All the Groceries I Bought for the Beginning of the School Year (Brace Yourself)

Stocking up is one thing. This time I think I might have gone just a tiny bit crazy. Are you ready to see all the groceries I thought I surely must have to help us survive the beginning of the school year?

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Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I have decided that I got into this crazy BUY ALL THE FOOD mode for three reasons:

  1. My boys had been at church camps or mission trips a good part of the summer and I had not purchased many groceries for the past three months. I was making up for lost time, perhaps? Or maybe I had gone through withdrawal and needed a bulk grocery fix.
  2. I had a chance to go to Lincoln where there is an Aldi. I had to stock up on all my Aldi favorites to help get me through until the next time I have a chance to go there.
  3. I seem to think that if I can have every single food item in stock at my house, I can more easily get through the first couple of weeks of school. Apparently Geometry is more fun when there is plenty of spaghetti sauce in the house.

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Most of my thinking is logical, I believe. I have been doing this Fall Semester thing for how many years now? Sixteen? The fall doesn’t just bring the start of school. It also brings soccer season in which my husband is gone much of the time because he is assistant coach of our local college team. The older boys ref games, and our youngest plays on two teams. The fall is simply BUSY and if I can just have enough tuna on hand, then all of life will be easier.

Sure, I live five minutes from a grocery store. But I live three seconds from my storage room that houses all the tuna, so I’d rather go there on a busy day.

Well, speaking of tuna, I bought 24 cans. But after all the buying and loading and unloading, I found myself not particularly excited about setting up a tuna photo-shoot. I think we can all agree that tuna stacked on a table is not terribly thrilling to see. So I left them in the bags under the bagels. Be amazed.

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If you think 24 cans of tuna is excessive (it’s not), you might be even more impressed that I got 24 packages of cream cheese. Dude, I was at Aldi and they were only $0.79 each. I will likely not make it back to Aldi for a couple of months, so I filled a cooler. With cream cheese. Who wants to be my best friend now?

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The most fun grocery event of this month was definitely the day my Amazon Subscribe and Save order arrived. The bill for this order was not pretty, though I did get good deals on each case I ordered.

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Pasta for days. And also Kleenex.

Here’s what I got this time around:

TIP! If you want to be kept up to date on great Amazon deals I find, sign up to be a member of our Savings Club. It’s free!

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If you’re hungry and you know it, clap your hands. I think it is clear that no one will starve at our house during the next few weeks, though you can be sure that we will go through this food faster than one thinks should be reasonable.

Your Turn! Tell me about the crazy things you do before a school year starts!

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven!)

Hooray! Simple Hashbrown Casserole is my first (of many?!) Instant Pot recipes to share. But guess what else?

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I’m well aware that not everyone has an Instant Pot, so I’m also providing instructions for baking this in an oven. Not only that, because there are times we might need a slower cooking option (like, if we need to get dinner started, then head out to ball games, then come home to a cooked meal) – so I’m also including Crock Pot cooking instructions!

As best I can, I will provide all these options each (or most of the) time I share an Instant Pot recipe. Here’s a quick glance at cooking times for this Simple Hashbrown Casserole so you can make your best plan on the day you make this.

Cook Time Options for Simple Hashbrown Casserole

Instant Pot: 15 minutes
Oven: 1 hour
Crock Pot: 3-6 hours, depending on low or hi setting

instant pot hashbrown casserole

You need just five ingredients to make this recipe! One of the ingredients is this Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix, which I love to have on hand at all times. Another ingredient is cooked meat. This time I made hamburger meat in my Instant Pot and I can’t wait to tell you about it! This is the easiest meat-cooking method there is – and possibly my “if you get an Instant Pot for no other reason, this is it!” shout out. I’ll share about this meat-cooking method soon!

You might remember a variation of this new simple recipe: Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole. You can most certainly make that recipe in your Instant Pot or Crock Pot following these instructions! And if you don’t love the “ranch” flavor this calls for, simply sub it out for any spices you like! Truly this recipe is most forgiving, and allows you to make it with any meat you prefer or have on hand, so you can create it to your family’s taste!

And then there’s the variety of cooking methods that allow you to make this no matter how busy your day, so I think we can all agree that this recipe wins the “Cooks Choice Award!”

Simple Hashbrown Casserole

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (Instructions for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven!)
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cooked meat (hamburger, ham, bacon, sausage, or any of your choosing!)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, stir together cooked meat, shredded cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix.
  2. Fold in frozen hashbrowns until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. Instant Pot Method: Cook for 15 minutes on manual mode, hi pressure.
  4. Oven Baking: Bake uncovered in a 350° oven for 45-60 minutes or until casserole is lightly browned and bubbly.
  5. Crock Pot Method: Cook on low for 6 hours or on hi for 3 hours.

Simple Hashbrown Casserole (for Instant Pot, Crock Pot, or Oven)

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6 Unexpected Blessings I’ve Experienced Thanks to Javita Drinks

I’ve been drinking Javita drinks (coffee and flavored waters) for well over a month now and I’d like to share the unexpected results I’ve noticed! It took about one week of drinking some of these every single day for me to experience this…

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1) I don’t have to eat every two hours anymore.

For my entire life, as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with feeling crummy and light headed if my stomach starts to get empty. I’ve never, ever been able to eat breakfast then feel fine until lunch time. But since I started drinking Javita (and I give the credit to the Fiber drink for this), I have shocked myself by not even thinking about food for several hours after breakfast! Who even am I? It’s like I’m finally…normal? Nah, that’s probably taking it too far. ;)

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2) I don’t turn into a zombie at 9:00 at night.

I thought it was a fluke the first night we had people at our house until 10:30 pm and I was still enjoying the conversation and completing my sentences! Before, my energy always ran out by 7:00 pm and after 9:00 I was pretty much worthless. But after a week of drinking the Burn + Control coffee every morning and the Energy + Mind coffee every afternoon (what can I say, I love their coffee!) I’ve found that I’m actually a functioning human well past my normal hour of passing out. It’s sooo nice!

3) I’ve lost some weight around my gut.

Even though Javita products brag that they help people lose weight, I didn’t start drinking them for that purpose and was instead excited to enjoy all the life-giving herbs infused into each drink! But then I started noticing that my pants were looser and let me see if I can explain this right…

My insides just feel lighter.

The thing about the detoxing herbs found in Javita coffee and tea is that they help cleanse the fatty cells that surround our organs. I am quite convinced that this has been happening and while I don’t carry around a lot of excess fat, I definitely knew I had some detoxing to do around my gut. This has been the most gentle detox I’ve ever experienced! And if my stomach is a little flatter too? Well, that’s pretty cool!

By the way, every single one of my friends that I’ve talked to here in and around my hometown who are drinking Javita have also been losing weight simply by drinking these healthy drinks. We are all kind of amazed! My weight loss leveled out after 3-5 pounds; those who have had more to lose continue to lose. I think at this point my body will continue to benefit by continually cleansing because of the healing herbs I’m feeding it through these drinks.

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4) The Fiber+ drink has become my favorite.

I started out with this Javita business most excited to start drinking and sharing healthy coffee. But then I started drinking Fiber+ every morning (which tastes amazing, by the way!) and it’s been so incredible to help keep me regular (ehem) and keep my blood sugar regulated. I don’t want to ever be without Fiber for the great cleansing and leveling effects it’s had on me!

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5) Flex is incredible to help take away pain and stiffness.

I have been amazed at how well Flex works. I started drinking it after I’d been cooking at camp for 140 kids, 3 meals a day, standing on hard cement, lifting heavy boxes, etc. I was so sore by the middle of the week I could hardly move, yet I had to keep cooking for two more days! Matt had to run home from camp mid-week and found that our Javita box had been delivered. So he threw it in the van and hauled it back to camp. Thursday morning I made myself a Flex, drank it down, and was absolutely shocked that within 30-minutes I was able to move around normally and had no pain the entire day.

Like Fiber, I don’t want to ever be without Flex. Matt’s been drinking it every day to help with shoulder pain and the kids and I drink it any time our bodies are calling for a pain killer. This is going to come in so handy during soccer and basketball seasons!

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6) Defend works almost immediately.

Every time any one of us has the tiniest bit of a cough or a tickle in our throats, we drink a Defend. Elias (my 15-year old) said yesterday, “I just drank that and I already feel better. Weird.” It blows my mind how good these are, though it shouldn’t because the ingredients in every single one of these drinks is the best of the best, so of course they work!

I’m planning to give my oldest son a stash of Defend to keep in his dorm room because I’m very sure it will help keep his normally terrible fall allergies to a minimum. Can’t wait to see!

Are these Javita drinks organic?

I’ve been asked this quite a bit lately so I wanted to answer in full to all of you: All of the Javita drinks are better than organic. They are Kosher certified, fair trade, and GMO free. Even the “natural flavors” you’ll see listed in the sweet drink ingredients are pure fruit powders. Nothing is hidden in these. They are completely pure and good.

Too good to be true? I have been drinking them long enough to learn that they are everything they say they are. The are effective, healing, and as an added bonus…they are delicious. :)

Here are many more Frequently Asked Questions you might want to read through.

How to purchase Javita drinks

javita coffee club

Here’s the best way to become a part of our Javita Dollar Club! The least expensive option is to purchase with Auto-Delivery so that you only have to pay a dollar per drink. Each month after that you can adjust, add, subtract drink options at any time before your next delivery.

  1. Click here, then on “Experience the Products.”
  2. You can look through the various drinks and check out each of their ingredients, then click on “Order Now.”
  3. Select the country where you life (United States is at the top left).
  4. Click on “Build Your Own” to select any of the products you are interested in for your family. (If you order 2-5 boxes, shipping is free!)
  5. Once you’ve added your selections to the cart, proceed with the check-out process.
  6. Again, each month you can make adjustments to your auto-delivery to fit your family’s needs!

How to get your Javita drinks FREE

This is a huge perk of becoming a Javita member! When you sign up to own your own Dollar Club, you can share the drinks you love with your friends and family and if just three people buy two boxes each from your Dollar Club, you’ll get your monthly boxes for free! The more customers you have, the more free boxes you get, up to five free boxes each month. It’s rockin’ plus you earn commission too. (You do have to pay for shipping on your free boxes. It’s worth it though because the products are free!)

Give me a holler if you want more details about owning your own Javita Dollar Club. Or you can read more about it here.

Also let me know if you have any other questions or if you want help deciding which drinks might be best for your family’s needs!

Explore my Javita Dollar Coffee Club here.

Free Haircut Tutorial! How To Cut Long Layers in 5 Minutes

Do you all remember how I used to cut my own hair? Oh my stars, I’d rather not reminisce about it too much. I was terribly unskilled at it. But hey, it saved a lot of money.

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Noooo! Don’t do it!

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Nine years later, I’m thankful to say that I’ve gotten professional help (in more ways than one). My hair now has actual layers that match on both sides. It curls nicely. It behaves most days.

But what if it IS possible to cut your own hair and have it actually look nice when you’re done? What if?!

hair cut tutorial

Most of you know I’ve been working with Paula, a Lilla Rose consultant for many, many years. She’s the one who changed my life with Flexi-Clips! She has several daughters, all of whom have gorgeous hair. Without hesitation, I would call her a “Hair Expert” because she’s been working with and studying hair beautification for many, many years. So when she said, “Hey Laura! Did you know it’s possible to cut long layers in 5 minutes?” I definitely took notice.

Un-be-liev-able! Where was this tutorial back in 2008 when I was struggling through my own pitiful haircuts for 2 hours at a time? I can’t believe how simple Paula makes this! If you have anyone at all in your life with long hair, you must go download Paula’s Free Haircut Tutorial! Even if no one in your life has long hair and you will never cut anyone’s hair and everyone you live with is bald, you should check it out just to be as fascinated as I was!

After you’ve picked up your freebie, then you must to sign up for this amazing giveaway Paula is offering. Truly, it is amazing.

She has offered to give away not one but TEN Flexi-Clips! Eeeeeeee!!

There will be ten winners of this giveaway, so your chances of winning are quite good. If you are one of the ten winners, you’ll get to choose any Flexi-Clip you want (up to $17 value). Isn’t this fun!!

Go check out all the fun Flexi options and start drooling over what you’ll pick if you win. Sign up for this giveaway in the Rafflecopter below. I’ll draw 10 random winners on Tuesday, August 22!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Real Food “Processed Food” I Buy Regularly (What Brand and Where I Get Them)

Remember when I used to make all my food from scratch? Those were the days I thought we ate a lot but we really didn’t (compared to now). Those were the days I thought we were busy but we really weren’t (except that we were). Those were the days I thought all processed food was evil (and some of it is). Those were the days.

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Nowadays I’m doing everything I can to simplify so that I can enjoy every last minute with these kids while they are under my roof. Seeing as we’ll graduate Boy #2 this school year, it is becoming more and more apparent that these truly are our last minutes.

Senior pictures, here we come…

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Every new recipe I come up with to share takes very little time to make. I want to nurture my family and build on my marriage – not stand at the kitchen counter rolling out tortillas.

I still make wonderful homemade food. But every meal I put on the table consists of something very basic that is quick to put together and offers a few simple fruits and veggies on the side. My menu plans are created to make great use of my minimal efforts in the kitchen while still putting real food on the table. (Thank you, God, for Simple Meals Plans that take away all the thinking and planning and hard work each day!)

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My choice to slide back into purchasing more convenience foods hasn’t compromised our great food options. Our meals and snacks are still incredibly delicious! I am still spending our grocery budget wisely. I still use real butter, freshly ground flour, and whole milk. I still avoid high fructose corn syrup, margarine, and MSG.

Choosing to use some processed foods in my cooking doesn’t mean I’m back to buying cans cream-of-whatever-soup and boxes of poptarts. It means I’m buying canned beans instead of soaking and cooking them from dry. It means I’m buying jarred tomato sauce instead of spending hours and hours every fall canning my own. It means I’m buying pre-made pizza crust from Azure Standard so my kids can quickly throw together some pizzas for lunch or dinner (which is healthier and saves money compared to ordering pizza).

It means so many things. It means I can survive this busy season of raising teenagers and continue to be their biggest cheerleader and support in all their activities and preparation for adulthood.

It means love. This is how I’m loving my family now.

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I recently shared that I definitely have started buying processed food more than I used to. But I also shared that processed food is nothing to fear – so long as it’s real food and nourishing. I check ingredients, I find brands that I feel good about, and I save myself an amazing amount of time in the kitchen.

Many of you have asked about the specific brands of “processed foods” I buy and feel good about. I absolutely avoid many bottles and jars and cans that have junk in them that will hurt our insides. But there are brands I trust and feel good about – even if they aren’t organic, top-of-the-line options.

Real Food Processed Food I Buy - what brands and where I get them

Real Food “Processed Food” Brands I Buy and Where I Get Them

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~ Canned Beans

The Simply Nature brand at Aldi is an awesome choice for canned black beans (at only $0.85/can!). I buy them by the case since I don’t live close to an Aldi or get to shop there often.

I will say that now that I’m a proud owner of an Instant Pot I may start making them again because of how easy it is. But in a pinch, I’ll get cans from Aldi to keep on hand for fast meals!

~ Canned Baked Beans

The Walnut Acre brand is a little more expensive compared to Bush’s or Van Camps, but I feel good about the ingredients, plus we like how they taste. (I can tell a big difference in quality, which is why I’m sticking with the Walnut Acre brand for now.) If I have Vitacost credit, I get a few cans of Walnut Acre, or sometimes I buy a case with subscribe and save at Amazon.

~ Beef Hotdogs

I buy a variety of brands of hotdogs depending on which store I’m able to go to and what is available at each store. Any brand that is 100% beef and free of nitrites I feel okay about. We use these for quick meals on the grill in the spring/summer and for Beanie Weanies all year long.

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~ Turkey Sausage

I know, I know! Homemade Turkey Sausage was one of my first great recipes I shared here at Heavenly Homemakers. It’s awesome stuff…stuff that I don’t have time to make right now. So I buy cases of Diestel brand turkey sausage from Azure Standard to keep in my freezer whenever it goes on sale.

~ Tortillas

While I miss the taste of homemade tortillas, I love the convenience of these that I get at Azure Standard. The Stacey’s brand has ingredients I’m okay with (which is very difficult to find in a packaged tortilla!). Plus they freeze well and taste great, so I just pull them out to use for tacos, burritos, and quesadillas as needed. What a life saver!

~ Pizza Crust

I recently discovered Sprout California Frozen Pizza Bread at Azure Standard and buy a case every couple of months to help get my family through busy school days. They don’t beat this recipe for homemade pizza crust, but they sure are handy to have in the freezer!

~ Pizza Sauce

Lately I’ve been buying Muir Glen Pizza Sauce by the case with Subscribe and Save through Amazon. It’s tasty and reasonably priced! (I recently got it for $1.45/can.)

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~ Salsa

Each time I go to Aldi, I buy a case or two of their Simply Organic Salsa. We love how it tastes, and it’s usually about $1.85/jar.

~ BBQ Sauce

I’ve had a more difficult time finding a quality BBQ Sauce. (Aldi used to carry a Simply Organic variety and now I can’t find it!!) I finally found Stubbs brand at Walmart, which has all real food ingredients. After we tried it and liked it, I bought a case from Amazon! :)

~ Ketchup

I’ve been buying cases of Muir Glen Ketchup through Amazon for several years and it is, hands down, our favorite brand. But I do always watch for it to go on sale because it’s pricey otherwise.

~ Cream Cheese

I’m all over the place with cream cheese. Every brand I have available to me has a few ingredients I don’t love, but it’s also not something I stress over. I don’t like the Walmart off-brand because it never softens nicely! The Aldi brand is great and inexpensive (when they actually have some in stock!). Whenever there’s a price-match for Philadelphia Cream Cheese, I stock up at Walmart.

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~ Mayo

The only mayonnaise I’ve found that I feel good about is Hain Safflower Mayo. It is absolutely not cheap, no matter where I find it. I usually buy it by the case from Azure Standard because expensive as it is, it is at least less expensive there.

~ Spaghetti Sauce

Once again, Aldi comes through with their Simple Nature brand. And once again, I buy the sauce by the case. Since I’ve been pleased with this brand and can afford it ($1.89/jar), I haven’t checked other non-organic brands to see if there are some that contain trustworthy ingredients.

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~ Frozen Hashbrowns

I recently discovered that the Mr. Dells brand of frozen hashbrowns contains only “potatoes” in their ingredient list. Score! I find these at Walmart.

What healthy brands of convenience foods have you found to work for your family? I’ll add to this list as I think of more foods that are worth buying “for the convenience!”

Master List of Simple Snack Ideas

Who is ready to download the Master List of Simple Snack Ideas?!

Hopefully you already grabbed the Master Lists of Simple Lunch and Breakfast Ideas. I’m covering my fridge with these lists to make our transition from summer break to a school schedule a little bit easier. If you haven’t already, be sure to get your lunch and breakfast lists here!

Watch also for our upcoming Master Lists of food and recipes and ideas to make to fill a lunchbox. (Subscribe here so you don’t miss them!)

Today’s list:

The Master List of Simple Snack Ideas

Keep Snacks Simple

Your Real Food Master Simple Snack Ideas List

You can download this entire list here. But I’ll share it all on this post for reference also. I also recommend that you pin it so you can find it quickly as needed!

First choice at our house is always a fruit or a veggie, so I’ll begin this list sharing those ideas!

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Fruits and veggies that can be pulled from the fridge and served immediately with little to no prep (beyond washing):

  • Baby carrots (I like the petite carrots – they are sweeter and easier to eat!)
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Mini sweet peppers
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Unsweetened Applesauce (homemade is awesome, but even my teenage boys enjoy the special treat of an Applesauce Squeeze Pouch)
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Clementines
  • Raisins
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Dried Apple Rings
  • Dried Bananas
  • Dried Berries

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Fruits and veggies that take a few minutes of prep but are still super simple:

  • Sliced apples
  • Sliced peaches or nectarines
  • Plums
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced sweet peppers
  • Raw broccoli “trees”
  • Cut cantaloupe
  • Watermelon wedges
  • Sliced pears
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Mango chunks
  • Fruit Salad

Dips that taste great with Fruits and Veggies

Simple Snacks Foods that are great to eat with Peanut Butter

This Homemade Peanut Butter is amazing and healthy! We have this on hand at all times.

  • Eat it straight…on a spoon. :)
  • Sliced Apples with peanut butter
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Bread with peanut butter and honey
  • Bread with peanut butter and jelly
  • Toast with peanut butter and sliced apples
  • Tortillas with peanut butter and honey
  • Tortillas with peanut butter and jelly

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Simple Meat and Cheese Snacks

  • Leftover chicken or roast beef
  • Sliced cheese, any variety
  • Cheese sticks
  • Laughing Cow Spreadable Cheese (we just discovered these and our boys are LOVING this treat)
  • Lunchmeat
  • Summer Sausage
  • Beef Jerky
  • Quesadillas (with just cheese, or with meat also)
  • Tortilla Roll-Up with meat and cheese
  • Chicken Salad on crackers, lettuce, or a tortilla
  • Tuna Salad on crackers, lettuce, or a tortilla

Nutty Snacks (and Seeds too!)

  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Any combination of all of the above, with dried fruit and maybe a chocolate chip or two tossed in!

Simple Snack Recipes that are Quick to Make and Fun to Eat!

(By the way, the majority of this list shares snack ideas that are naturally gluten free!)

Would you like to make this Master List of Simple Snack Ideas even simpler?

Sign up here to receive the entire Master List of Simple Snacks in a free downloadable document! Then you can keep it handy on your computer or print it and put it on your fridge as a super handy reference!

Master List of 100 Simple Snack Ideas

Grab a free download of the Master Simple Snack Ideas List!

Watch for one more Master List coming this month, filled with real food lunch box ideas!

What would you add to the list? What are your favorite simple snacks to feed your family?

P.S. What about a simple dinner list? We’ve already got that covered with our Weekly Simple Meals Plans!

What Every Parent Needs

Hands down, at the top of my list of what every parent needs is Jesus.

I’m not just saying this because it sounds nice. Without Him, I don’t know how I would get through each day, find the right words, keep the right attitude, and be able to live freely in peace while doing what I’ve deemed to be…

The most difficult and beautiful job on the planet.

Well, second maybe to nurturing and maintaining a healthy marriage. So no big deal. While we realize all that we are blessed beyond measure, I think we also know that if we want goodness for our families we’ve got our work cut out for us.

I’ve been married for 23 years and have been a mom for 20. These years have served to teach me thousands of humbling lessons, all of which begin and end with:

I need Jesus.

I need my Savior. I can’t do this without God. I’m desperately in need of help. And praise Him, He provides all!

Truly.

God didn’t throw these spouses and kids at us and then give us a little pat and say, “Well, good luck. You’re going to need it.”

Often we’re deceived into believing that He didn’t give us a manual for “how to raise kids” because there’s no written words that specifically spell out “Every time your kid does ________, do ________.” Or the book I’ve wanted more than any other, “In order to absolutely, without a doubt raise Godly children, all you have to do is _______________________.” I wanted it to be a five step program that would ensure that my kids chose God. I wanted a simple, tidy package. Is that too much to ask?


Matt and I have done all we can to see that our kids have received Biblical guidance, conversation, truth talk, and countless hours of prayer from us and from others in their lives who love the Lord and love our sons. We haven’t come close to doing a perfect job of this, and for years I felt like a parenting failure because of all my imperfections.

I believed the lie that God doesn’t provide exactly what we need as we seek to raise godly children. Yes, there is the Bible, and we have most certainly relied on it throughout our parenting years. But even the Bible doesn’t share specific formulas to ensure that our kids wouldn’t throw tantrums in the grocery store and that they would absolutely choose Him.

I concluded that since there was no book or seasoned parent to tell me exactly how to accomplish this, and putting our offspring in a choke-hold and cramming it down their throats didn’t seem like quite the right way to go about it either – all I could do was pray and hope for the best.

I’m here to tell you that this is not true.

This is the most important truth I’ve learned during the past 20 years of parenting:

God absolutely does provide all we need as parents, and I’ve learned that He has given us what is even better than a “How to Do it Right Every Time” manual. He has!!

He gives us the Holy Spirit who is at work in us and through us, is living constantly with us to guide us, to give us words, to provide us with wisdom, and to fill us continually so that we are overflowing with His love, peace, joy, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

If you don’t believe me, read the book of Galatians. If you still don’t believe me, ask God to make Himself fully known to you through the power of His Spirit. Whatever we ask in His name, He will give it. The Bible tells us this over and over.

We are fully equipped! We have been given everything we need through the power of Jesus. And because of this, we can absolutely parent with confidence.

I praise God constantly for revealing these truths, and for His perfect plan to give all of us the Holy Spirit to live and work and breathe in us. We are perfectly gifted. We are strong. We are healed. We are whole. We are provided for.

We take these truths and we hold onto them tightly. We surrender ourselves to God so that we can then surrender our children to Him. These precious ones we hold so dear? Our Father loves them with a love we’ve never felt or experienced, because it’s His pure, perfect, beautiful love.

Trust God. Let the Holy Spirit be at work in you. Parent through His power.

This is what every parent needs.

I’m cheering for you Mom and Dad. We’re teammates in this parenting thing and because of God, we are equipped with everything we need!

Using Scripture to Shape Your Kids’ Character

It all started when our kids were little bitty.

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I was having a bit of a grumbly day, which had been happening way too often for anyone’s liking. When I was grumpy, of course my kids became grumpy. So the combination of grumpy mom and grumpy kids turned our household into a great big grumpy mess.

Somehow (God’s leading, no doubt) I stumbled upon the following from Philippians 2:14-16:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Do everything?? EVERYTHING without grumbling or arguing?? How in the world? Did God not understand about the poop and the snot and the tantrums?

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I was personally challenged by this passage, and loved the image of shining like a star in a world full of darkness. How desperately I wanted my kids to know me as a shining model of God’s character, instead of as a dark, gloomy, frustrated, grouchy, “let’s just get through the day without killing each other” kind of a mom.

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So living out this scripture became a prayer focus for me. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…do everything without grumbling or arguing…”

As I focused on this passage, it became easy for me to gently share it with my kids every time they started to grumble or argue. Talking about it became natural, and little as they were at the time, they could understand the simple words, “Remember the Bible words? Do not grumble. Do not argue.”

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But this parenting practice became even better when I started to incorporate the remainder of the verse into my training with them. When I noticed my little boys playing nicely and getting along (hallelujah!) I would take the last part of the Philippians passage to encourage them with, “You guys sure are shining like stars right now!” and they would beam.

And THIS all led to the creation of Character Charts that I made with construction paper and star stickers. I wrote the entire passage of Philippians 2:14-16 on a chart for each of them. Then every time I “caught” them playing nicely and getting along, I would say, “I saw you shining like a star this afternoon when you were playing together without grumbling or arguing. I guess you better go put a star on your chart!”

It’s amazing how such a simple reward can mean so much to a little one. It was positive reinforcement at its best, because it involved scripture Truth! And on the flip side, having these charts on our wall made it easier for me to call out grumpy behaviors with, “Your star needs to shine brighter right now. Can you think of a nicer way to talk to each other (or to me)?”

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The “Star Charts” led our family down a fun path of selecting other Bible verses that helped shape our kids’ (and our own!) hearts toward making godly choices. Using scripture for our kids’ character training was better than any training we could have given them. We wanted them to know the “why” behind the good behavior we were asking for. Using scripture was a natural and beautiful way to do that.

If you’ve been reading here for many years, you may remember that I had created printable Kids Character Charts and included them in my Heavenly Homemakers Shop for you to purchase. They were not super professional, but they were a step above construction paper on the wall. :) Then after a few years I took them out of my shop with plans to have a professional designer re-create them into something wonderful.

That finally happened this summer!

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There are five full sets of character charts and cut-out stickers in this collection, each with a Bible lesson you can use as you introduce it to and use with your kids.

  1. Shine Like Stars – from Philippians 2:14-16
  2. Fruit of the Spirit – from Galatians 5:22-25
  3. Walk in the Light – from 1 John 1:7
  4. Be Imitators of God – from Ephesians 5:1-2
  5. Treasures in Your Heart – from Matthew 6:19-21

You can use this collection in any way that works best for your family’s character and Biblical training!

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My kids are all big and tall and turning into adults now. They look back at their beloved Character Chart days with fond memories (which is always fun for me to hear!). The charts use Biblical truth in a very simple and practical way so that God’s truth becomes your child’s truth.

Kids' Character Charts
Encourage your kids toward Godly behaviors with these five full sets of character charts and cut-out stickers in this collection. Each comes with a Bible lesson you can use as you introduce it to and use with your kids. Shine Like Stars - from Philippians 2:14-16 Fruit of the Spirit - from Galatians 5:22-25 Walk in the Light - from 1 John 1:7 Be Imitators of God - from Ephesians 5:1-2 Treasures in Your Heart - from Matthew 6:19-21 You can use this collection in any way that works best for your family's character and Biblical training!
Price: $10.00

God bless you as you raise, train, and love your kids!

Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas

Who is ready to download the Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas?!

Hopefully you already grabbed the Master List of Simple Lunch Ideas. I’m covering my fridge with these lists to make our transition from summer break to a school schedule a little bit easier. If you haven’t already, be sure to get your lunch list here!

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Watch also for our upcoming Master Lists of food and recipes and ideas to make snacks and to fill a lunchbox. (Subscribe here so you don’t miss them!)

Today’s list:

The Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas

Keep Breakfast Simple

Note: If possible I try to always serve a protein of some sort for breakfast. I also always serve fruit. I’ll begin this Master Breakfast List with the protein and fruit lists that I typically serve with everything else on the list!

Your Real Food Master Simple Breakfast List

You can download this entire list here. But I’ll share it all on this post for reference also. I also recommend that you pin it so you can find it quickly as needed!

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Protein to Go With Breakfast

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Fruit that is Great With Breakfast

Any fruit is great! Our favorites for breakfast are:

  • Apples
  • Applesauce
  • Oranges
  • Clementines
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honey Dew Melon
  • Grapes

Stir and Pour Bread Varieties

This Stir and Pour Bread recipe is a game changer to make it super simple to have Homemade Bread on hand to use for a quick breakfast!

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Breakfast You Can Make the Night Before

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Make Ahead Breakfast Cereal

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Breakfast in a Mug or Glass

Quick Breakfasts From Freezer to Oven

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Big List of Muffin Recipes

Breakfast You Can Make in Your Waffle Iron

Great Waffle Iron Hacks

Quick Mix Breakfast Ideas

If you have Quick Mix on hand, you can quickly make:

Would you like to make this Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas even simpler?

Sign up here to receive the entire Master List of Simple Breakfast Ideas in a free downloadable document! Then you can keep it handy on your computer or print it and put it on your fridge as a super handy reference!

Master List of 60 Simple Breakfast Ideas

Grab a free download of the Master Simple Breakfast List!

Watch for more Master Lists coming this month, filled with real food and simple snacks and lunch box ideas!

What would you add to the list? What are your favorite simple breakfast foods to feed your family?

P.S. What about a simple dinner list? We’ve already got that covered with our Weekly Simple Meals Plans!

What I Think About My New Instant Pot

I finally did it. After so many of you told me how great the Instant Pot is, after so many insisted that I would love it, after all kinds of hemming and hawing and rebelling about getting one more appliance for my kitchen…I finally got myself an Instant Pot.

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It was Amazon Prime Day. It was a good deal. It was a big pot for my family’s big needs. It was time.

I’m sure you’re all wondering, has my new Instant Pot completely changed my life? Am I a better mom now? Do I sleep better at night because of it? Does it help my house stay in a less cluttered state? Do I get mail to the box in better time? Am I finally wearing matching socks? In other words, does the Instant Pot help make my world go round?!

The answer to all of the above is “no.” But I do make mean batches of hard boiled eggs in record time, so I think we can all give a cheer and feel that this was definitely a worthwhile purchase.

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I’ve truly had fun with my new toy, which isn’t taking up any extra room on my counter because it has actually taken the place of my coffee pot if you can believe it! (I realized after I started drinking this healthy coffee that I no longer need a coffee-maker taking up space on a daily basis. Away went the coffee pot. In its place went the Instant Pot. A pot for a pot. It just seemed logical.)

At the very moment our Instant Pot arrived on our porch, I was making Tuna Salad. Matt decided he definitely wanted boiled eggs in his tuna since we now had an Instant Pot in which to make them quickly. I read the “how to boil eggs” instructions while he got it set up, and while I’m pretty sure we didn’t do everything right, nothing blew up, our eggs hard boiled like they were supposed to, and Matt got eggs in his tuna the way he wanted. Good story, huh?

Not long after the arrival of the pot and the making of the eggs, we headed back out to church camp for a week. So our Instant Pot sat forlorn and lonely on our counter-top all week. Since coming back from camp, I’ve been playing with it as I’ve had time. Here’s what I’ve tried, though please don’t get excited because my stories might bore you to sleep…

For instance, one night we had company and my stove was full of other big pots cooking other food. So I tried steaming our broccoli and carrots in the Instant Pot. The recommended seven minutes was way too long and our broccoli came out dead and mushy and completely unappetizing. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to try a new appliance when you’re serving food to company?

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See, look. My full stove, which is what led me to steam veggies in my Instant Pot. Fascinating.

A few days later I put a whole chicken into my Instant Pot, dumped on some BBQ Sauce, and turned it on. That was ridiculously simple and we ate chicken for lunch 35 minutes later. I served it with okra. It was very good. The end.

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The part of the story you don’t want to hear is that I asked Matt to please take the leftover meat off the bones, but I didn’t communicate clearly about saving the bones so I could try making broth in my new Instant Pot. Learning to make broth in my new pot will have to be a lesson for another day.

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Perhaps my favorite of anything I’ve tried so far is cooking frozen ground beef! As soon as I perfect this method, I will for sure share the details. I think this will be a HUGE time saver!

Sooo, while none of this Instant Pot news was super exciting to read about at this point, you can be sure that as we settle into a new school year with lots of teenage mouths to feed, we will be absolutely making the most of our new Instant Pot! And when I figure out all the great food we can make with it, I’ll share all the fabulous details!

I’d love to hear from you if you have an Instant Pot. What are your favorite time-saving recipes to make?