Meal Planning and Back to School Routine

We just returned from our week long summer vacation on the coast of Maine.  It was a wonderful mix of relaxation and small day trips.  A perfect break from the usual day to day responsibilities, and we lucked out with some pretty great weather!  One of our day trips included Acadia National Park, where we saw the breath taking view from the top of Cadillac Mountain.  This picture doesn’t do it justice, but Brian stood pretty close to the edge looking out on everything below!
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Checking out the view from the top of Cadillac Mountain – Acadia National Park
My nephew, who is just shy of a year, got up close and personal with a lobster before our dinner.  I’m not quite sure what he thought, but he kept his distance!
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Checking out the lobster, very pensive!
 And it wouldn’t be a vacation without exploring some of the local cuisine!  We choose to check out two local vineyards/breweries.  It was the perfect way to enjoy each other’s company on a rainier day where the beach lost it’s appeal.
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Trying out one of the local vineyards
It was a really lovely time away.  We were able to spend time reading, kayaking, biking, resting, eating, drinking, and overall just enjoying our family and a break from work.  But we sure did miss our furry friend!  Cody got to spend a week at a doggy resort and spa!  He seemed like he had a great time, they were very friendly and helpful, and he seemed well taken care of.  It was our first time leaving him with someone other than family.  Came right home and fell fast asleep, looks like it was a week of lots of playing!
IMG_7688Cody sure was tired after a week of puppy vacation!
Now that we are back, reality of the new school year is setting in!  My center goes year round, so I don’t really have a “back to school” feeling, but my husband goes from a very relaxed summer schedule to jumping right into full school days and sports practices.  We need to get organized and prep for what our busier schedules will look like.  Our goals are to stay healthy and active while still staying on budget and saving where we can (the goal is to be buying a house this year!).
I have definitely found that the key to staying healthy, active, and on budget all comes down to organization and planning.  I have to plan my meals and plan my workouts.  I used to meal plan on sundays all the time, and then we would get our shopping for the week done.  It saved $ and having to make numerous trips to the store throughout the week.  But I fell off that bandwagon when things got busy.  We wound up with many late nights of take out and fast food.  Not only does that kill our nutrition, but we also spend way more than we typically would have.  So I knew it was time to get back into that habit.
I threw together a meal plan for the week.  When we shop correctly, we are both pretty good about bringing our lunches to work, which also cuts down on quick unhealthy food and spending extra money.  Before I decided on our meal plan I shopped the house first.  I know it sounds funny, but there are so many weeks where there are good sales and I stock up.  Now is the perfect time to put those ingredients to use!
IMG_7683Back to meal planning for the week

Our grocery list is pretty small, based on the number of meals we will be preparing.  And again, this includes breakfasts and lunches.  For the most part I had almost all of the vegetables, meats and fish in the freezer and rice on the shelf.  This Sunday when we go shopping we will again be keeping an eye out for sales.  Its better to buy when the prices are right and freeze, then plan a meal around it, then to have to buy an expensive ingredient just because your recipe calls for it.

So far I’m feeling good.  We have our meal plan, and have mapped out what days we will be going to the gym.  As long as I can get myself back into a routine, I know it will pay off!

What tips do you utilize to make your busy days go by smoother?

 

Puppy treats, and Giveaway! *Ends May 1st, 2015*

Today I’m going to share a fun and easy recipe for a frozen dog treat.  Read to the end so that you have an opportunity to enter my Spring giveaway!
If you follow my blog, even somewhat regularly, you probably know by now that we love our dog.  He’s one of the cutest out there, not that I’m biased or anything!

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Just look at that handsome boy!

We do still crate him during the day while we are away.  I would love to move away from that, eventually, but for now he hasn’t outgrown his puppy stage of wanting to destroy anything and everything when not being watched.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel guilty on long days when he is stuck inside with nothing left to do but snooze.  
I try to make some frozen kongs ahead of time, for a special treat on an especially long day.  Freezing them helps make it last, and give him an added challenge.  When he was still a small pup we had a dog walker come in the middle of the day.  We would crate him in the morning, she would come around noon time and spend a half hour to an hour with him, and when she left she would give him a Kong to work on in the crate for the second half of the day.  Now that he’s a year and a half he doesn’t need that mid-day walk any more, but it’s nice to leave him with a special treat.
I’ve tried all kinds of recipes, but peanut butter banana is his favorite!  I thought I would share our recipe with you.  It’s an easy, and healthy, way to treat your dog!
Here is what you need:
a rubber kong or similar hollow rubber toy
Banana
Peanut Butter
Small amount of Kibble
 

I like to make 4 or 5 of these at the same time and freeze them all, kind of like making my lunches for the week ahead of time!  I usually use two large ones and two small ones, so this recipe makes enough to fill those 4.  The different colors symbolize the strength of the rubber, black is for strong chewers, where as the blue and pink were for puppy chewers. 


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Kongs waiting to be stuffed

First I start with roughly about a Tablespoon of peanut butter, and nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds, just to soften it up.

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Peanut Butter

Next I add in 1 full size banana, sliced, and mash it with a fork.

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Add one sliced banana
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…and mash!

It doesn’t have to be terribly smooth, Cody doesn’t mind some texture.  For added interest I add in about a 1/4 cup of his normal kibble.  Again, this isn’t a meal replacement, so I don’t add a whole lot. However, if you are planning to replace a meal with a Kong make sure to added extra kibble so that your dog is still receiving appropriate nutrients.

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For added benefit I like to add a 1/4 cup of regular kibble

Finally I mix everything together, and spoon it into his Kongs.  Then I just pop them into the freezer and they are ready to go when he needs a special treat!

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Cody is very food motivated, so it doesn’t take much to get him excited, but this is by far one of his favorite recipes.  It’s easy and quick to make, doesn’t take anything extraordinary, and I feel better giving it to him than some of the pre-made pastes since I don’t always know what all the ingredients are.
Now that Spring has finally arrived we can’t wait to get outside with Cody!  One of our favorite things to do is take him to the park, or bring him on a hike.  Getting out and enjoying the nice weather together is simply the best.  And we all like to earn a frozen treat at the end!
Now it’s YOUR turn!  I have decided to give away a $20 amazon gift card.  There are a few ways that you can enter to win!
First, you must be a follower of Simply Living, and you must leave a comment on this post letting me know your favorite thing to do in the Spring!
For bonus entries you may:

  1. Leave a comment letting me know your favorite way to give special treats to a pet
  2. Pin any photo from Simply Living onto Pinterest
  3. Share this post!

This giveaway will end on May 1st, and the winner will be picked randomly vis Rafflecopter.  Good luck!