Super Easy Meal Planning for People who Hate to Meal Plan

Cheap, easy, and no recipe needed!

As I wrote about last week, I’m currently on a quest to lose about 75lbs of baby weight, after giving birth to three kids in the past three years. My first week using myfitnesspal for calorie counting went so-so. There is nothing wrong with the program, but all three kids happened to be sick last week, and it was hard to remember (or feel like) tracking my meals. And, if you don’t track, it doesn’t work.

So, I decided that I needed to refine my plan a little. I need a way to stay on track even when life gets crazy and unpredictable (which is pretty much every day with 3 boys under 4). And that means, I need to try something I’ve been dreading trying ever since I heard of it – meal planning.

Meal planning (well, planning in general) doesn’t come naturally to me. (You’re talking to someone that once traveled around 8 countries in western Europe for 6 weeks without planning more than a day in advance).

But I know that to succeed on this diet, I’m going to have to suck it up because life is just too chaotic right now for me to stay on track in the moment. It’s just too easy to eat the half a cookie a kid leaves behind or succumb to just ordering pizza when I’m too busy to think.

So, I did some self-reflection and figured out why I hate meal-planning so much. And I came up with two key answers: 1. I don’t really like (or have time) to cook. So, the idea of sifting through a bunch of recipes to find some that are healthy and easy just fills me with dread. I want food I can grab in the moment or at least whip up in under 10 minutes while my kids are mesmerized by Cocomelon. And 2. I just don’t know what I’m going to want to eat 3 days from now. Locking myself in just makes me feel resentful.

Knowing these things about myself, I was able to come up with a super easy meal plan that works for me and my busy schedule. Here’s what I did:

Make a List of EASY Meals and Snacks

First, I made a list of easy meals and snacks that I actually eat already on a regular basis. Forget the fancy recipes, forget adding new items to my rotation – I need BASIC right now. How basic? Well, 3 samples from my snack list are: apple, hard-boiled egg, handful of almond. 3 samples from my meal list are: pb&j sandwich, burrito (microwaveable!), and bagel with butter. Yeah, I’m boring. But, I’m also self-aware.

Look Up the Calorie Content of Each Meal and Snack

Next, I wrote the calorie content next to each of my snacks and meals; anything up to 200 calories counts as a “snack.” Anything over that counts as a “meal.” Note, I didn’t include any meals over 400 calories. My calorie goal for the day is 1500, so I was specifically looking for meals and snacks that I knew I could eat without much thought but without going over (or much over) that number.

Pick Two Easy Labels for Tracking

Finally, I labeled the meals with an “A” and the snacks with a “B.” Each day, I can eat three things from the A column and two things from the B column. It doesn’t matter which ones; I can eat whatever I feel like so long as I stick to the pre-set list of meals (and I can add new ones to the list whenever I want!) Even if I ate the highest calorie things from each column (400 for A; 200 for B) that would still keep me at 1600 calories or under every day. Without even thinking about it!

Initially, I jotted my As and Bs down on a piece of paper to cross off each day, but this turned out to be so easy that I don’t even need the paper. But, in case anyone is interested, here is what that looked like;

That’s It!

This plan has been a dream come true! And it is SO flexible. If, one day, I just REALLY want 2 slices of pizza (about 250 calories each for the kind I eat), I simply count that as an A and B to cover that 500 calories and move on with my life.

Next up is refining my meal and snack list to make sure I’ve got all of my nutritional bases covered each day. I already included a lot of fruits, veggies, and healthy proteins on my list, so it would be hard to, say, accidentally eat only carbs one day. But, knowing me, I could find a way.

What do you all think? Could something like this work for you?

My Little Boy Likes “Girl” Things, and That’s Ok.

The Crown Jewels as determined by my 3-year-old.

Tonight, my 3-year-old son was playing with my jewelry tree, which is one of his favorite pastimes. He grabbed two necklaces, and thrust one toward me:

“Mommy, you wear this one, and I’ll wear the green one – then, we’ll BOTH be the queen!”

This was no half-hearted request either; the kid said it with a level of sass that left no room for questions. And I know the word “sass” is usually reserved for little girls, but, then, so are demands to be “the queen.” So…

My Son Likes Pink

My little boy likes a lot of stereotypically “girl” things. His favorite movie is Frozen, and he regularly demands that I play Anna to his Elsa. One of his favorite cartoons is Miraculous, which features a teenaged-girl superhero named Ladybug; another is a remake of My Little Pony. He loves wearing jewelry, and has been known to apply eyeshadow to his upper cheekbones. Highlighting?

He loves plenty of stereotypically “boy” things, though, too. The kid can kick and throw a ball with the control of someone far older, his favorite game is “battle” (which basically involves him “zapping” us with whatever is at his disposal), and he can talk about dinosaurs until the listener wishes he or she were extinct just to stop it.

In short, right now, the kid just doesn’t see gender. He can identify “boys” and “girls,” but he makes no distinctions between them, has no pre-conceived notions of what they can or cannot do and, consequently, what he can or cannot be.

While my husband and I are feminists, and do have a nontraditional relationship (I’m the breadwinner, and my husband stays home), I can’t say we instilled these values on purpose. We want our boys to be feminists too, but they’re still very little, and we don’t go around talking about it. Honestly, we’re guilty of buying our boys mostly traditional “boy” toys – trucks, balls, etc. My 3-year-old just seemed to figure out on his own that men and women are equal, and that anyone can be a superhero.

Helping My Son Resist Peer Pressure

How long can this last, I wonder? What happens when the little boys or little girls in his preschool class start making fun of him for wanting to be Elsa or Ladybug? Word from his teacher is that the girls are already telling him he has to play “Kristoff.” Kristoff?!? Are you kidding me??? Who wants to be the random ice-seller when you can be the QUEEN?

My heart aches with sadness for the day when my little boy tells me that “Pink is a girl color” or “Boys can’t be princesses.” My idealist side tells me that maybe this day will never come; my realist side tells me that it probably will, though, especially since we live in a very conservative area.

My goal now is to raise boys strong enough to ignore these inevitable comments. I want my boys to dye their hair or wear nail polish or pretend to be Elsa if they feel like it. And, if they’d rather dress in plaid and amp up their trucks, that’s ok, too. I just want them to be THEM – without the cultural baggage of what it means to be “a boy.”

In short, I want them to define what “a boy” is for themselves. But I don’t know how much control I have over that. And I dread the day when I have to find out.

In the meantime, I guess all I can do is enjoy life with my sassy little truck-bashing queen.

Keeping Babies and Toddlers Comfortable When They’re Sick

Our favorite saline nasal spray – one for each kiddo.

Welp. All three of my boys woke up with colds today (or, rather, I should say, woke up all night long last night). No one has a fever, and I have their cold, too, so I know it’s not serious, but, unlike them, I can blow my own nose and take DayQuil if I need it. The poor kiddos just know that they feel crappy and can’t get comfortable.

Although babies and toddlers can’t take cold medicine, there are a few things you can do to help make them feel a little better as their cold runs its course. While every little one is different, here is what works best for my boys:

1. Keep Their Noses Clear. To do this, we use a bulb syringe (aka “baby nose suctioner” in our household) and saline spray (we like Little Remedies, pictured above) a few times a day. My 18-month-olds hate this, I’ll admit, but it does make them breath more clearly. My 3-year-old actually loves the nasal spray and can now use it himself. Make sure you stick with the plain saline kind formulated for babies and toddlers; adult stuff may have ingredients that aren’t safe for them. Also, if you have more than one kiddo, get them each their own suctioner and saline bottle to avoid spreading germs.

Little Remedies Little Noses Saline Spray-Drops – 1 fl oz (Pack of 2)

Medline 2 oz Sterile Bulb Syringe – 3 Pack

Baby nose suctioner

2. Use Soft Dish Clothes or Burp Clothes for Wiping Runny Noses. No matter how hard you try to keep their noses clear, they are going to run…a lot. My kiddos have sensitive skin (like their mom!) and their noses and upper lips get sore really easily with tissues. Luckily, we kept the zillion burp clothes we had from when they were infants, so we use those to wipe their noses instead. Sometimes we’ll wet one end a little with warm water to make sure to get off any dried snot (hope no one’s reading this while eating breakfast…).

Burp Cloths 6 Pack Large 100% Cotton Washcloths Double Layered Burping Cloths Extra Absorbent and Soft for Boys and Girls by Comfy Cubs (Grey Pattern, Pack of 6)

3. Run a Humidifier (or Two if You Can!). We live in an area with brutal, dry winters, so we have two humidifiers anyway because they’re just a necessity in this climate. We run a large one in the main living area all during the winter. When the kids get sick, we run a smaller one directly in their bedrooms as well. Keeping the air moist helps them breathe easier. If you live in a more temperate climate, you can probably get away with just having the smaller one and running it only when they’re sick. Here’s a link for an excellent (and inexpensive) smaller humidifier:

Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier – Premium Humidifying Unit with Whisper-Quiet Operation, Automatic Shut-Off and Night Light Function – Lasts Up to 16 Hours

4. Use Children’s Tylenol (But Sparingly). Children’s tylenol (or ibuprofen) is a must if your kiddo has a fever (check with your doctor for the correct dosage as it varies by weight), but we use it even when they don’t have fevers, as colds often come with sore throats and other aches and pains that we may not be able to see. We usually do this three times a day at first and then slowly cut back to just a dose before bedtime (this may be a weird personal preference of mine; I’m always worried about over-medicating). Again, with this, check with your doctor first – our kids have been sick enough times for us to know what works, but we used to call our doctor’s nurses line ALL THE TIME before we got comfortable with this. Pro-tip: check ingredients to find the best price. We discovered about a year ago that the store brand had the same amount and active ingredient as the brand name AND that the Infant formula had the same amount and active ingredient as the Children’s formula (but was about $3 more expensive!) Do check the ingredients yourself though (I’m not a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist; just some mom on the Internet).

Children’s Tylenol Oral Suspension Medicine with Acetaminophen, Cherry, 4 fl. oz

5. Lots of Warm Baths. We give our kiddos SOOO many baths when they are sick. So. Many. Baths. The humidity helps clear out their noses while having the water right there makes runny-nose-clean-up much easier. One caution here – if your little one has a fever, a room temperature bath may be better than a warm one to avoid increasing the fever.

6. Use Vicks Baby Rub on Their Chests (and Feet?). For kiddos over 3 months old, Vicks Baby Rub works great to help clear up congestion. We just rub a little on their chests, but other moms have sworn to me that the soles of the feet are the way to go, and my own mom used to put it right under our noses! Maybe just follow the directions on the bottle?

Vicks BabyRub Soothing Vapor Ointment – 1.76 oz

Our favorite baby rub.

7. Keep Them Cozy. We make sure our kiddos have fresh, warm pajamas each night and sometimes even change them throughout the day if drool and snot spill on them. I know myself that, when I’m sick, I ONLY want to wear clean PJs, and I feel extra yucky if I don’t change them each night (this may sound obvious, but hey, I can be lazy).

8. Finally, Give Them Lots of Extra Love. My three-year-old has already perfected the Art of the Man Cold. He whines, fakes extra coughs, refuses to sleep alone, etc. We humor it all. Last night, he came to sleep with me, and insisted on sleeping ACROSS MY LEGS. He also wanted to talk about dinosaurs for half an hour before he’d lay his head down. We’re usually pretty strict about bedtime, but when he’s sick, I just let it happen. Even adults need babied a little when they’re sick, so I’m not gonna tell my toddlers to tough it out.

What am I missing? Share your tips for keeping babies and toddlers comfortable when they’re sick in the comments!

How to Declutter Books the Easy Way

If any of your books look like these, it’s probably time to let them go.

As an aspiring minimalist and a naturally messy person, I love reading books and blogs about decluttering, organizing, cleaning hacks, and simple living. At some point, I’ll share some of my favorites (those that work especially well for those of us with kids), but today, I thought I’d share a tip of my own.

Like many people, I have an extreme attachment to books – the look, the smell, etc. In fact, I love books so much that I got a Masters degree in Library Science. But, if I saved every book I have ever bought or been gifted, my house itself would look like a library – and not the clean, cozy kind. The kind with cobwebbed stacks of books, where you would be as likely to find a rare classic as a body buried in the corner.

Still, I struggle to get rid of books, even those I don’t like (I’m looking at you Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: or Virtue Rewarded, aka, Sexist schlock disguised as classic literature). I tried to “Marie Kondo” them, but dammit, they ALL spark joy, even if I only hate-read them. So, I needed something even more drastic. Luckily, I stumbled upon this winning, two-part formula:

1. Have kids.

2. Get a puppy.

Together, my kids and puppy work together to ensure my book collection never gets out of hand. Their system works like this: First, the toddlers pull the books off of the shelves and leave them strewn across the floor. Then, the puppy steps in to try to eat them. The books wind up in such bad condition that I couldn’t read them again even if I wanted to. That makes them (marginally) easier to let go.

That’s it! It’s that simple! I know, I know, I couldn’t believe it could be that easy either. The beauty of this system is that there is no agonizing struggle to determine which books I truly love and which ones I can let go – the toddler/puppy make all of those difficult decisions for me, often even destroying some of my very favorite ones!

So, there it is, folks – the secret to my book decluttering success. Next up: How to Declutter Your Favorite Shoes (Spoiler Alert: This involves the same toddler/puppy ruthlessness described above).

Security footage of two of the culprits and a snowman that knew too much.

How to Protect Your Christmas Tree from Toddlers and Pets

Our Christmas tree now lives in a gated community.

Most of us probably have our Christmas trees up by now, but some friends and I were recently talking about how to protect our trees from babies, toddlers, and pets, so I thought I’d share my solution for this year.

Last year, we didn’t try to protect our tree at all, with mixed results. The twins weren’t crawling yet, but our older son was 2 and VERY curious. He kept pulling ornaments and lights off of the tree, trying to stick his hand in the water, etc. Plus, our two cats couldn’t help themselves from pouncing at lower-hanging lights.

This year, with the twins now walking and a new puppy added to the mix, we weren’t taking any chances. In the picture, you can see our solution – a big, self-supporting baby gate all around the tree. Yes, it’s ugly, but not as ugly (or dangerous!) as a bunch of broken ornaments and pulled down lights! We also switched out our breakable ornaments that we had purchased pre-kids and used only plastic ones instead (bonus: plastic ornaments are way cheaper!)

Our 3-year-old is now mature enough to not wreck the tree for fun, so we made the space big enough to stick a little table and chair back there. He likes to sit there for dinner sometimes (we haven’t yet mastered family dinners – that’s a goal for another day – so the kids currently eat pretty early, and my husband and I eat after they go to bed).

Here are other solutions that my friends adopted:

1. Only decorate the upper half of the tree;

2. Purchase a “pre-lit” tree (admittedly, I didn’t even know these existed until one of my friends suggested it);

3. No tree at all! I actually tried to lobby for this for a minute, but my husband is a huge Christmas guy, and his side-eye on this suggestion was enough to make me give up;

4. Hope for the best (it’s still 2020; I’m not taking any chances hoping for the best on anything).

What solutions did you all come up with to protect your Christmas trees from curious kids and pets?

Don’t do THIS on the first day of your diet!

This describes the beginning of a lot of my grand plans.

Yesterday was Day One of my “diet” (I prefer “lifestyle change,” but that feels a little ambitious right now; I’d settle for just figuring out how not to binge on Cheetos multiple times per week), and I already screwed up. I think I’ll start collecting my screw-ups in a “what NOT to do to lose weight” list – maybe I’ll spare someone else my mistakes.

Anyway, here’s how I messed up yesterday. I was all set to go with myfitnesspal, but I hate – HATE – logging my food. It’s easy, it works, and yet still…I rebel. Yesterday’s rebellion was to log meals a few hours after I ate, basically when I had a free moment.

Here’s why this doesn’t work. According to myfitnesspal, I need to eat 1250 calories a day to lose 1.5lbs per week right now (I’m hoping to increase this later, but I was honest about my activity level, which is minimal right now – I basically work, write, and play with my kids. Need to add exercise, obviously, but one day at a time).

Anyway, by the time I got around to logging at 2pm or so, I had already eaten breakfast, a morning snack, and lunch. And, apparently, I didn’t do so hot, as I was already up to 950 calories! The idea of only eating 300 calories for the rest of the day sounded horrible, so I just gave up entirely for the day. And we all know what happens when we “give up” and decide to “start again tomorrow.” I’ll spare you the gory details, but, let’s just say that cupcakes were involved.

So, starting over today, with two new tips:

1. Log your meals RIGHT AWAY; that way you don’t find out halfway through the day that your early meals were more calorie-laden than you thought.

2. If you do mess up one meal, don’t write off the whole day as lost. I probably could have gone over by just a few hundred calories if I’d just gotten myself on track the minute I realized I was off. Instead, I not only gave up – I went into, “Oh no, a diet is starting tomorrow!” mode all over again – and probably went over by 1,000 calories instead.

Onward…

Why is your toddler crying?

It’s all funyuns and games until someone gets hurt.

My husband dared to take one of the threenager’s Funyuns tonight, and all hell broke loose. The kid was *this* close to running away from home, but we lured him back with an Advent chocolate. So, now he’s crying because he wants more Advent chocolate. Crisis averted. Clearly.

When does “baby weight” just become “overweight”?

Farewell, my love. Until we meet again…

I have a confession to make; I am currently technically obese. I have been since I gave birth to my twins in June 2016. I’ve made a few half-hearted efforts to lose the weight since then, but…did I mention twins? Oh, and when they were born, my older son wasn’t yet 2 years old yet. But, folks, it’s time. My back hurts, my knees hurt, and at some point, “baby weight” is just…weight.

So, new blog, new goal. Since I know so many moms struggle with this same thing, I thought I’d try to make this fun by tracking my progress. While this blog isn’t going to be dedicated just to weight loss (Boring!), it’s a fact that, for many of us, parenting comes with changes to our bodies, and one of those changes is often added weight. And any mom can tell you, losing baby weight comes with a very unique challenge – namely, the presence of said baby (or, in my case, three toddlers) taking up much of one’s time and emotional energy.

Before I give you my “starting stats” and plan, let me tell you how I got here. Back in 2015, I was a relatively average 5’5″, 135 pounds. Then between 2015 and 2019, I had 4 pregnancies back-to-back. The first two resulted in miscarriages, but still added some weight (probably biology + depression on those).

When I got pregnant with my oldest in 2016, I was about 145lbs. I then proceeded to gain 75lbs – yes, 75! – during that pregnancy. I attribute this to two things: 1. I was very sick during my first trimester, and the only thing that made it better was eating ALL THE FOOD; 2. All of the women in my family get enormous with they’re pregnancies. So, either there’s also a genetic component at play, or I was using that as an excuse as I saw the pounds pile on. Most likely, a bit of both.

I did lose some of that weight post-pregnancy, but when I got pregnant with the twins in 2018, I was still 175lbs. Then, I gained ANOTHER 75lbs with that pregnancy. It turned out that, thankfully, much of that was water weight, as I lost about 40lbs of it within 4 to 5 weeks of giving birth.

Since then, I’ve lost some more, but then, when the pandemic hit, I gained it all back. No real excuse on this one; I’ve just completely let myself go since beginning work-from-home in March 2020. Like, I don’t even want to tell you all how much leftover Halloween candy I ate last month, but let’s just say, I could probably have opened my own candy shop with the amount I consumed.

So, that brings us to today. Starting stats, 5’5″, 207lbs. My first step on this journey is signing up for a free myfitnesspal membership to track my calories. I used this once in the past, years ago, so I know it works. I just need to make sure I actually stick with it. And what better way to do that than by taking my journey public? Because, apparently, self-motivation isn’t enough for me; I think, however, that a little public shaming might do the trick! (J/k No one deserves shame over their weight! Bullshit beauty standards can go straight to hell! But, I am definitely unhealthy at the moment, so a little accountability and maybe the prospect of making some mom friends on the same journey is a nice motivator!)

In the beginning…

Welcome to My Wacky World!

Hi, folks! My name is Daphne, and I’m mom to 3 little hellions, all boys: a 3-year-old and 18-month-old twins. That’s right; my husband and I currently have 3 under 4 (which doesn’t sound so bad, given that when the twins were born, I had 3 under 2 for a month!). We also have a newly-adopted 3-month-old puppy.

As you can imagine, our life is pretty much the definition of chaos. But, in spite of the many challenges, it’s a happy chaos! I often write about our parenting fails on my private Facebook page, and I’ve had more than one person tell me that my honesty has made them feel better about their own failures. So, I thought, why not start a blog and spread the wealth?

I’m excited to meet some new people and have some fun writing about my wacky little family!