Whimsical Faster Homework Market

With Back To School season almost upon us, it’s time to start thinking about and planning for those hectic weekdays that are jam-packed with homework, after school activities, and numerous other commitments. I’ve rounded up an entire week’s worth of Fast and Fresh Lunch Box Ideas to take the guesswork out of your shopping and packing routine. Best of all, these options are all 100% kid-approved!

When I set out to write a post about school lunches, I knew that I wanted it to be practical and useful for other moms. After all, we’ve all seen those Instagram photos of perfect school lunches shaped into whimsical designs and plated as though they were created by a 5-star restaurant. While those images may be fun to look at, they don’t exactly mesh with my reality.

In order to keep this particular list as manageable and helpful as possible, I decided that I would just take you shopping with me…bring you into my kitchen…and show you exactly what my 3 boys really eat. Because in the end, I’m just like you — I want to feed my kids balanced and nutritious meals, I can always use some new ideas to mix up the same old turkey sandwich, and I don’t exactly have loads of time on my hands to craft culinary masterpieces.  So without further ado, off we go to Kroger’s Natural Foods Department to stock up on a few staples that will make fast and fresh lunches EASY for my family!

The key to quick and wholesome lunch prep is a properly prepared kitchen. That’s why I love shopping here — I can grab all of my family’s favorites in one quick stop. From bulk bins with affordable nuts and whole grains, to aisles of snacks and cereals,

and even an extensive refrigerated case of organic dairy and non-dairy options, it’s all here! The Natural Foods Department is like its own little gourmet market. I love that I can easily find my favorite brands in one spot, making my grocery shopping more affordable and more efficient.

And once I have my groceries back home and a kitchen full of nutritious ingredients, it’s just a matter of pulling together a good mix of whole grains, protein, healthy fats, fruits, and veggies for a well-balanced meal. Here are a few of our go-to options that I hope your kids will love too!

MONDAY: Make-Your-Own Pizza Kits. By far, this is my boys’ #1 lunch pick. I give them a couple of small whole wheat pitas, some marinara sauce (this is homemade, but a jar of your favorite brand would also work well), and some Horizon Organic Shredded Mozzarella Cheese. They spread the sauce with a spoon, sprinkle with cheese, and devour! A banana or other piece of fruit rounds out the meal nicely.

I love that Horizon’s shredded cheese and milk boxes are organic sources of protein that travel well in the lunch box!

TUESDAY: Macaroni and Cheese + Raisins + Veggies and Hummus.  If your kids are tired of sandwiches, this is another great option. A good quality thermos can keep pasta warm until lunchtime, so there’s no need to exclusively rely on cold foods.

I appreciate the convenience of the individual microwaveable Horizon Macaroni and Cheese, which is ideal for the morning rush when I haven’t planned ahead or made anything in advance. I can place the piping hot pasta directly from the microwave into the thermos so that it’s still warm when the kids are ready to eat.

This is also a great way to give the children leftovers from dinner the night before. Just reheat something like spaghetti or their favorite chicken casserole in the morning, stick it in the thermos, and pack it for later.

WEDNESDAY: Yogurt + Granola; Carrots; Melon; Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers. Here is a perfect meal to pack in advance (even a couple of days ahead of time) and store in the refrigerator because none of the ingredients will get soggy or stale. If you use Silk yogurt like I did here, it’s a dairy-free meal for children who might be sensitive.

THURSDAY: Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich + Horizon Organic Cheese Stick + Cherry Tomatoes + Black Raspberries.This is an example of a lunch that I threw together based on what I found in my kitchen. The peanut butter sandwich will always be a favorite with my boys, and some sliced banana adds a bit of sweetness with additional nutritional benefits. I include organic cheese for more protein, as well as whatever seasonal fruits and veggies are stocked in my refrigerator.

FRIDAY: Homemade Trail Mix + Horizon Grahams + Horizon Organic Colby Cheese Shapes + Bell Pepper Strips (with salsa for dipping).Do your kids love snacking as much as mine do? Sometimes just a well-balanced combination of little bites can add up to a super-easy, super-filling meal.

The Honey Grahams are made with organic whole wheat, so this lunch offers healthy fats, protein, calcium, whole grains, fruits, and veggies for a powerful punch!

And there you have it! A full week of lunches complete…and now it’s time to head back to the grocery store to re-stock the pantry for the week ahead!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon, Silk, & So Delicious. The opinions and text are all mine.

Filed Under: Lunch, What We're Eating
Tagged With: back to school, Lunch

All too often, the world outside feels like a terrible and cruel place. Sometimes you just want to curl up inside your cozy home and not come out for days on end. (We're right there with you—no judgment here.)

But if you live with other people, things can start feeling a little crowded.

Don't panic! Just in the nick of time, there's a new self-indulgent home design feature sweeping the nation and providing even more solace from the slings, arrows, and late-night tweets of modern life: the pajama lounge.

If the idea of chilling in your jammies all day fills you with feelings of unparalleled bliss, you now can have a designated space for it, without any shame. So put on your onesie, get comfortable, and prepare to learn how to implement this cozy trend in your home.

'A pajama what now?'

If you've never heard of a pajama lounge, you certainly aren’t alone. But you’ve probably already seen one without realizing it.

“A pajama lounge is basically a casual living room that’s usually found upstairs near the residence’s bedrooms,” explains Paul Fischman, principal designer at Choeff Levy Fischman in Miami. “They’re designed to be a place where the family can gather and hang out away from the high-traffic areas of the home."

Plus, if you're entertaining guests at home, there's a designated space upstairs where your kids (or your spouse) can escape to watch TV, do homework, or just avoid the gathering downstairs.

Second-floor pajama lounges (sometimes, scarily enough, called "feasting rooms" or "healing chambers") are especially popular with Fischman's South American and European clients, some of whom grew up with a similar space in their own homes.

Today, they're gaining popularity in the U.S., with more designers and builders being asked to create dedicated hangout spaces for families who want more room to do, well, whatever. It's all part of a larger trend to move everyday living upstairs, where there's more privacy than the hustle and bustle downstairs.

“If you have the square footage available, it’s a great use of space,” he says. “If designed right, it will be a comfortable room that will get a lot of use from everyone in the house ... where you can kick off your shoes and get comfortable.”

A blend of fun and function

Before you throw some couches together and call it a pajama lounge, first take into account everyone's needs and interests. (This can be a functional space, after all!)

Do you want a place to read the latest best-selling Donald Trump tell-all in peace? Do your kids need a quiet spot to do their homework? Or is it a space for your husband to watch Sunday football, leaving the family room free for your "Big Little Lies" binge sesh?

“It can really be similar to a hotel lounge area, somewhere neutral to gather and read, talk, study, or play,” says Lisa McDennon, interior designer and founder of Lisa McDennon Design in Laguna Beach, CA. “I think the idea is for it to be really comfortable and relaxing—a really flexible space.”

How to create your own pajama lounge

All right, so you've pulled out the PJs and you're on board. Let's get down to business.

First up, furniture: Because it's not a high-traffic area, a pajama lounge is the space where you can have some fun. Try outfitting it with less traditional pieces, McDennon recommends, such as circular sofas and down-filled chaises. And don’t skimp on the cozy accessories.

“Having a variety of comfortable, low seating would be best," she says. "Think pillows, poufs, and lots of cozy throws to bundle up in on cold days.”

From there, the opportunities for customization are endless. For his client’s pajama lounges, Fischman has included kitchenettes and custom shelving to hide cords and clutter. He’s created places for kids to do homework or draw, and large media walls for everyone.

No matter what, you'll want to make sure you include storage for books, games, and other lounge necessities.

“This could be a perfect spot to showcase family collectibles,” McDennon says.

You can make it as casual or as classy as your heart desires—really, anything goes.

“Have fun with a colorful or whimsical wall covering and layer vintage rugs," she says. "Or finally use that quirky chandelier you found at the flea market and nestle it in a cozy corner.”

Pressed for space? Get creative

Don’t have a second-story loft space (or an extra bedroom) to create a true pajama lounge? You don't have to give up the dream entirely.

If you live in an apartment or a small home, look for any available flex space. An empty corner or space under a window can easily be converted into a cozy nook for reading or watching Netflix. The attire is up to you.

Related topics:2018 design trends2018 trendsbonus roomsflex spaceliving roomloftspajama lounges

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