Archive for Back-to-School

November 10th, 2015

6 Winter Essentials For Your Child’s Backpack

Groovy Green Livin Essentials for Your Child's Backpack

Each and every morning my kids head off to school with a backpack filled to the brim with whatever’s needed for that day. Over the years we’ve figured out a few staples that are needed and work hard to keep each backpack well stocked.

Here are a few favorites for your child’s backpack: (May contain affiliate links)

Badger Lip Balm Stick with SPF 15 ($6.00)

With the dry winter weather coming up fast it’s always a good idea to carry lip balm in your back pack. Badger Lip Balm is a great option. It received the best possible score of 1 on EWG’s Skin Deep site and doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients.

Cleanwell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer ($3.00/each)

No backpack would be complete without a safe hand sanitizer. I’ve been using Cleanwell Hand Sanitizer for years and it’s great. Their products don’t contain any harsh chemicals or alcohol. The hand sanitizer smells like thyme, which is one of its main ingredients. In addition to its culinary uses, thyme has powerful natural antiseptic properties that have been used for centuries. Love this stuff!
Klean Kanteen Reusable Water Bottle ($26.00)

I’ve been a Klean Kanteen
fan for many years.These bottles are made from stainless steel so there is no risk of leaching plastic. By using a reusable water bottle you are also helping reduce the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfills, sitting for years while they try unsuccessfully to decompose.

PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag with Zip Closure

No backpack would be complete without a safe, reusable, non-toxic lunchbox. PackIt is a freezable lunch cooler designed to keep contents cooler, longer: up to 10 hours (depending on external temperatures). Made from food-safe, nontoxic poly canvas; PVC, BPA, phthalate, and lead free.

Jute Pencil Case Handmade in Nepal ($9.99)

Everyone always needs those extra pencils and pens in their backpack. This Jute Pencil Case  is a great way to store them. It’s handmade in Nepal with organic dyes and materials.
Green Forest Facial Tissue

With colds and sniffles starting to appear it’s important for everyone to carry tissues in their backpack. I’ve been using Green Forest Facial Tissues for years and they’re great. Unfortunately they don’t come in a small travel pack so you’ll have to pull a few out for the backpack. The tissues are made from 100% recycled paper and whitened without chlorine with no dyes, no fragrances.

What’s your favorite backpack essential?

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

*Disclosure: Please know that if you make a purchase using a link on this page, I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you), which in turn helps support this site. None of the companies I promote on this page have paid me, I just really like their products. Thank you in advance.


photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

September 23rd, 2015

10 Healthy After School Snack Options

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

My kids come home every day after school completely famished. I actually remember feeling the same way when I was a kid. The minute I walked in the door I would raid the refrigerator and eat an entire meal.  And then I would eat a second meal when it was dinner time. My kids come by it honestly.

I’m not home every day after school, but my work schedule allows me to be home most afternoons. Whether I’m home or not I try to plan out snack options for everyone to reach for rather than foraging through the fridge. That doesn’t always happen, but I give it my best shot.

Here are a few healthier snack options to hold them over until dinner.

Dark Chocolate Brownies (Raia’s Recipes)

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

Photo courtesy of Raia’s Recipe

The plan is to make these this week before I leave for ShiftCon in LA. I love that there’s no gluten, eggs, dairy, or sugar in the mix. The recipe calls for a mashed banana, applesauce and fruit juice along with a bunch of interesting flours (rice and tapioca). I can’t wait to see if my kids love them.

Perfect Popcorn (Groovy Green Livin)

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

Make popcorn (not microwave popcorn) and add seasoning. I like adding nutritional yeast, rosemary and/or Parmesan cheese.

Blueberry Vanilla Greek Yogurt Granola Bars (Half Baked Harvest)

Photo courtesy of Half Baked Harvest

Photo courtesy of Half Baked Harvest

These delicious bars contain oats, nuts (if you want), Chia seeds, blueberries and more. Can’t wait to give them a try.

Frozen Yogurt Covered Blueberries (Family Fresh Meals)

Photo courtesy of Family Fresh Meals

Photo courtesy of Family Fresh Meals

These are so incredibly simple. All that is needed are blueberries and blueberry Greek yogurt.

Cut Veggies

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

No recipe needed for this one. I love putting out sliced vegetables as a snack for my kids when they get home from school. They’re so hungry that they devour them.

Sliced Fruit

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

Another simple snack option. I find if it’s in front of them they’ll eat it!

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal Cups {GLUTEN-FREE, DAIRY-FREE, NUT-FREE, SOY-FREE} (Happy Healthy Mama)

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

These are perfect for breakfast on the fly. They’re quick and east and have no added sugar. I think they’ll work for my crew since you can’t taste the banana.

Oatmeal Energy Bites (Easy No-Bake Snack) (Hip2Save)

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

No bake certainly got my attention. These are easy peasy and delicious!

Homemade Apple Chips (from Kosher on a Budget)

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

Photo courtesy of Kosher on a Budget

What do you get when you put two ingredients and 45 minutes of baking together? Homemade Apple Chips! Enjoy.

5 Minute Zucchini Blender Bread (No Grains, No Added Sugar) (Primally Inspired)

10 Healthy After School Snack Options Groovy Green Livin

Photo courtesy of Primally Inspired

No added refined sugar (dates are used) and coconut flour make this after school snack option delicious.

HERE are a few more snacks to spice up your lunch routine!

What are some of your favorite healthy snack options?

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

photo credit: Apple-Orange Hybrid via photopin (license)Vegetable Platter via photopin (license)Two Chimmney’s Winer, NI – Platter 7 via photopin (license)

August 17th, 2015

Top Book Picks For Teens and Tweens

Top Book Picks for Teens and Tweens Groovy Green Livin

This post contains affiliate links

The final countdown has begun. I know some of your kids are already back in school, but my kids have until September 1st. During the last few weeks of summer we’re working hard to find balance between fun, down time and screen time.  If you have a tween or teen chances are you know exactly what I’m talking about. And it’s not easy.

It’s been shown that digital overload can impair a child’s social, emotional and intellectual growth. Yikes.

Knowing that others are struggling with this issue too (I’ve spoken to many friends over the last few weeks to confirm that balancing screen time is problematic) I enlisted my three boys to help me come up with a list of favorite books that are part of a series. These books might not appeal to every teen or tween, but they’re a good starting point for finding alternatives to screen time.

Here’s our list of top book series for tweens and teens.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians 5 Book Series by Rick Riordan

This series has been around for a while, but is still an all-time favorite. These books have it all- monsters, mythological heros and more. The stories follow the adventures of a demigod (Percy, who is half mortal and half Greek god) and his friends.

Pendragon 10 book series by D.J. MacHale

Everything changes for teenager Bobby Pendragon when he discovers that he, as well as his two best friends, Mark Dimond and Courtney Chetwynde, must prevent the destruction of their own world as well as others.

Cherub Book Series by Robert Muchamore

CHERUB agents are highly trained, extremely talented–and all under the age of seventeen. For official purposes, these agents do not exist. They are sent out on missions to spy on terrorists, hack into crucial documents, and gather intel on global threats—all without gadgets or weapons. It is an exceptionally dangerous job, but these agents have one crucial advantage: adults never suspect that teens are spying on them.

Quantum Prophecy book series by Michael Carroll

There are 7 books published in this series with an 8th on the way. Ten years ago, all the superhumans vanished. No one knows what happened to them? Until now. Thirteen year- old Danny and Colin are shocked to discover that they are in fact the beginning of a renewed superhuman race. On the run from everyone, and not knowing who is friend or foe, the one ability the new heroes are going to need most is the power to distinguish good from evil.

I Am Number Four by Lorien Legacies written by a number of ghost writers

There are currently 5 books in the series with the 6th due to be released in September, 2015. ‘I Am Number Four’ follows the story of John Smith, a 15-year-old from the planet Lorien, and Henri, his Cêpan (protector), as they run from the Mogadorians, another alien race that is hunting John and eight other teenage Lorics residing on the planet Earth.

The Complete Maximum Ride Book Series by James Patterson

Fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it’s like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the “flock”–Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel–are just like ordinary kids–only they have wings and can fly.

Ranger’s Apprentice 12 Book Series  by John Flanagan

15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people.

So You Want to Be a Wizard: The First Book in the Young Wizards Series by Diane Duane

Nita, chased by bullies, hides in a library and finds a strange book called So You Want to Be a Wizard. It contains information about the nature and structure of the universe, instruction in the use of magic, and a Wizard’s Oath. That’s where the story begins.

Any favorite books to add to the list?

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

Disclaimer: Please know that if you make a purchase using a link on this page, I may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you), which in turn helps support this site. Thank you!

photo credit: MPL’s Teen Zone via photopin (license)

September 2nd, 2014

Waste Free Lunch Gear to Add to Your Lunch Box

Groovy Green Livin Waste Free Lunch Gear

Packing a waste free lunch has become second nature in our home. There aren’t many plastic baggies to choose from- we ditched those a few years ago- and there are plenty of reusable options.

All three boys pack their own waste free lunch with a little guidance from mom and dad. The process isn’t pretty. Food and crumbs are generally everywhere. If you’re able to let this piece go (I still have a hard time with it!) the independant lunch packing process is worth it. Through making their own lunch they are beginning to understand what a green and healthy lunch looks like.

What is a waste free lunch?

Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. Think of all the paper napkins, plastic utensils and plastic water bottles that go straight to the landfill!

By using reusable products we can all kick off the school year in an eco-friendly way.

We’ve added a few waste free reusable options to our lunch box options this year. 

1. Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Food Canister

I really love the Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Food Canister. It  comes in two sizes-   16 -Ounce and 8-Ounce and both are perfect for snacks and other lunch box items. The canisters have a screw on stainless steel lid that closes tightly and prevents leaking. These containers are not insulated and will not keep items hot or cold.

2. ONYX 2 Layer Sandwich Box

Another brilliant creation- this Onyx Stainless Steel 2-Layer Large Sandwich Box comes with two stackable layers that close firmly together with a locking system. The top layer is perfect for a sandwich and the bottom, larger layer is perfect for a side item such as grapes, crackers or any other lunch time treat. This system could be used as your lunch box or can be packed in your reusable, waste free lunch bag.

3. EcoLunchBox Blue Water Bento Splash Box

The ECOlunchbox – Blue Water Bento Splash Box is ocean themed with a stainless steel bottom and silicone lid.  The lid is designed to be easy to open for all ages, with tabs on all corners for little fingers to grab and open. This box is the perfect size for grapes, crackers and other lunch-time snacks.

4. LunchBots Duo Stainless Steel Food Container

We love the duo LunchBots and have a few in different colors. Our favorite way to pack up a LunchBots Duo is to put slices of cheese on one side and crackers on the other. LunchBots containers are plastic and BPA-free. One word of caution-don’t pack anything that could leak in this container since it’s not air tight.

What are some of your favorite waste free lunch gear?

If you’re looking for a safe, non-toxic lunch box, HERE are a few of my picks.

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


*Some links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. Thanks for your support in this way! I would also like to thank ONYX, Klean Kanteen and ECOLunchBox for samples of their products. All opinions are my own.



August 27th, 2014

5 Healthy Back-to-School Tips For Families

Groovy Green Livin Healthy Back-to-School

The countdown has begun. Only a few days left until it’s back-to-school. How did that happen?

At dinner tonight my ten year old announced that this was his best summer ever. Overcome with emotion, I nodded in agreement. It really was the best summer ever.

Next summer has tough shoes to fill. Once the snow returns I’ll be planning and dreaming. In the meantime we’re bracing for the back-to-school frenzy that’s about to enter our care-free lives.

To help with the back-to-school transition here are a few tips to keep your family healthy and sane

Get enough sleep

A few years ago we tried transitioning to a back-to-school schedule before school began. That didn’t work. Now we dive in head first the evening before the first day of school. I’m a bit worried this year about my kids nodding off in school since our schedules are so irregular at the moment.  

Do your kids get enough sleep? Here’s some interesting info from the National Institute of Health:

  • Sleep Facts: School-aged children and teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night. Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. I need a solid eight to feel human.
  • Sleep Tips: Set a sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up the same times each day. Keep room temperature on the cool side. A TV or computer in the bedroom can be a distraction.

Pack a waste-free  and healthy lunch

Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to a crazy 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. That’s a lot of waste.

Making a lunch box zero-waste through the use of reusable products will minimize the amount of garbage kids create through their school lunch.

Check out some of my favorite waste-free products HERE.

Lunch boxes and toxic chemicals don’t belong together. Unfortunately some lunchboxes are releasing toxic dust into our children’s lunchbox food. Thankfully not all lunch boxes are toxic. HERE are a few safe lunch box choices for everyone in the family.

Make healthy choices when it comes to snacks and treats in your child’s lunch.

  • Don’t buy individually packaged snacks i.e. fruit cups, single serving cookies, chips and crackers. There is a lot of wasted packaging and the cost per item is much more expensive than buying in bulk.
  • We try to buy organic when we can. Remember Organic doesn’t always mean healthy. There are organic foods out there that that are processed, contain lots of sugar and are unhealthy.

Sub out toxic back-to-school supplies

If  a school supply list is specific and asks for a product that could be harmful to my child or other children I  have no problem deviating from the list.  For example I always send in a safe alternative to alcohol based hand sanitizer.

Eat brain food

It’s so simple to add a few foods bursting with brain fuel to the weekly menu. Try adding blueberries, salmon, broccoli and lentils.

Choose a safe backpack

Children’s vinyl “back‐to‐school” supplies (including backpacks) have been found to contain elevated levels of phthalates, hazardous chemicals that have been banned in toys, yet remain widespread in vinyl back‐to‐school supplies.

Vinyl backpacks could also contain high levels of lead, which can wipe off onto children’s hands and ultimately end up in the child’s mouth.

HERE are a few safe preschool backpack suggestions and HERE are my picks for safe elementary school backpacks.

So are you ready for back-to-school?

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

photo credit: Gerry Dincher via photopin cc

September 17th, 2013

Green Your School Fundraising

Groovy Green Livin fundraising

The school fundraising packet just arrived. Did you get yours? I browsed through mine and ended up circling wrapping paper, ribbons and more wrapping paper. Every year I scour the fundraising packet for stainless steel or reusable options. There are generally a few eco choices buried behind the piles of wrapping paper and chocolates. Every year I promise myself that I’ll just write a check and call it a day, but then I start circling and find myself ordering reams of wrapping paper and boxes of chocolate. Just what I don’t need.

Why aren’t there eco-friendly fundraising options?

There are.

This past spring our schools partnered with NSTAR, our local gas and electric company, for a fantastic fundraising event. We were able to order a variety of CFL bulbs and/or a Smart Strip power strip. 

Now there’s another option. MightyNest, one of the Groovy Green Livin’s long-time sponsors. came up with an innovative idea for school fundraising. They launched  the MightyNest for Schools program.

For those of you unfamiliar with MightyNest they’re an online shop started by a husband and wife team. Their site is filled with useful information and natural, organic and non-toxic products all in one place. All of their products are free from known toxic ingredients such as: BPA, PVC, Phthalates, Lead, Melamine, Formaldehyde, Flame retardants, Parabens and more.

So what is MightyNest for Schools?

It’s a simple way to raise money while engaging your school community in healthy living.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Raise money for your school while buying products you’ll love! 15% of every order you place at MightyNest can be donated to an elementary or pre-school of your choosing. Your child’s school, a family member’s school or one in your community: pick the school you’d like to receive a donation from your orders.
  2. Engage your school community around healthy living! Every school in the program has a community page at On that page, anyone can earn points towards rewards for their school by pledging to take simple, healthy actions. There’s no purchase required to participate, just simple pledges to live a healthy lifestyle.

It’s that easy.

To celebrate the official launch of MightyNest for Schools, one lucky school will earn a $5000 bonus and as many as 50 others can each earn $250 in prizes. The school with the most points wins!

To get started simply:

  1. Look-up your school at and join the page.
  2. Share the page with your family and friends (their purchases and actions count, too)!
  3. Share the page with your PTA.

Any other ideas for a great ‘green’ fundraiser? 

August 30th, 2013

School Supplies and My Interview with The Wall Street Journal

Groovy Green Livin School Supplies

School Supplies

School supplies are covering every square inch of my living room floor at the moment. Notebooks, protractors, crayons, colored pencils and binders are everywhere.

The tedious collection of school supplies began a few days ago when I had the sudden realization that school was about to begin and I had done nothing to prepare. The actual shopping took a few hours and now I’m knee deep in crates and boxes filled with everything my three boys will need according to the back-to-school supply lists.

This year I made the decision to attack one school supply list at a time. It was comical. Running from aisle 3B for crayons to aisle 8A for paper and then back and forth again for the next class. I’m sure there was a better way to approach this and you’d think I’d have figured it out by now, but there’s always next year.

The school supply lists are interesting. Some teachers are very explicit about what brands they want while other school supply lists are a bit more open-ended with room for interpretation.

If  a list is specific and asks for a product that could be harmful to my child or other children I  have no problem deviating from the list.  For example I always send in a safe alternative to alcohol based hand sanitizer. I generally don’t write a letter to the teacher explaining my position, but if you’re interested here’s a  sample letter to a teacher which spells out why some of the school supplies have been swapped out for safer alternatives.

The real concern is that many if not most of the school supplies are placed into a classroom “pool” for general consumption. So my sending in one lone bottle of safe hand sanitizer isn’t going to make much of a difference. I still haven’t figured out a way to tackle this.

My Interview with the Wall Street Journal

I was recently contacted by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal to talk about school supplies and whether or not I stick to school the suggested products on school supply lists.

We had a really interesting conversation about how product placement could be lurking in our children’s school supply lists. There seems to be a tremendous push by big brands to get their names out there and at the top of all of our school supply lists. For example “teachers, parents or school administrators who put Kleenex on their lists were entered into a sweepstakes that could win their school $25,000 to buy books and other supplies…”. So of course parents are swayed to buy Kleenex.

Product placement on school supply lists poses a number of issues. Requiring families to buy specific brands when there may be more economical options isn’t fair. Also, as I mention in the Wall Street Journal article, I want the option to send in non-toxic school supplies, especially when the suggested product is a product that comes in contact with food or the children’s skin. I really wish more school systems would suggest safer alternatives for some products such as hand sanitizer and wipes.

You can read the full article and find my quote HERE.

I’m wondering how you feel about all of this. How do you handle school supply lists? Do you follow them or do you deviate?


photo credit: JimmyMac210 via photopin cc>


About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

Click HERE to contact Lori

Lori on ABC World News

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