three things that are saving my life right now – the food edition

“What is saving your life right now?”

It’s a question that my friend and fellow blogger, Sarah Bessey has mentioned several times lately and it keeps prompting interesting ideas and tips that I’ve decided to finally share. And don’t tie me down and hold me to it, but I’m hoping to do this from time to time around here.

There are several things (be they physical or theoretical) that are saving my life – making my days easier, coming in clutch in the crazy moments, really working for me. Isn’t there something so powerful about letting others, especially others who may have similar daily lifestyles, in on those key elements? Maybe in the sharing someone else’s life will be saved too.

Certainly the ones that I will share today are not the deepest of possible responses to that question (the realization that God’s mercies are poured out on me new every morning? Saves my ever. loving. life.) but I went the pragmatic route for this post, and I hope that even still there could be something you find helpful.


1. no-bake granola balls


Also called energy bites around the pintrosphere, I first had these puppies when Heather of the EO shared them with OBoy and me last October. They are equal parts genius and delicious.

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This is the recipe as I make it, but you can find other versions here and here.

1 cup oatmeal

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup flax seed

1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips (the ‘mini’ part is nice but not imperative)

1/3 cup chia seeds

1/3 cup shredded coconut (sometimes I toast it, sometimes I don’t)

1/3 cup sunflower seeds (when I have them – if not, I substitute chopped almonds)

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix ingredients together and place mixture in fridge to chill and set for about an hour (or whenever someone small isn’t hanging on you). Once set, roll into bite-size balls with your hands. To portion, I use my cookie dough scoop which is probably about 2tbl in volume and makes a ball about 1.5 inches in diameter. Store in the fridge. Each recipe makes around 30 balls.

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About every other week I have been making a double batch and the men of the house subsequently destroy them (while I daintily enjoy one here and there – snort).  I’ll pop a handful of them in a baggie to bring with me in the car for easy snacks for the boys (bonus! It’s colder outside than my fridge, so they stay nice and refrigerated in the car!).

If you close your eyes, you can pretend they’re cookie dough. (Says the dieting girl.) Also, a word of caution (from said dieting girl) each ball is between 90-110 calories based on my calculations. Protein and nutrient packed, yes, low calorie, definitely not.

2. make-ahead oatmeal

(O look! More oatmeal!)

I want to invite you into freedom from meal choices. I will always remember when Kristin Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan (man, what am I today? A blogger name dropper? Not intentional, I promise; these people just bring so much awesome and happy to my life!) told me that she makes the same lunch for her four kids every. single. day. It was eye-opening and so very freeing. I remember thinking “You can do that?! I thought I had to offer a variety of options to be selected per the preference of my children!”

It has been a couple of years since that conversation, but I have finally instituted this model in our house and I couldn’t be happier.

Friends, walk with me down the gloriously liberating path of same breakfast for everyone, everyday. That’s right. Breakfast freedom. Every ding dang day the boys and I eat oatmeal for breakfast. By some stroke of parenting genius, I have never even introduced sugar or mix-ins to the boys’ oatmeal. I serve it plain. Always. I guess you could see this as cruel and unusual, but  y’all, both of my toddlers inhale it, usually two or three bowls each morning. Zero complaints ever, and now Mommy isn’t standing at the fridge humming and hawing every morning, pandering to the (albiet adorable) masses. For the record, DanO often fancies things up in the breakfast department on the weekends and to that I say more power to him.

Not only have we eliminated a breakfast menu, but I have stumbled upon an even simpler way to do oatmeal first thing in the morning: I found those 8 minutes waiting for the oatmeal to cook and subsequently cool some of the most painful of my day, with two morning-hungry blond heads standing at my feet, getting between myself and the counter, waiting impatiently to eat. So now I take those 5 minutes to make the oatmeal the night before, refrigerate it, then stick it in the microwave to be re-heated and expediently shoveled into tiny waiting mouths.

In other words, I walk into the kitchen every weekday morning, take a container from the fridge, stick it in the microwave, pour it in some bowls, and bam. Item one on my to-do list, feed the children, is checked. What a life saver.

3. drinking crap-tons of water

DanO and I had a conversation in which we discussed the possibility of giving up caffeine.


While that clearly didn’t happen as is evidenced by the fact that I’m alive right now, it did result in some interesting realizations regarding what I drink during the day (read: coffee. and coffee creamer). This is not healthy. It needs to change.

It wasn’t a resolution, but since that conversation in December I have had a water bottle by my side at almost all times. Right next to my coffee mug. I got this three pack of  re-usable 24oz water bottles for Christmas (but no seriously, I asked for them) and they have been pretty clutch. I can keep one in my purse for when I’m out and use a different one around the house, even while one is in the wash. I try to drink 12 8oz glasses of water (or 4 of my bottles) on a day when I don’t work out and at least 18 glasses (6 bottles) when I do. I keep track on an app on my phone (specifically MyFitnessPal, but it does All The Nutrition Things, too. There are probably much simpler ones out there if all you’re looking to track is water).

I’ve also been having a slightly sweetened cup of hot tea before bed to feel like I’ve had a treat and also to tack two more glasses onto my count.

:: :: :: :: :: ::

Let’s chat: What’s saving your life right now? Food-wise or otherwise, I’d love to hear!

23 Responses to “three things that are saving my life right now – the food edition”

  1. Hannah W

    I’ll be up for a quick visit at the end of the month, and could show you how to make kombucha! It can help you wean off caffeine. And it’s super healthy and probiotic! Let me know and I’ll bring up a starter :-) Way to go on drinking so much water! I really have to start drinking more of it again…’specially with a baby inside me.

  2. Becca S

    Awesome reminder! I need to get back to doing all three of these. Granola balls saved my life when I was pregnant. I store mine in the freezer… I find them even more addicting frozen, but then I also have an addiction to frozen cookies. :)

  3. Cherie

    I never thought of making the oatmeal the night before. I stir frozen blueberries into hot oatmeal to cool it quickly for my 5 year old son. I’ve been doing that since he was a toddler, and he LOVES it.

  4. Amanda

    Mmm, I want to try your ball recipe. And it will make my husband chuckle to eat balls, because he’s 13 at heart. :) Saving my life… Other than coffee & chocolate? Freezer meals. Because cooking dinner sucks when the hubby gets home late & the toddlers want attention. :) And sparkling water with lemon, because I drink less pop & more water that way.

  5. Molly

    Whats saving my life right now is my meal planning app that also populates a grocery list. Now I’m not buying more than I need for the week and meals are healthy.

  6. melissa

    i’m a lot like you in the coffee+coffee creamer consumption. i started going to the kitchen every morning and filling a mason jar full of ice water and guzzling it. it gives me a taste for it all day long and i just keep refilling and drinking (with coffee in between of course). bonus:: i read that drinking ice cold water first thing in the morning kicks your metabolism into gear:)

  7. Carrie D

    Totally going to make those granola balls during naptime today. Been meaning to make some and now I have a recipe! Thanks :) Saving my life right now are freezer meals, naps, kombucha (my kids love it!) and elderberry syrup.

  8. Nicole

    I’m not quite sure what 3 things are saving my life right now but wanted to tell you giving up caffeine is easier than you think! The only thing I miss since giving it up…possibly may be easier for me because I had to give it up for a health reason, is chocolate!

    Coffee, tea and soda I get all decaffinated..and I can’t even taste a difference.

    All that water, oh my gosh, I can’t even image!

  9. Kelster

    I try to cook dinner once per week (I live alone). I then just have to take out and reheat. I use MyFitnessPal too! I’m glad that you mentioned it because I need to log in my food for the day.

  10. jen

    i rely on a lot of make ahead things. my number one is always homemade chicken salad. we poach the chicken, cut up some celery, chop the chicken when it’s done & cooled a little (i’ve burned my fingers any number of times), add some mayo, s&p, and some lemon juice. bam! lunch for the week for both me, the hubby, and for my son at school. it’s also a heck of a lot cheaper AND healthier than the canned, processed chicken salad!

    water bottles are always with me! i even got my husband to start using a re-useable. i always buy a new 3 pack when they are at our local costco at the beginning of the year (now!). i can’t live without my coffee, but could certainly be fine with decaf. coffee runs in our blood, even my kids (little sips here & there) and don’t think i can quit the java! plus, let’s be honest, there is nothing more relaxing than sitting with a hot cup of coffee on a cold winter morning watching the snow fall (you know, should we ever get more than a dusting of snow here in chicago!).

  11. Cris

    Waffles. I have a picky eater who doesn’t like much in the way of proteins. But she will eat almond butter as a “waffle sandwich” on whole wheat waffles. I buy frozen but I might start making my own and then freezing them so they will be better for us. (I think I’m going to try those granola balls for her too).

    My klean kanteens- I got an insulated one for green tea, coffee, etc and we have original ones for water and the gym. We use as much stainless steel vs. plastic as possible and I love these.

    And, my Christmas present (that I asked for, too!): my new crockpot! Chicken soup currently simmering away in it, yummy and healthy :)

  12. Megan (FriedOkra)

    O I love these!

    Saving my life currently? My new juicer, make-ahead breakfasts (in theory, I just found a bunch of recipes and bookmarked them so I’m about half-way there), and having my laptop on my kitchen counter. Tied for 3rd, I’d say, is hot tea at 3 PM every day. Because it gives me something to break up the afternoon and a little pick-me-up at the same time.

  13. Tera

    I have oatmeal for breakfast every day, too! With walnuts and skim milk and sometimes ground flax :) My kids each have the same thing every day, too (but different things).

    Question for you–where do you find chia seeds? I can’t find them at my local grocery store, and I’m always rushed when I get to Cub or Rainbow (so I’ve never looked)…I’m thinking Trader Joes? But one more stop is just not going to happen on errand day… I pinned the oatmeal balls recipe months ago, but haven’t gotten around to making them yet!

  14. Amanda

    Too funny – I just posted about something similar this morning. I try so hard to eat healthy, but I always fall back on convenience foods when I have to work later than expected. So I stopped trying to fight it and made a batch of homemade Rice-a-Roni! Not the best thing ever nutritionally, but better than the packaged stuff! :)

    And I’m definitely trying your granola balls – they sound yummy!

  15. Kelly @ Love Well

    I read this earlier today, and I cannot stop thinking about those granola balls. I’m so HUNGRY lately; maybe it’s winter? Carb-loading? Whatever. I can’t seem to get enough protein/veggies/fruit in me to balance out the HUNGRY. I have flax meal and no chia. Think I can feel free to make substitutions with this recipe?

    Saving my life: Rice and beans for dinner. Once a week, I throw a bag of black beans and a container of chopped onions+garlic+shallots into the crock pot right after breakfast. (<—- That recipe comes courtesy Kristen Howerton. It's a love fest today.) Around 4:00, I put on a pot of brown rice. At 5:00, I put a cast-iron skillet of corn bread into the oven. At 5:30, dinner is served. It's my kids FAVORITE dinner right now, hands down, and it's vegetarian and protein rich.

  16. Hannah

    I had been wanting to make these energy balls for a while and finally made a batch, per your suggestion. Yum! Just for thr record-does anyone else mix them with their hands? Because seriously. The best spoon ever. But so messy!

  17. whitney meade

    Saving my life right now? It’s not food related. And I’m (kind of but not really?) ashamed to admit it, but it’s makeup tutorial videos. I had strep during Christmas, and while my husband took care of our 2 year old for a week, I was in bed watching the Pixiwoo and Pixi2woo YouTube channels on my laptop! Makeup + ladies with the cutest British accents ever = a really great change of pace from the normal blog world!

  18. Cassandra Beverly

    Coffee – I love coffee but can not do it plain or with store bought creamers. Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond milk saves my life. Sometimes I live on the edge and even put a bit of cinnamon in it! o.my.morning.goodness!

  19. Helen Davies

    Homemade sausage rolls- more grated veggies than meat and my toddler thinks they are awesome!! They freeze so well and are easy to pull out when I just don’t have the energy to make a nutritious dinner.

  20. Ashley

    I made your oatmeal balls, and they never made it to the ball form, yeah we just keep grabbing a little bit at a time and eating it, delish and way addicting! thanks!


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