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Baby Led Weaning: First Foods, Fruits and Vegetables

My favorite part of baby led weaning has been choosing which foods to give Ryan and watching him pick and chose his favorite. Like his mama, he favors sweet things, carbs, and tomato sauce, but isn’t a fan of brussel sprouts or cauliflower (YET!)

When first starting out, it’s important to stick to softer foods that your baby can pick up and essentially smash with his gums. Like I noted in my post about BLW first steps, the most common recommendation for the softness of food is to smush it easily between thumb and pointer fingers. I went a step further and made sure I could smush it a little between my tongue and the roof of my mouth. I don’t know if that extra step is necessary, but it helped to ease any concern I felt about something not being soft enough before his first few teeth came in.

So what are good options for whole, clean foods the first month or so? Here’s a list of what we found as good options in the beginning stages.

-Baked sweet potato sticks. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into sticks that are about the length and thickness of your pointer finger. Coat in olive oil (or oil of your choice. We started with olive, but sometimes now use melted coconut or canola oil.) and put on a baking sheet. I like to line it with either parchment paper or foil because I’m lazy and don’t want to clean. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or so, checking often for softness. Once soft, let cool before serving.
-Carrots. I used baby carrot for a while, but I found that they a. took more time, b. cost more, and c. kept a tougher outer layer. Now I peel and cut whole carrots (same size and shape and sweet potatoes) and steam until tender.
-Banana. Bananas are way too slippery for little hands, so I cut the banana in half, and gently cut off the peel in rings so as not to cut into the banana, making a handle with the peel.
-Tomato slices. Just wash and cut into slices!
-Green beans. Fresh or frozen (I use frozen due to ease and availability) steamed until soft.
-Snow peas. Same as green beans. May have to remove sting depending on child, Ryan spits it out.
-Zucchini/summer squash. Cut into sticks and steamed or roasted.
-Spaghetti squash. Bake at 350 for at least an hour until soft and cooked through.
-Apple slices. Washed, cut into slices and lightly steamed, with a sprinkle of cinnamon if you like. We used to call them applesauce sticks since they’re so soft. I leave the peel on because it keeps the apple together. Ryan usually spits it out when done.
-Avocado. Also very slippery. I cut it into zig-zig sticks with a paring knife to make it easier to pick up, but you can also use a crinkle cutter. (I’ve read about coating them in crushed cheerios or breadcrumbs but I’ve never tried it.
-Roasted pepper strips. Roasted in a 350 oven until soft. Also try raw – Ryan loved them, and when cold are great for teething.
-Broccoli. Frozen is quicker, but you can use fresh. Chop in to baby had friendly florets and steam well.
-Cauliflower. Same as broccoli
-Oranges/citrus. Peel and cut segments in half OR peel of the “skin” of the segment. A lot of work, but TBH I do it for myself so I can’t complain.
-Cantaloupe/Honeydew. Big sticks of very ripe cantaloupe are easy to nom. If not super ripe, just keep an eye out for smaller pieces that come off to see how your child handles them.
-Mango. Peeled and cut into sticks or spears.
-Asparagus. Steamed with woody ends cut off.
-Onion. Roasted until sweet and tender.
-Watermelon. Cut into sticks.
-Peaches, plums, nectarines. Peeled and sliced. (Peeled optional)
-Kiwi. Peeled cnd cut into sticks.

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How I Save Money on Groceries (and More!) Using My Phone

Does anyone else miss the days of opening up the fridge at your parents’ house and going to town on all the groceries they just bought? Man were those the good days. (Also, sorry mom and dad. And even more, sorry dad because I still do that when we come to see you.)

Grocery shopping is expensive, guys! While we eat pretty clean, have a membership card at Sam’s Club, and try to keep an eye on sales, it really adds up each week, and I can see it getting more and more expensive as the little dude starts eating more . So what do I do? I use my phone.

The thing is, there’s tons of ways to get discounts, coupons, and rebates for the groceries you buy if you just take the time look. I don’t have the patience, the printer, or the Sunday paper subscription to clip coupon. But that doesn’t mean that there are no other places to look. Apps and mobile coupons can help you save big $$! Below are my favorites!

Money Saving Apps

Open this post on your phone and you can click on the links to open the download page for each app directly on your phone. 

**Some of the link in this post are referral links. This means that if you get and use the app using my code/link, I receive a bonus. I will note which ones are refferal codes, and I greatly appreciate anyone who uses mine!**

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Ibotta

I downloaded Ibotta a while ago and didn’t use it, then on a\ whim tried again last month and now I’m hooked! They offer rebates for some “any brand” items, as well as different name brand items. Sort by whatever store you’re headed to, and a huge list of potential rebates comes up. You have to unlock them by watching a short clip or answering a question, but the rebates are from $.20-$5.00 on average. Take a picture of your receipt after you buy and submit it to earn your cash back. Have your friends join and you can earn team bonuses as well. (For example, this month, if you redeem $5, and your team redeems a total of $10, you receive the level 1 bonus of $2.00, which puts a total of $7 into your account! But don’t worry, no one can see what you buy!) If you use my referral code or link, qumsmfo, when signing up, you’ll join my team and we can help each other get that goal! (Full disclosure: I will receive $2.00 as a referral bonus is you use my code. Thanks for supporting me!) Get your money sent to venmo, your PayPal or in the form of gift cards such as Starbucks and Amazon when you hit a $10 minimum.

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SavingStar

Link up your club cards to this app (for stores without club cards like Target you can submit a picture of the receipt) and earn rebates for your purchases. They offer a weekly ‘healthy offer’ of 20% back on a produce purchase (this week it’s bananas). You can earn cash back on name brand purchases of food, household supplies, and over the counter medicines. It’s usually a buy 2, get $.75 kind of thing, but they also do something called ‘one or many’ where you spend a certain amount on one or many trips to earn your rebate. (Right now, they have spend $30 on SC Johnson Home Care products, get $5. If you buy Glade, Windex, Ziploc, this is easy, especially since you are usually given a few months to reach the goal) With no minimum required, you can cash out directly to your bank account, PayPal, or Upromise account, or give it as an American Forests Donation.

Apple // Google

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Checkout 51

This is another receipt rebate app. Take a picture of your receipt with qualifying purchases using the app and earn money back. Each week they have a different fresh food that you can choose from five options to claim as well as a gallon of milk. If you claimed both each week, you’d earn $.50 a week, they also have name brand products you can redeem. Some are definitely not the healthiest choices, but others are! This week there is a $.75 option for Kashi cereal or snack bars. Once you earn $20, they will send you a check in the mail.

Apple // Google

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Snap by Groupon

This app is owned by Groupon which is cool. They offer coupons on produce as well as name brand, but the produce ones go quick, so keep an eye out for them. Again, take a picture of your receipt and submit to earn your money. Right now they have an offer for $.75 off Wonderful Almonds. Like Checkout 51, you can request a check when you hit $20. (Full Disclosure: Using my referral link above earns me $1)

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Local Grocery Store App

We shop most often at ShopRite, and I quickly found out they have a Mobile App you can use and link to your club card. From there you can select and load digital coupons from their site to your card that are automatically applied at the register.

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Cartwheel

If you don’t know about Cartwheel, I’m about to make. You. Life. I love Target. LOVE Target. Cartwheel is an app made by Target that gives you discounts on your purchases at the register by scanning a barcode off your phone. You can select and load different offers (there are usually over 1000 offers at one time!) based on what you are buying, with discounts from 5-60%. There is a limit to how many offers you can load at once, but the more you use it, the more offer ‘slots’ you get. You can also use it with mobile coupons…

Apple // Google

Target Mobile Coupons

There are a bunch of different codes you can text to Target to enroll in a monthly text service to receive different types of coupons that will be sent to your phone. Again, at the register a barcode is scanned and the discount is applied. Usually its X dollars off, but also percentage coupons are offered.

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Pampers Rewards

If you use Pampers (Huggies does this as well!) you know that there are codes on wipe and diaper packs that you can enter into the Pampers Rewards site that you can redeem for toys, magazines, coupons, gift cards, Shutterfly goods, and more! I always forget to sit at my computer and put them in a bunch at a time, so I downloaded the app and now I can put them in when I remember/when I’m nursing Ryan/when I have a a spare second. If you remember to put in at least one code per month, Pampers will reward you every 3 months with a different prize. If you follow Money Saving Mom, she occasionally posts freebie codes you can enter for points without making a purchase.

Apple // Google

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ShopKick

I’m pretty new to this app, but the concept is, each store you go into that qualifies, you make sure the app is open and earn ‘Kicks’ or points that can be later turned into gift cards. If you link your Mastercard or Visa, some stores award you with extra kicks per dollar spent. (Full disclosure: If you sign up with my link, I will receive 2000 kicks per 3 referrals) Choose from the rewards store what you’s like to redeem with your kicks, including gift cards to a ton of different stores, (Target, Macy’s, Nike, Walmart, Tiffany’s  to name a few) coupons, magazines, or goods (125000 kicks gets you an iPad, and 6,250,000 gets you a cruise around the world. No, really.)

Retail Me Not

I’m sure you use Retail Me Not to get coupons while online shopping, but did you know that if you download the app, you can use it in stores as well? I try to check this app each time I’m shopping to make sure I’m not missing out on savings!

Apple // Google

Pick and choose which ones are best for you and your family. I use these apps to help make my grocery list and when I get back I make sure I submit my receipts to the proper apps. No, I don’t save hundreds each week, but I can usually count on around $5 or $10, not including when I get bigger saves. It adds up!

Do you use any of these apps? What are your favorite ways to save some money on your groceries? What ‘untraditional’ ways do you use your cellphone? Let me know in the comments!

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Baby Proofing On the Go

As soon as Ryan became “mobile”, I knew the easy life was over. Gone were the days where I could put him on a blanket and my biggest concern was his leg touching the cold floor. Gone were the days where the biggest threat was rolling off the couch when sitting with me. Gone was all the ease of a newborn. (Never thought you’d hear that, did ya?)

When he first began to “army crawl”, I penned us in the kitchen where we hang out with a cardboard box. One day I looked over and this was happening. Mind you, two minutes later when I was taping him climbing up it for Alex to see, he climbed completely over it. Once he had standing on things down, we were screwed.

I had a pack of outlet plugs

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Easy MSPI Friendly Maple Brown Sugar Granola

When I found out that Ryan was MSPI, I realized I was in trouble. I LOVE dairy. I LOVE ice cream, and cheese, and milk products. Oh, and soy? It’s in EVERYTHING. And lucky me, Ryan is in the minority with his soy sensitivity in that he is bothered by soy oil in addition to other forms of soy.

After Ryan was born and I was breastfeeding, I realized that the days of my stomach being full in three seconds due to a baby pushing on it were over, and the days of being constantly hungry were on. Snacks are a complete necessity in order for me to make it to the next meal without being the biggest grump ever. The first two weeks or so, I’d go for either some cheese and crackers, a bowl of yogurt and fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal with a big ol’ pat of butter. See? Dairy is my thaaaanng.

After the MSPI diagnosis, I realized that if I didn’t figure out something to snack on that fit my new diet, I’d be screwed. So I hit the interwebs and found some things that would be safe that I could totally get into. And since I knew I’d be home and needed to be saving money (IE not running through a whole box of Special K in a day and a half..) I figured I’d work on making some of them myself. I’m already a pro a hummus (I’ll share my recipe once I get more tahini!) but I wanted something I could just grab a handful of while nursing or rocking Ryan to sleep.

When Alex suggested making granola, I was hesitant. Yes, oatmeal is great for nursing moms, and  yes, you can pack it with healthy bits, but I hate crumbled up granola where there’s just a box or bowl of individual oat grains. But with some googling and test batches, I found my perfect recipe for granola!

Toasty and crunchy with big clumps of deliciousness, this granola is perfect by the handful or as a cereal. If you use pecans, they get super buttery in the oven which is only made better with the maple brown sugar coating. An egg white added to the wet ingredients allows the granola to be broken into larger chunks and clusters, perfect for snacking on the go. Using olive oil makes this granola both MSPI friendly and gives it a bit of a fruity undertone, while dried cranberries added after baking give a great contrast of texture and tartness that really brings the granola together.

Omit nuts and substitute seeds (a mix of pumpkin and sunflower would be great!) to make nut free, use GF oats to make gluten free. This recipe is very flexible, so have fun with it! Let me know of any variations you make!

Easy Maple Brown Sugar Granola

Easy Maple Brown Sugar Granola

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup of nuts (I used chopped pecans)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg white
2-3 tbs. brown sugar
1/3 cup(ish) maple syrup (you could probably sub or honey, but we’re a maple syrup household)
1/4 cup of oil + 1 tsp. for the pan (I use olive. It gives it a really nice flavor, and it’s MSPI safe – most vegetable oils have soy in them. You could definitely use vegetable, canola, coconut.. whatever you have on hand.)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup of dried fruit (I’ve been using dried cranberries, but I bet a mix of different kinds would be awesome – just make sure that whatever you use you chop into smaller pieces.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the first 3 ingredients. If using pecans or another whole, large nut, I suggest breaking up any large pieces/ halves so that they will be more evenly dispersed throughout the granola and clusters. Measure and combine the rest of the ingredients except the cranberries, whisking with a fork to break up the brown sugar and incorporate the egg white. If you like things really sweet, go on the higher end of the sugar and maple syrup. If you like less sweet granola, opt for less brown sugar and maple syrup.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix, mix, mix. If it looks a little too wet, (excess sugar mixture on the bottom of the bowl) throw in a handful more oats. Once combined, pour the oats onto a baking sheet rubbed with the tsp. of remaining oil. You can also use a Silpat or parchment paper. Push the granola down into one tight layer all the way to the edge of the pan. (using a spatula to press and smush it tightly is really helpful)

Put the pan in the oven on the second to highest rack. This is very important if you have a super hot electric oven with the heating element on the bottom. If you put the rack in too low, the bottom will burn and that is no good.

Bake for 30-45 minutes. The edge will start to brown first, but don’t worry. Those will be for your snacking pleasure. To check if your granola’s done, take a spoon and take a spoonful out of the center of your pan. Put it on your counter and cool for a second. Test it out. Is it crunchy? Your granola is done. A bit chewy? Throw it back in the oven for 5 more minutes and check again.

Let the whole pan cool completely and gently remove the granola by wedging a fork under it to break up the sheet. Sprinkle the cranberries on top, put into container, and enjoy!

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Friday Favorites #3

FRIIIIIDAYYYY! Fri-YAY, amirite? This weekend is supposed to rain but I don’t ven care. I feel like it was such a long week, probably because I’m PRETTY sure the boy is teething and the dog has been out.of.control. Anyone else have a yellow lab that is so adorably stupid, but also obnoxious some days? No one? Okay. Moving on, here are my favorites from around the web this week!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles Recipe

Favorite cool treat: Even though this week has been a touch cooler in NJ, the hot days are upon us! This summer I for see many outdoor days with my little guy and possibly a few batches of these awesome MSPI friendly ice pops! Just substitute the soy yogurt for coconut!

And this Snapchat, which spices up herb puns even more.

Favorite Laugh Out Loud: I can’t even take this. The rest in this post are pretty goo, but the thyme one.. Also, does anyone else get stuck for what feels like hours on Buzzfeed? I have the app and it was the best/worst decision of my life.

Construction Party Lunch Idea

Favorite party theme: With Ryan’s first coming up, I’ve been on my birthday party inspiration grind and I LOVE this Steel Beam Construction themed party from Moms and Munchkins. If Ryan was a little older, it would be happening.

Rainbow Triangle Bunting DIY | Oh Happy Day!

Favorite festive DIY: In the same vein, this Rainbow Triangle Bunting is so cute! I’m so inspired to make my own, possibly without a sewing machine.

How to Make a Hula Hoop Tent

Favorite kid DIY: This hula hoop tent from A Beautiful Mess is what all my childhood dreams are made of. I REALLY want to make Ryan one. I got a sewing machine when I was 16, so if someone wants to show me how to use it… 😉

This professor lectures while holding a student’s child to calm him down. So much love for this.

Coffee naps are real. Thank you, The Kitchn. This could be life changing.

This post about Netflix shows for new moms. As an avid Netflix user and a mom, I love this! Also, proud to announce there are some on here I haven’t seen.

The Greatest Parenting Advice from 9 Amazing Moms.

Linking up with Life in Leggings! Have a great weekend everyone!

-Morgan

4

What Is Your Plan?

When I was a senior in high school, I took a sociology class and one of our projects was to make a presentation of what our lives would look like. We all got poster paper and made a timeline using magazine cutouts of how we pictured our lives. What will our future jobs be? When will we get married? How old will we be when we have our first child? How many children will we have? When will we die?

It was fun, and one of the easiest projects of the year. What senior doesn’t want to plan their lives? So we constructed our timelines, and presented to our class our future lives. We oohed and ahhed over what our classmates would be doing in 10 years, laughed at the inevitable guy who says he won’t get married, but have a harem, and roll our eyes at the girl who says she would be marrying Ben Affleck.

Presentations went on for a week, and on Friday our teacher, one of those teachers everyone loves and can relate to, told us not a single one of us did the project correctly. We were shocked. He’d assigned us with the task of making a timeline of our lives. How was what we did wrong?

Because, he told us, you can’t plan your life. You will have to job that you earn. You will get married when you meet the love of your life. You will have a child when you get pregnant with a child. You will have as many or as little children as you are meant to have. You will die when you expire.

We all have plans for our lives. When I was in high school, I was going to graduate college, join a big PR firm in a big city and work my way up, and get married at 25. We would have our first child at 28, after we’d had time as a married couple to buy our dream home, build our careers, and make sure that we were meant to be. I look back at this and LAUGH.

After I graduated college, I continued to work for the non-profit that I interned for and got married exactly a month later at the age of 22. Three months later I was pregnant and had my first child at 23. Now I am a stay-at-home-mom.

I love my life. It is not as expected, but my God, it’s amazing and messy and beautiful.  If I saw this coming for me at 17, I would have been terrified. I would have said there was no way that was me. I might have tried to run. I would have fought it. Maybe that’s why we have the unconscious desire to plan and imagine our futures. It gives us the security we need to live life the way it is supposed to be, live so that our really plan unfolds the way it should and needs to.

When I was in high school, I was taught the most important lesson I could have learned. Live your life. Stop making expectations. The most wonderful things will happen to you once you stop worrying about when and how things need to happen. If there is a single lesson I hope to instill in my son, it is to live your life without fear or worry and let things come your way how they are meant to. There is a plan somewhere for each of our lives, we just haven’t been told what it is.

Linking up with Running With Spoons‘ Thinking Out Loud this week!

When you were in high school, where did you see your life going? Did you follow that path? Let me know in the comments!

-Morgan

5

What I Ate Wednesday, Baby and Me

I am loving these WIAW posts, and I’m especially loving adding Ryan’s eats in to the mix. This is actually what I ate on Monday, but heeeere we go!

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Breakfast: Ryan –  Leftover veggies and fruit from last nights dinner, PB&J pancakes after a snack of a banana cookie. Ryan’s breakfast is usually pretty consistent. Momma – Banana, spinach, blueberry smoothie with a side of baby and yellow dog. I only drank half because I was about to go run and I haven’t been very hungry in the mornings, maybe due to my new oil pulling obsession. (coming soon!) Also, this picture is basically my day to day life in a nutshell.

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Snack: Large iced coffee from Panera. With too much delicious 2% milk by accident. Reminded me of high school when I weighed the same as I did 9 months pregnant and lived of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, light and extra sweet. PSA: if you have a My Panera card, check to see if you have a reward this month of free coffee all month! I got this coffee fo’ free because I found out the day before I had the reward. BOOM. (If you check the bottom of your receipt after using your card, it will tell you what rewards you currently have and how many trips until your next reward)

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Snack 2: I try to eat when Ryan is awake, but he slept napped super late so I snacked on 2 chicken chunks from Friday’s leftover Greek kabobs to tide me over until he woke up.

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Lunch: Ryan – Egg squares, kiwi, apple, and assorted steamed vegetables I had in the fridge. (I go grocery shopping Tuesdays, so I try to clear things out on Monday to get an idea of what we have) Momma – Overnight oats I prepped earlier that morning with leftover yogurt from Friday’s tzatziki adventure. Coconut milk, PB, flax seeds and a later added chopped apple were also present.

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Snack: I’d planned to eat a Larabar as a snack, but I got caught up in testing recipes and before I knew it it was too close to dinner, so I ate the rest of those chicken chunks from earlier, and Ryan chomped some apple slices.

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ryan dinner

Dinner: Chicken, eggs, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans. A half an apple chopped up after 2/3 of this went to the dog. Fridge salad for momma (random bits from my fridge: salad mix, chicken and onion caramelized in bacon fat, red onion, banana peppers, spanish olives, feta cheese, and a dollop of leftover tzatziki. Weird but tasty.)

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Dessert: A delicious Larabar to end the night. Chocolate chip cookie dough Larabars are my new addiction.

Linking up with Peas and Crayons for What I Ate Wednesday!

Do you make combinations to empty out your fridge, or does everything in your fridge have a meal assigned to it? Do you have a mypanera card? (you SHOULD.) What’s your favorite bar du jour? Let me know in the comments!