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Monday, July 28, 2014

making meal planning part of your routine

About 3 years ago I started meal planning, and much to my own surprise I've not stopped.  I may take a week off here or there if my husband's traveling or we're getting ready to leave for a vacation, but for the most part I create a meal schedule once a week.  This one simple task has made such a positive impact on our daily life that I thought I'd share a few tips that have worked for me and helped me to keep the meal planning going. 

7 tips for making meal planning an easy part of your routine

1. Do it Weekly 
Don't make it harder than it needs to be.  A monthly plan looks great on paper, but in reality trying to come up with that many meals at one time can be super daunting.  The more daunting the task the more likely you'll quit, so just make it a weekly thing.  If you're a once a week grocery shopper this should be pretty easy to do.  And only plan dinners!  Sure, I have a running idea in my head of what I'll be preparing for breakfast and lunch, but I don't write out a plan for every single meal.  The point is to make meal planning a regular thing, so I only make a weekly dinner plan because that's just a lot more do-able for me.  Some may not agree with this, but I'd rather take little bites I can handle than choke by biting off more than I can chew.  Does that make sense?   

2. Create a "Favorites" Book/List
When you're first starting out with meal planning actually figuring out what to make can seem impossible.......let alone figuring out 5 or 6 meals at one time.  I recommend keeping a "favorites" book or list to help you get over the "what should I make" hurdle.  Having a quick reference guide of favorite meals your family enjoys helps to make the planning process less time consuming. 

Meal Planning Tip: Create a "Favorites" Book/List

3. Put Your Phone to Work
I've seen lots of free printables online that can be used to keep track of your weekly menus helping you to avoid eating "repeater meals" (eating the same thing every week).  What I personally find most helpful is taking a phone picture of my weekly menu and then when I sit down to plan the next week's meals I pull that picture up to use as a reference.  This keeps me from getting into a meal rut.   Pinterest is also a great place to keep favorites.  Get specific with your boards like "slow cooker meals" or "dinner in 20 minutes".........the more specific, the easier it will be to find exactly what you're looking for when it's time to make your plan. 

4. Schedule Meal Planning Time
Make meal planning part of your weekly routine.  Set up a day/time that you can sit down to write down a plan.  Maybe even set up an alert on your phone to remind you to do it if you're new to meal planning so that you won't forget.  I make my meal plan for the week on Sunday at the same time I make my weekly grocery list.  If your schedule seems too crazy to actually set up a time for meal planning, figure out a time where you can squeeze it in - like during your lunch hour or maybe while you're sitting on the side of a soccer field or you're in the lobby of the dance studio.  Somewhere in your busy schedule you can find 10 to 15 minutes to write out a weekly meal plan, and that 10 to 15 minutes will save you loads of time and stress in the long run! 

Meal Planning Tips

5. Work Your Plan Around Your Life 
Meal plans go out the window if they don't work with your schedule.  It's important to plan dinner around things like after-school activities, meetings and appointments. When you write out your weekly plan be sure to check your calendar first so you can plan accordingly. 

6. Be Realistic
It's easy to let Pinterest recipes and beautiful cookbook photos carry you away.  I'm not saying that you shouldn't try new recipes, just that if you've planned a weeks worth of recipes you've never made before you may end up feeling overwhelmed.  Be realistic about your skill level in the kitchen and about the time you have to prepare a meal.  I typically leave the new recipes I want to try to the weekend when I have a little more time to play in the kitchen........and time to recover if something doesn't turn out well. ;) 

7. Get the Family Involved
There's nothing worse than taking the time to plan out a weekly dinner schedule just to have the rest of your family moan and groan over the menu.  Most weeks my husband helps with the meal planning, and I typically let my kids choose a dinner they would like me to make once a week.  This way everyone gets something they like.  And the bonus is I don't have to think up every meal on my own!

Meal planning is kind to the budget, encourages healthy eating habits and takes the stress out of meal preparation.  With school getting ready to start back up there is no time like the present to make meal planning a part of your regular routine.  Honestly, meal planning has also made cooking feel like less of a chore and more of something I actually look forward to doing for my family.  It also makes busy school nights feel less chaotic! 

Are you a meal planner?  Do you have any meal planning tips to share?  

Friday, July 25, 2014

what's on my mind this friday

Hey hey friends and happy Friday!  We only have a few more summer weekends left before school starts, so I plan to really enjoy every single one of them!  Today my little girlfriend is getting her haircut (she wants bangs like her momma!), and then we've got plans to hang with friends at the pool.  Yay for Friday! 

There are lots of things on my mind today, but because we're friends I'll keep this list short and sweet.  ;) 

1. Back on the 4th of July I hosted a casual little family cookout and served up some simple family-friendly beverage options.  

The lemon/lime infused water was so refreshing that I decided to keep a pitcher of lemon water in my refrigerator ongoing.  Every week I slice up a lemon or two and then just keep refilling the water; it's super simple!  I've been drinking a lot more water since I started doing this, and the bonus came when I found out drinking lemon water is actually really good for you!  I was doing it for the flavor, but now I'll be doing it for the health benefits. 

2. I was honored to be included in this reading nook contest, and I would really love your vote!  (There are prizes involved!) 

3. So I fell in love with this backpack for my horse-loving little girl......................

horse backpack

but she found this BMO (from Adventure Time), and the boy got this Star Wars backpack from Hot Topic.................why do mall stores have to have glass fronts?!  ;) 

(Yes, my son is wearing a Pokemon hat..........I can't make this stuff up folks.)
4.  In addition to the paleo recipes I share on the blog from time to time I also share super easy paleo meal ideas on instagram that never make it to the blog.  This is one of my favorite fast and delicious meals. 

I chop up a few slices of bacon (like maybe 5) and add them to a skillet.  Once the chopped bacon gets good and crispy I add a a couple of large bunches of kale to the skillet, turn the heat down a little, add some cracked black pepper and stir it around for about 3 to 5 minutes.  Then I empty all the kale and bacon into a bowl.  I add a little grass-fed butter (like 1/2 a tsp.) to the skillet and some minced garlic, let the garlic sizzle and then I add the raw shrimp.  I add a little dried parsley and a pinch or two of sea salt; and then I dump the shrimp on top of the kale and serve warm.  My kids gobble this up and I love that it only dirties one pan and takes less than 20 minutes to prepare!   

Feel free to follow me on instagram for more simple meal ideas!

5.  Last but not least, I'm sharing my fur baby story over at Cuckoo 4 Design today.  Julia runs a series called Living Pretty With Your Pets, and I was honored to be included.

If you've never been to Julia's blog before, you are in for a real treat!  Her home is beautiful!

Have a great weekend!  See you on Monday!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

paleo banana chocolate chip muffins

Bananas are always on my grocery shopping list.  I use them in smoothies.  I make cookies with them, and I just plain old like a banana.  They remind me of my grandpa.  He would always slice them up and add them to my cornflakes when I was a kid.  Today I'm sharing my favorite paleo banana chocolate chip muffin recipe.  I'm constantly tweaking recipes I come across in an attempt to make a paleo version, and after a few trials and fails this recipe came up as a winner.  My kids LOVE these, and I never feel bad letting them have these muffins for breakfast.  They're packed with good nutritious stuff!

paleo banana chocolate chip muffins #dessertforbreakfast

2 cups almond flour
3 tablespoons coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
2 medium size ripe bananas
1/3 cup of honey
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons coconut oil - melted
1/4 cup of enjoy life chocolate chips  - you can also add chopped walnuts if you like

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix together the dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients together in a separate bowl then add to the dry ingredients.  (I like to use a hand mixer to really get the banana blended in well.)  Then add the chocolate chips last.  Line a muffin tin with baking cups and fill about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  This recipe will yield 12 muffins.

paleo banana chocolate chip muffin #glutenfree


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