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Monday, April 21, 2014

4/19 thru 4/25 #mealplanning Shopping at Costco and Safeway = huge grocery bills this week but also a stocked freezer! #motherhood #cooking

Brand new to Meal Planning?

Start by reading all about Meal Planning (Link at the topin order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find also find a link to a detailed example from start to finish of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through step-by-step. I perform the same steps every week as I have outlined below.


THIS WEEK:
Are you following me along in my gluten-free healthy lifestyle journey? If not, I encourage you to read it HERE as it will effect my meal planning, though not by much surprisingly. :)

I'm still cooking my family's favorite meals, I'm simply substituting gluten-free and/or healthier options in place of those wheat products that contain gluten. I've been reading the book Wheat Belly along with assessing my own health and have decided that a gluten-free life is really what's best for me and my family. I'm doing my best to get my whole family involved though I'm practically dragging my garlic-bread-loving husband along at this point. haha!
 
The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan.


Inventory

1 portions ground sirloin
8 portions ground turkey
1 portions stew meat
6 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 portion New York Strip Steaks
2 portions ribs
3 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
4 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
3 portions made-ahead meatballs
3 portions Brats

3 portions Italian sausage
1 portion made-ahead lasagna
3 portions made-ahead enchiladas Verdes
1 portion made-ahead smoked pork tenderloin

"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag. 

Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. Then, I read the weekly and and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy that I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's) or at Trader Joe's. On shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy whatever is cheaper than Safeway; next, I stop at Trader Joe's; and then, I purchase everything left on my list at Safeway. Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients, specifically fresh produce and expensive items over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. 

Weekly Meal Plan

Going gluten-free isn't for everyone and like I've said before, I'm not going to force my husband or child to give up their favorite, familiar foods; however, I am swapping out as much as I can for gluten-free alternatives.

Chicken Parmesan with roasted cauliflower
I was starring at the leftover fresh mozzarella cheese in the fridge, wondering what I could do with it and decided to melt it over oven-baked chicken breasts with some jarred marinara sauce. I have gluten-free bread crumbs, which are Panko and awesome! I will roast the entire head of organic cauliflower I purchased at Safeway today ($1.99) to serve with it.

Ribs, potato salad & rolls
Often times on Easter we will make barbeque, just to switch things up from the traditional ham meal. This year, we are smoking ribs ($2.99/lb at Costco)! I'm whipping up potato salad so I had to purchase red potatoes $1.49/lb and a sweet onion $0.99/lb. I have dill pickles, celery, mayo, mustard, and paprika on hand. I also purchased a package of Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls ($2) at David and Emily's request. We plan to make two of the three racks of ribs to have leftovers all week for lunch. YUM!

Lettuce wraps
Organic Iceburg lettuce was only $0.99 this week so, I purchased 20oz of cremini mushrooms ($3.49 at Costco), green onions ($0.99), and a can of water chestnuts ($0.79) to make this meal. I will double the recipe and use an entire package of ground turkey ($2.19/lb at Costco!) so we'll have leftovers for lunch this week. Another YUM!

Leftovers

Enchiladas Verdes with chips and guacamole
So silly but, my freezer was stuffed FULL from everything I purchased from Costco on Thursday and something HAD to come out of it. I chose the remaining 2 portions of bone-in split chicken breasts. I purchased sour cream ($1.49) and cilantro ($0.49) to combine with the Verde salsa in my pantry in order to make the sauce. I have Monterrey Jack cheese in my fridge but had to purchase corn tortillas (hand-made 8ct were Buy 1 Get 1 Free!). I also purchased avocados (2@$3) and limes ($0.79/ea) to whip up guacamole to serve with chips (2@$5). I doubled the Verde sauce recipe and ended up with three pans of enchiladas: one to eat this week and two for the freezer!

BBQ chicken pizza
For a super quick, easy, delicious weeknight meal that would use up all the little bits of leftover ingredients I was going to have, this pizza was the perfect choice! I have dough in my freezer as well as frozen pineapple. I will use up the remaining green onion from the lettuce wraps, BBQ sauce from the ribs, cilantro from the guacamole, and bacon that I'm always frying for breakfast. I will use some of the cheddar jack cheese I purchased from Costco (2.5lbs for $11.99). I'll also top the pizza with one of the chicken breasts David will grill over the weekend for his lunches this week.

Taco soup
A friend from the PTA is in desperate need of metal cans for an art project so, because I have everything on hand, I decided to make taco soup this week in order to donate 8 cans to her cause. Funny, but true! :) I have canned beans, corn, tomato sauce, ranch dressing seasoning and taco seasoning on hand. I'll brown half a package of ground turkey with the remaining onion and cilantro to beef up the soup a bit. I plan to top mine with a little cheddar jack cheese and leftover guacamole and scoop it up with corn chips! This recipe makes enough for us to eat on leftover night plus to have for a lunch or two this week.

What did I purchase this week?


My first stop this week was at Costco where I spent $209.
In addition to everything mentioned above, I also purchased:
  • 12ct Sara Lee hoagie rolls
  • Krusteaz pancake mix
  • 10lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Frozen chicken nuggets
  • Precious string cheese
  • 4lbs organic pears
  • Organic maple syrup
  • 2pk organic ketch-up
  • Organic baby spinach - I plan to wilt with garlic and onion and make stuffed shells with it!
  • 24ct organic eggs
  • 3pk organic honey
  • 6lb watermelon
  • 8lbs organic gala apples
  • Kraft singles
  • Tillamook cheddar
  • Organic strawberries
  • 2pk organic raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • 10lbs granulated sugar


Saturday morning, I wrapped up my shopping at Safeway where I spent another $186.77 on weekly necessities as well as to stock up on some great deals including:
  • Bananas, $0.49/lb
  • 2 Life cereal, $1.88
  • Barilla jumbo shells, $1.00
  • Kettle corn, 2@$3
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, $5.99
  • 2 Rotel, $0.79
  • Tillamook yogurt, 4@$5
  • Mountain High vanilla yogurt
  • Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese and Fontina cheese
  • Breakfast sausage, $1.99
  • Danimals smoothies, $1.88, limit 3
  • Act kids mouthwash, on sale $3.99 plus Just4U $1.00 off each, limit 4
  • Breyer's ice cream, $2.99
  • Fresh pineapple, $2.50
  • Seedless grapes
  • Sweet potatoes, $0.99/lb - I bake these and eat them with veggies and taco soup
 








Thursday, April 17, 2014

What are we up to? The State of Things: Thirteen random things about us #thursdaythirteen #parenting #familyfun

My friend over at Through The Picture Window does a segment from time to time called "The State of Things" and I always enjoy reading about all the things going on with her and her family. I particularly like that she includes everything from her workouts, her home, and her job to what's going on in her garden and what her children are up to. I love posts that give readers glimpses into the ordinary parts of life!

So, to honor Sarah, this week's Thursday Thirteen is a list all about The State of Things with The Shavers Family:

1. Earth Week is coming up at Emily's School and I'm the co-chair of our Go Green committe thus, this is the biggest thing we do all year. For the past month I have been making posters and mailings to go out to the whole school, planning our Family Night (crafts & pizza!), and working on my speech for the Opening Assembly on Monday.

2. There's no school on Friday in celebration of Passover and Easter and I'm trying to decide what to do with the kids. I am NOT going far from home because traffic is always awful on Fridays regardless of what time it is and because every other SAHM with the kids will be out looking for things to do, too and I just can't do crowds. I'm considering the beach or a local park...

3. I'm well-prepared for Easter on Sunday as far as having the kids' baskets filled with arts & crafts, some sweet treats, and a special toy or two. I must admit, I hate that we haven't found a new church family out here (it's been eight years and we still don't have one!) so that we can expose our children to The Lord and help them to really "get" what Easter is all about. I always loved the tradition of shopping for an Easter dress, getting dressed up Sunday morning, going to church with friends, and celebrating with a big meal afterwards as a child and want my children to experience it as well.

4. This last weekend, I nearly killed my damn self tripping over a traffic cone that was marking off the side of the farmer's market - you know, to keep cars from turning the corner too sharply and hitting the stands. As I was walking to my car, holding my super heavy bag of loot in front of me (I could barely see over the top), I got one foot caught UNDER the edge of the cone and stepped on the top of it with the other foot, causing me to become tangled up in this four foot beast. My bag of groceries went flying, arms were flailing. It took about 20 feet and 30 seconds to recover. Ugh. I was humiliated and still had to pick up all my loot before I could race off to my car. I'm sure I'm on YouTube.

5. Mother's Day is just around the corner. Want to know what I'd like more than anything? I'd like to have all my knives taken to Pagano's to be professionally sharpened.

6. I'm so lazy when it comes to clutter: I fling hoodies, jackets, scarves and shoes wherever it is that I take them off. The problem comes when I need one of these things and spend 20 minutes turning the house upside down looking for them. I just found the sunglasses I've been missing since Monday! It's such a bad habit to break but I really have got to hang my stuff up in the same place all the time.

7. We booked our summer vacation to Texas a few weeks ago and I've got the ball rolling to get both kids back into Emler Swim School for two weeks. Gram and I are also looking at a membership to The Lakeway Pool, The Hoppin' House, and tickets to Austin's new aquarium. I heard they recently moved the Children's Musem into the old airport so, that's on my list, too! I really need to get over to Athleta to find some shorts that wick away sweat, Texas is so hot, y'all!

8. I've recently used up all the Prada perfume I got for Christmas and have been trying out new scents. I received an Ulta catelog with the new Dolce by D&G and it's my top pick.

9. After shlepping the kids all over The Bay Area over Spring Break, I decided I desperately needed a backpack. I think I've decided on the Borealis by North Face but $90?!? Anyone have a cute-ish, small, comfortable, weatherproof backpack they'd love to recommend?

10. The kids started their swim lessons at Aquatech in Alameda this week. They are in-love. Swimming is all Emily every wants to do! I find it's an easy activity to drag Nolan along to (his lessons are Wednesday mornings) because they have a kids zone with toys and puzzles and it keeps him busy and happy and allows me to actually watch Emily.

11. David and I are discussing converting Nolan's nursery into his "big boy" room and I'm terrified! Emily was still very happily sleeping/napping in her crib until she was 3 1/2 years old and in all honesty, we only converted her crib to a toddler bed because she potty-trained at night before daytime and was waking us up constantly to get up and use the potty. I'm most afraid because his room is up a short flight of stairs and across the house from our room - what if he falls and we don't hear him? We've even tried bribing Emily to change rooms with him (she's in the middle, closest to us). So much to think about! The reason we are discussing it is because he's jumping in his crib really hard and 1) we are afraid he's going to damage it or 2) really hurt himself when he falls out. I also don't really want to deal with a kid who gets up and plays during the night!

12. My Xterra turned 10 years old this month. It's such a wonderful car and has so many memories, I can't bare to part with it so I'm grateful it only has 90,000 miles on it and still runs like the day I bought it.

13. I'm really looking forward to this weekend because we are almost done planting this year's garden and flower beds. We need to get over to the nursery to grab some certified organic basil, sage, green onion, and a variety of tomato seedlings. Emily wants to do peppers and corn but I need to read up on that to ensure I companion plant properly and when during the year to plant those things.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nolan: 2yr 10mo - Very first swim lesson @AquaTechSwim Alameda #toddlers #kids #familyfun

Today was Nolan's very first swim lesson at Aquatech Swim School in Alameda.

Because he's under age three, he has to be in the Mommy & Me Tadpole class so, that's where we started.

He was so excited yesterday, watching and playing during Emily's lesson, saying: "Diggy turn, I swim" (his nickname is Diggy); however, today, he was much more hesitant and even said; "No, no swim, I play with cars" as we drove over, walked in, changed, and arrived at the edge of the pool. He was clinging to my leg a bit and holding my hand really tight.

I got in first (it was only four feet deep) and was able to coach him into sitting on the edge and putting his feet it. I didn't say anything to him just smiled and let him look at all the other kids between five months and three years of age.

All of a sudden, he inched himself to the edge of the pool and, smiling, he slid right in, trembling a bit, and wrapped his arms around my neck. It was quite comical to have a child so happy and yet scared to death! :)

It's a class designed for infants and toddlers so, there was a whole lot of singing to do along with basic moves to make kids comfortable with the water like The Hokey Pokey where we lean to one side and "put your left ear in, put your left ear out". It was very cute and Nolan was smiling and giggling the entire time. He really loosened up (his Boa Constrictor grip around my neck, that is), allowing me to extend him further and further away from my body in order to toss him in the arm and let him jump off the side of the pool into my arms.

He absolutely REFUSED to allow me to even put his chin in the water, forget dunking him! We will work on that in the coming weeks.

When it came to hanging over a floating bar and being pulled back and forth across the pool he excelled! I was surprised he let me let him go.

Next up was kicking his legs while I pulled him back and forth across the pool: he was kicking as good if not better than Emily! He legs were straight and strong.

And he really hit his stride when it was time to roll onto his back, lay his head on my shoulder, and kick his legs back and forth across the pool. In fact, when his swim lesson was over and we spent the next hour and a half enjoying "family swim time", he demanded "I kick!" over and over again. We kicked about three miles in that pool today and I literally had to drag him out.

We had the best time and I'm so happy with my decision to start him in swim lessons this early (Emily was deathly afraid and refused which is why she didn't start until this last year at age 6). His class meets every Wednesday morning but he and I can just go swim and have fun Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am-2pm to enjoy "family swim time".

Just like my big sister #wordlesswednesday #kids #motherhood #parenting


He sits right next to her, watches her, mimics how she eats her Jell-O and even copies the sounds of enjoyment she makes while she eats. Nolan always wants to be just like Emily. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/12 thru 4/18 #mealplanning on less than $100 for the week? Yes because I spent the majority of my money at the farmer's market! #cooking #glutenfree #motherhood

Brand new to Meal Planning?

Start by reading all about Meal Planning (Link at the topin order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find also find a link to a detailed example from start to finish of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through step-by-step. I perform the same steps every week as I have outlined below.


THIS WEEK:
Are you following me along in my gluten-free healthy lifestyle journey? If not, I encourage you to read it HERE as it will effect my meal planning, though not by much surprisingly. :)

I'm still cooking my family's favorite meals, I'm simply substituting gluten-free and/or healthier options in place of those wheat products that contain gluten. I've been reading the book Wheat Belly along with assessing my own health and have decided that a gluten-free life is really what's best for me and my family. I'm doing my best to get my whole family involved though I'm practically dragging my garlic-bread-loving husband along at this point. haha!
 
The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan.


Inventory

1 portions ground sirloin
2 portions pork tenderloin
1 portions stew meat
2 portions bone-in chicken split breasts
2 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 portions ground turkey
1 portion New York Strip Steaks
3 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
4 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
4 portions made-ahead meatballs
3 portions Brats

3 portions Italian sausage
1 portion made-ahead lasagna

"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag. 

Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. Then, I read the weekly and and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy that I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's) or at Trader Joe's. On shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy whatever is cheaper than Safeway; next, I stop at Trader Joe's; and then, I purchase everything left on my list at Safeway. Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients, specifically fresh produce and expensive items over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. 

Weekly Meal Plan

Going gluten-free isn't for everyone and like I've said before, I'm not going to force my husband or child to give up their favorite, familiar foods; however, I am swapping out as much as I can for gluten-free alternatives. 

Smoked pork tenderloin stuffed in herb biscuits with apricot preserves and a side salad
Gorgeous weather + the brink of Spring = backyard BBQ perfection! It's no secret, we spend every weekend outdoors and any chance I get to have dinner prepared on the pit, I take! David smoked the last package of pork tenderloin Saturday night. Once cooked and sliced, I layered it on the home-made herb biscuits I made earlier and slathered one half of each biscuit with apricot preserves. TO DIE FOR! You'd get similar flavors if you roasted yours in your oven, give it a try! I nabbed two heads of organic Romaine lettuce at Dan's ($1.19) so, a simple side salad with my fresh herb vinaigrette was served on the side.

Grilled chicken Caesar salad
I had David grill two extra chicken breasts so I could use them to top my home-made Caesar salad. I will use up the majority of the organic Romaine lettuce I purchased from the produce stand in this dish. I have all the dressing ingredients on hand.

Meatball subs with oven-fries
I have been craving home made meatballs so, I grabbed package of 93% lean ground sirloin ($5.99/lb) and a pound of ground pork (on discount for only $2.97) that I will make into my meatballs nirvana. This recipe will make 4 portions so I added that to my inventory above. I have hoagie rolls in my freezer, jarred marinara sauce in my fridge, and scored a 6oz ball of fresh mozarella for FREE through the Safeway Just4U app. I will serve these sandwiches with oven-baked fries that I have frozen.

Leftovers

Pad Thai
I purchased cilantro ($0.49) to use in two meals this week: Pad Thai and Crispy Tacos with queso. I have limes from last week and will use 1/4lb ground turkey I purchased today ($5).

Crispy Tacos with chips and queso
To use up the package of ground turkey I purchased, I'll brown it with onions and garlic and stuff it inside crispy taco shells (I have in my pantry). I'll top the tacos with the remaining organic Romaine lettuce, the tomato I have leftover from last week, and freshly shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (in my fridge from two weeks ago). I have chips plus Velveeta and canned Rotel so I can throw together an easy side of queso.

Chicken Picatta with roasted cauliflower
Our lemon tree is bursting (when is it not?!?) and trimming it this weekend made me think of this dish. I have capers in my fridge and parsley in my garden so, with the purchase of a head of organic cauliflower ($1.49), I had everything I needed for a light, delicious meal.

What did I purchase this week?

I spent $76.00 this week y'all! Yep, that's it and I got all that you see above and that's mainly due to stopping at Dan's first and then taking advantage of Safeway's Just4U discounts.

  • Buying 2 packages of Oreo cookies for only $5.00 got me the gallon of 2% milk for FREE 
  • Sandwich and french toast bread, 2@$4
  • Ground turkey, $5
  • Ground pork, $2.97 each
  • Ground sirloin, $5.99/lb
  • GoGurt, $2.99
  • Tollhouse ready-to-bake cookies, FREE
  • 2 frozen peas, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Organic pears, $0.99/lb
  • 3 pints organic strawberries, $3.99/ea
  • 1 pint organic blueberries, $2.99
  • Fresh mozzarella, FREE 
  • 5 Tillamook greek yogurt, 5@$5 plus $1.00 off every 5 purchased
  • Deli ham, $5/lb
  • Seedless grapes, $1.99/lb
  • Organic cauliflower, $1.49
  • Watermelon, $0.59/lb
  • Organic snack apples, $1.99/lb
  • Organic romaine lettuce, $1.19 per head
  • Cuties, $2.99
  • Bananas, $0.59/lb
  • Cilantro, $0.49

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's a lot more work to enjoy #springbreak when you have two #kids that are 5 years or more apart #parenting #motherhood #SAHM #toddlers

Emily, my nearly eight year old second grader is accustomed to a very fast-paced, engaging, physically and mentally challenging day while Nolan is accustomed to our weekly routine of going to our local play places, having lunch and then, taking a nap.

It's not easy to keep them active and happy for an entire week by myself while Emily was on Spring Break from school but I did it and we had a great week.

In order to best accommodate them both I had to do some prep work and planning ahead of time:

1. My game plan began with making the decision to stay home one day, go to a morning play place and take the afternoon off for two days, and take the kids on an all day adventure the other two days. This is just the five weekdays when school was out. We did things together as a family over the weekends.

2. I decided to use our memberships around the Bay Area to save money, take BART and the Ferry to save gas and drive time, and have Nolan skip his afternoon nap {gasp!} to maximize the day.

So, where did we go?

Monday was our stay at home day though we didn't exactly stay at home! We ran errands most of the morning, Nolan took his nap, and then we spent the rest of the day outside enjoying the warmth and sunshine as we knew the rain was coming on Tuesday. We played with every toy in every room, chased bubbles, tried to hula hoop, danced to music, used PlayDoh, jumped on the bed then jumped on the trampoline, played in the sandbox, rode our scooters around the block, and watched Frozen. Again.

Tuesday we showed up at Pump It Up before the doors even opened and had to wait in line due to it's popularity on rainy school holidays. I knew it would be crowded but we just couldn't be trapped indoors all day. We jumped for three hours before going home to have lunch and Emily and I enjoyed making bracelets in the quiet as Nolan napped for three hours! That afternoon we did puzzles and read books and watched the big, fat, noisy rain drops pummel the windows until bedtime.

Wednesday we went to Habitot as we have a membership so it cost us nothing. Emily loved it and begged to go back before we had even left for the day. She loved dressing up as an Astronaut and climbing along the wiggle wall. She hadn't been since she was about three years old! It's old hat for Nolan so he became bored quickly thus, we left just before they closed at 12:30pm. After his nap, we played outside, shooting baskets and drawing with our new sidewalk chalk.


Thursday was our big trek into San Francisco via the ferry to renew our Aquarium of the Bay membership. I purposely chose to do an indoor activity on a day we had gorgeous weather because I knew everyone else would be outside, at the local parks. And I was correct, the aquarium was nearly empty! The kids LOVED the ferry and couldn't get enough of the aquarium. We walked the entire length of Pier 39, stopping at all the shops, to see the Sea Lions and to have a latte and miniature cupcakes. We beat the commuter rush by leaving before 4:00pm and almost beat the rain; it started pouring as we exited the ferry boat! We were prepared with umbrellas and jackets, though. Nolan did really well without a nap, though he hit a rough patch around 1:00pm where he was rubbing his eyes, crying anytime anyone brushed past him, and seeming to no longer enjoy the aquarium; however, he came out on the other side, got his second wind, and we went on about the day!


Friday we drove the hour to Sausalito to enjoy a gorgeous day at The Bay Area Discovery Museum, which we have always loved. The traffic on Fridays is awful no matter the time - note to self: don't go anywhere on Fridays! - but the kids hung in there and didn't complain half as much as I did! We spent all day 10am-3:30pm at the museum and the kids had a blast. Emily didn't remember her last trip there (she was four years old) and Nolan had never been so, we visited every exhibit at least twice, enjoyed lunch under the Golden Gate bridge, and ran ourselves ragged on the outdoor play ground. Nolan never slowed down so it didn't seem skipping his nap this day bothered him at all.


Then, on Saturday, we had plans with friends to spend the entire day at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, another place we have annual passes. I have to say, I was exhausted mid-day on Thursday but I pushed through and we had a great time, as usual. We had lunch before entering the park, spent all day riding rides and watching shows, stopped briefly for a snack, and had dinner once we left the park. Emily is 52" tall and can officially ride everything and boy did she! She even rode Boomerang which I refused to go on because I hate rollercoasters in general but truly loathe those that go upside down. Heck no! You can see her in this photo about 5 rows up in a lavender shirt sitting next to my friend Shannon who's wearing a black shirt.


Emily will tell you it was "awesome", that spring break was so much fun. That makes me happy.

It was so much work and physically taxing to entertain two kids all day who have a different set of needs at any given time. The most chill times were meal times, to be honest.  :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

4/5 thru 4/11 #mealplanning when the #kids go back to #school - keeping it frugal yet healthy and delicious! #cooking #motherhood

Brand new to Meal Planning?

Start by reading all about Meal Planning (Link at the topin order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find also find a link to a detailed example from start to finish of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through step-by-step. I perform the same steps every week as I have outlined below.


THIS WEEK:
Are you following me along in my gluten-free healthy lifestyle journey? If not, I encourage you to read it HERE as it will effect my meal planning, though not by much surprisingly. :)

I'm still cooking my family's favorite meals, I'm simply substituting gluten-free and/or healthier options in place of those wheat products that contain gluten. I've been reading the book Wheat Belly along with assessing my own health and have decided that a gluten-free life is really what's best for me and my family. I'm doing my best to get my whole family involved though I'm practically dragging my garlic-bread-loving husband along at this point. haha!
 
The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan.


Inventory

2 portions ground sirloin
2 portions pork tenderloin
1 portions stew meat
3 portions bone-in chicken split breasts
3 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 portion New York Strip Steaks
3 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
4 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
4 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
3 portions Brats

4 portions Italian sausage
1 portion made-ahead lasagna

"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag. 

Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. Then, I read the weekly and and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy that I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's) or at Trader Joe's. On shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy whatever is cheaper than Safeway; next, I stop at Trader Joe's; and then, I purchase everything left on my list at Safeway. Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients, specifically fresh produce and expensive items over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. 

Weekly Meal Plan

Going gluten-free isn't for everyone and like I've said before, I'm not going to force my husband or child to give up their favorite, familiar foods; however, I am swapping out as much as I can for gluten-free alternatives. 

Apricot-bbq glazed smoked chicken breasts, macaroni 'n cheese, grilled asparagus
Split chicken breasts were such a steal ($0.99/lb) a few weeks ago and were begging to be smoked on the pit for a few hours and then, slathered with my apricot-bbq glaze. Heaven!! I have apricot preserves and bbq sauce in my fridge as well as cheddar cheese so I just needed to purchase elbow macaroni ($0.79). I'm using the asparagus I had leftover from late last week (thank goodness it hasn't gone bad because I hate wasting food).

Sloppy Joe's with oven fries
A super easy meal that cost me nothing this week, yea! I have buns, a can of Manwich, and frozen fries on hand. I love when that happens.

Orange chicken and snow peas over brown rice
I completely forgot I had a portion of orange sauce in my freezer from when I made it a few weeks ago. I thawed out the suspicious container over the weekend and was thrilled to see what it was! I'll saute a portion of chicken with the snow peas I purchased today ($1.99/lb) and serve it over steamed brown rice. This recipe makes leftovers, which is my favorite lunch!

Potato soup
Even though our weather is really warm and gorgeous, I had potato soup on my mind so, I purchased a 5lb bag ($2.99), celery ($0.99), and fresh organic thyme ($2.99) to add to the remaining ingredients I have on hand.

Leftovers

Calzones with marinara dipping sauce
Johnsonville had a huge sale on brats and Italian Sausage (Buy 1 Get 1 Free!) so, I stocked up and decided to make calzones for dinner one night. I will make the pizza dough from scratch and I have everything I need to do so.

Buffalo chicken sandwiches with blue cheese dressing and chips
Another huge score this week was Foster Farms frozen, breaded chicken breast pieces (only $5 for 2lbs!) so, I stocked up and will make these sandwiches one busy night this week. I'll avoid the bun and eat mine like boneless wings from Wing Stop! I have hoagie rolls from my Costco trip, crumbled blue cheese, mayo and sour cream to make dressing from scratch, and will serve chips or fruit on the side.
  What did I purchase this week?

I only shopped at Safeway today and spent just under $160!

The major deals I took advantage of include:
  • Tillamook yogurt, 10@$5 plus $1.00 off every 3, no limit I bought 15 as that's all we could consume before their expiration date
  • Frozen blueberries, 2lbs worth for only $9.99 - these are perfect in muffins and pancakes and my kids love those things for breakfast!
  • Ghirardelli brownie mix, $0.99, limit 2
  • Melons, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Foster Farms 2lbs breaded chicken breast pieces, $5.00, no limit
  • Goldfish, Buy 1 Get 1 Free - the kids love the S'mores variety
  • Annie's organic vegetarian refried beans, $1.67 (that's half price, y'all!)
  • Fritos, Cheetos, and Lays varieties, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
I also purchased items we were out of and consume most weeks including:
  • 2% and Fat-free milk, $4.59 - I need to find a Walmart or Pack 'n Save because that price has become unbearable to pay week after week!
  • Orange juice, $1.99
  • Frozen Van's powergrains waffles, $1.99
  • Organic tomato, $2.19/lb
  • Organic raspberries 18oz, $6.99
  • Seedless grapes, $1.49/lb
  • Organic fuji apples, $1.99/lb
  • Strawberries, 2@$5
  • Organic pears, $0.99/lb
  • Deli ham, $5/lb
  • Tortillas, $1.49 - the kids eat quesadillas often and David only likes flour tortillas 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Nolan: 2yrs 9mos - The Next Elton John? #tuesdaytoddlertales #toddlers #Kids #parenting

Nolan can really get himself worked up into a giggling, booty-shaking, jumping, wrestling, fit of laughter these days.

He loves to toss himself off the ottoman into a pile of pillows on the couch; thrash in a ball pit; jumping on David's back and riding piggyback; spinning in circles until he falls down; being double-bounced on the trampoline by Emily; and making himself part of a dog pile in the middle of the play room floor. He's a total animal and a total show-off when at home!

His favorite thing lately is banging out a tune on the piano that once belonged to Emily.

video

Monday, March 31, 2014

3/29 thru 4/4 #mealplanning during #springbreak and keeping it #glutenfree as much as possible! #parenting #cooking #motherhood

Brand new to Meal Planning?

Start by reading all about Meal Planning (Link at the topin order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find also find a link to a detailed example from start to finish of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through step-by-step. I perform the same steps every week as I have outlined below.


THIS WEEK:
Are you following me along in my gluten-free healthy lifestyle journey? If not, I encourage you to read it HERE as it will effect my meal planning, though not by much surprisingly. :)

I'm still cooking my family's favorite meals, I'm simply substituting gluten-free and/or healthier options in place of those wheat products that contain gluten. I've been reading the book Wheat Belly along with assessing my own health and have decided that a gluten-free life is really what's best for me and my family. I'm doing my best to get my whole family involved though I'm practically dragging my garlic-bread-loving husband along at this point. haha!
 
The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan.


Inventory

4 portions ground sirloin
2 portions pork tenderloin
1 portions stew meat
3 portions bone-in chicken split breasts
5 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 portion New York Strip Steaks
1 portion Large shrimp
3 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
4 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
3 portions Brats

1 portion made-ahead lasagna

"Portions" for my family typically mean 1/2lb to 3/4lb of meat and it feeds all four of us at one meal. To keep my freezers organized and make things easier on myself, I divide up my bulk purchases into portions and label everything before freezing it. For example: meatloaf requires 1lb of ground beef where Goulash only requires 1/2lb so, I package 1lb of ground beef and write "meatloaf" on the outside of the bag to ensure I don't accidentally thaw out an entire pound of meat for a recipe where I only need half. You could also write "1lb" on the bag. 

Next, I shop my pantry, freezer and fridge for ingredients to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List. As I mentioned above, I write down each night's meal on our calendar so, I look at it first to sort of rule out meals we've recently eaten to cut down on monotony. Then, I read the weekly and and look through the coupons and Just4U deals from Safeway via the iPhone app to see what is on sale that might complement and/or substitute for what I came up with. I also jot down the price of things I plan to buy that I can frequently find cheaper at my local farmer's market (Dan's) or at Trader Joe's. On shopping day, I stop at Dan's first and buy whatever is cheaper than Safeway; next, I stop at Trader Joe's; and then, I purchase everything left on my list at Safeway. Lastly, I determine how I can stretch ingredients, specifically fresh produce and expensive items over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. 

Weekly Meal Plan

Going gluten-free isn't for everyone and like I've said before, I'm not going to force my husband or child to give up their favorite, familiar foods; however, I am swapping out as much as I can for gluten-free alternatives. 

Goulash and a side salad
Using quinoa elbow pasta is a great way to incorporate gluten-free options into your family's favorite meals and this one is a great way to experiment with it! I purchased organic Romaine hearts ($3.47) for the salad and a small container of sour cream ($0.79), and an onion ($0.99/lb) in order to make the pasta. I have all the remaining ingredients I need on hand. This meal makes enough to feed all four of us with just 1/2lb ground turkey or sirloin plus a small portion as leftovers for me for lunch one day this week. Yea! I love when dinner ends up as leftovers!


Chicken fajitas with chips and guacamole
Cilantro was only $0.39/ea this week so I tried to incorporate it as much as possible this week. I use it in the marinade for my fajitas and in the guacamole. I had to purchase avocados ($0.99/ea) for the guacamole and will use some of the onion I purchased for the goulash. I also needed flour tortillas for David and Emily ($1.99) - I have corn tortillas in my freezer that I will eat. I will use some of the Romaine as a shredded topping for the fajitas and also purchased an organic tomato ($2.99/lb) to dice up and top my tacos. We'll marinate and grill about 3 portions of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and use 2 of those portions for lunches throughout the week. Neither David nor I like deli meats nor make sandwiches to eat for lunch.

Shrimp Alfredo and roasted asparagus with a side salad
Trying to mix up our weekly menus, I decided to try Pioneer Woman's Alfredo sauce this week. Large shrimp was only $6.99/lb, asparagus was $1.49 per bunch, heavy cream was $2.09, and quinoa thin spaghetti was $1.99. I'll serve a side salad with the pasta to use up most of the Romaine lettuce.

Sloppy Joe's with oven-fries
We haven't had a good ole sloppy Joe in a long time and Manwich was only $0.77, limit 4 this week so, I stocked up and also purchased a package of seedless buns ($0.99) for David and the kids. I plan to eat mine in a bowl, scooping it with corn chips, like walking tacos. YUM! I have a bag of frozen fries in the freezer I'll bake for them as well.

Leftovers

Vegetarian Pad Thai (I'm leaving out the meat this week!)
My favorite brown rice Pad Thai noodles were on another $1.00 Just4U coupon this week (only $2.19/each) so I stocked up and will make Pad Thai again this week. It makes so much and cost so little and it my very favorite leftover. There's barely a week that goes by that I don't make this meal! Although, I forgot I was out of ground turkey so, it will be vegetarian this week as I'll only use scrambled eggs. I'll use up the remaining cilantro in this meal as well.

Chicken Club Sandwiches
This may be the only time I'm NOT gluten-free this week because the one sandwich I do love is a club sandwich. I plan to fry up some chicken fingers and some bacon and layer them on the Texas Toast I have in my freezer with cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato three stories high! Although, I'll leave the third piece of bread OFF my sandwich, no need to over do it. :) We will have mixed fruit I'll cut up in bowls along side this meal.

What did I purchase this week?

I shopped at Costco first to ensure their prices were LESS than what I already knew Trader Joe's and Safeway's prices to be. And, as usual, they were!

I purchased:
  • Quaker granola bars 80ct, $8.99
  • Wheat Thins 40oz, $7.49
  • Cliff and Cliff Zbars for kids, $10.79/ea
  • French's & Dijon Mustard, $6.99
  • Organic ketch-up, $6.99
  • Raw almonds 3lbs, $15.39
  • Tillamook cheddar, $8.99
  • 2- 24ct eggs, $3.59/ea
  • Sara Lee 12ct hoagie rolls, $3.99
  • Mushrooms 20oz, $4.79
  • 60ct String cheese, $12.69
  • Organic maple syrup, $13.59
  • AA Duracell batteries, $12.49/ea
  • 4lbs pears, $4.79
  • 3lbs garlic bulbs, $3.79
  • 2lbs Organic strawberries, $5.99 - I only purchased one because they looked like they were on the verge of being over-ripe
  • 2- Organic raspberries 18oz, $6.99
  • 3lbs bananas, $1.89
  • 5lbs Organic Honeycrisp apples, $18.99

My last stop was Safeway where I purchased:
  • 5lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, $2.99/lb
  • 1lb large shrimp, $6.99/lb
  • Deli ham, $4.99/lb
  • Pork breakfast sausage, $2.50
  • 3lbs Cuties, $3.99
  • Crumbled blue cheese, $2.99
  • Sour cream, $0.79
  • Frito's bean dip, $0.99
  • 2% milk, $4.89 - YIKES! Again, what in the world is up with the prices of milk?!?
  • Lemonade - FREE promo through Just4U
  • Balsamic vinegar, $16.99
  • La Victoria verde salsa, $3@$5
  • Heavy cream, $0.99
  • Star olive oils, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Kettlecorn popcorn, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Star anchovies, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Fruit rolls, 2@$1
  • Quinoa spaghetti, $1.99
  • Brown rice Pad Thai noodles, $2.19
  • Hershey's chocolate syrup, $3.49 plus $0.50 off coupon
  • Tillamook greek yogurt, 10@$10 plus $1.00 off every 5 coupons
  • Safeway seasoned canned whole beans, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Rotel, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Safeway Cream of __ soups, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Organics canned whole kernal corn, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Hamburger buns, $0.99
  • Organic apricot preserves, $1.49 plus $0.50 coupon
  • Jell-O pudding, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Bell pepper, $.50
  • Organic tomato, $2.99/lb
  • Seedless grapes, $1.99/lb
  • Fresh green beans, $0.79/lb
  • Organic salsa varities, $1.00 - reduce for some reason, I bought 5!
  • Organic Romaine hearts, $3.47
  • 2lbs carrots, $2.00
  • Frozen steamers vegetables, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Frozen Grand's biscuits, $2.99 - not worth my time to make them for the kids
  • Chex cereal, $3.99 plus $1.00 Just4U coupon
  • Frito's corn chips, $1.99
  • 2lbs organic strawberries, $5.00 - I got the last one!
  • Blueberries, $2.00/ea
  • Blackberries, $2.00/ea
  • Asparagus, $1.49/ea
  • Avocados, $0.99/ea
  • Cilantro, $0.39
  • 20ct Tortillas, $1.99
  • Sandwhich bread, $1.99
  • Onion, $0.99/lb
I spent just over $175 for all that food! So many BOGO deals and reduced prices I stocked up on to really take advantage of the deals.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

13 Things I love MOST about our new house #thursdaythirteen #homeiswheretheheartis #motherhood

We moved from our beloved 1,192sq.ft. Craftsman bungalow almost two years ago because the opportunity came up (finally!) for us to rent a bigger house with a huge lot.

I miss that house {the neighbors!} more than I could ever truly express in written word; however, there are so many positives about the house we moved into.

Here are the 13 things I love MOST about our new house:

All brand new, double-paned, screened windows
There's nothing better than the ability to fling open the windows on gorgeous, warm days, and NOT worry a child or pet might fall {jump} out! They also keep our home super warm and energy efficient, which has saved us hundreds since we moved. These 100-year old homes are lathe & plaster, translation: zero insulation, so anything you can do to keep the heat IN is necessary.

Nearly 1,900sq.ft.
We not only gained another bedroom and another bathroom in this house but we also gained a foyer, eat-in kitchen, laundry room, and a play room. We actually have space to play and share and be alone when you want some quiet time! It's also a great house to entertain in because the house is split lengthwise with all the bedrooms and bathrooms on the leftside {easy for the kids to sleep while the adults party} and all the common rooms on the right side. The rooms flow straight back into each other without any doors separating the spaces. I really love the easy flow!

Before we ordered our new living room furniture, the living room was where we put together all the other furniture the week we moved in.

A backyard
We had a sidewalk fenced around three sides of our old house. Literally, a sidewalk! You could touch the side of our house and the fence with your arms outstretched. We had no room for a sandbox, water table, nor a table and chairs to eat dinner outside. We basically just stored the trash cans and water hose out there. Here, we have a paved side courtyard that runs the length of the house where I have a Potter's shed, trash can storage, and a dedicated space for smoking meats that includes storage for all the wood, charcoal, and BBQ tools that leads to an 8-piece outdoor dining table and 4-piece outdoor lounge furniture where we have a fire pit. We also have an organic garden that is approximately 100sq.ft. and a grassy area in the middle of it all where we have a swing set and slide combo. We have a trampoline, sandbox, water table, chalkboard, picnic table, and basket ball goal. The kids LIVE out there almost all year-round. And we love to entertain every 4th of July. We host every birthday party here, we eat dinner outside almost all summer, and we grill every weekend. I love to sit out there during nap time with a book. It's probably my favorite feature.

Gram and Emily relaxing on the patio furniture we purchased the weekend we moved in. This paved patio runs the length of the house from the back fence all the way to the sidewalk in front of the house
 
This is the grassy area that houses our swingset/slide and my Organic garden. It hadn't been tended to or mowed in months when we moved in. It was A LOT of work to beautify it.

Two bathrooms
If you've never had to share one bathroom with four family members you might not get just how much of a deal-breaker this one might be. Enough said.

Dimable light fixtures
In every single room and bed room plus the Master bathroom, all the light fixtures are dimable. Controlling the lighting without changing light bulbs is really cool.

Laundry room. Hell, just indoor laundry!
With homes built before modern electricity and washing machines, it's extremely rare to find one that has had the plumbing moved so that the washer and dryer are IN the home. Our last house and every home friends of ours lives in had the laundry plumbed into the garage. Which really isn't a functional garage because, again, the age of these homes was around the time of the ModelT which was incredible narrow and short, but that's another item on my list. A Smartcar is about the only vehicle that fits into the "garages" around here. In this house, we have an actual laundry room that sits between the kid's bedrooms and the Master bedroom.

The washer and dryer is located in the hallway between the Master Bedroom (shown) and the hallway bathroom and Emily's bedroom. It's so convenient!

An attached "garage"
Like I mentioned above, a garage around here is NOT at all what you think. It's NOT for a car. It's basically just a storage space. The best part about the garage in this house is that it's an attached garage and there's direct access to it from the hallway off the formal living room. We walk down into the garage and load up the stroller, buggy, or wagon and open the garage door to walk right out to go pick up Emily from school or to spend the afternoon at a local park. It's the best on rainy days as we go in and out through the garage and leave our wet raincoats, boots and umbrellas down there, coming upstairs completely dry. We store all our "extras" from bulk grocery shopping down there and it also acts as our workout room and David's man cave, where he paints and sculpts. There's great light down there!

A great working fireplace
We spend most of our time watching movies in the formal living room (the only family room with a TV) so, it's nice of our colder Fall and Winter evenings to warm up next to a roaring fire. It also keeps the gas bill down (our central heat runs on gas) as it takes a lot of energy to heat this house!

 
 We spent several weeks around Christmas just like this!

The Playroom
It's 300sq.ft., carpeted, has beadboard, and a huge picture window that looks out over the backyard. It was where Nolan learned to walk and where the kids play endlessly with their train set and Magnatiles. It's unorganized and often a huge mess of scattered toys but it's the perfect place for that. It's off the kitchen, like a family room would be in an open floor plan, so I can interact with them while cooking, baking, or cleaning the kitchen. It also keeps the kids out of our formal living room where our nicer furniture is. :)

This view is from the kitchen looking INTO the Playroom - see the toys?!? And that large picture window that looks out over the entire back yard.

CLOSETS
What we had in our old house didn't really qualify as "closet space" which was two small 2sq.ft. spaces with doors on them in which to hang things. In this house, there's a huge, deep closet in every room (not exactly walk in), a closet in the foyer, and a linen closet outside one of the bathrooms. All our stuff has a home.

Hardwood floors
Other than the carpeted play room and the tiles kitchen and bathrooms, this house has the original, matchstick oak hardwood floors throughout. They are so easy to sweep and mop with kids and a cat and, while not as warm as carpet, they are beautiful!

 This is a great view of the floors that run through the majority of the house. This is our formal dining room, between the living room and kitchen. You can also see the great, new windows!

Sprinkler system
We have a lot of yard. Front yard and landscaping, side yard, backyard, grass, an organic garden. Hand-watering would be a full time job! I love that we have an electronic sprinkler system we can set to run daily, every other day, while we are on vacation. We just set it and forget it and everything stays gorgeous!

Location
This is probably #1 on my list. We are further away from the main bridges that are always clogged with traffic and are closer to the main downtown strip of restaurants, shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, cafes, post office, banks, toy stores, bars, and the beach. We walk everywhere every day! We are also just a block from Emily's school which is so fantastic because we no longer have to worry about parking at drop off and pick up every day. We have great neighbors and none of them have dogs!

The beach. We spend a lot of time at the beach, especially when the temperature outside gets above 77!