Super Simple Meal Planning Method

Super simple meal planning method. Get more vegetables in your day.

Meal planning is one of those classic tips for those looking to be more intentional with either their food choices and/or budget. Taking the time to plan out your meals ahead of time wards off things like last minute drive-thru stops and takeout orders. Both are hard on the wallet and can be hard on the waistline, too.

I have used a variety of meal planning methods over the years. I’ve planned out every meal and snack, created lists of options to pick from each day, planned out two week’s worth of meals, and worked week by week. I haven’t tried the monthly meal planning method as of yet, but I know some swear by it. I can see how it works, but I’m not ready to commit to that right now.

I recently switched to a super simple meal planning method designed to put more of a focus on vegetables. I’ve mulled this format over in my head for a while now, but couldn’t quite make it work until recently. We decided to take some time off from eating meat so that we can be more intentional about getting more veggies in our diet.

This can very easily work with eating meat, too. In fact, I will probably continue with this method for a while. It really is simple.

I do this with a pencil and a piece of paper, but I typed it up so I could give you a clearer look at my plan. (After seeing it all typed up, I will likely do this moving forward.)

Super simple meal planning method to get more veggies in your day.

Simple Meal Planning Method

This is basically fill in the blank. I fill it in with what we have on hand and what I’m picking up from grocery shopping.

Here’s more detail:

  • Breakfast – We are moving away from cereals because they are loaded with sugar and are not very filling. We rotate between oatmeal with different fixings and eggs. For the eggs, I will either sautee the veggies and pour scrambled eggs over it or serve them alongside fried eggs.
  • Lunch – I’ve organized the veggies by how I cook them. Then for lunch, I simply pick two plus a grain/carb or do three different vegetables. My kids also love to do a veggie tray with ranch dip or hummus, we often have more than three vegetable options on that.
  • Dinner – This is where I’ve struggled to find what works best. I will be focusing on more protein, less/no carb meals. I’ve kept this simple specifically to motivate me to use more veggies than anything. I use the list from the lunch section to pick my veggies.
  • Snacks – Again, trying to focus on higher protein items. I also use my breakfast shake when I’m needing something sweet because I struggle with that.

Why This Simple Method Works For Me

I have found that I can always find a way to get carbs in my diet. What I struggle to get in are lots of vegetables and protein. I am finding that being intentional about these by writing them out helps me make better choices. I’m hoping this has a positive impact on my weight, too.

I find this method to be the perfect blend of needing to plan ahead and needing the freedom of choosing what to eat. I have never stuck with a “eat this at this time” regimen for more than a day or two. I find it to be suffocating and I tend to rebel when we have those. In other words, it has the opposite of a positive effect on me.

There are no recipes. I love to cook with recipes, collect them on Pinterest, and use my cookbook collection. But I have found that when my focus is on using recipes, I don’t actually cook as much because it ALWAYS takes me 2x’s the time listed on the recipe, but I never plan for that.

Going forward, I will probably have some recipe based items added because I don’t want to get bored with the options and my husband enjoys variety. For now, no recipes is working for me.

This simple meal planning method works for me. If you are struggling with getting enough vegetables in your diet or need to shake up your meal planning efforts, give this a try and see what you think!

If you need some other meal planning ideas, check out my Pinterest board just for that!

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Food :: Menu Planning on Pinterest.
If you would prefer recipes to follow, you can check out these cookbooks for some plant-based meal ideas to get more veggies in your day:

Happy Eating!

3 Ways You Can Support Shop Small

3 Ways You Can Support Shop Small (and Why)

Shop Small Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but you don’t have to wait for an official day to support small business owners. You can shop small all year long.

Why Shop Small?

Small businesses employ local people, they tend to be very involved in their communities, and they give towns a unique flavor. They are good for the local economy, too. Just think about it, have you ever traveled to see a town because of its Wal-Mart or Bed, Bath, and Beyond? Not likely, small businesses create a draw because they are different.

Your shopping small ensures that they can stay in business.

I am not saying big business is bad. Big business has its place. I simply would hate to see big business completely demolish small business.

Go Local

Take a look around next time you are in your town or city and see if you can find a “mom and pop” store. In our town, you can shop at an independent book store, art store, and a fabric store. Look for small cafes and non-chain restaurants for your lunches or date nights.

Smaller businesses can be priced a little higher than bigger business because they don’t have the buying power that brings volume discounts. You can offset this some by signing up for the newsletters, emails, or mailings so you will be aware of special promotions and possible coupons from the store.

Go International

This is the opposite of shopping local, but not the opposite of shopping small. When I say international, I don’t mean buying lots of “made in china” stuff. There are a growing number of organizations and ministries that are committed to making a difference in the world.

These organizations work with impoverished, marginalized people to provide them with training for various life skills and crafts. Then they sell those items, with the majority of the profits going directly to the artisan. Your purchases have a direct impact on the lives of some of the neediest people in the world.

Go Independent

You can shop online and support small business. The most popular site for this is Etsy, but don’t stop there. A lot of small businesses sell on their own websites now.

Another option is independent consultants for direct sales businesses. Yes, I know. A lot of people are skeptical of the multi-level marketing set up. I get that, but I also see tremendous potential for supporting entrepreneurs. There are a lot of direct sales businesses, ask on Facebook and I’m sure you will have no shortage of options. If you are looking for hair pretties, I am a Lilla Rose consultant. ;)

Shopping small doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be relegated to one day in November. You can support small businesses year round by being a little more intentional with your spending this year.

When Convenience Becomes a Crutch

When Convenience Becomes a Crutch | Vicki-Arnold.com

I make it no secret, I’m not the best housekeeper. I struggle to stay on top of things and sometimes with even the desire to do it because I get easily discouraged when I find myself doing the same thing over and over again.

However, I never let that stop me from trying to do better. And, believe me, I am better than I was years ago. I’m glad that God hasn’t given up on me through the years.

One area I struggle to stay on top of is my kitchen, particularly the dishes. Ever since we went camping in August, I’ve been pondering the idea of ditching our dishwasher. I never really felt brave enough until last week, when I mentioned it to my husband.

Our dishwasher is not terribly old (9 years), but it has never really cleaned our dishes really well. They had to be rinsed thoroughly before going in and if someone didn’t do this, it meant that dishes would have to be hand washed AFTER they came out.

So we ditched the dishwasher mostly, we have only ran it twice in the last week or so to help with catch up after the fridge was cleaned out and after company. For the rest of the dishes, we have been hand washing them. What happened kind of amazed me, but was what I was hoping for.

We don’t have more dirty dishes sitting around than usual and I’m making progress in training the kids to wash their own dishes. This means that the ever present stack of dirty dishes in my sink and on the counter next to it is slowly, but steadily improving.

Amazing!

As I’ve been doing dishes this week, I got to thinking. Don’t worry, it didn’t hurt too bad.

When we had the option of the dishwasher, the dishes were never a priority to anyone immediately because we had to wait for a full load to run it. So the dirty dishes sat and waited. When someone didn’t rinse their dish, which was very, very often the case, those dishes then often enough had to sit with water in them to soften the hardened food in order to be rinsed to put in the dishwasher to be washed.

Just typing that is exhausting.

The convenience of the dishwasher had become a crutch, a procrastination enabler, if you will. So we ditched it and I think we will be better for it in the long run.

What about you? Are there any conveniences holding you back?

How to Create a Custom Chore Chart

How to Create Your Own Custom Chore Chart | Vicki-Arnold.com

I have been on a mission this year to train my children better in certain areas. I personally struggle with discipline and my children have seemed to pick up this super awesome habit. So you can probably guess that the first step in training my children better was to work on creating better habits myself.

Why does parenting work like that? It’s really annoying sometimes. I personally think it would be better if that whole “do as I say, not as I do” thing actually worked. Eh, maybe not.

This parenting gig has a way of changing a person…and that’s probably what God intended. Anywho, on to today’s point…

How to Create a Custom Chore Chart

I have seen a whole bunch of different chore charts over the years. Some are simple like the ones I found at Dollar Tree that were a pad of basic, fill in the blank rows with columns for each day of the week. Others are pretty involved, with systems, rotating cards, and/or magnetic things.

When I was at my friend Tina’s house the other day, I saw a simple laminated graph on her fridge that was exactly what I kept trying to come up with. I knew what I wanted to put on this chart, but couldn’t figure out how to lay it out. Seeing hers made it all click. Mine is a little different, but that’s because it fits our family.

Here’s how I made it:

  1. Open your word processing program (I use Pages) and create a blank landscape document.
  2. Insert/create a table. You will want a table to be 7-8 columns by 2 + however many chores you have rows long (mine is 6 because I have 4 chores on it).
  3. If your table format hasn’t automatically done this, merge all the cells in the very first row together (select them and then in the formatting of your table, select Merge Cells). Type in your title, I chose Household Chore Assignments.
  4. In your 1st column, starting in the 3rd row, start adding your chores.
  5. In your 2nd row, starting in the 2nd cell, label your days of the week. I chose to do Monday through Friday separately and then put both Saturday and Sunday in one column called Weekend. You can do whatever works for you.
  6. Make your text/table all pretty. In my header, I centered the text both horizontally and vertically and chose a font that I liked in a bigger size. For I also centered my text for the chores and days of the week.

Below the chart, I used the space to explain what was expected for each job. I chose kitchen, cleaning, laundry, and feed animals for our chores because I like the idea of having a designated helped in these areas each day of the week.

For the cleaning chore, there is the general expectation of making sure the house (specific areas) stays picked up, plus each day has a daily chore. I put these in the cell that corresponded with the day I wanted them done in smaller text that I centered and then justified to the bottom of the cell so there was space above to write the names. If that is confusing, check out my chart below and you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, I laminated my chart! This is the first time I broke out my laminator after months of it sitting on my kitchen counter. I was pretty pleased with myself. Like all works of art, this will be hung on our fridge…ok, so not exactly a work of art, but hey. It’s still going on the fridge and I will use a dry erase (or possibly a wet erase) marker to assign the duties to the appropriate child.

That’s it! You can check out my chart below, but ignore the little line after the last word, the screen shot caught my cursor in Pages. That’s not actually on the finished chart.

I’ve uploaded it as a PDF so you can see it in full view, too. I just ask that if you like it and want to share it with someone else, please send them to this post so they can see how to make their own if they’d like, too. Meaning, don’t share the link that ends with .PDF, please.

My Custom Chore Chart | Vicki-Arnold.com

Reusable Options for Disposable Household Items

Reusable Options for Household Items - vicki-arnold.com

I’ve heard it said that we live in a disposable world. So many people are caught up in the buy new cycle that creates a lot of waste. Heck, it’s something I fight sometimes. So I know there is some truth to the statement.

One of the best things to come out of the “green” movement is the awareness for reusable items that used to be common place, but are not anymore. Probably the biggest example is cloth diapers, but it goes far beyond your baby’s bottom.

Let’s look at this a little closer.

Reusable Options for the Home

Paper towels

You have a couple options here. We use wash clothes and dish towels for just about everything in our kitchen. The exception I make is when I have a leaky meat package, I use paper towels for that yuck.

For cleaning things like windows, floors, and bathroom surfaces, I use rags. I save old t-shirts, socks, and some types of knit clothing for this purpose.

You can also make your own cloth paper towels if you want something with a little more style. You have the option of making them look just like a roll of paper towels or you can go with another, super easy option.

Napkins

We don’t use napkins much at all in our house. I will put them out when we have guests over…and I remember that other people like to use napkins. We simply use utensils and then wipe up at the sink when needed.

If you need a replacement for napkins, you can use cloth napkins. They sell them in many home goods stores or you can make your own.

Swiffer Pads

Do you have a Swiffer? You don’t have to buy the replacement pads ever again if you make your own. I will likely use this for the Swiffer style mop I have, it’s not an “official” Swiffer, but it works just great for what I need.

Bowl Covers

No need to mess with that ridiculous plastic wrap to cover your leftovers or to carry your salad to the church potluck any more. You can make your own bowl covers. Bonus: they are cute!

Snack & Sandwich Bags

I’ll admit, we still use these. We use them in a variety of ways, but mostly for snacks or lunch items that are needed on the go. You can find a lot of options on Etsy for reusable snack bags or you can make your own.

Lunch Bags

If you don’t have a lunch box and use paper bags for lunch, you could consider switching to either a lunch box, small cooler, or make your own reusable lunch bag with this tutorial. If you are feeling all fancy-pants, you can even make your own faux gold leather lunch bag. Of course.

Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags became a big thing several years ago. Maybe it is our area, but I actually don’t see these that regularly. I don’t tend to use them except when I shop at Costco since they don’t have bags and most of the boxes load to be too heavy for me.

Again, you can buy some or make your own.

Produce Bags

Ditch those thin, ridiculously clingy bags for this breathable option. They are a DIY, but a pretty simple project.

Tea Bags

This was a brand new one to me! I’ve seen tea balls and other tea diffusers, which could be an easier to clean option, but these reusable fabric tea bags are simply adorable. You use loose leaf tea with these, you can find this at bulk herb stores online.

Do you use any of these? Are you willing to try? Not only are these better for the environment (less waste), many of these can even save you money in the long run. Pick one and see how you like it.

The Well Planned Day Family Homeschool Planner

The Well Planned Day (a family homeschool planner review)

It’s no secret that I reviewed and loved another planner earlier this year. It’s also not a secret that I like planners and lists. So when I was contacted to see if I would be interested in reviewing The Well Planned Day planner, me jumping at the chance wouldn’t be an inaccurate image.

Three things before I get into the review. I was provided a free planner so I could, you know, look it over and review it. I am a registered affiliate with HEDUA. Finally, this is a review of The Well Planned Day, not a comparison to any other planner (free or paid).

About The Well Planned Day

The Well Planned Day is a family homeschool planner created by Rebecca Scarlata Keliher. This planner was created to cover everything a homeschool family needed to track and plan. It is very thorough.

Details

  • spiral bound with three-hole punch for inserting in binders
  • full color
  • includes year and month at a glance calendars
  • is dated for the school year, which runs July through June (copy I received is 2013-2014)
  • includes a short inspirational article for each month (titles in my review copy include 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Homeschooling, Book Gluttony, and Let Your Kids be Kids)
  • planning/tracking pages for household management and holiday shopping included
  • track up to four students in one planner with class plans, schedules, attendance charts, progress reports, and perforated report cards
  • Bible reading plan included on the monthly calendar, scripture quotes throughout the book, and a weekly catechism focus

My Review of The Well Planned Day Planner

First, I did not take any photos of the inside pages of this planner for copyright issues, but you can see 90 pages of the planner on the preview page. And really, those are much better than any photo I could give you. Now, on with the review!

Oh, my stars. This planner is gorgeous! Each month has a subtly different color scheme that helps give a fresh look to your eyes, but keeps with the overall design of the planner. And normally, I’m not a floral type girl, but I LOVE the floral design of this planner. Also, purple is a very frequent color in this planner and you can’t go wrong with purple in my book.

The content? Seriously, I can’t believe how well this is organized. It has goals. It has menu planning. It has perforated shopping lists, six for each month! It has budgeting forms. It has a section each month for books to enjoy, field trips/enrichment activities, and monthly bills.

To be a little more helpful, I will take you through a few things.

First we have your basic information and a fun little family time capsule type page, followed by a staying in touch page where you can track monthly celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries. Then we move into the household pages for things like monthly budgets, income, household duties, and emergency contacts.

Then there is something that I think is completely genius. There is a perforated page for your students’ responsibilities and educational to do’s each day. I intend to finally buy a laminator and laminate the filled out cards for a checklist for each student. After that comes your homeschool planning pages.

What I love about the homeschool planning pages is that each student is given a two page spread to include their personal information, subjects and books, expenses, and a student schedule. I find this particularly helpful since each student has their own activities to track and oftentimes, their own daily rhythm or routine. I like that I can help each student visualize how their time is or should be spent.

There are two semester goals pages (one before July and one before January). At the end of December, there is an attendance record and progress report for four students.

Each month starts with a month at a glance two page spread that includes an inspirational quote, Bible verses for reading through the Bible in a year, and a notes section. Then comes the page with the sections for books, field trips, and bills. Next are the six, double-sided, perforated shopping lists (brilliant!!) and the inspirational article.

Now, the nitty gritty pages you will be using every day. And a confession for you, I realized I LOVE the fact that this planner is dated because I don’t like the way my handwriting looks so different than the rest of the text on pages that I have to fill in the dates (or subjects). I told you, I am pretty visually picky.

Each week has a two page spread. Each day has a column that is broken down by rows for Bible, Math, History, Science, English, and two custom spots. I love that Bible is top priority in the list. On top of the page are the current and next month at a glance calendars; a Bible verse; and an inspirational quote. On the right-hand page, there are sections for weekly priorities, your weekly dinner menu, and a weekly catechism question. I also love that there is a box for both Saturday and Sunday so you can mark your weekend activities in your planner, too.

Other details: a holiday planner section comes before December (LOVE), fonts are easy to read and pretty to look at, and the planner ends with a year at a glance look at next year and a future plans page.

Overall, I didn’t think I could love a planner as much as the other one, but I actually love this one more (sorry, there is a comparison)! I love that it is a homeschool family planner, not just a homeschool planner. I love that everything I need is in this one planner. The planner costs around $26 and is worth every penny.

There are a few different options available, so check out the Well Planned Day planners and see which one you would like! Next, I want to try out their On the Go planner. ;)

3 Reasons Tell Your Time is Awesome

3 reasons Tell Your Time is awesome! Final post of the How Do I Teach Organization & Time Management Skills...When I Have Neither? series.

Previously: why I need to change, how I can change, when do I teach this, and some places to start.

To bring this series to a close, I could walk you through time management 101, tips, tricks, and some tools to get you there. In fact, that is originally what I was going to call this post. As I started writing though, the thought kept popping up that I never reviewed an ebook that I read and loved so much on the subject of time management.

So, instead of me sharing MY tips. I am going to share the resource that finally made a lot of things “click” for me in this area. And as an added bonus, I am going to gift a copy to one lovely reader. I am keeping this one super, super simple. More on that below.

Friendly disclaimer: I use affiliate links in this post.

The ebook is called Tell Your Time and it is written by Amy Lynn Andrews. Amy writes an awesome blog about blogging called Blogging with Amy. She is also a wife, homeschool mom, and a virtual assistant. In other words, she’s busy. She was kind enough to share her time management wisdom with all of us the ebook.

Three Reasons Tell Your Time is Awesome

1. It is a quick read.

Anyone who needs time management help doesn’t need a novel to wade through on the subject. Amen? The ebook is organized well and without a lot of fluff.

2. Two words, common sense.

She lays the concepts out in a very sensible way. She isn’t revealing or promising to reveal anything “revolutionary,” which is rather refreshing in a world that overflows with marketing buzz words like revolutionary and new!

I appreciate that she took me step by step and made me face some truths that I needed to face. Like the simple fact that you can’t do everything all at once.

3. Making a schedule has never been easier.

You know me, I love my lists and schedules. Well, making them anyways. After I read through the book and did the exercises, I sat down and put our stuff on paper in a schedule that actually reflected our REAL life. I can’t tell you how profoundly this impacted me.

I spend so much time thinking I’m spinning my wheels and getting no where. Seeing our schedule on paper helped me to realize two things:

  1. We have a LOT on our plate. Seeing it on paper actually helped me make some cuts in our activities and empowered me to say NO when I needed to. I could physically see that I simply did not have the time to commit to one more thing.
  2. I was wasting a lot of time. Ouch. That one still stings and is a constant battle for me. Facing the fact that I have enough time to get everything done if I will just put my mind to it was hard because it meant admitting that I was being lazy in some areas.

Now, I want to pass along the blessing that is this ebook to one of you.

To enter the drawing to win the ebook Tell Your Time, answer this question in the comments below:

What is one thing that you want to do, but never seem to have the time for?

Be sure to use a valid email address, I’m not adding you to any list or using the info for any deceitful reasons. I just need it to contact you if you win. The giveaway will end August 31, 2013. If you do not want to wait that long to win the ebook, you can buy it for $3 on Amazon. Seriously…$3.

Home Organization Resources

Organization ideas for the home - part 4 of 5 in the How Do I Teach Organization & Time Management Skills When I Have Neither? series

Previously: why, how, and when do I start teaching?

Today I am going to do what I do best and round up some resources to help you organize your home life. And to make it easier and, um, more organized…I will organize them by home area.

Here’s where I insert a little plug for my organization board on Pinterest. You know, in case you want to follow along…

And here is where I remind you that this is NOT a checklist. You are doing this one step at a time! That means you bookmark, pin, or otherwise save this post and come back to it when you are ready for the next one. And if you have no intention of organizing a certain area, more power to you.

This post is not a guilt trip. I repeat, this post is not to make you feel guilty because you are not perfect. Don’t make me show you a picture of my kitchen floor. Alright?

General Organization Tips

Home Office: Papers & Bills

Kitchen & Pantries

Bathrooms

Bedroom & Closets

Books, Toys, & Craft Supplies

Laundry & Utility Rooms

Garages & Basements

Outdoors

Homeschool

In my resource hunt, I came across a monthly blog link-up that you might find helpful. It is a little like organizational heaven. It is called Organize It! hosted by Bowl Full of Lemons and 7 other blogs. The banner takes you to the main Bowl Full of Lemons blog, here is August’s link up.

A Bowl Full of Lemons
Happy organizing!
Tomorrow we wrap up the series with an awesome time management resource!