25 Frugal, Creative Outdoor Activities for BOYS

25 Frugal Creative Outdoor Activities for BOYS

Need some warm-weather activities for little boys? Check out this list of frugal and fun outdoor activities!

By Jessica Smartt, Contributing Writer

First, a disclaimer: I’m sure these activities would be enjoyed by girls AND boys alike. However, I only have boys! (Until this summer … when we expect a little girl!)

I don’t know about your family, but with my boys, when it’s nice outside, we spend nearly all our waking hours outdoors.

We don’t have a “huge” piece of property by any means, but I’m always amazed that my little ones are never bored! I guess that goes to show that I was right about my hunch – kids need the simple life more than anything.

I’m sure you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of warm weather. Even in North Carolina where I am, this has been the coldest winter! Once it finally starts to feel like spring, here are some of the outdoor activities we’ll be doing again and again:

1. Morning Nature Walk.
2. Ice-Sculpting for Kids (you can read a brief description here). This one takes some planning ahead as you freeze small toys in buckets of ice, but it’s totally worth it!

Backyard Bible Club

3. Hosting a backyard Bible club for the neighbors. Definitely one of the highlights of our summer! If your house and yard often have little neighbor visitors, this is a must-do. It was so special and fun for our family, and our neighbors. And anyone can do it; see my extensive post on Hosting Your Own Frugal Backyard Bible Club.
4. Painting cardboard boxes. (Don’t laugh! I save my Amazon shipping boxes and these, and a few bottles of washable paint literally keeps the neighborhood occupied for a good hour!)
5. Digging for worms. If you don’t have a high-quality spade or shovel, add this to your child’s Meaningful Easter Basket.
6. Collecting sticks for a real fire. Collecting sticks = boring. Collecting sticks for an actual fire = awesome.
7. Painting wooden crafts from the dollar store or craft store. These make great Father’s Day gifts!

Hunting for Treasure

8. Hunting for treasure in a pile of dirt. This is the best idea ever, and I have to credit my mom. She threw an “archaeologist” birthday party for my nephew by dumping some bags of dirt and “gems” (stones for a fish tank from the pet store). The boys had a blast “digging” for treasure with shovels. When they find all the gems, we can hide them again. Brilliant, I say!
9. Creating fishing poles with sticks, yarn, and paper clips, and then pretending to fish.
10. Painting with water on the sidewalk and driveway.
11. Make a museum with “treasures” from the yard. My son got this idea from The Boxcar Children, incidentally. (Definitely one of our top books for boys!)
12. Eat homemade Popsicles. Who wants all those icky dyes and fake flavors? We found some Popsicle molds at the dollar store, and right now I’m simply using a yummy fortified juice blend from Trader Joe’s (my favorite store!). I plan to freeze my smoothies in them next.
13. A brown-bag outdoor scavenger hunt. Each child gets a brown grocery bag with a pictorial list of items pasted to the front. I simply created a pictorial chart using Clip Art.
14. Playing sports. You knew it was coming, right?
15. “Car Wash” for plastic vehicles and bikes.
16. Weeding the gardens. (See my recent post here on children and work if you need some motivation).
17. Drawing with wet chalk. If you haven’t tried soaking your sidewalk chalk in water, I recommend it. Bright colors and more fun!

Hammering golf tees into blocks of foam

18. Hammering golf tees into blocks of foam. (I purchased a sheet of foam from the craft store, but you can also hang on to packing foam if you get it. I got a bag of golf tees very inexpensively on Amazon.)
19. Make a treasure map and hunt for treasure. (The map can be very simple. Draw your house, trees, driveway, with an “x” marked for the treasure.)
20. Make a “Happy Spring/Happy Summer” card for the neighbors, and deliver with a homemade treat (like my Morning Glory Muffins).
21. Collect and paint rocks.
22. Have a picnic with stuffed animal friends in the backyard.
23. Make a collection of various leaves.
24.Create your own bird feeders.
25. Running. 
It can be as simple as racing in the backyard … just let them stretch their legs and run, run, run!

What are some of your favorite frugal, creative outdoor activities for boys … and girls?

How to Plan Your Garden

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This post was originally published in March of 2011, but we’re sharing it today because it’s gardening season once again! Use these tips to plan your own garden and discover how fun and easy it can be to grow your own food!

In our Gardening 101 series, we’ve talked about a lot of different things so far… how to select seeds for better success, growing herbs, gardening based on where you live, square foot gardening.

I know that the process of planning what and how much and when and where to plant everything can be one of the most daunting aspects of gardening. It’s a place where a lot of people get stuck. They’ve got an idea of things they’d like to grow, they know where the garden will be, they’ve bought some seeds, but now what?

In this two part series, I’m going to walk you through the process of planning out an actual garden– my own. I’m going to show you the steps I take, how I make my decisions, what the plans look like, and how those plans translate into simple steps that I can follow through with.

It’s all about taking theories and concepts, and turning them into vegetables on your plate. Sounds good, right?

Step 1: What do you want to grow?

Based upon my family’s preferences and foods that I like to preserve, these are the foods I most want to grow, listed in order of priority:

my veggie priorities on paper

Your list might look quite different, but from #1-19, these are the veggies that matter to me most (I know, I’m not exactly a minimalist, am I?). I’ll tell you right now that I don’t have as much space in my garden as I have veggies on my wishlist. So I make compromises, but I’ll get to that in a little while.

For now, make a list of the veggies that most matter to you (or fruit, if that’s something you want in your garden- I grow just a few things, like some raspberry canes and a rhubarb plant). Do it based on what your family eats the most, on what costs the most where you live, on vegetables that you want to buy organic but can’t afford (the Dirty Dozen comes in handy here), on the things that you think taste the best when they’re garden fresh, etc.

two of my garden boxes in growveg

From my own garden plans, two of my raised beds with plans for greens, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.

Step 2: How much do you want to grow?

Personally, I like to grow enough to eat freely throughout the harvest season, with as much extra for preserving as possible. At this point, with only a small-ish backyard garden, I certainly don’t expect to put up nearly enough food to keep us going through the winter (though it is surprising how much can be grown in a small space).

There are a lot of charts out there that tell you how much you need to grow to feed a family of 4. They’re usually based on rows, which I don’t find very helpful (although some do show how many plants per row, and the yield, which is slightly more useful).

I find the info in the book Square Foot Gardening gives a good general guide for determining how much room I need. He writes about how many 4×4 ft blocks (or 16 square feet) you need to feed fresh produce to 2 people (2-4 blocks, depending how much you eat and the variety you want), 4 people (4-6 blocks), and then additional space for preserving.

I have 86.5 sq ft in raised beds, another 38 sq ft in the ground, a garbage can for my potatoes and a bunch of containers for my raspberries. My 130+ square feet equals about 8 4×4 ft blocks. According to the Square Foot calculations I should be able to grow enough to feed us well during harvest months, plus have some to preserve. I would agree that the space I have will allow us to do just that.

garlic and peas and rhubarb growveg

The so-so garden location behind the shed, where I’m growing my year’s worth of garlic, plus all of my peas along some chicken wire on the side of the shed, plus a rhubarb plant.

Ultimately, I find that it’s easiest to just guesstimate how much our family eats and plan to plant in accord with those numbers. Here are some of my own examples:

  • Cucumbers (slicing)- 2-3 large or 5-6 small per week
  • Tomatoes- 6-8 small or 3-5 large per week, and a bowlful of cherry toms
  • Zucchini- 1-4 per week (totally depends how we’re using them)
  • Carrots- 5-10 per week (depends on size, if they’re baby ones we’ll eat way more)

With this in mind, here’s what I might plan:

  • Cucumbers (slicing)- 5-6 plants (they grow slowly where we live, but if you live somewhere hot you might need a couple less plants for the same yield)
  • Tomatoes- 2-3 regular plants, plus a cherry tomato plant
  • Zucchini- 1 plant is probably enough (because they reproduce just like bunnies :)
  • Carrots- We start harvesting them around June/July, so I’ll plant 8 carrots for each week of the summer from that point on. If I planted 112, that would do us through about 14 weeks of summer (mid-June to end of September). I would want to stagger my planting over 4-6 weeks so they’re not all ready at once.

Notice that I haven’t taken preserving into account yet. If I want to also preserve zucchini in addition to eating it fresh, for example, I will grow 2 plants instead of 1, so that I can shred and freeze a lot for the winter. I like to can and dehydrate about 60-100 lbs of tomatoes each summer, so I’ll want another 8-10 plants purely for preserving purposes.

Now your next step is to take your list from Step 1, and either based on your own gardening experience or these links, jot down beside each vegetable how much you might need to grow to get what you want.


tomato garden boxes growveg

In this snapshot of part of my garden, I’m growing 12 tomato plants, 2-4 for fresh eating and the rest for preserving. 8 cucumbers plants, half for eating and half for pickling. There are also mini red bell peppers, basil and melons as well.

Planning Your Own Garden

If you’re wondering how I made these awesome garden planning images, it’s this new site I just discovered called GrowVeg.com. Basically it is a garden planning software. You use it’s tools to draw up a map of your yard or garden, as close to scale as possible (you can be quite precise with it), and then you drag and drop the specific crops that you want to grow. You can pull them larger to make rows or blocks of the same crops, you can label them as specific varieties (like my 6 different tomato varieties), and all sorts of other customizations. It shows you the spacing that each plant needs, and give you sowing and harvest dates (which are based on weather stations near your home, so they’re fairly accurate).

I’m using their 30-day free trial at the moment (a one-year subscription is $25, 2 years is $40). I haven’t quite decided if I want to go ahead and subscribe but so far I’m pretty impressed, and I’ll show you more of how this can be a helpful tool in the next post. I am an affiliate, so if you go ahead and purchase through my links I make a small commission, which helps me to keep this site running (so thanks!).

In the next post, I’ll continue to walk you through translating those numbers of what you desire to grow and harvest into the space that you actually have available, and then some tips on how to arrange it all in a way that works.

What are your biggest challenges in planning your garden?

Other Related Posts You May Enjoy

Top image by Dave Gunn

Weekend Links


Links for this week:

Coming Home @ Clover Lane

Pride and Humility at the Grocery Store @ The Humbled Homemaker (this is a great reminder that food choices are not a moral issue!)

Tropical Coconut Cookies {Gluten/Grain/Dairy Free} @ Back To The Book Nutrition

How the Secret of the Snake Changed My Life Forever @ Storyline Blog

Prayer for the mother of adolescents @ The Art of Simple

Apricot Basil Chicken Salad @ Simple Bites

I’m an Available Woman @ Visionary Womanhood

8 Strategies for Saving Money at Farmers Markets @ The Nourishing Home

Farmers markets are starting to pop up! What’s in season in your area this early in the year?

Nourish Before You Drain

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Somewhere during the past year or two, my enjoyable morning cup of coffee turned into just the start of that day’s addiction. Round one, to pump me up for the day ahead.

By just after lunchtime, I would find myself looking for round two, another hit of caffeine to keep me going.

My husband lovingly pointed out that if I didn’t get it by mid-afternoon, I was on-the-edge and irritable (and I will confess that I did not respond well to his observations at first). Certain days found me looking for even a third hit of coffee in the later afternoon.

It had become a habit, but one that wasn’t serving me.

Now, let’s be clear. I’m not opposed to coffee (oh heavens, no).

I personally love me a good, strong, dark cup of fair-trade brew. It’s one of my favorite indulgences, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, in moderation, depending on how it affects you.

I guess, that’s the key. Moderation. Which I’m learning is a relative term.

For some people, that second or third cup of coffee just isn’t a big deal. For me, those extra cups were straining my system, draining me, causing me to deplete myself, run on empty, and irritate my nerves and emotions unnecessarily.

It was hard to see from the inside. I felt I needed it. And it wasn’t a big deal.

What’s one more little cup?

Grumpiness and mean-mommy factor aside (which really aren’t asides at all—they were important deciding factors for me), I also knew deep down that it wasn’t doing me any good.

So when my husband asked me to cut down to one cup per day and see if it made a difference, I agreed to try.

The early weeks were hard. I mean, really stinking hard some days. A headache would start to pound, I felt like I had to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks, and all I wanted was to break my promise and give in.

I got past it, though. I found alternatives to help meet the craving in a healthier way. I pushed past my afternoon slump. I sighed a lot and wished for bedtime to come faster. I debated over which type of tea might hold more caffeine to give me a boost without breaking the letter of the law (the spirit? Not so much… I was interested in survival, not perfection).

It’s now been over a month and I’ve learned a few things about myself:

  1. Coffee was an addition for me.
  2. Coffee is also something I love, just because. So besides my one fully-leaded morning cup, decaf fair trade will also have a place in my cupboard for guilt-free indulgence.
  3. Ever since pushing myself to adrenal fatigue a number of years ago, I’ve had a bad habit of stimulating or draining my body, instead of trying to listen more closely and figure out what it really needs.

That last discovery really caught my attention.

I was in a knee-jerk cycle of pushing myself hard, them stimulating my body to get past the fatigue. If I didn’t get enough rest again the next day (the story of motherhood, right?), I’d be right back to pushing as hard as I could, and then rummaging for whatever might get me through the rest of the day.

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Do you see what I was doing?

Instead of noticing, “I feel really exhausted/mentally foggy/lackluster/have a headache” and assessing how to care for and nourish my body, I was using band-aid solutions (like more coffee) to ignore my body’s signals and make it shut up.

It’s like when you’re in the middle of washing dishes, and the drain gets knocked loose. All that hot, sudsy water slowly swirls away, and if you don’t actually stick the plug back in and turn the hot water on to refill what was lost, chances are your dishes won’t be getting very clean.

That’s what I was doing to my body. Draining it, without refilling. I think I knew it deep down, but didn’t want to admit it. I convinced myself it was necessary, temporary, normal, or part of being a busy work-at-home mom.

Nourish before you drain

Was I still making good choices overall? Sure!

We ate our real food diet, with lots of nutritious, building and cleansing food choices mixed in. I used various herbs and supplements as I thought my body needed them. I wasn’t pulling out a Snickers bar for a junky sugary high. I detested energy drinks.

It wasn’t THAT bad, and I suppose that’s why I justified it for so long. What’s two or three cups of coffee per day, when so many people drink twice that or more?

But here’s what I discovered. It could have been worse, but it also wasn’t helping.

I was, little by little, draining my body of what goodness and strength and nutrients it did have, perpetuating the cycle of fatigue and listlessness, instead of finding ways to build and nourish it back up to a place of wellness and genuine energy.

My new modus operandi is this…

When I hit that slump, get that headache, feel frazzled or foggy-brained, find myself irritable or over-reacting to the little things, I’m choosing to nourish my body before I drain it further.

matcha blueberry smoothie bigger

My vibrant matcha blueberry smoothie

What has this looked like for me, practically speaking?

• Reach for a glass of water first, before anything else. Proper hydration can solve a whole host of problems.

• Sip on coconut water. I find it even more hydrating and energizing than just plain water. It’s expensive, but worthwhile when possible (and cheaper from Costco or Amazon).

• Assess if I might be hungry or have low blood sugar. Do I need to snack on something rich in protein and good fats to help sustain me?

• Pick drinks with more to offer. One that I’ve been choosing frequently is green tea, or even better, matcha (green tea powder). Rooibos tea is another that I enjoy. All of these have high levels of antioxidants, and much less caffeine (or none, with rooibos) than coffee.

• Make pick-me-up smoothies in the mid-afternoon. My favorite is a vanilla blueberry matcha smoothie. Sometimes I add a bit of protein powder or maca powder or green powder (like spirulina) for an extra boost.

• If our day allows, I’ll even just sit down on the couch for 10 or 15 minutes, tea or water in hand, and read a good book while the kids play or the toddler naps. That short break, that intentional slowing down, often refreshes me in a way that pursuing further productivity with a cup of joe in hand never could.

Get moving. Even a small bit of exercise or stretching (as little as 5 minutes), a brisk walk, or a few minutes getting some fresh air, can make a enormous difference in my energy level.

What about you—do you nourish or do you drain?

What do you crave? What are your old standbys? Do they leave you feeling further or depleted?

And the most important question… what could you reach for instead? How could you nourish and care for and soothe and build up your body instead of draining it?

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.
Top image by mark roy

7-Day Real Food Menu Plan {20-Minute Meals Version}


7 Day Real Food Menu Plan 20 Minute Meals Version

By Leigh Ann Dutton, Contributing Writer

Do you want to eat real food but feel like it just takes too much time to cook from scratch? Do you resort to prepackaged convenience foods or carry-out meals because you’re exhausted and just need something quick?

I have been there.

Wait, I AM there!

I have a very active toddler that I homeschool preschool. I’m still waking in the middle of the night to nurse a baby. I run my own business from home. I’m a youth leader with my husband at our local church. And more!

Like you, I’m busy and often exhausted. I just need something in my life to be simple!

A few years ago, I was so tired of making excuses for not providing my family with healthy, nutritious meals.  I challenged myself to come up with an entire month’s worth of real food meals that would only take 20 minutes to prepare. I knew that it had to be possible to eat healthy even when I was changing multiple diapers a day, cleaning the endlessly filthy kitchen floors, and trying to have a somewhat normal conversation with my husband.

This challenge turned into an eBook, 20-Minute Meals: Giving Weary Chefs Grace While Keeping Families Healthy. After that I kept coming up with more 20-minute meal ideas, and now I can’t seem to stop. I’m still just as busy as ever, and although I can manage to prepare more labor-intensive meals occasionally, I still love having the option of real food meals that only take 20 minutes to prepare.

Because I like making my life easier, and I love to help other busy moms like you, I have put together an entire week’s worth of real food meals that only take 20 minutes to prepare.

Below you will find a menu plan for a week of real food along with a printable grocery list for your convenience.

The hard work is already done for you! All you need to do is print your grocery list, save the recipes, and start cooking.

7-Day Real Food Menu Plan {20-Minute Meals}

Note: I have made suggestions for side items to accompany the meals. However, I did not add these suggestions to the printable grocery list since I plan my sides based on what’s in season and on sale. You will need to add side items to your grocery list based on your family’s preferences!

Monday: Pan-Seared Curried Cod with steamed broccoli. Fish is such an easy, quick meal to prepare. Plus it’s full of lots of good fats.

Tuesday: Pork Diane with with lemon garlic green beans and raw applesauce. With a short list of ingredients, this meal is just delectable. It packs a powerful flavor punch!

Wednesday: Ultimate Nachos with a fresh green salad. Nachos are so versatile! Change out the meats or go meatless. Either way, this is a hearty, but simple meal for when you’re on a time crunch.

Thursday: Toasty Salmon Melt with raw veggies. Another meal that’s full of good fats and easy to make!

Friday: Chicken and Potatoes with steamed peas. This meal is comfort of all comforts. It’s super hearty and reminds me of my southern roots!

Saturday: Simple Chicken Quesadillas with raw veggies and homemade guacamole. Quesaddilas are easy to make and the variations are truly endless!

Sunday:  Strawberry Feta Salad topped with cooked chicken with crusty bread. Any of your favorite salads can easily be made into a dinner meal by adding a protein like chicken, beef, or even beans. This one is definitely one of my family’s favorites!

Free Printable Grocery List

Download Your Free Printable Grocery List Here!


Preparing simple, nutritious meals for your family is doable, and now you have an entire week of no excuses to not make healthy, real food meals for your family!

If you want even fewer excuses, check out 20-Minute Meals: Giving Weary Chefs Grace While Keeping Families Healthy. If you purchase between now and April 2, 2014, you will get 20% off at checkout with the code “keeper20″!

20 Minute Meals

20-Minute Meals Includes:

  • 28 Dinner Recipes
  • Monthly Meal Plan
  • Monthly Grocery List
  • Weekly Meal Plans for 4 weeks
  • Weekly Grocery List for 4 weeks
  • Lists to organize your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator
  • 6 Additional Printable Planning Pages
  • Links and Recipes for Make It Yourself Foods

Click here to get your copy and start saving time in the kitchen today!

What are some of your favorite meals that take twenty minutes or less?

A 2-Week Aldi Meal Plan

A 2 Week Aldi Meal Plan Keeper of the Home

By Erin Odom, Contributing Writer

I don’t keep it a secret: I love Aldi.

My love affair with the discount grocery chain began during my newlywed days. My husband and I were struggling to figure out how to make our budget work, and a friend tipped me off on how much she saved by shopping at Aldi.

Aldi? “Get real”, I thought. “Is it dirty inside? Is the food really…good?”

But I was delighted when I discovered that the food did indeed exceed our expectations and that our misgivings about the grocery store were unjustified.

Back then my menus of the day consisted of creamed soup casseroles, boxed shells ‘n cheese and frozen dinner rolls.

When we began our transition to eating whole foods I worried that I’d have to give up my beloved Aldi!

Not so!

Aldi carries organic apples

I soon discovered that shopping there with our new dietary preferences slimmed down our grocery budget even more!

Our grocery budget has ebbed and flowed over the past few years–from those days we could barely make it month-to-month to the little more wiggle room that we have now.

The one constant is that Aldi is always my very first stop when I make my grocery shopping rounds.

I have heard from readers that Aldis vary drastically in both their cleanliness and the quality of their offerings. My Aldi offers fresh produce, a full line of organics and a neat and clean environment.

I know not everyone has this luxury, but for those who do, I have created a 2-week Aldi meal plan. My intent of this plan was to create a menu that someone who only shops at Aldi could use.


A few disclaimers:

I personally do not do all my grocery shopping at Aldi. There are about three different grocery stores I frequent, and I also purchase some food from local growers and order some from Amazon and Vitacost.

You can read this post to find out what items I personally purchase at Aldi. You will notice that I do not purchase meats like chicken, pork or eggs there. I do not personally eat pork, I get antibiotic-free chicken at another store (or via Zaycon) and I purchase our eggs from a local farmer.

Aldi does not regularly carry grass-fed beef, but they do occasionally offer it. When they do, I stock up!

For the purpose of this meal plan, though, I have included all whole meats.

If you are in the position to either choose plain chicken OR frozen, breaded chicken nuggets, then get the chicken that you know isn’t the best choice but it is much better than the alternative.I am a firm believer in the fact that sometimes better is our best when it comes to food choices under restrictive budgets.

Also, some of these recipes may require you purchasing oils and spices elsewhere–or you can always make your own homemade spice mixes!


Without further ado, check out this 2-week Aldi meal plan!

Week 1


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, bacon, side of fruit with freshly-squeezed orange juice and/or organic milk/almond milk and coffee

Lunch: Crockpot Paella , organic side salad

Dinner: Ham and cheese rolled up, organic carrots sticks with peanut butter, organic apple slices

Notes: Our family usually eats a bigger lunch and a lighter dinner on Sundays since we attend church in the mornings. If you do not, you can always switch up lunch and dinner on this menu! 


Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal with almond or organic dairy milk, topped with frozen organic blueberries and chopped walnuts

Lunch: Leftover Crockpot Paella 

Dinner: Lemon Garlic Tilapia  

Creamy Clementine Smoothie TheHumbledHomemaker.com 1


Breakfast: Creamy Clementine Smoothie, bacon, scrambled eggs

Lunch: Organic spinach salad topped with canned tuna or salmon, organic cherry tomatoes, organic carrots and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil

Dinner: Ground Beef and Zucchini Skillet 

Notes: Stock up on Aldi’s grass-fed beef when they offer it as a special sale, to use in this recipe. The zucchini and potatoes will not be organic. I would leave out the corn, as the Aldi corn is most likely GMO.


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, bacon, side of fruit with freshly-squeezed orange juice and/or organic milk/almond milk and coffee

Lunch: Leftover Ground Beef and Zucchini Skillet 

Dinner: Slow Cooker Roast Chicken bacon-wrapped green beans and oven-roasted potatoes

Notes: This meal will not be organic.

Easiest Chicken Tortilla Soup TheHumbledHomemaker.com


Breakfast: Blueberry-Banana Smoothie, scrambled eggs

Lunch: Baked sweet potato topped with butter and a side of canned salmon

Dinner: Easiest Chicken Tortilla Soup Ever, side salad of organic lettuce, organic cherry tomatoes and avocado wedges


Breakfast: Triple Berry Smoothie, omelette with chopped ham and spinach

Lunch: Leftover Easiest Chicken Tortilla Soup Ever

Dinner: Cauliflower Crust Pizza  with a salad

pizzacc 011


Breakfast: Thick Peanut Butter Smoothie, scrambled eggs, side of fruit

Lunch: Rice cake peanut butter “sandwiches” with raisins and organic apple slices

Dinner: Lemon Greek Chicken with organic side salad

Week 2


Breakfast: Southwestern frittata 

Notes: Stock up on Aldi’s grass-fed beef when they offer it as a special sale, to use in this recipe. You should be able to find the rest of the ingredients for this recipe at Aldi, but it will not be organic. 

Lunch: Crock Pot Cajun Tilapia

Dinner: Avocado Spinach Egg Salad  sans bread or on a rice cake instead

SW Frittata3

 Image by Live Renewed 


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, bacon, side of fruit with freshly-squeezed orange juice and/or organic milk/almond milk and coffee

Lunch: Veggie and hummus plate

Dinner: Herb Chicken Skillet served over brown rice with a side salad of organic lettuce, organic cherry tomatoes and organic carrots


Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal with almond or organic dairy milk, topped with frozen organic blueberries and chopped walnuts

Lunch: Leftover Herb Chicken Skillet

Dinner: One Pan Salmon & Veggie Bake

Herb Chicken Skillet thehumbledhomemaker.com


Breakfast: Thick Peanut Butter Smoothie, scrambled eggs, side of fruit

Lunch: Leftover One Pan Salmon & Veggie Bake

Dinner: Pan Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Garlic Green Beans


Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, bacon, side of fruit with freshly-squeezed orange juice and/or organic milk/almond milk and coffee

Lunch: Rice cake peanut butter “sandwiches” with raisins and organic apple slices

Dinner: Herb & Citrus Oven Roasted Chicken 

mexican chicken5

image by Live Renewed 


Breakfast: Southwestern frittata 

Notes: Stock up on Aldi’s grass-fed beef when they offer it as a special sale, to use in this recipe. You should be able to find the rest of the ingredients for this recipe at Aldi, but it will not be organic. 

Lunch: Veggie and hummus plate

Dinner: Cauliflower Crust Pizza  with a salad


Breakfast: Triple Berry Smoothie, omelette with chopped ham and spinach

Lunch: leftover Cauliflower Crust Pizza 

Dinner: Mexican chicken pasta skillet

Save Money and Buy Healthy Food at Aldi TheHumbledHomemaker.com

Still not so sure about Aldi? Check out these top 5 whole foods to purchase at Aldi!

 Do you shop at Aldi? What are your favorite items to purchase at Aldi?



Weekend Links

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Links for this week:

How to Homestead Without 100 Acres and A Cow @ GNOWFGLINS

How 15 Minutes Can Transform Your Motherhood (and your life) @ Inspired to Action

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie @ Red and Honey

Why all those years of lost sleep spent parenting are worth it @ Lisa-Jo Baker

Advice to Wives: Stop Praying @ (in)courage

Raspberry Crumble Bars (Grain-Free, Paleo) @ Deliciously Organic

On Choosing Joy {Even When It’s Not Easy} @ Life Your Way

6 steps toward a financial fresh start @ The Art of Simple

What are you wishing for these days?

One-Pot Wonders: 23 Quick Dinners with Fewer Dishes

One Pot Wonders

By Emily McClements, Contributing Writer

It’s 4:30 pm.

Your stove is covered with the remains of pots and pans from last night’s dinner, and the kitchen sink is bursting with the day’s dishes because you forgot to empty the dishwasher this morning.

You’ve been feeling overwhelmed and exhausted lately and don’t have a plan. So, what do you cook for dinner tonight?

I have to admit that in this season of life of chasing and cleaning up after little ones, endless days inside because of below freezing temperatures, and working on growing my blog as a family business, these days happen more then I’d like. Not because I want my life to be perfectly planned and organized, but because it makes what can already be stressful and overwhelming days even more stressful and overwhelming.

In these situations, I fall back on making one-pot or skillet meals that are quick and easy to throw together for a healthy family dinner. I love the simplicity of one-pot meals and I especially love less mess to worry about after dinner is over.

Keep this list on hand for those kind of days at your house. You’ll be glad you did!

23 Recipes for Quick Dinners with Fewer Dishes

Hearty Lentil Stew
Photo credit: Kelly of TheNourishingHome.com

One-Pot Meals

Whip together a healthy dinner in just one pot!

Hearty Lentil Stew from The Nourishing Home

Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Chowder from Intentional by Grace

Stovetop Turkey Rice and Veggies from Healthy Roots Happy Soul

Sweet and Sour Lentils from Keeper of the Home

Roasted Chicken Chili from The Nourishing Home

Southwestern Frittata

Simple Skillets

Quick and easy dinners in a skillet on the stovetop.

Taco Chili Mac from Live Renewed

Pizza Cabbage Skillet from Food Renegade

Easy Tortilla Lasagna from Raia’s Recipes

Un-Stuffed Peppers from Vintage Kids Modern World

Homemade Hamburger Helper from Healing Cuisine

Paleo Taco Skillet from Paleo Gone Sassy

Homemade Cheeseburger Helper from Kitchen Stewardship

Tuna and Rice Noodle Stir Fry from Paleo Diet Basics

Southwestern Frittata from Live Renewed

Chicken Picatta from Real Food Whole Health

Tomato Chicken Skillet from Healing Cuisine

Staple Weeknight Stir-Fry from Green Plate Kate

Herb Chicken Skillet from The Humbled Homemaker


Still Simple Plus-One Pot Meals

These meals use an extra dish or pan, but are still simple and quick recipes to help you get a healthy dinner on the table for your family!

Mexican Chicken Skillet from Live Renewed

Creamy Green Chili Beef at Red and Honey

Chicken, Peas, and Brown Rice from The Greenbacks Gal

Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas at Babble

Zucchini and Ground Beef Skillet Casserole from Live Renewed

Do you have any favorite quick one pot or skillet meals? Share a link with us in the comments!


Cranberry Apple Kale Salad Recipe with Lemon Vinaigrette

Cranberry Apple Kale Salad

By Andrea Green, Contributing Writer

Does your family enjoy kale salads? Try serving them this family friendly recipe for Cranberry Apple Kale Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and I bet they will!

Kale seems to be the “hot” superfood of the day, doesn’t it?

My family’s love affair with kale has grown over the years.

We started out hiding it in smoothies as a way to get more veggies into our diet. Sure it turned our smoothies green, but with lots of fruit, we got all of the benefits of kale with none of the taste. That suited our daughters just fine.

Then we graduated to kale chips. If you have not made a batch yet, the taste really is just like a potato chip. At our house, kale chips are inhaled the minute they get pulled out of the oven.

Finally, we have graduated to kale salads. This happened about the same time I discovered baby kale at my Costco. Of course, now the mainstream grocery stores also carry kale in all its varieties as evidenced by the “Kale Corner” at my Safeway down the street.

Kale Corner

If you have been reluctant to serve kale in a salad, look for baby kale. It eliminates the tough stem and the flavor has less bitterness than many of the other kale varieties.

Combining the kale with sweet fruits is a throwback to our kale smoothies. The sweetness of the fruit pairs perfectly with the kale.

Cranberry Apple Kale Salad Recipe with Lemon Vinaigrette


4 cups baby kale
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 sweet apple, chopped (gala or fuji work well)

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Toss kale, apple and cranberries in a large bowl. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients. Toss the salad with vinaigrette to combine.

Once you’ve started adding kale salads to your meal plans, you might want to try adding one of these recipes:

Apple Quinoa Kale Salad Recipe
Bacon, Butternut Squash, Kale Salad Recipe

What’s your family’s favorite way to eat kale?

Getting Your Healthy Kitchen Under Control with Freezer Cooking {65+ Recipes}

Getting Your Healthy Kitchen Under Control with Freezer Cooking

By Jami Balmet, Contributing Writer

I don’t know about you, but I just feel overwhelmed sometimes when it comes to making healthy meals for my family. After a long day of blogging, cleaning, housework, laundry, bills, and chasing down my very active twin boys, I just don’t have the energy (or the time) to put into making delicious and healthy meals from scratch every night. I know that real food and home cooked meals are the most nutritious way to bring up my kids, and family time around the dinner table is invaluable - but what do you do when you are exhausted and already feel overwhelmed with everything else you do?

Freezer cooking. These two simple words have transformed how I run my kitchen. I think my husband would agree the process has vastly improved the meals we eat! I began freezer cooking (or once a month cooking) before we had kids and we lived in a small apartment with a teeny tiny refrigerator and freezer. But I made it work (see how I used to do freezer cooking) and now that I have a larger refrigerator in my kitchen and a chest freezer, my love of once a month cooking has grown even more.

To give you a head start so you can jump right in to freezer cooking, I’m going to cover the basics (with some resources for digging in further) and a roundup of amazing freezer cooking recipes. Real food, healthy cooking has never been so easy!

The Basics of Freezer Cooking

Decide on a Method

When someone says that they do “freezer cooking” this can be done numerous ways. In fact, no two homemakers probably do freezer cooking exactly the same way. And as you will see, often we adapt multiple methods of freezer cooking. But here are a few of the basic methods for freezer cooking:

Cook Once for a Full Month – This is the method of freezer cooking that I first fell in love with. It’s the concept that you take one day and do all your grocery shopping for the month (or most) and do a full day of cooking 20 to 30 meals to last the entire month. This is a great option for those really busy times in our lives like when you are having a new baby!

Make Double Batches – As I’ve gotten more comfortable with what freezes well, I’ve started doing this more and more. When I’m making a lasagna for dinner, I just go ahead and make two. We enjoy one for dinner that night and the other one goes into the freezer for another day. This works great for those of us who have little kids running underfoot and a full day of cooking just sounds like torture. This way, you already have all the ingredients out and you just make a double batch.

Just Make the Staples - I’ve also adapted this method of freezer cooking and couldn’t survive without it!  When I make dried beans in my crockpot, I will cook 2 or 3 big bags at a time. When it’s done, I divide the beans up into smaller bags and freeze them so I can pull soaked, homemade beans out whenever I need them! This also works well with rice, shredded chicken, beef for tacos and burritos, and more.

Hunt for the Deals

Shop smart, and you can find amazing deals on your food for freezing cooking. Once a year, my local natural foods store has organic, free-range chicken fryers for $5! So I go early and buy as many as I can get my hands on. Then I come home, shred all the chicken, and package them up into 2 cup packages and away they go in the freezer. This way we have frozen, shredded chicken ready for last minute meals. In the long run, it saves so much money.

I do the same thing with fresh produce. When peaches are in season we will buy them 100 pounds at a time. We wash them, cut them into quarters and freeze them for the long winter months. They go great in kefir smoothies. Then we have fresh, organic produce all year round for rock bottom prices.

65+ Healthy Real Food Freezer Meal Recipes2Know Your Limit

Two months ago we moved into our first house. We got a great big refrigerator/freezer from my mom and bought a chest freezer for our mud room. Now I have ample room to buy food in bulk and freeze, freeze, freeze! But just three months ago, we lived in a small apartment and I was taller than our fridge … enough said. I didn’t have room to store 30 pounds of meat, 100 pounds of peaches, and a full month’s worth of meals.

So I had to be selective with that I froze. Some months that meant we cleared out the freezer and had 20 meals ready for that month. But other months it meant just having the staples like shredded chicken and beans stockpiled in our freezer. Start off slow and as you learn what your freezer can handle, you can dive in further.

Do Some Research

One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that so many other homemakers are willing to share their secrets and what they’ve learned. I’ve compiled a more thorough resource list for freezer cooking, but here are a few to get our started:

Once a Month Meals Whole Foods Menu – I tried out Once a Month Meals years ago, before they had a whole foods menu. I really like it, but at the end of the day I like to cook our family’s favorite dishes. If you are new to freezer cooking and want to give it a try, OAMM are an easy way to try it out. They give you a full month’s worth of menus planned out, printable recipes, and even your shopping list! I do know that part of their website is now a paid membership, but I think it can be worth it.

Money Saving Mom – Crystal Paine posted a mini series on freezer cooking and even has some free printables to help you plan your cooking. She also has an eBook on freezer cooking that you can get for free when signing up for her newsletter!

Life As Mom – In a great series that goes beyond just the basics of freezer cooking, Jessica Fisher covers shopping for freezer meals, cooking with kids, how to keep track of your meals, and more.

Intentional By Grace – Leigh Ann Dutton quickly covers the basics of freezer cooking and moves on to great topics such as organizing a freezer meal swap, yummy recipes and more.

Pinterest – Of course, this is my favorite resource! I’ve created a freezer cooking Pinterest board with all these resources, recipes, and much much more. Follow my Real Food Freezer Cooking board and start browsing Pinterest for awesome recipes.

65 Freezer Meal Recipes

*Please note: As with most recipes, I scan the ingredients before making it because often I’ll substitute whole wheat flour for white, honey or maple syrup for sugar, etc. So a few of these recipes below are not completely “real food,” but with a few tweaks I know they will turn out great!


Easy Morning Glory Muffins

Sourdough Pumpkin Waffles

Cherry Maple Muffins

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes Recipe

Asparagus & Bacon Quiche

Whole-Grain Banana Pecan Muffins

Freezer Friendly Breakfast Burritos 

Apple Butter Muffins

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

Apple Peanut Butter Muffins

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancake 


Hamburger Vegetable Soup

Bean and Cheese Burritos

Wholesome Tuna Salad Sandwich

Cafe Rio Shredded Pork and Cafe Rio Creamy Salad Dressing

Chihuahua Chili

Homemade Chicken Salsa Pockets

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Green Rice Casserole Recipe


Mexican Chicken Chili

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Queso Fundido

Crockpot Balsamic Glazed Drumsticks

Honey Lime Chicken

Irish Shepherd’s Pie

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Lasagna Casserole Recipe

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

Making a Freezer Kit

Slow Cooker Mexican-Style Shredded Beef

Crockpot Lasagna

Slow Cooker BBQ Cranberry Chicken

Cajun Chicken with Sausage

Homemade Frozen Pizzas

Homemade Croutons, Shredded Chicken and Recipe for Red Sauce

Simple Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Slow Cooker Asian Pot Roast

Honey & Spice Glazed Pork Chops

Crockpot Beef Tips & Gravy

Italian Lemon Chicken

Shepherd’s Pie

Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken

Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Slow Cooker Chicken & Gravy

Chicken in Marinades

Beef Mexi Rice Recipe

Slow Cooker Green Chile Pork Tacos

Soups & Stews

Sausage & White Bean Slow Cooker Soup

Rustic Chicken Slow Cooker Stew

Slow Cooker Fiesta Chicken Soup

Slow Cooker Beef Barley Stew

Crockpot Chicken & Dumplings


Freezer Friendly Pizza Dough

Mama’s Frozen Biscuits

Savory Muffins

Homemade Flour Tortillas (that you can freeze!!)

Homemade Yogurt in the Slow Cooker (that you can freeze!!)

Savory Crescent Chicken Pockets

Fried Rice

Best Ever Chocolate Oatmeal No-Bake Bars

Homemade freezer biscuits

Homemade Bone Broth

Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge

Have you ever done freezer cooking? What method do you follow?