How to Make a Creative Meal Plan Affordable

For this Kids Meal Monday I’m sharing some great ways to make an affordable and  creative meal plan for your Littles

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We watch for the trash trucks every week.

It’s Monday, and my creative meal plan juices are firing. Maybe it’s the fact that spring is so close. It’s still chilly but I open the windows anyhow. We can smell spring in the air. It could be because we are finally starting to get over the nasty cold virus that circled through last week. Or perhaps it’s my new set of KCups and a fresh essential oil diffuser blend I started the day with. (Check out my Pinterest board for all my favorite blends). For the Littles, it may be that it’s trash day. Nothing excites them like the trash truck.

Either way, It’s #motivationmonday over here at Lauren’s Little One’s and I’m prepping up a storm. Part of what I mentioned in my first Kids Meal Monday post was how important it is for Daycare Provider’s to find lunch ideas that are both healthy AND affordable. That’s why I enjoy coming up with a creative meal plan for the week and making our dollar stretch. Today’s lunch is simple- hot dogs, orange slices, and celery sticks with cucumber. But I’ve got Chicken and Rice Soup simmering in the crock-pot for tomorrow’s lunch (My oven is STILL out) and all that leftover celery inspires all sorts of daycare creativity. And my coffee. Don’t forget the coffee.

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It’s definitely the caffeine.

The Chicken Soup itself is easy, it’s all the leftovers from the prep that has my creative meal plan juices stirring

Although I used my own preference for spices, I found the bulk of particular recipe from Favorite Family Recipes. Take it from me , and take her advice on not adding the rice until closer to the end, or you WILL have mush soup. I like making my soup the day before because soup is ALWAYS better the second day, after the flavors have had time to meld. After I assembled all the ingredients in the crock pot, I took a step back to see the aftermath of my meal-prep destruction. (I’m great in the kitchen- but sometimes I feel like the mess I leave behind isn’t worth it!) I had three large chicken breasts left over from the package I defrosted- and celery.

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The chicken breasts are easy- I’ll make some homemade chicken nuggets with the Little’s later this week. But the celery- yuck. Unless it’s in a soup or salad, I am NOT a celery fan. But that doesn’t mean my Little’s should be denied the opportunity to try it, in different forms.

So I came up with a celery plan for the week

  1. Peanut butter celery boats– they’re kids. It’s almost a given.
  2. Color-STEM research with our celery tops- ideas for this are all over Pinterest. The kids loved watching and checking every day to see how the celery changed colors, and I loved explaining how the colored water fed the celery, which is why it changed.

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  1. Tuna Salad in a celery boat- AFTER I dumped two cans of tuna into a bowl to prep it, I realized we were out of mayo. What I did have was Aldi House dressing, and a bit of tartar sauce. (If you haven’t tried Aldi House Dressing yet, do it. Stop what you’re doing right now and drive to the nearest Aldi. It’s that good.) Let’s just say that bit of creative meal planning worked out very well, and I can’t wait to eat our tuna boats on Thursday.

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    I added garbanzo beans for some extra fiber- only one kid noticed them.
  2. Flower stamping!- Have you ever noticed that when you cut the tops off of celery, the print of it looks like a rose? Very serendipitous timing, with spring approaching! The Little’s love painting so I’m looking forward to doing this later in the week.

Coming up with a creative meal plan doesn’t have to be complicated

It just has to be fun- and smart. Not all food has to be eaten- it can be played with, too! What are your favorite ways to re-use food in your creative meal plans? Find out more recipe’s and get the latest updates on my Little’s by subscribing to the blog!

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How to make a Daycare meal plan creative and affordable with these fun uses from the ingredients for Chicken and Rice Crockpot Soup

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Lauren Lewis is no stranger to childcare development, having spent over 10 years as a nanny or family childcare provider. She’s the wife of a travel geek, mother of two vivacious children, and has an amazing talent for trailing lost things behind her a la Hansel and Gretyl. Her varied background in writing, child development, marketing, and enthusiasm for mess-making provided the perfect foundation for The Playground Chronicles. Her life is full of busy, crazy and LOUD. It is full of love and hope, ups and downs. And coffee, always lots of coffee- but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

More information and her work can be found at www.the-playground-chronicles.com

5 Comments

  1. Kristina

    April 3, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    I love the idea of using every last bit of celery one way or another. I will have to wait for my boys to grow a little older for the activities, but I am definitely pinning them for later! And yes, the food sounds delicious and healthy!

    1. Lauren Lewis

      April 4, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      I always struggle with what to do with leftover celery! No longer!

  2. simplel2

    April 3, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    I’ve always wanted to try the celery color change with my son. We have done some painting with the celery stalks and my son enjoyed the activity! Great ideas to use it up because we never do when we buy it!

    1. Lauren Lewis

      April 4, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      It was shockingly easy, although it took longer to show a difference than I expected. Interestingly enough, the red one almost wilted (not a natural color), and the yellow made the entire stalk a yellowish color, but didn’t show on the ends- it was more interesting than I expected.

  3. momstersraisingmonsters

    April 10, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Great plan! I do so much better when I plan it out like that, but I’ve dropped the ball a little bit lately

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