Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Meal Planning by the Month {Meal Plan March}

We've meal-planned since we first got married. Sometimes we meal-plan by the week and sometimes it's by the month. We've gotten into a good groove recently and I thought it was time I shared it with you!

Here's what we do:

  1. Look at the calendar. Before we think about recipes, we look at the calendar and mark all the nights we are out, are busy, etc. 
  2. Check out our recipes. We keep a running list on our pinterest board of recipes we'd like to try. I look through these and try to find at least 1-2 new recipes to try that month. Then I go to our tried and true recipes and pull out a few from there also. 
  3.  Add recipes to the calendar. We start to add some recipes to the calendar with consideration of who is home and what we have going on. I try to do leftover-heavy meals at the beginning of the week so that we can have leftovers for lunches.
  4. Fill in meals. Once we have a handful of meals on the calendar, I try to fill in additional meals with like ingredients. For example, if we're having something with beans in week 1, I'll add a recipe that uses beans for week 2 so I can make a big batch of them. 
  5. Create grocery lists. We have found that it works well for us to go to Costco once per month for the big stuff (meat, frozen vegetables and fruit, and canned vegetables) and then do Sprouts or another grocery store for produce once a week. Once the recipes are on the calendar, we make our lists of what we need to buy at Costco and what we can buy at the grocery store. I will even make lists for each week and add to them as we run out of things. 
  6. Go shopping! This is where I get flexible. If something is on sale that we use a lot, but I didn't plan for it, I'll buy it and adjust my recipes. A lot of our recipes can be made with chicken or turkey, so we will buy what is on sale. We don't meal-plan for sides, so I buy whatever produce is on sale that week and that's what we eat! 

Here's what that all looks like in our life:

March is a pretty crazy month for us because of Easter, Spring Break, and other events, so we tried to make things as easy as possible. Every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday and every Friday is Pizza Friday. Here's the breakdown:
Tacos - We're rotating between ground turkey and fajita chicken with beans, salad, salsa, and whatever else - chips, tortillas, etc.
Pizza - We make our own crusts (gf and regular) and sauce. We always have the ingredients on hand for pizza. We'll buy some cheese and top it with whatever we have in the fridge.
Mexican Fries - We love this recipe and adjust things to our tastes. This is the perfect meal to have after tacos because it uses a lot of the same things.
Sausage Green Bean Casserole - I make a family favorite green bean casserole and have for years. We usually use ground turkey, but a few weeks ago I made it with sausage and it was a hit! The base is sliced potatoes baked, toped with green beans, onions, mushrooms, sausage, and a cream sauce. We used to use cheese, but we've tried to eliminate dairy, so now we do a ghee and tapioca startch seasoned sauce.
Sausage and Spaghetti Squash - I'll make a simple sauce with tomatoes, garlic, and sausage and serve it with gluten-free pasta and spaghetti squash. Can't get easier and everyone loves it!
Fried Rice - Jarrod makes an incredible fried rice. He uses whatever meat and veggies we have on hand. We have made some changes to this one over the years, but the basics are there.
Curry Chicken and Rice - I discovered doing Whole30 how much I LOVE curry. I found a delicious recipe on instagram that uses cashews to make a thick and delicious sauce. I plan to serve that over chicken and rice.
Turkey Lettuce Wraps - We buy turkey in bulk and make this recipe with turkey instead of chicken because it's easier. It's a GREAT recipe that everyone in our family really enjoys!
Turkey Chili - This is still one of my favorite chili recipes and I make it all the time. I plan to double it to serve for Easter lunch with the family as well.
Chicken Stir Fry - Jarrod's been making stir fry for years and has perfected the art. He doesn't even need a recipe anymore. He uses meat and whatever veggies we have with a delicious sauce. He used a chart like this to figure things out.
Broccoli Chicken Casserole - This is a new recipe for me, but I'm excited to try it!

As you can see, we do a lot of chicken, turkey, and some sausage. Here's what our grocery list looks like:

  • Big bag of frozen chicken
  • 4-pack of ground turkey
  • Frozen broccoli
  • Canned organic tomatoes
  • dry black beans
  • Cheerios (for the kids for breakfasts)
  • Eggs (3 dozen, mostly for breakfasts)
  • Sweet Potatoes (mostly for breakfasts)
  • Lunch meat (For lunches for the kids)
  • Spinach (for smoothies and lunches)
  • Yogurt (for the kids lunches)
  • Carrots
  • Coconut oil
  • Apples (for lunches)
  • Brussels Sprouts (for sides)
  • 8 links of fresh sausage 
  • Onions
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Green beans
  • Milk
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Olive oil
  • Cashews
  • Seasonings
  • Bananas
Jarrod and I eat sweet potato hash and eggs for breakfast almost every day. The kids usually eat toast with peanut butter or cheerios for breakfast. Lunches for Jarrod and I are salads or leftovers and the kids get leftovers, sandwiches, or healthy muffins with crackers, string cheese, yogurt, and fruit. 

We tend to cook on the weekends and save the easy stuff for during the week. We aren't afraid of leftovers or eating similar things a few nights in a row. 

Do you meal-plan for the week or the month? Do you grocery shop frequently or try to get everything done in one trip? What works best for your family, your sanity, and your budget? 
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Monday, February 29, 2016

Cookies for a Cure

On Friday I told you that I was going to do an awesome fundraiser starting on Leap Day and here it is!!! I posted a little teaser on Facebook and Instagram yesterday of Wesley helping me bake the first batch of chocolate chip cookies!

In order to raise $4,600 and walk 120 miles in 2 Susan G. Komen for the Cure events, I decided to pair a few things that I love. Over the past few years, I've perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I LOVE chocolate chip cookies and I love baking them for people. So I decided, for the month of March, I'll be baking cookies for a cure!

Here are the details:
  • For every $29 donation, you'll get a dozen chocolate chip cookies. (Arrange for pick-up or delivery for locals!)
  • I'll mail them anywhere in the country for a donation of $35 or more. 
  • This offer is good from February 29th-March 31st!
  • Donations must be made at http://www.the3day.org/goto/leannehope to be eligible for cookies. 
  • You must make your donation first and then come back and fill out this form. I'll be in touch (watch your email!) to arrange for your cookies! 
  • I can make them ASAP or later in the month to accommodate a special birthday, anniversary, or gift for someone. I can give them to you or mail them to a loved one! 
  • Larger donations can get more cookies! 
  • The cookies are full of dairy, gluten, and sugar. Dietary restrictions cannot be accommodated. (I'm working on a gf version and hope to have it perfected soon!)
  • Want to make a donation but aren't interested in cookies? That's completely fine! Please feel free to make a donation of any amount here. Just don't come back and fill out the form. Won't hurt my feelings! 
  • Cookies are only available on a first-come, first-served basis. I can only make so many cookies at a time. Get your donations in quickly to ensure you're able to get your cookies! 


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Friday, February 26, 2016

Whatever you do...

Don't donate today! This is the only time I'll ever tell you not to donate, but I'm doing it today!

This year I will walk in my 10th and 11th Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure. It's been several years since I decided to walk in 2 events in one year. It is a challenge, but it's worth it. It's difficult to train, but I wake up before 6am nearly every day to get at least 4 miles in before the kids wake up. It's difficult to fundraise - raising $4,600 in a few months is not easy. It's difficult to get away for 4-5 days (Michigan will require 2 travel days plus the 3 days walking) with my two little ones.

But it's not cancer. It's not chemo. It's not a lifetime without a loved one.

Because I believe everyone deserves a lifetime, I'm going to keep walking. And this year that means traveling to Michigan in August to walk 60 miles and walking 60 miles again in November back in Dallas. In order to do that, I need to raise $4,600. My goal is to have Michigan completely done by April 22nd (My birthday!).

In order to do that, I'm announcing a VERY exciting fundraiser that you won't want to miss. Check back right here on Leap Day for all the information!
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Whole30 Recap

We are now about 10 days beyond the whole30 and I still haven't given an update!! First, let me tell you how we finished...

Day 1 - Ate Whole30 with the exception of some sweet potato fries and a small glass of wine after the kids went to bed. Felt bloated and had heartburn.
Days 2-3 - Ate Whole30 almost completely. (We split a root beer one night...)
Day 4 - Introduced legumes. We had black beans in our chili, peanut butter, and soy beans. Otherwise ate Whole30.
Days 5-6 - Ate Whole30 plus a little wine. No noticeable changes.
Day 7 - Gluten-free grains! We had gf pancakes with a little honey for breakfast, gf crackers for a snack, and stir fry with rice for dinner. I also made a grain-free chocolate brownie (no dairy) and we ate some of that. I was starting to feel a little general pain, but other than that just fine.
Day 8-9 - Back to Whole30. Jarrod and I are both fighting sinus pain, but I don't think it's diet related at all. I did have some gf crackers and peanut butter (against my better judgement) and fought a serious headache and muscle pain for the rest of the night. It could be unrelated to food, but I'm watching it carefully. It hit me that I'd been almost completely pain-free for about 30 days. No joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, etc.
Day 10 - DAIRY! This is the day Jarrod has been waiting for. He had some butter, I had some cheese. We had cauliflower pizza with parmesan and mozzarella for dinner and ice cream for dessert. I didn't notice any changes at all. Still feeling the sinus pain, but that's not coming and going with diet, it's staying...

On Friday we will add in gluten. This is our final introduction and essentially we will be free to eat whatever we want. Jarrod already knows he has trouble with gluten, so he's not adding that back in. I'll have some gluten and probably some dairy (it's hard to eat one and not the other!) but then plan to go immediately back to Whole30 after Valentine's Day. I anticipate that the weekend will have some cheese, wine, and cookies, so Monday-Wednesday I'll be strict Whole30 again.

I've learned a TON in this process. I've learned that I can live without cookies and diet coke. I've learned it is possible for me to say no to food. I've learned that I can feel so good or so bad based on what I've eaten. I have had zero food guilt for the past 6 weeks or so. That's incredible. I'm not taunted by food and do not feel the control food used to have over me. I have so much energy and feel really good.

I've also learned that this isn't as hard as I thought. Our kitchen is packed with approved foods and even the food that isn't compliant (for the kids) doesn't speak to me like it used to. I know how to shop for meals, know what we like and don't like, and know that we can live without cheese. I've learned how to eat in restaurants and stay on the plan.

While I'm nervous about introducing different food into my diet again, I know that I can always go back to the plan for a day or two to get back on track. I feel so in control and do not want to ever lose control over food again. I know it is apt to happen - the holidays next year will likely be rough! But I know it's easy to just jump back on the plan whenever I feel out of control.

Before starting Whole30 I thought that I was eating healthy. I didn't realize I was in pain. I didn't really understand the hold that food had on me. Now I feel fantastic, pain-free, and healthy. I've lost about 5 lbs. and my clothes fit better. I don't remember a time in my life where I felt better than I do right now. That's pretty awesome.
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Whole30 - Week 4 recap

We did it!! I'm writing this close to 8:30pm on day 30! I can't believe it's been 30 days because it feels like an eternity - in good ways and bad.

I assumed this last week would be the easiest. I assumed we'd have all the energy, none of the cravings, and life would be a breeze.

I was wrong.

Week 4 was rough.

The week started with me feeling pretty terrible - headaches, sore throat, and congestion. Nothing terrible, but it was about 7 full days of going to bed early, completely hoarse, and lots of coughing. Eloise joined me in misery and on Tuesday she was diagnosed with two ear infections and a host of other congestion-related illnesses. Mom of the year. So now I have a sick kid, I'm sick, and I can't even have a cough drop (the ones we have, my favorite, have rice sugar in them!) let alone a cookie! It was rough.

But I did it! I had a few extra raisins on Tuesday, but didn't eat any alphabet cinnamon cookies, chocolate chip cookies, or diet coke. The craving waves over me when life gets stressful, but I immediately ask myself if I actually want a chocolate chip. Usually the answer is no.

This week I also had the chance to eat out a few times and did well there too. I ordered a burger without a bun on a bed of lettuce, vegetable soup and a house salad with veggies, and a turkey burger on lettuce. It's hard to eat out because the food is more simple and not as delicious as what we're eating at home. It seems silly to spend money on a meal that isn't as good as something Jarrod can make!

This week we ate:


  • Egg casserole with butternut squash and spinach. Not my favorite, but it was easy!
  • Sweet potato hash and fried eggs
  • Sweet potato hash with bacon and eggs
  • Baked potato with spinach and a fried egg in bacon fat 


  •  Sausage and sweet potato hash
  • Tuna cakes with roasted vegetables
  • Ginger citrus chicken
  • Egg salad
  • Tuna salad
  • Baked potatoes with caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms
We were very busy this week, so our meals were a little more boring because easy is best! I didn't get tired of anything, but writing it out like this makes me notice that it wasn't super exciting this week... 

This week we will begin reintroducing foods. We will still eat mostly Whole30, but will add in different foods ever few days. Legumes are on for Wednesday and Saturday we get to add gluten free grains. I'm excited about seeing how I feel after adding in different foods. 

Because we're not officially done, I haven't weighed myself. I don't know that I lost any weight, but I feel great. My clothes fit better, I have more energy, and I'm not as sluggish (especially in the afternoons!) as I have been. My cravings are just about gone and I feel much more in control of my eating. 

I'll write more next week as we begin to add foods back in and evaluate how we feel! 
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Monday, January 25, 2016

So much cooking!

As you can imagine, we do a lot of cooking around here. We don't buy bread and haven't in many years. We make lots of bread, cookies, casseroles, and meals each week - usually on Saturdays. This weekend was particularly busy in the kitchen. Mostly because of our commitment to the Whole30 challenge.

On Saturday morning we hit up 3 grocery stores to get everything we needed for the week. We normally don't go to so many stores, but we decided to try a new place this week and it wasn't as successful as we hoped... After stocking up on everything we made:

  • 2 pans of roasted sweet potatoes and onions
  • 1 pan of roasted butternut squash
  • 1 pot of mac and cheese with butternut squash
  • 8 hard boiled eggs
  • mayonaise
  • 3.5 dozen chocolate chip cookies
  • pancakes 
  • bacon
  • chicken nuggets
  • egg casserole with roasted butternut squash, spinach, and onions
  • 2 pans of roasted brussels sprouts

It was exhausting, but now my fridge is ready for the week! I pulled some muffins I made last weekend out of the freezer and now the kids lunches are packed for the week! 

Cooking this much in one day requires some time-saving tools. Some of my favorites are:
  • A stick blender. We have this hand blender and love it. It's the only way to make your own mayo... if you're into that... 
  • KitchenAid - I don't know how I lived without this for so long. It made making chocolate chip cookies so easy. And I definitely wouldn't be able to make bread without it! We got the 5-Qt. glass bowl not long ago and it's AWESOME. It holds 3 loaves of bread easily and has a convenient lid so I can store stuff in it!
  • Griddle - I got Jarrod this square griddle for his birthday and it's awesome! He loves making pancakes for the kids and this is makes perfect ones!
  • Mixing bowls - I recently had the opportunity to get personalized mixing bowls from Personal Creations. I tossed the stained ones we got 7 years ago when we got married and replaced them with these sturdy, nesting bowls. They are heavy, dish-washer safe, and fantastic. The largest one says "Team Johnston" and would make a fantastic wedding gift for your favorite foodies. 
The bowl above is the largest and it currently holds 10 hard boiled eggs in an ice bath. I used the middle one for the dry ingredients in my chocolate chip cookies, and the smallest one got the eggs for the nuggets! They get used all the time! 
Do you cook in big batches or do you do a little at a time? 
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Whole30 - Week 3 Recap

We are almost to the end! Jarrod and I meal-planned this weekend and it included meals that will reintroduce foods we haven't had in weeks. We are very excited about the process of adding things back in and seeing how we feel. But we've really enjoyed this process and have learned a lot! We have found new recipes that will definitely become staples in our family.

This week was relatively easy for both of us. We only ate out once - a date day - and we went to Whole Foods where it's very easy to see what is compliant and what is not.

We ate a few different things this week and rotated a few things back in. I'm not tired of the food yet - we've been able to eat a lot of different things and are really enjoying the flavor of food. I had no idea bananas were do delicious!!

Here's what we ate this week:


  • Egg casserole - On Sunday evening, I baked an egg casserole with roasted butternut squash, sauteed spinach, and sausage. We ate it Monday-Thursday. 
  • Roasted vegetables and eggs - On Friday morning we ate roasted vegetables from the night before and eggs. 
  • BACON!!! - We found compliant bacon (which is surprisingly difficult because most bacon at least has brown sugar in it) and made some for breakfast on Saturday. It was really delicious. We didn't get much of it because it's much more expensive than even the expensive bacon we're used to, but it was yummy and we were grateful to have some bacon! 
  • Coconut curry chicken... again... Because I'm so obsessed. 
  • Baked potatoes - with tuna salad, chicken, ratatouille, etc. 
  • Ratatouille - I made a HUGE pot of this and we ate on it all week. We had it with baked potatoes, sausage, and meat balls
  • Turkey meatballs - we made really basic meatballs and had them with the ratatouille and salads.
  • Stuffed peppers - we brought this one back and were very thankful! We used colorful peppers this time and they were delicious!! 
  • Walnut-crusted pork tenderloin - when we purchased pork at the beginning of the month, we got a pack of two large tenderloins from Costco. We cooked one our first week and froze the second one until this past week. It was delicious
  • Roasted broccoli - one of my faves. We buy frozen broccoli at Costco and defrost a bag at a time. Toss it in olive oil, salt, and balsamic, and roast at 400 until crispy. Delicious.
  • Roasted brussels sprouts - same deal. I will eat them like candy
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Bananas
  • Walnuts and raisins
  • Clementines
We are already planning our reintroduction meals. We have one more week of meal planning exclusively on Whole30 and then we will add back in different food groups. The first week off the official plan we will add in beans for a day and then take a few days back on the plan to adjust. Then we will add in gluten-free grains. After a few days back on the plan, we'll try out dairy, and then gluten. We'll see how all of that goes and evaluate what we plan to keep out of our diets permanently. At first I prayed I'd be fine with gluten and dairy because I can't imagine life without ice cream, cheese, and bread. But now I know that if eliminating those food groups means I will feel better, I'm fine with it. 

Have you ever done an elimination diet? How did you feel adding foods back in?
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