Category: food and health

How I Made Over My Morning Routine

morning routine

I’ve never really been a morning person, though I can force myself to be when necessary. I have read that many mothers of young children like to get up early so they can have a time of peace and quiet to do their morning routine. It sounded like a good idea to me, so I tried it for a while.

It does not work for my household.

My toddler is quite talented at going to sleep at the same time every night, but he does not get up at the same time every morning. Unfortunately, that meant that sometimes I would wake up and be five minutes into my project when I heard him stirring and needing me. Once that started happening 75% of the time, I failed to see the point of getting up before him.

Additionally, for the first 30 minutes of my day, I seem to move at the pace of a snail. Actually, perhaps the snail would beat me. I’m more of a hare than a tortoise later in the day. How is that for mixing my metaphors? 😉 For me, 30 minutes spent writing during his nap yields far greater results than 30 minutes spent first thing in the morning.

I’ve battled being anemic for about three years, and I just recently found the right level of iron supplements to keep me functional without side effects. When my anemia is not under control, I’m always exhausted and need to sleep more than a normal person.

I’m glad I tried it, because experimenting is one of the best ways to grow as a person. But what works for some won’t work for all, and that is fine.

What really revolutionized my mornings?

Cooking Breakfast Ahead

I’ve been doing this for the last few weeks, and it makes my life SO MUCH EASIER. I try to keep a stash of meat and other staples in my freezer for dinners, but applying the concept of working ahead for breakfast was a new thing.

I know some people aren’t really interested in eating first thing in the morning, but I wake up hungry. Ideally, I want to eat something reasonably healthy for breakfast too (i.e. not poptarts).

We do not follow Trim Healthy Mama strictly, but we try to focus on whole foods and still use a lot of THM approved recipes. Some of our favorites are listed below.

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal – Briana Thomas – You’re supposed to mix up the ingredients and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight before you bake it, but I’ve never done that and we thought it still tasted fine.

Crustless Quiche – Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen – I just recently started liking quiche, but I should’ve given it a chance sooner. Quiches can be customized with whatever add-ins you like.

Trim Healthy Mama Pancakes – I have had great success with freezing these!

Volcano Mudslide Muffin – Trim Healthy Mama – I put the dry ingredients in a snack size ziploc bag. In the morning, dump your bag into a mug, add the wet ingredients, and microwave. I made a lot of these right before my son was born, and my husband really enjoyed having them on hand.

All of these have been great additions to our breakfast repertoire.

What do you do to make your mornings easier?

Overcoming Roadblocks to Eating at Home

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eat at home

It’s well established that eating dinner at home is healthier and less expensive, but the process of getting dinner on the table can be a challenge. The hour before dinner is chaotic for a lot of households. There are four common roadblocks to eating at home, but they can all be overcome with a bit of planning.

Roadblock #1: Lack of Time

I was a full time homemaker for a few months before my son was born, due to a variety of unusual circumstances. I took advantage of that time to learn how to cook. During that season, I had time to make more elaborate meals. There’s nothing wrong with that, but now I need to streamline my cooking process. If I tried to do what I used to do right now, I’d probably give up on cooking altogether. Adjust your expectations to fit your circumstances.

One pot meals save time on prep as well as on cleaning. Search Pinterest to find a gold mine of 30 minute meals! You may also want to keep a stash of food in your freezer that can be heated up quickly. This Southwest Roll Ups recipe is a good homemade convenience food.

I keep a pack of frozen tilapia fillets on hand. When I don’t have much time to cook, I put them on my George Foreman grill, sprinkle them with some lemon pepper seasoning, and let them cook through. I usually serve them with canned green beans. Even if I haven’t remembered to thaw the tilapia, it still only takes about 15 minutes.

Roadblock #2: Lack of Energy

A lack of energy can be for any number of reasons. Maybe you have a child who doesn’t sleep through the night. Maybe your child is sick. Maybe you’re expecting. Maybe you’re anemic or have some other health condition. Whatever the cause, a lack of energy can mean that you feel completely wiped out by the evening.

This is not the time to get fancy with meals. I use my crockpot a lot when I don’t have much energy, but I’ve also heard great things about the Instant Pot.

You may also find that a rice cooker is worth the investment. I have a basic model from a special buy at Aldi, but it gets the job done. Instant brown rice is even easier, doesn’t require a special appliance, and it doesn’t spike your blood sugar like instant white rice does.

Give yourself grace! I’m so thankful for modern appliances!

Roadblock #3: Lack of Ingredients

If I don’t have the right ingredients to make something, it’s usually because I fell off the wagon with meal planning. Either I have to figure out a substitution, or I have to make a last minute trip to the store. Either of those options is stressful for me. (I know some ladies are pros at making substitutions though!) In my experience, extra trips to the store tend to end with me spending too much money.

When I had a young baby, I only wrote down dinners. Just doing that helped a lot with making sure we had the right supplies.

Roadblock #4: Colicky Babies or Cranky Children

I am a colic survivor. If you have a child who had colic, you know that survivor is the proper term. 😉 My baby screamed every night from 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Cooking was not going to happen.

My freezer was pretty well stocked when he was born, but we did eventually run out of meals before the colic ended. Every Saturday, I made a new set of crockpot meals in gallon ziploc bags and froze them. My husband would try his best to keep the baby calm, but I typically stopped to nurse once or twice over the course of the project. I would pull out a new bag to thaw each day. Every morning, I dumped one of the bags into the crockpot. I even used those crockpot liners sometimes…shh.

Sometimes older children are just cranky. I try to give my toddler a snack in the afternoon, which seems to help him stay calm until dinner. You might decide that your cooking time is when your kids get to watch an episode of Veggie Tales. No shame!

What do you do to make cooking at home easier?

Things I Make from Scratch (and some things I still buy!)

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cooking from scratch

Cooking from scratch sounds so intimidating. I don’t make everything from scratch, but I’ve experimented with various things over the last year and a half. Some things are worth it to me. Other things…not so much.

Taco seasoning mix:

taco seasoning

I actually didn’t know that most people buy the little packets from the grocery store until after I got married. My mom always made her taco seasoning from scratch. She gave me the recipe at my bridal shower, along with some other favorite family recipes. Taco seasoning is simple to whip up yourself, and the store bought version has unnecessary additives. Verdict: Make from scratch.

Chicken bouillon mix: The Trim Healthy Mama cookbook has a recipe for “Trim Healthy Bouillon.” Since it’s copyrighted material, I can’t repeat the recipe here. I will say that it was very easy to make though! Verdict: Make from scratch

Refried beans: I started using more refried beans when I was dairy free. Making them myself sounded intimidating, but it’s actually really easy. Dried pinto beans can be purchased inexpensively at most grocery stores. I put 2 cups of dried pinto beans into my crockpot along with 6 cups of water, a little bit of diced peppers and onions, and salt to taste. I left the crockpot on high for 8 hours. Once they were done, I mashed them and then froze them in individual servings. Verdict: Make from scratch

Boneless skinless chicken breasts (rather than buying a whole chicken): I have purchased whole chickens and processed them myself a couple times now. The second time was less gag-inducing than the first, but dealing with a whole chicken is still pretty nasty. I use a crockpot liner to contain the mess and let the whole chicken cook until it’s tender. Then I let it cool and take apart the meat.

On my last trip to Aldi, I found a whole chicken from their Never Any brand that was $5, which made the price $3.15. The Never Any brand has no added hormones, no antibiotics, and no animal-byproducts. Typically it’s also a good bit more expensive, but the mark down made it a great deal this time. Verdict: Whole chickens are worth it for nicer meat, but not for conventional meat.

Chicken broth: Making chicken broth is straightforward if you’ve just cooked a whole chicken. If you haven’t just cooked a whole chicken, it would be more of a pain. I’ve only made homemade chicken broth once. As with cooking whole chickens, I’m not convinced that this is beneficial enough to do all the time. Verdict: I’ll take my chances with the low sodium chicken broth from Aldi.

Tortillas: I have never made tortillas from scratch in my life. Honestly, I’m intimidated. We do buy the 100% whole wheat version.I might attempt making them myself someday…but honestly, 100% whole wheat tortillas straight out of the package are just so convenient. Verdict: I’m scared.

What do you make from scratch? Do you have favorite family recipes?

Our Real Food Journey

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real food

What is real food? When I use the term, I’m referring to an approach to eating that does not try to eliminate any food groups, but rather just focuses on whole foods. Real food is not laden with sugar, highly processed, or from a fast food restaurant.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve learned more about health and nutrition. Before I got married, I had little interest in cooking. Like most college students, I didn’t obsess over health too much. I was never overweight, but I wasn’t particularly healthy either. I got married a few weeks after I graduated from college. Six weeks after our wedding, we found out that we were expecting.

With the help of Pinterest, I kept us fed and out of restaurants for the most part, but I still didn’t know much about nutrition. I was sick for the entirety of my pregnancy. I continued to cook, though sometimes all I could manage was dumping something into the crockpot. It was difficult for me to eat much, due to being so sick.

When I hit the 16 week mark and had still gained absolutely nothing, my doctor expressed concern. At that point, I still didn’t feel fabulous, but it was slightly better. My mom had been into Trim Healthy Mama for a while and mentioned crossovers, which is when you have healthy carbs and healthy fats in the same meal. Following that principle, I worked really hard at trying to get calories in for the next month, only to lose (pun unintended) all of my progress when I came down with the virus of the century.

I drank Trim Healthy Mama Good Girl Moonshine every morning, because the ginger would keep my sickness to a slightly more manageable level. The taste wasn’t my favorite, but I was desperate after four months of barely being able to eat. I got the Trim Healthy Mama book for Christmas, and learned quite a bit about health. My son was born three days early at just under nine pounds. Clearly, my sickness and consequential struggle to eat enough did not affect his weight gain. 😉 In the end, I did gain enough weight, had almost no swelling at all, and lost all of my baby weight quickly.

At 12 days old, I suspected that my son had dairy issues, so I cut it out of my diet. It seemed to cure his problems, so I stayed dairy free for the next 8.5 months. Attempting to do Trim Healthy Mama, exclusively nurse, and be dairy free did not agree with my system and I looked like I was wasting away. I ended up ditching Trim Healthy Mama and just tried to be as healthy as possible, while also getting enough calories.

For a while there when I was in survival mode, I caved and ate some highly processed and unhealthy snacks. Eventually though, we got into a groove and I was able to put more time into preparing healthy meals again. I still like a lot of Trim Healthy Mama recipes and think the concepts are wonderful for many people, but everyone in my household currently needs more carbs than what THM allows. We use some things like whole wheat pasta and honey that THM suggests only for growing children. With that in mind, we’ve focused on two main areas in our quest to eat real food.

1. No Sugar

The most important thing that I learned from Trim Healthy Mama was that sugar is terrible for your body. I’m related to several diabetics, so I knew that to a certain extent, but I didn’t truly understand the number of problems sugar can cause until I watched the film Fed Up. (As I write this, Fed Up is available to stream on Netflix). Fed Up is a documentary about sugar in processed foods and the resulting negative health consequences. If you’re on the fence about whether or not sugar and highly processed foods are really that bad, I would encourage you to watch it.

2. Limited Processed Food

I try to always read the nutrition labels when I’m grocery shopping. If you’ve never read labels before, it’s shocking how much sugar and other additives are in a lot of foods. As a general rule, you should recognize most or all of the ingredients in your food. I cook a decent number of things from scratch.

We’ve been happy with our real food lifestyle. I’ve listed my favorite healthy cookbooks below. About 95% of what I cook comes out of one of these three cookbooks. We are certainly NOT perfect, but we’ve definitely improved over the last 18 months!

Recommended Resources:

The Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett

Necessary Food by Briana Thomas

100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake

To see what my family actually ate in January 2017, click the button below to receive 28 Days of Meal Planning for free! Again, keep in mind that we aren’t perfect!

 

6 Meal Planning Methods for Busy Homemakers

how to meal plan

One of my favorite homemaking tasks is meal planning. Since I got married, I’ve tried to learn more about preparing healthy meals. For that to happen, I need to plan ahead. A lack of planning tends to land us in the drive thru line too often. I’ve experimented with a few different methods over the last two years, and eventually landed on planning everything once a week.

  1. Plan Everything

This is what I do. I plan breakfast, lunch, a snack, and dinner. If you’re naturally a type A person, planning everything is the way to go. Type A people tend to think this sort of thing is fun. If you are trying to follow a diet such as Trim Healthy Mama, I would also recommend planning everything. Without careful planning, it’s easy to end up with unintentional crossovers.

While I generally prefer to have every meal and snack for the week set, sometimes I’m too busy for that. Instead, I will…

2. Just Plan Dinners

For free spirits, the thought of planning everything that you’re going to eat for an entire week is stifling. I wrote about that in depth in a piece for Homemakers in Action. For most people, dinner is the most elaborate meal of the day. Having that decided, even if it’s the only thing you have decided, saves a lot of stress. You also don’t necessarily have to commit to having your seven dinners in any particular order. If you’re in the mood for tacos on Monday and you wrote down that you’d serve them on Tuesday, you can switch.

3. Plan One Week

This is what I do. I have several chores that I have set as once weekly tasks. Meal planning is in that category. When I really have it together, I go through the refrigerator and pantry and choose my meals based on what ingredients I already have. I don’t always really have it together though, so sometimes I just list whatever comes to mind and go from there.

4. Plan One Month

I have never been organized enough to sit down and plan an entire month’s worth of meals in a single sitting. However, I did develop 28 Days of Meal Planning over the course of a month. It’s a free download that is available when you subscribe to Homemaking for His Glory.

If you live in a rural area and aren’t able to get to the grocery store without a major production, making a monthly plan could be a good fit for you.

5. Plan Themes

If you’re short on time and if you want to only plan dinners, the thematic method is ideal. Essentially, you decide on a “theme” for each night. Example themes: crockpot, Italian, Mexican, family favorite, pizza, leftovers, etc. Each day of the week gets a theme. Then you only have to select a recipe that fits the theme for each night. The themes make the selection part of the process quicker.

6. Automate It

Maybe you’re sold on the benefits of meal planning, but you just don’t have the time to implement it. There are several paid services that will expedite the process for you. One of my favorite bloggers has five children under the age of five. She really likes Build a Menu. While I have never used it myself, she loves it. I could see myself using a paid service if I was in a busier season of life.

Do you meal plan? What method or service do you use?

Would you like to try meal planning? Click on the button below to download a completely free plan!

15 Dairy Free Dinners

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I went dairy free when my son was 12 days old so I could continue to nurse him. At first, finding recipes without dairy was a daunting task. Everything has milk! No butter on my bread! How would I live without cheese? 😉 Eventually, I found my groove and we ate numerous delicious dinners. I also figured out some substitutions. We used a lot of coconut products.

Tigger is 9 months old now, and appears to have finally outgrown his dairy sensitivity (yay!). Over the course of my 8ish months of being dairy free, we tried numerous recipes. This list includes some of my favorites.

Dairy Free Dinners:

1. Peachy Crockpot Chicken – Briana Thomas (Super easy, super good!)

2. Sweet n Sour Chicken – Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen

3. Rice and Beans – Briana Thomas (Good option when you need a budget friendly meal.)

4. Paprika Chicken – A Home with Purpose (This one takes some adapting to make it dairy free. I use coconut oil instead of butter and a can of coconut milk instead of the Greek yogurt/sour cream. Coconut milk from a carton doesn’t have the right texture.)

5. Paleo Chicken Salad with Dates and Walnuts – Paleo Running Momma

6. The Perfect Basic Burger – All Recipes

7. Healthy Sweet Potato Fries – Raining Hot Coupons

8. Grilled Lemon Pepper Tilapia – Eating on a Dime (I make this on my George Foreman Grill.)

9. Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas – Cooking Classy

10. Sun-Dried Tomato Creamy Chicken – My Natural Family

11. Paleo/Whole 30 Chicken Tenders – Jay’s Baking Me Crazy (Not budget friendly, but fun for an occasional “treat” meal.)

12. Easy Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole – Pinch of Yum (I just leave off the cheese.)

13. Black Bean Soup – Money Saving Mom

14. Easy Lasagna – Mama Shire

15. Red Bell Pepper Chicken Salad – Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen

I previously did a round up of dairy free breakfast recipes, which you can find here.

I hope you enjoy trying some of these recipes. Dairy free can still be delicious!

Budget Friendly Homemade Zevia

As a personal health challenge, I’m giving up sugar for the entire month of January 2017. In the last few years, soda has crept into my life. My goal is to get it out of my life for good. It has no nutritional value, and it’s horribly addictive.

The documentary Fed Up is excellent motivation for kicking the sugar habit. Sugar is in so many foods. It’s even in chicken broth! Fed Up details the public health consequences that have come as a consequence of the rise in highly processed foods.

The authors of Trim Healthy Mama recommend Zevia, a stevia-sweetened soda alternative. It’s definitely a better choice than a regular soda, which is laden with high fructose corn syrup. However, Zevia is expensive!

Around the halfway point of my no sugar challenge, I decided to get creative.

My Aldi sells 12-packs of sparkling water for $2.99. I poured a can of the lemon flavored sparkling water into a glass, added one squirt of liquid stevia, and added some ice. The result is reminiscent of Sprite. I quite enjoyed my healthy treat.

What is your favorite trick to make healthy foods more budget friendly?

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