web analytics

Favorite Costco Products

This month I want to share some of our favorite products from the stores we routinely shop at on a monthly basis. This week I’m sharing favorites from Costco. Most of these items are our lunch box staples. 

1. Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars- the kids love these! They’re big fans of cookies but I’m a big fan of healthy options. This is our compromise. The variety pack includes 3 flavors and they’re all delicious.

2. Pop Corners- another compromise product! I buy these instead of chips and after some initial griping and whining, the kids have decided they love them! I’ve tried them and they really are very good!

3. Nature Valley Almond Butter Biscuits- these are perfect for the lunch box, breakfast on the go, or a quick snack before sports. The kids love both the Almond Butter and the Coconut Butter flavor but were not big fans of the Peanut Butter ones. 

4. Pure Organic Layered Fruit Bars- these are what I buy instead of fruit roll ups. It took a few tries before the kids got on board but now they love them! And I love not buying those gross fruit roll ups anymore.

5. Kind Bar Minis- these are staple in our house. All the kids love them and eat them as snacks and breakfast when time is short. Both of these flavors are delicious!

6. Power Up Trail Mix- these individually portioned packs are perfect for days when the kids are going to be really busy. They’re delicious and packed with protein!

7. Stonefire Naan Dippers- these are another staple in our house. The kids eat these with chicken, tuna, or egg salad, with hummus, and with pimento cheese! I buy the big package and then split them into snack size ziplock bags.

8. Palmetto Cheese Pimento cheese singles- I randomly picked this up one time because I made the mistake of shopping hungry. And to my shock- the kids loved them! They eat this on Naan bread, on Melba toast, or they dip with breadsticks, crackers, or celery.

9. Kirkland Organic Hummus- I really only have 1 kid who loves hummus but she’ll happily eat it 3 days a week! This brand of original flavor hummus is her favorite and I also buy other varieties from another store. She eats this on Naan bread, Melba Toasts, dips carrots and celery, and spreads it on crackers. 

10. Bakery Croissants- I adore these. I’ve never found croissants that are this delicious. They’re moist and fluffy and so very yummy. The kids eat them with chicken, egg, or tuna salad or spread jam in them. They’re even delicious stuffed with cheese and bacon!

11. Kirkland Breadcrumb Crust Cheese Pizzas- I don’t buy frozen pizzas much but these are really good. I keep them in the freezer and the kids take pizza once a week or so. I make one and split the slices between the 3 kids for lunch. The trick to them is to bake them as directed and then broil them at the end to crisp and brown the cheese!

12. Mini Chicken Egg Rolls- My kids are fans of Asian food and these mini eggrolls are so good! They’re easy to make and send in a thermos for lunches. I toss them in the air fryer to crisp them and the kids say they are amazing. 

Those are some of my main staples from Costco. I have more but these are the ones that are on my list every single month.



Favorite Sam’s Club Products

This month I want to share some of our favorite products from the stores we routinely shop at on a monthly basis. This week I’m sharing favorites from Sam’s Club. Most of these items are our lunch box staples. 

1. Hard-boiled eggs– My kids all love hard-boiled eggs but I rarely have time to make enough of them for the week. I love to just grab a box of these already boiled and peeled eggs for the kids to toss in their lunch boxes. The kids either eat them plain or make egg salad out of them. 

2. Wholly Guacamole minis– The kids use these to make nachos or as topping for soft tacos. It’s easy for them to just grab a container and toss it in their lunch. 

3. Frozen Chicken Fried Rice– All of my kids love fried rice but it’s not something that can remain fresh in the fridge all week. I buy this pack of 6 individual portioned Chicken fried rice, microwave a bag in the morning, and fill 3 thermoses with it for lunches. It’s quick, healthy-ish, and they love it!

4. Frozen Orange Chicken– Orange chicken is a family favorite but it’s time consuming to make. A couple of times a month I’ll make this frozen version for dinner and then the kids take it in thermoses for lunch the next day with jasmine rice. 

5. Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad– 2 of my kids love chicken salad with crackers of Naan bread dippers. I was making homemade chicken salad until I realized I can buy these individually portioned cups for about the same price! And they’re delicious!

6. Oh Snap Dilly Bites– My kids love pickles! I buy at least 2 boxes of these pickle packs every month. They eat them plain, or add them to either tuna or egg salad. Each single pack comes with a lot of pickles and they’re super crunchy!

7. The Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Cheese– This is a staple in our house. We eat it on crackers, Naan bread dippers, plain, on celery or cucumber slices…so many options. My Sam’s Club has these on sale quite often so I stock up!

8. The Cookie Dough Cafe– these individual cups of edible chocolate chip cookie dough are a huge hit in my house. They’re delicious and perfect to satisfy that sweet tooth. The kids would rather have these then actual cookies now!

9. Flatbread Chicken Melts– my kids love these! They’re frozen, cook in one minute in the microwave, and are absolutely delicious! We use them a lot for quick snacks while running from one activity to the next. The kids also take them for lunch because they don’t get soggy.

10. Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels– these are the best ones I’ve found and the best price! One of my picky kids tells me that these have the perfect ratio of peanut butter to salt. Yeah, welcome to my world. The container is huge and one will last the entire month. 

11. Nature Valley Crunchy Snack Mix– these are perfect for lunch box snacks, breakfast on the go, or a fast protein pick me up before sports. They’re really yummy and come in 2 flavors. I always keep these on hand. 

12. Belvita Breakfast Bites– Just like above, these are perfect for lunch box snacks, breakfast on the go, or a fast snack on the way to extracurricular activities. We love that the box at Sam’s Club comes with a variety of flavors instead of just one. 

Those are some of my main staples from Sam’s Club. I have more but these are the ones that are on my list every single month. Next week I’ll share my Costco favorites.



Lunch Prep: Kids Lunch Favorites

I’ve shared How I Stock the Pantry and How I Stock the Lunch Fridge and How I Pack Lunches previously. Today I’m going to share some of my kids’ favorite lunch items with you. Last year I found myself in such a rut with lunch packing. My kids were taking sandwiches or a mix matched assortment of whatever was in the fridge. Nobody was happy, especially since none of them actually like sandwiches in any form. They were coming home hungry and cranky. Very cranky. 

I try to stock a variety of lunch items so there’s something for everyone. We’re lucky that none of our kids have any food allergies or sensitivities but they do have some specific preferences that I accommodate within reason. Such as no sandwiches! I always find it helpful when parents share the items their kids like to pack for lunches because it gives me some new ideas to try that I may not have thought of yet. 

Main dish items:

Pasta salad, macaroni & cheese with hot dogs, Alfredo pasta, Chicken parmesan pasta, spaghetti, eggs & fried rice, white cheddar shells, chicken nuggets, quesadillas, cheese pizza, chicken sandwich, lunchables, P3 packs

Proteins:

Hard-boiled eggs, Tuna salad, chicken salad, Taco meat, Big Mac Burger meat, hard salami sticks, pepperoni slices, snack size crab sticks

Dairy:

Laughing Cow Cheese, String cheese, yogurt, smoothies, cream cheese & bagel chips, cottage cheese

Fruits:

Apple sauce, Apple Slices, Blueberries, Cantaloupe, Strawberries, Honey dew, Cherries, Clementines, peaches, plums, yogurt covered raisins or cranberries, grapes, watermelon, pineapple

Veggies:

Baby carrots, sliced peppers, broccoli, celery sticks, cucumber slices, pickles, snap peas

Dips & Spreads:

Hummus, cream cheese, peanut butter, caramel sauce, nutella, ranch dip, cheese dip

Snacks/Carbs:

Bagel chips, cereal bars, crackers, english muffin, goldfish, granola bar, mini bagels, muffins, naan bread dippers, pita chips, popcorn, pretzels, rice cakes, tortilla chips, veggie straws, green pea crisps, 

Treats:

cookies, fruit snacks, pudding, trail mix, brownies

I wanted to give an idea of what a typical lunch looks like for my three kids. These are the lunches they packed each day last week. They all have afterschool activities so they typically pack enough to have a snack in the afternoon. 

Monday-

9th Grade Daughter: Cranberry Chicken Salad & Naan bread dippers, chocolate hummus & strawberries, yogurt, green pea crisps, granola bar

6th Grade Son: Spaghetti, apple slices w/ Peanut butter, string cheese, yogurt, Belvita Breakfast bites, Goldfish

3rd Grade Daughter: Chicken Parmesan pasta, grapes, yogurt, mini muffins

Tuesday-

9th Grade Daughter: Roasted red pepper hummus & wheat thins, apple slices, veggie straws, Nature Valley Almond Biscuit, yogurt

6th Grade Son: Chicken Parmesan pasta, grapes, fruit snack, Goldfish, yogurt, chocolate chip cookie pack

3rd Grade Daughter: Snack size crab sticks, apple slices & caramel sauce,  Laughing cow cheese & Melba toast, Pirates Booty, fruit snack

Wednesday-

9th Grade Daughter: Garden vegetable cream cheese & bagel chips, clementine, rice cakes, Trail mix, Peanut butter filled pretzels

6th Grade Son: Chicken Sandwich, strawberries, yogurt, string cheese, fruit snack, Pirates Booty

3rd Grade Daughter: Chicken Sandwich, clementine, yogurt, string cheese, fruit snack

Thursday-

9th Grade Daughter: Taco meat & tortilla chips, grapes, pickles, Belvita Breakfast bites, granola bar

6th Grade Son: Tuna salad & club crackers, clementine, yogurt, string cheese, Green pea crisps, Belvita breakfast bites

3rd Grade Daughter: Alfredo pasta, strawberries, yogurt, Belvita breakfast bites, granola bar

Friday-

9th Grade Daughter: Laughing cow cheese & celery sticks w/ Everything bagel seasoning, applesauce, Nature Valley Snack Mix, Fiber one bar, cashew pack

6th Grade Son: Cheese pizza, baby carrots & ranch dressing, yogurt, goldfish, chocolate chip cookie pack, fruit snack

3rd Grade Daughter: Cheese pizza, cucumber slices & ranch dressing, yogurt, fruit snack, veggie straws

You can find all the posts in my Meal Planning & Prep and Lunch Planning & Prep series HERE



Lunch Prep: How I Pack Lunches

I’ve already shared How I Stock the Pantry and How I Stock the Lunch Fridge and today I’m going to share how I pack school lunches. Although to be honest, that title is misleading. I don’t pack lunches, my kids do. My kids are in 3rd, 6th, and 9th grades. This is the first year that I have required them to pack their own lunches. Last year I packed lunch for everyone and things were getting wasted. So this year I changed it up. 

Every afternoon the kids come from school and unpack their lunch box immediately. Ice packs go back into the freezer, containers go into the dishwasher, and water bottles get re-filled immediately and stored in the lunch prep fridge. The kids choose their items for the next day from the pantry and I do have rules about what they can choose. For example- if you’re taking chips then you cannot also take cookies, you need to pick a granola bar, cashews, etc. So basically they may not just pack junk food. I do always check and I’ve removed or replaced items several times. I always help if the youngest needs me to pour goldfish into a bag or something like that but other than that they are in charge of their lunch. 

Once they’ve packed the pantry items they head to the lunch prep fridge and choose their cold items. Typically they choose a yogurt, a cheese stick, and then decide on a fruit. My 9th grade daughter tends to pack a lot more fridge items such as chicken salad, hummus, pickles, etc. I have a bin in the fridge for them to put their cold items in so I can just grab it in the morning. I do make sure they pack either a fruit or a vegetable every day. 

For their main lunch item I give them quite a few choices. I normally have P3 packs, organic lunchables, snack size crab sticks, chicken salad, hard salami sticks, and cream cheese packs in the lunch prep fridge. As part of my Sunday prep I usually have several kinds of pasta dishes including macaroni & cheese, white cheddar shells, Alfredo pasta, spaghetti, or chicken parmesan pasta. My kids love hamburger helper and I hate it so some weeks I will make up a box of it for them to take as lunches. Then I don’t have to eat it! I also have a couple of pounds of Taco meat or Big Mac burger meat made up in the fridge as well as scrambled eggs and fried rice. I try to vary what I make each week so they don’t get bored. Chicken Fried Rice, Teriyaki chicken, and orange chicken are always a big hit for lunches. I keep a bag of chicken patties in the freezer and if they want to take a chicken, bacon, and cheese sandwich for lunch I make the chicken in the air fryer the night before and the kids can heat it up in their classroom microwave. If they want to take any of the Sunday prep items then I use their thermos to keep it hot. I pre-portion the amount out the night before and then I just have to prime the thermos, heat the food, and pour it in the next morning. 

I assemble lunches the next morning while the kids are getting ready for school. I fill thermoses, pack fridge items, and line up lunch boxes with water bottles on the counter for them to grab on their way out. It’s a good system that works for us. The kids are in control of how much and what they take for lunch and it’s teaching them responsibility. 

Some Notes:

  • We have a shelf dedicated to lunch boxes. After the kids pack their non-perishable items they put the lunch box back on the shelf so I know that they’re done. If I see a lunch box on the counter after dinner then I know that particular child has yet to pack their lunch.
  • If a child does not pack their lunch then they get whatever mom throws in there the next morning. And I’m not a morning person so it’s probably not going to be what they like. 
  • My kids take lunches 5 days a week. Our charter school has a hot lunch program but I’m not paying $5-7 per child per day for hot lunch. Sorry not sorry.
  • I try to use reusable containers but we also do use plastic ziplock bags and plastic utensils. I know it’s not environmentally perfect but this is what works for my family right now.

You can find all the posts in my Meal Planning & Prep and Lunch Planning & Prep series HERE



Meal Prep & Planning: How I Grocery Shop

So by now we’ve covered How I Meal Plan, How I Meal Prep, How I Stock the Pantry and How I Stock the Lunch Fridge. Today I’m talking about one of the things I get the most questions about- how I grocery shop. Over the years I’ve tried different approaches to grocery shopping- once a month, twice a month, weekly, with the family, without the family…I’ve tried it all. Finding a system to grocery shop that allows me to stay on budget, shop during off hours (i.e.- not when every local retirement community is shopping at Walmart), and is sustainable on an on-going basis was my challenge. I think I’ve finally figured it out for my family. I shop at 4 places every month- Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart and ALDI. And I try super hard to not make in-between shopping trips that drive up the budget because let’s be honest- nobody goes into the store for one thing and actually comes out with one thing. 

Sam’s Club– the very first weekend of the month is my Sam’s Club trip. We normally go on Saturday and we do take the kids because there are typically a lot of samples and this is how I feed my kids lunch that day. That’s called smart planning, my friends. I have some basic staples that I always buy at Sam’s such as Belvita Breakfast Bites, Peanut Butter filled pretzels, Naan Bread Dippers, and string cheese. I’ve priced these items out and they are the cheapest at Sam’s Club. One thing I always check is the meat that’s on sale at Sam’s. Last trip I found chicken legs on sale for $0.72 a pound- I grabbed 3 packs and put them in the freezer. The chicken thighs were on sale for $0.82 a pound so I also got 3 packs of them for the freezer. Boneless pork chops were on sale for $1.23 a pound so 6 of those are currently in my freezer. Those prices are less than I can get at ALDI. 

Costco– I generally try to also do a trip to Costco that same day and feed the kids the rest of lunch with the samples! Again, smart planning. Costco hasn’t been open near us for very long so I’m still figuring out what to buy from there. I tend to buy things that are on sale for now- mostly lunch items for the kids. Last month I bought a box of 52 Frito brand chip packs, Nature Valley Almond Biscuits, Welch’s fruit snacks, and a few other lunch items I saw on sale. I’ve found that while Costco has a great meat selection, it tends to be out of my price range so I don’t buy meat there. I do love their chicken salad so sometimes I’ll grab a tub of that with a container of croissants and we’ll get a couple of snacks, lunches and maybe a dinner out of that. 

ALDI– I shop at ALDI every Thursday. I’ve found it’s the best day at my ALDI- the new sales start on Wednesday but it’s usually not fully stocked until Thursday. If you wait until the weekend then all the good sale items are gone and they rarely re-stock mid-week. So Thursday is my day. I always do ALDI before Walmart because anything I don’t get at ALDI I can add to my Walmart list. Most of my fresh fruits and produce come from ALDI and I do buy a lot of meat there- I typically plan my meals around whatever meat is on sale that week. I get all of my shredded cheese and dairy products there except for milk and yogurt. I also get a lot of snack items for lunches such as Veggie Straws, Green Pea Crisps, Cheddar rice cakes, granola bars, etc. Nearly all of my bread and breakfast items and canned goods come from ALDI. 

Walmart– After ALDI I go immediately to Walmart. There are specific items that I always buy at Walmart either because they’re cheaper, we prefer the brand, or ALDI doesn’t carry them. I try to do Walmart as quickly as possible because nothing raises my blood pressure faster than a trip to Walmart. Milk, yogurt, cheese slices and P3 packs come from Walmart as do a lot of the pastas the kids like, spaghetti sauce, flavored drink drops, and some lunch snack items that are cheaper to buy in smaller quantities. Basically ALDI is my main grocery store and I fill in with Walmart as needed. 

Some Notes:

  • My grocery budget is not fluid. It’s firm and set and I have to make it work. If I go over one week then I have to subtract from the next week. This means I tend to shop at ALDI and Walmart alone. Kids will kill your grocery budget every time…so will husbands. 
  • To keep myself on budget I use a free app called List Ease. It allows me to input the price of each item and it saves it from week to week. It adds tax as I add items to the list so I have a very good idea of where I’m at with my budget. 
  • I do my grocery list for Costco and Sam’s Club first because those are my 2 biggest upfront costs. Then I divide what’s left in my monthly budget by 4 and that’s what I have left for the month for Walmart and ALDI and can plan each week accordingly. 
  • I buy almost all of my household items from Sam’s- toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, fabric softener, etc. Our dog food comes from Sam’s as well as all of our prescription medications. I do not include the household items or dog food in my monthly food budget- those things have their own line in the budget.
  • I do not restock most of the lunch items more than once a month. The bulk items that I buy at Costco or Sam’s Club are once a month and if the kids eat them all in 2 weeks then they’re going to be really unhappy for the last 2 weeks. I do restock the items in our canisters such as the cheese crackers, wheat thins, green pea crisps, rice cakes, veggie straws etc. 
  • I try to stick to in season fruits and vegetables because they are often the ones on sale. Luckily my kids all love a variety of fruits so they go with the flow on what’s available. 

You can find all the posts in my Meal Planning & Prep and Lunch Planning & Prep series HERE