Want to save money, save time, reduce stress AND lose some weight?

Plan your meals.

Planning your meals isn’t all that difficult, either.  All it takes is about two hours a week to start (as little as 30 minutes once you get going) and a few simple guidelines.

1.  Get some sort of planner.  I always did my menus in Excel and just printed them myself, but any large-box calendar will work; just divide each day into three meals.

2.  (This will help reduce time in the future)  Make a list of some of you or your family’s favorite breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.  Don’t worry about ingredients; just get a main dish.  List at least seven in each category, but more is actually better in this case.

For example: Breakfasts might have oatmeal, egg sandwiches, yogurt, and french toast.  Lunches might have soup, sandwiches, salad, and tacquitos.  Dinners might have pasta, meatloaf, chicken stirfry, and fish sticks.  Snacks might include oatmeal cookies, apples, ice pops, and rice cakes.

3.  Figure out which days have time constraints.  If you have soccer practice for two kids on Wednesdays from 4-6 pm, you don’t want a time-consuming dinner prep.  If you have a run-out-the-door morning on Mondays, you might want to do yogurt.

4.  Fill in each day (for either a week at a time or a month at a time) with a main dish.  Monday breakfast: yogurt; Monday lunch: PB&J sandwich; Monday dinner: Crockpot chili; Monday snack(s): red apple; rice cakes.

5.  You can stop here if you want and just wing-it with sides, but if you really want to lose weight and have a balanced meal, you’re going to want to fill-in the sides:

a.  Every breakfast should have a protein, a serving of fruit or vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy (which can sometimes double as the protein).  For the “yogurt” on Monday, you could also have a cinnamon bran muffin (whole grain), blueberries and slivered almonds to mix in, and 8 oz of juice.

b.  Every lunch should have a protein, 2 servings of fruits and/or vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy.  For the “PB&J sandwich”, you have peanut butter for protein and can use whole wheat bread for the grains.  Toss in a serving of carrot sticks and 8 oz of your favorite veggie juice smoothie (2 servings of veggies) and a small handful of cheese cubes (dairy) and maybe have 8 oz of water.

c.  Every dinner should have a protein, 2 servings of vegetables, a serving of whole grains, and a dairy.  For the crockpot chili, make sure you put veggies like green and red peppers into the pot at the last minute, have a side salad, piece of homemade cornbread, and glass of milk.

d.  If you only have one snack, it should be fruit- or vegetable-based (the opposite of breakfast works well) AND have a small protein and glass of water.  So have a handful of pea pods with hummus and a glass of water.  If you’re having a second snack (keep that metabolism ramped up!), then you can be a little more liberal (oatmeal cookie and some grapes, maybe?).

Viola!  You have up to four weeks of meals all planned out.  Each night, see what you need to defrost or prep for the next day.  Then each day just follow the menu and you’ll reduce stress, eat better, and save money.

Still don’t feel like going through all the effort to make menus?  Let me do all the work!  One personalized month of menus, including grocery check-off list for each week, for just $50… or sign up for a four-month  subscription (4 months of menus, delivered month-by-month) for just $100 ($25/month).  Email everydaygirlguide@gmail.com for details.

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Have you ever had a great idea… but didn’t do anything with it?  Or maybe you started a project with lots of steam, but never quite got to the end?  I’ve been there many times myself.  I’ve noticed, most often, that I fail if I don’t follow five easy steps toward success.

1.  Take a step.  You’ll never finish what you don’t start, so do something right now.

“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

I have a treasure chest of things that were great ideas that I just never did.  Songs I never composed, letters I never wrote, words I never said.  In each instance, I just never got started at all.

Sometimes I let fear hold me back.  Failure is an awfully scary prospect, after all.  Sometimes I procrastinated until the moment passed.  Sometimes I just wasn’t sure where to start.

Here’s the key: start anyway.  Do something about your idea.  Write it down.  Do research.  Get a plan.  Just do something and do it now.

2.  Make a map.  Every undertaking, even the small ones, fares better with a plan.

“You can do anything, but not everything.”  David Allen

Far too often, we try to do everything at once.  I do it all the time.  I get so caught up in the excitement of getting started that I think I can do it all in one day.  Then I burn out four days later and the idea goes away completely.

Do yourself a favor.  Make a plan.

Start with the big picture.  Where do you want to go, what do you want to do, and why?  Write it down, because you’ll need this information again and again.

Outline the very biggest steps to get to your goal.  Say you want to become a published author.  The big steps are brainstorm ideas, research the market or idea, write the book, and market the book.  Huge steps, but a clear roadmap.

See if you need to go back and break down the big steps into even smaller steps.  This isn’t always necessary, but if you’re writing a book, you may break your book down into pre-writing, outlining, writing, editing, and rewriting.

Finally, make a to do list every single day.  Use a piece of paper.  Get a calendar or planner.  Put it in your Outlook calendar online or on your phone.  Make it as detailed (hour by hour) or simple (a checklist) as you want.

Now you have a map of where to go.

3.  Start walking.  Work on your idea or project every single day.

“Many people who succeed in the face of seemingly impossible conditions are people who simply didn’t know how to quit.”  Robert Schuller

Go run a marathon.  Go on, right now.  No?  Okay, maybe you can’t run a marathon today.  But you can probably do a marathon distance, little by little, if you work at it everyday.  You might even be able to do a real marathon by the end of it… if you work on it every day.

Remember the to-do list?  Here is where it’s essential.  Every single day, make yourself a to-do list of at least three items.  Do not go to bed until those three items are finished.

“One of the secrets of getting more done is to make a to do list every day, keep it visible, and use it as a guide to action as you go through the day.”  Jean de la Fontaine

4.  Always have a destination.  Remember why you’re doing this.

“Remember that your own resolution to succeed is far more important than any other.”  Abraham Lincoln

Remember when I said do write down WHY you’re doing this?  It’s important.

You don’t usually take a trip without knowing where you’re going.  Don’t start a project or goal without knowing why you need to get there, either.  This motivation will carry you past slumps, rocky moments, and plain old laziness.

Ever started a diet just because you felt you should lose a few pounds?  Those diets are generally not successful.  Go on a diet because your health is at stake and you suddenly have motivation.

Keep it at the forefront of your mind.  Use a photo, a key phrase, or just a single word, but always know WHY you’re doing this.

5.  Reach your destination.  Never quit until you’re finished.

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle

You can eat an elephant if you just keep taking bites.  You can run a marathon if you just keep taking steps.  You can reach your goal if you just don’t stop.

That doesn’t mean not to take breaks.  If it’s a long-term goal, schedule some rest breaks.  But then start right back up again.  The important thing is to never, ever quit.

Use these five steps, throw in your own willpower, talent, and life experience, and you’ll finish what you started, with flying colors.

Prior posts in this series:

http://wp.me/p2cUhM-f

http://wp.me/p2cUhM-j

So, if you’ve been reading along, at this point you know that I’ve messed up my relational priorities pretty badly.

I’ve given up my strong faith in God to be the woman needed to become someone’s wife.

I’ve trivialized my marriage to be a mom, first and foremost.

Then I left my kids behind in a welter of confusion when I no longer had a good compass to steer me.

I spent the next couple of years trying to get my relationships prioritized correctly.

I was in a relationship that again subverted God, my kids, and even myself to be who he needed.  That relationship ended badly.

I kept flip-flopping between trying to survive and trying to do what was best for my kids.  My ex managed to get full custody of the kids and I suffered intense depression over the loss of my “north star”.

Only when I finally started getting my priorities straight did I once again start finding some peace and joy.

I’m trying to put God first.  I still fail miserably more than half the time, but I know that’s what my goal is.  I’m working for it.

For now, my children get the second place in my life, BUT should I ever again be in a relationship that leads to marriage, I will have to learn to balance that with the requirement to “love him above all else”.

Never again will I change who I am to be right for someone.

Doing so led to a nasty divorce (for a woman who despises it), huge debt (for a woman who was only late twice in her life on any bill), loneliness, and the loss of my kids.  That last one still hurts the most.  But I have it straightened out now.

Every decision goes through the priority filter first.

That’s really what relationships are all about.

Previous posts in this series:

http://wp.me/p2cUhM-f

In my last post, I talked about how my priorities in relationships got all out of whack in my intense desire to have kids.

I have four kids.  They are still the sunshine in my life.  Right now, though, I don’t get to be their mom.

I never did anything terrible.  I had some anger issues for about a year.  I did a self-help counseling book and learned to direct my anger appropriately.  I was sometimes a little too persnickity about my angels being perfect.

But I was a good mom.

Until the day my husband told me to get out of our house.

Now, on his side of the ledger, I was having an emotional affair online.  I flat-out told him I was no longer interested in saving our marriage.

On my side, he hadn’t been involved in our marriage for at least eight years.  Date nights that I planned were fine, but as soon as we got back to the house, he checked out.  We spent evenings sitting side-by-side without talking.  If I called him at work (and I tried very hard to not call often), I was a nuisance.

On his side, I made vows.

On my side, he’d already broken our vows and I had chosen to forgive him.

Equally shared fault, really, in the demise of our marriage.  I should’ve just filed for divorced, but I had this crazy idea that my kids needed both parents together more than I needed out of my marriage.  I was trying to stick it out, even as I learned to dislike the man I’d married.

When he told me to get out of the house, though, he reinforced it with a threat.  He wasn’t even living at home during the week, as his job required him to live 3 1/2 hours north.  He had already been engaged in low-key emotional abuse for about five months.

I started packing for me and the kids.

Then he dropped the bombshell.  If I took the kids, first he threatened me with kidnapping charges.  I was scared (and naive), but still kept packing.

Then he told me he wouldn’t support me if I took the kids.

That one stopped me in my tracks.  All I wanted was for my kids to be happy.  They were my priority, after all.  There was no way an unemployed woman who hadn’t held a full-time job in nine years could support four kids right out of the gate.

I was stupid.

I agreed to leave without the kids, but made him sign a note that said that I was only going to set up a home for my kids and intended to come back for them.  Then, in the worst decision of my life, I left.

And my relationships got even more skewed.

See my next post for the conclusion to relationship priorities.

All my life, all I’ve ever wanted to be was a mom.  I had career dreams here and there: oceanographer, fighter pilot, world-famous author.  But in the end, it all came down to wanting to bear and raise children.

It skewed my priorities a bit.

When I dated, I accelerated my relationships into high gear because my primary goal was marriage and kids.  When I married, I married the guy who proposed to me, even though he didn’t share my faith and I had enough doubts to break off the engagement once.

Then the kids started coming.

I quit my job, clipped coupons and budgeted voraciously so that I could stay home with my kids, even when we still lived in California.  I planned, scheduled, and constantly kept learning new ways to better organize and run my child-centered life.  When the kids were old enough, I started homeschooling.

For a little while, I was in my personal version of vocational heaven.

I remembered to spend time with my husband.  I set-up date nights.  I tried to take care of all the things around the house.  I never once said “no” to him.

Eventually it was not enough.

First, I’d drastically rewritten my internal expression of my faith just to marry and have kids.  God wasn’t my focus.  Marrying and having kids was.  I didn’t go to my church’s pre-marital counseling and I got married in Las Vegas.

Second, although I loved my husband in a friendly way, I was never “in love” with him and we never had the right kind of husband-wife relationship.

It just wasn’t enough.  And it never will be, when priorities get out of whack.  In my next post, I’ll try to explain my understanding of why.

  • Mother to four children (3 boys, 1 girls), aged 6 to 12.  I can’t write about teenagers yet.
  • One-time drama geek whose best role was Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, but who most enjoyed doing musicals like Little Mary Sunshine and Patience.
  • A high soprano who wishes she could sing rock but will always stick with pop and country.
  • A casual runner who will never be fast (even in high school, where I ran the 800 competitively, I never won a race), but will always be persistent.
  • An also-casual swimmer who has taught swimming to all ages and stages, but really loves teaching the babies.
  • A brief truck driver who loved being on the road (riding a skateboard, for those in the know), but couldn’t reconcile it with family life.
  • A “Republican hippy”, I treasure family values and home life, but also do my best to help preserve the planet entrusted to us.
  • A mildly OCD, over-organized list maker who has learned to USE lists, rather than let them use me.
  • Soooo much more, but let’s start with this for now, shall we?

“I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there will never be an end.” (Jo March)

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

I am what you might call a Renaissance woman, a jill-of-all-trades, a gypsy of life… I like knowing and trying everything, even the things I end up not liking so very much at all.  This tendency of mine to wander from attraction to attraction has resulted in being moderately well-informed on a wealth of subjects– and an expert on none.

I was in drama in high school and college, plus a few church plays when I grew up.  I follow theatre in a casual way and enjoyed productions such as Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera on the big stage.  I’m no true theatre maven; I haven’t been to a live show in years.  But if I went to a show tomorrow, I’d enjoy it immensely, have a clue about “stage right” and “sotto voce”, and likely be able to give a review that, if not sounding like a true theatre critic, would at least not sound like a first-time goer.

I grew up playing Zork and other text-based games.  I was on a local BBS (bulletin board system) with a 300 baud modem when it was a truly geeky thing to do.  I’ve played Street Fighter, Everquest, MUDs, MUSHes, MOOs and MMORPGs all with equal enjoyment.  I enjoy games, but I’m not a gamer.

Other areas where I have some experience include music (almost finished a minor), literature (my true major), lifeguarding, truck driving, and organic gardening.  And more.  There’s always more down the road.

All that said, I can write intelligently on quite a few topics (which will likely never include crafts but is slowly expanding to include more and more sports).  So how do I limit myself do just one?

I don’t.  Why should I?

Instead, my goal is to write about what I know (or think I know) at a level that anyone can read.  Hopefully, this will introduce some people to utterly new areas or educate some neophytes in others.  I write everything from the standpoint of a woman who is not girly (but not a feminist, either), who has children, who is part dreamer and part realist, and who bases all her worldviews firmly on the foundation of the Christian Bible.

I’d love to have you around for the ride.