Working Women Wednesdays – Top 10 Lunchbox Tips

Our good friends and super mammas – Cara and Monica at Freshmade NYC  – have graciously given us some great tips on making school lunches that much less stressful.  Check out the tips below to ensure your kid isn’t trading his carrots for a twinkie in the lunchroom……

The school year has begun, pumpkin spice lattes have returned, apple picking season is in full effect.  But amongst all these wonderful Autumn traditions looms the topic that can cause daily stress: packing our kid’s lunch.

It’s 7 AM, you haven’t had coffee yet and you’re standing in front of the refrigerator, desperately trying to wipe the sleep from your eyes, wondering where summer has gone, and you’re panicking about what to pack in your child’s lunchbox.

Our parents had it easy – they would shove a sandwich in one of those super fancy brown paper lunch bags and send you on your way.  Maybe a juice box, maybe a cookie.  There you go kid, piece of cake, out the door.  You just prayed it wasn’t bologna again…

No…these days it’s all pressure.  Can your child’s school have nuts or seeds?  Will they get made fun of for bringing a quinoa salad to school? How do I pack a healthy, delicious meal that will keep until my kid has lunch?  Are they going to eat what I packed?  If they throw it out, will I even know?  Will they have enough energy to last the whole school day?

Turkey rollups speared by little heart shaped toothpicks with cheese cut into little flowers, cherry tomatoes on a skewer shaped like a sword with dip, watermelon cut into heart shapes, a rainbow of options that fill their 9000 compartment lunch boxes.  Are we overachieving because of Pinterest?  Damn those bento box mamas.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  How DO you do it?

Well, we are here to inspire some lunchbox creativity that will make your lunch packing job easier.  Take a look at Freshmade NYC’s Top 10 Lunchbox Tips and let’s celebrate healthy, energized kids who look forward to their lunchbox meal (and to Moms who have one less thing to worry about).

1.  Get your children involved:  Whether it be shopping for the food, meal planning or actual cooking, getting your children involved in the process will make them more likely to eat the foods you pack for them.  Talk to your kids, find out what they enjoy eating.  Use our meal planner to help plan the week’s meals together.  Try to do this weekly throughout the school year and keep communication open to what your child is trading or throwing away!

2. Stock a healthy fridge, freezer and pantry:  This is key to pulling together a quick, easy, healthy, stress-free meal.  Here are a few healthy fridge, freezer and pantry staples we recommend:

  • Canned Tuna Tuna is a great lunch option, you can serve it in a wrap, with crackers, or even veggies.  You can toss it with pasta, make it into burgers, or stuff in in a tomato or avocado.  Tuna is high in minerals and omega 3‘s.  Buy tuna that is stored in water rather than oil, look for wild caught tuna that is hook & line trolled, this means that it is caught and immediately brought on the boat and fresh frozen.  Try:  spend the extra $ and go for quality when buying canned tuna, we like the Wild Planet brand, they have a no salt added option.
  • Dried Fruits:  Kids like dried fruits because they are sweet.  Some dried fruits have sugar added to them in the process, fruit is naturally sweet and therefore don’t need added sugar.    Look for no sugar added, organic & sulfite-free options.  Sulphur is used in many dried fruits as a preservative however according to the FDA 1 in 100 are sensitive to sulfites.  Reactions such as headaches, rashes and breathing problems are often triggered by this preservative.  Add them to oatmeal, breakfast quinoa, make your own trail mix, add them to baked goods, etc.  Try:  dried cranberries, goji berries, apricots, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, etc.
  • Pasta:  We know, what child can live without pasta?  Pastas are a great source of carbs that kids love and provide them energy they need to make it through a busy school day.  Pasta is great because it is versatile and can be eaten hot or cold.  Luckily, these days there are so many options besides “white” pasta – pastas are now made with rice, corn, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, etc.  Pasta comes in lots of fun shapes like farfalle (bow ties), roetelle (wheels), gemelli (twists), and more.  Choose whole grain pastas.  Try:  Soba noodles tossed with veggies and tamari, “caprese” pasta tossed with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil, pasta tossed with white beans, chicken and spinach, or whole grain spaghetti and mini turkey meatballs.

3. Recreate leftovers for lunch:  It’s nothing new, it’s not rocket science – we all know an economical (and super time saver) way to pack lunch is to use what you have had for dinner the night before.  This can be boring for kids so jazz up your leftovers and use them in a new way.  Last nights roasted chicken can be tossed with pasta, veggies and dressing for a jazzed up pasta salad.  Shred the same chicken and toss it with rice and cheese and top with avocado and tomatoes.  Roll out some pizza dough, spread some hummus and add last nights roasted veggies and wrap up like a calzone and bake!  Leftover rice?  Add some veggies, egg, and tamari and make your own fried rice.

4. Reusable containers.  We’ve come a long way since smushed lunches in brown paper bags, who wants to eat smushed berries and a wet sandwich?  Today there are so many great options for reusable containers in all price points.  You can even save plastic containers that have a lids like sour cream, butter, or yogurt containers – they are perfect to send dips or tender fruits in.    We love this simple bento from Laptop Lunches, (it has only 4 compartments, not 9000).  These types of containers keeps food separate from each other, keeping it more edible looking.

5.  The surprise factor.  Try and include one new thing each week, a new seasonal fruit or vegetable, a new cracker, a new cheese, or a new dip.  Over the course of a school year your child can learn to love so many new foods.  Build their curiosity and they will build their palate.

6. Pack reusable utensils.  No need to add more plastic utensils to our landfills.  There is a wide array of cute reusable utensils for your kiddo to have fun with at lunch.  We just love Love LOVE the ECOspork by ECO Lunchbox!  Perfect for little hands and made with bamboo.

7. Funnies a day.  Add a note with a kid friendly joke on it.  Your kiddo can share with the lunch table and add some laughter to their day.  Not clever enough to come up with one on your own?  Search google for a vast array of food funnies or check out Lunch Box Notes.

8. The BFL (Breakfast for Lunch).  Breakfast for dinner is so much fun, why NOT try breakfast for lunch?  There are tons of fun ways to incorporate breakfast favorites into nourishing lunches. Try a protein-packed oatmeal bowl, fruit and yogurt parfait, a toasted whole grain waffle sandwich with almond butter and jam or sliced bananas, a biscuit and egg sandwich and more!  Go for it…breakfast for breakfast, breakfast for lunch, breakfast for dinner – go crazy!

9.  Bread Variety.  Does your child love sandwiches?  Change up the bread.  Have you had almond butter and jelly on toasted challah?  A little pita stuffed with hummus and cucumbers?  A pretzel bun?  Need we really say more?  Kids love bread, the carbs fuel their little bodies, let them eat the bread.  No we aren’t talking about mass produced bread with HFCS and loads of other sugars, source out some good local bread from bakeries that pride themselves on using good quality, natural ingredients.  Think outside the box on this one.  Kids aren’t used to eating sandwiches the way we were growing up.  Try these kid-approved fillings like bananas and almond butter with honey, sliced cucumber and grassfed butter, organic sliced turkey with cream cheese and raspberry jam, hummus with baby spinach and shredded carrots, sliced avocado and egg and more.  Don’t forget to get rid of the crust!  Man, kids really hate that crust!

10. Don’t overpack.  Kids don’t have much time to eat.  Limited options means they are more likely to eat the “healthier” options.  These kids spend so much time chatting in the lunchroom they scramble to eat what they have.  Pack three good options in small portions.

 We hope this gets you through the 2nd month of school and so on!!!

We’d love to hear what you think – chime in on social media:

facebook | twitter | instagram or send us an email to info(at)freshmadenyc(dot)com

Pedal to the Metal – Cycle For Survival

For the past 3 years Lindsay and Family have Cycled for Survival for this great cause.  2015 will be no exception to that rule.  We have our bike shorts and shoes on and are ready to sweat.

Consider joining the Bell Family team this year or creating your own, its a fun day of exercise and fun, even if you have never taken a spin class in your life.

Cycle for Survival is one of the fastest growing fundraising events in the world having raised over $50 million dollars for rare cancer research and funded more than 100 clinical trials and research studies since it was founded in 2007. Jennifer and David Lynn co-founded the indoor team cycling event to raise crucial funds for rare cancer research. All of the funds raised in Cycle for Survival go directly to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and are allocated within six months of each event which has drastically reduced the time it takes for treatments to reach patients — in some cases cutting the span from years to months. Cycle for Survival is an event that Bell Family participates in by both raising awareness and supporting the event with a cycling team in NYC.

Here are the stats for this year’s Cycle for Survival:

  • 9 days, 13 cities, 49 rides, 4,500 bikes & 20k participants
  • 2015 Cities include: Boston, Chicago, Greenwich, Long Island, LA, Miami, Dallas,  New York City, San Fran, Palo Alto, Seattle, Summit NJ & Washington DC


greg fam

Fun Fridays – Behind the scenes with Greg at BFC

We thought we would introduce our families to the crew that makes BFC run smoothly each and every day.  Our crew is just like yours, work, kids, laundry, vacations, me time.  First up, some questions for Greg Shafiro our CTO and resident Photographer.  Our new online platform is thanks to him and his team and we are ever so thankful!!!

BFC – How do you balance work and life, with 2 (right?) kids, a F/T IT career and photography on the side?

GREG – That’s a good question. My Wife would probably add, Secretary of the Co-op Board, cycling volunteer Marshal for all events that need help, a UrbanSoccer youth Soccer Coach, and Handyman for anything that might break in my mother’s house. Honestly, my two kids and a wonderful wife enable me to balance work and family life, without their support none of this would be possible, Squeezing 28 hours our of a 24hour day also helps.

BFC – How did you get started with Lindsay and BFC?

GREG – I was introduced to Lindsay, by Miles Spencer whom I met at the NorthSide Conference in Brooklyn. I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug when I was 11 years old, I started a soda distribution business at my sleep away camp, so when Miles presented me with an opportunity to join the Bell Family Company team as a Founding CTO, it was a no brainier.

BFC – If you could live in any city and have any career what would they be?

GREG – I love to travel, so it’s really hard to pick one city where I would like to live. But if you twist my arm, I would probably say Jerusalem. I fell in love with the city during my studies at a Yeshiva right by the Wester Wall. Regarding my career, it would have to be something that would allow me to spend more time with my kids, help people less fortunate than me, travel and photograph different cultures. Not sure if a position for that job description has been created yet. But hey a man can dream.

BFC – What’s most important to you in a work career?  At Home?

GREG – When it comes to work, I am reminded of a quote by Mark Cuban “Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you”. That said knowledge, hard work and respecting people around me are the most important thing for me.

At home, spending time with my kids and being the best father I can be to them is the most important.

BFC – Greg, What is your pie in the sky family vacation if money and time were no object?

GREG – When my wife and I first moved in together our favorite show was the Amazing Race, by the way we applied twice to be contestants on the show, sadly we never did get selected. Traveling the world and learning from the different cultures of the world with my kids would be my pie in the sky vacation.

How to pay your Nanny!

I recently attended a very informative seminar about how to pay your nanny and learned a wealth of information about having a written contract, decided on the standard weekly hours, tax information , health care and worker’s compensation.

Nikki Kristol, MST is a Upper Westside wife and mother of two with a Masters degree in taxation. She is an enrolled agent with extensive domestic and international tax experience. She is also the owner of My Home Payroll, a Total Nanny Solution Agency.

Nikki facilitated a very informative, easy to understand seminar about the simplest and most straightforward ways to pay in home domestic employees. In addition to assisting her clients completing the necessary forms, she showed how families can help their nannies get health care coverage at reasonable rates and show families how to apply for possible subsidies to off set the cost.

Did you know that worker compensation is an absolute necessity if you employee domestic workers? Nikki and her Home Payroll team know exactly how to navigate the often ambiguous, confusing tax and government process so your nanny and your family can be prepared and covered.

My Home Payroll is also offering all NY Nanny Center and Bell Family (BFC) Families  20% off the setup fees when you enroll for services. In addition to providing you all the needed support, knowledge and action to pay your nanny on the books and save your family money, My Home Payroll can take care of processing your nanny’s (and other domestic worker’s) paycheck with direct deposit.

For more information about paying on the books, compensation packages, taxes and payroll services, please contact Nikki Kristol at 917.929.9486/ or visit

MK 1 fall

Bell Family Loves – Fall Favorites

It’s a beautiful Fall day in Chicago–Sunny, mid-60s, and a few yellow and red leaves falling from the trees. I love this time of year! My almost two-year old and I are trying to get outside as much as possible and enjoy the fresh air before we hibernate indoors for the winter. There are so many new activities, flavors, and things to discover. Exploring with a toddler is great because everything is new to them. My son, Henry, and I are quickly discovering some of our new Fall Favorites.

Henry is a nature lover and loves to lay in the grass, chase bugs, and watch the birds in the sky. Recently he has discovered that he loves collecting leaves and then throwing them in the air. It’s wonderful to see him get his hands dirty and play with nature. On the flip side, he gets really, really dirty! One of my favorite products to use for a quick and easy clean up are the Johnson and Johnson Hand and Face Wipes. Henry has sensitive skin, but these wipes do not irritate him at all. It gets the job done quickly and without too much protest from Henry, who would prefer to stay dirty!  Happy Toddler, Happy Mommy!

If the weather isn’t cooperating, which can often be the case in Chicago, we like to stay indoors and read a lot of books. Recently I took Henry to Barnes and Noble to choose some books. My husband would have preferred to avoid the weekend traffic and order from Amazon, but being a teacher, I love to actually visit the bookstores and try all the new books before purchasing.

Mommy, Dada, and Henry all got to choose a few of their favorites. Henry’s top picks were “Biscuit Visits the Pumpkin Patch” by Alyssa Satin Capuccilli. Henry loves the “oggy” Biscuit and loved finding all the “pun-kins” in the book. His other book of choice is called “Little Owl’s Night” by Divya Srinivasan. This book is filled with all sorts of nocturnal critters for Henry to identify. By the end of the story, dawn breaks through, and Owl and his friends fall asleep for a good day’s rest. A very cute story! Mommy’s favorite choice is called “10 Trick-or-Treaters: A Halloween Counting Book” by Janet Schulman. I love math and anything with numbers, so I chose this book because it was a fun book for Henry to read that teaches him something (or attempts to! He’s only two!) and bring in the theme of Halloween. He loves the “mummy”, “witch”, and “neleton” (skeleton)—all are great books for kids ages 1-4.

What would Fall be without a little pumpkin spice! Henry is in love with the Pumpkin Loaf from Starbucks. On the weekends, his dada will take him on a coffee/pumpkin loaf run. When Henry sees it he will keep saying, “Peeeeeease! Peeeeeease!” and making the sign-language gesture for “more” until he gets it. (Please note: that’s the only sign-language he knows!) A delicious fall treat for my boy!

There are so many wonderful things to love about Fall. These are just a few of our favorites!

Maureen Kruse is one of Bell Family’s Sitter turned mom and is the Chicago coordinator for our sitters.

KCS train

Keep em entertained !

Living in the city with kids has a slew of considerations all their own (what other city do you have to register for preschool while the kid is still utero ??).  Kids need freedom, they need space and most of all in a city like NYC they need an outlet for their energy that could power a freight train.

Whether it is art, music, gymnastics, bowling,  checkers, DJ academy or gardening to name a few, the apple has a ridiculous amount of offerings for the wee ones up to high school.  And it can make your head spin when trying to navigate the options, it’s plain overwhelming.  Our friends at Kidz Central Station are trying their hardest (and succeeding) in helping make this process painless.  Their one stop shop gives you 3 click access from looking to booking and then moving on to more pressing issues, like a glass of wine ;-)

Kidz Central Station: Your Go-To Resource for Kids’ Fall Classes

If you’re looking for ways to keep your kids active and learning this fall, check out Kidz Central Station a one-stop-shop for parents to find, compare, and enroll their children in classes and activities in and around NYC! With over 3,000 classes to choose from (in music, art, soccer, ballet, mommy and me, and so much more!), Kidz Central Station makes it easy for busy parents to find and manage their kids’ activities all in once place. Use the site to:

  • Narrow a class search by age, location, class type, date, and price.
  • Enroll in hundreds of NYC’s top class providers, such as 92Y, Gymboree, Little Maestros, and Super Soccer Stars.
  • Sign up for trial classes.
  • Earn reward points! With the Kidz Rewards program, the more classes you book, the more discounts you earn toward future purchases!

Visit Kidz Central Station to check out all of the great activities for your child this fall!

Personal home accountant and check writer that’s not me – um yeah!!!

What’s it like to be able to just go home on Friday after work?  Just go see your family, and not have to worry about stopping off at the ATM for cash to pay your nanny or housekeeper?

With My Home Payroll, we pay your nanny by direct debit, as often as you like, and automatically file your nanny taxes too.

-We seamlessly pay any domestic employee, nanny, etc.

-Backed by Intuit Payroll Software

-Remote Access to submit hourly wages from anywhere.

-We pay your employees by direct deposit.

-We pay your federal, state, and local taxes.

-We submit your quarterly and yearly filing obligations.

-We handle Workers’ Compensation in your state.

-You spend more time with your family.

My Home Payroll is Beyond Nanny Taxes – we provide a complete service for employers of domestic help.  Founded in 2013, we are dedicated to making the nanny tax an affordable afterthought.

Founder, Nikki Kristol, graduated from Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, and graduated from San Francisco’s Golden Gate University with a Master’s Degree in Taxation.  She worked for 7 years in London, England as an International Tax expert, including 3 years at a Big 4 firm, before returning to the U.S.  Nikki is a big advocate of making the nanny tax affordable for families and caregivers.  She founded My Home Payroll in 2013 as a mom-entrepreneur with a unique perspective on household employment, and how to pay for it properly.  She lives with her husband and children in New York.


Keeping your sanity with back to school routines and transitions

In our house, summer was one big playdate without enforced bedtimes and scrambling each morning for camp (we are NOT a morning household).  Come the first day of school none of us were prepared, couple that with an earlier start time for the bus and we were in a tizzy.  Great advice below from BFC resident social worker, nanny coordinator and all around great gal, Ali Shepard….

It’s that time of year again as the kids are slowing getting back into their school routines or starting school for the first time! A time of vast transitions for many families and keeping parents, kids and caregivers happy and sane can seem impossible. Here are some simple easy reminders to help your family get back in the swing of things and set everyone up to win with less bedtime battles and flustered mornings rushing to get everyone where they need to go!

  • Be realistic and patient
  • Keep it simple
  • Make a plan and stick to it
  • Get the kids involved when transitions happen children often feel that they do not have control. Find ways where your kids can be part of creating the schedule
  • Use picture charts for children 2-6 years old as a way to empower them to get their “jobs’ done (Betimes and morning routine) then then can earn a reward. Rewards can be playing a game, reading stories together, playing on the computer, watching a short TV show, or playdate etc. Use these things as motivators not just givens.
  • All children need down time. Build it into the schedule.
  • Children can feel overwhelmed when there are a lot of adults telling them what to do. They to keep the talking and number of adults to a minimum.
  • Avoid frustration and upset by being matter of fact and flat with your emotion and reactions
  • Set limits, when you say no, mean it
  • First things first. Children need reminders/little nudges. Use less words.
  • Make it fun and keep your sense of humor
  • Get support/be a team

It is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out, especially when dealing with so many moving parts and changes. Remember that children are not little adults, their brains are not able to understand the world like we are. We have to role model the behavior we want to see from them. Enjoy the time you have and find creative fun ways to tackle the day to day routines.

platinum drive

Movin on up…to the burbs

Once you have spoken with a counselor at Suburban Jungle and have decided that you are in fact moving to the burbs, call our friends over at Platinum Drive Realty – one of the premier Realty groups in Westchester, covering the county as well as Fairfield, CT.  below are the top 10 reasons to consider confirming that moving truck and kissing the concrete jungle goodbye according to agent Seth Keslow who made the move himself a few years ago.

Top 10 Reasons to Consider Moving to Westchester from Manhattan:

10) Price per square foot.  Imagine having more than a 10 x 10 area for 4 people and much more for much less money!

9) Overall quality of life for you and your family – much less hustle ad bustle, so me time and fresh air.

8) Open Spaces and trees -  Most people are happy to have a slightly longer commute for the payoff of having trees , a yard and much more.

7) A sense of community and involvement – Every town in Westchester offers excellent community and recreational opportunities such as beautiful parks, sports teams for adults and children, tennis courts, community pools and more.

6) Private laundry within your home – No more schlepping your laundry through public hallways, elevators or even streets.  Most city residents never have the opportunity to have their own washer and dryers within their home.

5) Super Markets! – HUGE super markets (and a variety of them including Stew Leonard and Fairway!) with plenty of room for wagons and strollers in each isle and everything you need for your home under one roof.

4) Property taxes in Westchester are higher then in NYC – BUT the schools are worth every penny and are FREE.

3) Privacy – Having a large backyard to host friends and family for a barbeque without having all the nosey neighbors across the street being voyeurs.

2) Safety – Having a sense of safety for you and your family with less threats of terror. Having your sense of physical, spiritual, financial, and more protected against failure and harm.

1) Education – Some of the best public schools in our country. In addition, many of the public schools in Westchester are better and higher rated than the private schools in NYC and without the cost.




Mother Nature Weather Woes

Any outdoor event has its challenges certainly, but the biggest fear for all event planners, moms, dads and guests alike is the unpredictability of the weather.  Having a gorgeous 75 degree sunny day right before your event, only to have torrential rainstorms the day of your event that have you shooting dagger eyes to the weatherman for being wrong is so not our idea of fun.

Contingency plans are always good to have, but at the end of the day it is still a force of nature (literally) that you have no control over.  Our friends at Precision Event Planning NY have come up with a great handy checklist that every bride to be and family/ event/ coordinator/planner should take a gander at to help alleviate some common issues that can be controlled…

Although the sun may have been shining bright the day you signed your contract for your wedding venue, that doesn’t mean unexpected weather will not make an appearance on your big day. When living in the North Eastern part of the US, each season offers a delightful variety of wonderful ways to celebrate your wedding, but it can also cause much commotion if not prepared for it to take an unexpected turn. Here are some tips to avoid disaster on your wedding day and shine bright like the sun even if the sun is hiding in the clouds.


Heat: Summer, although considered a popular time to have events especially weddings, is not necessarily the most comfortable. Unless the entire wedding is indoors with central air, chances are those guest are going to be reaching for a fan!

Solution:Hand held battery operated fans as wedding favors. You can personalize them four your wedding and this way the guest can actually read the program instead of using them to cool off.

Bugs: Summer time is breeding ground for bugs and at an outdoor wedding this can become a problem.

Solution: When choosing an outside venue, make sure to think about the surroundings and choose a venue that has maintained greenery.


Wind: In the Fall, the leaves are changing colors and the air is crisp, but the air can also be a little too powerful. A windy fall day can end up blowing decorations around and messing up your hair.

Solution: Make sure all decorations are secured to something stable or heavy enough to not blow away.

Also, try a classic updo for your hair to eliminate the risk of your hair getting tangled or getting in the way from an unexpected gust of wind.


Snow: Winter usually means snow and this past winter was especially cold and snowy. If you have always dreamed of having a winter wonderland but don’t want the cold temperature or snow to interfere then here are some solutions.

Solution: Some ways that you can make sure guests and your wedding party stay warm and happy at your winter wedding is to offer warm beverages like hot cocoa. When it comes to picking a venue make sure that the venue is strict with driveways remaining salted and shoveled. The wedding party can wear gloves to add a classic element and help them to stay warm in those beautiful outdoor snow photos.


Rain: Spring flowers are one of the top reasons to get married during this time of year but flowers grow because of rain. If an outdoor ceremony was planned this can become quite an obstacle.

Solution: Arrange for an outdoor ceremony under a tent so that even if it rains the wedding can proceed. A fun option is to have umbrellas in the colors of your wedding theme to distribute to guests who may have forgotten their own. These umbrellas will also make for great props in wedding photos.