Planning for the Unplanned: A Lesson in Grace

So this started out as a post for Instagram, but it got a little wordy, so I decided to turn it into a blog post.

Last week’s meal plan was an epic fail. It was our first full week of distance learning with both kids, and I spent a majority of every day with one or both of them getting settled and accustomed to their schedules.

As a result, I didn’t stick to the meal plan, or get any writing done. This week, we’re trying it again, day by day. We didn’t starve either. We ate a lot of meals that came from pantry staples: Bean, rice, and cheese bowls, Spaghetti with red sauce and garlic bread (I made a huge batch of meat sauce a few weeks ago and froze portions for later meals- and the big kid had a vegetarian meal). And we had take out once… or twice. It was too hot to turn on the oven for our weekly pizza night, so we opted for delivery. Thanks to coupon codes (I love the Honey browser extension- it searches for coupon codes for me!) and the Dosh App, I was able to save $7 on a pizza and get free delivery! I also had coupons for free and BOGO bowls at Panda Express (Dinner for 4 was $8). I stretched them with some frozen Asian blend veggies, which I stirfried.

Every time I looked at our Meal Planning board, I felt discouraged, but after a few days, I realized that I needed to give myself some grace. I was doing the best I could. Everyone was still eating, we have shelter, clothes, we are all healthy. So I didn’t make Chicken Tetrazinni on Wednesday? Life still marches on. The kids have been working hard on their schooling, and its a hard thing to be accustomed to- learning alone with only little faces on an iPad screen a few times a day. I spend a lot of time helping them. Guiding them through worksheets, getting apps set up, encouraging them when they are upset or frustrated.

So this week:

Sunday night we had leftovers just to clean out the refrigerator and make room for the meal prep I was doing. I start our meal plan weeks on Sunday- It’s easier for me, since Sunday night tends to be quiet, and I can focus on it after the kids are in bed.

Monday was breakfast for dinner. I am absolutely in love with the Dehydrated hashbrowns from Costco. They make having hashbrowns at dinner (or really any time) a cinch.

I scrambled eggs with a little bit of half-and-half, and cooked them up with bacon crumbles, also from Costco, top with a little Mexican cheese blend, served with fruit, the aforementioned hash browns, and a half an avocado, and English muffins.

It was quick, it was easy, it was filling, and it was pretty cheap too.

Last night was supposed to be vegetarian chili, but I didn’t have a chance to get it into the crockpot, so instead the kids had what I like to call “Meal of Snacks”. I take a segmented plate and fill each section with something yummy: Peanut butter sandwich or hot, buttered noodles, goldfish crackers, apple or orange slices, fruit snacks, a juice box, or a glass of milk, cheese stick or cheese slices, and graham crackers for dessert. I had a frozen entree.

This week I’m just focusing on quick, easy meals with stuff that we already have on hand. I did a quick shopping trip to Food4less  Monday and picked up about $40 worth of groceries, which should get us through the next 10 days or so.

We have tons of pantry staples, and I have a lot of baking supplies on hand, so I will definitely be baking a pizza and cookies this week, maybe brownies too? We’ll see how the week goes. It’s already Wednesday, so who knows. And we are supposed to have a heatwave starting tomorrow. Again. I’ll be glad when it’s no longer in the triple digits for a week at a time.

 

I’m not gonna pretend that I’m perfect, I’m not gonna pretend that my life is all sunshine and unicorns.  Shit is hard right now for all of us. I wasn’t trained to be a kindergarten teacher or a 4th-grade special education teacher. Adding the stress of teaching daily to everything else that I am supposed to be doing is hard, and stuff falls to the side. Putting away laundry, sweeping up the living room, running the vacuum, washing my hair… But remembering that we are all in the same boat is what’s keeping me going.

Pushing out all of the “Insta-perfect” of my line of sight has done wonders for my mental health. All of those perfectly cultivated and curated pics can be detrimental to our mental health. There is a lot of comparing of ourselves to these photos we see online of perfect, clean, bright white kitchens and homes. Guess what- They aren’t real. These people have helpers: Housekeepers, nannies, mother’s helpers. They aren’t doing it alone. AND NEITHER SHOULD WE. Reach out to your tribe. You aren’t in this alone. We may be limited in our in-person, face to face contact with our friends and family, but we can still make phone calls, facetime, skype, zoom, email, or even write letters the old fashioned way.

You aren’t alone. I see you. I recognize you. I’m here for you.

Until next time: Wash your paws, wear a mask, flatten the curve.

Three Easy Recipes for Curbing Food Waste!

About 40% of the food in the US is wasted– That is from the fields to your fridge. Pretty sad, right?  40% seems like a lot, and it is- if you break that down, on average, the typical American family throws away over 25 lbs of food per family member each year!  Throwing food away is throwing money away.

Here are some simple, frugal recipes that can help you curb the food waste in your home.

To curtail my family’s food waste, I cook mostly from scratch.  When it looks like fruit or veggies are about to go bad, I turn them into something.  Recently, I made spicy Pomodoro sauce when the tomatoes at my parents’ house were starting to look squiffy (we were house-sitting for them).

 

Mom had left 6 tomatoes in the fruit basket and they were starting to get soft.  I took them home and pulled the tomatoes and half of a sweet onion I had put in the freezer just a few days ago. The sauce was easy to make!

 

Spicy Pomodoro Sauce

Makes about 4 cups of sauce

  • 11 fresh, whole ripe tomatoes (they can be frozen)
  • 1/2 chopped large sweet onion (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon butter (or olive oil if you are vegan)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1T. Basil (dried)
  • 1 T. Oregano (dried)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon (a pinch) of crushed red pepper flakes.

 

  1. Saute onions in butter until clear, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook on low, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
  3. Add whole tomatoes (it’s ok if they are frozen), cover pot and simmer on medium for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes start to fall apart.  Stir every 10 minutes or so.
  4. Add herbs.
  5. Simmer for 1-2 more hours.  Sauce will be chunky. Break up tomatoes as much as you’d like with a potato masher or a stick blender. Add Red pepper flakes about 30 minutes prior to serving.

Serve sauce on pasta of your choice or on a bed of lightly sauteed spinach.  If you don’t like your sauce spicy, omit the red pepper flakes.

 

86ed9fe0ab9a414c3c58b748e8ea6560.jpgAnother recent “from scratch” dish I made was strawberry syrup.  We’ve been getting a lot of strawberries lately, but last week, we didn’t get around to eating them all before they became a little squishy.

I hulled and chopped them up and tossed them into the freezer, in a bag with other chopped up hulled strawberries that were dead ripe.  The bag was getting full, so Saturday evening, I decided to make strawberry syrup for our Sunday morning pancakes.

I used my mom’s recipe for homemade pectin free jam and just didn’t cook it as long. You can substitute in any other fruit you prefer, except pineapple, kiwi, mangoes, bananas, or coconut (those fruits lack natural pectin and the mixture won’t thicken).  This is best with berries.

Strawberry pancake syrup

Makes about 2 cups

  • 3 cups chopped ripe fruit (can be frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cups of white sugar (do not use Splenda or honey)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  1. Add all of the ingredients together in a pot, cook on medium, and stir every 5-10 minutes to keep the sugar from burning.
  2. Once it has boiled and the fruit has thawed (if working with frozen fruit), mash up the fruit with a potato masher.
  3. Turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture looks glassy.
  4. Remove from heat, pour into a container with a lid. Once cooled,  you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

The mixture will be slightly chunky, and not as firm as jam, but a little more substantial than pancake syrup. This is also good on ice cream or pour a few tablespoons into plain Greek yogurt.

There are a lot of great dishes you can make from scratch anytime- you don’t need to wait for the veggies or fruit to start to turn!

We make applesauce from scratch at least 3 times a month.

Applesauce in the Crockpot

It’s Simple! Peel and chop apples (whatever quantity and variety you have on hand), toss them into the crockpot with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water and let it cook for 4-6 hours. Hot applesauce is the BEST!

I’d love to hear about how your family combats food waste. If you are looking for additional ideas, check out my post about food waste in 30 minutes here.

 

First Week of College, and Beyond!

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I survived the first week of college! After ::cough 17 years cough:: a long time, it’s quite an adjustment getting back into the swing of studying, doing homework, and all of the other things that go into being a mom, wife, blogger/Influencer, and special needs advocate for my big kiddo.

I wanted to share with you some things that have helped me, and the family adjust to the change.  It’s just two classes, but that’s 10-12 hours a week of studying, reading, and homework outside the classroom, and that time comes out of the time I previously spent with the kids, working on the blog/social media, petting the cat, ya know, mom stuff.

Bitty is now going to preschool two days a week. Our city’s Parks and Rec department has a drop off preschool two days a week. It’s approximately $150 for 8 weeks, which is a great price, and she is in a class with 13 other kiddos her age, several of them she knows from her daily visits to the local YMCA Child Watch. While she is at preschool, I have three hours to work on school work. It’s amazing to be able to read and work on my homework in peace. If you need a few hours to get work done, check your local Parks and Rec department for this type of preschool.

Family: As someone who has family nearby, having my family able to help out with school pick ups and therapy drop offs, it is a Godsend. My parents, brother and sister-in-law have really stepped in and helped us with the kids and house. Last week Miss Sally (my car) needed new front and rear brakes, and two new tires. Thanks to my Sister-in-law, niece, and my parents I didn’t have to walk home with Bitty (5 miles with a 3 year old- No thanks) or call an Uber.

Schedule: As a family, we have a shared calendar on iCal, in which I put all of the kids appointments, weekly commitments, birthdays, deadlines. In addition, I also have a calendar (this one) in the master bathroom on my cork board. Yes, I have a cork board in the master bathroom next to the vanity, so we can see whats on the schedule for each day.  Having everything in the palm of my hand (on my phone), and in a place that is visible to us (calendar) has really helped keep us focused and on task.

Remembering my Skill-Set: I’m not reinventing the wheel here. To maximize my productive time, I make sure to use my previously honed skills: Meal Planning, Meal Prep, setting out everyone’s clothes the night before, making lunches the night before, organizing areas of the house to help us get out of the house in the morning on time.

So while you may see less blog posts until I get in the full swing of it all, but I’m still posting on Social Media like a madwoman.

I want you all to know that it doesn’t matter what your age, if there is something you want: College, new job, more time with your family, vacation.. Do it! Change can be scary, but believe in yourself and have a plan! It might be rough at first, but stick with it.

Enough motivational speaking from me, I have homework to do!

Talk Back: What have you done recently that moved you out of your comfort zone?

1/21/19 Weekly Meal Plan

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Mr.husband is doing a cleanse with a few friends this week and next, so the menu this week is extra healthy. The kids and I will will be eating some similar foods, it’s hard to convince the kids to eat kale and steamed salmon night after night.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

You may notice a lot of plant based meals- We are not vegetarian, but I am trying to get more veggies into our diet. I do a lot of cooking from scratch- I find it easier to get veggies and fruit into recipes that I can have 100% control over.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day:

Breakfast: Protein shakes for grown ups, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. We have plenty of protein shake fixins’- I buy the over ripe bananas, peel and slice them pop them into ziploc bags, and freeze them for smoothies and protein shakes. I also keep sandwich ziploc bags of  other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or a protein shake for me and the Mister, and The Big Kid has a specially packed lunch of whatever he’s into at the time (which changes frequently). Bitty Bird eats whatever I’ll feed her.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked.

This week is going to be a little different tan usual. With Mr. on the cleanse, we’ll be eating a lot of whole foods/vegetables raw, and an old family friend steel cut oats will be coming to breakfast.

  • Monday: Pot roast, steamed broccoli, applesauce
  • Tuesday: pan seared herbed chicken (or salmon), quinoa/wild rice blend, roasted carrots
  • Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner- pancakes (Kodiak flap jacks), fruit salad.
  • Thursday:Stir fry veggies and cauliflower “rice”
  • Friday:  Homemade pizza night (Mr. will be having salmon and veggies)
  • Saturday: Salad bar night: mixed greens, kale, and whatever types of veggie bits I pull out, various nuts, and dressings. The kids love cheese on their salads too.
  • Sunday: Leftoverpalooza

 

Talk Back: What will you be cooking this week?

Meal Plan Monday 9/24/18

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Hey, did you know that today is National Punctuation Day? To celebrate, let’s use some exclamation points, and get started with our meal plan for the week!

I’ve gotta goto the grocery store this week, so this is based on what little we have on hand. I’ll be buying more meat, fresh fruit, and veg, and some pantry staples that have dwindled. The menu may changed based on what I find while I’m out shopping.  I’ve been doing a lot of shopping at 99 Cents Only, Grocery Outlet, and Aldi’s lately.

Breakfasts are usually the same for us: Protein shakes for grown ups, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids. We have plenty of protein shake fixins’- I buy the over ripe bananas, peel and slice them pop them into ziploc bags, and freeze them for smoothies and protein shakes. I also keep sandwich ziploc bags of  other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular.

Lunches are leftovers, salads, or a protein shake for me and the Mister, and The Big Kid has a specially packed lunch of whatever he’s into at the time (which changes frequently). Bitty Bird eats whatever I’ll feed her.

For dinner, when we’ve got busy days (like Mondays), I’ll try and put something in the crockpot in the morning, or pull something I’ve already prepped out that can be quickly cooked.

Monday: Homemade frozen pizza, carrots with yogurt dip, and green grapes

Tuesday: Cheese enchiladas, beans and Cauliflower Rice (99 Cents only has had Bird’s Eye brand lately and it’s really good!)

Wednesday:  We are going to an event and dinner is included- I’m not sure what it will be

Thursday: Egg scramble with veggies, bacon and cheese (I’m hoping to use up whatever veggies we’ve got on hand- usually bell pepper, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and shallots).

Friday: I really want soup, so I’m thinking Colonial Chowder and I’ll make biscuits to go with it.

Saturday: I’ve got a corned beef in the freezer, so I’m thinking I’ll pop it into the crockpot Friday night and let it cook all night (recipe here), and I’ll make corned beef sandwiches for us to take along with us when we head up to Brick or Treat at Legoland.

Sunday: There is a mother and Son bowling event that evening, so hubs and Bitty Bird have to fend for themselves, that means: Leftover night!

Talk Back: What are you having this week for dinner?

Meal Plan Monday 3/26/18

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Well, Bitty gave me her cooties, so I’ve been sick for the past week, hence the lack of blog updates.

I’m just posting dinners for our meal plan. The kiddos lately have been having protein pancakes (I like Kodiak Cakes mix- it’s yummy and very versatile) with butter and Peanut butter. Hubs likes Oatmeal (my recipe for an easy almost instant oatmeal mix can be found here) if he’s got time, otherwise he and I have protein shakes. We mix it up, and have different flavors and mix in all kinds of stuff into our shakes, so as not to get bored. Here area few of our favorite recipes.

Lunches for Lil’ Man are usually Peanut butter and crackers, fruit, milk, a protein muffin (aka a kid cupcake), and applesauce cup. He takes his lunch every day! Hubs usually has a protein shake or I pack him leftovers or a frozen entree.

Bitty Bird and I usually have leftovers from the night before, or soup, sandwiches, quesadillas. She eats almost anything!

Monday:

  • D: Chicken Soup and Grilled Cheese (I’m still tired/sick, so I’m taking it easy)

Tuesday:

  • D:Bean, Rice, cheese, and veggie bowls

Weds:

  • D: 5 way grilled cheese (that’s a grilled cheese with 5 kinds of cheese) and tomato soup

Thursday:

  • D:  Turkey Burgers on a bed of greens

Friday:

  • D: Meatballs and sauce (I’m not sure what kind, we’ve got a lot of different types in the pantry right now), steamed veggies.

Saturday:

  • D: Henry’s Birthday Party is this day, so we’ll probably eating party leftovers.

Sunday:

  • D: The time honored LEFTOVER BUFFET!

The menu may change, as  I pull stuff out of the pantry to rotate what we’ve got (I am trying to cut down on waste, and put the older stuff up front to get eaten first).

Meal Plan Monday 3/19/18

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Bitty Bird has been sick for the past week and I’m hoping that it clears up soon. We’ve been cooped up into the house, and I want to take the kids to the park!

I’m just posting dinners for our meal plan. The kiddos lately have been having protein pancakes (I like Kodiak Cakes mix- it’s yummy and very versatile) with butter and Peanut butter. Hubs likes Oatmeal (my recipe for an easy almost instant oatmeal mix can be found here) if he’s got time, otherwise he and I have protein shakes. We mix it up, and have different flavors and mix in all kinds of stuff into our shakes, so as not to get bored. Here area few of our favorite recipes.

Lunches for Lil’ Man are usually Peanut butter and crackers, fruit, milk, a protein muffin (aka a kid cupcake), and applesauce cup. He takes his lunch every day! Hubs usually has a protein shake or I pack him leftovers or a frozen entree.

Bitty Bird and I usually have leftovers from the night before, or soup, sandwiches, quesadillas. She eats almost anything!

Monday:

  • D: Grilled Chicken and veggie skewers

Tuesday:

  • D: Frittata and fruit salad

Weds:

  • D: Colonial Chowder and cheese biscuits (I’ll be posting these recipes this week)

Thursday:

  • D: Been, Rice, cheese, and veggie bowls – Think Chipotle Bowls at home. 

Friday:

  • D: Turkey Meatloaf, mashed potatoes/cauliflower, and fruit

Saturday:

  • D: Henry has been asking to go out for dinner, so maybe Souplantation (one of his favs).

Sunday:

  • D: Chef Salad/leftover buffet. I love chef salad because you can just put whatever you’ve got in the fridge in the salad.

The menu may change, as  I pull stuff out of the pantry to rotate what we’ve got (I am trying to cut down on waste, and put the older stuff up front to get eaten first).

2/26/18 Meal Plan Monday

dsc07997The batteries in my mouse died this morning, and we spent the day running errands, and of course.. I forgot the batteries. So, on the way home from group ABA therapy (which was at Chuck E. Cheese today- Woo hoo!), we finally got batteries!

I’m just posting dinners for our meal plan. The kiddos lately have been having protein pancakes (I like Kodiak Cakes mix- it’s yummy and very versatile) with butter and Peanut butter. Hubs likes Oatmeal (my recipe for an easy almost instant oatmeal mix can be found here) if he’s got time, otherwise he and I have protein shakes. We mix it up, and have different flavors and mix in all kinds of stuff into our shakes, so as not to get bored. Here area few of our favorite recipes.

Lunches for Lil’ Man are usually Peanut butter and crackers, fruit, milk, a protein muffin (aka a kid cupcake), and applesauce cup. He takes his lunch every day! Hubs usually has a protein shake or I pack him leftovers or a frozen entree.

Bitty Bird and I usually have leftovers from the night before, or soup, sandwiches, quesadillas. She eats almost anything!

Monday:

  • D: Leftover Pizza From Chuck E. Cheese, Applesauce, and carrot sticks.

Tuesday:

  • D: roasted chicken and veggies- I’ve got tons of marinated chicken in the freezer. I’m trying new combinations of veggies and chicken roasted in the oven.

Weds:

  • D: Turkey Meatloaf and mashed cauliflower with cheese and caramelized onions.

Thursday:

  • D: Cheese toast and soup.

Friday:

  • D: Date Night

Saturday:

  • D: Family night in- Not sure, but we sometimes have breakfast for dinner (pancakes and eggs)

Sunday:

  • D: Chef Salad/leftover buffet. I love chef salad because you can just put whatever you’ve got in the fridge in the salad.

The menu may change, as  I pull stuff out of the pantry to rotate what we’ve got (I am trying to cut down on waste, and put the older stuff up front to get eaten first).

2/20/18 Meal Plan… Tuesday?

dsc07997The past two days have been CRAZY. Yesterday was a holiday, so.. no school or therapy. In the morning we hosting a rock painting and hiding event. The kids painted, played and had a great time.  Then in the afternoon, we went to an afternoon playdate at KidVentures sponsored by NFAR. Afterwards, we were hungry and pooped out from a very busy day of play, so we stopped at Denny’s!

I’m just posting dinners for our meal plan. The kiddos lately have been having protein pancakes (I like Kodiak Cakes mix- it’s yummy and very versatile) with butter and Peanut butter. Hubs likes Oatmeal (my recipe for an easy almost instant oatmeal mix can be found here) if he’s got time, otherwise he and I have protein shakes. We mix it up, and have different flavors and mix in all kinds of stuff into our shakes, so as not to get bored. Here area few of our favorite recipes.

Lunches for Lil’ Man are usually Peanut butter and crackers, fruit, milk, a protein muffin (aka a kid cupcake), and applesauce cup. He takes his lunch every day! Hubs usually has a protein shake or I pack him leftovers or a frozen entree.

Bitty Bird and I usually have leftovers from the night before, or soup, sandwiches, quesadillas. She eats almost anything!

Monday:

  • D: Denny’s!

Tuesday:

  • D: Southwestern Chicken Stew

Weds:

  • D: Roasted chicken and veggies- I found some cool recipes in the most recent EatingWell Magazine, and this is one. 

Thursday:

  • D: Grilled cheese and soup ( I really want to make soup from scratch- It’s been super cold here lately). Maybe Colonial Chowder, I’ll post the recipe, whatever I choose. 

Friday:

  • D: Date Night- Probably Himalayan food, since we’ve both been craving it.

Saturday:

  • D:The kids and Daddy are having pizza, I’m going to an influencer event where there will be tasty noms.

Sunday:

  • D: Chef Salad/leftover buffet

The menu may change, as  I pull stuff out of the pantry to rotate what we’ve got (I am trying to cut down on waste, and put the older stuff up front to get eaten first).

2/5/18 Meal Plan Monday

dsc07997The next few weeks will feature a lot of meals with chicken. Vons and Albertsons had Boneless, Skinless chicken breasts on sale for .99/lb (limit 10 lbs) on Friday. Of course, I picked up 10 lbs. I then spent an hour cutting up the meat, as it was whole breasts. I prepped 10 ziploc freezer bags, some with spices or marinade. We’ve now got 10 meals worth of meat prepped! Yes, I did use the kitchen scale to make sure that each bag was as close to 1 lb. as I could get.

I’m just posting dinners for our meal plan. The kiddos lately have been having protein pancakes (I like Kodiak Cakes mix- it’s yummy and very versatile) with butter and Peanut butter. Hubs likes Oatmeal (my recipe for an easy almost instant oatmeal mix can be found here) if he’s got time, otherwise he and I have protein shakes. We mix it up, and have different flavors and mix in all kinds of stuff into our shakes, so as not to get bored. Here area few of our favorite recipes.

Lunches for Lil’ Man are usually Peanut butter and crackers, fruit, milk, a protein muffin (aka a kid cupcake), and applesauce cup. He takes his lunch every day! Hubs usually has a protein shake or I pack him leftovers or a frozen entree.

Bitty Bird and I usually have leftovers from the night before, or soup, sandwiches, quesadillas. She eats almost anything!

Monday:

  • D: Salsa Chicken- It’ll be going into the crockpot in a bit!

Tuesday:

  • D: Cheese Enchiladas, Beans & Rice

Weds:

  • D: Chef Salad

Thursday:

  • D: Chicken Divan (recipe will be posted tomorrow)

Friday:

  • D: Leftovers (I will be at the Influential Summit for the day, so I’ll pull together some leftovers when I get home)

Saturday:

  • D: I’m not sure- We’ll be out of town for an event during the day, and I don’t know when we’ll be home.

Sunday:

The menu may change, as  I pull stuff out of the pantry to rotate what we’ve got (I am trying to cut down on waste, and put the older stuff up front to get eaten first). My birthday is this weekend, so we may be using up a lot of my birthday freebies as we are in the vicinity of deals.