Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Make-Your-Own-Jello-Cups

As a single mom, I'm always happy when I can save a few pennies and keep the kids fed. Weird, I know, but that seems to be an ideal combination in our world. I've learned that there are several factors that make this easier, at least in our home. Variety, portion size, availability, and convenience all have to pull together if I want meals and snack-times to go smoothly.

My kids love jello. They like jello jiggers, but what they seem to enjoy even more is old-school, traditional jello in a cup or bowl. Eating jello with a spoon works for them, but when I'm not looking, they often grab a straw and slurping noises fill the air. I let them think I don't notice, but it always makes me smile a little. Yes, I teach my children good manners; that being said, who doesn't love the soul-satisfying sound of a good, solid slurp? (One of my favorite things about school lunch when I was a kid was slurping jello with a straw. Don't tell my mom, but we'd even have contests to see who could make the longest jello worms.)

Now-a-days, jello comes pre-made and prepackaged. Those crazy little (and might I add pricey) cups of gelatinous ooze that will stay shelf or fridge stable for some time thanks to the addition of extra preservatives? Well, as cute as anything brightly colored and packaged in a small cup is, there's a much less expensive and slightly healthier option. (I'm not saying jello is a healthy snack. I'm just saying it's better than some of the alternatives.) It's even nearly as convenient as the pre-made stuff, more if you factor in avoiding a trip to the grocery store.

I may have forgotten to take a picture before I dug into the jello ... Sorry you missed it.
 
I usually mix up two large packages of jello. (Any flavor will do, and we often use the store brand.) Just follow the regular set instructions. It fills a large mixing bowl, so it does take a few hours in the fridge to set up. On the plus side, that's the most time-consuming part of the process. 
 

Fill each container (here's where those magical, half-cup containers come into play) and pop the lids on. In a few minutes, you have several beautiful containers of sweet, slurpy goodness ready to fill your fridge.

See what I mean? So pretty ...

and so tidy.

For me, the trick to making this effective was to figure out how to organize them so the kids could easily find what they wanted and getting the kids in the habit of looking for something specific. Once we found which shelf worked best (read: which shelf was both easily visible and contained enough that they can't easily restack or destroy the sense of order) it was a cinch!

I love these containers -- a little obsessively. Salsa, wheat berries, pickles, olives, beets, bean salad, jello, pudding, applesauce, cheese cubes, nuts, etc. The possibilities really are more endless than the number of containers I own.
Snack-size cups of jello add variety (think a whole palate full of flavors) to our snack times and work well during the school year in lunches or in the summer as a light dessert. Sometimes, we'll even top it with low-fat Cool Whip for a special treat. I like that they're very cost effective (two large boxes of jello are less than $2 total) and that the portions are reasonable enough that I don't feel too guilty when this is what I choose to snack on. The kids like having something sweet available. When the containers are empty, they're simple enough to wash by hand or toss in the top rack of the dishwasher. I like that I get to reuse those instead of tossing them like the prepackaged jello. In our world, it's a win-win.
 

 

Monday, June 15, 2015

One of my Favorite Things ...

This ...






It may seem like a silly thing, but really ... I'm in love. This little 1/2 cup disposable, reusable container has revolutionized my kitchen  ... and my food-related dealings with my children. They're stackable, the perfect size to be snackable, and just the right amount of most foods for the kids' lunches and my mealtimes. These little beauties are wonderful! (No, I'm not getting paid to say this, and nobody gave me anything for free. Ziploc doesn't know I'm alive, which is tragic really ... A care package of these little lovelies would make my day. I have boatloads already, and I still don't have enough. *sigh*) I adore the square shape; it's such an improvement over the round containers. These stack perfectly, and they remain upright in the fridge and the freezer. They even stack well in lunchboxes. No more lunchtime battles in our world. No more fighting about portion sizes. Having a variety of perfectly portioned snacks available has minimized and nearly eliminated any battles of wills over how much is fair. These little Ziploc containers have brought a little element of peace to my home, and, as a mom and a teacher of teenagers, peace is a highly-valued, very hot commodity.