Recipe For A Simple Life

Simplify your life, one day at a time

My Meal Planning Experiment

Earlier this week, when I was thinking about meal planning and looking for new ideas, I came across a super cute homemade menu planner.  (For those of you who don’t know me well yet, I am a huge sucker for cute, unnecessary things.)  Even though a plain old scrap of paper has been working just fine for me to plan my meals with, this cute idea made me want it.  (Remember – sucker for cute stuff)  So, I downloaded a free file.  But, as is my nature, I couldn’t just use it as is.  It had owls on it.  Owls?  Yes, owls.  I am not a fan of owls.

However, being the creative genius and master time waster that I am (heavy sarcasm should be inflected here), I decided to “edit” the planner to remove the owls.  This was after I attempted to start from scratch and make my own version. (as my kids would say – epic fail)  The edit was much more successful and I did manage to remove the owl and leaves, leaving a cute meal planner with only a heart and flower.  Now what?  It seems like such a cute planner should have a purpose beyond just scratching out what I may or may not actually cook this week.

I started thinking (dangerous thing) and came up with a plan.  I have a cookbook where I put all the recipes I’ve collected over the years and it’s getting pretty ugly.  By that, I mean that it’s falling apart and it’s really grossly dirty from being spilled on so many times.  (did I mention that I am not the neatest cook?)  I’ve been wanting to get a new one, but haven’t found “the right one” yet.  What if I used my new cute, but unnecessary, meal planner as the beginning of my new family cookbook?  (Does this mean the planner is now useful instead of unnecessary?)

Here’s what I plan to do:  I found a 3 ring binder in our “school supply” closet that wasn’t being used.  I printed the front and back covers of the planner and slid them into the front and back covers of the binder.  Then I added divided tabs and labeled them with recipe book headings like “main meals, side dishes, breads” etc.  Each week I will make my menu plan as usual (except I will use my cute new planning sheets) and then after I actually make the meals I plan, I will add them to the new family cookbook.  If I work on this for at least the next few months, I should have a nice collection of our favorite recipes all in one place.  The internet and cook books are great, but if we’ve had it before, I hate having to remember where the recipe is located.  Plus, by using the meal planning sheets and keeping them in the first section of the binder, I can easily remember what we’ve been eating lately.  This should come in handy when I’m stumped for new ideas or when I can’t remember how old the frozen chili is because I forgot to put a date on the container.  (as if I would ever do such a thing…..)

So there you have it, my meal planning experiment project.  I think it may actually inspire me to stick to my meal plans for a while.  Just in case you are interested, here is an image of the cute planner I’ll be using.  If you, like me, enjoy cute but unnecessary things, please let me know and I can send you a copy of the planner.


Menu Plan Monday – Lunchbox Edition

Good Morning!

If your house is anything like mine, I’m sure that this morning was a challenge.  It always seems to be harder to get everyone up and moving on a Monday, but especially a Monday after an extended weekend.  Thankfully, our new lunch system makes at least one part of our routine a little less hectic.  Since the kids only had 2 days of school last week with the holiday, most of our lunch choices are the same, although they did devour a few items on Wednesday when we were at work and they had the day off…

Protein Choices:
Cheese Slices (Monterey Jack and Colby)
Peanut Butter
Raw Almonds (not roasted or salted)

Fruit & Vegetable Choices:
Baby Carrots
Dried Apricots

Grain Choices:
Granola Bars
Mini Rice Cakes (cheddar and caramel flavors)

As a side note for those of you without school age kids, I often make my own lunch from the “ingredients” I list out in this post.  Especially on days when we don’t have leftovers to choose from or if I am running late in the morning.

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Menu Plan Monday

Good Morning!!
I hope you all had a fantastic holiday weekend.  I wonder how many of you will be serving leftover turkey at least once this week?  Since we went away for the holiday, we will NOT be eating turkey this week.  In fact, Scott and I decided last week that in order to keep our weigh loss goals from getting too far off track with all the Thanksgiving dining we anticipated that we were going to spend this week doing a raw food cleanse.   If you are wondering what that means, I’ll do my best to explain – 
Starting on Monday morning, we will be trying to limit our food intake to smaller portions and limiting ourselves as much as possible to raw foods.  Our staples for the week will be fresh fruits and veggies (no dips allowed), nuts and water.   There are a few exceptions, like hummus and limited amounts of canned or frozen veggies.  Last time we did this was quite a few weeks ago and we both lost over 4 pounds in 5 days.  But more importantly, we both felt healthier at the end of the week and were able to break some bad eating habits like drinking soda every day more easily.  Lately we’ve both fallen back into some of our bad habits and feels like we need to get back on track in order to stay on pace to meet our healthy weight targets in a reasonable time frame.
I won’t be planning any full family meals this week, but we will try to all sit down together to eat our varied suppers.  Since the kids are not participating in the cleanse they will be enjoying kid favorites like grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, hot dogs and chicken nuggets, along with some sides of fresh fruits and veggies. 
Here is a sample of what Scott and I will be eating:
1/4 cup natural almonds (not roasted or salted)
1/2 cup fruit
raw veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers)
hummus (my favorite is garlic)
Dinner / Supper:
salad with fresh spinach or spring mix greens
homemade or light vinaigrette dressing, just enough to taste 
My biggest challenge this week will be living without Dr. Pepper.  Scott’s biggest challenge will be living without Raisin Bran.  What would your biggest challenge be if you did a food cleanse like this?  Have any of you ever done something like this?  I’d love to hear your experiences.  Thanks in advance for sharing.
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Cub Foods Match-up 11/27 – 12/3

It looks like Cub has some great prices on cereal and snacks this week.  I may have to stop in even though I’m not eating those foods this week.  Cereal for as low as $1 / box is hard to beat.  You can check out all the deals and match ups HERE.  Thanks to Definitely Deals for putting together this week’s list.

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CVS Match Ups – 11/27 – 12/2

After last week, the match ups for this ad look a little less exciting, but there are still a few bargains worth chasing down this week.  If you are new to CVS shopping, make sure you sign up for the Extra Care Card so you can take advantage of the Extra Care Bucks offers each week. Once you get started, this is one of the easiest ways I have found to get things for free.  Make sure you also go online and register your card so you can take advantage of the e-mail coupons they often send too.
Here are some of this week’s deals:

Get $8.99 ECB wyb Complete Multi-purpose solution 12 oz Limit 1 Free after ECB – $8.99
As low as free after ECB

Dawn Dish liquid – $0.99
$0.50/1 Dawn Power Clean, Bleach Alternative or Oxi Product, exp. 11/30/11 (P&G 10/30/11)
$0.50/1 Dawn Product, exp. 11/30/11 (P&G 10/30/11)
$.25/1 Dawn 11/27/11 P&G
As low as $.49

Tide or Gain laundry detergent – $5.94
$.50/1 Tide/Downy 11/27/11 P&G
$2/1, $1/2, $0.50/1 Tide Detergent, exp. 11/30/11 (RP 10/23/11) watch expiration date
$1/1, $0.50/1 Gain Detergent or Fabric Enhancer, exp. 11/30/11 (P&G 10/16/11)
As low as $3.94

For the rest of this week’s deals, look HERE.  Thanks to Passionate Penny Pincher for putting this together.
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Penny Prints are Back at Snapfish

Up to 500 prints just 1 cent each and 50% off site-wide!
Penny Prints are back at Snapfish!  Starting today and ending November 28th, you can enjoy 4″ x 6″ prints for just a penny each and 50% off site-wide!  Use the code PENNYNOV and you can print up to 500 photos.  Or, if you want to check out some of the other cool photo gift items they have, you can use the code CYBER50 to get 50% off on just about everything else.  
The best part?  You can use the codes more than once to increase your savings.  I love that!!
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Deals, Deals, Deals

Okay savers, I think I am waving the white flag.  My intention was to sit here and blog my heart away to let you know about every great deal I could find on the web.  But there are just too many and I am too new at this to keep up.  (It’s tough work being a bargain shopper).  So, here is what I CAN do for you this year – Check out these 2 blogs:

Their fingers must be burning with all the deals they are posting today.  :o)  I’m going to sit down with some Diet Dr. Pepper and shop, take a few notes, and learn from the best so that next year I can jump in and will be better prepared for the craziness of Black Friday.

Please do share any deals that you find either here or on the Facebook page so that we can all take advantage of what others are finding.  Happy Shopping!!

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Free Amazon Credit

Check out this good deal from Money Saving Mom – 
Get a free $2 MP3 credit to use on Amazon!
Just go to this page on and type in coupon code STUDYBRK and you’ll get a free $2 credit automatically added to your account!
You must redeem this credit by November 28, 2011.
(Just a note that the link above is a referral link and that it will credit  If you don’t know what that means you can go to her site and read all the details.)
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Black Friday Deals – Best Deals

I just came across this post from Passionate Penny Pincher that put together a huge list of all the top retail deals for this weekend.  Check it out here if you need some hints on where to shop.

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Free Chocolate Turnover From Arby's

Arby's 3 for $5

Need a quick chocolate fix while you shop today?  Stop by Arby’s and get a FREE chocolate turnover.  Print the coupon HERE.  Happy Shopping!!

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