Saturday, December 29, 2018

My Baby is 11!

Happy Birthday to Holden!  Yesterday, he turned 11.  I guess he’s officially a tween!  I have to say that the years have really flown by with him.  I was looking back with the kids recently at my old scrapbooks.  Some of the we recorded seemed like yesterday, yet so much time has passed!  Holden only has 3 more school years at home, and then he will go to public high school.  My last one!  It’s hard to fathom.

For his one big birthday gift, he got a portable basketball hoop, which we gave him on Christmas along with the basketball he got as a Christmas gift.  He has been outside playing with it a lot, and so have Steve and Hayden, and even Haylee!  It seems to be much enjoyed by all.  I like that it gets him off the video games and mindless television and outside getting some fresh air and exercise.


I also gave him a big gift bag full of his favorite treats, which all of the kids look forward to on their birthdays.  They get a bunch of junk they don’t normally have all at once…all of their favorites.  Holden’s list is a bit different from theirs…he gets things he loves like olives, cocktail onions, and roasted pistachios in the shell, all of which get him very excited!  LOL.  He also gets lots of candy and soda and stuff, too, but he really enjoys non-traditional things, too.

This year, he wanted sushi from Fiesta Mart and watermelon for dinner, so that’s what he got.  And he wanted me to bake him the chocolat-i-est birthday cake ever, so he got a quintuple chocolate cake…it was chocolate cake with chocolate chunks, real chocolate fudge swirled through it, chocolate frosting, and chocolate sprinkles, baked as a bundt cake.  And he asked for re-lighting candles on top, so he got to have fun blowing them out over and over again!  LOL.  It was pretty cool.

Happy birthday, baby!  Don’t grow up too fast…

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Staying Connected Across the Miles

Here I am in Texas, celebrating yet another holiday season away from all of my friends in Virginia who are so near and dear to me.  Leaving them all behind has definitely been the most difficult part of transitioning to a new state.  I lived in Virginia for 39 years, and I had developed a close-knit circle of precious people who meant the world to me.

The thing I’ve learned, though, is that distance doesn’t truly separate us.  We’ve just found new ways to stay connected.  Sure, I miss chatting over a cup of tea at my kitchen table, sharing lunch at a friend’s house, or meeting up at Starbucks for a sweet treat and a cup of coffee.  But there are definitely other ways to stay in touch.

IMG953077With my best friend, Micka, I’ve been doing a daily chronological bible study this year.  Each day, we read a set of scriptures and share our thoughts and comments with each other through the YouVersion Bible App.  We’ve really enjoyed our discussions and sharing insights that we used to share over tea.  And we text regularly to catch up on personal things, to encourage one another, and to support each other through the everyday challenges of life.

20181210_233137My dear old friend and former colleague, Roslyn, recently surprised me with an impromptu plane trip out here to visit with me for a few days!  I was so excited to see her.  It amazed us how easily we just fell right in line where we left off.  You can do that with people who have been in your life forever.  It’s been so long that she was at my wedding in 1994!  I met her at work when I was just 21, which means we’ve been friends for nearly 26 years!  We just hung out at my house, worked on a jigsaw puzzle together, and went to the movies like old times.  I love her for coming all the way out here just to see me!  I really needed a piece of home, and that visit did the trick, for sure.

My dear friend and former neighbor, Valentyna, has kept in touch by texting with me regularly.  She’s gone back to school to become a nurse, and her studies have kept her on her toes!  She has been under a lot of pressure and has needed a cheerleader to keep her on track, so I’ve tried to be that from afar.  We’ve shared pictures of our kids and have managed to keep abreast of everyday life without ringing each other’s doorbells.  I do miss going to the symphony together and getting our kids together for outings and field trips, but at least we haven’t lost touch.

20180812_135024My nephew, George, was the first to visit me this year.  He now lives in FL, and he had a training class out this way for the military.  He was able to rent a car and visit for a weekend in August.  It was wonderful to see him again, and he was the first person to even be in our new house!  Our new dog wasn’t sure what to make of him since they’d never met before, but after the first day, she finally allowed him to leave the kitchen!  LOL

Another great way to keep in touch is through the Alexa app.  We got a bunch of Echo devices this year during the Prime Day Sale at Amazon.  A couple of them have video screens, so we’re able to have video calls with my nephew in FL (George), my sister in FL (Wendy), and my niece who is now stationed in TX (Katie).  And the Alexa app on my phone allows me to have video calls with anyone else who has the Alexa app, too.  Tomorrow, we’re going to use it to connect with our friends from our old church in Virginia when they get together at one family’s house for an early Christmas dinner.  That will be great, and we’re really looking forward to “seeing” everyone from church again!

My oldest son, Hayden, flew back to Virginia in early November to be the best man in his friend’s wedding.  He got to stay with my best friend, Micka, and my dear friend, Denise, from our old church picked him up and got him to services while he was there.  Everyone at church was so surprised to see him, because no one other than Denise knew he was coming!  Bless both of their hearts for their hospitality!  We really appreciated knowing he was in good hands while he was there.

So although my heart is still heavy at times, because I spend a lot of time alone with only Holden at home, no adults to talk to all day, and no friends outside of church here, I know that the friends who are nearest and dearest to my heart are only a video call, a text, an instant message, or an email away.  We are so blessed to live in an age of technology that affords us so many different ways to stay connected across the miles!

To all of you who are so very special to me and who have blessed my life in so many ways, I wish you the deepest and most heartfelt Merry Christmas and my sincerest gratitude for continuing to be a treasured part of my life, even from so very far away.  I love you all!  <3

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Panera’s FREE Bagel Every Day in December!

Image result for panera logoIf you are a MyPanera loyalty member, check your account to redeem your daily FREE bagel every day in December!  This promotion just began on Monday of this week, so if you missed the notification, you’ve only missed out on a few, and you have plenty more to collect by year’s end!  And if you’re not, sign up now to take advantage of this awesome promotion!

I like to pre-order in the Panera app, where I can customize my bagel just the way I like, apply my reward, and check out with a zero balance.  Then I just to my Panera and go straight to the to-go pickup window inside.  I don’t have to wait in line or even talk to anyone!  Easy peasy.  My daughter loves Panera bagels, so she loves to collect his particular reward as often as possible.  The Cinnamon Crunch bagel, sliced and toasted, with butter is our favorite combo.  Yum!

Set yourself a reminder, and cash in on this one as often as you can before time runs out!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Homeschool Review Crew 2018 Blue Ribbon Award Winners!!!

Every year, the TOS Homeschool Review Crew members vote for their favorite vendors and products from that review year.  We only vote for products that we personally used that year. 

So if you’re scouting out some ideas for new products and/or vendors for your school year, you might want to take a second look at this year’s list of Blue Ribbon Award Winners!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Little Homeschool Field Trip Adventure

Yesterday, I took Holden (who is almost 11) to the annual Homeschool Day at Sharkarosa Wildlife Ranch up in Pilot Point, TX!  We’d never been there before, and it seemed like it would make a great little trip for a Friday when we were off school.  We were originally supposed to go back in mid-October, but north Texas got so flooded out with the massive amount of heavy rain we had around that time that they had to reschedule the event for November 30th.  There was a chance of rain, but thankfully, it held off until right when we pulled out to head home!  Perfect timing.

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It was about an hour and fifteen minutes away from us, but it made for a beautiful country drive.  It was a full 16 miles off the highway, pretty much in the middle of nowhere!  But it was gorgeous countryside, and we really enjoyed the scenery along the way.

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When we arrived, we purchased a sack of food to feed the animals, and we got right on a safari tram that took us out into the various pastures on the ranch to visit the wild animals they had.  We saw so many kinds of creatures, like the andromeda camel, zebra, zorse, zonkey, various kinds of deer, pot-bellied pigs (even an albino), and llamas.  There were buckets hanging on the outside of the tram to drop your food into so the animals could come close to feed.  Out of curiosity, I sunk my fingers into the fur on the camel, and it was so thick that the length of my fingers nearly disappeared into its fur!  It felt like a fuzzy wool blanket.  Really cool!  I think the camel was my favorite.


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After the tram ride, we walked around and visited various other animals like lemurs (so pretty!), sloths, bears, macaws, and more.  In the petting zoo, there was a fuzzy llama that stalked us for food and lots of goats, along with a beautiful pair of ponies!  They were so sweet. 

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The sloths were really adorable.  There was a mom and dad and a new one-month old baby sloth in the cage, and the three of them were all curled up together in a big ball in a hammock!  So precious!  We got to see the animal keeper hand feed them while we were there, and the way the mom and dad unrolled themselves to reveal the baby curled up between them was so cute!  They said the pair is about 15 years old, and yet they have continued to have a new baby every year they’ve been there, even though they only live to be about 20 years old, so they are quite mature to still be reproducing!  It must be true love. 


There was also a kangaroo habitat.  There were so many of them, and we sat down for a presentation about the kangaroos, and the kids got to have a little question and answer session at the end.

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They also had a domesticated camel that we were allowed to hand-feed, and he was surprising tame, only eating gently with his lips from the palm of your hand!  I think he became my new best friend!  Holden and I were trying to take a selfie in front of his stall, and he surprised us by putting his head out on my shoulder like he was photo-bombing us!  We laughed out loud and had to try again.


It was a lovely way to spend the day, and then we headed back home.  We knew we were going to pass right by Buc-ees, so of course we had to make a pitstop!  We got so many goodies to take home, and then we went next door to do some quick shopping for a baby shower at the Tanger Outlets.  As we prepared to leave, they gave us a flyer about a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony that was starting in 20 minutes, so we rested in the lounge and decided to wait for the start of the festivities.  Holden had such a great time!  They had a little comedy skit and magic show on stage followed by the official lighting of the big tree in the square, and then a live orchestra played Christmas songs!  It was so lovely.  They passed out hot chocolate and candy canes and gave away instant prizes.  It was lots of fun.  And we were under a tornado watch until midnight, so it was quite breezy as the storm began to roll in.  Just a lovely evening!

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We were out so late that we ran back over to Buc-ees to pick up some dinner.  We hit a traffic backup on the way back, so we were glad we’d thought to get something to eat.  We got home at about 8 PM, and we were exhausted!

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We just love exploring new places in Texas.  There’s just so much to see and do!  I find out about new adventures all the time.  It’s a big state!


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Let the Black Friday Shopping Begin…Online!!!

I’m beyond thrilled that more and more companies are beginning to offer their Black Friday deals, even their doorbuster deals, online.  Last year, I was able to order key electronic deals from Walmart online after midnight at the break of Thanksgiving Day.  That kept me from risking losing out or standing in special lines when I made it to the store for the sale that night.

This year, I’m even more thrilled to see that the online sales are expanding to more stores and more days!  Yesterday, Kohl’s began all of their BF deals online already, and today, Bath & Body Works began offering their exclusive BF tote deal online!

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Today, I shopped for all of the things I wanted from Bath & Body Works and qualified for my tote deal for $30.  The only caveat on that is that you still have to pay shipping of about $6.  But again, I don’t usually make it there on BF, so it ensures I actually get a tote this year!  I tossed all of my old, well-worn ones when we moved to TX last year, so I actually don’t have one at all any more!  It’s filled with some pretty great stuff this year, too, including a 3-Wick Winter Candy Apple Candle Jar from White Barn Candle Company!

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I spent yesterday shopping for all of the Kohl’s deals online, and I’ve completely eliminated the need to go at all on Thursday night!  I even used a code for free shipping, and I clicked through Ebates for extra cash back.  I stacked lots of codes and used some Kohl’s cash I had, too.  Great deals!  The lines at Kohl’s on Thanksgiving night are notoriously horrendous, so I’m thankful to be able to skip that entirely!  My old trick was to go, pick out what I wanted, and order everything from the in-store kiosk for free shipping to my home so I could skip the line.  But even that took some time.

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Actually, the first sign that BF deals were coming early this year was the email last weekend from  They’re already offering their annual deal on the Entertainment book for the BF price of just $20 and free shipping!  And by clicking through Ebates when you place your order, you get an additional 17.5% cash back, making your final price just $16.50!!!

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So pay special attention to your emails this week.  It seems more and more companies are expanding their BF sales to more days online before the actual event this year, and that’s good news for those of us who really dislike shopping in crowds!  I think my only actual BF shopping trip in person this year will be to Walmart on Thursday evening at 6 PM.  I don’t really need anything, as most of my shopping is already done, but I like to look around.  It has become a tradition for Hayden and me to do together.  He has to open Sonic at 5:30 AM the next morning, so it will be better for him, too, to finish up early this year.

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Do Your Thanksgiving Shopping at WinCo Foods!!!

I ran to WinCo last night for the last day of a sale on soda and was pleasantly surprised that everything for Thanksgiving dinner was so, so incredibly cheap that I ended up filling up my cart unexpectedly!  It was so late…we got home at about 11:30 PM…but it was worth it to not have to fight the holiday grocery store crowds next week!

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I was going to take advantage of getting a turkey breast for 98 cents/lb., which is an incredible price that I haven’t seen in years, but instead, I ended up with a WHOLE turkey…because it was only 24 cents a lb.!  Not kidding.  I got a 16-lb. turkey for under $4!  That’s practically free.  Even if I only ate the breast, it would still be way cheaper than buying the breast alone! 

That’s a lot of turkey, though, for not having any guests to feed this year.  I guess I’ll be making lots of our favorite turkey leftover meals!  Maybe I’ll skip the ham this year to make up for the excess.  If I was more familiar with who the charities are around here in Fort Worth, it would be an excellent time to buy and donate some turkeys to help out those in need with Thanksgiving dinner!

In addition, everything else was super cheap, too.  For instance, the most costly thing about our dinner is usually the ingredients for fruit salad.  Grapes historically go up to something like $3/lb. during Thanksgiving week.  But they had both red and green seedless grapes for 88 cents/lb., and red delicious and granny smith apples were also under $1/lb.!  I picked up the canned pineapple tidbits, mandarin orange slices, and mini marshmallows, and turkey stuffing, all for under $1 each, and I had already bought my heavy whipping cream at Aldi this week for cheap.  So I think I’m all set!  I just have to decide on what to make for dessert this year, and that will be the last thing on my list.  Yay!

So if you are fortunate enough to have a WinCo Foods near you, rush down and beat the crowds by stocking up now!

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Now Accepting 2019 Homeschool Review Crew Applications!

Do you enjoy my homeschool curriculum reviews?  Do you have an active blog, enjoy writing, and think you would enjoy reviewing curriculum yourself?  If so, then you’re in luck!  The Old Schoolhouse is now accepting applications for the 2019 Homeschool Review Crew! 


  • Have an active blog on any platform.  An active blog is defined as having at least one new blog post each week.
  • Currently home educating at least one child. Your child/ren can be anywhere from Pre-K to 12th Grade.
  • Active on social media of your own choosing ( Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+)
  • Love curriculum, homeschool products (both physical and digital) and books.


  • Maintain an active blog by posting a minimum of ONE non-sponsored post a week on any family friendly topic of your own choosing.
  • You need to be committed to sharing each of your reviews on your social media platforms a minimum of twice. This can be twice on one platform or on any two platforms of your choosing in one week.
  • Use the review product you receive during the review period (usually about six weeks) and write an honest review. You are not required to write a positive review and you are not told what to write. However, there are a few minimum requirements including a minimum word count.
  • A commitment to meet deadlines and specific time frames by posting your reviews to your blog and and linking them up on the TOS blog during the due date window.
  • On a regular basis, visit the private Review Management forum where we provide support, encouragement, and information necessary to complete each review.
  • The review year runs from January to mid-November. There is a single practice review for new Crew members in December in preparation for the new year together. Aside from this practice review, members are encouraged to take time off during the holidays and enjoy their families.


If you meet the requirements and it sounds like a good fit for you, please complete the application by clicking the banner below.

2019 Homeschool Review Crew Application

REVIEW: Master Kitz The Starry Night by

Some kids are naturally creative and others are not, so we were looking forward to trying out this do-it-yourself painting project called Master Kitz The Starry Night by


Master Kitz The Starry Night is a do-it-yourself painting kit that helps kids (and adults if you wish) recreate their own version of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night20181101_125418.  No artistic experience is necessary in order to create your very own masterpiece using the tools and supplies included in this kit!  Step-by-step instructions are included that make the project simple, and it can be completed in just one sitting!  With the aid of the included stickers, stencil, and paint rollers, kids are sure to creative a beautiful painting they can be proud to share!

This kit and others in the series can be purchased for just $22.26.  There are sufficient supplies included that with careful use of the stickers, you can create this project twice! 


First of all, I love that this kit includes everything you need to complete this project twice.  Anyone with more than one child knows that what one does, the other usually wants to do, too! 

My two younger kids are a daughter who is 14 and a son who is 10.  My daughter is very artistic and paints well without any aids, but my son has no artistic talent whatsoever!  I had intended for him to be the first one to try out this kit, but my daughter beat him to it!  So he will have to wait for another time to get his turn. 

This kit was simple and easy to use.  Everything necessary was included, but for a paper plate or palette on which to roll your sponge rollers.  I had her use a plastic sponge roller tray that I picked up for a buck, just because I thought it would be less messy, and it was!  Plus, I could wash it and use it again.

The step-by-step instructions were very easy to follow.  The first step was to tape a piece of the art paper down on a protected hard surface with something removing like masking tape.  Then step two was to peel off the stickers that would act as temporary masks for the stars and place them on the top half of the paper.


Step three told her to squeeze four quarter-sized amounts of blue paint onto her rolling surface, which in her case, was the paint roller tray.  Then she had to load up the paint on the included Van Gogh sponge roller.


Step four instructed her to roll the paint roller gently across the entire surface of the paper as she wished, making sure to pass over the star masks, as well.


Step five had her add a half-dollar-sized amount of white paint on top of the blue paint on her tray and load up the roller with paint again.


In step six, she had to paint across the page from edge to edge in the sky area of the picture to add a blue/white streak through the sky.  Then she had to remove the star masks to reveal the white area beneath.


Then in step seven, she had to align the included stencil with the top of the paper and tape down the edges. 


Next, she had to add 4 quarter-sized amounts of black paint to her paint tray and load up the roller with paint again for step eight.


In step nine, she had to roll over all of the open areas of the stencil with the paint roller.  This is where the composition of the painting really starts to take shape!


Next, she had to remove the stencil carefully and allow the paint to dry for about 10 minutes in step ten.  The instructions suggest that to speed up the drying process, you can also use a hair dryer.


As you can see, the painting is really starting to take shape!  This is the part where your kids can start to be creative with the finishing touches.  In step eleven, she got to use the included white, yellow, and orange oil pastels to add the swirls in the star spaces.  You can even experiment with blending the colors here.


Step twelve is the final step, and this is where she got to use the four colors of oil pastels to embellish the trees and buildings in the foreground as she desired.


Voila!  The painting is now finished!  The project was really easy to complete, and I can see where any child or adult could create a satisfying result in about an hour.  What fun!  I think this kit could help build the confidence of any young artist in your family, no matter whether they have artistic talent or not.  I have no doubt my non-creative youngest son will be able to complete this project, too, with great success! 

I do have one suggestion, though, before you try this for yourself.  Because the materials arrived rolled up inside a sturdy box with a carrying handle, the paper and stencil come out of the package very curled.  It was easy to flatten out the paper by rolling it in the opposite direction once or twice.  But the stencil proved to be a bit trickier.  I would suggest that you place it on a hard surface with something heavy on top of it for at least a day before beginning, or maybe try heating up the plastic with a hair dryer and then flattening it out with a weight for a little while.  I ended up having to press down on the stencil in various places with my hands as she rolled the paint roller over it in order to keep it flat against the paper.  Otherwise, I think the paint may have smeared and not produced crisp edges on the stencil design.  But other than that, we had no problems at all.  If I could make one suggestion to the vendor, it would be to use flat packaging for the stencil, stickers, and paper with perhaps a box section attached at the bottom for the paints and rollers.

In addition to the art kit itself, there is also a brief biography of Van Gogh and the history of his art and style included on the backside of the instructions.  It shows pictures of some of his other works and talks about the way he used colors and details, comparing his use of Realism and Post-Impressionistic styles.

With the holidays approaching, you might consider this and other kits in the series as gift ideas for the children on your gift list!

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about their experiences with this kit by clicking the banner below.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

FREE Scary Face Pancake for Kids Today @ IHOP!!!

Happy Halloween!  IHOP is celebrating with a frightfully good offer ‑ a FREE Scary Face Pancake for kids 12 and under who arrive in costume. Drop by today from 7 am ‑ 10 pm to take advantage of this offer.

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Trick or Treat!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Exercise Fun!

This year, I joined Beach Body on Demand.  It allows me to stream the workouts of my choice in my own home at my own convenience for one annual fee.  The cool thing about it is that I can mix and match or change my program of choice at any time, as I wish.

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I started out doing 21-Day Fix, and that was my reason for getting the subscription in the first place.  My husband agreed to do the nutrition portion with me, and I did both the nutrition and the exercise…the complete program.  I did really well and got toned up in no time!  I bought a cheap set of portion control containers at Walmart to use with the program…they are color coded and include duplicates of each size so you have plenty of them to work with when doing your meal planning.  I got to my goal weight, losing about 5-7 pounds.  But more importantly, I lost about 11 total inches on my whole body!  My clothes fit, and I could even get into the swim shorts I bought and planned to return because I couldn’t even get them on when I started! 

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I kept going with the exercise program but dropped the nutrition portion once I got to my goal weight.  I did put weight back on (about 9 pounds), but I was satisfied that I was at a great level of fitness, and I felt energetic and strong.  At some point in your life, you have to accept that being fit and toned is more important than a particular number on the scale.

I completed the exercise plan about 5 times through, upping my weights to heavier ones for the last 2 rounds.  However, I developed bursitis in my left shoulder, and the doctor told me some modified exercise was in order while I tried to get it to heal up without steroids.  She had me take Aleve every day for 2 weeks to help the inflammation and manage the pain.  I went back down with my weights again, but my shoulder kept getting worse.  By the end of the two weeks of Aleve, it was actually more painful than when I started.  That’s when I decided to take advantage of my Beach Body on Demand membership to switch up my exercise program to something different that didn’t involve any weight-bearing exercises at all.  There are a few programs on there that use dance as exercise rather than weights, so I decided to try out one of those. 

I don’t really like country music, but when I previewed the program called Country Heat, I decided that it looked like the right level of cardio exercise for my fitness level, so I went with that one.  I’ve been doing it for about 2 weeks now!  I have to admit that I really love it.  I get super sweaty, get my heart rate up pretty well, and I burn even more calories than I did on 21-Day Fix, largely because it involves constant movement rather than interval training.  It’s so much fun that the time just flies by!  I’m using the deluxe workout calendar, so some days double up and are closer to an hour than just the usual 30 minutes, but I don’t mind it at all.  Those double days include a regular 30-minute dance routine followed by a 25 minutes conditioning routine that combines dance and traditional fitness exercises.  I feel great, and I’ve actually lost 3 pounds in the last 6 days!  And I’m still doing my own thing for nutrition.

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On 21-Day Fix, I found the meal prep to be a necessity to remain consistent with the program, but the meal prep was taking up a lot of time I didn’t have, which meant staying up really late and getting less sleep.  I had to cook at night for the next morning so my hubby could take his meals to work for the day, and it was wearing me out since the plan uses 3 meals and 3 snacks every day. 

So when I reached my goal and dropped the nutrition portion of the program, I subscribed to the eMeals meal planning service.  I have to say that we all love it!  My whole family loves the variety of recipes, and we’re trying lots of new things that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise tried.  It’s been great!  There are lots of recipes to choose from, and we can mix and match from a variety of meal plans to create a customized plan just for us.  I love how it makes a shopping list for me based on my selections, and I can have it send that list to the Walmart Grocery website where I can finalize my selections and check out for the  free grocery pickup service.  I plan once a week, place my order, and usually pick up my order on Monday morning when I drop my daughter off at school.  Then I’m set for the whole week!

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Between Beach Body on Demand and eMeals, I can work out and meal plan in the most convenient way possible, and it saves me time from needing to go to the gym or shop in the grocery store with the endless checkout lines.  I’m loving it all!