Lunchbox Treats That Aren’t So Bad For Them

I do my best, but packing lunches gets boring after a while. Depending on what we have in the cabinets, I toss in granola bars, pudding packs, applesauce, or the rare homemade chocolate chip cookie. I also slice fruit — usually apples — and put the slices in a plastic bag and squeeze in a few drops of lemon or lime juice to prevent browning. Two days out of five those fruit slices come back home with one or the other child, but then that becomes his after-school snack.

In our awesome Scout Box from the Savvy Sassy Moms Product Scouts Program we found a few great new snacks to try. I’m happy to report that among my two boys, all of the snacks were a hit for either or both of them. And two of them are being demanded to make repeat appearances. Both of those products are from Plum Organics, the company that makes nutritious organic food for kids from babies to …well, let’s just say adults have eaten their foods, too.

boy eating plum organics mash ups

Fruit & Veggie Mashups: These are like those apple sauce pouches that you slurp the applesauce out of, eliminating the need for a spoon to be packed in the lunch. Plus the little caps can be recycled. I had tried out these squishy packs from a different brand over a year ago and neither of my kids liked them. I guess my 3rd-grader forgot all about that failed experiment, because he ate two of these “beetbox berry” flavored pouches right after we opened the box. Then he asked me to buy them again. I don’t think he knows there are beets in the recipe…

IMG_2242Plum Organics Mashups: $3.99 for a box of 4

It’s kind of awesome that each of the boys picked a thing they liked because they didn’t have to fight over who got to eat the most of any certain snack. The 10-year-old had to contend with me, though, when it came to the Jammy Sammy box:

IMG_2243Plum Organics Jammy Sammy snacks: $4.19 for a box of 5

Because hello, it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich snack! What could be better? Actually, their school recommends peanut-free snacks, so this selection was great for other outings, or an after-school snack. And for Mom. They also come in peanut-free flavors.

Another snack we wouldn’t have normally tried but was a pleasant surprise for all of us was the box of Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies. Better than the alternative (that I usually buy) these bunny snacks contain 100% real cheese, organic wheat, and absolutely no artificial flavors, synthetic colors or synthetic preservatives. This box didn’t even make it to the first day of school.

IMG_2244Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies: $5.09 for 7.65 oz box

Gummies that are good for you: this isn’t exactly a traditional lunchbox item, but it could be added in a fun little container for your child to discover a tasty treat while at school. Smarty Pants gummy vitamins look like gumdrops – they are sprinkled with organic sugar! – but they are not candy. These sweet chewables are multivitamins that are great for kids and grownups too. One out of two of my kids absolutely loves them, and requests them. Who ever heard of a kid requesting to take his vitamins?

boy with smarty pants vitamin gummiesSmartyPants Vitamins: $24.95 for a one-month supply

What snacks do you put into your kids’ lunch boxes or bags? I’d love other suggestions, because even I get bored putting the same old things in their bags every day.

It’s Time For Dodgers Baseball. Budget Wisely, and You’ll Have a Great Time!

Summertime is baseball time, and LA-area residents can get the ultimate baseball fan experience at Dodger Stadium this year.

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From personal experience over two recent Dodgers games, I can tell you that you will need to budget your time and/or money just right for everyone involved to have a good time. For the first game we went as regular people, paying out of pocket and standing in line and almost getting killed in the parking lot. The second time, we were guests of the Dodgers to check out their promo plans and new food choices – for this we got really good tickets and parking, which obvs is the way to go and if I take my son back I will definitely be working an extra job to spring for the $$ tickets and parking or taking the shuttle to the stadium.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you plan your attendance at a Dodgers game this summer.

Choice of Game

The Dodgers organization is pulling out all the stops to get people to come to the stadium. Many fans are riveted to the game itself, but if you are bringing little kids or people who aren’t into baseball, there are features for them to look forward to also. On Friday nights this summer there will be fireworks after the game. On select Saturdays, there will be movie screenings after games. And on July 4 there will be a big Independence Day celebration after the game, just for ticket holders.

dodgers bobblehead(Image from Dodgers Twitter feed)

There are also “promotional” games, when they give out a gift like a bobblehead doll or a branded collapsible laundry basket or spray bottle fan, among other things. While these may seem like cool things to get with the cost of your ticket, be warned: these tend to be the most crowded games. Our first visit was on Adrian Gonzalez bobblehead night. Big mistake. Tickets were expensive, the stadium was sold out, and even though we pre-paid for parking, it was a disaster. (See below.) We didn’t even get the bobbleheads, because they were out of them by the time we got to the gate. Our companions who arrived on time didn’t get them either. The promo items are only guaranteed to the first 40,000 ticket holders, and we saw people holding two and three bobbleheads. Not that we need another tchotchke in our house, but our kids were pretty disappointed.

To avoid the crowds, cost, and long lines (30 minutes or more!) at the concession stands, choose a weeknight game that is not offering a promotional item or special event. Easier to focus on the actual baseball that way anyway!

Get There Early

Leave early. If you think you’re leaving really early, leave earlier. Especially coming from Agoura Hills, this is a big one. Traffic can make your trip take over an hour, and once you get to the stadium, if you are arriving close to game time (or it’s a sold out game and you arrive an hour ahead of time) you will be stuck in parking lines, even though they sell “preferred” parking and advertise that this is meant to move lines along faster. I really hope they improve this plan, because it did not work on our first visit.

Even with pre-paid parking and arriving over an hour before game time, this is where I had to park, in a satellite lot up at the top of a mountain:

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After the game I walked back up with my son and my father and we were nearly run over by a drunk driver – even staff with reflective vests on acknowledged that she was drunk, but didn’t seem moved to do anything about it – and there were no lights on the road. Don’t risk your life for the Dodgers. If you’re coming to a sold out game, you should park at Union Station and take the Dodger Express bus from there to the stadium – it’s free if you’ve purchased your game ticket in advance. Our friends chose that option and had a much easier time.

On our second trip we arrived 2 hours early. At that time most of the parking was empty, so that might be a good move if you’re just a regular person parking in general parking. As guests of the Dodgers we had preferred parking which was closer to the stadium and also allowed our exit to be quick and smooth right after the game was over.

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This made our journey much easier and gave us lots of time to kill checking out the concessions and cool things in the stadium. Also if you get there early they let you watch batting practice.

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Buy the Good Seats

For the promotional/special event games, tickets will be more expensive. So if you want good seats, depending on what that means to you, you’ll spend less if you go to less crowded games.

We sat in the Reserved level behind home plate during the first visit, and that was okay, but it was kind of annoying when people got up to use the bathroom or go to concessions because you’re packed in so tightly. Most of the fans around us were respectful and nice, but a few were smoking (which, um, is illegal in the stadium, WTF) or spilled beer or were just generally unfriendly. Not fun especially if you’ve got your kids with you.

During the blogger event we were on the club level and I don’t know how much those tickets cost (I’m betting a lot) but that is the way to go, man. Seat-side service, much less crowded, great view of the field. And it has its own concession stand, too.

Budget For Food

The food is different at stands all around the stadium, and this season the Dodgers are introducing lots of new items, which my son and I sampled at the blogger event.

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Our favorite was the Pop Fly Extreme Dodger Dog, which you can get on the Field level (aisle 48). There are loaded nachos served in helmets, special ice cream sandwiches, a spicy michelada, pizza topped with giant pepperoni, and more. The new items are scattered all over the stadium so here’s a handy guide.

Enjoy the Game

The whole point is the baseball, though, right? My younger son is riveted by the action itself, so he doesn’t need a lot of snacks and he didn’t even want to leave his seat to go to the restroom. It’s worth the entire effort just to see his face as Yael Puig or Joc Pederson fires the ball over the fence.

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One thing he is excited to check out is that after Sunday games played during the day, kids 14 and under are allowed to run the bases! Families can line up in center field after the game is over and get the experience of running on the Dodger infield.

The bottom line is that for us to attend a Dodger game without worrying about traffic safety, we need to budget a lot of time. To enjoy¬† the snacks and good seats, we need to budget a lot of money. It’s no easy matter – it’s almost like going to Disneyland now – but it’s fun to do if you can devote the money and the time to doing it right.

Introducing Lucy’s – Safe, Tasty Cookies and Treats [Giveaway]

Lucys Blogger Tea Event
Last month I attended a lovely little event at the amazing Whole Foods store in Pasadena hosted by Savvy Sassy Moms. I must confess I haven’t yet been to the location in Thousand Oaks, but if it’s half as large and full of amenities as its Pasadena counterpart, well, I’m going to have to make a little field trip out there.

There’s another reason to splurge on a Whole Foods shopping trip, too. Lucy’s brand cookies and treats which are made without wheat, gluten, dairy milks, butter, eggs, casein, peanuts, or tree nuts. I know you are wondering “but how do they taste?” because I wondered that, too. Many boxes of Lucy’s cookies later, I can tell you that they all taste delicious, but I have my favorite!

Once upon a time, Dr. Lucy Gibney was a practicing emergency room physician. When she was returning to work after maternity leave following the birth of her son, she and her husband gave him his first bottle of formula. He was only 3 months old. That very first bottle induced an anaphylactic reaction, and the baby was rushed to the hospital – thankfully he got through it and was just fine. Subsequently, he was diagnosed with severe food allergies to everything under the sun. Over the next few years, Dr. Gibney devoted herself to developing recipes for cookies that her son would be able to eat safely and also enjoy. And that’s how Lucy’s brand was born.

Now Lucy’s brand snacks are sold in 7,000 stores nationwide and also online. Cookies come in Chocolate Chip,Sugar Cookie, Cinnamon Thin, Oatmeal Cookie, Ginger Snap, Maple Bliss, and Chocolate flavors. And they make chocolate Brownie Cakes, too.

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Dr. Lucy Gibney shows us a photo of her son, 21st century style

At the event in Pasadena, Dr. Gibney told the gathered crowd of local bloggers her story and answered numerous questions, even after a breathtaking few days at the huge Natural Products Expo West. We were all given samples of the cookies and brownies to eat at the event and to take home. I snuck the Snack ‘n Go packs into my kids’ and husband’s lunches the following week, and basically gave the cookies to whomever I saw. Plus, I tried all the flavors myself.

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You probably assumed I would have chosen the chocolate cookies or Brownie Cakes. Surprise! I can tell you without a doubt that the Maple Bliss cookies are my absolute favorite. As thankful as I am that neither my children, nor I, are allergic any foods (that I know of), we all enjoyed these cookies, and were grateful to eat them with glasses of cold dairy milk.

At $4.99 – $5.99 per 5.5 ounce box, these cookies are definitely a splurge, but they’re especially great for younger kids who are satisfied with just a couple of cookies at a time. Me? I could eat a whole box at once!

An added bonus of the gathering that day was the presence of Ambiance Salon, a shop that recently opened nearby on Lake Ave. It’s a little known fact that when I first moved to California from Connecticut in 1995, I lived in an apartment building right in that neighborhood with my best college pal, Lisa. I have a special place in my heart for that town, so I am happy to tell you that the staff from Ambiance feels that way too. They did a lovely job dolling up some of the attendees at this event, and they even had a very talented braid artist present!

Lucys Tea Braid Bar

That’s the back of my head, upper left!

Lucy’s is giving away a box of their cookies or brownie cakes to a lucky reader of this site. Leave a comment here by 11:59 PM on April 8 and indicate which flavor you’d like to try (check them all out here before you pick). I will pick a random winner from qualified entries and that person will receive a box of treats in the mail! US Only.