How I Kicked the Soda Habit For Good

Had you asked me a year ago if I could give up soda forever, I would have told you, “not a chance.”  I’ve tried and I’ve tried.  I sort of saw it as “my thing.”  It was something I really enjoyed.  But, the truth of the matter was that I was addicted, and I would go to great lengths to get a soda whenever I wanted needed one.

I used to keep my own pantry and refrigerator stocked with soda, telling myself I was “saving money” by buying it in bulk.  Years ago, my addiction of choice was Code Red Mountain Dew.  For a time, I went to Diet Sprite and Diet Sierra Mist so I wasn’t “drinking my calories.”  When I went to a more whole foods diet, I ditched the aspartame, but I couldn’t ditch the fizzy burn and the sugar high of the soda, so I went to Dr. Pepper, and later to Pepsi.  In an attempt to lesson the amount I was drinking, I stopped stocking my own home, and started only having it when I went out.  (I seemed to “go out” a lot.)

And I had cohorts in my addiction.  Friends whom I could count on to have soda readily available.  Friends who were more than happy to drive to Happy Hour with me.  Friends who weren’t about to question my addiction because it might call into question their own.  (You know who you are – I still love you!)

Bad day – Grab a Pepsi at the local Shoppette.

Out to eat with the hubby – Soda, please!

Hanging out with friends – Could you put some ice in my soda?

Tired, but need to keep up with homeschooling – Open a can of soda!

Yes, it was the answer to everything it seemed.

I say all this to make a point.  I wasn’t a little addicted.  I wasn’t a casual soda drinker, or even a social soda drinker.  I was a junkie.

But, not any more…

I kicked my soda habit once and for all!  If I can do it, anyone can! | RaisingArrows.net

Honestly, I had given up trying to quit.  I didn’t think I ever would or could.  I stopped caring.

Until something made me care.

Like Laura from Heavenly Homemakers, I needed a light bulb moment.  That moment came when I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes.

30 weeks

I was devastated.  8 babies and passed every time.  Number 9 – flunked, flunked, flunked.  I had done so much to get my health under control, and this was how I was rewarded?  I felt like an utter failure.  (I have since learned some interesting things about why I might have failed the test, but that’s another post, and doesn’t negate the good this diagnosis did for me.)

As a consequence for not passing, I had to meet with a GD counselor and get a reading on my blood sugars 4x a day.  Every week, I had to email my blood sugar numbers to my counselor, and there was NO WAY I was going to let any of those numbers be over the acceptable amount.

So, I quit drinking soda.

I knew if I drank a soda with my meal, it could linger in my system and make my numbers higher than I wanted.  And I didn’t want to drink one in the afternoon when it might affect my sugars going into a meal.  And I certainly wasn’t going to drink one at night when it might cause my morning number the next day to be off.

So, I just didn’t drink it.

It sort of sounds crazy when I say it.  I knew all along soda wasn’t good for me, but it took me being accountable to someone who didn’t even know me to make me walk away from it.  I didn’t want to look bad.  I wanted to prove to everyone I DIDN’T have Gestational Diabetes.  I was determined to do my part to keep my blood sugars under control.  Drinking a soda was just NOT that important any more.

Aspen1_1

When Aspen, born at 8# 10oz, was nearly 2 1/2 pounds SMALLER than her last two siblings, I had to face a hard truth.  My 11 pound babies weren’t because the women in my family have big babies (which they do – but come on, that’s extreme) – it was because I wasn’t nourishing my body.  Sugar had packed on their weight and mine.

I stopped drinking soda in October of 2014.  Several months ago, I thought I would have one for the fun of it (told you I was an addict!), but it burned my throat so badly and was so sickly sweet, I had to ask the waitress for something else.

My beloved soda had become poison.  Proof positive that nourishing your body will change your taste buds.  I no longer thought I couldn’t eat Mexican food or pizza without a soda, I couldn’t make it through a tough day without a soda, I couldn’t take a road trip or spend the day at a friend’s without a soda.  My whole world changed.

I know for some of you, this post is going to seem like a “duh” moment.  But, I know there are others of you who are just as addicted as I was.  You have (sort of) wanted to quit.  You know you “ought to” quit.  But, you haven’t found a motivation strong enough to actually do it.

Perhaps some day you will.  Perhaps my story will be enough to send you over the edge – someone else as addicted as you are who actually managed to walk away.  But, more likely, what will do it will be an “aha” moment all your own.  You see, I didn’t set out to kick my soda habit.  It happened in a round-about way through an entirely different motivation, but…

If I can kick my soda addiction - anyone can {pun intended} | RaisingArrows.net

Visit my Real Whole Foods & Weight Loss/Fitness Pinterest boards – you might find your own inspiration there!
Follow Amy Roberts {Raising Arrows}’s board Real Whole Food on Pinterest.

Follow Amy Roberts {Raising Arrows}’s board Weight Loss & Fitness on Pinterest.

Making Lunch Easy

It only took me 12 years of homeschooling and 9 kids to figure out how to make lunch easy.

Gah!  Why did I wait so long?

I finally figured out how to make lunch easy! | RaisingArrows.net

To be completely honest with you, what finally forced me to simplify our lunches was this new job/new house/new baby thing that all took place right around the holidays.  We did just about every major life change all in a matter of 6 weeks!  Go big or go home!

I was really struggling after Aspen’s birth (that’s another post) and needed to make life as simple as I could until I was back on my feet and fully present.  I made a list of all the things that were causing me stress, and one weekend I took some time away to pray and work through as many things on that list as I could.

Lunch was on that list, and the solution came in the form of 3 S’s:

Soup ~ Salad ~ Sandwiches

Make Lunch Easy with the 3's - Soup, Salad, Sandwiches | RaisingArrows.net

Soup

Last week, I told you about our Kitchen Sink Soup.  This is our go-to soup.  We make it a couple of times a week to finish off any random leftovers in the refrigerator.  I don’t really plan any soups besides this one.  When I originally made the 3S Plan, I was going to add in some “original” soups as well, but implementing that proved to be more work than I cared to do.

I try to keep a loaf of bread on hand to go with our soup.  I prefer it to be homemade, but will often grab some sort of specialty loaf from Aldi just in case I don’t get around to making something.  Sourdough or French bread are favorites here, as well as our homemade whole wheat buns.

Salad

Before I had Aspen, I ate salad almost every day for lunch, but rarely had the kids eat it.  Now, if I’m eating it, so are they!  The two salads we make most often are Taco Salad and Chicken Fajita Salad.  For the Fajita Salad, I buy chicken fajita strips at Aldi in the freezer case, warm them up and throw them in with salad greens and cheese.  Corn chips add filler to both of these salads.

Sandwiches

Because I need things to be as simple as possible, I purchase a couple of loaves of bread a week and keep sliced cheese and deli meat, peanut butter and jelly on hand at all times (although, I’ve never eaten a peanut butter & jelly sandwich myself, most of my kids like it).  If we have homemade bread, great, but if not, I know we can still throw together sandwiches with the store-bought loaves.  We will have the occasional deviation from these two types of sandwiches with something like my son’s fried egg sandwiches or my daughter’s grilled cheese or bagel sandwiches, but that is fairly rare.

This plan makes shopping for lunches super simple too!  My weekly list will always have these things on it:

Chicken broth
Shredded Cheese
Salad greens
Fajita Chicken
Chili Beans
Corn Chips
Peanut Butter
Jelly
Deli Meat & Cheese
Bread

I keep us stocked with those items so I always have what I need to make lunch easy!

**Huge sigh of relief!**

How have you simplified lunch at your house?  Or maybe you’ve learned to simplify another meal.  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Easy Homeschool Lunch – Kitchen Sink Soup

Some of you are going to laugh.  Some of you are going to wonder if I’ve lost my mind.  Kitchen Sink Soup?  That does not sound delicious…

Kitchen Sink Soup - because it includes everything BUT the kitchen sink! This is a grab and go lunch - video included!  (and yes, I should have named it something else, but this is what we call it - weird as it is!) | RaisingArrows.net

I seriously thought I ought to call this soup something else.  Something more…um…appealing?  But, for some reason this is what we started calling this pull-everything-out-of-the-refrigerator-and-stick-it-in-a-pot concoction, and well, if I were to name it anything else, I wouldn’t be true to the weirdness that is our family.  (Please tell me you have weird names for stuff too!)

The whole idea for Kitchen Sink Soup came about as a result of my needing to revamp homeschool lunches into something SUPER EASY.  Next week, I plan to share the full plan with you, but suffice it to say it has been a lifesaver!

So, what is Kitchen Sink Soup?  It’s everything but the kitchen sink!

Come on in to my kitchen and see what I mean…
(not seeing the video?  Click HERE!)

Kitchen Sink Soup is basically a soup made from your leftovers with a few add-ins to make it extra yummy!  Have a little leftover hamburger?  Throw it in there!  Have a few leftover veggies?  Throw them in there!  Have a can of beans or black olives?  Throw those in there too!  Add some broth or milk, some spices and cheese and you have a nutritious homeschool lunch that can simmer on the stove while you teach your little ones.

We have Kitchen Sink Soup a couple times a week to finish off any leftovers we’ve become tired of eating on.  I get quite a sense of satisfaction knowing I’m not throwing out leftovers, but reinventing them into something different and yummy!

In the video above, you’ll see how I make the soup, plus a short list of some add-in ideas.  You’ll also see me without makeup and my hair pulled up in my usual “mom-has-work-to-do hairdo.”  Try throwing together your own Kitchen Sink Soup – actually, why don’t you call it something else so no one will look at you funny the way they do when I tell them what we had for lunch – then, come back here and tell me what you put in it, as I’d love to have some new ideas for my soup!

***Read more about my easy lunch plan!***

DrinkBands Giveaway in Time for Easter!

It’s time to start planning for your Easter celebrations!  One thing you should consider adding this year is a set of DrinkBands.

DrinkBands Giveaway on RaisingArrows.net

If you give gifts to your children for Easter, wouldn’t it be fun to add a personalized DrinkBand in their favorite color to their Easter basket?

Are you having guests over?  Keep everyone’s cups separate with a set of DrinkBands!

Win a set of DrinkBands! | RaisingArrows.net

There are tons of colors to choose from.  You can personalize any color with your child’s name or nickname.  You can also bundle packs together and save!  They are wonderful to have on hand for company, and they make great gifts.  Grab a pack to leave at Grandma’s!  Grab a pack to give to a friend!  Shipping in the U.S. is always FREE!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER!

You know DrinkBands are a favorite here on Raising Arrows, so how about a giveaway?!

I’m giving away the DrinkBands shown above – a 9 Pack of Regular and a Party Pack (including the new Funky Tie Dye band!)  Enter the giveaway below (click here if reading via email):
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Using Google Calendar for My Menu Planning

Menu planning has always been a pretty big deal at our house – even when I had less kiddos to cook for. I enjoy the process of menu planning to an extent (finding new recipes, dreaming about how much my family is going to love the meals, etc.), but it is a big chore that typically takes several hours to complete.

(affiliate links included)

I’ve also found that no matter how great my plan, it ALWAYS changes.  I have to cross things off the list, move them to another day, or sometimes just skip the meal altogether.  After reading Mystie Winckler’s Paperless Home Organization, I decided it was time to ditch the pen and paper when it comes to menu planning and find a better way.

(See my full review of Paperless Home Organization HERE.  Use Coupon Code: raisingarrows for 25% off through Sunday 3/22/15)

How I Use Google Calendar to Menu Plan | RaisingArrows.net

Mystie introduced me to using Google Calendar to handle my menu planning, and I LOVE IT!  It has fixed a lot of the issues I was having with menu planning, and has simplified the process altogether.

So, let me share how I do it…

I use Gmail, so the calendar is built in to my email program, and I have it set up to sync to all my devices (my phone and my iPad – this is important for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.)

If you click the squares in the right hand side of your Gmail screen, you will get a drop down menu in which you will find your Calendar.

Using Google Calendar to Menu Plan | RaisingArrows.net

Using Google Calendar to Menu Plan | RaisingArrows.net

A large calendar pops up and you can add all sorts of things to it.  I have a household calendar, a blogging calendar, an appointment calendar, and my menu planning calendar.  I usually have all of them together where I can see everything at a glance; however, you can turn on and off whatever calendars you would like.  You can also share the calendars with anyone who has a Gmail account.  When I am menu planning, I usually keep all the calendars on, so I can see what might be coming up that week and plan my meals accordingly.

I only put in lunch and supper on my calendar.  Breakfast is almost always the same – whatever you can find!  Actually, I keep cereal, bread, yogurt and fruit on hand as our staple breakfasts every day but Saturday, when we make a bigger hot breakfast.

As I work through my Pinterest boards and cookbooks, I am able to add the meal to the calendar and add a link if need be into the description section of each calendar item. (Read more HERE about how I do this – you will notice I was not using Google Calendar when I wrote that post.)

Using Google Calendar to Menu Plan | RaisingArrows.net

I can also make notes and set timers for anything I need to do to get the meal ready…thaw meat, start sourdough, etc.  I can set the calendar to sound an alarm, put a pop up on my screen, or send me an email.  This is a great feature for me because I am forever sidetracked it seems!

The great thing about syncing the calendar with my phone and iPad is that I can use those devices in the kitchen to cook.  I can simply click on the link in the calendar and it opens up to my recipe!  If the recipe isn’t online, I can make a note of what page and what cookbook it is in.

And the best part?  If I don’t use a meal that day, I just drag and drop it to another day!  It really has taken a lot of the headache out of meal planning for me

If you need a little more information on using Google Calendar itself, Mystie has a great tutorial to help you:

And if you are interested in learning more about managing your home in a paperless way, take a gander at Mystie’s ebook Paperless Home Organization!  Don’t forget to use Coupon Code: raisingarrows for 25% off through Sunday 3/22/15!

Why Single-Serve Coffee Makers are Large Family Friendly

Are Single-Serve Coffee Makers worth it for the large family?  I would have said no way...until my in-laws bought us one.  Here's why I've changed my tune and would go so far as to say they are actually PERFECT for the large family! | RaisingArrows.netI need to start this post by telling you that for several years my personal opinion of single-serve coffee makers has been that they are frivolous, non-essential kitchen gadgets. I would see a giveaway for one online and think, “what a waste…especially for a large family.”

{affiliate links}

So, when my in-laws bought us one (a Keurig, as you can see from the photo) for Christmas, I was thankful, but really not sure I wanted to give up counter space for a “toy.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like coffee…a lot.  In fact, my coffee and creamer is one of the few things I haven’t been willing to give up for Trim Healthy Mama.  But one cup at a time?  Just make a whole pot!  My philosophy has been whoever gets to the coffee maker first, has the right to choose the coffee that gets brewed.  Deal with it.  But, I have to admit when Ty gets there first and makes that nasty chicory stuff, I’m sorry I’ve held to such a philosophy.

But, is that really a good reason to own a single-serve?

Are Single-Serve Coffee Makers worth it for the large family?  I would have said no way...until my in-laws bought us one.  Here's why I've changed my tune and would go so far as to say they are actually PERFECT for the large family! | RaisingArrows.net

And what about the price of those single serve cups (K cups as Keurig calls them)?  My husband really likes his Caribou Coffee – something we can’t get where we currently live – but is it worth it to buy the K cups?  No, not really…but it sure is fun!  However, that said, we’ve found a way around this by using reusable cups…more on that in a moment!

My 10 year old daughter prefers tea over coffee.  She likes fruity blends like Grandma’s Garden.  Several others in the family have started drinking tea as well – some loose leaf, some tea bags.  Oh, and don’t forget the hot cocoa drinkers.

After mulling this all over, I decided to embrace this whole single-serve thing.  It didn’t take my husband nearly that long to decide it was pretty awesome.  Guys like gadgets. 😉

Now that we’ve had the Keurig for several weeks, I must say my poor coffee pot NEVER gets used.  Having a single-serve coffee maker has made it where everyone can have exactly what they want, and switch it up as often as they’d like.  I also don’t have to worry about a scalding hot tea pot on the stove or a wasted pot of coffee because it took too long to brew or we just plum forgot about it.

Let me give you an idea of how we’ve made it work…

For the tea bags and hot cocoa, the children simply push the button and run hot water through the machine.  This is also how we brew our iced tea.  Drop the bags (or powder) into the hot water and steep.

We do have some K cups, but we also purchased a reusable one (I want to get another one and keep our tea and coffee separate which is why I’m recommending this 2 pack).  Having a reusable cup means you can use ANY coffee or loose leaf tea.  We can often get 2 brewings out of each round as well, saving even more.

One quick note for you tea lovers…the Keurig doesn’t boil the water, so it doesn’t hurt the tea.  We brew the tea and then let the cup sit for a bit to “steep”.  It’s not a “perfect” cup of tea, but it’s pretty good.

We do have a K cup holder, but I wouldn’t recommend the one we have.  The two shown below would be much better than what we have because they hold more, are more compact, and the cups are less apt to fall out all over the place.

Other Resources: (some just for fun!)

*How to Clean Your Keurig
*The History of Coffee from International Coffee Organization
*Coffee Unit Study
*How to Make Your Own Loose Leaf Tea