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.

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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.)

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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!

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

Justus (16) is on the far right:

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Here’s Elias (14)

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Asa (19) is on the far right:

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

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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:

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

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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. :)

30-Day Home Stretch Real Food Menu Plan

I have a 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan for you for the home stretch. Why? Well I don’t know about you, but…

I am all done. 

I don’t care how many pages of Worldly Wise or lessons of Teaching Textbooks (math) are practical to finish in one week. I want the boys to finish. Five days. All of it. Overachieve, children! You can do it. There’s ice cream in it for you when you finish. A double scoop.

All the learning moments? We’ve had ’em galore. They have been precious. We’ll have more next year. Right now we’re in a “just finish it already” mode. Finishing by Friday is entirely possible on most of our subjects. They are pretty motivated (by the ice cream) (and the freedom), so I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to pull it off.

Raise your hand if you’re with me – whether home-school, private, or public school family. Are ya ready for summer break??

Malachi school april

This kid. We wears a suit and tie more than he wears play clothes.
Actually, a suit and tie are his play clothes. #mosthandsomefifthgrader

Our oldest, Asa, finishes his second semester at college and moves home this weekend! He leaves again at the beginning of June to travel for the college, recruiting for YC at various church camps in the Midwest. This is part of my push to finish our school year at home this week. All six of us will be home during the month of May and I’d just rather not be dividing our time between family fun and Algebra.

No matter where you are in your school year, I’m sure we can all use a little help getting the family fed easily!

You may remember that I shared a 30-Day Real Food Back-to-School Menu Plan last August when we were all gearing up for this school year. Now that we’re winding down and probably trying to work harder than ever to get everything done, to make it to all the end-of-school events, and basically survive until summer – I thought it might be nice if I recreated this menu plan for you and offered it again.

The 30-Day Back-to-School Home Stretch! Real Food Menu Plan

We’ll begin with breakfast, head into lunch (for the home-schoolers among us), then land on dinner/supper. Ready to dig in?!

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30 Real Food Breakfast Ideas (always served with fruit and often served with some sort of additional protein)

  1. Fried eggs on toast
  2. Scrambled cheesy eggs
  3. Breakfast Burritos
  4. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
  5. Easy Breakfast Casserole
  6. Dark Chocolate Almond Granola
  7. Giant Breakfast Cookies
  8. Instant Oatmeal Packets
  9. Pancake and Sausage Muffins
  10. Whole Wheat Waffles
  11. Coconut Flour Muffins
  12. Quick Mix Pancakes
  13. Homemade Poptarts
  14. Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
  15. Peanut Butter Snack Bars
  16. Peanut Butter Breakfast Cake
  17. Coconut Fudge Bars
  18. Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins
  19. Quick Mix Biscuits
  20. Low Sugar Carrot Cake
  21. Lemon Bread
  22. Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls
  23. Grape Nuts Cereal
  24. Crepes
  25. Breakfast Cake Muffins
  26. Honey Cinnamon Muffins
  27. Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
  28. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
  29. Strawberry Cream Muffins
  30. Peanut Butter Pancakes

Muffin Tip: Make muffin batter ahead and put it into the freezer like this so that you can easily bake them fresh as needed in the mornings!

Tuna Melts on Spinach

30 Real Food Lunch Ideas (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies. If I’m serving salad, I usually serve some sort of bread to fill my men)

  1. Tuna Salad
  2. Tuna Melts on Spinach
  3. Pasta Salad Bar
  4. Meat and Cheese Burritos
  5. Easy Noodle Stir Fry
  6. Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad
  7. Pizza Boats
  8. Baked Potatoes in the Crock Pot with whatever toppings we have available
  9. Homemade pizza (crusts already made – boys build/bake their own)
  10. Spanish Rice
  11. Taco Salad
  12. Easy Cheesy Bean Dip with chips
  13. Chicken Tacos
  14. Black Bean Chicken Nachos
  15. BLT Chopped Salad
  16. BLT Wraps
  17. Bacon, Egg, and Avocado Salad
  18. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (with turkey or ham if I have some)
  19. Scrambled Egg Sandwiches
  20. Creamy Mac and Cheese
  21. Healthier Cheese Dip with chips
  22. Real Food Meat and Velveeta Dip with chips
  23. Taco Quesadillas
  24. Tuna Casserole
  25. Chicken Burritos
  26. Plain Quesadillas
  27. Hamburger Patties
  28. Beef Summer Sausage with cheese and crackers
  29. Corn Dog Muffins
  30. Cheesy Salsa Burgers (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)

Grilled BBQ Chicken

Dinner/Supper (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies)

  1. Cheesy Salsa Enchiladas
  2. Grilled Barbeque Chicken
  3. Italian Cream Cheese Chicken
  4. Mongolian Beef (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  5. Quick Mix Pancakes with Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
  6. Barbecue Cranberry Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Chicken Edition)
  7. Sloppy Joes
  8. Cheeseburger Macaroni
  9. Easy Apricot Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Chicken Edition)
  10. Turkey Sausage and Red Bean Stew
  11. Taco Potatoes
  12. Beefy Enchilada Bake
  13. Baked Ziti (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  14. Baked Three Cheese Chicken Pasta
  15. Garden Veggie Chicken Skillet
  16. Spaghetti
  17. Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  18. Popcorn Chicken
  19. Bacon-Wrapped Individual Meatloaves (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  20. Italian Pasta Bake
  21. Salmon Patties
  22. Teriyaki Chicken and Veggies
  23. Grilled Salmon
  24. Grilled Burgers
  25. Fiesta Chicken
  26. Sour Cream Enchiladas (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  27. Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
  28. Lamb Chops
  29. Hawaiian Beef and Rice (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  30. Grilled Steak

30 Day Real Food Home-Stretch-School Menu Plan

Learning Resources and Freebies Made Easy

How would you like a downloadable version of this?! Learning Zone members can download this FREE 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan Resource to keep handy during this busy time of year.

Are you part of the Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone? We’re frequently offering free printable learning resources you won’t want to miss! If you are a mom, an educator, or in any way spend time with children – I invite you to join the fun of the Learning Zone!

Download the 30-Day Real Food Menu Plan Resource

Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market – My New Favorite Grocery Store and Pics of This Week’s Food

First let me say that sometimes, but not always, when I take pictures on my phone, they upload upside-down to my computer. I edit them to turn them right-side-up, and they appear as such here on my blog. But if you are a subscriber, you will see that they still appear upside-down in the newsletter. This is because I am a professional and always do things professionally.

Some of you are seeing this first picture right-side-up. Others of you are like, “Why are the peppers and avocados spilling out all over the grocery store? Who is going to clean that up? Why did Laura do that? This is not okay.”

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That right-side-up-upside-down picture was taken on Friday when I was introduced to what may now be my favorite grocery store. A brand new Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market just opened up in Lincoln. Since Elias and I had doctor appointments there last week, we stopped in. I decided that this store is a cross between Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, with prices that beat both places. I filled my cart in a way that made the cashier question my sanity (what’s new?) and I left super pumped up.

“Elias!! Wasn’t that so much fun! That is my new favorite store! Didn’t you just love that!?!?!?”

He was like, “It was a store.”

Ok fine. Not everyone geeks out when grocery shopping. But 88¢ for huge and beautiful red peppers, people!!! Chicken for $1.57 a pound! Strawberries for $1.50!

The beauty of this is that while I don’t go to Lincoln very often, I can price-match this store’s produce prices weekly at my local Walmart. I am going to save so much money!

Elias and I hit Aldi while we were in Lincoln, then went to Fresh Thyme, then ran into Walmart when we got back into town. We are well stocked up now. Here’s the breakdown, but as you can see…

Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market was the most fun.

  • Aldi – a case of organic salsa, 4 packages of brown sugar, 1 cantaloupe, and 8 cans of knock-off rotel
  • Fresh Thyme – tons of butter, lots of chicken breasts and thighs, a beef roast, full-fat yogurt (a great treat I can’t find locally), 12 pounds of strawberries, 2 bunches of asparagus, 5 huge red peppers, 4 packages of organic prepped hashbrowns (because they were a great price and will be a fun treat), and 6 kiwi (for a dollar!)
  • Walmart – 5 bottles of 100% apple juice (because I could Price-match them for 98¢ and like to have juice on hand for company/treats), 2 huge blocks of cheese, half-and-half, and 3 buckets of ice cream (not pictured) for our homeschool basketball banquet dinner.

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Saturday I was actually home for the entire day – something that hasn’t happened in quite a while! I baked bread and got caught up on some work, made a menu plan, and had my kids help me grate one of those huge hunks of cheese in our food processor. Not that you were asking, but my two favorite ways to use my food processor are:

  • Grate Cheese (It took about 10 minutes from start to clean-up to grate a 5-pound block.)
  • Make Peanut Butter (I also make it this way sometimes to make it more spreadable.)

grated cheese

My kids do not miss grating cheese by hand.

This week we’ll be eating:

With all of this, we will be eating lots of strawberries and other fruit. I have plenty of different veggies and greens on hand. It’s shaping up to be a very tasty week!

Do you have a Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market close-by? I think they are fairly new, and I’m not sure where they build their stores. What is your favorite grocery store?

My Menu Plan For This Week (Yep. It’s Been a While.)

Who knew that strawberries rank right up there with butter in my lists of LOVES? I don’t think I realized how much I’ve grown to love them until I apparently became addicted to them last year and have been impatiently waiting for them to come back in season. I’ve been waiting, and waiting…

The time is now. They were on the Bountiful Baskets order form this week for a great price, but since I’m always very reasonable with bulk purchases, I only ordered two. Cases. What? If it makes you feel better, I put three cases in my cart at first, then realized that 24 pounds of fresh strawberries might be a little obsessive. So I cut it down to only 16 pounds. #noshame

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This might have been my favorite BB order ever. 16 pounds of berries, two packages of whole wheat pizza crusts, all the basket goodies – plus I split a case of pink lady apples and a case of carrots with a friend. We now have so much good food in our house!

A little perspective on the strawberries…

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Me taking my first bite of strawberry this season…

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I figured it was a selfie-worthy event.

The first thing we did after unloading all the produce was make the cream cheese goodness for Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits. We skipped actually making them into parfaits because we were all dying to dig in and there was no time to wait for strawberries to be layered neatly in glasses. Instead we just grabbed bowls and plopped it in. So, so, so, so good. I can’t tell you how good. Get yourself some strawberries and make these.

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Now I have a confession for you. (Like my huge strawberry purchase confession wasn’t enough.)

I didn’t menu plan last week. I didn’t even grocery shop. We handled the lack of grocery shopping just fine. But the lack of menu planning? Oooff. That was tricky.

I have been either away from home or working on two big projects at the computer, which means I when I was home I barely left the keyboard. As a result, my house fell apart around me. I didn’t even take time to think through our meals for each day because the projects had me so distracted. Here’s how we survived: My kids can cook.

Not only can they cook, they can plan a meal and execute making it from start to finish.

I can’t tell you how wonderfully nice this is!! Tuesday I said to Justus (age 16), “I’m leaving for the funeral. I have no plan for lunch but I will be very hungry and drained when I get home. Can you figure out lunch and thaw something and make something and have it ready? Sorry I can’t help you more than that.”

I didn’t know what I’d come home to, but I wish I’d taken a picture. The kid made not one but two different kinds of chicken with green beans and rolls with butter. It tasted like heaven to me. I’m not sure who was more proud: Justus or his mom.

I put the other kids in charge of other meals this week on equally busy days. They nailed it. Now the kitchen…that was an explosive mess that we all dealt with together this morning. But whatever. They planned and executed meals like pros.

I can’t say enough about teaching your kids to cook, and I plan to focus my blog posts around the topic during the next several days. In the meantime, I have got to make a meal plan. The kids pulled it off for me last week, but I’d rather be a little more organized this week. Plus, I’ve got all that gorgeous food pictured up there to play with.

Our Menu Plan

Breakfasts

Lunches and Dinners

Travel Food

We’re heading to Kansas Thursday for our big annual Homeschool Basketball Tournament. We’ll be there three full days, so we’ll eat out some and pack a few meals too.

  • Sandwich fixins
  • Pizza (we’ll bake them at home and eat them cold)
  • Tortilla wraps
  • Strawberry cheesecake parfaits (the to-go version)
  • Sweet peppers, cucumbers, carrots
  • Apples, strawberries, clementines, bananas, blueberries
  • Cashews, peanuts
  • Homemade muffins
  • Cheese and crackers

Here’s to a great week! The sun is shining and I have strawberries. All is right in my world. Hope you’re relishing in your blessings too. :)

Company is Coming This Weekend! Here’s What We’ll be Eating…

I super love when people come to visit us! I love planning the meals and preparing the meals and serving the meals and doing all the food up right in an effort to bless our guests while we visit. And of course, I love to visit with our guests.

In summary: Would one of you please come clean my house for me?

Man, I do not like to clean. I do like my house to be clean, but the act of cleaning is low on my fun list. Actually, it’s not even on my fun list. It’s on my do it because it has to be done so get over it list.

Hiring regular cleaning help is not in the budget right now, but I’m seriously thinking about seeing who might want to trade cooking for cleaning. Some people like to clean but not cook, right? Yes, I hear that this is true.

My boys are very helpful with their assigned cleaning chores, which is another reason I’ve not wanted to outsource this task to hired help. But sometimes my idea of clean differs from my boys’ idea of clean. (I probably don’t need to explain this.)

Well anyway. All this talk about cleaning is starting to make me upset. Let’s talk about food!!!! Aaaaahhh yes. Now I’m happy again. :) :) :) :)

Family is coming to town this weekend for our York College Homecoming festivities. I can’t wait to feed see them! This is always a wonderful weekend with people we don’t get to see often enough.

In order to enjoy my guests and avoid having to talk very much while I cook (this is a serious problem for me) – I’m making most of the food ahead of time or at least planning very simple, no-brainer dishes (like this Stir-and-Pour Bread).

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread

Here are the meals we’ll be having:

Breakfast Foods

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Lunch Foods

  • Potato Soup
  • Chili (with Fritos – yes really – and shredded cheese)
  • Sub Sandwich Bar
  • Veggie Platter (carrots, cucumbers, sweet peppers, olives, pickles)
  • Fresh Fruit

potato_soup

Dinner Meals

(The Crock Pot Roast Beef recipe was originally written to be used for Roast Beef and Melted Cheese Sandwiches, but we love the flavor of this one so much, and it only takes about 30 seconds to prepare {seriously!!!!}, so we make it frequently to eat as a main dish without the cheese and buns.)

creamy salsa enchiladas

Here’s a picture of Creamy Salsa Enchilada Casseroles I like to serve guests.
So, so, so, so good. And easy.

Snack Foods

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Any of these meals sound particularly good to you? What do you like feeding guests when they come visit? Who likes cleaning?!?

Our Groceries, Our Menu, Our First Week of School…and Our Mannequins?

Well, here we are at the beginning of our first week of school for 2015-2016. I’ve made a few meals and convenience foods ahead of time. I’ve ordered and purchased a lot of groceries. I’ve organized our books and classes for the year. I’ve made a 30-Day Real Food Menu to help make meal time easier. I’ve moved the mannequins out of my office. Hold on. Did I forget to tell you about Sheila and Robert?

Creepy Alert…

mannequins

Why, oh why?

Asa was working on a new video project for a friend last week, and they needed mannequins. What does a person do when he needs mannequins? Well, his mom puts a request out on Facebook, and hopes a friend has some to lend. I truly almost wet myself watching our friend haul two necked mannequins across the street to our porch. I would love to know what the neighbors were thinking.

Ever dressed a mannequin? It’s harder than one would think. Sheila lost two fingers in the process, for which we are truly sorry. I gave up on pants and simply wrapped her legs in a blanket. Then we stored her (as well as a little boy mannequin – see him back there?) on the bed in my office. I jumped every time I walked in – because obviously – and I felt as though Sheila was watching my every move while I tried to work. It is very hard to write sentences while being watched by someone who doesn’t blink. So we moved them to our other guest room. In the process, her legs came off. As did her arms. And her blanket. Then Asa and his friend ended up not needing them for the video after all.
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See sometimes you just don’t want to know all the goings on in other people’s homes. Please still love us.

Want to talk about food now? Yes, let’s move on to the more normal (and I use that term lightly) life of the Coppinger household, shall we? Truly, looking at my bottle of vinegar will be a blessed relief after the previous pictures.

Saturday I picked up an enormous Bountiful Basket order. Along with lots of fruits and veggies we got tortillas, bread, and pizza crusts for the freezer. Ah yes, and a bottle of vinegar. As I was saying earlier, life is so normal, simple, and boring around here.

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My August Subscribe and Save order is beginning to trickle in. I should have the rest by Monday, but so far we’ve received Organic Cacao Powdera case of Kashi cereal, and a case of Rapunzel sucanat.

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Our garden tomatoes are producing well! Soon it will be time to make a batch of tomato sauce.

garden tomatoes 2

And guess what? Our green bean plants are reviving themselves and we already got to pick a few beans. Take that, bunnies! (Yes, we’re still keeping the cat.)

garden beans

I ordered 50 pounds of potatoes and 50 pounds of wheat (not pictured) from Azure Standard. Soooo, we are all set on food for a while!

potatoes

Along with school, some of our boys’ soccer practices also begin this week. I took the 30-Day Real Food Menu list and my Menu Planning Notebook, and I jotted down meals from the list I have food on hand to make. This is so much better than having all the info and thoughts floating around in my head. Yay for a list on my fridge (and for the iced coffee I drank while making it)!

meal planning before school

First Week of School Food

Last but not least, here are some boring pictures of a few of the books our three younger boys will be using this year. (Justus – 10th grade, Elias – 8th grade, Malachi – 5th grade)

school books 2015

This isn’t all of them, but these are some of the piles I was working through for a few hours over the weekend. I got the boys’ assignment lists printed, so we’ll begin bright and early (yeah right) Monday morning.

school books 20152

 

Hopefully, the mannequins will not be terribly distracting while the boys work on their math and Spanish on Matt’s office computer. We’re running out of options for places to move them. Our porch, perhaps? That could be fun.

Here’s to a great first week of school! How about you? What are you up to this week? Care to share anything about your normal (or not so normal) goings on? Have any mannequin creepers?

30 Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan

30-Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan time!
30 Day Real Food Menu Plan

I’m excited to share that I’ve made a list of one entire month’s worth of real food meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner/supper. Why? Because school is just about to begin (or already did for some of you).

I personally thought it would be valuable to avoid thinking about how to feed the hungry school children since I will, of course, be joyously reading for hours each day with my offspring about the adventures of Lewis and Clark and having fabulous discussions about planets, galaxies, and Ralph Moody. During the times I’m not joyously reading, I will be joyful at a soccer field or in a car dropping or picking up a kid from a music lesson. I will be way too joyful to think about meal planning.

Assuming you also have much joy during the back-to-school season – I thought maybe you’d like this resource too.

Don’t look now, but I’m absolutely not going to stick with these lists entirely. I’ll use it as a reference and guide. This is 30 days worth of real food meals at a quick glance to ease us all back into a school routine. Now that is JOY!

30-Day Back-to-School Real Food Menu Plan

We’ll begin with breakfast, head into lunch (for the homeschoolers among us), then land on dinner/supper. As much as possible, I plan to (or already) have foods prepped ahead and put into the freezer so that all I have to do is pull them out and thaw/cook/serve. Everything else will be easy to put together. Scrambling eggs takes no time at all. Right? Right.

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30 Real Food Breakfast Ideas (always served with fruit and often served with some sort of additional protein)

  1. Fried eggs on toast
  2. Scrambled cheesy eggs
  3. Breakfast Burritos
  4. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
  5. Easy Breakfast Casserole
  6. Dark Chocolate Almond Granola
  7. Giant Breakfast Cookies
  8. Instant Oatmeal Packets
  9. Pancake and Sausage Muffins
  10. Whole Wheat Waffles
  11. Coconut Flour Muffins
  12. Quick Mix Pancakes
  13. Homemade Poptarts
  14. Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
  15. Peanut Butter Snack Bars
  16. Peanut Butter Breakfast Cake
  17. Coconut Fudge Bars
  18. Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins
  19. Quick Mix Biscuits
  20. Low Sugar Carrot Cake
  21. Lemon Bread
  22. Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls
  23. Grape Nuts Cereal
  24. Crepes
  25. Breakfast Cake Muffins
  26. Honey Cinnamon Muffins
  27. Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
  28. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
  29. Strawberry Cream Muffins
  30. Peanut Butter Pancakes

Muffin Tip: Make muffin batter ahead and put it into the freezer like this so that you can easily bake them fresh as needed in the mornings!

Tuna Melts on Spinach

30 Real Food Lunch Ideas (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies. If I’m serving salad, I usually serve some sort of bread to fill my men)

  1. Tuna Salad
  2. Tuna Melts on Spinach
  3. Pasta Salad Bar
  4. Meat and Cheese Burritos
  5. Easy Noodle Stir Fry
  6. Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad
  7. Pizza Boats
  8. Baked Potatoes in the Crock Pot with whatever toppings we have available
  9. Homemade pizza (crusts already made – boys build/bake their own)
  10. Spanish Rice
  11. Taco Salad
  12. Easy Cheesy Bean Dip with chips
  13. Chicken Tacos
  14. Black Bean Chicken Nachos
  15. BLT Chopped Salad
  16. BLT Wraps
  17. Bacon, Egg, and Avocado Salad
  18. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (with turkey or ham if I have some)
  19. Scrambled Egg Sandwiches
  20. Creamy Mac and Cheese
  21. Healthier Cheese Dip with chips
  22. Real Food Meat and Velveeta Dip with chips
  23. Taco Quesadillas
  24. Tuna Casserole
  25. Chicken Burritos
  26. Plain Quesadillas
  27. Hamburger Patties
  28. Beef Summer Sausage with cheese and crackers
  29. Corn Dog Muffins
  30. Cheesy Salsa Burgers (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)

Grilled BBQ Chicken

Dinner/Supper (always served with 2-4 fruits and veggies)

  1. Cheesy Salsa Enchiladas
  2. Grilled Barbeque Chicken
  3. Italian Cream Cheese Chicken
  4. Mongolian Beef (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  5. Quick Mix Pancakes with Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
  6. Barbecue Cranberry Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Chicken Edition)
  7. Sloppy Joes
  8. Cheeseburger Macaroni
  9. Easy Apricot Chicken (from Eat Right Away: Chicken Edition)
  10. Turkey Sausage and Red Bean Stew
  11. Taco Potatoes
  12. Beefy Enchilada Bake
  13. Baked Ziti (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  14. Baked Three Cheese Chicken Pasta
  15. Garden Veggie Chicken Skillet
  16. Spaghetti
  17. Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  18. Popcorn Chicken
  19. Bacon-Wrapped Individual Meatloaves (from Eat Right Away: Beef Edition)
  20. Italian Pasta Bake
  21. Salmon Patties
  22. Teriyaki Chicken and Veggies
  23. Grilled Salmon
  24. Grilled Burgers
  25. Fiesta Chicken
  26. Sour Cream Enchiladas (from Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks)
  27. Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
  28. Lamb Chops
  29. Hawaiian Beef and Rice (from Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Beef Edition)
  30. Grilled Steak

30 Day Real Food Back-to-School Menu Plan

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What? I Don’t Need Anything At the Store???

I went from the craziest, busiest, most exhausting school year yet, followed by a houseful of company celebrating our oldest son’s high school graduation, to an entire week of quiet. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry, do cartwheels, clean the house, take a nap, read a book, watch a movie, or catch up on emails.

I decided to skip the cartwheels (our health insurance wouldn’t have appreciated the risk taking), forget cleaning (at least for a few days), and ignore my inbox (eh, what’s 400 unanswered emails?). I had some uninterrupted writing time (bliss!), took many walks with Malachi while he rode his bike, read Farmer Boy to Malachi, did some special projects in the kitchen (you’ll read about them soon), and found my brain again (mostly, sort of, probably not really).

Why the quiet? Three out of our four boys went to Wisconsin on a week-long mission trip with our church youth group. That left Matt and me with our 10 year-old, plus a college student who had moved in for the week. I missed our older boys, but the week was very refreshing. I mean, our tiny little laundry pile amazed me all week long. (And then the older boys came back with trash bags full of stink, filth, and ticks – pictured below. Not the ticks. Just the laundry.)

laundry

I barely cooked all week because leftovers go a long way when the teenagers aren’t here to make me forget what leftovers are.

I am so used to buying mountains of food that without thinking two weeks ago, I ordered our normal amount of food from Bountiful Baskets which included a regular basket of fruits and veggies, two specialty fruit and veggie baskets, 25 pounds of nectarines, 48 whole wheat hotdog/hamburger buns, and 100 wraps. What? If the boys had all been home it would have just been another day of bringing home groceries for the week (or two). But instead, last Saturday I brought home this:

bountiful basket may 222

bountiful basket may 221

…and then on Sunday all the teenagers left for the week. Thank goodness for friends we could share nectarines with, a freezer for buns and wraps, and a college age young man who stayed with us for the week and was happy to eat whatever we put in front of him.

I will say that having all that great produce – plus the buns and wraps – made it very easy to put simple no-brainer meals on the table this week. I was ready for a kitchen break. I got one.

So now the older boys are back for the week. (They’ll be gone again to a church camp next week – such is our all-or-nothing summer.) I’m eager to cook for them again, and to fill them with green stuff that they likely aren’t getting much of while they’re away from home.

I don’t have an official menu plan made, but I thought I’d share a few dishes I plan to make while they’re home:

Well, that was fun. Hopefully you’ll see some ideas there you can use this summer. I love summer food SOOOOOO much. Mostly because I love summer. And food.

All of that to say that when Matt was heading to Walmart to grab some paint on Friday, he asked if I needed anything. Typically I need a cart full (to go with our Bountiful Basket, Azure Standard, and online orders). This time I just stared at him blankly. I didn’t need a thing.

Oh wait. Yes I did. I keep making the BLT Chopped Salad without the feta cheese because I keep not having any on hand. So Matt got us some feta cheese. It was the most exciting grocery shopping list ever.

Anyway, yay us. We saved a bundle on groceries this week. The boys are back in town (sing it with me…). Let us commence eating enormous quantities of food.

What summer food are you enjoying so far this season? Been grilling much? Have anything to pull from a garden yet?

Menu Plan for the Week…Now on Mondays

So that I can keep stress down over the weekends while I’m trying to keep up with (and enjoy) my kids’ activities and our church activities – I decided to give myself an extra day to create and share my weekly menu plans. From now on, instead of posting them on Saturday nights, I’ll wait and post them Sunday nights.  Ahh, such a simple change, but one that helps me breathe on the weekends. I like breathing. Breathing is nice.

Last week our crock pot got quite a work out because we had soccer practices or games almost every evening. Man, I love the crock pot. What a time saver! I plan to use it quite a bit during the next few weeks. Between soccer season, a speaking engagement I have early May, and then Asa’s graduation – I won’t have much extra time for silly little things like cooking and feeding my family. The crock pot is going to have to do the work for me. It’s either that, or McDonald’s. That’s not even a funny joke.

This week we’ll be enjoying the surprises we received in our Bountiful Basket order. It’s always fun to see what comes with each order! I also ordered two packs of whole wheat pizza crusts. Don’t I usually make my own pizza crusts? Aren’t homemade pizza crusts healthier and less expensive? Yes and yes. But need I remind you of the aforementioned soccer/speaking/graduation? I am very excited about my purchased (and still inexpensive and quite healthy) pizza crusts.

bountiful baskets 411

The boys chuckled when they saw the miniature watermelon that came in our order. They are all such big eaters, so they were like, “Oh look. It’s one bite of watermelon for each of us.” Those poor little deprived boys of mine.

And now, our menu – which is a lovely mixture of crock pot meals and meals one of us can quickly throw on the grill. It’s real food made easy, this menu. Don’t make me start preaching that sermon again. You know it’s possible. ;)

Breakfast (I’m going to try baking our breakfast foods the night before if possible, and/or doubling some recipes to throw into the freezer for graduation week)

Lunch

Dinner

Fruit and Veggie Side Dishes (I serve 1-4 with each meal)

  • Mango
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Tangelos
  • Applesauce
  • Homemade Dill Pickles
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Mixed Greens
  • Spinach
  • Green Beans
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Clementines
  • Pineapple Mango Smoothies

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Care to share some easy food you throw in the crock pot or on the grill?

Menu Plan For the Week and My Husband…the Price Matcher

I’ve been laying low this week while I recover from being sick.  Therefore, making a trip to the store would have been a bad idea for me.  But dude – avocados can be price-matched for 29¢ this week!!!!!  We couldn’t pass this up.  Plus, we needed other groceries.  Thus, I prepared a careful list and sent my willing husband to the store (armed with a teenage son for back-up).  They shopped, they price-matched, they scored good deals.

groceries mar21

They also bought pizza.

groceries mar 211

Four of them to be exact.  Fine by me.  Matt added veggies to some of them before putting them in the oven and we all enjoyed the treat (and the night off from cooking).

He ended up heading back to the store over the weekend because we needed food for High School Huddle this Sunday, plus there were no avocados the first time he went.  Missing the 29¢ avocados just seemed too sad.  Second time around, he brought home a bag full – plus more strawberries, more clementines, and some blueberries.  The groceries were all put away before I could get in and take a picture, so I thought I’d share this one instead:

malachi's straw
This was Malachi drinking his Homemade Chocolate Milk earlier this week.  Or…attempting to drink his chocolate milk.  It was a fun lunch-time experiment he chose to do.  To answer the inevitable:  Yes he is wearing a suit coat, shirt, and tie.  Yes it was mid-week.  Yes it was lunchtime.  Yes we were home having a regular school day.  No I don’t make him dress up for school.  He dresses like this most days because he loves it.  Come to think of it, I believe this was St. Patty’s Day – as it looks as though he is wearing his green shirt/tie combo.  The cuteness is a killer, am I right?  Remember when he always dressed as a cowboy?  Oh, my baby.

You should try making this chocolate milk, but feel free to come as you are.  Black tie attire not required for the drinking of this milk.  Nor is it a necessity to drink through six straws at once.  The rest of us boring folks drink our chocolate milk without a straw while wearing blue jeans.

Meals for this week look a little something like this:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Fruit and Veggie Side Options (I serve 1-4 with each meal)

Here’s to a great week with great food!