven-year-old daughter.
  • Parenting Challenge–Learning from Animals–running the emotional gammut — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the emotional learning her family has experienced through sharing their lives with animals.
  • Puppy Love for our Family — In case you didn’t catch it from the blog title, Pug in the Kitchen, the family pet is an integral part of Laura’s family and home life!
  • Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook is mostly vegetarian…not 100%, and not because of animal rights…yet she has found that the idea of not hurting animals is the aspect of vegetarianism most easily understood by a young child. She explains what her son has learned about not eating meat and how it has affected his social life.
  • Pets & kids: The realities — Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership when young kids are involved.
  • HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
  • It’s not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
  • Canine Haikus

    Kids, dog, haikus, at

    Dionna (Code Name: Mama).

    Pet-centric poems.

  • Beanie’s BunniesOur Mindful Life‘s Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
  • Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
  • How to Nurture Your Child’s Awareness of Spirit Guides — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a post from her regular contributor Lauren of SpiralElixir.com. Lauren looks at the concept of animals as spirit guides and how deeply children are connected to this realm. She also encourages us to open ourselves up as parents to the reality that children are naturally more connected to the animal world, giving us ideas on how to nurture their relationships with their Spirit Guides.
  • No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
  • Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn’t sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!
  • 3 Reasons Why Keeping Backyard Chickens is Good for my Toddler — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, started keeping backyard chickens for the benefit of their eggs, but what she wasn’t prepared for was what they would teach her two year old daughter too.