This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BackToSchoolSimple #CollectiveBias

Dear Diary,

Not long ago, I lived in the Cayman Islands and hosted a television show. Today, I’m back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom–to a kindergartener! When I first became a mother, people told me the time would fly by. I didn’t know what they really meant until this week when the back-to-school season started. Seems like just yesterday when we took mommy and me classes.

Giant Eagle_Baby Gym

It was a time when I shopped at Giant Eagle for baby food and diapers. Last night, my list included items to pack school lunches and serve snacks. I’m now a first time mother to an elementary school student!

I blinked my eyes and my daughter entered preschool.

First Day of School

Blinked again and she graduated two years later and served as the emcee.

Caitlynn Emcee

This would be stressful, but Giant Eagle helping my family make a smooth transition (You can find lots of ideas to make mealtime a simple time by clicking here.) The store serves as our back-to-school headquarters for all needs. Since the store is a few minutes away, it’s the easiest and most convenient option, with the greatest variety of my daughter’s favorite foods. I can pick up items to pack her breakfast, lunch and snacks–all items–her preschool provided.


I purchased Capri Sun, Goldfish Crackers, Snack Packs and Giant Eagle String Cheese. I also picked up Schwebels Bread–the 100 percent whole grain bread is clearly labeled WIC approved. (I remember staying home with my daughter the first year and signing up for WIC. WIC products are often very difficult to find on the shelves, so I really appreciate that Giant Eagle doesn’t make moms search the store for hours!)

Giant Eagle Recipe Ingredients

Since my little girl will be a little fish in a big pond, we went with a Dory themed backpack. I decided to make a turkey panini. You just need Schwebels Bread, turkey and cheese (I used Giant Eagle String Cheese, because string cheese is my daughter’s favorite variety.)

Giant Eagle Panini

To create a balanced meal, I packed a Capri Sun, Snack Pack and Goldfish Crackers. This menu makes #BacktoSchoolSimple!

Giant Eagle Lunch Notes

Because it’s hard to cut the cord–or shall I say line of my little fish, I bought Dory notecards. You can tuck a love note into your child’s meal. Here are five messages you can write:

  1. Remind your little one to eat his/her vegetables or sandwiches before diving into their desserts.
  2.  Wish your children luck on a big test.
  3. Tell your children that you hope they make new friends or learn new things.
  4. Let them know that you love them; that they are smart; that they are beautiful.
  5. Share a secret!

Although sending my daughter to school is harder for me than it is for her, nutritious meals and love notes make it a bit easier to let go. I’m still not totally letting go–I’m going to drop her off every morning. I need to ease my way into these new waters before putting her on the bus.

Hey DFTM Fam–How are you making #BacktoSchoolSimple? Tag your tips and Giant Eagle pics on Instagram using #BacktoSchoolSimple. Plus, be sure to follow the store’s Instagram account to join the conversation!

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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