Easy Inspiration for a Healthy Lunchbox

Confession time: I am woefully uninspired in the lunch department. My kids usually eat leftovers or basic sandwiches for lunch. But when I recently opened up The Healthy Lunchbox by Katie Kimball, I got revved up by the pages and pages of easy, portable lunch ideas.

Easy Inspiration for a Healthy Lunchbox

(Note: affiliate links are present. See my full disclosure)

Katie is known for her simple, healthy approach to real food.

I’ve followed Katie’s blog for years. I love Katie’s systematic approach life. She is unbelievably thorough! (Example: she’s reviewed 7 lunchboxes, 7 reusable snack bags, and 43 different natural sunscreens!)

I got a chance to ask Katie a few questions about her book.

Q&A with author Katie Kimball

Sarah: What’s your favorite recipe from The Healthy Lunchbox book?

Katie: I had to open the book myself just to see what was in there! Many of the recipes are, for me, just standbys that I make all the time without even looking at the recipe, but a couple jumped out at me as recipes we make every two weeks, at least, all year round. (I can never choose just one!)

  • The slow cooker BBQ chicken is one of the easiest bulk meals I make for dinner and leftovers for lunch (or another easy dinner) are perfect, so that is a constant in our rotation.
  • Homemade potato salad is just a favorite from childhood. It’s a lot of up-front work but once it’s made, I’m always grateful it’s in the fridge for a quick side dish.
  • Our freezer is never without the grain-free coconut muffins (unless another muffin has snuck onto the to-do list).
  • The pumpkin pancakes (can be sourdough, gluten-free OR grain-free) are my favorite way to get veggies into breakfast, and then the leftovers are the most moist PB/pancake sandwiches I can offer.

Easy Inspiration for a Healthy Lunchbox

Sarah: I see this book includes a printable called “Teach Kids to Pack Their Own Lunches.” Your kids are still in elementary school – do they already pack their own lunches?

Katie: That printable was a gift from Sandra Harris, founder of ECOlunchboxes, whose kids are older than mine. It’s full of great tips…which I’m now looking up to make sure we set some new routines for my 4th grader this year!

I know he’s old enough to pack his own lunch, and sometimes I can make it happen, but the time between getting off the bus and bedtime seems SO short that it’s hard for me to squeeze it in. Excuses, excuses…  :(

The short answer to your very good question is “sort of, sometimes, but not often enough!” I will say that I’m much better at orchestrating the kids UNpacking their lunches, so at least there’s some responsibility there and a break for me. [Note from Sarah: The Healthy Lunchbox details Katie's unpacking system and I have to say it's brilliant.]

When baby no. 4 is born in October, though, I sure would like to have some packing routines in place…time to start those Tuesday!!

Sarah: What is your best tip for keeping lunches fun for kids?

Katie: Variety and surprise. I should start by saying that I don’t think lunches always need to be fun, just well-received enough to be eaten. I’m not always a “fun” mom. :) BUT adding a little note or a little food pick with a pink elephant on it, or including some popcorn or anything that feels out of the ordinary or like a “treat” goes a long way toward keeping the eaters happy.

Homemade pizza or crackers usually bring out the, “Yay, lunch!” cheers, so those are good items to keep in a regular rotation in our house.

Thanks so much to Katie for taking the time to answer my questions.

Easy Inspiration for a Healthy Lunchbox

I love having my cookbooks on my iPad. It’s the most convenient way for me to use them in the kitchen.

Special Offer for The Healthy Lunchbox

From now until 9/7/14, the first day of school in Katie’s home state of Michigan, The Healthy Lunch Box will be 35% off.

Use coupon code NOSTRESSLUNCH to get this special price.

Plus, when you buy The Healthy Lunchbox, you’ll also get a 50% off code for The Healthy Breakfast Book to help redeem those morning meals and kick the cereal boxes to the curb. You know how I feel about a healthy breakfast, right?

The Healthy Lunchbox has helpful topics like:

  • Waste-free lunches
  • The art of sending hot and cold foods to school and the disposable lunch
  • The allergy-friendly lunch
  • Free printable lunch notes
  • Printable “Teach Kids to Pack Their Own Lunches” (this is brilliant!)
  • Main Dish Salads” eBooklet: 10 meal-worthy salads courtesy of GNOWFGLINS
  • Meal Planning Resources from The Nourishing Home
  • … plus 45 easy, perfectly portable recipes

Here is a peek at the Table of Contents.

Healthy Lunchbox TOC

Don’t forget, this coupon is only good until 9/7 and then the price for The Healthy Lunchbox goes back up.

Use coupon code NOSTRESSLUNCH to get this special price.

Don’t you wish you were Katie’s neighbor and could have her walk you through her lunch-packing system?

I sure do. But since we only go to Michigan on vacation every couple years, I’ll have to settle for the second best option which is enjoying all the goodness she’s put into this book.

What are your secrets for a healthy lunchbox?

P.S. Some amazing Ecolunchboxes are on sale right now at Amazon. It makes me want to plan a field trip just so I can have a reason to get one :)

Did you mother ever tell you…

… that the most important meal of the day is breakfast?

The BEST way to fuel up your kids for a busy schoolday

She was right!

A nutritious, healthy breakfast is a huge part of my strategy to start off a successful (homes)chool day for my kids. The right breakfast will prep kids for enough focus, attention and energy for a busy schoolday.

So what are the components of a healthy breakfast for schooldays? I have the answer for you: click over to the Humbled Homemaker where I’ll tell you the best way to fuel up your kids for a busy schoolday.

Our Dream Homeschool Room Tour

Homeschool Room Tour

Since we moved last year, we have been blessed with a wonderful space to learn. This is honestly my dream homeschool room! We spend a lot of time here daily.

Homeschool Room Tour.

A comfy place to read a book or play a game on the iPad.

3 Reasons This is My Dream Homeschool Room

When school is in session, we spend the bulk of our days on schoolwork. Given the fact that there are 4 boys, each in a different stage of development, we have a variety of needs to fulfill. The features of my dream homeschool room are:

1. Room to spread out

Some kids like to work on the floor; some want a table; one wants a place for Playdoh and blocks. We have space for all these things and more in this room.

2. Natural light

Especially in the dark days of winter (I don’t want to think about that now!), I seize every shred of daylight and direct sun that I can grab. This room has a giant window and skylights. Prayers answered!

3. Storage

We’ve got a fabulous bookcase (pics below) plus more storage under the countertop and windowseat. Even though I tend toward the more minimalist side of things, I do still have some things to store and they are all nicely tucked away with all this storage.

Now how about I show you around?

Work table

This room is designed as a loft which allows us tons of natural light from windows and skylights plus lots of room to spread out our books. Here is our work table where the big kids usually sit to do their seatwork.

Homeschool room tour


Homeschool Room Tour Table

Preschool work area

Next to the big table is an area set up for my 3 year old. He has his own table and chair plus a chalkboard easel that gets  a ton of use.

Homeschool Room Preschool Space

My son loves his little table and chair. He feels really grown up having his own space. Everyone likes using the easel. Since we don’t have a large whiteboard, I often pull the easel out for spelling lessons.

Homeschool bookshelves

Next to the chalkboard area is the wall unit which holds the books we’re using this year. I can hardly keep my kids in books so we have bookshelves scattered throughout the house.

Homeschool Room Tour Bookshelves

Books on the top and toys on the bottom. This is how we organize our school time things.

Toy storage

The bottom shelves are devoted to toys and educational activities for the youngest. He is pretty good about playing by himself when I’m working with one of the other kids. I try to keep the toy selection to a minimum and this seems to help him stay occupied longer. (See what he did during a typical day last year.)

Homeschool Room Toys

My son loves these Vintage Fisher Price houses and toys. I was lucky to find a set in mint condition on Etsy.


Homeschool Room Preschool Shelf

I switch out things on these shelves about every week. Since my son sees his big brothers doing school, he likes to select his own work to do.

The bookshelves are loosely organized by subject. We have office supplies, paper, a basket full of math manipulatives and DVDs, easy readers, novels, teacher manuals and reference books.

Homeschool bookshelves with office supplies

Office supplies, lots of different types of paper, one of our oversized books and some teacher manuals.

Computer workstation

Next to the bookshelf is our computer workstation. The kids sometimes use headphones (we love this set) which really helps cut out distractions when someone needs to watch a video lesson and someone else is trying to get his own work done. We have a couple more laptops and iPads when needed.

Homeschool Computer Station

Homeschool Computer Station. Headphones are a lifesaver in a busy room.

Reading area

Next to the computer is the window seat. I have always wanted  a window seat and now we have one. The window seat plus a comfy armchair make the perfect place for reading books.

Homeschool room tour windowseat

Homeschool Room Windowseat

Art space / Workspace + Storage

Moving around the room, next is the counter area. This room has a counter and bank of cupboards. It gives me tons of storage plus a place to do messy art projects or other things that need lots of workspace.

Homeschool Room Tour - Countertop

While the room is huge, it has almost no wall space. The loft area is open to a living room below and the bookcase takes up another wall. So I’ve had to be creative about where I hang things. I’ve started using cupboard doors as wall space for some handmade learning helps I created. We’ll see how that goes this year.

Homeschool Room Tour Wall Display

Spelling rules are taped right to the cabinet doors.

Lots of open spaces and places to work

One thing you’ll notice is that I have a lot of open spaces and empty surfaces. I love the look of cleaned off tables and floors. We don’t always manage to keep them that way and frequently a pile of books will sit on a school table for much too long, but it’s the goal I work toward. It seems to help us focus on our work when things are put away and we don’t have extra stuff lying around.


The middle of the floor remains mostly open for preschool play but we do also have a mini-trampoline that the kids use all the time.  It is especially useful during oral math drills or when someone needs a break.

Homeschool room trampoline

Wouldn’t you believe that my kids who *never* pose for the camera ham it up when I want pics of the trampoline in action!


More Homeschool Room Inspiration

If you like looking at other people’s homeschool rooms, don’t miss one of my favorite Pinterest boards, Amazing Homeschool Rooms.
Follow Sarah Mueller @ Early Bird Mom’s board Amazing Homeschool Rooms on Pinterest.

Thanks for visiting our dream homeschool room!

Thank you for stopping by!

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Homeschool Room Tour. A bright and airy space for learning.

I link up at these fun parties.


How a girly-girl became a mom to 4 boys

How a girly-girl became mom to 4 boys

True confession: when I was pregnant for the first time 14 years ago, I dreamed of little girls with braids in their hair and baby dolls. I imagined them playing house, baking cookies and reading Little House on the Prairie.

As a girly-girl and one of five sisters, I assumed naturally that I would have little girls. But God had other plans. The baby boys arrived, one at a time, until there were 4 of them!

At first, I wondered how I could possibly parent a boy.

I was squeamish around bugs, worms and snakes, didn’t care for sports, and was just about as ensconced in my girl-world as I could be. I knew nothing of construction vehicles or tree climbing.

You can see just how narrow my focus was at that point. As if girls never climb trees and all boys love bugs!

Boys love climbing

My boys adore climbing on anything that’s available.

So as the boys came along, we figured things out together.

And I was stretched outside my comfort zone on a daily basis. At first, it was challenging, but eventually I learned to accept my nature-loving boys’ interest in spiders, snakes and fishing.

God is still working on me, but I have come to the point where I run for the camera when one of my kids catches a snake (like last week) instead of running for the safety of the house. Since my boys are true nature-lovers, I’ve learned to appreciate all things wildlife including worms, fish and spiders.

How a girly-girl became a mom to 4 boys

Dump trucks are serious business in our house.

I can catch a football, kick a soccer ball and appreciate when my boys learn how to safely handle Airsoft guns. I love them for the strong young men they are growing to be.

When people learn I’m a mom to 4 boys, they often give me looks of pity or raise their eyebrows and say things like “You’ve sure got your hands full!”

I guess some people don’t have much patience for the noise and mess that inevitably comes with 4 boys. I admit – they are loud! But there’s no need for pity. I can honestly say there’s no regret now for me that I don’t have a little girl who calls me mom.

How a girly-girl became a mom to 4 boys

Sometimes a puddle is just the thing to practice casting (something this mom knows nothing about).

Here’s why: it’s all about relationships.

I think the thing I was most concerned about was having a connection with my kids. Without having any experience with little boys, I assumed it would be easier with daughters.

Now I realize relationships and family connections are built on love and attention, not gender. I have plenty in common with my boys. Guess what – I’ve discovered I love exploring the outdoors with them! They love baking cookies and they even let me read Little House to them as long as there’s enough hunting involved. They are a huge help around the house. We’ve built our relationships together since day one and it’s the most natural thing in the world.

I’m still not a tom-girl.

I refuse to bait a hook. I do not care for dinnertime belching contests. At times, the testosterone in my house is more than I think I can take, but I do thank God every day for my four sons. They are exactly what He planned for me and I am so grateful for them.

So to all you moms of little boys out there, if you’re wondering how you will ever raise a boy to be a man, just know that it’s about love and relationship. If you focus on those two, the rest will follow.

Are you a mom to a boy?

Were you surprised by the arrival of a son or did you always expect it would be that way? I’d love to hear about your experience.

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3 Secret Amazon Prime features you’ve got to try

3 Secret Amazon Prime features you've got to try

I’ve told you before how much I love Amazon Prime. But I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t realize all the extra secret Amazon Prime features that you get when you sign up. In particular, here are 3 little-known benefits that make Prime a no-brainer. (Affiliate links are present. See my disclosure.)

1. Amazon Instant Watch

Amazon has thousands of free movies and TV shows for Prime users. We use Amazon Instant Watch daily! We don’t have cable or satellite and we don’t miss it a bit.

We’ve enjoyed complete seasons of Downton Abbey, John Adams, and Band of Brothers. Amazon has tons of shows for the preschool set (think Curious George, Dora and Blues Clues) plus lots of other classics. This weekend, we introduced our kids to John Candy and Planes, Trains and Automobiles – hilarious!

Between Amazon Instant Watch and Netflix, we can usually find a movie or a show that works for the whole family.

Do you know about these 3 Amazon Prime secret features?

Amazon has tons of free shows for kids.


2. Share your Prime shipping with up to 4 friends

Yep – you can give Prime shipping benefits to 4 of your friends or family members (Instructions here: How to share your Amazon Prime shipping). How cool is that? I’ve found Prime shipping to be so convenient – I order one or two small things daily off of Amazon.

If I didn’t have Prime, I’d probably end up spending more overall just to make the $35 minimum for free shipping (or pay for the shipping). With Prime, I only buy exactly what I need – no impulse purchases!

How much will your family love you if you share this convenience with them? You’ll be a superstar!

(By the way, you can’t share your Instant Watch benefits.)

3. (Potential) Sunday delivery

This is another huge feature. Amazon has recently started delivering Prime orders on Sundays in many areas! I was shocked the first time we had an Amazon box on our doorstep upon returning from church, but now it’s become a normal thing.

Their logistics are seriously lightning fast. I have placed orders on a Saturday afternoon that arrived on Sunday morning.

I really hate wasting time and gas in the car and lugging kids to the store. Amazon Prime helps me keep these trips to a minimum. That’s a great use of my resources and a major Early Bird Mom goal.

If you’re not already a member, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime. Here are the specifics.

Do you use Amazon Prime? What’s your favorite feature?

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Photos by Pixabay, Sarah Mueller

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