Monthly Archives: August 2009

Packing Lunches On A Budget

Because of the economy, some people are finding themselves on a tighter budget than they’ve ever been on.  Some of us have been on a tight budget for a while and might just need some fresh ideas.  So let’s share ideas for packing lunches on a budget.

I have decided that we don’t have much room in our budget to pay for convenience.  That means, if the food is already divided into individual portions, it’s probably not in my budget.

Little prepackaged bags of chips or crackers, gogurts or tiny bowls of yogurt, pudding cups, cups of fruit or applesauce — all of these have become rare treats around here.  They cost more and they are less environmentally-friendly.

Instead, I buy a big bag of chips or a box of snack crackers and the kids can put them in a baggie or small plastic container when they pack their lunches.  I buy boxes of pudding and make it myself, then I put it into those little round Gladware containers.  I buy a big container of low-fat yogurt and divide it up in those little containers too.  The kids can choose pudding or yogurt for dessert from the Lunch List and grab one from the fridge.  The perfect little serving size.

The inventor of Gladware containers should get some sort of award.

gladware I do the same thing with applesauce and fruit salad.  We buy the big jars or cans and then divide it up into individual portions in the Gladware bowls.

Last year, one of my sons would forget these little containers (and the residual applesauce all on the inside) in the bottom of his locker.  He had his own little science experiment growing in his locker.  This year, if they don’t bring their containers home one day, they don’t get to take anything in a container the next day.  Because my little apples didn’t fall far from the tree, they love pudding and they don’t want to miss a day of dessert.  They bring home their containers for me to wash and re-use.

Juice boxes are another convenience that doesn’t often fit into our budget.  Instead, I bought insulated water bottles or thermoses for my children.  They can fill these with water or juice or lemonade each morning.  It’s much cheaper and also makes less trash.

My kids got boring solid-color aluminum bottles, but some stores sell water bottles with fun designs, like these —


I also save money by making my own granola bars.  Most granola bars you can buy are expensive when you consider the price per bar.  They also have a lot of preservatives and artificial colors and other stuff that I’ve decided to cut back on for my kids.  (Unless they are organic granola bars, and then they are even more expensive!)  So I make my own, cut them into squares, wrap them in plastic wrap, and keep them in the fridge.  You can find a lot of tasty granola bar recipes online — or maybe some of you want to share a recipe you have in this comment section.


So that’s how I’m packing lunches on a budget — I don’t pay for convenience.

How about you?  Do you have any tips for packing lunches for less?  Please share them with us.



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Packing Lunches

For much of last school year, I couldn’t quite get the lunch-packing right.  I gave this one peanut butter and jelly, and he stopped liking peanut butter last week.  What was I thinking?  I gave that one a banana, and she doesn’t eat bananas any more.  She likes apples.  But the other one, she only likes apples without the peel.  But if you peel them, then pack them, they turn brown.  And who wants to eat brown apples?

I lost track of how many mornings they’d whine and complain about what I was packing them.  They’d come home from school with a lunchbag half-full of uneaten food and ask with great exasperation, “Why’d you give me string cheese?  I don’t eat cheese anymore!  I’m STARVING!”

And then one day I had an epiphany:  if I didn’t pack their lunches, they couldn’t blame me for packing the wrong thing.  I realized their hands weren’t painted on; they could pack their own lunches!

However, I didn’t want them packing just any old thing.  I mean, what if one of them packed himself three granola bars and called it lunch?  I wanted them to do the work, but I’m the overprotective, bit of a control-freak momma, so the Lunch List was born.


After I buy groceries, I make this list.  I write down all the choices for a snack, a main lunch dish, lunch sides, and dessert.  They may choose one thing from each column.  And after breakfast, my kids in second, fifth, and sixth grades pack their own lunchbags.  (The third grader is homeschooled.)

At our school, kindergarten is only from 8:00 to 12:15, so my kindergarten son only has to take a snack.  Some days I help him pack his snack, but other days he does it himself.  He can put a handful of Wheat Thins in a baggie, and he can grab a homemade granola bar out of the fridge (I make them, cut them, and individually wrap them, then store them in the fridge).

Do I have to clean up graham cracker crumbs from the counters some mornings?  Yes.  Does my second grader get peanut butter all over the knife handle and the outside of the peanut butter jar?  Yes.  Do they sometimes forget a spoon and end up sucking applesauce from the little Ziploc container or licking it out with their tongues?  Yes.  But I think it’s good for them to learn responsibility.  I think it’s good for them to make some choices.  I also think it’s good to give them guidelines in which to make those choices, which is why I love my Lunch List so much.

Now if they don’t like their lunches, it’s their own fault.  The absence of whining and complaining is a beautiful thing.  The Lunch List is a beautiful thing.


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Sick Days

If I don’t get any sick days, then nobody else around here gets them easily.  I’m just sayin’.  If you’re my kid, you’ve got to be pretty sick to stay home from school.

Fever.  Throw-up.  Blood or puss that cannot be contained under a band-aid.  Those will get you a sick day.

Sniffles.  Mild sore throat.  Tiny little cough.  You’re going to school.

I tell you this because of a conversation I had with this little sweetie this morning.


Look at her on the first day of school.  So happy.  Excited to be going.  Look at her huge smile!

That was two weeks ago.  This morning, she had a sore throat.  She thought maybe she should stay home.

She did not have a fever.  She was not throwing up.  There was no blood.  No puss.

But she did have a sore throat.  And she was coughing a little yesterday.  And there is a chance she’s coming down with something.  So I was reasonable.  I patted her back and smoothed her hair off her face and said, “Sweetie, you may stay home if you don’t feel like going to school.  However, if you stay home, you will stay in bed all day.  You may sleep or rest or read.  You may not watch TV or movies.  You may not hang out in the living room and infect the rest of us with your sick germs.  You may not play.  If you are too sick for school, you are too sick to be up and about.  You will be quarantined in your bedroom.”

She drank some water, took a Zicam, and packed her lunch.  Twenty minutes later, she was at school.

If my kids stayed home every time they got a little sore throat or cough, I’d have a kid home from school every day!  Yeah, they have to actually be sick to get a sick day.  I’m mean that way.


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One Last Look Back At Summer

I told you all about the fun things we did this summer.  But I don’t know if I mentioned that in order to do all those fun things and see all those fun people, we had to spend a lot of time in our van.

We saw a lot of this.


But every now and then, we switched it up and saw this.


And by the time we returned home, there was a light covering of crumbs all over the inside of our fan because of this.


That’s a snack mix with little pieces of cereal and nuts.  One kid, not this one, spilled his baggie all over his seat and the floor around him.  Fortunately, the week we got home, some teens were cleaning cars inside and out as a fundraiser.  They said they liked cleaning our van because, though it was covered in peanuts and cereal, all the stuff they cleaned out of it was easily recognizable.  No mystery brown goo in our van.  Which is a relief, really, because I have found my share of mystery brown goo before.  Well, it actually wasn’t much of a mystery.  But that’s another story.

If you’re ever taking a trip with my children, this is the boy you want sitting behind you.


He looks pretty rotten, but he just happily plays on his DS or has little army men fight in his lap, or he naps.  He doesn’t kick your seat or eavesdrop on your conversation or constantly interrupt to join in on your conversation.  He’s a keeper.

See those other kids behind him?


That’s what most of them did in the van.  This explains why they ran and jumped and screamed and flipped and flopped so much when we would arrive at somebody’s home.  They got their weekly allotment of sleep during our drive-time, and they acted like they were hopped up on speed all the rest of the time.

But they were really good in the van.  And that’s a good thing because we spent more than 50 hours in our van.



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I cannot believe summer vacation is almost over!  But here we are, looking over the school supply lists, figuring out who needs a new backpack and who needs new book-covers.  Tonight, while the kids and Daddy turn the living room into a movie theater, I’ll go back-to-school shopping.

But for a few minutes, I want to review some of our summer fun.

What a blessing our 5 1/2 weeks in VA, WV, and GA were!  In addition to visiting with family and friends, in addition to telling a lot of people about what God is doing in tribes all around the world, in addition to forming new relationships and partnerships, we had plenty of time to rest and enjoy some family-time.  We will all have many sweet memories from the summer of 2009.

Memories of badminton and other yard games . . .


and playing in parks.


Summertime play has brought out the resourcefulness in my boys.  They’ve played baseball with walnuts.



And they’ve turned a gardening seat into a Big Wheel.




My boys certainly mastered the art of climbing trees.

And they had plenty of opportunities to get dirty!


As we discussed yesterday, my children also swam in rivers that certainly gave their immune systems an opportunity to work overtime.




And in the midst of all the memory-making, we ate pretty well.


Yes, the summer of 2009 has been a great one!


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Georgia On My Mind

We recently spent a wonderful couple of days in Georgia with one of my dearest college friends and her family.  Actually, I feel really quite ancient when I realize I have known Martha for almost 19 years!

We’ve gone from this . . .

jenn&marthato this . . .


She and her husband joyfully opened their home to all eight of us.  I told Martha, and I’ll tell all of you, that if she doesn’t have the gift of hospitality, then she could’ve fooled me.

My daughters and her daughter got all crafty and melted a lot of plastic beads to make pieces of art.


And the boys were in Star Wars and LEGO Heaven!


But, by far — BY FAR –, for my children, the highlight of our time with the Borders was the time spent at the river.  I was completely out of my comfort zone down by the murky, muddy, algae-covered water with spiders crawling around and bees buzzing about and tiny fish and frogs at my feet.  But my children loved every second of it.  They caught fish with their bare hands (albeit nearly dead fish) and they gooped algae up on their heads.  It didn’t bother them one bit that they couldn’t see their feet through the brown water.  It probably never crossed their minds that anything — absolutely ANYTHING! — could be below the surface of that nasty water.  No, they splashed and dove with wild abandon.  And I tried not to think about how much antibacterial soap it would take to kill whatever was getting on their skin and in their ears and up their noses.

They learned to canoe.  With adult help . . .


and without . . .


I think being in the canoe without an adult went to their heads and gave them a sense of power.


They would row the canoe out, loaded down with kids.


And one, by one, they’d jump off.



And then they’d pull the empty canoe back in to shore.


They did this over . . .


and over . . .


and over . . .


With the occasional break to check for dangerous pirates downriver . . .


and to save a fish’s life (or perhaps, just to prolong its torture).


And they stopped every now and then to stomp through the algae . . .


or to pile it on their heads.


Did that picture make you say, “Ewwwww”?   Because I definitely was cringing when he did it.  And I was hoping there is no brain-eating amoeba in Georgia like there is in Florida.  Ewwwww.

Though I enjoyed Jim’s big, homemade breakfasts and Martha’s fajitas and the afternoon nap and the late-night chat at the dining room table, the highlight for my children was most certainly the muddy waters of the Ocoee River.



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