What's for Dinner? Meal-Planning Sites and Apps for Families

Eons ago (OK, just five years) we did a post on family meal planning. In fact, it was one of the very first things we blogged about here at Mommy Poppins. But a lot's changed since then, and the rise of smartphones, social networks and a gazillion new websites gives us many new options to chew on when it comes to making meals.

You can't overestimate the importance of sitting down to family meals. Studies show that eating as a family benefits everyone, especially children, who are then less likely to become obese, fall into substance abuse or have low self-esteem. Of course preparing dinner (and breakfast and brunch and lunch) isn't always easy to pull off. Happily, there are a slew of online meal-planning sites, mobile apps and meal swapping tools to help get healthy, budget-friendly meals on your table. Here are some of our current favorites.

99 Things to Do in Charlotte, NC with Kids Before They Grow Up

Charlotte, North Carolina is the second largest city in the southeast and one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. With museums, parks, sports teams, great dining and shopping, it's no wonder. There's lots to do in Charlotte for families. Whether you are a native Charlottean, one of the thousands of transplants, or just visiting, we hope you will love exploring the history, diversity, culture and beauty of the Queen City.  

If you somehow get bored in Charlotte, you can always head to nearby Asheville, NC. We've got the scoop on things to do with kids in Asheville too. 

Make Your Own Granola Bars

Granola bars are a snack that kids love and parents can feel good about giving their kids - or so the ads say. But many granola bars aren't much better than candy bars and are loaded with sugar, fat, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. I found a really easy recipe for granola bars on AllRecipes and I've been making our own ever since. We whip up a batch every weekend for the upcoming week - perfect for back to school time. You could also make more and freeze them. The kids love them and love making them. It's fun for them to eat healthy snacks they've made themselves.

Preparing for Kindergarten: Five Books to Help Children Transition

Last year at this time you may have been wracked with anxiety about finding your child the right preschool or elementary school. Now all of that is behind you and next week or soon there after your kid or toddler will be starting school for the first time or starting at big kid school for the first time. Either way, it's their turn to be filled with anxiety. Even the most cool NYC kid is bound to feel some jitters when faced with a completely new school situation.

Griffith Park: Look Out! Twelve More Things To Do Than You Thought

Five times the size of New York’s Central Park, Griffith Park was designated as a historic cultural monument in 2009, protecting it from future development. Angelenos should be thankful to Griffith J. Griffith, a Welsh real estate developer who gifted the land to the city in 1896 as a “place of recreation and rest for the masses.” This may have been somewhat self-serving, since much of the land donated was too mountainous for development; nevertheless, the result for us has been access to hiking trails right smack in the middle of our urban city.

Farmers' Markets on Long Island: Fresh Local Food for Your Family

There's just something about a farmers' market that inspires even the pickiest eater to try something they wouldn't otherwise touch. Perhaps it's the fun of meeting a farmer, the spectacle of all the bold, colorful displays of produce or maybe it’s simply the joy the freedom of an outdoor market filled with delicious aromas and live music brings.

We’ve rounded up farmers’ markets throughout Long Island sure to supply you and your family with delicious locally grown fruits and veggies as well as some inspiration for how to prepare them when you get home. Bring reusable bags so that you and the kids can comfortably tote your bounty--and bring your appetite so you can snack while you shop! And for more outdoor activities this season, check out our Summer Fun Guide.

This Week: 10 Brand-New NYC Spots, Perfect Weekend Trips, Best of Rockaway

What's new in NYC? A lot, actually. This week we focused on a slew of fresh family attractions, including a new interactive exhibit, a FREE new children's musical and 10 new NYC destinations with options to please a variety of ages and interests. (That's my kid in the pic, enjoying the new Whitney Museum.)

Not that we're knocking the old—sometimes the best summer adventures are experiences that are just new to you. If you're looking for family day trip ideas, our New Jersey site has an awesome roundup of old-school activities you can't do in the city, like drive-ins, historic villages and swimming holes. Or maybe you want to check out a quaint and walkable NJ town, or connect with nature in Hudson Valley or romp around an outdoor museum on Long Island? Our tri-state area sites are overflowing with getaway inspiration.

For those looking to go further afield, our Travel site has a lovely slide show of the Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, which is close enough to NYC to be doable on a weekend.

Here's what else we covered on the NYC site this week:

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