When we learned that I would be having another boy, so many people were disappointed that we wouldn’t have a little girl. I, for one, was not. Don’t get me wrong! I absolutely adore all of my nieces, and the idea of having a child who might actually enjoy shopping or someone to get pedicures with would certainly be fun - and expensive! And, I know for a fact that Chris would never be able to tell her no!
After having two boys already, I feel like I know what I’m doing, even if so many things have changed since they were born. Between balls, Legos, superheroes, and anything with wheels, I think I’ve gotten the hang of this #boymom thing! (Please note, I am also fairly certain this child will be totally different than my first two, and I will have to eat my words!)
When it came time to choose how to decorate the nursery for our little boy, I decided that since we were starting over on a new adventure to incorporate that into the theme and use maps. First things first, I started my Pinterest board of Nursery Ideas. I couldn’t find any bedding I really liked, so I searched Etsy and discovered this beautiful handmade bedding set from Hagar in Israel. After talking to my sister, Leigh, about how much I loved the fabric and wished I could find curtain panels to match, she coordinated with my other sisters and my Mama to order the bedding, and Hagar even made the curtain panels too!
We planned a date for all of them (plus my dear Aunt Wanda) to come over and paint the walls. Originally, this room was Caleb’s nursery with bright green walls to go with the green gingham and frog bedding we used for him and Seth. Over the years, it’s been a play room, a guest room, my father’s room when he’s had to stay with us after surgeries, and most recently, a bedroom for my sister, Latacha, and niece, Kasey. Once they found a place of their own, my boys and I set to work priming the walls to cover the bright green so we’d be ready when everyone came over to do the real painting.
Since it has been so long since my other boys were born (14 and 11 years!), I had given away all our baby gear, including furniture. I found out that my cousins were selling their nursery furniture, which was beautiful and an incredible deal!
Slowly, but surely, we’ve added to the room to make it functional and fun. The futon will give my Mama a place to take a nap when she's babysitting or if she wants to stay overnight sometime. The glider-rocker was my Mother’s Day present from Chris and the boys, so now we have a place to rock baby Perry to sleep. The little rocking chair was mine when I was a little girl, and the wooden toy chest was Chris’s, for a touch of sentimentality.
Tara covered Perry’s initials with maps as part of the decorations for my shower, and they’re perfect for personalizing this room into his space. Wire baskets underneath the changing table hold burp cloths and blankets, like the one Roxie quilted for Perry. I even found baskets with map fabric to hold all the baby essentials, and a matching photo album that will get filled with photos of all our adventures together!
Pick out something special for your own little or for a friend from our online store! Maileg Bunnies are some of our favorites additions to any nursery are treasured for many childhood years to come.
My husband, Chris, has always wanted another baby. I’m the one who proclaimed we were done, especially once my boys were old enough to start taking care of themselves. Of course, in the back of my mind, I felt that maybe we weren’t completely done with children, but I really thought that God was leading us toward a path of fostering and potentially even adopting down the road. Our family and friends always joked with us that we needed to try one more time so I could have a little girl for Chris. He’s such a fun uncle to all our nieces, but I knew if we had a baby girl, he’d never be able to say no to her!
l’ll always remember how he would play and make faces with all babies and little kids while we were dating. It didn’t matter whether we were at church or with family around children we knew, or if we were complete strangers to a child in a store or restaurant, kids seemed to be drawn to him. I knew he would make an incredible father, thanks to moments like this, and that’s one of the things that made me fall in love with him. I was right; he is an incredible father!
With our first two boys, I was a stay-at-home mom. I’m grateful to Chris for making that time work because I know it wasn’t easy for us financially. Although teachers don’t make enough, losing my salary and insurance was quite a blow! Once Caleb started pre-school, and Seth started first grade, though, I began to toy with the idea of working outside our home again. I took a couple of long-term substitute teacher positions, which made it clear to both of us that I shouldn’t go back to teaching. Soon enough, Roxie and Matt talked to me about coming to work for them in The Cafe, which is how I joined the Fourth and Cherry family in 2011.
Fast-forward six years. By this point, I’m shuttling Seth and Caleb to school and extra-curricular activities, while working in The Café and as part of The Southern Mercantile team. I truly enjoy my job and feel as if I’m not only helping my family achieve their goals, but am starting to realize some of my own dreams. And then, I find out I’m pregnant again at 38 years old! (By the way, I turned 39 in March.) I must admit, I freaked out a little bit - my mind was reeling with thoughts of “I’m too old for this,” “My boys are old enough to do for themselves,” and “I don’t have time to have a baby!” When I revealed the news to Chris, I couldn’t tell if he was going to cry or pass out from the shock!
The first person I called was my sister, Marcy, who is a nurse practitioner in a maternal-fetal medicine practice, which means she deals with high-risk pregnant mothers. She has been such a valuable resource and voice of reassurance throughout my pregnancy - once she stopped laughing! Because of my “advanced maternal age,” I knew I would be referred to her practice, which was just fine with me. I trust my sister and wanted her to be as involved with my pregnancy as possible!
Once the initial shock of being pregnant wore off, my mind turned to worry and fear. I worried that I would miscarry early on, as I figured out I was pregnant around 5-6 weeks. Then, I worried I would have a later miscarriage, even into my second trimester. I worried about my baby having Down’s syndrome or some other chromosomal abnormality due to my age. There was a possibility that I could deal with Intrauterine Growth Restriction. And, the fact that Chris had a cerebral hemorrhage and seizures when he was born was a concern for the doctor, which made me worry about that.
You should know that I am not normally a worrier. When I do have irrational thoughts that flit through my mind, usually I can talk myself out of actually worrying about whatever is going on. With this pregnancy, though, I found that hard to do. I have had so many friends and family struggle with miscarriage, still birth, and infant loss, that it became a real fear for me. I had this horrible feeling that something terrible was going to happen to my baby, and then I would not only deal with grief, but also guilt over the fact that I felt so overwhelmed when I found out I was pregnant. For some reason, I had this irrational fear that I would never meet my baby, and I felt like it would be my fault.
At some point, after being reassured by my sister (and multiple test results) that my baby was growing as he should, with no signs of any abnormalities, I began to worry that my fear meant something terrible would happen to me instead. This made me worry more about leaving Chris, Seth, and Caleb behind to raise our baby boy. Instead of blaming me for losing him, would they blame him for losing me?
No one really knew how I was struggling. I’ve never understood how someone could be so paralyzed by fear and worry, but now I do. It is mentally taxing, and I see now how it can even be physically crippling. I prayed and prayed for God to grant me peace somehow, but it didn’t come. Until Easter Sunday.
I don’t remember much else about our Easter Sunday service, but I remember singing “Because He Lives.” And, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit about me like I never have. I’ve always loved that hymn, even as a child. When I sing this song, I hear my Mama’s sweet soprano voice singing it along with me. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the chorus:
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know, He holds the future.
And, life is worth the living, just because He lives.”
Such simple words, but so powerful. I’m wiping tears even now as I recall trying to sing along that morning. I was emotional then, but could still sing until we began the second verse:
“How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
and feel the pride and joy he gives.
But, greater still, the calm assurance,
this child can face uncertain days, because He lives!”
By this point, I was a blubbering mess, just trying to hold it together, hoping no one would notice! I felt God’s peace washing over me, a “calm assurance,” and “all fear is gone.” Somehow, no one else saw me falling apart, or at least they never said anything. I’ve told very few people about this experience so far, but felt compelled to share it with y’all. I want you to know how powerful God’s peace truly is, if you can allow the Holy Spirit to work in you. As Philippians 4:7 states, it really does surpass our understanding.
I left church Easter Sunday feeling so much lighter, even though my belly didn’t show it! And, wouldn't you know, God had already placed a reminder around me for when I would begin to fear again? A couple of years ago, my mother-in-law was cleaning out cabinets and found a plaque someone had given her when Chris was born. She passed it along to me, and somehow, that plaque ended up on the desk in the foyer of our home. What’s on the plaque? A copy of the hymn, “Because He Lives.” As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always loved this hymn, and as it turns out, this hymn brought great comfort to my mother-in-law when Chris was born with a cerebral hemorrhage and faced surgery once his seizures stopped. (That’s a miraculous story for another time!)
The week after Easter, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes; no surprise, given my family history and the fact that I had almost every risk factor on the list. This means I have to keep track of my blood sugars, and if I don’t keep them under control, my baby could grow too big, which could mean I would have to have a C-section. I’m now on medication, which has a slight risk for stillbirth, so I have to go to the doctor twice a week to monitor his heart rate, while I make sure he’s moving throughout every day. While these are valid reasons for me to be scared, I don’t worry like I did before, “because I know, He holds the future.” And, whatever happens, “life is worth the living, just because He lives!”
A big thank you to Summer Laurel Photography for our new family portraits.
As much as I love muscadines, I’ve never been a fan of a muscadine hull pie. I must admit, I’ve only tried a couple of slices, which weren’t all that bad, just not all that good either. It’s the concept that didn’t really appeal to me: squeezing the pulp and seeds out to cook down the skins of the muscadines to make a pie out of them?
Of course, I believe the idea came from what Southern cooking is best known for: making something delicious out of what you have on hand! Many folks make jelly out of muscadines, using only the pulp, leaving the skins behind. I’m sure what happened was some smart Southern woman decided she had worked too hard separating the skins from the pulp to just throw those skins away, so she made a pie out of the muscadine hulls! The idea must have caught on, because there are multiple variations on the same basic recipe. Now, I’m all about creatively repurposing leftovers, but since I don’t have to separate the muscadines by hand to make jelly, I’m certainly not going to do it just to make a hull pie!
Recently, a magazine contacted my husband, Chris, and asked for a recipe using muscadines with apples for a special piece featuring apples in North Georgia. Of course, he turned to me and asked, “Any ideas?” Although this was during our harvest season and fresh muscadines were abundant, I thought how much easier it would be to use one of our products made from muscadines that are available year-round. My favorite muscadine product is Paulk's Pride Muscadine Sauce. Maybe I could even combine it with apples to make a modern version of a muscadine hull pie?
So, I did what any good Southerner would do - I invited my best friends over for dinner and got to work! Chris took care of grilling steaks and vegetables I marinated while I chopped apples and made homemade ice cream. At least we’d have something delicious if the pie was a flop! After dinner, I proudly uncovered my creation and began to slice and serve it to raving reviews. Roxie declared it the best pie she’d ever eaten! Good thing, too, because I had to email the recipe later that week!
Paulk’s Pride Muscadine Apple Pie recipe was printed in the Fall 2017 issue of Georgia Connector magazine and is also available at www.paulkspride.com.
We’ve also made it into one of our Southern Mercantile recipe cards if you’d like to print it!
I sure hope you enjoy Paulk's Pride Muscadine Apple Pie as much as we have - we even served it in our Cafe during "Muscadine Week" in September!
Almost every southern cook I know has a recipe box or binder full of cards and slips of paper collected over the years from family, friends, and magazines. This is in addition to a cabinet full of cookbooks - from beautiful glossy picture-filled hardback books to spiral bound paperbacks filled with covered dish supper favorites and the name of the cook. My Mama had a dark wooden recipe box with a cornucopia painted on the top. She would pull it down from the cabinet above the stove, and we would know something delicious was about to happen in that kitchen.
When I got married, I received a recipe box, a couple of binders, and plenty of blank recipe cards. At the time, I had no recipes of my own to write on the cards and put in the binders or box! My mother-in-law gave me an old binder full of her and her mother’s recipes. This binder has become precious to me. Over the years, I have learned to make a few of those recipes, including my husband’s favorite - fresh peach cake for his birthday. (I shared this recipe in my blog Peach Cake.)
Last year, my Mama gave me the sweetest birthday present - her wooden recipe box! She included the card for my favorite meal as a child - Chicken Spaghetti! She’s also been working on typing up her other recipes to add to my collection. Of course, those in her own handwriting are the ones that are so dear to my heart. I have such sweet memories and feelings of home every time I look at that box.
Now that I have learned how to cook, I have lots of recipes in my everyday repertoire, and love gathering more. My problem is I have not organized all those recipes. I have a shelf full of cookbooks I’ve collected and lots of recipes scribbled here and there, but I don’t really have a system to organize them all. That’s one of those goals I’ve always hoped to get done, but never have! So, I’m trying to get my act together now, starting with our favorite recipe box from Rifle Paper Company. Choose from three different designs to match your kitchen and personality. We also have a cute Berry Basket Recipe Box you may prefer with its open top. And, all our recipes in the Recipe Archive are available in a printable format perfect for 4”x6” recipe cards to fit!
I look forward to organizing all my recipes - both old standbys and new favorites. Of course, I will still use recipes found online and in cookbooks; but, there is something nostalgic about reaching for a full recipe box. You can almost feel a connection to the cooks who have shared those recipes with you as well as the many southern cooks who have come before. And, what a wonderful gift for those who will come after us. One day, perhaps I can pass on a full recipe box to my daughter-in-law to help her become a great southern cook.
In 2002, Chris Paulk came home to start a new venture on his family’s farm and muscadine vineyard: creating products made from muscadines that would highlight their flavor and health benefits.
Today, Paulk’s Pride is a line of dietary supplements, juices, and jellies, and Chris employs 8-10 people year-round at his manufacturing facility located in the middle of Paulk Vineyards.
People are always amazed to see what’s hidden away in our rural county. Driving through 600 acres of muscadine vines makes folks feel as if they’ve been transported to a southern version of Napa Valley!
Processing such unique fruit requires some impressive equipment, beginning with presses which separate the juice from the seeds and skins, to a state-of-the-art bottling line to fill bottles with that juice, to many other machines which turn the seeds and skins into dietary supplements.
Making the jellies has become a joint effort, as The Southern Mercantile actually produces Paulk’s Pride Muscadine Jelly, Sauce, and Preserves, and they’re available in our store!
If you’re interested in Paulk’s Pride Muscadine Juices or supplements, visit paulkspride.com. You can learn more about the Paulk Family and Paulk Vineyards by going to paulkvineyards.com.
And, yes, Chris is Jorjanne’s husband! You can read more about their story in Jorjanne’s blogs "Muscadines, Grandma, & a Husband" or "Faithful in the Little Things".
With Easter around the corner, I started thinking about what recipe to share with y’all. A couple of years ago, I wrote about Deviled Eggs. You can even find our Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs Recipe Card in our Recipe Archive.
One of my favorite desserts has always been carrot cake. I mean, what better way to get your veggies than in dessert? Apparently, carrot cake has been around for centuries in Europe. Carrots were used to sweeten the cake instead of sugar, which was much more expensive. It became popular in the 1960s-70s in the United States. As is the case with so many things, here in the South, we’ve perfected carrot cake and made it our own. I’m not sure if carrot cake is a traditional Easter dessert for everyone, but it certainly is in my southern family!
I’ve seen carrot cakes decorated with cute little carrots made from marzipan or icing, as well as some that include candied ginger for a little extra zing, but my favorite is generously iced with the perfect cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with extra pecans or walnuts on top! Of course, like any cake, it’s imperative that carrot cake be moist. There’s not much worse than a dry cake. I enjoy a glass of milk with a piece of cake, but I don’t want to need the glass of milk to wash it down!
This recipe is precisely that perfect balance of moist cake and sweet, creamy frosting. Brenda, Roxie’s mother, created this cake for Terry, Roxie’s father, after he went wild over the carrot cake at the Smithsonian Museum restaurant one summer. She tried different recipes, then put together a patchwork of a recipe by combining parts of several to come up with the one Terry thought was wonderful. Terry likes to see and taste what is in the cake, so the pecans aren’t chopped very fine. Using crushed pineapple helps keep the cake moist, and Brenda is known for ensuring there is plenty of frosting to go with each bite of cake. She also saves a step and a bit of time by freezing the grated carrots when they’re close to going out of date, so she can be ready to make a carrot cake whenever she wants.
Click here to go to our Recipe Archive to find the Carrot Cake Recipe Card to print! We’d love to know if you use Brenda’s Carrot Cake recipe this Easter or any other time, for that matter! Take a picture and tag us on Facebook, so we can celebrate with you! If you have any other tips or ideas for Easter, feel free to share those with us, too!
I mentioned in my blog “Faithful in the Little Things” that my father grew up on the Irwinville Farms Project. Since many of you have probably never heard of it, I thought I’d take the time to explain it and the impact it made on a rural community.
The infrastructure that was built to sustain and improve this community helped the families to thrive and accomplish that. Schools, co-operative stores, churches, a gin, warehouses, a doctor’s office, not to mention the homes, barns, smokehouses, and such that were built on the farms provided all that these families needed to do well. The families were encouraged to make farm plans and keep records; the manager of the program educated the men on farming techniques, while the home economist taught the women how to plan meals and put up fruits and vegetables to feed their families throughout the year. Social activities were planned and everyone was encouraged to participate.
Because all these families worked together to lift each other up out of their collective suffering, the Irwinville Farms Project families grew into a tight-knit community. Years after the project ended, Irwinville still celebrates together every summer with a reunion, just like a family would. As a child, I never realized what the reunion was all about. I just thought it was normal for a community to gather together every year for meals, singing, and games!
The Irwinville Farms Project was successful in that nearly all the families who participated were able to purchase their farms from the government and continued to do well for their families. It truly was a helping hand, not just a hand-out. If you’d like to read more about it, you can read the report from 1939 in the National Archives by clicking here, or you can purchase the book, Irwinville Farms Project, written by Joy Wilson McDaniel at www.amazon.com. Another fantastic resource, from where most of these pictures came, is Irwinville Farms, A Digital Archive Curated by Brian Brown.
I grew up in a small town. Scratch that. I grew up in a rural community outside of a small town. Next door to my grandparents’ farm and within a mile of the county line, I was the first one on the school bus every morning and the last one off every afternoon. Keep in mind, we have one elementary school, while the middle and high schools share a campus, for the entire county!
That summer of 2001 was so eye-opening and the best way we could have started our marriage. We did have a team to work with, and we lived with a young couple and their toddler daughter, but we really only had each other and God to lean on. There were breakdowns and culture shock, all of which brought us closer together.
After that summer, we went back to our normal lives in Atlanta, Chris completing his final classes and working part-time with a civil engineering firm, while I began my first year teaching middle school. Even though this was the life we had always dreamed of, something was still missing. We felt like we had left part of our hearts in Brazil and began to have new dreams of going back. Soon, we were presented with the opportunity to go back to Brazil as full-time missionaries and help create a Globalscope campus ministry. We were so excited!
The following spring (2002), Chris’s family farm was featured on a Food Network show called “Food Finds.” If you’ve read my blog “Muscadines, Grandma, and a Husband,” you’ll know that his family grows muscadine grapes. Chris’s grandfather, father, and uncle were interviewed for the show, which focused on the capsules “Papa Jacob” was making from the seeds of the muscadines and the health benefits they offered. At the time, he was making them by hand in his home office. I remember watching the show in our little apartment with one of our friends from Ocilla who also lived in Atlanta. Afterward, we all just giggled and stared at each other, amazed and bewildered at what we had just seen on TV!
Over the following year, it became more and more evident to us that we were supposed to stay in Irwin County. Serving God was our first priority, but we realized that we didn’t have to leave the country to do that. Looking back now, I can see how God worked through us and the chain-reaction of events that continue as a result of our decision to stay.
That summer, I discovered I was pregnant! Chris and I wanted to share our exciting news with our family in a fun way, so we went to The Shoppes at Fourth and Cherry to purchase a frame for our ultrasound picture. Roxie was at the register, so she was technically the first person we told that we were expecting. We had always known Roxie, since we went to high school together, but we weren’t close friends at the time. Little did I know how close we would grow!
Thirteen years ago, we could not have known how our decisions would affect the course of our own lives, much less so many others. Although we always tried to be faithful to what we believed to be God’s will, we haven’t always understood while in the middle of it. So many times, we’ve wondered what life would be like had we gone to Brazil. Our boys think it’s crazy that they would know how to speak Portuguese! We still have a special place in our hearts for the people of Brazil. I used to wonder if we missed God’s will by not going to Brazil. And, while I know that God would have used us there, I feel like our purpose is to be here, in this small town, to encourage this community, and to share it with the rest of the world. I feel like for the last thirteen years, we’ve been on the cusp of something great in so many areas.
The older I get, the more I grow to love Fall! Cooler mornings, turning leaves, the scent of freshly-dug peanuts have all become a few of my favorite things. I love how going back to school puts our family back in a routine after the freedom of summer. I also love celebrating the season at family reunions, fall festivals, really any holiday gathering.
Our family truly enjoys participating in our church’s “Trick-Or-Trunk,” which is our Halloween/Fall Festival type celebration. Since our church is located way out in the country, most children in our church don't get to go trick-or-treating. (Side note: I went trick-or-treating one time when I was a kid. My mama had to call ahead to let folks know we were coming to their house so they would be prepared to pass out candy. I think we drove around for two hours, visited 4-5 houses, and received a handful of candy. I did have an awesome “Bride of Frankenstein” costume, thanks to my crafty mama!) Stories like mine are what inspired “Trick-or-Trunk.” Church members park their cars in a circle, with their trunks facing inside the circle. They open and decorate their trunks, then once it gets dark, pass out candy to the children as they walk around the circle in their cute costumes. For many of these kids, it’s the only chance they have to trick-or-treat. For many of the adults, it’s a fun time to get dressed up, escape reality, and just enjoy themselves for a little while!
Throughout the years, our family has dressed up in various themes, usually in homemade costumes. It’s become a sort of tradition to decide what we’re going to be, then figure out how to make the costumes. Many times we’ve been superheroes and villains, but also movie characters, and this year - a family of trophies! My boys were champion tennis and soccer player trophies, while my husband and I snuck in a bit of adult humor: his plaque read “I Tried (participation award),” and mine read “World’s Okayest Runner!” We just love to have fun together!
This fall, we’ve already had two family reunions, are helping host a church youth retreat, have attended two festivals with more on the calendar, in addition to regular family and church holiday celebrations coming up. Now, you know that here in the South, we enjoy our celebrations, and the fact that they always revolve around food! And, confession time: I, like so many others, love pumpkin-flavored anything - I get positively giddy at my first pumpkin-spiced latte of the season! Since we have so many gatherings, I have a few recipes that I keep in mind to bring to the table. Harvest Cobb Salad is a great one, with sliced apples and pears, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, boiled eggs, and poppy seed dressing. Of course, green bean or hash brown casseroles are traditional, and usually enjoyed by most folks. I always like to bring something a little different, though. This year, I took a bread pudding recipe I’ve made many times and swapped a out a few ingredients to make a yummy Pumpkin Raisin-Bread Pudding! Even my boys, who don’t care much for bread pudding, loved it! It always makes me happy to make something my boys really enjoy!
Be sure to join our Recipe Club to receive a free printable recipe card with my Pumpkin Raisin-Bread Pudding recipe on it. This is a great dish to serve as dessert, but it’s also delicious for brunch!
Confession time: I am not a morning person. Like, NOT. at. all. I move at a sloth-like pace until about 8:30. Always have - you can ask my Mama! Unfortunately, I need to leave the house at 7:30 to get both boys to both schools by 7:50. Since they’re not tardy until 8:00, and my children take after their mother, that means there’s a frenzy of activity about 7:25 that usually lasts until 7:35-7:40 - searching for socks in the dryer, signing papers, yelling “I need money” and “Did you brush your teeth?” and “Let’s go! Get in the car!” Please tell me I’m not the only one here?
So, packing lunches every morning becomes one more thing to remember at the last minute that causes stress and panic. And, of course, I’m trying to raise my boys to be independent men who are comfortable in the kitchen. They have great role models in their Daddy and Papa! So, I thought to myself, “Why can’t they pack their own lunches?” Cue spotlight and angels singing.
After much research (read: way too much time spent on Pinterest), I created a system where they can pack their own lunches. I had everything all set up at the beginning of last school year, and it worked great! For a couple of weeks. Then, my car decided to wrap itself around a tree. Since I had just stocked everything, my system worked well for my husband who suddenly found himself playing the role of “Mr. Mom.” Then, suddenly, the baskets were empty. And, since my loving church family kept bringing food so my family would survive without me in the kitchen, there was no room for baskets in my over-flowing refrigerator! I couldn’t drive or work, so I didn’t have any place to be at any particular time. Because of that, packing lunches didn't stress me out like it once did, and that was one thing I could do to be helpful.
Here we are, a year later, and I’m trying to get my system back into place. Now that my older son is in middle school where there are more options, and all our schools now have free lunch (high-fives all around!), he usually eats in the cafeteria. That helps me tremendously! My younger son tends to be a little more picky. Not like he’ll only eat chicken tenders and french fries, but more like he sometimes wants all fruit in his lunchbox. He usually doesn’t care for his foods to be mixed together, although he loves nachos. And, texture plays a big part in whether or not he likes a food - french fries and oven roasted potatoes are fine, baked or mashed potatoes are not. He has eaten a whole tomato like an apple and entire containers of cherry tomatoes, loves chili and spaghetti, but doesn’t like “cooked” tomatoes. Somehow, all his food preferences make sense to me, but because the school cafeteria that has hundreds of kids to feed every day doesn’t tend to cater to what one child likes, if I don’t want him to go hungry, then we’re packing his lunch.
So, my system is pretty simple. I fix the “entree” of his lunchbox, whether it’s leftover taco soup in a thermos, a turkey bacon ranch wrap, a chef salad, or his all-time favorite, the old standby, PB&J, with Southern Mercantile Jam (any flavor, he loves them all!). Sometimes, on super busy mornings (or when I’m moving especially slowly) he’ll just grab a nachos or pizza Lunchable. Really, I’m just trying to give him something with protein that will fill him up. He also really likes cheese (real cheese, not string cheese) and yogurt, so I encourage him to grab one of those if I think he needs a little more protein or dairy.
Next, I have a basket of fruits and veggies from which he can pick two. I try to prepare ahead of time and have bags of cut-up celery, baby carrots, or grapes ready to go, but there are also apples and clementines..
In the pantry, I have two baskets. He can pick one from each, which usually gives him something sweet and something salty.
It’s so easy to fill a lunchbox with junk because it’s shelf-stable, and I try to go to the grocery store only once a week. I’m trying to teach my boys to make healthier choices, though, which means I have to limit what they eat out of the pantry. That’s one reason I like having the system of baskets. I set the guidelines by deciding what goes in each basket and how many items he can have from them, but he gets to choose what he wants in his lunchbox, so he feels empowered and independent. That’s a win-win for me!
Maybe you have your own system for packing lunches. Or, maybe you have an ingenious system to help with some other daily chore. If you have any tips to share, we’d love to hear them! Share your ideas here on The Southern Mercantile blog or on our Facebook page.
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