The Van Plan was originally posted on my original blog, four score and seven years ago. Those of you who have been with me for 10 or 15 years, this is a throwback! We're on 3.0!
I probably spent 30 years of my life in a minivan.
Going to the farm, field trips, sports, scouts, church, delivering meals on wheels, errands. As homeschoolers, the kids were always in tow. 24/7 my pack and I would buzz around in our van.
In the event you have never met or spent time with a child, I'll let you in on a little secret. Kids are always hungry. Always.Hungry.
They burn off tons of calories and energy so they like to eat many times throughout the day. Who knew? Leaving my home unprepared for this reality was costing me a small fortune.
Stopping for a Gatorade, a bag of pretzels, McDonalds, etc. times 3 for all the kids + me was expensive. I couldn't just say to them, "Wait until we get home" because we could be gone for hours.
And, we were always running behind. Just about to leave and a dog throws up on the carpet. Trying to remember everything we need to take - do you have your volleyball shoes? Your math book? Nina's sweatshirt she left here... it was too much.
I like to evaluate a problem, assess it, and solve it. It's how I roll.
To prevent unnecessary eating out and to keep my husband and I out of the poorhouse I instituted the Van Plan.
(In my head every time I say "Van Plan", I hear na na na na na na na, na- VAN PLAN! Like the bat-Man theme song.)
I gotta give props. While riding with my best friend Jennifer back in the day after an event the kids were nagging for drinks and she whipped out some Capri Suns from a playmate cooler beside the driver seat. She even offered me a Diet Coke. She kept this cooler in her van and loaded all the time and only had to grab the cooler packs when they left. Genius. Jen had one adorable blonde, well-mannered, kiddo so I knew my motley crew was gonna need an upgrade of this system, but this was life altering moment in my life so thanks Jen!
My Van Plan includes a couple small soft side coolers. One is stocked with drinks and I need only to add the ice packs - it stays in the van unless it needs stocking. The other comes and goes from the van -it's for sandwiches and cold snacks like grapes, yogurts and cheese sticks, especially on days when we are going to be gone a lot.
I bought plastic sandwich containers because sometimes we left very early for the farm and mushy PBJ's in sandwich bags are gross.
These photos were taken with an actual camera and SCANNED to be added to the blog! I'm dating myself aren't I?
I bought inexpensive plastic canisters from the Dollar Tree to keep the snacks. We can't keep track of bag clips in the house - we aren't going to do better tracking them in the van.
These are also easy to clean, dishwasher safe.
For perspective here is Van Plan 1.0.
I bought the 3 drawer cabinet and kept it in the back so no one can rummage through it while we're moving.
Drawer 1: Raisins, Peanuts, Pretzels, (fresh fruit on a day to day basis)
Drawer 2: Peanut-butter crackers, cheese and crackers, chex (generic) mix.
Drawer 3: Essentials like- disposable or plates, paper towels, our first-aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen and hand sanitizer.
I added a small trash can in the back. In the bottom of the can was a neatly folded stash of Walmart bags with one lining the can secured by a large rubber band. These bags ended up holding muddy clothes, shoes, serving as "sick" bags and being shared with folks who didn't have a Van Plan often.
Stocking the van was on the kid's chore list. It was stocked and cleaned every weekend. This wasn't viewed as a chore though for the kids. The kids loved the Van Plan. They were comforted I think knowing there was always food available and they knew their cooperation was key in keeping it that way.
Van Plan snacks were added to the shopping list.
The "system" cost about about $40 to set up and stock the first time. Keep in mind this includes the drawers, coolers, etc. This is maybe two visits for us at a drive-thru.
Weekly it is less than $20 to fully stock it once a week from Aldi. Including the cooler with water bottles, gatorade and juice boxes.
The Van Plan evolved over the years to better and better systems. It's really amazing to me how many years this served our family. It caught on and friends and subscribers shared so many stories of their own Van Plans.
We still deploy the Van Plan when we have the grandkids and when we travel. I even have a version that stays in my husband's van to make sure he has what he needs during the day.
Meals, finances, managing your family, being on time - it's all connected. Make a Plan.
I moved on to this Van Plan 2.0
Two warnings. 1)When you first start the Van Plan the kids will ask for a snack the very moment their tushies hit the van seat. It's new. They've been thinking about Van snacks and know they're there. It's ok. Don't get frustrated because the first week or two they devour all the snacks. The new wears off. 2) You will want to curb the snacks an hour and half before dinner or they'll miss their hunger window. Nowadays the Van Plan is there to feed my grandkids! The system at the top of the post- that's my jam. I'm a planner. It's how I roll. Over the years this system saved me a small fortune. It allowed us to make better food choices. It prevented hangry sibling squabbles and it saved my sanity. PS. I made a Van Plan for my husband's van too. He has always been so grateful to have things he can grab when he is running late in the mornings, or when he works through lunch.