Lunchbox Shortcuts for busy moms and dads... and a chance to win a $500 Visa Gift Card

Packing healthy lunches doesn't need to be stressful for busy moms and dads. Sometimes a few little shortcuts is all that is needed to make life a lot easier. Today, I am sharing a few lunchbox shortcuts that will help you make school lunches like a boss!


1) Pre-made or "make ahead" smoothies - My boys are always in a rush to get outside and play, so they like when I pack them things that they can eat quickly. Smoothies are perfect!

Hans Dairy* makes a pre-made smoothie with all natural ingredients that your little ones are sure to love. My boys are big fans of the strawberry flavour.


Or you can make a big batch of homemade smoothies, stick them in the freezer, and pop them in the kids' lunchboxes each morning.


2) Lunch of snacks - My boys aren't huge fans of sandwiches, so I often fill their lunches with their favourite healthy snacks. Using individual containers makes it easy to customize lunches for picky eaters. Check out this lunch of carrot sticks, strawberries, Hans Dairy's* rice pudding, a hard boiled egg, pretzels, applesauce, and a homemade ginger cookie



A yogurt parfait is another fantastic choice for a healthy lunch that feels like a snack. You can mix fresh fruit and Hans Dairy* natural yogurt with some granola for a tasty and nutritious lunch that kids will love!


3) Quick grab bins - When it comes to making lunches, a little prep goes a long way. Pack your own single serving snacks and lunch staples in bins so that the contents can be easily "popped" into lunch bags.


4) Fill a freezer - Filling a freezer with individually packed homemade goods can save time and money... and it will help you avoid filling lunch boxes with processed snacks that contain unwanted preservatives. Freezer staples in our house include: lunchbox biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, and ginger cookies.


And if you need a little back to school help, Hans Dairy* has a great contest you can enter. One (1) Grand Prize Winner will receive: A (1) $500 Visa Gift Card (CDN) for a Back-to-School Shopping Spree and Five lucky Secondary winners will each receive a Hans Dairy Prize Pack (est. retail value $70.00 CDN). Enter here (before October 6th!):
Hans Dairy Back to School Giveaway

What are your favourite lunchbox shortcuts? I hope you find my tips helpful, and I encourage you to check out Hans Dairy's* healthy choices for school lunchboxes. You can feel good about their products because they are free of any artificial sugars, flavourings, colourings, and preservatives.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


*Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Hans Dairy and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.

5 Birthday Party Hacks Every Parent Should Know

When it comes to planning kids' birthday parties, the pressure can be overwhelming for parents. But you don't have to be Pinterest-perfect to make your child feel special. Today, I am sharing 5 birthday party hacks that will help you reduce party planning headaches, while still creating a special celebration for your child.


1) It's OK to let someone else do the work - There are tons of fantastic places that will host parties for you. Check out local movie theatres, indoor playgrounds, rinks, swimming pools, and bowling allies. The "per child" fee is usually pretty reasonable.


2) You can easily (and inexpensively) make your own cake/cupcakes - You don't have to make a fancy cake or pay a lot to have one made. Using the recipe you can find here, you can make delicious cupcakes (from a mix) that your party guests will love. 


You can also buy party themed toys, and pop them onto a simple slab cake. It's an easy way to make a basic cake look custom... and the birthday boy/girl will love the toy.


3) The dollar store is your friend - The dollar store has many of the things you need to host an inexpensive and fun party. My boys love the prize punches I make for their parties using dollar store foam core, plastic cups, and tissue paper. Find the full step by step tutorial here.


4) Keep the party small - No one says you have to invite the entire town to your little one's birthday party. If you want to keep things simple, have a "just family" celebration or limit the number of guests to the age of the birthday boy/girl.


5) Netflix - Netflix is granting parents the ultimate birthday gift with the launch of 14 Birthdays On-Demand featurettes starring the characters in your kids' favourite shows. Clever, right? Your little one will feel like the characters are singing just for them. (Simple search "Birthdays On Demand", and choose the characters you want to sing Happy Birthday to your child.)


What is your biggest birthday headache? I hope you find some of these birthday party hacks helpful.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


Disclosure: I receive special gifts and perks as part of my affiliation with Netflix.... however (as always) the opinions on this blog are 100% my own.

Hockey Tape Organizer

I love a good dollar store HACK... especially one that is simple and helps me organize my chaotic life. With three boys in hockey, I often have hockey tape all over my house, and no one can ever find it when they need it. So recently, I headed to the dollar store and came up with a solution for my hockey tape tape problem... a wire paper towel holder.


Don't you love finding a simple solution to a simple problem? This paper towel holder makes a perfect hockey tape organizer.


My boys will love being able to quickly find the hockey tape they need, and I will love having it organized all in one place. And if you are looking for more clever dollar store organization ideas, you can check out a few more here.


Fun, right? Do you have a clever dollar store organization idea that works well for you? I'd love to have you share it in the comments.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

No Bake Energy Balls (with ancient grains & super seeds)

When my boys get home from school, they are starving and looking for snacks. I struggle to find options that offer a compromise between something healthy and something sweet... but the recipe I am sharing today checks both boxes! These no bake energy balls are delicious, and they pack a "power punch" that comes from the PC Blue Menu* ancient grains & super seeds blend.


To make these no bake energy balls, you'll need the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup (uncooked) oatmeal (I used quick oats.)
  • 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (So they are not safe to send to school if food allergies are a concern.)
  • 1/4 cup PC Blue Menu* ancient grains & super seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
Directions:
  1. Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl. (I find it easiest to just use my hands.)
  2. Cover, and let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, roll the mixture into 1" balls. (I used a cookie scoop to measure so that I was able to create 20 uniform balls.)
  4. Enjoy! You can store these energy bites in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.


What's your favourite after-school snack/recipe? I'm always looking for new ideas!

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)


*Disclosure - I have partnered with President's Choice and have received compensation for this post. However, as always, all opinions in the post are my own.

Simple "make ahead" Meatballs

Now that school is back in session, weeknight meals are becoming increasingly difficult. I like to have a few simple meal ideas prepped and ready to go, and meatballs are always a crowd pleaser. Today, I am sharing my recipe for "make ahead" meatballs. You can cook a big batch in the oven, and freeze them for when you need them.

I like to make a big batch of meatballs on a foil lined tray. I use half for dinner, and I freeze the other half. 

To make a double batch of meatballs, you'll need:
  • 2 lbs (0.907kg) of hamburger
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (powder)
  • 2 eggs

Mix all the ingredients together, and roll into balls. Place the meatballs on a foil lined 9x13 cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until no longer pink (approx. 18-22 minutes). Drain fat.


I like to place half the meatballs in a dish for that night's supper, and the other half goes in the freezer.


I usually turn my meatballs into "sweet and sour meatballs" using sauce made from the following:

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 cup water
  • spices (as desired)

I just take half of my "big batch" of meatballs, put them in a roaster, and pour the sauce over them. Then, I cook them in the sauce for 30 minutes at 300 degrees.


These sweet and sour meatballs are great served over rice with some grilled broccoli on the side.


Does your family love meatballs? If you make the meatballs ahead of time, they make a wonderful and easy weekday meal.


Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

First Day of School 2017

It's been a busy morning at our house, but I wanted to pop by the blog and share a couple of pics from my boys' first day of school. Isn't it crazy how fast time goes by when you are a parent? Today, my boys are going into grades 3, 5, and 7. As always, my boys reluctantly agreed to take a few pics holding their photos for the first day of school last year.


Cute, right?

We also started  the day with a special pancake breakfast.


Now, I'm going to do some work, a little cleaning, and bake a special after school snack for my boys. 


I can't wait until they get home so I can hear all their news. Happy first day of school everyone!

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Penny Spinners... a simple paper craft for kids

Sometimes a simple paper craft is the perfect way to entertain kids, so a few weeks ago I made these adorable penny spinners with my boys. They were fun to create, and even more fun to play with when they were finished. Today, I am sharing the simple instructions for this lovely little art project for kids... including an easy to follow video.


First, you'll need two circles. I used a cereal box for one circle and a piece of white card stock for the other. I wanted the strength of the cereal box and the bright white colour of the card stock (to highlight the bright colours of the markers).

Then, have the kids colour a pattern onto the white circle, cut a slit in the centre of the circles, and insert a penny.

My boys had a great time creating many different patterns, and watching the colours when they spun them.


Check out the video my boys made here:


Cute, right? I love that this craft works for kids of all ages. (Just make sure that an adult cuts the slit for the penny!) I highly recommend making penny spinners with your kids. It's easy, inexpensive, and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon together.

♥ 
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)
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