Little Known Ways to Save Money on Cold Lunch

Cold lunch ideas


Save money by packing a lunch

I have school lunch on my mind. I’m writing this on the first day of school here. At home. On my lunch break. In the quiet. (What? Not every working mom goes home to experience just a bit of that quiet house feeling? Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, I also spilled coffee on my white blouse, not once, but twice. So I HAD to head home for lunch!)

School lunches are expensive. Currently, our local high school and middle schools charge $2.75 for a lunch, and our private elementary charges $3. When you have four kids buying lunch at school, that adds up quickly!

My answer is generally to pack lunch for my kids.

The problem with packing a school  lunch is that it just takes so much more time.  Four years ago, I wrote about how I streamlined lunchtime preparation. I am going to revisit those tips.

Over the years I have picked up even more helpful and frugal ideas:

  • My kids love those little snack size containers of Jello and pudding. I’m not crazy about the price, or the waste, or what exactly they have to do to make jello or pudding shelf stable. So I purchased some of these reusable containers and I make jello or pudding once or twice a week. It is much cheaper and I can do things like add fruit to the jello. Yeah, not exactly health food, but at 3 ounces at a time, I’m not worried .  OR, better yet, I can take the time to make these real food finger jellies.
  • My kids always think they want those Lunchable type meals. But then they hget tem and realize that they do not like processed cheese, and they think the meat is slimy, AND I discover they really only wanted them for the cookie or candy bar inside. . . So, instead of sandwiches, I will often slice up some real cheese and set it in a container with some deli meat and then tuck in a bag of crackers. A LOT cheaper, and you can control the serving sizes.
  • It is easy to toss fruits and vegetables into a lunch box if they are prepped ahead of time. I try and set aside some time on Sunday afternoon to peel and slice a pound or two of carrots, a bunch of celery, and a head of cauliflower. Then package these into zip top bags and they are ready to grab and go.
  • I also take time to portion grapes, clean and slice strawberries, and slice apples. (This citrus juicer and mister is LIFE CHANGING, and keeps our fruit from turning brown) Also, tart apples like Granny Smith hold up well over time.
  • I’m going to try making these Homemade “Uncrustables” this weekend. The girls are in a peanut free school (which makes planning a little tougher), but I sprung for a jar of Sunbutter, which I hope passes muster with my PBJ loving girls!
  • I like to keep hard boiled eggs (here is my foolproof method!) on hand (mostly because they are a favorite to-go breakfast for me.)
  • Most store bought granola bars are out (See Peanut free School above), but I am going to try my hand at these nut-free “Lara Bars”.
  • I will sometimes buy prepackaged string cheese to toss in lunches, but mostly I buy big chunks of cheese and cut it up myself.

It is fun to get your kids involved in the process, get ideas from them about what foods they would like to see in their lunches, and see how you can adapt. One of the twins would eat chili every day if she could. I may just make a big pot at the beginning of the week and pack her a thermos-full every day!


Chime in! I’d love to hear your fast and frugal lunchbox ideas!


Working Mom Guilt, Easing My Mind

Working Mom Guilt

Working Mom Guilt is Real

I want you to know, that while I write about the wonderful parts of being a working mother, and the fact that I really do love the direction that my life has taken in the past year, there are still some downsides. Working mom guilt is a harsh reality.

Nothing, no nothing, breaks a mother’s heart more than the plaintive cries of her wee one saying, “Mommy, I just want you..”

Because she is not lying.

She just wants mom.

And on some level, when I hear those words, I’ve failed my child in some way. I feel guilt. Deep, aching, working mom guilt.

Continue reading “Working Mom Guilt, Easing My Mind”

Random Thoughts

It is my “office” morning today. Once a week a very kind and very patient friend invites the twins over for a playdate and I get two uninterrupted hours to do whatever I want. I’ve gotten into the habit of setting myself up in a corner of a bookshop cafe with my iPad and blogging, or catching up with correspondence, or just people watching. As a busy mom it is refreshing to know that I get a window of time each week to do whatever I want.

Looking out the window I realize that winter is over. Now, I know that in many places in the country there are already flowers blooming, but this is North Dakota…our winter has the potential to drag into June. This year we have only gotten about 13 inches of snow…and I’m not complaining. I’m pretty sure that next winter we will get slammed! But for now, I’m going to relish the fact that it will be 60 degrees by this weekend. For Dakotapam, that is warm!

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I have read through the first two books of the Hunger Games trilogy and have enjoyed them, but I have to put Mockingjay on hold for now as I’m in the middle of a memoir kick as well. I’m hoping to review them here soon. As an avid people watcher, memoirs are fun for me, I can watch people from a distance.

I’m enjoying the time spent here on the blog lately. I’ve done a bit of housekeeping here, so if there is something you miss or can’t find, or does not work, please let me know. I’m also branching out a bit into advertising. I’d love to help promote family friendly small businesses and while I work out the kinks I’d love to offer a month free for four friends. Two of the slots are filled. During that month I’d like feedback on ad placement and traffic generated. So, readers, feel free to click on my sponsor buttons over on the left there…and if you want to be one of the remaining two guinea pigs, let me know!

Did you watch my Mom Encouragement vlog last week? I’m hoping to have a new one up tomorrow. I asked on the Facebook page what moms wanted to hear about and the response was “tips for getting out of the door on time in the morning”. As a non-morning person, getting up and out on time is not a natural thing for me…but we do have a system, and you can hear about it tomorrow. If you have any tips you would like me to share, leave a comment or shoot me an email! Do you have ideas of what you want to hear about on Mom Encouragement Fridays? Let me know!

Have you entered my Lovable Labels giveaway? It is an easy entry and a great prize! Perfect for siblings, cousins or BFFs! I also have a Techie Thursday review to post later today and there will be a giveaway connected with that as well. I also have a review of one of the memoirs I mentioned earlier…with a copy to give away. You really need to stay tuned!

The girls seem to be a little less whiny and more fun this week, I’m wondering if our whiny week last week was due to a virus or teething? I’m just glad to have my happy girls back!

I’m heading into a four day weekend and I look forward to spending some good time with the older boys. They are ready for spring as well…they have a need to run and jump and get out and burn all of that energy!

Chime in! What have you been up to? Do you have any feedback to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Joy on a Monday

twins photographing each other
USB hub photos...this kept them busy for a whole 15 minutes!

If you’ve been reading here for a while (and I hope you have) you may have noticed that last week, I may have been a bit frustrated. As a matter of fact, I was. Dakotapastor even came home and told the girls, “you’ve done it now…you pushed your mom to complain about you all over the internet.” Which kind of made me laugh, just a little.

There is always a Dakotapastor response to my blog posts. Sometimes you see them in the comments section, but often I just hear them. Let’s just leave it at just because we are best friends does not always mean we see the world the same way!

Today is Monday. For stay at home moms, Mondays are not so rough. School aged kids often go back to school (or home schooled kids get back to their tasks), husbands go back to work (except some of these silly pastor types who take Mondays off to confuse things), and generally, the household falls back to a “normal” rhythm. So, really, other than the getting up early, I don’t hate Monday.

Also, Monday morning is the morning set aside for our moms’ Bible study at church. We are very slowly working through God Is in the Laundry Room . This has been a great study for all of us. Currently we are in our third session of Chapter 6: “Stocking Up on the Fruit of the Spirit”. Today we discussed Joy. (Not quite my friend, Joy, though she did come up in the discussion). What I was reminded of this that joy is different from a giddy, happy feeling. Joy does not depend on our circumstances. The Bible verses we studied really brought that to light.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16:20-22

That word picture that Jesus paints, of a woman in labor and her sorrow turned to joy after the baby is born. . .that, my friends, is something I can relate to. Our salvation is what brings us true joy.

We’ve all seen it. People devastated in the face of grim reality, and yet, they rejoice in the blessings and promises of God. This, my friends, is true joy.

Of course, through our Bible study that was punctuated by the noises of children (mostly happy), we could see that often there is joy, hidden even in the most frustrating days of motherhood. Like this morning, when I checked Dakotatween’s grades on the computer, for the first time in his entire school career, he has all As and Bs.  Or like this afternoon when two little girls pulled their pillows out to me to let me know that they were ready for a nap…instead of forcing me to chase them around the house. Little joys can peek through our frustration and drudgery.

I have a picture of three of my friends taken last summer. They nicknamed each other the “Soggy Sisters” as all three were fighting to save their homes from the Missouri River flooding. Through all of the work and the worry and the frustration, they took a bit of time to help each other and I have a picture of the three of them, smiling< with arms around each other. In the midst of uncertainty, they had joy. Through it all, they knew that God is bigger than a flood.

So friends, take some time to find a wee bit of joy in your day. And don’t forget to share your joy with others.

My Life by the Numbers

Isn’t if funny how our lives stack up? I may not be where I ever pictured myself, but I’d not trade any of this for the world!

  • Married: 16.5 years
  • Pregnant: 208 weeks (just shy of 4 years)
  • 4 sons
  • 2 daughters
  • 12 years (so far) of diaper changes
  • 87 months breastfeeding (just over 7 years)
  • 5 states
  • 9 homes
  • 5 vehicles
  • 2 graduate schools
  • 3 elementary schools
  • 1 middle school
  • 1 high school
  • prayed over 4 Godchildren
Those numbers seem staggering, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. As a result of those seven years of breastfeeding, our children are very spaced out! That means we will have a student in out high school for the next 11 years straight, in the middle school for 11 years straight, and kids in our elementary school for 11 years straight. . .and then one more round in the middle school and high school!
All this is to point out, ever so gently, that motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint.
As mothers we will make errors. We will make big and small mistakes. But we have YEARS to make corrections. And sometimes, we learn that the things we stressed out about were not such a big deal after all (like decisions over crib bedding).
I also like to think that there is extra special patience granted an oldest child. We make most of our mistakes with him!
Chime in! How do your number stack up? You know I’d love to hear from you!