What Worked in 2017 + Weekly Meal Plan

Hello Friends!  I hope y’all had a wonderful weekend.  We drove to South Carolina Friday night and visited with our Luton family on Saturday for a family reunion (photos coming soon!).  We drove home afterward and went to bed at 10:00 (a recent record for me- I’m typically a night owl!) because we were WORN OUT.  Sunday was for church and laundry, and even though the kids were out of school yesterday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, there’s no rest for the weary!  We have a great, long list of to-dos that we are tackling all week long!

But here today on the blog, I wanted to take one last look back at 2017.  As I began goal planning for 2018 back in November, I wanted to look back over the year and see what didn’t work, so that I could grow and adjust over the new year.  But I also wanted to look at the things that really DID work, so I could continue doing those things and expand upon them.  So here’s my list- the things that worked for us in 2017:

Streaming TV
In 2017 we switched from cable to a Roku, and began streaming all our TV!  We subscribe to Playstation Vue for Live TV (Sling TV during baseball season), Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, and pay about $50-60 a month for TV.  When we were with Directv, we were spending $150-170 a month on Cable  TV!!  We’re saving $100 a month on TV and haven’t missed a thing.  And in fact, we’ve watched better quality TV, more documentaries, and less mindless TV than ever before.  Streaming TV has been a major game changer (and money saver!) for us this year.

Chore Charts
I got sick and tired of the kids fighting over the TV in the afternoon, and so one day I just shut it off.  I decided that they would have to earn the privilege to watch TV each afternoon, and I created a chore chart for each of them.  They would have to complete their chores in the mornings to be able to watch TV in the afternoons, and then they’d have chores in the afternoons they’d have to complete to earn a dollar at the end of each week.  And you know what?  It helped!  Not only did I get the kids to start cleaning their rooms and help me empty the dishwasher, and other simple tasks, but on the afternoons that they didn’t feel like doing their chores, we cut back on screen time!  And my favorite chore the kids now do- they put away their clean clothes! It’s lifechanging!

Buying Hair Clippers to Cut Ben’s Hair
Ben’s hair grows SO FAST.  And every month that I’d take him to Great Clips for his $15 haircut, I’d watch the stylist and think, “hmm. I could do that.” Now, I am not claiming to be an expert cosmetologist or anything of the sort, but I can use the clippers with a #2 guard on the sides, and cut 1/4″ every 4 weeks off the top!  And for the price of one haircut to buy the clippers, I’ve given him at least five haircuts!  What a deal!  I trim Gracie’s bangs, but otherwise, keep the girls’ cuts to the salon, but I can at least cut Ben’s hair at home and not only save a bit of money but save a trip out too!

Meal Planning and Instacart
Meal Planning is nothing new in our family, but it has taken on a whole new dimension with Instacart this year!  I typically jot down meal ideas all throughout the week, and then actually make out my meal plan and grocery list on Saturdays.  Before I started using Instacart, I would go grocery shopping on Sunday after church, but it was taking up SO much time, and I felt like it was taking up so much of my day that I would rather spend at home resting!  So now, after I plan the meals and make my grocery list on Saturday, I go ahead and place my online grocery order through Instacart for delivery after church on Sunday.  When we get home from church, I don’t have to get back out again, and I just put my groceries away when they arrive.  It saves me time, and despite the service fee (10% of your total), and the delivery fee ($5.99- I don’t do the subscription), I still believe it saves me money because I am not impulse shopping and buying things that are not on my list!  And if you want $10 off your first Instacart order (you just HAVE to try it), click here!

Podcasts have been a game-changer for me this year.  While I’m working, while I’m walking, when I’m driving… if I have the opportunity to listen to a podcast, you better believe I am.  I love having background noise, and if I can learn something or better myself, then I am all for it!  I typically gravitate toward a few different genres- true crime being my favorite (loved Up and Vanished, Dirty John, and am loving Atlanta Monster right now), small business/entrepreneurial-focused (Goal Digger with Jenna Kutcher, Business Boutique, How I Built This), and faith-based motherhood (Risen Motherhood).  The Lore Podcast has actually been an all-time favorite for entertainment purposes, but what I find myself listening to most often lately are the entrepreneurial-focused ones since my mind is on goal setting for my business right now!  I am ALWAYS up for new recommendations and can’t wait to discover some new (or new to me) podcasts for 2018.

Essential Oils and Natural Body Products
I have been slowly trying to transition to more natural body products for myself and my family, and essential oils have been a big part of that for me this year.  We diffuse oils throughout the house on a regular basis, and we use oils and oil blends as preventative measures and as remedies for coughs, tummy issues, eczema, and other common ailments.  I know that if you’re not into essential oils that this can all start to sound very hippy-dippy, granola crunchy, and trust me, I was right there with you before I started using oils.  I was very skeptical until Ben had a cold and started coughing, and after a night of diffusing oils in his room, and oils on chest and feet, his cough had quite literally stopped.  Then I was an oil convert!  So we use them regularly now and haven’t looked back.  In addition to oils, I’ve begun making the slow switch to all-natural personal care products as well.  I now use all natural deodorant (a major adjustment, but I really love the one that Rinse makes in the Rosemary Mint), natural toothpaste and mouthwash, and all natural shampoo and conditioner.  I have been using the Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner from Maple Holistics for a while now, and am obsessed with it (plus it smells AMAZE).  You can even try it for free through their free sample program here.  But now I am wanting to start trying all natural skincare and makeup, and I kind of don’t know which way to turn!  So anyone with suggestions or recommendations on brands I should try (Burt’s Bees? I’ve heard Beautycounter is great?)- Let me know!

Medishare and Doctor on Demand
2017 was the first year that we bucked the system and abandoned traditional healthcare for Medishare, a faith-based heathcare sharing account.  It was actually never our intention, but since Scott and I are both self-employed, and the cost of government provided healthcare was FAR beyond what we had been paying previously and far beyond what we could afford, it was a realistic option.  But it has worked well for our family.  THANKFULLY Ben got sick once last year, and that was it for sick visits for all of us!  We had a few colds but nothing other than a sinus infection for my boy that required a doctor’s visit (we did maintain our annual checkups).  Our monthly rates were less than half of what we would be paying with traditional insurance which made a HUGE difference to our monthly bottom line.  And on top of saving money, they one office visit that Ben had was a virtual office visit!  We utilized Doctor on Demand (free with our Medishare membership), and had a video call and then just a regular phone call with a doctor who diagnosed him and called in a prescription for him with no issues.  Now, of course, I had a good idea of what he had and wouldn’t recommend the Doctor on Demand visit for more severe illnesses or emergency, but for a sinus infection or pink eye, or something you’re familiar with, it is great.  And, the best part, you don’t have to leave your house!  No yucky, germy doctor’s offices to wait in, and no increased exposure.  It’s an awesome service, and you can bet we’ll be using it again this year if someone gets sick.

Instant Pot
I got an Instant Pot for Christmas a year ago, and I have used it several times a week EVERY week this year!  I leave it on the countertop I use it so often.  It quickly cooks quinoa and rice so you don’t have to watch a boiling pot, it cooks intensely-flavored broth and soups, it makes black beans or pinto beans from DRY beans in about an hour- something that would take soaking overnight otherwise!  Boiled eggs, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli, macaroni and cheese, you name it, you can cook it in the Instant Pot!!  And if you got one this Christmas, or just love seeing new Instant Pot recipes, stay tuned because I am working on a post highlighting my favorite Instant Pot recipes!  Coming soon!

Keys for Kids
Last but not least,  Keys for Kids is a devotional that we listen to with the kids every morning on the way to school.  Kind of like the way I love listening to podcasts, I wanted to start utilizing that short time on the way to school and start the kids day with a devotional and a positive message!  Keys for Kids is a free app, and they provide a new devotional that is perfect for school-aged kids every day.  We listen along, and then sometimes they want clarification, sometimes they don’t want to talk much about it, but sometimes it opens the air for a quick and easy conversation about being good Christians in everyday life, and especially at school.  They have great, very relatable messages, and the kids love the quick devotionals as much as I do.


We are back on our meal plan this week!  After (over) indulging during the holidays and then ordering a Blue Apron box last week, we are back to meal planning and trying our best to keep our dinners plant-based.  Here’s what we’re planning on eating this week:

Sunday- Homemade Roasted Tomato Soup with Cornbread Waffles (shown above- SO GOOD)
Pizza for the kids (We had a  work function and were out for dinner)
TuesdaySweet and Sour Vegetable Stir Fry 
Wednesday- Lentil Taco Salad with Chips and Salsa
ThursdayItalian Roasted Mushrooms and Vegetables with Couscous and Caesar Salad
FridayRoasted Red Pepper Pasta and Roasted Broccoli
Saturday Brussels Sprouts Salad with Beets, Pecans and Blue Cheese with Couscous

I hope you have a wonderful week!

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