IN THE NEWS: Picky Eater? Don’t Sweat It!

by Samantha on August 28, 2015

Follow these simple tips when packing your child's lunchbox

School lunches can be a headache for parents who have the good fortune [*sarcasm*] of having a picky eater on their hands. Worrying about whether your child has eaten during school hours, or envisioning them hungry and miserable is the fear of many parents.

As we send out kids to school with the hopes that they’ll eat what we’ve packed in their lunches, we often spend much of our day stressing about whether they’ve actually eaten any of the various items that we’ve packed in their lunch boxes. The sheer stress and anxiety felt when we unpack these same lunch boxes at the end of the day to reveal that our precious child has eaten very little - and sometimes nothing - for a full school day is almost too much for one to bear. As a mom who admits to having just a few “issues” with food and kids [read: I’m afraid that they will starve when they’re not within the range of my gaze], finding a solution has been of pressing importance.


Picky eater boy

Surprisingly, I’ve found that trying to get a substantial, nutritious meal into your child while they’re at school isn’t completely impossible. As a matter of fact, the good news is that there are ways of getting your picky little eater to actually eat. By employing a few creative (and sometimes sneaky) strategies, you’ll be guaranteed to experience an empty lunchbox and to breathe a sigh of relief that your child has actually eaten their lunch.

I was recently asked by The Toronto Sun to provide some simple tips and strategies that parents can use to help their picky eaters to eat what is packed in their school lunches every day.

You can read the article and tips here:

Back to School Ideas For Picky Eaters

Check out my tips and advice and let me know what other strategies you have used in the past to get your kids to eat their lunches.

And on a lighter note, in the spirit of the subject at hand, here you go:

Eat It - Weird Al Yankovic



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VIDEO: How to Save Money Grocery Shopping

by Samantha on July 27, 2015

Here are 10 tips that will help you save money at the supermarket

vintage grocery

We all know that raising a family on a budget is a challenge, to say the least! With the price of food skyrocketing daily, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stretch our family dollar as much as possible.

While the prospect of going to the supermarket and stocking up every week is daunting for most of us, there are some simple tips that parents can follow to decrease the amount of money spent on groceries.

Whether you’re dealing with spending too much money at the grocery store, or managing a meltdown in the cereal aisle, there are options that can make parents breathe easier while at the supermarket, with or without the kids. And speaking of kids, this is what I deal with when shopping with the children. Fun? You betcha! 😉

kids in cart

As a follow up to this post - How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill - Top 10 Tips For Parents - I’ve provided tips via YouTube video as well, for those of you who may not have the time to read the full post.

Check it out the video below and let me know what you think about the tips (either in the comments section below or via YouTube comments). Feel free to add some additional tips as well! If there are enough, I’ll include them in an updated follow-up post. And while you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure that you receive the most recent video tips and advice!
VIDEO: How to Save Money Grocery Shopping - Top 10 Tips For Parents


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Simple money-saving strategies for families


That will be $257.43, please.

Ouch! That hurt!

Grocery shopping for a family of growing kids can be ridiculously expensive, as I’ve painfully found out. With a weekly shop a necessary requirement, a visit to the supermarket can bring on feelings of not only anxiety but downright fear as well. Pockets and wallets are only so deep and the thought of cleaning out the financial reserves in order to put food on the table can make any parent break out into a cold sweat.

With three growing kids and two adults, my grocery bill can be pretty hair-raising at times. Despite my best efforts, it’s definitely a challenge staying within a budget and making sure that my family dollars are stretched as much as possible.

That being said, there are some tricks that I’ve figured out that allow for greater savings and less money being handed over at the checkout. For anyone who’s been challenged to shop on a budget, these simple tips can really make a difference.

Here are my Top 10 Tips For Saving Money on Your Grocery Bill

1) Keep Up With Store Sales  - Get ahead of the game by knowing what the best deals are in your local area. Check all of the store flyers regularly (both print and online) and scour them for deals. Sign up for email newsletters and store memberships (where applicable) and watch your savings grow.

2) Be Fickle! - Don’t commit to just one grocery store. In keeping with Tip #1, know what’s on sale and also where it’s on sale. If the product or food item that you need is cheaper at a location other than your regular grocery store or supermarket, make the trip to that location and make it worth your while, financially. Map out a course of action and pick up your needed food items wherever they’re most economically priced for maximum savings.

3) Use Coupons - Whether it’s a manufacturer’s coupon or a store coupon, take any opportunity you have to save using these items. Look at coupons as free money: you have the option of saving, so why not? To not use coupons on your frequently-purchased items is almost the same as throwing money away. With online options and digital downloads available for most coupons, they are easily scanned from your smartph0ne or mobile device - no clipping required. There are also a number of coupon apps that take the guesswork and tedium of coupon clipping non-existent. **Scroll down to the end of the post for the top 10 coupon apps for both Android and iOS**

4) Shop in Season - Quite simply, fruits and vegetables that are seasonal are less expensive than those that are not. Think of it: a mango in a New York winter or a pumpkin in the dog days of summer means that both items have been transported from far-reaching locales. In addition to the obvious carbon footprint that the item will have, you’ll also have to contend with the high price required to transport the item from distant locals to your local supermarket. Shop for fruits and vegetables that are in season and help both your bank account and the environment.

5) Buy Store Brands - A little-known secret of supermarkets as well as many consumer goods stores is that they often sell name-brand products under a “white label” banner. In other words, those store-brand potato chips or acetaminophen could very well be the more expensive name brand items (e.g. Lays Potato Chips or Tylenol) in disguise. It is a very well-known and common practice for the makers of many name-brand products to offer the exact same items to consumers under the particular store brand where they are sold. In other words, these items are just as good as name brands and, even better,  you can often save up to a third or more off the name brand price. When it comes to groceries, consider buying store brand items for extra savings.

6) Don’t Shop When You’re Hungry - Perusing the aisles of your favourite grocery store on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster (pun intended). Before you head into the cereal aisle, make sure you’ve eaten enough that you’r full and not easily tempted by those unplanned snacks that beckon as you try to stick to your list. By eating before grocery shopping, there will be less likelihood that you will give in to a craving for the unplanned (and often expensive and unhealthy) food item in front of you.

7) Know Your Prices - To maximize the amount of money that you can save, make sure you go into the supermarket with a good idea of what things should cost and what your budget is for that particular day. As with any expedition, research and knowledge will help you achieve your goal - in this instance, saving money - and will arm you with the confidence to make the right food choices at the grocery store. Having a general idea about how much particular items cost will allow you to stay within your planned budgetary range and will lower your chance of overspending.

8) Buy Frozen or Canned Foods - Many foods that are frozen and canned are just as good for use in family recipes as fresh items, which are more expensive. If you’re down to the wire financially but are still on the hook to make a reasonably-balanced and healthy meal for the family, look no further than the frozen aisle of the grocery store and start saving. Examples of fresh food items that can be substituted for frozen in various recipes include frozen spinach in vegetarian lasagna, frozen peas for tuna casserole and canned tomatoes for homemade pasta sauce. (On a related note, always have some canned goods and non-perishable staples on hand so that you can rustle up a meal when you’re down to the wire and have to go grocery shopping. These included tomato paste, canned tomatoes, pasta, flour, sugar butter, etc.)

9) Make A Meal With What You’ve Got - Once a week, go through your cupboards, pantry, fridge and freezer and get creative! Make a meal out of your existing food items to make sure that nothing is going to waste. Doing so will not only save you money but will give you a better perspective on what foods are being eaten - or not.

10) Buy in Bulk - For certain items, buying in bulk can make a considerable difference in your total weekly food bill. Whether it’s stocking up on staples such as flour or rice, or purchasing “bulk size” items such as toilet paper or diapers, check your prices, particularly the unit price and start saving.

So as you can see, following a few simple strategies while grocery shopping can result in considerable savings for a family on a budget. All it takes is a little bit of planning in order to get the most “bang for your buck.”

Remember, before you go to the supermarket:
  • Plan ahead
  • Have your coupons ready
  • Eat! Don’t shop while hungry
  • Frozen and canned goods can make cost-effective substitutes
  • Buy in season
  • Choose store brands wherever possible


The Top 10 Coupon Apps for Android

The Top 10 Coupon Apps for iOS

VIDEO: How to Save Money Grocery Shopping

What are some of your tips and tricks for saving money at the grocery store? Tell me about it in the comment section below.


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Are Parents to Blame For Picky Eaters?

by Samantha on June 20, 2015

Whose fault is it when kids refuse to eat what's put in front of them?

girl picky eater

We’ve all dealt with the picky eating habits of our kids at one time or another. Whether it’s a disdain for broccoli or a dislike of asparagus, most parents have had to negotiate with their children about certain types of food that said child has deemed “gross.” I’ve done it myself and have used every trick in the book to get my kids to eat what I think to be a balanced and sufficient meal.

But what about those kids who consistently decline most food items put in front of them, demanding, instead another meal selection, snack or pronouncing a downright refusal to eat at all? What about them? Where did they get their chutzpah?

At the risk of being scolded, may I suggest that it may very well be from their parents?

Yes, their parents.

It’s safe to say that many kids are picky eaters because their parents have coddled them. Through fear that they will eat nothing and - gasp - go to bed hungry, they have been provided with their own personal chef and concierge, taking orders and serving meals on demand.

In many households, it is the child (or children) who have been allowed to dictate what is being served. In these homes, the parent(s) gives in to the child’s demands and makes special or separate meals for them. How many of us have given in and said, “okay, if you don’t want to eat this, I’ll make you something else?”

Guilty as charged. And it’s not a stretch to assume that you are too.

As parents (and mothers in particular - there, I said it), we worry about our children’s every need. Whether it’s the fact that they have a runny nose, a fever or the fear that they haven’t had enough to eat (in our opinion), so many of us feel the need to rectify the situation at any cost. It’s this parental instinct that takes over and shifts the balance of power from the parent to the child.

In the case of picky eating, the tendency for the parent to give in to the child’s refusal to eat sets up an expectation that all demands and requests will be accommodated.

In these scenarios, the child feels that they are in control and they don’t have to try anything. Also, it sets them up for unrealistic expectations as adults that they will be given in to whatever they ask for.

Allowing kids to set the stage for meals is just one example of the growing trend towards a child-centred philosophy of parenting. The rise of “helicopter parenting”and an age where over-protection is the norm, not the exception, just feeds (pun intended) kids desire to have all of their demands fulfilled.

Unfortunately, giving in to these demands just sets up kids for unrealistic expectations in the future. As difficult as it may be, it’s in our kids’ best interests to not always give in to their demands, particularly regarding food choices. In the absence of a specific allergy or inability to digest certain foods, what’s on the table for dinner should be just that - dinner, with no option for choice. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, when I was a kid, there was no choice - each meal was what we were eating and that was it. No consulting with us kids about whether or not they wanted to eat it, what they wanted instead, or why they didn’t like it. Not eating meant that they’d likely have a grumbling tummy and a voracious appetite the following morning.

It’s a hard thing to do, denying your child their preference for food, as there’s always the fear that they’ll starve. They won’t. Especially if there’s a fridge full of food and a healthy balanced meal in front of them that they have chosen not to eat. As difficult as it may be, as parents, we are obliged to teach our kids that there are not always choices in life. As they grow up and later when they become adults, they will need to know that sometimes, the luxury of choice is absent. More importantly, it’s crucial that children learn early to be flexible, accommodating and that sometimes they will have to just go with the flow and deal with the situation at hand instead of assuming that there will be an option. There won’t always be one.

Is your child a picky eater? How do you respond when your child won’t eat their meal? Do you give in or say “no?” Tell me about it in the comments section below.


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Let Them Eat Cake…From A Box

by Samantha on June 13, 2014

Cake mix part of many parents' secret cooking arsenal

vintage mom and child making cake

“Mom, remember?! I need cupcakes for my bake sale tomorrow!!”

A cold sweat broke out all over my body and visions of cake-making late into the night entered my head. I was tired. I was beat. I didn’t want to do it. But, like so many of us, I felt that pressure to “not be that mom,” you know - the one who never does anything for their kid’s school events. Truth be told, I was already nearly “that mom,” because my level of school engagement with my kids’ activities is woefully low. But I digress.

On my way home, I dashed into the nearest convenience store and bought some Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake Mix along with a jar of “frosting” (yes, the term for this chemical concoction is questionable). Yup. I was going to take the easy route with the boxed cake mix. The shame.

My feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mother were only superseded by my sense of relief that I didn’t have to make a real cake - you know, the kind that you painstakingly and lovingly make from scratch. To do it well, we all know that the right measurements, the right ingredients (real baker’s chocolate, no less) and the right amount of mixing will result in that perfect dessert.

After dinner, after the boys’ baths and well before I could hit the hay for the evening, I cracked open the box. Water? Check. Eggs? Of course. Vegetable oil? Got it. This was going to be a breeze.

The final product didn’t disappoint and, I figured, the kids at school would be none the wiser.

My guilt, however, hadn’t abated.

“What kind of mom am I, really?!,” I asked myself. “I mean, c’mon! I shouldn’t be making cake from a box for my kid’s bake sale!” Somewhere in the not-too-far regions of my psyche, making cupcakes from a cake mix equates somewhere along the lines of serving SPAM as part of a balanced meal.

Like I often do, I posted a picture of the cake box on my Facebook Fan Page with the following caption:

“My daughter needs cupcakes for her bake sale tomorrow and I’m taking the easy way out Tell me I’m not alone! #NotMomOfTheYear”

The post hit a nerve. Apparently I’ve been wrong all along. Cake mix is apparently part of the secret arsenal of moms and dads in the know. Contrary to popular belief, parents are not lovingly baking cakes from scratch, à la Martha Stewart. No, they are taking the easy (and possibly smarter) way out by cracking open a box and calling it a day. Guilt was nowhere in the equation as people gleefully responded about how this is the only way that they make cake for their kids, bake sale or not.

What a revelation. What a relief.

After being sold a bill of goods how “scratch cakes” were the obvious choice for “good” parents, it was heartening to learn that most of us have been faking it all along. We’re baking via the help of Betty Crocker, and doing so happily.

By guiltily admitting my “failure” as a parent on my Facebook page, I was relieved to learn that I’m not alone in my parenting strategies. After all, for those of us who have been parents for some time, we all know that “faking it” is a big part of the gig.

I’ve written before about the myth of the perfect parent, as well as about the guilt we often feel, trying to be all things to all people, especially our kids. Our collective fear of not doing right by our children, by taking the “easy way out” and the fact that we are often not meeting our own expectations of what it means to be a good mom or dad adds to our feelings of parental inadequacy. Yet, it appears that our self-criticism is not based in reality. We’re our own worse enemies, apparently. The reality is that other parents are doing what they need to do to get things done. Sometimes that means dinner at McDonalds. Other times, it’s cake from a box.

And so what?

Usually, it’s not others who are passing judgement on ourselves, it’s us. We are more critical of ourselves than any “perfect” parent could ever be. And if I may go out on a limb here, women - moms in particular - are even more hyper-critical of their abilities to do things right by their kids, their families and their jobs.

We’re furtively making boxed cake late into the evening and then, many of us are passing it off as “homemade” because we can’t bear to admit that we took the easy way out. Why? Why should we care about others’ expectations of us, especially as it relates to our parenting abilities? The kids are happy, they have their baked goodies and we’ve made life easier for ourselves, not having to stress about the perfect measurements and techniques required to make that baked masterpiece. Betty Crocker has done it for us and put it into a box, no less. Let’s be thankful for that.

And so, the takeaway lesson from this whole experience is a simple one: the next time you have to deliver for your child’s bake sale, school event or birthday party, throw caution to the wind and unashamedly crack open a box of cake mix. Leave the guilt behind and save yourself from the stress.

Let them eat cake!

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