PJ’s Diary: My Rather Extensive Vocabulary

I really like to tease my mommy! I fake sneezes so she will say “Bless you, PJ!” and I like to crawl away real fast and hide when she’s not looking.

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I wonder how she always finds me so fast?

But my favorite way to tease Mommy is the “new word game” – I learned alllll these words before I let her know I can say “Mommy!”

Uh oh
Hi!
Daddy (that’s my favorite!)
Wawa
PopPop
Kitty
Doggie (also pronounced “Kitty”)
Frog (also pronounced “Kitty”)
Pretty
Wow wow wow!
Mickey
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No!
Go!
Bye bye
Nana
Nice
Cookie
AFLAC
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Cracker
Whereditgo?
I did it!
Fishie

Buuuuuuut….Now I had enough fun teasing Mommy, so I gived her a big kiss tonight and said “Mommy.” And then I fake sneezed on her and laughed and laughed!

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Ooooh look! Fishie! I love you, Mommy!

How To: Eat Clean(er) In Restaurants

Clean eating at home isn’t exactly easy, especially when you’re juggling a family and a busy schedule. But at least you have the advantage of controlling your ingredients and your environment. So if we ate at home for every meal, the path to healthy eating habits would be relatively smooth. But of course we live in the real world, and that means eating at other people’s homes and at restaurants sometimes too. The easy way out is to say “Oh, it’s a special occasion, and I’ll have whatever I want *just this once*.” But when *just this once* becomes every couple of days, it’s easy to get off track in a hurry.

So here are some of my survival strategies to be able to eat out and enjoy my time with family, friends, and colleagues without throwing away all my hard work and exercise:

Don’t Arrive Too Hungry

Just like grocery shopping, if you are starving when you walk into a restaurant, the unhealthy choices are more likely to jump out at you and you’re more likely to overeat in general. It’s also much easier to say “No thanks” to a bread basket if you aren’t entertaining a herd of rampaging wildebeests in your tummy (what? Just me and PJ?) Eat a high protein snack before you go and it’ll be easier to stay on track.

Say No To Soda
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Regular soda is full of empty calories, and diet versions actually stimulate your appetite and craving for sugar. Stick to water and unsweetened teas for your main drink, and save your beverage calories for a glass of wine instead.

Skip The Salad

This may seem counterintuitive to a healthy eating strategy, but think about this – which of these three dishes is going to give you a bigger bang for your vegetable buck?

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The typical house salad at many restaurants may make you feel good when you order it, but is usually just a pile of lettuce with a couple of tomatoes and/or cucumbers and it’s not at all satisfying to eat. And a lot of entree salads are loaded with fatty fried chicken, and covered with high fat dressings and other unhealthy items. You’re better off ordering the pizza with lots of veggies (that are ironically not often included in the salads!) or another entree with some nutritional value than suffering through a boring plate of lettuce or thinking you were “good” because you ordered a salad and then binging on dessert….or so I’ve heard!

Read Like A Chef

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When you’re looking for a healthy entree, pay attention to the ingredients and also to how it’s prepared. Look for broiled, grilled and baked items, and stay away from smothered ones. Sauteed is a tricky one, because it CAN be done with a light touch, but most of the time it isn’t. You’ll probably be looking at a lot of unnecessary fat and oil with a sauteed dish. If you don’t understand a term and how it relates to fats used in cooking, ask your server or look it up.

Have What She’s Having

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Ok, I love this movie. And you don’t need to be quite as high maintenance as Sally, but she really is onto something with all her “on the side” orders. I always ask for dressings and sauces on the side, because they add flavor but also add a ton of fat and calories most of the time. So I dip my fork into the dressing or sauce before each bite to get the flavor, and rarely use more than a quarter of what they send out.

Divide & Conquer

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It’s no secret that restaurant portions are typically way outside the norm in their size and amount of calories involved. One good strategy to manage this is to take a good look at your plate before you take that first bite or Instagram photo, and decide where your stopping point is. I usually eat half of my plate and then stop for a couple of minutes to decide if I’m still hungry or if I’m talking the rest home for lunch. It’s easy to get caught up in conversation and finish a whole huge plate before you know it, so deciding where you stop before you start can be a big help.

These are my six favorite strategies for keeping on track away from home – what are yours? Leave them in the comments!

PJ’s Diary: My Mom Is So Weird

I’ve been wondering for awhile now what happens after me and Bunny falls asleep. I used to think that everything stops until I wake up again, but now I’m not so sure.

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I spend hours and hours creating a high quality mess, and then it gets cleaned up while I sleep – it’s almost like Mommy & Daddy are still awake and doing things without me, but that can’t be right, can it? I mean, without me around to play with they just shut off like my fishie lamp, right?

So the other morning I decided I needed to get up early and investigate. I roared like a dinosaur to let my mommy know it was time for her to get up too, and let me tell you she took her sweet old time coming to rescue me from my crib! But she showed up eventually and we had a nice snuggle and a bottle.

Then she tried to tell me to play with my toys, and moved my Lego table across the room. I got a funny feeling that she’s done this before, she knew just where to put it to leave a big space on the rug. Then she pulled out this fun runway that she’s apparently been hiding from me. She said “OK, PJ, be a good boy and play so Mommy can do some PiYo.” But all I wanted to play was “crawl back and forth on the runway” – it’s fun, you should try it sometime!

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I wasn’t done crawling yet, but Mommy scooped me up and popped me in my bouncer! I was mad for a minute, but then she put my buddy Mickey on and we were totally cool. I made her use the little TV to do her exercise, Mickey just can’t be squished like that Chalene lady can!

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Mommy was doing some pretty weird stuff while I was watching Mickey, but she seemed like she was having fun so I just let it slide. But afterwards, she made a yummy shake and wouldn’t share any of it with me, can you believe that?

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I think my mom is pretty cool just the way she is – nice and soft and squishy to hug, just the way I like her! But if she wants to keep doing these weird PiYo things and get real strong so we can run and play, that’s OK with me I guess. And maybe I’ll give it a try, I think I can do this Crouching Crow thing –

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Oooops, falled over!

10 Minute, Zero Guilt Dinner Recipe

Fridays have become our adventure days here in Neverland! Today I and my friend Marisia took our littles for their first visit to Chanticleer Gardens. Her 2 year old enjoyed the flowers and exploring the beautiful stone carvings, but PJ’s Diary entry would just read “Meh!”

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Too bad kiddo, this is one of Mommy’s top five favorite places in the Philly area and you’ll be spending a lot of time there! Although Marisia and I did decide that we need to make a sans enfants trip back there soon to drink in all that artistic inspiration.

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So after our trip to the gardens, I was wiped out but I really didn’t want to take the easy easy out and go out to dinner or order in since we indulged in our favorite Mexican restaurant the night before. And then I remembered that I had everything to make a fast, mostly veggie dinner. Score!

I pulled out my new Veggetti (handiest little thing!) and spiraled up some delicious squash.

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And then I pulled out my trusty bag of baby spinach, a chunk of Parmesan cheese, snipped some basil off the plant on my windowsill and tossed in a handful of walnuts. I threw everything in my food processor and pushed play.

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After the pesto was done,  I sautéed my veggie noodles in a splash of olive oil then tossed everything together.

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Voilà! Dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes! The pesto pairs well with regular pasta too – my husband doesn’t care for the veggie noodles too much, but he does like the pesto when I use it on pasta.

Here’s the recipe:

Veggetti and Spinach Pesto

Ingredients:

1 medium sized squash per person
Olive oil
2 cups spinach
About 10 basil leaves
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup walnuts

To make:

1 – Spiral cut the squash.  Sprinkle with salt to absorb the excess moisture and set aside.

2 – Combine spinach, basil,  cheese, and walnuts in good processor bowl. Stream in olive oil to desired consistency as processor runs.

3 – Sauté cut squash in olive oil for 5-7 minutes until just cooked through.

4 – Combine noodles with pesto and serve!

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And seriously, go spend an afternoon at Chanticleer. You won’t regret it!

12 Things I Do Buy Now (That I Never Thought I Would)

Last week I shared a few things that I have started pushing my cart straight past in the grocery store. But of course clean eating is about more than eliminating processed foods, it’s also about eating more of the good stuff.

I’ve found this to be a gradual process, which started for me when I first began making PJ’s baby food. As I looked for new foods for him to try, I made that fruit or vegetable part of my regular meals for the week as well. I have since started buying baby food for him because I could never master the consistency of meats especially, but he usually prefers to eat off of my plate now, and that is my biggest motivation to keep honest about my clean eating – it’s kind of like being pregnant or breastfeeding again without all of the pain and suffering. Win win!

Here are 12 of my favorite “discoveries” that will be on the menu for this week:

From the Produce Aisle

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Collard greens – A lot of people told me that Napa cabbage makes a good substitute taco shell. Sorry to say, I did not find this to be the case lol. But I found this recipe for a chickpea avocado taco in a collard wrap, and am going to give the leafy shell thing another try!

Turnips – These are surprisingly good substitutes for white potatoes in soups. They have a similar texture and absorb the flavor of the broth, and I really like using them this way.

Brussels Sprouts – This is my new veggie to try this week. I’m going to see how they turn out roasted, which is one of my favorite ways to prepare almost any vegetable.

Avocados – I used to buy one or two for a specific recipe, and now I find myself wailing “Oh noooooo, I ran out of avocados!” on a fairly regular basis. Salads, wraps, sauces, dips, everything is better with an avocado or two. And PJ’s favorite – blend one with a banana for a creamy, yummy treat! (Don’t tell him, but I’ll be making him Popsicles out of this mix later today!)

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Bok Choy – I mentioned last week what a delicious soup this makes, but it’s also a great sir fry ingredient for a super fast and healthy dinner.

Squashes – I’ve always loved zucchini, but am discovering a whole world of delicious squashes now. Spaghetti squash, and spiral cut zucchinis are helping me get through my love of pasta. This little Acorn squash is going to get roasted up with some olive oil and parmesan – yum-O!

Tomatoes – Wait, what? Yes, tomatoes. I’m sure you don’t need serving suggestions for these, but I have personally always hated them and am just starting to cook with them regularly. I figured if I’m brave enough to try Bok Choy and Brussels Sprouts, I can try eating more tomatoes too, right?

In The Pantry
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PB2 – Another new thing to try this week, I hear it is amazing especially when added to a protein shake!

Black Beans – These fall into a category of things I have bought before but never really knew how to use. But now I add them to soups more often, and have a couple of good, quick taco recipes to throw them in. Yay for protein!

Quinoa – I’m still not fond of this on its own, I prefer the texture of couscous honestly. But where I’ve really come to use it is in recipes that call for ground beef (like chili or meatballs), I substitute half the beef with quinoa to cut down the fat and still have a nice hearty meal.

Bulk Nuts – These are some of my favorites. I used to just buy the package of overly salted, greasy, roasted nuts. But the bulk aisle had much better options available at pretty reasonable prices.

Tahini – Check the organic or international foods aisle for this one. It’s the main ingredient in hummus, and other sauces. It kind of tastes like unsalted peanut butter in my opinion, and one small tub lasts a good long time in the pantry.

What About Drinks?
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Of course sodas are the first thing to go when you’re eating clean. And lucky for me, I love coffee, tea, and water. But that does get boring sometimes and processed powder drink additives are not in my clean eating plan! I also notice myself becoming more sensitive to dairy now that I eat and drink less of it, so I’ve started buying almond milk for my coffee and love it.

My Shakeology gets a mention on both lists because I really never thought I would become a daily shake kind of girl, but I am a convert for sure. I confess that I kept a container of my grocery store brand, which has now been completely untouched in my pantry for several weeks! I find that coconut water mixes better with the shakes than the plain, and doesn’t have a very strong coconut flavor. I made a shake this morning with the vanilla powder, coconut water, blueberries, and couple of basil leaves – it was totally amazing. And the best part is that if I hadn’t thought so, there’s a 30 day, bottom of the bag money back guarantee on the Shakeology.

So there you have it – 12 of my personal favorite new staples on our clean eating adventure. What new foods have you discovered lately? Please tell, I am always looking for new ones!

PJ’s Diary: Going to the Zoo!

I woke up with my cranky pants on this morning. I didn’t want my breakfast, or my toys, or even my juice. Mommy said I better change into my happy pants real quick so we can go to the zoo with Sammy, but I couldn’t find them anywhere!

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Maybe she forgot to wash them?

I got it together anyway though, and we went on a ride to the zoo! I was so excited to see my buddy Sammy and his Mommy Nikki!

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We met birds that flew right by my ear and made me laugh, and I helped give a giraffe his lunch!

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I tasted it first, it wasn’t very good. It’s the kind of thing I usually feed my mommy, but it seemed like the giraffe liked it. My new friend Reuben helped Louis the giraffe eat lots of salad!

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Then I met an iguana!  Ohhhhh boy! I thought he was going to eat my little piggies but Mommy said he couldn’t come through the glass. He had some silly monkey friends that made faces at me too!

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I liked the turtles, but Mommy said I couldn’t keep them. Booo!

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Sammy and I had a little chat while Reuben played on the big kids playground. We weren’t even a little bit sleepy, but our Mommies said it was time to go home.

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I don’t really know what happened after that. I just rested my eyes for a second, and next thing you know I’m in my crib with Bunny and Michael and Stinky. It was the weirdest thing!

I hope we go back to the zoo soon!

PJ’s Diary: Not For Mommies!

If there is one thing I am sick to death of hearing, it’s “No no PJ! That’s not for babies!” It makes me put my mad face on rawwwwr!

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My friend Michael and I had a little chat the other day and we’re real mad that all the good stuff is “not for babies.”

“TV buttons are not for babies!”

“Yucky floor lint is not for babies!”

“Throwing toys in the potty is not for babies!”

“Toasters are not for babies!”

“Riding without a car seat is not for babies!”

Well, we have had enough of this unfair treatment, and we want to declare a few things as Not For Mommies.

Bananas are not for Mommies. All mine!

Cell phones are not for Mommies. They are for kissing Nana, everyone knows that!

Privacy in the potty is not for Mommies. We can’t throw toys in there, you can’t… whatever it is you do in there. I’m not real sure about this one.

Sleeping in is not for Mommies. It’s ok if Daddy does though, we’re generous like that.

Eating dinner is not for Mommies. This plate is not your plate, this plate is my plate. Especially if there is salmon on it. Yum!

Grown up books are not for Mommies. We must insist that you read only the Sandra Boynton collection, over and over, for the rest of your lives.

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Exercising is not for Mommies. What if I need a big hug, or a boo boo kissed? Do that downward facing dog stuff on your own time! (Michael disagrees with me on this one, and he does a pretty mean plank, don’t you think?)

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So there, mean Mommies! I hope you learned a lesson and about telling us all the good stuff is not for babies. I’m just gonna go check out this extension cord now…

Darn it.

How To: Set Up Goal Jars

First of all, I want to say a big thank you to everyone for being so supportive of my clean eating post! I was a little nervous about starting to share about this health and fitness journey we’re on here, but I felt so great after many of your responses that I’m feeling good about sharing more along the way. So thank you for that 🙂

I saw a project on Pinterest in the fitness category awhile back that was intriguing. And like the menu planner, I knew it needed a little tweaking to work for me. It’s been a work in progress, but this feels like a good time to share about it anyway.

The original project has two matching jars painted with a variation of “Pounds To Go” on one and “Pounds Lost” on the other. They’ve got marbles in them to represent pounds or half pounds and as you lose weight, you’re supposed to move a marble from one jar to the other. I tried it once, and it ended up being just another way to fail because I just don’t shed pounds easily and it was depressing to stare at that full jar every day.

And then I realized that I was going about it all wrong, and I could use some of the skills from my job to put together a version that would work better for me.
At work, I keep a dashboard of all our marketing campaigns. I track how many people see each message, how many people visit our website, how many call or email us for more information, and how many ultimately make a purchase from us. Our main goal is, of course, to make that last  number as big as possible, but – here’s the big secret – you can only do that by making changes to the other numbers. There’s no way for me to make an extra 50 or 100 people make a purchase. But if I can place a message in front of 10,000 people and 1000 of them visit my website, where 100 of them contact us for more information, and I do that over and over and over again, I will get my 100 new customers. The more you look at the numbers and figure out where you are falling behind in that conversion to the next level, the better you’ll get at knowing where to make changes to help boost the process along.

So, I took that idea and put it in a jar that lives next to my jewelry box, where I see it every day. I added pearls to represent inches I need to lose to fit into my long term goal dress size. Then I added stones to represent pounds to lose along the way to my long term goal. And last, I added a penny for each of the 30 sessions in my workout program.

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Every day after my workout, I move a penny from the “goal” jar to the “done” jar. And on my check in days, I move stones and/or pearls over for any inches or pounds I’ve lost.

At the end of my first program, my done jar had 30 pennies, 6 pearls, and 4 stones in it. If it had just had those lonely little stones in it after all that work, I probably would have quit. Again. But making the work part of the goal itself made a huge difference for me.

I didn’t feel like I had failed because I only had 4 stones, I felt like I was really making progress because my “done” jar was starting to fill up. So I gave myself the reward I had promised myself for finishing the program, and added 48 more pennies to the “goal” jar for the workouts in my next program.

I have rewards planned for myself as I move those stones and pearls too, and it feels really good to see that pile of pennies stacking up in the bottom of the jar! I’m already thinking about what program I want to do next – any suggestions?

What keeps you motivated? Does it make a difference if you are at a point where your goal seems far away, or right around the corner? What kinds of rewards do you give yourself for meeting your goals? I’d love to hear about them all!

PJ’s Diary: Fall Down BOOM

I’ve got this weird feeling about my legs. They’ve been perfectly good crawling pistons for months now, but all of a sudden I think maybe … they can do other things.

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It all started with the dishwasher. I just love dishwashers, don’t you? They’ve got so many fun things to pull out and throw on the floor! But it was so hard to reach them all and one day I said “PJ, let’s stretch these leg things out and see if we can get up high enough to grab that Mickey Mouse plate over there.” And it worked, oh boy!

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After that, I took over the coffee table – did you know that cars go real fast when you push them? And then…tragedy. I put my foot on a Lego and it hurt so bad I let go of the coffee table and fell down BOOM right on my butt.

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You know how I know falling down goes BOOM? Because my Uncle Caleb taught me all about it. Sometimes I stand up just so I can sit down and say BOOM. It’s so much fun, you should try it sometime!

Sometimes I get tired of falling down BOOM, and I wonder whether my feet can do anything else fun. Mommy and Daddy use theirs to jump over the gate and visit my kitty friends, but I just can’t figure out how they do it.

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I like it when Mommy holds my hands when I stand up, but then she tries to get me to move and I’m all “Whoa whoa whoa, slow down babe, I’ve got a perfectly good set of knees right here!”

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Sheesh. Parents. What are ya gonna do? Me, I’m gonna stick to crawling as long as I can. BOOM.

6 Things I’ve Stopped Buying At The Grocery Store

PJ may have just noticed that we’re eating clean in Neverland, but there have been some gradual changes happening for awhile that went right over that cute curly head! A big one is in the way we grocery shop. I’ve mentioned before that planning ahead and cooking extra foods on the weekends is a key part of how I manage to get through the week.

For my new friends (hello!), I’ll recap that on the days I go into the office, I work 10 hour days so that I have an extra full day off with the little man. This is great in many ways, but being able to consistently get a healthy dinner on the table isn’t one of them. In the winter, I rely on my Crock Pot and casseroles that can be made in double or triple batches and frozen. Now that it’s too hot to run my oven so much, I’ve been having to adjust.

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Chicken & Bok Choy Soup - easy, delicious, and freezes well! Leave a comment if you'd like to see a future post with the recipe 🙂

I’ll admit that this was not a smooth transition. We went through a few weeks where we ate out or ate a lot of convenience foods, and I felt much worse for it. But things are getting easier, and I feel like I’ve finally got my mojo back to share some of my survival lessons learned with all of you lovely people!

My best summer plan ahead tool is our grill. I do all of our meats for a week at the same time – and we actually have a bigger variety than we did during the winter because of it. Last night, for example,  PJ and I had grilled salmon and Paul (who is not a big fan of seafood) had pork chops – and it took next to no extra time, and didn’t break my “one family, one dinner” rule because I was already preparing multiple recipes. Win win! And now we have pork chops frozen to eat another night next week!

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The other thing I’ve had to work past is how to shop for and make quick prep meals without compromising our whole foods goal. Here are 6 things I’ve completely eliminated from my grocery store shopping list:

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Honey Cashew Oatmeal - way better than anything you find premade in the cereal aisle!

1 – Oatmeal Packets

Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts. It’s easy to pack, keeps me full almost as well as eggs, and can be dressed up so many ways. I stopped buying premade packets and started buying rolled oats (in bulk when I can get them). Every few weeks, I make up my own packets in snack size baggies. I put a half cup of oats into each baggie, add any dry ingredients, and write on the bag with a sharpie any wet ingredients to be added when I’m ready to eat it. I usually do two bags of each flavor and store them in the pantry. Check out my “Rise & Shine” Pinterest board for the recipe pictured above and some of my other favorite varieties!

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Thawed frozen rice, leftover chicken, and a can of black beans make a great burrito in next to no time!

2 – :90 Rice Packets

For awhile, I bought these so we could have a quick side dish when I heated up a pre-made dinner, or to use in casseroles to save the time of cooking rice before baking. And then one day it occurred to me to try cooking a BIG pot of rice and freezing it in smaller portions. I let it cool, then divide it into quart size freezer bags which conveniently hold about two cups each. Squeeze the air out of them and freeze flat. Saves space, and I only have to do it once every month or two. I cook the rice with chicken stock and add any other flavorings when I reheat it.

3 – Hummus

This is a favorite snack in our house. Even the baby likes it! But a small container is fairly expensive, so it used to be an every now and then treat. Then I discovered the awesome blog 100 Days of Real Food and purchased one of her recipe collections, which included a recipe for hummus that is to die for. That particular collection isn’t available right now, but if you follow her blog I am positive you will find several other similar recipes that can replace pre-packaged staples in your grocery order.

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4 – Lemon Juice

This one may be pretty obvious, but I’ve made it a point to cut out lemon juice and lime juice from bottles. I buy in bulk when they are on sale, run them through my juicer and freeze the juice in cubes. Bonus: it makes my kitchen smell amazing!

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5 – Salad Dressing

I’ve been eating a lot of salads since the weather turned it up a few notches. And I’ve found that it’s much better and easier to make my dressings than buy them. Like oatmeal, the varieties are endless – pear and arugula salad with a cinnamon pear vinaigrette, anyone? Although my go to favorite is to just splash together some olive oil, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, and a dash of salt. It goes well with just about everything, including this delicious turkey wrap with avocado!

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6 – Protein Shakes

This is a newer one, and a surprise even to me. I have resisted protein shakes as I’ve been getting further into clean, whole food cooking. I was all “Why do I need that when I’m eating all these different proteins, fruits, and veggies already?” Buuuut, I decided to listen to a friend of mine who has had some pretty amazing success with the Beachbody program, and added shakes after my morning workouts.

Holy breakthrough, Batman! I actually found that a shake early in the morning helps me snack less the ENTIRE day. But because I’m stubborn and skeptical, I started out with grocery store shakes to save some money. They made a difference, but eventually I took the plunge and ordered the real thing (Shakeology) and I feel better on a whole different level. One of the things I love is that the ingredient list derives nutrients from actual food and tells you what they are.

You can’t get Shakeology in a store, but if you want to check it out, here is my Team Beachbody site that has everything you need to know about them. [Disclosure: I am an Independent Coach for TBB and receive a small commission if you decide to order anything through this site.]

I hope that you’re all having a great summer so far, and would love to hear what your “hot weather” coping strategies are for preparing healthy meals, especially if you try to cook ahead like I do!