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Lunch Packing for 2, 4, or 28. Here’s How!

Would you get overwhelmed if you had to pack lunches for 28? Don’t worry, I don’t pack this many every day, but I’m going to show you how easy it is to pack lunches for 2, 6, or 20!

I recently volunteered to make lunches for a school that is in the poorest, most-diverse neighborhood in the entire county.

The thought of making 28 lunches could seem daunting, but I’m here to tell you, with a little preparation and helpful ideas from the MOMables menu plan, it went very smoothly!

My daughter and I always bake together on the weekends.  This allows me to be prepared and have ready-made snacks and breakfast items that will suit her gluten-free diet.

We baked up a batch of chocolate chip mini zucchini muffins. They were perfect for a treat in the lunches for the school!

A small amount of time baking = easy, healthy treats for desserts, whether for just your family for the week or to share! Not to mention the bonding time in the kitchen, as well as it being educational teaching fractions and how to read recipes.

We also made MOMables-style Pinwheels for the lunches. A flour tortilla, cream cheese, oven roasted deli turkey, and roll! Little Miss and I prepared these the night before because they are simple to make.

Tip #1:  Set up an assembly line for each step.  Instead of making each individual pinwheel, make all of them at the same time. 

By spreading all the lunch boxes out on our dining table, we were able to quickly fill the EasyLunchBoxes containers with Veggie Straws, fruits, and carrots with dip.

Tip #2:  Sandwiches, wraps, pinwheels, and many other items are easier to slice cleanly after chilling for at least an hour—or until the next morning.

Thanks to my MOMables subscription, making lunches every day for my daughter takes minutes! If I can do it for 28 people, anyone can do it for their family! Having a plan, a shopping list, and a make-ahead tips section saves a lot of time!

Tip #3: Make lunches ahead of time.  Most menu items give tips on keeping the items fresh and reheating suggestions. If you’re able to prepare your menu items, say Sunday afternoon, it can save you time and energy during your busy workweek!

Tip #4: Incorporate leftovers. Another reason MOMables saves me time and money is because they tell me in the menu if I will need chicken, rice, or pasta for a menu item. I can easily cook it at the same time I’m making dinner for my family!

Healthy lunches for 1 or 28, it all comes down to planning! Let MOMables help you get the most out of your time and energy so your family can have the lunches they deserve.

Tip #5: Plan year-round.  Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your kids aren’t eating lunch!  Even with hectic summer schedules, fresh is still best.  Between June 25th and August 10th, MOMables will share three fresh dinner ideas and two lunch options your family will love.

Planning during the summer helps avoid costly convenience foods and unhealthy drive-thru meals. As always, your weekly download will be filled with prep-ahead tips, five meals and a convenient shopping list.


LunchBots: Sturdy, Fun, and Versatile

For someone who packs lunches daily for a household of three, using waste-free materials is important to me. They need to be sturdy enough to stand the abuse of a six year old, aesthetically pleasing so that the fella won’t think they’re too “cutesy” to carry at work, convenient for packing healthy foods, and easy to clean. Especially since I am my family’s dishwasher! 

LunchBots has four stainless steel containers that meet all those needs and my family loves. Combine their compartmentalized convenience plus one of the MOMables lunch menus, and I can pack lunch for the entire family by just changing the portion size!

BPA–free and made from food-grade stainless steel, LunchBots are 100% reusable and 100% recyclable.  I also love all the fun color options there are for the lids! A great way to express your personality through your lunch box.  Whether you use an Uno, Duo, Trio, or Quad, the possibilities are endless for great lunches for the entire family.

The Trio and Quad, specifically, are great for kids’ lunches because it allows you to divide your food into three or four compartments. You can easily pack Bento-style lunches without the tediousness of cutting food into cute shapes. They give you more capabilities to be creative, and to keep food from touching for those picky eaters in your family!

Each space provides enough room to pack nutritious fruits, vegetables, protein, and more. Different size containers for different size appetites—perfect!  LunchBots also come in handy for keeping dinner leftovers in. With their spacious sections, you can easily store tonight’s dinner in them to enjoy for lunch the next day or even to use as ingredients in your next meal.

Avoid the use of wasteful baggies, foil, and plastic wraps! Instead, start packing in these Bots that will keep your food not only from getting squished, but are environmentally friendly as well. Did I mention they are sturdy? The ones in our MOMables test kitchen are 3 years old and still feel and function like new!


Updated: Top 5 Lunchboxes We’ve Tested

3 How to save money when shopping organic

How to Save Money When Shopping Organic

What? Save money shopping organic? Who knew it was possible!

how to save money when shopping organicMaking the decision to eat organic foods can put a real strain on your family’s budget. The costly price of eating healthy has found many families in a predicament. Which foods should you buy organic? Where will you get the best bang for your buck?

Here are a few tips to help you keep your budget in check while choosing the right foods for your family.

1. Local farmers’ market. This is a must! You can get fresh organic eggs, fruits, veggies, milk, and sometimes meat, while at the same time, supporting your local farmers. The price tends to be less than the grocery store down the street. If you have to shop for eggs in the grocery store, then buy organic. I haven’t been sold on the “cage-free,” free-range,” or “all-natural” yet. I’m not confident that those terms are closely regulated. Therefore, if you are buying anything else than conventional, get organic.

2. Peel = save your money. Don’t spend the extra money on foods that have a skin that you’ll peel and toss. Foods such as avocados, grapefruit, oranges, or bananas are probably not the ones to break the budget by buying organic. Now apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, or blueberries are the ones that you’ll definitely want to buy certified organic.

3. White and refined = save your money. Instead of spending the extra money on organic white bread or rice, just purchase the regular brown rice or whole-grain breads. Splurge on organic fruits and meats rather than grains.

4. Save by buying store-brand organic. A lot of chain grocers are stocking the shelves with their own label of organics. Many of these big-box stores are partnering with local farmers who are pledging not to use growth hormones, pesticides, or antibiotics. The store-brand will typically cost less.

5. Organic chicken will cost less than organic red meat. When you plan your weekly meals, use more chicken than red meat. It’s not only healthier, but cheaper. Alternative options are hormone-free and grass-fed. However, don’t let the “all-natural” labels fool you. To help stretch your budget even further, buy the whole chicken. Roast the chicken, and use the meat for two or more meals, plus use the carcass to make stock.

6. Skip bagged lettuce and vegetables. You’ll pay more for having your lettuce washed and packaged ready to eat. For the same price or less, you can grab a whole head of organic lettuce, and you’ll get more for your money. If you have kids, they can help wash the greens and help you prepare your meal.

It’s not difficult to make healthier choices on wholesome food if you are willing to do a little bit of preparation. Remember that you are going to pay more for packaging and convenience; and oftentimes, organic is not more expensive than the items you are already purchasing. If you want to stretch your money further, try a meatless day and/or a breakfast for dinner once a week.

How to Store and Use Leftovers

Do you know how to use leftovers and store them for later?

How to store and use leftoversWhether it’s a large family gathering or a weekday meal, we often find ourselves with uneaten food. Have you ever found yourself not knowing what to do with it, or how long you can keep it before throwing it all out?

My husband doesn’t like to eat leftovers, so it’s up to me and the kids to finish them off, and I usually end up throwing out several containers at a time, long after they’re okay to eat. It’s wasteful, and costly. The smarter thing to do would be to save those leftovers and reuse them in different ways so my husband wouldn’t notice! Sneaky, I know.

In order to try to eliminate some of the wastefulness, save money, and prevent food borne illness, I’ve put together some “leftover guidelines,” compiled from eHow and What’s Cooking America.

  • Never leave food out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours from the time it’s cooked. It’s safer to cool it in the refrigerator than on the counter, so as soon as you’re done with the meal, put it away.
  • Leftovers containing meat should be used or thrown out within 3 days. Other foods will last up to 5 days in the fridge.
  • If you must store leftovers in the original pan or dish, cover them tightly with foil or plastic wrap. A better solution, though, is to divide the dish into smaller, shallow containers. They will cool faster, and you’ll be more likely to eat them or use them in another dish if they’re in individual servings. For example, pasta is an easy lunch to reheat the next day, if it’s already in a a grab-and-go portion size.
  • Try to switch up the meals made from leftovers. Turkey or chicken can easily be tossed into fajitas, wraps, quesadillas, even enchiladas. Ham is perfect for dicing up and cooking into a breakfast casserole. Rice is great for stir-fries or fried rice. Think outside of the box—you’re more likely to use up your food if you’re not eating the same thing over and over and over. Love Food, Hate Waste has a great recipe index for using leftovers of all kinds.
  • Don’t overload the fridge. Food needs to stay between 35 and 40 degrees F, and  packing too much in the fridge will inhibit the cool air from circulating effectively. Spread the containers out as much as you can.
  • Label everything! Write the date on the container or on a removable label so you never have to question how long it’s been in the refrigerator.
  • When you reheat the food, make sure you heat it to 165 degrees F, instead of just warming it up, and stir the food to ensure that it is all reaching the appropriate temperature. Leftover liquids, such as sauces, gravies, and soups should be brought to a boil before being eaten.
  • When you’ve had a chance to relax a little (or even before you cook your meal in the first place), plan what you’ll use the leftovers for. Having a meal plan ahead of time is the easiest way to make sure you eat the food instead of throwing it out.

My family OFTEN passes sicknesses to each other (especially between all of the kids), but unlike a cold or the flu virus, food poisoning is preventable! And hey, I’m a busy mom. The less food I need to buy, and the less I have to cook, the better.  Reusing leftovers can save us time and money!!


Winter Convenience: Healthy Freezer Meals

Need a hearty winter meal?

I love frozen dinners. They’ve come a long way since I was a kid, and they’re a really easy, fast way to eat consistent portion sizes and diet-friendly food.  That is, if I make them at home with ingredients I can control.  I am not saying that store bought frozen meals can’t be healthy… but many of the “healthy” ones have tons of added ingredients that I can’t pronounce!  The healthiest ones, like the ones I can find at Whole Foods, are expensive!  For the cost of two-three individual single meals I can make my own large pot that will feed my family dinner and I will have several servings of leftovers!

I’ve mentioned here, here and here that since I’ve begun my MOMables™ challenge I’ve lost weight, I feel good about what I feed my family, and I’ve become more educated on what it’s in my food.  So, how can I eat healthy foods without going overboard and eating too much, or spending too much money when Christmas is right around the corner?

I’ve discovered the answer: make my own. I can make a big batch of a healthy meal and freeze or refrigerate portions that are quick to heat up when I need them. It’s so much cheaper, and I know exactly what ingredients are  going into them.

Some of my favorites are chicken chili, MOMables™ chicken and rice soup (from the subscription meal plan), homemade macaroni and cheese, or cheese ravioli with a broccoli alfredo sauce (one of my favorite store-bought freezer meals, made at home).


When I’ve made a batch of these meals and divided them up, I can grab them when I’m ready to eat (before I get so hungry that I feel like I need to snack on everything in the house), take them in the car (so I don’t need to stop for fast food), and spend the money I’ve saved on the kids’ Christmas gifts or shoes for myself.

Do you do make-ahead freezer meals? If so, do you have a favorite recipe?



**Top photo credit