freezer meal bonanza

freezer meal bonanza

This week I did my first huge freezer meal batch cooking session.  Whew!  What an experience!  Since this was my first time I’m definitely not an expert but I thought I’d share what all I did anyway (especially since several people have asked after hearing that I was going to do this).

Before Hudson was born I had a long list of to-do items that I wanted to get done – things like getting the nursery all perfect, clean the house from top to bottom, etc.  But it never really crossed my mind to get meals prepared ahead of time.  I believe maybe I thought of it at the very end of my pregnancy but didn’t get around to it before he was born.

I hope recovery with Parker won’t be as difficult as it was with Hudson, but with Hudson it was a long, LONG time after he was born that I was ready and able to start really caring about and/or cooking good meals.  Thankfully we had my mom those first few weeks to feed us and for a good while after she left we lived mostly on pizza and other take out.  Talk about hard on your health and your wallet!  So this time around I made getting good healthy food prepared a huge priority!  In fact, that’s what I asked my mom for for Christmas…that she would come and help me get meals ready!

So this week was the week and here’s an overview of what I did:

Step 1 – Picking the meals

I started by making a list of all the meals I wanted to make.  I went through our list of common supper ideas and wrote down the ones that I thought would freeze well (mostly soups, casseroles, and other “one dish” meals).  I had also posted on Facebook asking my friends for advice, tips, and/or meal suggestions and got a lot of recipes that way so I went through all those and chose a few to try.  Then finally I checked out Pinterest and looked at a bunch of recipe ideas there (mostly breakfast, I really wanted to make ahead some breakfast meals and I didn’t have any good ideas).

freezer meal ideasStep 2 – Ingredients

Once I had a list of quite a few favorites as well as several new recipes to try, I wrote next to each one how many batches I wanted to make of each one (whether it was taking a large casserole and splitting it into two smaller dishes to use for two different meals or doubling/tripling a recipe).

Then I started going through each recipe and writing down what all it called for.  I kept a running total and added to it as I went through each recipe until I had finished my list.

IMG_1276Step 3 – Grocery list

After I had this HUGE long list of ingredients I wanted to get it a little less confusing before I actually headed to the store.  The first thing I did was to condense quantities.  For example, since I’d just added to each item based on what the recipe said I had several things that looked like this:

chicken: 3 cups, 1.5 cups, 1 lb, 1.5 lb, 2 breasts, 4 breasts…

Depending on what the recipe had said I’d just written down cups of something or pounds of something or number of bags or whatever.  So spent some time trying to add things up and say I need X number of whatever.

Then I did something that I’d eventually like to do for all my grocery trips – I sorted my list based on category (or actually based on what was grouped together in the store).  So I listed all the produce together, meat, canned goods, pasta, and so forth.  I hoped (and was right) that this would keep me from having to make multiple trips back and forth across the store because I’d missed something while I was in that section.

freezer meal shopping listStep 4 – Shopping

Thanks to my pre-sorted list this wasn’t too bad.  It didn’t take much longer than my normal weekly trip, although my cart was WAY full!

Step 5 – Cooking

The main event!  Like I said, my mom came and we got to work fixing all this food.  It was definitely an ordeal.  We started around mid-morning and worked all day, then when Michael got home from work he jumped in and helped out too.

I’m not sure that my way was the most efficient.  We did some things in large batches and others we did along the way.  For example, the first thing we did was cook up all the chicken at once then chop/shred it and divide it based on how much each recipe needed.  However, with things like onions and green peppers we chopped as we needed them for each recipe and I’m sure if we’d chopped all that at once it would have helped a little.

While mom was starting the chicken cooking I worked on putting together the crockpot freezer meals – those were super fast because I didn’t have to cook anything, I just dumped all the raw ingredients in a bag, sealed them up, and they were off to the freezer.  That made me feel very accomplished :).  If we end up loving those meals then I may start doing that way more often because they’re so simple to assemble!

After the chicken was cooked and the crock pot meals were done we started in on all the chicken dishes.  Once those were done we moved on to all the ground beef dishes.  We finished off with the breakfast foods.

We spent probably 10 hours cooking that day, but a lot of that time was actually spent corralling, distracting, and taking care of Hudson.  Tip for the future – if you plan to do an all day cooking marathon, find someone to come watch your child(ren) so that you can just focus on cooking.  Hudson made things go a lot slower for sure.

The menu

A lot of people have asked what we cooked so here are the recipes we made that one day:

Crock pot meals (these are all new recipes that I haven’t tried yet)

Old faves (things we’d made before)

  • baked ziti (split the recipe into two pans)
  • baked spaghetti (split the recipe into three pans)
  • lasagna (split the recipe into two pans)
  • spaghetti sauce (doubled to make two meals)
  • “regular” chili (tripled and divided into 4 gallon-sized bags)
  • white chili (doubled and divided into 2 gallon-sized bags)
  • – chicken tortilla soup
  • enchiladas (split the recipe into two pans)
  • chicken casserole (split the recipe into two pans)
  • – chicken and black bean quesadillas (we had one random chicken breast left over so I used it and some cheese, beans, and tortillas we had on hand to make several quesadillas – they will be good for quick dinners or lunches)

New meals (found via Pinterest or recommendations from friends)

I had two other meals planned – chicken and rice casserole (split into two dishes) and some breakfast sandwiches.  We did not get to these because I didn’t have enough chicken for the casserole or enough eggs for the sandwiches.  The casserole I made and froze the next day and the breakfast sandwiches will be made as soon as we get more eggs from our “egg lady” at church.

This weekend Michael is going to make a big batch of pancakes that we can freeze.  I also had two meals already frozen, things we had made recently and frozen half of the dish (pizza bites and vegetable soup).

(Note: have a deep freezer in our garage.  No way would all of this fit into our freezer attached to our fridge.)

IMG_1282(Another note: My mom brought several of her pots, knives, measuring spoons, bowls, etc.  That really helped us not have to be washing dishes constantly since we had so many.  We still had to wash quite a bit and ran the dishwasher I think three times that day, but we were able to do more or go longer before we needed to wash something.)

So from that one marathon day of cooking we ended up with 27 meals plus 20 breakfast burritos plus 7 quesadillas (for another supper or lunches).  Once it’s all said and done we should have 31 meals, 20 breakfast burritos, 12 breakfast sandwiches, and a whole bunch of pancakes.


The cost

Total for ingredients came out to about $350.  Yep, I nearly choked when I had to pay that but if you do the math that’s not very expensive per meal, it’s just a LOT up front.

A couple of things about that $350

  • – We buy almost all organic – beef, chicken, cheese, etc. and that jacks the price up
  • – I was low on a bunch of spices all at once so I had to stock up on those too, plus I went ahead and got extra aluminum foil and Saran wrap to have just in case, so that cost is included in the $350.
  • – I did not shop the sales or coupon.  In all of my work to get every thing pre-planned before I went to the store I totally forgot to check for coupons.  I doubt it would have made a huge difference but I’m not a big coupononer anyway; someone who is could probably get a lot of deals.  As far as shopping on sale goes, I totally intended to do that but that meant having my list ready far in advance so I could shop when particular things went on sale.  Unfortunately, especially because of Christmas, I didn’t get that done so once I had the list done I just had to buy at whatever price it was since we were down to the wire.  In the future I’d like to be more prepared so I can buy chicken when it’s on sale and beef when it’s on sale and so on.

And there we go!  I was very proud and impressed by our first freezer meal cooking experience.  I’m not sure that I’d try to do quite so much at once again, especially not at 36 weeks pregnant, because it was a long, hard day.  But I know it’s going to be SO worth it after Parker is here.

Oh and I guess I should add in a Step 6: Inventory

Once everything was nice and frozen I organized the deep freezer and took inventory of what was in there.  I hung it inside our pantry door so when we’re meal planning each week we can look at the list, pick out what we want, and then go pull them from the freezer rather than trying to remember what we have or go out there and rummage around constantly.  I even made some notes under certain meals indicating what we need to get to go along with that meal.

freezer meal inventoryIMG_1280Have you ever made freezer meals?  Any tips you want to add here?

southwest chicken salad

southwest chicken salad

I love all things taco and I love a good chicken salad so when I got the hair brained idea to try making a taco-ish chicken salad I figured “why not?” (I very rarely make up my own dishes…I mostly use other recipes that I’ve found or been given)

It turned out really yummy and is super easy to make, plus it’s perfect to serve on a hot summer day!

southwest chicken salad ingredientsWhat you need: chicken, corn, black beans, cheese, sour cream, avocado, lime, and (not pictured) taco seasoning.

southwest chicken salad instructionsWhat you do: Mix it all up.

Seriously.  Almost no prep work!  Other than cooking the chicken you’re just mixing a whole bunch of ingredients together.


– 5 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I use a package of 3 chicken breasts and that makes 5 cups, give or take)
– 1 can corn, drained
– 1 can black beans, rinsed
– 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
– 2 avocados, mashed
– 1/2 lime, juiced (or more if you prefer more of a lime flavor, I just use a little to keep the avocado from browning so quickly)
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1 TBSP taco seasoning (we make our own using this recipe)


Cook and shred your chicken (I cook my chicken breasts in a crock pot on high for about 4 hours then shred either with a fork for bigger pieces or in my stand mixer for more finely shredded chicken).  Combine chicken with all other ingredients and mix well.

This can be served on a sandwich, with crackers, with chips, on a tortilla, a pita, eaten by itself, topping a salad, or many other ways.  I like the crunch of the tortilla chips so that’s my preferred way of eating it.

This makes a LOT of chicken salad!  It’s perfect to take to a gathering or if you are having guests over but it might be a bit much for one person to eat up by themselves.  I have not tried freezing it to see if you could freeze half for later but I think it would probably freeze nicely.

For those counting calories a 1/2 cup serving is 267 calories.

whole30 weeks 4 and 5 – wrap up, results, and what next?

#whole30 weeks 4 and 5

I did it!  I survived Whole30!  Here’s how the last 9 days went and then read to the end for my results.

Day 22 (Sunday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs with ??? (I’ve already forgotten)

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

#whole30 avocado tuna, radishes, grapes

dinner – Leftover vegetable soup with ??? (I’ve forgotten this too…that’s what happens when I don’t write it down each night)

#whole30 vegetable soup

Day 23 (Monday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs and a smoothie

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Grilled chicken seasoned with a homemade taco seasoning recipe, roasted green beans, and crash potatoes.

thoughts – Another good day!  I am just so glad to be out of my funk from last week.  Being back home and on my routine has helped a lot.  Getting a variety of veggies is helping too with the boredom.

It’s no longer an “I think”…now I know for sure that my ring is looser!  I’m not sure if it’s loose enough that I’ll be able to get my real wedding rings on yet but it’s a start!

Day 24 (Tuesday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken, leftover green beans

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinnerSpicy cinnamon orange shrimp, crash potatoes, and roasted broccoli with homemade mayo

#whole30 spicy cinnamon orange shrimp, crash potatoes, and broccoli

thoughts – HOW have I gone 24 days of Whole30 without making my own mayonnaise?  Oh my!  Tonight I added some parsley, paprika, and onion powder to make a pseudo-ranch dressing and dipped my potatoes and broccoli in it.

#whole30 mayo

Day 25 (Wednesday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken, leftover green beans

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes, grapes, and leftover broccoli

dinner – Chicken in the crockpot and baked sweet potatoes with lemony-dill mayo

thoughts – Mayo.  Seriously.  That’s good stuff.

Day 26 (Thursday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes, grapes, and leftover crash potatoes

dinner – Chicken stir fry (chicken, bell peppers, and broccoli with some cajun seasoning) dipped in homemade mayo (mixed with some garlic powder and chipotle seasoning) and leftover sweet potato

thoughts – I’m just so thrilled that I’m having an easier week.  I’m not going to say that the second Whole30 is over I won’t dive into a brownie ;) but the intense cravings I was battling last week have subsided.

I keep twirling my ring around and reveling in the fact that it is lose.  I have not tried on my real wedding rings yet…I’m holding off until Whole30 is over (it’s hard but I can make it just a few more days!).

Day 27 (Friday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover grilled chicken

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Steak, yellow squash, and asparagus

thoughts – Ok I lied…I didn’t want to wait until whole30 was over so I tried on my rings.  Sad news…they still don’t fit.  I’m so bummed!

Day 28 (Saturday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs with sweet potato hash.

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and tangerines

dinner – Leftover crockpot chicken with roasted broccoli and roasted potatoes dipped in homemade chipotle mayo.

thoughts – I already love roasted broccoli but dipped in mayo…oh man.  So good.  And Michael sliced the potatoes really thin so they crisped up like chips – yum yum!

Day 29 (Sunday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs with sweet potato hash

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Spicy tuna cakes with roasted green beans

Day 30 (Monday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, leftover green beans, leftover squash

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and spicy cauliflower with chipotle mayo.

#whole30 grilled chicken, potatoes, and cauliflower

thoughts – I survived!  I did it!

My snacks were basically the same every day this week: tangerines, apples with almond butter, and/or smoothie (banana, blueberries, almond butter, avocado, and coconut milk)

Also, sorry for the boring breakfasts and lunch…that’s usually how I operate (even non-whole30) – I’ll eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and snack everyday for many days without getting bored as long as I get some variety at supper.  I started off Whole30 trying to keep it exciting and varied to keep me from getting burnt out but by the end was back in my comfort zone of repetition.


I know, probably the whole reason you’re reading this post…to find out if it worked ;).

Drumroll please…

I lost a smidge over 10 pounds! (10.4 to be exact)  I would have loved to lose more than that (I mean, who wouldn’t?), but 10 pounds in 30 days is really great, especially since I’ve struggled so much since Hudson was born to lose anything at all, so I’m very pleased.

I also lost an inch around my waist (I did not do all over measurements, like arms, thighs, calves, etc. so my waist is the only area I have data on).

Now to keep going and work on the other 50-60 pounds I need to lose….

Thoughts about my whole Whole30 experience (see what I did there?)


Whole30 was by far the hardest “diet” I’ve ever done.  It took a lot of time and effort and money.  Oh my, our grocery bill this month has been astronomical.  And it was much more restrictive than anything I’ve done before.

Honestly, I can’t say I’m all that impressed.  I feel no different now than I did 30 days ago.  I don’t feel any better or worse (not that I felt bad to begin with) nor has my sleep changed (I was already sleeping fine but Hudson was not and I was hoping this would help him but it didn’t seem to make a difference).  I didn’t start randomly waking up at 6am ready to tackle the day like some people reported.  I didn’t miraculously lose 25 pounds and 2 pants sizes like others.  I didn’t arrive at some amazing state of mind where I no longer am tempted by sweets.

Basically I ate healthier and as a result I lost some weight.  Which is great and I’m not knocking it.  And in fact, if I hadn’t done something so restrictive where cheating wasn’t an option I probably would have kept back sliding and eating junk.  So I think this was a great jump start and it showed me that I *can* lose even while breastfeeding and I’m hopeful that now that I’ve gotten used to eating so healthy again I will continue doing so and continue to lose weight.

So did it help me on my quest to get healthier and lose weight?  Yes.  Was is the magical, miracle diet I had read about?  No.  But that’s ok.  I’ve learned over the years that there is no magical shake or pill or diet…hard work, self control, eating healthy, and exercising is what it takes.

What now?

You are supposed to basically continue eating whole30 and begin gradually adding some of those “trigger” foods back in to your diet.  Add legumes, wait a few days to see how your body reacts, then add dairy, wait a few days, then grains without gluten, and so on.  However we will be traveling Saturday and having our family Easter dinner Sunday so I will likely eat some non-whole30 foods before I have finished the gradual adding in process.  I’m playing it by ear and starting today just by adding in legumes (peanut butter with my apple and black beans with our supper).

So nothing exciting.  As much as I’d love to eat a ton of Reese’s eggs I’m trying to stick to reintroducing some healthy foods first.

Long term, I will now go back to our “real food” way of eating.  Like I said when I started whole30, I believe in most foods in moderation so I’m not on board with whole30, whole9, paleo, vegetarianism, etc. as a long term way of eating (unless there are health issues that require that to be how I eat).  I much prefer to eat a little bit of everything that is real, whole food (not tons of processed junk…although I have a bit of that too from time to time).  I’m excited to add back in butter, whole milk, sour cream, wheat bread, corn, peas, and beans!

Thank you for following along with my journey.  I appreciate the comments I’ve gotten here on my blog, on my Facebook page, via text, and in person.  It can be scary to admit that you need to lose weight, or even that you just want to try to be healthier, and tell the world that you are dieting but I am thankful that (most) everyone was supportive and encouraging.

whole30 week 3

#whole30 week 3

Whole30 Week 3 – done!  It was hard, hard, HARD!  Definitely my most challenging week yet.

Rather than repeating myself every day I’m just going to write it here that snacks each day were (all, some, or none of) these things: apple with almond butter, fruit, smoothies (avocado + coconut milk + banana + blueberries + almond butter + spinach)

Also, I have to apologize because I did a terrible job taking pictures of my meals this week so it’s a pretty boring post.

Day 15 (Sunday)

breakfastSweet potato hash with two fried eggs, bone broth

lunch – Leftover chipotle chicken from our meal Saturday over extra sweet potato hash from breakfast and grapes.

dinner – Salad with chicken, hard boiled egg, sunflower seeds, and orange poppyseed dressing and berries.

thoughts – My milk seems to be back!  Yay!  Hudson nursed well at each feeding.

Hudson and I left after a quick lunch Sunday to go stay with my mom for part of the week.  She is thankfully 100% supportive and plans to make strictly Whole30 food while I’m there plus I brought some of my own stuff from home, but I know it will still be somewhat challenging since it’s not our normal routine or my own kitchen.

Day 16 (Monday)

breakfast – Sweet potato hash with fried eggs and bone broth

lunch – Leftover chipotle chicken over sweet potato hash and grapes.

dinner – Shrimp gumbo and berries.

I’ve never had gumbo before but Mom and I found some recipes that we were able to modify into a Whole30 compliant meal.  It was very good!

thoughts – Today I felt mad.  I was just mad that I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted.  Here I am staying with my mom and I can’t have any of my favorite comfort foods like chicken and dumplings or homemade milkshakes.  I sure hope this “Tiger Blood” I keep hearing about kicks in soon so I can quit craving things that I can’t have!

I haven’t done as well with my veggies yesterday or today so I need to try to increase those.

But on a positive note, my milk has been fine today.  Hudson nursed less than normal since he was so distracted playing and being in a different environment, but when he did nurse there was plenty of milk.  Looks like adding in the extra fat via smoothies is working so I will continue doing that!

Day 17 (Tuesday)

breakfast – same as previous days

lunch – Leftover chipotle chicken over leftover sweet potato hash and leftover gumbo.

dinner – Steak, roasted green beans, mashed potatoes, salad, and fruit.

Day 18 (Wednesday)

breakfast – same

lunch – Leftover steak, green beans, and gumbo

dinner – Fish (I don’t even know what kind, my mom cooked it), steamed broccoli, sweet potato hash, squash, and fruit.

thoughts – Reeses.  No bake chocolate oatmeal cookies.  Chocolate cake.  Cake batter ice cream.  THAT is what I really want.

Seriously.  I am SO over Whole30 right now.  I am tired tired tired of eggs, avocados, and sweet potatoes.  I want a yummy dessert.  I also feel like it isn’t working for me – I don’t feel any better or more energetic than I did before…in fact, I feel pretty much exactly the same.  I also don’t feel like I’ve lost a single pound.  My wedding ring (and not even my real wedding rings but my stand in ring until my real ones fit again) doesn’t feel the least bit looser than it did 18 days ago.  I so badly want to wear my real rings again!

Don’t worry, I am going to see these 30 days through.  Just 12 more days to go.  But I’m definitely feeling very discouraged and questioning whether or not it has been worth it.

Day 19 (Thursday)

breakfast – same, minus broth because I ran out

lunch – Leftover steak, squash, sweet potato hash, and an apple with almond butter.

dinner – Chicken breast and a hashbrown-type thing (basically the same recipe as the sweet potato hash but with white potatoes).

Dinner was a big fail.  Michael and I both got back from being out of town to nothing in our fridge and nothing planned so we had to throw something together.  The chicken was ok but the hashbrowns didn’t turn out good at all (plus if I can’t have ketchup on my hashbrowns then I just don’t want them…).

thoughts – Over.It.

I am so sick and tired of eating the same things over and over.  So boring.  I have to find some other things to add in if I’m going to finish out these 30 days!

Day 20 (Friday)

breakfast – Scrambled eggs with onions and kale, blackberries

#whole30 scrambled eggs and blackberries

lunchAvocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Vegetable soup and tangerines

I modified my usual vegetable soup recipe – took out the corn and peas and added in some okra instead.  Not the most exciting soup ever but it was pretty good.

thoughts – Being home made Whole30 much easier.  I wasn’t as angry about “having” to eat this way and my intense frustration and desire to quit have chilled out.  Also some friends talked me down from the ledge ;).  I also broke the Whole30 rules and weighed myself.  I had told myself that if I got on the scale and hadn’t lost any weight then I was just going to quit.  However, I have lost some (not tons, but some) so I’m going to keep going.

Day 21 (Saturday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, blackberries, and broth

lunch – Avocado tuna with radishes and grapes

dinner – Vegetable soup, leftover tuna from lunch, grapes, and tangerine

thoughts – Today was a little hard.  We had our church ladies’ retreat this weekend and instead of getting to eat the yummy food they made I ate my own.  Friday night I ate supper before I went, Saturday morning I ate breakfast before I went (I drove back and forth Friday and Saturday instead of spending the night), I took my lunch with me, and then I left before supper so I could eat at home.  It wasn’t awful but I was kind of bummed to miss out on the meals.

I got tired of my smoothie so I didn’t eat one Thursday, Friday, or Saturday and I felt like my milk had dropped so I’ll start drinking those again.

Also….dare I say it?…I am very tentatively, fingers crossed, thinking that maybe, just maybe, my (stand in) wedding ring is feeling a teeny tiny bit loose.  I’m trying not to get too excited but I’m really hoping that’s the case.  I SO BADLY want to be able to wear my real wedding rings again!!

Thoughts for the week

Well as you can tell I really struggled this week.  Now that the end is in sight and I’ve already gotten past the events where I really missed getting to eat anything I wanted (staying with my mom and being on ladies retreat) I think I can make it for nine more days.  It may be a boring nine days (although I’m going to work on getting some more variety) but I can do it.  I’m not going to say that I’m enjoying it, and to be quite honest I pretty much hate it, but I’m going to see it through.

Whole 30 Week 2

#whole30 week 2 meal plan and thoughts

Week 2 of Whole30 – check!  I started out Week 2 with a meal plan like I had in Week 1 but we deviated from the plan a lot this week!  We still ate the same basic stuff but just switched up what nights we had them.

#whole30 meal plan week 2

(see my meals and recap of week 1 here)

I’m not listing my snacks each day because frankly I forget from day to day but also because it’s the same every day: apple with cashew or almond butter, tangerine, macadamia nuts, hard boiled egg (all or some of that list, depending on how hungry I am during that day).

Day 8 (Sunday)

breakfast – Oh man…today I had the best breakfast ever!  Sweet potato hash with fried eggs.  So, so good!  It was time consuming making the hash (Michael very sweetly cooked breakfast for me while I got ready for church) so not something I’ll do every day but maybe for a special weekend treat.  It was very filling too – I wasn’t able to eat it all!  I had some broth with my breakfast as well.

#whole30 fried eggs and sweet potato hash

lunch – We finished off the chili from last week with some kale chips and then I also ate my leftover eggs and hash from breakfast.

dinner – We cooked another chicken in the crock pot like last week and served it with sweet potato fries, roasted broccoli (minus the parmesan that recipe calls for), and some berries.

Day 9 (Monday)

breakfast – Sunday we tried another egg bake-casserole-dish-thing.  This time we made a southwest breakfast casserole.  I tried a bite on Sunday and thought it was going to be a winner but Monday when I had it for breakfast it just wasn’t love.  Hudson and Michael both loved it but I wasn’t a fan.  I’m beginning to think that breakfast casseroles like this are not for me (SUCH a bummer because they are super easy and convenient).  I had a cup of broth with my breakfast as well.

#whole30 southwest breafkast casserole

lunch – We had lots of leftover chicken from our meal Sunday night so I made a salad like the one I loved so much from last week (chicken, lettuce, avocado, cherry tomatoes, roasted pumpkin seeds, and orange poppyseed dressing).  I also had some grapes and leftover baked sweet potato.

dinner – We loved the spicy tuna cakes from last week so much that we made them again!  This time though instead of cooking them in a muffin tin we cooked them in a skillet and liked that much better (less clean up than a muffin tin!).  We also had kale chips and brussels sprouts for sides.

Day 10 (Tuesday)

breakfast – More of the southwest breakfast casserole and bone broth.

lunch – Same salad with grapes.

dinner – Michael cooked salmon (instructions here – we used ghee instead of butter) and it was delicious!  That was a winner!  For sides we had roasted green beans, mashed sweet potato, and strawberries.

#whole30 salmon#whole30 salmon and roasted green beans

This time we cooked some of the green beans separately for Hudson without the cayenne since they were too hot for him last time – he loved them and ate the whole plate!

Day 11 (Wednesday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, some leftover zucchini, and bone broth.

lunch – Same salad with leftover mashed sweet potatoes.

For some reason this did not fill me up like it had the other days and I was hungry very shortly after.

dinner – A random smorgasboard of things.  We didn’t have time to cook before church and we had tons of leftovers so we ate those up.  We had leftover spicy tuna cakes as our “main” item and then had whatever leftover veggies were in the fridge.

Day 12 (Thursday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, roasted potatoes (finally finished all of those up from last week!), and broth

lunch – Same salad with some grapes and leftover roasted green beans.

dinnerShepherd’s pie and strawberries.  This was the first time either of us had ever had any form of shepherd’s pie and it did not disappoint!  I thought it was a little bland so I added some hot sauce to mine to spice it up but overall it was very good!  Hudson must have thought so too because he ate an adult sized portion!

#whole30 shepherds pie

Day 13 (Friday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, mashed sweet potatoes, broth

lunch – Leftover shepherd’s pie

dinner – Shrimp stir fry (shrimp, bell peppers, and broccoli plus some seasonings that Michael put in but I’m not sure what they were), crash potatoes, and fruit.  Definitely a winning meal!   We all loved the stir fry and the potatoes – Michael liked his crash potatoes with rosemary, I put chili powder on mine, and Hudson’s just had salt and pepper.

#whole30 shrimp stir fry and crash potatoes

snacks – apple with almond butter, smoothie

thoughts – Today I was done, done, done.  I wanted to throw in the towel and eat a big, gooey brownie.  Part of that was because I was just tired of eating this way and craving sweets and part of it is because my milk has been consistently very low for about a week.  That wouldn’t be such a big deal if Hudson were ok with it and using that as an opportunity to wean but instead he just cries and signs for milk all the time and it’s quite stressful.

Before I quit Whole30 due to the milk thing I’m trying really hard to get it back up and just eating lots of calories (let’s be honest, eating tons of veggies does not result in many calories).  Smoothies are technically a no-no but it was the best way I could think of get a bunch of fat and calories so I made a coconut milk/avocado/blueberry/banana/almond butter smoothie.  It was better than I expected – not great, but edible.  Not perfectly Whole30 but if it comes down to that or a brownie I guess I made the better choice.

Day 14 (Saturday)

breakfast – We had the delicious sweet potato hash with fried eggs again and broth

lunch – I had not finished my breakfast so I ate the rest of that for lunch and then also some leftover shepherd’s pie.  We had a bunch of fruit left over from the oils class I taught that morning so we ate some of that too.

dinnerChipotle chicken sweet potato skins, avocado, and grapes.  This was good but H.O.T.   Oh my stars.  We couldn’t find chipotle peppers so we used the chipotle spice we found on the baking aisle and my oh my was it hot!  I love hot food but even this was a bit too much for me!  It was a delicious meal though, so next time we’ll just make sure to use less seasoning.

thoughts – I had another hard day today.  I taught an essential oils class at my house and made a coffee cake for it that and did not take a single bite!  I was proud of that but it was also a total bummer to bake a cake and not get to eat any of it!  I couldn’t even try it to make sure it tasted ok!  I’m hoping that I’ll get over this hump soon because I am for sure getting bored and missing lots of my yummy foods.

Thoughts for the week:  Well Week 2 was definitely harder than Week 1.  The “new” has worn off and the repetition of eggs, avocados, and potatoes is getting old.  I used up most of my “oh man that looks awesome!” meals from Pinterest last week so this week I was struggling to find things that looked appealing.

Next week I am going to work really hard at finding some new dishes to try so that I’m not bored and try to eat more good fats to get my milk back up

Whole30 Week 1 {meal plan, recipes, and thoughts}

#whole30 week one meal plan

Whole30 week 1 is done-o and I survived!  Hooray!  Here’s what I ate, what we liked (and didn’t like), and thoughts about each day.

I’m not sure how well you can read this, but this was my meal plan for the week.  I don’t usually plan our meals this much in detail, but since this diet is so strict I wanted to make sure that I planned out everything and actually over planned as far as how much food we would need.  Of course this ended up getting changed some during the week as we discovered foods we didn’t like or I realized a meal made more or less than I expected.

#whole30 week 1 meal plan

Look how full that fridge is!  Mercy.  I went on a huge shopping trip Saturday to get everything on my insanely long list.  #whole30 groceries

And of course I had to enjoy one last Dr Pepper and Reeses before starting!

Photo Feb 28, 11 38 35 AM

Alright, here we go!

Day 1 (Sunday)

breakfast – Saturday night I fixed baked eggs with spinach, tomato, and onion and then warmed it up for breakfast Sunday.  I was not impressed.  For one, I don’t like cooked tomatoes (I just thought I’d give them a try again) and also the consistency was too wet.  I also had roasted potatoes with rosemary.

#whole30 breakfast of tomato onion spinach egg bake and roasted potatoes

I knew I didn’t eat enough, especially since I didn’t eat very much of the frittata, so I wasn’t surprised that I was very hungry by the time church was over.

lunch – After church we fixed tuna with avocado and some kale chips.  The tuna was delicious!  Michael tried mine and liked it so much that he wanted me to fix him some which was so surprising to me.   Hudson loved it too and gobbled it up.  I felt like we ate a bunch but I was hungry pretty soon after so it wasn’t filling enough.

#whole30 lunch avocado tuna, cucumbers, and kale chips

snack – For snack I tried this broccoli/carrot/avocado/grape/pumpkin seed salad and a boiled egg.  The salad was so-so.  Not the best thing that I’d ever made but not the worst.  It made a TON so I had a bunch of leftovers…which is too bad because I didn’t like it that much.

Still hungry a little while later so I ate half an apple with almond butter (not as good as my beloved peanut butter but it’ll do)

dinner – My favorite meal of the day!  And I finally got full!  We cooked a chicken in the crock pot and had sweet potato fries and roasted green beans.  The chicken and sweet potato fries were recipes that we know and love so it was nice to have some “comfort food”.  The green bean recipe was new and it was delicious!  I loved it.  They were way too spicy for Hudson though so just fyi if you’re making them for your kids.

#whole30 dinner chicken, roasted green beans, sweet potato fries, strawberries

thoughts – Day 1 was a struggle for sure!  Hunger and headaches were the theme of the day.  I felt hungry pretty most all day until supper.  I think like I ate enough for three people at supper to finally get full!  Right before we left for church Sunday evening I got a raging headache that lasted until we went to bed.  I very rarely get headaches so that was unusual.  I’m guessing it was from a lack of sugar.

Day 2 (Monday)

breakfast – I tried chopping up the frittata from Sunday and putting it back in the oven to see if that would dry up the mushy texture a bit.  It didn’t.  I also forgot to roast a potato the night before so I fixed one really quick…too quick because the pieces didn’t get cooked all the way through.  I ended up giving Hudson almost all of my eggs and just eating the raw-ish potatoes and some bone broth that we made after we cooked chicken last night.

(bone broth = spicy broth made from the bones of the chicken from the previous night’s meal.  It’s supposed to be super good for you and it’s delicious.  Recipe here)

Breakfast fail.

#whole 30 breakfast of spinach onion tomato egg bake, roasted potatoes, and bone broth

lunch – Lunch was almost a fail too.  I had planned for us to eat sweet potato fries…I hadn’t planned on us eating so many the night before that there were very few leftovers. Then I planned to bake a sweet potato in the oven but I forgot to put it in before lunch.   So I decided just to throw a sweet potato in the microwave.

Our microwave has an automatic potato sensor thingy but we never use it and as I’m merrily fixing my salad and the potato is smelling very strong I think that maybe it’s been in there a little too long.  I look and it says it still has 10 minutes left but when I open the microwave smoke comes billowing out!  I had to open the doors and windows and turn on the fan (luckily it was on the upper end of freezing outside instead of the single digits!).  The potato was dry and felt petrified.

(Update: on Saturday our microwave still smells like burnt potato…oh my!)

However, the rest of lunch was amazing!  I made orange poppyseed dressing (waaaayyyy better than the boring olive oil and vinegar homemade dressing I’ve made in the past when trying to avoid store bought dressing) and used the leftover chicken, lettuce, radishes, and cherry tomatoes to make a big salad.  We ate what was left of the sweet potato fries and had some macadamia nuts on the side.

#whole30 lunch chicken avocado salad with orange poppyseed dressing

snack – Another round of the broccoli/carrot/apple salad, which held up surprisingly well, although I liked it less on day 2 than I did day 1.

dinner – I made “the bomb chili” in the crock pot along with roasted brussels sprouts.  Other than forgetting to thaw out the ground beef and having to cook forever to get the frozen meat browned, this was an easy and delicious dish!  There are tons of veggies in it but you don’t notice them (at least, I didn’t) so it’s a good way to get extra vegetables in.  It’s very different from my normal chili recipe and the consistency is much thicker, more like sloppy joes.  But it was still good, although Michael didn’t like it as much as I did.  Hudson loved it!

I cooked the brussels the same way I do our roasted broccoli, minus the parmesan, and they turned out great!  I’ve always been afraid of brussels sprouts but not anymore.

#whole30 dinner the bomb chili, brussel sprouts, strawberries

snack – I felt hungry before bed so I had an apple with almond butter.

#whole30 snack apple with almond butter

thoughts – I woke up with super puffy eyes.  That only happens if I have a big cry the day before but I hadn’t so I really have no idea why that happened.  I’m not sure if was related to Whole30 or just a weird coincidence but it was very strange.  My hands also felt swollen which happens after I eat a ton of salt (like tortilla chips) but again, I didn’t do that the day before so who knows.

I’ve upped my water and can definitely tell since I have to go to the bathroom more frequently!  Today I had a very mild headache in the afternoon but nothing like the one Sunday.  My milk supply seems to be fine; in fact, I felt like I had more milk than usual this morning when we woke up.

I have been very impressed and surprised with how well Hudson has done with our meals.  I have given him everything we eat and he has eaten great (better than me at times)!  He loved the mushy tomato eggs, gobbled up tuna (which had raw onion), ate radishes and chili and broccoli salad.  The only things he has really rejected were the roasted white potatoes, brussels sprouts, lettuce, strawberries, and the roasted green beans (I made them too spicy…you should have seen his poor face when he ate them – I felt terrible!)

Photo Mar 01, 12 39 41 PM

Day 3 (Tuesday)

breakfast – After the tomato spinach frittata was a bust I decided to try another frittata recipe.  This one was asparagus, spinach, and mushroom.  The only problem?  I hate mushrooms.  The consistency was so much better with this recipe but the mushroom taste was so strong and in every bite that I just couldn’t eat it.  I will be reusing this basic recipe but leaving out the mushrooms.

So again I mostly just had my potatoes and broth for breakfast.  Time to find another egg option that I actually like.

#whole30 breakfast spinach mushroom asparagus fritatta with roasted potatoes and bone broth

lunch – Leftover chili with avocado, some veggies (honestly can’t remember now), and some macadamia nuts.

dinnerBuffalo ranch chicken stuffed peppers (using the leftover chicken from the crock pot chicken) and roasted cauliflower.   I didn’t not care for the stuffed peppers but the cauliflower was delicious!  So, so good!  I’m usually just meh about cauliflower but this recipe was fantastic.

And now I’m sad that I used up the chicken for this meal and can’t have any more yummy salad right now.  Sniff.

snacks – apple with almond butter, tangerine, boiled egg

thoughts – I think it’s good to experiment with new foods or even to try things that you haven’t liked in the past, but when you’re trying to stick to a strict diet it might not be the best time to try those foods that you hate and hope that you magically like them…chances are you won’t and now you’re stuck with an inedible meal (and you can just pull out the Frosted Flakes and eat a bowl real quick since you didn’t like what you fixed!).

Also, today I woke up with a sore throat.  It went away after a few hours but I can’t help wonder if it was a coincidence or maybe related to detoxing from Whole30?

Day 4 (Wednesday)

breakfast – Ok no more eggs with yucky ingredients for me!  I abandoned the frittatas and scrambled eggs with onion, green pepper, and spinach.  Finally an edible breakfast!  I also had roasted potatoes and broth.

#whole30 breakfast scrambled eggs with peppers onions and spinach and bone broth

lunch – Leftover stuffed pepper and same salad as Monday (minus the chicken)

dinner – Baked sweet potato, boiled egg, berries, leftover roasted cauliflower

snack – apple with almond butter

I ate a whole apple this time (usually I just do half) and quite a bit more almond butter because I felt like my milk was dropping some so I was trying to increase my calories, fat, and carbs a bit.

thoughts – This was the first day that I didn’t feel crazy hungry all day…I’m sure eating a good, filling breakfast probably played a big part in that!  Still having a headache, mostly in the afternoon and evening.

This was also my first Whole30 “challenge”.  We had to go to church early to help serve the meal for the college kids and normally I would eat there, but not while on Whole30.  So before we left I ate my apple with almond butter snack, I didn’t eat anything while we were there, and then after church I ate another snack-y supper.

Day 5 (Thursday)

breakfast – Same thing as Wednesday

lunch – A serious snow day calls for some comfort food!  Leftover chili, avocado, kale chips, and berries

#whole30 lunch chili with avocado, kale chips, and berries

dinner – Green chili chicken with cumin roasted carrots, baked sweet potato, and berries.

The chicken was good.  Not like the best thing I had ever eaten, but still good.  I did not like the flavor of the carrots but Michael and Hudson both loved them.

snack – apple with almond butter, tangerine

thoughts – The first day without a headache!  Hooray!

Day 6 (Friday)

breakfast – Decided to fry my eggs this morning so I had two fried eggs, roasted potatoes, bell pepper strips, and broth.

#whole30 breakfast fried eggs with roasted potatos, bell pepper strips, and broth

lunch – We had a random assortment of leftovers.  I had leftover green chili chicken with avocado, some berries, and kale chips.  Hudson had (and thoroughly enjoyed) leftover buffalo chicken and avocado.  Wow that was a mess!

Photo Mar 06, 2 05 26 PM

dinnerSpicy tuna cakes with roasted asparagus and berries (strawberries and blackberries).  The tuna cakes were delicious!  Sweet yet spicy and so good!  We all loved them and are going to have them again next week.  So yum.

snacks – apple with almond butter, tangerine

thoughts – I don’t feel horrible anymore and I’m not having to spend as much time in the kitchen as I expected…things are looking up!

Day 7 (Saturday)

breakfast – Two fried eggs, some bell pepper strips, roasted potatoes, and broth.  Good and filling, although I’ve just about had all the roasted potatoes I can handle so it’s time to change it up a bit for next week!

lunch – Avocado tuna with cucumbers and baked sweet potatoes

dinner – We tried cinnamon orange shrimp and it was fantastic!  Too spicy for Hudson though so next time I’ll cook him some separately.  We also had zucchini, roasted butternut squash, and berries.

snack – Apple with cashew butter (this was my first time trying cashew butter and I didn’t like it); tangerine and some macadamia nuts

thoughts – I woke up slightly stopped up and feel like I’ve got a bit of a cold coming on.  Sore throat a few days ago and then this…more coincidences or is detoxing my body causing some dormant sickness to spring up or weakening my immune system so that I’m catching stuff? (…who knows, I totally made those things up so that might not even be legit).

I also noticed that I’m not getting nearly as hungry between meals and not feeling like I have to eat as much at each meal.  The first few days I was starving but now I feel pretty satisfied throughout the day.

I did get pretty mad (at no on in particular, just in general) Saturday night as I was getting ready to make a new breakfast dish for Sunday morning that I had to cook yet another meal and wash more dishes.  I felt exhausted (I’m sure the minor sickness wasn’t helping) and like I really just wanted a break from fixing food! (totally opposite of how I was feeling Friday funnily enough).

Thoughts for the week:

Well I tried some new foods and recipes that were a big, fat bust, but I also tried some new ones that were huge winners!  The most exciting thing is that I survived my first week!  Once I got past the first few days and my headaches and the hunger subsided it got a whole lot easier.  Actually I was surprised, compared to dieting in the past, as to how few cravings I had for sugary things.  Usually I really struggle with that for a few days.

I do feel like my milk has dropped some, especially in the afternoon, but since Hudson is 13 months and eating good meals I’m not as concerned about it.  I am trying to boost it a bit but it’s not a huge problem that makes me feel like I need to quit Whole30 at this point.

Notes: This meal plan is probably far from perfect.  Because I am still breastfeeding I have been more lax about having snacks (Whole30 recommends no snacking), eating fruit (I think you’re supposed to just eat 1-2 servings a day and I’ve been doing 2-3), and also eating potatoes multiple times a day.  So just fyi if you’re planning to do Whole30 definitely read the book or read the guidelines to make sure you are doing it correctly.

But for the most part when I’m planning my meals I start with my protein, add at least 2 veggies, make sure to have some healthy fats, and then maybe some fruit on the side.

I have linked to all the recipes from this week but if you’re more visual or want to see all the recipes I’ve collected, check out my Whole30 board on Pinterest.

(oh and in case you care our dishes are Corelle’s South Beach pattern)

I’ve got another week of meals planned and the groceries are purchased so here we go sailing into week 2!

whole30 here we go

I’m taking us on a new journey, dear readers.  A journey through my Whole30 challenge.  If you follow my Facebook page then you’ve seen my #whole30 posts recently and maybe you were curious (or maybe you don’t give a rip but too bad ’cause I’m going to tell you anyway).

I’m not going to go on and on trying to explain the program.  You can check out the official Whole30 website or Google (or search Pinterest) and you’ll find tons of info.  Also, It Starts With Food is the book that goes along with Whole30 and would be a good thing to read if you’re seriously considering.

it starts with food #whole30

Basically it comes down to this:  for 30 days (starting Sunday, March 1) I’ll be eating meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, fruit, and healthy fats.  And that’s about it.  No dairy.  No grains.  No beans.  No peanut butter (!!) (because peanuts are technically legumes).  No processed foods.  And definitely no added sugar.  It’s like Paleo but stricter.

(see the Whole30 rules here)

Why?  WHY? Why would you want to do that?

Several reasons, really.

At first it was just because I wanted to lose weight.  I’ve really struggled since Hudson was born and after researching Whole30 it sounded like something that could help but not drop my milk supply as long as I make sure to eat enough.  “Traditional” dieting has not worked for me while nursing (contrary to the common idea that breastfeeding makes the weight just fall off).  If you’ve been around a while you know about my weight loss journey in college so I know *how* to lose weight, I just can’t use my old techniques while nursing.

But as I researched I realized I want to do this for so much more.  Hudson doesn’t eat nearly as healthy as I’d like since he eats what we eat and that isn’t very many vegetables these days.  I’m also hoping it’ll help with other things too such as changing my mindset about food, fixing digestion issues, and re-training my body to enjoy real food over processed.

So are you never eating cheese or bread again?

No.  I mean yes.  I mean…I do plan to introduce those foods back into my diet.  I do not feel like Whole30 is a long term way that I’d like to eat.

Part of the thing with Whole30 is that after you finish your 30 days (or longer if you want to keep going longer) you start slowly adding in the foods that could be trigger foods for health issues (gluten, soy, dairy, etc.).  You see how that makes you feel and evaluate whether you think you should eat them or not (read It Starts With Food if you want to know more specifically why they don’t want you to eat those foods).  I personally don’t feel like any of those foods are big issues for me but I want to try going without them just to see (what if they *do* make me feel bad and I’m so used to it that I don’t realize?).  But unless I find that I really need to avoid one of those foods then yes, I will add them back in.

My plan after Whole30 is to go back to eating the way we did during our 100 days of real food challenge – lots of whole, real, minimally-processed foods (including dairy, grains, and beans).

Why am I telling you this?

I fully intended not to say anything because what if I fail?  I was just planning to pop on here in a month and be all “let me tell you about this great lifestyle change I made this month – I’m so much healthier and I lost weight and it’s great!”  Unless it didn’t make a difference and then I wouldn’t say anything.  But then I realized that I’d rather share my journey with you and have that accountability so here I am.

It’s going to be hard.  I don’t eat a lot of meat and I don’t eat a lot of vegetables so it will be a challenge for those to make up the majority of my diet.  But is it impossible?  No.

My meal plan is made.  My grocery list is made.  I’m going shopping this afternoon.  I’ll start prepping what I can this evening.  I’m celebrating my birthday with family tomorrow and will probably overindulge on junk.  And then Sunday it begins.

whole30 meal plan

So here we go.  30 days.  No cheats.  No junk.

Who wants to join me?  We can do this together!

chunk-less salsa {Works for Me Wednesday}

I had such a DUH moment last week…a “this is so obvious that I can’t believe it took me 26 years to think of this!” moment.  I almost feel ridiculous sharing this with you since it is so simple, but just in case it might help someone else out, I want to share :).

I love salsa, but I do not like chunky salsa.  I like the taste but not the texture – huge hunks of tomatoes are yucky.  I much prefer the salsa you get at Mexican restaurants to the salsa that comes in jars from the grocery because restaurant salsa is much smoother.  When I buy salsa from the grocery I end up being so wasteful because I dip my chip in, shake off the chunks, and then just eat the juice-flavored chip.  I basically eat on my salsa until I’ve used up all the juice and then throw the chunks away (or pass them off to Michael or my mom who are nice enough to eat my leftovers).

salsa 1

Last week I had a hankering for some salsa, so I grabbed a jar at the grocery.  As usual, I started eating it while avoiding the chunks.

Then I had an epiphany in the form of my food processor.

salsa 2

I could just throw that salsa in the food processor (or blend it) and make the chunks whatever size I want…Duh!

salsa 3

Look at that nice, smooth salsa!

salsa 4

I have eaten the whole jar with no waste!  Food I enjoy more + reducing waste = a win in my book!

Blending my salsa so it’s the consistency I prefer works for me!

Linking up to Works for Me Wednesday.

how to eat real food on a budget {Works for Me Wednesday}

10 tips for eating real food on a budget

A year ago, Michael and I were gearing up to start our 100 days of real food challenge, where we would eat nothing but real, local, organic food for the next 100 days.  I had actually spent a couple of months thinking, researching, and reading Lisa’s blog before we took the plunge.  We successfully completed that challenge (you can read about it here: week 1, week 2, week 3, and our results) and have since then stuck to the basic real-food principles.

Here we are a year later, and I can say that we have completely changed the way we eat.  Yes, we still eat non-real foods (usually just the occasional dessert or eating out), but 80-90% of what we eat is good, whole, healthy, and natural.

If you’ve considered trying to eat more natural, now is the time to do it!  The farmers markets are opening back up, you still have time to plant a garden, and you’ll have tons of variety in the summer.

One of the biggest hurdles I hear people talk about is the cost.  I’ve heard many people say that they’d like to eat more natural and organic, but that it is way too expensive.  Yes, it can be more expensive but it doesn’t have to break the bank.  Personally, I think that we put so much money into gyms and insurance and doctors, and not nearly enough on eating nourishing food.

Now don’t get me wrong, I realize there are many family who have a very small grocery budget and absolutely have no wiggle room.  I’m not trying to make those people feel bad.  But if you do have some extra money (or could cut back elsewhere) and focus more on the food you buy, I highly suggest giving it a try.

Anyway, here are some tips I’ve found for eating healthy without spending a fortune

  • Grow a garden – You’ll have the start-up cost (plants or seeds, dirt, water, wood if you decide to do raised beds, etc.), but once you’ve paid that then you get virtually free veggies with the bonus of knowing exactly where they came from.  Even if you don’t want to grow a full-on garden, you could do a small container garden like we did last year when we lived in our apartment.  Even if you just grow some herbs, you’ve saved quite a bit of money there – fresh herbs at the grocery are outrageous!  You could also choose one or two items that you know you eat a ton of, and just plant those so you don’t have to keep buying them week after week.

container herb garden

  • Shop at the farmers market…but also compare prices with the grocery – I really do prefer to buy food from the famers market.  Our farmers market only allows people who grow organically, plus I like knowing where my food comes from and supporting local farmers.  Also, you can often find great prices on items at the farmers market.  That being said, sometimes there are things at the farmers market I just can’t bring myself to pay for.  For example, at the farmers market potatoes may be $3.50 per pound and I need 2 and 1/2 pounds for my potato soup.  However, I can get a 3 pound bag of organic potatoes at Kroger for just a little over $2.00.  In that instance, I choose to buy the Kroger potatoes.  That’s just my personal preference.

farmers market

  • Ask about “seconds” at the farmers market – A friend of mine who sells at the farmers market gave me this tip when she learned I was planning to can tomatoes.  I was able to buy a huge box of tomatoes for about $10.00 (way, way less than the usual price of tomatoes per pound) because they were “seconds” – not very attractive, and some with bad spots.  But since I was using them to make sauce or to can, I didn’t care about how they looked and just cut out the bad parts.  This saved me a ton of money.  It might be worth asking about to see if anyone at your farmers market does the same thing.

canning tomatoes

  • Use coupons where you can – You will rarely get coupons for produce.  Kroger occasionally gives a $5.00 off your total order coupon or a $1.00 off $6.00 of organic produce, but other than that I can rarely use coupons on the food we buy at Kroger (and of course, not when we buy at the farmers market).  However, I can still try to use coupons and shop sales for our paper goods and toiletries, then use the money I saved from that to buy more expensive organic food.
  • Learn the “dirty dozen” – If you can’t afford to but all organic, try to figure out what foods are most likely to contain pesticides (and thus, the ones you are going to definitely want to buy organic) and which ones aren’t so bad (and you could just buy the conventional ones).  I’ve seen lists of the “dirty dozen” all over Pinterest; the 12 items you should definitely buy organic and the 12 items that aren’t so critical.

fresh fruit

  • Eat less meat – Meat is expensive.  Organic, local meat is really expensive.  Try eating a few meatless meals a week or reducing the amount of meat you use in your recipes to save a little money.  Some of our favorite meatless meals are homemade refried beans with homemade tortillas, potato soup, pancakes, and pizza.

homemade pizza

  • Stretch the meat that you do use – Gone are the days of buying boneless, skinless chicken breast and canned chicken broth.  Now we buy a whole chicken at the farmers market, which is quite expensive at about $17.00 per chicken, but we stretch it farther.  We cook the whole thing in our crock pot and then pick as much of the meat as we can off the bones.  We usually have one meal with the chicken as our main dish, and then use the rest of the meat that we de-bone either for sandwiches (Michael likes chicken sandwiches for lunch) or in another dish (like chicken and dumplings, cheesy chicken and rice, chicken quesadillas, or white chili).  After we de-bone the chicken, we throw the bones and skin back into the crockpot overnight and make chicken stock.  It is easy peasy, makes 10-12 cups, and is way better than the store-bought, watered down stuff.  I use it in soups and such, and if I’m not going to use it right away I freeze it in ice cube trays for later.

whole chicken in a crock pot

  • Preserve food while it is in season – Not only is eating in season food much better for you, it is also usually cheaper.  Freeze or can extra in the summer to eat on all winter so you can have the most nutritious produce and save some money.  We were brand new to canning last summer, but we gave it a try, canned quite a bit of food (more than we needed…it’s almost summer again and we still have a lot left!), and so far have been pleased with the results.  We also froze some stuff (not much since we had very little freezer space at the time) and intend to freeze even more this year.

canned vegetables

  • Trade with a friend or see if they have extras they want to get rid of – If you have an abundance of tomatoes and your friend has way too much squash, maybe you could trade.  Or if you’re really lucky, someone might be bursting at the seams with food and just wanting to give it away so it doesn’t spoil.  We were very fortunate that for a while I worked with a professor whose chickens laid way more eggs than she could eat and she gave me free, fresh eggs nearly every week.  My in-laws had an abundance of apples on their apple trees this year that they gave us and I turned into homemade apple butter.
  • Reduce waste – Letting food go bad and having to throw it away is just throwing money in the trash.  Try to be mindful of what is about to go bad and eat it before it does.  An Eat First box is a good way to do this.  Or try to salvage things that have started to go bad (use wilted spinach in a green smoothie, freeze too-brown bananas to use later in banana bread of banana pancakes).

green smoothie

How do you eat healthy without breaking the bank?

(Other resources you might like: eating real food while travelling and the busy girls guide to eating real food)

Linking up to Works for Me Wednesday

A Monsters, Inc. birthday party

You remember our friends the Gaines’?  The ones we’ve adopted as our Bowling Green family?  The ones who are moving to Africa in October (*sniff*)?  Well they recently had a fun Monster’s Inc. party for Abby’s 11th and Josiah’s 2nd birthdays.monsters inc birthday 3Tiffany had decorated super cute with all this purple, green, and teal.  I have to confess that it has been many, many years since I’ve actually watched Monsters, Inc. but I vaguely remember something about doors…or maybe I’m just gathering that tidbit from all the doors Tiffany used for decorations.

monsters inc birthday 10I was excited to contribute the cake…Sully on the bottom layer and Mike on the top (copied from here).  Compared to Nora’s Wizard of Oz cake, this one was a breeze!  It turned out cute (at least, I think so).

monsters inc birthday 4I just hope it didn’t hurt Mike’s eyeball when they stuck those candles in there…

monsters inc birthday 15The birthday girl approved

monsters inc birthday 16And so did the birthday boy

monsters inc birthday 12And Levi just tried to grab everyone else’s food…I think he was jealous

monsters inc birthday 13I love this sweet boy

monsters inc birthday 14Even when he eats my Monsters, Inc. security badge

monsters inc birthday 11Jojo-bear

monsters inc birthday 1Little monster…this is one hilarious kid

monsters inc birthday 7He got this car racer thing and played with it forever.

monsters inc birthday 5Clearly I’m way out of touch with pre-teens and Disney channel – Abby got tickets to R5 and she was super excited (apparently R5 is a band from the Disney show Austin & Ally…yeah, I didn’t know that either – don’t feel bad).

monsters inc birthday 6Levi was clearly unimpressed by the present-opening

monsters inc birthday 9So he took a little nap :)  Presh.

monsters inc birthday 17Abby wanted us to play a little family game of basketball

monsters inc birthday 2But I’m pretty much the most un-athletic person on the planet so I chose to stay on the sidelines.

Observation #1 about that picture: Look at the four of us with our arms crossed…we look so judge-y.

Observation #2:  I promise I am working on my New Years goal of improving my posture…but clearly this moment was not one of those times

Michael and meI adore this picture that Tiffany took.  I didn’t even realize she was taking it but it’s now one of my favorite pictures of us.

In other news…who’s thankful for Facebook and multiple cameras?  There were no less than 5 cameras snapping away at the party and then we could just snatch each others pictures from Facebook.  Yay technology and yay for way better angles and shots than I would have ever had to show you :).