Why Are There So Many People Now Who Can’t Tolerate Wheat?

After reading my Do We Need to Be Eating So Much Bread post, a friend of mine sent me a link to this article called The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic.  I found it to be a great read, especially because this is a question I’ve asked many times the past few years as more and more people are having to cut wheat out of their diets.  Why?  Why is wheat, which has been consumed forever, suddenly giving so many people digestive trouble?

Read this and come back here to share your thoughts.

Wheat

If you can eat wheat and reading that article made you want to avoid conventionally grown grain forever and always, here are links to my favorite sources for chemical-free grain:

  • Azure Standard (If you have access to this co-op, you will love the savings and quality products.)
  • Amazon – I was glad to find this 37 pound box of chemical free hard white wheat (my fav) for $56.85 with free shipping.
  • If you live in a city, check stores specialty stores like Whole Foods or Natural Grocers.
  • If you live in a rural community, check with farmers around you to see if they grow chemical free wheat for you to purchase.

Grinding chemical-free wheat is easier than you think and incredibly tasty!  Ever since we got a Nutrimill and began grinding our own wheat (and corn) – our whole grain breads and other baked goods are more delicious than ever.  Here are all my posts on wheat and grain mills for your reading pleasure.  :)

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I also wanted to be sure you saw that it’s a free shipping weekend at Tropical Traditions!  Use the code 15223 at check-out.  You might check out their Einkorn Grain as it is fantastic quality.  Also worth noting is their Natural Soaps and their Coconut Creams are buy-one-get-one-free, which is great since you can also get free shipping.  (These links are my referral links.)

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How to Blanch and Freeze Broccoli

There was this one day when I saw that I could order 20 pounds of broccoli for just $12.50 and we all know how much I love good deals on good produce.  Then there was that other day I picked up my order and found that 20 pounds of broccoli filled a box big enough for my 10-year old to play in.  This was also the day we had four basketball games and the day I wanted to make heart-shaped pancakes for my family because they might not have known how much I loved them unless I shaped their pancakes into hearts and also because it was Valentine’s Day.  I  never bite off more than I can chew.

I also never can make nicely shaped heart pancakes, which is clearly another issue to tackle another day.

So there I was, flipping a triple batch of ugly heart pancakes on the griddle, packing lunches to take to our basketball games, and staring down 36 crowns of broccoli.  I love relaxing Saturday mornings.

I started a pot of water boiling on the stove, flipped the pancakes, and started to chop broccoli.  I almost (happy valentine’s day) slid the prepared broccoli into the pancake batter, but stopped myself just in time, took a deep breath, and got my camera because that’s how quickly my brain moves on to the next thing.  I am a blogger, after all, which means that just at that moment I realized that I should probably document the project so as to share the broccoli blanching details with you.

Matt suggested I also take a picture of the heart pancakes and I was all, seriously?  No one wants to see these.  So instead you get to look at my pot of boiling water which mostly looks like I’m about to set my kitchen on fire.  It’s just steam though, I think.

blanch broccoli 2

How to Blanch Broccoli

Step One:  Boil water.  One might wonder at the fact that it takes an entire tutorial to explain this process. Don’t worry.  The exciting part is yet to come.

blanch broccoli 1

Step Two:  Wash and cut your broccoli.  (Told you it would get more exciting.)

blanch broccoli 3

Step Three:  Place cut broccoli into your pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes.  (This stops the aging process so your vegetables will maintain better nutritional value.)

blanch broccoli 4

Step Four:  Immediately remove broccoli from boiling water and run it under very cold water.  (This stops the cooking process.)

Step Five:  Spread the cooled broccoli on a clean towel to dry.  I didn’t get a picture of this.  I was probably flipping ugly pancakes.

blanch broccoli 6

Label a freezer bag and fill the bag with blanched, cooled, and dried broccoli.  Freeze for up to 6 months.

You can use your prepared broccoli for soups and stir fry.  The work is done!

How to Blanch and Freeze Broccoli

If you have a trick for making nicely shaped heart pancakes – do tell.  If you have any tasty broccoli recipes, I believe I’ve made it clear that I would benefit.  And in case you’re wondering, I slept very well the night of the basketball/broccoli/ugly pancakes.  

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How To Care For Your Silicone Baking Mat

A Safer Kitchen

Remember a couple weeks ago how we talked about using Silicone Baking Mats on your aluminum baking sheets to protect your food from being contaminated by aluminum?  Upon seeing the pizza that I baked on my mat, several of you had this question:

Can you use a pizza cutter on the mat or wouldn’t that cut through and ruin the mat??

healthy cooking products 4

Ah yes.  You are very smart.  These silicone baking mats are high quality and very heavy duty.  However, you do want to avoid cutting through them so you can continue using them again and again.  After all, not only do these keep your food safe, they save you lots and lots of money since you can use it over and over forever.

How do these mats save you money?  Well for years, I’ve been buying and using parchment paper to protect my food from my aluminum pans.  I reuse my parchment paper a few times if possible, but over the years, I’ve gone through many a roll of parchment.  These silicone mats are a one-time purchase, saving me from ever having to buy parchment again!  I have two of the mats so I can bake two pans at once. :)

But back to caring for your silicone mat:

After I bake my food on my baking pan/mat, I simply slide the food off the mat and onto a serving tray.  Then I cut the food as needed, keeping my mat out of the way so I don’t accidentally cut and ruin it.  By the way, food slides very easily off these mats – another perk!

How about washing your silicone mat?  

I simply give mine a good rinse with hot water or with a little bit of soapy water if needed.  Then I lay it over my dish drain to dry.  Easy!

I’m loving my silicone mats, both for food safety and how it saves me time in the kitchen!  I appreciated that Karen left a comment last week stating the same thing:

I received my order of  two of these “Healthy Cooking Products” mats just yesterday based on your recommendation. Today I made cinnamon rolls and some cookies. These mats are wonders! Besides enabling baked goods to just slip off, these mats also produced a superior baking product. Instead of some of the good stuff seeping into the pan or parchment, it stayed on the bottom of the cinnamon rolls. Delicious! Thank you for this recommendation.

Hooray for a great way to save money and time!  And now I’m hungry for pizza.  ;)

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15 Delicious Dips for Your Super Bowl Party

As is always the case this time of year, I have absolutely no idea who is playing in the Super Bowl.  If it mattered to my husband it would matter to me.  But it doesn’t, so it doesn’t.  Make sense?

What does matter to me is the fun night of fellowship we will have at our friend’s house during the game.  Matt and I actually do enjoy watching the occasional game of football.  The big buffet of fun foods never hurt my feelings either.  I’m all about the dips at a Super Bowl party.  I have several I’m thinking of making to share.  Here are some of our favorites:

15 Delicious Dip Recipes
Black Bean Salsa
 - Five healthy ingredients, it’s like a flavorful meal all by itself.

Cream Cheese Salsa Dip - This is the easiest dip on the planet (2 ingredients!) and everyone loves it.

Easy Veggie Dip - Oh my cucumbers.  This is the very best way to enjoy raw veggies.  It stirs together in about two minutes.

Healthier Cheese Dip (a Velveeta/Rotel Knock-Off) – Who needs “processed cheese product” when you can have the real deal?!

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip - Just like the kind you pay too much money for at a restaurant.

Nacho Cheese Pretzel Dip - Just do it.  This is amazing.

Spicy Avocado Dip -  My family devours avocados when we quickly mix this up.  Hello, healthy goodness.

Easy Cheesy Bean Dip - This also only includes five delicious ingredients.  Easy and healthy – that’s how I roll.

Hamburber Sauerkraut Dip - Even if you don’t like kraut, you will love this.  It is incredibly good.

Cream Cheese Fruit Dip - This is like whipped heaven in a bowl, perfect with apples and strawberries.

strawberry_dip_2

But there’s more!  A big part of healthy snacking is healthy dipping.  I love that dips can add nutrition as well as help us get the veggies down.  In our newest eBook, 227 Healthy Snacks, we’ve included several new dip recipes like:

  • Super Easy Hummus
  • Green Chili Dip
  • Fresh and Quick Salsa
  • Spicy Sausage Chip Dip
  • Spicy Lentil Dip

227 Healthy Snacks

Not only will you find these 5 awesome new dip recipes, you’ll find 222 more healthy snack ideas and recipes too.  From bars to muffins to hearty cookies to fruit and veggie snacks, you will be totally equipped with loads of healthy snacks to keep your and your family full and nourished!  Get all the details about this book here.

227 Healthy Snacks 2

Grab your copy and start putting together these easy, healthy recipes!

227 Healthy Snacks
$7.95

Add to Cart

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A Safer Kitchen ~ From Plastic to Glass

We’ve talked the past two weeks about switching from Teflon to cast iron and stainless steel and switching from aluminum to safer bakeware.

Today, let’s talk about one of my favorites (right, like the others aren’t also my favorites too?).  It’s just that this one involves jars and Pyrex.  I super love jars, and with all the Pyrex I have in my kitchen now, it may look to an outsider that I have an addiction to glassware.  I won’t deny it.

A Safer Kitchen

Why do I love glass so much?  Because hello, it’s pretty.  And then there’s all the others stuff about it being much healthier and safer for us to use.  You can read this post to learn more about why storing food in glass is safer than storing food in plastic.

It has taken me a few years to switch out all my plastic containers and replace them with glass.  Beyond better health, I love that I can see through my containers to easily identify my leftovers in the fridge!  Glass is very nice like that.  :)

One of my favorite ways to store leftovers is in wide mouth jars.  Wide mouth pints and quarts are my favorites, which I use with lids like these.  (I don’t mind these lids being plastic as they don’t touch the food to cause harm.)

jars_for_leftovers

jars

And what about Pyrex?

I have two complete sets of this variety of bowls with lids.  I love them so, so much.

pyrex bowls 2

See how perfect they are for prepping salads and fruits and veggies?  These also double as mixing bowls, of course.

pyrex bowls in fridge2

The following set, with a mixture of rectangle and circle containers with lids is one of my favorites for storing leftovers.  I love the variety of sizes, and of course, I love that they have lids to match.  A glass container without a lid is really not very beneficial to me.

pyrex

Fruits and Veggies On the Go 2

Of course, I use the following oblong Pyrex dishes all the time for making and baking casseroles.  I also use these to freeze extra casseroles for future meals on the fly.

pyrex 5

Without a doubt, I have found that having a wide variety of shapes and sizes of jars and Pyrex dishes with lids is key to efficiently storing food.  I use larger containers when I’m preparing food ahead of time for us to pull out and eat.  I use smaller containers for leftovers, shredded cheese, or veggie dips.

Switching over from plastic to glass has been a huge help in my kitchen in so many ways!  I’ll end with a contented sigh as I think about my lovely glass container selection.  Some girls love jewelry and flowers; I love jars and Pyrex.  What can I say? 

What are your favorite ways to store leftovers?

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How I Prepared 2 Healthy Meals in 20 Minutes

eathealthy

I dropped Malachi off at piano lessons at 10:00 this morning, arriving home at 10:05.  I needed to leave again to pick him up at 10:25.  That leaves 20 minutes.  (That was your math lesson for the day. If only all story problems made that much sense.  Who invented those anyway?)

Knowing my day was super full:  school and website work throughout the day; piano lessons for Malachi at 10; soccer for Matt, Asa, Justus, and Malachi at 2; grocery shopping for Elias and me at 2; someone coming by to pick up a co-op order at 3:30; friend coming over to study with Asa at 4; Bible study at 6:30 – and did I mention there’s a “ready to be assembled” shower in my living room  and plaster dust all over my house right now??  Well, I knew I needed to stay on top of meals if we were going to actually eat today.

I decided to see how much meal prep I could get done in my 20 minutes of time before picking Malachi up from lessons.  See, I can’t just say, “Here’s how to put a nutritious meal together when you’re low on time.”  No.  I have to go into all the details about my schedule and give my opinions on math problems and tell you about the new toilet that promises to flush efficiently that’s still in the box but will soon be in my new bathroom but not until we get all the tile issues figured out.  (That is a story problem in and of itself.)

So busy day, blah, blah, blah.  Here’s how to put a nutritious meal together when you’re low on time:

2 Healthy Meals in 20 Minutes

Today I decided to make Easy Noodle Stir Fry for lunch and Taco Salad for dinner.

At 10:06 I started browning meat for the Taco Salad.  While it was cooking I washed and cut carrots and broccoli, throwing it all into a pot with spinach for Stir Fry.  (The asparagus I had planned to use up was slimy so I had to throw it out.  I was very disappointed and apparently need to re-read this post somebody wrote recently about not wasting food.)

I gave the meat a stir from time to time.  I answered a question about an English assignment, drank a few swigs of water, and threw some blueberries into my mouth for a snack.  I put water in a pot to boil noodles at noon.  I got out the noodles.  I dumped mixed greens into a big bowl, poured in cheese I had shredded Monday, and tossed it all around with the freshly cooked taco meat.  I mixed up French Dressing for the Taco Salad.

At 10:26 I ran out the door to pick up Malachi.

With all the major prep work done for our day’s meals, at lunch time all I had to do was turn on the stove to cook the prepared veggies and boil noodles.  At dinner time all I had to do was get the prepared salad out of the fridge, dice some tomatoes (which I picked up at the store this afternoon on my grocery run), and get out the tortilla chip crumbs I’ve been saving for such a meal as this.  I also cut up a pineapple to complete our evening meal.  That took two minutes.

Now you tell me.  Is it really so terribly time consuming to prepare healthy food?  I think not.

What are some of your quick-to-prepare meals that pack a punch with nutrition?  Have any great “prep-ahead” methods to share with us?

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A Safer Kitchen ~ What to Do About Aluminum Bakeware (and a giveaway from Healthy Cooking Products!)

I really appreciate our discussion last week on switching from Teflon to cast iron and stainless steel!  Today we’re going to talk about our bakeware.

A Safer Kitchen

Many cookie sheets and cake pans are made from aluminum.  Unfortunately, this is not a safe option.  Nor are the baking pans that have a teflon-like non stick coating.  Here are safer alternatives that I’ve switched to through the years:

Glass

We all know how much I love my Pyrex.  :)  For casseroles and cakes, I use 9×13 Pyrex dishes.  I love these so much!!!

pyrex_4

Stoneware

I love baking bread in stones.  Not only are they safe, they make my bread turn out delish!

loaf pan

 

Silicone Mats or Parchment Paper

I have several cookie sheets that are made from aluminum.  They are in great shape, but I don’t like my food to touch aluminum.  I’ve been using sheets of parchment paper to cover the pan, which works great – but even though I reuse the sheets a time or two, I don’t like using the paper.

I was very grateful when the folks at Healthy Cooking Products contacted me and sent me some of their silicone mats to try.  This is a great solution, and a huge money saver.  No more purchasing parchment paper!  These mats are BPA free and can be used over and over and over.  I lay them on top of my aluminum cookie sheets, and they protect my food.  I am very excited about this solution!

healthy cooking products 1 (2)

My dad and his wife gave me this super nice air bake pan for Christmas this year since they know how much I love to bake.  I am so glad I can use it now with these easy mats.  They wash up very nicely, then roll up to store.

healthy cooking products 1

We made cookie dough balls last week to store in the freezer for a “cookie emergency.”  My silicone mat fit perfectly on this cookie sheet.  It does not get easier.

healthy cooking products 4

I also used a mat on my aluminum pan this week to make homemade pizza.  It worked great, and clean up was super easy!

I’m anxious to hear what you use for baking!  Glass, stoneware, parchment on cookie sheets?  I encourage you to look into these silicone mats from Healthy Cooking Products.  They are very reasonably priced (only $9.00 right now) and will be a big money saver since having them means you don’t have to use parchment paper.

I have some of these great mats to give away!  Four of you will receive two mats each from Healthy Cooking Products.  Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win.  I will draw four random winners on Wednesday, January 28.  Be watching for a post stating the winners as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen.

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What I Plan To Do This Weekend To Get Ahead And Caught Up

This weekend, we have no basketball games and only three of us will be home.  I have too much on my “take advantage of this situation” list, but I figure why not aim high so that I’ll have a super productive weekend?  (I do plan to rest a little bit too!)

Here’s what I’m hoping to get ahead on in the kitchen:

Because it’s been way too long since I put frozen muffin batter in the freezer for breakfast convenience, I plan to make several frozen batches of:

I also need to make Ranch Salad Dressing Mix.  We go through that super quickly!

Parts of my house desperately need cleaning, plus we are gearing up for a big bathroom remodel!!  And, I’m working every spare minute on a new Healthy Snacks eBook.  It’s finally starting to come together, which means I’ll be able to share it with you soonish.

This snack recipe and so many more are coming right up!

strawberry brownies

What are you up to this weekend?  Planning to have some down time or hoping to be super productive?  Maybe a little bit of both?

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A Safer Kitchen ~ From Teflon to Stainless Steel and Cast Iron

Some of the questions I’m asked frequently as so many of you transform your kitchens are:  What cookware is safe?  If plastic is bad, what should I use to store leftovers?  I’ve heard Teflon is bad, but what should I replace it with?  How do you keep your food from sticking if you don’t use Teflon?  What about bakeware?  Is aluminum okay?

And on it goes.

A Safer Kitchen

During the next few weeks, I will be addressing many of these questions and sharing how I have transformed my kitchen through the years.  Key words: through the years.  We might all have the desire to throw out everything we have and replace it all right away with safer items.  But realistically, you may just have to do this in stages.  Shucks, it’s no fun to be practical.  ;)

Today I’ll start by talking about cookware.  

Teflon and other non-stick knock-offs are only bad for you when heated.  This means that looking at Teflon will not hurt you.  Cooking food in it will.  Bummer, huh?

How is Teflon harmful?  When heated, it emits dangerous chemicals and toxic gases.  Ever heard of pets dying as a direct result of living in a home which uses Teflon?  It’s true.  I’ve read it from multiple sources.  :(  While people aren’t dropping dead immediately from this poison, we do suffer the harmful effects over time.

I highly recommend working away from using non-stick pots, pans, and skillets – making the trade to Stainless Steel and Cast Iron.  Both are proven to be safe and both are wonderful to work with in the kitchen!

Stainless Steel

I had a lovely set of Pampered Chef non-stick cookware and I was sad to give it up.  Eventually, I was able to replace it with a very simple and inexpensive set of Stainless Steel cookware, much like this set.  Isn’t it pretty?!

stainless steel cookware

I think it’s worth mentioning that while you do want high quality cookware, you don’t have to get top of the line.  My inexpensive set has lasted for years and is looking to last me many more.

Cast Iron

Admittedly, it’s tough to make scrambled eggs or pancakes on stainless steel.  Cast Iron to the rescue!

Not only is cast iron safe, I love how it cooks food and helps create wonderful flavor.  I have two favorite pieces of cast iron:  a large skillet and a griddle.

cast iron skillet

Lids aren’t necessary, but they sure are nice!

This griddle is super nice (I have one very similar which is also double sided).  The size means I can crank out three times as many pancakes at one time than I can in a regular skillet, and when I butter the griddle well, the pancakes turn out great!

griddle

Now, with my nice collection of stainless steel and cast iron, I love knowing my food is being cooked safely.  Again, be practical with your budget and take baby steps toward making these healthy changes.

What is your favorite kind of safe cookware?

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My Favorite Menu Planning Resources – and How I Feed All These Teenagers Without Going Broke

As the old saying goes:  Where there is no plan, there is no casserole.

I think that’s in the Bible somewhere.  Or maybe I just made it up twelve seconds ago.  How about this one:  A frozen chicken will remain frozen if left in a frozen environment.  I definitely made that one up.

All this proverbial insight to say:  Menu plans are really nice.  They help you save money.  They help you eat healthier.  You should make meal plans.

For all of you (and I know there are some) who find that meal planning hurts instead of helps you – I say keep doing what you’re doing to put healthy meals on the table.  No need to fix what isn’t broken.

For everyone else, I’m determined to do all I can to encourage whatever it takes for you to prepare simple, healthy meals that don’t break the bank.  Menu planning can be a big help, but it can also be overwhelming if you haven’t found your menu planning comfort zone.

Before I say more though, first let me share this:  You should read the post Cooking Healthy Meals When the Menu Plan Fails.  Even with the best of intentions, there are times my frozen chicken is still frozen at dinner time.  It happens.  No need to freak out, feel like a failure, or call for take-out.  These ideas have saved me many times when my plans didn’t fall into place perfectly.  (Hello, Life. You sure are busy.)

I want to help set us up for menu planning success as best I can.  I don’t actually like the word success because we seem to think that the opposite of success is fail - and that isn’t true (see paragraph above, in which I use the word fail, but wish I didn’t and there’s nothing I can do about it now).  So let’s go with menu planning empowerment, how does that sound?

By the way, what I’m about to share will not only give you insight into how I prepare healthy meals for my family every day, it will also help you understand how it is possible for me to feed a houseful of teenage boys (and often their friends) without having to sell my furniture as a way to afford it.  Planning ahead saves us hundreds of dollars every year.  I can’t not plan.  I can’t fall back on take-out.  Keeping food costs down is very important when there’s already a comma in the grocery budget dollar amount.  (They eat so much foooooooood.  But love them, they’re worth it, and all that.)

Empowering You to Plan Healthy Menus

1. One of my favorite ways to be inspired and gain ideas is to look at recipes.  I look at cookbooks and on Pinterest, but mostly, I scroll through my dropdown menu of the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of recipes right here on my website.  They are categorized, alphabetized, and even though I’m the one that put them there, I still come across recipes I forgot existed.  It’s fun!

Doing this offers variety to our menu and gets my food planning creativity flowing.  I typically pick seven recipes in each meal category and plug them into my menu for the week.  There is flexibility, of course.  There is always flexibility.  My menu plan doesn’t own me, it simply acts as a guide.

Below is a screen shot of the dropdown menu on my website when I’m holding my cursor over the word RECIPES in my header.  Do that, then click on any page you need.  You’ll see lovely lists of real food recipes to pick from.  Let your family help choose recipes to try if you like!

recipe dropdown

2.  I’ve written and shared hundreds (maybe thousands?) of menu plans here through the years.  They are all in my archives, found at this Menu Planning Archives link.  These are fun to look through for inspiration because they are complete menu plans, full of ideas for ways to pair side dishes with main dishes.

3.  Our Heavenly Homemaker’s Recipes – Search by Ingredients feature is a really fun way to plan meals based on the ingredients you have in your home.  If I’m at a lost as to what to plan, I simply type in a few key ingredients I want to use (such as beef, cheese, tomatoes), then scroll through the recipes that pop up for me.  You’ll see this special search box at the top right of my side bar.  Use it!  It’s fun and helpful!search by ingredients

4.  I’ve put together three very thorough menu planning resources through the years:  40 Real Food Menu Plans; 1-2-3 Meal Planning; and Build Your Menu Planning Notebook.  The first two share all my best tips and strategies for planning meals, plus they include tons of meal plan ideas.  The thinking is already done for you!

notebook 2

The Notebook?  Oh my goodness.  That’s how I put it all together.  Not only is it mega helpful, it’s cute and fun and made to order.  Yours probably won’t look like mine because your menu planning needs and design preferences are likely different from mine.  That’s the beauty.  You print and put yours together the way it will work best for you.  :)

To bless your menu planning efforts this New Year, we’ve packaged up our three menu planning resources and knocked them down to half price.  Now’s the time to get into a good menu planning routine!  Save yourself some time and money, letting these resources guide you.

Real Food Menu Planning Resource Package 12

This package will be left at $12 after this special promotion, because it’s fun to package up products and offer a deal!  But for now, we’re taking off even more because we want you to jump right into getting your meal planning organized.  Eight bucks will likely save you hundreds of dollars each year like it does me.  Hooray for the simple act of healthy meal planning!

Real Food Menu Planning Resource Package
$12

Add to Cart

You can click here to read more about each of these products.  Or click here to purchase this package deal.  Download them and get started right away!  Use them along with all the other resources we provide for you here.  Mmmm, you’re going to have one tasty table.  :)

How are you doing with meal planning?  

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