Toddler Lunches

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About 2 years ago, I wrote about what my kids ate for breakfast, lunch & supper in a week. Now that I no longer need to adapt meals for an 18 month-old who can’t chew well, I thought I’d do a little update.

I also learned to not try to reinvent the wheel each week with our lunch menu.

It used to be, every week, as I’d meal plan, I’d sit with a blank slate and try to be creative with my kids’ lunches. After reading A Simplified Life last summer, I realized that this was completely unnecessary.

Now, I assign a lunch meal to each day of the week so that it’s one less decision that I have to make each week. I thought that when we needed a change of pace, I would change it up. That was in September, and no one’s bored yet. And my kids still eat what I put on their plate each day, so we’re going with it.

Toddler Lunch Building Blocks :: maximizingdaysblog.com

When it is time to decide what to put on their plates, I find it’s easiest to use a “structure”.

For me, it helps to have a reference point. So, I start with the building blocks for each meal and go from there.

Toddler Lunch Building Blocks

  1. Vegetable
  2. Protein
  3. Fruit
  4. Dairy
  5. Carb

Your building blocks may be different depending on how your family eats. That’s fine. Make your own building blocks list and then list what foods fall into each box.

Get Out of the Lunch Rut

1 – Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Don’t do what I did. Don’t feel like you need to come up with something new and creative each day each week. It’s just not necessary.

Maybe your kids would get bored eating the same thing every Monday. That’s understandable. Then make the same 5 lunches each week and switch up the days. Or come up with 7 lunches and pick 5 each week.

Simple doesn’t have to equal boring.

2 – Make a List

Write down a list of lunches so you don’t have to “come up with something” each day. Get your kids involved and have them pick which meal from the list gets eaten on which day.

3 – Prep Your Produce

Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables ahead of time. This turns ‘making lunch’ into ‘putting food on plates’, which is much easier and faster.

I’m lazy. I’m a lot less likely to give my kids peppers if the pepper is whole and in a crisper drawer than I am if it’s chopped and ready to be eaten.

4 – Don’t Overcomplicate

This sounds the same as ‘Don’t Reinvent the Wheel’, and it kind of is. But it’s good to make the point again.

Sandwiches are fine. String cheese and crackers never killed anyone (okay, so that might not be true, but you get my point).

Do not fall into the trap of thinking you have to make the most creative, delicious, nutritious lunch every day. Give your kid food that nourishes them. That’s it. Don’t let it become more than that.

Our Weekly Menu

Monday – Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Mondays :: maximizingdaysblog.com - Fill a muffin tins with Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Condiments. No plates or silverware needed. Easy lunch that your kids will love.

We started this last summer when I saw it on Instagram (social media is good for something!). My kids just think it’s the bees knees. I don’t even know what the appeal is, but they love it.

2 Proteins, 2 Veggies, 2 Fruits & 3 C’s (Crackers, Cheese & Condiments). And DONE.

Tuesday – Chicken Nuggets, String Cheese, Peppers & Strawberries

Toddler Lunches :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I have a thing about chicken nuggets in the microwave. And my thing is that I just can’t do it. Soggy when they should be crunchy? No, thank you.

We don’t go anywhere Tuesday mornings, which allows the 45 minutes that it takes for the oven to preheat and then to cook the nuggets, so that’s our rocket science reason we eat chicken nuggets on Tuesday.

Dino Chicken nuggets because why even bother with any other kind.

Wednesday – Meat & Cheese Roll-Ups, Crackers, Cucumbers & Oranges

This meal comes together in less than 90 seconds. Which is what I need on Wednesdays.

The kids get to choose their meat (I offer whatever sandwich meat we have in the fridge) & cheese (we usually have 4-5 kinds of sliced cheese in the fridge because I’m weird like that). Grab some cut up fruits & veggies and throw in some crackers for good measure.

Thursday – Mac & Cheese, Meat Sticks, Frozen Peas & Grapes

Toddler Lunches :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Yep. I’ve become a Minnesotan. In these parts, I consider processed meat wrapped in casing protein.

And I don’t know what it is about frozen peas, but my kids love it. I can’t take them out of the freezer too soon before putting them on their plate otherwise they won’t be cold enough. You can’t make this stuff up.

Friday – Rice Cakes, Peppers, Go-Gurt & Kiwi

Toddler Lunches :: maximizingdaysblog.com

This is the meal where the condiments – peanut butter & hummus – count as protein. And what they don’t have, the go-gurt makes up for. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Toddler Lunches  :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. Read more about my meal simplification journey here or my favorite lunch recipe here.

What do you find to be the hardest part about making your kids’ lunches?

Menu Plan Monday

Menu Plan Monday :: maximzingdaysblog.com

Monday

Bacon & Gruyere Biscuits & Fried Eggs

The Bacon & Gruyere Biscuits were this week’s recipe attempt from the Magnolia Table cookbook.

We had leftover bacon, so it was a perfect time to make them because half of the work for the recipe had already been done.

THEY ARE DELICIOUS.

And why wouldn’t they be? They’re loaded with butter and salty, melty, gruyere cheese.

Fried eggs were an easy and quick side and a green smoothie loaded with veggies made me feel better about eating my son’s body weight in biscuits.

Tuesday

Cheese Tortellini & Parmesan Chicken Tenders

This dinner is all thanks to the Aldi prepared section. The tortellini needed to be boiled for 4 minutes & was ready to eat. I heated up some jarred marinara sauce.

The Parmesan Chicken tenders were not the homemade ones I told you about last week. These came from the freezer section at Aldi, and they were delicious. And oh, so convenient when you need to throw something in the oven and have no time to prep anything more than putting foil on a pan.

I would say that I make our meals from scratch 60-70% of the time. And the the rest of time, I rely on easy, convenient, yummy meals like this.

And no one dies.

Wednesday

Sausage & Kale Soup with Bread

This is another recipe from the Magnolia Table cookbook, but this is the second time that I’ve made it.

We had somewhere we needed to be right before supper, so I made it in the afternoon and let it simmer while we were out. I added the kale when we got home and supper was ready less than ten minutes after walking in the door.

Thursday

Salmon & Parmesan Cauliflower Rice w/ Zucchini & Sweet Corn

Let me reassure you, while salmon sounds “fancy”, it is one of the easiest and most delicious meals.

I always have frozen salmon filets in our freezer and the only other two ingredients are butter & lemons, both of which we always have on hand.

Baked Salmon

  • Salmon filets
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Lemon Slices
  • Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Heat oven to 300
  2. Spread foil on a pan, & line salmon filets on foil
  3. Place pad of butter on each salmon filet
  4. Cover each filet with lemon slices
  5. Sprinkle with salt & pepper
  6. Wrap up filets tightly in aluminum foil & bake for 25 minutes

As I mentioned last week, the Parmesan Cauliflower Rice with Zucchini & Sweet Corn is one of our favorites and a weekly staple around here.

Let me say this for, like, the three-millionth time – TRY THIS RECIPE!!!

Friday

Pizza & Smoothies

30 degree below zero windchill meant that I had planned on doing frozen pizza because it’s too cold to bundle two children and drive 8 blocks to pick up pizza. And I’m too cheap to pay for delivery.

But $5.99 two-topping large pizzas changed my mind. And my husband picked it up on his way home from work, so that helped.

Saturday

Frozen Pizza

It’s a good thing that we didn’t eat frozen pizza the night before, because our plans changed at the last minute, and I needed something in a pinch. Even though we had eaten pizza the night before, 3 of the 4 of us voted for pizza again, so majority wins.

Sunday

Snacky Supper

I added chocolate chip cookies to this tradition this week. Because it wasn’t unhealthy enough already.

Do you follow me on Instagram?  I often share meal details tips on stories.  Check it out.

Currently….

Currently :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I Am Currently…..

Wearing

These jeans.

I caved. I gave into the high-waisted trend and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

LISTEN UP LADIES. High-waisted jeans aren’t just for the people who pair them with a crop top. They hold in any extra “stuff” (shall we say) in the mid-section. Hallelujah!

These particular jeans have an 8″ rise, which is great. But if you’re looking for a little more coverage, I also have a 9″ rise, which is what I wear with any tops that are more fitted in the mid-section.

I don’t remember the last time that I felt this good about how I looked in a pair of jeans. They’re that good.

Sizing note: I have found that I can wear one size smaller in high-rise jeans than I do in “regular” jeans because my belly button – where they hit – is the thinnest part of my waist.

Reading

The One & Only by Emily Giffin

One my annual goals for 2019 is to read one book a month. This is a STREEEEEETCH for me. I’m not a good, fast or frequent reader. But I want to be, so this is how I’ve decided to try to achieve that goal.

I decided to start off the year with an easy, guilty pleasure read to grease the skids, so to speak.

I’ve read most of Emily Giffin’s other books and thoroughly enjoyed them. They’re cheesy and slightly trashy (one might say), but she tells a good story and develops characters well. And this particular story has college football as it’s background, so I was an easy sell.

Eating

Avocado Sweet Potato Toast

Every.Single.Day for breakfast.

This has been true for a while, but until this weekend, it was missing one key ingredient. Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning.

We live where there is no civilization. At least it feels like it with the nearest Trader Joe’s being 3 hours away.

So I’ve happily eaten this toast sans the seasoning for breakfast every day for the last few months.

DON’T SKIP THE SEASONING!

The toast is good without it. It is delicious with it.

Watching

I’ll tell you what I’m NOT watching.

The Marie Kondo show on Netflix.

And not because I don’t want to or don’t think I’d enjoy it. Just because I am thisclose to finishing season 5 of The Blacklist and I cannot be interrupted.

But for all of those who have asked, yes, I will definitely watch it.

I will say that I get a little leary watching those kinds of shows because a lot of them show the most extreme cases which 1) makes my chest tight to see and 2) can give people a false hope of what’s realistic in the end.

But once Elizabeth Keen figures out who killed Tom, I will be all over watching Marie work her magic.

Loving

A Standard of Grace Journal

My sister-in-law bought this for me for Christmas and only three weeks in, I love it.

After reading Grace Not Perfection for the first time, I wanted to go back through and read it a second time to really think through and process so much of what the author teaches.

But see my aforementioned habits regarding reading above.

This journal is fantastic because it takes the teaching points from Grace Not Perfection and breaks them up into 52 “sections” – one for each week.

So, each week, there is a thought nugget & scripture. Then, she asks two related questions that help you think through where you’re at with that specific issue and apply it to where you are.

I’ve never kept a journal in my life. But now, I have come to look forward to my Tuesday morning “journaling”.

NOTE: You do not have to have read Grace Not Perfection to enjoy or get something out of the journal. But if you have read it, the journal helps you put her thoughts into action.

Thinking

That there is a LOT to be said for making your house your home.

We recently made a small design change in our Dining Room. It was something that we had talked about doing since we moved in over two years ago, but the urgent crowded out the pretty, and we are just now getting to it.

When I stand at my kitchen island – which, let’s be honest, is where I spend a LOT of my time – this is my view. And it fills my heart.

Who knew that little shiplap, some corbels and Ikea photo frames could make such a difference? Not me.

I’m still trying to figure out how to decorate it. That will take me longer than it should.

Any tips on what to put on the ledge? Should I keep the frames layered? Or space them out a little bit? I want to put more than just photos in the frames (because that’s kind of a lot of just our faces), but am not good at picking out art.

Any input on what should go in the frames would be much appreciated. Thank in advance.

A Simplified Life – 6 months later

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that, along with thousands of others, I’ve been doing the Simplicity Challenge.

The Simplicity Challenge is one task every day for 30 days. Each task takes less than 15 minutes and costs $0. Once you’ve completed every task, you will have made leaps toward simplifying your life.

It’s not too late to jump on board! Follow Simplified on Instagram and start Day 1 today!!

It’s a little more than half-way through the challenge, and I’ve realized how much going through A Simplified Life last summer has helped in my simplifying journey and really set me up for success.

After spending the entire summer talking about this and continuing to work through the exercises this fall, I thought it would be fun to do a little check up.

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Biggest Difference

Simplified Schedule

After reading this chapter, my husband and I took the time and did the work of figuring out what we have been spending our time on. It was mostly good stuff, but after tracking our days, we realized that there were also chunks of time that weren’t being used well.

Which is totally fine if you don’t have a lot to do, don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t get that pit in your stomach when asked to add something to your calendar. But we were none of those things.

So we judiciously went through our calendars – AND habits – and weeded out what wasn’t necessary. We also made a list of what we want to do more.

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Simplifying our schedule wasn’t just about not doing stuff I didn’t want to do or having an excuse to not do hard stuff. It was about creating margin to DO WHAT MATTERS.

Six months later, we are reaping the benefits. Our pace is much slower and calmer. We definitely still have hectic days, but they are the exception to the rule

Biggest Lifestyle Change

Simplified Technology

This was the first change I made. While I was reading the book (the first time), before even finishing the rest of it, I put her suggestions into practice.

Simplifying Technology has dramatically changed my days.

I am not beholden to notifications on my phone. I no longer wake up to my phone and start my day by scrolling through a screen. And I am finally making (imperfect) photo albums to have hard copies of precious photos.

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Still Have a Long Ways to Go On

All of the areas.

But seriously, I’d have to say Finances.

It is a daily surrender to admit that we can’t have everything that we want and even if we could, that relying on all of these things to bring us joy will end badly.

It is a big heart issue for us and we are chipping away at it a little at a time.

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

WIP (Work in Progress)

Simplified Space

I got through about 75% of our house, but now enough time has passed that I wonder if I should just start all over again…..

Simplified hosts the Ruthless Declutter Challenge in the spring, so I may take advantage of that and finish the task then.

#simplifiedsummer challenge - A Simplified Life by Emily Ley :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Overall, it is not an understatement to say that this book has changed my life. I said it six months ago, but six months later, I’m seeing how these seemingly small changes have made my life more like what I aspire it to be and that is such an encouragement.

I am so thankful for this journey. If you or anyone you know is feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, start HERE. You will not regret it.

A Simplified Life - 6 Months Later :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Have you read A Simplified Life yet? What have you found to be the biggest difference that it has made in your daily life?

Menu Plan Monday

Menu Plan Monday :: maximzingdaysblog.com

Monday

Buttermilk Pancakes & Bacon

I found the BEST pancake recipe on Pinterest a few years ago (which I can’t find anymore…..), but decided that if there was going to be a better one, it would be in the Magnolia Table cookbook, so we gave it a shot. I wouldn’t say these were better, but they were just as good.

Tonight’s meal was born our of buttermilk in our fridge that was about to expire. We always keep a package of bacon in our fridge for just this occasion.

Normally, I make smoothies loaded with spinach when we have breakfast for supper so that there’s still a vegetable, but I was too tired tonight. So, no vegetables tonight.

Guess what? No one died.

Tuesday

Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits

We wouldn’t normally eat breakfast for supper two nights in a row, but I had originally planned something different for tonight’s supper. During the day, I realized that I didn’t have a key ingredient to make it and didn’t want to run to the store.

For just these kinds of situations, I always have the stuff for “In A Pinch Meals”. These are meals that can be made from foods that have a relatively long shelf life or are staples that we always have in our fridge or pantry.

I used canned biscuits and frozen sausage patties. We eat cheese slices like it’s our job, so there’s always a selection of those.

I did make a smoothie with these sandwiches to get some fruits and veggies in with the carb & fat loaded goodness that are these breakfast sandwiches.

Wednesday

Parmesan Chicken Nuggets & Cauliflower Rice w/ Zucchini & Sweet Corn

I don’t like to use the words “Chicken Nuggets” to describe this, because that insinuates a kid food, but these are delicious no matter how old you are. This recipe started as one that I saw on Giada DeLaurentis’ cooking show over ten years ago, but I’ve adapted it so many times, that I think I can call this recipe my own.

Parmesan Chicken Nuggets

  • Cooking Spray
  • 3 to 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or “regular” milk)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  1. Pour buttermilk over chicken. Cover and refrigerate for, at least, a couple hours
  2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F
  3. Cover 2 heavy large lined baking sheets with non-stick spray
  4. Mix the Parmesan cheeses, basil & bread crumbs in a gallon size ziploc bag
  5. Dump chicken in colander to drain excess buttermilk
  6. Add chicken to bag
  7. Seal and mix until coated
  8. Arrange the coated chicken tenders on the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly
  9. Bake until they are cooked through and golden brown, about 12 minutes

The key to this recipe is soaking the chicken in buttermilk (I’ve used “regular” milk when I haven’t had buttermilk and it works well too). As I understand it, the milk breaks down the proteins in the chicken, which makes it super tender.

The Parmesan Riced Cauliflower with Zucchini and Sweet Corn is from thygoodness.com. Do yourself a favor and MAKE THIS RECIPE. It’s so hearty that it could be it’s own meal.

My kids don’t like zucchini, so I just pull out the zucchini on their plates (and put it on mine).

Thursday

BBQ Pork & Penne Skillet

This was another Pinterest success. I had some leftover BBQ pulled pork and this made another meal from it.

Friday

Out to Eat

The kids didn’t have school, so we took advantage and hit the road for a fun day at the Children’s Museum.

We don’t eat out often, so this was a treat.

Saturday

Pizza & Smoothies

We postponed our regular Friday night pizza & movie until Saturday because the kids and I were gone on Friday night.

Pizza tastes just as good on Saturday as it does on Friday, in case you’re curious.

Sunday

Out To Eat

It was my husband’s grandpa’s birthday and all he wanted was to have his family go out to eat at the Pizza buffet. His wish was granted.

And I’m never going to complain about pizza two nights in a row.

Do you have a recipe that you got from somewhere but over time have changed to make it your own?