Sunday, September 20, 2015

This Week's Easy Fall Dinner Plan - Delicious & Easily made gluten/dairy free

Sometimes I make meals so difficult on myself. I'm in the kitchen for hours, making special trips to the store for weird ingredients, and feeling discouraged when dinner is over in 15 minutes.

The past couple of weeks, when planning meals, I decided to keep it simple. The weather won't be completely fall-like here, but dinner time will be.

I'm posting to give you some inspiration for relatively simple and well balanced dinners. Plus, they're all tested and deemed delicious by those I live with...and me!

All of these dinners are gluten and dairy free naturally (or can easily be made so) and economical. No weird substitutions necessary.

So, let me know if you try one of these out and what you think. I also adapt some of these to fit our lifestyle, reduce sugar, or increase vegetable content.

Hamburger Soup/Crackers 
I use ground turkey instead of beef and add extra vegetables (often green beans).
I also just use beef broth and granulated onion in place of the onion soup, gluten free soy sauce and gluten free noodles.

Honey Garlic Chicken with Smashed Potatoes & Green Beans
Uses inexpensive boneless skinless chicken thighs
Use gluten free soy sauce if making gluten free
I reduce the amount of honey to limit sugar content

GLUTEN FREE TIP: Instead of buying outrageously expensive gluten free soy sauce, check out store brands, often they're the cheapest on the shelf and they naturally don't include wheat as an ingredient.

Ronaldos Carnitas on toasted corn tortillas & roasted Broccoli
I use a tenderloin roast. This is so easy and REALLY good. Feeds an army.

Breakfast for Dinner. Omelets with veggies , turkey bacon, fruit

White Chicken Chili with Corn Bread & Salad
The corn bread is an a gluten free recipe with gluten free ingredients. I cut the sugar to a couple tablespoons and use almond milk instead of soy. This recipe is the best.
Can sub chicken broth for water in the Chili.

I'm SURE we will have a leftover day.

I did make a large pot of beans and rice for lunches this week too.

Good luck menu planning! It makes a busy week so much easier and takes the guess work out of what to cook. It also saves money while keeping you from ordering takeout or buying unneeded items at the grocery store!

Happy Eating!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Saying Goodbye

When someone you love enters eternity, leaving you behind, it doesn't matter that they lived a long life. It doesn't matter how long they suffered, and it doesn't matter how weary everyone became during the process. It hurts. It's sad. And it's a stark reminder of our humanity and Jesus' sovereignty.

It's a reminder that a body detached from a soul, is nothing. It's a reminder that the soul is what brings beauty to life. It's a reminder, as you watch the sting of death seem to overcome, that the soul longs for our more heavenly home.

It's a reminder that we don't belong here and that such beauty awaits. It's a reminder of the love, grace, mercy, and presence my Jesus gives.

Grandma and the girls on
her last birthday.

Making Easter bread together in 2010.
My sweet little Italian grandmother, Ergie, has been battling the ugly disease of Alzheimers for a long time. Now, it seems, she mostly remembers us with her heart and not with her brain. To wish for her to stay, imprisoned by the chains that steal joy, is selfish. I imagine her soaring, whole, soon.

I know she is ready. I know because my grandmother fought for her family to love Jesus. She lived her life shining His light, praying, and living as His hands and feet with my grandfather, and she never gave up.

Sure she was a worrier. If you didn't answer your phone, she'd march her little Italian legs to your home (somehow - because she didn't drive) and throw rocks at your window. She also taught me that touching a booth seat in a restaurant is the worst thing on the planet to touch. And, let's face it...If you didn't have a third helping of macaroni, you straight up didn't love her.

But, if you called, she was there. With an ear. With my grandfather in a large white Cadillac with red interior. With food. And with food. Wait...did I already mention that?

I will miss my grandma. I will miss a childhood of messing up her pantry playing "store" with my cousins. I will miss jumping on her couches banging pots and pans singing Italian music. I will miss the way she furrowed her eyebrows when she worried. I will miss the milestone of finally reaching the height of an adult...She knew how to rock 4 feet 11 inches.

But I am thankful for the legacy she leaves behind for generations. A legacy of loving Jesus and caring for others. A spirit more generous than most, and an undivided heart. I'm thankful that as we grieve, we can remember a life that will live on.

God is always good, and today, tomorrow, and every day I will cling to him as I put one foot in front of the other. I can only imagine my sweet grandma, walking with Jesus, embracing the beauty of heaven and her new, whole body, and hearing the words "well done."

Grandma when Hannah
was born in 2005.
Grandma with Emma when she
was born in 2010.

2 Corinthians 5

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

Grandma with her 11 grandchildren (top) & great grandchildren (bottom).
3 more have been born since this picture
was taken 1.5 years ago.

Friday, May 8, 2015

9 Ways To Save Money When There Is No Extra

You've all heard it: "Stop drinking Starbucks and save the money you would have spent." Well we never do that, do we? Somehow, we manage to eat out with the kids (even if it's only fast food), put clothes on our bodies, gas in our car, and pay for our kids'  extracurriculars, but we can't transfer $10 a month into a savings account (or onto that credit card bill).

I was thinking the other day. When we were on our journey to become debt free (aside from the 13 years left on our mortgage), we paid off our student loans, our only debt, in two years making less than half of our present income.

Now that we're onto our retirement and kids' college savings, I wonder how we managed it then, but now lack the motivation to kick things into high gear. So I dusted out the cobwebs of those aggressive, debt-busting days in my mind and remembered.

Budget & Prioritize Spending  - We make room for what we want to make room for. Make a list. Today. At the top, write your take-home pay for the following month and start subtracting non-negotiables - FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING, & TRANSPORTATION. Then subtract everything else...Include in the top part of that list some savings...even just $25. It may be too small to seem worth it, but an extra $300 at the end of the year for Christmas or a medical bill won't leave you complaining. It DEFINITELY takes time to get used to a budget and you might fail a few times, but it gets easier. If you don't start somewhere with budgeting, even small, you are guaranteed to fail.

Do It As Soon As You Get Paid - This was huge for us when we were putting large - to us - sums toward debt monthly...and begrudgingly, I knew I had to get back to that mindset with saving recently. After the mortgage and charitable giving, we make a transfer to our savings account to save for quarterly and yearly expenses, but also to save for car purchase & repair, boosting our emergency fund, vacations, IRA contributions etc. The reward is seen immediately and is motivation to keep going.

Start With Small Amounts - Go Big or Go Home just doesn't work here. We are an all or nothing society. We can't finish it now, so we don't start. Put a regular (make it a habit) small amount into your savings account. Make it easy on yourself. Electronically transfer X amount whenever you're paying that first bill of the month. You could also hide an envelope under your mattress and save cash there (as long as you're not too tempted to touch it). I don't care if it's $1! It's more about the habit than the amount. It's much easier to increase to $2 when you're already saving $1.

Chart Your Growth - Keep track of your growth. It's like a pat on the back or a reality check. Use Excel or a legal pad with a purple pen. I don't care. But, I can tell you this; looking at our Excel document of our progress encourages us to keep going.

Categorize Your Savings -  There's a lump sum in our savings account, but we keep documentation of how much money applies to each category we have in there. It really gives perspective on what needs attention and what can wait. Sometimes it will seem like EVERYTHING needs attention. That's ok. Keep going.

Checkout Check Up - When we're really focused on some financial goal, right before I check out at the store I scan the cart and ask myself some questions. "Is there anything in here that wasn't on my list?" "Is there anything in here that I really don't need, even if it was really cheap?" I often can easily shave $10-$15 off my total when I do this.

Sell Stuff - When you really look at your home - you realize how much you have that you don't need, use, or even like. Your trash is someone else's treasure. Get on Craigslist and declutter your home and  and your budget.

Be Content - Honestly, this requires some soul searching. I don't know what path you will take to get there but you have to find a way to be satisfied with what you have and with what you don't have. You have to be content with spending less on gifts or buying underwear at Walmart when you're getting out of debt or working toward a goal. Suck it up, it's not the end of the world. We've been debt free for 5 years and while we are still working hard and I'm thankful for our progress and provision, we drive very used cars (though we've slowly upgraded, always paying cash), our house isn't huge, and I'm in love with hand-me-down clothes. You can't have champagne taste on a beer budget. Life is about so much more than stuff.

Expect Emergencies -  Things are going to come up. You're going to dip into your savings. It happens. Expect it and move on.

Don't give up on this. I'd love to hear your progress!!

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