10 Healthy Meal Planning Tips For The Whole Family

family-friendly and healthy meal planning tips

Guest Post by Peter Minkoff

Whether you’re looking to eat healthier as a family, or just avoid going on a shopping binge every time you walk into a grocery store, meal planning can go a long way in helping you cut your costs, save time, and stay healthy. Let’s see what you can do to keep the process as simple as possible and check at least this one parental worry off your list!

Plan to plan

Much can go wrong if you constantly keep your meal-planning time flexible. Make a commitment to spend an hour or two at a specific time during the week and stick to your little family appointment. For example, Saturday at noon should be reserved for planning your next week of meals, later that day, at 5pm, you can go grocery shopping, and Sunday morning can be reserved for making the meals ahead.

Make your little cookbook

No matter the size of your family, every member has their own favorite dish. You’ll want to make a list of meals they love, and then see how many of them you can make your main meals. Categorize them according to the type of recipe and the complexity of ingredients, so that you can swap and mix when the need arises.

Think seasonal thoughts

A significant part of keeping your meals as healthy as possible is using fresh, locally-grown ingredients that are available during the year. Your yearly meal-planning can be focused on dishes that contain items currently in season, so there’s another idea as to how you can make your family cookbook even more organized! Also, you probably don’t want to spend your summers next to a hot stove, so you can keep your recipes practical and weather-friendly, as well.

Ready-to-eat options

No, this has nothing to do with those canned meals and microwave dinners, on the contrary, the idea of meal planning serves to help you use as little processed food as possible, and go for fresh, whole food to make your own meals. However, if you don’t have the time or the know-how to make brilliant dishes, you can use ready-made healthy meal plans put together by people who specialize in healthy nutrition and can create a plan perfect for you and your family.

Get organized

If your kitchen is a mess, you won’t be able to put your plan into action. Get rid of all expired products, and items you’d like to banish from your diet, such as those candy bars, chips, and soda. Instead, use the first grocery day to supply your kitchen with fresh produce and go-to essentials, such as spices, healthy snacks, and containers in which you can store and freeze your meals.

No meal left behind

For families that often end up throwing out leftover dinners and lunches, it’s time to use your meal-planning to make the most of your cooking. Make one evening each week a “leftover” night, when you’ll repurpose, eat, or freeze the meals that would otherwise go bad and end up in the trash.

Plan around your life

As the famous saying goes, life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans – take this into account even for this simple aspect of your life. Some weeks at work will be more hectic than others, while your kids might be away for a school trip for a few days on some other week. Make your meal plans work for you, and schedule, prep, and cook based on your availability and the rest of your schedule.

All meals matter

It’s too easy to skip breakfast when you’re in a hurry to prepare for a job interview or drive your kids to school, but planning ahead should help you keep track of all main meals of the day. When there’s no time to make breakfast, there should be some Greek yogurt, dried fruit, nuts and seeds waiting, so it only takes a few stirs and your breakfast is ready. Using leftovers will also help, since you can repurpose meals from the day before for your next day’s dinner.

Delegate

Even if you’re the foodie expert in your family, that’s no excuse for the rest of the gang not to take part in the process, especially when it’s time to pitch new ideas, keep track of the food calendar, and thaw the food when the schedule says its time.

Plan your snacks

These sneaky little buggers are often the key culprit of weight gain and various health issues, but you can prevent them by always having some healthy options at hand. Fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are always better than a sugar-loaded muffin from the store.

 

With a diverse menu on your hands and some practice, you’ll quickly master the art of meal planning and make your cooking sessions a much easier process both on your time and your wallet.

 

Peter is a frugal living and lifestyle writer for Voice Boks magazine. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.

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family-friendly and healthy meal planning tips

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How to Make Supermom Coffee at Home

Have you ever wished there was a magical coffee drink that burned fat, was low in sugar, and made the caffeine last throughout the day instead of requiring multiple cups of coffee to stay awake? What about a cup of coffee that put you in calm control of your emotions instead of making you jittery, anxious, or stressed-out?

My friends, today is the day I bring you that magical cup.

I introduce you to (pause for dramatic effect) The Supermom Coffee drink (aka, homemade keto coffee).

Bulletproof coffee has been around for a couple years, and is especially popular with the paleo community. Featuring the addition of butter and coconut oil (or MCT oil) to your coffee, blending these ingredients with hot coffee creates a latte-esque foam at the top, similar to what you would experience from a latte at any coffee shop.

The butter and coconut oil contain high fats, which bind the caffeine molecules. This slows down the absorption of the caffeine into the bloodstream, which means the effects are extended throughout the day instead of a peak and crash.

As for hormone support? Hormones are actually specially-built fats. So a diet with quality fats like grass-fed butter and coconut oil are beneficial for building quality hormones. Quality hormones = a better control on emotions. This is generally a plus if you’re going to be a Supermom (or Super-person, whichever you prefer).

Finally, bulletproof coffee is generally popular among the paleo crowd because the good fats stimulate the metabolism to burn off fat. Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true!

So it’s a metabolism-boosting, hormone-regulating, energy-prolonging drink. If that’s not worthy of the Supermom designation, I don’t know what is.

BUT WAIT, it gets better! I add some extra goodness to this drink to make it truly a Supermom drink:

  • A teaspoon of raw honey helps add natural sweetness, while also providing immune support and allergy relief.
  • A scoop of powdered collagen adds protein, as well as joint-lubricant and connective tissue-strengthening benefits.
  • A 1/4 tsp cinnamon provides a warm, comforting layer of delicious, as well as aiding in blood sugar stabilization.

I told you, it’s Supermom coffee. Was I right or was I right?


Here’s how to make it:

Put all non-coffee ingredients in blender cup (I use my single-serve Ninja blender cup), and pour in coffee to the fill line. Blend 10-20 seconds. Enjoy!

I love making specialty coffee at home. Thankfully, this recipe is easily made in the blender, however, we currently lack the ability to make other specialty drinks. I’m very much looking forward to getting this incredible coffee bar system for Christmas. Visiting coffee houses is fun, but I can’t wait to be able to enjoy all these features!

Are you ready to be a Supermom? Share this post with a tired mom!

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Urban Gardening Wish List

I am a firm believer that “to grow your own food is to print your own money.” Imagine the amount of money that would immediately open up to you if your grocery budget was significantly decreased! Thanks to the Urban Gardening movement, it is now completely possible to grow your own food, even in small spaces.

I’ve been combing through Amazon, putting together my wish list of urban gardening supplies. We are renting, so even though we have a small front yard (no back yard), I doubt my landlord would be too thrilled if I tore up the grass to plant a garden. Some precious friends with a huge farm have graciously offered to let us use a portion of their land for a garden, and I am equal parts humbled and thrilled, which is a very difficult mix of emotions to convey through words. Picture me jumping up and down squealing but also flabbergasted, and that would probably be pretty accurate.

I know many people are in the same sort of renting living situation, so I wanted to share this list and show you how possible it is to have a garden in small spaces, or without the whole plowing and tilling process. Here are some great products that will help you create the urban farm of your dreams:

1. Envirocycle compact compost bin

These are created with small spaces in mind. It comes in two sizes, the 35-gallon (pictured) and the 16-gallon. They sit on the ground and spin easily. Every garden should have at least two (since you need one to fill while the other one “brews” for 6 weeks or so). These guys are even BPA-free! I think they look like snails.

2. Tower Garden

I can’t say enough about these powerhouse growing systems. They are aeroponic growing systems, self-watering, and grow tons of food in 5 weeks or less. No weeding. It’s planting and harvesting, and that’s about it. You can purchase one at a time or a family pack in sets of 3. These can even be brought inside and continue your harvest year-round! To grow in here: lettuce, kale, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, strawberries, and possibly a melon or two.

3. 20 gallon fabric growing pots

Sometimes, you just need dirt. These pots are made of a sturdy fabric to allow for better drainage and easier air flow to the roots. To grow in these: sweet potatoes (check out this post on growing sweet potatoes in buckets), beets, garlic, and raspberries.

Other items on my wish list for our garden:

Urban apple trees (they are a hybrid that can stay planted in pots!)

Kitchen compost bin.This particular bin is great for under the counter storage. I used to have a countertop storage system and even though I kept up with it, it had an odor. With this, I can lock the  container closed and keep it under a cabinet. Less odor = happier family.

Harvesting Bushel Tote bag – to bring in all your delicious fresh produce!

Miracle-Gro AeroGarden – Absolutely, positively cramped for space? This little guy can even fit anywhere!

I am so excited to get my garden this year!

Want even more tips for gardening and DIY? Get access to ebooks, webinars, printables, and more with the  Ultimate Herbs and Essential Oils

Thank you for reading! If this post has helped you, please share and download your free copy of my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition!

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Eat Healthy Food for Less

Feeding a family on a budget is difficult enough. But add in specialty diets and it can be pretty impossible depending on where you live. We are pretty lucky because we live in a rather ritzy college town (which seems so silly, a ritzy college smack dab in the middle of Iowa, but whatever, I’ll go with it), so there is a small family-owned grocery store that carries more organic and otherwise healthy options. Apparently the college has a lot of vegetarians and vegans, so they have a good place to shop.

But food deserts are a reality and many people don’t have the access to quality foods that we have. So for you (and in case you were curious about good places to shop), here’s a run-down of some places that I have personally shopped at and recommend:

Thrive Market

Thrive Market is the online convenience of Amazon, featuring Whole Foods products at Aldi prices with a Costco membership. Make sense? I love that I can order hemp hearts and sprouted quinoa, as well as the basic healthier foods and good dark chocolate. Plus, my membership fee pays for two memberships: on for me, and one for a qualifying low-income family. Shipping is always free with orders of $50 or more. Oh, and did I mention they almost always have a free gift with purchase? Try Thrive Market for free and enjoy the amazing deals – like 20% off your first 3 purchases!

Zaycon Fresh

This is basically a co-op for farm-fresh meat products. The meats are sold in bulk by the case, so either go in with a friend or enjoy stocking up on meats for up to 25% off grocery store prices. Since the meat comes straight from the processor, the taste is amazing compared to store-bough meat.

Azure Standard

The only thing I don’t like about Azure Standard is the minimum of $50 order. They are a bulk co-op in several cities, and you have to coordinate with a drop manager to know when your order will be delivered. When we lived in St. Louis, our drop was a K-Mart parking lot, and there were a good 50 families participating. This was where I first bought a gallon of coconut oil, and another time I purchased a 22 pound bag of sea salt (I’m pretty sure we will be using that salt for the next 10 years. It’s been two years already and it looks like we’ve barely touched it). Azure Standard is awesome for bulk purchases, especially for harder-to-find things like organic wheat berries for my friends who have enough time to grind their own wheat for their homemade bread. You can’t see prices unless you’re a member, but it’s free to join.

Tropical Traditions

Known for being the best coconut oil in the world (and truly, it’s delicious), this stuff is worth the investment. It goes on sale pretty regularly and there are deals for buying multiples, so go halvsies with a friend or two for the best savings. Or do what I did and buy a 5 gallon bucket.

Amazon

Not everyone knows about the best (in my opinion) feature of having an Amazon Prime membership: the Prime Pantry. Basically, you fill a box with whatever food/household items your little heart desires for the flat shipping rate of $5.99/box. These are BIG boxes, friends. One time we got a $50 gift card for participating in a survey and we were able to stock up on groceries and a 24-count package of toilet paper. Not only do they have plenty of organic or health-conscious items, and if you happen to like Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyers cleaning products, I would recommend using this feature (sign up for Amazon Prime here if you don’t have an account yet).

I do a lot of our shopping online. Now that we have a more flexible food budget (and I have found creative ways to supplement it), I’ve been able to slowly transition. One of my goals for 2016 is to make about 95% of our non-perishable purchases online with money I’ve earned through writing articles or swagbucks gift cards and getting to use our grocery money on fresh produce. The more I can provide quality nutrition for myself and my men, the happier I am!

Have you ever shopped at any of these places? What do you think?

For more tips on how to eat a healthy diet on a budget, grab my ebook, Dirt Cheap Nutrition, for free!

 

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Review: Bundle Organics juice

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March is National Nutrition Month, and I’m excited to participate with a few fun product reviews!

Bundle Organics was founded in 2013 with a great concept: organic juice combinations conveniently packaged for quick consumption. What sets them apart is that the juices are pasteurized. For pregnant women, the unfortunate threat of listeria can keep some women from eating as many fruits and vegetables as they should, so Bundle Organics takes away that concern. They also fortify the juices with extra nutrients for baby like folic acid, iron, and vitamin E.

I love that they don’t add any artificial dyes to the juices. I think the colors are beautiful because I happen to love food in its unadulterated form, but others might not find the color particularly appetizing. If that’s you, drink it straight from the bottle.

I also appreciated the no added sugar. I don’t really like for Tristan to have a lot of sugar, and I’ve diluted juice for him in the past. He couldn’t get enough of these juices and I finally had to give him the empty bottle to play with after he had his share.

There are 3 varieties of juice blends so far: berries, green, and orange. All three contain ginger and lemon, which is as good for the immune system as it is for pregnancy nausea. The berries blend contains a variety of the beautiful dark berries, spinach, and kale. The green blend is primarily kale and apple, and the orange features oranges and carrots.

Bundle Organics also launched a line of doctor approved herbal teas for pregnant and nursing moms on Kickstarter earlier this year. I’m going to anxiously await the Rooibos/Orange/Cardamom/Mango tea! I’m not pregnant, it just sounds delicious!

Pros:

  • All juices (and teas!) are organic
  • Lots of fruits and veggies in each bottle
  • Easy to consume – shake and drink!

Cons:

  • Delicate enzymes of raw fruits and vegetables are denatured in the pasteurization process. However, they are still packed with good nutrients, and I understand why they would need to be pasteurized since they are a consumable product that ships to people. Raw juice wouldn’t be so fresh-tasting.
  • I’m not usually a fan of fortified things. I think most nutrition can and should be found through food alone and not synthetic additives. For example, someone with the MTHFR gene can’t properly use folic acid and need the folate version. Perhaps if they were to change their fortification to the more natural folate rather than folic acid, their audience would be larger.
  • They are a bit on the pricey side. However, they are all organic ingredients, and it’s definitely cheaper than making a bottle of juice that size from scratch on your own.

All in all, I’m actually very impressed with this company and these products, and I will probably be purchasing some in the future, especially for any future pregnancies.

If you want to purchase Bundle Organics juices, you can also purchase them online through Target (if you live near a Target, choose the “ship to store” option so you don’t have to pay shipping).

Share this with an expectant mom in your life!

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