Tips for a Sensory Friendly Halloween

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Halloween can be overwhelming to anyone with sensory processing disorder (SPD). If you haven’t heard of this particular disorder before, you are not alone. Most people do not know what it is until their own child is diagnosed. The difficulty is that even with a diagnosis, you as a parent may struggle to understand your child’s sensory triggers.

According to the website Understood.org, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) “may be oversensitive or undersensitive to the world around them. When the brain receives information, it gives meaning to even the smallest bits of information. Keeping all that information organized and responding appropriately is challenging for them.”

Some kids never notice the feeling of a tag inside their shirt, or the seam inside their socks. But there are kids who are so distracted by this sensation that they can cry or scream, or even become aggressive. One in twenty children live with some varying degree of sensory processing disorder. Navigating daily life can be a struggle, let alone while wearing an itchy costume in a crowded, loud setting.

After speaking with other moms whose kiddos have SPD, I can share some really great tips. The most important thing is, do not force your child beyond their limits. Halloween activities are for their enjoyment and it is OK to let them enjoy activities in their own way. If your child can only handle wearing a small piece of their costume, or no costume at all, let that be enough.

PRO MOM TIPS

  • Select a costume that is mask free, or does not require face paint.
  • Let your kids use their own familiar clothing as part of their costume to help them enjoy dressing up.
  • For kids with auditory sensory issues, using noise cancelling headphones works great.
  • For kids who are sensitive to bright lights, start your trick or treat night as early as possible and take advantage of the day light.
  • If your child tires easily map out a short route, or bring along a wagon to let them take a break. And again, it’s OK if you cut your time short and head back home early.
  • Skip the costumes and make your kiddo feel included with fun family coordinated themed set of t-shirts. Use a small, personalization business like Mom Squad Creations to print up your matching shirts and you’ll be ready to head out together.

PRO TIPS

  • Avoid a meltdown by keeping your child informed of timing of events.
  • Host a small gathering in your home for your child’s comfort.
  • Trick or treat on streets with sidewalks to lesson anxiety.
  • Get creative in how your child participates. Nothing is set in stone. Instead of bobbing for apples, maybe your child can stack apples in a bucket.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Being a parent of a child with sensory issues can feel overwhelming, but imagine being the child who is struggling to process so much sensory information at once. It can provoke a lot of anxiety not knowing what is happening next.
  • Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Gina Bergdall suggests allowing your child to carry a fidget toy. This will allow them a constructive “place to focus their anxiety on.” Bergdall also shares these tips provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association. 
  • Pick only a few places to trick or treat and review that plan with your child before hand so they know what to expect.

If your child is overly sensitive to crowds or noises, there are no rules mandating they go trick or treating. You can make some really amazing traditions right at home. Bake and decorate treats, have a fun meal together, or make some popcorn and settle in for a movie. There is no wrong way to participate in Halloween! 

If this Halloween looks different than the way other families are celebrating, that’s OK. Embrace your unique traditions! If your child is comfortable at home watching Halloween specials and eating popcorn, join them! Deciding to follow their lead helps them feel capable and less stressed.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. Her spookiest Halloween decoration is an empty coffee pot. *shudder*

Get Ready for the Tooth Fairy with These Easy DIY Tooth Fairy Giving Bags

diytooth-fairy-bags
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Would you believe me if I told you that I used to work as a craft blogger? True story! Someone paid me to share the really lazy crafts I made each week with my kids. Turns out moms want easy crafts, preferably without glitter. And there are some moms who can’t resist a cute DIY.

I shared in my moms only group this week that I use these simple little DIY baggies to automate our tooth fairy giving. I made six at once and I keep 4 of the baggies pre-filled at all times so the tooth fairy never misses a stop! The other 2 bags I leave empty, one for each kiddo to collect their fallen teeth and leave under the pillow. Once they are asleep, I just swap out for the pre-filled baggie.

This system has worked for me for several years. It especially came in handy during the COVID quarantine when businesses closed. I couldn’t get the usual chocolate coins, or the gold dollar coin our tooth fairy traditionally leaves behind. Thankfully, I was already ahead of myself with this easy system. You can read my original post here, or scroll below for the step by step directions.

tooth-fairy-bags

Here’s what you’ll need: (Makes 4 bags)

6 Medium organza gift bags (you can find at the dollar store)

1 Piece of white felt

Download a tooth shape to trace

12 Googly eyes

School glue

8 inches of string or yarn

Wax paper

*Optional pink paint for rosy cheeks

I found the tooth shape online and printed it out to trace and cut the felt shapes for all six bags.

To make the face, I cut the string into two inch pieces and glued to the felt, next I glued on the eyes. If you’d like cute little pink cheeks, dip a pencil eraser, small dowel, or the end of a round paint brush  (whatever you have on hand) into the pink paint and apply at the ends of the smile. Allow time for the glue to dry before attaching the tooth shape to the bag.

Since you are working with an organza bag the glue will seep through and make a mess. If you cut a small square of wax paper to fit inside the bag it will keep the glue from sealing the bag closed.

Begin by inserting the wax paper into the bag before applying the felt shaped tooth. Once the tooth is on the baggie, wait a few minutes before removing the wax paper. Then, hang the open bag to dry. You can leave it at the end of a chopstick, a pencil or paint brush to keep the bag open while it dries. Allow the glue to dry overnight and before filling with treats.

We fill our bags with one gold dollar coin and five chocolate coins. Nothing fancy. I have heard of parents giving their kids $5 per tooth, or $20 for the first tooth and some parents put together an entire basket of gifts. Whatever works. I just know that having twins means double the magic and double the tooth fairy money. So keeping some pre-filled bags between payouts means I won’t be caught off guard the night a tooth falls out.

Do you go all out for the tooth fairy, or do you keep it simple?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She likes to keep expectations low by avoiding craft projects that involve any real crafting. Follow along with her daily posts on Facebook.

6 Easy Trick or Treat Alternatives

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This year, trick or treat may look and feel a bit different. Many parents are rethinking ways to enjoy the candy filled spooky season without creating a super spreader event. Even my own family is working on a COVID friendly treat distribution. But, what if you aren’t totally feeling the traditional walking door to door for candy?

Here are 6 easy alternatives to trick our treating:

CANDY HUNT

Make the kids work a little harder this year for their stash of candy. Hide some clues around the back yard that will lead them to a mega trove of treats.

GLOW IN THE DARK CANDY HUNT

Put a few treats in a clear bag and add in one glow stick. Hide the treat bags in the back yard after dark (or around the house and turn off the lights). Turn on the spooky sounds and let the kids follow the light for their Halloween sweets.

DRIVE BY TRICK OR TREAT

This is especially great if you live in a more remote area and normally do not get a lot of trick or treaters. Set up a table of pre-packaged, store bought treats and invite your friends to drive by to pick up a treat from you personally. It’s like the birthday parades that were fashionable in the spring, only everyone else gets a take home treat.

HOLIDAY DRIVE BY

If trick or treat is completely banned in your area, you can provide a little eye candy for passersby. Decorate the yard with lights and spooky décor. Encourage folks to drive by to take in the sights.

HOST A VIRTUAL PARTY

If social distance is keeping you apart from friends and loved ones, dial up a Zoom conference to create a virtual Halloween party! Put together a fun “scare package” of crafts and treats to drop off at someone’s door before meeting on Zoom. Then, kids can show off their costumes, craft together and turn up some Halloween tunes for a dance off.

HOST A SOCIALLY DISTANT PARTY

If you have a yard or park area large enough for kids to stay spread out and stay at a healthy distance away from each other, there’s no harm in hosting. Keep it small, encourage masks and hand out prepackaged treats. It’s really smart to stay cautious, so no one will hold it against you if you take temps or offer hand sanitizer at the event. A lot of kids are struggling right now without in-person social connections. This will definitely keep the traditional Halloween fun alive and give kids a little boost of joy.

Are you changing the way you trick or treat on Halloween? I’d love to know how!

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She writes about the challenges in her motherhood, like how to keep her kids at a socially acceptable distance while trying to work from home.

Halloween Recipe Round up

Halloween is a fun tradition for many families, including my own. My kids are always excited to show off their costumes to our closest neighbors and spend time walking door to door with their friends. But before we head out, I want to make sure their tummies are full and they have enough energy to make it through the neighborhood.

I’ve rounded up some of our quickest and most favorite Halloween dinner ideas. When my kids were just toddlers, these fun recipes were also a fun holiday themed activity and eating our creepy morsels was part of the fun.

MUMMY DOGS from Home Made Interest are super easy and super fun!

Mummy Dogs is an easy Halloween recipe

MUMMY PIZZA from “Cents”able Mama uses store bought ingredients to make this fun dinner fast!

BAKED QUESADILLAS from That Fit Fam are perfect for your little cheese lover! Serve with some carrot sticks or an apple sauce pouch for a quick meal before heading out the door.

Halloween shaped baked quesadillas

SWEET AND SOUR BAT WINGS from Sprinkles and Sprouts. How spooky are these?? Marinate overnight in the fridge and put in the oven in time for your pre-treat dinner.

close up on the wing tip of a black chicken wing on a grey plate

If you have time to make all of these at once you’ll have a variety of fun things to offer the kids before heading out for candy. We usually don’t serve a dessert since we know we are going to eat a bunch of candy as soon as we get home. Happy treating!

What’s your favorite Halloween recipe to make?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, blogger and freelance writer. She spends most of her time making food her kids won’t eat and fantasizing about how a beach vacation where naps are required. You can find her at The Whatever Mom on Facebook and on Instagram. For more recipe ideas, follow her on Pinterest.

Creating a Healthy Home Fragrance for Fall

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Before kids I had a major candle addiction that typically peaked as the Fall season began. I love all the scents of autumn and anything with a warm cinnamon or a hearty clove smell had to be in my collection. Those famous little spices warm my home and soul as the temperature begins to drop. Once I had babies, I learned how unhealthy burning candles can be for indoor air quality, not to mention how anxious I felt leaving an open flame for tiny exploring hands to find. Since then, I’ve discovered healthier ways to bring those seasonal scents into my home without all the toxins and worry.

Here are my favorite ways to bring the smell off fall safely into my home:

Oil diffuse

ESSENTIAL OIL DIFFUSER

You can use an electric oil diffuser without any worry of heat, flame or burning. Simply fill the with water and add in a few drops of your favorite essential oil. One of my favorites to diffuse during the fall and winter months is Germ Away Organic Essential Oil Blend by Three Sister’s Herbals. The antiviral properties of thieves oil help purify the air and won’t leave behind toxic chemicals. Plus, it is made with clove and cinnamon, two traditional fall scents. I also love to use it in my ceramic wax warmer. I add one TBSP of coconut oil ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 5-10 drops of Germ Away Oil. The light of the tealight candle adds ambiance and warmth as it diffuses the protective elements of thieves oil into the air. You can use this same recipe in an electric wax warmer to avoid the open flame around little ones. Be sure to keep it far enough out of reach the kiddos can’t pull it down.

I also use the Germ Away Hand and Surface Essential Oil spray to wipe down high touch surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, faucet handles and countertops. It safely adds a scent of fall to my home while keeping germs at bay. And because it safe to use around babies and animals, I can hand this job off to one of the kiddos without any worries.

LIGHT A FIRE

Nothing feels warmer or more soothing in the fall than a crackling fire. Unfortunately, I do not have a fireplace in my home, but I have found a way to recreate the scent and feel of a warm fire, without an actual fire. A friend of mine gifted me Palo Santo sticks to burn like incense in my home. The scent made by this tiny stick of wood is as comforting as any fire. Simply light it, let it burn for 30 seconds before blowing it out and leaving to sit in a fire safe dish (I use a ceramic saucer). This burns cleaner than store bought incense which can be full of chemicals and respiratory irritants, plus there is no open flame to worry about. You can use other wood sticks like cedar, hickory, and pine to fill your home with that feeling and scent of a warm fire.

DRINK TEA

I find that a simple cup of chai tea (which uses cinnamon and cardamom) elicits a feeling of warmth and coziness. Other flavors I love are cinnamon apple, pumpkin spice, citrus and cinnamon spice, and cranberry. The health benefits of drinking tea are well documented but stopping long enough to enjoy a cup of tea is a great way to relax. Simply allowing your tea to steep a few minutes before drinking will surround you with a familiar fall fragrance.

How do you fill your home with the smells of the season?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, coffee addict and freelance writer. She will write about almost anything you want her to for a small fee. Just check out her about me section to find out how to hire her.

Prep These Easy French Toast Rolls for the Week Ahead!

My kids have fought me on eating any kind of veggies since their toddlerhood. Now, they are almost ten. These picky eaters dominate our meal time choices, but they aren’t always winning the war. I sneak veggies inside of their favorite foods undetected all the time. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have no clue.

I typically meal prep our breakfast for the week ahead on Sunday. I like stuff I can freeze for a quick reheat in the morning. Now that my kids are older, this method makes it easier for them to make their own breakfast. This is a huge time saver for us all!

So… this weekend I made sausage stuffed French toast with some hidden sweet potato in there. I tried to make it two ways, the traditional frying method vs. baking in the oven. Even though making one big batch in the oven at once is convenient, frying the rolls individually made for a better texture. And it hid the miniscule pieces of orange potato better.

Here is what you need:

12 of your favorite sausage links

12 slices of your favorite bread

3 eggs

2 TBSP of sweet potato puree

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp maple syrup

Dash of cinnamon

2-4TBSP coconut oil

Rolling pin

* If you do not have sweet potato puree on hand, you’ll need to start by peeling and dicing a sweet potato and boiling until soft enough to mash before adding to the egg mixture. I made the sweet potato puree while I pre-cooked the sausage links in the oven. You can also use summer squash puree which you can find in the freezer section of your grocery store.*

Once you have your puree and cooked sausage you are ready to begin!

EGG MIXTURE

Crack open 3 eggs and dump into a shallow dish. Add sweet potato, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Whisk together until well mixed and no large clumps.

ASSEMBLING ROLL UPS

Use the rolling pin to roll flat each slice of bread (I did four at a time because it’s an easier amount to work with and it is faster than just one at a time). Place a fully cooked sausage on one edge of the flattened bread and roll together. Next, dip the stuffed bread roll into the egg mixture and lay seam side down on a plate.

COOKING

I fried in batches of four to make assembling easier and to leave enough room in the pan. Heat 2 TBSP coconut oil in frying pan. Place each roll up seam side down into the pan. Let cook 2-3 minutes before turning. Be sure to cook all sides.

I stored the rolls in a flat layer in a freezer bag for the family to grab what they need and make for their breakfast. This made one dozen rolls which my family gladly enjoyed with a favorite fruit and glass of milk.

What do you think? Would you hide veggies in your kids favorite foods?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer, also known as The Whatever Mom. She is on a mission to connect struggling moms with little ones with her community to laugh, grow and embrace the messy parts of parenting so that they feel empowered and confident in their mom choices.

10 Date Night Ideas for Couples Without a Babysitter

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Date nights with your spouse are an essential investment in your relationship. After all, you were each other’s everything before you became parents. It is important to spend time nurturing your romantic relationship too. Once the kids grow up and leave, it will be just you and the hubby together again. Plus, it makes it easier to cope with those annoying habits like absurdly loud chewing and never changing out the empty tooth paste tube. *eye twitch*

COVID has created some complications for date night opportunities, but even before this pandemic it was hard for my husband and I to spend a Friday night out on the town together. We do not have access to regular babysitters and the extra cost to pay for childcare limited what we could spend on dinner, or a movie. My kids did not love being left with a babysitter and would cry, which always led to me feeling guilty and wanting to rush back home. When my husband started working from home it was easier to treat ourselves to a grown-up lunch while the kids were in school. Except, now school is happening at home.

So where do parents with two rambunctious children and zero babysitting options go for a date night?

Here are 10 date night ideas for couples without a babysitter:

  1. If you have a back yard, us it! Light a fire, grab a blanket and a couple of favorite beverages and head to the back yard to gaze up at the stars. Super easy and spontaneous.

2. Have a subscription box delivered to open together after the kids go to bed. Take turns presenting each other with a new snack box, or silly gifts to exchange.

3. Host a Zoom night double date with good friends and include a wine tasting. Each couple can recommend a bottle for the other couple to taste and sample along with some snacks. Treat the kid to their own special movie night in the living room with snacks and separate places to get cozy to buy yourself some quiet time with friends.

4. Host a game night with another couple on Zoom. You can split your screen for online games or go old school with fun Pictionary or charades.

5. Set up a candlelight picnic outside under the stars after the kids go to bed. Order out some grown-up appetizers from that new place you have wanted to try, but you know the kids will not like.

6. Stream a movie on the lawn. Set up a comfy spot with an air mattress and cozy blankets, or a double seated swing chair to snuggle in while watching. Bring out the snacks and beverages to enjoy.

7. Order a DIY craft kit from a local maker and make something at home. A lot of local crafters are offering a make and take kit to do at home. Pick one that you both like and give it a try! It does not have to be perfect, just fun.

8. Pick up a favorite dessert that you don’t want to share with the kids. Once they go to bed, bring it out and do not feel guilty!  

9. Go through old photos and movies together and laugh at some of the crazy shenanigans you have taken part in over the years. Pop open some champagne and re-watch your wedding video or honeymoon videos.

10. Make it an early morning date. Wake up an hour or two before the kids and enjoy some quiet coffee and a savory brunch without picky eaters. You don’t even need to get fancy, just toss some fresh bagels out and call it breakfast. The point is you’re alone and it’s quiet.

Even when bedtime is a struggle (as it is in my house) these ideas are all easy enough to put together without a lot of planning. And they can break you out of the channel surfing rut most of us find ourselves in after the kids go to bed.

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer in search of picky eater free meals and exciting adult conversation. Visit The Whatever Mom on Facebook Instagram Pinterest and Twitter.

Prep These Easy Chicken Dinners Ahead This Week!

Now that back to school is here and life is a little chaotic with a new schedule to work with, I find meal prepping a giant life saver. I actually get a little excited to see my hard work stacked up neatly in the freezer. Knowing that most of my meal prep work is done takes a lot of stress off of my plate, especially on those crazy days where everything else seems to be going wrong, or I am running behind.

As I was prepping I stopped quickly to take a few pics of what I was making to show you how easy it is to make two different chicken dinners ahead of time to stash in the freezer for later in the week. I made Honey Mustard Chicken to serve with rice pilaf and I made Thai Chicken Soup. One package of chicken split between two different recipes and I was done in minutes.

HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN

1 lb. chicken breast (I use thighs because it’s usually cheaper and tastier)

1 bottle of your favorite honey mustard dressing or marinade

1 package of French cut green beans

Salt and pepper

1 gallon zip seal freezer bag

Place chicken pieces into bottom of the bag, pour one half of the bottle of honey mustard dressing over the chicken and then dump the frozen veggies on top. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Press all of the air out of the bag before you seal it and stack in the freezer. That’s it for prep!

When you are ready to cook, remove the prepped meal from the freezer and place in the fridge overnight to thaw out. Empty contents into the crock-pot and be sure to arrange with green beans on the bottom and chicken on top. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. *Every crock-pot heats differently. Mine cooks really fast, so I only need 3 hours for this meal.* Serve with rice, pasta or roasted potatoes (you can get prechopped potatoes in the produce section or in the freezer section to save more time).

THAI CHICKEN SOUP

1 lb. chicken breast (thigh definitely is best for this recipe, but either works)

1 jar of salsa

1/4 cup peanut butter

1 lime

1 TBSP soy sauce (or coconut aminos)

1 can coconut milk

1 gallon zip seal freezer bag

*optional serve over cooked rice, or rice noodles.

Place chicken pieces in the bottom of the bag. In a separate bowl add peanut butter, juice of one lime, soy sauce and the jar of salsa. Mix until it is all combined and pour over chicken in the bag. Seal and freeze.

When you are ready to cook, remove from the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight. Put the mixture into the crockpot and allow it to cook on high 3-4 hours. *Crock-pots may vary in cooking times. Mine will cook this meal in 2.5 hours.* The last half an hour of cook time, shred the chicken and add in can of coconut milk. Allow to simmer for remaining 30 minutes. If you chose to serve over rice, you can get those really quick 90 second microwave rice packs that will bring this meal together quick. You can even delegate that small part of dinner to a helper.

That’s it! Two recipes to prep this week that will take you as much time as it takes to read this post. Enjoy! Oh and don’t forget to prep those breakfast smoothies too! If you try any of these feel free to comment below, or stop by The Whatever Mom Facebook page to share, or find me on Insta.

Roxanne Ferber is twin mom and freelance writer doing whatever it takes to find extra sanity in the day.

Sometimes I Need to Get Away From My Family, and I Don’t Feel Bad About It

A good friend once said to me, “you need to get away from the husband and kids. You need time to miss them.” She is totally right.

My husband and I both work from home, and now both of our kids are attending school from home. We spend every waking hour together. I love them and I am so grateful we have the option to bet together through these crazy COVID times, but, I need mental space. And sometimes I really need physical space. I need to not be on demand for a meal, a snack, a quick question or to settle an argument.

Before the pandemic hit and the kids were in school for most of the day, I met with friends for coffee and we talked about our lives as moms. We vented about our stress and laughed at the ridiculous things our husbands can’t seem to find right in front of their faces. It was good for our mental health to drop those feelings in a safe space and let them go.

Now that I am “teaching” all day while trying to write and balance the chores, I am stuck inside my house more and it really makes me crazy. I am not a “homebody” or one to sit still for long. Movement and getting out of my house (and away from my family) is essential selfcare for my mental wellness. Some days I fantasize about running away or leaving a note on the counter, “Dear family, I love you. Now get away from me.” That’s not considered polite, so here are four ways to nicely inform your family you need time alone with your thoughts.

FIND SOME HEADSPACE

Taking a daily walk through my neighborhood each morning before logging everyone into a laptop helps me feel free. There’s no schedule, there’s no tether to my home, there is only me, the fresh air and my air pods. It isn’t the spa or working out at the gym, but it truly helps me clear my head and get ready for the chaos of the day. If I can’t get outside to walk because of weather, I walk on my treadmill. And sometimes, I just stand at an open door and quietly sip my coffee and listen to the birds chirp.

SOCIALLY DISTANT VENT SESSIONS

Once a week, usually a weekend morning, I invite other moms to join me on socially distant hikes. We walk on opposite sides of the trail while we chat about our stress and laugh about how crazy our families make us. It’s a great way to stay connected to my village and take in nature, which always makes me feel more grounded. Once a month, I meet with a couple of other moms outside in one of our driveways, or an empty lot just to talk about our stress. We sit 10 feet apart and bring our own chairs.

JUST LEAVE THE STRESS BEHIND

There are some days after the laptops are off and the kids are plugged into a video game, I leave the house. I no longer walk the aisles of Target slowly to peruse. Instead, I head to the drive through for a coffee and take the back country roads and soak in the passing scenery. Sometimes, I get out at a park to sit on a bench and watch people go by, read a book, write in a journal or phone a friend, which ever I am in the mood for.

SCHEDULE TIME TO UNPLUG

About once or twice a week, I skip watching TV after the kids go to bed and opt for reading a book. I leave the phone in another room so that I am not tempted to scroll, or look through the horrifying headlines of the daily news. This gives me time to unwind and plug into things that bring me joy like reading a good book and being in my cozy bed.

Selfcare means something different to everyone. I personally, need deep connections to others and nature and time to connect with myself. I miss dining out at leisure and going to the gym. But, scaling back to basics have really helped me cope with how different things are right now.

Do you spend time away from your family to recharge?

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer just looking for a quiet space to enjoy her own thoughts.

Time Saving Meal Prep Ideas

Going back to school this year looks vastly different than any other year. Many of us are working from home, while also teaching our kids at home. We are not sending our kids off on the bus and our back to school traditions may have changed.

At least this time around we are not feeling the last-minute scramble of a complete shutdown, we are starting day one at home. Thankfully, we learned what worked and did not work and we can use that to plan this year.

The one big thing I learned during our shutdown in the spring, is that I am over standing in my kitchen all day making meals on demand. Scrambling to prepare food in between Zoom classes did not work well for me. I spent a lot of time making fresh meals three times a day for picky eaters and it was exhausting. So, to free up that time this year I am ramping up my meal prepping.

Since becoming a mom meal prepping is my go-to sanity saver and number one-time management technique. It does require a one to two-hour time commitment in the kitchen, but the amount of time it saves me from clean up and standing in front of the stove the rest of the week is worth it.

Here are my quick tips for planning and prepping for each meal of the week. Maybe it will help you save some time/sanity around remote learning this Fall.

BREAKFAST

I use the weekends to prep ahead a few different breakfast options that my family can grab and go or warm up for themselves. I wake up an hour before the family on Sunday morning to have the kitchen to myself. You can check out my Pinterest board for ideas, but some of our favorites are breakfast burritos, protein pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, hidden veggie muffins and smoothie blender cups. I make two options for my family to choose from and then I make the blender cups for myself. I have them preloaded and stacked in the freezer to make my mornings easier. My family can reheat their breakfast sandwiches and pancakes on their own or grab a muffin from the fridge.

LUNCH

Each night after dinner, I have the kids pack a lunch just like they did when going to school. And my husband and I pack up our own lunches. This saves me the headache of making two different sandwiches or rummaging around for leftovers to reheat every day. Preparing all of our lunches each night saves enough time for all of us to take our lunch break together, and it encourages my kids to be self sufficient.

DINNER

Before I even go grocery shopping, I make a dinner menu for the week. My meal plan for the week includes a DIY pizza night (or take out) and a leftovers night to give me a night off from cooking. On my grocery shopping day, I like to wash all the produce before putting it away and I prepare as many meals ahead of time that I can. I am especially fond of freezer meals that I can toss together in a freezer bag and dump into the crock pot later. This is a huge time saver and way less mess to clean up during the busy week. I am also a fan of one sheet pan meals to make in the oven. And on really busy nights, I’ll make a charcuterie board that fits everyone’s picky favorites. You can find some of my favorite go to meal pins here.

SNACKS

I discovered my kids will eat through a bag of chips like its an Olympic sport. So, I stopped buying bags of chips that literally disappears within minutes and leaves my kids crabby. I set up bins in the fridge with grab and go options like cheese sticks, baby bell cheeses, yogurt tubes, mini oranges, hummus cups and bags of veggies. Don’t get me wrong, chips are delicious, and I do not judge anyone buying them for their kids. I just know my kids stay fuller longer (and stay less moody) when they eat protein and fruits.

It took me a little while to make these prepping hacks a routine. So, don’t think you have to do all of the above to be efficient. Pick the toughest meal of the day and prep it in advance to help make that time of day run a bit smoother for you.

What’s the toughest meal for you to prepare each day? Mine is breakfast, so I will always prepare breakfast in advance. I like sleep more than I like to cook.

If you have any great meal prep hacks or recipes, feel free to share in comments below or send them to [email protected]

Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, fur mom, wife and freelance writer just trying to eek out as much sanity as she can from each day.