Meal planning 101

Congrats, Laura for winning the lunch cut outs! Look out for another giveaway coming up soon with lunch!  
Thanks to all who entered! And as always, thanks for reading!


I have dabbled in having my meals planned out for the week and my shopping list made based on my plan.  Over the summer, I also started using for budgeting and set a grocery budget, and I use Grocery IQ for my grocery lists. Having a plan for each night of the week is so much easier than getting to that night and throwing something together on the fly. It also saves money and utilizes the food that we have, so I try to do it most weeks!

I start by looking in the pantry, fridge and freezer to see what we need and have, and build my meal plan and list from there. 

I downloaded some free meal plans from 100 days of real food that are awesome – check these out!  There are also links to recipes included in the meal plans, and a shopping list!  The author also just put out a cookbook!  I also go to my pinterest dinner page and see if I feel like making anything from there. Favorites over the summer included:

Zucchini Pasta {all photos are credited to the websites that are linked to the photos}

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Giada’s baked turkey meatballs

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On pinterest, I found meal planning sheets for the week, printed and laminated them and each week I use a dry erase marker to write out the meal plan for the week, then erase it and redo it for the next week.

Mine looks like this ~ and is clipped to my fridge with a magnet.

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Here are a bunch you can download!

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If you go to pinterest and type in “meal planning sheet” you will find a ton!

As I’m writing up my plan, I’m typing in all the ingredients that I need for the week into my Grocery IQ list!


Grocery IQ is a *free* awesome app where you can have a shared grocery list, and update via your computer or the app itself.  When you are in the grocery store, you easily bring it up and click on the item and it moves to the checked off part of your list.  You can also have multiple lists – Target, Costco, a packing list for a trip, etc. Love this app. Definitely check it out!

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As far as budgeting, I started using to track all of my spending and I love it! It is free and you can make up your own categories for budgeting and link all of your bank accounts and credit card accounts. It’s a great resource for saving money!

I set a grocery budget of $450 which is a lofty goal! For the first month, I went over ~ 

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I’m trying to track my spending and then come up with a realistic goal. Some months we have spent over $700 on groceries, and other months have been able to stay under $500. It’s fun to have a goal :) 


And last but not least, coupon-ing!  I use Martha Stewart’s system (now on clearance at Staples!) to organize my coupons and gift cards. 

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Sites that I check for coupons are smartsource, and  I also look at and on Whole Foods website for coupons or grab their coupon book before shopping!

How about you? Do you meal plan?  Do you cut coupons? Do you have a grocery budget each month? 



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WIAW – What I ate Wednesday

  Wow, I haven’t done one of these in a very long time!

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I tried to take pics of my eats on Wednesday, here they are:

Breakfast: The cookies on top. Cookies for breakfast. Yes. Almond flour, coconut oil, agave nectar, chia seeds and chocolate chips. I posted about them here!  Paired with some 1/2 coffee, half almond milk and homemade whipped cream, I started the day on a sugar high. And then I just read this post over at Lexi’s clean kitchen about cutting out all sugars. I think I would die.


On the bottom are Mommy Run Fast’s carrot cake cookies. Yum! 

Lots of water in between!  Picking at my kids lunches at the pool – I had peaches!

Lunch after the kids were down for naps –  leftover black beans and rice with broccoli, greek yogurt guacamole from Costco, hemp seeds, and what else, a few Frito scoops!



My treat after lunch is always dove milk chocolate.  I eat 3 of them everyday! I love the sayings on the inside.


Oh yes, it sure does! 

My favorite ones are “Happiness is contagious,” “Enjoy this moment”, and “Believe in yourself.” Love my chocolates!

In the afternoon I definitely ate some Nutella and peanut butter when I made the snack bread with nutella and peanut butter. 
I need to get on board with some sugarless eating.


Dinner – Dr Praegers Veggie Burger with Spinach, Feta Cheese and hemp seeds.  More chocolate after dinner.




Wednesday was a good eating today. I’m not going to get involved in “what I ate Friday”

the last 2 days were simple days. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to do fun field trips but I needed a little break and the weather the last 2 days really enabled a slow down and enjoy the moment. So much to be thankful for!

Especially this one napping ~  I worked on naps this week. This whole summer I feel we’ve been on the go, and I let it go by the wayside with #3 so she just got by skipping them. This week I sat in her room with her until she fell asleep and she napped almost 3 hours the last 2 days. She needed the sleep! Hopefully we go back to this routine. The 5pm hour was killing me!



Simple. Taking in the moment. Thankful. Perfect. Remember that post “Is it September yet?” 
Make it stop! I’m not ready for these days to end yet!
I am blinking and these littles are growing up by the minute.





Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for some fun lunch cut outs!


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School lunches ~ Round up and giveaway

The time has arrived. In a few short weeks, all three of my kids will be in school. I will have 6 hours to myself during the week!?!?! While I have been anxiously awaiting this (I haven’t been alone in over 5 years) and plan to start making lists of what I will accomplish, the thought of it also makes me want to throw up.  The thought of driving home in a car by myself: will I cry? will I cheer? I think it will be a small transition period for me, but then I will love the time! I have had my hand in so many things that I can barely fit in the time to do – writing running articles, my photography business and tutoring.  I become so stressed trying to keep it all together! I’m hoping this time will really help!

At the same time, my oldest will be going to Kindergarten, AND staying for lunch everyday.  I was so torn on this decision to lose lunches with him everyday. He will be going to school everyday for the next 18 years :( but the program was so good that it was the best option educationally. Someone wrote a quote that I came across something like “Don’t worry about how clean your house is, keep the dishes in the sink and play with your kids. Spend time with your kids. You’ll blink and they will be starting kindergarten.” GULP.  How did those last 5 1/2 years go by so quickly? The first one really hurts! And what’s worse is that #2 is just one year behind – it sneaks up on me!  

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Time really flies. And I hope that I spent it well in their eyes.  I honestly wish phones and computers did not exist.  The end of this summer has been getting me and I’m trying to keep it together to end on a good note!
Computers/phones are such time sucks, but where most of my business responsibilities are too! If only I lived in the 50s…

“Your kids may not remember what you said or did, but how you made them feel.”

Inspirational quotes always help me to center myself, be present and take a step back and try to enjoy the moment.

Here is one that had my tearing up the other day from Little Family Fun:

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Goodness! I definitely wish I could stay centered and happy with this in mind all the time! 

Well, with September around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about school lunches. Day…after day…after day. Yikes! Here are some of my favorite websites, items and recipes for school lunches.

100 days of real food. Great ideas for variety and real food.  (picture credit from 100 days website)

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Weelicious banana chocolate chip muffins – and the website in general. Great ideas for snacks & meals

Granola bars – a staple recipe  – you can easily sub butter for the PB for allergies

Alternate to this – Clif Z bars!

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Whole Foods bread! – tastes like it came from a bakery. I load up on this and freeze it!

Sunflower seed butter (allergy free!)   – I add more and more coconut oil to this in order to get it to the best consistency! Love this stuff.  Add jelly for sandwich of choice or serve alone!

Easy Lunchboxes. Tried and true. I’ve been using these for three years!

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Easy Lunchboxes dipping container – for smaller snacks or lots of pieces

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Cupcake liners – for small snacks like craisins, or a muffin

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Sandwich cutters

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More ideas – check out my pinterest board.  

Your turn – what are your favorite foods to include in packed lunches? Favorite items, favorite recipes? Favorite lunchbox?
I realize I’m going to have to get more creative this year!


One winner from the US only will win a 3-pack of the sandwich cutters!  Enter below! Good luck, and thanks for reading!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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My lil runner!




I had a recruit this past weekend, my 4-year old :) After I went on my run, I came back and took her back out for about a mile. She did great and was so enthusiastic. We did it again 2 days later on and off 2 miles. She loved it! And so did I :) 










I also took these pictures while at the beach of my little. She is a noticer ~ stop and smell the roses.  On our run, she stopped when she saw a pretty dandelion to pick it and blow it. I love the bottom picture. She was taking it all in.









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Clif products to check out for summer and fall!

Happy Friday!

Something for everyone today over at Lil Runner :)  I was sent some samples from CLIF to share with you. All opinions are my own.


First up, Clif SHOT. Have you tried CLIF SHOT Electrolyte Hydration and Protein Recovery Drink Mixes?

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The CLIF SHOT Electrolyte Hydration Drink Mix is for during activity and made with 90% organic ingredients. Containing sodium and other electrolytes, it contains good carbs to aid in replenishing and keeping you going while running.  The flavors are fruity with orange mango,lemon lime-ade and cranberry razz.  These contain 20g carbs and 80 calories.

The CLIF SHOT Protein Recovery Drink Mix is meant to be taken immediately after activity to help your body to recover quicker.  This contains 70% organic ingredients that were selected carefully to aid in recovery.  I tried the chocolate. These come in Orange Mango and Chocolate. I would love to see Vanilla, but I thought the Chocolate had good taste. I would want to see a vegan plant based protein since that is the direction that I’m going in, instead of whey protein and milk protein concentrate in this mix. It contains 160 calories and 10g protein.


Want to win one? Like “CLIF Bar” on Facebook and leave a comment with the flavor that most appeals to you in the comments for a chance to win a drink package!

Next up, for the kiddos!  Ready for some lunch box action?

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School is quickly approaching. And while I love to make things like granola bars to put in the lunches, if I’m in a pinch, I usually have Clif Z-bars on hand to grab for a quick healthy lunch option. Paired with fruit and some nuts, and maybe a cheese stick, and you’ve got lunch!

Introducing the new CLIF kid Zbar PROTEIN!  The lunch box hero!! Made with organic whole grains just like the Z bars, they contain 5g of protein, which helps keeps us full. The Zbars are also a good source of fiber, iron, zinc and vitamin D.  I tried each flavor, and my favorite was the peanut butter chocolate. Yum! Each bar is dipped in chocolate. I love the chocolate coating as a chocoholic,  but for traveling in warmer temperatures, it melts and becomes super messy. Keep them cold if you’re going to be in warmer weather.  The bars tasted like chocolate coated granola bars. Yum! A big hit with my crew! Stay tuned for a back to school giveaway on Lil Runner including some Zbar Protein bars!  Do feel free to leave a comment with the most enticing flavor :)

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And last, for my local friends, check out THE JUICE for some fresh smoothies. Ready for a back to school detox?  Check out some witty drink names and delicious healthy drinks! Stay tuned for an interview with the boss!  In the meantime, follow The Juice Philly on Instagram and Facebook!  Pictures courtesy of The Juice Philly.

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And last but not least, check out  to share your Moment from June through December.  Post a moment that you’d like to share on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #MeetTheMoment and CLIF is donating $1 to an environmental non-profit for each Moment posted . Use @Clifbar (Twitter) or @Clifbarcompany (Instagram).

Here’s our moment today – picking Zinnias at a local farm

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#meetthemoment @clifbarcompany


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Weekend away & Wedding Countdown

Last weekend was my first weekend away ALONE from the kids. It was my sister’s bachelorette party.  It was glorious. What was I waiting for?  My sister is almost 5 years younger than me and is super fun (I’m SO not).  I was pretty anxious about leaving for 2 nights which was my original plan, being able to hang and stay up late and survive.  Instead I ended up doing one night but almost the whole weekend.  When I came home, I wished I did 3 nights!!

It was last year, August 10th when the big moment happened – the proposal. The night before, we went to dinner.
The night of the engagement, we went out to celebrate, a bunch of her friends came out too!  In September, I went up for a dress shopping expedition.

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The shower was in June:

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big sis, little sis, with big sis, little sis.


and some pictures from the weekend!

I felt the need to take a picture of my feet being still. Notice I was on single digits in the book. I didn’t get any further, but still, it was so nice!  A fun weekend in celebration of my super fun sister :) whom I wish I could be more like!   I was in withdrawal all week from that alone time that I was able to have!

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this picture cracks me up because of the looks on our faces :)

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To my sister, I admire your carefree, no worries personality & ability to laugh at everything!
Now, off to work on my speech for September!  And detox to get ready to fit into my dress!
Any tips on Maid of Honor speeches?

My sister had a pretty awesome ending for my speech:
May your children have blue eyes and blond hair, the sign of a true Italian” :

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Should I say brown eyes and brown hair?? :)



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Review of Block Island Organics Mineral Sunscreen

Block Island Organics is a new mineral suncare for adults and children with the motto, “Play Smart. Play Safe. Non-Toxic Suncare.”  Block Island is 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island and celebrates being outdoors.

After having babies, my concerns turned towards eating foods that are not processed and avoiding pesticides, and avoiding chemical products.  It has made me more aware of products for myself as I seek out products that are safe for my kids to use.

I was sent a sample to try of the SPF 15 for myself and Baby SPF 30 and the views expressed are my own. I was not compensated for this post.  The products are non-toxic mineral based, non-comedogenic, vegan formulated, paraben free, phthalate free, nano particle free, artificial fragrance free, non-eye irritating, not tested on animals, made in the USA and highly rated by the Environmental Working Group.
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How did it work? The sunscreen has the same consistency as standard sunscreen, but you need much less of it to be effective.  You also just need one layer.  It rubs on thick and spreads out, and you will notice right away that it does not rub in anything like normal sunscreen. It does leave a white residue on the skin, which enables you to see where you’ve applied it, and it stays on all day.  The formula is non-greasy and fast driving, and if you rub it in immediately, it soaks in a little bit better. I have definitely noticed in the non-toxic products that they do not rub in as well, which is the trade off if you don’t want chemicals, so I’m fine with it.
Here’s that residue after a run:
Want to try it out?  Use the code “natalie” to get 20% your purchase! (through August 4th). Orders over $50 ship free!

You can follow Block Island Organics on Twitter and Facebook.




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