Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How I Plan Our Weekly Menu//and Actually Save Money!

When I first started planning weekly menus for our family, I noticed that we seemed to spend more than if I went to the grocery store without a plan. I couldn't understand it. I'd always heard people talking about how planning a menu saved them money.

When I planned a menu before, I usually thought of all the interesting meals I could make, with almost every day being a new recipe or something out of the ordinary and therefore almost every ingredient had to be purchased that week. Not only was this expensive, but it was exhausting. I was hardly ever making easy meals because I had looked up all these "cool" recipes. Needless to say, it didn't last very long.

Then, I finally got finance conscious. I wasn't trying to use a menu in the same way any more. Before it had been to make sure that we had exciting meals every night. Now, it's about saving money by wisely using what I have, and trying to be creative with it.

Here's how I start:

Look in the Pantry and Refrigerator. What do I already have? Beans, rice, corn, chicken makes a great chicken quesadilla or something similar. Instead of starting with a recipe and then buying ingredients, I work backwards. Work with what you have and find recipes that fit.

You don't have to only use ingredients that you have in your home, but make sure that's the jumping off point. If you want to save money, try to work with what you have. I don't usually keep things like fresh basil or cilantro in my refrigerator, but if I do buy them, I try to come up with multiple recipes that use them so that I don't just use it once and let the rest go bad.

Another great way to save money is to make things fresh or from scratch. Plain oats are less expensive than pre-sweetened instant oatmeal. Learn to make your own sauces for spaghetti instead of buying boxed pasta meals.

Another thing to consider when planning your menu is your weekly schedule. Consider the amount of time you will have to get everything ready and plan accordingly. If you're really busy one night, you don't want to be making egg rolls from scratch (trust me, they're delicious but can take a LONG time.) For busy nights, have quick, simple recipes. Save the more labor intensive or long-cooking ones for more relaxed days.

Write down your plan! Having a menu doesn't make you more organized if you don't remember what was on it. I made us a template and put it in a page protector (laminating would probably work better) so that we can use it as a dry erase board. You could also put yours in a picture frame with a glass front, or paint it on a chalk board. Whatever works for you!

Then, once you have everything planned, make a grocery list. Any ingredients that you don't already have go on the list. When you go shopping, stick to your list! It helps if your stomach is full when you go to the store, otherwise those impulsive buys will be a lot more tempting!

If you're interested, here's my very basic menu template ( I colored mine with colored pencils.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cake Smash//Picture Overload!

Are you ready for a lot of pictures? Good. Here we go!

Here's the cake before the action:

Sam started out pretty timidly

But after I pinched off a piece of the cake for him to try he started to get a little more enthusiastic.

Pretty soon, he was going at it!

...and then he dumped the cake onto his lap, and later the floor!

Look, Mom, CAKE!

 Thanks for reading. Bye, bye!

If you want to see the healthy (ish) recipe I used for the cake, click here.
Soon, I'll be posting about Sam's first birthday party!
Just in case you were wondering, the backdrop is made from dollar store crepe paper streamers and ribbon from my craft box. I reused it at the birthday party.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Samuel's Favorite Things// First Birthday Update

Samuel is one year old! He is the cutest little thing you have ever seen and I am so grateful to be his mommy! This has been at the same time the hardest and most beautiful and rewarding year of my life. From 1am (and two, and three, and four am) feedings, to his first time laughing, to clapping for himself and playing hide and seek, it has been a growing year for all of us.

Sam now attempts to stand on his own (though it never lasts long) and absolutely loves walking while holding onto our hands. He tries very hard to climb up onto everything, and the things he can't get on top of by himself, he will try to get down from. My least favorite of these high places is the changing table. Though he usually tries to go down "feet first" like he's been taught, it's still too high, and usually at a very inconvenient time that he tries.

He loves eating! He's doing pretty well with trying new fruits but still doesn't like carrots. Go figure. He will eat his produce and oatmeal mixed together in his little squeezy bags, but his favorite food is probably cheddar cheese. He also loves the little muffins I made from the remnants of his smash cake batter. I may have to make another batch for him! He hasn't quite figured out how to used his teeth yet (of which there are now three!) but he does a pretty good job of mashing things with his tongue before he swallows them.

Samuel still loves to play peekaboo. Now, instead of just using a blanket, he will put his hands over his eyes to hide! He's so smart, and I am very proud. He also likes to play a hybrid between peekaboo and hide and seek. He will crawl away as quickly as he can and go into one of the bedroom where he will promptly shut the door and only open it when we wonder aloud, "where's Sam?" He then giggles mischievously and opens the door, but will shut it again if you get any closer. It's darling. He also likes it if we hide from him.

His favorite words to say are "dada" and "uh-huh," from which the rest of his vocabulary is made up, with different inflections. He understands quite a few words, though. He get's really excited when I say "all done!" after a meal and he get's to leave his high chair. He'll clasp his hands in the ASL sign for "amen" at the end of prayers, and he'll snuggle up or give great big slobbery kisses if I ask for hugs or kisses. He can also wave hello and goodbye, "tickle" (face plant) our tummies, and laughs at silly noises.

His favorite song right now is "the wise man and the foolish man" from our church. It's a kids song about a parable from the New Testament with great hand motions. This is how we keep him occupied during diaper changes and car seat buckling. His favorite book is still Moo, Baa, Lalala by Sandra Boynton, though he now appreciates almost any book. He loves turning the pages himself, and will sometimes sit by himself and babble as he "reads" books to himself. It is so darling!He likes to dance to music (and be applauded for it) and sometimes will try to sing along. I love that.

He is really good at going down for bed now. He has started wanting to go to sleep with a stuffed animal, which he will snuggle up with after we lay him down. He doesn't cry at bed time anymore and sleeps through the night most of the time. It's glorious! He has also gotten himself on a regular nap and sleep schedule. It's fantastic. He's always tired at the same time now, which makes planning my day so much easier!

My favorite thing is having him see me and have his face break into a grin and reach for me. This is even better when he rests his head on my shoulder and just snuggles for a brief moment. He often does this for his daddy, too, and it absolutely melts my heart.

I am so grateful for Samuel. He has taught me so much, and I am so glad that he came to our family. I love him, and I am grateful to my Father in Heaven for giving him to me!

These pictures were taken one year apart. Can you believe how much he's grown? 

Healthy Smash Cake Recipe

This week was Sam's first birthday! Ever since I heard about smash cakes I've been wanting to do one for him, but I didn't like the idea of feeding him tons of sugar and other things that I haven't really let him eat yet. I know, I'm a hypocrite. I love anything unhealthy (except for twinkies) but I don't want my baby to be the same, so I'm trying to help him eat well. I found this recipe over at Fit Mama Real Food and was so excited that it seemed so healthy. I also loved that I could substitute the baby food in my pantry (that Sam is starting to refuse to eat) for several of the ingredients!
Here's how you make it:

You will need:

1 jar of applesauce, 3-4 jars of bananas, 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 3/4 cup of baby oatmeal cereal, 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
*all of the jars of baby food that I used are 4 oz

Mix Bananas and applesauce,

coconut oil,

and vanilla extract in one bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, and baking soda.

Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Grease your baking dishes. (I learned this greasing technique from my mother in law: put some coconut oil into the pan and wipe it around with a paper towel. You can also just use cooking spray.)

Then pour in your batter.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes and allow to cool before frosting. When I took mine out of the pans they started to lose their shape so I popped them back into their dishes and waited until they were room temperature to take them out again and they held up well after that.

For frosting I used plain greek yogurt (and then went a little crazy with the sprinkles!)

Sam loved it, and he really likes the non-frosted, non-sprinkled muffins a lot as well! For pictures of the smashing, go here, and here.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe!

        1 Jar Applesauce
        3-4 Jars Banana
        3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (melted)
        1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
        3/4 Cup Baby Oatmeal Cereal
        3/4 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour
        1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
        1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
                *all of the jars of baby food that I used are 4 oz


  1. Mix Bananas, applesauce, coconut oil and vanilla extract in one bowl. (I used five jars of bananas and found it to be too much. I would suggest three or four.)
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, and baking soda.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  4. Pour batter into greased baking dishes. I used two bowls that were four inches across and filled them two inches deep. I had enough batter left over to make 9 mini muffins for Sam to snack on. 
  5. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine took about 35 minutes to cook. If you're using shallower pans, do less baking time. 
  6. Allow to cool before frosting. I would suggest in the pan. When I took mine out they started to lose their shape so I popped them back into their dishes and waited until they were room temperature to take them out again and they held up well after that.

Happy Baking!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cake Smash Sneak Peak

Sam's birthday was yesterday, so we decided to do a smash cake shoot! It's going to take a little while to get all of the pictures edited, but for now, here's a little sneak peak! The recipe we used was pretty tasty, and I'll share that here later as well. (It was a no sugar, no egg recipe!)

Here we go!


what is it?

he likes it!



To see a lot more pictures of Samuel's cake smashing, click here!
If you would like the recipe I used for the healthy cake, go here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How We've Built a Fight-Free Marriage

I've asked myself many times why my husband and I don't fight. (And honestly, we have never fought.) My answer used to be "because we love each other," but I know that some couples who love each other do fight. So what's the difference for us? I think it boils down to a quote by Gordon B Hinckley: "True love is not so much a matter of romance, but of anxious concern for the well being of one's companion." It's about putting your spouse's happiness and well being above your own.

Romance is exhilarating and wonderful--it's a key factor in falling in love--but that's not all that love is. That initial excitement can ebb and flow. It's hard to have that newlywed-giddiness for very long once life starts happening, but if your focus and concern is more for your spouse's well being, and less for your need to be wooed, then it's easy to love and serve them. You're less likely to say something offensive, or to take offense at something that your spouse might say if you're thinking of their happiness first.

Cameron and I have had disagreements, and we've had moments of hurt. There have been times when we have accidentally said or done things that upset the other, but we've always chosen to be kind and understanding in those moments. When we see that the other person is upset, we fight the natural inclination to get defensive and instead do what we can to comfort each other and find out what we did wrong and how we can do better in the future.

Common phrases in our day-to-day conversations are "How can I be a better husband/wife?" "What can I do for you?" and "How can I help you be happy today?" When the other person answers, we try hard to remember what they say and to do it. Putting our focus on the other person helps us to focus less on ourselves or our wants, and more on our spouse's needs.

If we have needs we make them known so that our spouse can help us fill them, but we try to do more for the other person. In doing this, we have pretty much eliminated any desire to fight or hurt each other emotionally.

This selfless love is what enables us to work through disagreements and misunderstandings peacefully and happily. Our marriage is not perfect--sometimes we make mistakes or get upset with each other; but because we value each other's happiness we let go of the little things and respectfully and carefully discuss things that shouldn't be ignored.

Another thing that helps us is prayer. We pray to be better spouses--to be understanding and loving and to be able to recognize each other's needs. We also pray for each other, both in our personal prayers and when we pray as a couple. Praying out loud for each other is very strengthening for our relationship. It is beneficial for the person speaking because as you thank God for the person you love, you think of all the reasons you do love them and your love is deepened. It also grows as you pray for God to help them with their problems and struggles. This helps you to feel compassion for them. Praying for your spouse at all will benefit them, but for them to hear your words of gratitude for them, and your pleas for help on their behalf can help them to see how much you love them, to realize that you listen and care about what they're going through, and can help soften their heart and love you even more.

Putting God first, and then our spouse's happiness and well being above our own is the best way that my husband and I have found for keeping our marriage happy and strong. Despite some hard life events, our love and marriage continue to grow stronger and deeper every day. I am so grateful for that!