Master List of Simple Lunch Box Ideas

Here it is! The Master List of Simple Lunch Box Ideas!

I know many of you send lunches with your kids for school and/or pack lunches for yourself or your spouse for work. Here’s hoping this list offers you some fun variety and nourishment that goes far beyond a sandwich! :)

todays lunch

Hopefully you already grabbed the Master Lists of Simple Lunch, Breakfast, and Snack Ideas. I’m covering my fridge with these lists to make our transition from summer break to a school schedule a little bit easier. If you haven’t already, be sure to download all these handy lists here!

Now for today’s list:

The Master List of Simple Lunch Box Ideas

Simple Lunch Box Ideas

Your Real Food Master Simple Lunch Box Ideas List

You can download this entire list here. But I’ll share it all on this post for reference also. I also recommend that you pin it so you can find it quickly as needed!

strawberry

 

Meaty Recipes for your Lunchbox

If at home, we eat many of these hot. But in a packed lunch, we don’t mind eating them cold!

Food You Can Heat and Pack in a Thermos

LgTHermos

NOTE: Here’s a fantastic thermos option that comes in all kinds of fun varieties and patterns. It’s stainless steel inside and out. It keeps cold food cold for 7 hours and hot food hot for 5 hours! Check out your options here. 

Hearty Dips for Chips

wide mouth jars

Pack these dips in small wide-mouth jars with a bag of tortilla chips to go with them!

Hearty Salads

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Fun Ideas to Add to Your Lunchbox

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Now let’s look at good fruit and veggie add-ons.  I listed apples and carrots first, because those are a given.  But wait till you see all the other fun options to give your lunch box some life!

COntainers

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Clementines
  • Oranges
  • Applesauce
  • Peach Cups (100% juice)
  • Grapes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Side Salad
  • Blueberries
  • Sliced Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Pears

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Psssst! I LOVE silicone cups like this to make Fat Bombs  and Muffins. But how about also using them in lunchboxes to separate food items from one another! This 28-pack is deeply discounted right now!

SiliconCups28

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Master List of Simple Lunch Box Ideas

Free Printable Lunchbox Cards for you

Find FREE printable Lunch Box Cards HERE and HERE.

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Awesome Lunchboxes and Containers

Here are some really cool lunchbox options, as well as containers that work great to send food to work and school!

This Rubbermaid Salad Container comes with a blue ice freezer pack that snaps directly onto the food containers to keep your lunch cold. They are BPA free and very versitile!

SaladCOntainer

Here’s another one that can be used for all kinds of foods!

COntainers

If you prefer Stainless Steel, this one is a little pricier but super durable.

MetalContainer

As for lunchboxes, this one is Double Decker so you can keep cold food cold and hot food hot! (P.S. I love this pink one!)

DOubleDeckerLunchbox

This simple insulated lunch bag has all kinds of fun print patterns for kids to pick from. The price is great too!

Pattern lunchbox

Or let your kids choose from these fun varieties of insulated zip up bags!

IceCreamLunchbox

PlanesLunchbox

Would you like to make this Master List of Simple Lunchbox Ideas even simpler?

Sign up here* to receive the entire Master List of Simple Lunchbox Ideas in a free downloadable document! Then you can keep it handy on your computer or print it and put it on your fridge as a super handy reference! You’ll also receive our free Master Lunch, Breakfast, and Snack lists!

*If you’re already on our email list, go ahead and sign up with your email list anyway. This makes it easier for me to get the list to you and you won’t receive double email. You’ll be automatically redirected to a page with the free lists to download!

What are your favorite foods to add to a lunchbox?

All the Groceries I Bought for the Beginning of the School Year (Brace Yourself)

Stocking up is one thing. This time I think I might have gone just a tiny bit crazy. Are you ready to see all the groceries I thought I surely must have to help us survive the beginning of the school year?

groceries august2

Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I have decided that I got into this crazy BUY ALL THE FOOD mode for three reasons:

  1. My boys had been at church camps or mission trips a good part of the summer and I had not purchased many groceries for the past three months. I was making up for lost time, perhaps? Or maybe I had gone through withdrawal and needed a bulk grocery fix.
  2. I had a chance to go to Lincoln where there is an Aldi. I had to stock up on all my Aldi favorites to help get me through until the next time I have a chance to go there.
  3. I seem to think that if I can have every single food item in stock at my house, I can more easily get through the first couple of weeks of school. Apparently Geometry is more fun when there is plenty of spaghetti sauce in the house.

groceries august4

Most of my thinking is logical, I believe. I have been doing this Fall Semester thing for how many years now? Sixteen? The fall doesn’t just bring the start of school. It also brings soccer season in which my husband is gone much of the time because he is assistant coach of our local college team. The older boys ref games, and our youngest plays on two teams. The fall is simply BUSY and if I can just have enough tuna on hand, then all of life will be easier.

Sure, I live five minutes from a grocery store. But I live three seconds from my storage room that houses all the tuna, so I’d rather go there on a busy day.

Well, speaking of tuna, I bought 24 cans. But after all the buying and loading and unloading, I found myself not particularly excited about setting up a tuna photo-shoot. I think we can all agree that tuna stacked on a table is not terribly thrilling to see. So I left them in the bags under the bagels. Be amazed.

groceries august5

If you think 24 cans of tuna is excessive (it’s not), you might be even more impressed that I got 24 packages of cream cheese. Dude, I was at Aldi and they were only $0.79 each. I will likely not make it back to Aldi for a couple of months, so I filled a cooler. With cream cheese. Who wants to be my best friend now?

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The most fun grocery event of this month was definitely the day my Amazon Subscribe and Save order arrived. The bill for this order was not pretty, though I did get good deals on each case I ordered.

groceries august8

groceries august9

Pasta for days. And also Kleenex.

Here’s what I got this time around:

TIP! If you want to be kept up to date on great Amazon deals I find, sign up to be a member of our Savings Club. It’s free!

groceries august17

If you’re hungry and you know it, clap your hands. I think it is clear that no one will starve at our house during the next few weeks, though you can be sure that we will go through this food faster than one thinks should be reasonable.

Your Turn! Tell me about the crazy things you do before a school year starts!

Real Food “Processed Food” I Buy Regularly (What Brand and Where I Get Them)

Remember when I used to make all my food from scratch? Those were the days I thought we ate a lot but we really didn’t (compared to now). Those were the days I thought we were busy but we really weren’t (except that we were). Those were the days I thought all processed food was evil (and some of it is). Those were the days.

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Nowadays I’m doing everything I can to simplify so that I can enjoy every last minute with these kids while they are under my roof. Seeing as we’ll graduate Boy #2 this school year, it is becoming more and more apparent that these truly are our last minutes.

Senior pictures, here we come…

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Every new recipe I come up with to share takes very little time to make. I want to nurture my family and build on my marriage – not stand at the kitchen counter rolling out tortillas.

I still make wonderful homemade food. But every meal I put on the table consists of something very basic that is quick to put together and offers a few simple fruits and veggies on the side. My menu plans are created to make great use of my minimal efforts in the kitchen while still putting real food on the table. (Thank you, God, for Simple Meals Plans that take away all the thinking and planning and hard work each day!)

simple meals feb3

My choice to slide back into purchasing more convenience foods hasn’t compromised our great food options. Our meals and snacks are still incredibly delicious! I am still spending our grocery budget wisely. I still use real butter, freshly ground flour, and whole milk. I still avoid high fructose corn syrup, margarine, and MSG.

Choosing to use some processed foods in my cooking doesn’t mean I’m back to buying cans cream-of-whatever-soup and boxes of poptarts. It means I’m buying canned beans instead of soaking and cooking them from dry. It means I’m buying jarred tomato sauce instead of spending hours and hours every fall canning my own. It means I’m buying pre-made pizza crust from Azure Standard so my kids can quickly throw together some pizzas for lunch or dinner (which is healthier and saves money compared to ordering pizza).

It means so many things. It means I can survive this busy season of raising teenagers and continue to be their biggest cheerleader and support in all their activities and preparation for adulthood.

It means love. This is how I’m loving my family now.

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I recently shared that I definitely have started buying processed food more than I used to. But I also shared that processed food is nothing to fear – so long as it’s real food and nourishing. I check ingredients, I find brands that I feel good about, and I save myself an amazing amount of time in the kitchen.

Many of you have asked about the specific brands of “processed foods” I buy and feel good about. I absolutely avoid many bottles and jars and cans that have junk in them that will hurt our insides. But there are brands I trust and feel good about – even if they aren’t organic, top-of-the-line options.

Real Food Processed Food I Buy - what brands and where I get them

Real Food “Processed Food” Brands I Buy and Where I Get Them

groceries feb 172

~ Canned Beans

The Simply Nature brand at Aldi is an awesome choice for canned black beans (at only $0.85/can!). I buy them by the case since I don’t live close to an Aldi or get to shop there often.

I will say that now that I’m a proud owner of an Instant Pot I may start making them again because of how easy it is. But in a pinch, I’ll get cans from Aldi to keep on hand for fast meals!

~ Canned Baked Beans

The Walnut Acre brand is a little more expensive compared to Bush’s or Van Camps, but I feel good about the ingredients, plus we like how they taste. (I can tell a big difference in quality, which is why I’m sticking with the Walnut Acre brand for now.) If I have Vitacost credit, I get a few cans of Walnut Acre, or sometimes I buy a case with subscribe and save at Amazon.

~ Beef Hotdogs

I buy a variety of brands of hotdogs depending on which store I’m able to go to and what is available at each store. Any brand that is 100% beef and free of nitrites I feel okay about. We use these for quick meals on the grill in the spring/summer and for Beanie Weanies all year long.

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~ Turkey Sausage

I know, I know! Homemade Turkey Sausage was one of my first great recipes I shared here at Heavenly Homemakers. It’s awesome stuff…stuff that I don’t have time to make right now. So I buy cases of Diestel brand turkey sausage from Azure Standard to keep in my freezer whenever it goes on sale.

~ Tortillas

While I miss the taste of homemade tortillas, I love the convenience of these that I get at Azure Standard. The Stacey’s brand has ingredients I’m okay with (which is very difficult to find in a packaged tortilla!). Plus they freeze well and taste great, so I just pull them out to use for tacos, burritos, and quesadillas as needed. What a life saver!

~ Pizza Crust

I recently discovered Sprout California Frozen Pizza Bread at Azure Standard and buy a case every couple of months to help get my family through busy school days. They don’t beat this recipe for homemade pizza crust, but they sure are handy to have in the freezer!

~ Pizza Sauce

Lately I’ve been buying Muir Glen Pizza Sauce by the case with Subscribe and Save through Amazon. It’s tasty and reasonably priced! (I recently got it for $1.45/can.)

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~ Salsa

Each time I go to Aldi, I buy a case or two of their Simply Organic Salsa. We love how it tastes, and it’s usually about $1.85/jar.

~ BBQ Sauce

I’ve had a more difficult time finding a quality BBQ Sauce. (Aldi used to carry a Simply Organic variety and now I can’t find it!!) I finally found Stubbs brand at Walmart, which has all real food ingredients. After we tried it and liked it, I bought a case from Amazon! :)

~ Ketchup

I’ve been buying cases of Muir Glen Ketchup through Amazon for several years and it is, hands down, our favorite brand. But I do always watch for it to go on sale because it’s pricey otherwise.

~ Cream Cheese

I’m all over the place with cream cheese. Every brand I have available to me has a few ingredients I don’t love, but it’s also not something I stress over. I don’t like the Walmart off-brand because it never softens nicely! The Aldi brand is great and inexpensive (when they actually have some in stock!). Whenever there’s a price-match for Philadelphia Cream Cheese, I stock up at Walmart.

groceries april 221

~ Mayo

The only mayonnaise I’ve found that I feel good about is Hain Safflower Mayo. It is absolutely not cheap, no matter where I find it. I usually buy it by the case from Azure Standard because expensive as it is, it is at least less expensive there.

~ Spaghetti Sauce

Once again, Aldi comes through with their Simple Nature brand. And once again, I buy the sauce by the case. Since I’ve been pleased with this brand and can afford it ($1.89/jar), I haven’t checked other non-organic brands to see if there are some that contain trustworthy ingredients.

groceries june 17

~ Frozen Hashbrowns

I recently discovered that the Mr. Dells brand of frozen hashbrowns contains only “potatoes” in their ingredient list. Score! I find these at Walmart.

What healthy brands of convenience foods have you found to work for your family? I’ll add to this list as I think of more foods that are worth buying “for the convenience!”

Master List of Simple Snack Ideas

Who is ready to download the Master List of Simple Snack Ideas?!

Hopefully you already grabbed the Master Lists of Simple Lunch and Breakfast Ideas. I’m covering my fridge with these lists to make our transition from summer break to a school schedule a little bit easier. If you haven’t already, be sure to get your lunch and breakfast lists here!

Watch also for our upcoming Master Lists of food and recipes and ideas to make to fill a lunchbox. (Subscribe here so you don’t miss them!)

Today’s list:

The Master List of Simple Snack Ideas

Keep Snacks Simple

Your Real Food Master Simple Snack Ideas List

You can download this entire list here. But I’ll share it all on this post for reference also. I also recommend that you pin it so you can find it quickly as needed!

First choice at our house is always a fruit or a veggie, so I’ll begin this list sharing those ideas!

strawberry

Fruits and veggies that can be pulled from the fridge and served immediately with little to no prep (beyond washing):

  • Baby carrots (I like the petite carrots – they are sweeter and easier to eat!)
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Mini sweet peppers
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Unsweetened Applesauce (homemade is awesome, but even my teenage boys enjoy the special treat of an Applesauce Squeeze Pouch)
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Clementines
  • Raisins
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Dried Apple Rings
  • Dried Bananas
  • Dried Berries

watermelon

Fruits and veggies that take a few minutes of prep but are still super simple:

  • Sliced apples
  • Sliced peaches or nectarines
  • Plums
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced sweet peppers
  • Raw broccoli “trees”
  • Cut cantaloupe
  • Watermelon wedges
  • Sliced pears
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Mango chunks
  • Fruit Salad

Dips that taste great with Fruits and Veggies

Simple Snacks Foods that are great to eat with Peanut Butter

This Homemade Peanut Butter is amazing and healthy! We have this on hand at all times.

  • Eat it straight…on a spoon. :)
  • Sliced Apples with peanut butter
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Bread with peanut butter and honey
  • Bread with peanut butter and jelly
  • Toast with peanut butter and sliced apples
  • Tortillas with peanut butter and honey
  • Tortillas with peanut butter and jelly

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Simple Meat and Cheese Snacks

  • Leftover chicken or roast beef
  • Sliced cheese, any variety
  • Cheese sticks
  • Laughing Cow Spreadable Cheese (we just discovered these and our boys are LOVING this treat)
  • Lunchmeat
  • Summer Sausage
  • Beef Jerky
  • Quesadillas (with just cheese, or with meat also)
  • Tortilla Roll-Up with meat and cheese
  • Chicken Salad on crackers, lettuce, or a tortilla
  • Tuna Salad on crackers, lettuce, or a tortilla

Nutty Snacks (and Seeds too!)

  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Any combination of all of the above, with dried fruit and maybe a chocolate chip or two tossed in!

Simple Snack Recipes that are Quick to Make and Fun to Eat!

(By the way, the majority of this list shares snack ideas that are naturally gluten free!)

Would you like to make this Master List of Simple Snack Ideas even simpler?

Sign up here to receive the entire Master List of Simple Snacks in a free downloadable document! Then you can keep it handy on your computer or print it and put it on your fridge as a super handy reference!

Master List of 100 Simple Snack Ideas

Grab a free download of the Master Simple Snack Ideas List!

Watch for one more Master List coming this month, filled with real food lunch box ideas!

What would you add to the list? What are your favorite simple snacks to feed your family?

P.S. What about a simple dinner list? We’ve already got that covered with our Weekly Simple Meals Plans!

Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas

Who is ready to download the Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas?!

Hopefully you already grabbed the Master List of Simple Lunch Ideas. I’m covering my fridge with these lists to make our transition from summer break to a school schedule a little bit easier. If you haven’t already, be sure to get your lunch list here!

breakfast_cookies

Watch also for our upcoming Master Lists of food and recipes and ideas to make snacks and to fill a lunchbox. (Subscribe here so you don’t miss them!)

Today’s list:

The Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas

Keep Breakfast Simple

Note: If possible I try to always serve a protein of some sort for breakfast. I also always serve fruit. I’ll begin this Master Breakfast List with the protein and fruit lists that I typically serve with everything else on the list!

Your Real Food Master Simple Breakfast List

You can download this entire list here. But I’ll share it all on this post for reference also. I also recommend that you pin it so you can find it quickly as needed!

strawberry

Protein to Go With Breakfast

ham and egg cups1

Fruit that is Great With Breakfast

Any fruit is great! Our favorites for breakfast are:

  • Apples
  • Applesauce
  • Oranges
  • Clementines
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honey Dew Melon
  • Grapes

Stir and Pour Bread Varieties

This Stir and Pour Bread recipe is a game changer to make it super simple to have Homemade Bread on hand to use for a quick breakfast!

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Breakfast You Can Make the Night Before

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Make Ahead Breakfast Cereal

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Breakfast in a Mug or Glass

Quick Breakfasts From Freezer to Oven

Freezer Breakfast Cookies5

Big List of Muffin Recipes

Breakfast You Can Make in Your Waffle Iron

Great Waffle Iron Hacks

Quick Mix Breakfast Ideas

If you have Quick Mix on hand, you can quickly make:

Would you like to make this Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas even simpler?

Sign up here to receive the entire Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas in a free downloadable document! Then you can keep it handy on your computer or print it and put it on your fridge as a super handy reference!

Master List of 60 Simple Breakfast Ideas

Grab a free download of the Master Simple Breakfast List!

Watch for more Master Lists coming this month, filled with real food and simple snacks and lunch box ideas!

What would you add to the list? What are your favorite simple breakfast foods to feed your family?

P.S. What about a simple dinner list? We’ve already got that covered with our Weekly Simple Meals Plans!

What I Think About My New Instant Pot

I finally did it. After so many of you told me how great the Instant Pot is, after so many insisted that I would love it, after all kinds of hemming and hawing and rebelling about getting one more appliance for my kitchen…I finally got myself an Instant Pot.

Instant Pot

It was Amazon Prime Day. It was a good deal. It was a big pot for my family’s big needs. It was time.

I’m sure you’re all wondering, has my new Instant Pot completely changed my life? Am I a better mom now? Do I sleep better at night because of it? Does it help my house stay in a less cluttered state? Do I get mail to the box in better time? Am I finally wearing matching socks? In other words, does the Instant Pot help make my world go round?!

The answer to all of the above is “no.” But I do make mean batches of hard boiled eggs in record time, so I think we can all give a cheer and feel that this was definitely a worthwhile purchase.

eggs

I’ve truly had fun with my new toy, which isn’t taking up any extra room on my counter because it has actually taken the place of my coffee pot if you can believe it! (I realized after I started drinking this healthy coffee that I no longer need a coffee-maker taking up space on a daily basis. Away went the coffee pot. In its place went the Instant Pot. A pot for a pot. It just seemed logical.)

At the very moment our Instant Pot arrived on our porch, I was making Tuna Salad. Matt decided he definitely wanted boiled eggs in his tuna since we now had an Instant Pot in which to make them quickly. I read the “how to boil eggs” instructions while he got it set up, and while I’m pretty sure we didn’t do everything right, nothing blew up, our eggs hard boiled like they were supposed to, and Matt got eggs in his tuna the way he wanted. Good story, huh?

Not long after the arrival of the pot and the making of the eggs, we headed back out to church camp for a week. So our Instant Pot sat forlorn and lonely on our counter-top all week. Since coming back from camp, I’ve been playing with it as I’ve had time. Here’s what I’ve tried, though please don’t get excited because my stories might bore you to sleep…

For instance, one night we had company and my stove was full of other big pots cooking other food. So I tried steaming our broccoli and carrots in the Instant Pot. The recommended seven minutes was way too long and our broccoli came out dead and mushy and completely unappetizing. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to try a new appliance when you’re serving food to company?

instant pot2

See, look. My full stove, which is what led me to steam veggies in my Instant Pot. Fascinating.

A few days later I put a whole chicken into my Instant Pot, dumped on some BBQ Sauce, and turned it on. That was ridiculously simple and we ate chicken for lunch 35 minutes later. I served it with okra. It was very good. The end.

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The part of the story you don’t want to hear is that I asked Matt to please take the leftover meat off the bones, but I didn’t communicate clearly about saving the bones so I could try making broth in my new Instant Pot. Learning to make broth in my new pot will have to be a lesson for another day.

instant pot beef

Perhaps my favorite of anything I’ve tried so far is cooking frozen ground beef! As soon as I perfect this method, I will for sure share the details. I think this will be a HUGE time saver!

Sooo, while none of this Instant Pot news was super exciting to read about at this point, you can be sure that as we settle into a new school year with lots of teenage mouths to feed, we will be absolutely making the most of our new Instant Pot! And when I figure out all the great food we can make with it, I’ll share all the fabulous details!

I’d love to hear from you if you have an Instant Pot. What are your favorite time-saving recipes to make?

Master List of Simple Lunch Ideas

For everyone who is home with a family to feed during lunchtime every day, this List of Simple Lunch Ideas is for you! These lunches are all made with simple, real foods. (Coming soon: A list of great simple, real food lunches to pack and take to work and school.)

Keep Lunch Simple

As a brand new school year approaches and I am praying away the scheduling craze that is trying to creep in along with the turning of the calendar pages, I’ve decided to put together Master Lists of food and recipes and ideas to make lunches, breakfasts, snacks, and lunchbox options as simple as possible each day. Today’s list:

The Master List of Simple Lunch Ideas

But Laura! You home school and work from home so you’re home all day. Why is it difficult to get food on the table?

{And Laura falls on the floor laughing and crying and kicking the chairs in her path while throwing couch pillows.}

Dear friends. Homeschooling only means that our books and software live in the house and our school is operated out of the home instead of a classroom. We are on the run a significant amount of time between music lessons, college classes, field trips, service opportunities, athletic events, church activities, library runs, and the like.

For our family, homeschooling and working from home has offered us the coolest, most wonderful, and fabulously flexible opportunity and we are extremely grateful for the relationships we have with our kids and with the community because of it. But it also lends itself to extremely full days with little down time. So in the name of sanity…

This mama needs a Master Simple Lunch List.

And a Master Breakfast List. And a Master Snack List. Watch for those lists, coming very soon. (Subscribe here so you don’t miss them!)

Where’s the list of Simple Dinners? This is already taken care of with our Simple Meals plans. I follow those, so our evening meals hit the table very quickly. I am so, so thankful for this!

Why not eat sandwiches every day for lunch?

The short answer is that it would cost my family too much money. The other short answer is that we prefer more variety of nutrients and less carb-heavy meals.

No matter what though, I recommend that we always, always…

Eat a fruit and a veggie with each lunch.

This is easier than you think. I’ll tell you how! I think it’s time for the list, don’t you? (To make this much easier, you can download this entire, beautiful Master Simple Lunch List here.)

Your Real Food Master Simple Lunch List

You can download this entire list here. But I’ll share it all on this post for reference also. I also recommend that you pin it so you can find it quickly as needed!

watermelon

We’ll begin with fruits and veggies because instead of thinking of them second, let’s start thinking of them first!

Fruits and veggies that can be pulled from the fridge and served immediately with little to no prep (beyond washing):

  • Baby carrots (I like the petite carrots – they are sweeter and easier to eat!)
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Mini sweet peppers
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Unsweetened Applesauce
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Clementines
  • Fresh Spinach or Mixed Greens

Fruits and veggies that take a few minutes of prep but are still super simple:

  • Sliced apples
  • Sliced peaches or nectarines
  • Steamed peas (frozen peas cook very quickly!)
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced sweet peppers
  • Raw broccoli “trees”
  • Cut cantaloupe
  • Watermelon wedges
  • Sliced pears
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Steamed green beans (frozen green beans take just a few minutes, but can cook themselves while you get the remainder of lunch ready)

If you have Homemade Ranch Dip or Hummus on hand, these can be thrown onto the table quickly to help get the veggies down!

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Simple Lunches that can be made ahead of time and warmed up quickly:

Simple Lunches that can be thrown together with little prep time:

strawberry

Simple Lunches that are flexible and can be eaten in more than one way:

Would you like to make this Master List of Simple Lunches even simpler?

Sign up here to receive the entire Master List of Simple Lunches in a free downloadable document! Then you can keep it handy on your computer or print it and put it on your fridge as a super handy reference!

Master List of 40 Simple Lunch Ideas

Grab a free download of the Master Simple Lunch List!

Watch for more Master Lists coming this month, filled with real food and simple snacks, breakfasts, and lunch box ideas!

What would you add to the list? What are your favorite simple lunches to feed your family?

“Processed Food” I Buy on a Regular Basis

It’s true. I buy processed food all the time. Check it out…

groceries feb 172

What you see there is none other than cases of processed Spaghetti Sauce, Salsa, and Canned Black Beans. Processed food, baby. Store-bought, canned, jarred, food right off a shelf.

And you thought you knew me.

But there’s more…

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Are those hotdogs? What is this world coming to? Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet:

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This might come as a surprise, but I do not have a maple tree in my yard to tap in an effort to provide our family with this golden pancake and waffle topper. Also – and it might hurt to hear me say this – I don’t always take time to squeeze limes. Indeed, I have stooped so low that I actually buy jars of lime juice to make my Guacamole. Can we still be friends?

Those baked beans though. They are on my shelf ready to be served with the hotdogs you saw above, but you’ve already seen my Beanie Weanies and you haven’t abandoned me yet. Pizza sauce? In a can? Well, thank goodness that at least it is organic.

I’m not even done. There’s more for you to see:

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That there is a box of spaghetti noodles. There are a couple ingredients in that cream that I would rather not know about, and see that cheese? That’s 10 pounds of Colby jack all wrapped up in a package.

So here’s an idea…

Let’s change our thoughts about processed food

Not all processed food is bad.

When I first started making the switch from “bad food” to “good food” I got an idea in my head that all processed food was evil, that I must make everything from scratch in order to be a “good mom” and canned food would never again enter my home.

Eleven years later I have come to terms with the fact that someone else can juice my limes. Having shelves full of canned pizza sauce and black beans in my pantry makes my life so much easier I smile every time I see them. I open and use jars of salsa like there’s no tomorrow but guess what?

It’s all still real food.

It’s all real food!!!! Do you hear what I’m saying? The “processed” food I buy hasn’t been turned into something horrible. The spaghetti sauce in those jars is made from actual tomatoes and spices (and nothing else because I’m careful about the ingredients in my jarred and canned food purchases). These items started as food and ended as food and they help me put Simple Meals on the table like a boss.

This is what we must consider when choosing food from a shelf, a box, a bag, or a can:

Is this real food and does it nourish?

There are all kinds of processed “foods” that I don’t even call food because they do nothing to nourish and everything to harm. If it started as one thing (corn) and came out completely different (high fructose corn syrup), it isn’t real food and it doesn’t nourish. If it took a detailed process to create in a factory (margarine) instead of starting as one thing (cream) and becoming something good for us naturally (real butter), it isn’t real food and it doesn’t nourish.

Don’t be afraid of a box, jar, or can.

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Read the labels. Do your homework. Consider what’s actually inside the container. Ask: Is it real? Does it nourish?

Sometimes these are the foods that help us get through a day in peace and with a smile.

What are the “processed foods” you keep on hand to help make your real food life easier?

P.S. As many of you requested, I am slowly but surely making a list of items and brands of “processed food” I trust and purchase. Don’t hold your breath, but know that you can look for that list in a few weeks.

The Day I Got Mad at Groceries, Part 2 (Is Balance Possible?)

Read Part 1 – The Day I Got Mad at Groceries and Food in General here.

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After processing with you some of my frustrations with being able to achieve balance when striving to…

  • Save money on groceries
  • Fill us with nourishment
  • Satisfy my teenage sons’ huge appetites
  • Not spend hours in the kitchen
  • Keep up with life during a busy season

…I headed to the grocery store.

I had my list ready to go. I also had our full calendar in mind, knowing all too well what the next two weeks held for my family. Which was bigger – my grocery list or my to-do list? Oh, now that’s a tough one.

So I prayed for a balanced approach to my shopping. God is not above me asking for help in selecting food for my family. God cares about every detail. He knows my desire to be a good steward and also my need to not over-burden myself in the kitchen. He knows what’s on my calendar. He knows how much my boys eat. He knows we need a new vehicle. He knows.

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At the store, I filled my cart with a wonderful variety of fresh produce from strawberries to peaches to zucchini to peppers to apples to asparagus to watermelon to avocados. I got all the produce at wonderful prices thanks to price-matching.

Then I compromised and bought a few loaves of bread, even though I know how to make it myself. I bought pre-made frozen hashbrowns, even though I know how to make them myself. (By the way, the only ingredient in the Mr. Dells brand frozen hashbrowns is potatoes. The lack of fillers made me add three bags to my cart!) I bought several packages of nitrite-free, uncured beef hotdogs for fast and fun lunches on the grill. I bought bottled BBQ Sauce, even though I know how to make it myself.

Truth: Everything I bought was still real food. (Yes, I realize I’m pushing it when talking about hotdogs. Work with me here. They’re trying. Really they are.)

I got good deals. I was careful about everything that went into my cart. But doggonit, when I want to make Grilled Chicken this week, I’m gonna open up a bottle of pre-made BBQ Sauce, dump it on, and go about my day.

I think we all have to:

  • make decisions about what works for our family and what doesn’t.
  • realize that just because something had been working for our family, sometimes a change is in order.
  • ask God for clarity, peace, and help in all areas in our lives.

My conclusions about groceries…today

Actually, I have no conclusions. I conclude that what I conclude today may be different from what I conclude next week. Right? Often if it’s best if we just think about today. I trust God to make it all clear to each of us when it comes to saving money, eating well, and saving time.

Today’s conclusions are:

  • I will continue to follow Simple Meals plans because without them, I’m lost and frustrated at dinner time. The recipes and every aspect of these plans are so easy I barely have to work and I rarely have to think. This is how I’ll continue to do dinner.
  • With that, when a recipe calls for BBQ sauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa, or beans – it’s coming out of a jar, bottle, or can because it is still real food, the price is still reasonable, and I don’t have time to make every single ingredient from scratch right now.
  • Lunches and Breakfasts might need to be some of the same choices over and over for a while. This will cut down on my need to think so hard, and make it easier for the boys to help themselves.
  • As long as I always have plenty of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies to fill the table, I can relax about the occasional hotdogs or pizza.

Balancing Nourishment, Time, and Cost When Grocery Shopping

What have you found helps you most when trying to find balance in saving money, eating well, and saving time in the kitchen?

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The Day I Got Mad at Groceries and Food in General

A few weeks ago I talked about how our family is having to tighten our budgeting belt right now as we build up our savings again after needing to replace our van right after investing in a new business venture for Matt (radon mitigation).

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Naturally, I challenged myself to see how I could cut back on our enormous grocery budget, even though a few weeks before that I’d shared that there was no way I could cut back because…

We eat a lot of food.

I felt all kinds of blah about this, because cutting back didn’t seem possible and also I am trying very hard during this season in life not to…

Go crazy.

This time of life filled with a houseful of teenagers with all their friends and comings and goings and activities and growing experiences is very much like (except very different from) my years of raising a houseful of babies. Those were lean and busy years too, also a time in which I was trying to avoid going crazy (while the Blue’s Clues theme song played on repeat in my subconscious). All of life cost less then, seeing as we didn’t have a slew of teenage boys included on our car insurance policy and their shoes and appetites were much smaller.

But the busyness. And the needs. They were/are so great! (“Great” shall be used twofold in this context as the needs are great and the needs are also great. How great that they need me! How great are their needs! This is all so great.)

Through the busy seasons…

These are the years we might need to compromise a little on making all food from scratch and settle for the occasional pre-made tortillas and take-and-bake pizzas. I felt it in the baby-raising-years, had a bit of a reprieve as my kids got old enough to buckle and wipe themselves, but am back to feeling the pinch of time, money, and energy as I am in a season of “hold on for dear life” with my teenage and adult kids.

Add to that the fact that one by one my boys insist on graduating high school and moving out of my nest and I feel the need to use every minute with them for a greater purpose. As I watch these years with kids at home vanish before my eyes, I refuse to use any of this precious time with my back turned to them while I spend time on a task like making Mozzarella Cheese.

All this was going through my head one day recently as I made a grocery list.

“Save as much money as possible!” thought I.
“Nourish us well; this is so very important!” came my next thought.
“Take time to enjoy the family; save your energy; save yourself; buy the pizza!” – and with that I got angry.

Is it even possible to do all of this at the same time? To save money, to eat good food, and to not spend hours in the kitchen while making it all happen?

The Day I Got Mad at Groceries

Yes, I know about the thing called “balance.” I’ve written about it, danced with it, poked and prodded at it, and as of today, I came to the conclusion that while balance is a great word and a great goal for which to strive, today I’m going to have to settle for…

Fine. Good enough. Okay, I guess.

The key word here is “today.” I believe in the long run everything actually will balance out because I truly am intentional about saving money, filling us with nourishment, and not spending all my time in the kitchen. Balance wins out in the long run. But that will no longer be my focus. Right now my focus has to be…

Today.

I can’t look beyond today. Today I might feed us all salads and veggies and grass fed meat and beautiful bowls of fresh berries. I might even do it while saving a bundle of money through price-matching and gardening and being resourceful and cooking from scratch. If that is what today looks like, then yay for today!! But tomorrow? Tomorrow…

I might buy pizza.

And sure, I’ll serve it with a salad and slices of pineapple, but I won’t have saved money and I will have filled us with some empty carbs.

This has to be okay, because okay is the best I can do.

The best I can do is actually something to be celebrated. The best I can do truly is the best. Whether it’s a frugal meal that only cost $1.00/plate or a super nourishing meal filled with fresh greens and veggies, or a corndog on a stick that came out of a box.

The best I can do is what offers my family the best of me.

And with that, I’m no longer angry with food and will head to the grocery store.

To be continued…

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