Back-to-school.  It's happening everywhere!  Mixed feelings over here in this camp.  Reconnecting with friends, getting back to a routine, marking another year, quiet house with fewer messes to tidy.  I do anticipate some quiet space with loneliness for my children, their antics, lunchtime conversations, slamming screen doors and crazy fabulous art projects.  But, in contrast, I am going to miss the sandy floors, muddy handprints at light switches, long evenings of children running between the trampoline, sand box, chicken coop and gathering snacks from the garden.  

And then there is the routine!  Getting up everyday, lunches packed, out the door on time for the bus, homework, extracurriculars!  Schedules begin to fill up and can seem overwhelming.     

So how to ease into a schedule?  School supplies were easy-peasy this year due to a pilot program of the school buying supplies in bulk.  No more searching for Hilroy scribblers with just the right line spacing!  That notice at the end of the year was freedom!  So with that to-do checked off the list, here some of our back-to-school tips:

1.  Premake and freeze cookies and main meal items.  Cookie dough balls, frozen on pans and then placed in freezer bags make for easy, a budget-friendly dessert options.  Personally, I have a real hang-up about packaged granola bars, pudding, cookies showing up in my kids' lunches.  Something about the combination of long ingredient lists and leftover wrappers just makes me keep walking past that aisle in the grocery store.  I found and adapted this cookie recipe with thumbs up from the brood.  So into the freezer went the dough balls and out will they come, as breakfast is being eaten, to be packed into that day's lunch.  My recipe is included at the bottom of this post.

Other items we like to freeze are Cornish pasties, pizza pops, perogies, samosas and meatballs.  Simple things that make life just that much easier and help to bypass the ubiquitous boomerang sandwich.

2.  Plan lunches each week.  As it is the first week for school here, there are only three days.  Roast chicken provides a multitude of hot and cold lunch options.  We had roast chicken last evening with all the fixings, mashed potatoes, honey butter carrots, biscuits and salad.  But for tomorrow's lunch, we are planning chicken pitas with cabbage slaw, cucumber salad and cookies (see above).  Thursday is macaroni with cheese, ham and chicken, pickles and carrots with berries for dessert.  Friday will be homemade chicken soup, nori/salad and cookies.  I'm hoping it saves fruitless tupperware searches and ad hoc lunches that might be minus more vegetables and fruit than I like. 

Some of my favourite school lunch idea websites are this one and this one.  Having web resources at the ready can be half the battle!

3.  Have a morning to-do list in a visible spot.  This short list includes items such as brush your teeth, make your bed, put your lunch kit in your bag, kiss your mama!  We write it out in bold colours to make it eye-catching.  The list has proved invaluable for helping keep our kids on task and making catching the bus less frantic.  

4.  Check the weather forecast the night before, and get appropriate footwear and outerwear (including mittens and hats) together, ready at the door.  We have Krokig wall bins from IKEA for each child in our hall closet.  There is a hook for a bag and a coat, a bin for a pair of mittens and a hat and a shelf for books.   Everything is there, ready to go.  We do have mornings still where we run around like heedless chickens but those mornings are less frequent, thank goodness!      

Absolutely No-Guilt (well, maybe just a bit, because I'm a mother and that's my gig) Cookies

Dry Ingredients:

1.5 cups wholewheat flour

.5 cup chickpea flour

1.5 c whole oats (preferably not the quick-cooking oats as we are going for some texture)

.5 tsp baking soda

.5 tsp baking powder

.5 tsp salt

1-3 tsp cinnamon (I left out the cinnamon as it's not my favourite in cookies)

1/2 tsp nutmeg (grated nutmeg is one of life's beautiful moments!)

1 cup of mixed dry additives (I chose flax, semi-sweet chocolate chips, coconut, sunflower seeds)

Wet ingredients:

1 egg (beat with 1 tbsp of water)

1 tbsp molasses

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup applesauce

1/3 cup oil

Preheat oven to 335 F.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix wet ingredients in a medium bowl and add to dry ingredients.  Mix well.  If too dry add some more applesauce or water to moisten.  Drop onto a cookie sheet.  You can flatten with a fork if you would like.  Cook for 10-12 minutes.