Weekly Meal Plan and My Bedroom Update

Happy Sunday Friends!

I hope you’ve had a lovely week! I’ve just finished my weekly food prepping and am now writing to you before I go visit my grandparents, then pick up my boys from their dad. First things first, I will start with what is on the menu for this week!

I’ve just finished prepping a balsamic three bean salad for lunches this week, which is a recipe I got from Taste of Home. It is a blend of green beans, kidney beans and cannellini beans, which I put on a base of spinach and arugula mix and topped with some chopped red onion and cherry tomatoes for a full lunch salad. And as always, I’ve blended him up a few smoothies in mason jars for breakfast.

For our dinners I’m testing out a plant based alfredo sauce recipe with a cashew base, and I’m also making a pork tenderloin for the boys (I make them one meat-friendly meal per week) with a plant based scalloped potato recipe which I am also testing for the first time! I have some tempeh for myself to sub in for that meal. And for Michael’s dinner prep for the week I’ve made balsamic chicken and vegetables from Better Homes & Gardens – except I left out the Italian dressing because of all the oil and instead used a white wine vinegar blended with Italian Seasonings, a bit of Stevia and a splash of water. I also air fried the chicken tenderloins to avoid the oil.

Balsamic Chicken & Vegetables
Balsamic Three Bean Salad

Guess who remembered to take pictures this week! If you remember from last week’s meal plan, I made tomato soup one night and falafel gyros another night. I actually did take photos and will share them below this paragraph. I think that next Sunday’s blog I may actually skip the meal prep so that I can get one week ahead. I think it would be more beneficial to you to see photos of the meals that I’m sharing in my Sunday blog, instead of meals that don’t match the meal plan. I will just have to make sure I commit myself to snapping those photos!!

Tomato Basil Soup & Salad
Falafel Gyro with Salad & Fries

I talked in last Sunday’s blog about new bedding I had purchased, and I have to tell you that everything I ordered from Amazon ended up being returned. The all-season down alternative comforter I purchased was way too hot. I am always freezing and it takes a LOT for me to get too hot – so if I’m saying it’s too hot, then it’s really bad! I returned the comforter and opted for this light weight down alternative comforter from Target. It was nice to be able to just walk into the store, buy it, take it home and see if I liked it. It turned out to be absolutely perfect and I couldn’t be more thrilled with it! I managed to pick it up on the last day of their online sale ($15 off), and since the store will price match their online prices I got it for the online sale price.

The duvet cover was another travesty – I’m learning that in addition to electronics, you also cannot trust the reviews for bedding on Amazon! It was a linen/cotton blend and reviews were stellar – almost all five star. It even had 4.6 stars for softness, which blows my mind because that was the roughest, scratchiest fabric I’ve ever slept under! It was like sandpaper against my chin and neck all night, so I returned it immediately. I searched through Wayfair, Overstock, Macy’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond. I even found one I loved at Pottery Barn, but of course the price point was outrageous there – almost $200 for just the duvet, and even more for the pillow shams which are sold separately – so I said nope to that one.

I decided to give my trusty ol’ Target a try again. I figured I could at least feel the fabric in person before buying it, and if it didn’t work I didn’t have to ship anything back, I could just return it to the store. I chose this white waffle weave duvet cover which is currently on sale for 50% off (score! I spent half as much on bedding at Target as I did on Amazon!), and I wasn’t sure about it at first. It only has ties in the corners, none on the sides (I figured I can sew some on if needed), but it turns out that it stays in place perfectly well without any on the sides. I had to sleep under it for a night to see what I really thought – and I love it! It is perfect and I am thrilled with my new bedding!

Speaking of a bedroom update, Michael and I had our kid-free Saturday yesterday, which is one of two days per month that we spend with each other. Last weekend we took a big step forward – we went from dreaming of one day having a future together, to setting a timeline in place and starting to plan for the future. I made a list this week of the things I need to do to my house to have it ready to sell in two years, and Michael and I ventured out to do a little pricing. He needs to replace flooring in his basement, so we did some pricing on that. We also stopped by a furniture store to price living room and bedroom furniture to help us figure out how much money we need to save over the next couple of years to buy a new home, and be able to furnish and update it. There is still lots to discuss and plan, but we got a good start!

We also ventured out to a couple of local shops to pick up some oyster mushrooms and red miso for miso soup. And we found some veggie dumplings at the Asian market so we had those with our soup. For dinner I made the seafood cioppino as planned, but I skipped the beans and ended up sticking to the seafood. I eat meat about once per week, so last night was my night. It was so good and I very much enjoyed it! Michael has the leftovers, though, because one serving was enough for me.

I almost forgot! One more update from last week – Michael’s car. It turns out that it was not his transmission, but a broken axle. A much, much less expensive fix and the car drives on. Luck was definitely in his favor!

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a video about my fruit and veggie wash to edit for Instagram, and a few more episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show to watch before I finish the series. Happy Sunday!


Preparing for the Holidays

Dear friends,

What a weird year it’s been! It’s hard to believe that in just a couple of weeks 2020 will be over, and I’m praying for some sense of normalcy in the upcoming year. With the vaccines now being distributed, we are at last on the path to recovery. We will be celebrating by taking our very first family trip – Michael, me, my boys, and his two kids – to Savannah GA/Tybee Island at the start of the summer. We’ve rented the most beautiful house for a few days and are very much looking forward to the adventure!

Right now, I am battling the usual winter blues and preparing for the holidays, which for us begin this Friday. Friday night we are Christmas caroling with Michael’s parents and siblings. Then Saturday we are having our annual Christmas Cookie Swap party, although – as is the case with everything in 2020 – modified from usual. I normally have an extended group of friends in our area along with family members. But this year it just isn’t safe to have large gatherings, so we’re keeping it small – our close-knit main group of friends, which is nine of us in total – just making the limit of 10 for a gathering.

The challenge for me, being the only plant based one in the bunch, is to plan a spread that will provide plenty of options for me and still keep my carnivore friends happy as well. I’ve decided to lay out a large charcuterie spread on my kitchen island, which is a butcher block table. I’m doing the traditional meats and cheeses, plus a “pickle roll” requested by one of my friends (ham and cream cheese wrapped around pickles and cut like sushi). Then I’ll be adding crackers, toast, fruits, veggies, a variety of hummus dips, olives, and finishing it off with some chocolate covered pretzels and cracker sticks, and Christmas M&Ms.

Then of course, the cookies. I’m making my traditional sugar cookies, which are not vegan since they contain eggs. But I’m also making vegan raspberry thumbprints – not healthy since vegan butter is just a bunch of oil and of course there’s plenty of sugar and refined flour – but still animal- and cholesterol-free. Everyone else will be bringing different cookies too, so I will have a nice variety to mix and match for the family on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve we will be breaking the gathering of 10 rule by one – there will be 11 of us from my immediate family. I was hoping to get to have Christmas dinner a little early and make it 30 miles north to my hometown church to sing with the choir – we haven’t been singing all of this time, but the director is breaking us into groups of about 5 to sing for the Christmas masses – but it doesn’t look like it will happen. My sister, a 21-year-old college student working part time at Walmart, has to work until 3:00 so they (her, my mom and stepdad) won’t be down until around 7:00, and mass is at 8:00. The plus side is that I will have more time to get dinner, and myself, ready.

I’m again the only plant-based one in my family, so I’m planning a carnivore friendly dinner. I’m making my usual beef roast and a pork tenderloin. I’m doing two kinds of mashed potatoes – one with vegetable broth and almond milk, and one with rosemary and white cheddar. I’m making a stuffing using vegetable broth and sourdough bread with the traditional onion, celery and sage. Then green beans and corn to pair with it. Since I do eat a small amount of meat about once per week, I will save that day for Christmas Eve dinner and have one small piece of the pork tenderloin with all of the other plant-friendly sides.

Something I’m super excited about is my Christmas Eve outfit! I like to do a little vintage-y theme each year at Christmas, and this year I bought myself a little Christmas present (which is currently delayed, but my fingers are crossed it will be here before next Thursday)…a beautiful pair of white Tory Burch booties! Which will go with a solid white sequin dress with a crinoline underneath, and a white pillbox hat I have from a past vintage outfit. Finishing it off with white nail wraps (I also ordered some red Christmas plaid ones for an accent nail, but I managed to lose them). So this year’s outfit will be white on white on white!

I will have the Nikon out for both events so I can do a post for you after Christmas to show you all of the spreads, and my complete Christmas outfit. I wish all of you the merriest of Christmases, and strength to endure the rest of the pandemic. Much love to all of you this holiday season.


Menu Planning for the Week at My House

Dear Friends,

I share with you some healthy recipes on my Mediterranean Mondays, but I thought it might be nice to share with you how I plan out my week in food. I have two sons, plus a boyfriend and his six-year-old (who he has every other week) that I cook for regularly, so planning out our meals and creating a corresponding shopping list to stay on budget for a family of five is crucial. I have to plan meals that are healthy, and also budget friendly, which can be tough when you’re buying good quality, health conscious products.

So, here is how I do it:


I start off with lunch for the week. My kids eat at school, because we are fortunate enough to have our school district cover the cost of all kids’ lunches, and there is no way I could keep within the $525 monthly budget for food if I had to buy food for the kids to take to school for lunch, too. So for lunch I’m covering myself and Michael. Whatever I decided to make, I double it so that we have enough for each of us for at least most of the week.

The primary criteria for lunch — I almost always make it something plant-based.

For the upcoming week, I am going to make a kale salad with black-eye peas and roasted sweet potatoes, served over couscous.


I also plan something for breakfast for my kids (and sometimes Michael, depending on what it is) each week. Michael and I do not live together, so if I decide to do something like whole wheat pancake batter or waffle mix, he doesn’t get to benefit from that since I’m making it at my house every morning. I will mix up a double batch of pancake mix, for example, and store it in a large jar in the refrigerator, then simply pour some into a hot skillet to make pancakes for the kids.

For the upcoming week, I am making the Blueberry Lemon Muffins I shared on the blog a few months back.

For me:

My breakfast is pretty much the same every day — I make ahead a few jars of oatmeal on Sunday food prep day, and grab one to take to work with me each morning. Around 9:00 I pour it into a bowl and heat it up for 90 seconds in the microwave. I use rolled oats (I just got a thing of gluten free rolled oats from Azure Standard to try next week), either walnuts or sliced almonds, chia seeds, either raisins, dried cranberries or diced apples, cinnamon, stevia and almond milk.


I come up with two dinner ideas for the weeks when Michael does not have Gabriel and my boys are with their dad for that weekend, and three dinner ideas for the weeks that Michael does have Gabriel and all three of our boys are home for the weekend. I will choose something that makes enough so we get leftovers and I don’t need to cook every single night, and also don’t need to buy a wide range of ingredients that would set me over budget. I also have to try to come up with things that are healthy, but a six-year-old will still eat, which can be challenging too since he’s not adjusted to having a healthy diet quite yet.

Dinner next week:

Next week is an all-boys-on-deck week, so I have three dinners planned with some kid-friendly recipes.

  1. Quinoa Pizza Burgers — plant based burgers topped with mozzarella (I am going to practice with making a vegan mozzarella later this week or weekend, so if that’s successful I will be using that instead), served with side salads.
  2. Roasted Chicken Breast and Fall Vegetables — the fall veggies being roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, inspired by a side dish from Red Lobster that I had on our date night last night.
  3. Mushroom and Sundried Tomato Rotini — a recipe I picked up from Pickup Limes on YouTube last week that looked delicious and simple. A one-dish meal is always a plus for me, and can make plenty for leftovers without spending a fortune!


You know a meal plan can’t be complete without snacks, especially when you have kids, especially when you have teenage boys! I have definitely figured out some staples for us that we all love, and what snacks go on the plan each week depends mostly one what we’re out of and need to replace.

Our Go-To’s

Cranberry Chocolate Low-Carb Granola Bars are Michael’s favorite snack, so I make these regularly.

Veggies and hummus — I recently started making my hummus homemade to avoid the preservatives in the store-bought variety. We all love roasted red pepper hummus! So much so that I measure it out (2 tablespoons into a 4oz jar) to make sure my kids eat the right amount and not the entire container at once.

Chips and salsa — I buy the organic mutli-grain chips from Aldi for my house, and also buy the organic black bean chips from Aldi for Michael. I also measure out 2 tablespoons of the salsa into the 4oz jars like I do the hummus.

Fruit — mostly apples and grapes are the favorites, although I personally love raw cranberries (yay for those being in season right now!) and grapefruit.

Organic plain Greek yogurt — I like to minimize dairy as much as I can, but yogurt is one of Logan’s favorites. So I buy it plain and organic, then sweeten it with a little stevia and some vanilla extract. I scoop it out into 8oz jars and sprinkle a few dark chocolate chips on top.

Nuts and cheese — another dairy snack that my other child likes. Hunter is my super picky kid, so it’s strictly roasted peanuts for him, plus an ounce of cheese — usually white cheddar. I measure the peanuts out (1/4 cup in a 4oz jar) for him, otherwise he would eat the entire container in one sitting. And I cut up the cheese into 1oz chunks so he can grab one to eat with his jar of nuts.

Celery and peanut butter or ranch — I wash and chop up the celery, and put as many sticks as possible into an 8oz jar, then measure out the appropriate serving size of either peanut butter or ranch into 4oz jars.

Noticing a trend? I use a lot of glass jars! If you have teenagers, then you know that they have absolutely no concept of portion control. So in order to make the snacks last a week instead of a day, I do this to make sure they a) are not overeating, and b) aren’t making me blow my budget on snacks!


When we don’t have the kids, I don’t plan anything. We usually have enough leftovers and ingredients around to throw something together, but we also have date night on Saturdays when all of the kids are away so we will eat out or pick up supplies to make something fun at home. Our last date night, for example, we went by an Asian grocer in town called Pacific Rim and picked up some things to make sushi, plus a bag of frozen veggie dumplings.

For next week

Chili! This is one of the few foods my oldest picky child loves, it’s cheap, it’s easy to make, and it lasts the whole weekend. I probably make this about once a month during the cold seasons. Our weeks are busy, and I spend a few hours on Sundays prepping breakfast, snacks, and lunch for the week, so I refuse to spend any more time than that cooking for every meal all weekend long!

Since I’m the only one who would probably be almost entirely plant-based in the family if not for feeding everyone else, I will keep part of the chili meat-free for myself, but the rest will have a small amount of ground turkey in it to please the others.

The Shopping List

As I add meals to the plan, I list out the ingredients needed for each meal. I then put the ingredients on a list in the order that they’re in at the grocery store (to keep my shopping trips quick and efficient), and list out the rounded-up prices of each item to the side, with a total at the bottom. This way I know how much I can expect to spend before I go to the store and keep on-budget.

So how much are we spending next week? $148, which includes a few items I’m buying in bulk from Sams Club for the month, like walnuts, almonds and dried cranberries which I use both in my oatmeal and in Michael’s granola bars. The rest of the weeks of the month are usually between $100 and $125.

I also will usually place an order through Azure Standard for an item or two that we use often, and if I do that I allocate $50 of the budget to that. This month I just bought a 5lb bag of gluten free rolled oats and a 6-pack of Ezekiel bread to get us through the next month, so I won’t need to buy either of those things on our shopping trips.

With this being a holiday week, things are pretty abnormal this week so I’m taking a brief hiatus on meals and photos. Next week, however, I’m looking at doing a post on snack and food prep, with photos of how I divide and store them. I’m also considering doing weekly meal plan posts, shorter in description than this one has been, but with more details of ingredients and links to any recipes if I’m using something from online.

One of the biggest struggles in learning to eat healthy, I’m noticing, is figuring out how to cook and shop in a different way than people are used to. My hope is that sharing meal plans and ingredients can help simplify that for people who are transitioning into a healthy way of life. If this is something you would like to see more of, please let me know!

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!



How I Structure My Week & Plan My Meals

How is it possible that we are already 24 days into 2019?!? In my mind I still feel like it should be August. Time has accelerated so much for me in the last year and I’m trying really hard to be present in the moment and live deliberately so that I don’t let life pass right before my eyes. I really wish I knew how to slow time down!

It actually hit me last Sunday, when I was overtired and not getting much done, that laying around exhausted and useless is not how I want to spend my time. I actually thought, “if this was my last day on earth, would I be happy with how I’m spending it right now?” My immediate reaction was absolutely not! I am never happy with just laying around on the couch or in bed, begging my body to get some extra sleep so I can feel alive again. Being tired is by far the thing I hate most in the world.

At any rate, the “last day on earth” thought that popped into my mind was one that inspired a bit of a perspective shift for me. Every day since I’ve asked myself that same question–would I be happy with what I’ve done today if it were my last day on earth? Would I be proud of myself, my actions, what I’ve accomplished? It’s even given me the idea to do a “Last Day on Earth Project”, where I live by that rule every day for a week and track what I do and the decisions I make as a result. I haven’t decided yet, but it’s something that may potentially be upcoming on the blog. Please stand by!

Yesterday was a full and productive day. Logan wanted to go to Annie Laurie’s a downtown antique store, to shop for a knife to add to his collection. Once his wishes were fulfilled, we went to the Marquette building to get some coffee (and tea for Logan), camp out on a comfy couch, and get some reading done. I’ve nearly finished Witness, the book I’m reading to learn a bit about Jewish culture before writing my own novel.

My friends and I had another fun night out, even in spite of the snow and gusty winds. Our original intentions were to go to Jackson, the next town over from where I live in Cape Girardeau, and have dinner at a restaurant called Tractor’s, with post-dinner drinks at Barrel 131. We had already rescheduled it once, and now we have to reschedule again. With the bad weather came bad roads, and Barrel 131 decided to close early. So we altered plans and went to Seis Amigos for dinner, with after-dinner drinks at Cask…both places within a mile of home for three of us. Even though we didn’t get to keep our original plans, we didn’t let Mother Nature stop us from enjoying our Saturday evening!

On Sunday I didn’t leave the house all day. It snowed again, my street was a solid sheet of ice, and I nixed our plans to drive 30 miles north to go to church and visit my grandparents. We had to drive up there on Monday anyway so Hunter could get his hair cut, so we would just wait and see my grandparents then. So on Sunday, I hunkered down and got things planned out for this week.

If you don’t know this about me–I am an organizer, and I love my excel spreadsheets! I use Google sheets on my phone so I can have access to the same documents everywhere. Every time I find a meal idea I want to try, I save it to a tab on my 2019 document titled “meal ideas.” I label each idea with the week I want to try it, so when that week rolls around I can go to the meal ideas tab, see what meals I want to try for the week, then pull up the recipes and make a shopping list of the ingredients I need. I also have ideas on this same tab for lunch and snacks. I try to choose three recipes per week, so I have plenty of variety from my usual, go-to dishes.

{On my 2019 spreadsheet, the tabs I have include goals (to keep my goals for the year front and center for reference), to-do-list (which I use to keep track of work and school tasks), fitness (which details the specifics of my upper body, lower body and ab workouts, plus poses for yoga flows and how many minutes/miles for walking and elliptical), fitness log (for planning out what I’ll do each day, then highlighting whether I got it done or not), diet (listing the basic food items I need to keep around to help with making my shopping list), meal ideas, 2019 ledger (a ledger I have broken out by month to track spending, with an auto-sum feature to automatically add up my entries), and 2019 reads to keep track of my 36 book reading goal for this year}

Next up is my shopping list. I keep a list in the notes on my phone of things I’ve run out of, plus the ingredients for the meals I want to make, and additional items I need for snacks, breakfasts, etc., and make a list in order of where the items are in the grocery store, and write the approximate price of each item out to the side so I can track how much I’m spending and keep myself on-budget.

So for example…my go-to spot is Aldi. First thing inside the door at Aldi are the nuts on the left. So if we’re out of peanuts (one of Hunter’s favorites for snacking), that will be at the top of my list because it’s the first thing in the store. Then crackers if we need those, which are opposite the peanuts by the front door. Then wine, then bread and salsa. After that is the produce section, so I put any produce items on the list next. After that comes eggs and almond milk. Up the next aisle are condiments and vinegars, then canned goods such as beans and broths…I think you get the idea! I put everything on the list in order of where it is in the store so there isn’t any backtracking and I can get in and out quickly.

listI keep the running total of how much I’m spending, so that I know how much cash back I can get each week to use for going out and enjoying life with friends or my kiddos. I basically take whatever the price of something usually is and round up to the next dollar to make sure I account for tax. At the checkout I am almost always under what I have budgeted, and that is a great feeling!

This image was my shopping list for this week (yesterday was my grocery shopping day). On the dinner list for this week: Grilled chicken with chili-lime rice and veggies, and Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bowls. The boys are gone to their dad’s this weekend and we have quite a bit of stuff left in the fridge from last week, so I didn’t need many new dinner ideas.

As for snacks: yogurt and granola (Logan’s favorite, which needed replenished this week), peanuts with cheddar cheese (Hunter’s favorite, which also needed replenished this week), and blueberry-lemon power bites for me. We still have plenty of veggies and humus left, so that will likely be on the list for next week. Lastly, my work lunches for this week: Bean and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, and Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples. For both of these I already have all of the ingredients I need at home, so I didn’t need to add any of the ingredients to the shopping list. Everything else on the list is just fridge and pantry staples we were out of.

Aside from this, I put together meals and lunches from whatever I have on hand in the fridge and pantry, because I love to keep some spontaneity in my meal planning too. I’ve learned that being too structured can cause more stress than it relieves, so I like to leave room in my organized life for a little flexibility. I’ve also found that a lot of my recipes, like most of the ones I share here on my Mediterranean Monday posts, are born in that flexible space, simply from playing around with different ingredients that I have in the kitchen.

This is also why I don’t meal prep. I like to plan some meals, but have room to get creative too. I just make sure that I make enough that I can take leftovers to work for lunch…and I keep lunch items around for when I don’t have leftovers. Every night after dinner, as I’m cleaning up and putting food away, I pack my lunch for the next day. There really isn’t an extra step involved because I’m already putting it away anyway. I also use that time to set up the coffee pot for the morning, so when I get up the coffee is waiting on me.

If you have any tips or advice on how you plan your meals, your shopping lists, or do meal prep, feel free to share! I hope you’re having a happy and healthy week!