Meal Planning Tips for Families

One of the easiest ways to save money and stick with a budget when raising children is to start meal planning. You can easily plan out a week of food for the entire family and end up saving quite a bit of cash. If you’re looking for some easy to follow meal planning tips for families, then you’ve come to the right place. Today I am sharing the best meal planning tips for families to help you save money and get your weekly meals organized to alleviate stress.

Meal Planning Tips for Families

Make a Master List

You will know best what meals work great for your family and what meals are not so popular. Create a master list of 10-20 meal ideas that your family will enjoy. This master list will be your go-to whenever you start to make up that weekly meal plan. It helps save time and stress involved with prepping for your weekly family meals.

Save Easy Recipes

While you will want the master list of meal ideas that have worked for your family in the past, consider looking up new easy recipes. When you add a few more new meal ideas that cost less and are easy to whip up, you’re helping to use meal planning to the best of its abilities. This will save you time and money which is usually the sole purpose of learning how to master meal planning.

My Favorite Of All Meal Planning Tips – Plan to Eat

I use Plan to Eat and absolutely love it!  Click my referral link here to learn more about it.  It’s an app that saves all my recipes so easily (just a few clicks if I’m saving a recipe from a blog or a recipe website), it automatically creates a shopping list that I can click off as I shop (or find that I already have that item on hand at home), and I can easily add additional items as I think of them through the week so they’re already on my list when I’m ready to shop.  My husband introduced it to me a few years ago and it has been life changing.  If I don’t know what I want for the week, I pull up the app and add them to my week with a few clicks and my store list is ready.  It does cost a little after the free trial but it saves us so much where we eat out less and do less grabbing whatever while we walk around the store that it easily pays for itself within the first month of using it.  Of all my meal planning tips, this is the best!  Plan to Eat, check it out. 🙂

Consider Meal Prep Sunday

There are many meal options online for families who are perfectly okay with taking Sunday to meal prep. You can use your meal planning menu to have homemade frozen meals. You will need gallon size freezer storage bags, the ingredients for each meal and room in your freezer if you try to cut corners with this method of creating meals ahead on Sundays.

Predict the Meal Mood

Sure this may sound silly but if you think about, it makes sense. Your family may not be in the mood for hearty soup recipe at dinner time if the weather has been warm all day long.  I’m really bad about wanting a hearty soup in the middle of summer and it never goes over well with my family.  (I should try a cold soup but the idea of one doesn’t sit well with me.  One day, I’ll try one, one day!)  Consider what each day holds for weather patterns and prepare your meal plan for the week based on the appropriate weather patterns. This ensures you make lighter meals on warmer days and heartier meals on colder days. (Like this Crock Pot White Chicken Chili Recipe)

Chocolate Pie Recipe

This Chocolate Silk Pie is always right no matter the outdoor temperature! 🙂

Use a Calendar

Whether it’s a white erase board calendar or one that you have for use in your purse, you will need to keep a calendar that organizes the meal planning for each week. This will help you stay on track and prepare properly each day for whatever is on your meal plan agenda for the day. Having a family calendar on the wall with your meal plan is even better to keep everyone in the loop.

The last few tips I have to lend to you when it comes to meal planning for families is to always use a grocery list when you head to the grocery store. You will want to ensure you stay on track and on a budget when it comes to meal planning success.

Prime Day Deals – Blackstone Griddle Sale 30% Off!

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Blackstone Griddle Grill

This Blackstone Griddle is incredible!  We own the first generation model and got it on clearance before this one rolled out. It was my husband’s Father’s Day gift this year.  He loves it and we’ve used it to make bacon, pancakes, cheese steaks, hamburgers, and so far everything has turned out fabulous. I can’t wait to try some stir fry type meals.  This new fancy griddle is even better with extra accessories and features that ours doesn’t have.  Plus, it’s 30% off today when you shop here on Amazon.  Don’t you just love Prime Day?  I do!  If you haven’t joined yet, sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime to take advantage of this Prime Day Deal and get free 2-day shipping!

Original Price: $299.00
With Deal: $209.30 & FREE shipping for Prime members
You Save: $89.70!! (30%)

Click here to see all the Amazon Prime Deals I’ve shared.  Maybe later when I’m not in deal sharing mode I’ll share pics of the Blackstone in action.  It’s truly a great cooking tool to have on hand and we love ours!

Are Plastic Straws Out? Plus, Alternatives!

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10 Plastic Straw Alternatives

Plastic straws may very well be a thing of the past before we know it.  Big companies are taking a hard look at these cheap but harmful beverage tools.  Starbucks said in a press release that they are working on removing all plastic straws by 2020.  This will effect all of their stores (roughly 28,000 from what I’ve read) and that alone will eliminate 1 billion straws a year.  1 BILLION!  That’s crazy to think about.  My son’s favorite color is green and that’s his favorite part of the Starbucks experience so I’ll have to work to find him a green reusable straws.  Starbucks isn’t the only ones making a change.  McDonald’s has mentioned a desire to go that direction.  Even bigger than those two giants, Seattle, Miami Beach and Malibu, California have already passed bans on plastic straws in its bars and restaurants, with Seattle being the first to completely eliminate them.  With the straw landscape changing course I’ve hit to the internet to find plastic straw alternatives.  Here are the 10 best reusable straw options I’ve found!  (You can go here to read more about how the straw industry is changing.)

Stainless Steel Straws

  • 1.  Stainless steel – We already use stainless steel straws in our home for cold beverages I’ve never taken them out…yet.  You can buy my favorite ones here for $6.89 for 4 on Amazon (note, the price could change at any time).  It even comes with a handy brush for easy cleaning.

Rose Gold Straws

  • 2.  Rose gold straws – Okay, so this is the same as the stainless steel straws above but they’re straight and half of them are rose gold!! Who doesn’t love rose gold?  Now you can feel a little fancier while helping save the planet. This set is available here on Amazon for $14.95 and comes with a cleaning brush and convenient carrying case for on the go sipping.

Lolistraws

  • 3.  If you’re Shark Tank lovers like myself you’ll remember an edible cup and plate company.  That company is Loliware.  Well, they are in the process of making edible straws.  You can preorder yours here for a discount through Indiegogo.   Lolistraw by Loliware – It’s the world’s first edible and hyper-compostable straw.  The Lolistraw is made from seaweed and its coloring and flavor comes from fruit and vegetable pigments.  How cool?!

Hay Straws

  • 4. Hay straws!  Sounds crazy but fun, right?  Hay straws are made from wheat stems, which would other wise go to waste.  You can find them here on Amazon and get a pack of 100 for $10.

Glass Straws

  • 5.  Glass straws.  These aren’t your plain Jane glass straws, these come in six beautiful colors and are shatter-resistant.  This might be the set I need to get for my son to take with us to restaurants!  It’s not quite the vibrant Starbucks green but I think he’ll like it.  You can find this set here on Amazon for $10.29.

Aardvark Paper Straws

  • 6.  Aardvark paper straws. These paper straws are made right here in the U.S. using only materials that are non-toxic, BPA free, and elemental chlorine free.  This sounds like a great change from plastic straws anyway, don’t you think?  You can find these here on Amazon.  I’m not giving a price for these because they come in a variety of colors and sizes so the price varies greatly.

Biodegradable Straws

  • 7.  Plant based straws.  Their Amazon listing says, “Straws are awful for the environment but not these, these straws are made of plant-based and other non-toxic materials, they are even compostable! There is no petroleum and they are completely food-safe.”  That sounds good to me.  A friend of mine just found out that her work uses these.  She has used them for months and never realized it wasn’t a “regular” old plastic straw.  You can get a pack of 200 here on Amazon for $11.50.

Simply Straws

  • 8.  Simply straws.  This party pack of straws comes wit a heftier price tag but comes with a lifetime guarantee.  The blue straw is especially vibrant and lovely!  You can get this set here on Amazon for $44.43.

Bamboo Drinking Straws

  • 9.  Bamboo drinking straws.  This eco-friendly product boasts, “100% ORGANIC, PESTICIDE FREE, FERTILIZER FREE, AND GMO FREE are all top priority factors for a premium product.”  This set of 12 sells here on Amazon for $12.21.

Silicone Reusable Straws

  • 10.  Silicone reusable straws.  This rainbow set of angled straws will be great for on the go drinking.  This set sells here on Amazon for $8.99. An affordable option that is also kid-friendly and dishwasher safe.

Hard Plastic Reusable Straws

  • 11. Hard plastic reusable straws.  These straws are colorful and will bring a little pep to an otherwise boring meal.  This 18 straw set comes with a cleaning brush and is available here on Amazon for $6.99.

Oops, I actually gave 11!  Oh well, the rose gold stainless steel and the stainless steel one were pretty much the same one anyway, right? haha

Those are the best reusable straw options I could find but I would love to hear if you know of another one.  I heard of a really cool ice mold you could use to make an ice straw.  Obviously, this wouldn’t be great for travel but super fun on a summer day.  Unfortunately, it isn’t still in production.

Plastic Straw Alternatives

10 Things We Love Made in North Carolina

This post is brought to you by Bob Fisher Chevrolet.

Made In North Carolina

While I’m native to West Virginia, I now reside in North Carolina.  Not only is it a special place to me because I’ve raised my family here but also because of the beautiful scenery that surrounds it and the distinct culture that is North Carolina.  There are things that distinguish North Carolina from the rest of the country, brands that make it stand out.  I’ve curated a list of the best products made in North Carolina that I’m sure you’ll love.

  • –  Krispy Kreme Doughnuts: Krispy Kreme was founded in 1937 by Vernon Rudolph who bought a recipe from a French chef and had intended to only sell to the local grocery stores but through constant public demand to buy the sweet smelling pastries he relented and started selling right from the bakery as well. The first bakery was opened in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
  • –  Crab Pot Trees:  Crab Pot Trees began when Harvey and Sons in Davis, NC experimented with their colored crab traps (locally termed “crab pots”) and the Core Sound Christmas tree was born.  The unique artificial tree was an immediate hit with friends and neighbors, who loved seeing the traditional material put to a new use.  Crab Pot Trees are now sold across the US.
  • –  Le Bleu: Le Blue is bottled water, bottled under a patent pending purification process and nationally sold. They also bottle sport drinks, coffee and flavored drinks. This product hails from Advance, North Carolina.
  • –  Simplicity Sofas: Sold through the Simplicity Sofa website only, this unique furniture store creates unique, one of a kind furniture that is multi-functional and assembled by the consumer. They offer one of kind designs that are all hand-made and customized by only one of 30 frame options. These 30 frame are able to create hundreds of sofa’s, sofa sleepers and sectionals.
  • –  Cheesecakes By Alex: Alex baked his first cheesecake at the request of his mother-in-law.  Unhappy with the way it turned out he baked and baked until he had the perfect recipe.  Not long after his friends and family agreed he had the best cheesecakes around, Cheesecakes By Alex was born.
  • –  Lenovo: Based out of Whitsett, North Carolina Lenovo is the world’s second largest manufacturer of PC’s. Responsible for hand-held electronics like the ThinkPad and the ThinkPad Helix. The opening of this facility is the beginning of American made products relinquishing the reliance on overseas manufacturers and created hundreds of jobs.
  • –  R.J. Reynolds tobacco company: Based out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the manufacturer of Winston cigarettes, which used to be the top selling brand in the 60’s and 70’s. R.J. Reynolds is now conducting studies and testing to come up with or even transform the use of tobacco.
  • –  Pepsi: Originally “the Brad drink”, developed by Caleb Bradham in New Bern, North Carolina in 1893.  Pepsi is now one of the world’s top competing soft drinks.
  • –  The Universal Bar Code: Developed by George Lauer in collaboration with IBM in 1969 and implemented in 1972. The Universal Bar Code was intended to make a supermarket scanner code for inventory purposes.
  • –  Goody’s Headache powder: Developed in Winston-Salem, North Carolina by a pharmacist by the name of Martin Goodman in 1932. Goody’s Headache powder can now be found in grocery stores and convenience stores nationwide.
  • Mt. Olive Pickles: The largest independent pickle company in the United States, made by Shickrey Baddour in the mid 20’s in Mt. Olive, North Carolina. Mt. Olive Pickles are now sold nationally in most food chains.

Texas Pete, Hanes, Cheerwine, Vick’s Vapor Rub and Sara Lee also found their start in North Carolina!

Do you have a favorite Made in North Carolina product?

Double Chocolate Silk Pie

This post contains affiliate links.

Chocolate Pie Recipe

Double Chocolate Silk Pie

Hello Double Chocolate Silk Pie, you just became my go-to holiday dessert!

Look, I’m going to be completely honest with you, I love to experiment in the kitchen and come up with delicious and different recipe ideas! Everything that has to do with savory dishes, breakfast, desserts, and drinks inspires me, and while I love quick and easy meals just as the next person, I also love to spend time cooking with my loved ones.

Except when it comes to holidays. When it comes to holiday food, I like to stick with the tried and true recipes we all know and love. I want to make sure that I’m cooking a fail proof recipes that’s going to come out flawless (who has time for a fail when you have a ton of people over and all the expectations?). I also like to make sure I’m cooking a recipe that everyone loves, it’s party food after all so, I want all of my guests to really feel how much I love them.

But most important of all I also want to make something that’s fairly easy and quick because while I love to spend time cooking on an everyday basis, when ti comes to holidays I just want to hold a little bit tighter my family and I want to be really present during the whole celebration. This double chocolate silk pie it’s perfect because of that!

I mean it’s a quick and easy recipe, it’s extremely delicious and every single person that tries it loves it and raves about it, and it’s totally and completely fail proof. This recipe has been tested a million and one times, so it always comes out the same: flawless, delicious and ready to be served and shared.

Chocolate Silk Pie

 

Ingredients

Directions

  • -Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • -In a saucepan over medium heat melt the chocolate chips with the milk.
  • -Incorporate the cocoa powder, heavy cream, vanilla, cornstarch, nutmeg, and sugar. Stir and cook until getting a uniform mix.
  • -Aside, in a bowl beat the egg yolk and add 1 Tbsp of the milk mix to the yolk and whip it up. Repeat the process with each egg, and then pour them into the saucepan with the melted chocolate.
  • -Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • -Fill the pie crust with the chocolate batter.
  • -Bake for 20 minutes.
  • -Remove from the oven and garnish with the grated chocolate.
  • -Serve and enjoy.

Tips

For a lighter take, swap the heavy cream for Greek yogurt and the sugar for maple syrup.

Double Chocolate Silk Pie

Cranberry Apple Cider Punch

Cranberry Apple Cider Punch

Cranberry Apple Cider Punch

Cranberry Apple Cider Punch is the perfect drink for the season and all the parties that come with it!

To say that I’m excited for all the holidays that are around the corner is an undertenant I just can’t wait for them to roll out! There’s something about fall and early winter that calls for parties and gatherings and get-togethers with friends and family + we also get some major holidays like Thanksgiving where good food and drinks are a must.

Every time that I host a party at my home during these months, even if it’s just a meeting with a book club, I make sure that there’s enough Cranberry Apple Cider Punch for everyone, this drink is a total crowd favorite and it’s so delicious I just can’t stop making it.

In case you are wondering, yes, this is also alcohol-free which makes it the perfect drink for the whole family.

I also love that this recipe features all the flavors that are famous during this season, think apples and cranberries and a good amount of spices (can we just agree that cinnamon just makes everything taste like a happy holiday?).

I believe that the reason why this is so flavorful and delicious is that we are making it from scratch. That’s right, we are making homemade apple cider! But worry no! This is incredibly easy and there aren’t any complicated steps or difficult to find ingredients at all!

And while it definitely takes a bit more time than using the bottled version, most of it is hands-off time which is great. That and the fact that the flavor is mind blowing good + how your home smells while this is being cooked are the things that for me, make cooking it from scratch totally worth it!

Cranberry Punch Recipe

Ingredients

  • -4 Cups red apples, chopped
  • -2 Cups sun-dried cranberries
  • -6 Cups water
  • -1 Cup brown sugar
  • -3 Cinnamon sticks
  • -1 Tbsp cloves
  • -3 Tsps ground nutmeg
  • -Thyme sprigs for garnish
  • -Sliced apples, orange, and pears for garnish

Directions

  • -In a pot over medium-low heat add the water, apples, 1 cup of cranberries, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg.
  • -Cover and cook for 1 hour.
  • -Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
  • -Pour the content of the pot into a blender and blend until smooth.
  • -Transfer to the pot and let it simmer over medium heat for 1 hour.
  • -Using a cheesecloth (or a strainer) strain the apple cider into a large pitcher.
  • -Add the apple slices, orange slices, pear slices, cranberries, and thyme sprigs to the glasses. Pour the apple cider into the glasses.
  • -Serve and enjoy.

Cranberry Apple Cider Recipe

Homemade Saltine Crackers

Homemade Saltines Crackers

My friend, Sara, made her own crackers and I was so impressed by her skill I just had to have the recipe.  Because she said her crackers were not only delicious but easy to make I wanted to share this idea with you.  I think a homemade pack of these would be a great hostess gift for any Christmas party!

Prep time: 

Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: Makes about 25 – 1 ½-inch crackers

Ingredients

  • -1 cup all purpose flour
  • -1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • -1 teaspoon sugar
  • -1 teaspoon baking powder
  • -2 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • -Sea salt flakes (like Maldon)
Visit InJenniesKitchen.com for full instructions.

5 Tips to Bringing a Meal to Someone in Need

When someone is in need, sharing a meal with them is the kindest gesture you can do. There are many ways in which you can bring a meal to someone in need. This someone could be a family member, a friend or someone in the local community who simply is hard up for food. Whether you are bringing a meal to someone in need that you personally know or a complete stranger, there are some things to think about first. Today I am sharing 5 tips to bringing a meal to someone in need so that you can provide a smile to someone in need today.

5 Tips to Bringing a Meal to Someone in Need

5 Tips to Bringing a Meal to Someone in Need

Food Allergy Check

Find out if that person in need has any food allergies. These days having a food allergy seems to be pretty common. There are nut allergies, gluten allergies, dairy allergies and so on. Figure out if there are any allergies pertaining to food for this person in need before planning what meal to bring them.

Easy to Reheat Meals

Now that you have done a food allergy check, you should be sure to bring a meal to someone in need that is easily reheated. If this person is sick or feeling down, they may not eat this meal in one seating. Having instructions on the meal for how to reheat the food will go a long way to ensure this person can eat later too.

Kid-Friendly Options

If this person in need has kids in the home, you may want to ensure you add a kid-friendly option. Parents know how finicky kids can get and the parent who may be sick doesn’t have the energy to deal with extra work. Bringing along a kid-friendly option will truly help this person in need if they have kids around.

Consider Dessert

Last, but certainly not least, you should consider bringing a meal that involves a dessert too. This is a nice added treat to bring along because we all know that dessert makes us happy. Bring a basic dessert option such as cookies or cupcakes for the person in need to enjoy after their meal.

Plan Proper Timing

Lastly, you will want to make sure that this person in need has time to enjoy the meal and dessert you brought to them. Ask questions about the proper delivery date and time for this meal to someone in need. Timing will help ensure your kind gesture is met with open arms.

Bringing a meal to someone in need is the perfect way to spread random acts of kindness to your local community. All it takes is a little planning and cooking to brighten this person’s day. During the holiday season, many are without family, bringing them a warm meal could really boost their spirits.

DIY Ginger-Cantaloupe Ice Pop Recipe

Whether you’re entertaining or just trying to cool off this summer, this DIY ginger cantaloupe ice pop recipe is the delicious, refreshing treat that you need in your life.

It’s a healthy, fruit-filled snack is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth – and the best part is they are practically guilt-free!

Ginger-Cantaloupe Ice Pops

What you need:

  • – 3 slices of fresh ginger
    – 1/4 cup sugar
    – 1 ripe cantaloupe
    – Sliced strawberries (optional)
    – Ice pop molds and wooden craft sticks

What to do:

In a small sauce pan, add the sugar and 1/2 cup water over medium heat. Cook just until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and drop in ginger. Set aside until cooled. (Remove ginger when ready to use!)
Slice cantaloupe in half and scoop out seeds. Spoon cantaloupe flesh into a blender. Blend until smooth.
Add just enough of the cooled ginger syrup to sweeten as desired. Save the remaining syrup for another use.
Pour into ice pop molds and freeze overnight. For a variation, push a few sliced strawberries down into the ice pop molds before freezing.

Recipe Credit: Terra’s Kitchen

National Iced Tea Day

This post is sponsored by Snapple in conjunction with Acorn Influence.  All opinions are mine.

Summer has been great for my family so far.  We’re loving the shade that the trees at our new home provides.  We’re making good use of the industrial strength bubble maker I bought.  Our chalk drawings are getting better and better.  As a family we keep going and going and it’s important to me that we take time to slow down.  One way I love to relax and slow down is to have a picnic or even a drink outside.  Just being in nature and talking with each other does wonders for my mood.  The stress of my to-do list just melts away.

Snapple

Two of my favorite drinks of summer are lemonade and ice tea.  Snapple has come up with a new flavor of tea and it’s absolutely delicious.  It’s a mango tea and it has the cutest name (I’ve always been a sucker for a cute name!) – Takes 2 to Mango Tea.  Snapple’s brand slogan is “Made from the Best Stuff on Earth” and yea, this Snapple Mango Tea is the best stuff on Earth.

I went to Walmart and purchased a case of Snapple Takes 2 to Mango Tea because it’s so good and I knew my husband would love it.  He did and he even had it opened and in the fridge before I got a picture of the 6 pack case.  I actually went back to grab a few more cases for our party today and I still didn’t manage to get a picture.

The tea tastes freshly brewed and is full of mango flavor.  I love that it’s sweet but not too sweet.

Get this new flavor, Snapple Mango Tea today at Walmart. Because June 10th is National Iced Tea Day Snapples are on Rollback at Walmart until July 31st!  Get it by the bottle to try it out and then go back for the case like we did. Walmart makes it easy to stock up…especially with their grocery pick-up.