How to Make Meal Times Less Stressful!

Making Meal Time Less Stressful


Being the mother of 7 children, I have to think about food A LOT!  My kids can eat and eat and eat.  Everyone has always been impressed with what good little eaters I have.  Now that I have 2, almost 3 teenagers, I am shocked at what that can mean and how many times a person can go back for more food, sometimes long after the rest of the family was finished eating.  If there’s food left in the pot, my son is asking if he can have it!  Cooking isn’t one of the things I really enjoy doing, it’s just a task that has to be done in order to have a functional family, so I have been aiming to streamline my time spent in the kitchen and yet enjoy what we’re eating.  Here are several ways that I have been able to accomplish this.


1.  Pick Easy Meals

Think about what you generally cook when you’re in a time crunch.  For me, it’s things like spaghetti, montereys, taco salad, chili, hamburgers, etc.  Meal plan around these easy meals.  If you don’t have a very long list, search for some quick and easy recipes that you can plan around.   You can always throw in your favorite more difficult meal, but spread them out, so they’re not on back to back days.


2.  Use Your Slow Cooker 

I decided I wanted to use my slow cooker almost every day.  I just LOVE not having to think about making dinner at 5:00.  You may know me as that Slow Cooker lady by now….and can find many of my slow cooker recipes here:  Crockpot Freezer Meals.

3.  Decide What’s For Dinner the Night Before

The reason this is important is so that you make sure to get anything you need to out of the freezer.  It is so frustrating to decide on making something with ground beef, to remember that the only ground beef you have is frozen in a big 10 pound block that doesn’t fit into the microwave to defrost.  Which brings me to…..


4.  Save Money by buying in bulk or buying off brands. 

Believe it or not, we normally shop for our groceries in a bigger city.  We try to plan to go to the city around the time we need to stock back up.    I like to coupon in the cities when I can, but haven’t become quite that organized to do it regularly yet, nor have I been able to take the time to clip coupons on a regular basis.  We generally go to Aldi and Sams and at least check the other local stores for deals we can score while we’re there.  We can save quite a bit on cheese, lunch meat, bread, canned goods, etc.  At Walmart, I can buy a block of cheese for over $4 a pound.  At Sams, I get it in a 5 pound block for $12.  That’s getting 2 pounds free!  I usually stock up on produce at Aldi.  The in season fruit and vegetables are always much cheaper than our local stores.  The fruit that is in season will sell for around $1.50 – $2 per 3 to 4 pound bag.  Strawberries for a dollar a pound and Pineapples for a dollar each as well.  This isn’t all the time, but these are the prices that I regularly look for.


5.  Make Freezer meals

For me, that means, make extremely easy freezer meals.  I decided to line up my recipes for a week and make a list of what I need to do in order to prep them.  I do all of the preparation work at once for the week, including chopping and browning of meat.  I place all of my ingredients in freezer bags and freeze them for the week so that they stay as fresh as possible.

6.  Involve the Children

There is  nothing wrong with your children helping in the kitchen!!  It is wonderful training for their future and sometimes, if the family wants to eat, it’s downright unavoidable!  My 11 year old enjoys knowing that she was able to be a big part of getting everyone fed.  If you don’t have kids that old, they can always be right next to you, helping to put ingredients in bowls or bags or even just “washing dishes” by playing in the dish water.  My younger children always think it is a treat to help mommy!


7.  Table Chores

This next tip is more for me than for you…because it is a place we still struggle.  Clean up the dishes and the table right after each meal!  It doesn’t take long and we’re always thankful when we do it.


8.  Streamline Breakfast & Lunch

My kids know that there are certain things that they can choose from for breakfast and lunch.  I’m not one who is willing to cook a hot breakfast every day.  That’s usually a special occasion.  I’m a zombie in the morning!!  Their breakfast choices are generally cereal, toast, fruit, boiled eggs or oatmeal (made in the microwave).  Lunches are generally cheese quesadillas, ham sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, bean & cheese burritos, mac & cheese, hot dogs, salads or leftovers.  They’re all super easy to prepare and overall, I don’t care if they choose different things to eat…unless it involves making a pot of something (i.e. mac & cheese)…then I require more than 1 person has to want to eat it.


How do you make your meal times less stressful?


This post was updated and modified from one that I originally posted in October of 2011.  I have since added a large section of Crockpot Freezer Meals to my site.  Be sure to check them out.  You can have the recipes for free, and if you’d like the opportunity to save time and let me completely plan the meals for you, I have 8 weeks of Crockpot Freezer Meals that come with assembly instructions and grocery list that you can purchase for a low price of $2.99 per week.

How to Make Meal Times Less Stressful!

I Confess, I’m a Yo-Yo Dieter – My 12 Step Program

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12 Steps to Overcome Yo-Yo Dieting


OK, you caught me.  I’m a yo-yo dieter.  I seriously have a problem.  I will do really well for two months.  I get all excited.  I believe I can do anything (being the extreme optimist that I am) and then suddenly, my will is not strong enough any more.  I quit eating healthy.  I start drinking a little soda.  I stop exercising as much.  Then I drink even more soda….  I start having a daily treat or two.  And guess what?  I gain back the 10 pounds I just lost.  Yep, that’s me.  Mrs. Yo-Yo herself.  This just happened to me… again.  :(  Can you relate?


Honestly, I hope you can’t relate, but I have a feeling a lot of you are right alongside of me in this.  It’s a common problem.  How can we as human beings keep our heads in the game?  After all, in order to lose the weight and keep it off, we’re going to have to make a lifestyle change.  We know this to be true, but for some reason, we think that we need to hurry up and hit our goal and once we’re there we can say…. “phew…. all done”.  But that’s not the case!  We cannot say “Phew, all done!”.  We must say, “that was a good start, let’s keep going”.  We have to embrace the lifestyle change with all of our hearts and minds.  It cannot be a maybe.  It has to be met with determination.  Otherwise, we’ll continue on the yo-yo plan of lose it, gain it.


So how can we as people who need to make healthy habit changes do it and stay motivated to keep going?  Why do we keep giving in?  For me, one of the main reasons I give up is that I get tired of having to think about it all the time.  I much prefer to indulge myself in all the food and drink decisions than have to carefully calculate what it is that I need to be eating.  Also, I find it difficult to quit my unhealthy choices, because I find them fun.  My mind associates soda with getting to relax and enjoy myself.  It’s the same with sweets.  If I take them away, I feel like life isn’t nearly as fun.  I know that it is just a mind training thing that I have to get through.


I decided that I have to more carefully plan if I’m going to be successful.  The problem is, I’ve known this for a while, but I’m still failing to make my plan.  You know what they say…. Failing to plan is planning to fail.  That’s not good.  I don’t want to keep failing!  So….here’s my 12 step plan.  In it, I’m saying “you”, but I’m talking to myself.  You may not need my 12 steps….but maybe you do, too….read on to see.


1.  You must find a replacement for drinking soda.  It can still be carbonated, but it can’t be diet and it can’t be full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  You may have to mix your own soda to make it into something healthier, but it will be worth it.  Soda is the main reason I am so plump.

2.  You must make a meal plan, including breakfast, lunch and snacks to keep you on track.  That doesn’t mean only make one meal plan ever.  That means, every week, make a meal plan.  Or, you can repeat the prior week’s meal plan if that helps, but it has to be planned.

3.  You must make a motivation Smash Book.  (If you haven’t seen these, check out my Pinterest board here).  This will help you when you’re down by giving you motivational quotes, before and after pictures, and things to think about while losing weight.  You can include quotes like this:


Why Climb the Same Hill Twice


4.  You must decide why you really want to be thin.  Not the politically correct answer but deep down, why do you want it?  Is it enough to make you get it done?  If not, can you find a new reason?

5.  You must have a plan on what to do when you’re eating out.  Make a list of allowed foods while eating at fast food restaurants.

6.  In addition to the Smash book, you must make a travel smash book.  One that you can keep in your purse to help you while you’re out and about.  A few motivational quotes, your fast food list, etc.  Anything that will help you to stay on plan when you’re out with your husband at lunch.

7.  You must find replacements for Emotional eating.  I know you like to eat when you’re tired, sad, happy and frustrated, but you’re going to have to find something else you can do when you’re feeling these emotions.  Emotions are normal.  Eating to celebrate them or to make them go away, just complicates life and doesn’t make anything go away.

8.  You must set goals.  Not just weight loss goals, but exercise goals, maybe even a bucket list!

9.  You must stay hydrated.  You need at least 64 ounces a day, but since you are overweight 100 ounces would be even better.  Strive to get 100 oz of water in a day.  Remember how your wrinkles around your eyes tend to go away when you’re drinking enough?  You’ll look better for it!

10.  You must exercise daily!  I realize you have 7 children, but that doesn’t give you an excuse not to exercise.  You can always fit 15 minutes in at a time.  You can always go outside and jump on the trampoline with the kids.  You can take them on a bike ride  or a walk.  You don’t have to exercise alone.

11.    You must eat more vegetables.  Your body needs the vegetables to grow stronger and leaner.  Your skin looks better with more vegetables, too.

12.  You must refer back to this list often, so you don’t forget about all of your plans.  You know how forgetful you are!


While I may not have all of these goals accomplished immediately, or even in the next month, this is what I know I have to do in order to finally reach my healthy weight.  I’ve debated about even talking about this on my blog any more, as I always just seem to fail and hate to keep talking about my failures, lol, but…I’ve decided to do it as it helps me.  If it helps me, it may help someone else as well.


Oh and speaking of eating your vegetables, if you’re interested in growing your own vegetables (or already are!), be sure to check out today’s sponsor, Born to Grow and their free gardening webinar:


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What about you?  What would you add to this list?

12 Steps to Overcome Yo-Yo Dieting


Don’t Miss Out!!!

Hey friends!  I hope you had an amazing weekend.  My weekend has been great.  I got to take the whole weekend off.  Yay!  You may have seen on my Facebook page, where my husband and I even ran in The Color Run (my first ever 5k race).  Here’s a picture of us (my husband, his brother, his wife and I) after we were done.


The Color Run After


As you can see, I was not the one who got too colorful.  I kept rubbing orange off of my face, and I thought it was my makeup until I saw the orange in my hairbrush later.  It wasn’t overly noticeable though….

My husband on the other hand…. he got shot with blue, right up the nose….


The Color Run During



Being a busy mom, who always seems to be “working”, I was excited for the chance to get away this weekend.  After all, being mom, teacher, house cleaner, cook and chid trainer is tiring!

Speaking of being a busy mom….I wanted to remind you about the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle.  Today is the last day that you can buy it (and if you buy it, you’ll get ALL 10 of my Freezer to Slow Cooker menus for free, including the $250 Walmart menu!).  If you’re a work away from home mom, don’t let the word “homemaking” turn you away.  This bundle is made for busy moms.  Not just moms who stay home, but moms who want to make the best home possible for their families.  (What mom doesn’t want that?)


Freezer to Slow Cooker Free with Purchase


Let me tell you real fast, what I think are the most valuable aspects of this bundle…the perks are pretty good, let me tell you!


1.  Have you ever wanted to take a craft making course online teaching you something that you don’t know how to do?  Maybe I’m weird, but I have…and I’m usually too cheap to buy one.  Not because I don’t want to learn, but because I am not always sure that it will be worth it.  When you purchase this bundle, you’ll get one free online class from Craftsy.  You could pick one of their 24 courses.  This would include anything from cake decorating, photography, sewing, paper crafts, etc.  This alone could be a $60 value (depending on the course you choose).  Personally, I think that I’ll choose the photography course, as I’m trying to grow in my skills as a photographer!


2.  Do you like scarves for dressing up your outfits?  You can actually get a free spring scarf from Deborah and Co.  You only have to pay the $4 shipping charge to get it to you.




3.  Free $15 to Hope Ink, plus 2 free 8×10 Art Prints.  (Shipping does apply on this deal)  


4.  Free 65 Points from Tyndale that you can use for a free book (appoximately a $15 value).


5.  Free Kids Discovery Box from Green Kid Crafts, ($19.95 value and you pay $4 shipping).  This is a craft kit subscription program.  They send a kit each month (if you were to keep the subscription), but you have the chance to try it for free!   Talk about happy kids!


6.  Declutter Buddies Course is included!  ($16 value)  – Have you ever said, “Today we’re going to clean the house and this time it’s going to stay that way!” but it never does? Have you ever thought it would be so much easier to declutter if only you had a friend to help you?  In this eCourse, Alina Joy Dubois – author of Easy Peasy Chores – will be your very own decluttering buddy! Join Alina Joy and together with her work step-by-step, de-junking, purging and reclaiming your home!




7.  A Parent’s Guide to Natural Remedies course is included! ($99 value!)  Have you ever wished you knew how to treat your child’s ailments at home?  A Parent’s Guide to Natural Remedies will give you the confidence you desire as a parent to learn how to use natural remedies to treat your child’s common ailments at home. You will learn how to use methods like homeopathy, cell salts, essential oils, probiotics, and more to treat things like fever, sore throat, ear infections, tummy bug, coughs, digestive issues, sleep issues, and first aid.


8.  Meal Planning Galore – Not only do you get 10 of my Freezer to Slow Cooker weekly menus (this is a gift, just for Sidetracked Sarah readers!), but there’s also many other great menu planning options in the bundle!  You’ve got Costco Slow Cooker Freezer Meals, Gluten Free Aldi Meal Plan, Simply Scheduled: On the Go, Backwards Meal Planning, No Cook Freezer Meals, Easy Oven Free Dinners and even printable menu planning forms!  Really…your meals will be covered with this bundle!


9.  In addition to all of the other resources listed above, you’ve got ebooks to help you with homeschooling, organizing your home, training your children and even to help you to have the best marriage you could ever have!


Now that’s a lot of benefit for one low price of $29.99.  In fact, they say that everything included in the bundle is worth over $984, not including the added $30 that my menu plans have added.


If you already own my ebooks, you can purchase this set and give mine away to a busy family that you know.  In fact, as long as you don’t keep the copy on your computer, it is completely legal to give away anything in the bundle that you don’t want.  So…you and a friend could potentially split the price of this bundle!  Click the Buy Now button below to learn more about exactly what is in the bundle.  It is totally worth it!





The catch is, you have to hurry, hurry, hurry, because your sale ends tonight at 11:59 P.M. EST.  Once that time has past, you will not be able to get it any more!


Today only huge sale