Why I Meal Plan

Cooking.  Meal planning.  Trying new recipes. Sharing a meal around the table.  These things are life giving for me.  A hobby more than a necessity.  While some find it a chore, I can genuinely say I enjoy it. Grocery shopping however is a different story….but quite a necessary task.

I’m a planner by nature and so it’s only natural that I plan out our family’s meals.  I don’t remember exactly when it started.  When I was single I definitely wasn’t meal planning – more or less just throwing together lots of stir fry with whatever I had in the house. Around the time I got engaged, Pinterest was really beginning to take off.  Now I’m not much of a recipe follower, but I love browsing Pinterest and scouring through cookbooks for inspiration.

Friends who know I’m a faithful meal planner often ask me what I’m making for dinner that night and request tips for getting started with meal planning.  I’m always more than happy to share. For me meal planning does so much more than just gratifying my planning nature.  There are some real, practical reasons that meal planning can enhance your life (I know that sounded dramatic, but I am serious!).

  1. It helps us save time and stress.
  2. It helps us save money.
  3. It helps us eat healthier.
  4. It helps us waste less.

If this resonates with you, check out my weekly meal plans.  You’ll generally find meals that are healthy, frugal, varied and family friendly.  I’d love to see your meal plans as well!  Share them in the comments.

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Life with Toddlers: The Fast Food Play Area

We knew it was inevitable. And this Monday, the inevitable happened. Until this past Monday we’ve kept Charlotte blissfully oblivious to the play areas at fast food restaurants. Now truth be told, we don’t eat much fast food so I suppose it really isn’t that impressive that Charlotte has been so sheltered her whole life.

I’m not sure why I wanted to keep her from these play areas. I’m not really a germaphobe mom. Maybe it relates back to when I was a kid – a young child climbed into the hamburger at our local McDonald’s Play Place and got too scared to come back down. Don’t worry – I saved the day and climbed up there to help the child down. Maybe I wanted to protect Charlotte from the trauma that child faced of being stuck in the hamburger forever. Anyway…

After our weekly walk around the Rose Bowl we were sitting at Chick Fil A enjoying our free soup (thanks to the Chick Fil A calendar cards) – chicken noodle for Than and Charlotte, chicken tortilla for me. We were happily enjoying our soup and making sure dear Charlotte didn’t scald her tongue out of excitement to eat all the noodles out of her soup, when suddenly she looked up and gleefully shouted “Car!!!”

It was at this moment I knew things would never be the same. The yummy noodles, the straw, the water with ice (a current favorite thing) – they were all forgotten. She had eyes only for the car in the play place.

We’re obviously rookies here. Seasoned parents would know that you ALWAYS sit your child facing the opposite direction of the play area. It’s too late for us, but perhaps that little tidbit of wisdom will help someone else.

There was no possible way we were saying no to her adorable excitement, so off Charlotte and Daddy went for her first fast food play area experience as I finished up my soup.

When I was done I entered the play area to find Charlotte happily climbing up the stairs to the tunnels that lead to the slide and that car up in the sky. She thought she was big stuff – playing with the big kids and all.

I think the big kids were enjoying her just as much as she enjoyed them. She followed them around and gave them a cute little smile as she toddled her way cautiously around. This was all new territory for her. As time went on they coaxed her to be brave and finally she crawled her way through the enclosed tunnels to the car she so desperately wanted to play in.

She was having the time of her life – until it was time to go. While the big kids were great at coaxing her into the car, they weren’t quite so successful at coaxing her out. Not for lack of trying (seriously parents, make friends with the bigger kids – they are super helpful) but Charlotte was determined to stay in that car.

There was only one option. I folded my 5’11” frame practically in half and started my way up the play equipment. I figured if I just went part of the way up there I might be able to coax her over to me and we could descend the stairs together. Oh no. She was not budging. It meant I had to brave the tunnels. Let’s just say that those tunnels are NOT intended for tall adults (or adults at all for that matter). Miraculously I didn’t get stuck and I made it far enough to pull her out. Yes, I had to pull her. She can be a determined little one!

Of course as I (awkwardly) start making my way down a whole swarm of kids starts making their way up – unsure what to do with this adult with her legs all twisted trying to go the “wrong way” as everyone else was coming up the stairs.

Pretty sure I broke a little bit of a sweat by the time all was said and done. But we survived. Charlotte had a blast (and wore herself out in time for bedtime). And of course she went around and gave each person in there a hug on her way out. That’s our sweet Charlotte.

Charlotte at Chick Fil A

Meal Planning: Week of Jan 30

Monday: Soup (free from Chick Fil A with our Calendar Cards!)
Tuesday: Honey Lime Chicken Tacos (new recipe – hopefully it will be better than the new recipes I tried last week)
Wednesday: Chicken Fried Cauliflower Rice (our first time trying out Cauliflower rice – any tips for us?)
Thursday: Italian Beef Sandwiches and Kale Salad
Friday: Turkey Burgers
Saturday: Breakfast Burritos (our current favorite quick dinner – we’ll be getting back late from the San Diego zoo for an early celebration of Charlotte’s 2nd birthday!)
Sunday: Superbowl Party!

Meal Planning: Week of Jan 23

Here’s what’s on the menu for this week – check out the link to a couple of new recipes I’m excited to try. #thankyouPinterest

Monday: Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Skillet and Corn (I’m using the recipe at the link for my inspiration but am putting my own twist on it based on our preferences and what’s in the pantry!)

Tuesday: Meatballs Subs and Green Beans

Wednesday: Family Night at Church (includes dinner)

Thursday: Hawaiian Chicken and and Broccoli

Friday: Sausages and Fries (planned for last Friday night but we had leftovers instead.)

Saturday: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Sunday: Blaze Pizza (one of our favorites!)

Meal Planning: Week of Jan 16

The days when I consistently posted our weekly meal plans on this blog feel like a lifetime ago- I don’t know why I stopped.  I still diligently plan and document (on an Excel spreadsheet that I’ve used since we got married) dinners for every night of the week.  But somehow posting on this blog seems so difficult.

So today, I take my first baby step to start posting them weekly.  Here’s what’s for dinner at our house this week.  Perhaps it will provide you a little inspiration if you’re struggling for ideas.  No beautiful pictures that will make your mouth water or links to all the recipes – after all, this is just me taking a baby step.  Hopefully in the weeks ahead I’ll be able to make it a little fancier.

Monday: Fish Tacos

Tuesday: Eggplant Parmesan

Wednesday: Salmon Ravioli and Sauteed Asparagus

Thursday:  Ranch Pork Chops (Crockpot Meal) and Roasted Broccoli

Friday: Sausages and Fries

Saturday:  Small Group BBQ – I’ll be taking corn salsa (seriously – check out this recipe, it’s so different from what you’re likely imagining).

Sunday: Turkey and Black Bean Chili

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Recipe: Corn Salsa

We spent part of the holidays with my family in Indiana and my great-aunt brought over this delicious corn salsa that we just couldn’t get enough off.  Upon first glance it’s a pretty odd combination of ingredients – a few of which you may even wrinkle up your nose at. But I’m telling you, it is a MUST try recipe. The flavors and textures are just right and it is so simple to put together.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of white corn (drained)
  • 2 cups of black eyed peas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 cup green onions (diced)
  • 2 cups celery (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup italian dressing

Mix all together one day ahead of when you plan to serve it.

Serve with scoop tortilla chips.

Hello 2017!

There’s just something about the start of a new year…

A crisp new journal with empty pages just waiting to be filled.

Endless possibilities.

Fresh starts.

New habits.

Optimistic resolutions.

Longing for more of some things and less of others.

The excitement of the unknown.

In this new year I’m hoping to do more writing so watch this space for updates, stories of our adventures, parenting, cooking and who knows what else!

The First Year

Nearly 3 months have passed since our last blog and it’s certainly not due to a lack of things to tell you about!  From 2 stays in the hospital, Charlotte’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas, to standing, cruising, crawling, and even a couple of wobbly steps, to 5 new teeth (7 total), diaper blowouts that rival those newborn explosions and lots of babbling, we are absolutely blown away that our baby girl turns 1 this week!  How did all these little moments turn into a year?!

As we scoop Charlotte (all 20 something pounds of her!) up into our arms, we see a little girl, so different from that tiny 6 lb 1.5 oz baby we welcomed into the world last February.  She’s provided much joy and laughter and she’s inspired much awe – at first for her tininess and now her “hugeness”. We cannot stroke her soft, chubby cheeks or tickle her ribs (which results in belly laughs) enough. Exhaustion comes, but the beauty and joy always surpass our weariness.

I can’t talk about how much Charlotte has grown and changed without recognizing that we too have changed.

I suppose it should seem obvious that becoming a parent will change you.  Perspective. Priorities. There were some defining moments along the way…  Taking your baby to the ER and being admitted into the hospital takes what you know about parenting to a whole new level.  So does both parents being down with the stomach flu with a very active 11 month old…  And that was all just last month! Yes, as time has passed we have definitely been initiated into a new level of parenthood and I can only imagine what that will look like in the years to come.  But it’s not just the crises and major events that have changed us- it’s the choices you intentionally (or often subconsciously) make day to day.

The day to day choice to TRUST that God loves your baby more than you. The choice to BELIEVE that His grace is enough to fills the gaps of your own human inadequacies. Choosing to RELINQUISH the illusion of control you think you have over your life and your child’s life.  The choice to FIX YOUR EYES on Him when more things than every before threaten to draw your focus. The choice to EMBRACE the chaos and BE THANKFUL.

And with time, I believe all those little choices help us reflect the beauty of Christ a little more. For us, it all started with the beauty of the arrival of our Charlotte Quinn on February 6, 2015.

Then….

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And Now!

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