4 Meal Planning Systems for Stress-free Mealtimes


You look at the clock, it’s 4:00 pm and you think, “What the heck am I gonna make for dinner!?” Everyone is hungry and you have to throw something together, but what?? You search through the fridge and the pantry to make some sort of meal, or even worse, call for take out. It doesn’t have to be this way. Ever.

Meal planning is an essential tool for every family. We all have to eat at least three times a day (with kids its more like 6-7 times!) so it’s unavoidable. Without a plan meal times create a lot of stress. It’s the time of day when the children are tired and hungry (and so are the parents!) so if you are searching around for some sort of meal it’s no fun. On the other hand, if you have a meal in mind and the ingredients to make it, you can have in on the table in less then an hour.

A meal is on the table fast, everyone gets fed, and you’re not stressed out. It’s ideal.

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Join Our Spring Real Food Challenge!

The 7 Day Real Food Challenge is back! Many of you participated in our first challenge in January 2013 which was super successful. We had an amazing group who made some huge changes in their diet and lifestyle. Some I would like to share with you…

Some of our participants such a great experiences that they want to share it with others. One member actually landed a new blogging gig just telling others about what she learned! Others who were already in the blogging scene also shared on their blogs like this one Mama Making Changes. The community we built during the week in January was so inspiring and really helped everyone stay motivated. If you were thinking about joining us last time but missed out I encourage you to join us this time! Spring is a great time to make diet changes and detox from processed foods.

One of the biggest challenges I have heard from you as my readers is the transition from eating packaged foods to only eating real food. In the end of last year, I sent out a survey to my subscribers and the responses I got all showed very similar concerns. One of the most common challenges that was expressed was the ability to provide a healthy real food diet for your family that doesn’t take up too much time or too much money. In my experience, the key to making this work is planning and practice. This 7 day Real Food Challenge is designed to jump start the process in making a lifestyle change because we’ve done the planning for you.

Do you think you can eat only real food for 7 days straight?

To some of you this might sound nearly impossible and some of you may be thinking – I already do.  This challenge is designed to help those of you who really want to live the real food lifestyle but might need a little guidance to get started. This challenge is also for all of you who have already figured it out, but you have fallen off the bandwagon. Sometimes life gets hectic and our diets seem to suffer. It’s never too late to get back into the healthy food routine!

So, What is the 7 Day Real Food Challenge?

There is a big group of us following this challenge. Everyone who joins this challenge is making a pact to eat only real food for 7 days – specifically on April 21st – 27th. Already there are 28 bloggers who have committed to this challenge and are here as a support team for everyone who joins us. Here is your support team:

Todd Dosenberry from Primal Toad
Amanda from Natural Living Mama
Erin Odom from The Humbled Homemaker
Janey McKeever from Consistantly Sporadic
Jaime Reid from Jaime Reids Kitchen
Anne Simpson from Authentic Simplicity
Laura Broach from Mama Making Changes
Mike Lamitola from MikeLamitola.com
Alix from Blessed in Homemaking
Stacy Karen from A Delightful Home
Nina Nelson from Shalom Mama
Melissa Joulwan from Well Fed
Kimball Young from Heavy on Wholesome
Laura Prevost from Head over heels in Health
Victoria Moore from Yogi Mami
Carol Lovett from Ditch the Wheat
Katie Stanley from Nourishing Simplicity
Jami Leigh from Young Wifes Guide
Andrea from Homemade for Elle
Sarah Warren from Unorthadox Momma
Amanda Anderson from Chef Amanda Anderson.com
Sara Roylance from Sara Roylance.com
Sara Shay from Your Thriving family
Jennifer from Hybrid Rasta Mama
Marillyn Beard from Just Making Noise
Nichi from My Healthy Beginning
Michelle Elnycky from The Crooked House Blog

So for those of you who think this might be way too hard to do – you have all these experts here to back you up and help you meet the challenge. It’s not only these bloggers that will be doing the challenge but many of our readers will be following along. We will have a special Facebook group for discussions about the challenge and a place to reach out to everyone for help and support. There are two ways you can participate in the challenge:

Option # 1 (Free)

Join us and make the commitment to eat only real food for 7 days starting on April 21 – April 27, 2013.  You will receive:

  • An e-guidebook on “What is Real Food?”
  • A chance to win one of our fabulous real food prizes

To enter this challenge for free click here

Option # 2 ($29)

If you want to get really serious about this challenge and take full advantage of the support you can get from this group – this is for you. Making a big lifestyle change can be difficult on your own but with a huge group of people doing it along with you it is a lot easier – and a lot more fun!  As a member of this challenge you will receive:

  • An e-guidebook on “What is Real Food?”
  • A full real food Paleo meal plan for 7 days – three meals a day and snacks
  • Recipes for all of the items in the meal plan (37 Delicious recipes!!)
  • A shopping list to help you prepare for the challenge
  • Tips on how to prepare your kitchen for this event
  • Membership to our private Facebook group which is a place to reach out for help and ask questions
  • A chance to win one of our fabulous real food prizes – worth over $600+

PLUS these fabulous Bonuses (worth over $237+) for everyone who buys this package…

The meal plan for this challenge is a Paleo menu! This means that all the recipes are grain-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free. If you have ever thought about trying the Paleo / Primal diet and thought it was too hard this is the perfect chance to try it out. All of these done for you planning items and the built in support are designed to make this challenge much less of a challenge to complete. What do you think – are you ready to take the 7 Day Real Food Challenge?

Click here to join us and get the plan, recipes, and support now!

The plan and recipes require basic kitchen tools. A good set of knives is the best thing you can splurge on in my opinion – even better you may win some in the giveaways that go along with this challenge!

Speaking of giveaways…Don’t forget about all of the fabulous prizes from our amazing sponsors!! We are giving away $600 worth of products! The Giveaways (over $600+ value)…

Ergo Chef Knife Company, makers of ergonomically-designed professional chef knives, is giving one participant of our challenge their Pro-Series 7” Santoku knife, Come Apart Kitchen Shears and a 9” & 12” Duo Tongs (Retail value $132) Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube


Taza Chocolate company, makers of traditional stone ground Mexican Chocolate, is giving one of our participants a package of their salted almond discs, their chipotle chili discs, a jar of chocolate covered hazelnuts and their 87% chocolate bar. Taza chocolate has a direct trade cacao program that cultivates face-to-face relationships with farmers. (Retail value $ 30.47) Follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Alive & Radiant, superfoods for delicious living, is giving one participant 5 bags of their delicious Kale and Veggie Chips, great for healthy snacking and a few $1.00 coupons (Retail value $ 10) Follow them on Facebook



Yogi Tea, products inspired by Ayurveda  is giving one participant of our challenge 4 boxes of a variety of our top selling teas and a Yogi tea mug. (Retail value $40)Yogi tea is committed to providing healthy, natural teas that are accessible to as many people as possible. Follow them on Facebook.



Applegate, Organic & Natural Meats, is giving away a gift pack of products. (Retail value $ 25) Applegate meats are free of anti-biotics, growth hormones, nitrates, artificial ingredients and fillers which makes them far surpass the quality of conventional sliced sandwich meats. When buying Applegate products you can be confident you are eating a high quality product. Follow them on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter


Trilight Health, makers of fast-acting, great tasting liquid herbal supplements, is giving one participant a $50 gift certificate to order products on their website! For over 20 years now, TriLight Health have supplied their customers nationwide with their high quality line of liquid herbal products. They specialize in great tasting, alcohol and sugar free, liquid herbal formulas for pregnancy, children, and the family. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter


Eco Lunch Gear, eco friendly reusable lunch gear, is giving one participant a a reusable sandwich wrap (Retail value $10.50). Eco Lunch Gear was started by a Mom who saw a need for an alternative to plastic and aluminum foil, her products can be washed and reused over and over to save money and our environment. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Erin Odom from The Humbled Homemaker and creator of Real Food, Real Easy the eBook is giving one participant a copy of her eBook to help you continue with your Real Food journey (Retail value $$9.95) Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest


 Health Coach, Mike Lamitola, is giving one participant free entry to his Tele-seminar on Cravings. Do you have a sugar habit you’ve been trying to beat? In this tele-seminar, Mike will explain how. (Retail value $25.00) Follow Mike on Facebook and Twitter



Alix from Blessed In Homemaking offers organic and all natural body care products, gentle baby care products, herbal products, crocheted items, and more, for your healthy lifestyle in her Etsy Shop. She is giving two participants a one ounce bag of loose chamomile tea (Retail value $8.00) Follow her on Facebook


Stacy Karen from A Delightful Home is giving one participant of this challenge a copy of her eBook, Simple Scrubs to Make and Give. Start making your own scrubs at home for yourself and others (Retail value $3.99) Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest


Nina Nelson of Shalom Mama, is giving one participant of the challenge a healing balm and lavender mint lip balm from her etsy shop (Retail value $19.50) Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest


Melissa Joulwan from The Clothes Make the Girl, is giving one participant a copy of her Paleo eBook called Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Like to Eat (Retail value $14.95). This is a great resource for anyone interested in Paleo diet, whether you are just getting started or you are just looking for some new recipes to try. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Health Coach, Laura Prevost is giving 10 lucky participants one of her Dynamite Coaching sessions. If you are looking for some support around breaking a bad habit, or getting yourself motivated, Laura will work through it with you in this session (Retail value $20.00/session) Follow Laura on Facebook or Twitter

Jami from Young Wife’s Guide, is giving one participant a copy of her eBook, Apartment Gardening, which is a great resource for getting started growing food in small spaces (Retail value $2.99) Follow Jami on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest


Jennifer from Hybrid Rasta Mama has also offered to give away two copies of her eBook, Cooking with Coconut Oil (Retail value $19.95). The 68 recipes in this eBook are all simple to make and the ingredients in the recipes are all readily available. This eBook is a great way to start getting more coconut oil in your diet to get all the amazing health benefits. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

You will have the chance to win all of these prizes by joining is the challenge with either Option # 1 or Option # 2 detailed above!

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May 2013 UPDATE: The original dates of this program are over but you can still join us! We have a strong community built and we are helping each other to eat REAL FOOD.  You will still receive the meal plan, recipes and the support community. The giveaways and bonuses are now expired so the cost has dropped to $19 (from $29)

Do you have questions about this event? Please feel free to comment on this post with any questions or concerns.

Meal Planning for Real Food Success

Maintaining a healthy real food lifestyle can be a challenge on your first attempt. Some people start moving towards a real food lifestyle with every intention of following through for good but seem to struggle to maintain it. There are many things you can do to increase your chances of making it work such as family support, creating a plan, or working with a health counselor. Meal planning alone can be one thing that can make or break your experience. Working off a plan reduces stress, saves time, and makes things more manageable.

Planning Method that Works for You

How you do your planning is all up to you. There are many ways to go about it and it’s important to find the way that works best for your lifestyle. Some, including myself, like to have a physical book and paper to work on. As much as I am a fan of technology and use it often, there is something about having a book with recipes that just works for me. My personal method includes a binder with dividers and recipes printed out from the internet, copied from cook books, or ones I have created myself. I like to make notes on the recipes that say how we liked it and if I thought it needed any modifications. Keeping them all together in one book makes it easier for me to plan each week.

If you prefer to do all your planning on the computer there are some nice websites that can help you do your planning online. Some of them have apps for your phone so that you can refer to your shopping list while you are at the store. If this type of thing appeals to you more then this option might work better for you. Whatever method that will make it more enjoyable for you is what you should chose.

How to Come up with Ideas

A challenge that I hear often is that it is tough to come up with ideas for what to make. As you meal plan more often this gets easier and easier. You will have a bigger database of recipes to chose from and  you will know which ones your family likes. Initially, start with recipes you know. Make your plan using your already perfected recipes to make the process easy to start. As you go along start incorporating 1-2 new recipes per week.

To find new recipes it’s a great idea to invest in a few new real food cook books or eBooks to get some new things to try. I am a big fan of eBooks from bloggers I follow because I know they have already tried the recipes themselves. A free way to get new ideas is to subscribe to recipes sites and blogs. Not all of the recipes will appeal to you but when you see something interesting, print it out and keep in in a folder of “recipes to try.”

Why this Works

Having a meal plan is takes a lot of stress out of meal time. Most moms will agree that the hardest time of day with little ones is 4pm-7pm and this also happens to be the time that we are preparing dinner. If you don’t have a plan it is very stressful to look through what you have in the house, find a recipe, and try to throw something together. Dealing with this often is the reason why we turn to convenience foods – it’s less to think about. During this time of day if you already have all your ingredients, a recipe, and a plan, things will go much more smoothly. When Moms are stressed, children feel it too and it changes the dynamic of the house.

A meal plan also saves time and money. You are less likely to buy take out or junk food if you have a specific grocery list to follow. When you have a plan to follow and a list to shop off, things don’t go bad, and junk doesn’t make it into the pantry.

A meal plan ensures more real cooked food on the table, less stress, less junk, more family time, and less time and money wasted. With all these benefits it’s a no-brainer to implement this into your life.

If you are interested in learning my detailed meal planning method, look out for my new virtual meal planning workshop coming up soon. More details to come…

Do you create a meal plan? What are your challenges in implementing this into your household?

Meal Plan Monday 11/19/12

The plan this week is not as detailed as my usual plans due to the Thanksgiving holiday this week. A lot of cooking time will be preparing for the holiday and making things ahead of time for Thursday. My plan is to make some soups and crock pot items that will be little work and make a large amount for ample leftovers.

This is what I am going to make this week…

  • Portuguese Kale Soup (pictured above)
  • French Lentil Soup
  • Maple Sesame Chicken from Stacy Makes Sense new eBook Crock On (Launching today!! I recipe tested the Mexican Chicken stew recipe in this book and we enjoyed it)
  • Popeye snack bars from Kitchen Stewardship’s eBook Healthy Snacks to Go (this book is part of the Natural Living eBook Bundle)

Popeye Bars from Healthy Snacks to Go

We are a big fan of homemade snack bars (as many of you know I constantly make my version of Kind Bars and Larabars). After the Natural Living eBook bundle sale I have been reading through all the awesome eBooks I got and this week I spent some time reading Healthy Snacks to Go from Kitchen Stewardship. There are a lot of recipes in this book that I will be making. I made the Popeye Bars in this book because they are high in iron and also are grain-free. We are loving them and my family things they taste similar to the Larabars.

I am having so much fun reading through all these eBooks! If you missed out on this sale and you wish you had the chance to get all these great eBooks for less then $1.00 each – you are in luck because Keeper of the Home as decided to do a flash sale of this bundle for Cyber Monday.

In addition to the recipes I listed above I will be making at least two more Pumpkin Pies this week for Thanksgiving.

What are your cooking plans for this week? Will you follow a meal plan?

Meal Plan Monday 11/12/12

(This is a photo of last week’s Slow Cooker Beef Stew)

This week’s plan is very simple food. With a lot going on I wanted some simple meals to leave time for other things. Soups and stews are great for simple and filling meals. As you know, I am a big fan of the crock pot and I use it whenever I can to save time. Last week I made a traditional beef stew in the crock pot and this week I am  making two recipes from an eBook I got from the Healthy Living eBook Bundle (which is coming back for two days only for cyber Monday!). I love that this book has seasonal recipes that use ingredients that are available now. Last week I also made the Winter Vegetable Soup from this book and we enjoyed it.

Simple food for Winter from Nourishing Days is a great eBook with some delicious and nourishing Winter meals. We are enjoying cooking our way through it.

Here is my plan for this week…


  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs & bacon
  • Lunch: Out
  • Dinner: Marinated steak, roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts
  • Snack: Apples
  • Breakfast: Eggs & veggies
  • Lunch: Navy bean soup from Simple food for Winter from Nourishing Days
  • Dinner: Whole roasted chicken, collard greens and carrots
  • Snack: Peanut butter granola bars (homemade)
  • Breakfast: Eggs & veggies
  • Lunch: Blended Squash and roasted garlic soup  from Simple food for Winter from Nourishing Days
  • Dinner: Fish (whatever looks good), Steamed Broccoli
  • Snack: Apples, Larabars
  • Breakfast: Coconut Flour Muffins and Cooked Apples
  • Lunch: Leftover Squash soup and quiche
  • Dinner: Out
  • Snack: Peanut butter granola bars (homemade)


Did you get some new meal ideas from this post? Sign up here to get my new recipes sent straight to your inbox as I post them!

This post was shared on Modern Alternative Kitchen’s Meal Plan Monday.

Meal Plan Monday 10/1/12

This week we got two things on sale that I am using in the meal plan and both things happen to be beef so I made sure to have two vegetarian dinners to balance that out. Whenever possible I plan in at least one new recipe and this week I am trying a Roasted  Vegetable Salad inspired by this recipe I found on Veggie Head.

This is the gluten-free pizza I made last week that came out awesome. I made the pizza crust recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook. I actually made two – one with cheese and one without – because some of us do better without dairy. This is the one with cheese.

Here is my plan this week…

Meal Plan for the week of 10/1/12:


  • Breakfast: Eggs & Almond Flour Muffins
  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Teryaki Salmon, Japanese sweet potato, Sauteed Cabbage
  • Snacks: Homemade Granola


  • Breakfast: Coconut Porridge
  • Lunch: Chicken salad over greens
  • Dinner: Bows & Spinach (A pasta dish my mother used to make – but I make it with rice or quinoa pasta)
  • Snacks: Almond Flour Muffins


  • Breakfast: Granola
  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: Roast beef, roasted cauliflower, kale & carrots
  • Snacks: Hummus & Carrots


  • Breakfast: Eggs & leftover veggies
  • Lunch: Leftover roasted veggies over greens
  • Dinner: Red lentil stew & Zucchini fritters
  • Snacks: Granola


  • Breakfast: Oatmeal
  • Lunch: Flax wraps with hummus and veggies
  • Dinner: Broccoli quiche and  Roasted vegetable salad (new recipe for me)
  • Snacks: Hummus & carrots


  • Breakfast: Eggs & leftover veggies
  • Lunch: Leftover Red Lentil Stew & fritters/quiche
  • Dinner: Herbed Cod & Steamed greens
  • Snacks: Apple & Almond butter


  • Breakfast: Eggs & leftover veggies
  • Lunch: Leftovers
  • Dinner: 40 Clove Chicken (had this on my menu two weeks ago but never made it)
  • Snacks: Hummus & carrots

Be sure to check out the Meal Plan Monday link-up on Modern Alternative Kitchen today to read all of the other meal plans posted there!

What is on your meal plan this week? Please share in the comment section below!