New Leaf Energy Heads Back to School with our August Pinterest Roundup

August is over and school has begun – for most, anyway! We can see that our customers and fans have been busy all over social media sharing ideas for back-to-school activities, foods, and gear. We’ve compiled a list of 5 of our most popular pins from this August – and they’re all back-to-school related! Enjoy:

pinterestroundup

1. Healthy, Back-to-School Recipes. Here are tons of ideas to help your kids stay full, attentive, and ready to learn with the contents of their lunch boxes. Make it healthy, and they’ll be on top of their learning game!

2. Energy Saving Tips for the School Year. So easy your kids can help! Use these tips to reduce your energy use while things get busy around the home.

3. Healthy Breakfast Smoothies for Kids. Power your child’s morning with these easy, delicious breakfast smoothies that you can take on-the-go.

4. Outside After School Activities. Keep your kids learning after school and outdoors with these fun games!

5. Solar Powered Backpack. For the older kids who may walk to school, this backpack can charge their phones and electronics with the sun shining down!

Stay tuned for September’s pins, as I’m sure we’ll be celebrating the arrival of fall weather! And be sure to follow us on Pinterest – we can’t wait to share ideas with you there!

Creative Science Experiments for Kids: Weather

Creative Science Experiments for Kids: Weather

It’s a double rainbow!

How do clouds carry rain? What is a tornado? Can a hurricane visit our town? Why is down-to-ground lightning so dangerous?

These are just a few of my 5-year-old son’s most recent questions about the weather. They have encouraged me to examine the weather a little more closely so that I can help him understand what’s happening. In this installment of Creative Science Experiments for Kids, we’ll investigate some fun activities to get your kids excited to check the weather daily and make predictions about what may happen next.

Keep A Weather Journal

Keeping a journal will be a great way to keep track of the weather.  It doesn’t need to be fancy, just a few pieces of paper stapled together.  Every morning, the kids can look out the window and draw a quick picture of what they see.  Check the thermometer every day and record the temperature.  You can repeat the photo and temperature check again in the late afternoon to see how the weather has changed.  Encourage your children to write a sentence or two about what they see and feel.  You can find a template for a weather diary or weather journal online or make your own.

Creative Science Experiments for Kids: Weather

Homemade Anemometer

To take your measurements for your journal, you’ll need some basic tools for measuring the weather. This will make it easier to keep track of exact numbers for any science experiments you may try.

Let’s Explore the Weather! 

Creative Science Experiments for Kids: Weather

Cloud in a Jar

Clouds. Studying clouds can be made simple with this project for preschoolers.For the older kids, you can investigate how & why air moves.Then, with adult supervision, make your own cloud in a jar. Fog is basically a cloud that is touching the ground.You can make your own fog in a bottle, similar to the clouds.

Creative Science Experiments for Kids: Weather

Rainy Grass in a Jar

Rain. You can also make rain in a jar, but I prefer this weather in a jar activity. I really like this activity because there are multiple levels to it – you can learn about the water cycle, how plants grow, and watch the weather in action (fog, clouds, & rain). Your children can also see how grass can continue growing after you give it a haircut! Turn this activity into a science experiment by introducing variables:

  • What happens if you leave the lid on/off the jar?
  • Does the weight of the jar each day indicate water loss/gain?
  • Will the grass grow faster in direct sunlight, shade, or a mix of both?
  • Does the initial amount of water in the jar affect the rate of growth for the grass?
Creative Science Experiments for Kids: Weather

Tornado in a 2-Liter Bottle

Tornado. The classic tornado in a bottle has always been a popular science project. Now, there’s even a Tornado Tube - a device you can use to make joining the bottles together quicker and easier. You can make your tornado more interesting by adding food coloring, colored oil (such as lamp oil), glitter, or bits of confetti. To make a simple demonstration, reuse an old bottle or jar with a lid and add a little dish soap to the water.

Creative Science Experiments for Kids: Weather

Static Electricity with a Balloon

Lightning. Static electricity is a great way to teach kids about lightning! It is easy to make at home with simple materials. You can experiment what the best way is to light a fluorescent bulb with a balloon, wool, paper, or other materials. You can also use Styrofoam & aluminum trays to produce static electricity.

Creative Science Experiments for Kids: Weather

Sprinkler Rainbows for Everyone!

Rainbow. Explaining how a rainbow is formed can be tricky but creating your own is not! Go outside and use your hose to make a rainbow in your backyard. Another simple rainbow can be made using water, mirrors, and flashlights. Did you know that no two people will never see the same rainbow? Read more facts about rainbows here.

More wonderful weather websites:

What creative science experiments about the weather have you conducted with your children or classroom? Please share them in the comments!

3 Healthy Recipes for Back-to-School Snacks

3 Healthy Recipes for Back-to-School SnacksGoing back to school means more than just waking up early and getting to school before the morning bell. With routines changing from summer’s slow pace to jam-packed schedules involving play dates, sports, and other extra-curricular activities, it’s more challenging to keep kids nutritiously satiated. With the school year quickly approaching, this is the perfect opportunity to develop a snacktime game plan providing your youngster with the energy and nutrients they need to feel their best and be productive.

According to the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, it is recommended that school-aged children have one to two nutritious snacks in addition to three meals a day.

From savory to sweet, we’ve come up with 3 tasty snack recipes (with a few low-effort ideas) to help your family combat hunger in between meals during the school year.

1) Fruit, Nut, and Granola Crunch

3 Healthy Recipes for Back-to-School Snacks

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned or quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal
  • ½ cup whole or sliced almonds
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ½ raisins
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup dried apricots, diced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the oatmeal, almonds, oil and honey until mixed.
  2. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool on sheet pan.
  3. Once cool add raisins, apricots and cranberries. Serve immediately, or keep in an airtight container for up to one week.

2) Roasted Parmesan Kale Chips

3 Healthy Recipes for Back-to-School Snacks

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of kale or 1 (5 oz) box of kale
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Trim stems from kale and discard. Cut leaves into 2-inch pieces.
  2. In a large bowl toss kale with chili powder and salt.  Transfer to baking sheet in a single layer.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees, until the edges are crispy and the edges begin to brown, about 12 minutes. Then gently remove from baking sheet and toss with cheese.

3) Pita Nachos

3 Healthy Recipes for Back-to-School Snacks

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole wheat pita
  • Low-fat shredded cheese (such as cheddar or Monterrey Jack)
  • Salsa

Directions

  1. Heat broiler. Split pita horizontally and cut into quarters.
  2. Arrange pita pieces in a single layer, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Top each piece of pita with salsa, then cheese.
  3. Broil until cheese has melted and edges of pita are crisp, approximately 2 to 4 minutes.

Don’t have lots of time? Here is a collection of quick and healthy snacks ideas that don’t require much cooking or preparation

  • Rice cakes with peanut butter and grated carrots on top
  • Homemade trail mix made with whole grain cereal, nuts, and dried fruit
  • Banana sliced in half with lightly spread almond butter on top
  • Steamed edamame
  • Whole wheat pita cut into wedges with hummus
  • Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit
  • Fresh fruit paired with low-fat cheese
  • Popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese
  • Mini bean and cheese taco on a corn tortilla
  • Pistachios

Ultimately, every parent should be aware of the difference between a “snack” and “treat:” a snack is healthy, whereas a treat is typically loaded with sugar, empty calories and void of nutritional value. A well-balanced snack should contain some fat and protein along with a carbohydrate to help your child avoid a sugar rush or the crash that occurs if your child snacks on carbohydrates alone. Another benefit of having a carbohydrate together with fat and protein is that the food takes more time to digest, leaving your child feeling satiated longer.

Navigating the snack terrain can be challenging with kids wanting the usual empty-calorie, sugar-loaded treats, but with a little know-how and planning, you can stop the cycle of unhealthy snacking. Use this back-to-school time to provide your family with nutrient-rich foods that them up for a lifetime of health and wellness.

 

DIY Projects to Save You Money – Dry Food Mixes

DIY Projects to Save You Money - Dry Food MixesHave you ever gone to reach for a favorite packet of instant food mix to find that you’ve run out? This happens to me all the time! I have discovered that you can make your own mixes quite easily at home and oftentimes using ingredients you already have in your pantry! You can leave out the unnecessary extra ingredients (such as MSG, preservatives, artificial colors, and other additives) and save money in the kitchen by making your own mixes.

DIY Projects to Save You Money - Dry Food Mixes

All-Purpose Quick Mix

All-Purpose Quick Mix 

Ingredients:

  • 5 lb. bag flour (20 Cups)
  • 4 C. nonfat dry milk powder or buttermilk powder
  • 3/4 C. baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 5 C. vegetable shortening

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  With Pastry blender (or your hands) cut in shortening until mixture resembles cornmeal in texture.  Store in airtight container.
  • Use 1/2 whole wheat flour, if desired.
  • Cut recipe in 1/2 for smaller households.

Heart~Hands~Home has some recipes you can make using the all-purpose mix, including biscuits, coffee cake or scones.  She also has quite a few other food mix recipes such as brownies, gingerbread, and cornbread.

DIY Projects to Save You Money - Dry Food Mixes

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder*
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes*
  • (optional: 1 tsp. flour)

Directions:

  • Stir or whisk all ingredients together until combined. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  • Based on the comments, you will use 3-6 Tbsp taco seasoning per 1 lb cooked ground beef plus 1 C water to make taco meat.  I would start by adding 3 Tbsp taco seasoning, taste it, then add more as needed.

Visit Gimme Some Oven for some really great ideas on personalizing this recipe even more plus a few recipes!

*NOTE: Adjusting the amount of these 2 ingredients is the best way to modify the amount of heat and spice in your seasoning.

DIY Projects to Save You Money - Dry Food Mixes

Soup or Sauce [S.O.S.] Mix

Soup or Sauce [S.O.S.] Mix

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a recloseable plastic bag, mixing well. It does not need to be refrigerated.
  • Equal to 9 (10.5 oz) cans of cream soup.

Substitute for 1 can of condensed soup:

  • Combine 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups of cold water. Whisk until well blended.
  • Cook and stir on stove top or in microwave until thickened.
  • Add thickened mixture to casseroles as you would a can of soup.

I find that I use a lot of soup mixes for my slow cooker & casserole recipes.  Making my own cream-of-anything soup mix should help me out considerably!  Now head over to One Good Thing By Jillee to download your free recipe booklet with over 30 recipes to make using your SOS Mix!

There is a variation of the same recipe for the SOS Mix on Fabulously Frugal including a few more herbs for seasoning.  You can also download labels to print out for your SOS Mix.

DIY Projects to Save You Money - Dry Food Mixes

Homemade Hidden Valley Ranch Mix

Here are few other food mixes that I cannot wait to try out, especially the burger & fry seasoning!  I’m just waiting to use up the other mixes or blends that we already have at home.  Please let me know if you try these out and how you like them!

Don’t forget – these food mixes will also make great gift ideas around the holidays or even for a housewarming gift.

Need even more ideas? Here are some websites with lists of food mixes you can make at home.

Do you have any recommendations for DIY mixes, seasoning blends, and flavorings? Share them with us in the comments!

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

It’s that time of year – our children are going back to school! Parents are rejoicing, and kids are (hopefully) super-excited about meeting their new teachers and finding out who’s in their class this year. It may be hard to say goodbye to summer, but I am definitely looking forward to the security of an everyday routine as my son enters Kindergarten this year!

And since August is a very busy shopping month for many families preparing for school, we’re going to look at a few tips to help you be a more eco-friendly family in preparation for the new school year,

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

1) Take Stock of Current School Supplies

The first thing to do when deciding which school supplies your kids need is take stock of the items you already have. This way, you can make a list of the items you still need to buy, as this will help you save money and prevent you from overspending.

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

Your next task is to find the recycled, biodegradable, and otherwise eco-friendly supplies. Many stores now carry these items, making this task easy. If you do some digging on the internet, you can find some pretty amazing products. I would start with these great lists from PopSugar and Organic Beauty Talk: they include clever ideas including recycled newspaper pencils (with #2 lead!), biodegradable pens, staple-less stapler, and 100% recycled paper products.

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

Capri Sun Pencil Bag

If your kids are the age where everything needs to “cool,” remind them that recycling and being green doesn’t have to be boring with these awesome recycled juice pouch pencil bags! You can buy them online or make your own with a tutorial from Get Your Craft On.

Other items to consider when buying green school supplies include: solar calculators, backpacks made from recycled products, and swapping school uniforms or other clothing with families from your school.

Lastly, look for paper products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC certification “is an organization that certifies wood and paper products grown in forests that are responsibly managed.” (EnviroDad).

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

2) Create Waste-Free Lunches

I remember going to school with my Garfield lunch box almost every day of elementary school. Now that my son is going to Kindergarten, I will begin making lunch for him every day. It is important to our family that we strive for Waste Free Lunches, not only to help save around $250/year, but also to continue being an eco-friendly family. This subject has become so important that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designed a poster for school classrooms and provided ideas to get everyone involved.

So how do you make the switch? It starts with the fun part – buying lunch supplies! Let your children help you so they can feel involved and part of the process! Next, keep in mind that everything you put in your kid’s lunchbox should come back home. So, please consider your child’s ability to take responsibility for their lunch supplies before sending expensive new items with them to school. Talk to your kid(s) about the importance of bringing home everything.

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

RAWR! Dinosaur Lunch Bag

There are so many great lunchboxes our there but start here or here for some ideas. Look for reusable sandwich/snack bags, reusable water bottles, cloth napkins, reusable utensils, and perhaps even a placemat. Check out this great guide to reusable lunches in only 5 steps by Reusit.

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

Beginner Bento Lunch

Bento lunches are single-serving meals common in Japanese cuisine They have become an increasingly popular way to prepare lunches for American school children. HelloBee has great articles on getting started with Bento, and you can find a great list of supplies from Wendolonia for when you’re ready to expand your skills. It’s not really that complicated, but it may take some time to teach yourself the little things that traditional Bento lunches may include, such as decorating the food with special markers or cutting the fruit & cheese into different shapes.

Head Back-to-School in Eco-Friendly Style with 3 Helpful Tips

Bike Safely! Use Helmets!

3) Encourage the Family to Take Alternate Forms of Transportation

Transportation to and from school can be difficult for busy parents, especially when there are multiple adults at home who work and multiple children going to different schools with various start times. I get exhausted just thinking about that! When your children are old enough, encourage them to walk or ride a bike to school. If you live too far away from the school, look into the school bus schedules or consider carpooling with your neighbors.

What eco-friendly back-to-school tips might you have? Share them with us below!