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!

23 Classic Books for Less Than a Dollar Each!

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Did you know that you can get classic books very inexpensively from the comfort of your own home?

Ever since I first learned to read, I’ve loved books. Ever since, I first understood the concept of money, I’ve appreciated a good deal. I never thought I’d see the day when I liked ebooks, but the day did come. At first, it was primarily out of necessity, but now my Kindle Paperwhite is one of my favorite possessions.

I love my Kindle because of all the great deals I can get on Kindle books. While classic books are virtually always available inexpensively, even more recent releases will go on sale for less than $5 periodically. I search for my favorite authors’ names in the Kindle store every few weeks to see if any of their books have gone on sale. I go through a lot of books, so keeping costs down is a necessity.

You do not need to own a Kindle device to read Kindle books. My husband will read a couple pages on the Kindle app on his phone if he gets stuck waiting somewhere. Click here to find out how to read Kindle books on iOS, PC, or Android.

I have alphabetized this list by the author’s last name. At the time of this writing, all of the books below are priced at $0.99. Amazon reserves the right to change prices at any time, so always be sure to double check the price before placing your order.

23 Classic Books

  1. Aesop’s Fables – $0.99
  2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – $0.99
  3. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott – $0.99
  4. Jane Austen: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  5. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – $0.99
  6. The Bronte Sisters: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  7. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – $0.99
  8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – $0.99
  9. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – $0.99
  10. The Complete Novels by Charles Dickens – $0.99
  11. The Complete Works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky – $0.99
  12. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle – $0.99
  13. Alexandre Dumas: The Complete Works – $0.99
  14. Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Complete and Illustrated – $0.99
  15. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – $0.99
  16. Victor Hugo: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  17. Rudyard Kipling: The Complete Novels and Stories – $0.99
  18. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – $0.99
  19. Plato: The Complete Works – $0.99
  20. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – $0.99
  21. Leo Tolstoy: The Complete Novels and Novellas – $0.99
  22. Mark Twain: The Complete Novels – $0.99
  23. 12 Novels by H.G. Wells – $0.99

I hope you enjoy this list! Do you have a favorite classic book? Let me know in the comments!

Hospitality without a House

hospitality without a house

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. – 1 Peter 4:8-10 NASB

From this passage, we learn that hospitality is one way to serve and show love to others. In certain situations, it can take more creativity to invite guests into your home. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 37% of Americans are renters. Of those who rent, 51% are under the age of 30. Most young couples will live in an apartment at some point during their married life. I’ve lived in two apartments since I got married in June 2015. I’ve enjoyed both of my apartments and believe that God has put us in them for now.

Apartments do present some challenges while entertaining guests, but they do not have to eliminate the possibility of hosting altogether. The purpose of hospitality is to show the love of God to other people. The purpose is not to impress other people with your fancy house.

I’ve previously written about how some of the simplest gestures have had the most impact on other people. Sometimes chatting about Jesus over a simple cup of coffee is the best way to serve your guest.

Some of the best ways to make your guests feel comfortable do not involve having a large space. Be sure to ask if anyone has any food allergies. If you don’t already have children yourself, invest in a few toys at Goodwill. After thoroughly disinfecting them, keep them in a small basket or box to have on hand when you have youngsters visit.

Simple Ideas for Practicing Hospitality in an Apartment:

  • Prepare one of your favorite crockpot meals and invite someone over for lunch after church. The crockpot eliminates stress. I put all of my ingredients in the removable part of the crockpot and then refrigerate it overnight. The next morning, I set the crockpot in the base and leave it on high while we’re at church. Setting it up in the morning takes maybe 2 minutes at the most.
  • While hospitality is commonly put into practice by hosting people in your own home, it can also be shown in other ways. If you know someone who has recently had a baby, gone through a surgery, or lost a loved one, bringing them a meal is usually appreciated. One lady brought me a dish full of chili soon after my son was born, and it was so helpful! Even if you have minimal space in your own home, dropping off food is a fantastic way to bless another person.
  • Invite someone over for brunch. Brunch can consist of a menu as simple as coffee, orange juice, and bagels with cream cheese. Older ladies who have lost their spouses often enjoy just having a conversation with another person. Living as a widow gets lonely.
  • When the weather is warm, pack a picnic and head to a local park with another family. Sandwiches are simple and kid friendly. Enjoy God’s creation together!
  • Host an afternoon tea. In addition to the tea, serve a pretty dessert. Now that I can have dairy again, I like cheesecake. This one might be better if you have girls.

Have you invited people over when you had a small home? Share your ideas in the comments!

Gospel-Centered Resources on Contentment {Part Two of the Contentment Series}

Today I am publishing part two of Paris Byrum’s series on contentment. Click here to read part one. You can find more of her writings over at Nourishing a Life in Christ. Thanks Paris!


To follow up on our last post on contentment, I thought it may be helpful to include tools and resources you could use. In times of discontentment and evaluating your heart, it’s good to have some outside help.

  • We should always start by looking at Scripture. In this verse, Paul describes how he has learned to be content.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:11-13

  • I really enjoy reading Rick Thomas because his articles are filled with practical steps to overcome sin. Below is a sample of his call to action, and how we can learn contentment.

What situation in your life today is trying to move you from contentment to discontentment? In that situation, are you more like a thermometer or a thermostat? Do not miss Paul’s point about how you arrive at contentment. It is a learned condition of the heart, that comes from discerning and applying the Lord’s work in your life through years of constant practice. – Rick Thomas

God has brought your circumstances to you for a purpose, and they are ultimately for your good.

  • In this article by John Piper, he states that the secret to overcoming discontentment is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5).
  • This 5 minute video clip is helpful to see that discontentment is a sin, and discusses how we choose to respond.
  • Finally, this awesome sermon by John Macarthur gives you the “Seven Keys to Contented Living.”

In conclusion, no matter what circumstance we are facing in our homemaking, whether it is living in a small space, not having a Pinterest perfect home, or not having gourmet food photos to post on Instagram, we can learn to find contentment in Christ because He has already overcome our sin. Our part is obeying Him, trusting in Him, and walking in faith. Gazing upon our Savior, rather than on what we do not have, will greatly help in renewing our minds.

Comment below if you have had a struggle in discontentment, and how you can take action or overcome your sin. If you have overcome this sin, share how the Lord helped you to do that.

About the Author: Hello, my name is Paris Byrum. I am a Christ follower, a wife to a great husband for 8 years and a mama to four littles. I am a lover of all things creative & seek to encourage others to run the race and live a life to glorify God. Come visit me at Nourishing a Life in Christ if you like what you read here.

A note from Laura: You can find Paris on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Increasing Your Cleaning Motivation with Podcasts

cleaning motivation

This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure, click here. 

I admit it: I don’t love cleaning.

According to my RAs in college and my husband, I’m fairly competent at it, but it just doesn’t bring me joy. Inviting people over seems to be the best way to get me motivated to clean. However, there is only so much of that one can do.

Before I got married, I’d always lived with my large family or in a dorm full of girls. There was always someone to chat with while I did mundane tasks such as cleaning. Once I got married, I started having a lot more alone time. Despite the fact that I’m a strong introvert, the silence just seemed unnatural.

I recently discovered the wonders of podcasts. I have no idea why I didn’t start listening to these sooner! You can listen to lectures on a wide variety of topics for free. Listening to an episode while I work on household tasks both breaks the silence and provides some brain stimulation. It’s a win all around.

A lot of cleaning experts will tell you to set a timer while you clean. Instead of doing that, I’ll start a 30 minute podcast and work on a cleaning project until the episode concludes. This has the same benefit as the traditional set-a-timer method, but it’s much more interesting.

Since I set my cleaning time as my podcast time, I almost look forward to cleaning. Almost.

My Top Podcasts

  • Homemaking Foundations – Jami Balmet hosts Homemaking Foundations, blogs at Young Wife’s Guide, and posts weekly video podcasts on YouTube. Did I mention that she has two sets of twin boys and a newborn baby girl? Okay, while I’m over here wondering how she manages all that, go check out her podcast. Seriously. I want to be more like Jami when I grow up. Jami got married young like I did, has boys (though more of them than I do), and loves books, so I can relate to her. Homemaking Foundations covers spiritual disciplines, freezer cooking, marriage, motherhood, goal setting, reading, and much more. It’s my favorite podcast.
  • Homemakers in Action – Like Jami, Becca Day runs a podcast, a blog and a YouTube channel. Phew. Becca has a really fun British acccent. Becca is a young wife and mother who chats about homemaking skills and how to manage your home, even if you aren’t a naturally talented homemaker. She brings hope and humor to women who are just starting out in their homemaking journeys. Homemakers in Action just launched recently, but I’ve enjoyed both of the episodes so far.
  • Politico’s Nerdcast – I have been a politics nerd for about nine years now. While I had to cut back my consumption of news media during the 2016 campaign, election, and aftermath, I do still like to get caught up periodically. The Nerdcast has more in-depth analysis than a standard news article or clip.
  • A Slob Comes Clean – I first discovered Dana K. White when I was a new homemaker dealing with a challenging pregnancy and fighting my exhaustion to keep my house clean. As someone who is also of a more creative bent, I relate to Dana’s personality. Though she is funny…I’m not really funny. If you want to listen to somebody give you a pep talk about cleaning while you’re cleaning, A Slob Comes Clean is the way to go. I also really like her ebook Drowning in Clutter.
  • Brilliant Business Moms – After a long hiatus, Brilliant Business Moms recently made a come back. Beth Anne does a Q&A format with moms who run businesses. If you run an Etsy shop, a blog, or even a brick and mortar business, you’ll enjoy the tips on business from people who understand the critical importance of balancing work and family life.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are some of your favorites?


Finding Contentment in Your Homemaking {Part One}

Today I’m featuring a guest post by Paris Byrum of Nourishing a Life in Christ. She is sharing a personal testimony about how she learned about contentment.

finding contentment

A huge part of homemaking is contentment. This is so very hard in a #firstworldproblems culture. With Pinterest at our finger tips, it’s often easy to become covetous of what we do not have or what we are not. A heart of unbelief leads to a heart of discontentment. Regardless, if we claim Christ as our savior, we are called and even commanded to be content in everything we do, are given and in our circumstances.

A Look into My Past
Looking back on my homemaking career, I have unfortunately learned the hard way of what contentment looks like. About 6 years ago, my husband had made the decision for us to move into a 5th wheel trailer in hopes to save enough money to purchase a home in the future. At this time I had one baby, and sold many things so that we could be comfortable in our new small space.

During the summer, and the “honeymoon” stage of it, it felt like an adventure! It was fun, new, and exciting. After about 6 months, and winter setting in with a new pregnancy, this fun was starting to wear off. Friends started to feel uncomfortable in my small space and getting the wood stove to start was difficult on super cold nights.

These cold nights were where my cold heart began. Bitterness was setting in.

“If only I had forced heat…”

“I wish we had a instant hot water heater…”

“I want more space!”

“I can’t wait until we move into a house…”

This was my attitude for 4 long years. In the midst of homemaking, I gave every excuse as to why I could not enjoy my life at this moment or why I could not keep up on the laundry or fill in the blank. I complained about virtually everything, even though I justified on why I complained by comparing what I didn’t have to others.

It was a very difficult time in my life, and it was because I was looking and focusing on the wrong thing. At this point in my life I was not saved and it was difficult for me to understand that this was a worldly way to respond to my circumstances. I needed Christ to transform my heart!

In the race of faith, it is crucial to remember that our contentment is not determined by our circumstances. We often want to blame circumstances for our discontent, but that’s barking up the wrong tree. Contentment is determined by what we believe. And our belief is fueled by what we’re seeing. So if you need to lay aside the weight (Hebrews 12:1) of discontentment today – the sinful kind that stems from disappointment and leads to grumbling – begin by looking at what you’re looking at. – Jon Bloom

Looking to Christ
To analyze my heart looking back, my focus was far from Christ. It was on the next thing of a new house, and my unbelief caused me to sin further.

Though many of you may not have lived in a trailer with 3 children ages 2 and under with 90 square feet of walking space for 4 years, I am sure you have had circumstances that were less than ideal and were discontent in the midst of it. When we strive to win the race and press towards the prize, (Philippians 3:14) our focus is vastly different then what it is on when we are discontent.

Here are a few practical steps to get back in the race:
Stop. We must stop the complaining, stop what is in the abundance of our hearts, and stop letting our eyes offend us. What does this look like? Deleting Pinterest? Praying and catching your tongue? Asking your husband for accountability?
Look. What are you wanting? Were you idolizing something? Where were your eyes gazing upon?
Think. We must renew our minds if we want to overcome the sin of discontentment in our homemaking. Our thought patterns affect our outcomes. If we are thinking on things that are is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable (Philippians 4:8) and our hope is in Christ and not in our circumstances, we can effectively fight off discontentment.

About the Author: Hello, my name is Paris Byrum. I am a Christ follower, a wife to a great husband for 8 years and a mama to four littles. I am a lover of all things creative & seek to encourage others to run the race and live a life to glorify God. Come visit me at Nourishing a Life in Christ if you like what you read here.

A note from Laura: Part Two will be released next week. In the meantime, you can also find Paris on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.