Quick Start Back to School Healthy Meals

quick start back to school healthy meals

Your kids just got out of school and it is already time for Back To School.  It’s hard to get started, so I have created this series Quick Start Back to School to get everyone going!   The next post is about Back To School healthy meals and snacks. 

Back to school is the time healthy meals and snacks for our family are most important.  We want everyone to feel energized and focused as they get back into the school groove.  There are lots of glitches in getting healthy meals on the table, but streamlining and simplifying make dinner time easier.

 

 

Snack, dinner and lunch ideas

Often we get stuck at the first step – that being what to make! We feel overwhelmed by choices, by complicated recipes, too many different tastes in our family and by a lack of prep time.

  • Poll your family first.  They know what they like.   No need to reinvent the wheel.  Simplifying with consistency.
  • Use lists.  It’s easier than pulling ideas from your head.  Post the list where you and your family can see it.  The list can be a weekly, Monday – Friday list of dinner ideas.  It can also be a list with days of the week assigned to a category, like Monday is breakfast for dinner, Tuesday is Italian night.  It can also be a list of what’s already in your freezer, such as proteins and veggies.
  • Allow for options for picky eaters. If one child only eats hot dogs, just keep a quantity on hand.
  • Gather ideas by looking online at pinterest.  It’s a fun way to try easy new recipes with lots of basic instruction.

 

 

Preparation

We never seem to have enough time.  Planning in prep time and grocery shopping make it easier.  Having a day of the week that is grocery day helps you save time and energy all week, rather than running out at the last minute for milk or eating out.  Even if you shop twice a week, you are planning better!

  • Include kids in prepping food.  It’s more fun with everyone in the kitchen together.  If your kids are younger, ask them to set the table or empty the silverware in the dishwasher.  All kids love to help when food is around.
  • Prep lunches the night before to avoid the morning scramble.  It’s easy with lunch boxes ready to go.  Have your kids help with this too.
  • Work in bulk.  When prepping for lunch, double up your recipe and bag it up. Set aside one shelf in your refrigerator for lunches.

 

Reap the rewards

Over and over I see the value of family dinner. If your schedule does not permit it nightly, plan on one night a week.  Your family fun quotient will go sky high!

 

 

Not sure what to make for dinner?  Ideas for dinner on my Dinner’s Ready pinterest board.

 

 

Back to school for you too! Join my newsletter to get more ideas on organizing and productivity once a month.

Quick Start Back to School: Back to School Supplies

 

organizing school supplies

 

Your kids just got out of school and it is already time for Back To School.  It’s hard to get started, so I have created this series Quick Start Back to School to get everyone going!   The first post is about Back To School Supplies.

 

Back to school and it’s all about back to school supplies! Every year your kids bring home unused school supplies at the end of the school year. The sales for supplies start in mid July.   Maybe your supplies are in many different spots in your home.  Quick Start Back to School by first organizing your school supplies.

 

Choose a central location for office and back to school supplies.

  • It should be easy to access for everyone.
  • It should have shelves or drawers to help store different categories of supplies.
  • It’s one stop shopping at your home this way.

 

Gather  and sort your supplies.

  • Keep paper together, writing supplies together, notebooks and dividers together.
  • Use plastic bins (shoe box and sweater box size) to corral each group.
  • Overloaded with supplies?  Donate to local charities having school supply drives.
  • Label bins and place on shelves or in drawers.  Label the outside of the storage area.

 

Organizing school supplies

Itemize your back to school supply needs.

  • Find online resources for school supply lists on your district website.
  • Compare your list with your existing supplies.
  • Use a smart phone app to compare prices at stores.
  • Go shopping.

 

Set up your supplies.

  • Stock backpacks with supplies.
  • Set up your homework station.
  • Consolidate remaining supplies in your new station.

 

Check the ads and be prepared with your list! Quick Start School Supplies gets you up and running for this school year.

 

What’s your best tip for school supply organizing?

 

Check out my pinterest Student Success board.

 

Organizing saves you time, money and energy! Join my monthly newsletter and get a boost!

 

 

Back to School: Student Organizing

Student Organizing

 

There are really no classes that teach organizing to your student.  Teachers will assign ways to organize a notebook or keep up with papers in a way they think will work for your student. But organizing styles vary.  Here are some ways to help your middle and high school student get organized for school.

  • Take a trip to a local retailer to talk about the planners that are available. Most students need a week at a glance planner. It can be a medium or large size, preferably spiral bound to fully open, and with an array of spaces to write in assignments.  Have your student talk through how they will use the planner, how it will fit in their backpack, and how quickly they can get it out to write in their assignments.  Writing down each assignment is a critical factor in getting homework done.   If your student is dismisses the idea of a planner, you can start with an open pad of paper or even index cards.  Students need to write stuff down.
  • Start talking about times to start and end homework.  Our students are busy and have a lot on their plate. Talk about how long does it take to do homework.   Most students do best with a short break before starting homework and knowing to finish by a certain time.  Having time on the weekend is important for projects and getting a little ahead each week. 
  • Set up a space for homework that promotes productivity.  The dining room is a great spot to work because there are few distractions.  Stock a caddy with the tools needed, like pens, stapler, scissors, index cards and tape.
  • Establish a homework folder.  This is the one place all homework goes to when assigned and ends up in when completed.  Having a single spot to put any and all homework and notes makes it easy to find and turn in assignments.
  • Kids are overwhelmed by paper too.  Set up one notebook that holds all the subjects.  It’s easier to keep up with one notebook than seven. In the notebook use tabbed slash pockets for each subject. Papers slip in and out easily without needing a hole punch.  Purchase a small file box and label tabbed hanging files with each subject.  Once a marking period, sit with your student while cleaning out from the notebook to the file.

What strategies does your student use to organize?

Back to School: Organizing Your Kids Clothes

 

back to school organizing your kids' clothes

It’s just a few weeks before school starts and your kids are still in shorts and tee shirts.  The drawers in their rooms are overflowing with sizes ranging from too small to too big. And you have just returned from purchasing school clothes for this year.  It’s clothes chaos!  Follow these simple steps to get your kids clothes ready for back to school.

  • Set a side a two hour time block to work in each child’s space.  Sort through all the clothes and keep only what fits in the drawers or closet.  Keep the other sizes in bins marked by size, gender, and season.  These can be stored in the attic and stacked.  Mark the bins well, on the top, side and front, so you know what is what.  Most of the time just you do the sorting, not the kids, just to expedite the process.  Use a bin no larger than 66 quart just so you can easily move it once it is filled with clothes.  Some people prefer to use space bags to store clothes under the kids’ beds too.  Remember to keep only what is in prime condition.  Yucky or torn clothes should be donated as rags.  
  • Decide what access you want your kids to have to clothes. It’s easiest for them to dress themselves when they can easily reach what is acceptable school attire. Hang the party dresses, extra jackets or too short shorts in a less accessible spot.   If you have just a long hang section in their closet, create a second hanging shelf with a double hang closet rod. Another great tool is the 6 shelf hanging system.  It’s easy to see and access for everyone.  If you use a dresser, be sure the drawers easily glide in and out for your kids to get in there easily.
  • Place the clothes in the best spots and then label the shelf or drawer.  It is so much easier for everyone with labeling! Dad, Mom, kids, and helpers all know where the laundry goes when it is ready to put away.
  • Make laundry easy with a divided sorter. Slots can be darks, lights, towels or kids, adults, dry clean.  Place the sorter where everyone can drop their clothes in easily.
  • As the seasons change, take an hour to remove and store the clothes you are keeping for the next child.   Grab a bin and keep your clothes storage system up to date.
  • Have your kids lay their clothes out the night before. It eliminates one more thing to do in the morning.  They can keep their jammies under their pillow and quickly get ready each day.

organizing your kids' clothes

What ways do you make organizing your kids’ clothes easier?

 

 

 

 

Back to School: Organize your School Supplies

Back to School

 

Back to school sales are everywhere at this time of year.  Most families have a large supply of items often spread out around the house.  Organizing your supplies saves you money and time.

  • Get started by corralling all your supplies.  Supplies may be hiding in various spots, including your kids’ rooms, the office or the kitchen. Gather these together to assess what you have.  You may have a glut of lined paper and not even know.  
  • Decide on a common location to house your supplies.  The location should be easy access for your kids so they can check and see when they need something.  Great spots to keep supplies are an office area, a secondary or storage off the kitchen.  With a central location, you can also check throughout the year on what to purchase.
  • Your storage location dictates your organizing strategy and tools.  Some ideas depending on your space include a 3 drawer sterilite bin, stacked shoebox bins, cute stacking boxes or a back of the door shoe organizer.  Stock your kids’ back packs too including tools in one part of their backpacks or a zipper case.
  • Be sure to label each category so that everyone knows where to get and return the supplies.

 

 

Organizing school supplies

Routines make Back To School So Easy!

back to school routines

 

Back to school so soon! Get in the Back to School Groove with these simple routines. This article is featured on Organize to Revitalize.

http://dallisonlee.com/blog/2013/08/05/get-in-the-back-to-school-groove/

Back To School Organize your Homework Station

 

back to school homework station

Back to school means time for homework time! It’s the least favorite time of day for moms, dads, and kids.  Having a great spot organized for homework makes it easier to get this job done. Easy to access supplies helps your child stay focused and on task.   Will one of these stations will help you and your child be more efficient and effective?

  • Remember when you were in school and did your homework in your room? How much did you accomplish? Have an honest discussion with your child about doing homework in this space and assess if this works well.  Stock a small sterilite 3 drawer desk top container with supplies like tape, scissors, and mini stapler in one drawer, pens and highlighters in one drawer, and pencils and colored pencils in a drawer.  
  • Dining rooms are a great place for homework.  It is just one step away when you are making dinner if you need to answer a question. Your child can hear the sounds around the house but still work in a quiet environment.  Stock a small utensil caddy with supplies. The caddy can be moved during dinner time.
  • Multiple kids doing homework at the same time? Place a long table against an available wall, place cork boards on the wall facing each child’s place, and place a shoebox with supplies for each child with each chair.
  • Have a starting time for homework.  A little time off and a protein based snack are a good break before getting started.  The earlier your child starts, the easier it is to get homework done.
  • Timers help kids get started on their homework.  Help your child get started or get finished using a clock faced timer.  Set the timer for 15 – 20 minutes.  If your child is working when the timer rings, then just keep going with homework. If not, have your child take a 5 minute break, walk around, get a drink, and then reset the timer and work again.
  • After homework is complete, be sure you see your child return the homework to a homework folder and pack the backpack.  This prevents losing completed homework!

 

homework and organizing

Back to School Tips: Tips on Organizing Kids’ School Papers

The school year is about to start and that means a massive influx of papers! Here are some ideas that moms are using to keep up with the paper flow.

  • I keep a basket by the door and the kiddos drop all their work in there daily. I look through for 5 minutes to see what needs to be returned and get it back in their backpacks right away. The rest stays in the basket about a month and then we review it together.  My kids love to send papers off to their grandparents in other states and I write a small note on them that they dictate before I send them.
  • I love having a small box on my desk for each child’s work. This way I have them drop their papers into the box. Once a week I go through it with them, just to review their work. I have found that sometimes I need to refer back to it, so I keep a larger box in their closets to keep the papers for a while.  At the end of the year I go through and use boxes from IKEA to keep them in a manageable amount.  It saves time to see the papers all together to know what to keep.
  • Ellen encouraged me to have a command center with a hanging file for each child.  This way I can drop papers in when they come home from school and not lose them.  I have them ready to sign when I need to also.   My kids are high schoolers so they have their papers together in their notebooks and we just check grades weekly and print these out.
  • The way that I’m able to control the huge amounts of school papers that come home is to deal with it swiftly!  Often a week’s worth of school work comes home all at once and my daughter’s backpack is jammed full – some are treasures and some are just plain old worksheets that no one will miss.  We go through the stack with Daddy because she loves to show off her work to him and he enjoys keeping up with what she’s learning.  As we look through her work, I set aside anything that seems extra special.  Everything else gets tossed*.  The keepers go in a large portfolio case in her closet and are alligator clipped by grade.  * It’s best to get rid of the excess schoolwork when kiddos aren’t watching!  Out of sight, out of mind – but if they happen to see it get thrown away, sometimes they get sad, especially my toddler!
  • Still have last year’s papers?  Take time now to knock this out!

What’s your best paper strategy?

Back to School: Tips for Family Responsibilities

 

 

Back to school! Its that time of year that makes moms happy and sad; happy to start new routines and sad about the energy and organization it can take to get your family going. Throughout the month of August we are featuring organized moms who will help get you started back to school with the toughest tasks.

Moms are challenged to get everyone to do their part for family responsibilities and chores. Getting everyone to pitch in makes a difference. 

Chores at our house became more of a chore to discuss and get our son to do than an asset to our family time.  The arguing and nagging were non-stop.  To get over our hump, as I knew things would only get worse without instilling a sense of pride and ownership into our house for our son (3 at the time, currently 5 1/2), I began with a family meeting regarding expectations.   My husband had his jobs, I had my jobs, and our son was assigned his job(s).

We began with small tasks for our little man.  His first: putting away his clothes.  Not all of his clothes, but ones that didn’t really matter if they got wrinkled or not, like underwear or socks.  Each time he did it without complaining, he got to pick a sticker from the pack (we went to the store and stocked up on stickers that he picked out prior to doing this).  When he got 5 stickers, he got a reward.  Each category of our sticker chart had a pre-determined reward for filling in all sections.  After a week or two, we increased his load and ours.  (Of course, we described our jobs in more detail instead of adding more things for us to do.  For example, instead of “cleaning house”, it became “cleaning floors and vacuuming” for me and “outside chores” because “mowing and weed eating” for my husband.)  He started putting away his clothes AND putting out the napkins on the table for each meal.  Again, we followed thru with the sticker chart.  We kept it on the fridge so that it was a reminder to him AND us to use.   Consistency regarding the chart is what made this successful.  When I forgot to fill it in, he reminded me.

As he became more experienced and older, we increased his load even more.  Additionally, instead of getting stickers, he now gets an allowance ($3 a week). He saves him money for things he wants to buy.  His chores now consist of: putting all of his clothes away, matching the clean socks, picking up his room each night before getting ready for bed, setting the table for all meals, clearing the table after all meals, unloading the tupperware and silverware from the dishwasher, and washing or drying dishes (whichever would be easiest for him to do based on the dishes…we avoid him handling knives and glass as much as possible).  If he helps clean the bathroom (I spray the chemicals, he wipes), he gets 50 cents. If he helps clean the floors (yes, that includes sweeping and mopping), he gets 50 cents. If there is an extra family task (planting a tree, weeding the flowers, painting the porch, going through clothes, etc.) he has the opportunity to earn additional money (usually $1-$5) depending on the expectation of the outcome for the job’s difficulty level. On a side note, we switched to money instead of toy rewards because it was getting expensive.  As an added bonus, he is now learning the value of money.  Sometimes he requests 4 quarters instead of a one dollar bill, for example.

Here is the important part: ALL (not just a few and not just randomly) responsibilities need to be completed the first time asked AND without an argument to receive his allowance.  That means that if he does a great job all week but blows it over the weekend, he gets no allowance…not even part of it.  Seems harsh, right?  I thought so at first, but it is way worth it.  That was a challenge for him at the beginning, but after a few times of not getting his allowance, he knew we meant business.  The payoff of outlasting his behavior to show him we mean business, way out weighs giving into his fits for his allowance.  I didn’t threat to not pay him and then give him a partial amount.  What would I be teaching him?  This: it’s ok to throw fits to get what you want, you can do things in a half hearted way and get rewarded, the child makes the rules not the parent.  That’s not how it works.  I am the parent.  He is the child.  I am teaching a lifelong skill of self respect, self discipline, following directions, respecting adults, doing things because the need to get done, etc.  This is a black and white issue for us.  Either he will learn to take responsibility and become a responsible citizen or not.

It takes all of us to make our house be successful.  We set the bar at the level we want and WE are in control of him meeting that expectation.  WE are the parents.  He meets our expectation, he doesn’t set the expectation.  I learned that he could really do more than what I was originally expecting.  So, when he got rewarded for his efforts, he had the desire to show me what else he could do.  I no longer need to “water down” my expectations-I set the bar and he reaches it…because he can.  As he begins Kindergarten this year, we will increase his chores yet again.  Lucky kid…

Tiffani Collins is a 7th grade math teacher with one son.  She enjoys spending time with her family and her dog Spartan, and especially family game night. 

Back to School: Tips for Organizing School Lunch

Back to school! Its that time of year that makes moms happy and sad; happy to start new routines and sad about the energy and organization it can take to get your family going. Throughout the month of August we are featuring organized moms who will help get you started back to school with the toughest tasks. 

Moms are challenged by making lunch nutritious, easy to make, and enjoyable for their kids.  Here are some solutions for you. 

Lunch-making blues….

I dread making those lunches every morning as much as my boys dread returning to school.  Alternating PB&J and salami sandwiches weekly gets monotonous quickly—for the mom making the lunch and for the kids eating it!  Last year, I surfed the web and collected some great new ideas to make lunches a little more exciting.  Following are some hits with my kids:

Instead of a sandwich, I had the deli counter cut lunch meat in one thick slice, which I then cubed and packed with cubed cheese, toothpicks, and crackers.  (Toothpicks are huge with my kids—maybe because I have three boys—they love when I condone the stabbing of anything)  Wraps are another hit—the same ingredients as a boring sandwich, but wrapped in a tortilla—I spread cream cheese or Laughing Cow Swiss, then the lunchmeat, shredded cheese and “salad” (my boys’ term for lettuce, spinach, etc).  I am sure the “salad” gets brushed off immediately at school, but I try!

Also, varying the bread on a basic sandwich was a hit.  We used thin bagels, English muffins, and even corn muffins.

Other main dishes include hummus with pita chips and carrots, cold pizza, cold pepperoni rolls, and leftover meatballs (again with toothpicks).  If you have a thermos, baked potatoes, soup, or any pasta can be a great change on a cooler day.

Some extras that were a hit last year:  beef jerky, peanut butter crackers, chips and dip, veggies and ranch, pretzels with the new individual cream cheese packets, yogurt with granola, trail mix, popcorn, and zucchini chocolate chip muffins (I have a great recipe for these—my kids have yet to discover there is a vegetable in there!)

Of course, I always add a fruit and small treat to brighten their day.

Shawna McGrath is a stay at home mom of three boys, part time Math and English tutor, and enjoys believing her kids eat all the food in their lunch, not just the cookies.

Pictured above is the all new Rubbermaid lunch kit named LunchBlox.  As a mom and Gigi (grandmother), I love the gift of LuncBlox from Rubbermaid! As an organizer, lots of rectangular containers in bright colors make a difference.  Little separate compartments for different items and an ice block to keep it all cold make it easy to keep lunch together and make it the night before.  It’s also BPA free and dish washer safe.  All of Shawna’s suggestions will fit in the new LunchBlox.  Making lunch will be so much more fun, nutritious and enjoyable now!  What lunch will you pack in your LunchBlox?

Certified Professional Organizer Ellen Delap is a fan of all sorts of containers!