I may be new to the ‘kid’s packed lunch scene’, but it doesn’t mean I’m full of fresh ideas as to what I’m supposed to pack!
“Will she eat this? Is this even healthy? Wait, am I including enough food groups?” Seriously, packing a kids’ lunch shouldn’t be this dang stressful. And yet it’s one of my most dreaded chores.
My kids aren’t school age yet (my son is 1 and my daughter is 3) but three days a week, they go to a babysitter/daycare situation from 9-5, and they bring a packed lunch with them on those days.
I do this so I can actually get, you know, work done.
I send them off (despite working from home) so that I can actually work, instead of, say, losing my mind or temper or plonking them in front of the T.V. for eight straight hours. It’s a win-win for everyone, and they absolutely adore their babysitter.
I make their packed lunches the night before, while I’m cleaning up after dinner but before I put leftovers away. I find that if I try to cram in packed lunch prep in the morning, I usually forget something – plus, it’s way too stressful! We have enough morning time battles to fight, such as trying to brush my daughter’s hair without her running away from me. Ain’t nobody got time to deal with lunch making, too.
(click the image to pin straight to Pinterest!)
I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way regarding these packed lunches:
- Try to only have one food group item at a time (so, say- one piece of fruit, one vegetable, protein, etc)
- Cheese sticks are my very best friend
- Those reusable baby food pouches I bought too many of when my daughter was just getting into solids? Those are the perfect vehicle for applesauce.
- My daughter tends to try more things at the babysitter’s house, so this is prime time to add in things like green beans, roasted broccoli, dried apricots, etc. She lives by the credo, “If it’s from mom, it’s gross. If it’s from the babysitter, I should try it!” So, I totally take advantage of this.
- Leftovers are my other bff after cheese sticks. The nights before the kids go to the babysitter, I try to cook a dinner that is easily ‘leftover-able”. This saves me time and money, stretching a meal out this way!
Want some great ideas for a simple recipe you can make at home that works fabulously in kids’ packed lunches?
Check out this Facebook Live I did, where I made 15-Minute Peanut Satay Chicken Skewers and Broccoli Pesto Pasta.
( Plus, I share my faaaaavorite reusable food containers, from Kids Konserve. They’re leakproof and practically indestructible! )
But wait! I went one step further, and created this handy little ‘Pick and Choose Packed Lunch’ cheat sheet for you! 🙌
Guys, this takes SO MUCH of the thought process out of planning and packing kid’s lunches. Add in a few extra options that your kid’s like; make it personal to you and your family.
Then, when it’s time to take care of the kid’s packed lunch, just pick one item from each section on the chart. Add it to the lunchbox, zip that sucker up, and toss it in the fridge or backpack.
Well, easier if you had like, a maid to do this stuff for you. But you know what I mean.
Anyway, the download’s FREE!! No strings attached, no email to hand over. Just click and save and go about your merry little lunch-packing way.
Enjoy the school year!
Click here for the straight-up pdf version. Or, click the image below to download!
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Fall’s bounty of fruits and vegetables is hard to beat, but how can you best store fall produce so it stays fresh and tasty!?
I love buying fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market in the fall when the air is warm and the breeze is crisp. Wondering how you can store fall produce from the market, so you can enjoy all that autumn-y deliciousness while it’s still fresh? I made a handy guide to help you with just that, showcasing some of the fall’s most popular fruits and veggies!
I’m writing this in July, in the middle of a heat wave, dreaming of fall leaves, pumpkins, and steamy bowls of apple and sausage chili (swoon). Thinking cool thoughts keeps me from melting in the heat!
Another thing I love about fall produce is how it easily lends itself to roasting.
Summer produce is delicious on its own, but squash, pumpkin, brussels sprouts, eggplant… they’re all so much better with a little roast-y caramelization, don’t you think?
I love to toss roasted veggies warm on top of a salad or stirred into pasta. So simple, and then you’ve got a totally deliciously healthy meal with very little hands on time.
Most of all, I love how roasting fall veggies on chilly nights both warms up my kitchen and smells so dang good. Three cheers for double duty! (or would that be two cheers? hmm…)
Why just these veggies and not others? Blame fall’s cornucopia of produce!
I used some of my favorite fruits and vegetables in the printable below since fall’s bountiful harvest was a litttttle more than I could possibly fit on a graphic and still make it easy to understand and follow along.
If you’re looking for a great resource for help figure out just how long all your produce will last, I recommend heading over to the site EatByDate.com. There you’ll find a huge trove of not just fruits and vegetable use-by recommendation dates, but other foods as well; dairy, meat, etc. I refer to it all the time!
Click on the image below to download the pdf, no string attached! It’s free, it’s handy, and it’s super easy to print off and hang up on your fridge or pop into a meal planning binder.
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Hey, whatcha planning on cooking this summer?
In between the beach reads, ice cream sandwiches, the glasses of sangria and maybe a hotdog toaster or two, I’m willing to bet you’ve got some time to get cooking in the kitchen. And dudes, have I got the PERFECT cookbook full of simple summer recipes to inspire you!
I joined forces with a handful of some of my favorite food bloggers and we put together this awesome summertime cookbook, just for readers of our sites! It’s 100% FREE (yup! FREE!) and chock full of easy, simple recipes to get you from Memorial Day to Labor Day in delicious style.
This simple summer recipe cookbook includes two of my favorite recipes from Percolate Kitchen, Cobb Salad with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing (oh that dressing #swoon) and Roasted Baby Potato and Green Bean Salad. But in this book you can also nab recipes for Grapefruit Tequila Spritzers, Extra-Creamy Coleslaw, Summertime Kale Salad, Mango Sorbet, and FOUR of the best burger recipes I’ve seen in a long time.
Here are the other food bloggers and their sites featured in the cookbook:
Sybil at Oven Struck
Heather at The Messy Little Kitchen
Dene at Biscuits and Savvy
Carla at CarlaCrudup.com
Seriously- this book belongs in your summertime repertoire.
And it’s FREE. Like, no cash exchanged. Just you, me, and those burgers.
Ok, well maybe I won’t be there, but you can invite me out to the pool later. And we’ll have grapefruit tequila spritzers and bond. It’ll be great.
If you’re already a Percolate subscriber, you can download the cookbook straight from within this weekend’s e-issue of Percolate, which will arrive (like always!) in inboxes tomorrow (Saturday) morning. If you’re not a Percolate subscriber, no worries! Just fill out your info in the box below, and the download link for the book will pop up immediately.
How awesome will this summer be when you’ve got a huge trove of EXCELLENT summery recipes, just ready to go?!
I’m thinking very awesome.
Download your copy today!
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Earlier this week I had the pleasure of getting together with Angie Trueblood, of mealplanningmama.com! Angie graciously let me pepper her with questions about how she got her start meal planning, where she gets her inspiration, and what she does on those nights when the whole plan falls apart (hint: it’s not ordering takeout!)
Ruthy: How do you decide what to cook for dinner each night? Do you have a binder, a list, “theme nights”, etc?
Angie: I have all of this. 🙂 I have a binder that has a one-month rotation of our ‘theme nights’ that I use as the starting point for our meal plan. Then, for each theme night, I have a list of our favorite meals and recipes. My goal is to cut down on the decisions I need to make when choosing our weekly meals, so having these decisions already made saves me time AND brainpower (a hot commodity, these days). 🙂
Ruthy: When did you start meal planning? What motivated you to figure it out?
Angie: Really, not until I had my daughter, my first child. My husband and I were both working full-time, and we’d rush in the door after work and be torn between wanting to spend time with her while also needing to feed us all. Doing that without a plan made for a cluster of a night and I knew there had to be a better way. So, true to form, I created a system that worked for us.
Ruthy: What’s your favorite ‘pivot’ dinner recipe? (I love how you refer to them as ‘Plan B’ meals!)
Angie: I always keep shrimp, frozen veggies, and a great sauce on hand, so I can do a super simple rice bowl. The key to not having to run out to dinner when I don’t really want to (and honestly, if the day is requiring a last-minute pivot, I’m usually not in the mood to go out anyway!), is to have quick-cooking items on hand that make a meal that you’re somewhat excited about. 🙂 Keeping shredded chicken or meatballs on hand in the freezer are also great go-to’s and can be turned into a meal in no time.
Ruthy: Do you have a favorite ‘use up the leftovers!’ type of meal?
Angie: It’s not super sexy, but I can make a hearty meal out of quesadillas most any night. Most nights, I purposely cook more food than we’ll eat at one sitting, so we have leftovers for lunch and usually another meal where I’ll ‘repurpose’ the meal into something else. Any leftover meat or veggie is game for stuffing in a quesadilla and since we always keep rice and black beans on hand, it’s easy to make a complete meal out of it. Grilled sandwiches and soups are also great ways to repurpose leftovers.
Ruthy: What would you tell someone who feels overwhelmed about where to start meal planning?
Angie: Just start. Don’t worry about creating a complicated system that is going to work forever. A friend of mine recently wrote her first weekly meal plan EVER on a pink index card. Having that plan gave her more peace of mind than she had ever had at dinner simply because that major decision of the day was made. Don’t invest in digital meal plan subscriptions or go out searching on Pinterest first, either. Those can come in time to add variety but, first, start with the meals you know your family will eat and go from there. Obviously, if you need help, I’d love you to check out my course, What the Fork is for Dinner? In it, I walk you through the steps of creating a simple system that works for your family and your schedule through video tutorials, a detailed workbook, and printable planning sheets.
Bonus! Angie is offering her course only to Percolate Kitchen readers for the discounted price of $47 until Saturday, May 27th at midnight! Enter the coupon code RUTHY to snag your deal; after theat, the price shoots up to $67!
Ruthy: What’s a good way to get out of a ‘planning rut”?
Angie: First off, give yourself permission to take a break. (Ruthy: I freaking love this)
Seriously. No one needs to be making 7 dinners from scratch every night of the week for months on end. 🙂 Plan in some ‘kitchen closed’ nights where you DO go out or nights that are super easy. I love doing meat and cheese boards at home and they’re a hit for the whole family. We put a couple of different meats, cheeses, fruits, crackers and jam out and we’re done! Usually, once I come up with a couple of fun ideas, I’ll get excited again. Recently, a friend shared the idea of a ‘Takeout Fakeout’ night and it’s now my mission to recreate some of our favorites!
Ruthy: You’re big on finding simplicity in life. What’s your favorite tip for someone who feels they need to simplify things in their life a little more?
Angie: I am. And, I’m big into simplifying so that I can enjoy the people that matter. I would say first, get clear on your priorities and start evaluating how your actions reflect those priorities. If work is not a huge priority, but you’re spending 10 hours a day there, something needs to change. For me, eating dinner at home is a top priority, but cooking everything from scratch is not. So, I serve healthy meals any use plenty of shortcuts to get there. Seriously…the rotisserie chicken is better than sliced bread in my opinion. 🙂
Guys, honestly- how helpful is Angie!? And I’m in love with her site, too. It’s full of helpful tips, simple recipes, and meal planning support. Definitely my kind of website!
Don’t forget to snag Angie’s STEAL of a meal planning course, ‘What The Fork Is For Dinner?‘ for just $47! This price is only valid until May 27th, 2017 at midnight. After that, the price is $67! Use coupon code RUTHY at checkout to claim that price.
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Which of these summer foodie essentials will you be adding to your Amazon Wish List, stat?
Bonus: everything here is under $25!
While it was in the ’50’s over the weekend in New York City, this week the temps shot up to the 80’s. We went from wearing jackets and hats to sweating in shorts and tank tops!
The sudden change in weather got me flexing my “Buy It Now” button-pushing fingers on my Amazon.com app. There are so many cute summer foodie products to buy right now!
Here are some of the best and most affordable options for your summer foodie essentials list:
S’more Grill, $12
Perfect for making s’mores on the grill, without the bonfire!
Ice Cream Sandwich Beach Blanket, $25
It’s even got sprinkles!
Hamburger Bike Bell, $11 Even cooler than a hamburger phone
Cooler Bag With MP3 Speakers, $20
It hooks up to your phone via bluetooth!
Umbra Ice Cream Scoop, $18
I love how smooth and classy this gorgeous metal scoop is.
Donut Pool Float, $20
The bite take out is my favorite part!
Ice Cream Sandwich Mold, $16
Layer the cookies and the ice cream right in the mold! Boom: ice cream sandwiches, on your own time.
Outdoor/Camping Cutlery Set, $12
They’re stainless steel and super lightweight – super handy for camping or picnics on the beach.
Penguin Ice/Chocolate Mold, $5
I’ve always had a soft spot for penguins! Use the inverted side to make penguin shaped ice cubes, or fill in the mold with chocolate.
Multicolored Bamboo Utensils, $12
I can’t get over how affordable this sweet spoon set is! I’m digging those pastels.
Melamine Salad Servers, $12
Another crazy affordable choice, these spoons would look great at a backyard pool party.
Acaciaware Hardwood Bowl, $6
For only $6, this bowl is a steal! Acaciawood is a gorgeous hardwood that holds up well to all kinds of abuse.
Microwave Popcorn Popper, $21
Perfect for lazy summer afternoons, this popcorn popper goes straight from the microwave to the couch. No more burned fingers!
Sombrero Citrus Juicer, $11
Seriously, how can you not with this?
Glass Jar with Lid, $14
I have a vintage version of this and I use it all the time! It’s good for storing leftovers but it’s also awesome for keeping bugs out of your drink outdoors.
Little Bird Bottle Stopper, $6
Think of the white wine spritzers.
PBJ Zipper Purse, $11
Perfect for keeping your valuables in at the pool or beach.
Pineapple Stemless Wine Glass, $17
I love how classy this guy is.
Pineapple and Watermelon Popsicle Mold, $19
Watermelon AND popsicle!? Check out the rest of the listing – they have more shapes than this!
Hot Dog Toaster, $19
We don’t have a grill on which to cook the perfect hotdog, but you can bet your bottom dollar that this toaster would make my toddler not care one bit.
‘After This, We’re Getting Pizza’ Water Bottle, $20
Because we are, that’s why.
Inflatable Watermelon Drink Holder, $18
Let a watermelon float your drink over to you while you relax the hell outta summer.
35oz Glass Carafe with Silicone Lid, $20
I see this gorgeous carafe and all I can think is ‘sangria’. Anyone else?
Whew! What are you adding to your cart? If you pick anything, give me a shout about it on social media! The links to follow me are in the upper left hand corner of this page.
Note: the links below are part of Amazon’s affiliate program, which means I’ll receive a small portion of sales, at zero extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting Percolate Kitchen!
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