August=Spending freeze

August is upon us already. That means a spending freeze for me. July was filled with multiple birthdays and other expenditures this year… that means spending extra money. I will have one exception for this spending freeze though… wedding expenses. I am retraining my brain to frugalness by not spending on anything frivolous or uneccessary.

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I know I’ve already done the rundown on spending freezes in a previous post. This month I’m going to heed my own words. IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN. I’ve already had challenges this month, and it’s only the fourth! I went shopping with my daughter today. She wanted some company. Of course I said I would go.  I had to put back several items as we wandered around multiple stores. They were great deals. I sure wanted to take them home!  I had to keep reminding myself… “I don’t need this. Self control, self control, self control”. It worked! Chalk one up for me!

Bills, minimal wedding expenses, and bare essentials/groceries… That is all I’m purchasing. This month, for some reason, I’m finding this really difficult. I’m not sure why. I do spending freezes several times a year. Having MY birthday in July probably didn’t help. I usually buy myself a few things… Things I’ll use, but not solely needed items.  They were random, spur of the moment items. Maybe that’s it? I wasn’t as careful with my money and my steadfastness waivered.  Yep, I’m going with that.

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Yes, this month will be tough. I have company coming to town for the wedding. I’ll have four extra people in my house for five days. I’ll make it work! I think I’ll use some of my food storage to compensate for the added food costs. That way I don’t blow my grocery budget. I’ll be sure to make menus choices that everyone will enjoy.  It’s going to be pretty hectic, so I will be using my crock pot and instant pot the majority of the time. These will save me a lot of time, giving me the freedom to visit with my brother and his family, along with decorating the wedding venue. I’ll say it again… This will work!

So, my money IS going to stay in my wallet. Amazon WILL NOT get my business this month. I am not going to the store unless I’m grocery shopping or getting items for the wedding. Repeat after me…. Self control, SELF CONTROL!!

Laughing at and loving your imperfections

I’m going to be brutally honest here. I am one of the most awkward people you will ever meet… With the exception of my kids anyway… (They inherited their awkwardness from me. Sorry kids!) You may not notice my awkwardness right away, but at some point it WILL show up. Just you wait! Not only do I tend to be socially awkward, I’m physically awkward… Vertically challenged… Clumsy… Whatever you want to call it is okay with me. It’s the truth. Seriously, I fall down. A LOT. I have been this way for as long as I can remember, and it hasn’t gotten any better with age. I still trip and fall, and I still bruise just as easily. I could be completely embarrassed by tripping all the time, or running into things. I could wear jeans and long sleeved shirts 365 days a year… Where’s the fun in that? I have embraced it. I have accepted it. I only hope to have an interesting story to go along with the usually incredibly colored bruises. Half the time I don’t even know what happened to get the bruise. I’m sure people assume that I’m in an abusive relationship… No. No I’m not. If you know me at all, you know the truth. All I can do is laugh at myself… A song title comes to mind… “Oops, I did it again”.

All of this awkwardness could totally leave me wanting to hide in my house for the rest of my life. It did, at one point VERY long ago. I’m over it. If nothing else, it is definitely a conversation starter. Most of the really good ones DO have hilarious stories to go along with them. Somehow, they usually involve one or more of my dogs.

That one looking at me? That’s Maya, the adventurer. Good thing she’s adorable!

My most spectacular one of this year? Oh, let me tell you all about it! It was a Thursday. I was just arriving home from work. I pulled into my driveway, and pushed the garage door opener on my sun visor. As the door goes up and I start to pull in, I notice the man door going to the back yard is open… (I’m positive I closed and latched it shut when I left.) Uh oh. I see all three of my dogs racing to the garage to see me. Wow, they run really fast! I pull in as fast as I can, pushed the garage door opener again to close the door, and fling my car door open to try and block them from running past me and getting out to the front of the house. (You see, they’re all very spirited, and two of them we rescued earlier this year. They don’t go out front without leashes. EVER. Open yard and a busy street. We just don’t do it.) Well, I thought everything would be fine, until I see Maya, the adventurer, start to go under my garage door with about two feet left before it closes. What’s a girl to do? Dive after her, catch her tail and hold on, obviously. Of course, just as I grab her tail, the door closes the rest of the way… on my arm. I’m talking an over-sized, very insulated, double garage door closed on my arm. BUT I STILL HAVE A GOOD GRIP ON MAYA’S TAIL. I didn’t let go. So there I am, laying on the nice, cool floor inside the garage while Maya is stuck sitting there on the other side because I have her tail. I’m starting to inwardly panic because I’m stuck down on the floor with no way to open the door, and my arm is starting to tingle a bit. About twenty seconds go by before the garage door comes back up because it apparently hadn’t shut completely… Just got to love those safety features. (I think.) As the door comes back up, the other two dogs make a run for the front, and my grip on Maya’s tail falters… And away they all go… in three different directions. I scramble up off the floor and start chasing dogs. I’m yelling and carrying on like a crazy woman as the dogs run across the street to two of the neighbors’ houses. Luckily one of these neighbors is outside and I frantically yell, “GET HER!” as I go and chase down the other dogs. I get Joshua and Masco rounded up, and put them in the house. Then, I go back for Maya. The neighbors, bless their hearts, have her on their patio. She’s so happy to see me. I talk to (wheezed is more accurate) my neighbors and thank them repeatedly for quickly catching Maya. I grab her collar and she and I head back over to my house… as I’m not so nicely telling her that she and I are NOT friends right now. I get her in the house, and the garage door is now closed… and my husband is mowing the lawn in the back yard. Clueless. SERIOUSLY?! I go inside, quickly tidy up the house, do some vacuuming, and then my friends show up for our weekly girls night. We’re all sitting there eating snacks, laughing, and I got a chill and rubbed my arm. I am startled. I have a HUGE goose egg on my arm.

Progression of garage door bruises. Does this only happen to me??

I hadn’t even done an assessment of the damage to my arm in my haste to get the house in order for guests. I had completely forgotten about it. I guess it looked pretty bad. The girls were staring nervously at it for the rest of the evening. I put an ice pack on it. The next day I had to fly to Montana for the first time to help with a new computer system launch. My arm looked HORRIBLE. At least I had a great story! That broke the tension and awkwardness of meeting new people. They had a good laugh over that one. Ha ha!

My social awkwardness is pretty hilarious. I get nervous talking to people. Evidently I anticipate what people are going to say…  and then I blurt out things that have absolutely nothing to do with what they just said. I get the weirdest looks from people as they try not to burst into nervous laughter. I’ll be at the store buying groceries, and the cashier is overly chatty. I try to be polite. We get done with my transaction, and then I think they’re going to say “Have a nice day”. They actually say “Thanks for shopping with us”, and I say, “You too!”  Wait, what?? Good grief. The cashier gives me an oddly strained look, and I make my way to the exit shaking my head. Yeah, I did it again. It happens all the time. WOW. I do laugh loudly when my daughter calls to tell me she had a “You too!” moment. I can relate.

So, what it comes down to is this… We can either be embarrassed and ashamed by our many imperfections, or we can embrace who we are and own it. At this point in my life, I’ve accepted the fact that I am one big casualty waiting to happen. I make sure to announce this to new people so they aren’t surprised. Trust me, they are usually surprised anyway. It’s okay that I have awkwardness every minute that I’m awake. It’s okay that I have to look down and watch my feet when I walk. It’s okay that I can trip on a completely flat surface. It’s okay that I have random bruises. It’s who I am. Not accepting it ISN’T going to change it. I can laugh and joke about it. It’s either that or cry. I don’t like to cry… No one wants to see THAT.

LOVE YOURSELF FOR BEING IMPERFECTLY PERFECT.

Revisiting the past: Class reunion update

The day is long and warm… the breeze is gently blowing through the trees… and the sounds of laughter, conversations, and excited screams flow through the parking lot as I step out of my car in the “secret parking lot” behind the Deluxe Brewery. I take a deep breath, grab my camera, and head to the entrance. My anxiety is running high as I step inside… the thought of so many people is getting to me. I am greeted by familiar, friendly faces and hugs. My awkward and nervous conversation starts keying down to a tolerable level almost immediately as I find my name tag and see a few of my friends that I see on a fairly regular basis. After a few minutes, I find my way over to the bar and get myself a tasty adult beverage to calm my nerves. Breathe…. Ah, delicious.

I look around and realize that there is no one taking photos of our event. I was originally just going to take a few, but hey, I brought the only camera! I’m so glad I did! Not only was I able to take photos of everyone (I think), I got to give myself a task that takes me out of my comfort zone. I did things I wouldn’t normally do without a camera attached to me… I talked to just about everyone there… Hell, I stood on a tall table and took pictures until the staff told me get down. HA!

I saw people that I went to school with since the first grade. I was curious how many would be there from way back then. Actually, I was curious how many would be there from my entire graduating class. I wish more could have come, but, it was really loud in the building with all the talking going on. Imagine if it were six to seven times the amount of people!

My circle of friends in school was pretty small. I was so shy that I didn’t talk to most people unless it was absolutely necessary. I recognize the faces and the names though! It was incredibly magical to me. Thirty years later, and all the social walls have fallen. Everyone is happy to talk to everyone else… genuinely asking how they are, what they’ve been doing, and where they live. The majority of us wore name tags with our yearbook photo on them. Some people looked so different that I did a double take when I looked at their name tag. Others really hadn’t changed at all. It was pretty mind blowing.  I had only planned on staying for about two hours. I ended up staying for an extra hour and a half. I had an amazing time.

It was so nice to all the smiling faces…. all the bright eyes, laughter, and intense conversations. It has been 30 years since I have seen the majority of these people, but at least for one night, we were all long lost friends. Thank you my fellow bulldogs for a delightful evening!

HAIL WEST ALBANY HIGH!

What will you be doing this summer?

Summer is upon us! There are so many things to love about summer.  Ah, the sun, the barbeques, the vacations, and… THE GARAGE SALES!

I love shopping garage sales for the incredible bargains, but I’m going to focus on the HAVING garage sales. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m not overly fond of putting on a sale, but I am on a mission this year. I desperately want to pare down my possessions. I make progress every week, which is good, but I’m gearing up for sale day. I still have a few weeks to go, and that’s great! I’m looking forward to filling up all my large boxes with items to be sold… which means more stuff leaving my home! I’m even taking this a step further. I’m planning with my neighbors and we’re going to have our sales on the same weekend. How awesome is that? Neighborhood sales attract more attention, which hopefully means more people and more of my stuff going away!

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I know I keep focusing on items going away. Yes, that is intentional. There are a few reasons why…  #1- I need the ongoing pep-talk. I’ve been making excellent progress, and I would like it to continue. In this case, I am my own personal cheerleader.  #2- I am trying to change my mindset. I am trying to reverse 40+ years of keep, save, and buy multiples of everything. I’m tired of storing so much. I’m tired of having to find bigger totes and shelves. When I’m asked if I have big plans for the weekend, and my response is all too often, “I’m going to be cleaning and organizing my music/computer room… AGAIN”, then obviously, things need to change!

I started following a Facebook page called Becoming Minimalist a while back.  I am inspired by Joshua Becker. His posts are not only interesting, but I find them to be quite insightful. I love the little sayings he posts. I can relate. I take them to heart. I’m trying to embrace this way of thinking in order to take my home back and not let my stuff own ME.

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Let’s buckle down and go through our stuff! Call your friends and neighbors and get to selling! (And don’t forget to donate what you don’t sell!)  Less stuff means less cleaning and less stress. Let’s take back our evenings and weekends, and do the things we really want to do… ENJOY LIFE.

LET”S DO THIS!!

 

6 months until Christmas… are you getting ready?

I love the Christmas season… It’s my favorite holiday. I absolutely adore the music. I love the lights, the baking, the tree, and the smells associated with it. I love getting creative with gifts, and coming up with the perfect present. I love the look of surprise and joy when my gifts are opened. I love watching people selflessly give to others. It would be nice if everyone was so caring and sharing all year long, don’t you think?

I hate to break it to you, but Christmas is officially less than 6 months away! I know, right? This year is flying by! Blink again and black Friday will be here. I know it seems very far away, but trust me, it really isn’t! I don’t know about you, but I’ve already got a game plan together. It’s ALWAYS good to have a plan.

There’s a few things to plan for as you’re gearing up. THINK LISTS! You know how much I love my lists. Obviously, I start off with a list of the people I need to buy for. By each name, I write down their favorite color, things they collect, and the snacks they love. Next, I start brainstorming ideas for gifts. I keep an ongoing list in my notes app on my phone. That way I can keep up with the little things I notice as they come up.

Reuse, reuse, reuse!

Oh so lovely, and easy!

Next, I write down gift wrapping ideas. Those of you who know me know that I am obsessed with meticulous wrapping. I feel that the wrapping should be just as beautiful and exciting as what’s inside. A few of my favorite ways to wrap presents… Repurposing Pringles chip cans. They make great boxes. (Pinterest has excellent diy ideas!)  I also enjoy making used greeting cards into gift boxes. I used to ask all of my friends to save their chip containers and little boxes for me. I love using cell phone boxes too. I love this type of wrapping… easy yet elegant… And recycling things just makes sense!

Instead of throwing cards away, repurpose into gift boxes

One of the most important things to add is my budget. I HAVE to have a budget. Millions upon millions of people go deep into debt every year because of the holidays… buying everything under the sun… buying every single thing on children’s lists.  Personally, I absolutely despise the idea of being in debt, especially because of Christmas! I write up a realistic budget, and use all my frugal skills to ensure that my budget stays in check. Coupons, coupon codes, membership bonuses, gift cards, store rewards, ebates… the list goes on and on! As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the resources are out there for the taking. MAKE YOUR MONEY WORK HARDER FOR YOU! A little bit of research can save you hundreds. If you come in under your budget by Christmas, that’s great! Set it aside for a jump start on next year. You could even get presents and clearance Christmas accessories in January. Save 75%+? Um, YES!

Another thing I do a lot of is homemade gifts. I love the creativity of making the perfect gift for someone… made with hard work and love. It could be beaded jewelry, gifts in a jar (cookies, etc… there’s actually cookbooks specifically for this!), a framed photo you’ve taken, a knitted scarf, the possibilities are endless. Make it, and make it personal! I thoroughly enjoy receiving these kinds of gifts. One of the things I do for all my employees is make each of them a Christmas stocking. Every year we hang stockings on the front of our counter for everyone to enjoy. Each fabric is picked for something that they love, and it makes me so happy to see them all hanging up. (When the holidays come around again, I’ll show you the counter. It’s absolutely lovely!) Things like that, to me, makes me appreciate the effort that was put into a gift.  It truly warms my heart.

LOVE personalized things!

I scour the thrift stores for wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows for pennies on the dollar. I save the majority of the colored tissue paper (used for gifts) that I get throughout the year. I have a little box specifically for it. When it’s full, I stop collecting. I do the same with gift bags. I have a container dedicated to gift bags. When it’s full, I’m done. If you find nicer ones, swap out for the less attractive ones in your stash. You honestly CAN have too much. Set a limit and stick to it. 

One of the things that I have realized as I have gotten older is this… you don’t have to buy EVERYTHING for everybody. I have always had a humble approach to gift giving. When my kids were little, they had very long lists of items they wanted to receive. I know, I know… that’s what kids do. I know I did. (I recently found one of my lists from way back. So THAT’S where my kids got the hilarity from!) Just because our kids ask for a hundred things DOES NOT mean you have to get them all. Remember that budget? Take the time to find out what they REALLY want the most. Pick out 3 or 4 things, and let them be happy and satisfied with what they have. My kids had a ton of toys, but yet could still be bored. How is this possible?  Well, I found out that the overabundance of toys results in a lack of appreciation for what they have. Totally true! This could be said for so many things in our lives. I appreciate my things so much more when I have to work to get it. I don’t get everything I want, and I’m honestly glad I don’t. When, and if, I finally get what I wanted so badly, I am much more likely take better care of it… use it more often, for a longer length of time.

So, what it comes down to is this… Take a little time, and start preparing now. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the majority of your shopping done before December comes? Think how nice it would be to actually relax and enjoy the season instead of stressing out about it. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that your Christmas fund is already where it needs to be, since you’ve been saving a little every month for it, right? If it’s not where you want it to be, now is the time to start!

Make your lists. Have a plan. Let yourself look forward to the holidays.

Why music is my passion

Everyone has their “thing”. You know, that something that has always been there… The thing that puts you at ease, that calms you down, relaxes you like nothing else can. For me, that thing is music. I don’t mean just listening to it. I mean creating it. Sure, I have other things that I truly enjoy doing… Writing and photography… but music is my first love.

Music has been my passion for as long as I can remember. My mom used to say that I would sing harmony when I was a toddler. I don’t even remember when I started playing the piano… It was that long ago. I have always had a song in my heart… A tune running through my head. It is a bit distracting sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Sometimes I feel it’s easier for me to let people hear how I feel, rather than just use my words. I am fortunate enough to be able to put those feelings on paper.  I was so fortunate to have parents and music teachers who pushed me to follow through with my music education when I wanted to quit. I’m grateful now that they saw my potential. I feel so blessed.

I wish I had more time to do what I love. I would love to dedicate all day, every day, to my creative outlet. A few hours a week just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Just when I’m getting into “the zone”, it is time for bed, it seems. At least I get some time. I try to make the most of the time I have. I’m making progress. I am starting to spread my wings.  That’s the important thing.

I have also been blessed with amazingly talented friends. They are my soul sisters. These ladies are so creative and fun. I’m a lucky girl. Together, I think we have the potential to do something wonderful. I don’t think there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. Someday, I hope, with the poetic partnership of my gifted friends, to be able to bring OUR music to life. Our whimsical interpretation of adulthood could bring a new perspective on life. Sure, it might have been done before, but I think we have some unique experiences to bring originality to the table. I have faith that our time will come. (I will let you know when it happens. Trust me on this!)

There’s something about the whole creative process that brings me so much satisfaction and joy. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.  I lose myself in the notes, and it transports me to a wonderful paradise. It really is a part of my being, and I am so thankful for it.

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Enjoy your life. Make the most of the talents you’ve been blessed with. Lose yourself in what you love.

 

 

 

My class reunion – reflecting on my life

This summer marks a pretty significant event in life… My 30 year class reunion.  It just doesn’t seem possible. 30 YEARS? In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday. In other ways, it seems like several lifetimes ago.  To be honest, I’m pretty excited about it.

As I reflect on my life, and what I’ve done with it, I start to ponder… Have I lived up to my potential? Have I left my mark on the world? Am I satisfied with the things that I have accomplished? Are those things actually noteworthy? I have experienced a lot of very different things in my life since school… both good and bad. Marriage, kids, divorce, death, among other things… All those events have helped make me who I am. I’m stronger. I’m more opinionated and outspoken. I’m confident. I’m a very different person than I was. I’ll bet most of us are, and that’s the beauty of living in this crazy world.

I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted, but I feel that I have made significant progress. It seems like most of those forward leaps have happened just in the last couple of years. I feel like I’ve contributed to society. I feel like I have made a difference. That’s really what life is about, right? Making a difference?

What I find the most fascinating about the anticipation of my upcoming class reunion, is that I am genuinely looking forward to seeing all those people I graduated with. I am looking forward to seeing and visiting with the friends I had. Were we all friends? Absolutely not. Will I recognize all of them? Maybe. I don’t expect everyone to recognize me. I certainly don’t expect for all of us to become best friends. I AM expecting to find that, at this point in our lives,  we have gotten past all of those social boundaries. As I’ve mentioned before,  I was a very socially anxious and awkward person. I’m excited to see how we have all changed. I know I have. I am excited to hear about everyone’s successes. It all sounds so wonderful.

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Do I know what I’m going to wear? No. I know I won’t be dressing to impress anyone. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, so maybe I’ll show up like that. I don’t know yet. What I do know, is that I want to have enlightening conversations with all my fellow Bulldogs, and hear about all the great things they’ve done.

So, as our big day approaches, I wish all my fellow classmen and women well wishes and safe travels.  I look forward to seeing all of you, and catching up. May we be united in happy memories, and look to the future with excitement.

Hail West Albany High!

 

Minimalistic traveling

Over the last few years, I seem to have started traveling more. Admittedly, it is mostly for work, but not all. I have done more air travel recently than I have the entire rest of my life. That’s probably not saying too much, but it’s true! For the most part, I enjoy it. (I’d enjoy it a bit more if I didn’t get motion sickness from bumpy flights though!) I love seeing new places and taking in different scenery.

There are some things I have learned from my recent travels. First off, I really detest checking my bags. I like having my eye on my stuff at all times if possible. Okay, some smaller planes still make you hand over your small suitcase\carry on, but at least it goes from the trolley at the front of the plane directly into the plane, and right back to me when the flight is over. Hey, I don’t trust people! I’ve had my suitcase gone through more than once! Secondly, because of that fact, I have to pack smarter. As you have probably already figured out, I like stuff. I like taking my stuff with me. You know… just in case! I have finally figured out that packing lighter and smarter isn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.

I think what helps me the most is HOW I pack. I used to fold everything all nice and neat and lay things on top of each other, just like I would in my dresser. Turns out, at least for me, if I roll up my clothes, I have considerably more room. (AND less wrinkles!) I can put the things that I would put in my backpack in there as well. I was so mad at myself for not figuring it out sooner. Seriously! This could have made my previous trips so much easier. I always bring too many extras. How about instead of 3 extras, just take 1? I actually did it. It’s amazing how much more room I have when I don’t try to take my entire closet with me! This doesn’t mean I can take a lot of other things with me. I see all that extra room in my suitcase, and I feel the need to fill it up with things. I refrained. I am making progress!

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This is half of what I brought the first time I came to Montana. One pair of jeans (besides what I wore on the trip over), pajama top and bottom, two tank tops (for under shirts), a t-shirt, a dressier tank, and two different styles of sweaters in case eating out was going to happen. I also brought three pairs of socks (one extra), same for my other under things, and an extra pair of more comfortable shoes. One layer in my suitcase! Woo hoo! I don’t think you realize how big of a deal this is for me!

I gathered all my other stuff. One small bag of makeup, one baggie of chargers, and two baggies of miscellaneous toiletries that I have to bring. I simply can’t use hotel shampoos and conditioners. My hair is too picky for that.

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There is still a ton of room in there. I would call this a success! (There is some dramatic dance moves going on right now!)

So, what it comes down to is this… Plan ahead. Make a list in advance of what items you want to take. Then, take the time to assess what is on your list. What can you eliminate? What isn’t necessary? Can you survive your trip without it? If you can’t, is there a smaller version you can take? It seems like it should be a no brainer, but sometimes these things just don’t occur to us when we’re in the act of packing. I actually did purchase a few “mini” travel items that took up half the space… Deodorant, first aid kit, and toothpaste. There was nothing overly extravagant, and the total cost was under ten dollars. The nice thing is that I won’t have to purchase them for a few more trips, so it’s totally worth it to me!

There is a certain feeling of freedom when we have less to (literally) carry around. Go on your trip, have fun, and take less with you! You’ll have less to keep track of. You’ll thank yourself for it!

Healthier eating made delicious

There was a time, when the majority of the food in my home was hamburger helper, pizza rolls, boxed cereals, frozen burritos… instant foods full of empty calories and a long list of ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I know so many of those ingredients aren’t good for us. Not to mention the amount of refined sugars and sodium added are usually pretty high.

Over the last few years, I have searched for recipes that are not overly time consuming, rich in flavor, with whole food ingredients and minimal or no sugar added. I’ve tried to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into my family’s diet. I love vegetables, but the rest of the family is not so welcoming to produce beyond green beans and corn. My kids will entertain the idea of broccoli as long as my homemade cheese sauce is included, but my hubby still won’t go there. “Broccoli is gross!” Whatever, honey. You’re missing out!

One of my favorite websites is https://www.100daysofrealfood.com. There are so many incredible recipe ideas here! The recipe index is absolutely amazing. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even desserts are available for the tasting. The amount of information Lisa puts out there is awe inspiring and inspirational! I can only hope that some day, I can do half of what she does. I’m taking steps in the right direction though! I just wonder if the hubby will accept this once he finds out… Shhhh! Don’t tell him PLEASE!

One of my biggest goals is to incorporate healthy ingredients into my meals and have my husband NOT notice that there’s extra vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. I’m also determined to replace his normal snacks with a healthy alternative.  Instead of cereal, how about some homemade breakfast “cookies” (with flax and dried fruit)? Instead of a handful of jelly beans, how about a kiwi, banana or a mango? Seems simple enough, right? Half the battle for me is removing the less healthy habit and making the healthy substitute available, hoping he will take the bait! After all, if there is no jelly beans to eat, and there’s a mango sitting there ready to consume, then all that’s left to do is pick it up and eat it.  We’ve been working on that, and so far, we’re making progress.

My other challenge is that several of my friends have food allergies… dairy products, gluten, and coconut. I have searched for recipes that I can make that can accommodate them as well. This is a BIG obstacle. I like using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. I also love dairy… a lot. Gee, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned all the milk! I’ve tried to find alternatives to some of my go to items. I’ve found that coconut heavy cream whips up well into whipping cream for my fruit salad. It definitely tastes different than normal whipped cream, but it’s a nice alternative for my lactose intolerant friends. I can use canola or grape seed oil instead of my usual coconut oil for some things that my coworker can’t have. Challenging? Oh yes, but I do love a good challenge. I love doing research.

The recipes I have to share are a combination of ones that I have found online, and ones that I have made up after trial and error. There’s a few that have some sugar added, BUT, in general, on the healthier side.

HEARTY & TASTY BREAKFAST COOKIES   –  A great grab and go item for a rushed morning!

HOMEMADE GRANOLA  –  Delicious cereal that keeps you going all morning long.

CASHEW COOKIE  –  Simple and tasty!

THE BEST FRUIT SALAD  –  A nice, cool treat, snack, or dessert on a warm day.

REAL CHEESE CHEESE SAUCE  –  A great way to get your family to eat their veggies. When my family asks for mac & cheese, this is what they want!

PESTO  –  Great in a variety of different recipes!

BLEU CHEESE DRESSING  –  By far THE BEST bleu cheese dressing outside of a restaurant.

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-the-best-whole-chicken-in-a-crock-pot/  –  Oh so easy, and makes a delicious, juicy chicken.

SAUSAGE SQUASH CASSEROLE  –  I’m not a fan of squash OR Zucchini, but I will eat this up and go back for seconds!

DARK CHOCOLATE TARTLETS  –  Dairy free! A deliciously low guilt indulgence!

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-chocolate-mousse-from-deliciously-organic-cookbook/  –  MY FAVORITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE RECIPE BY FAR!  *Sometimes I’ll add 1/4 cup of mini dark chocolate chips to this for a little something “extra”.

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/whipped-cream-recipe/  – Quick and easy… and no sugar!

These recipes are a few of my favorite things to eat. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! It’s hard to eat healthy. It’s also hard to find the time to make things instead of simply buying pre-made items. Even if it means cutting your sugar intake in half, that’s still a step in the right direction. I’m a big fan of sweets. If I can do this, you can too!  Spend an hour making something delicious that you can feel good about.

LET’S GET COOKIN’!

 

 

How menu planning saves me time and money

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about menu planning. I love everything about it. It makes my grocery shopping more streamlined, which saves me money. I can coordinate my menus with what I already have in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Besides those reasons, it’s also nice just simply knowing what’s for dinner. I always felt a bit guilty when my hubby would ask what the plan was for dinner and I would say, “Ummmm, let me think about that for a bit”. We would then end up with something like french toast or grilled cheese. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and we like them, but they were always my “go to” dinners when I didn’t have anything planned… again.

Yet once again, I turn to my lists. Can you tell I love the lists? Yes, yes I do!

The first thing I did was to make up a blank spreadsheet. I then started categorizing my dinners… chicken, beef, pork, simple dinners, breakfast for dinner, pasta, etc. I marked the ones that were designated as crock pot meals. I sat down with the family one evening, and we started blurting out dinner ideas. I wrote down everything we could think of that we liked. (And some the kids didn’t like, but I did!) I made a separate list for all the recipes I had collected over the years that I wanted to try. I wrote down all the names, and where I had them stashed, so I could find them again.

 

 

As you can see here, I put a star by all the crock pot ones. I would designate one dinner per month as a new recipe/”test” night to try new things. If we liked it, I would cross it off and add it in to my rotation of dinners. If we didn’t, it would be crossed off the list and forgotten about. It worked out really well for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above are some of the dinner ideas my family came up with.

Once we had all the ideas written down, then I could start entering them into my calendar. Just in the ideas I have on the bottom two sheets, there’s 72 dinners. That’s nearly two and a half months of menus with no repeats, aside from my “leftover” night, or possibly the “fend” nights. I try to arrange my menus in such a way that I can use the majority of the leftovers in the next couple of days’ meals. Chicken in a crock pot is one of my favorites for this. Original chicken the first night, make chicken stock overnight, then use some of the chicken for chicken quesadillas the next night, and homemade chicken noodle soup the next.

On the top of my calendar, I would put the items that I needed to get from the store for my recipes for the month. I would rearrange my days a bit if I couldn’t find my items on sale. When my kids were in school, I would make sure that I knew what their schedules were, and make sure to plan very quick and easy meals for those nights.

 

MENU PLANNING FOOD IDEAS   <==  Blank spreadsheet PDF for dinner lists

And there you have it… how I keep my sanity when it comes to dinner. We all have enough things to think about. An evening of planning will save you so much time in the long run. (And even more if you have already filled out your food inventory lists. You know exactly what you have in your pantry and your freezer, RIGHT?)  Plan well, save well, and eat well, my friends.