Take the 30 Day Real Food Money Saving Challenge!

Guess what we’re going to do together in September? We’re going to eat sweet, crisp apples and save money. We’re going to sprinkle cinnamon on everything and save money. We’re going to take a leap into the fall season together, and take on simple real food challenges that will help us all save some grocery cash!

Who’s with me?

Take the 30 Day Challenge

It’s simple, actually. Would you expect anything less? 

All you have to do is:

Sign up to take the 30-Day Real~Food~Money~Saving Challenge here.


Throughout the month of September, I’ll send out quick and easy real food money saving tips. Should you choose to accept each challenge, you’ll be on your way to filling your table with simple real foods while keeping extra money in your wallet.

It’s a win-win!

Take the 30 Day Real Food Money Saving Challenge

As we settle into a new school year, I can’t think of a better time to focus on eating real food and saving money.

We’ll share some of the most basic, family friendly ways to save grocery money. And we’ll take the fear out of switching to a real food diet. Not only that, we’ll find out why eating real food actually tastes incredible and hmmm…is it possible that we can do all of this without increasing our grocery budget?

As a mom of four teenage sons who has made the switch from processed to whole foods, I can attest to the fact that eating real food has saved us grocery money. Tip #9 will actually share one simple way we save $1,000 every year by eating real food. True story!

I can’t wait to share all these fun tips and to extend challenges for your family to enjoy with me.

Are you ready?

Sign up to take our 30-Day Real~Food~Money~Saving Challenge!

As a thank you for joining us, we’ll give you a free copy of Heavenly Homemaker’s Top 10 Money Saving Recipes.

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

 

Let the 30-Day Real~Food~Money~Saving Challenge begin!

Bonus points if you tell your friends about it. Friends don’t let friends pay too much money for groceries (or eat margarine), am I right? :)

“My State Study” Free Mini-Unit Printable For All!

In an effort to have my 6th grader do a little digging into what makes our state special, I created this mini-unit for him to work through. You can have it too!

This generic packet allows students of any age from any state to learn more about where they live.

My State Study free printable for all

Ways to use the My State Study packet:

  • Print and allow your student to work through a page or two each day for a small one-week unit.
  • Use it as a launch pad as your student digs even deeper into learning about the state where you live.
  • Print one set of these pages for all 50 states and have your student put together a United States study during this entire school year!

Want this and many more free learning printables?

Dozens of FREE School Printables

We’ve been creating and collecting all sorts of printable learning activities for all ages. These are free for everyone and will connect you to our fun Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone.

Enter your email address here, then check your inbox for download instructions. Print one, print them all, use them in whatever ways work best for your family!

If you are already subscribed to Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone, you should have received an email yesterday giving you instant access to this freebie. Look in your inbox for the subject: FREE “My State Study” Mini-Unit

All the ways I’m using these little cups with lids…

I am such a big fan of jars. You know this about me, and you also know that I’m not actually a big fan of plastic. But still, I bought these delightful little plastic cups last year, and I’m happy enough with their function that I feel it’s worth telling you about them.

plastic cup

See how adorable? How functional? How plastic?

I know. I know.

While I know that glass and stainless steel are much better options, I also know that I have a family that is on the run a lot. Sometimes we need disposable containers. So I bought a package of 100 cups with lids last fall, and today I want to tell you a few of the great ways we’ve used them to make life a little bit simpler.

Note: While these are disposable, if it works, we wash and reuse them. We can’t help it.

Homemade Applesauce Cups

Homemade Applesauce Cups

In an effort to save money on purchased applesauce cups last fall, and to prepare an on-the-go applesauce option – I filled a bunch of these cups and froze them. These turned out to be a lifesaver when we headed to soccer games or basketball games during the school year.

Note: I don’t recommend throwing these into a diaper bag or backpack. These only travel well when placed carefully in a cooler or lunchbox that isn’t likely to tip or crunch cups.

Berries to Go

I found it easy to cut up strawberries or fill cups with blueberries to pack for the road. These cups work so much better than a plastic baggie.

Pudding Cups

pudding cups

When we headed to church camp for a week of teaching Bible class, I knew I’d need some special food items to accommodate my “special diet.” I filled several of these cups with Homemade Tapioca Pudding and I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have these to help fill me up when my food choices were limited.

Obviously, these would be great for Chocolate, Vanilla, and Butterscotch Pudding too.

Other great ways to use these cups with lids

These cups are great filled with Ranch Dressing to go with carrots and cucumbers on the road. Or use them for Homemade Peanut Butter to dip sliced apples. Or fill them with trail mix.

What else can you think of?

Great uses for these plastic cups with lids

When possible, I stick with glass. But it sure is nice to have these disposable cups with lids on hand as a convenient option!

This post contains affiliate links.

Our First Week of School Menu Plan + an Update on my Grain Free Journey

What a wonderful, refreshing summer.

First, our 16-year old went to Ecuador.

This is him (gray shirt, black pants) playing soccer with some Ecuadorian children.

ecuador

In June we went to Arkansas for a family reunion to celebrate our darling Nana’s 90th birthday. Here’s a picture of me with several of my 1st cousins and Nana. (I’m second from the right in the back row.)

reunion2016

The boys spent several weeks out at our church camp – either as campers or counselors depending on the session. Yay for time to grow spiritually as leaders!

nyc5

I grabbed some pictures of one of the boys’ favorite evening camp activities – Lip Sync Night.

Justus (16) is on the far right:

nyc1

Here’s Elias (14)

nyc2

Asa (19) is on the far right:

nyc3
Oh look. There’s me. I went to camp too. (Matt and I love team-teaching Bible classes out there.)

nyc4

Malachi (11) got to go to camp for the first time as a camper this year. He’s there in the middle between one of his buddies and his counselor:

nyc6

Back at home, Malachi also spend hours and hours building with Legos (and taking pictures of his creations):

legos

It’s all been fantastic. It’s been so fantastic, in fact, that I’ve not been at all ready to start up again with ACT prep, Algebra, history lessons, intense schedules, ball games, practices, music lessons, running, running, running….

Ooooh! But Justus got his driver’s license! So that right there has been very freeing (after the first breath-catching experience of letting him head out on his own without a parent). He can get himself to his college class, soccer reffing games, music lessons – AND HE CAN DRIVE HIS BROTHERS AROUND TOO. This is all very happy.

God always provides. He’s actually made me excited again about a new school year. I might be mostly excited about the routine the school year brings. But even the actual school part. That is starting to make me excited too!

We begin school this week. The books are organized; the software has been installed; the assignment lists are on the fridge.

I’ve been freezer cooking a little bit each week in an effort to make the transition smooth. I’m also writing down this week’s menu in an effort to save my brain from having all the organization swim around and try to keep itself in order. I may begin sharing my menus here again if you and I both find it to be helpful.

This Week’s Back to School Menu Plan

Breakfasts

We usually make some form of meat and/or eggs with our breakfasts because our teens really crave protein. Also, we always serve a fruit or two with our breakfast. So to go with our protein and fruit, we’ll serve:

Lunches

I’ve got watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, nectarines, apples, applesauce, pickles, sweet peppers, mixed greens, and carrots to serve with our lunches. I usually put out 2-4 fruits and veggies for everyone to pick from during our meals.

Dinners

I try to serve 2-4 fruits/veggies with our evening meal, varying them with what we ate for breakfast and lunch. I’ve got broccoli, peas, green beans, zucchini, spinach, sweet potatoes, and mixed greens to work with, plus all the fruit mentioned above.

How’s my grain-free journey going?

If you recall, my natural doctor took me off all grains in early July. Why? Well, she’s been working with me for four (long) years to cleanse and detox my body to get all systems functioning well again. Trust me when I say that there’s been a lot of junk to cleanse out of me (from heavy metals to bad bacteria). This process has been way less than fun as there have been many days during the past four years I have not felt well.

And then there are the days I feel amazing. So I know we’re onto something here.

My health has improved in incredible ways. Probably more importantly, my emotional health has experienced a huge overhaul along with the physical detox. I didn’t see that coming. It’s amazing how our mental and physical are connected. I invite you to read more about that journey here. God is incredible, gentle, and faithful.

So the grain-free thing?

As really old bacteria and metals have been pulling out from all their hiding places from decades ago and finding their way into my blood stream where the remedies I’ve been given are helping my body get rid of them forever  – sugar and carbs have not been playing nice. So cutting out sugar and grains has been a must for me.

But praise the Lord it is not a must for me forever!!!

In fact, this phase of detox is happening quite rapidly (part of why I haven’t felt great some days). My digestive organs are healthy now, so my body can actually handle grains in small amounts. (I’ll continue to avoid refined sugar and only eat honey and maple syrup in small amounts.)

If none of this makes sense, trust me when I say that I barely understand it either. But I trust my doctor who focuses on getting to the root of our problems. It all makes sense when she explains it (except for the parts that don’t, but since she knows what she’s talking about…).

So. Grains.

I’ve learned that I do need a few whole grains and I feel fine when I eat them now.

But I’ve also learned that my 43-year old, non-athletic self does not need many. Going grain free for several weeks really taught me how to sub grains for even more veggies in my diet. I’m eating tons of leafy greens instead of bread. Sweet potatoes are amazing. It’s such a win to eat this way! Also, you must try fried zucchini with this Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip.

I eat a little bit of whole grain a couple times each day. I enjoy every bite!! Otherwise I eat veggies, meat, fruit, and dairy – and as much good fat as I can incorporate into my meals and snacks.

So that’s the update. I’m eating a little whole grain again. I’m eating more veggies than ever. I’m on the last phases of healing detox (please, Lord).

When you see grainy food in my recipes and menus, you can assume I’m likely not eating many of them. I’m feeding my family whole grains as normal – because they are active and can handle it. I typically eat what they eat, just a grain free version. (Like my BLT will be in a big bowl of greens instead of between two slices of bread. Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ll eat all the bacon I want with garden fresh tomatoes. There’s nothing sad about this.)

Here’s to a great new school year and all the delicious food that goes with it!

Has your family started school yet? What’s on your menu this week?

You’ll find more great menu plans at OrgJunkie. :)

Come Get Your “What I Loved About Summer” Printable

Here’s something I’ll assign my youngest during the first week of school. It’s simple, but a good way to get his juices flowing and make him think about all he loved about summertime.

Free Printable Summer Writing Prompt

Want this and many more free printables?

We’ve been creating and collecting all sorts of printable learning activities for all ages. These are free for everyone and will connect you to our fun Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone.

Enter your email address here, then check your inbox for download instructions. Print one, print them all, use them in whatever ways work best for your family!

If you are already subscribed to Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone, you should have received an email yesterday giving you instant access to this freebie. Look in your inbox for the subject: FREE Summer Writing Prompt

How to Make Bacon Bits and Why You Should Make Them

Five pounds of bacon. That’s how much I cooked at one time a couple weeks ago. This might sound excessive to you, but have you met my family? 

The following are conversations I have every single time I am at the grocery store when people see my shopping cart:

Person: Wow, what are you going to do with all those berries?
Me: Eat them.

Person: Wow, what are you going to do with all that chicken?
Me: Eat it.

Person: Wow, what are you going to do with all those peaches?
Me: Eat them.

And on it goes. Every time. Without fail. At least one person at the store comments on the abundant contents of my shopping cart. Apparently my cart looks like one big party. This is what happens when you have a household of teenage boys. Also, when there is a good price, I buy in bulk. It only makes sense, but apparently people aren’t used to seeing a woman with 15 packages of cheese. I had no idea I was such an anomaly. As if 15 packages of cheese at one time is somehow weird. It’s a day in the life, man. A day in the life.

So back to the bacon. No, we did not eat all five pounds at once. Goodness.

I found it for a fantastic price, which of course means that I bought 10 packages. (Wow, what are you going to do with all that bacon? We’ve been through this already…)

I froze five packs and then proceeded to cook the other five pounds. Why?

  1. Because why cook one when you can cook five and only dirty one pot?
  2. Having bacon bits in the freezer saves oodles of time and means all I have to do is grab the cooked bacon and use it in a meal (see ideas below).
  3. When I cook bacon, my clothes and hair smell like bacon. I’d prefer this scent to be my perfume of choice only occasionally.

How to Make Bacon Bits and Why You Should Make Them

What’s the easiest way to make Bacon Bits?

I pick up the entire package of bacon, with the strips all stuck together, and I cut it with kitchen shears like this:

bacon bits 1

For five pounds, I use my largest pot. Once the pieces are cut, I cover it and cook it on medium heat for about an hour, stirring every once in a while so it cooks evenly. (A smaller amount of bacon would take much less time, but I know nothing about cooking in small amounts.)

bacon bits2

Once the bacon is fully cooked, I strain out the grease, allow it to cool, then package it up in meal-sized portions for the fridge and freezer.

bacon bits4

bacon bits3

What will I do with all the Bacon Bits? As needed, I’ll pull some out to quickly make:

In other “why you should make your own Bacon Bits” related news, I believe it is important to be aware that we’re aware that: “Bac’n Pieces™ Bacon Flavored Bits are artificially flavored textured soy flour to imitate bacon pieces.” Ingredients include Textured Soy Flour, Canola Oil, Salt, Caramel Color, Maltodextrin, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Lactic Acid, Yeast Extract, Disodium Inosinate And Disodium Guanylate (Flavor Enhancers), And&Nbsp;Fd&C Red 40.

I’d stick with real bacon if I’m you. It’s not difficult and the taste is no comparison.

Ever made your own bacon bits? Ever get amazed comments at the store because of the amount of food you buy? Ever cut bacon with scissors?

Freezer Cooking I’ve Been Doing to Prepare for Back-to-School

With a houseful of teenage boys, it’s difficult to get ahead.

I’m talking about food in this case, although I guess the same statement is true in every area of life in a household full of kids. (I’m looking at you, Laundry Pile. Dirty Dishes. Mail. Shoe Closet.) Bah.

This is why I did some freezer cooking a few weeks ago when three outa four of our boys were still at church camp. With hardly anyone here to eat, I actually had leftovers to put in the freezer. Yay me!

I took a few pictures along the way to share with you. Take note that not all freezer cooking involves making casseroles. There are many other ways to get ahead. For instance…

I had a cheese shredding marathon:

school food1

It only takes a few minutes and NO EFFORT to shred 8 packages of cheese when I use my food processor. I ran it through the shred piece, so now I have two big bowls of shredded cheese ready to add to everything we need for the next couple of weeks! (Yes, this will be gone by the time we start school. Whatever.)

Almost as important as shredded cheese is the double batch of frozen cookie balls I made. These won’t last long once the boys discover them, but I love that they can take out a few and bake them for an afternoon snack. I used this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

school food2

If you don’t have any of these Silicone Baking Mats,
I encourage you to read more about why I love them here!

I made two bags of our favorite Apricot Chicken. I’ll dump this into the crock pot on a busy school day. (This is a recipe from our Eat Right Away Collection. These are a must have because they save so much time!)

school food3

You know I didn’t do all of this, all on the same day, right? No way. But, there was a day I made not one but SIX batches of homemade whole wheat tortillas. That was a tortilla making record for me!

Malachi helped me use the tortillas to make 24 Lazy Dogs and 24 Meat and Cheese Burritos. We still had leftover tortillas for a few quesadillas, so I felt very accomplished that day.

school food4

Another time, I cut and cooked 5 pounds of bacon to have on hand for salads and scrambled eggs. More on that later. :)

school food6

I mixed up a double batch of Blueberry Muffins and froze the batter so we can bake the muffins fresh on a school morning. I love this time saving technique!

frozen muffins

Last, I made a double batch of Giant Breakfast Cookies. Instead of baking them, I froze them into unbaked cookie balls. This means we can take out a few and bake them fresh any morning we want/need them. I’ll share specifics on how to do this another day soon!

breakfast cookies1

I’m hoping to make a triple or quadruple batch of this Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip for the freezer during the next few days. That will be great to have on hand for Nachos, Spicy Mac and Cheese, or Simple Taco Soup.

Now your turn! Have you done any freezer cooking lately? What have you been making in an effort to get ahead before school starts?

Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas to Make Back-to-School Mornings Easier

Here you go. 60 Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas to give us a boost as we kick off the school year! All of these are made with real food ingredients and will hopefully save our mornings from being too hectic.

60 Make Ahead Breakfast Recipes and Ideas
The beauty of these ideas is that they make mornings easier whether your kids have to get out the door for school in the morning or you homeschool and want to get your day off to a productive start without spending too much time putting breakfast on the table. (For that matter, these ideas are great even if you aren’t in the kids-in-school season of life!)

I love getting breakfast foods made ahead of time so that my kids can easily help themselves in the morning. Often we’ll also scramble or fry eggs to go with our meal and we always get out fresh fruit. My teenage boys often also crave protein at breakfast, so I try to have something meaty available for them to cook for themselves. Hmm, it sure does sound like we eat a lot around here. Truth: We eat a lot around here.

So 60 Make Ahead breakfast ideas. Here we go!

Recipes and Ideas You Can Make Ahead for a Fast Breakfast

breakfast_cake_3

All of these recipes can be made the day before and served right away in the morning!

Homemade cereal recipes you can make ahead and serve right away in the morning

Some mornings are cereal mornings, so there. Here are some homemade cereal options we enjoy!

dark_chocolate_almond_granola

Recipes that freeze well and can be thawed and reheated easily

If you have these in your freezer, you can thaw and rewarm in the oven or toaster oven!

Recipes that Can Be Made Easily with Whole Wheat Quick Baking Mix

quick_mix

Fun Ideas to Enjoy Stir-n-Pour Bread

stir and pour sandwich 3

This super easy Stir-n-Pour Bread takes practically no effort, but turns out a delicious loaf of bread. When I have this on hand, we can slice it and make:

  • Peanut Butter Honey Toast
  • Fried Eggs on Toast
  • Cinnamon Toast
  • Scrambled Egg Sandwiches
  • Simple Buttered Toast – maybe even with jelly :)

Drink Your BreakfastYum

Most smoothies are pretty quick to make and can be filling if you include peanut butter or cottage cheese. Add fresh spinach for an extra punch of nourishment.

pineapple_mango_smoothie_2

Muffins,  Muffins, Muffins!

I’ve learned to love freezing muffin batter, which you can read about here. What a time saver! I’ve also learned that silicone muffin cups are fantastic. More about that here.

silicone muffins 3

Make it Ahead, but Cook it in the Morning

Overnight Whole Wheat Waffles

  • Mix up Overnight Waffle Batter before bed so that all you have to do in the morning is cook the waffles and serve.
  • Make Turkey Sausage in large batches and freeze it in meal sized portions. Make Freezer Biscuits, and thaw only the amount you’ll need in the morning for a meal. Make a quick meal of a big treat – Biscuits and Gravy – when you’ve done the prep work ahead! Here’s my Sausage Gravy recipe.
  • Follow the freezing muffin batter idea mentioned above, set some out at night before bed, then bake them in the morning.
  • If you want to serve pancakes, mix the dry ingredients the night before so that all you have to do in the morning is add your liquids and cook. This isn’t as fast as other ideas shared here, but it does make the pancake process a little easier in the morning! Here’s our favorite Whole Wheat Pancake recipe.

I have several new breakfast ideas in the works, so be on the look-out for those. Sign up here for our free weekly newsletter to be sure you don’t miss a post!

Leave a comment to share your favorite Make-Ahead Breakfast ideas!

Making Back to School Time FUN! Recipes, Tips, and Freebies!

I’ve been in denial. I chose to pretend that summer break could last forever. Now all of a sudden it’s August and reality has hit. Rude. 

It’s not actually school that I’m dreading. Learning is fun and all that. Yay for routines. It’s the fullness of all the school year brings with it that makes me take a deep breath and brace myself. The school year means music lessons, sports practices (and games and reffing and coaching), many church activities, many commitments – and yes – the actual school work.

Thank you God for the refreshment of summer. 

So here we are, gearing up for the 2016-17 school year. Our oldest moves back into the dorm mid-August when his soccer schedule begins. Classes begin the 24th, so we’ll begin our homeschool year that day too. This year still at home we have a high school junior (who is taking several college/dual credit classes), a high school freshman, and a sixth grader. It’s amazing to be at this point in our lives. What a good God we serve – a God who faithfully walks us through each season.

I’ve decided to choose to look forward to the launch of a new school year (because dreading it sure isn’t much fun). I’m focusing on words like fresh, new, bright. This is better than thinking about papers due, barely keeping up, Geometry lessons, and harried schedules – doncha think?

We might as well have us some fun with this Back-to-School thing!

Back to School Freebies, Tips, and Encouragement

There’s a lot of fun to be had when we think about this time of year. Really, there is. I’ve been coming up with some fun new recipe ideas that are great for helping us work back into a routine. I’m working to stock my freezer to make school days easier, and I have a lot of greatness to share with you!

Be on the lookout for timely giveaways too. :)

So that’s what we’ll be focusing on here during the month of August. Don’t have school aged kids? I bet you’ll still enjoy these recipes and tips. After all, everyone loves saving time and money, right?!

Want some great free printables?

Dozens of FREE School Printables

Everyone who is a part of our Learning Zone list has access to oodles of great school freebies! Plus, we continue to add more to the mix. It’s all free, so you’ll want to sign up to be a part of this!

Let’s kick off this Back-to-School series by sharing in the comments section:

What are some of your best “Back-to-School” Sanity Tips?

Posts coming up this week:

  • Back-to-School Breakfast Prep
  • Freezer Cooking for Back-to-School