Monday, June 30, 2014

meal planning 101

One thing you probably should know about Mark and I's relationship. He cooks, I don't. The whole time leading up until we were married he always cooked dinner for me, I loved it! I am really terrible at cooking and frankly too lazy to do it. Plus cooking for one person is a joke and I think ramen noodles are actually delicious. Mark being my man servant was all fine until he started working his long shifts. He would come home after working ten hours and be starving, way too starving to cook. I decided I needed to woman up and start feeding him something other than cereal. However, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it the Riley way meaning I was going to plan this sucker out. I looked on Pinterest and multiple other websites trying to find a meal plan that was cheap and didn't require much from me. There really was no resources out there! I was surprised. Either people meal plan and spend a trillion dollars or they make something super complicated. Or on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, they make something stupid like PB&J, Mac and Cheese, whatever. So I was like "Screw you guys, i'm going to do this myself" and I did. And you rocks. 
I wanted to grocery shop once and then never again for at least a few weeks. So planning all the meals is the part that took almost an eternity. I wanted to base my meals on three meats that we keep in the house at all times: chicken, beef (both the stew kind and ground beef) and tilapia. Most of the meal plans that exist for somewhat cheap do not include meat daily. My personal motto is if you aren't eating meat then you are staying hungry. Meat gives us energy, protein and fills us up faster. For my family, it's not an option to go without meat. So yes, we spent $50.00 on meat. I am writing this a month after I originally bought the meat and we still have at least another three weeks left of meat. PROTEIN PAYS PEOPLE!

This next part is really crucial to your meal planning if you want to stay on a budget. You want to use the same ingredients for multiple meals. For example, I was using parmesan to make parmesan crusted chicken but I also used it to make meatballs for spaghetti as well as make a seasoning for our tilapia. Another example, I bought tortilla shells and we used that for enchiladas as well as breakfast burritos and then again for fish tacos. This cuts down on your grocery bill majorly. I also like that then you don't have random ingredients sitting in your pantry. You use everything that you have.
I get most of meals from this $5 meal site or the My Fridge Food website but usually I will alter any recipe I find to make it what I want. For example, the $5 meal site usually doesn't use protein in a lot of her meals so I add protein. I also pick one meal for every two week period that is our special meal, one that you can't really use the ingredients you buy for it to make something else. During this particular two week span it was Chicken Pot Pie. You have to buy pie shells for that meal and I don't need pie shells for anything else, no way this homegirl is making a pie.
So, your first step is to find meals that overlap. Here is a list of meals that I used for two weeks:
So, to review. 99% of your time will be researching meals that your family will eat! My husband happens to be Asian so we eat stir-fry often and we like it! Also, on Saturday I have a leftovers day because I didn't the first time around and we had so many leftovers, a lot of food was thrown away and that is just freaking wasteful.
You can either use my outline and tweak it or start from scratch! You just need to devote about an hour to it, sit down and really focus. After my initial gripes about it, it turned out to be kind of fun.
So this next part is the easy part, it takes about 5-10 minutes to do. I used powerpoint to create my document because I like to be visually pleasing but you can also just take a sheet of lined paper and fold it in half. On one side you right out the days and what you are making and on the oether side you write everything you will need to make that meal. The things I have underlined are things I am buying to use for multiple meals. As you can see, most of my list is underlined, which is how it should be.

And that is pretty much it, folks! It seems really easy and it is! After you do it the first time. 
Mark came home from work every day and was shocked at how delicious the food I had made was. I actually felt useful in the kitchen and weirdly I felt like it was preparing me for when we have kids. Family dinners are really important to Mark and I so this meal planning thing will be routine.

I will be posting my meal plans about once a month so people don't have to do as much of the work.

Happy planning!
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meal planning 101 originally appeared on

Saturday, June 28, 2014


You guys, the other day I was at McDonalds and a lady complemented my hair color at McDonalds and I have literally thought about how nice she was a few times a day. It was such a simple and easy thing for this lady to do, she probably didn't even give it a second thought but I was so appreciative. This experience made me think of a completely different experience that happened a couple years ago. 
So a few years ago, my family had taken in three little girls, 10, 8 and 2. It was a pretty overwhelming experience for my family. So back to school time rolled around and one day I decided I was going to give my Mom a break and take all three girls back to school shopping! I knew that this was going to be fairly difficult to do because Brooklyn, the two year old, has a huge screaming problem. She just SHRIEKS. For no reason. It's loud. It hurts your ears. So, knowing this fact and also being way too optimistic, I decided not to go to Justice, I decided to take them to K-Mart because you know, not the classiest shopping experience but the girls didn't really care either way because I told them we were getting ice cream after.
So about forty five minutes into the whole experience, I was like "this is going really well!" because I was just chasing after Brooklyn and the other two girls were good looking on their own. Then it got a little exhausting chasing after Brooklyn, I was getting a little impatient with how long the girls were taking and how hyper they were getting. Brooklyn started to get hungry and it was coming up on nap time. After the two girls collected enough pink bedazzled clothing items, we headed to the dressing room. I was sitting with Brooklyn in the dressing room when she did her infamous shriek because she was d o n e. She did it three times, which I didn't think was a huge deal. I was attempting to gather the girls clothes so we could leave when a lady, but really couldn't have been more than five years older than me, came out of her dressing room and literally ripped me a new one! She told me that I was ridiculous coming out in public, a joke of a mother (I really hope I don't look old enough to be a Mom to a ten year old) and she went on and on (irony of all ironies-she was wearing a BYU shirt) My first instinct was to cry, but I was also so incredibly angry! I told her off as best as I could, something about not being Christlike and then hurried the girls off to check out. Honestly, I didn't even make it to the check out line before tears started to roll down my cheeks. When I got to the parking lot, I lost it. Hadn't this lady known what my family had been through with these girls? Hadn't she known I had just gone through the worst summer of my life? Didn't she know I was just trying to do a nice thing for my Mom? I was so brokenhearted about how someone could be so incredibly awful. I wonder if that lady knows that I think about her unkind words a lot. It makes me jaded, it hurts the very inner part of me. I wonder if she knows, but I know she probably doesn't. I hope one day that lady has kids and she is in a store, or on an airplane, or anywhere really and that baby will not stop crying or shrieking or whatever. I hope that someone lets that lady know that they know she is trying her best and that it will be ok. Because it's not hard for people to be nice and it goes a loooong way. 

Has anybody had an experience like this? Or the opposite, has anyone ever had someone say something or do something incredibly kind for them?

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Top Ten Fourth of July Decoration Ideas!

I'm back again with my roundup of the Top Ten Fourth of July Decoration Ideas!
I love this holiday. It is actually my favorite! I don't know why because I am not a summer person but I just love spending time with family and friends and all the fun stuff you can do! I'm so excited about some of these decoration ideas.
1. American Flag Palette
Palette projects are always fun and they always look way cute! This is a different take on the palette project that I have never seen before yet I love. It would be so easy and cost effective! That's the perfect kind of craft if you ask me. 
2. Stars and Stripes Paint Sample Banner
I'm obsessed with this mostly because it's another one of those easy crafts that looks so cute! They are just the paint swatches from any home improvement store and look how cute they are! 
3. Tassels
I did tassels for my wedding and let me tell you, they are easy but they are the most time consuming thing. However they look so cute and festive! 
4. America Photo Booth
You can never ever go wrong with a photobooth. Here are some fun and free printable props for your booth!
5. Treat Bags
If you aren't the type to go overboard on your decor, this is a simple and fun thing to incorporate the fun stars and stripes we love so much!
6. Wreath
Super easy and way cute! You can keep this for years and use it on your front door every summer.
7. Glittered USA
You can buy it from Etsy or you can DIY, either way it will look adorable on a table at your party!
8. Rolo Fireworks
Another cute but simple little thing you can use to spice up your party! 
9. Patriotic Fans
I think these are so awesome. They look cool, they would be great in multiple areas of a party, they are easy and cheap! 
10. Table Runner
This could be a super fun craft to do with kids as there is stamping involved. Again, low cost and low ability required. Can you see a theme?

Happy decorating!

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Summer sales makes you fat. Also, Utah.

Mark dropped me off bright and early at BWI airport this morning! I am so conflicted because I am so soooo excited to be going home but I am so sooooo sad that Mark isn't going with me. 
Anyway, this morning I decided I could never ever work at the airport. There were a serious majority of people who showed up twenty minutes before their flight left so they had to be rushed through security. Maybe it's just my fear of an anxiety attack but I always, always am way too early for the airport. I would so much rather be bored at my gate than be that person who is running through the airport. The worst part about this morning is all the people who were late were going to LA so they had this nonchalent air about them like "I don't really care that I am making everyone elses life miserable right now.." It was so obnoxious!

Anyway, changing subjects.
Did you know that summer sales makes you fat?
This is the most relevant tweet I have seen in a while...
But really. It's a problem.

Remember all those strawberries I had? I was able to make two pies with them. It was incredibly easy, I made them with jello, which made me 100% happy. But then I took one bite and I was like ".....I hate jello" and I left the pies for Mark and friends.

Mark and I went to Six Flags with his work yesterday. It was literally the hottest I have ever been in my life. It was only like 85 degrees but it was almost 100% humidity. I felt like I had heat stroke all day. It was still so fun! We left the park to eat lunch because who wants to spend almost $20 for a crappy piece of pizza? We found this sub place and I am not even kidding you, this sandwich changed my freaking life. It was THE best sandwich I have ever had. My mouth is watering just thinking about it...

I will leave this random post with one story that I keep thinking about and laughing about. It could possibly be a "had to be there" thing but I'm going for it anyways. 
So Mark desperately needed a haircut. Haircuts on the East coast are EXPENSIVE, people! Dollar cuts don't exist out here. Nothing like that does. So last week I took my nanny kids to a barber shop and they did a super awesome job and it was fairly inexpensive. So I tried to take Mark to that same barber shop and it was closed! About three doors down from it was another barber shop. It looked a little...sketchy... but Mark needed a haircut so badly. Before we got out of the car I was like "Mark, what if this is one of those black only barber shops? Like where Queen Latifah works?" he was like "Riley, those do not exist."

And then Mark got a shape up haircut because it was a black barber shop. I was crying of laughter. 

Anyway, I will be in Utah in a matter of hours. Wahoo!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014


So getting engaged in February meant taking engagements in the dead of winter! The day we picked was actually pretty beautiful. We went up by Donut Falls and I was sweating by the time we got there! Which, if you know me is nothing unusual. I'm a sweater. However a beautiful sunny day meant the snow was melting really quickly. Poor Mark had crappy H&M shoes so his feet were literally sopping wet at the end of the day. We were cold but it was worth it. I love our engagement pictures! 

My Mom hated my ring on the pinecone. "It looks like a turd!" Ok Mom, calm down.

If only I was this much shorter than him...but I am about a foot dug into snow. Haha!

photographer- Val Jean Photography 
on me// red dress- mika rose 
pink necklace-f21
gold necklace-old navy
on mark// plaid shirt- h&m 
navy shoes- h&m

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

and the survey says...

Earlier this week I asked everyone to take a survey about my blog! It's crazy to think this particular blog is one year old. Instead of having a photoshoot of it smashing a cake, I decided I wanted to poll people on what was working and what wasn't. The results I got were extremely interesting and helped an incredible amount. Before I get into it I wanted to say that the survey is still open and if you haven't already I would love for you to take it! The link is at the bottom of this post.

Also, no one really loves my blog design! Which is ok because before I sent the survey out I had  already emailed my designer to start making some changes. I'm glad we are all pretty much on the same page with that one.
Almost every single person that took the survey wishes I would post MORE (which honestly surprised me! I thought I needed to do this) and those that didn't pick that option picked the option of posting more regularly. So from this point on I am going to desperately try to post two-three times a week, probably on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Another surprising outcome of the survey, people really like my more serious posts like this one and this one. These posts are really scary to write and post because I don't want people thinking that i'm too big for my britches or too serious or whatever *girl insecurities* but really, those more serious posts are the reason I started my blog in the first place and I am happy to see that a huge majority of people ranked those posts first. 
Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone who took the survey and again if you haven't taken it yet, please do! I am hoping to do bigger things with my blog this year and I really want it to go in a good direction which I don't know if I can recognize without the help of friends.

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