The BEST Creamy Mac and Cheese, Made Simpler and Faster

Back in the olden days of blogging, I shared what became one of my most popular recipes: Creamy Mac and Cheese. What makes this Creamy Mac and Cheese different? It’s made with whole grain pasta and it’s made with a completely different method which gives it the ultimate chance of creaminess. This happens because…

We cook the pasta directly in milk.

creamy mac12

Yes. We dump dry pasta into a pot and we pour in a generous amount of milk (whole milk, because creaminess). We salt it to taste, then we cook and stir until the pasta is tender and the creaminess becomes perfection. We remove it from the heat because we are people who read directions! Then we stir in the cheese and we cry tears of joy as we serve the delicious Creamy Mac and Cheese to our families.

So now, eight years after I first shared this recipe online, I will tell you a fun little tip so you can make this wonderful recipe in an even simpler, faster way. It’s this:

The smaller the noodle, the faster your Creamy Mac and Cheese hits the table.

creamy mac22

It’s kind of a no-brainer. However, I had always used penne or fusilli shaped pasta for this recipe, both of which are similar in size and take about 15 minutes to cook. Fifteen minutes is not a long time to get dinner on the table. But…

One day recently, I used small elbow noodles to make this Creamy Mac and Cheese and boom. The pasta was tender before I’d even cooked the peas or washed the grapes to go with our meal. Sweet! Not only can we make this meal without having to think ahead to thaw meat, we can throw it together even faster if we use a smaller noodle.

I’d say that taking advantage of this tip is really “using our noodle” but then I’d sound like Elmo and I’m not sure that’s how I want you to remember me.

Creamy Mac and Cheese Made Simpler and Faster

5.0 from 1 reviews
The BEST Creamy Mac and Cheese, Made Simpler and Faster
Serves: 4-6
  • 2½ cups whole grain pasta
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  1. Mix pasta, milk, and salt in a large sauce pan.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat stirring almost constantly until the pasta is tender (10-15 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat. (IMPORTANT!)
  4. Add cheese and stir until melted.
  5. Serve immediately.

Keep this recipe in your hip pocket for days you need to get a meal on the table quickly. Use small sized pasta so this will cook more quickly. Serve it with a salad and/or veggies and fresh fruit and you’ve just put a super simple meal on the table in record time.

The BEST Creamy Mac and Cheese

My favorite whole grain pasta to use in this recipe:

I have successfully made this recipe with Tinkyada Rice Pasta, so gluten-free friends, you get to enjoy this recipe too!

NOTE: It is quite important that you remove the cooked pasta from the heat BEFORE you add the cheese. If the pasta is still cooking when the cheese is added, this may cause the cheese to curdle. In addition, I’ve found that using pre-shredded cheese in this recipe doesn’t work as well because of the added ingredients in the packaging. I use cheese we shred at home for best results.

Creamy Mac and Cheese Varieties

Have you tried this method for making Mac and Cheese? What’s your favorite pasta shape?


Seeing as this recipe is definitely a Heavenly Homemaker Favorite, you can bet that it’s included in my Best of Heavenly Homemakers book!! (There are only a few recipes included, but this had to be one of them!)

I just peeked and the book is up already on Amazon! Be the first to grab it!!

best of cover4

Simple Waffle Omelets – perfect for any meal!

We might as well just call these “Womelets” because that’s what keeps coming out of my mouth when I try to talk about Waffle Omelets. I’m excited to share this recipe idea with you, but I’m sorry for causing all of you to be in this tricky verbal situation.

The cool thing is that these Womelets (I’ve given up on  trying to say it correctly) really are fun to make and super tasty.

waffle omlet2

Here are some Waffle Omelet highlights:

  • You can make everyone’s Waffle Omelet to fit each person’s preferences.
  • These are super quick and simple to make.
  • You can make Waffle Omelets for a quick dinner when/if you forgot to thaw meat to prep for your meal.
  • You can prepare ingredients ahead of time and store them in the fridge to pull out and make Womelets at the spur of the moment.
  • These are inexpensive!

By the way, have I ever told you what a messy cook I am? Truly. If there are three people standing side by side putting together making food, you will be able to tell which cooking station was mine because of all the food that had been dripped, drizzled, slopped, and spilled in my area.

I am especially good at making a mess of these Womelets, as I often overestimate how much liquid to pour into the waffle iron. Out of the iron the egg mixture will spill, causing a huge mess of slime down the sides and all over the counter-top. Have I no shame?

In addition, you should see me try to take the Waffle Omelets out of the waffle iron without tearing them to bits. Notice, above, how I finally gave up and took a picture of the omelet directly in the waffle iron? It was better this way.

I finally figured out that if I use hot pads and pick the waffle iron up, then dump the omelet onto the plate, it actually comes out easily and pretty. How about that? No mess! (You’ll see below that it folded itself in half while being dumped, but it was the best I could do.)

waffle omlet

I’ve finally learned that for my waffle iron, it takes somewhere between 1/2-3/4 cup of egg mixture to make one nice waffle omelet without spilling over.

Fill your mixture with any combination of meat, cheese, and chopped veggies that you like! I suggest mixing the eggs, milk, and salt in a bowl, then you can add your “fillings” as you make each individual waffle omelet so you can make it according to taste!

Simple Waffle Omelets

Simple Omelet Waffles - perfect for any meal!
Serves: 4-6
  • 10 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt (more or less to taste)
  • Any variety of chopped meat, diced veggies, and shredded cheeses you like.
  1. Whisk together eggs, milk, and salt.
  2. Heat and grease waffle iron.
  3. Scoop egg mixture into waffle iron to fill the bottom about ¾ full. (Mine takes ½-3/4 cup of mixture).
  4. Add in any fillings you like.
  5. Close waffle iron and cook for 3-4 minutes until eggs are cooked through.
  6. Serve right away.

Simple Waffle Omelets

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Simple Tex-Mex Creamy Chicken

I have made a decision. It is a big one and I appreciate your support. Thank you in advance.

As of now, until further notice, I shall not soak and cook my beans.

tex mex chicken1

Canned beans for the Simple Meals win.

I know. This news is big. But my beans and I have valid reasons for such a drastic change in our relationship.

Indeed I used to be a faithful bean soaker and cooker, but the demands of working full time while homeschooling teens, chauffeuring teens, feeding teens, supporting teens, and finding a tiny moment in my day to say hello to my husband have led me to kick bean-prep off my priority list. It’s either buy canned beans or become a beanless family. Long live the bean.

I am well aware that bean-cooking is not difficult. A child could do it. But I found that I almost never remember to soak beans ahead of time because I’m too often in my car running my kids to all of their social/church/work/sports/ministry outings. (And by the way, if one more person says something to me about homeschoolers not getting enough socialization I shall happily throw my van keys and event calendar at them and make them take my kids to all their social events so they can see the truth and laugh as they realize they most definitely never had a need to worry. Said person shall need a nap after this feat, but there’s no time for one – and this is why I don’t soak my beans.)

I can hear what some of you are saying. “Get an Instant Pot!” But we’ve been through all of this so I’ll have to ask that you cheerfully support my decision and let me open my cans of beans in peace.

This post has a point (thank goodness). And also a recipe. It will come as no surprise to you when you see that said recipe includes a can of black beans.

Substitute canned beans with those you have soaked/cooked yourself if you like. Best news of the day: I did the math and learned that when I buy canned black beans by the case it does not cost me anymore than if I were to buy dried beans and make them myself. I had no idea! You might also like learning that this dish I am about to share with you costs around $2.00/serving for my family. Not too shabby for a real food meal that sufficiently fills teenage boys.

Bet you’re hoping I’ll just go ahead and share the recipe already.

Simple Tex-Mex Creamy Chicken

Simple Tex-Mex Creamy Chicken
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 16-ounces salsa
  • 15-ounces black beans
  • 2 cups corn
  • 2 cups sour cream
  1. In a skillet, brown chicken pieces in olive oil, seasoning them with chili powder and salt.
  2. Once chicken is cooked through and through (about five minutes on each side) add salsa, black beans, and corn.
  3. Simmer for about two minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.
  5. Serve over brown rice, pasta, or tortilla chips

Simple Tex-Mex Creamy Chicken

Note that adding sour cream to this makes the chicken mixture thick and creamy without any effort to make a cream sauce. That’s what makes this recipe so simple!

A huge time and money saver for our family (and many others!) has been our great Simple Meals program. Join us and be amazed at how this simplifies your life – plus you’ll love the easy, healthy, real food you’ll be putting on the table so quickly each day. We’ll welcome all who soak their beans and all who don’t, because we’re all friends and no one shall be beanless. Check it out and join here!


More Simple Recipes

A Few Simple Ingredients…

Mix and Match Real Food Ingredients

Have I told you how much I have loved the Meet and Greet events so far? And how much it made me want to meet ALL of you!!?!

One of the topics we discussed at the Springfield Meet and Greet was how nice it is that once you have some key, real food ingredients in your kitchen – it suddenly becomes much easier to put healthy, whole food meals on the table.

It’s so true! If you are just beginning to switch your kitchen to a real food kitchen, rest assured, your job is just about to become much easier!

I took a few minutes to make a list of the top two dozen ingredients I always try to have on hand in my kitchen. With these ingredients, I can make hundreds of recipes. Check it out:

  • Wheat or other grains (to grind into flour)
  • Oats
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Wheat Pasta
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanut Butter (or peanuts to make your own!)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Butter
  • Yeast
  • Sucanat and/or Honey
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Sea Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Minced Onion
  • Garlic Powder
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Veggies (fresh or frozen)
  • Fruit (fresh and frozen)
  • Canned Salmon or Tuna
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Chocolate Chips (these are necessary – don’t you think?!)

Click here to see a detailed break-down of where I purchase these ingredients and how much I typically try to spend on them.

So what can I make with the above list of ingredients? Well, off the top of my head, I can think of spaghetti, mac and cheese, tuna casserole, muffins, pancakes, a few casseroles, stir fry, and pizza. And if I stood on my head for a while and got more blood flowing, the list could go on and on…

But I won’t. I’d likely break something (like a wall or my neck) if I tried to stand on my head.

I’d love to hear from you on this!

Have you found that you’re finding your way around your real food kitchen? Have you discovered your top 24 or so ingredients that help you stay organized in your real food kitchen? What ingredients would you add to the list I came up with? What meals have you found to create with your staple, real food ingredients?

And are you with me? Are chocolate chips a staple ingredient or are they not?! :)


We have two great freebies for you to help get you started on learning more about saving money on real food!

Help yourself by signing up here. They’ll arrive in your inbox shortly!

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes
30 Real Food Money Saving Tips

31 Days of Real Food Reality – Featured January 2014!

Ready to drop kick the sugar habit? Excited about making healthy changes in the new year? Looking to learn more about how to cook and serve real food? Hoping to continue (or start) replacing processed food with whole food?

Want someone to make it easy for you?

31 Days

Every single day during the month of January, we’ll have a post that will equip, inspire, and encourage you on your journey to real food eating. Why is it called “Real Food Reality?”  Because as always, everything about this series will be doable for you. Real food for your real life.  There’s nothing complicated or time consuming about what I’ll be sharing. I’m not going to ask you to stop eating grains or meat or dairy or…chocolate. I’m not going to kill your grocery budget. I’m not going to insist that you eat weird food, make you give up your favorite foods, or heap on any guilt about the fact that you don’t eat a perfect diet.

I’ll share my real food reality with you – and you can simply relax and join the fun. Sound good?

Make your real food goals a reality in 2014!

Before we get started, please share: What is the biggest challenge for you when it comes to eating and cooking real foods?

Can You Lose Weight (or Keep from Gaining Weight) When Eating Whole Foods?


Before I begin this post, I want to say this:  Being “skinny” is not the goal when it comes to eating a whole foods diet. Our goal is to be healthy, not to have a Barbie doll figure (who, by the way, is made of plastic and is susceptible to having an arm or leg snapped off, just ask my brother). Now let’s begin:

I often receive emails from readers asking me:  “I have some pounds to lose. Can I lose weight while eating whole foods?”  or “How do you stay slim while eating such a high fat diet?” or “I want to start eating real foods, but I’m afraid of gaining weight.”


Can I lose weight while eating whole foods?

These questions and fears are very valid and I understand why these emails are coming in. I was afraid of the very same things when I first learned about eating whole foods. For as long as I can remember, we have been told from experts that eating a high fat diet is bad for us. That drinking whole milk and consuming other full fat dairy products is terrible. That butter is a huge no-no. That we needed to eat fat-free yogurt. That we should avoid red meat and focus on lean, white meat. That eggs were horrible and full of cholesterol.

To replace each of these, we were provided with “low fat” and “fat free” substitutes of sour cream, cheese, and milk. We were offered “egg-beaters” to replace eggs in recipes. Margarine became the “healthier choice” because it was lower in saturated fat. And most other processed high fat food companies came out with “low fat” varieties for those who were “health conscious”. (Fat free mayonnaise, anyone?)

I bought into it for years. I think many people did.  Most nutrition books on the market still suggest that eating “low fat” varieties of food is the healthier way to go.

Here’s what I learned while eating a “low fat or fat free” diet for many years:  Any time I got into patterns of over-eating – even if it was food that was low in fat – I struggled with maintaining a healthy weight. In addition, I craved more sugar since many low fat foods have sugar added to make up for the loss of flavor that happens when you take naturally occurring fat out of food.

Once I began eating a real food diet, which is higher in real fat – real butter, real cream, whole milk, real sour cream, whole milk yogurt, eggs, beef, lamb (along with whole grains and lots of fruits and veggies) – I found that these foods are so satisfying that my body wasn’t consistently craving what it wasn’t getting! I found that the food tasted so good that I wasn’t constantly disappointed with dry, tasteless food. I found that I had more energy and healthier skin. I found that overall, because I was eating whole food in its original form, I felt so much better than I’d ever felt when I had been eating food that had been stripped of its natural fat.

Cream Cheese Chicken

So can you eat whole foods that are naturally high in fat and maintain a healthy weight, or even lose weight if you need to? Yes!  I’ve watched friends arrive at a healthy weight once they began eating a real food diet. Once they gave up eating processed foods, and even “low fat foods” and began to instead eat a diet of unprocessed, whole foods – the extra pounds just fell off! And I can tell you that for myself, after 15 years of following the latest diet trends (low fat, calorie counting, etc) in an effort to “not gain weight” – eating a diet of real, whole foods (going on eight years now) has been the easiest way I’ve experienced to maintain a healthy weight.

I’m going to say this again:  None of us should have being “skinny” as the goal as we look at this subject. We should be focused on being “healthy”.  Eating a well balanced whole foods diet is healthy. And wow does it ever taste good!

Here are my top five tips (besides eating a whole foods diet) for maintaining a healthy weight:

  1. Don’t Over-Eat: Too much healthy food is still too much food.  Eat when you are hungry. Stop eating when you are full. It’s really quite simple. (Except for when it’s chocolate. Then it is difficult. Self control, Laura everyone, self-control.)
  2. Be Balanced:  Sure, I love butter and believe wholeheartedly that it is a healthy fat. But man (or Laura) shall not live on butter alone. Eat a wide variety of whole foods for a healthy balance that will meet all of your body’s needs.
  3. Go Easy on the Sugar:  Yes, even natural sugars like honey, sucanat, and maple syrup. And desserts made with chocolate. But I covered that already.
  4. Exercise:  For so many reasons, just do it. You will not regret it, and your body will love you for it.
  5. Eat Healthy Fats:  Avoid processed, manufactured fats like vegetable oils, crisco, and margarine. Our bodies don’t recognize them, can’t utilize them, and therefore store them in our bodies as fat. Coconut oil, real butter, and palm oil are all fats our bodies can break down and utilize for energy and nourishment.

I hope you will all feel comfortable leaving a comment to share how this journey has been for you. Have you found that eating real, whole foods has helped you achieve a healthy weight? Are you afraid to eat a whole foods diet? Have you been eating a whole foods diet and been happy with the results? 

I Can’t Find Healthy or Organic Foods Where I Live! {No More Excuses}

I live in a small town in rural Nebraska. I am surrounded by smaller towns, and tiny towns, and lots and lots of big, huge corn fields. We can drive to Lincoln to a Trader Joes in one hour, or to Omaha to a Whole Foods store in two hours. Neither of those options is convenient since we don’t make trips to Lincoln or Omaha very often.

Therefore, I just assumed that eating healthy foods would be out of the question for our family. Where was I supposed to buy high quality food without having to drive 100 miles to go shopping? And then, would I even be able to afford the food at those specialty stores?

For our family – thinking outside the box when it comes to finding healthy food resources has been a very good idea. There are healthy food options all around us – we just had to go about our grocery shopping adventure a lot differently than what we considered to be “normal”. We do purchase a few items at our local grocery stores and at Walmart – like bananas, clementines, and a few other organic produce items that they might carry occasionally. Otherwise, here is how our family now purchases groceries:

We order from a health food co-op.

Azure Standard has been wonderful for us. We order online once a month, then pick up our food when it is delivered right here in town. Their prices are unbelievably good. I encourage you to look into joining a health food co-op as a way to find whole foods at a reasonable price. If Azure Standard doesn’t deliver to your area, look through all the comments on this post to learn of a health food co-op option that might be available where you live.


Here’s a sample of what our food co-op order looks like.

We order food online.

Ordering groceries online has been an incredible help and money saver for us. Not only has this been super convenient, it saves us money and gives us all kinds of wonderful whole food options – right at our fingertips. And having groceries delivered to our front porch – it does not get any easier than that! Tropical Traditions, VitaCost, Mountain Rose Herbs, Cultures for Health, and Amazon
are our favorite go-to online resources. We watch for sales and free shipping deals, and have learned the best way to get good prices while shopping online.  Here is a detailed list of what food we purchase from each of these online resources.

We buy food from local farmers.

We are blessed to have friends and farmers around us who raise animals in a way we appreciate (grass fed, free range, no hormones or antibiotics, etc). Our eggs, milk, beef, lamb, and chicken all come from sources close-by. North Star Neighbors is located a bit far away compared to our milk and eggs sources, but our town happens to be right on their delivery route. Yep, for a small delivery fee, North Star Neighbors delivers meat right to our doorstep. We pick up our milk and eggs once a week from friends. In addition, we take advantage of our farmer’s market each summer and fall. If you’re looking for local healthy food options, I encourage you to check out to see what resources are available where you live. Also, start asking around to others who you find are interested in healthy eating to see what their food sources are. You might get a few crazy stares from people, but hey, you might also find out who sells raw milk or grass fed beef in your area!

We grow food in our own garden.

Our garden provides us with green beans, tomatoes (for sauce and soup), peppers, potatoes, corn, and a variety of other yummy foods that are simple to preserve. Also, if we don’t have space to grow something, but others around us do, we aren’t afraid to make a trade or work out some sort of deal in exchange for picking some produce in their garden or on their fruit trees. Again, it never hurts to ask! Often, we get garden/tree produce for free when people have an abundance. Then, we get to work, canning, freezing and dehydrating all the produce. Here are all of my posts detailing what and how we preserve foods.

We work with our local grocery stores to special order food.

Have I mentioned that it never hurts to ask? In the past, we’ve talked to our local grocer about special ordering cases of food for us, and they’ve been happy to accomodate. They have even given us a good deal on these purchases since they know that since we’re buying the entire case, none of that food will spoil on the shelves.


As always, remember that we are all different, our food sources are all different, and we all have different family sizes and budget amounts. We’re all on the same team here, just looking for ways to encourage one another on our healthy eating journeys

What are the best healthy food options where you live? Have you found ways to think outside the box when it comes to whole food purchases?

Keeping Expenses Low While Eating a Healthy Diet

Be sure to read Is It Expensive to Eat Healthy Food, Part One and Is It Expensive to Eat Healthy Food, Part Two if you missed them!

The choices our family has made, in our effort to eat as healthy as possible, have definitely caused an increase in our grocery budget – not to mention the fact that our boys are now eating a lot more food than they used to eat.  I don’t feel like our eating habits can necessarily be called “expensive” to maintain, because we are making what we feel is a wise investment in our health. But yes, it does cost more to eat healthy, whole foods than it costs to eat lower quality foods.

I do what I can to keep our expenses as low as possible. Some of the following ideas may work for you. Some of them may not. I’ll just share the tricks I’ve tried that have worked for us with the hope that you’ll find some new ideas that may work for you too! I will likely go into more detail on each of these as we continue on with our No More Excuses series. So hang with me!

How I Keep Our Expenses Low While Feeding My Family a Healthy Diet…

1. We eat basic, simple meals.

Scroll through all of the Bread and Breakfast, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Condiments recipe ideas listed all over my site. None of those recipes are expensive to prepare.  Or, if it is a little pricier, I balance it with a meal that is super inexpensive. Remember how I sometimes stretch a chicken to last give us six meals?

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread – just over $1.00/loaf!

2. I cook from scratch if at all possible.

As far as I could figure, it costs me just over $1.00 to bake one loaf of Honey Whole Wheat Bread, which is 100% Whole Grain, no corn syrup, organic ingredient filled, top knotch bread. I’m sure if I broke down other recipes I would find that making food from scratch saves us all kinds of money. Every once in a while I splurge on store-bought packaged food, because my sanity appreciates the sacrifice.  But overall, I try to make as much as I can so that I keep our expenses much lower.

3. We rarely eat out.

Eating out as a family is not an option that we ever fall back on, except for the very occasional splurge while traveling or rare special occasion or treat. This saves us so much money, making it possible for us to put our hard earned dollars toward healthy ingredients for eating well at home. For more information and inspiration, read this post titled:  Eating Out Less.


4. We try to think outside the box.

We have researched, asked around, and figured out that there are many ways to save money on healthy groceries by shopping online, through health food co-ops, through local farmers and just by asking the right questions. Many people now call us and offer us their leftover fruit from trees and bushes because they know we’ll love it. Bartering and trading have been a wonderful way to gain access to healthy food for free or cheap. And remember how I shared that talking to a local grocer proved to be a great way to get organic produce for a much lower price? Try this idea – it never hurts to ask!

5. We found a food co-op that provides great prices on great foods.

Our healthy food co-op, Azure Standard, saves us loads of money on healthy foods. Check out the following post to help you find local co-ops that might be of service for you where you live:  What Health Food Co-op Is Near You?

In addition to those ideas, we buy food in bulk, stock up when food is in season or on sale, can and preserve foods from our own garden, grind our own flour, and otherwise work as hard as we can to find ways to feed our family for as little as possible. Look over Our Whole Foods Pantry, Freezers, and Refrigerators Resources page to see a huge list detailing where we find most of our food.

As you work to eat a healthy diet and keep your expenses low, always remember that God is in control, and he knows your heart!

Coming up next in the No More Excuses series:  With All the Conflicting Information Out There, What Does “Healthy” Even Mean?!

I know you are also working as hard as you can and doing the best you can to keep your expenses low. Share what works best for you as you work to stay within your grocery budget. I love that we can all learn from each other!

8 Tips for Feeding Your Family Whole Foods on a Budget (Plus a Giveaway for “The Money Saving Mom’s Budget”!)

This is a guest post written by Crystal Paine, from Money Saving Mom. Be sure not to miss our giveaway below this post for Crystal’s new book The Money Saving Mom®‘s Budget.

Many people have this misguided idea that it is impossible to feed your family a whole foods on a budget. If you live in Alaska or some remote part of the country, this may be the case, but in most areas, you can feed your family natural, unprocessed foods without spending hundreds of dollars each week to do so.

Sure, you might spend a little bit more than someone who is eating a diet composed mostly of processed foods, but it really doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg as some people will make you
think–especially if you’re willing to get creative and think outside the box.

Now, let me be upfront and tell you that our weekly meal plans probably wouldn’t win us the Healthiest Family of the Year award. We eat some processed foods (though we do make the majority of our food from scratch), we like sweets and we certainly do not eat 100% organic.

I know some people are really bothered by this, but we strive to have a balance of serving lots of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains while still enjoying the occasional brownies and ice cream or even letting our children have a Happy Meal every now and then (gasp! Can you believe it?!)

So, despite the fact that I’m not the most knowledgeable and experienced person to be tackling this issue, here are some suggestions:

1. Plan a Menu Based Upon What is In Season and On Sale

If you want to feed your family on a budget, you need to have a plan for what you’ll be eating. If you can make your menu plan mostly based upon what is on sale at the natural foods store, what is in season at the Farmer’s Market and/or what you’re reaping in abundance from your garden, you’re going to significantly reduce your grocery bill.

2. Practice the “Buy Ahead” Principle

If you happen to come upon an incredible sale on tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market, or the health food store has organic frozen vegetables on a great sale, stock up. Buying items you routinely use when
they are at their lowest price is another surefire way to savings.

3. Plant a Garden (Or Barter With Someone Who Does!)

If you can pull it off, plant a garden. Produce is typically only pennies per item from your own backyard, it’s tremendously fresh and you know exactly what you did or didn’t spray on it. Plus, you can can or freeze your extras–or bless your friends and neighbors with them!

Have a brown thumb? Find a friend who loves gardening and trade services (babysitting, breadbaking, car maintenance?) in exchange for their garden excess.

4. Stick With Simple Meals Using Inexpensive Ingredients

When you’re planning your menu, think about how much your recipes will cost you to make. It doesn’t have to be a scientific to-the-penny figure, but just having a good idea that there is a $10 difference between the price of making one meal as opposed to another meal can help you decide whether you can afford to make something or perhaps should save it for a special occasion.

5. Serve Meat as a Condiment

I shamelessly stole this idea from Family Feasts for $75 Per Week because it’s so brilliant. Serving meat in soup or on pizza is going to be a lot less expensive than serving roast and sirloin,
especially if you’re buying high-quality meat.

Need ideas? Laura shows you how to make six meals out of one chicken.

6. Buy in Bulk

It is usually much more cost-effective to purchase meat and staple ingredients in bulk. Call around to local farmers and see what they would charge you for purchasing half a cow. In many cases, it’s at
least $1 cheaper per pound to purchase in bulk. Buying grains, beans, as well as many other basic ingredients with long storage lives in large quantities will almost always save you at least 20%, if not more.

Costco, as well as many bulk foods stores and local co-ops, offer great pricing. You can also check with your local health food store to see if they’d offer you a discount for bulk purchases.

7. Consider Joining a CSA or Co-Op

If there is a co-op or CSA in your area, check into pricing and details for joining. You might find that it is an affordable and money-saving option for your family. If you can’t find an affordable co-op in your area, you could consider starting your own co-op.

8. Use Coupons on Non-Food Items

I know a number of my readers don’t eat processed foods, but they use coupons to save money on toilet paper, toothbrushes and other non-food items which they purchase. Your savings might not be so exciting as others who use dozens of coupons each shopping trip, but even saving $5 each week by using coupons can start to add up over time.

Crystal Paine is a wife, homeschool mom to three, self-proclaimed minimalist, lover of dark chocolate and good coffee (those can be “healthful” in moderation, right?) and wannabe runner. For practical help and inspiration to get your life and finances in order, check out her blog, MoneySavingMom or purchase a copy of her brand-new book, The Money Saving Mom®‘s Budget.

Interested in winning a copy of Crystal’s new book, The Money Saving Mom®‘s Budget? They’ve offered to give away five copies! Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. I’ll draw five random winners on Monday, January 16. Please watch for a post stating the winner as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen!

Why Aren’t You Eating a Healthy Diet?! Part 1

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but eating healthy food is really, really expensive. It also takes too much time to prepare, and besides that, all healthy food tastes like cardboard.

Those are a few things you might want to say to me if you’re interested in picking a fight. Not that I like to fight…unless you offer me a light saber or a plastic sword, of course. ;)

Trust me, I’ve heard all of the excuses. Shucks, I used most of them myself back before we began our healthy eating journey. I hated spending money on food. And I thought eating a healthy diet meant that I had to live on rice cakes, fake sugar,  and some sort of fat-free cheese like product. (Let us all now pause for a moment of simultaneous gagging.)

Yes, I’ve used all the excuses to avoid eating healthier foods. I have had all the fears. I thought I would get fat if I ate high fat foods. I thought we would go broke if I stopped using coupons for all the “food” I typically purchased at great discount. I thought my kids would hate eating healthy food and feel deprived of their favorite snacks, meals, and treats. I thought cooking healthy would be complicated and beyond my realm of knowledge in the kitchen.  Plus, I had no idea where I would find healthy food in our small mid-western town.

But as I was learning more about eating a good, balanced diet filled with whole foods, I realized that something needed to give. I needed to do this for my family.

Therefore, I did a lot of research. I sought the help of friends. I learned that good healthy food is a great investment for my family’s health. I dug deep and found that there are healthy food sources all around me – I just had to know where to look. And I learned that healthy, whole food actually tastes amazingly better than anything else that comes out of a box or a bag.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a series exploring the top ten excuses I hear from people about why they don’t eat a healthy diet. I’ll work to debunk all the myths you’ve ever heard about health food, and offer you hope if you are holding back on eating a healthy diet because of some excuses of your own.

As we begin this series, I’d love to know:  What are your biggest hang-ups with eating a healthy diet? What are the excuses you use or hear most when it comes to eating twinkies instead of broccoli? If you had to make a top ten list of reasons you can’t eat a healthy diet, what might be on your list?