Friday, August 14, 2015

24 Meals for $176

I have a little secret. When it comes to dinner, it's okay to think inside the box. I know that goes against all things in this world telling us to be meticulous, extravagant, put-together and picture perfect, but lemme just say, it's okay to throw all that elaborate stuff out the window and eat simply.

If you are here, reading this, then you probably are looking for a way to simplify dinner time. You probably have kids that bark orders at you day and night (while inside your head you think, "We are not equals! I am your mother! I am your superior!" ;) ) or you work all day and would like to figure out a way to eat well at night without having to actually cook or really even think about dinner. Enter meal planning. Now your response might be, but I don't like the crock pot because I don't like soup or stew. Oh good! Me neither. I'll eat it here and there but to be completely honest, my kids and I don't really like soup. And if we don't like what's for dinner, that complicates things.

So my advice...think inside the box. It can be basic but still be flavorful and most likely, easily consumed by the tiny army that rules your house. You'll find these meals have very few ingredients. That's what makes it so doable. This round took me 1 hour at the grocery store (with kids) and a little over an hour at home (with their help :) They are great at dumping ingredients in Ziplocs).

This round of meals will give you 24 protein heavy meals for about $176 (averaging a little over $7 per meal). Each meal feeds at least a family of four - many meals will yield plenty of leftovers. If you have a larger family, simply adjust the recipe.

Here we go...

Menu |
4 Memphis BBQ Pit Pulled Pork on pretzel rolls - it's kind of our favorite
2 Spaghetti Sauce
2 Caribbean Jerk Chicken on dinner rolls
2 Sausage Bakes
2 Lemon Pepper Chicken
2 California Burritos or Carne Asada fries
2 Hawaiian Chicken on Hawaiian Rolls
2 Creamy Italian Sausage & Tortellini
2 Jambalaya
2 Creamy Tortellini with Pesto
1 Thai Pork w/ Peanut Sauce
1 Asian Sesame Chicken

Grocery List |

1 10 lb. pork loin (to be cut into 5ths)
2 lbs. ground beef
4 lbs. ground Italian sausage
3 smoked sausages
2 lbs. shredded beef
2 lbs. cubed beef
1 bag medium shrimp
3 bags of chicken breasts (frozen, 3 lb. bags)

1 Lime
1 bunch celery
2 green peppers

Canned Goods:
2 cans tomato sauce
6 cans diced tomatoes
2 pastes
2 jars Alfredo sauce
1 jar pesto
1 jar apricot preserves
2 cartons chicken broth
Medium salsa (you need 1/2 cup)
Peanut Butter (you need 1/4 cup)
Soy Sauce

Dried Goods:
2 packages of spaghetti
4 lbs. dried tortellini (or 4 packages)
4 cups brown rice

4 Memphis BBQ Seasoning Packets
2 Caribbean Jerk Marinades
2 lemon pepper marinades
2 taco seasoning
2 Hawaiian Marinades
1 bottle toasted sesame salad dressing
1 onion soup/dip mix
Garlic Powder
Brown sugar
Cayenne Pepper
Bay leaves

2 packages of cream cheese

2 bags frozen broccoli florets
2 bags French fries

4 bags pretzel rolls
2 packages dinner rolls
2 packages Hawaiian rolls
2 packages of tortillas

Gallon Bags
Slow Cooker Bags

I shopped at Winco, your total should be around $176. Don't forget the gallon-sized bags! You'll regret it. When you get home, lay it all out on the counter. First label all bags then just go through one meal at a time. I usually do the meals that don't require any cooking first.

Recipes |

Memphis BBQ Pit Pulled Pork on pretzel rolls - make 2

1/5 of the large pork loin or a 2 lb. pork loin
1 packet of Memphis BBQ Pit seasoning
1/4 brown sugar
(Freeze the pretzel rolls with the meal)

Add 1 cup of water at the time of cooking. Cook in the crock pot 8 hours on low, shred and serve on pretzel rolls with BBQ sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce - make 2

1 lb. cooked ground beef
1 lb. cooked ground Italian sausage
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. basil
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
(store spaghetti noodles in pantry with this meal)

Cook 8 hours on low in crock pot.

Caribbean Jerk Chicken on dinner rolls - make 2

4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Caribbean Jerk Marinade
(freeze dinner rolls with this)

Thaw and grill chicken and serve on rolls OR cook 7 hours on low, shred and serve on rolls.

Sausage Bake - make 2

Freeze one smoked sausage with one bag of broccoli florets

To cook thaw and cut sausage, add cubed potatoes and peppers, frozen broccoli, drizzle with EVOO, garlic powder, sage, salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 45-50 minutes. (I don't like the taste of frozen potatoes cooked so this is how I make this delicious meal easier.)

Lemon Pepper Chicken - make 2

4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Lemon Pepper Chicken

Thaw and grill.

California Burritos or Carne Asada Fries - make 2

1 packet taco seasoning
1 lb. cubed beef
1 lb. shredded beef
(freeze fries and tortillas with these)

Cook in crock pot 8 hours on low. Bake French fries per package instructions. For California burritos, stuff a tortillas with fries and meat and any taco fixings you like. For Carne Asada Fries, pile meat and taco fixings on French fries and eat with a fork, you'll need it. ;)

Hawaiian Chicken on Hawaiian Rolls - make 2

4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Hawaiian marinade
(freeze Hawaiian rolls with these)

Thaw and grill OR 7 hours on low, shred and serve on rolls.

Creamy Italian Sausage & Tortellini - make 2

2 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 package cream cheese
1 lb. cooked Italian sausage
(store tortellini with these)

7-8 hours on low until sauce is combined, cook tortellini per package instructions, mix and enjoy.

Jambalaya - make 2

1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 carton chicken broth
1 chopped green pepper
1/2 of the chopped celery stalk
1/2 bag of medium shrimp
1/2 sliced smoked sausage
3 chicken breasts
A few dashes of Tabasco (or however many you prefer)
1/2 tsp Cayenne or more if you want more kick
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
(store rice in pantry for this)

8 hours on low in the crock pot. Add 1 cup of rice 30 minutes before it's done cooking, stirring well.

Creamy Tortellini with Pesto - make 2

1 lb. cooked tortellini
1 jar alfredo sauce
1/2 jar pesto

Thaw and warm.

Thai Pork w/ Peanut Sauce - make 1

2 lbs. pork loin, cubed
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
3 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
3 T Water
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
(store rice in pantry for this)

8 hours on low. Serve over rice.

Asian Sesame Chicken - make 1
4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Toasted Sesame Dressing
1 bottle apricot preserves
1 packet onion soup/dip mix

7-8 hours on low. Serve over rice.

And you're done. Now go freeze those bad boys and not stress about dinner for another month. ;)

Here's a quick tip: on Sunday night pick the five meals you'd like to eat for the week and get them in the refrigerator to defrost. That way they're ready hop in the crock pot when you're ready to eat them.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Give Them Room

It started almost a year ago after Isaiah had been going to preschool for a while and one day he asked for a snack. I grabbed him a granola bar or something and started to open it to give to him..."No, wait, mom! I want to do it." "Do what?" "Open it by myself." He wasn't rude, he wasn't demanding, he was letting me know I was encroaching on something he was very much capable of doing. It was a small moment, a nothing moment. But I realized something, I do things for my kids that they are capable of doing. Why do I do it? Because I'm faster, I'm more efficient, and sometimes just impatient.

I feel like I'm pretty good at letting my kids be themselves. They can pick out their clothes, Maci picks out her hairstyle every day, I let them run freely at the playground (they know the limits I give them but they are free to do almost whatever). I let them get messy, get hurt, and be wild. But there are some aspects of life I forget to just give them room.

They want to pour their own cereal? Tie their own shoes? Load their own dishes? Cut the veggies for the salad for dinner? Help clean the bathroom? They need me to give them room to do those things. Why should I stand in their way? Life gets increasingly messy and things take longer to get done (tying shoes, anyone? Oh. My. Stars. ForeverAndaDay.)

I've noticed a similar need for room in other aspects of parenting. The parent at the park that yells at her kid to stop running away (when running away is leaving her 15 foot radius), or telling their kid to not try to climb the rock wall because 'it's too hard' for them, or fighting over what they wear (seriously, we can't fight our kids on clothes and food and win both. Choose wisely. Choose food.), or simply hovering over every scratch, slip, fall, disappointment they ever experience. Give them room to fail, mess up, and work through their emotions on their own (Guess what. Sometimes they don't need us to be sad with them. They can be sad well enough on their own. And they can reason through things pretty well if we give them the right tools.)

Give them room to play at the park, let them be free. This is where they are allowed to do it. This doesn't mean stop watching them and don't help them when they need it (it's not 'too hard,' get off your hiney and show them how). It doesn't mean don't play with them if they want you to, but letting them go is incredible. Kids make friends and create games my genius mom brain could never come up with pretty easily if you allow it. Kids are excellent at playing - they need to be taught only to a point, then it's time to let go.

Give them room to help with dinner, the dishes, the cleaning, the pouring, the tying. Give them room to run, explore, get dirty, get hurt, fall down, bleed a little bit. I swear to the Heavens, the spills, the extra time, the dirt, the freedom, the blood, the boo-boo's are not the end of the world.

If we are preparing our kids to be God-fearing adults in the real world, why don't we let them experience it? They will get hurt. I guarantee it. They will hear and see things I don't want them to. That mean child at the park might hit yours in the face, but if we stay active in their experiences and hear our kids out, if we ask the right questions and live by example, sometimes our kids will even more easily understand that we need Jesus. We need His love, His acceptance, His forgiveness, His healing, His promise, His grace.

Letting go of the reigns isn't feeding our kids to the wolves. It's allowing them to be a light to others. Give them room and give them grace.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The 10-20-30-40-50 Workout

I get asked what I do for exercise quite often. I, in no way, have the perfect body, but I am in pretty decent shape and I think it is always important to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle whether you're a mom or not. I don't think being a mom is an excuse to not be healthy (and just so y'all know, being healthy doesn't mean we don't have stretch marks or extra cushion. AmIright?) but I do understand dedicating a large quantity of your day to fitness is really difficult. In addition to having a desire to be healthy, I workout because food. I love it. And I don't want to stop eating it. So I workout.

I take one kickboxing/insanity class each week at a local church (I LOVE IT!) but other than that I'm on my own for exercise. Running is usually my go-to - it has always been relaxing, calming and therapeutic to me. Then my kids turned 2 and 4 and I was like 'holy cow! Is there an actual COW in this stroller I'm pushing? One that won't stop talking to me or asking me for help.' So running as much as I try to get a few miles in here and there isn't always appealing. I tend to stick to play workouts - lunges, squats, and pull-ups on playground equipment, running races with my kids, jumping on the trampoline.

One of my favorite workouts to do is what I've dubbed the 10-20-30-40-50 workout. It takes me less than 30 minutes and you can do it just about anywhere. I do it at the high school near my house because they have a killer hill (about 50 feet or so and steep). I bring tennis rackets and soccer balls for the kids in the tennis courts, then bust my butt for 30 minutes.

10 hill sprints (up and down is 1. If you don't have a hill near you, sub 100 mountain climbers here or just sprint in your backyard or cul-de-sac.)
20 burpees
30 push-ups
40 squats (or lunges)
50 sit ups or crunches

Repeat 4x. It takes me about 7 minutes per round. When I don't have 30 minutes, I'll only do 2 or 3 rounds and it's still a great work out - every exercise burns and every exercise you will feel the next day.