Summer to Fall Meals

Summer to Fall MealsThis is the season of unpredictable weather here in Michigan! It can be sunny, 80, and summer-like one day, followed by rainy, 50, and fall-like the next. Which can make meal planning tough, because who wants to eat a nice hot casserole on a steamy day or a cool crisp salad on a cold wet evening? Not me! So I have a few meal plans that are a little flexible to accommodate the changing seasons. Here’s my favorite ideas for summer to fall meals…

  • Rotisserie Chicken. This is one of my faves year round because of how easy it is, but it especially works this time of year. Since this is often my version of take out, I can simply pick up sides to go with it that fit the weather. For warm days, I grab some potato salad and bean or broccoli salad. If the temps are cooler, I opt for mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. 
  • Burgers. The great thing about grilling burgers is that it is just as easy to grill them outside when it is nice, or on the George Foreman grill inside if it is crummy. And no matter what the weather, some fries or chips and a seasonal fruit work perfect for the side dishes!
  • Cooked chicken. I can stick some chicken in the crockpot in the morning to cook all day, then decide when I get home how I would like to use it. Since I generally have the basic ingredients on hand for entrees like chicken and rice casserole or chicken salad, I can opt for either one depending on the temperature outside. And also, either one can be completed nicely with a side salad and some crescent rolls. 
  • Sandwiches. This is definitely a go-to flexible meal, because sandwiches are quick, versatile ,and portable. If we are blessed with one of those last nice days of the season, we can pack up some simple sandwiches and head to the park. If the day is more nasty than nice, we can pull out that handy George Foreman grill and make panini-style sandwiches and curl up inside!

On to my menu!  Whew – the first week of school exhausted me!! Granted it involved things like a malfunctioning fire alarm while I was teaching, a football game that was rain delayed for well over two hours and didn’t end until almost midnight, a situation where I had to deal with a rather unpleasant person that I thought I was done having to deal with but unfortunately am not, and then all the usual tiring events of the first week of school! Hoping for a slightly less exhausting week! I’ll be linking up on I’m an Organizing Junkie if you’re looking for more meal planning ideas! I also often link up at Feeding Big. Or check out and follow my Yummy dinners board on Pinterest! Interested in meal planning? Check out my first post on meal planning, or my recent Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Breakfasts (we don’t plan for each day – see here for why – but these are our choices along with a fruit)

• Cereal
• Granola bars and yogurt
• Pancakes
• Cream of Wheat or oatmeal
• Toast or English Muffins
• Breakfast sliders
• Banana smoothies
• Breakfast bites 

Lunches (This school year, our district received a grant and school lunch is free for ALL students! So unless there is a day where my kids really don’t like either of the options, they will be eating the free lunch. Otherwise, I’ll probably just keep a couple Lunchables on hand for those rare pack-a-lunch days.)

If you’re looking for ideas for Peanut Free School Lunches, see my post from last year here.  

Dinners

• Monday  – Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken and Rice, rolls (trying this one out!)
• Tuesday – Breakfast for dinner (eggs, bacon, toast, fruit)
• Wednesday – Fish & chips, peas
• Thursday – Pizza
• Friday – Game Day (It’s a long ride to the away game, so my birthday boy has requested McDonald’s)
• Saturday – Hamburgers, roasted potatoes, watermelon
• Sunday – Grilled chicken, pasta salad, watermelon

What are you eating this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link back to your blog if you have your plan posted!

Like the recipe or feature this week? Please consider sending it to a friend, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or pinning it to Pinterest. Thanks so much!

{Friday} 5 Great Things About School Starting

I’m starting a new feature today here at Structure in an Unstructured Life – Friday 5. Each Friday, I’ll share five tips, ideas, favorites, or just thoughts on a topic. As I try to figure out the logistics of this new job and still fitting in blogging, I thought this would give me a little more, well, structure. And y’all know how much I love that! I hope you keep joining me each week for my Friday Five!

5 Great Things About School StartingSchool is back in session!! Woohoo! I have always loved back-to-school time, as a kid and as an adult. When I was younger and in school, I loved the new supplies, getting to see friends I had missed over the school year, and while I probably didn’t realize it at the time, I’m sure I welcomed the return to a routine and structure to my days. As an adult, I have either been excited to return to my classroom, or excited to see my kids experience theirs. Here’s my {Friday} 5 great things about school starting…

  1. Return to routine! While we have tried to squeeze in a lot of fun this summer, our routine has suffered in the attempt. And while it has been great staying up late for special fun and sleeping in when we needed it, my boys are starting to show the inevitable signs of needing a routine again. They have been struggling with choices, bickering with one another, and using the dreaded phrase – “I’m bored!” Yep – sure signs it is time to get back to regular sleep schedules, planned activities, and specific responsibilities.
  2. Variety! I know – I just wrote about getting back to the predictable and patterns. But school brings new friends and new activities that we haven’t had over the summer. And new often equals exciting. Simply adding some newness to our days helps to banish any boredom we might be feeling these days. 
  3. Back to School shopping! I know I’m a geek, but I LOVE school supplies!! Seeing those cardboard kiosks filled with Crayola coloring tools and spiral bound notebooks just makes me happy inside! Add fun pens, mechanical pencils, and colorful post-it notes, and this girl is in heaven! Even though I really don’t need to buy most of the items out in the stores right now, browsing through the aisles is my version of window shopping – and I love it!
  4. First day of school traditions. While things will be changing a bit this school year since I have to report for teaching rather than bringing my kids to their classes, there are still traditions we have that will continue. I always get my kids a book on the first and the last day of school. I try to find something that matches their interests and/or reading level at the time, so we can look back and see how much they have changed and grown over the school year.  I also take a picture of them at the back door with their backpacks, in front of the school, and in their classrooms.School starting
  5. The anticipation of things to come! The start of a new school year holds so much potential – a year of growth, learning, changing, and developing. As each new year starts, I always think back on the starts of the previous years and marvel at the changes and growth I see in my kids each school year. From learning letters, to writing their names, to reading, it is all exciting to me. I always think about how we are embarking on new knowledge and exciting skills each year, and I can’t to experience everything with my kids!

What do you love about back to school?

Looking for more back to school posts? Find my posts in my Back to School series here: tips for back to school shopping, developing routines, handling emotions, and creating a relationship with teachers. Find tips for back to school from myself and other bloggers here. And you can read my Prayer on the Eve of a New School Year here

Busy Back to School Dinners

Busy Back to School DinnersI will be the first to admit, transitions are hard for me. So back to school time is always a little stressful as we switch up routines, start up football, and get used to long days. And this year I will be getting used to a new job, as well! So I love having a little arsenal of trusted meals that are quick, easy, and family-friendly for those busy and stressful times. My favorite back to school dinners include:

  • Crockpot meals. My crockpot is my best friend when it comes to busy weeknight meals. Nothing like throwing some ingredients in there in the morning, and having dinner ready when I walk in the door in the evening. Some of my go to recipes include:
    • Spaghetti PieMy recipe is out of a crock pot cookbook, but this pin is almost exactly the same. It’s perfect for a Monday, because I’ll usually cook the meat and pasta on Sunday and just assemble in the morning. It makes quite a big batch, as well, so we usually eat half for dinner and freeze half for another quick dinner later on. 
    • Sloppy JoesI use the recipe from The Pioneer woman and love it. You can use ground beef or ground turkey, both work well. Also, this recipe makes enough for two meals for our family, so I either freeze half, or make Sloppy Joe Casserole later in the week with the leftovers.  
    • Chicken TacosThis is one of the simplest meals I make and I love it! We sometimes use the meat for tacos, sometimes serve it over rice for a Southwestern bowl, or serve it over chips for nachos. And again, it makes enough for a couple meals. 
  • Frozen Choices. While they might not always be the healthiest, sometimes I fall back on some frozen favorites to get through the hectic back to school days. Some choices that often hit the rotation:
    • Stuffed Chicken. Our local superstore, Meijer, makes a great stuffed chicken breast! They come five to a box and offer varieties like broccoli and cheese, chicken kiev, chicken cordon blue, and chicken Parmesan. They go from the freezer to the oven and are ready in about 30 minutes. Usually while the chicken is in the oven, I prep the sides and dinner is ready in 30 minutes total!
    • Pizza. I’m really not brand loyal when it comes to frozen pizza – I buy whatever is on sale. I often add some extra cheese and some veggies to a basic frozen pizza to bake it a little better and serve a side salad with it to round out the meal. Again, this is usually a ready-in-about-30-minutes meal. 
  • Deli choices. I’ve found it is actually cheaper to buy a rotisserie chicken than to buy a whole uncooked chicken and make it myself! So sometimes when we have a crazy busy evening, I will grab either a rotisserie chicken or fried chicken from the Meijer deli, and a couple sides like mashed potatoes and broccoli salad. It’s a little more pricey, but since it’s not an everyday choice, I don’t worry about it too much. 
  • George Foreman Grill. While I hate cleaning the George Foreman grill, I do love how quickly I can prep a meal with it. Burgers are super quick to make on the Foreman. I also will sometimes put some chicken breasts in a Ziplock bag with Italian dressing in the morning, then simply cook them on the Foreman when I get home. It’s a little hectic, but I can usually prep a couple easy sides while the meat cooks on the Foreman grill.
  • Pasta. Our tried and true old stand by! Pasta is one of the quickest and easiest meals! Even if I make a homemade Alfredo sauce, it is still usually an under 30 minute meal. While the pasta cooks, I can prep sauce, throw garlic bread in the oven, and fix a side salad. We usually have pasta at least once a week year-round because of it’s ease and likability! We vary traditional spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, and pesto sauce, and also mix up the type of pasta sauce we use. 

 

On to my menu!  It’s back to school week! I love how excited my four year old is for school to start! He can hardly contain himself! Planning a fairly easy week of meals as we all adjust to a new – and busy – schedule. I’ll be linking up on I’m an Organizing Junkie if you’re looking for more meal planning ideas! I also often link up at Feeding Big. Or check out and follow my Yummy dinners board on Pinterest! Interested in meal planning? Check out my first post on meal planning, or my recent Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Breakfasts (we don’t plan for each day – see here for why – but these are our choices along with a fruit)

• Cereal
• Granola bars and yogurt
• Pancakes
• Cream of Wheat or oatmeal
• Toast or English Muffins
• Breakfast sliders
• Banana smoothies
• Breakfast bites 

Lunches (This school year, our district received a grant and school lunch is free for ALL students! So unless there is a day where my kids really don’t like either of the options, they will be eating the free lunch. Otherwise, I’ll probably just keep a couple Lunchables on hand for those rare pack-a-lunch days.)

If you’re looking for ideas for Peanut Free School Lunches, see my post from last year here.  

Dinners

• Monday  – Pizza 
• Tuesday – Spaghetti, garlic bread, salad
• Wednesday – Ribs, mac & cheese, broccoli
• Thursday – Hot dogs, chips, watermelon
• Friday – Game Day! Concessions for the kids and making Sloppy Joes for the coaches afterward!
• Saturday – Out – celebrating making it through the first back-to-school week, the first football scrimmage for the littles, and my first paycheck for my new job!
• Sunday – Waiting to see the weather and the sales at the store! :)

What are you eating this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link back to your blog if you have your plan posted!

Like the recipe or feature this week? Please consider sending it to a friend, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or pinning it to Pinterest. Thanks so much!

 

Summer Reading List Update

Well, it’s just about the end of the summer. Sigh… I’m a little sad that I’ll be heading back to work, although to a new and exciting job (more to come on that soon!). I’m going to miss spending the days with my boys, even though there have been some days that have seemed really long. But I’ve gotten used to us being together and sharing all the moments of the day – good, bad, and everything in between. And I’m going to miss my comfy, lazy summer outfits. And I’m definitely going to miss the extra reading time I’ve gotten to enjoy this summer. 

I set what felt to me like an ambitious summer reading list, given I had been at a pathetic book a month at times before now. So attempting three books a month for the summer seemed like I would setting myself up for failure. But I decided I would go for it, post it to the world here to motivate me to stay accountable to my goals, and get reading. I discovered I can check out books on my Nook from the local library, but I also discovered they don’t have the selection I wish they had. I was super excited to use a birthday gift card to Barnes and Noble. I used the “lend me” feature on my Nook for the first time to borrow a book. And I went back to the old standby – a paper book I checked out from the library. Although I think The Coach is willing to reconsider my Nook book budget because he was not a big fan of my having to keep the lamp on in the bedroom to read at night. :)

I am super happy to report, as I write this post, I am on my last book on my list! Here’s my summer reading list (final) update:

Summer-Reading-List Update 2

  1. The Hunger Games Series. I pretty much devoured these three. I definitely liked the first two better than the third, but the series as a whole was great. And I loved the ending. I loved that the characters seemed real with their emotions, even if the story was definitely fictional. I loved the fast-paced nature of the books, although, again I thought the first two moved better than the third. Now I can’t wait to watch the movies, and do my typical, “It’s not as good as the book.” ;)
  2. Rhinestone Jesus. I loved reading the back story of how Kristen Welch started Mercy House and what led her to those choices. A lot of the information about poverty and other countries was a bit alarming to me, and certainly made me think about the excess I am a part of. The statistic that really stuck in my mind, was the fact that being able to choose to buy that book instead of food, put me in the top 14% of the world for wealth. Wow. Really put things in perspective. 
  3. The Fault in Our Stars. This was one of the books where even when I was finished, I found myself thinking about the characters. I loved the story, even though it wasn’t your typical happy-feel-good tale. The dialogue was well written and “real” and so was the story. I was intrigued by John Green as an author before reading this, and am even more so after reading my first book by him.
  4. Thrive. Huge Arianna Huffington fan. ‘Nuff said. **reading this now!
  5. A Jennifer Weiner book. I switched things up a bit and read her book of short stories, The Guy Not Taken. I loved that there were some characters from her other books, like Bruce from Good in Bed. I also loved that while there were stories with completely new characters, they felt a bit like some of the characters from her other books. Josie in three of the stories, seemed very similar to Candace from Good in Bed. And all the stories had that very real feel to them that her books usually do, including characters that are so flawed you have to like them.  
  6. A Jodi Picoult book. I read Plain Truth and loved it. There were parts that were heart breaking, and parts that were tough to read, and parts that made me laugh, and there was the typical Jodi Picoult twist at the end, that I had an idea might be coming, but wasn’t quite sure that would exactly be it. 
  7. An Emily Giffin book. I read her latest, The One & Only. I was a little nervous to spend my gift card money on this book (I get a little stingy with my Barnes and Noble gift cards!) because the reviews were fairly mixed, and maybe more on the negative side. Many said this book was not as good as her others and there was way too much football in it. (Is there such a thing as too much football? Not in my house!) But I took a chance and was so glad I did – I loved it! My timing was perfect, reading it just before football practices got in full swing. It just made me more excited for the season to start up. Yes, there was a lot of football. But there was also a really good story line with a main character I loved. While some parts were a bit predictable, I don’t mind that in a book sometimes as it makes it a lighter read. If you hate football, skip this book; otherwise, I highly recommend it!

What have you been reading this summer? Anything I should add to my list for fall? 

Fall Reading List

I had so much fun creating and working my way through a reading list this summer, I thought I’d make another one for fall! (I fully realize what a nerd that sentence makes me sound like! Oh well – that’s me!) With a new job and fall always being the busiest time for year for us, I am certainly not attempting as ambitious of a list as I did this summer. I’m hoping for two books a month. I always decided I needed to work my way through the many books I have on my shelf and in my Nook before buying any more new ones. I was slightly embarrassed to see how many unread books I have! So there’s not much new on my list, but think of it as some oldies but – hopefully – goodies!

Also, I thought this would be the perfect time to give you a little teaser for a new feature I will have on the blog. Each month I will be writing a book review, usually toward the end of the month. It may be something I recently read, or I may choose an older but favorite book. Sharing my love of reading is one of my favorite things to do, and since an actual book club just doesn’t figure into my schedule right now, I figure a review and some discussion in the comments is as close as I can get! So look for my fist book review post later in September, and later this week you can read my final update on my summer reading list!

My Fall Reading List:

Fall Reading List

  1. 10% HappierI was intrigued when I read this book was written by a news anchor who had a panic attack live on the air. Being someone who is familiar with anxiety, I wanted to know how he handled it. I know a lot of this book is about meditation, which Thrive by Arianna Huffington talks about, as well.  
  2. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
  3. The Second Summer of the SisterhoodI got the first two books in this series quite awhile ago and kind fo forgot I had them until I saw them on my shelf. Being quite into the young adult genre these days, I’m excited for these. They look like nice fun, light reads, which will be good during a stressful transition period in life!
  4. Hands Free MamaI’ve heard a lot of hype about this book, and it was a bargain book on Barnes and Noble one day. I’ll let you know if it lives up to the hype or falls short!
  5. The Ice QueenA good friend of mine recommended Alice Hoffman, and this was another great Barnes and Noble sales find. You can’t beat trying a new author for under $3!
  6. A Painted House. I’m a huge fan of John Grisham and he’s one of the authors I’d like to make my way through everything he’s written. This one was on my shelf after finding it at a used book sale one time, so i figured I might as well check it off the list! 

What are YOU reading this fall?

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Menu Ideas to Feed a Crowd

Menu Ideas to Feed a CrowdWith The Coach’s new head coaching position in town, we now have the privilege of hosting after-game parties for the coaches. I know The Coach has always been a little disappointed that we could never host before, since we lived at least 40 minutes from where he coached. So for the next nine weeks (hopefully more, if we’re in the play-offs!), we’ll have a crowd over after the games. Usually the guys are pretty hungry after a game, since they don’t eat much before and work hard on Friday nights! I’ve been thinking about what’s easy enough to throw together before we head to the game, but filling and perfect for a crowd. Here’s seven ideas to feed a crowd to start with:

  1. Hot Dog Bar. This is my plan for this week. You can easily heat hot dogs up in the crockpot, which I’ll do while we’re at the game. Then I’ll put out the traditional condiments like ketchup, mustard, and relish, but I’ll also add some diced onion, chili, and cheese sauce. Perfect for after the first game when it will likely still be warm summer weather, even though it’s football season!
  2. ChiliThis will be a later in the season offering, when we’re all in need of a warm up after the game! The chili can be prepped the day before and simply warmed up in the crockpot. Put out some diced onion, shredded cheese and sour cream, along with a few hot sauce choices for those who like it spicy, and you’ve got something for everyone!
  3. Sloppy JoesAnother one that can be cooked the day before and warmed up in the crockpot. 
  4. Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches. I’ll throw a pork loin with some BBQ sauce in my crockpot as soon as I get home from work, then I’ll just have to shred the pork before folks arrive after the game. 
  5. Sub Sandwiches. This is another good option for the warmer games early in the season. Simply grab some sub rolls, a selection of meats and cheeses, and some lettuce, tomato and onion and you’re all set! Everyone can add what they like to make this appealing to just about everyone!
  6. Taco Bar. Yet another make the day before and heat up in the crockpot option. And another option that everyone can customize how they like it with topping choices like the traditional lettuce, cheese, and tomato, as well as jalapenos, onions, hot sauce, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. 
  7. Pizza. Yep – I’m sure at least one game I’ll simply phone it in and pick up pizza! It’s quick, easy, and who doesn’t love pizza?!

 

On to my menu! Wow – this week! The Coach and I head back to work, including evening games and a school open house in the evening. The boys have flag football practice. We’ll just be trying to stay afloat to the weekend! It will take us a little bit to get used to this new schedule, so meals for the next month or so will probably not be exactly stellar. But, we do what we gotta do! :) I’ll be linking up on I’m an Organizing Junkie if you’re looking for more meal planning ideas! I also often link up at Feeding Big. Or check out and follow my Yummy dinners board on Pinterest! Interested in meal planning? Check out my first post on meal planning, or my recent Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Breakfasts (we don’t plan for each day – see here for why – but these are our choices along with a fruit)

• Cereal
• Granola bars and yogurt
• Pancakes
• Cream of Wheat or oatmeal
• Toast or English Muffins
• Breakfast sliders
• Banana smoothies
• Breakfast bites 

Lunches (since we’re all home for lunch much of this summer, we’re not really planning a menu and eating leftovers or whatever we’re in the mood for!)

Dinners

• Monday  – Baked Spaghetti, salad, garlic bread
• Tuesday – Chicken sandwiches, fries, broccoli
• Wednesday – Boys at a friend’s, Coach at his JV game, Me at school open house! Who knows when or what everyone will eat! ;)
• Thursday – Game night! Coach’s first game tonight!!
• Friday – Pizza
• Saturday – Steak, roasted potatoes, green beans
• Sunday – Burgers, pasta salad, berries

What are you eating this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link back to your blog if you have your plan posted!

Like the recipe or feature this week? Please consider sending it to a friend, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or pinning it to Pinterest. Thanks so much!

Summer To-Do List Update

At the beginning of summer, we sat down as a family and made a list of the fun summer things we wanted to do this year. We kept it pretty simple and fairly inexpensive, actually without even having to mention to the kids to reign it in at all. Which just reminded me that it isn’t always the big and expensive that they remember the most, but rather the quality time and togetherness. 

Here’s an update to our Summer To-Do list:

Summer to do List 2014 UPDATE

We’ve managed to do most of our summer fun list! The few items we have left include going to a drive in movie, which we have been waiting for a kid-appropriate movie to be playing at a time we can go. This has proved to be a challenge because they are only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights and have the same movie choices all three nights. And there have not many many kid friendly movies playing there (I think only one!). We also have grow an herb garden, but I’m going to be really honest and say it is highly unlikely this one will get crossed off this year. We made two attempts at growing some herbs from seeds, neither of which was successful. Then I kind of gave up. I am a little embarrassed to see we still have blow bubbles on the list! We have bubbles, but I guess just haven’t pulled them out! And finally we have golfing left. This summer’s weather has been less than ideal, with a lot of cool days and a fair amount of rainy ones. Which makes it tough to find a good time to go golfing, either with the kiddos or just The Coach and I. In fact, I haven’t even golfed once this summer, and The Coach has only golfed twice in outings!

With a couple weeks left, I’m sure we can sneak in some bubbles and golf, and maybe even the drive in movie. We did do a few things that were not included on our list, like going to our local festivals, Roo and I ran a 5K, and we’ve hung out in our back yard with our newly screened in porch and larger blow-up pool we bought this year. And we’ve gone camping three times instead of just one this year. 

What have you done this summer? Do you have a list you’ve been checking off?

Bloggers’ Back to School Basics

Am I the only mom really ready for school to start up again? I’ve had a lot of time with my kiddos this summer, and as the fun got rolling, the structure and routine got abandoned, and the last week or so has just been a hot mess around our house! Patience has worn a bit thin (the boys’ and mine!) and tempers have flared, usually in direct correlation to bedtime the night before! So at my house, we’re all looking forward to that first glorious day that we all return to school!

I have come across many different theories on the best way to prepare for back to school time. Some folks are firm believers in starting to prepare kids weeks ahead of time with a gradual shift in bedtime and wake up calls. Others slide into the school year on the tails of a mad, crazy, free-for-all last ditch effort to soak up summer. Whatever approach you take, there are certain changes that come with the beginning of school – routines, timing, meal prep, schedules, and more. 

Bloggers Back to School Basics

This month, I asked some of my blogger pals to offer their tips for back to school time. Here’s our collection of…

 

Back to School Basics!

Yours truly at Structure in an Unstructured Life

A couple of years ago, I did a back to school series of posts highlighting some tips in various different areas, including tips for school shoppingdeveloping routines, weathering the emotions a new school year brings, and how to develop a good relationship with your child’s teacher.

This year will be far different for us. This past summer is the first I’ve spent home with my kids every day, so we will all need to adjust to seeing each other less. The Coach will be working in the high school that is right next to their elementary school. In addition, I’m starting a new job teaching at their school! Well, half the time will be at their school, and the other half will be at the other elementary school. So nothing about our routine and the changes we encounter will be familiar to us. Our routine both before and after school will be completely new to all of us. Whew! Talk about a recipe for stress and meltdowns! Here’s what we’re doing to prepare for this school year:

  1. The kids have been going to football activities at the high school with their dad and will be coming in and helping me get my classroom set up so they are familiar with these new areas that will become part of their routine. We haven’t worked all of the logistics out yet, but we know the kids will be spending time in both places at least some. 
  2. I’ve never been very good at slowly adjusting my kids to changes in bedtime and morning wake up, but this year has been especially bad. With football in full swing for The Coach and me scrambling to get everything together for my new position before school starts, our routine has been a complete mess the last week or so. However, with teachers starting back to work a week before the kiddos do, we almost have a built in week to get the kids used to the new schedule without throwing them into the classroom yet. So we’re using next week as a “practice week” for the school year. 
  3. Finally, we’ve been honest that we’re all adjusting to new classrooms/jobs and it might be a little rough for the first few weeks. There’s no way around the fact that all four of us will be experiencing stressful situations those first few weeks, whether it is new jobs, new schools, new classrooms, new friends, new routines, or a combination of those and more. We’ve told the kids there will most likely be times that are tough, but we will figure it out together and everything will be ok. 

 

Jenny at Express Bus Mama 

Year after year I find that money is always a little tight at the beginning of the school year. It’s probably a result of camp costs and fun vacations but it makes back to school shopping a stress instead of a delight. A couple of years ago I discovered a little trick to get around this issue.

We always buy school supplies, a new outfit and a couple pairs of shoes before school starts. However, I save most of our clothing purchases for late September or early October. My son still wears summer clothes for the first few weeks of school so there’s no need to stock up on sweaters and pants that he could grow out of by the time he’s ready to wear them. Another advantage is that by the time we go shopping, all the fall clothes are on sale. While this method may fall flat when he’s older and possibly more fashion conscience, it’s helping me save money now!

 

Rea at REAlity Bites

My son doesn’t go to school yet and classes in the Philippines start in June. I’m always thankful for the summer because I get a little breather from so much traffic caused by students and parents alike who are out and about early when school starts. As a working mom, these are the things I usually do:

1. Wake up an hour earlier than my usual wake-up time so that I can prepare, have some time alone for myself, and get ready for work without running late.

2. Prepare everything I need the night before like the clothes I’ll wear, the things I’ll bring, and make sure everything is complete before I go to bed.

3. Have the right mindset. I always think that transportation is going to be tough since I’ll be sharing the roads with students and parents. Having this mindset ahead of time motivates me to adjust my routine accordingly. 

 

Michelle at A Dish of Daily Life

When the kids head back to school, weeknights immediately become more hectic thanks to all the sports practices and games. What I find helps me the most is planning our meals for the week ahead of time, and doing as much meal prep as possible on Sunday afternoon and evening. We try to cook one or two of our meals for the week, so all we have to do is heat them up, and we often double our recipes so we can put a meal in the freezer as well for those nights that we are really strapped for time. We also rely heavily on easy meals like White Bean Chicken ChiliCreamy Citrus Black Bean Soup, and Lemon Pesto Grilled Shrimp. 

 

Dean at Mrs. AOK A Work in Progress

My kids started school Monday, but before they went to school we did some school planning.  It was hard to plan for school when we still were gripping hard to cling on to every last second of summer, but we did it.
 
Make-ahead 
 
We went to Costco and Whole Foods to purchase ample amounts of veggies, meats, cheese, fruits, and snacks to make freezer meals and lunches.  Then we got to work!
We have a snack bin in our pantry, this is where we store snacks for the kiddos’ lunches and snack time; we are fully loaded for at least two months.  We made sure to buy a variety, therefore we do not have snack-burnout (it’s totally a thing). 
 
I personally think make-ahead freezer meals are a must for my family, especially during the school year with all the various events and sports. We pick a Sunday to all get in the kitchen and cook meals for at least 2 to 3 weeks.  The kids enjoy adding things into the freezer bags, rolling meatballs, and making their own individual lasagnas. 
 
Meatballs are such a great make-ahead for lunches! We pack the meatballs with veggies (bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots), fruit, and occasionally a sauce to correspond with that particular meat ball.  Meatballs DO NOT have to be Italian.  You can make them Asian, Mexican, Thanksgivingish, Hawaiian, well…just about anything you can think of. May I propose making an array of meatballs because I’m sure you don’t want meatball-burnout (it’s another thing).
 
When packing lunches I suggest doing it the night before.  We use bento-style boxes; we can usually put all of their lunch in those and have room for a water bottle and freezer pack in their lunch boxes.
 
Thanks to my blogging buddies for contributing their fabulous ideas! How do YOU get ready for back to school time?

 

 

THIS Coach’s Wife’s Chicken Marinade

THIS Coachs Wifes Chicken MarinadeAs I’ve written many times before, we grill a lot in the summer. And with beef being more expensive than chicken these days and some awesome sales on chicken, we’ve been eating a fair amount of grilled chicken this summer. Since grilling can sometimes dry chicken out a little, I find it best to marinate it first. I used to buy the marinades in a jar found in the condiment aisle, but I’ve discovered it is actually super easy, less expensive, and more tasty to just whip up my own. Anything with oil in it seems to work best at keeping the chicken more moist. About a year ago, I came across a recipe on Pinterest that I figured was perfect for me – it was from a blog called The Coach’s Wife’s Kitchen. Yep, that’s absolutely perfect for me. This recipe for chicken marinade is adapted from her original one. 

 

Chicken Marinade
Serves 4
A simple marinade perfect for using when grilling chicken.
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208 calories
4 g
32 g
16 g
11 g
3 g
72 g
36 g
3 g
0 g
13 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
72g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 208
Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 16g
25%
Saturated Fat 3g
13%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 11g
Cholesterol 32mg
11%
Sodium 36mg
1%
Total Carbohydrates 4g
1%
Dietary Fiber 0g
1%
Sugars 3g
Protein 11g
Vitamin A
1%
Vitamin C
1%
Calcium
2%
Iron
5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  2. 1/4 cup olive oil
  3. 1 clove minced garlic
  4. 2 Tablespoons diced onion (or 1/2 teaspoon onion powder)
  5. 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  6. 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  7. 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  8. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  9. Chicken (this amount of marinade works for 4 chicken breasts, or 6-8 chicken thighs or drumsticks)
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in a ziplock bag with the chicken. Refrigerate at least three hours, but overnight is even better!
beta
calories
208
fat
16g
protein
11g
carbs
4g
more
Adapted from The Coach's Wife's Kitchen
Structure in an Unstructured Life http://www.structureinanunstructuredlife.com/
 

On to my menu!  This week is the start of the craziness! Flag football practices start, Varsity football scrimmages commence, and we’re trying to get a last few summer fun things squeezed in. You’ll see I still have one meal this week that keeps getting moved on my meal plan – eventually we’ll eat those ribs! :) I’ll be linking up on I’m an Organizing Junkie if you’re looking for more meal planning ideas! I also often link up at Feeding Big. Or check out and follow my Yummy dinners board on Pinterest! Interested in meal planning? Check out my first post on meal planning, or my recent Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning. Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Breakfasts (we don’t plan for each day – see here for why – but these are our choices along with a fruit)

• Cereal
• Granola bars and yogurt
• Pancakes
• Cream of Wheat or oatmeal
• Toast or English Muffins
• Breakfast sliders
• Banana smoothies
• Breakfast bites 

Lunches (since we’re all home for lunch much of this summer, we’re not really planning a menu and eating leftovers or whatever we’re in the mood for!)

Dinners

• Monday  – Ribs, corn-on-the-cob, green beans
• Tuesday – Rotisserie Chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli
• Wednesday – Hot Dogs, chips, berries
• Thursday - Chicken Pot Pie, salad
• Friday – Pizza
• Saturday – Steak, roasted potatoes, asparagus
• Sunday – Baked Spaghetti, garlic bread, salad

What are you eating this week? Leave a comment and feel free to link back to your blog if you have your plan posted!

Like the recipe or feature this week? Please consider sending it to a friend, sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or pinning it to Pinterest. Thanks so much!

Camping Checklist {Printable!}

We finally bought our own tent this summer. For the past two summer’s we borrowed one from family for our annual camping trip with The Coach’s family. And for two summers we said we should get our own so we could go more often. This summer, we found a great deal on one and have gone camping three times now! Since I was hand-writing the same checklist over and over to pack up for our trips, I figured I would create a printable list to save myself some time next summer! I created a camping checklist and a camping food checklist. They are nothing fancy, just Excel spreadsheets that I added some color to. I didn’t want to make them too fancy because I will be editing/adding to them each trip and printing them, so the simpler the better for those reasons.

Below is my basic camping supplies checklist. I divided it up into categories to make it easier to put together, and also because that helps me determine what needs to go together in bags or bins. 

Camping Checklist

For my food list, there are some things we take every time, and then other things I add based on what we’re planning to eat. So my list contains the basics we always take, and room to add the meal specific items each trip.

Camping Food Checklist

What to print these lists out just the way they are? You can print a pdf of the basic camping checklist here. You can print a pdf of the camping food checklist here

Want to be able to edit the list? You can download the Excel version with both right here

What things would you add? Tell me in the comments so I can update my list! :)