Meal Planning…The Quest Continues!

The truth is this: I’m starting to get discouraged with my meal planning efforts, which in reality are barely on paper; just wishes, hopes, and dreams in my mind.

After reading this wonderful the post Mastering Meal Planning from The Nourishing Home I realized what the number one thing that is holding me back. Her first step is “create a “Master List of Meals” that your family enjoys.” Really, really good advice I thought! And then quickly I realized we are a family of very few meals. I rarely use recipes. Rather, I just sorta bake a meat and a veggie or two (not anything fancy from a recipe mind you, just the plain ole peas steamed with maybe a dab of butter), and throw in a fruit for dessert.

We just eat very simply.

This is good and bad. I grew up with my mom always having lots of variety and trying out new recipes. My dad would eat anything, and if us kids didn’t like something we still tried it and politely expressed we preferred a different meal better.

The reason I don’t really use recipes is because I can’t make casseroles, soups, rice dishes/stir frys, I can’t make things that are too saucy, too spicy, too vegetably, too…DIFFERENT! The reason I can’t is because I would be the only one eating said exciting, flavorful, variety packed dishes, and that just isn’t very economical! Though Sweet C is not a picky eater, she does like to have her food prepared rather simply and separate. I have not trained her to do this, but she automatically separates her meat, pasta, veggies, whatever from each other. It’s okay if they touch, she just doesn’t like stuff mixed together…Know what I mean? And my beloved hubby, well, he is just sort of a meat and potato man. Although he does eat fruit and the occasional veggie on the side.

So, what’s a wise woman to do? I need to manage my home, be prepared, economical, organized, and feed my family in a healthy way. I also need to be respectful of my husband. And then it dawned on me…I mean, really, there must have been a little light bulb that flashed above my head!

Simple is GOOD!

Not the simple of “let’s just eat mac and cheese” and the easy, non-healthy processed food and fast food diet. (Which we have done in the past and are now choosing to leave those ickies behind!) The simple I am referring to is: don’t stress out and do what is good for your family. What is good for my family is not lamenting over recipe after recipe I can’t make and everybody else is making (or at least pinning over on Pintrest). I am choosing to no longer stress out over “if onlys”.

What I am going to do is be who we are as a family. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on leading a healthy lifestyle. There are still tons of ways we can improve, but it doesn’t have to be through all the other recipes people are posting. As long as we are getting the nutrients that our bodies need and we like the taste of what we eat and I’m not breaking the bank…then I am going to CELEBRATE!

So, I will make a master list of meals (or just plain old whole foods, sort of like fruit and veggie list). And if it only has ten meals on it, then so be it!

After I get a little routine going, then I have decided to have my fun, and experiment, and add variety through simple side dishes. I will aim to always have two side dishes. A guaranteed side hubby will love (ie mashed potatoes) and a side me and Sweet C can enjoy, and if dear hubby wants to take a taste he will be more than welcome to it!

Off the top of my head here is the beginning of my meal list:

Spaghetti with Prego Sauce and Ground Beef
Hamburgers
Baked Chicken
Beef Pot Roast
Pizza with pepperoni (and bacon if possible)
Eggs and Toast

Simple Sides I already make and no recipe required:

Mashed potatoes
Steamed corn
Steamed peas
Baked sweet potato
Steamed brocoli (but haven’t made in a while due to breastfeeding…)
Baked Carrots
Steamed green beans
Diced tomato (mainly for Sweet C, one of her absolute faves!)
and whatever fruit we have on hand, just plain and raw, but delicious!

Here’s to the simple life, learning to be content with things you can not change (perhaps this is also flexibility peppered with grace?), and also making the changes starting in your own life that need improved.

What do you think of simple is good?

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The Night-Time Dilemma

“To do, or not to do? That is the question!” William Shakespeare

(Thanks for the hook, Shakespeare!)

The kids are in bed, well at least one is in bed…My toddler, Sweet C, has bedtime between 8:30 and 9 o’clock. My darling three-month old, Blue Eyes,  gets turns being held my Mommy, Daddy, and the swing during the evening. But generally speaking, the evening is free time for me and Hubby. And by free time what I really mean is “the night-time dilemma”. I could just sit and relax (and maybe blog or look at Facebook) or finish up chores that didn’t get done during the day, which would be most of them!

Finishing up chores makes the next day run soooo much smoother. It is less stressful to walk into the kitchen and see clean counter, a dish free sink, wiped down table. I am mostly great at least having the kitchen in order before I go to bed. But then there are nights like tonight where I am just physically worn down and have already mentally checked out!

I have an option, (we all always have a choice). Get motivated, get moving, and as the old Nike slogan aptly encouraged, “Just Do It!”. Or, I could slump around tonight worrying about how tomorrow I am going to have just that much more to do (and less time to do it since we have a wedding to attend). It is not always easy to just pull myself up by the bootstraps and kick myself in the rear to get going. I need an outside source of inspiration, a conviction to take the less easy choice, a reminder to strive for the best.

Enter Proverbs 31

The Wife of Noble Character. That is who I want to be! From verse 27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

Truth and Wisdom are great at giving inspiration, aren’t they?

 

What motivates you?

 

Love Your Kitchen

Welcome to my Kitchen.

 

I have a love/hate relationship with my kitchen. But I am learning to be content with what I have and change what I can and learn to be content with the way things are some more. Contentment is hard work, especially when I see so much potential in something but the means are just not available for the time being.

It is a decently large space, but there are two main problems. It has four doors. Two you can see in the picture. The door on the left is to the outside and the door on the right is to a bathroom. I am stood in the door way to the utility room while I taking this picture, and just out of the picture’s frame to the left is the door to the living room.

The second main problem is limited counter space. I used to have a moveable island in the middle of the kitchen but decided to have our table in that place so it freed up our other living areas.

I love that my kitchen is red. I also have many red kitchen appliances and it just makes me very happy. I love that I have a dishwasher, a newer oven, and a window over my sink. I love that the adjoining utility not only houses the washer and dryer but also my refrigerator and a couple more cupboards. And finally, I love that my kitchen is mine and I have claimed it as my clutter free zone. Toys are not allowed in the kitchen. I do however keep a few books on top of my pot rack for my Sweet C. When I am looking at cookbooks she has one of her own to keep her preoccupied 🙂

So, to tackle some of my space problems I have utilized a couple handy organization tricks.

I use cup hooks to hold (and display) my most used kitchen tools. Pretty and practical 🙂

I got this idea from a lady whose kids I used to nanny. She used it only for measuring cups, but the idea definitely originated from her kitchen 🙂

Next up in keeping my kitchen an organized space is my beloved pots and pans rack. I love this thing! I can’t remember the exact price but I know it was right around $30. So worth every penny!

Love my pots and pans rack! See that cute little bucket in the middle? I used a clothes pin to attach it to the rack and fill it with pens! 🙂

And next to the pot rack is my wonderful spice rack. I also use it to hold some vitamins and medicine, but I’m sure those will get booted as I expand my spice collection 🙂

My spice rack.

Lastly I have a dry erase/calendar/pin board in my kitchen. On the pin board I hang my keys up so Sweet C doesn’t hide them and I always know where they are…unless I forget to put them up there! 🙂

My multi-functioning organizational aide! Dry erase board with calendar and pin board.

Hope these little ideas help.  And remember to be thankful for what you have. 🙂 Using what you’ve got may just spark some creativity!

What do you love most about your kitchen and what do you do to keep it organized and ready for action?

 

Now a Word on Organization

I don’t really like to spend money.

So, when it comes to organization I just try to use what I’ve got, or very mindfully look for a low-cost solution.

Today, I’ll just focus on my front room which houses most of the toys. I have three different stations so when it is time to pick up, Sweet C knows where her toys belong, and I can swoop up the toy clutter quickly when company comes over.

We have a big plastic bin for books. (some of them ast least. there are other book areas in the rest of the house too!) This came as part of Sweet C’s birthday present so it cost me zero dollars, yay!

Books in a Bin. Easy for a toddler to put books away laying flat instead of standing them up on a book shelf.

Then I have a box for big stuffed animals, also a present, yay!

Wooden Box for Stuffed Animals. Takes seconds to toss them in and get the floor picked up!

And underneath my coffee table I have two medium-sized baskets that we put small animals and small toys. I actually did buy these, but got them on sale so I only paid $10 for both of them. I like these nicer looking baskets for my coffee table because it adds a little “grown-up sophistication” and texture.

These “grown-up” baskets give my front room a little style with great hidden storage for more little toys!

I think it is very important to teach kids at a young age to pick up after themselves. I started helping Sweet C pick up her toys just before her first birthday. I made it into a game to get the toy into the box or basket. She loved how I would clap and cheer for her. Now, as she approaches her 18th month, Sweet C willingly picks up toys when asked. She still needs some help, and may only get a few, but her joyful spirit to help is what I want more than anything. Also, she knows that the books, animals, and other small toys all have their place, so she is learning organization even as a child 🙂

In my next post on organization we’ll be taking a look at my kitchen and how I claim it as my clutter free zone.

Hope these little ideas help you to control clutter! Happy Organizing!

I am so blessed in having a helpful toddler and a happy little 3 month old!

Healthier, Wealthier, and Wiser

Fruits and vegetables from a farmers market. c...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my meal planning quest I have run into a detour. Upon trying to decide what food I should buy and prepare for my family I ran into the question: Am I really making the wisest and healthiest choices for the ones I love?

I thought I had been doing pretty good. We eat out rarely, processed/ pre- packaged foods are limited, I actually MAKE meals (most of the time ;p). But the truth is this, we need to be eating WAY more veggies. Now, I can’t make Hubby do this, it needs to be his choice 🙂 But, for myself who is the food source for Blue Eyes and giving (and educating) Sweet C in what to eat, we need to do a little work.

So I made a list of all the possible veggies our family does eat and a few I would like us to try to eat. Then I also listed some of the healthiest fruits we eat. We actually eat way more fruits than on the list but some fruit can just really pack a healthy punch so I just wanted to include those. Since I was in a list making mode I want ahead and listed proteins, grains, and spices/herbs. I generally don’t cook with many herbs but after some research I’ve seen we are missing out on some major health benefits from not including them! The World’s Healthiest Foods was a great source to find out all the benefits of each of the foods (including spices/herbs) on my lists.

In case you are interested the items on my lists are as follows:

VEGETABLES

  • Avocado
  • Bell Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Green Beans
  • Green Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potato
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tomato

FRUITS

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Raisins
  • Strawberries

PROTEINS

  • Almonds
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Cod
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts/Peanut Butter
  • Pork (includes sausage or bacon)
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Whole Milk (For Sweet C)
  • Yogurt

GRAINS

  • Whole Grain Bread
  • Whole Grain Cereal
  • Whole Grain Pasta
  • Home-made breads my mom makes from her own milled flour which includes ancient grains like kamut and spelt

SPICES/HERBS

  • Basil
  • Black Pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Cinnamon
  • Dill
  • Ginger
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

Now my goal is to be stocked up with at least seven different veggies and seven different fruits at all times. I don’t care for canned fruits and vegetables but frozen is almost as good as fresh so that makes it easier to have these items on hand.

You will note that I didn’t make diary a category and just lumped some dairy items in with protein. I am personally trying to cut back on dairy because I think little Blue Eyes is having tummy issues when I drink milk so I have switched over to Almond Milk (which mainly goes in my cereal or coffee). We aren’t big cheese eaters and so it is easier to just cut it out since it is expensive. With the exception of our once a week pizza that will probably be the extent of our cheese eating. And as for ice cream, which was not listed, I still will love to eat some from time to time, but it is a special treat (like pop) that I refuse to actively have stocked in my house.

I am the only one in our family that eats fish (and only canned tuna at that) so I need to figure out how to get my family to eat some healthy Omega 3’s from cod or tilapia. Suggestions??????

Our family does a great job of not buying or eating many, if any, junk foods (chips, cookies, pastries) which comes in the form of grains, but I would love to be even more conscientious of getting the healthiest whole grain options possible for my family.

For now I need to stock up on some of those dried herbs, but I would love to have a little indoor fresh herb garden in the future.

Now that I have all the real, whole foods listed out that I know my family likes it will be easier/faster to make a grocery list, find simple recipes for those ingredients, and get our healthy variety on a weekly basis.

Oh, and a couple other little notes to add. We all are big water drinkers, but I am now even more determined to drink even more water and not feel guilty about our family not drinking juice or cow’s milk. (Except Sweet C gets whole milk, but still drinks more water than anything). We do occasionally have pop/soda (I love some root beer from time to time). But we don’t actively stock it in the house. As for cooking and baking, I exclusively use REAL butter and extra virgin olive oil. Do some of your own research and find out why these are great options.

What do you think about these lists? Do you think this would be helpful in cutting out waste, reducing shopping time, and ensuring you get a variety of healthy food you and your family will enjoy?

I feel very blessed to be learning new things every day to become wiser, wealthier (saving money by not being wasteful), and healthier!

Meal Planning Update: Research

Research. Gotta love the internet for having a billion different ideas and methods at my fingertips in seconds. I want this process to be simple so I am limiting my time and energy on my research into meal planning. I found some great advice about menu planning from Simple Mom. And at Money Saving Mom she lists what her family eats as real life examples. (There is a TON of other neat info in this site too, but so I don’t get information overload I’ll have to slowly look through it here and there).

Now to get to the down and dirty part: implementing

I’ve been thinking about something the past couple of days. My great-grandmother was a little girl during the Great Depression and I remember her telling stories of how they ate oatmeal three times a day. Now, I’m not talking about going this extreme, but it does make me realize how much variety we can afford even while we are trying to be frugal. It also makes me want to actually cut back a little more. Sometimes less really is more.

This is what I have so far:

Breakfast: rotate between cold cereal with fruit, eggs with fruit, and yogurt with toast or bagel

Lunch: leftovers or sandwiches

Snack: fresh fruit and veggies or smoothies (I make these with all natural plain yogurt, frozen fruit, a frozen veggie usually spinach, and milk not juice. The milk varies between cow milk, soy milk, and almond milk. Sometimes I will add some honey or cinnamon).

Dinner: have a theme. Need to work on this. Possibly something like Mondays = pasta, Tuesday = chicken, Wednesday = roast, Thursday = breakfast like french toast or pancake, Friday = pizza

We kinda do this sort of thing anyways, but I need to get it on paper. This will help me to ensure I have the right ingredients for the week, and don’t get lazy or forgetful when it comes to meal time.

How are you all doing with your meal planning?

Mean Cleaning Machine

The thing about housework in general is that it is never-ending.

The thing about housework and kids is as soon as something is cleaned or picked up it is right back to how it was or even worse than before…in a matter of minutes.

If you have kids or not sometimes it just feels better to leave a mess because it is just going to get messy again anyways. Right?

But there is something to say about having a clean house (or at least an uncluttered one). In one word: Peaceful. It’s like that feeling of sleeping in freshly washed sheets. On the other hand, have you ever noticed that when your house is a wreck your mood is much more…chaotic? At least that seems to happen to me. I feel much more stressed out when I can’t see the counters on account of piles of dishes, the floor is completely strewn with toys, and that tower of laundry is starting to look like the Frankenstein’s monster…yeah it can be that scary. There is no way I can go all at it in one day because I don’t have that type of time and definitely don’t have the massive amount of energy for that fell swoop.

So I have to make things manageable, and this is how: clean as I go, reward myself for doing something especially when I am tired/unmotivated, set a time limit, and keep an end of the day goal.

The first step, clean as I go, is easy and straight-forward. Make a messy = clean it up immediately. This was some of my mom’s advice. When making meals throw dirty dishes in the sink when done using them. While you are waiting for the water to boil, the oven to heat up, or the baking timer to go off, this is the time to wash, dry, and put those items away. Or, if need be (I actually do this a lot) throw them in the dishwasher and let the machine do the work for you!

Dishwasher, open and loaded with dishes

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My second little trick is to reward myself. This usually includes a little snack (I try to keep it healthy, but don’t feel bad when it is a cookie either) or a little free time…like blogging! I really only use this when I am especially tired and want to make myself do a chore. Then there is the time limit game. I got this idea from another blog a year or two ago but I can’t for the life of me find it again. Basically this blogger who was a homeschooling mom suggested cleaning seven minutes at a time. It’s amazing how much you can do in that amount of time and it is short enough that the kids don’t go crazy without your supervision. While I was trying to look up that particular blog I came across a different blogging momma that showed how to get your bathrooms “company ready” in seven minutes. Love it!

Lastly, I like to have an end of the day goal. If nothing else gets done I want my kitchen to be clean before I go to bed. Now, I’m pretty liberal with this term; dishes washed, counters cleared, sink and table wiped down. The floor is usually still sticky but when I turn out the lights in the kitchen I can breathe a peaceful sigh of relief. Not to mention this is a great way to start your morning to a clutter free zone, especially if the rest of the house looks like a tornado hit it!

So, is my house squeaky clean? Nope. Will it ever be? Yes, but probably not in this season of life. Do I wish I could just run through and do a nice whole house deep clean? You bet! But, I’m also content to be keeping it relatively clutter free by the end of the day (during the day toys on the floor are a necessity for a toddler 😀 ) and for the most part I’m keeping the germs at bay. And wasn’t it someone wise that once said, “A little dirt won’t hurt?”

I am so blessed to live in this modern time and reaping the rewards of good ole Thomas Edison! I don’t know how I would manage without electricity!

Thomas Edison's first lightbulb which was used...