Whole30 Tips To Make it a Success

fresh produce and raw meat for whole30

Changing how we eat can be so difficult. A month of drastic diet changes is no small feat. Way to go for thinking about giving it a try. Here are some great Whole30 tips to help make your journey a success!

A Whole30 is a good jump start no matter your long term eating plan and will help you notice food sensitivities you otherwise might have missed.

It took  months of thinking about it before we completed our first Whole30.

What exactly is a Whole30? It’s a 30 day nutritional program designed to change your cravings, habits, help heal your body, and give you a good restart. They have a great post of the many benefits here.

The rules (foods you can and can’t eat) can seem a little daunting. Knowing I was going to have to avoid so many foods that were a standard part of our mostly real food diet stopped me from committing for a long time. There are no sweeteners allowed of any kind (not even honey), no grains (quinoa, oats, rice etc), no legumes or peanut butter, no dairy, no carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites, and you also aren’t allowed to create plan ingredient approved “baked goods”. (It’s sort-of like a paleo plan but more strict.)

That’s a lot of nos! So to help you start, and ensure that you’ll finish out the 30 days strong, here are 12 tips for a successful Whole30.

fresh produce and raw meat with white graphichs

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Whole30 Tips

1. Plan, Plan, Plan

Menu plan for all three meals and snacks. In fact, plan for at least a week at a time or even for the whole 30 days.

Food on Whole30 can take more time to prepare than you are used to so don’t leave it to the last minute or you’ll find yourself stressed or grabbing foods that aren’t on plan. I promise a written menu really helps keep that from happening.

Use Pinterest to keep track of recipes you’d like to try and find some great resources. I have a list of Whole30 Soup Recipes and Whole30 Breakfast Recipes to get you started.

I also liked using these cookbooks for recipe inspiration! I was able to find them at my library, but here are the Amazon links for them:


2. Mentally Prepare for a Hard Start

Don’t expect it to be a bed of roses! You will struggle and possible feel miserable the early days. I found myself thinking about food (I couldn’t eat) continuously! Be prepared for this and be prepared to stick it out. You can do it.

Because of this, if possible, you might want to plan your Whole30 to start when life won’t be too crazy or stressful.

3. Mentally Prepare to be Over it at the End

By the time 30 days are over you’ll probably be ready to just quit and think, “surely 27 days is good enough” – especially as events and functions come up and it would just be more fun to be able to eat “regular” food again. Knowing this will happen will allow yourself to combat it.

Possibly, set a reward for yourself if you stick out the 30 days! A little extra motivation never hurts.

4. Have the Entire Family Do It

Let me tell you, it would have been torture if everyone else in my house was eating cheese, grains, and chocolate and I had to watch. The temptation to take a bite would be huge and I don’t think my attitude would have been as great. I didn’t cheat, but it was a family project. I’m not sure the results would have been the same otherwise.

So turn it into a family challenge and celebrate with a special outing when you are done!

5. Do it With a Friend

My sister and her husband did a Whole30 the same time we did. It was amazing! Having another person responsible for the majority of the cooking to talk to was so helpful. We could brainstorm together and take meals from each other’s menus, and, of course, keep each other accountable.

6. Repeat Meals

Please, don’t feel like you need to come up with 30 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. If you find a meal you love – especially one the kids love – make it every week. Or even more often. It simplifies everything and it’s nice to have solid meals everyone will eat to fall back on.

20 Whole30 breakfast ideas and recipes! Great resource for healthy breakfasts - the hardest for me to come up with recipes for. (My FAVORTIE breakfast casserole is on this list)

7. Do Lots of Kitchen Prep at One Time

You’ll be using many fruits, vegetables, and meats during this month. That means a lot of prepping those fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Instead of spending hours in the kitchen each day preparing these items, take some time on the weekends to wash, peel, chop all the food you can for the next several days. Bonus, you only have to do those dishes once.

8. Plan for Leftovers to Save Time in the Kitchen

One of the big deterrents of the Whole30 is the amount of time you have to spend in the kitchen.

Make extra each night (at least on the recipes your family loves) so you can have leftovers on a busy day or use them for lunches!

9. Try New Things

If you don’t venture beyond scrambled eggs for breakfast and carrots and broccoli for your veggies, it will be a long 30 days. Get out of your rut. Be creative with seasonings and spices!

Try cooking some veggies you don’t love in a new way and pick out some new produce you’ve never tried.

10. Save Up to Increase Your Grocery Budget

Set aside a extra money before your Whole30 begins! We keep our grocery budget low and we definitely spent more during this challenge. Probably double what we normally spend. Only buying produce, meats, dried fruit, and nuts can get a little pricey. Watch for meats to get marked down and start stocking up in the months prior as well.

You’ll find great tips for cutting costs on your normal grocery budget in this post. Then set the money saved aside for your Whole30:

10 super easy ways to drastically lower your grocery budget! I've saved thousands of dollars doing these over the years. GREAT ideas!

11. Get Rid of Temptation

Had there been a bag of my favorite candy staring me in the face every time I opened up the cabinet or cheese in the refrigerator it would have been a really long month and I’d have been much more incline to just cheat a bite of something here or there.

Bury them in the deepest part of your pantry, pass ingredients on to a friend, or toss them – do what it takes so they won’t be taunting you!!!

12. There’s NO Perfect Time

Our lives are busy. There’s always things going on. If you try to wait for the perfect 30 days where you have nothing going on that will take you out of your home, you’ll never do it. That’s a big part of the reason it took me soooo long to commit.

Find a time that works best – probably avoiding major holidays and birthdays of your family members – and put it on the calendar.

Lastly, don’t let fear keep you from getting started! Take the plunge and set aside 30 days for recharging your body, breaking cravings, and possibly losing a few inches and pounds and becoming a healthier you. You’ve got this, especially with these Whole30 tips that will help you succeed!

Have you done a Whole30? What tips do you have?

If you haven’t done a Whole30, are you thinking about it?

fresh produce and raw meat with pink text box

fresh produce and raw meat with green graphics

A Whole30 is a great way to help heal your body and ditch cravings. It's not easy, but it's worth it! Here are some tips for a successful Whole30!

Originally published January 2015. Updated May 2020.

 

Fun and Frugal Family Night Ideas

a family of four fishing.

Fun and frugal family night ideas. My kids love having family night. I think just the name makes them excited and they don’t even care exactly what we do. 🙂 Sometimes we get stuck in the rut with doing the same things (movies, games, pizza, and parks are our go tos) but the kids love when we switch things up!

We did a 2 night backyard campout last month and the kids thought it was the best thing ever and can’t wait to do it again.

All of the kids provided input on this list to help get us thinking outside the box – there are so many fun ideas.

And as a bonus, except for a movie night, all these family night ideas are screen free!

Don’t stress about trying to do them all. Make it simple. Do your standard family night activities most weeks and then just one day a month let the kids rotate selecting an activity from the list. They will love it and you won’t have to stress about doing something different every week.

A lot of the family night ideas on this list are free! Always a win. The others are all still super frugal – you can do this on any budget!

four pictures: a family fishing, a family baking, an open book, and art supplies

Fun and Frugal Family Night Ideas

  • Game and pajamas night. Let everyone select their favorite game have a game marathon. Wearing PJs (and some sort of fun snack, of course) will make it even more fun.
  • Movie and popcorn night. I’m sure you’ve done this before but you can’t go wrong with it!
  • Puzzle night. Pull out a new puzzle and a treat to eat and see how much you can get done it one night. You could also use some fun conversation starters.
  • A long walk. Of course you need to let the kids pick which direction to go at each intersection.
  • Homemade personal pizza night. Pizza happens weekly in our house, but I don’t often do the personal sized ones. They are always a hit!
  • DIY ice cream sundae bar. Another favorite! We normally eat ice cream without toppings, so having all the extra goodies to choose from are greatly looked forward to.
  • Picnic. Pack up your dinner and find a new location to picnic.
  • Fishing. This would be by son’s favorite family night activity.
  • Living room camp out. Perfect to do in the winter! Pull out pillows and blankets and books and have a family campout inside!
  • Backyard camp out. Doing this makes my crew so excited! The perfect idea when the weather is nice.
  • Meandering car drive. Load up the car (and pack a few snacks or grab a treat at a restaurant) and just go on a long drive exploring where you haven’t been before.
  • Bowling. I feel like a bad mom. My kids have never gone bowling. We’ll have to remedy this, but I remember bowling outings when I was a kid.
  • Service project. Go out with your family and rake leaves, paint, or do another project to help someone else.
  • International Dinner. Select a country and then find recipes from there to make for supper, play music from the country, and maybe even make a little quiz.
  • Go play tennis. We’ve done this and the kids have enjoyed it even if we chase a lot of balls. As the kids get older, I think we’ll find ourselves doing this more.
  • Progressive dinner. If could even be a dinner of snacks and then dessert, but the idea is to going around to several restaurants and get something different from each.
  • Bake off challenge. My three all love spending time in the kitchen. You could try dividing into two teams and have a dessert or entree challenge of each teams choice. Or switch things up and put together a basket of random ingredients like on chopped!
  • Art. This is one that my daughter is most excited about. Gather (or buy) the supplies and do a family painting or drawing night. Try using a video on YouTube to help guide you.
  • Poetry. Spend the evening going around the room reading poems aloud. If you don’t have any poetry books, check some out of the library. Make this even better by making/buying each persons favorite snack.
  • Star gazing. This is so much fun, especially if you plan it for a meteorite shower. Gather up blankets to lay on, astronomy books (or an app on your phone), snacks (seeing a theme here – food makes anything more special for the kids), and plan for a late night.
  • Goody Baskets. Spend some time putting together baskets of homemade bread, cookies, cinnamon rolls, or treat you bought. Then go deliver them to friends’ front doors, ring the door bell, and sneak away!
  • Water balloon fight. Honestly, this isn’t something I normally participate in with the kids. Beyond filling up balloons anyway. I know they’d love to have an epic family water balloon fight.
  • Beach, pool, or park. Take an evening trip and have fun playing as a family.
  • Bike. Take the bikes out for a ride or go to a local skate park for a fun evening!
  • Twilight hike. You will hear different sounds and see different sights. Perfect ending to the day if you ask me.

a family at a kitchen table baking

There are 26 family night ideas to get you started! When you’ve gone through this list, I’m sure your kids will have even more creative ideas to keep you going!

Sometimes going through the work to do something a little different, even when it’s still inexpensive and fairly simple, can make such special memories they’ll be talked about for a long time.

Go and make a fun memory and tell me how it went!

a family outside holding a fishing pole

Homemade Pizza Pockets

Pepperoni pizza pockets on a plate

Have you done homemade pizza pockets?

It’s no secret, we love pizza in this house! I grew up with the Friday night pizza night tradition and we’ve kept it going. My kids and husband look forward to it each week. (Here’s a super delish recipe for a New Mexico Style Pizza!)

Every once in a while we like to switch things up with these yummy homemade pizza pockets.

Now, my kids have never had a frozen pizza pocket or hot pocket but they think these the coolest things ever. In fact, when we last made them, after inhaling 3, my son says “I think I might like these better than pizza”! That right there is saying something!

The only thing they don’t like is that they have to wait longer for them to cool down enough to bite into. 😉

These take me a little longer to make than a traditional pizza but homemade pizza pockets still come together easily.

I love how easy they are to customize. This makes a batch of 12, so enough to give everyone exactly what they want.

unfolded pizza pockets on baking sheet

Use some pizza sauce and cheese on each of them and whatever other “toppings” (fillers is probably more technically accurate, but you know what I mean) you’d like! We did some straight sauce and cheese, some with pepperoni and onion added, and then the others also included mushrooms, spinach, pepperoni, and onion. Yummy!

pizza pockets on a baking sheet ready to go in the oven

You can switch up the cheese as well. Spinach is always tasty with feta cheese or use cheddar or colby jack – what ever you have!

One big tip!

Don’t roll the dough out too thin or you will have more of a problem with leaking! (Ask me how I know.) I aim for 6-7 inch circles.

dough for pizza pockets on the counter

I also try to not put the sauce on the bottom. Put your meat or spinach and cheese down first. I find that this also helps with the sauce not breaking through out the bottom.

spinach mushroom pizza pockets on baking sheet

You can use a jar of pizza sauce, or make your own using this super simple recipe of mine!

Homemade Pizza Pockets

Homemade Pizza Pockets
 
Ingredients
Dough
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1¾ cups warm water
8 ounces pizza sauce - See note
Toppings
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Meat (Pepperoni, chicken, sausage etc)
  • Veggies (onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach etc)
  • olive oil
Instructions
Dough
  1. Combine all ingredients in your mixer and knead the dough a few minutes until smooth and elastic. (You can also make by hand - you will just have to knead it longer.) Start with just under 1¾ cups of water and add more little by little if needed. Cover and set aside to rest until at least doubled in size.
Pizza Pockets
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Roll out into circles that are 6-7 inches in diameter.
  2. Place the rolled out dough on your baking sheet and put the toppings on one half. (Try to not put the sauce on the bottom do the meat or vegetables without a high water content first.)
  3. Fold the other half of the dough over the toppings and using a fork, press the edges together. Use flour if necessary.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Roll out into circles that are 6-7 inches in diameter.
  6. Place the rolled out dough on your baking sheet and put the toppings on one half. (Try to not put the sauce on the bottom do the meat or vegetables without a high water content first.)
  7. Fold the other half of the dough over the toppings and using a fork, press the edges together. Use flour if necessary.
  8. Repeat with the remaining pizza pockets.
  9. Brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Notes
You may use store bought sauce or use my easy homemade sauce recipe

 

2 pizza pockets on a plateplate with pepperoni pizza pocketsmushroom spinach pockets on a plate

The Best Benefits of Meal Planning

menu plant, cash, and pen on the counter

Have you ever wondered, “Why menu plan?” Someone recently found their way to this blog searching that exact thing and we all know if one person asks a question, someone else out there has the same one! So today we are going to talk about the benefits of meal planning!

People talk about menu planning all the time but does it really make a difference? What exactly are those benefits?

Strangely enough, this subject is something I actually get excited about simply because I strongly believe it has made a huge difference in my life. Meal planning is something that has been a part of how I run our home for 13 years now.

The time that I set aside to plan the menu and shopping list are a must do on my list for several reasons. Sure, if you are single or there’s just you and a spouse in the mix, you might be able to pull off not planning. However once you throw kids into the mix, which not only meals extra mouths to feed (and trust me, they never forget about eating) but also additional activities in your days, it just doesn’t work not to.

Let’s get to the benefits of meal planning and just why you should bother to take time out of your busy life to get it done!

close up of a meal plan, cash and pen

3 Benefits of Meal Planning

Menu Planning Saves Money

Budgeting is something else that’s been so important in our house – it has enabled us to live within our means and save money. One great way to save money, is watching what you spend on groceries.

There is no way I’d be able to keep my grocery budget so low if I didn’t plan!

When making a menu plan, I primarily do 3 things:

  • Check the fridge and pantry for ingredients that are going to need to be used.
  • Check the grocery ads to see what’s on sale.
  • Try and plan for the ingredients I purchase to be used in more than one meal to get the most bang for my buck.

Having a grocery list also means you spend less when you are at the store.

A menu plan means you avoid the 5pm “what’s for dinner” stress that causes a last minute grocery or restaurant run.

Menu Planning Saves Time

Let’s take this a step further. Meal planning saves me time (and stress). I’m not spending time every day (or every meal) trying to figure out what I’m going to make. Instead, I do all that thinking in an hour or so and then know exactly what is going to be happening for food each day.

Not only does planning once a week (or every other week if you prefer) save me time over having to come up with a plan daily, but I also spend less time on trips to the grocery store.

The third way menu planning saves time is because it allows me to use the tips in this post on how to spend less time in the kitchen! I can do the kitchen prep work in bulk over the weekend when I have a little extra time and can have leftovers built into my week.

Menu Planning Helps Me Eat Better

Without a meal plan, I would be much more likely to grab some pre-packaged freezer or convenience food. The chances for that unplanned run for take-out or fast food also increases! Neither of which are great on the budget or your health!

Obviously, we have nothing against restaurants. We indulge in a take out pizza on occasion and my husband enjoys Chick-Fil-A. But the majority of the time, I try to cook from scratch and avoid heavily processed foods when I feed my family. Isn’t it better to save those “cheat” meals for a real emergency or purposely plan them into your menu?

Throughout the year, I try to incorporate plenty of seasonal produce and the produce sales! When you plan your meals, you can see when you need to up your fruits and veggies! Planning also allows me to buy the basic, unprocessed ingredients in bulk and know that we will actually use the items up.

Feeding you family more nutrient dense food, saving money, and saving time and stress are 3 huge benefits of meal planning! Over the years I’m sure I’ve saved thousands of dollars by meal planning and many, many hours of time. Not only that, I don’t have the energy or creativity to pull off making an impromptu menu each day. 🙂

Has menu planning made a difference in your life? What other benefits of meal planning can you think of?

If you have yet to menu plan, I highly recommend you give it a try! Let me know if you have any questions!

recipe box, meal plan, and pen on a counter

Originally published March 26, 2015. Rewritten and updated graphics April 2020.

How to Make Cauliflower Rice without a Food Processor

Riced cauliflower cooking on a cast iron skillet

Let’s talk cauliflower. More specifically how to make cauliflower rice without a food processor!

Cauliflower is one of those foods you either love or hate. It gets a bad rap and there are a lot of memes that go around regarding cauliflower. I always chuckle, but honestly, I really don’t mind cauliflower. Especially cauliflower rice! It’s the perfect way to incorporate more veggies into your diet (or cut back on grains).

Frozen cauliflower rice is tremendously popular, and during different periods of time stores have had difficulty keeping it stocked.

cauliflower rice piled on a cutting board

Let me tell you a secret. I don’t buy the frozen packages. Homemade cauliflower rice is so fast and easy, anyone can do it! It will also save you money! Depending on size, one head will give you about 2 bags (so in my area, that means half price)! I’m all about finding easy ways to save.

So, how to make cauliflower rice without a food processor?

All you need a a head of cauliflower, a cutting board, grater, and a big skillet.

You can’t get much simpler than that.

First, rinse and dry your cauliflower and then start grating! I grate all the way down the florets not worrying about avoiding the stem. After all, it’s all in such fine pieces and will be cooked anyway. If the stem bothers you, you can remove your florets before you grate and then won’t get any of the stem.

cauliflower rice in a large pan

All that’s left to do, is cook it. I always cook mine in a large skillet. I heat the skillet and add a little oil before dumping in the homemade cauliflower rice. Let cook over medium heat until it’s at your preference of tenderness. Add a little salt at the end of cooking if desired.

If I’m using is for something like fried rice, I made sure to pull off of the heat a touch early because will cook a few minutes longer when added to the fried rice ingredients. (You can use this recipe and simply swap the rice for cauliflower.) To use as a rice replacement in dishes like stir fry, butter chicken, or to serve with roasted sausage and veggies cook to your desired softness. When used more as a side, I always use salt!

See, homemade cauliflower rice is a breeze! Enjoy!

cauliflower rice on a cutting board and in a skillet

How to Make Cauliflower Rice without a Food Processor

How to Make Cauliflower Rice without a Food Processor
 
Ingredients
  • Head of cauliflower
  • Oil, drizzle
  • Salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse and dry the head of cauliflower. Remove the green leaves.
  2. Use a box cheese grater to grate the head of cauliflower until the florets are entirely grated. If you don't want any of the stem in your rice, remove florets before grating.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. (If you don't have a large enough skillet, cook in a couple of batches.) Put a drizzle of oil in the skillet and add the grated cauliflower.
  4. Cook until the cauliflower is your desired texture and season with salt.

rice cauliflower with a cheese grater