Mostly-Healthy Monthly Meal Planning on a Budget: Meal 1

Working one day a week in the salon and the other seven six at home being Mommy, I have decided to tackle a new project called “Mostly-Healthy Monthly Meal Planning on a Budget”.

What, you ask, has possessed me to plan meals a month in advance with grocery lists included?

No one else has! That’s why. At least not that I can find. Sure, there are plenty of “how to’s” on budget-making. There are recipes like crazy, of which I am definitely taking advantage! I, however, decided it was time someone did the research on prices and recipes, and made it accessible online. So, if you find this helpful, please share with your friends and family. Some of my favorite reads and most helpful information usually comes from an article someone has sent me directly, knowing I’d be interested.

So, here we go. I have compiled my favorite list for the month all in one place.

Side note: I will give you links to the original recipes I have found, but the creative side of me will probably always find a way to tweak them here and there.

Side Note 2: I like to cook and take pictures of what I make, but I’m a mom and a hairstylist, not a chef or photographer, so the pictures will be taken from my iPhone and will look cooked at home not from a fancy restaurant.

This is the beginning of the month so those of you reading now will be going on this journey with me as I try these recipes out for the first time. At the end of the month we will have a solid list of mostly-healthy meals, their recipes, and all the prices for really affordable meals.

I say, “mostly” because let’s be honest, it’s a month worth of food, and I can only do so much quinoa and salad. I need a good burger, some pasta or homemade pizza every now-and-again.

My first meal is a Enchilada Quinoa Bake.

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Since starting the Dave Ramsey Plan two years ago, every month we have a certain amount allocated in our “Grocery” envelope. This worked really well for us…and then I got pregnant.

Either my brain cells are being sucked through the umbilical chord, I’m eating more, my toddler is eating more, or well, let’s be honest all-of-the-above.

I do my weekly grocery trip on Mondays, and by Saturday we’re scrapping for options. I pride myself in being a decently organized or at least “planned” individual, so this dilemma is getting a little a lot on my nerves. Even when I buy more food we end up just eating more during the week. This month I’m putting an end to this ridiculousness!!!

I’m so grateful Baby Girl likes healthy food, unlike my munchkin who made me eat beef and cheese my whole pregnancy, so I get to actually plan healthy meals.

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I may feel like an Oompa Loompa, but we don’t all need to look like one.

Since the beginning of the month fell at the end of this week, and I already did my shopping with last month’s budget on Monday, I started off simple, inexpensive, healthy, and made some adjustments to this Quinoa Bake Recipe I found on Pinterest.

It will also serve as leftovers, since the boys need dinner when I’m gone at work.

Rest assured, we will be living in the reality of “leftovers” nights. Like I said, this is true “Meal Planning on a Budget“.

Because I’m being really strict on this budget thing, this meal, I omitted the chicken because I haven’t done my monthly Costco-stock-up on proteins yet.

So here’s what I did to whip up this yummy meal:

Quinoa Enchilada Bake and Avocado Cilantro Lime Spinach Salad

I Cooked quinoa and pinto beans during nap time. You can use canned beans, but we had just bought a huge bag of pinto beans, so I substituted these for the black beans in the original recipe.
*quinoa and bean instructions at bottom

Ingredients:
-2 cups uncooked Quinoa (4 cups cooked)
-2 cups uncooked pinto beans (use 4 cups cooked or canned)
-Small can mild Green chilis (I can’t do too spicy of food, so by all means, go for the gusto. If you like spicy get the large spicy can!)
-2 10 oz cans Enchilada sauce
– 1 cup grated Jack cheese
– 1 Avocado
– Cilantro to taste
-Olive oil
-Salt
– 1 teaspoon Chili powder
-1 teaspoon Cumin

-In large skillet add cooked quinoa, beans, green chili peppers, enchilada sauce, chili powder, and cumin.
-stir occasionally over medium heat 10-15 minutes

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-top with grated jack cheese
– put in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes
-turn broil on and turn cheese golden brown (Don’t walk away from broiler, it only takes a couple minutes and you don’t want burnt cheese!! That’s gross!)

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– remove from oven
-plate it up
– top with avocado and chopped cilantro
-serve with your favorite side. Mine was this salad. Next time I might add buy some tortilla chips cause we like different textures in our meals.

Avocado Cilantro Lime Spinach Salad

-bunch of baby spinach
-8-10 cherry tomatoes (quartered)
-1/2 avocado
-fresh feta cheese (as much as you’d like)

-Enjoy!!

In case you missed it the first time:

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*Cooking the Quinoa:
2 cups uncooked Quinoa
3 cups beef broth
1 cup water

-Heat olive oil in sauce pot, add quinoa and stir over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes.
-add liquid and stir
-when it starts to get small bubbles, turn down heat to low and cover
-after 20 minutes remove from heat

Cooking up some yummy Beans:
3 cups dry pinto beans
1/2 yellow onion
8-10 cups water
1-2 tsp salt

-rinse beans
-sauté onion until soft
-add beans and enough water to cover completely
-bring water to simmer, turn down heat to medium low and cover
-check every 20-30 minutes and add more water as necessary (beans should always be covered but not drowning)
-cook until they’re soft (all beans vary in cooking time which is why canned are so much easier, but you can’t beat the flavor if you’ve got the time!)

Next, I’m making Lasagna Roll-Ups, but I’m adding meat.

Stay-tuned for the updated recipe and pictures of my experiment.

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Do you ever feel isolated, depressed, or alone? How do you break it? This is what I did today.

Do you ever feel isolated, depressed, or alone? How do you break it? This is what I did today.

I started off this week super productive. After staying up late Sunday night meal planning to stretch my dwindled budget through the end of the month, I was up early for a doctors appointment. I made breakfast, loaded up all the necessities for me and my munchkin for the day (food, food, and more food), got him up and dressed and out the door. After the doctor, it was Costco, Target, Sprouts, then back home in time for lunch and nap.

Feeling über-motivated, I decided to meal plan for the month. I went Pinterest crazy with recipes and strategies. In the meantime, I made homemade chili with my best friend, Mr. Crockpot.

After nap I enjoyed an amazing afternoon playing chase, follow-the-leader, soccer, and rolling and dancing on the grass outside with my favorite little buddy, while waiting for “Daddy” to get home for dinner.

Following such a productive, fun Monday, you’d think I was set up for a successful week. Why then did I wake up tired, sore, sad, and sluggish?

Besides the obvious “I’m pregnant” response, there was something else wrong. All morning I battled this depressive and emotional state and nothing was fixing it.

I had a good breakfast and took my son to the park to get out of the house.

The empty park mimicked the desolate feeling in my heart. The family of crows seemed to mock my aloneness as they sat in the tree above me squawking and shaking the branches. It’s kind of funny now, in hind site.

Ever since we relocated for my husband’s work, I have eagerly sought out different locations to meet other moms. I so desperately need people in my life, as I think we all do, I’m just ultra-aware of how much I care about the people in my life.

Maybe it’s because from a very young age it seemed like every best friend I ever made moved away not long after. This taught me that maintaining friendships requires a lot of work on both parts. I have found that most of the time the other party doesn’t put in the same effort. I have also found that my very closest friendships DO put in the work. And we chase after each other if a few weeks have gone by without a call.

The hardest reality for me right now is that I haven’t connected with anyone in this new city. One mom and I connected immediately and then after a few unsuccessful attempts of getting together, she started back at work. Since all the other kids I see at the playground are raised by nannies, I thought I’d form some friendships there. We had some fun mornings digging in the sand with our little ones, until the parents decided preschool was the best summer option for their two-year old.

Eeeeevvvvery-once-in-awhile I see other moms with kids on play dates and wonder, “How the heck did they meet? It must have been “Gymboree” or “Mommy and Me”.

This morning I called my sister, who lives five hours north of here, crying because I felt so alone and isolated. I battled uncontrollable tears. In this crowded overpopulated city, where is everyone?

Have you ever felt like loneliness was drowning you?

It’s a weird reality that nothingness can feel like a giant ocean swallowing you in the waves.

As my sister and I often find in our conversations, I make the bitter comments about how “all the moms are working and letting nannies and preschool raise their kids” and she being a full-time working mom of two kids under three makes the comments about how moms who are home have “so much more time to get things done”…on and on go the differences.

Despite our vast differences, we both know in the depths of our hearts that we want the best for our kids, and each other’s kids; we long for our children to be happy, healthy, God-fearing individuals who love The Lord and want to serve and love others.

We talked today about how we all have different realities, but ultimately the only way to survive our worlds is relationship and support.

After our brief heart-to-heart moment we both scurried off the phone to chase our toddlers onto their next adventure.

I still felt empty. Really? Can’t this darkness just leave already? I have an amazing child to hang out with, yet I feel alone.

We left the park to do our little lunch and nap routine at home.

We finished reading and singing and I began to pray before putting him to bed.

It hit me.

Since he was a newborn, I have prayed the scripture, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper in the name of Jesus,” and we put on the full armor of God. Now that he’s older he’s able to repeat what I say and is learning where the armor goes. It’s been such a joy listening and watching him get excited about participating.

Today, as we said these things together God reminded me that “No weapon formed against me shall prosper!!!” This verse has power! Not only to protect us as we sleep (like we had just prayed), but that it’s God’s Word, His promise to me that when I stand in faith and in His reality, not my own, that the Enemy cannot mess with me. I am God’s child. I am protected under the blood that Jesus shed to conquer Sin.

I put my munchkin down. As I thought about this verse my emotion didn’t change, but I mustered up the energy to say those words out loud again. This time believing them for myself.

Do you ever feel so defeated that even the truth seems impossible to listen to?

Let me encourage you today. That was me this morning! I muttered those words once and the heaviness felt just a little bit lighter. I said them again.

I’m not going to over-dramatize the results and tell you the skies opened up, a light shined down and a beautiful choir started singing in the background… I will tell you this, the darkness left!!! To that I say, “Thank you, Jesus!” I am ready to face the rest of my day, whatever the reality of today might be. I’m putting a smile on my face, and doing my full-time job, the job and purpose God has set before me:

I am going to nurture the precious, little, miracle 19-month old baby boy with whom God blessed me.

I can only live my life, not everyone else’s. I can only pray God sends me wonderful friends in this new place and trust that He will, just as He lifted the darkness today.

In the meantime, until my munchkin’s next nap: Be someone’s friend. My life lesson for today: I’m going to stop looking for friends and start looking for opportunities to be one. I’ll start by smiling.

How much better do you feel when someone walks by and you actually acknowledge each other’s existence with a smile or “hello”?

Will you join me?
Will you commit to being a friend to someone?

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Food for Thought

I applaud my friends who on a daily basis offer healthy food choices to their children. It is a full time job being a parent, and it’s not easy making the time to read up on the latest info to better our kids’ lifestyle. Yet, I am surrounded by moms who selflessly sacrifice precious sleep to do the research and pass it along via text, Facebook, Pinterest and whatever other social media outlet reaches the masses. I have learned so much from you! And am excited to see that other moms care so much about their children’s’ well-being, even if it means its not popular to all who scrutinize us under their microscopes.

Why is it that most people in the the generations preceding us can’t get the clue? Are they so exhausted from parenting that they’ve “earned the right” to throw junk food down our kids’ throats? Or is it ignorance? Why do I constantly have to justify or explain that I’d rather feed my child blueberries or grapes than crackers and cookies. I don’t care that they’re organic! But thanks for the effort.

If a grown adult ate bread, cookies, and crackers all day, any right-minded person would know this leads to diabetes and a slew of other health issues. Why are these ok to give our kids?

I’m not saying these are never ok, but my goodness, they don’t need to be the go-to foods. You can wash an apple just as fast as you can open a cracker box.

Our precious innocent children, who have yet to create their own bad eating habits, are being subjected to this junk to pacify the whines. No one wants to support the younger, educated, “health obsessed” generation in raising healthy kids simply because of the old-school thought, ” I did it this way, you-turned-out-fine” argument. If we all turned out fine, than why are we all doing so much research to find a better way?

If everyone’s fine than why are so many people suffering from digestive disorders, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and the like? Every doctor wants to blame anxiety. Why don’t we face the facts and look at the side effects of some of the preservatives put in our food?

Disodium phosphate or tripotassium phosphate for instance-the binding agent in most foods such as the popular Cheerios. Almost every household in America is taught by doctors that these fabulous O’s help infants strengthen their dexterity. Has anyone bothered to look at the side effects of these ingredients? Or the OSHA warnings for that matter ? Or what these ingredients are also used for?

I’m not here to claim to be an expert and provide all that info to you, but what I’d like is for people to stop pretending they know what’s best for my child, and stop questioning my parenting choices. I doubt and question my choices enough. I don’t need aunts, uncles, grandparents, or random strangers at the grocery store giving me funny looks, ignoring me telling them not to feed my son that cookie because “he says he wants it.” Of course he does!! He’d watch hours of television (don’t get me started on my thoughts on tv and other media) or drink a piña colada I’m sure, if I let him. Does it mean its good for him? NO!! of course not!!

My sister shared a link that’s been circulating Facebook about how parenting choices that are failing this generation of kids. One of the author’s points is that “we’ve lost the village”. I totally agree. The village needs to support the parents’ choices. It’s not “your mommy/daddy says no”. It’s “that’s a no” “we all agree its a no and support each other in setting healthy boundaries.” A toddler throws a tantrum because (s)he is learning how to process and express emotion. This does not mean we give her/him anything (s)he wishes.

I feel like I just went on a rant, but this is a desperate cry for people to learn respect! I thought that as I became more confident in my parenting choices that I wouldn’t care so much about all the opinions or that I’d get more respect or a response from people. Wrong! Nothing’s changed, and quite frankly I’m tired of it!

We’re expecting our second child at the end of the year, and I’m sure I’m going to learn more about myself and this process with our new addition. But Lord help me if I have to deal with more comments about “how different two are” or “I’ll lighten up when the second comes” or “I won’t care as much.” I’ve seen plenty of moms with multiple children still making the same healthy choices as they did with their first. I pray I can be that diligent, and I have so much respect for their choices!

We all parent with different perspectives, paradigms, realities, and choices, but it’s up to us and the communities around us to support each other in those differences. But why is it that children with cellulite on their legs get “goos” and “gaahs” and cute nicknames as they shove chicken nuggets and donuts in their mouths and then we wonder in disgust why adults have eating disorders? People celebrate those parents and tell me to lighten up.

I talk to moms that don’t get to be home all the time with their kids that complain that they “can’t tell someone else how to raise their child.”

I’m here to say, “yes you can! (S)He’s your child!! I know that in order for a lot of people to survive these days two incomes are necessary, but guess what, don’t sacrifice your child’s well-being by making excuses for the caregiver. They’re getting paid, and if not, then its someone who loves your child enough to watch him/her for free and therefore should love him/her enough to make healthy choices. If not, do the extra work and pack the food yourself so there’s no excuse.

I know I’m not going to make everyone happy every time I write, but please know my heart is to encourage you. I want to learn from my own mistakes and other’s successes. I welcome feedback and questions with love.

Until my munchkin’s next nap (or my next sleepless night), I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I hope my life lessons can promote community and respect for others. Now, I need to figure out how to smile and shut off my brain so I can sleep. Now is a good time to let go and let God.