Autoimmune Protocol to Manage Type 1 Diabetes

The autoimmune protocol is a specialized diet that eliminates inflammatory foods to stop the body’s immune system from over-reacting (an autoimmune response). The purpose of the autoimmune protocol is not only to stop the autoimmune response, but to allow the body to heal from the autoimmune attack.  The diet nourishes the body with its focus on nutrient dense meats, vegetables, and fruits giving the body exactly what it needs to thrive. For some autoimmune diseases, it is possible to cure the autoimmune disease through this diet and environmental/lifestyle changes. For more information, read this post.

I am an adult-onset, insulin-free, type 1 diabetic. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The trigger is not known definitively, but I strongly suspect gluten is the culprit. However, autoimmune diseases are not triggered by just one thing. There are three things that could trigger an autoimmune disease: genes, environment, and diet. The best news is genetic predisposition to a disease is not a guarantee that you will develop the disease. Changing your diet and lifestyle choices, meaning what you eat and your daily habits like sleep and exercise, can very possibly cause those genes to not fire. This means if you eat the right food and take care of your body, it is unlikely you will develop an autoimmune disease, even one that runs in your family.

I hate to say it, but I need to go on another elimination diet (aka autoimmune protocol). My morning and sometimes evening blood sugars are just not what they should be. I think they can be better. I know they can be better. They have in the past.

My Past Experience with AIP

Back in October 2017 when I did my first elimination diet, I followed the meal plan and methods in The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Meyers. I saw immediate blood glucose improvement the first day I was on the diet. The results were truly amazing and so encouraging!

However, the food was simply not tasty. I love to cook. I’m pretty good at it (at least I think so!), and I just couldn’t handle spending hours in the kitchen to only have a bland, unimpressive meal. My taste buds demand more.

For that reason alone, I only stayed on the strict diet for 2 weeks before I started adding back in some of the restricted food. I thought I had narrowed down my blood sugar level issues to dairy and non-gluten grains, as those were the two biggest categories of food that I eliminated on the diet. So I slowly added back in the restricted, but possibly ok, items one at a time: eggs, nuts, coffee, nightshades, and alcohol.

My morning and evening blood sugar readings stayed great until November 23, Thanksgiving. I had bought chocolate covered blueberries and acai berries to have as a snack while family was in town over the holidays. I neglected to check the ingredients thoroughly, and they had dairy. My morning readings jumped in one night from 110-145 to 160+.

Wow, I wish I had walked through my past readings and diet changes like I just did to write this post! The change is obvious! I didn’t find the solution to my higher readings (candy with dairy) until well in January.

Why I Need AIP Again

I’ve been very strict about my dairy exposure for the last three weeks, but my morning blood glucose levels are not lowering. I cut out alcohol on January 27 and coffee on February 2. My morning blood glucose still remains the same.

I think I need to heal my gut again. I’m going back on the Autoimmune Protocol starting on Monday, February 19, 2018.

Steps to Success with AIP

This time, I’m doing it my way. I finally discovered what the “AIP” tag on various Paleo recipes means. Autoimmune Protocol! It’s the same elimination diet I had tried in October 2017! I’ve found more blogs and books to read, and the world has opened a little more to me. There are even more people out there healing themselves through food! It’s not just me!

Some of them are food bloggers who share AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) friendly recipes. Yay! Good food!! However, I am careful to watch my carbohydrate intake, even while on the AIP diet. I am still a type 1 diabetic  without a fully functioning pancreas. Some AIP recipes rely on cassava/tapioca/arrowroot flour, and I must limit my intake of those because they increase my blood sugar dramatically. I will be eating fresh food: meat, vegetables, and fruit.

The menu is planned, groceries are budgeted and purchased, and I’ve formulated a plan for accountability. I am ready to rock this round of the Autoimmune Protocol!

Menu Plan

Autoimmune Protocol Menu Plan

Notice all the “leftovers” in the menu above? I intentionally tried to make most meals stretch for two. Diets like these are no joke. They require effort in the kitchen, so I want to maximize my effort by cooking double when I do cook so that I can have at least one easy meal the next day (maybe two!).

Also notice on Thursday, I have two “leftover” meals planned. After a few days of making new recipes, I find I have many odds and ends of leftovers: one serving of soup here, another serving of hash there. I pull all of those out and try to clean out the fridge. Everyone eats something different, and no food gets wasted! (And it gives me another meal or two off cooking! Score!)

Groceries & Budget

I was over budget for this shopping trip. My budget for one week is $130, and I spent $155 for this week’s worth of meals. I use YNAB faithfully to make sure overspending on groceries doesn’t eat away at the rest of the budget. This is the beauty of a budget: I just borrowed some money from our miscellaneous category to cover the budget over flow. The budget is still on track! I am guessing I’ll be a little over most weeks I do the AIP. It’s even more expensive than just a Paleo diet.

My fridge is filled to the brim. It’s so full, I’m afraid some of my produce will freeze due to lack of air flow! I need the weather to cool down again so I can use my second fridge, aka the garage!


My main source of accountability is my husband. He is always with me and rooting for me in all these health adventures. Even though he doesn’t have a pressing health problem, he willingly takes my diet restrictions on himself. He is supportive every time I want to quit, and he helps me problem-solve, troubleshoot when things go awry.

My second source will be you. I plan to share quick updates on Instagram, and a weekly, more detailed, recap on this ole blog. Facebook will also have these same updates. Follow me to see how things are going day by day!


As I mentioned above, figuring out what the “AIP” abbreviation meant on recipes posted on Pinterest was eye-opening. All the sudden, I could find so many recipes to help me through the elimination phase of the AIP diet. This discovery is what gave me the courage to try it again. I can do anything as long as my food tastes good. Ha!

I also checked out some very interesting books from the library, and wouldn’t you know, they all say the same thing! There are more published authors out there proclaiming the healing value of food.

Here are some good books and blogs to look into if you are looking to heal you gut, cure an autoimmune disease, or just looking for a healthier lifestyle than you will find from your doctor’s office.

Autoimmune/AIP Education

The Autoimmune Solution by Dr. Amy Meyers

The Autoimmune Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body by Sarah Ballantyne

The Paleo Mom blog

A Squirrel in the Kitchen blog

Unbound Wellness blog

Follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook for more inspiration and see what I’m learning!

General Gut/Body Education

The Broken Brain

Grain Brain by David Perlmutter

Wheat Belly by William Davis

Gut by Guilia Enders

Autoimmune Protocol for Diabetics



Menu Planning 101, Part 5 | How to Stay the Course

Welcome to Menu Planning 101!

If you are just joining us, check out the first four parts of this series!

  1. Part 1 | The Dinners Only Menu Plan
  2. Part 2 | How to Make a Grocery List
  3. Part 3 | The EveryMeal Menu Plan
  4. Part 4 | How to Shop and Stay on Budget

Healthy Menu Plan

If you’ve stuck with me for five weeks now, I wonder how you are feeling about this. Does it seem like too much? Do you think “I could never stick to something like that!”

I understand because I’ve felt like that too. Every time I’ve made a dietary change, I’ve done so dragging my feet. I didn’t want to try harder to cook fresher meals. I didn’t want to spend more time in the kitchen, and I definitely didn’t want to spend more time doing dishes!

I realized within a day or two of beginning the elimination diet that this food thing was the real deal. My body DID respond differently when I fed it different food. If I wanted to control my diabetes through diet and without additional insulin, fresher meals were the only way. There was no going back. I knew this was something I had to do.

I’m all in now.

The reality sinks in. It can take hours to make dinner, and that’s not including clean-up. I quickly realized I needed to optimize the contents of my menu plan so that I’m not working myself to death every day.


5 Ways to Avoid Burnout and Stay the Course

Don’t Cook a New Meal Every Night

Leftovers are your friend! If you’ve never been a leftovers person, then I suggest you try again!

Plan to have at least 1 meal extra from every meal you cook. That one meal could be lunch the next day or it could be dinner for the next evening.

For example, I made white chicken chili tonight for dinner. I doubled the recipe so I could have it again for dinner tomorrow night. I am planning on simple tuna patties so I don’t need to worry about lunch for tomorrow. With this simple bit of planning and cooking (making double a recipe barely takes longer), I’ve set myself up to not cook for dinner tomorrow night. This saves me hours the next day!

Re-Purpose Leftovers

If you do struggle with eating leftovers, change them up when you serve them again.

If I’ve made tacos for dinner one night, then I will bake sweet potatoes and load them up with the taco meat and other toppings (avocado, salsa, onion, etc.) for dinner the next night.

If I made a side of sweet potatoes with cranberries for dinner, then the next morning, I will use them in a sweet potato casserole for breakfast.

If I have leftover root vegetable mash from dinner last night, I will add a little almond flour to them and fry it like pancakes for breakfast. Serve with eggs and sausage for a savory, delicious meal.

Don’t throw the scraps from dinner away! If you have one severing of broccoli leftover, mix it with scrambled eggs in the morning and serve with a side of sausage or bacon.

Try to re-purpose or just use up any and all leftovers.  Think of a way you could use them in another meal. You will be surprised how little leftovers you need to create a whole new meal.

Plan Meals to Eat Out

If your budget allows it, plan in meals to eat at a restaurant. Everyone needs a break, and if you are carrying the burden of cooking all the meals, you do need a break. Schedule it in. Plan on it so it doesn’t break your budget.

When that meal comes, relish it! Don’t get lost in the chaos of eating out (if you have kids that is!). Notice your food. Appreciate the taste. Laugh at your kids antics. Be grateful for those who cooked it. Savor your bites. Eat slowly. Work to appreciate the meal and the break. You will be ready to hit the kitchen for the next meal because you have taken time to truly appreciate the break.

Get Help

If your significant other is willing to cook, ask them to step in and take a meal. At the very least, ask them to help you cook or sit and chat with you while you do. That way you don’t feel like the family servant or missing out on the fun family times.

Not only let your kids help, but teach them cooking skills so they can help you tonight and in the future. The first thing I teach my kids is to stir. I let them stir while I add ingredients or work on another dish. The second thing I teach them is how to cut. We  have these knives, and I can give my oldest strips of just about any vegetable for him to chop into bite-size pieces.

Yes, it is harder initially to cook with your kids, but what you are building in them and help for you are so worth it. I won’t go on. Cooking with your kids is a whole different topic that I’m passionate about! I’ll spare you until another day!

Choose Joy

Here’s the truth, folks.

Even if you do cook every meal…Even if you never get to eat out (It’s rarely in our budget!)…Even if no one helps you…Even if no one says thank you…

You can choose to be joyful in planning, preparing, and cooking food for you and your family.

Yes, it will be hard some days, but the practice of choosing joy will get easier the more you practice it.

My joy stems from Jesus. Not only does He love me with an unfailing love and He has covered all my sin with His blood, He has provided food for my family! He’s provided a warm house for me to cook in! He’s provided knives and pots to prepare and cook nutritious food. He’s given me life and health and the knowledge to preserve those. He’s given me my family to care for.

With all those gifts, how can I not choose to be joyful?

In summary, you can do it! (That’s my mom’s motto. I hear you every time I say it, Mom!) Plan well enough that you can take nights off cooking whether from leftovers, a restaurant, or someone else cooking. Choose to enjoy the process of cooking for your family.

Avoid Menu Planning Burnout

This ends the five week series on menu planning! This is not a theoretical exercise, I do this every two weeks. I know how hard it is, and yet, I know that it can be done. Your health, energy, and life will be better for the effort you put into healthy meals.

Do share your thoughts! Are you inspired to change how you grocery shop or menu plan? Have you put any of the documents I shared to use? Any tips you have that I didn’t cover? Any questions you’d like me to answer? Comment below or email! Let’s talk!


Menu Planning 101, Part 4 | How to Shop & Stay on Budget

Welcome to Menu Planning 101!

If you are new to the series, please visit:

Healthy Menu Plan


Shopping for an Every Meal Menu plan is not for the faint of heart, particularly if you are shopping with kids (as I am!). There are three things you need to figure out before heading out:

  1. The Driving Route
  2. The Route Through the Store
  3. How to Stay in Budget as You Shop

Just like your meals need a plan, the shopping trip needs a plan. Take a few minutes to think through your plan of attack before you head out, and it will save you time and frustration as you shop.

The Driving Route

What is the most effective and efficient route for you to travel to your various stores? I don’t follow a logical distance, as in furthest from my house and work my way back to my house. I use a cost-effective route (for my budget!).

I begin my shopping at Aldi which I know will have the lowest prices on every day items. Aldi has special buys each week which might allow me to pick up a seasonal item at a discount, which will save me money at the other stores.

Then I go to Meijer, our local supermarket chain, and I pick up all the items that Aldi does not have that week and additional less-common fruits, veggies, or international items.

My last stop is Costco. Costco’s offerings are usually the same from week to week, so I pick up our usual items (coffee, eggs, meat, crackers, toilet paper, etc.) quickly. The layout of this store rarely changes too.

The Route Through the Store

I have a different route through each store based on the stores layout. My goal is maximize efficiency and get myself and my kids out of the store as quickly as possible. As I mentioned before, I am not a grocery shopping lover. It is just a necessary evil to put food on the table. My goal is to make it as quick and efficient as possible.

I recommend thinking about the most effective route through your stores and putting your grocery list in that  order before you leave home. To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s each of my routes:


I think of Aldi’s layout like a maze. You enter at one end and exit at the other. The entrance is not connected to the exit which makes backtracking very difficult. I try to avoid backtracking in all stores, but especially Aldi.

Aldi’s layout also rarely changes, so once I familiarized myself with the store, I memorized the best order to shop in. Aldi is my fastest store. I am usually in and out in 20 minutes. Yes!

My route:

  1. Nuts
  2. Condiments
  3. Baking Items
  4. Canned Goods
  5. Fresh Vegetables
  6. Fresh Fruit
  7. Frozen Vegetables

Meijer sells evrything including the kitchen sink. I am purposeful to only walk down the aisles I need to. This store takes the longest to get through (for a reason! I’m know they have their layout to maximize sales!), so I take extra thought to attack this store efficiently.

In general, my method is back of the store to the front of the store so I end my shopping by the check-outs. If I need to pick up any toiletry items, I pick those up first because they are located on the opposite side of the store from the groceries.

My route through Meijer:

  1. Toiletries
  2. Fresh Meat
  3. Produce (vegetables and fruit are all mixed together)
  4. Baking Needs
  5. International Items

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “shop the perimeter” of grocery stores to find the healthier items. I follow this but without planning to! I primarily buy fresh meat, fruit, and veggies which are on the perimeter. The only aisles I go down are the baking aisle for spices and gluten-free baking items, and the international aisle for things like adobo chilis and canned tomato products.


Costco’s layout is roughly the same too: household items on the right side, grocery in the back and left, and seasonal in the middle. If you can guess, I don’t go in the middle section. The middle section is a budget-breaker, in my opinion! It is filled with snack foods, candy, and all the household/clothing items you all the sudden think you need!

I walk through the store in a “U”: up the household side, through the back of the store then down the right side, ending at the check-out.

My route through Costco:

  1. Household items
  2. Fresh Produce
  3. Fresh Meat
  4. Eggs
  5. Frozen Items
  6. Baking Needs
  7. Pantry Items

How to Stay on Budget When You Shop

Remember back to Part 2 – How to Make a Grocery List, and I recommended estimating the cost of each menu item as you make the grocery list? Here is where that comes into use.

First, your entire grocery list should be edited to fit into your budgeted amount before you leave the house. There’s no sense in heading to the store with a list that is already $100 over what you have to spend. If that happens (and it will!), here’s some tricks to bring it down into the right range.

  1. Make simpler meals with in season vegetables and fruit. Out of season food always costs more (and is less tasty!) so try to use what is in season. Odds are it will be on sale too because the grocery store has a ton of it!
  2. Buy lesser quality meat and eggs. This is a hard one for me to say. I am totally against pesticides, hormone treated animals, etc., but the truth of the matter is, not everyone can afford it. Personally, we’ve downgraded the quality of our eggs because I buy 7+ dozen every time I shop. My budget cannot afford that many free-range, organic eggs. I believe (hope?) the benefit you get from eating fresh, whole foods outweighs the bad of lower quality meat/eggs.
  3. Buy less meat. Meat is expensive. If you are making chili and the recipe calls for 2 pounds of meat, try using just one and adding an inexpensive vegetable instead (throw in pumpkin puree as a thickener, cubed butternut squash, chopped zucchini, etc.).
  4. Repeat well-liked, simple meals. This is the one I struggle with yet fall back on when my grocery list is too pricey. I love variety, but at least for me, variety can be expensive. So I cross out the more expensive meal and replace it with a more reasonable one I already have planned. For me, spaghetti squash with meat sauce is fairly inexpensive, filling, and everyone likes it. Planning this meal for 2 meals out of my two weeks instead of just one would save my budget some $$.

Now as you shop, keep track of what you’ve spent. I do this by entering each store’s receipt into my YNAB (You Need a Budget) app as I leave each store. You could also do this by editing the grocery list (if you use my spreadsheet) as you go through the store. However you choose to do it, you need to be keeping track as you shop.

Then comes the hard decision. What if you are going to go over budget? Where should you make cuts as you shop?

Quick interjection: If you made your list fit your budget before you left home, any adjustment that might need to be made in the store should be minor, not major.

  1. Choose to buy the small sized item that will still fit your needs but may cost more per ounce. I just made this decision when I last shopped! I needed to buy vanilla, and I planned to buy it at Costco. I thought the price would be around $15 which I budgeted for. When I arrived at the store, it was $26! Yikes! Since Costco was my last stop, I didn’t buy the vanilla at all. I chose to wait until the next shopping trip (which I still couldn’t budget $26 for vanilla) and buy the small bottle at Aldi for $4. I know I am spending more in the long run, but I don’t think a larger bottle of vanilla is worth going over budget for.
  2. Choose the store brand. This will likely be cheaper than name brand, and yes, there is possibly a taste difference. You and your family will live though! I guarantee it! 🙂
  3. Buy the less convenient item. I’m looking at you canned beans! If you are really tight, buy the dried beans instead of canned. You will get SO many more beans from a $1 bag of dried beans than that 15.5 ounce can of prepared beans.
  4. Buy in bulk instead of convenience packaging. I’m not thinking about flour, nuts, dried fruit, etc, although that may save you money too. I’m thinking of fresh produce. Our store has a salad section that has lovely, washed varieties of salad greens in nice plastic bags or even plastic containers. This is the most expensive way to eat a salad! Look very close by there and you will see bunches of kale, spinach, lettuce, all manner of greens for $1-$2 a bunch. That bunch will have WAY more food than the entire bag of pre-made lettuce mix (maybe even two or three bags!). Learn how to wash and store these greens, and you will have way more salads/soups/sides for less money.
  5. Last, and most difficult, just stop putting items into your cart when you’ve run out of money. Now, this shouldn’t happen because you’ve estimated your grocery need when you made your list, before you ever left your house. However, maybe everything you planned to buy was more expensive than you guessed. To keep your budget and marital happiness on track, I suggest to you to just stop, go to the check-out, and leave the store. You can get your creative juices flowing at home with how to make meals with what you were able to buy. Just start searching on Pinterest. I’m 100% sure you will be just fine and not go hungry!

Whew! That was a lot of information! In summary, make a plan before you leave your home: know your route to the stores, through the stores, and how you will stay on budget as you shop. This will guarantee a successful shopping trip and the beginning of a two week (for me!) time period of delicious meals.

Do you have any wisdom to share on this topic? How do you optimize your grocery trip? Do you have tips and tricks to staying in budget? Do you shop every week? Every two weeks? Every day?

Menu Plan with Budget


Menu Planning 101, Part 3 | The EveryMeal Menu Plan

Welcome to Menu Planning 101!

Click over to read Part 1 – The Dinners-Only Menu Plan method and Part 2 – The Grocery List.

Healthy Menu Plan


After making the decision to go gluten-free and subsequent grain-free and dairy-free, I knew my menu planning had to change. First of all, both of my go-to breakfasts were out. Oatmeal, although gluten-free, was out because it is a grain. All bread is out because I have no idea how to make it without grain of some kind. I’m left with eggs folks. That’s not a lot to fill up on for breakfast!

“Go-getter” Menu Plan or “EveryMeal” Menu Plan

I knew I had to start writing out a menu for each day of the week. I do not like to grocery shop more than every two weeks, so in order to not run out of food after a week, I needed to know and shop for exactly how many eggs, sausage links, apples, sweet potatoes, and bunches of kale I needed. This need birthed my current method of menu planning. It’s hard-core but necessary for my diet.

I scoured Pinterest looking for a free printable menu plan that allowed space for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I found one by Maxine Renee Designs, but it looks like it isn’t available anymore. So sad, it is such a cute design!

I’ve created my own Every Meal Menu Plan Printable inspired by Maxine’s design. Feel free to click to download your own copy. If you shop on a day other than Sunday, look below the image for the other weeks-beginning documents.

Menu Plan Printable

Click to download the EveryMeal Menu Plan beginning Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday / Saturday

I use the paper menu plan to write out what I will make for each meal, and while I am creating my meals, I keep a Google sheets open to create my grocery list at the same time. Click here to download my spreadsheet grocery list.)


Sit down with favorite cookbooks, Pinterest, and any other recipe sources along with the EveryMeal Menu Plan, and a way to make a grocery list (grocery list app, piece of paper, Google sheets, etc.)

  1. Make note of any special events on your EveryMeal Menu Plan first. Plan any special meals or dishes that you need for any upcoming parties, easy meals for babysitters, overnight guests, etc. This one step will likely save your budget when that special event rolls around! It won’t be something extra to buy; it will be already worked into your plan and your budget.
  2. Plan Breakfast Second– I plan all the breakfasts for two weeks next. Breakfast is the most repetitive meal so it is easy for me to cycle through the 3-4 options we eat for breakfast. For breakfast only, I may write down all the meals then go back through to add the ingredients needed to my grocery list. I only do this for breakfast because I have fewer recipes and options that repeat.
    1. Example: We eat skillet sweet potatoes, sausage links, and scrambled eggs about 4 times every two weeks. I know for this meal I need 4 sweet potatoes, 1 package of sausage links, and 6 eggs. I would count up how many time I put this meal on my menu plan then add to my list: 16 sweet potatoes, 4 packages of sausage links, and 24 eggs.
    2. Note: I do NOT use this method for dinners/lunch. The dinners I prepare are far more complex so I decide the meal then immediately add the ingredients to my shopping list. This way I do not miss any ingredients.
  3. Plan Dinner Third– I plan all of the dinners next because most of the time we eat leftovers from the night before for lunch. If I plan dinner first, then planning for lunch is so much easier because most of the meals will be accounted for with the day before’s dinner.
    1. This is the most time consuming section for me. So take a deep breath and dive in!
    2. Plan the meals with the freshest vegetables first. Eat the kale, fresh greens, and berries within the first week.
    3. Check the servings and double/triple as needed. I want each dinner to feed us for dinner and lunch the next day. I know our family eats 4-6 servings. Most recipes I double so I have the leftovers I want. (My kids are only 2 and 4, what am I going to do when they are teenagers?!?)
    4. Go meal by meal, selecting the recipes, and adding the ingredients to your grocery list as you go.
  4. Plan Lunch fourth– Way to go! You made it through the dinner planning which is a sigh of relief (for me!). Now work through the two weeks to make sure there is enough for lunches.
    1. Write what leftovers are to be consumed for each lunch. This will let you know where holes are.
    2. Fill the rest of the lunch meals with easily prepared meals. If you are doing this type of menu plan, you are cooking hard-core. Give yourself a breather by adding in some easy lunches.
    3. Our go-to’s are
      1. Tuna Patties with roasted seeweed (like this), veggies, and fruit
      2. Paleo Egg Salad with almond crackers, fresh veggies, and fruit
      3. Breakfast – eggs/meat or saute any leftover veggies and mix with scramble eggs, serve with side of fruit

Once you’ve got all the meals and their side dishes planned out, your grocery list should be mostly complete too. At this point add any snacks you know you might need (I make homemade date bars and nut mixes for most of our snacks) then organize your list as outlined in Part 2 | Making the Grocery List.

Shop then eat wholesome, healthy meals for two weeks!

This way of menu planning takes practice. I do know what I am recommending for you to do. I do it every other week! I also know the benefits:

  • Grocery shopping is less of a chore – My list is complete, no guessing or wondering if I should pick up something extra. I know exactly what I need to buy. **Note: I do say less of a chore. I am not a lover of grocery shopping, but I do dread it less because I whip through each store because I am PREPARED.**
  • No stress at meal time – I know exactly what meal I should be making, AND I have all the ingredients.
  • Overnight guests, parties, and special events do not break the bank – I do buy more food for overnight guests, so that part does hit the budget a bit, but parties and special events can easily be worked into your regular budget. No need to go in debt for that birthday party!

What is your plan for keeping healthy meals in front of your family? What is your favorite source for whole-food, clean recipes? Do you actually make the recipes or pin or are they more of a theoretical inspiration? 🙂 Do share!


Menu Planning 101, Part 2 | How to Make a Grocery List

Welcome to Menu Planning 101! If you are just joining me, check out Part 1, How to Make a Dinners Only Menu Plan, then jump right in to today’s topic: Making the Grocery List!

Healthy Menu Plan


Today I’m going to share how I make my grocery list. It is super simple: a Google Sheet that I have saved to Google Drive. I have tried various apps (Google Keep, Everlist, etc.), but I keep coming back to a simple spreadsheet for three reasons.

  1. Organization – I like my list to be organized from the back of the store to the front of the store. There are grocery list apps that will group items like “produce” or “deli,” but I want to list my items exactly how I walk through the store, not how grocery stores are generally arranged.
  2. Sharing – I know most apps allow the user to share lists/notes/etc, but my husband does NOT want another app or program on his phone. He uses Google Drive too, so we share the same grocery list spreadsheet. If I ask him to stop at Meijer on the way home, he knows exactly where to look to see what I want him to pick up. Best part? I can edit it from home! He won’t even know I added 3 items I forgot to mention!
  3. Accessible from Any Device – I can pull up my grocery list on my phone, desktop, or husbands phone seamlessly.

Now you know the method to my madness, let’s dive into how the spreadsheet works, creating a route (if you shop at multiple stores), and how to best use the spreadsheet as you go through each store.

Grocery List Workbook

My workbook is divided into different worksheets for each store. I avoid putting more than one store on each worksheet so I won’t have to scroll left or right which is not ideal on a phone.

I have 3 columns on each worksheet: Grocery Item, Quantity, and Cost.

Google Sheet Grocery List

Grocery Item

Obviously, this is the item you pick up and put in your cart. The beauty of a spreadsheet here is you have as much room as you want to describe your item (if you don’t mind scrolling to the right, that is!).


How much do you need to buy? Write it here! I’m usually vague and just type a number, but I’ve started being more specific.

For example, I needed to buy 9 dried ancho chilis this last shopping trip. They come in packages of 3-4 at my store. I put down a quantity of “3” on my list. When I got to the store, I assumed that meant 3 dried chilis, so I bought 1 package. WRONG! I needed 3 packages of dried ancho chilis. I was kicking myself as I prepared my chicken chili with the only dried chili I had remaining after I made my first recipe.

The chili was not so good with only 1 ancho chili! Note to self: be very specific in the quantity section! Even though I made the list, I forget too!


I estimate the total cost for each item, given the quantity I am buying, as I make my list. This allows me to keep my grocery budget on track. I’m not always right on the cost, but I’m usually close.

Staying on track budget-wise is a topic all of it’s own. I will hit that in another post. For now, get used to estimating what each item costs.

After I have all my items, with their quality and cost accounted for, I go back through each list and organize it from the back of the store to the front. I am usually shopping with my two kids, and I want to be as efficient as possible.

For example, here is how I arrange my items for Meijer, a local supermarket:

  • Fresh meat
  • Produce
  • Baking Aisle
  • “Ethnic” Aisle
  • Dairy/Eggs

Grocery Shopping Route

I’m sure you saw this coming, but not only to I organize each list, I organize my route.

I used to drive from closest store to furthest out store. I now hit Aldi first then Meijer then Costco. The distance between the stores is not much, so even though it isn’t furthest away to closest or vice versa, it maximizes my budget. I have my Aldi list for all items I might be able to get from that store because I know they will be the cheapest. If Aldi doesn’t have an item, I put it on my Meijer list while going through Aldi so I don’t forget.  Then I stop at Meijer to pick up everything I couldn’t get at Aldi or more outlandish produce items (leeks, kale, etc.). The last stop is Costco because their selection doesn’t change. I buy the same things there week in and week out.

Make your shopping route to maximize your interests: total miles driven, budget, or ease of getting to each store.

Using the Grocery List

As I go through the store, I “cross out” each item as I put it in my cart. Select the cell of item you want to cross out then select “S“. On an Android, select the cell then the A menu (top right) then the “S.”

Grocery List Crossed Out

If I am unable to get an item at one store, I add it to my other lists to grab at the other stores.

Would you like a copy of the workbook? Download it by clicking here. This link will download an Excel (.xlsx file) file to your Downloads folder (for a PC). If you are like me and don’t have Microsoft Office, simply upload the file to Google Drive to view and edit.

I included some basic instructions in the file for those not familiar with using a spreadsheet. If you don’t use a smart phone, the document can be edited on a computer then printed out to bring to the store.

If you need more guidance, feel free to ask!

What is your method for making a grocery list? Do you have a favorite app? Share any tips you have!


Menu Planning 101, Part 1 | A Dinners-Only Menu Plan

Today kicks off a five week series on menu planning. I’ve become a serious advocate for menu planning, even before my health issues arose. There is no better way to feed yourself and family whole, nutritious meals and stay on budget than to have a plan.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. ~Benjamin Franklin

Not 100% sure Benjamin Franklin said that, but it is a true, wise statement. The way to success in any diet, budget endeavor, or new year’s resolution to eat healthier is to plan.

In this series, I will be sharing the following:

  1. How to Create a “Dinners-Only” Menu Plan – This is a good method to ease your way into being more purposeful with what you put on the table. Menu Planning Lite, if you will. Plus free printable weekly menu plan included!
  2. How to Make a Grocery List – The Menu Plan doesn’t work if you forget to buy key ingredients! I’ll share my method to effective list making and shopping. Plus free grocery list!
  3. How to Create an “EveryMeal” Menu Plan – How to execute planning for each and every meal you put on the table. This is the method I use, and I’ve found I have to plan to this detail due to our new diet. Plus free printable weekly menu plan!
  4. How to Shop and Stay in Budget – It’s all well in good to have a menu plan and an organized list. But how should you get your shopping done, and how do you keep your budget intact while you shop?
  5. How to Avoid Burnout – Taking on the commitment to eat healthy takes hard work. How will you stay the course?

Let’s jump into it!

Healthy Menu Plan


How I Used to Menu Plan

As a newlywed, I jumped whole-heartedly into buying and preparing food for my husband and myself. My mom had given me a recipe box full of her recipes as a wedding gift, so I felt fully equipped. I would write a list on a sheet of paper with what “necessities” I should buy, estimate how much those would cost, adjust my list as necessary to meet our budget amount, then head off to the store. (Note: I did not look at any recipes in this process.)

My list would consist of things like:

  • Ground Beef – 3lbs.
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Flour
  • Cream of Chicken soup

When it came time to make dinner, I would flip through my recipe box and figure out which recipe I had most of the ingredients for, and I would make it.

There were so many flaws in this plan, but I didn’t see them. That bunch of celery? It rotted in the fridge every. single. time I bought it. I never had as use for it, but I thought my job as a wife was to have a well-stocked kitchen, and everyone knows, a well-stocked kitchen has celery. Right?

My mom shopped with me once during this time and she even questioned my purchase of said celery. “What are you going to use that for? Do you have a plan for that?”

Over-zealous, defensive newlywed responds with “Of course!”

The truth was I “of course” did not. That bunch of celery rotted in my vegetable drawer just like the last one had, completely untouched.

Fast forward a few years, and money is tight. I beginning looking on the internet for ideas on how to tighten our belts. I find my first blogs on how to be thrifty, menu plan, make your own soap, etc. I realize I need to plan the meals I intend to make BEFORE I make my list and go to the store. What? Seriously?

Please laugh with me. My logic was so flawed, and I didn’t even realize it, for years.

At this time, I refined my “Dinners-Only” Menu Plan strategy.

My husband and I did not have any dietary restrictions, so the variety of food I will describe is very different from how we eat now. You can easily adjust these concepts to fit your dietary needs.

The “Dinners-Only” Menu Plan

As working professionals, we barely left time for breakfast, and we packed our lunch everyday from dinner leftovers or simple sandwiches. This made for a nice routine for those to meals. We didn’t mind a lack of variety, so I would purchase the same items for these meals each shopping trip.


  • Oatmeal – which needed raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar
  • Eggs & Toast

I wasn’t kidding when I said little variety! We basically ate the same two things for breakfast day in and day out. The only time I’d make something different would be on the weekend. Makes for easy shopping though!


  • Leftovers from dinner the night before
  • Meat & cheese sandwich or PB&J sandwich
  • Sides of fresh fruit, nuts, or sweet treat

Lunch was primary leftovers. Lunch meat rarely fit into our budget, so it was purchased only as a special treat. Peanut butter and jelly was tolerated by me alone. I guess when you only eat peanut butter and jelly when saving for an engagement ring, it sort of turns you off for a VERY long time. (I do mean VERY long time. Dan bought the ring 12 years ago, and he still doesn’t like PB&J.)


Dinner was the only meal I really planned. I loved variety at dinnertime. I could not stand eating the same thing for more than 2 days in a row. I did not cut recipes down to feed just the two of us. Remember, I wanted leftovers for lunch? So I would make the full recipe, whatever it was casserole, tacos, soup.

I would pick 8-10 meals for a two week period. Since I didn’t cut recipes down, and most recipes fed 4-6 people, this would be enough for dinner plus lunches for both of us for two weeks.

Now, let’s chat how this method could work for you! If you’d like a free printable weekly menu plan, click on the image below to download your copy. Otherwise, you can easily do this on a scrap sheet of paper.

Dinners Only Plan

Downloads for weeks beginning Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday / Saturday

  1. Use the “B” box to write out a few breakfast options. Add those items to your grocery list.
  2. Use the “L” box to write out a few lunch options. Add those items to your grocery list, along with any snacks, fresh fruit, or sides needed for packed lunches.
  3. Select recipes for the dinners for the week. Write each one on the appropriate day of the week (plan in leftover meals as necessary). As you write each recipe on the menu plan, add to your grocery list too.
  4. Repeat for as many weeks as needed.
  5. Go shopping!
  6. Eat 3 meals a day for the time period you planned!

I used this method right up until my Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. At that time, we had added 2 kids, but I kept our menu largely the same: simple breakfast, leftovers for lunch, and new meal at dinner.

Super simple, right? It’s a good place to start if you aren’t in the habit of menu planning yet.

Next time I will share my current, more detailed menu plan (The “EveryMeal” Menu Plan) and grocery list method (with a free document and printable for you to download!). It’s not rocket science either, but most things in life aren’t. You just need someone to point out the simple way to do things, and I hope to do the same for you.

How do you plan out your meals? Have you given a more formal menu plan a try? Did you stick to it? If not, what went wrong?



Coming January 1: Menu Planning 101

If you have plans to improve your health, diet, or stay on top of your budget in 2018, this series is for you! Beginning on January 1, I will share my tips and tricks to plan and execute a menu plan.

Topics we will cover include:

  • How to make a simple “Dinners Only” Menu Plan
  • How to make a detailed “EveryMeal” Menu Plan
  • How to plan your grocery list and shopping trip
  • How to stay in budget
  • How to stay encouraged and stay the course (This is the whole point of the plan! Stay on course! Keep at it!)

Included in each planning step are the documents and printables that I use each time I plan. Absolutely free! You don’t even have to sign up for my email list! (Although, if you’d like all the information directly to your inbox each Monday, go ahead and sign up!)

I hope you join us! See you on January 1!

Menu Plan 101