6 Simple Things that Can Help You Lose Weight

6 Simple Thing That Can Help You Lose WeightWhat does your typical eating day look like? Are you frustrated because you think you are watching what you eat or drink, but your scale and clothes are telling you otherwise?

Tracking calories is not fun, but the process can be so revealing. A typical day of eating (for someone not watching their weight) might consist of scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, cheeseburger and fries for lunch, tacos for dinner, and a bowl of ice cream for dessert. It’s not the healthiest of meals and the calorie count totals more than 1,800 calories. It is easy to rack up the calories without even knowing it. For example, the other day I had an Orange Crush, one of my favorite alcoholic drinks (I do live in Baltimore after all). I was shocked to find that one glass contains 325 calories—two glasses contain 650—half of my daily allotment. Holy cow!

Tracking calories is not all bad. What I learned is that there are simple diet changes that can have surprisingly awesome results. Try any or all of the following and see if your scale becomes your friend. Read More

How to Tap Into Your Creativity

I often say that it is a shame that we have to grow up. Children live and breathe creativity. They play, explore, and are curious about the world. Unfortunately, as we get older life gets hectic and we eventually lose our sense of imagination and innovation. Use these tips to tap into your creativity—trust your crazy ideas and explore them.

how-to-get-back-to-creative

Take a hike through the woods.

Nature has a calming effect that can lower the blood pressure and promote a sense of peace.

Grab crayons or colored pencils and have at it.

Draw and doodle away using adult coloring books such as Adult Coloring Book: Mandalas to awaken your inner child.

Listen to the sound of crashing waves or rain pitter-pattering on the roof.

I am a huge proponent of the Rain-Rain app which provides various relaxing white-noises. Crashing Waves is my favorite. Whenever I need total peace and want to hear the sound of the ocean–since I do not have my dream ocean-front property yet–I listen to this app. It helps calm me and facilitates my writing.

Meditate or, at the very least, take the time to be still.

Listen to your inner voice and follow your heart. You know best what will ignite your creativity; sometimes you just need to slow down enough to listen.

Reflect on your childhood.

What was it that you liked to do or play? Did you pretend to be a detective, put on plays, or perform scientific experiments? As children, we naturally gravitate to the activities that hone our special gifts. Pursue those activities again and see if they still provide pleasure and enjoyment.

Keep a journal.

There are no rules for journaling. Just write. Anything and everything that comes to you–your thoughts, ideas, memories, dreams.

Work at being creative every day.

Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised. The more you do, the easier it becomes.

Spend time on Pinterest.

Check out the pins and see what topics interest you. Pinterest is a smorgasbord of creative ideas.

Read a fiction book.

Reading fiction often inspires my own writing.  I want to soak up and learn from these writers—evaluate their writing tone, voice, and style.

Read non-fiction books.

Autobiographies are excellent sources of inspiration. Hearing successful people share how they accomplished their dreams can encourage you to go after your own dreams.  Non-fiction books can also be instructional and can teach you how to accomplish your own goals.

Grab legos, lincoln logs, or blocks and build, build, build.

Sit on the floor with a pile of blocks and create with abandon. This type of playing teaches you how to visualize and follow-through on that vision. It is creativity and goal-achievement at its finest.

Lastly, GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to be creative, let-loose, be open, and PLAY!

 

I appreciate your feedback: Please scroll down to the comments bar and give me your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!  Also, I would be grateful if you would click any of the share buttons below and/or follow me on Pinterest. Click here for all my pins.  I am grateful for your support!  Thank you for visiting!

How to Write a Powerful Positive Affirmation

How to Write A Positive Affirmation.png

What You THINK about you BRING about.

Words are powerful. They can hurt. They can heal. This posting is about making our words work for us rather than against us. How many times have you told yourself: “I’m fat” or “I look awful” or even “What was I thinking”?

Let me ask you: WOULD YOU SAY THAT TO SOMEONE ELSE?   Probably not.

So, why would you say that to yourself?!

This blog post is about building ourselves up with Positive Affirmations. Positive Affirmations are conclusive statements written in the PRESENT TENSE. They do not contain words – which seem positive –  such as “I hope to” or “I want to”.  That is too wishful.  Positive affirmations are absolutes. They contain statements such as:

“I AM”

Your positive affirmation should be a statement of what IS happening or what WILL happen, even if it hasn’t happened yet.  Seriously!  Even if it hasn’t happened yet because that is the purpose. Positive affirmations when read and stated out loud send instructions to your brain. What you say to yourself REGISTERS in your brain.  What you say about yourself creates your perception AND your reality. As you work on achieving your goals, use positive affirmations to reinforce the end results that you expect to achieve.

Positive affirmations are about seeing the end/your goal/final outcome.

One common mistake made when writing positive affirmation is the use of negative words. In other words, negative words couched around positive words. For example, do not say something like:  I AM NOT FAT.   Not and Fat are both negatives.  And. . .Umm, that word “fat” — that is what your brain is hearing.  Fat. Fat. Fat.  INSTEAD, change it to: “Skinny” or “Tone” or both.

I am skinny and tone. I look good!

Yep, that’s what you need to be telling yourself.

Make time in your day to read your positive affirmations, especially when working on your individual goals.  It is this affirmation that will help keep you focused.  As funny as that Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley is (it is one of my favorites!), there is truth. These repeated messages will reinforce what needs to happen in your life.

 

Taking Time to BREATH

walk2On this brisk New Year’s Eve morning (who am I kidding, it’s downright freezing), I thought I would post something I wrote five years ago. . .

One morning (in my attempt to write daily), I decided that I was just going to sit down and write, not worrying about grammar, style, or even subject matter. Without even thinking (it was as if someone was writing FOR ME), I typed the following:

Stop and listen. There is so much to be learned through our observations, meditations, and trusting of our instincts. In the rush, rush of the daily grind, we pass by opportunities. Sometimes they are there in plain sight, but we do not see them because we are moving too fast. Or, we dismiss them because they seem too obvious or simplistic.

 

As you venture out tomorrow, take the time to experience the day for what it is–grand, marvelous, depending on the glasses you choice to use. Slow down and enjoy. Breath in and inhale the briskness of fall. Fill your lungs with optimism, peace, and a moment of surrender. You might be surprised at what comes to you.

This posting inspired me to bundle up (think Ralphie’s little brother in The Christmas Story) and go for a WALK.  Not just any walk, I think I am going to walk with my eyes and heart open. Taking my own advice, I plan to fill my lungs with optimism and breath in the day!

 

Finding Strength to Start Again

I was charging my laptop yesterday when a storm came barreling in—loud bursts of thunder, streaks of lightening, followed by a dramatic downpour of rain. I quickly unplugged my computer to avoid the risk of it being surged.

I had been working on my book at the time and immediately thought “what would happen if I lost my book?” I have an old printed copy whose version is very outdated and other versions of my book have been saved to a cloud, but now that I’m in critical edit mode, keeping my book safe is imperative.

I would be a complete mess if I lost my book—all the hard work I’ve done so far? There are so many twists, turns, and important dialogue that recapturing all of it seems impossible. The thought of it made me want to cry.

Honestly, I don’t know if I could start again.

That was my thinking at 3 p.m. Fast-forward to 4:15 p.m. and I see this:

 

This is historic Ellicott City, 15 minutes from my house. What you are seeing is a flash flood that took place yesterday—a similar flood decimated the same area just two years ago. The flood two years ago caused millions of dollars in damage and cost millions to clean and rebuild the area. Many businesses completely shut down, while others waited out the very lengthy rebuild-process hoping that their businesses could somehow stay afloat while their source of income was non-existent.

My girlfriends and I were there just the night before. We were saying how great it was that historic Ellicott City was able to rebuild. I was especially proud of my friend’s (Dave’s) business, The Wine Bin, whose beautiful store has become a landmark on Main Street. His shop hosts special doggy Yappy (happy) hours and outdoor movie nights; he gives so much of his time, money, and energy to charities and other businesses that people were there to give back. That is not to take away from the devastation and how hard it was for The Wine Bin or any of the restaurants, shops, and bars to re-open.

But Now, AGAIN! How? Why?

I couldn’t sleep last night. The flooding played out in my head repeatedly, along with the memory of Dave having to climb a tree to avoid being washed away or the sheer devastation that resulted. I was mad that better protection barriers were not built. I felt the pain, sadness, and anguish of the current business owners of historic Ellicott City. Again?!

It will take strength, commitment, and fortitude to rebuild–if they decide to rebuild. If so, what protection will these businesses have going forward?

There is one thing that reassures me—and that is the PEOPLE of Ellicott City; they are strong and resilient. They are creative, resourceful, and fighters. They are a community that supports their own and embraces newcomers. They are an inspiration to me! Through their example, I know that I could begin again and THEY WILL TOO (in whatever path they decide to take) because . . .

They are #ECStrong.

If you wish to make a DONATION to the Howard County Community Relief Fund, you can go to the Community Foundation of Howard County’s website at www.cfhoco.org, navigate to the Howard County Community Relief Fund tab, and click “Donate”, or you can mail a check payable to the Community Foundation of Howard County noting “Howard County Community Relief Fund” on the memo line.

Lunch Salads Made in Advance

Making Salads to Go

What should I eat for . . .lunch?

I will be honest: I am not the best at bringing my lunch to work. I should be. It would save me a lot of money, calories, and angst in deciding what to eat each day.

Some weeks I am diligent and bring lunch to work; other weeks not so much.

And this does cause concern because lunch is important to me. By 11 a.m. (actually 10 a.m.), I am already thinking about lunch, trying to ignore the rumbles of my stomach.

What to eat, what to eat, what to eat?

I am trying to eat healthier, which — at lunchtime — is not as easy as it sounds. Salads, for example, are not always easy to come by at work.

There have been a few times when I did prepare a fresh salad the night before. Granted, it was for dinner and the leftovers then became my lunch.

I am realist. I will NOT cut, dice, and prep a salad for myself every morning. I am not that motivated. Produce also goes bad, which poses another challenge.  I need something that will work for me–a lunch that is healthy, economical, won’t go bad, and EASY to prepare. The following is my attempt at doing just that. Read More

The Closet Collection: Getting Organized

Closet Organization Tips and Tricks

Over the past weeks, I F I N A L L Y finished cleaning out my bedroom, linen, and coat closets—plus a myriad of drawers. Such satisfaction.

I am a dork and at the risk of proving it, I will say that after I am done with such a cleanup, I literally stand there admiring the cleanliness, preciseness, and clutter-freeness of my handy-work. Awww, if only it would last.

With that said, I decided to write up some tips on effective closet organization. I know that writing a blog posting about cleaning out a closet seems a bit condescending (as if you don’t know how to clean out your own closet) and trite, but honestly, I am using this as my accountability exercise.

I am working on my own personal battle with clutter and this helps me . . . hopefully, there is something here that may help you. At the very least, I hope that it motivates you to get started. Despite what the weather these days indicates, it is Spring (almost Summer) and who doesn’t like a good ol’ Spring-cleaning purge?

THE BASICS

1. Pull everything out—EVERYTHING!

The best way to get optimal organization is to start with an empty slate; this includes anything not attached to the wall, e.g. shelving units, shoe racks, etc. The empty space allows you to see things differently—it allows you to determine a system (perhaps a whole new system) that works best for you.

Read More

Saving Money with Meal and Grocery Planning

Meal and Grocery Planning

“Do you feed your kids?”  

I was at a family gathering a few weeks ago when my sister in-law asked me this. We were discussing grocery shopping and how much we spend each week.  My sister in-law gasped when I told her how much I spend; she said she spends twice as much, with my other sister in-laws confirming that they did the same.

“Seriously, how can you only spend that much?  There is no way.”

I felt that the need to justify myself.  I felt ashamed. . . did I feed my kids? They looked pretty nurtured and healthy to me.

I answered back: Yes, I do feed my kids.  Yes, I even buy junk food, but not an excessive amount. Yes, some weeks I spend more, especially if I am buying a lot of cleaning supplies or toiletries.

The truth is saving money on my groceries has become a game to me. I claim personal victory when I can come home with a week’s worth of groceries at a bargain price.

So how do I do it?

I will share what I told my sister in-laws (with additional detail).

1. Establish a grocery/food budget.

My husband and I have a family budget that keeps us financially-focused. Our savings, mortgage and other bills, summer camps, vacations, gas, and groceries are all accounted for in this budget.  The 2008 Recession prompted our diligent budgeting.

That Recession had a detrimental effect on our family’s finances. It is a time in history that I never want to live through again—a time that could have made us crumble as a family. Fortunately, it made our marriage even stronger. Together, through a lot of communicating, my husband and I were able to get through it and is something neither of us will ever take for granted.

2. Use a Cash System.

This simple system (take out cash in the amount of your allotted budget) makes it so much easier to stick to a budget. Seriously — there is something about SEEING the cash and knowing how much you have left that allows you to stay conscientious in your spending.

We tried keeping to our food budget without the cash system, but it was too easy to lose track of our spending without it.  All those little trips to Starbucks, the fast-food drive-in when you are running late, or eating out ADD UP.  You don’t realize (or we didn’t at least) just how much you can spend without really knowing it.

The Cash System is also a good motivator for our children when they ask, “Can I have? Can we get?”  I show them the money and say: “This is what we have left.”  I want them to see that money does not grow on trees; that you need to HAVE money in order to spend money. As my youngest would say, “Just go to the bank.” Umm, no son, it does not work that way.

3. Plan your meals for the week.

Planning out my meals for the week is probably one of the largest contributors to how I save money when grocery shopping.  The reason is simple: I buy what I need and only what I need. I used to go to the grocery store without a plan–I’d stroll along each aisle and just throw in what looked good or what seemed to have the potential as dinner. I didn’t know what I was making for dinner and I certainly didn’t know how much I was spending until the cashier provided me with my total. . .Oh my gosh! No!

Weekly Dinners Landscape

Now, I PLAN using the above Weekly Dinners printable. Click here to download a free copy.  As for dinner inspiration, I use a couple of methods:

    • Prepare “freezable” meals a head of time such as the ones listed on One Hour — Seven Dinners. Freezing meals that can be “dumped” into a crockpot or baked later saves a lot of time and can ease a lot of stress.

 

  • Supercook.com.  I just discovered this clever app, which provides a whole slew of recipes based on the ingredients you already have at home. You simply click off food in your kitchen, click, and recipe options appear.

4. Write up a strategic grocery list.

For the most part, I always sit down and plan out my grocery list before heading out to the store.  My planning includes several tactics:

    • I list out any ingredients needed for the meals planned out for the week.

 

  • I write out items needed for the following categories: lunches, breakfasts, snacks, desserts, produce, toiletries.  My boys know where they can find the mom-approved snacks including the ones found in our special middle refrigerator drawer (I love this middle drawer!).  This is where we quickly grab items for lunches as well.Snack draw in refrigerator
  • I check the store’s circular for sales and inserted coupons. If one of the items has a sale price, I put a circled S next to the listed item; for items with coupons, I put a circled C next to the listed item.  Be sure that you are signed up for your store’s Bonus Rewards Card. I save an average of $5 each week on just the in-store coupons.

5. Take advantage of coupons, rebate apps, and websites.

When many people think of using coupons, they envision someone scouring the newspapers for coupons and clipping them. Today’s technology makes this process a little easier.  Here are some of my Go-Tos for instant coupons or future rebates.

    • Coupons.com. I spend no more than 5 – 7 minutes quickly browsing www.Coupons.com for anything that I currently use. I simply click the images of products that I may want, and then hit Print when done. Voila — coupons at my fingertips. I may not always use the Coupons on that particular trip, but will save them for the next. I also compare the sale items against other similar items—the coupons are NOT always the best deal.
    • bottaIbotta and Saving Star.
      I just used both of these apps for the first time and found them very easy to use. I figured why not get a little extra reward for what I am already purchasing. How to use:
      (i) Downloaded the apps on your phone and set up an account.
      (ii) Click the stores you frequent and the items you typically purchase. This includes alcohol, which has fairly large rebates (smiley face, smiley face!)
      (iii) To claim your rebate, you will need to scan the barcode of the product and then upload a photo of your receipt. Your rebate can be placed into a PayPal account or paid out with a gift card.


    6. Use store scanner if that is an available option.

    scannerThe use of an in-store scanner is THE thing that definitely keeps my shopping intact. I realize that not all grocery stores have this option, but if they do, I highly recommend taking advantage of it.

    With this handy device, I know EXACTLY what I am spending. I almost have it down to a science and can estimate how much I will spend in each department.  Another added benefit: I can go in the 10 and Below aisle regardless of how many items I have since the items are already scanned.

    7. Sign up for gas rewards.


    gasCheck to see if your grocery store has partnered up with a gas station to provide rewards. My store partners with Shell Gas Station and provides discounts on gallons of gas.  Often my grocery store mails flyers with coupons including ones for extra bonus gas points. To me this is free money. On this very rainy morning, there was a bright spot—I received a .60 cents per gallon discount, which equated to over $7.20 in savings. 


    Please do not be intimidated!  If I can do this anyone can—it really is NOT time-consuming. In fact, planning ahead of time saves me a lot of time (and MONEY!) in the end.  Make grocery planning a game and be competitive with yourself. Make it your personal victory to save, save, save!

One Hour — Seven Dinners

The Easy Guide to Making a Week’s Worth of Dinners in One Hour

I am all about making things E A S Y (finding ways to eliminate the stress)—that is one of the goals of BrightLightLiving.com and for myself. I have not mastered this (not by a long shot), but the intent is there.

Seven DinnersAfter all, we all lead very busy lives and the simpler we can make it, the more time we have to really enjoy it.

Dinner: That is always a H U U U U G E stressor for me—it’s not just the figuring out what to make that stresses me; it is the MAKING it that stresses me. Making dinner is the last thing that I really want to do after a long workday and commute home. Full disclaimer, I hate to cook.

I decided that pre-planning had to be my solution, so I set out to create a menu of just drop-it-in-a-crockpot dinners. I did a lot of trial and error cooking with my family (aka, my sweet little guinea pigs). I switched out ingredients and modified recipes to suit our liking, which made me more confident in my cooking abilities. As a result, I created a week’s worth of dinner recipes, a complete shopping list divided by grocery store departments, a step-by-step guide to preparing the meals in the most time-saving way possible, and a set of labels with cooking instructions that can be affixed to the meals. In other words,

I did the planning to eliminate your stress.  

I also created this free, printable version of this post complete with preparation labels; click here to receive.

Oh, right. What are we making? Here are the meals—I hope you like!:

Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry
Chili
Beef and Broccoli
Chicken Taco Soup
Chicken Pasta
Cilantro Lime Chicken over Salad
Pot Roast (a great Sunday dinner)

Let’s get started.

The grocery list:

img_1344-e1491675449374.jpgMeats:
Chicken Breasts (10-12 pieces)
Ground Beef (1 lb.)
Flank Steak, Top Round, or Beef Chuck Roast (1.5 – 2 lbs.)
Pot Roast

Canned Goods:
Dark Kidney Beans 1 Can (15 oz.)
Chili Beans 2 Cans (16 oz.)
Black Beans 3 Cans
Tomato Sauce 1 Can (14.5 oz.)
Canned Diced Tomatoes 3 Cans (one with green chilies) (14.5 oz.)
Corn 2 Cans (14.5 oz.)
Water Chestnuts 1 Can (small)

Produce:
Green Bell Pepper (3)
Onion, Medium (4)
Onion, Large
Limes (2)
Cilatro (1 bunch)
Carrots (Medium Bag of Baby Carrots)
Potatoes (2 lbs.)

Spices and Condiments (you may have a lot of this already; check first):
Honey (1/2 cup)
Black Pepper (In most meals)
Salt (In most meals)
Rice Wine or Red Wine Vinegar (good to have a bottle on hand)
Olive Oil (2 Tsp.)
Soy Sauce (bottle to keep on hand as well)
Minced Garlic (Recommend purchasing a small jar)
Minced Ginger (1/4 cup)
Cumin (2.5 tsp.)
Chili Powder (1 Tbsp)
Chili Flakes (1/4 Tsp)
Taco Seasoning Mix (1 Canister – rather than packets; cheaper and great to have on hand)
Brown Sugar
Corn Starch
Chicken Broth Container (32 oz.)
Beef Broth Two (32 oz.) Containers

Frozen Foods:
Stir Fry Vegetables (1 Bag)
Broccoli Florets (1 Medium Bag or 4 Cups)

Pasta and Rice:
Rotini Pasta (1 Box)
Rice (4 Bags)

Other:
Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz. jar)
Salsa (8 oz.)
Crockpot Liners (this makes your clean up each day so much easier)
Large Freezer Bags
Bottle of Beer
Lettuce or Tortillas (Depends on how you want to serve the Cilantro Lime Chicken; as a salad or wrap)
Sour Cream (optional topping for several meals)
Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded (1 Cup)
Cheddar Cheese, Shredded (optional topping for several meals)

The Preparation (Easy and Time-Saving)

First, let me say that your cooking TOOLS are quite important. I encourage you to visit Cooking Tools I Cannot Live Without. The tools I list are not essential, but they will make your prep work so much easier and shorter. Such as this BLACK+DECKER HC306 One-Touch 1.5 Cup Capacity Electric Chopper, White, which takes the eye-watering and time out of cutting onions, which is step #1 in the preparation work. Shall we get started?

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1) Cut up your onions (chop the small onions and cut the large onion in fairly large pieces).
Place your chopped onions in separate small bowls (one bowl for each onion).

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2) Cut up your green bell peppers in inch strips. 
I recommend cutting these by hand. Place your bell peppers in separate bowls (one bowl for each bell pepper).

3) Peel and cut 2 lbs. of potatoes into 3″ pieces.

4) Cook pound of ground beef, drain grease when done.

5) Open all your cans and remove lids for easy access.

6) Label your freezer bags with menu names.
Take advantage of these printable labels by clicking here.

7) Place 2-3 pieces of chicken breast in the following marked freezer bags:

  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Chicken Taco Soup
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken
  • Chicken Pasta

8) In the Chicken Teriyaki freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove (I use minced garlic from jar)
  • 1 tbsp. of minced ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. of black pepper
  • One bag of frozen stir fry vegetables
  • 3/4 of chopped water chestnuts (optional)
  • Ready to freeze

9) In the Chicken Taco Soup freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • Can of chili beans, drained and rinsed
  • Can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Can of corn, drained
  • Jar of Salsa (8 oz.)
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp. of taco seasoning
  • Ready to freeze (you will dump in beer when you dump into crockpot)

10) In the Cilantro Lime Chicken freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 bunch of chopped cilantro
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • 1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. of taco seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ready to freeze (you will dump in lime juice when you dump bag ingredients into crockpot)

11) In the Chicken Pasta freezer bag, you will dump in the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tap. of pepper
  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • One of the bowls of sliced bell peppers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Ready to freeze (you will prepare rotini pasta and dump in mozzarella cheese later)

12) In the Chili freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • Ground beef, browned
  • Can of dark kidney beans, drained
  • Can of chili beans, drained
  • Can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Can of tomato sauce
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • One of the bowls of sliced bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • ½ Packet of Taco Seasoning Mix
  • 2 cups water
  • One of the small bowls of chopped onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic or minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Freeze

13) In the Beef Broccoli freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • Flank steak or beef
  • 1 Cup of beef broth
  • 2/3 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Freeze

14) In the Pot Roast freezer bag, place in the following ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 lb. of carrots
  • 2 lbs. of the potatoes, cut
  • 32 oz. of beef broth
  • The large onion
  • Freeze.  You do not need to put your pot roast in this bag (it probably wouldn’t fit anyway.)
  • In separate sandwich bag, put in your salt, pepper, tarragon, and thyme.
    Have this ready for when ready to cook.

IMG_1367

Please note: You will later put in corn starch and water in several of these meals.

Ready to eat?!

Cooking Instructions

* Put freezer bag and meats in the refrigerator the night before you are going to cook up meal.

Chicken Teriyaki:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients (except the water and corn starch) into the crockpot, starting with the chicken.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
(4) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy.
(5) Add cornstarch and water, stir, and then cook for an additional 20 minutes.
(6) Cook rice as instructed on package.
Serve over rice. You can also add La Choy Rice Noodles for extra goodness.

Chicken Taco Soup:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) You take all of the above ingredients and DUMP them in a crockpot.
(3) Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4 hours.
(4) Take out the chicken and cut up; place back into crockpot.
Serve with your favorite toppings such as sour cream or cheese.

Chicken Cilantro Lime Salad:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients into the crockpot.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
(4) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy.
(5) Dump crockpot contents into a strainer to drain juices.
(6) Serve over a healthy salad.

Chicken Pasta:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients into the crockpot.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
(4) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy.
(5) Thirty minutes before food is ready, cook pasta as instructed on package.
(6) Dump pasta (drain) and cup of mozzarella cheese.
(7) Cook for additional 20 minutes.

Chili:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients into the crockpot.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
Serve with your favorite toppings such as sour cream or cheese.

Beef Broccoli:

(1) Put freezer bag in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Dump all your ingredients (except the water and corn starch) into the crockpot, starting with the chicken.
(3) Cook on low for 6 hours.
(4) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy.
(5) Add cornstarch and water, stir, and then cook for an additional 20 minutes.
(6) Cook rice as instructed on package.
Serve over rice. You can also add La Choy Rice Noodles for extra goodness.

Pot Roast:

IMG_1376(1) Put freezer bag and pot roast in refrigerator the night before.
(2) Rub pot roast with olive oil and sprinkle 2/3 of the spices on to roast.
(3) Place pot roast in crockpot.
(4) Put in contents of freezer bag into crockpot and sprinkle with remaining spice mix.
(5) Add another cup of beef stock to crockpot.
(6) Cook on low for 7 – 8 hours until vegetables are tender and the meat pulls apart easily.
(7) Optional: Use beef broth and mix with cornstarch and water to make gravy.

Lessons Learned

There are a few things that I learned in this recipe process. One is that the clean-up was so much easier with the use of the crockpot lines. Two is that you should be creative–I was. I sometimes added broccoli or other ingredients if I needed my meals to stretch farther, i.e., if one of the boys had a friend over for dinner. Regardless, it was such a relief to know that I didn’t have to think about what to make. I would simply dump the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and return home to an aroma-filled house with dinner ready.  What a relief!

Don’t forget to download a free, printable version of this post complete with a shopping list, recipes, preparation instructions, and freezer bag labels. Click here.

Bon Appetit

Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry Crockpot Meal

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I am all about EASY, and this recipe is quick to prepare and tastes great. Besides cooking up the rice at the end, the rest of the preparation is simply dumping in the ingredients. My kids love this too–they claim my crockpot Chinese meals are just as good as Chinese take-out.

What You Will Need:

  • One pound boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins
  • ½ Cup Honey
  • ½ Cup Soy Sauce
  • ¼ Cup Rice Wine or Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Large Garlic Glove, Minced
  • ¼ Cup Ginger
  • ¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • One Bag of Frozen Stir Fry Veggies
  • Water chestnuts (cut up)  or Onion (cut up). Water chestnuts are my preference
  • You can add other vegetables as well if you like (e.g., extra broccoli)
  • 2 tbsp. Corn Starch
  • 4 tbsp. Water

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Cooking Instructions:

(1) Dump all your ingredients (except the water and corn starch) into the crockpot, starting with the chicken
(2) Cook on low for 6 hours
(3) Take out chicken and cut up; it should fall apart fairly easy
(4) Add cornstarch and water, stir, and then cook for an additional 20 minutes.
(5) Cook rice as instructed on package

To Prepare:

Serve over rice. You can also add La Choy Rice Noodles for extra goodness.

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And, if you would like to save (freeze) for later, use these instructions:

  • In large freezer bag 1, put all the ingredients except for the water and cornstarch.
  • Follow the above cooking instructions.
    Yes, it is that simple!

Easy and Tasty Crockpot Chili

Chili is one of my youngest son’s favorites; he would eat it every day if I let him. Thankfully, this recipe is super easy to make and very delicious. Spring is almost here, so why not give Chili one last eating before grilling season officially begins. (Not that this household will stop eating chili. My son would not stand for that.)

This recipe is easy, easy, easy.


Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef, browned
  • 1  (15 oz) can dark kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (16 oz) chili beans, drained
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can of tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • ½ Packet of Taco Seasoning Mix
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic or minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt


To Cook
:

Cook and brown the ground beef.
I always use this grease protector to prevent splatters of grease, such as the Outills Splatter Screen with Silicone Handle – 13″Stainless Steel Twill Weave Mesh – Dishwasher Safe – Grease Splatter Screen that Protects your Cooking Surface.  It is also helpful for DRAINING the grease once done. I simply leave a little gap on the side to pour out the grease while the protector prevents the meat from falling out.

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Next, drop in ALL the ingredients, including the browned meat, into your crockpot.  Yep, it is that easy. Be sure to drain the beans.

Cook on low for 6 – 7 hours or high for 4 hours.

That’s it. You are done!

Top it off with your favorites such as cheese, sour cream, and/or scallions and then dig in.

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[Disclosure: This post has affiliate links. If items are purchased from this site, I will receive a small commission.]

How My Life Perspective Changed at a Gas Station

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I Have a Confession.

My name is Kristin and I, among other things, am a WRITER.  I write because I love it; I write because it is my thing—what I’ve done since I was a child; and I write because it’s what I think I’m on this earth to do.

But that is not my confession.

My confession is this:  I don’t always love writing. I don’t always feel like it is my thing—in fact, I often feel like a total fraud and question my ability.

I have days where I am gung-ho, all-in, motivated, and excited.  Those are the days when I see POTENTIAL; I see my dream of working from home as a full-time writer.

Then, I have days where I can just stare into the abyss of a white computer screen and convince myself it is all for naught.  Those days are usually fueled by a series of rejections or from a lack of results.  These are the times when my motivation gets shaky and my heart is reeling with doubt.

But I am not a quitter.  I will rest.  I will re-think my strategies.  I will allow myself to be human. 

I will even cry if I want to…and I do…and I did.

But, I will not quit.

I remember looking for my first “adult” job, fresh out of college.  It was a wonderful time to look for employment (I say sarcastically)—right at the onset of the Persian Gulf War.  Living in a military-saturated area, most residents were deployed, while many others, like myself, were unemployed.

I had to settle for a job at a grocery store while I pursued more-desirable employment.  I felt so humiliated when people from my high school or college would come to the store.  I knew what they were thinking—it was what I was thinking—you went to college for this?  But I needed money.  I was interning for free at a local chamber of commerce so that I could gain some marketable job experience.  My dad at the time did not understand this: “why don’t you go back to get your master’s,” he would say.  “Why are you working for free?”

I tried explaining that I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life first.  I had been hitting a brick wall with my job search—the ol’ you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job—so I knew that I needed to find a way to gain work experience.  The internship was my way.

So, with my head down, I went to my  grocery store gig to earn money.  I finally resigned myself to the fact that I would run into people I knew; my confidence was at rock bottom.

It was at this time that I learned a valuable lesson—one that I still remember to this day—and it happened at a gas station.  In those days, full-service gas pumps were still an option. In fact at this station, every gas pump was full service.  In high school, the service attendants were often my fellow classmates. Post-college and on this day, it was a man whose child I used to babysit.  He was a bank executive, so seeing him wear the station’s uniform was surprising.

What impressed me the most was that he didn’t try hiding the fact that he worked there.  Instead, he walked over cheerfully and helped me pump my gas.  That was when it dawned on me that he must have lost his job in the throes of the Persian Gulf War recession.

gas-attendantUnlike me, some college graduate punk, who worked at a grocery store with shame, this man approached me with his head high.  He had more reason than me to feel down.  He had a wife, a child, and a prominent job.  But you wouldn’t have known it.  With a smile on his face and such a cheerful manner, he helped me—not just with my gas, but also with my perspective on life.

This man had experienced a disappointing and difficult set back.  But instead of surrendering to his despair, he faced it, embraced it, and did what he needed to do at the time.  This experience must have been so difficult and humbling for him. I am sure when he lost his job, he must have been devastated and felt as if someone punched him in the gut.  I am sure that he was scared, depressed, and wanted to cry.  He is human, after all.  And no human is without challenges.

I don’t know what happened later with this man. I can only assume that his positive attitude allowed him to obtain another job.  Shortly after this incident, I had gotten a job in another city and moved away.  The job?  It was at a chamber of commerce; they said it was my nonpaying internship at the local chamber that made them take notice.

I do regret not going back to thank this man, although I am sure he has no idea the impact he had on my life.  It was on that day that I promised myself that I would always try to maintain a positive attitude and do whatever job I am given with a cheerful attitude. I would always be thankful and persevere. 

So yesterday, I felt like quitting on all my dreams.  That is my confession.

But that was yesterday and today is a new day.  Today, I am figuring out my next move and how I am going to take action.

Because you know what else?  I am not a quitter!

ARE YOU?