For me, back-to-school is the most bittersweet time of the year. And this year marks the first time two out of three of my kiddos will be in school – making it extra tough on the heartstrings.
I’m lucky to be able to stay home full time, but probably not so shocking to other moms out there – I don’t actually have an abundance of extra time on my hands. Mornings are insanely hectic because I never seem to be able to get things ready the night before. Getting everyone up, dressed, fed, and out the door is stressful enough. Lunch prep should be the easy part.
Except it’s not.
During Oliver’s first year of school he attended every second day, which meant half the week he was eating a healthy lunch at home. But, on school days he was not “into” the lunches I packed. Or maybe he was just too distracted by friends and conversations going on around him to eat his food.
Year two, I attacked lunches from a different angle. I made Oliver the best lunches full of awesome things he could eat and talk about like….cheese string decorated to look like cars and veggies cute into fun shapes. By the end of the second month, Oliver’s teacher told me his friends were always looking forward to seeing what was in his bag. The best part of this – almost every day his lunch was eaten.
A big part of being able to make fun, interactive and creative lunches is being able to buy some items pre-made from a brand you can trust to be healthy, without breaking the bank. Being a SAHM means we live off one income, so my weekly grocery budget needs to stretch long and far.
Walmart is now a regular stop for me on my lunch planning missions. A big surprise came for me on the day I started reading labels in the grocery aisle and realized that Great Value apple juice was made from 100% pure juice.
So, I started looking around more. I discovered that the Great Value brand isn’t just about cost-savings; it’s also about the quality and selection you’re getting for the price – real fruit, gluten-free, nut-free, and so many more options. Suddenly, my choices in the store were widening and my grocery bill was shrinking. I was in a very happy place.
Now, I love documenting the lunches that I make for Oliver and will continue to do so on the blog as the year goes on, but I wanted to share a few of my secrets today.
I love candy eyes and sprinkles of all shapes and sizes. I just push those eyes into anything and magically it becomes a silly face or a monster. Granted, they would have devoured the Great Value Dipped Granola Bar even without the silly face!
Something else I like to do is create themed lunches. The night before Oliver would give me a theme, and the next day’s lunch would revolve around it. A lot of his themes were animal related, and more then once I was able to use Great Value Sea Creature Shaped Cheese Crackers (seriously, how awesome are these!). Today I used a needle to thread the crackers on a piece of string, and tied the end around a piece of pipe cleaner. The kids LOVED fishing for their crackers, pulling the rod up, and slipping the crackers off the string to eat.
Finally, one of my go-to mains for the kids is a quick wrap. I sometimes make sandwiches too – because sometimes they just fit the theme better. I start by filling the centre of a tortilla
(white or whole-wheat options), then fold it up like a letter, and lightly toast it. This makes ALL the difference. Toasting it keeps it flat and sealed, and it’s a million times easier for the little ones to eat.
The picture above was of a pizza wrap I did. A bit of cheese, pizza sauce and pepperoni. This takes no more time to make than toasting up some bread and making a sandwich, but it’s so much easier for them to eat.
Here’s another one I made for lunch last week – just some cheese on the bottom, then deli meats and a bit of mustard. Anything that you put between a couple slices of bread, you can put into a tortilla.
It is such a relief to me to be able to find items that can make my mornings a little easier without weighing on my conscience. I’m a Mom and a Food Blogger; it’s like a double hit of guilt when it comes to their food. Sending my kids to school with lunch bags full of healthy products that don’t break the bank is extremely important to me.
Here’s to all of us having a school year filled with stress-free mornings and empty lunch bags at the end of the day!
This post is sponsored by Walmart Canada as part of its Back-to-School program. In exchange for this review, I have received special perks in the form of products and/or compensation. All opinions on this blog are my own.