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Lunch Prep: How I Stock The Pantry

I shared the basics about my lunch prep last week and today I want to share all about my pantry! One of my deal breakers when we were looking for a new house was the pantry. I lived for 13 years with the smallest pantry known to man and I actually had to use our large closet under the stairs for a second pantry, which meant I had to store the vacuum cleaner and steam cleaner and carpet cleaner in various places around the house. It was not ideal. So having a large walk-in pantry was very high on my wish list for a new house (along with a second floor laundry room because I do a lot of laundry). Our new house has a huge pantry that works very nicely. Today I am going to give you a tour of my pantry and share how I keep it organized and stocked!

When you first walk into my pantry these are the shelves on the left. There are 5 deep shelves that go all the way around 2 walls of the pantry which makes for a lot of great storage. As you can see, on the very top shelf I keep the containers of cereal as well as extra overflow cereal. I should also mention that my kids do not eat cereal for breakfast. They only eat it for snacks so I’m not too overly picky about what type of cereal they choose. On the second shelf I keep the canisters for bulk food. I love these canisters! I bought them in packs of 3 from Amazon for $13.75! They came with the awesome chalkboard labels and I use bought some great chalkboard pens off Amazon for around $5 for a 2-pack. I’ve been using them for months and the writing doesn’t smudge or wear off even with the kids touching the labels all the time. 

Our favorite things to fill the canisters with include Goldfish, Peanut Butter filled pretzels, Cheddar rice cakes, Harvest crisp peas, Wheat Thin crackers, yogurt covered pretzels, Veggie Sticks, Trail Mix, Cheez-its, Pretzel thins and granola. I tend to buy the same stuff most of the time because I know the kids will eat it but I do keep a few canisters to rotate out with new items. This month I bought some delicious Coconut Clusters from Costco that everyone loves. I also make homemade Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels and Salty Churro Toffee crackers once a month or so and I store them in these containers. I’ve been using these since 2017 and nothing has gone stale. I hand wash them every time they need to be refilled and they still look brand new. 

On the third shelf I keep all our open baskets for pre-packaged items. I bought the smaller baskets from Target but found a better deal on the medium short baskets and large tall baskets at Amazon! I stock these with individual packs of Trail mix, cashews, Jif power up bites, fruit snacks, granola bars, crackers, breakfast biscuits, Fiber one bars, melba toast, cookies, mini muffins, pastry crisps, breakfast bars, single serving peanut butter cups, goldfish, and Nature Valley biscuits. Again, I tend to stock the same stuff that I know the kids like but it also depends on what is on sale at Sam’s and Costco! I try to stick with healthy-ish snacks but I include treats as well. Right now we have 4 different kinds of granola bars because they were on sale and everyone likes them. 

On the fourth shelf I keep all of our pasta and bread items. We love pasta in all forms and I always have at least 2-3 ready to eat pasta dishes in the fridge for the kids to eat after school or to take for lunches. I also have a couple of baskets for the remaining snacks- mini muffins and goldfish packs. In the corner I keep all the extras and overflow. The kids know they are not allowed to touch that stuff. I will refill the containers and baskets when needed. I’ve learned through the years that if you give kids free access to the whole pantry you will find crumbs on day 3! 

On the fifth shelf I keep ingredients such as taco seasoning, ranch dressing packets, rice, pasta sauces, can goods, popcorn, ramen noodles, and overflow items. 

This is the other wall in the pantry. The very top shelf (not pictured) holds things like solo cups, paper plates, disposable silverware, etc. The next shelf holds lunch boxes, lunch containers, and frequently used medications. The third shelf holds my baking items including sugars, flours, mini marshmallows, and baking mixes as well as my potatoes. The fourth shelf holds unopened condiments, two turntables of opened condiments and baking items, cooking oil and the biggest container of Worcestershire sauce from Sam’s Club (seriously, we’ve been working on this container forever). The fifth shelf holds trash bags and paper towels, which I was almost out of when taking these pictures. 

On the back of the pantry door I have this plastic shelving unit that holds lunch items including ziplock bags, mini disposable sauce cups, and plastic utensils. I know it’s better to use re-usable silicone baggies and regular silverware, however in my house it doesn’t work. The kids threw out the silicone baggies on day 3 because they forgot. And I’ve replaced my forks and spoons four times because they never come home. For now, this is what works for us. 

I shared some important info about how I stock the pantry on my Lunch Prep 101 post including how often I restock and how much money I budget weekly for stocking the pantry so be sure to check it out if you want those kinds of details. Next week I’m going to share my lunch prep fridge and how I stock it! You can find all the posts in my Meal Planning & Prep and Lunch Planning & Prep series HERE

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New Releases This Week {10.1.19}

These are the new releases for the week of October 1 that I’m adding to my wish lists.

Down Too Deep by J. Daniels– Following the sudden death of his wife, Nathan Bell has spent nearly two years burying himself in work and neglecting his biggest responsibility: his daughter. Overcome with guilt, he wants to connect with little Marley, but he doesn’t know how to do it alone. And then Jenna Savage throws him a lifeline. A single mom of twins, Jenna is more than capable of taking care of Nate’s adorable two-year-old, and wants to help Nathan however she can. Soon, attachments are made, forcing Jenna and her kids into new territory. And the closer everyone becomes, the more right it feels. Falling in love forces Nathan to face his biggest fear, and when hearts, both big and little, are on the line, the only thing scarier than needing someone is losing them all.

Deep Ambitions by Irene Hannon– Former Army Night Stalker Rick Jordan usually has his camp for foster children to himself during the winter months. But someone has visited recently–leaving a trail of blood. One of the two clues left behind tips Rick off to the identity of his visitor, who soon turns up dead. The police deem it an accident, but Rick isn’t convinced. With the help of private investigator Heather Shields, he sets out to decipher the remaining clue. Except someone doesn’t want them to succeed–and will stop at nothing to keep them from finding the truth. With her trademark psychological suspense ratcheting up the tension on every page, bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon takes you on a search for a cold-blooded killer with an ambitious goal and deadly intent.

It’s All About the Small Things by Melanie Shankle– Is my ordinary, everyday life actually significant? Is it okay to be fulfilled by the simple acts of raising kids, working in an office, and cooking chicken for dinner? It’s been said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.” The pressure of that can be staggering as we spend our days looking for that big thing that promises to take our breath away. Meanwhile, we lose sight of the small significance of fully living with every breath we take. Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author and writer at The Big Mama Blog tackles these questions head on. Easygoing and relatable, she speaks directly to the heart of women of all ages who are longing to find significance and meaning in the normal, sometimes mundane world of driving carpool to soccer practice, attending class on their college campus, cooking meals for their family, or taking care of a sick loved one. The million little pieces that make a life aren’t necessarily glamorous or far-reaching. But God uses some of the smallest, most ordinary acts of faithfulness–and sometimes they look a whole lot like packing lunch.

The Lying Room by Nicci French– It should have been just a mid-life fling. A guilty indiscretion that Neve Connolly could have weathered. An escape from twenty years of routine marriage to her overworked husband, and from her increasingly distant children. But when Neve pays a morning-after visit to her lover, Saul, and finds him brutally murdered, their pied-à-terre still heady with her perfume, all the lies she has so painstakingly stitched together threaten to unravel. After scrubbing clean every trace of her existence from Saul’s life—and death—Neve believes she can return to normal, shaken but intact. But she can’t get out of her head the one tormenting question: what was she forgetting? An investigation into the slaying could provide the answer. It’s brought Detective Chief Inspector Alastair Hitching, and Neve’s worst fears, to her door. But with every new lie, every new misdirection to save herself, Neve descends further into the darkness of her betrayal—and into more danger than she ever imagined. Because Hitching isn’t the only one watching Neve. So is a determined killer who’s about to make the next terrifying move in a deadly affair.

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld– A year ago, Naomi, the investigator with an uncanny ability for finding missing children, made a promise that she would not take another case until she finds the younger sister who has been missing for years. Naomi has no picture, not even a name. All she has is a vague memory of a strawberry field at night, black dirt under her bare feet as she ran for her life. The search takes her to Portland, Oregon, where scores of homeless children wander the streets like ghosts, searching for money, food, and companionship. The sharp-eyed investigator soon discovers that young girls have been going missing for months, many later found in the dirty waters of the river. Though she does not want to get involved, Naomi is unable to resist the pull of children in need—and the fear she sees in the eyes of a twelve-year old girl named Celia. Running from an abusive stepfather and an addict mother, Celia has nothing but hope in the butterflies—her guides and guardians on the dangerous streets. She sees them all around her, tiny iridescent wisps of hope that soften the edges of this hard world and illuminate a cherished memory from her childhood—the Butterfly Museum, a place where everything is safe and nothing can hurt her. As danger creeps closer, Naomi and Celia find echoes of themselves in one another, forcing them each to consider the question: Can you still be lost even when you’ve been found? But will they find the answer too late?

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston– Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation. Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby. When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available. This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?

Meal Prep Monday {9.30.19}

 Each Monday I share a weekly menu plan and what I’m prepping for the week. I plan 4 dinners a week, we have 2 leftover/Fridge clean out nights, and we make Take ‘n Bake pizzas on Saturday nights. My kids take lunch to school 5 days a week. You can read more about my meal planning and prep HERE. Please feel free to share with anyone you know who needs some dinner or lunch inspiration and don’t forget to pin on Pinterest for later! 

Dinner #1:

Stuffed Chicken Cordon Blue, Brown Sugar Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Green Beans

Dinner #2:

Roasted Pork Loin, Jasmine Rice, Roasted Okra

Dinner #3:

Baked Blackened Tilapia, Yellow Rice, Honey Butter Roasted Carrots

Dinner #4:

Garlic Lime Chicken Thighs, Loaded Potato Slices, Everything Asparagus


Each week I prep all the produce and fruits ahead of time for the week. I also stock the lunch prep fridge and pantry for the kids’ lunches. I have specific containers that I use for food prep that are designed to maximize the life of the produce which helps when I only shop once a week. You can read more about my process and see pictures of my fridges HERE

This week for the meal produce I transferred the fresh Asparagus, Carrots, Okra, and Green beans to the veggie containers. For fruit I prepped strawberries, blueberries, red and green grapes, green apples, and plums. I added baby carrots, cut celery, and mini cucumbers as well for lunches.

This week I prepped a large container of spaghetti, a large container of macaroni & cheese with turkey dogs cut up, a large container of taco meat, a large container of white cheddar shells, a large container of tossed salad, a large container of chicken meatballs, 24 mini egg quiche muffins, and 24 mini pancake muffins. The kids eat these as snacks, for lunches, and on leftover/clean out the fridge nights.

Greek Inspired Ground Beef Gyros

My family loves attending the Greek Street Festivals and the Renaissance Fair, mainly because of the food! A favorite of everyone’s is the Greek Gyros- the flavor just explodes in your mouth. Unfortunately lamb is a little pricey for my grocery budget so I found a way to get all the flavors of the Greek street Gyros with my Walmart budget! The family all loved these and we had not one bite leftover!

1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 of medium cucumber, peeled & chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
Salt, to taste

1.5 lbs ground beef
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1.5 tsp minced garlic
1.5 tsp onion powder
1.5 tsp salt
Black pepper, to taste

To serve-
Naan bread, Sliced tomatoes, Shredded lettuce, Feta Cheese & Yogurt Sauce

1. Combine all sauce ingredients and refrigerate while cooking Gyros.
2. Combine ground beef and seasonings in large bowl then form into several large patties.
3. Fry patties in large skillet over medium heat until cooked through, about 7-9 minutes per side.
4. Remove patties to cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into strips.
5. Serve with sliced meat in a warmed naan bread and top with sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, feta cheese, and yogurt sauce.

Greek Inspired Ground Beef Gyros
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  1. 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  2. 1/4 of medium cucumber, peeled & chopped
  3. 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  4. 1 tsp minced garlic
  5. Salt, to taste
  1. 1.5 lbs ground beef
  2. 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  3. 1.5 tsp minced garlic
  4. 1.5 tsp onion powder
  5. 1.5 tsp salt
  6. Black pepper, to taste
To serve
  1. Naan bread, Sliced tomatoes, Shredded lettuce, Feta Cheese & Yogurt Sauce
  1. Combine all sauce ingredients and refrigerate while cooking Gyros.
  2. Combine ground beef and seasonings in large bowl then form into several large patties.
  3. Fry patties in large skillet over medium heat until cooked through, about 7-9 minutes per side.
  4. Remove patties to cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into strips.
  5. Serve with sliced meat in a warmed naan bread and top with sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, feta cheese, and yogurt sauce.
Confessions of a Semi-Domesticated Mama http://semidomesticatedmama.com/

Book Review: The Lemon Sisters

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The Lemon Sisters by Jill Shalvis- Brooke Lemon has always led the life she wanted, wild adventures—and mistakes—included, something her perfect sister, Mindy, never understood. So when Mindy shows up on Brooke’s doorstep in the throes of a break-down with her three little kids in tow, Brooke’s shocked.

Wanting to make amends, Brooke agrees to trade places, taking the kids back to Wildstone for a few days so Mindy can pick up the pieces and put herself back together. What Brooke doesn’t admit is she’s just as broken . . . Also how does one go home after seven years away? It doesn’t take long for Brooke to come face-to-face with her past, in the form of one tall, dark, sexy mistake. But Garrett’s no longer interested. Only his words don’t match his actions, leaving Brooke feeling things she’d shoved deep.

Soon the sisters begin to wonder: Are they lemons in life? In love? All they know is that neither seems to be able to run far enough to outpace her demons. And when secrets surface, they’ll have to learn that sometimes the one person who can help you the most is the one you never thought to ask.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Published: June 18, 2019

Acquired: Public library e-book

Series: #3 in the Wildstone Series

My Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts: I loved this book! Jill Shalvis is one of my most favorite authors and it’s rare that I don’t love something she writes. I will admit that this is the first book in the Wildstone series that I’ve read. I don’t know how I missed the first 2 books but I will be reading them ASAP! One of my favorite things about this book was the contrast between the sisters. Brooke was the free-spirit sister who couldn’t wait to get out of her hometown and who had an exciting career until a helicopter crash left her grounded with PTSD. Mindy, on the other hand, was the sister who stayed in their hometown, got married, had children, and became a baker. I really liked reading about their childhood from their different perspectives. 

When Mindy shows up on Brooke’s doorstep with children in tow in the middle of a nervous breakdown, Brooke sees the opportunity to get to know her niece and nephews even if that means going back to her hometown and confronting the messes she left behind. The kids added so much to this story! They were hilarious and adorable and kept the story flowing easily. I cringed a bit at the relationship repair that needed to happen between Brooke and Garrett, although the repair that needed to happen between Mindy and her husband, Linc, was just as intense. I found myself sympathizing with both Brooke and Mindy for different reasons and I could see myself in both of them which made the story extremely real for me. I highly recommend this book and in my opinion you can read them in any order.