Need some help planning your 4th of July meal plan? I know it doesn’t quite feel like business as usual when it comes to our summer plans, but the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday of the year. Even if it’s just you celebrating, here are some fun ideas for the kitchen. We will celebrate at the beach this year with some family outside. Here’s hoping the mosquitoes are not too bad this year!

Watermelon Sticks 4th of July meal plan

4th of July Menu

Pamela Salzman’s American Flag Pie recipe. You can check out her Instagram IGTV and watch the tutorial. Make the dough today and break up the steps to make it easier.

A Couple Cooks’ updated broccoli salad looks like a great option to use some of our garden fresh broccoli.

Potato salads are my favorite, especially when it’s a French Potato Salad. I’m totally hooked on adding capers to my potato salad, and so are my kids!

I like grilling chicken and being able to have some “plain” and others with a kick. I’ve found using a hoisin glaze at the end is perfect. Here’s an easy tutorial for a grilled hoisin chicken, but please don’t use canola oil. Sub avocado oil on the grill due to the high heat.

Zucchini hummus is a perfect pair to all the snappy veggies from our garden, plus a few more from local farms.

Round out the menu with watermelon sticks and you’ll be good to go. Sticks are the way to go for less mess and they also taste delicious frozen.

Scale-up as needed for your guest count.


Easy American Flag Cheese Board

American Flag Cheese Board from The Baker Mama

And a cute red, white, and blue cheese and fruit board is always a win for your 4th of July meal plan. This one from The Baker Mama is gorgeous and full of gluten-free crackers from Trader Joe’s.(She has a full shopping list on this post here.)


I hope you enjoy the long weekend. Raise a glass of clean-crafted wine to toast the holiday! I’ll be enjoying a glass of Adelante Sauvignon Blanc because my mom and sister are in town and it’s their favorite. You can grab it too for 20% off till Friday.

Cheers and happy 4th of July!

Are you ready for another week of getting your meal plan organized?! It’s time to put pencil to paper, marker to dry erase board, or fingers to your keyboard. Whatever way you keep track of your meal plan, know that it’s okay to change your system if it’s not quite working for you.

Sometimes you need to make an adjustment as your season of life changes. For many, it’s the end of the school year and you may be juggling kid’s at home more often. Or trying to plan for camp lunches as well.

Maybe it’s time to sit down and plan some themes for your week, i.e. meatless monday, taco tuesday. Putting in even 10 minutes can make your week feel less stressful. If some part of your system isn’t working, try something new. Meal planning is effective if it saves you time and overwhelm. If it’s causing frustration, change course.

Take 10 minutes to write out what you plan to eat this week. (or just write down last week so you have a starting point!)

Here’s a little cheat sheet of different ways to record your meal plans each week:

  • Your planner or Google calendar
  • Monthly calendar (there’s a new one in the Wellness Library you can grab! Get the code here.)
  • Weekly meal planner
  • Evernote or Trello
  • Pinterest: create a secret board called Meal Plans and add recipes as you plan them. If they are winners, keep them in the folder. If not, delete the pin.
  • Dry erase board
  • Journal (which is what sparked the Dinner: A Love Story cookbook)
  • Plan to Eat app
  • Order meal delivery from Blue Apron, Plated, etc.

Do you have another favorite way of keeping track of your dinners? Share a note in the comments.

On to the menu for this week!

Rainbow vegetable kabobs

As you write out your grocery list for the upcoming week check out these healthy family friendly recipes from this week’s menu plan. Each featured recipe includes link to the complete recipe.

Dinner {GF= Gluten Free, P=Paleo, DF=Dairy Free, NF= Nut Free}

Monday: Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Eggs. (GF)  This takes a little longer than most recipes at 50 minutes, but it looks oh so good for a Meatless Monday.

Tuesday: Salmon Burgers

Wednesday: Spring Vegetable Soup (45 minutes total to prep and cook, GF + DF).

Thursday: Paleo Beef Short Ribs (P), and  Honey Roasted Carrots

Friday: Pizza night with our homemade dough.

Weekend: Yogurt Marinated Chicken, plan 3 hours for the marinade, (GF). This makes enough for a crowd, or for leftover chicken served over salad.  I recommend the Lemon Pepper flavor. Pairs well with Vegetable Kabobs. Once your prep is done, dinner cooks in about 10 minutes.


Healthy Buffalo Chicken Wrap. This recipe may end up on our dinner rotation this summer while we are at the beach!


Chocolate Buckwheat Waffles with Berries. This recipe caught my eye in a story about increasing the amount of whole grains in our diet. I’ve started to pickup buckwheat flour from our local, natural food store’s bulk bins and just buy 1-2 cups a week for specific recipes. For an even healthier version, you can swap out the unsweetened cocoa powder for 1 tablespoon raw cacoa powder.


Quinoa coconut granola bars. Just made these and they are a winner from Super Healthy Kids. Next time I’m going to make them with sun-butter and pumpkin seeds so the kids can take them to school.

how to make changes to your meal planning routine


For more inspiration, see years of past dinner plans here, my Pinterest collection here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans. Any Amazon links are affiliate links, thanks for shopping via my site. 

I am taking a little time off from regular meal planning and I came across the summer meal planning list I pulled together last year. Having a list of go-to meals can be helpful as you look at the week ahead. Many of these dinners are barbecue friendly, and also great for hot summer nights when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen.

While I’m taking a break from regular meal planning posts, you can find all the past menu plan posts here. I am also spending a fair amount of time on Pinterest updating my favorite boards with new recipe inspiration. I’ve reorganized my boards so it’s easier to find some recipe inspiration. I’m loving my new Salad board and  Beverage board where I’m storing all my new favorite smoothie recipes.

Easy summer dinner ideas

Here are some of my go-to dinner ideas for when the days are lazy and long and it’s too hot to stay in the kitchen.

And get the free printable with bonus ideas so you can hang it on your fridge this summer as a reminder!

  • Hamburgers with native corn 
  • Grilled Chicken with a salad and homemade salad dressing.
  • Waldorf Chicken Salad Sandwiches (grill extra chicken the first night, use leftovers for the second.)
  • Grilled/ Pan seared Fish.  All fish usually needs is a little olive oil and salt and pepper for the grill.
  • Fish Sandwiches
  • Steak Tips with grilled zucchini or summer squash
  • Grilled Pork Tenderloin
  • Mac and Cheese with ham and corn for lazy nights.
  • Hot Dogs.  (We buy Applegate or something with no nitrates/nitrites)
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches (slow cooker)
  • Salsa Chicken (slow cooker)
  • Frittata with fresh veggies and herbs
  • Boiled Lobster Dinner (a splurge for some, or free for us when I get them from my Dad. My kids LOVE lobster!)
  • Grilled Pizza with pre-made dough from the freezer
  • Pesto Pasta with stir fried chicken. (Recipe for Homemade Basil Pesto)
What are your easy summer dinners to add to the list?

For more inspiration, see three years of past dinner plan heremy Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of weekly meal plans. (affiliate links included here which help support this site.)

Summer is on our doorstep friends. Time to load up on sunscreen and today is the day for the 2015 Sunscreen Guide. Here’s your chance to see what’s new, what works and most importantly, what’s safe for you and your family. Sunscreen is a wonderful barrier to protect your skin, but educate yourself on which ones can do more harm than good.

2015 Healthy Sunscreen Guide

In this guide, I’ll be sharing with you the product, the price (and amazon affiliate links where available to make ordering easy) and also the EWG rating. For those of you unfamiliar with EWG (or Environmental Working Group), it’s a hugely educational site that helps shed light on the safety of sunscreen and other beauty products. I am only sharing products that get a 0, 1 or 2 rating. Anything lower is just too questionable for me to consider sharing it with you.



  • $10.50/ 4 oz. (Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: 2
  • Great for the beach and playing outdoor sports


  • $15.99/ 6 oz.
  • EWG Rating: 1
  • Goddess Garden can be found easily at Whole Foods or online. Note- the trigger spray option EWG rating drops down to a 3.


  • $11.99/ 8 oz. (great value. Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: not included (I used this last year and can vouch for it.)
  • Thinner lotion that spreads better than most.


  • $12.99 stick/ (Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: 1
  • The ease of a stick without the white cast. The brown tint really doesn’t look brown, just a hint of color on light skin. It’s a little sticky so it’s best for small areas like the face and top of hands.


  • $15.95/ 2.9 oz
  • EWG Rating: 1 (same for the sunscreen stick)
  • Friends swear by this line for its eco-friendliness. I just ordered my first batch of products.


  • $12.55/ 3.0 oz (Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: 1
  • Easy to apply and the whole family can use it safely. Every version has great ratings.


  • $14.49/2.9 oz (Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: 1
  • Badger is well known as being a great choice for kids with sensitive skin.

Couple of quick notes. You will notice that the majority of these sunscreens can’t be found at your local drugstore. Those sunscreens are generally less expensive, but are using chemicals instead to create a barrier for your skin. The benefit of using a mineral based sunscreen (zinc and titanium dioxide) is they create a physical barrier against the sun immediately. No need to wait ten minutes for chemicals to sink into your skin to make the sunscreen effective. (doesn’t that just sound creepy…)




The hot weather has finally arrived in our little neck of the woods. Snow pants and wool hats were quickly replaced with sunscreen and sun hats. Getting the kids off to school layered up in sunscreen is a new part of our routine, one they need to get used to for the summer ahead. But what about other ways to protection our skin from the sun’s harsh rays? May is Skin Cancer Awareness month and it has certainly touched many people’s lives. Today I want to share some ways to protect your skin beyond reaching for the bottle of sunscreen.

Sun Protection Beyond the Bottle


  • Find yourself a fabulous umbrella for the beach. Make sure it has an UPF rating of 50+. (UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor)
  • The Coolibar Umbrella here is our family favorite. You can see at least 4 of them lined up at our beach spot all summer long with multiple families sharing the cool shade. It’s worth the price.

UPF Clothing

  • There is now a wide variety of choices in clothing with built-inUPF ratings of 50+.
    • Coolibar has womens, mens, kids and babies
    • Athleta and Title Nine also have options now for working out and some beach cover-ups.
    • Mott50 has fashion forward choices, including this awesome infinity scarf accessory.

Mott50 Infinity scarf



  • There are so many choices in fabrics…straw, canvas, and so on.
  • The key is to find one that will cover your ears, one of the top spots for skin cancer to form.
  • Find one with a brim large enough to give you lots of coverage, but not so much that it’s droopy and impedes your peripheral vision. (I had that issue once and it was so annoying while watching the kids at the beach.)

Kids Surf Suits

Kids UPF Surf Suit

  • The adorable surf suits make playing outside all day so much easier for both kids and parents. Less sunscreen is needed and some cover from the neck all the way to the ankles. (both suits at
  • These suits are generally good for one season and not great as hand-me-downs. The fabric often gets stretched out from sand, salt and the sun and you can’t rely on the same level of sun protection.


  • A friendly reminder to stay hydrated while hanging out in the sun. Treat yourself and the kids to new water bottles this summer to encourage lots of water intake. Flavor the water with fresh fruit or cucumbers and keep it chilled.

Stay safe as you enjoy the warm summer months! Sunscreen will always be helpful but I love that there are all these other options now to help us protect our skin from the sun.

Disclosure: Coolibar provided our family product in exchange for this post. We have been loyal shoppers of Coolibar for years and all opinions shared here are my own. Throughout May, which is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar is giving the American Cancer Society $1 for every order placed. As an added incentive, they are also offering 15% off the entire order using the code ACS15.


Encouraging Creativity at the BeachDo you ever feel like you are bringing everything but the kitchen sink to the beach? From the towels, chairs, food and toys, it can be overwhelming packing up for the beach. Today I’m sharing a story about what happens when you let the kids use just one reusable yogurt container, with no guidance from mom and dad. It turned into a very cute and creative activity at the beach.

Meet Hermie, the little hermit crab the kids found while exploring the rocks at the beach.

Hermit Crab Beach Discovery

Hermie came back to our beach camp and then the kids went off to build Hermie his own home.

Building a sand castle together

The kids worked together to build Hermie a four room home, delightfully presented like a flower.

One little yogurt cup turned into quite a little project for these kids. It was a wonderful reminder that sometimes we need a little less to allow our children’s mind to tap into their imagination. They got no directions from us, just a lot of praise in the end on what a wonderful job they did building Hermie’s home. No one squabbled over the lack of toys, no one asked a grown up for help, and in the end, the kids were so excited to share what they built.

Proud kids of their beach house

It’s a great lesson as we think about the change of seasons in another month or two and we move indoors a little more. Where could we use “less” so that we allow our kids to reach into their imagination a little “more.”

Thank you to Stonyfield Yogurt for providing our family with complimentary yogurt through my involvement as a Clean Plate Club Ambassador. The kids love their Organic Vanilla yogurt for breakfast and I’m sure we can find even more creative uses for our yogurt cups this summer.

I am honored to be a member of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club. I received product or coupons for writing this post, but all opinions are my own.

Creative ways to use your beach treasures via RandomRecycling

If you frequented the beach this summer, there is a good chance you have collected a stash of seashells, sea glass or driftwood. On our beach, we are lucky to also collect sand dollars. The big question at the end of the season is what to do with all of our beach treasures? Here are a couple of easy ideas you can make with just a few craft materials.

Seaglass Wreath via RandomRecycling

Easy sea glass wreath using a foam wreath form and a hot glue gun.

Sea Glass Votives via RandomRecyclingEmbellish some plain candle votives with sea glass to bring a little of the beach to your table.

Love this beach inspired mason jar craft too.

Driftwood mirror via RandomRecycling

Layer pieces of driftwood to create a textured mirror. Use a flat mirror to start with to make it easier to apply the driftwood. (Ikea made this one.) Check out this fancier driftwood mirror if you have a big collection to use.

This post shares more driftwood project ideas.

Painting Sand dollars via RandomRecycling

Watercolor paints work great for painting sand dollars and seashells.

Got seashells? Here are 20+ ways to use them.

Share your creative  ways to use seashells in the comments.

Looks like summer is back this week so the meal plan is light and easy to accomplish. Best wishes to anyone starting the back to school schedule this week. With preschoolers in the house, we still have another month before school starts. I need to remember to enjoy this down time before the busier schedules start up.

August meal plan week 3 from

Sunday~ Easy salad with today’s picks from the Needham Farmers Market

Monday~ Picnic dinner at the pool with friends so Caprese sandwiches sound nice. Madison will probably just eat the cheese…

Tuesday~ Baked Haddock with tomatoes from the garden and a little onion.

Wednesday~ Chicken stir fry with zucchini and rice

Thursday~ Hamburgers on the grill with corn on the cob. Need to remember to serve corn with lime instead of butter.

Friday~ Pizza night

Saturday~ Off to the family’s annual Lobster Party. I think I’ll make these S’mores Brownies that are so decadent.

What are you making this week?

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

How is it nearly the middle of August? I’m not quite ready for back to school fever and just want to enjoy my summer meal planning with easy dinners and ice cream for dessert. The week started off right with an impromptu BBQ with our neighbors. In addition to an heirloom tomato salad, I made an awesome dessert from Shutterbean, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake. Topped off with cream cheese frosting it really did hit the spot if you love cookies and cake!

August meal plan week 2

Sunday~ BBQ with Heirloom Tomato Salad

Monday~ Steak Tips with Teriyaki dressing. (Making my own tips from “Flap Steak” I got at the farmer’s market.)

Tuesday~ In-laws visiting and I have two meetings at night to head out to so heading to the freezer for our favorite Honey Balsamic Drumsticks from my Wildtree stash.

Wednesday~ Meatless Wednesday anyone? Omelets with herbs, tomatoes and peppers from our garden. My quest for more meatless meals is going to be a bit more challenging as I won’t be able to eat any more bean dishes while I’m nursing. (poor little guy!) I asked my readers what they suggested and you can join in the conversation on Facebook here. Read about our success (and fail) in my Black Bean Taco post.

Thursday~ Clean Out Refrigerator Night

Friday~ Pizza Night. In addition to our usual pepperoni, I may try a new zucchini pizza

In case you  missed it, Pinterest highlighted my Lunch Love board this weekend. I’m excited to share some healthy living tips with new readers and encourage them to get cooking in the kitchen with their kids. What are some of your kid’s favorite lunch box meals?


For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

This week’s meal plan came together after a visit to the Needham Farmers Market. I haven’t been since June and I have missed seeing what’s new from our farmers. I took Madison to the market and she helped pick out fresh peaches, corn and just had to get some little cucumbers to make pickles.

August meal plan week 1

Sunday’s dinner of grilled swordfish came from Globe Fish at the market, one of my favorite vendors. Grilled with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper and dinner is done. Local corn and some heirloom tomatoes from MacArthur Farm rounded out the meal.

Monday~ Trying to get a Meatless Monday trend going in our house again. Hoping a fun taco night will disguise the fact that there is no meat involved. Plus I can make homemade salsa with our first tomatoes and use some of these gorgeous red onions from the market.

Local Red Onions

Tuesday~ Grilled Pesto Chicken and Tomato Kebabs. I made two monster batches of my homemade basil pesto recipe and will use some for this dinner.

Wednesday~ Hamburgers on the grill…I have missed our new grill. Our vacation place only had a charcoal grill so many of my easy summer dinner menu ideas were not so easily cooked last month.

Thursday~ Clean Out Refrigerator Night (mama needs at least one night off!)

Friday~ Pizza with our Homemade Pizza Dough 

Saturday~ Off to a party…which sweet treat shall I bring. Must check my Pinterest Board.

Farmers Market Shopping

What are you eating that’s in season?

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.