Meal Planning Made Easy [Free Printable]

Taking the stress out of meal planning with these free printables

Well folks, the struggle is real, since our toddler now demands real food, our days of grabbing a frozen meal or ordering take-out / going out have dwindled down. Too much salt for the little one. And let’s be honest, going out with a toddler can be a tiny bit stressful.

Gone are the days that I’d go meet a friend out for sushi, then have a date at whatever restaurant, and then maybe eat something at happy hour at a bar. All that was left to do was fill the other nights with something edible, be it cereal or some delicious meal, for which I had all the time in the world to cook and eat. Now there’d better be food on the table at 6pm or Leo turns into an ankle biter. He’s in a phase right now where most things are just disgusting to him and he winds up eating a slice of toast but we continue to offer everything we eat. Then, every few days he’ll surprise me and mow down whatever we’re eating. It’s super random.

Meal Planning for Our Family

So I’ve been doing the grown-up thing and been making an effort to plan out what we’re going to eat each week. I can only handle so many days with a sudden panic attack at 5:30pm, no clue what to cook and no ingredients on hand. Mom-ing is tough enough as is.

My trusted planner has a section for weekly meal planning, which takes away that panicky moment (so long as I actually went grocery shopping!) but that still leaves the question, what the heck should we eat this week?! I consider myself a foodie so eating the same 10 or so rotating meals is really unsatisfying for me.

Meal planning is a breathe with Sannipanni's Planner and the cute printable from this blog post.

Alas, I’ve come up with this little system that seems to work well for us. I pick meals based on these categories: salad, pasta, something made on the grill, seafood, breakfast for dinner, something made in the crock-pot, and global cuisine. Since I don’t feel like cooking every day (because it’s ridiculously hard to do that when your toddler wants to hug your legs and I’m lazy by nature), my meal plan for the week always includes leftovers. You bet. I also shuffle the meals around as the week goes by or say, screw it, and we go out or pick something up. But the list helps. Tremendously!

Shutterfly had a promo for free magnets and that motivated me to turn this informal list of meal categories into a magnet for my fridge. I designed these graphics (yay, your choice of color!) and thought I’d share in case someone else struggles with meal ideas, too. They truly are pretty good inspiration for me when it comes to picking meals for the week.

A dish will often immediately come to my mind when I think about grilling or Asian or Tex-Mex food (“global cuisine”). If I still struggle, I grab my magazine recipe collection or search on Pinterest. Checking what’s on sale that week helps, too.

So here they are, my little meal planning helpers! Download (right click and “Save Image” or hold down long on your iphone and save to your camera roll) and print or turn them into a magnet. Happy cooking and I hope they’ll keep your family from going hangry!

Easy meal planning: Every day pick one of the categories to spark your meal inspiration!

Easy meal planning: Every day pick one of the categories to spark your meal inspiration!

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Free Cards for Adding Video to Project Life

Free templates to add videos and QR codes to your Project Life scrapbook photo albums.

I’ve been working on creating Leo’s baby photo album with the Project Life App (it’s like scrapbooking for people that don’t have time to scrapbook). As you can imagine we have tons of super cute baby videos on our iPhones and I’d love to add them to his physical photo album.

So I asked on my Facebook group and tons of people told me to go ahead and use a QR code for that. I was scared of them becoming obsolete and I want to be able to watch these videos until my eyesight is gone but they assured me that it’s binary code and will be around for a long time. Uhhh let’s hope so!! On top of that I’m adding the video’s URL so I can manually type it into a browser, too, and I’ll add a DVD and maybe a USB stick at the end of the photo album. I thought I’d share how to add videos to Project Life cards as well as the cards I created.

Template to create video cards for Project Life

With this .png template that I designed I created this page to document some of my third trimester of pregnancy with Leo. Wait, don’t download that image; the high-res versions are further down. I’ve got a few more pages to go but can’t wait to have my pregnancy documented and work on the rest of his book!

A Project Life page from our son's baby albumwith video

How to Add Video to Project Life Cards

  1. Upload your video to YouTube or another video storage site of your choice like Dropbox, Flickr, Amazon, … I use YouTube and make the video unlisted so I can access it without logging in but you won’t find it unless I share the link with you.
  2. Grab the link to your video and create a QR code. I really like goqr.me. Save the image to your computer or phone.
  3. Take and save a screen shot of your video.
  4. Open the screen shot in a photo layering app like Over or PicsArt
  5. Add the appropriate template card, then add the QR code image.
  6. If desired, add text to the image. I like a description and the date on the clapperboard and the URL at the bottom – just in case I can’t get the QR reader to work in a few years. Call me paranoid but better safe than sorry. 😉

Free Video Cards for Project Life

Seeing that I’ll be using these throughout Leo’s baby Project Life album, I thought I’d create templates so that I have a uniform look and can now quickly and easily add video to his photo album. Here are all the formats you can download in .png form at the end of this post:

4×6 cards with one and two videos

6×4 card with video

3×4 cards for landscape and portrait videos

Square 4×4 card for video

Free templates to add videos and QR codes to your Project Life scrapbook photo albums.

Here is the link to download the card templates. Do not share these templates on your own website but link back to this blog post! I made these cards and they are for personal use only!

 

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Blending Weihnachten and Christmas

The number one day for being homesick for me is without a doubt Christmas. That’s the 24th, not the 25th of December. Especially if the husband is working hard to fly people to their loved ones but I always miss my family and participating in the family Christmas festivities. But this year husband had the day off (the perks of getting older… more seniority… better schedules – FINALLY)! Alas, I didn’t just do what I would usually do, that is have a German Christmas, but we wanted to make sure to include both German and American traditions as we’re creating our own family traditions for the three of us.

When does the Christmas Tree / Weihnachtsbaum go up?

At home in Germany, my family always has an advent wreath and you light one more candle in it on every Sunday leading up to Christmas. The main greenery, uhum, that Christmas tree, funnily enough is put up just mere days before Christmas Eve. Heck, there’ve been plenty of years that we didn’t decorate it until the 24th! Promptly on January 6th though it would go to the curb. In my home village the volunteer fire department would collect all the Christmas trees and stack them up for the Easter bonfire. Fun times.

Conversely, here in the U.S. Christmas trees go up the day after Thanksgiving – the last Friday of November. Then I see them on the curb as early as December 26th. I totally love putting it up that early. I totally hate taking it down so soon. If I’m honest, decorating a tree is kind of a pain in my butt. Fun, but a pain. Getting all the ornament hangers untangled and stringing the light chain… Bleh. But, I love having a Christmas tree and after all that hard work of decorating it I want it up for as long as possible!! So it should come as no surprise that we are picking and choosing the best of both worlds. The tree goes up right after Thanksgiving and stays up until January 6th. I also want to make an advent wreath next year to introduce our baby boy to that tradition from back home.

Here are some cultural “gems” from our tree:

  • a “German” Christmas pickle that my husband got me for our first Christmas (that’s actually not a true German tradition but I love the pickle)
  • totally American NFL snowman cheering for husband’s favorite team
  • a Berlin Brandenburger Tor s’more snowman ornament (RANDOM! Yeah I don’t know how someone came up with that but it’s pretty special especially after the Christmas market attack there this year), and
  • American Santa riding in a NYC yellow cab.

German American Christmas Tree Ornaments

The other huge difference between a German and an American Christmas is gift giving. Back home, der Weihnachtsmann or das Christkind (Santa or Christ Child) deliver a few gifts late afternoon / early evening on Christmas Eve. We’d usually go to church and when we got back gifts would be under the tree. Of course here in the U.S. Santa Claus comes during the night before Christmas Day once everyone has gone to bed so you open your gifts and empty your stockings in pajamas on the 25th. Aaaand that’s how unflattering Christmas photos make it to Facebook. Messy bed hair, no make-up but at least a big smile (if Santa didn’t disappoint you). I get it, Santa needs time to fly from Europe to North America but watching my family open gifts while we video chat when I have to wait another whole day… ehhhhhh……

So after crowd-sourcing in one of the Germans living in the US Facebook groups we’ve decided to blend our traditions to celebrate Christmas with baby Leo like so:

Christmas Eve we’ll open gifts that are from us. They’ve been under the Christmas tree for days if not weeks by then anyway so clearly they’re not from Santa. Christmas Day we’ll check to see what Santa has left in our stockings over night (hopefully not coal!) and Leo (and maybe us, to be determined) will also find a special gift from Santa in front of the fireplace.

We'll check our stockings on Christmas Day.Excuse the fire, we won’t have one on Christmas Eves so Santa doesn’t get hot feet. Promise!

Hopefully that will also mean the kid isn’t up at the crack of dawn to check if Santa was there because he’s already received some gifts the night before but one can only hope. 😀

What are some of your Christmas traditions and how have you blended your traditions with ones from your partner’s family or new home area?

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

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Our First Vacation to Charleston with The Baby

One of our favorite escapes from Charlotte is Charleston, SC. We love the food, beaches, historical downtown and the low country. So when we found out that my parents in law had never been we decided to take them there for their birthdays. I was hoping they would agree that experiences and time spent together are the best gifts and hey in my book those are much better than something that would collect dust. We got them enough of those things for Christmas. 😀

We’ve been incredibly lucky that husband’s parents have begun snow-birding in the NC mountains so we get to see them much more often now. Also great because we could all drive down to Charleston and meet there. I had found a super awesome (if I may say so) vacation rental on Air BnB. With four months old baby Leo and his grandparents there, having a common living area and a full kitchen was fantastic and look at the view from the living room; we loved seeing the creek at low and high tide!

Best hidden secret for staying near Charleston, SC

Mount Pleasant

We usually don’t stay in downtown because we love going to the beach, too, aaand it’s significantly cheaper. Mt. Pleasant is a short drive across the marvelous Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge and has loads of great dining and shopping options so we enjoy staying either there or in one of the beach towns. Thanks to Yelp and places we’ve discovered and loved during previous visits there we had bitchin’ food at Page’s Ocra Grill, Five Loaves Cafe, and Poe’s Tavern (best burger!).

Best burger in Charleston: Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's Island

While the men enjoyed a(n entire) day on the air plane carrier USS Yorktown at Patriots Point, my mother-in-law and I spent the day with Leo. No, that didn’t mean we hung out at home and entertain him. Thankfully he loves being carried in his baby carrier and so we checked out a local furniture consignment store and then drove to the beach town of Sullivan’s Island. We had that great burger for lunch, then I fed Leo who had napped through our lunch and we walked off all those calories on the beach. Winter temperatures in Charleston are so so so pleasant!!

Sullivans Island's large beach

As you can see it definitely wasn’t high tide when we were there. The texture of the compacted sand was just perfect for a long beach walk. I so love the wide Carolina beaches and that day I found my first whole sand dollar ever! Yeah I get excited about them and sea shells and that kinda stuff. 😀 I get bored and usually over heated just lounging around at the beach so this was the perfect beach day in my book!

Downtown Charleston

Of course we spent a day in downtown Charleston as well. My parents-in-law had never been so we wanted to show them the essentials. With soooo many things to do there it can be tough narrowing down your agenda so we settled on doing a walking tour through the historic center after cruising by the Citadel (a prominent military college). It’s not far out of the way and you get a pretty good impression of life there when you drive around the main square. Bonus sightseeing points if you stop to take a photo with their bulldog statue outside of their stadium.

A quick drive through the Citadel campus. Top things to do in Charleston.

After parking the car (And man was that painful, parking was tough to find! We liked the garage on Cumberland St.), we felt like eating brunch and as luck would have it, Toast was right across the street. My MIL wanted to try it and we were all glad she did because it was goooooood. Great breakfast all day, a changing table and I felt comfortable nursing there so that’s a win in my book.

Freshly nourished we strolled down Meeting Street to take in some Charleston history. The first quick stop was the cemetery of the Circular Congregational Church, which didn’t disappoint with grave stones from the 1700s.

Old cemetery in Charleston

We continued walking south, peeking into St. Michael’s church, marveling at the old houses that didn’t crumble during their big earthquake in 1886 and enjoying small, tucked away parks like Washington Square. The Nathaniel Russell house (uhm excuse me, mansion!) drew us in. Such a cute garden! Also, great restroom with a nice changing pad that you can access through the gift shop. This was the first time we did the actual house tour and it was great! Instead of of just talking about this piece of furniture and that painting (yawn), they talked a lot about what life was like back then in the Charleston society. Loved the grand staircase!

Nathaniel Russell home tour in Charleston, SC

From there we continued walking south to battery park where the boys of course checked out the cannons. I’m usually more interested in the ocean view there and we love the strolling along on the harbor wall. The historic McMansions are so charming!

Historic mansions on our walk around Charleston

Further up we looked at Rainbow Row, the pastel colored row houses, and then had fellow tourists take this beautiful family photo of us at the pineapple fountain. Is that perfect light just before sunset or what?! Pineapples are everywhere in Charleston and fittingly stand for hospitality.

Charleston's pineapple fountain is a great backdrop for family photos

To complete the perfect Charleston day I recommend a little shopping for example down Market Street or King Street. We checked out the historic society’s store for some local gifts and really enjoyed their selection of local children’s books. Grandpa bought Leo The Legend of Putterfrog, a goofy little story about a frog on a nearby golf course. 😀

On our final day we went back into town for lunch at our favorite place, Husk. I checked for reservations about two weeks in advance and I kid you not, the only things available during the week (!) in November (!) was lunch. I gladly snatched up the table and loved my shrimp and grits – a southern must!

Husk is a must eat at restaurant in Charleston

Traveling with our baby boy is definitely different and takes much more planning but it is totally possible especially these days that all he needs is my milk bar. If he’s cranky we get take-out, otherwise he’s usually very chill when we go to restaurants. Going early or later if it’s lunch helps a lot: less wait time for a table and the kitchen isn’t as busy. Yeah we don’t go to pubs or bars with him but husband got a six pack of local brews at a grocery store there so he was able to sample local craft beer nonetheless.

2.5 Days in Charleston, SC with a baby

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