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Meal Planning Tips for Busy Families

by Jean Lomas-Hamilton

Between work, school, daycare, sports, and whatever else you have going on, family life can be challenging to choreograph. As working parents with a toddler and now a newborn, meal planning has been our saving grace to ensure everyone is fed and happy in the small window between getting home and bedtime. Here are my top tips for coming up with a weekly meal plan that works for your family:

Plan your meals to fit your life, and not the other way around. When planning what to eat, consider what else you’re doing that week. For days when your schedule is packed, choose simple recipes that will come together quickly. Save more elaborate meals for less busy days, or plan to make some components in advance so you’ll have less to do at dinnertime.

Post your plan somewhere visible. The whiteboard on our fridge is my favourite kitchen acquisition of the past two years. I use it to map out all our meals and activities for the week, along with any advance prep needed (for example, a reminder to take chicken out of the freezer or mix long-rising dough a day in advance) and a grocery list. I also save everything into my phone for easy access from work, but the whiteboard has been a game changer since it decentralizes responsibility for the weekly schedule – so whoever gets home first can see the plan and get dinner started.

Plan a little every day. With two small kids, I rarely have time to sit down for long enough to dream up a week’s worth of meals all at once. Instead, I chip away at it daily, jotting down ideas as they come to me. That way when our grocery shopping day rolls around the plan is ready to go, without the need for extra “thinking” time.

Make extra portions. I often make a large batch of whatever we’re having so we can either take leftovers for work and daycare lunches, or freeze them for an easy dinner on nights when the plan goes off the rails. Comfort foods tend to freeze well, which makes fall and winter ideal times to do this – and with the busy holiday season approaching it’s always nice to have a few quick meals on hand (pro tip: freeze soup, chili, or curry lying flat in a Ziploc bag so it’ll defrost quickly when you need it).

Minimize waste and maximize your pantry. Some items are sold in larger quantities than we’d normally use in one recipe (looking at you, fresh parsley). In those cases I try to plan multiple meals with that ingredient to use it all up. Otherwise, I’ll either omit the ingredient entirely, or substitute something I already have on hand. I also keep a list of “to use” items on our whiteboard so I can incorporate older pantry goods in my planning.

Be flexible. I initially worried that meal planning would be too regimented for me – what if I worked late and didn’t have time to cook? What if we just didn’t feel like eating what was on the schedule for that night? But the beauty of planning your meals and shopping in advance is that you already have all the ingredients on hand to make last-minute changes without the hassle of heading to the store again. Just switch things around and have something you planned for another day – et voilà! Problem solved. For added flexibility, I try to plan at least one dinner that can easily be carried forward to the next week without the ingredients spoiling.

Learning how to meal plan effectively was definitely a process of trial and error for us, and while the fact that I’ve never met a list I didn’t like definitely helped, it still took some time to figure out what worked for our family. Meal planning isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavour but the above guiding principles have helped keep our bellies full and our sanity (mostly) intact – and I hope they’ll do the same for you and yours.

BE A DYNAMIC WOMAN: The Secret Code to Being Confident, Wealthy & Successful Women

by Diane Rolston

Sadly, we think we must follow unspoken rules we must follow in order to be accepted. Rules that dictate how we dress, look and even talk. Rules like society’s titles, labels, and roles from your job, family, and anywhere else, past or present. The problem is they define us and confine us. Instead, ditch society’s titles, labels, and roles, including ones from your jobs, your family, your upbringing, and any other titles from the past that you’ve had.

Q: What titles do you currently hold? How are they limiting you?
Even the positive labels you might have embraced because you performed really well under them and were even rewarded for them. Let them all go. Instead stand in being “Dynamic”. When I started Dynamic Women™ in Action (DWA™), I tried to come up with a word that could incorporate all kinds of women, something that was all- inclusive. The word “dynamic” is powerful, and it’s active. Rather than having titles separate us and create hierarchies using the word “dynamic” incorporates everyone, and attracts all kinds of people. We’re all actually dynamic!

Q: What makes you Dynamic? Ex. passionate, creative, organized.
Being dynamic is a powerful movement because it crosses generations, cultures, economic status and all possible situations. It unites us and makes us equals.

Being a Dynamic Woman™ also allows you to:
 Control your outcomes
 Boost your opportunities
 Increase your satisfaction & success
 Feel more confident
 Leave perfectionism behind

Without fully going through the 9 Pillars of being a Dynamic Woman™ here are 5 tips you can apply today to get started:
1. Focus on who you are (Drop the labels)
2. Embrace all your talents and skills
3. Be authentically you
4. Embrace change
5. Be unapologetic!

I invite you join the movement. Take a simpler, more successful path and BE DYNAMIC!

Fall Shopping Tips for Busy Parents: Save Time, Money and Stress

by Lara Leontowich

Fall is crunch time for most families with back-to-school and work in full force. Shopping can take up a large chunk of time and be tough on the family budget but it is an ongoing necessity. For parents looking to save money or streamline a system to make weekly shopping trips easier, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Plan Weekly Meals In Advance

Sitting down and organizing meals for the week makes it easier to stick to your family’s weekly food budget. Such preplanning also relieves the ongoing stress when the all too familiar question arises at 4pm “What are we having for dinner tonight conversation?” It is easy to rely on a quick convenience food or head to a restaurant when everyone is hungry and nothing is defrosted. Planning ahead is the way to prevent this pattern. Let your children be involved in meal planning, which can get them receptive to healthy meals you are preparing. Chances are they will likely be more willing to trying new dishes too. Many families are now using easy meal-planning apps to organize meals and create shopping lists based on ingredients needed for each meal.

Research Flyers and Websites Regularly

Ever walk into the store only to realize you’ve forgot the items you went there for in the first place? Shopping with children can cause anyone to become frazzled and distracted but most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to do it alone on a consistent basis. Creating a shopping list with everything you need to buy in a typical month will help you stay organized. This will make it easier to forecast when you might run out of the last toilet paper roll or need more garbage bags. For those who are budget-conscious, research your weekly flyer in print or online for deals on commonly used products that your family uses. Check out the websites for big box retailers for weekly sales that will help you budget before you run out and have to buy at regular price.

Simplify Shopping for Children’s Clothes

As each season changes, keep in mind that your child may have outgrown key such staple items as jackets and shoes, so watch for off-season sales year-round. In the fall, when you take a closer look at all your child’s pants you stored away for the summer, you may soon discover your son or daughter has grown a few inches. This change may go unnoticed during those warmer months when your children are typically wearing shorts. Shopping for children’s clothes can be tedious. So before “crunch time” (when the weather suddenly turns cooler, and your children needs new pants) sort through your children’s clothes and determine the items you want to keep; those that are worn out and those they have outgrown. This gives you a clear idea of what you have, and what you need to buy. If your child hasn’t worn some clothes in over a year, consider selling or donating those clothing items. To identify the clothes your child has not worn in a year, put all the hangers on the rack backwards at the start of the school year. If a hanger is still backwards by the time the next school year rolls around, you will soon be able to identify clothes your son or daughter is not wearing. As parents, it can seem that our life is consumed with shopping of one type or another. Whether it is weekly grocery trips or hitting the shopping mall for children’s clothes, preplanning is the key to making the process a smoother one.

Lara Leontowich

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