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!



A Rambling September Life Update

Dear Friends,

First of all…I apologize for not getting a post up last Thursday. To those of you who have insomnia, you have my deepest sympathies! I used to have problems with this many moons ago, but it’s mostly gone the way of vaudevillians and parachute pants until recently. For some silly reason, I’ve been struggling with it again these last couple of weeks. I’ll lay in bed for an hour or two before falling asleep, then I’m wide awake sometime between the hours of 4 and 5 in the morning.

I was so tired Tuesday that I took a couple of hours of PTO and went home because I didn’t think I could make it through the afternoon without falling asleep at my desk. On my way home I picked up some new pillows and some decaf peppermint tea. When the kids went to bed at 8:30, I made some tea and then soaked for a long time in the tub while I drank it. I settled into bed just a little after 9, and I finally fell asleep in less than an hour. I woke up early again, but I was able to force myself back to sleep. I was able to repeat this last night, so I think there might be light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank goodness for that, because Tuesday was also the first day of my Fall semester at Umass Amherst University Without Walls. Both classes are writing classes, so I really need my brain to function well enough for college-level writing. That is definitely going to require sleep, and caffeine…lots of caffeine!

My boys also start their religion classes, called SRE for School of Religious Education, at St. Vincent Parish next week. From that point on they will have class every Wednesday night, except for during holiday weeks, from now until May. Hunter is in 8th grade this year, which means he will be making his confirmation this upcoming Easter season. For any of my fellow Catholics out there, you know that this is a big milestone in his life that he’s been working towards for the last seven years.

Life in the gardening world is…still rather interesting. It’s September, and I finally have tomatoes. They’re all still green, but the squirrels haven’t been bothering them. I’m not sure if they’ve forgotten about them, or moved on to food that can actually be stored for the winter, but there is a slim amount of hope that I will still have a few tomatoes before the season ends!

Everything else I’ve begun breaking down. The peppers are still going, but I pulled the green beans, emptied the potato containers, and left the garden plot bare. The crabapple tree hasn’t come down yet, so I didn’t plant any fall vegetables. At this point it’s too late to plant them so I’m just letting it go until next Spring. I need to get the plot tilled under again, so I will be doing that in the next week or two. If I’m being honest, it was on my list to do last weekend, but I never got around to it. By the time I was done mowing, trimming and pulling weeds, I was over the yard work!

Another project I had on the list last Spring that I still haven’t gotten around to doing is the herb drying rack. I talked to Dad about cutting the boards down to the size that I need, but I never made it around to taking them to him. Now is when I really need the rack, too, because the time is here to cut the herbs that are overtaking my planters and get them dried and stored to use over the winter. I have some fresh ones growing in my kitchen window, but they’re pretty spindly and aren’t going to get me very far over the winter. It just isn’t the same as growing them outdoors!

Truth be told, I’m ready to put the gardening season behind me. We are 17 days away from it officially being Fall! My gears have already shifted to camping, baking, making trips to the orchard for apples and pumpkin butter and mums, and buying a few new wardrobe pieces….most of which were delivered today. It was like Christmas came early when I got home this evening! Jeans, a couple of button downs, leggings, a big comfy sweater, plus new ruffle trim pants from Charlotte Russe and a couple of pairs of earrings. My favorite purchase is a pair of J. Crew black pumps from Thred Up that I cannot wait to wear!


The change in seasons always means a little beauty and fashion updating for me. I filter through my wardrobe and get rid of a few items that I haven’t worn in a while or are worn out, then replace them with some new pieces. I also like to add a couple of new lipsticks and nail colors in season-friendly colors.

I went to Target on Monday morning and bought a tube of NYX Lingerie matte liquid lipstick, in the shade Embellishment. It’s a perfect nude mauve color for Fall, and I already have a couple of reds – True Red and Divine Wine, both L’Oreal Color Riche lipsticks – so I’m set for the season. I also added a new mauve blush to the mix, but that’s about it for me on the makeup front. I’m not a big makeup person beyond my beloved lip and nail colors. All of my makeup fits in a little basket in the corner of my bathroom counter…except for my lipstick. I have a makeup bag stuffed full of lip colors that goes with me everywhere!

I still need to work on the nail colors. I had an entire basket full of polish, and most of them were several years old. I turn my air up to 80 degrees during the day while I’m gone at work, and my nail polish has started to suffer from it. My new nail colors that I bought this summer are okay, but the bottles of Essie polish that were 2-3 years old started to get thick and sticky. There really isn’t any saving them once that happens. So I tossed the sticky ones and put the rest in the top shelf of my refrigerator door.

By the time I was done tossing the bad bottles I only had about a dozen left – at least half of which were some shade of green (who wants to guess my favorite color?)! So now I need to restock some pinks, reds, and neutrals. At $9.00 per bottle, I’ll just pick a new one up here and there over the next month or two until I have a decent collection of colors again.

Also on the horizon – Hunter is borderline obsessed with doing graffiti lately. He’s actually become really good at it, and he made us all go down the riverfront on Monday so he could spend two and a half hours decorating the wall in chalk. I helped him fill in the letters in purple to help speed things along, and then he started giving me grief because I was taking too long to get it filled in and was wasting chalk. So I went faster and used less…and you can definitely tell which letters Hunter did and which ones I did!


I guess I’ll leave the graffiti to the master. I also secretly hope that the next time we take a trip to the riverfront for him to leave his mark, it’s about 10 degrees cooler than it was that day! It feels like Summer isn’t going to let go for a while here in Southeast Missouri. But my friends, Fall has definitely arrived in my heart!