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Organizing and Streamlining Snacks and Mealtime

Are you all ready for back to school? Have the book bags and lunch boxes been picked out and the school supplies bought? {If not, get your fanny over to Walmart for $0.17 notebooks, $0.50 crayons, and $0.97 markers and the like!}. So, you’ve checked all these items off your list? Think your ready?  Have you considered MEALS?  You know, we all have great intentions in the beginning but the hustle and bustle get the best of us. We end up hitting the drive through window or the local pizza joint a little more than we had planned.  It doesn’t have to be the case.  With a few quick, easy, and AFFORDABLE solutions you can stream line your meal and snack times so that meal times can be a pleasurable experience for everyone to download their day and fill their bellies around the family table.

WMmealplan_full

First, if you aren’t using a meal plan, now is the time to start!  I’ve got a printable version you can use right here. Take a minute on Saturday or Sunday to survey the ingredients in your pantry, fridge, and freezer so that you can incorporate the things you have on hand and make a list of the items you’ll need to complete your recipes.  Don’t forget to consider lunches, breakfasts, and snacks!

Place wax paper in between each layer of waffles to keep them from sticking together when freezing

Next, set aside some time to prep any ingredients, snacks, or meals that can be prepped ahead of time.  For instance, on Sunday, I make a big batch of homemade waffles or pancake batter along with some jello and/or pudding in individual cups.  I also wash and cut any fruits or veggies that can be prepped ahead without spoiling. Bag up snacks or dried foods like chips, crackers, or popcorn in individual bags or containers to speed up lunch packing too!

our home school fridge

Next, decide how you will organize all these things!  Since we are a home school family, I prepped our foods in small baskets that would fit in the bottom of our mini fridge upstairs.  {Like the idea of a mini fridge for your school room – Walmart has lots of great bins and baskets, small appliances and budget friendly organization tools on rollback – especially since it is also back to school for college kids!  Grab a 2.7 cu ft mini fridge for just $79 here} I also picked up a couple of small baskets, a 1 qt pitcher, and some juice boxes and water bottles to put up there.

food for our baskets upstairs

 

One of my fridge bins holds dairy and another bin hold fruit.  The kids know they can pick one from each basket to round out whatever else we bring up for lunch that day.  This saves me a ton of time!  I keep things like cut fruit, fruit cups, and squeezable apple sauce in one and things like different types of yogurt, laughing cow cheese wedges, and string cheese sticks in the other.  Grab some of these great food options on rollback at Walmart right now!

food basket upstairs

We also have a basket on top that holds things like crackers, popcorn, peanut butter, chips, and bread for helping me build lunches upstairs.  I also grabbed some plastic cups from the baby department {the colored ones with lids and straws} and some plastic silverware and paper plates to make clean up a cinch.  I need streamlined with my three – six and under – to make meal time quick so  we can get right back at our lessons for the day.

In what other ways do you organize and streamline your lunch packing or meal prepping routines to make the school year go smoother? Share them here in the comments!

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Make Cleaning Up a Snap with 5 Simple Steps

Having three children at home…all the time…every day = MESSES.  Messes EVERYWHERE.  I’m pretty much a neat freak.  I have had to let go of SOME of my OCD tendencies and lower my standards just a bit for the sake of my sanity and the happiness of my family.  But, I’ve also figured out a few tips and tricks along the way to keep my home clean, even with three children 6 and under.

dyson v6 slim

1. Don’t let it get too far before you actually do something about it.  Putting off cleaning for too long means it will get really dirty and then will be overwhelming to clean.  Instead, do just a little bit each day and then set aside one day a week where you can really clean for a longer period of time.

2. 20 minute clean up blast at the end of the day: At the end of the day I make the kids pick up all the toys they played with during the day.  Everyone pitches in together to tidy up bedrooms and the living room.  This is usually just after dinner and just before bath time. It is also the time I am running around getting pajamas together for everyone and running bath water.  Picking up a little each day means we’ll have less to pick up later.

3. Don’t let the dishes sit. One thing is certain…the kids are going to make MORE dirty dishes tomorrow. So, if there is any way to wash the dishes from today – today, you should totally do it today and not wait until tomorrow. Knowing you’ll be starting the day with a clean kitchen and cooking breakfast in a clean kitchen makes getting up and getting started a lot easier too! No one wants to get up and clean the kitchen before they’ve had their coffee!  If you need to wait and do the breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes all at once, go for it. But, try not to let them accumulate longer than that and find some time at some point each day to clean the dishes of that day.

4. Vacuum around the kitchen table after meals.  The kitchen table is a “hot spot” for my family.   With three children 6 and under, we usually have a fair amount of debris under the table at any given meal or snack.  Sweeping or vacuuming after meal times keeps us from tracking food crumbs all over other parts of the house and keeps the house looking tidy longer without having to clean ALL of the floors in the house.  Our Dyson V6 Slim cordless vacuum has really been a handy tool.  It is light enough that my children can operate it and I can hand this task over to them.

5. Teach your children simple tasks at a young age.  It is good for kiddos to help out and to learn responsibility.  There are several age appropriate tasks that they can do even at 5 and under {as soon as they are dressing themselves – or at least trying}.  My kiddos are responsible for feeding the dog, putting their pajamas in the dirty clothes hamper when they change into their clothes in the morning, setting the table, and making their beds in the morning.  Just these few simple tasks keep the house running smoothly and things stay tidy.  Even though these aren’t very difficult tasks, it is a few less things that I have to worry about each day.  My six year old is also learning to fold clothes with help, and of course can run the Dyson around the table after meal time.

Dyson Vacuum Review

A few years ago I was introduced to the handheld Dyson Slim which changed the way that my family cleaned up messes.  Now Dyson has released a new version of the Dyson Slim. The Dyson V6 Slim, now available in Walmart stores or online at walmart.com, has many new, updated features.  I still have my Dyson slim and it still works great around my kitchen table. But, the suction on the new Dyson V6 Slim is noticeably more powerful!  My husband helped me install the charging dock upstairs in our school room and it was the first thing he said upon turning it on!

This cordless vacuum stays charged for 20 minutes before needing to be charged again.  That is plenty of time to tidy up our school room at the end of the day! I turn on the clean up song {which happens to be a fast tempo song from the era of big band and swing music} and we put everything away and vacuum up all the bits of cracker from snack, play dough, crayon and pencil shavings, and any other bits from the fun of the day. This is another habit we have to keep our materials easy to find and our room clean and ready at the beginning of each day.

We’ve also found that the Dyson cordless vacuum makes cleaning out our van a snap. Its small size and the handheld attachment makes it perfect for getting in all the nooks and crannies.  It doesn’t take long to get dirty.  But, reminding the kids to bring out everything that they brought in and throwing out trash each day helps.

With kids {and adults} its all about forming habits in order to keep things tidy and organized.  I like order. But, I REALLY like to have fun.  I want MORE time to have fun, so I am forming habits for my children and myself so that we can spend less time cleaning and more time playing. :)

Want a Dyson V6 Slim of your own?  The Dyson V6 Slim will be available on Rollback for $259 (originally priced $289) at Walmart or Walmart.com through Labor Day until September 12, 2015.

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