Most of the time, without a list, I would be lost!  I am a perpetual keeper-of-lists…and loser of lists!  I write them, they go into my pocket and then I forget where I put them.  Or, I make up a fabulous grocery list and pull out of the driveway, get halfway up the street and realise I have left it sitting on the kitchen counter….and I go back for it.  Why go back?  Well, afterall, I spent all that time making it in the first place!
Over and over again, you will hear (or read!) that you need to make a list before going to the grocery store!  You will be more efficient, you will save money, you will make fewer trips to the store…Of course you will, but first you have to figure out a system that works for you and your family (of 2 or 4 or 8 or whatever!)…Do you need one list with EVERYTHING on it?  For some, that is the way they do it…Our neighbours do it all on Wednesdays…this even includes the trip to the hardware store, or going out to get a new pair of pants, or taking an old pair of pants to the cleaners.  For them, it is all about Wednesdays, and if it isn’t on the list, it doesn’t get done or it doesn’t get bought (get bought?  can I say that?  Where is my English teacher husband when I need a proof-reader?).  In our house, there are three lists that refer to groceries…One that includes what we already have (on a week to week basis), this is not an all inclusive list of everything we have, but rather a list of what we have that we will be eating this week…For example, we have tomatoes and a cucumber left from last week that we will eat on Sunday (In other words, DON’T buy more tomatoes!).  Our second list is the Costco list, and this one is a bit of a running list as we try not to go to Costco more than once a month (heck, we can’t afford to go to Costco more than once a month!).  The third list is the grocery list…I divide it into four sections: Breakfast, Lunches, dinners and Daycare.  Before I make up a menu for the week (yes, I do this every week, as I have learned that it just all ends in chaos and too much take-out pizza if I don’t),  I hit the grocery store flyer.  Based loosely on what I learned at a young age from my father (a man who made, and still makes! many more lists than I will ever make!), we eat what is on special…and what is local (or as local as I can get…Yes, we eat bananas, but no, they don’t grow on Vancouver Island, or even near it!)…So, if pork roast and cottage cheese is on special, then that is what we will be eating.  (although, not usually together).
Lunches are a combination of what will be eaten, what is on special and what is healthy…A big thing about lunches though, is always making sure that you are buying (and therefore packing) what is going to be eaten…And with kids, what was eaten (and liked) last week, sometimes isn’t what is going to be eaten this week!  Go figure…Today, for example, I packed Kate a turkey wrap with mayonnaise and lettuce (she ate a whole plate of lettuce last night at supper!).  Half of the wrap came home, because she “didn’t have time”…however, there was time to eat the mandarins and the popcorn and the piece of applesauce cake…but not enough time for the wrap…Huh, I am that blonde, I suppose!  Don’t you?  Lesson learned, don’t put lettuce in the turkey wrap…But do put chocolate chips in the peanut butter and banana roll-up!  (mmm, melted ones!  Yummy!).
If I take the time to ask them (since I try very hard not to take anyone with me to the grocery store!) for suggestions for their lunches, generally, we have some success.  This week’s request (for next week), Bagels…Please, we haven’t had them is soooo long!
Okay, bagels are on the list for next week…the big question is, of course, will they still be in demand when next week gets here?


Under pressure!

Okay, so it is Sunday afternoon, and I am heading home from Victoria after being away since Thursday, and I have no idea what might be in the fridge.  All I know is that I just want to get home and not have to go out again.  Three days of volunteering at Skate Canada Nationals was fantastic!  But I am exhausted, and there is a week of lunches and dinners (and crazy activity schedules!) ahead of us…I can’t help wondering if my dear hubby has made a trip to Costco while I was away…
As I said, I have no idea what might be left in the fridge and when I called home, no one picked up, so I am on my own as far as groceries go, and what to buy.  So, I take a chance that there is milk at home and stop in at one of the big farmer’s markets just outside of Duncan.  We are very fortunate here on the Island, or certainly the central island, to have such great farmer’s markets.  Typically, my husband stops at Russell’s, which is on his way home from work.  Today, I choose to stop at the other big one, which is just south of Duncan and called The red rooster (or the Red barn, at this point I cannot remember…if someone can help me with the correct name, please do!).  I head in WITHOUT a list!  Typically, not a good idea, however, today I am in a time crunch too, so I am using a mental list that goes something like: “Bananas, apples, salad, stir fry, and lunches.”  I come away with bread, cheese, two heads of lettuce, a bunch of celery (the only surplus purchase, it turns out), two bags of apples (these days, who can resist 0.39c/lb for apples!), bananas, green onion, mushrooms (including portabellos as a treat because they were local), broccoli, a 5 lb bag of onions and a 15 lb bag of potatoes, bacon, two packs of lunch meat and a loaf of garlic bread (to go with dinner tonight, because it will make people more happy to see me!).  The plus to this kind of shopping, is that there are none of those center aisle items (like oreos and pudding cups) and we will just have to make it through the week without them…A tip?  Make a big batch of pudding (either homemade or the package kind) and spoon the fresh pudding into smaller containers with lids and, voila, your own pudding cups!  These also make great homemade frozen treats although they don’t go quite so well into the lunchbox!)…a label note: if you make the cooked pudding version of the packaged pudding, you get less saturated fat per serving, and it is almost as convenient.
And, what did I learn after almost a week of mixing with high level athletes?  Bananas!  Wow, there were a lot of those…As a parent, of course I know that bananas are good for you…but how good…
To answer that question, I did a little searching and what I found came from (this info also matched what I had in my nutrition chart available from Health Canada).
A banana is a large berry (didn’t know that!).
1 medium banana contains 100 calories, a large one, 125.  Bananas are low in calories, fat and sodium and packed full of nutrients… (making them a good choice for athletes)
452 mg of potassium, 33 mg of magnesium and 1/3 RDA of vitamin B6.  They contain 2g of fibre.
And, they taste good!  Another tip, the more ripe the banana, the higher the sugar content.  And there are lots and lots of great baking recipes that use bananas.
Happy Packing!

How many of what?

Don’t you love it when your kids start to take an interest in something that you enjoy?  My daughter has loved skating since we put her on the ice (at 2), but this year her love of skating seems to have taken off.  Not only the skating but everything about working hard at a sport, including what she eats.  This interest seems to have peaked in the last couple of weeks, in part due to her class at school, where they have been focussing on the Canada Food guide (or, “Guide alimentaire canadien” if you are in French immersion!) especially how many servings of Fruit and Veggies they are eating.  They have a class challenge running and they are trying to get to 800 servings of F & V.
Now, the general CFG suggests “we” should be getting 5-10 servings of F & V each day…But who should be eating how much?  Well, a really great tool came home in the backpack last week that includes all that.
“Boys and Girls, Ages 2-3: 4 servings (serving = 1 piece or 1/2 cup); Ages 4-8: 5 servings; Ages 9-13: 6 servings”, at the teenage years it separates boys and girls: Ages 14-18: Girls: 7, Boys: 8″…So we can relax and stop trying to get 8 or 9 servings into our 7 or 8 year olds.  The onlys ones who need 10 servings are Men between 19 and 50.
It’s always a challenge getting “enough” of those two things into our kids, isn’t it?  I try and stack the earlier part of the day: a piece of fruit and a glass of juice with breakfast (there’s two), some raw veggies and dip in the lunchbox as well as some lettuce or spinach or vegetable soup (that could be one more, if they get eaten…Raw veggies that don’t get eaten at school are good for filling the hole they seem to get into the car with everyday)…A piece of fruit right after school, there is another serving and then two veggies (one hot, one salad) with dinner…and there is 5.  Your 4-8 year old has the required servings…For Duncan, I have been sending him with three pieces of fruit in his lunch this year, and he has been eating them, so there is a way to get that extra serving into those 9-13 year olds.
Given that this week is so crazy (with me in Victoria for most of the week), we have set things up so that there is a big box of raw veggies ready to go for lunches or snacks, and those also make for a really easy stir fry supper, since they are already cut up.  Toss those with some chopped baby bok choy (packed with nutritrion and easy on the younger taste buds) and some chicken breast or some lean beef strips (or left over roast either beef or pork is great), and your stir fry is ready to go.

Lots more info about the Canada food guide and feeding your family on the Health Canada website .

Happy Eating everyone!

There is something to be said for the homemade lunch

My son’s class has just one an all expense paid trip to a “local” ski hill, in a contest (that involved writing essays and drawing pictures) sponsored by the Canadian Ski Council.  10 classes in the country wide contest were chosen.  The prize includes tansportation to/from the hill, ski rentals and lessons and lift tickets and a box lunch for 45 people.  They are thrilled, to say the least!  So, when the forms came home this week, we diligently filled them out, called Grandma and Grandpa (who are both avid skiers) to see if they would like to go along in place of Mom and Dad who both have to work that day (the joy of being in the education business…the general population doesn’t take kindly to one booking a day off to enjoy a field trip with one’s children).  And one of the forms includes your choices for your box lunch…Duncan looked them over (they were very basic: turkey, ham and cheese or vegetarian)…”Mum, can we just leave it blank and I can bring my own lunch?  I usually like your sandwiches better.”  I explained that we could choose something from the list, and then he could bring some snacks from home in case he didn’t like the sandwich.  “But Mum, I know I will like what you pack me.  And if I don’t like their sandwich, it’ll have to go in the garbage and that is a waste”…We worked out a compromise, that he could share his “box lunch” with one of his friends (not everyone comes with extras, and we know this) and he could bring his from home.  So, he set about choosing the sandwich he thought one of his friends would like most, and then announced that he would like a “ham and cheese roll-up from  home” and that he thought that I should also pack an extra one for the friend whom he had chosen the sandwich for…”And maybe one for Grandpa too, he always likes my lunches”…Maybe I should have offered to the Canadian Ski Council to provide the box lunches!
Happy Friday!

to pack or not to pack?

That is the question parents are asking all over the place tonight…Will it be a snow day tomorrow…In some places (Foxboro, Mass), they have already called it for tomorrow!  Around here, it is falling fast and furious, but…the big question on Vancouver Island always is…how long till it turns to rain?  How long will it last?  And , personally, I am packing lunches for tomorrow because I am very hopeful that tomorrow will not be a snow day!  (I do not relish the idea of a house full of children home from school, wishing it would stop raining so they can go out and play in the snow before it all melts!)…I love snow days, don’t get me wrong.  But I mean real snow days, when we have 14 inches of beautiful snowman building snow and some bright sunshine and the kids can go out and build snowmen and forts and have snowball fights, and then head down to the school yard and slide and slide and slide, until their legs are burning from climbing back up the hill so many times, and their hats and mitts are soaked through.  Then they come home and eat all the cookies in the house and drink mugs full of hot chocolate with marshmallows and leave chocolate rings on all the tables and the empty cookie packages on the counter.  And then, because they are still starving, they eat the lunch that was packed the night before (for school!), on the floor in front of the television like they are having a picnic.
So now, what do I pack?  Well, if it is a school day, but they get to go out and play, it will be good to have something hot in their thermoses…so, some chicken gnocchi soup (new recipe from Eating Well magazine: chicken breast cut up, onions, carrots, celery, all cooked till soft, add 4 cups chicken broth and heat medium high till boiling, add the gnocchi and cook for another 10 minutes) to use up some of that Gnocchi that was in the pasta basket I won in the school raffle at Christmas.  And we have some pita bread, so that and some cheese cut up and carrot sticks…There is a loaf of banana bread in the freezer that will be ready to cut up in the morning, and then of course, two mandarins for Kate, and applesauce, an apple, a pear and a mandarin for Duncan.

I hope if you get a snow day, that you get a chance to play too!

what did we eat?

When I was in elementary school, we ate lunch in a large cafeteria (okay, well, it seemed large back then!).  I remember when the school bought new tables, and we had the ones that had benches attached to the table (before that, it was all wooden tables and chairs)…I guess those would be old now!
There was a kitchen too, but no real hot lunch to speak of.  Well, there were hot dog days and pizza days…Oh what pizza we had!  It was just flatbread and tomato sauce (and I saw it at the grocery store last time I was in Quebec, not sure you can get it outside Quebec tho’), and we thought that it was soooo good!  And I do recall that there was the odd time when you could get soup, and there were always drinks you could buy…chocolate or white milk and then fruit drinks in cartons too: grape or orange (colour)…
So, I guess when it came to packing lunches, our parents were really “on their own”…my lunch usually consisted of a sandwich (pb and j or bologna and mustard with cheese), an apple or an orange and cookies or a granola bar.  We always had Nature Valley Granola bars, that came in the two pack.  And we would get money to buy a drink, or on hot dog days or pizza days we could have that.  Really quite boring…one of my best friends hated sandwiches, except for pb and j, and her dad almost never packed her that.  He packed amazing sandwiches!  Egg salad or tuna or ham and cheese with lettuce and tomato.  Or cream cheese with grape jelly!  Yum!  It was my good fortune that when my lunch was pb and j, she would happily trade with me.  So, I started making pb and j all the time just so she would trade with me.  Unless there was meatloaf…My dad made amazing meatloaf (he still does!) and a meatloaf sandwich with some chili sauce and lettuce was my all time favourite lunch!  Just recently, I made meatloaf for supper…I’m not afraid to say that I was disappointed there were no leftovers to make just one meatloaf sandwich.

So maybe ask your family what they like and then keep a little list on the fridge to use as inspiration…Tonight, Duncan asked me if I was making muffins for breakfast (must have seen me bring the blueberries up from the big freezer).  When I asked him why, he said he really likes it when he gets muffins with butter in his lunch instead of a sandwich.  I said, “better than ham and cheese?” and he said, “Well, it makes for a nice change”…
Guess I am getting up a little early tomorrow to make muffins!

ah…the weekend!

Yay!  Two whole days of no lunches to pack!  Er, wait a sec…I think I said that too fast…We are off to a basketball tournament tomorrow, so…Yes, there are sandwiches or something to be made in the morning.  We will have tuna salad and cream cheese, on some funny little buns that I found at the grocery store tonight when I went for those wonderful rotisserie chickens!  Of course with six of us, we need two chickens, and salad and bread (or is that my 70’s upbringing showing through, impressed upon me by my Paternal Grandmother who raised three children in the 40’s and 50’s, when bread was its own food group…).  That is where those funny little buns came from, my need for there to be bread with this spread of food for supper.  No one ate any bread, so they are left for lunches tomorrow.  (or croutons for salad next week, as they likely will be stale by Sunday afternoon!…Mmmm, homemade croutons are better, in my book, than chips!  All soaked in garlic and olive oil and then baked in the oven…Not too many will make it to the salad, I’m afraid!)
However, the weekend still remains the domain of the “make your own lunch” for some, or the “grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup”…Altho, I have a feeling the half of my family that is not going to the basketball tournament, but rather staying home and going to the standing Saturday “Soccer Date”, will also be dining on hot dogs at Costco for lunch (ew!  Sorry, but for me,  hot dogs, no, not really, altho I do enjoy some french fries…And a good Quebec poutine!  Mmmmm, now there is a healthy skating competition lunch for you!  Oh the memories!), while they do the monthly run of goods at Costco (including a bag of Quinoa, since we have both soup and quinoa salad on our menu for this coming week). 
And I will be enjoying my “time off” as I take in some senior girls high school basketball in Courtney, since Sunday will be a day of cooking to prepare for the nutsy month that is ahead for us this January…And help to avoid too many Costco hot dog dinners while I am away in Victoria!  (altho I think that Grandma will also be helping to avoid those as well!)
Happy Weekend everyone!