Family time is important to my husband and me. Spending quality time with our children is one way we can get to know them better, show them how much we love them, and bond our hearts together.
But life is so busy that spending time together doesn't always come easily! The daily necessities of life take up so much of our time that time spent together often consists of folding laundry together on mom and dad's bed. And while there's most definitely a place for that kind of time spent together, it's also good to have focused, set-aside time together where we're not distracted by the next item on our to-do list.
A weekend getaway is a fantastic way for us to spend distraction-free time doing nothing other than making memories as a family.
Since we live only a few hours from the Smoky Mountains, a convenient place for us to take a weekend getaway is in the friendly town of Sevierville, Tennessee.
Located in eastern Tennessee, Sevierville is in a centralized location to much of the eastern United States. Its location, combined with the wide variety of family-oriented activities it offers, makes it a perfect destination for a family weekend getaway.
Watch the video for a speed version of our own kid-friendly weekend getaway in Sevierville, then read all the details below.
(Full disclosure: This trip was sponsored by the city of Sevierville. Our accommodations and attraction tickets were provided to facilitate this post.)
FULL TRIP DETAILS:
Arrive at our destination.
Since Sevierville is only a few hours away from us, it's easy for us just to hop on up there after my husband gets off work. Staying over on Thursday night maximizes the time we get to spend enjoying our weekend. Being there on Friday morning gives us HOURS more time to spend enjoying the day instead of spending travel time that day.
We stayed at the Oak Haven Resort, which offers cabins suitable for various family sizes. I prefer staying in a cabin when we travel as a family for several reasons:
Our cabin at Oak Haven Resort
The view from our cabin
What kinds of things does Oak Haven Resort offer? A lot!
The cabin was equipped with a game room downstairs which included arcade games, a pool table, Foosball, ping pong, and a hot tub on the porch. One small touch that was greatly appreciated by the smallest of our crew was a set of Mega Blocks. Since our 2 year old is not old enough to play ping pong or Foosball, and since the 4 year old wasn't all that interested, they were perfectly content to play with Mega Blocks any time we were staying at the cabin.
Resort guests also have access to a playground, a basketball court, a swimming pool, a lake with catch-and-release fishing privileges, and several walking trails.
We arrived into town about 5 pm on Thursday, stopped at Chipotle for a quick supper, and spent the rest of the evening enjoying our cabin before bed.
Friday, 8:30 AM
We had a busy day planned, so we ate out at Flapjack's Pancake Cabin for breakfast. The food there is so good! We definitely plan on making a trip here for breakfast any time we are in Sevierville.
Waiting for our yummy omelets and pancakes
Friday, 10:00 AM
After breakfast we headed over to Rainforest Adventures. I'd heard a lot about it on previous trips to Sevierville, but we had never had the chance to take the kids.
Being the homeschooled nerds they are, they were telling me all sorts of interesting things about the animals that I didn't even know. My least favorite part was the snakes, and I scooted past them as quickly as I could. I didn't want to even look at them! The kids didn't seem to have a problem with them, though. They were posing for pictures in front of them just so they could watch me squirm.
There was also a petting zoo out back where the kids fed goats, donkeys, and sheep.
Feeding a baby goat at the petting zoo
Friday, 12 PM
After we finished at Rainforest Adventures we went to Sevier Air Trampoline Park and Ninja Warrior Course. Friday morning was an amazing time to go! The Sevierville schools were already in session, so my homeschooled kids basically had the whole place to themselves! Since it was so empty, the staff went ahead and gave everyone unlimited arm bands, which meant we didn't have to worry about leaving right after our hour time slot was up.
I was really impressed with the park. There were lots of activities to keep everyone busy. Our whole family was able to jump and enjoy the activities together.
Enjoying one of the many activities at Sevier Air Trampoline Park and Ninja Warrior Course| Photo credit: Chad Branton
Friday, 1 PM
Next it was time to feed the hungry crew! We ate lunch at Five Oaks Farm Kitchen. It's a little on the pricey side, so plan your budget accordingly if you have a large family to feed, but the southern fare was delicious, and the portions were huge!
Enjoying a fluffy southern biscuit at Five Oaks Farm Kitchen
Friday, 3 PM
The plan at this point was to spend the rest of the day at Nascar Speed Park, which the kids had greatly been looking forward to, but it had begun to rain while we were inside the restaurant, and the little ones were starting to get tired anyway.
But we're flexible!
We headed back to the cabin instead, where we all took a nap, then we took advantage of the game room and hot tub for the rest of the evening.
I popped some hamburger patties into the oven for an easy supper, and we all just relaxed and hung out together until bedtime.
Relaxing at the cabin
Saturday, 10 AM
Option A: One fun way to spend your weekend in Sevierville is to get a day pass to Wilderness at the Smokies Wild WaterDome indoor water park. Since it's open year round, this is a great way to have some family fun regardless of the weather.
Option B: (What we did)
Since we hadn't taken the kids to the Nascar Speedpark the day before, we spent most of the morning there. There are go-kart tracks for just about every age (the only one who didn't ride was our 2 year old.)
Her first ever go-kart ride
They also have a whole bunch of kiddie rides. The oldest 2 kids drove go-karts all day, and the younger 2 went back and forth between driving go-karts and riding rides.
Enjoying one of the kiddie rides
As it got closer to lunch time, the heat was beginning to get to us, so we headed back to the cabin to get some lunch and cool off.
After lunch, we headed outside to explore the nature trails at the resort.
(Our original plan for this day was to spend some time hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the kids (and adults) really didn't want to skip going to the Nascar Speedpark. However, we did also want to get in some nature time, so we opted to explore the nature trails at Oak Haven Resort instead.
After a stop by the playground and basketball court, the little ones were sufficiently worn out, so we headed back to the cabin for a nap.
Little ones enjoying the playground
Daddy and the boys enjoying basketball
While the little ones were resting, I put some dinner in the crock pot and enjoyed putting my feet up to read while it cooked.
Saturday, 6 PM
We had planned to spend the evening enjoying a Smokies baseball game together, but it had begun to rain while the kids were taking their naps.
We waited until the last minute, but it was still pretty wet outside when it was time to leave for the game, so we opted to stay in out of the rain.
We spent more time enjoying the game room at the cabin. Finally the weather dried up, so we decided to take advantage of the unlimited arm bands we still had from the Nascar Speedpark.
It was getting dark and late by this time, but it was vacation, so why not?!
The kids enjoyed several more rides before we finally headed back.
Night time ride at Nascar Speedpark
Waiting for one last ride on the Scrambler at Nascar Speedpark
Everyone was sighing those “happy, tired, satisfied” sighs.
Check out from Oak Haven Resort was not until 11:00 the next day, which meant we could still sleep in before we headed for home.
It had been a wonderful, much-needed time away to relax and enjoy each other's company.
Many thanks to visitsevierville.com for planning a perfect itinerary for our family. Click here to check out the Visit Sevierville website for ideas on planning your own kid-friendly weekend getaway to Sevierville, Tennessee.
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It was an ordinary evening. I was unloading the dishwasher while dinner was heating up on the stove. My toddler was “helping” me, while the older kids were reading books to their younger siblings at the table. As I worked, I enjoyed chatting on the phone with my husband during his drive home from work.
I stopped to take it all in, and I realized I was having the time of my life!
It wasn't a special holiday. Everything that was going on was very ordinary, but I was enjoying myself immensely!
I could have this much joy every day if I would only choose to.
When I'm cooking an “ordinary” supper, I can stop and thank the Lord that I have food to prepare for my family and a stove on which to prepare it.
When I'm doing an “ordinary” dishwasher unloading, I can be thankful I have the luxury of owning a dishwasher.
When I'm changing an “ordinary” diaper I can be thankful for these little ones God has entrusted to me.
If I stop and think about the blessings God has given me, the ordinary things seem so much more special.
Just since that evening a few days ago, I have tried to stop and think throughout the day about God's blessings and to make a conscious choice to enjoy what He has given me – not just on the special days.
What will you enjoy today, my friend? The enchanting smell of a candle? The sound of beautiful music on the radio? The way the sunlight looks as it sends its rays through a window? The love of your family on this ordinary day?
Stop. Look. Listen. Enjoy.
Everything we have is a gift from God. He loves us, and has given us “richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
So let's enjoy what He's given.
Other Christian homemaing posts you may like:
Yes. I am going to be so bold as to tell you what you ought to wear every day.
You see, there's more to what we wear than just what goes on the outside, although I'll be talking some about that too.
As a homemaker, you ought to put on the following things every single day:
1. A meek and quiet spirit (I Peter 3:4)
This passage is specifically referring to a woman's submission to her husband. Through the Holy Spirit, Peter instructs women to show their beauty, not through how they dressed on the outside, but by what shone through from the inside. A good definition of meekness is “strength under control”. The meekest person that ever lived was Moses (Numbers 12:3.) No doubt it took an incredible amount of self-control to deal with 2 million or so people, all hungry, thirsty, and whining. Likewise, submission to one's husband does not reveal weakness, it is evidence of strength that can only come from a spirit-filled life. It reveals what is truly on the inside, and it is beautiful. If you want to look nice as a homemaker, asking the Lord to give you a meek and quiet spirit is a great place to start!
2. Mercy, kindness, humility, longsuffering, forgiveness, and love (Colossians 3:12-14)
These are 6 things Christians are specifically instructed to “put on”.
As a homemaker, you'll no doubt experience many instances throughout the day that will require mercy, kindness, humility, longsuffering, forgiveness, and love. Any other reaction to the annoyances of the day will not be very beautiful. But once again, the inner beauty that reveals itself when one is under pressure cannot be outdone by any sort of outward adorning.
3. The armor of God (Ephesians 6:10 – 18)
Ladies, not only should we be meek and quiet and gentle, but we should be meek, quiet, and gentle warriors!
Being “just” a homemaker does not make you exempt from the devil's attacks. In fact, I'm sure he'd love it if he could throw you off track as you endeavor to train up the next generation for the Lord's glory.
So each day before we enter the fray, let's make sure we're suited up and ready for battle! We truly do not wrestle against flesh and blood and we dare not engage the enemy unprepared.
4. A smile
Did you know that the simple act of smiling can be highly motivating, both to yourself and to those around you?
Would you rather be around someone who is smiling or who looks like they got up on the wrong side of the bed? A lot of homemakers end up with frumpy grumpy syndrome. They get irritated that someone tracked dirt on the freshly mopped floor, that the laundry is piled up yet again, and that it's time to make another meal and the kitchen isn't yet clean from the last one. (They? What am I saying? I do this!)
When we focus on all the things that go wrong about our day, we can end up pretty grouchy, and it doesn't look very pretty on our face.
But when you pause for a minute and find something to smile about, you'll look a whole lot nicer and you'll feel better too. I know my husband would rather walk in the door to find me smiling than to be greeted with a scowl and a list of all the mischievous things the kids have done.
5. Appropriate attire
I think sometimes people subconsciously substitute June Cleaver homemaking for Biblical homemaking. While I believe in looking nice and dressing with excellence (Proverbs 31:22), I don't believe that wearing heels and pearls makes one a Godly homemaker and wearing spit-up stained pajamas makes one an ungodly homemaker.
When you get dressed you should dress appropriately for the tasks you'll be doing that day. Some days that means you'll be doing nothing more than snuggling with a sick baby and you might not find a chance to shower and get dressed even if you wanted to. Some days you'll be spring cleaning and wearing comfortable old clothes you don't mind getting dirty. I know I've heard many times that you should look nice for your husband when he comes home from work, and I agree. However, I don't think that means you need to feel ashamed if you still have on your spring cleaning clothes or you're still in your pajamas holding that sick baby.
When a person goes to a work place, they're required to wear clothing that's appropriate for their job. As a homemaker, why should you wear clothing that's inappropriate for your job? Mop the floor in a dress and heels? No thanks.
But…before you get too comfortable thinking you can just wear any old raggedy thing every day, let's go back to the dressing with excellence thing.
The point of dressing appropriately is to help you do the best job you can. When your jobs for the day require you to get dirty, then wear something that will help you not to shy away from that. But what about the “regular” days where no overwhelming circumstances are prevailing and no extremely dirty work needs to be done? Just because you can take care of your home and family in your pajamas, should you? Would you go to your work place in pajamas? Or would you dress in a way that would make you feel more productive and show your co-workers that you care about what they have to look at?
I think sometimes it's easy for homemakers to slip from that place of staying in their pajamas out of necessity to doing it purely out of habit.
Hey, I'm talking to myself here! Many days I'm just surviving, and I'm thankful I have a husband who understands, but when I look in the mirror I do feel badly that all he gets is the totally frumpy version of me.
And I really feel terrible if I realize that I honestly have no excuse to be dressed like a slob and not have my hair fixed.
Dressing nicely is not a requirement for Biblical homemaking – I think I've been clear enough that beauty truly does come from the inside. But…why not make the outside reflect what's on the inside?
If I'm truly striving to be inwardly beautiful, why would I not put some effort into how I look on the outside too?
The Proverbs 31 woman and her husband were well-known and well-respected in the community. For someone who clearly cared so deeply about leading a productive life, neglecting her personal appearance would have been contradictory to everything else she believed in.
Likewise, if I desire to be a productive homemaker, it only makes sense that I should dress the part.
I promise I'm preaching to myself here. I do notice that it's easier to be lazy when I'm dressed in lounge clothes. I can't imagine but that my husband likes it much better when I don't look like an old hag. And since I desire to be inwardly beautiful, I think it makes sense to put forth some effort on the outside too.
Again, I'm not talking about June Cleaver expectations; I'm simply talking about dressing appropriately for the day and showing respect for the other members of my family by making my appearance as pleasant as I can under the specific circumstances I'm in that day.
Along with that, I want to make you aware of a fabulous resource to help us lose the “homemaker frump”. It's called the Wardrobe Basics Builder, and it helps you build a 20 piece capsule wardrobe that is PERFECT for stay at home moms or homemakers. It also gives you 20 days of outfits created from those pieces and a printable you can hang in your closet to inspire you with outfit ideas each day. (If you primarily wear skirts like I do, you can just substitute the same color skirt for the pants. Easy peasy!) Here is an outfit I put together from these ideas. I never would have thought to put these pieces together on my own! (Excuse the awkward selfie. I'm not exactly skilled in that area and I had better things to do with my time than trying over and over.)
What will it be, my friend? Are the others around you seeing beauty from without and within? Or are they seeing a bad attitude, grumpiness, and a neglect of your appearance? It's time for us to work on these things!
You can pick up the Wardrobe Basics Builder right here.
Other resources I use and love:
1. Stitch Fix is an amazing styling service to help you find beautiful clothing. You fill out your style profile, basically clicking on pictures of clothes you like and don't like, then you fill out a little questionnaire about what kinds of clothes you like, and a personal stylist will pick out gorgeous outfits for you and sent them to you. You can try them all on, and the benefit of doing so at home means you can pair it with other items in your wardrobe to see if they match or look well together. You'll only pay for the clothes you keep, and the rest get sent back in a postage pre-paid bag.
You can see a more in-depth post I wrote about Stitch Fix here.
If you want to give it a try, you can get a $25 credit when you sign up through this link.
2. Thredup is another of my favorite places to purchase beautiful, modest outfits. The clothes at Thredup are in gently used condition, therefore you will pay less than what you pay for the clothes from Stitch Fix.
I've written a post about how I shop for specific outfits at Thredup here.
With 5 growing kids, our grocery budget is our highest household expense. Every week I am shocked to see how quickly we go through the food that I buy.
I am constantly tweaking the menu and trying to make things stretch as far as I can. Since I know many of my readers are in the same boat (tight budget, but you gotta eat!) I thought I would share some of the more surprising ways I have found to reduce our grocery budget.
(Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.)
1. Don't use coupons.
Yes! You read that right! Now there was a time when I would have vehemently disagreed with that statement, but I've completely changed my tune now!
I used to be quite the couponing queen – to the point that I often made money buying my groceries. As I traveled further and further down the path to a more healthy lifestyle, though, I eventually realized that there weren't too many coupons for healthy foods, and the coupons were only tempting me to splurge on unhealthy things way too much. (Read about the time we ate 40 boxes of Pop-Tarts!)
I ended up spending 25 cents here and 50 cents there on food I would have never purchased otherwise just because it was cheap. You might be very surprised to find out that once I stopped using coupons, we were actually able to eat better quality food for less money.
Because I was nickel and diming myself to death on the cheapest things I could get, but that we didn't necessarily need. Sure, our grocery bill was very low, and cooking was a breeze with all those boxes and cans in my pantry that I could just dump into a pot. But I didn't have planned-out, healthy meals; it was just pure randomness.
Once I started planning healthy meals, and I ditched the coupons, our health improved and our grocery bill went down. I found that planning trumped randomness on both quality and cost, even when the randomness only cost a few pennies!
2. Use cash.
Paying for my groceries with cash forced me to create a plan and stick to it.
And as I already emphasized, planning plays a gigantic role in lowering the grocery bill.
When I use cash, I am adding up the cost of all the ingredients as I add them to the cart, and if I'm over budget, I can't cover it with a credit card; I'll just have to put something back.
There's no better way to stick to a budget than by giving yourself no other option!
3. Don't shop on the same day each week.
This strategy might not work for everyone depending on your family's schedule, but one really successful way I have found to keep my grocery budget low is to only shop when I run out of food.
Even though meal planning is important, things don't always go as planned.
So if I plan to shop once a week, inevitably there will still be random food articles left in the fridge on shopping day.
But if I wait until I've used up everything in the fridge and pantry, I can stretch our budget for an extra day or two (or if I'm really feeling resourceful I can sometimes make it an extra whole week!)
Using everything up before I shop keeps my fridge spic and span without forgotten leftovers rotting in the back too.
Want even more help reducing your family's grocery budget?
Grocery Budget Bootcamp is a course that my friend Tiffany put together with families like yours in mind. She has a passion for helping people feed their families well without breaking the bank. Numerous testimonials like the following are coming from her students:
“I just want to say THANK YOU for the course and the depth it goes into. I've saved $300 from the first 2 weeks!” – Kristen
“In just 2 months I've trimmed my grocery budget by 43% AND saved nearly 10 TIMES what I paid before the course was even over!” – Laura
Enrollment is currently open, BUT only for the next few days.
Easter will be here very soon. As I reflect on Christ's resurrection, I thought it would be appropriate to share some Easter Bible verses that you too can meditate upon during the coming days.
Here are 15 scriptures to help you celebrate the Resurrection:
1. And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, 18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, 19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again. Matthew 20:17-19
2. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. 30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. 31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. 32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Matthew 26:26-32
3. And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. 45 And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. 46 And they laid their hands on him, and took him. Mark 14:43-46
4. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the
King of the Jews? 13 And they cried out again, Crucify him. 14 Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. 15 And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. Mark 15:12-15
5. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. 34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. 47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. Luke 23:33-34; 46-47
6. When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. Matthew 27:57-60
7. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? Luke 24:1-5
8. He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words, 9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. Luke 24:6-9
9. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:25-26
10. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:8-11
11. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Romans 8:31-34
12. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:9-13
13. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day
according to the scriptures: I Corinthians 15:1-4
14. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead,
and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. I Corinthians 15:19-22
15. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. I Corinthians 15:19-22
It was nearly time for me to leave for the grocery store, and I was still frantically googling for “Real Food Menu Plans”. I had a list of dream features in my head for what I needed/wanted in a menu planning service, but I assumed it didn't exist because it was basically like I was hoping for a personal mind-reader.
I saw Real Plans come up several times, clicked on it, and left the page. Like 3 times. I assumed it wouldn't be everything I was hoping for, even though it looked close. On the 4th time, I said, “You know what? I can just do this for a month and see how I like it. I don't have to keep up a subscription if I don't want to.”
So I did. After the first week I said, “Yup. I'm buying the whole year subscription.”
And now, 3 months later, I'm still finding new things to love about it. Update: It has now been 8 months since I purchased my subscription to Real Plans, and I'm still extremely happy with it.
This is going to be a long post, because honestly it's got everything. But here we go. Here is why I am loving Real Plans so stinking much.
(Disclosure: this post includes affiliate links)
1. Customize likes, dislikes, food allergies, etc.
When you first set up your profile, you can choose whether or not you eat a specific type of diet, like Paleo or Whole30. I don't even remember how many choices there were. There were a lot. I just chose a traditional diet.
Additionally, if you have specific allergies or even foods you dislike, you can add those and it will not include any recipes in your meal plans that have any of those ingredients in them.
I so much love that all of the recipes are real food recipes, and not something where I have to make manual substitutions for foods we wouldn't eat.
2. Customize your meal schedule
I can choose which days of the week I want it to plan menus for and which meals I want planned. So, for instance, if I know we don't eat breakfast on Saturdays but have a large brunch instead, I would set the Saturday schedule to only plan breakfast and dinner. I can event set the Saturday breakfast settings to “large” meal size so that it would be appropriate for brunch.
Every meal can be customized with advanced filters. So, for example, if I know we have soccer practice on Thursday nights, I can set the prep times for Thursday night dinners to always plan a 15 minute dinner for me. (What?! I'm still blown away by how amazing this software is.
If I want to have a crockpot roast for Sunday dinner every week, I can tell it to do that.
If I want to do a Mexican Mondays, I can set Monday dinners to always be Mexican cuisine.
I could keep going, but I think you get the point that you can do so much with this software!
3. Customize to your real food cooking style
Another thing in your account settings is what your real food cooking style is. Do you typically buy organic, pre-made ingredients from the store? Do you make every ingredient from scratch? Do you make certain easy things like bone broth and purchase the rest?
Depending on the settings you select, the software will add ingredients to your shopping list or else add to your weekly instructions that you need to prepare those ingredients.
4. Customize how many servings you want
A downfall of some menu planning services is that the recipes are based on a certain number of servings and you have to adjust your own shopping list accordingly if your family is larger or smaller.
With Real Plans, I can set each meal to be the number of servings I want, and it will automatically adjust the recipes and my shopping list.
Right now, I have all my dinners set to 14 servings, and I leave the lunches blank. This way I don't have to cook a separate meal for lunch, and I can be sure that my dinner recipes make enough to ensure leftovers that we can eat.
5. Use pre-made menus, customized menus, or a combination of both
After you set up your weekly schedule, your menus are automatically generated for you each week. Simply log in or open up the app on your phone and your menus and recipes are already there waiting for you. Don't care for a specific meal on the schedule? You can search the database and replace it with any recipe you like, or you can play “recipe roulette”, where they will generate some random choices. You can keep clicking the thumbs down sign until you see one you like and it will replace the originally planned meal with the new one you selected.
6. Add more recipes from your favorite bloggers or import your own
Real Plans comes with a database of 1500 real food recipes, but they have also partnered with some favorite recipe bloggers. You can also purchase an upgrade and it will add every recipe from their site into your recipe rotation.
Additionally, you can install the chrome extension (free) and use it to import any recipes you wish from around the web and then add hem to your meal schedule.
7. The shopping list is automatically created and syncs to the phone app
No matter how many adjustments I make to my meal plan, the app automatically adjusts every ingredient on my shopping list.
I LOVE that the shopping list is divided by section of the store, making everything so quick and easy to find. Each item has a check box beside it, and once I've added it to my cart I can click it and it disappears. This makes it so nice so that I can see the items disappearing off the list instead of hoping my eyes haven't missed something as I skim over the list.
(If I make a mistake, I can go to the “Got it” section and re-add the item to my list.)
8. Additional shopping list convenience
Since I shop at multiple stores, I can tell the software which items I typically purchase from which store. Every week it puts my Aldi items on the Aldi list, the Walmart items on the Walmart list, the online items on the online list, etc. That way when I go to Walmart, I only see the 3 items I need to get when I'm in Walmart.
If I always have certain items on hand, coconut oil or apple cider vinegar for instance, I can check “always have it” and it will not clog up my shopping list with those items week after week. If I want to purchase certain items on a schedule (for instance, I like to order my sprouted flour once a month) I can set the shopping list to schedule it for me once a month so that I remember to buy it. (I'm telling you, once you enter your settings, Real Plans is like having your own personal mind reader!)
9. Cooking timeline
If you know anything about real food, it's that you always have to be a couple steps ahead of the game. (Whoops! Beans for supper tonight, but I forgot to soak them yesterday!)
Real Plans is so smart that it reads the ingredients in your recipes and creates a timeline for the week. Here's a snapshot of mine for the week:
10. Cooking convenience
With other menu planning services I've used, I either have to print the recipes out, or go tracking them down via my Pinterest profile when I'm ready to cook. It's time consuming and a pain.
With Real Plans, all I do is open the app on my phone, and the recipe for whatever meal it is automatically pops up. (If I decide I want to eat tomorrow's meal today, I can just scroll down and click on it.)
I also just noticed that there is a place to rate each recipe from 1 to 5 “hearts.” I'm assuming that if you really like a recipe, you can just give it a high rating and Real Plans will add it to your meal rotation more often. (Like I said, I keep finding new things to love about it!)
11. Nutritional data on every recipe
If you have special health concerns or you're dieting and want to count carbs, each recipe has all the nutrition facts included.
12. 24 hour chat
If you're stuck or confused on how to use a certain feature, you can just click the chat button (available 24 hours a day and they will help you immediately.) Seriously the best customer service ever. They even called me when I first signed up to see if I needed anything.
13. Money back guarantee
Not that I think you would need it, but it is always reassuring to know that if something doesn't work for you, you won't be out anything.
I paid $72 for a year of Real Plans and even though it's only February, I have already more than paid for the service with the amount of time I've saved and with the money I've saved at the grocery store.
I am super picky about products and don't often recommend things because I'm hard to impress. But Real Plans has honestly been like a dream come true for me. We're eating healthy meals and saving money in the process!