Pumpkin Chili

When the winds begin to blow a little cooler, we know football season is near.

This vegetarian crock pot pumpkin chili recipe is perfect for autumn and football season! This hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe uses cans from the pantry. It is budget friendly and easy to keep on hand. It is a meal that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand. The black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It's perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

We have been looking forward to football season all year! “Football” was one of my son’s first words, and for a long time, it was the only thing that he ever saw on tv.

No exaggeration: at only 11 months-old, he was completely devastated one evening when he asked for football and we had to explain that the season was over.

 

Home of the K-State Wildcats, my alma mater, Bill Snyder Family Stadium sits practically at the end of my driveway. There is no missing the excitement from our house. The neighborhood becomes packed with cars and purple fans.

In fact, in our location, we very easily can go from having no Saturday plans to having a crowd of hungry people over. That is why I like to keep a hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe on hand at all times.

This is one of those kinds of recipes that is cozy and filling, but you can make it without missing a single down. It is a recipe that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand.

Now a vegetarian recipe might not be the hearty football food that your family might expect. However, the black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It’s perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

It also goes perfectly with this pumpkin cornbread recipe!

Print

Pumpkin Chili

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 2 15 oz cans black beans rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can corn rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (or 1 small onion, diced)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp better than bouillon vegetable base
  • 2 cups water

Instructions

  1. -Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan
  2. -Cover, and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes
  3. -Ladle into bowls. Top with favorite toppings and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Can easily be cooked or kept warm in a crock pot! Just mix ingredients together about an hour before game time, and keep on a low setting. Turn to "keep warm" setting after 1 hour.

This vegetarian crock pot pumpkin chili recipe is perfect for autumn and football season! This hearty, budget friendly vegetarian chili recipe uses cans from the pantry. It is budget friendly and easy to keep on hand. It is a meal that is quick to make and easy to keep on hand. The black beans and the corn together create a complete protein, and the pumpkin puree in makes it thick and filling. It's perfect as a stand alone meal, or served over baked potatoes or chips.

Pumpkin Cornbread

This website uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE.Thank you.

Today, my son and I went on a walk just because we could. We had a few minutes before lunch with nothing to do, and it’s hard to spend a beautifully cool August day like today inside.

We counted leaves and dandelions. The seasons are already changing, and there were far more leaves than dandelions today.

After looking at the calendar ahead, I started experimenting with fall flavors a few weeks ago.

This was a great decision. I love autumn, and I look for ways to incorporate the wonderful flavors year-round.

My first success out of the oven: pumpkin cornbread.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn.

Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake.

These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven!

I added a little pat of butter on a couple, but it isn’t necessary. They are sweet and moist all on their own.

Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times this autumn.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn. Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake. These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven! Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times. Pumpkin cornbread would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving feast!

These muffins were delicious, but even sweeter was the opportunity to use my grandma’s cast iron cornbread pan. I’ve been looking for an excuse to pull it out, and it won’t be the last time! (Here’s a link to a similar pan.)

But, if you don’t have a cornbread pan, a muffin tin will do. I also included instructions on how to make this in an 8×8 pan below the recipe.

Print

Pumpkin Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • butter or honey optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a muffin tin.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix gently until combined.
  3. Using two spoons, gently fill each muffin cup until half full to allow room for the cornbread to expand.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes. Using a fork, gently check the center for doneness.
  5. Cool and enjoy.

Recipe Notes

If you would prefer a single cornbread loaf over muffins, pour batter into a greased 8x8 pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Check center for doneness before removing from oven.

I wish you could smell my kitchen right now! It smells like everything you hope for in autumn. Pumpkin and spice all in a warm sweet bread. It bakes up like a savory cake. These sweet little pumpkin cornbread muffins were gone within hours of pulling them out of the oven! Simple enough to make on a weeknight, but also special enough to include with any fall get together. I anticipate making this recipe many more times. Pumpkin cornbread would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving feast!

 

More Than Just Making It

This website uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE. Thank you.

We live a frugal life, on a budget, carefully keeping track of how we spend our money. Especially now that we live primarily on one income.

That is why I was initially drawn to Erin Odam’s soon to be released book, More Than Just Making It, available September 5. (affiliate link)

If you ever find yourself in the situation someday where you are financially frustrated, even to the point of struggling to make ends meet, this is the book for you.

And, let’s be honest here. Almost half of Americans are still living paycheck to paycheck. There are a lot of people today struggling to make ends meet. So, if you feel like you fall into the category of financially frustrated, you are certainly not alone.

My husband and I have a big ol’ pile of student loan debt that we’re working hard to slowly pay off. As I monitor our budget as we slowly pay down that debt, I certainly feel like I fall into this category!

But that’s what is so wonderful about More Than Just Making It. It’s a reminder that we’re not alone and that there is help along the way. (affiliate link)

And, becoming financially frustrated could happen to any of us!

Despite having no consumer debt, Erin Odom found herself standing in line for food stamps and walking into bankruptcy during her eighth month of her third pregnancy.  She and her husband were careful planners who worked hard and took advantage of every opportunity that came their way, but through situations primarily outside of their control, they still struggled to put food on the table for their two daughters.

Her story struck a chord because it could so easily be my own story. 

Actually, it could be the story of almost any young family!

Years ago, before our son was born, my husband and I also sat through a financial course through our church. One of the first activities in the class was to put together a mock budget for a family making $50,000 per year. Adam and I looked at each other, and we knew we both were thinking the same thing: $50,000 a year?! We couldn’t imagine having access to that kind of money!

Budgeting would be SO much easier if we made that much money. But, improving our income situation felt impossible! We graduated from college at the height of the recession, and after months of unemployment, we were both grateful for our just-above-minimum-wage jobs, mine at a grocery store, Adam’s as a para at a middle school.

We were just making it. Barely, and by God’s grace.

Erin and her husband went through this exact example in a financial class in their church. Her husband was so emotional during the example that he spent the remainder of the class at the hall.

I remember that moment. I wanted to be in the hall too.

That was the moment where Erin, her husband, and their financial coach sat down a took a long look at their financial situation and came to only one conclusion: they had a serious income problem.

The amazing part about Erin’s story is that, despite living on a low income, they did not use credit cards or any other forms of consumer debt to help make ends meet. Instead, they turned to help inside their church, through community organizations and federal programs (like WIC), and learned to rely on God to provide using the money they hand in hand.

In this book Erin shares tips and habits that enabled her family to turn their lives around, both financially and through a faithful dependance on God’s provision for their lives.

Her tips are GREAT! Especially when it comes to eating well on a budget. If you are interested in a free e-course created by Erin on eating well on a budget, sign up on her blog, The Humbled Homemaker. I signed up for it, and I highly recommend it!

I eat on a budget, but I don’t always eat WELL. For instance, with the bottom line in mind while grocery, I don’t always avoid the “dirty dozen” because organic cost more. I know how important it is to provide my family with healthy, nourishing foods, and Erin’s words have inspired me to put a little more effort into making sure we’re even more careful about what we are eating.

 

But, even more than Erin’s fabulous tips, I enjoyed this book because it reminded me that God gives and takes away on His terms, not ours.

Struggling to make ends meet, whether it’s caused by an income problem or a spending problem, is mentally and emotionally challenging. It’s so hard to pick yourself up off the ground without someone tossing you a lifeline.

It’s also spiritually challenging. It’s so hard to put your faith in God when you feel that you are not being provided for.

If that’s you, this book could be your lifeline.

And for some perspective, this journey is even harder when you’re living in poverty, or just above it. And, it’s especially harder when you don’t live in a country like the United States with federal programs, like unemployment, food stamps, WIC, etc. to fall back on.

Even if you are not currently struggling, this is a important read if you want to learn how to better assist struggling families in the US today. There are many stigmas in our culture against asking for financial help when you need it, and More Than Just Making It reminds us that a little kindness goes a long way. (affiliate link)

More Than Just Making It will be released in stores and online on September 5! Click here to pre-order on Amazon today! (affiliate link)

Click here to check out the first chapter for FREE!

We live a frugal life, on a budget, carefully keeping track of how we spend our money. Especially now that we live on one income. That is why I was initially drawn to Erin Odam's soon to be released book, More Than Just Making It. If you ever find yourself in the situation someday where you are financially frustrated, even to the point of struggling to make ends meet, this is the book for you. Struggling to make ends meet, whether it's caused by an income problem or a spending problem, is mentally and emotionally challenging. It's so hard to pick yourself up off the ground without someone tossing you a lifeline. It's also spiritually challenging. It's so hard to put your faith in God when you feel that you are not being provided for.

Back to School Prayer

It’s that time of year! School supplies are back in stores, and the weather has started to cool down (just a little).

And what better way to prepare for school than by praying for our kiddo’s?

FREE Printable back to school scripture and prayer! It's that time of year! School supplies are back in stores, and the weather has started to cool down (just a little).  And what better way to prepare for school than by praying for our kiddo's?

As a kid I loved school, but this time of year is exciting, it’s also scary. There are a lot of unknowns. Some teachers were harder or more strict than others. Sometimes I was placed in a class with my best friends, sometimes I was given an opportunity to make new friends in my class.

This time of year is a time of new beginnings. New school year, new grade, new classmates.

Let’s not only help our kids start off on the right foot, and let’s take an opportunity as praying moms to start ourselves off on the right foot too! Pray for our kids, and remind them of the truth held in scripture for new or scary situations.

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Royal Orange Chocolate Scones

 

Simple chocolate scones sweetened with just enough orange juice. Easy recipe that will leave you and your family feeling like royalty!

Tonight, while listening to a thunderstorm build outside, I quietly go through the motions of making a favorite scone recipe.

The house is quiet. My husband busy in the other room, my son is asleep. It’s just me, alone in the kitchen. Not even the dog peeks in.

These scones were first baked for me by a lovely co-worker in a stressful part-time job in college. On Monday, she filled the afternoon by describing a craving she was feeling for these simple chocolate scones her family made, sweetened with just enough orange juice. On Tuesday morning, I found a batch of scones on my desk.

Years later, remembering orange juice as a key ingredient, I googled until I found a recipe that looked similar, described as “royal” scones.

Tonight, I’m making these scones for the second time this week. These scones graciously used the ingredients already found in the pantry, sans one small personal-sized bottle of orange juice.

While the scones are being gracious, I am not. In my thoughts, I have a full list of complaints and wants: more money, more space, more success.

Here I am again, going down this endless spiral. Be affluent. Be important. Be worthy. Be more.

That’s really where the struggle begins, isn’t it? Inside of us?

I take a look at the recipe, and realize suddenly that I have been quadrupling the amount of chocolate in these scones for years! It’s not one and one thirds cup of chocolate chips (leaving the perfect amount remaining in the bag for those desperate parenting moments that require chocolate). No, the recipe calls for one thirds of a cup!

And, BAM, just like that, I’m reminded of how sweet life really is.

In my family, we have health, each other, shelter, plenty of choice homemade foods.

Simple chocolate scones sweetened with just enough orange juice.

Rich enough to enjoy scones made for royalty.

My petition goes silent, as I pray a thankful prayer for the extra chocolate over the years.

Print

Royal Orange Chocolate Scones

Simple chocolate scones sweetened with just enough orange juice.

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature chocolate chips semisweet
  • 1/4 cup orange juice plus more to form dough

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheight. Grease a cookie sheet.

  2. Wish first 4 dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Cut butter into small pieces and then, using a fork or a bladed dough blender, cut the butter into dough until it resembles a course crumbs.

  4. Add remaining ingredients until dough will hold shape. Add additional orange juice as needed. (Sometimes I need to add a couple more tsp of orange juice.)

  5. Press dough evenly into the bottom of the mixing bowl, then overturn onto the greased cookie sheet.

  6. Use a large knife to cut into 8 scones (slice, like a pizza). Gently separate scones to allow space to bake evenly.

  7. Bake for 12 minutes until golden brown.

Recipe Notes

I almost always add additional orange juice to help the dough hold together, but the amount required depends on how well the butter was cut into the dough.

Simple chocolate scones sweetened with just enough orange juice.

Zero Waste Dinner: Chinese Hamburger

Once,  I listened to a podcast about a working lunch which was served to a group of 40 world leaders who were gathering at the UN. Sam Krass, who had served as the Obama family’s personal chef, along with a team of other chefs, served these world leaders, most of whom were presidents of their respected countries, a dinner made of trash.

That’s right, the entire meal was made out of perfectly good food that was intended to be thrown away out of NYC restaurant kitchens.

We, as a culture, waste a lot of food. This includes my own kitchen.

This week, I have been noting ways to use Zero Waste Cooking strategies in my kitchen.

Are you familiar with Zero Waste Cooking? This is an term I encountered while pre-reviewing Erin Odem’s book, More Than Just Making It, which will be released in bookstores in September (affiliate link).

As far as I know, I haven’t encountered this exact term before, but the idea behind it is very familiar to me. Zero Waste is a strategy that my mother and grandmother often used in their kitchens to stretch the weekly food budget. It’s actually very common in kitchens around the world, although not so much in the U.S. these days.

The idea behind Zero Waste Cooking is to use every food to its fullest potential.

For instance, this lettuce. It’s not bad or rotten, but it’s wilted after spending several long days in the fridge. It would make a very sad salad.

What do you normally do with lettuce like this? Do you just chop it into a chewy salad?

I normally just do what my mom did: make Chinese hamburger for dinner. And soon, before the lettuce goes bad!

The really nice thing about this dish is that it’s easy to keep the other ingredients on hand. Frozen ground turkey, a box of beef Rice-A-Roni, butter, and water.

Isn’t it nice to have a back up plan for wilted lettuce??!

Of course, there are considerations to be made when trying to elimate wasted food in your kitchen. The first consideration is food safety. (And, food safety has changed over the years as the bacteria changes. For instance, you can’t rely on your grandma’s method for thawing meat on the counter anymore, folks.)

But, at least you can stretch some overlooked lettuce from the back of the fridge instead of throwing it away!

Print

One-Pot Chinese Hamburger

This easy recipe is a great Zero Waste Cooking strategy for using wilted lettuce!

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 box Beef Rice-A-Roni
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 head lettuce
  • reduced-sodium soy sauce optional

Instructions

  1. Heat ground turkey in large skillet over medium heat until cooked.

  2. Add butter and rice-vermicelli mix and sauté over medium heat until vermicelli is golden brown, stirring frequently.

  3. Slowly stir in water and 1/2 bag seasonings (to lessen sodium), and bring to a boil.

  4. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked.  Chop lettuce into bite sized pieces.

  5. Turn off burner, but keep pot on stove. Stir lettuce into pot and cover. Leave 1-2 minutes to allow lettuce to wilt.

  6. Plate, sprinkle with soy sauce, and enjoy!

This easy recipe is a great Zero Waste Cooking strategy for using wilted lettuce!

Summer Reads

This website uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE. Thank you.

It’s the Fourth of July, and I leave on vacation later this week. For me, rest and relaxation would never be possible without a big stack of books on the nightstand ready to be plowed through during the cracks of busy summer life. As mom, those afternoons of lazy beachside reading seem way out of reach, but I still find myself reading late into the night, sometimes hiding the light so I don’t wake anyone else up. It makes me feel like a kid again!

Included in this list are cookbooks, fantasy, Christian fiction and non-fiction.  This is a LONG list? Can I get through them all??? I don’t know, but I’m sure going to try!

THE MISTBORN TRILLOGY

This trilogy was part of my Christmas present from my husband, and I’m loving it! Currently on book two. This book is perfect if you enjoy reading sci fi or fantasy books and are a fan of the Lord of the Rings but uncomfortable with some of the content in the Game of Thrones series.

If I were to have a conversation about this trilogy in a college literature class, I would have quite a lot to say about the treatment of women in this book.

BROWN EGGS AND JAM JARS

By Aimee, the editor of Simple Bites. This book has been on my to read list ever since it came out, and I snagged it when I noticed it displayed in the Children’s section of our public library last week. It’s a gorgeous book! Description via Amazon:

“Aimée’s rural homestead upbringing,  years working as a professional chef and everyday life as  a busy mom led to the creation of the hugely popular blog  Simple Bites . Raising three young children with husband  Danny, Aimée traded her tongs and chef whites for a  laptop and camera, married her two passions—mothering  and cooking—and has since been creating recipes with  an emphasis on whole foods for the family table, sharing  stories and tips and inspiring readers to make the family– food connection on the Simple Bites blog.”

WE SURE CAN!

Description via Amazon:

“Perfect for fans of the growing locavore movement and those who are empowered by the idea of “putting up” their own preserves, this book will inspire readers to start their own jam sessions as soon as the year’s bumper crop of fruits and vegetables becomes available. Can anybody join the movement? We sure can!”

IF I RUN

It’s been AGES since I’ve picked up any Christian fiction, but Terri Blackstock has produced several enjoyable reads for me. A friend recommended this, and I’m expecting it to be very thrilling (and possibly end on a cliffhanger…).

IS THE BIBLE GOOD FOR WOMEN?

I can’t get over the fact that this book reads like it was written by my mom! I think it is because Alsup is an algebra teacher, just like mom! 😀 This book was sent to me by the publisher to review on the blog, and I’m about half way through it.

MEALS FROM MARS

Also sent to me by the publisher. Description below via Amazon.

“When talking about race, it helps to have something specific to talk about―a story we can all wrap our heads around. In Meals from Mars, Ben Sciacca provides that story: two men from different worlds forced by circumstance to see and hear and consider one another. It is a novel that demonstrates the social challenges and relational potential for racial reconciliation.”

GRACE BASED PARENTING

I’m reading this with a couple of friends. I initially borrowed a copy, but ordered it half way through the first chapter because I wanted my husband to have a chance to read it too!

“Rejecting rigid rules and checklists that don’t work, Dr. Kimmel recommends a parenting style that mirrors God’s love, reflects His forgiveness, and displaces fear as a motivator for behavior. As we embrace the grace God offers, we begin to give it-creating a solid foundation for growing morally strong and spiritually motivated children.”

GIVE YOUR CHILD THE WORLD

I used to work with international students at a large university, I am very aware of the importance of imparting a global perspective in my parenting! While Kansas doesn’t exactly sound like a diverse place to live, when my son and I attend Baby Rhyme Time at the local library, as white US citizens, we are typically in the minority. Our neighborhood houses the majority of international peoples in our city, and I want to make sure that we are doing our part in keeping our eyes open and in creating a safe and welcome environment for our neighbors and community.  I’m really appreciating this book, and I’m already feeling stretched outside of my comfort zone in many ways!

Give Your Child the World includes more than 600 children’s book recommendations from around the world. Reading lists are organized by region, country, and age range (ages 4-12). Each listing includes a brief description of the book, its themes, and any content of which parents should be aware.

Parents can introduce their children to the world from the comfort of home by simply opening a book together. Give Your Child the World is poised to become a bestselling family reading treasury that promotes literacy, develops a global perspective, and strengthens family bonds while increasing faith and compassion.”

A FAMILY SHAPED BY GRACE

I’m so excited that this book exists, and I can’t wait to read it! Gary Moreland has been extremely influential and encouraging in my writing life. Description via Amazon.

“‘Gary Morland is a gifted communicator who has learned many lessons the hard way.  He grew up in a dysfunctional family and went down that road himself, bottoming out as a confused alcoholic with a wife, two daughters, and no idea how to change. God transformed Gary’s life through his grace and the practical advice of wise mentors. Those lessons are passed along in this powerful and insightful book.’–John Fuller, cohost of Focus on the Family”

AT HOME IN THE WORLD

I followed Tsh Oxenreider’s blog as she, her three kids, and her husband packed their lives into 5 backpacks took a year long trip around the world. Now she has published a book about this experience, and I know it will be a wonderful read! Description via Amazon.

At Home in the World follows their journey from China to New Zealand, Ethiopia to England, and more. They traverse bumpy roads, stand in awe before a waterfall that feels like the edge of the earth, and chase each other through three-foot-wide passageways in Venice. And all the while Tsh grapples with the concept of home, as she learns what it means to be lost—yet at home—in the world.”

MORE THAN JUST MAKING IT

Last but not least, this book arrived in the mail yesterday, and I am SO EXCITED! I am on the release team for this book, so I get to review it before it is officially released on September 5. While you are waiting for the book to be released, check out Erin’s blog, The Humbled Homemaker. Description via Amazon.

“When you’re trapped in a cycle of financial frustration, and you feel like you’ve tried everything only to end up with more month than money yet again, More Than Just Making It is your promise and pathway to thriving again.

Take it from someone who’s been there. Erin Odom grew up in the private schools and neatly manicured lawns of Upper Middle Class America, but was thrown into low-income living during the economic crash. She was a stay-at-home-mom, her husband was supporting the family on a teacher’s salary, and despite the fact that they had no debt to their name, they were scrambling to make ends meet. Suddenly Erin found herself standing in line for food stamps, turning down play dates because she couldn’t afford the gas, and ultimately walking into bankruptcy court in the eighth month of her third pregnancy.

More Than Just Making It tells the story of their breaking point, as well as the triumph of their comeback. It took hard work, creativity, and faith in God’s provision to reset their bank account as well as their hearts, but ultimately they found a new way to thrive and freedom from financial anxiety. You can do the same. Learn how Erin and her family saved enough money to put $30,000 down on a home, buy a minivan in cash, and begin sending their daughter to private Christian school. More Than Just Making It will encourage readers to rise above their circumstances, empower them with money-saving tips, and reimagine the good life as God designed it outside the myth of the American Dream.”

It's the Fourth of July, and I leave on vacation later this week. For me, rest and relaxation would never be possible without a big stack of books on the nightstand ready to be plowed through during the cracks of busy summer life. From cookbooks to fiction to non-fiction, check out my "to reads"" this season!

Simple Life in the Kitchen

I recently signed up for an email course about simplifying life… 30 days and 30 emails later, and my life was feeling a lot more complicated.

Someone else telling me how to show gratitude, journal, be healthy physically and mentally, purge my closets, and avoid screen time. By the end of the course, I was so overwhelmed. Every new e-mail caused a twinge in my gut; I stopped opening them about a third of the way through.

For the last decade or so, our culture has become obsessed with simplifying life. Resources are everywhere. Topics ranging from organization and planning techniques (keep stuff) to purging techniques (toss it).

Along with those techniques come a entire new set of standards we aspire to meet. Combine that with a thousand Pinterest “to do’s” and that perfect Instagram images being bombarded at us every day and HOLY COW. It’s easy to quickly work yourself into a panic attack in the process of trying to have a “simplier” life.

The thing is–and I don’t know why we as a culture haven’t caught onto this by now–life is different for everyone. EVERYONE. Even a simple life varies from person to person.

You don’t have to “fit” to simplify. You don’t have to call yourself a “minimalist” or a “crunchy mom” or “thrifty” or “green” to live a simple, happy life.

You really, really don’t have to be any of those things to simplify life in the kitchen.

For me, what it all really boiled down to is this question: does my life currently align with my values? And, if not, what do I need to do to change to make that happen?

Are the choices in my own kitchen lining up with the way I really want to live?

How it applies to the kitchen

What does simple living look like in the kitchen?

Fair question.

Well, for starters, simple living in my kitchen is not going to be exactly the same as yours! (Ahem, see the section above if I haven’t beat that point into the ground yet.)

In my kitchen, I have some very specific values that I aspire to.

Time

I want to take time to connect with my family every day.

This means that we set aside some — not all, but some — evening time each night to sit around the table and enjoy a meal together. We pray together. We share the family news.

It’s really not as romantic as it sounds.

My one-year-old son rejects food by throwing it and usually demands whatever I forgot in the fridge (usually his cup of milk) the second I sit down.

I have a needy dog who started begging for food the second she spotted me through the animal shelter cage bars seven years ago and hasn’t stopped.

My introverted husband is usually unwinding internally from his socially demanding job while simultaneously listening to his extroverted wife lay out every monotonous detail of the last 9-10 hours.

Sometimes we end the meal more frustrated and disconnected than when we began. That’s just how life goes sometimes.

Overall, it’s worth the effort. Today at lunch, we had cereal and scrambled eggs. (There’s a lazy lunch idea if I’ve ever heard one!) We all sat there quietly spooning raisin bran into our mouths and collecting ourselves after a busy morning. It’s moments like this.

And, the moment after when my 16 month-old started drinking the milk out of his little bowl without missing a drop! It’s moments like that too. (I wonder who he learned that trick from? Oh, right, me. Every. Morning.)

Parenting

I want my son to be exposed to a variety of textures and flavors in his first years of feeding himself.

I have been blessed with an adventurous toddler. I think I fed him two bites of that infant cereal before he grabbed the spoon and started feeding himself.  Then, a couple of days later, he started grabbing for whatever was on my plate. He knew that whatever I was eating had to be better than that mush I was pushing toward him.

But even an adventurous eater has to be encouraged. We went through a phase where he was only eating words he could sign. Cracker, apple, milk. Getting out of that rut of him always eating the same foods was a struggle.

Nutrition

I want us to eat with health and nutrition in mind.

When it comes to nutrition, the rules in my kitchen are simple: everything varied and in moderation.

Carbs, fats, protein in various forms and in moderation.  Dessert in moderation. Sodium in moderation.

Frankly, it’s more fun to embrace a creative, balanced plate!

At the age of 28, why am I so conscious of this?

Two generations ago on one branch of the family, almost none of my family survived past the age of 55. Heart disease was rampant.

One generation ago in another branch, diabetes grabbed ahold. It feels like we’re genetically set up for failure here.

I look to my parents and my husband’s parents, both of whom are very conscious eaters, and I can see how their food choices have assisted them in staying healthy.

Our bodies are much more likely to succeed in the battle to stay healthy if we give them the tools they need.

For me, what it all really boiled down to is this question: does my life currently align with my values? And, if not, what do I need to do to change to make that happen?

Financial

I want to live within our means and on budget.

Part of reality of living a simple life as parents is that we choose to live on one consistent full-time income. Yes, I do work a little from home, but there is nothing glamorous about our income or our lifestyle.

I choose to stick to a grocery budget and stretch every dollar because I chose this life. Because me staying home right now is important to me, to us, and we love it!

So, here’s the question I ask myself often: are the choices in my own kitchen lining up with the way I really want to live?

3 Ways to Keep Your Kitchen Cool in Summer

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Summer is officially here! Beat the heat by using some strategy in the kitchen!

Enjoy these three quick tips! Your electric bill will thank you later…

1. Avoid the oven and stovetop! Use countertop appliances instead!

Small countertop appliances like the microwave, rice cooker, and slow cooker are your best friends this time of year! Give the range a break, and plan your meals for the week around these smaller appliances.

I particularly like to use a rice cooker with a steamer basket (aff) this time of year! I load rice in the bottom, meat and veggies in the top, and let it all cook at the same time! It’s quick and versatile for healthy weeknight dinners!

Related Post  Summer Vegetable Ravioli Salad

2. Serve cold meals!

Salads, sandwiches, Current favorite at my house: a kid friendly version of an antipasto platter. On a hot day, a variety of our family’s favorite fruits, vegetables, cheeses, hummus, and/or deli meats make for a really fun meal! You can make it as healthy as you desire by being choosy about what you include!

3. Take it outside!

Keep the house cool by cooking on the grill! Then, when you are done, come back in and enjoy the A/C!

Minimalist Meal Planning

“WHAT’S FOR DINNER?”Uggh, even just typing that question out makes me stress out a little.

I’ve been there, on a busy weeknight, when all of a sudden a room full of hungry eyes lock onto you like an interrogation spotlight.

Are you overwhelmed by meal planning and grocery shopping? Or are you just winging it on any given night? I know I have been this way before.

I finally decided to simplify. You have no idea how much I wish I would have simplified my meal planning years ago!

How did I simplify?

Are you overwhelmed by meal planning and grocery shopping? Or are you just winging it on any given night? I know I have been this way before. I finally decided to simplify. You have no idea how much I wish I would have simplified my meal planning years ago!

I stopped eating out.

I know that cooking at home seems more complicated, but it’s really not. Why?

  • It’s healthier. Eating at home means you have better knowledge of what you are putting into your body and control over the size of your portion.
  • It’s cost effective. There was a point in our marriage where my husband and I were eating well at home for less than $40 a week. You read that right — it only took two President Jacksons cover 21 meals. These days, we are also concerned about using wholesome ingredients, so we traded out the boxed mac and cheese for a produce coop and local meats and still spend well under $100 a week for a family of 3.
  • Cooking and eating together at home strengthens relationships–whether it’s friends, family, acquaintances. If your meals are in sync, your lives will be more in sync.
  • Self-esteem booster! Choosing a healthy meal can positively affect the way you see yourself, which may be one of the most important benefits of all.

I simplified grocery shopping with my Minimalist Grocery List.

A well-stocked pantry is the first step to simplifying your meal prep.

But uggggh I do NOT like grocery shopping. I REALLY don’t like having to go back to the store at the last second. I REALLY REALLY don’t like wasting money on groceries.

So, I came up with a system, and IT WORKS! I call it the Minimalist Grocery List!

Are you overwhelmed by meal planning and grocery shopping? Or are you just winging it on any given night? I know I have been this way before. I finally decided to simplify. You have no idea how much I wish I would have simplified my meal planning years ago!

What’s special about this list?

–I freed myself by eliminating the foods from my diet that leave me feeling icky! It’s amazing, when you start to pay attention, how many foods on grocery store shelves are junk. Instead of eating boxed snacks, we now eat fresh fruits and veggies. If you don’t want to eat the junk, don’t allow it in your house! (And, bonus, I’ve lost a lot of weight with this strategy!)

–It’s easier on your budget by allowing you to stockpile the items you use while they are on sale.

–Save time grocery shopping by limiting yourself to easy to find ingredients.

–MOST OF ALL, save time on planning meals and cooking because you will already have everything you need in your pantry!

You will already have EVERYTHING you need in your pantry! And that feels GOOD.

I created a Minimalist Meal Plan schedule.

A well-stocked pantry is the first step to simplifying your meal prep. The second step is having a reliable dinner schedule to default to.

I plan our dinner schedule by categories. I loosely follow the routine below:

  • Mondays: rice bowls
  • Tuesdays: tacos
  • Wednesdays: sandwiches
  • Thursdays: salads
  • Fridays: pasta
  • Saturdays: pizza
  • Sunday: soup

Don’t forget to make a meal plan every week!

Every Saturday, after picking up the produce from my co-op, I sit down and make a plan for how we are going to use that food in our meals that week. I post the plan on the fridge so that everyone in the family is able to access it. We are more successful at eating at home when we start the week with a stocked kitchen and when everyone is made aware of the plan!

The Weekly Nutrition Reflection Checklist

It’s easy to default to a few quick meals, but I try to use the practice of reflection to expose my family, especially kids, to a wide variety of flavors and textures and to encourage us to eat a variety of highly nutritious foods in moderation. My questions change over time and in different life chapters. Take some time to think of one or two questions of your own to add!

  • Did I utilize a wide variety of vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors?
  • Did I use more fresh foods than packaged foods?
  • Did I primarily use lean meats and protein sources?
  • Was my family exposed to a high level of sugar or sodium throughout the week?
  • Did everyone in the family feel like they were able to contribute to our meals together in some way?

Keep it in perspective

Above all, meal planning is an opportunity to serve your family and provide a safe and consistent place to gather together daily. There is much more to life than meal planning.

I have to remind myself of the purpose of shopping for and preparing tacos on any given Tuesday. It’s not because I love to shop or because I love to cook; it is because I love my family. I love spending time with them. I want them to eat nutritious food and have healthy, strong bodies. I crave the dinner conversation, even though the majority of the conversation in this chapter of life is interrupted with “No no, please don’t throw that on the floor.”

And, as a Christian, I ultimately find my perspective in this Bible verse.

Maintain a larger perspective. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take some time (yeah right, who has time… but seriously, try) to spend some time listing some things you are grateful for about this meal planning process. Contemplate what is meaningful to you. Life is fragile and can change in an instant, so keep track of what you are thankful for in everything today, in this moment, before it is passed.

I’ll be your cheerleader! You can do it!

Grocery shopping and meal planning does not have to be a difficult, expensive, and time consuming process. If you are overwhelmed by meal planning, I can help. Here’s how: my blog, Brohgan.com, is committing to making delicious meals from a standard list of common ingredients that can easily be stockpiled in a pantry.

Would you like to be friends? Me too!

If you provide me with your e-mail below, I will send you a weekly newsletter on Fridays. This newsletter includes a meal plan for the upcoming week and some encouraging weekend links. If you sign up below, my gift to you is a quick, printable guide to assist you as you begin your minimalist meal planning journey!

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