Being a mom is a full time job. I don’t care if you have one kid or 7 – you are busy. There is a never-ending pile of laundry, a sink full of dirty dishes, a kid (or two or three) complaining about being hungry, and the list goes on and on.
As a mom, I feel like I am being pulled in 100 different directions at once. I want to be with my kids. I want to be there for their firsts, play Minecraft and have tea parties, attend every field trip, check their math homework, and nurse my toddler down for a nap (and dare I dream to join her in said nap?).
I want to be a good business owner. I want to make sure that our customers are happy and are getting a quality product that I am proud to put in their homes. I want to take care of my employees and make sure that they have a good work environment and are able to have a good life/work balance so they can spend time with their kids and loved ones without having to worry about their job.
I want to be a good wife and snuggle with my husband after a long day of soap making and dirty diapers.
And I have semi-selfish pursuits, like jiu-jitsu. I want to be strong and healthy and exercise my mind and body. All of these things demand my attention, my time, and each one of them in their own right require me to be fully present.
I don’t often talk about my work/life balance but a few days ago I posted a picture of my middle son helping me pack up our weekly lunches and a few of you asked for a blog post explaining what I packed, how I did the whole week at once, etc. So I wanted to sit down and give you the 411 on the weekly bento roundup. This has been something in our routine that has helped me tremendously. It makes my week sooooo much easier, and allows me to ensure that my kids are eating well.
First a little back info, disclaimer. We are a family of 5 – my husband, myself, a 2 year old little girl, and a 6 and 8 year old little boys. We are all confirmed celiac, so gluten is a big no-no for our household. Several of us are also allergic to corn, so we don’t use that in any form and we tend to go more meat heavy because we all train jiu-jitsu and try to eat more protein and fewer carbs.
We try to limit processed foods and sugars, mostly because our food allergies don’t really allow us to trust processed foods and their ingredient lists. So if you are just a normal food eating family, this process will be much easier!
You will notice many of our meals require heat. I work from home 2-3 days a week, and the other 2 we go to the office. My toddler stays home with us and comes to work with us (since she is still nursing). The boys attend a homeschool co-op outside of the home and have access to a microwave to heat their meals.
Ok so now for the good stuff! Here’s an example of a few of our bento creations:
Snacks for jiu-jitsu. Pepperoni and cheese chunks in mason jars.
Another jiu-jitsu snack. Homemade trail mix. I put a little peanut butter on the bottom, some nuts, a mix of salty and honey roasted dried fruit (whatever I have on hand), and a few natural chocolates or treats in there to keep the kids interested. I usually make a huge batch on Sunday so we can have something to grab when the sweet tooth hits.
This was a no heat day. We have turkey slices, cucumbers, carrots, cheese, grapes, homemade ranch and I had leftover cinnamon sugar chips from a party we had at our house. Simply brush butter on a tortilla. We use rice tortillas but flour is better, and then put a little cinnamon and sugar and bake for 5 minutes on each side.
This was a quick one. It took about 30 minutes but it was all baking time. Then we have sausage balls (recipe is here) There are other ones that use Bisquick, but since we are gluten-free we have a slight variation. I always buy a few bags of frozen veggies. You can throw them into a bento frozen. They will thaw in the fridge and cook up perfectly when you reheat the meal.
These chicken fajitas I like to cook up a bunch at once and freeze them. That way I can pull them out for lunches. And we have frozen broccoli in this one too. The dip cups have a strawberry jalapeno glaze. It sounds fancy but I found this AMAZING strawberry jalapeno jam at the farmers market. I added some apple cider vinegar to it in a mason jar and microwaved it for a minute. It thinned out into a really great sauce for the chicken.
This is gluten-free macaroni in the pressure cooker. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my pressure cooker. I made this macaroni in 10 minutes. The recipe with vary based on your cooker, but It’s basically a pound of gluten-free pasta, some sharp cheese, heavy cream and water plus salt and pepper. It was a hit with the kids!
This entire setup took me about 2 hours start to finish and that included the boxing up of the lunches and loading the dishwasher. Most of the time we usually have enough food to box up lunches and then have the leftovers for lunch on Sunday. It not only saves me from having to cook again, but gives the kids a preview of what is coming up during the week. This prevents the “ugh I don’t want to eat that, it looks funny” syndrome, since I am there to encourage them to try it before judging.
How to get started
Making lunches for an entire week takes a bit of planning but once you get in the swing of things it’s really quite easy. Here’s my process:
Find containers. Since you are making lunches for the week you need enough to do them all at once. For my family we need 25 boxes, which took me a while to collect. We use wean green cubes and they have held up really well. We have never broken one and have been using them for going on 2 years. I also love mason jars (they are cheap and last forever!), and Easy Lunch Boxes are another really affordable option.
Pick up some dividers. These are going to help you keep wet foods away from other foods, so that your lunch doesn’t get funky. You can purchase silicon cups and reuse them, or regular foil cupcake liners from the bakery aisle work just as well.
Join Pinterest. I am a bit of an addict when it comes to Pinterest. When my youngest is nursing I like to find recipes on my phone to add to my collection. I have around 1800 recipes right now so we never get bored! LOL
Plan! This is probably the hardest part of the process and it’s still not that bad. Once a week, usually the day before I go shopping, I sit down and look through my recipes on Pinterest. I pick 4 recipes/ideas for lunches and copy the recipes into a Word document.
I then create a grocery shopping list based on those recipes. Some weeks I am more ambitious than others, but I usually try to think of the cooking day as a whole. If I pick something that requires more work, I will pick easier recipes for the rest of the week to balance it out.
There are also some staples that I always include on my list. These are usually fruit and frozen veggies. I always have fillers in the house like nuts, applesauce and the like in case I end up with a lighter than anticipated bento.
Cook! I try to cook on Sundays. I will either send everyone outside to play in the yard or wake up early and cook before everyone wakes up. It gives me a little peace and quiet and makes the process go a little smoother.
I will then refer back to my list and create a game plan. I try to use my oven and pressure cooker as much as possible since those are fairly hands-free. On my best days I can have meatballs and chicken baking in the oven, a pasta dish or soup in the pressure cooker, and then one thing on the stovetop that I have to babysit.
Then I lay everything out on the table when it’s done. You don’t have to worry about having it all ready at the same time since you want it to all cool down before boxing it up anyway (food safety and all!). Then I play a little Pandora and enlist the help of a kid or two to help me box up the lunches and snacks.
That’s it! A sneak peek into my week of meal planning. Doing it this way allows us to spend more of our week doing the things we want to do like snuggling and jiu-jitsu. Plus, once you have your weekly lunches planned, it’s really easy to do the same thing with your dinners as well. I am a master with a crock pot!
Written by Kim Webb, CEO and Founder of Rockin’ Green Soap
Finally it’s cool to be GREEN! Rockin’ Green is made for families that care about taking care of themselves and the Earth. As a mom Kim was fed up with the empty promises of “green” cleaning products that were not delivering what they promised… So she invented Rockin’ Green! We can all do our part for the environment while doing something good for ourselves. All of our organic cleaning products are biodegradable, and gluten and vegan friendly. They don’t contain phosphates, SLS, Parabens, or optical brighteners. All of our packaging is made from recycled materials.
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