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A Collection of 35 Delicious Recipes with Beans Your Family will Love

Ham and beans are great, but there are so many more delicious recipes with beans out there. No matter the kind of bean – dried beans or canned – here are 35 delicious recipes that use beans. From breakfast to dessert – there’s something here for every taste!

heart made of dry beans

A Collection of 35 Delicious Recipes with Beans Your Family will Love

We’ve been eating beans for years. Not only do they make a quick weeknight dinner, but they’re also an affordable protein source – great for keeping a low grocery budget by helping stretch or replace meat.

They make great side dishes and appetizers – cowboy caviar or hummus anyone? And we love them in all kinds of soups. If you’re looking for delicious ways to cook up dried beans or use the canned beans you may have in your pantry, any of these recipe ideas will be a great place to start.

instant pot chili made with dried beans no soaking

Health Benefits of Beans

Not only are beans delicious, they’re also heart healthy. They’re a great source of protein, fiber, iron, amino acids, and vitamins. Some, but not all, beans are part of the legume family if you’re curious.  Beans in the legume family are easy to preserve – all you have to do is let them dry on the vine. That makes them good keepers in the pantry because they require no canning or refrigeration.

Beans that are not part of the legume family include green beans and spring peas like sugar snap peas. They have to be canned or frozen to preserve, so they aren’t as versatile. Some of our favorite beans in the legume family include:

  • Pinto Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans (also called Chickpeas)
  • Kidney Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Cannellini Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Split Peas
  • Lentils

I used to cook dried beans in the slow cooker, but now I cook up a big batch of pinto or black beans in my instant pot almost every week. Making pressure cooker beans is so easy. I love that I can cook up a big batch in an hour or less, and that includes time to come to pressure and natural pressure release as well.

We eat simple bean burritos, rice bowls, or sheet pan nachos every single week. You don’t need much to accompany well seasoned beans – sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips, diced tomatoes, and jalapeños if you have them.

Fun fact: Did you know that Native Americans used a growing style they called the 3 Sisters Garden? They grew corn, squash, and beans together because they have a symbiotic relationship. I’ve grown this type of garden too and it’s a lot of fun. If you’re curious about a 3 Sisters Garden, you can ready about it in the linked post.

Difference Between Canned and Dry Beans

You might have two different types of beans in your pantry, dry or canned. Canned beans are just dried beans that have been cooked. Because they’re already cooked, they incorporate into recipes easier. Canned beans are more convenient because you can open and dump.

However, they’re highly processed and they’re often high in sodium. Some people try to avoid the BPA liners that are often used in commercially canned food. Plus, they’re often more expensive than dry beans. If you’re cooking with canned beans, I recommend that you rinse the beans before using.time chart for cooking dried beans in the instant pot (1)

Dry beans, on the other hand, are a more difficult to use if you don’t plan ahead. They can require long cooking times and overnight soaking. If you want a quick meal but only have dry beans, it’s not as easy. I said earlier that I use my 8 qt. instant pot to cook dry beans which speeds up the cooking time considerably, but it still takes about an hour to turn those dry beans into something I can use in recipes. For more tips on cooking instant pot beans, read my post. It has instructions and cooking times for all types of dried beans.

Where to Buy Dry Beans?

I buy dry beans in bulk at Costco, Azure Standard, and Amish Bulk Food stores like our local-ish Stringtown in Kalona. I’ve also ordered them on Amazon, but the prices are pretty high right now in the middle of Coronavirus. Dried beans are on my list of pantry essentials and I keep them in 5 gallon buckets with gamma lids. They keep so well that I rarely worry about running out of them, but I am always looking for new recipes for beans!

I store smaller quantities of beans in mason jars with handy lids like this. It works really well and makes my pantry look pretty. 🙂

How Should I Store Cooked Beans?

If you want to cook beans ahead of time for use later on, you can store them in the fridge or freezer. Cooked beans keep in the freezer for up to eight months. I portion mine out in serving size quantities and freeze either in freezer bags or plastic containers. They also keep in the fridge for three to five days. 

How many beans equal one can?

Since most recipes call for canned beans, it’s helpful to know how many beans are equal to one can. One 15-ounce can of beans equals 1 3/4 cups drained beans.

Now, let’s get to those delicious bean recipes!

If you stockpiled beans to help get you through coronavirus and now you’re wondering what to do with them, here are 35 delicious recipes with beans. Including soups, rice bowls, vegetarian options, desserts, and more, there’s something here for most every taste palette. 

A Collection of Delicious Recipes with Beans Your Family will Love

If you stockpiled beans to help get you through coronavirus or just happen to have a lot on hand, here are 35 delicious recipes with beans. Including soups, salads, main dish, vegetarian options, and even desserts, there’s something here for most every taste palette. 

Do you have a favorite recipe with beans that I didn’t mention? Share in the comments!

Grab This Week’s Free Kindle eBooks on Amazon

Looking for kitchen inspiration or a new book to read this weekend? Looking for a new free ebook download list? If you need kitchen inspiration or a new book to read this weekend, you will love this list of free Amazon Kindle ebooks – fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, and free ebooks for kids too! Check back at the end of each week for a new list.

3.26 free ebooks

If you don’t have a kindle, but have a computer, iPad, or smart phone, head on over to download a Free Kindle App. Or you could go here and buy a Kindle ! Make sure you check the prices as they change quickly on Amazon. While everything was free when I posted, it’s highly likely that they will change!

Grab This Week’s Free Amazon Kindle eBooks


Free Fiction eBooks on Amazon

Reap the Whirlwind


Silent is the Grave

Chaos in the Blink of an Eye

The Solid Rock


Educational Free Non-Fiction eBooks

Crochet For Beginners

Minimalist Home Guide


Home Organizing



Free Delicious Cookbooks on Amazon

Lunch Recipes

The Anti-Cookbook

The Unauthorized Panera Bread Copycat Cookbook

Low Carb Slow Cooker

Quick and Easy Meals

kids book

Free eBooks for Kids

The Tail of Emily Windsnap

The Great Journey of a Porcupine

Two Worlds, One Child’s Heart

Pete the Cat’s Train Trip

The Great Easter Race!

I’d love to hear from you about this weekly free ebook post. What types of free ebooks do you most like? Is their a category I don’t cover but should? Please let me know how I can improve this post for you!

Many thanks to Shelly from Frugal Family Home for her help compiling this list of free amazon Kindle eBooks. 

This post contains affiliate links which means I may make a small percentage of the sale at NO additional cost to you. Please read my disclosure statement for more information.

free ebooks

How to Teach Tweens and Teens to Keep Social Distance

Do you need resources to teach tweens and teens the importance of keeping social distance? If you’re hearing that you’re the only crazy parent who won’t let her kids hang out with all their friends right now, help is on the way! 

keep social distance

How to Teach Tweens and Teens to Keep Social Distance

With the recent novel coronavirus pandemic and the resulting Covid-19 disease, I hear a lot of parents struggling with their teens and tweens over staying home and keeping social distance. After fighting relentlessly with my own kids who say they are the ONLY ONES with a crazy mom, I have put together a list of resources that helped me convince my kids that staying in is a good idea.

While they’re still griping about being bored, at least they aren’t yelling at me for being an overreacting parent anymore.

Our kids’ public school in Iowa was canceled hours before they were to report back to school on Monday after a three-day weekend. Out for at least four weeks, they were initially really excited. My kids went to bed that night dreaming of the mall, the movies, the trampoline park, and running around with friends. When they got up on Monday morning and started asking to hang out with their friends, pandemonium ensued.

What do you mean, we can’t hang out with our friends?! You expect us to stay locked up in this house for FOUR WEEKS with no contact with ANYONE? Coronavirus isn’t ruining my life, YOU ARE!”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “it’s just the flu, mom!! You’re being ridiculous.” Well, that’s not how the international medical community, the hospitals in Italy, or the thousands of people who are dying see it. To convince our kids to accept social distancing, we have to get our facts straight and help them see the bigger picture.

Now that many of us are thrust into being home full time with our kids, it might be difficult to convince them of the necessity to stay home. If you’re struggling with your tweens and tween too, go through a few of the resources listed here, read the news with them, and convince them they’re doing the right thing right now by not hanging out with their friends. 

Resources to Teach Tweens and Teens the Importance of Social Distancing

From studying about the Spanish Influenza, to learning more about Covid-19, watching movies and playing games, these real life activities can help you convince stubborn teens and tweens that it's better to stay in than venture out with friends even if it seems ALL of their friends are allowed to socialize together.

Have you been able to convince your teens about the importance of keeping social distance? What worked for you? Please share! And stay healthy!! 

If you’re looking for more resources to help you get through quarantine, you might like these posts too:

Pantry Essentials to Always Have on Hand

Weekly List of Free Ebooks to Download

How to Start Cooking From Scratch

Fun Science Experiments with Eggs

Fun Science Experiments for Kids with Bubbles


Keep Your Family Fed By Stocking These Staples for Your Pantry, Fridge & Freezer

A well-stocked kitchen can mean the difference between a delicious and frugal home-cooked meal and expensive takeout. Here’s a huge list of time & money saving kitchen staples I try to always have on hand so I can pull together quick meals for my family of six. Plus there’s a printable kitchen staples list at the end of the post!stocked dark wood kitchen pantry

*This post is sponsored by Annie’s & Cascadian Farm. All opinions are mine.*

Time & Money Saving Kitchen Staples for Your Pantry, Fridge & Freezer

I try hard to keep my kitchen gadgets pretty minimal, but all bets are off when it comes to food. Certain food items just need to be in my kitchen at all time so we can feed our starving family of six. Having a stocked kitchen means I can get in out of the store pretty quickly because I always know what to buy. It also helps me save money by having ingredients on hand at all times for quick homemade meals.pasta, cereal, canned good shelves in a dark wood pantry

Must Have Pantry Staples

I have an amazing pantry off my kitchen that is full of nonperishable food and my kitchen appliances. I buy a lot of our nonperishable pantry items in bulk because I have room to store them in this great space and because it saves me money. If you don’t have a lot of room, you can just buy these items in smaller quantities.

  • Dried Beans –  Pinto, black beans, kidney beans. I cook unsoaked beans primarily in my Instant Pot with great success and we eat them a lot.
  • Jasmine Rice – I’m really picky about rice, and the only type I like is jasmine. I do have small bags of  brown rice and quinoa also, but don’t prefer them so they primarily take up real estate in my pantry.
  • Granola – While I have all ingredients on hand to make my own granola, I haven’t made it quite some time. Part of the reason is I’ve found delicious store bought granola at a reasonable price. Cascadian Farm (we visited their farm stand last summer when we were in Washington!) makes a delicious Organic Oats & Honey Granola and also a new Organic Strawberry Granola too.  We love to add a scoop of granola to yummy yogurt and berries for a quick snack or breakfast in the morning.
  • Cereal – Cereal is not something that enjoys a permanent place in my pantry, but when I’m out of town and dad is in charge, I’m glad to find organic options that are free of high fructose corn syrup, synthetic colors, and preservatives. My kids have long been fan of Annie’s so you will find Annie’s organic cereal in our pantry from time to time. They love Annie’s Organic Cocoa Bunnies & Organic Gluten Free Cinnabunnies Cereal. It’s a great treat that never lasts long at our house.
  • Pasta – spaghetti, penne, lasagna – because hello. Pasta! 🙂
  • Taco fixings –  shells, tortillas, tortilla chips, homemade canned salsa. Taco Tuesday, anyone?
  • Canned goods –  Pumpkin, tuna, tomato sauce, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, pizza sauce. Most of my tomato based canned goods I try to can myself but I do stock store bought canned goods when I’m out.
  • Nut Butters –  We love nut butters on apples and bread and I usually stock organic peanut butter, sunflower butter, almond butter.
  • Raw Nuts – raw walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pecans are our favorites. We make trail mix and just eat them by the handful.
  • Baking goods: whole oats, organic whole wheat white flour, wheat berries, ten grain cereal, flax seeds, chia seeds, cocoa powder, chocolate chips (these always seem to disappear! Not sure how that happens…)
  • Sugar – raw sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar
  • Popcorn – for popcorn snacks and also for cornbread (I grind the popcorn into cornmeal.)
  • Raw Honey 
  • Potatoes – Yukon gold, red potatoes, russet potatoes (primarily whatever I can find that’s organic), and sweet potatoes
  • Stock – I often make my own stock and freeze it, but sometimes I also have chicken and beef stock in my pantry for convenience sake.fridge and contents

Must Have Fridge Staples

If you open my fridge, you’re likely to find a lot of leftovers and also a bunch of food, especially if I have just been to to the grocery store. My kids get in the fridge an awful lot. Here’s what you’re likely to find in my fridge:

  • Butter – must have butter. I usually also have extra butter in my freezer, just to be safe.
  • Bacon grease – I collect bacon grease every time I make bacon and keep it in my fridge. I use bacon grease in a lot of different ways.
  • Cheese – sharp cheddar, string cheese sticks, Havarti slices, feta, Parmesan
  • Milk – whole milk, half & half, almond milk, kefir
  • Yogurt – tubes, plain whole milk. We eat a lot of yogurt for breakfast and snacks.
  • Condiments – Spicy mustard, Yellow mustard, Organic ketchup, organic mayo, organic jelly, Worcestershire sauce, Tamari sauce, fish sauce, pickles, pepperoncini, olives
  • Fruit – apples, lemons, limes, And then whatever’s in season: pineapple, tangerines, grapefruit, mango, melon etc
  • Veggies – carrots, lettuce, green onions, spinach or kale, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower
  • Meat – bacon, lunchmeat: turkey, ham, salami
  • Baking goods – yeast, baking powder, cultured butter milk powder (Yes, I keep these in the fridge!)
  • Hummus – hummus is one of our favorite snacks. We eat with fresh veggies or as a wrap with turkey slice and avocado. The kids like it with tortilla chips.
  • Store bought eggs – I have my own chickens so I really only buy eggs in the winter when my hens aren’t as productive. Eggs are a must have staple in my life for everything from baking to dinners and breakfasts.meat freezer with lots of packages of white paper wrapped meat

Must Have Freezer Staples

I have a large freezer in my basement primarily for the meat I buy in bulk from local farmers and any garden veggies I may have frozen during the summer.

  • Local pork – hams, bacon, sausage
  • Local beef – ground beef, roasts, steaks, soup bones
  • Chicken – whole chickens I raise myself. I also buy cuts of chicken (legs, thighs, breasts) when they’re on sale
  • Frozen fruit – blueberries, mango, strawberries, bananas (when my fresh bananas go brown)
  • Frozen veggies – corn, broccoli, peas
  • Seafood – wild caught Alaska salmon, shrimp
  • Butter
  • Bulk nuts – I store nuts in the freezer sometimes too.
  • Fresh ginger – I love having fresh ginger and grate frozen ginger right into my Asian dishes like this delicious shrimp lo mein.

spice drawer with lots of containers of spices

Spices, Counter,  & Lazy Susan Staples

My spice drawer, counter, and lazy susan house most of the food I need to access while I’m cooking. Here’s what you’ll find in close proximity to my stove top.

  • In my counter produce basket: onions, garlic, tomatoes, butternut squash, bananas, very hard avocados (I move them to fridge when they start to soften up a bit.)
  • Spices – unprocessed salt (REAL salt, Himalayan salt, Celtic sea salt); black pepper (whole corns & ground); chili powder, oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, red pepper flakes, paprika, cumin, dill, bay leaves, alum, cinnamon, tumeric, onion powder, garlic powder. With these spices I make my own spice mixes – taco seasoning. blackened fish seasoning, rotisserie chicken seasonings.
  • Oils – olive oil (for dressings & low heat cooking), avocado oil (high heat cooking), coconut oil
  • Vinegars – apple cider vinegar, balsalmic vinegar, red wine vinegar, homemade gourmet vinegars,
  • Baking goods – I have more baking goods in my Lazy Susan: flour, baking soda, dried fruit (raisins etc), vanilla
  • Farm fresh eggs – the eggs my chickens lay do not need to be refrigerated as long as they haven’t been washed. They live on my counter too.

And that’s about it! It seems like a ton of food to write it all out. Now you know what staples I stock in my kitchen to keep homemade meals on the table. To help you stock your kitchen, I made a printable Pantry Checklist! Download it here and start filling up your pantry too!

Take stock of what’s in your kitchen, and then head to Walmart to fill in the gaps. I’m really happy with all the organic options I found at Walmart the other day – organic potatoes, spices, and fruits and veggies too, plus lovely organic granola from my favorite Cascadian Farm, and my kids’ favorite Annie’s cereals. Download this printable and stock your pantry, spice drawer, fridge, and freezer!

Do you have any kitchen food essentials that I didn’t mention? Share here!

Time & Money Saving Kitchen Staples for Your Pantry, Fridge & Freezer


Get Your Garden Ready with Early Spring Zone 5 Gardening Chores

Early Spring Zone 5 Gardening Chores depend a lot on the weather. While it might not be possible to do much outside except wait for mud to dry up, there are many chores you can be doing inside in March. Here is list of March garden chores for zone 5.

boots in a muddy garden

*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission on your purchase.*

Early Spring Zone 5 Gardening Chores

March is really still winter in Iowa. Even though we have had a pretty mild winter this year with very little snow, we just got 5 inches of the fluffy white stuff a couple days ago! Basically in March, we’re waiting for the ground to thaw out, warm up, and dry up. When that’s happened, we’re ready to start planting a few things, but until then, here’s what you can do!

1. Plant cool season crops and annuals.

Peas are  planted first, then lettuce and radishes. These crops can be planted directly in the ground as soon as the soil has warmed up and is dry enough to work. You can also plant cool season annuals as soon as the ground is warm and dry, like pansies, if you can find them at the garden center. Make sure you include these top 10 early spring plants in your garden plan so can enjoy the earliest harvest possible.

2. Make new garden beds.

If you garden in beds, or would like to start, now is the perfect time to make new garden beds while you still have time. This is something you could have been working on all winter, too. You might also want to cover a couple of your garden beds to keep pests out and extend the growing season. This tutorial will help you easily cover your garden beds.

The nice thing about gardening in beds is they are usually ready to go before the ground. You don’t have till garden beds and you can put down plastic to help warm up the soil. If you don’t garden in beds, I recommend trying one out this year!

3. Prep the beds

Hopefully, the ground will have thawed and begin to warm very soon. Once it’s dry, usually by the middle to end of the month, go ahead and remove winter mulch and add a layer of leaf compost to your beds. Mix everything up nicely and as soon as the outside temps are warm enough, go ahead and plant those peas! 

Peas do best when the temperature is in the 55 – 70 degree range, as early as 12 weeks before the last frost date. Germinating peas can tolerate temperatures as low as high 20s, but temperatures in the teens are to much for them and will kill them. Watch your forecast closely when planting those first early crops! Learn more about peas at The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

4. Test the soil

Now’s also the time to test your garden soil so you know what nutrients need to be added before the growing season starts. Information for testing your garden soil in Iowa can be found at Iowa State Horticulture Society. If you don’t live in Iowa, just google how to test garden soil in your state.

covered garden bed in a country garden

Plant your cold frame

If you have a cold frame, it’s time now to start lettuce and spinach outside in the cold frame! Soon you’ll be harvesting yummy greens. I love those first greens!

Organize your garden seeds

If you haven’t already done this, now is the perfect time to inventory and organize your garden seeds. Make sure you have everything you need to get going and order whatever else you might need. You can read all about my favorite garden seed organizer here. I love it so much!

baby seeds in a seed starting tray

Start your seedlings

March is time to start most of your garden seeds, if that’s something you like to do. Most seedlings need 6-8 weeks before the last frost date to grow big enough for planing, and with an average lost frost date of May 15, that’s right around the corner. Get my best tips and seed starting supply list here. And here are tips for starting broccoli and other pesky brassicas – which can be a tricky type of seedling to start.

Plan your garden!

If you haven’t planned out your garden, this is also the time to finalize your garden plan and draw it out. It’s important to draw it out so you can remember from year to year what you plant where. Remember that you need to rotate crops so keeping track is pretty important. Here are my best garden planning tips to help you out. Grab my free garden planting guide here so you know exactly when to plant what!

For more spring gardening tips, read these posts from my Tuesdays in the Garden Blogging Friends.

Refresh your flower pots for spring! An Oregon Cottage

frugal family home

7 Gardening Chores to Do this Spring – Frugal Family Home

 angie the freckled rose

Spring Garden Chores – Angie the Freckled Rose

homemade food junkie

Spring Garden Projects – Homemade Food Junkie

hearth and vine

Simple Tips for Preparing Your Garden for Spring – Hearth & Vine

What are you working in your garden this month? I’d love to hear what you’re up to. Happy gardening!

18 Time Saving Spring Cleaning Hacks & Free Printable Checklist

It’s officially March and you know what that means – it’s time to get busy cleaning! Save a lot of time with these 18 Spring Cleaning Hacks and enjoy the free cleaning checklist printable we made for you. 🙂
spring cleaning

How can it be time for spring cleaning already? Are you ready? I know I’m not. Truth be told I have a hard enough time with the day to day tasks! Trying to add in more for deep cleaning is hard! To help us all out, I’ve put together a post with 18 different time saving clean springing hacks! All of these ideas should help those of us who struggle to keep the house in order. Are you with me? 

18 Time Saving Spring Cleaning Hacks

18 Time Saving Spring Cleaning Hacks & Free Printable Checklist

Time saving tips and tricks for those of us who hate spring cleaning.

While you’re here, get this Spring Cleaning Checklist!

Now that you’re inspired to spring clean, grab my spring cleaning checklist and start checking those items off the list! I highly recommend that you involve the whole family. Spread the love and get busy cleaning. 

Spring Cleaning Printable

Download the Printable here


Time Saving Spring Cleaning Hacks

Are you ready for Spring Cleaning? What chore do you most dread?


7 Reasons Your Family Will Love The Grove Resort Orlando

 All the amenities of home and more –  plus free shuttle service to Walt Disney World theme parks – makes The Grove Resort Orlando the perfect place for your next Florida getaway!

The Grove Resort Orlando

Image provided by The Grove Resort

7 Reasons Your Family Will Love The Grove Resort Orlando

SimplifyLiveLove occasionally receives complementary products, hosted travel, and/or compensation related to the content shared here. Many thanks to The Grove Resort Orlando for hosting our recent stay there.

mom & son winter vacation

Do you ever travel one-on-one with your kids? Family vacations are a lot of fun, but one-on-one time is amazing. Recently I took a one-on-one trip to The Grove Resort Orlando with my son, and we had a fabulous time playing at the resort, and also spending a day at nearby Hollywood Studios. If you’re looking for a family friendly full service resort near the Walt Disney World theme parks, look no further than The Grove Resort Orlando.

A trip to Walt Disney World is a dream vacation that many families work hard to afford. If you’re looking to maximize your time and money, staying off property may be the best bet. Orlando offers many options for families, but here are seven reasons why my son and I highly recommend The Grove Resort Orlando.

Three Bedroom Master at The Grove

Image provided by The Grove Resort Orlando

1. The Grove Resort Orlando = Spacious Residential Style Suites

When you’re traveling with family, being able to spread out is the key to sanity – everyone’s sanity. This is true whether you’re with one child, or with everyone. As a mom of four, you can bet I appreciate my space!

One thing The Grove Resort is not short on, is space. Featuring one- to three- bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens, full washers and dryers, a living room, and so many fun entertainment options, The Grove can be a great way for families to get a big bang for their buck in Orlando.

grove resort collage

From playing at Flip Flop’s Family Fun Center to swimming at Surfari Water Park and boating on Lake Austin, to learning to surf on the FlowRider – families with kids of all ages will enjoy spending time on property at The Grove just as much as they will enjoy exploring Walt Disney World. And maybe they will even prefer it!

Valencia Restaurant Grove Resort

Image provided by The Grove Resort

2. Lots of Dining Options at The Grove Resort

Guests staying at The Grove might enjoy fully equipped kitchens in their suites. They’re so helpful if you’d like to prepare your own meals. It’s super easy to order groceries (or pizza) and have them delivered using The Grove’s Delivery to Your Suite service. 

Verona Craft Cocktail valencia restaurant the grove resort orlando

However, don’t feel like you have to cook! Cooking your own meals can be a great way to save a little money, but the resort has enough delicious restaurants that you don’t have to cook at all if you don’t want to! If you’re not feeling it, head down to one of the restaurants have someone else cook and clean up! Win, win. 

Ben enjoyed picking up snacks at the Alfresco Market. Featuring souvenirs, wine, a little coffee shop, candy, snacks and more – this market is perfect for grabbing a little something on the way out the door. 

Center Cut Filet Mignon from the Valencia Restaurant Grove Resort

I highly recommend trying the Valencia Restaurant while you’re here. They have great meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ben’s favorite other than the Cafe Mocha I let have for breakfast one morning was the Valencia Burger with Shoestring French Fries. I really loved the Center Cut Filet Mignon and the Verona Craft Cocktail. YUM!

surfari water park

3. The Grove Resort’s Surfari Water Park

Another great feature at the Grove are all the pools. Sadly, it was a little chilly and windy while we were in Florida, but that didn’t stop Ben from spending time in the water at the Surfari Water Park. He enjoyed the water slides and the 695 foot lazy river. If you want a little quieter pool area, check out the Springs Pools. Located near Lake Austin, you’ll find another three full-sized pools, an oversized hot tub, and a children’s splash area as well!

hanging out at surfari water park orlando

It was too chilly for me to swim, but the private cabanas and pool side delivery of drinks and food  from the poolside bar and grill restaurant called Longboard Bar & Grill made sitting outside in the sun quite pleasant! The weather was so much nicer than the snow and ice back home, I really don’t have anything to gripe about! 

flowrider at the grove resort

4. FlowRider

The highlight of Ben’s day at the Surfari Water Park though, was learning to surf on the FlowRider! In his 30 minute lesson (only $30!), he progressed through holding on to the board to sitting on the board, and finally to standing on the board and actually surfing! I must admit, I was surprised at how far he got in such a short time. 


Watch the video and see how he did! He said it was a lot of fun and didn’t hurt at all when he wiped out. The instructors were very professional and nice and they helped Ben a lot.

boats at lake austin

5. Lake Austin

More fun water options at the resort include renting boats on Lake Austin. We were really looking forward to taking out one of those cute swan boats or having a driver take us for a spin in the pontoon boat, but unfortunately a wind advisory while we were on property kept us from enjoying these nice amenities. When you go, I hope you get to try them!

flip flop's family fun center

6. Flip Flop’s Family Fun Center

When you’re ready for a break from water activities, head inside to the 6,600 square foot Flip Flop’s Family Fun Center! You and your kids both will enjoy glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, arcade games like Air Hockey and Skee-Ball and so much more. And yes, Ben kicked my butt at pretty much everything in there except mini-golf. I still smoked him at mini-golf. 

ben at the escape spa grove resort

7. Escape Spa at the Grove Resort and Spa

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to pamper yourself with a little spa action! The Grove Resort also has a full service spa so you can enjoy a mani-pedi, massage, or facial to really get your relaxation on! Even Ben enjoyed his first ever manicure on our getaway. He said the hand massage at the end was ah-mazing, and yes, I made him wear the robe. He was not amused. But he was a good sport. 😉

If all of this hasn’t convinced you to check out The Grove Resort, perhaps learning that a three-bedroom condo that sleeps eight costs under $300 a night will! If you have a large family or you’re taking a multi-generation trip, you really can’t beat that price!

If you’ve been to The Grove, I’d love to hear! Have so much fun on your next Orlando Vacation!

mom and son

And if you liked this post on The Grove Resort Orlando, you might like these posts too:

Top 11 Secrets to Planning a Trip to Walt Disney World on a Budget

Fun, Affordable Family Skiing at Sunlight Mountain Resort

Sarasota Bayfront Park

Robinson Preserve, Bradenton Florida

The Mall of America is the Perfect Place to Escape from Winter!

My kids have been begging to visit the Mall of America for years and we finally realized that it is the perfect place to escape from winter! There are so many indoor things to do at Mall of America -perfect for kids of all ages – plus food and shopping! Here’s why you should plan a visit to one of the biggest malls in the United States!things to do at the mall of america

SimplifyLiveLove occasionally receives complementary products, hosted travel, and/or compensation related to the content shared here. We were thrilled to collaborate with Mall of America and Bloomington MN CVB to bring you this post.

Fun Facts about the Mall of America

No trip to Minneapolis is complete without stopping at the Mall of America. I recommended that you plan to spend at least one full day there, but you could easily spend two to three days if you plan to do all the fun things. With over 400 free events at the Mall each year, you’ll find lots of entertainment you just can’t pass up. Before you go, there are a few facts you’ll want to know!

walking from Best Western to MOA

Where is the Mall of America?

Located 15 minutes from Minneapolis in the suburb of Bloomington, the Mall of America is linked to the Minneapolis / St.Paul Airport (and the Amtrak Station) by the Light Rail Train. Two hotels are connected to MOA and more than 50 hotels are located within ten minutes of the mall. 

It’s just over 3 1/2 hours from Des Moines, a 5 1/2 hour drive from Eastern Iowa or Omaha, and a 6 1/2 hour drive from Kansas City which makes it the perfect distance for a quick getaway when you need an escape from dreary winter weather or a rainy weekend.

I’m sure you could even leave your coat at home! We didn’t take ours to the mall at all. All hotels offer complementary shuttles to the mall and there are lots of great places to stay within a very short walking distance.

How big is Mall of America?

The Mall of America spans 1.15 miles on only one level and there are multiple levels, so you’ll definitely get your steps in! Home to over 520 stores, including an Apple Store and the Lego Store,  we could have spent much more time shopping than we did.

Over 40 million visitors go to MOA every year which is more people than the entire populations of Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Canada combined!! It also makes the Mall of America the most visited attraction in the United States!

Is there tax at Mall of America?

One of the great perks of Mall of America is there is NO sales tax on clothing or shoes! I think a mother/daughter back to school shopping trip would be so much fun! Only my son is my biggest shopper. LOL! I’d have to do a mother/son trip. We only had time to explore a few of the stores, but even though we aren’t big shoppers, I know my kids would love to explore them more.

Is there a curfew for teens?

There is a weekend curfew for teens. If you’re visiting with kids under 16 on a Friday or Saturday night, they have to be with adults after 4 pm. They can walk around on their own before 4 pm, but after 4 pm they need to be with an adult.

I can tell you from experience that if your teens are off on their own after 4 pm on a weekend night (and they’re arguing with each other), they will be stopped and security will call a parent. True story. LOL!

buy mall of america coupon booklet

Food in Mall of America

In addition to lots of fun things to do at Mall of America, and a huge selection of stores, there are also over 50 restaurants to check out, from fine dining at FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar to Hard Rock Cafe to Piada Italian Street Food and Shake Shack in the food court. You’re sure to find something delicious to satisfy any taste or budget.

Pro tip: Make sure to buy a copy of the Mall of America Coupon Booklet. We used quite a few coupons on food and at stores as well. The kids were excited to see how much money they could save! 

blueberry drink at firelake grill

Mall of America is So Much More Than Shopping

While we did spend some times in the stores at the MOA, there are so many more things to do than just that. I can’t believe how many fun activities one mall is able to pack inside! Here are some of the fun things we did during our very busy day and a half at the mall.

Things to Do at Mall of America

We arrived at the MOA on a Friday afternoon after our Amtrak trip out to Montana. We were supposed to have arrived by 8 am, but due to a freight car derailment in Idaho, our Empire Builder train was seven hours behind. 

Instead of spending most of Friday and half the day Saturday at MOA like we had planned, we spent a couple hours on Friday, then shut the mall down on Saturday.

We were not able to fit in everything we wanted to do, so if you’re planning a trip to Minneapolis, make sure to stay long enough! I recommend at least two full days at MOA if you want to do all of the things there.

Here are the six things we really enjoyed at the Mall of America:

the escape game at MOA

1. The Escape Game – 

My kids have been dying to do an escape room, but truth be told, I was a little worried. Our family can argue with the best of them. With six strong personalities, I was concerned that we would fight the whole time. 

we escaped from the escape game mall of america

Luckily, we didn’t! We worked well during our 60 minutes together and managed to solve our Special Ops mission with seven minutes to spare! Everyone had a lot of fun and I was so impressed with how well we were actually able to work together. The Escape Game at the Mall of America was my favorite part of the trip.

Learn more about The Escape Game and buy tickets here.

nickelodeon universe at mall of america

2. Nickelodeon Universe Amusement Park – 

Did you know that MOA has its own indoor theme park? Again, I was a little skeptical of an indoor amusement park, but MOA delivers! $38 buys an all-day wristband, good for unlimited rides in the largest indoor theme park, and my kids put their wristband to great use.

on the swings at mall of america

They loved the roller coasters most of all, but there are rides for everyone, including a water ride and lots of rides for toddlers too. You can enjoy photo ops with Nick characters who hang out at the park and take little shopping or eating breaks as well!

fun rides at nickelodeon universe mall of america

3. Dutchman’s Deck Adventure Course – 

Confession. My kids were not able to get me on the Ghostly Gangplank ropes course or zipline, but they had an absolute blast! I wasn’t sure how my youngest daughter would react after getting to the top of the Barnacle Blast, but she did just fine and enjoyed zip lining with the best of them! 

dutchman's deck mall of america

In fact, she used my ticket the next day and went back for more. At 55’ above Nickelodeon Universe, the zipline at MOA is the longest indoor zip line in North America! 

Pro tip:  you do need to be 48” tall to enjoy this attraction and it is a separate ticket, but you get a discount with a theme park ticket. You’ll need close-toed shoes for this attraction. But don’t worry – if you forget, you can borrow a pair of Crocs!

Learn more about Dutchman’s Deck Adventure Course here!

flyover america

4. FlyOver America – 

If you’ve ridden Soarin’ at Epcot, you know the drill. FlyOver America is very similar. It’s an interactive ride that takes you high above the earth for a bird’s eye view of either the USA or USA and Canada. We took the USA flight and really enjoyed flying over the country. 

Not only are you really moving, you also feel the wind and the spray of water from time to time. My kids loved seeing places we’ve visited and we even found our home state of Iowa in the movie as well!

Check out FlyOver America here!

Moose Mountain Adventure Golf MOA

5. Moose Mountain Adventure Golf – 

As if I haven’t covered enough things to do at Mall of America yet, there are also a few opportunities to mini golf right in the mall! The whole family, from young to old, enjoyed our 45 minutes on the Moose Mountain Adventure Golf course. It was pretty busy, but we kept moving. We enjoyed looking out over the edge and watching the roller coasters from this 18-hole mini golf course!

minnesota sealife aquarium mall of america

6. Sea Life Aquarium – 

Don’t let the bored expression on my kid’s face fool you!  While not the biggest aquarium by any means, my kids really enjoyed the interactive nature of the Sea Life Aquarium inside the mall. How many malls have aquariums?

We spent about an hour learning about Seemore the Green Sea Turtle, Dutchess the Sawfish, jellyfish, sharks, and more. The 300 ft Ocean Tunnel was especially fun, but the highlight for my younger kids was filling out the Dive Logbook and earning a prize at the end.

Similar to the Junior Ranger programs at national parks, the ranger program at Sea Life Aquarium helps kids learn about sea life and gets them interested and active in their surroundings!

Buy Sea Life tickets online and save a little bit of money!

I’d be remiss in my post if I didn’t also mention the family-friendly hotel right across from the mall where we stayed for two nights.

best western plus bloomington mn

Best Western PLUS Bloomington Hotel by Mall of America

The Best Western PLUS Bloomington is located across the street from Mall of America. We walked over in under ten minutes. It was an easy walk to a skywalk over to the Radisson. The hotel also has a shuttle, though, so you don’t have to walk.

best wester plus pool

Perks of the Best Western PLUS include free parking, free all you can eat breakfast buffet, water park for the kids and a huge spa for relaxing in after a full day at the mall! We stayed in a pool side room and were happy that the pool noise stopped promptly at 10 pm each night so we could get a good night’s sleep!

pool at best western plus MOA

With all of the fun things to do at Mall of America, why wait to go? Make sure to enjoy all of these things and let me know about your favorite thing to do there too! 

For more information on visiting the Minneapolis area, check out these posts too!

5 Delicious Farm to Table Restaurants in the Twin Cities

30 Free Things to do at the Minnesota State Fair

7 Best Family Friendly Indoor Activities in the Twin Cities

Family Fun at the Grove Resort Orlando

Top 10 Plants for Early Spring Harvest

If you’re trying to eat local, in-season food, make sure to include these top ten plants for early spring harvest. They will yield the first food in the spring so you can have farm fresh produce as soon as possible.

top 10 plants for early spring harvest

*This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission from your purchase.*

One of my long term life dreams is to eat only locally grown and produced food, like Barbara Kingsolver did in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle {one of my most favorite books of all times}. At first thought, it sounds kind of doable, right? I mean, I have a big garden, and I have egg and meat chickens. I’ve also found a source for local pastured pork and organic, local, grassfed beef. But the logistics are really a lot more complicated than my pea-brain can handle. And it would take a REALLY REALLY REALLY big garden to produce enough food to feed my family of six. Maybe some day.

For now, I will be content to do what I can, and that means maximizing every growing season, and this post starts with spring! Enjoy my list of the top 10 plants to consider if you want to get the earliest possible harvest out of your garden.

Top 10 Plants for Early Spring Harvest

bowl of strawberries and asparagus in the grass

Early Spring Perennials

I love perennials because I can plant them once, and reap the rewards for years! It’s also a bonus that a few garden perennials produce some of the earliest food in the spring, so make sure to include them in your garden.

Rhubarb – it seems a lot of people have a love/hate relationship with rhubarb, but I love it. It’s also ready for picking sooner than most other fruits and is delicious in crisps, scones, and made into syrup too!

Strawberries – strawberries are the first berries to ripen, usually late May or early June in my area. Nothing beats a fresh strawberry right out of the garden! And since conventionally grown strawberries are some of the most pesticide laden fruits grown, we prefer to grow our own.

asparagus on a sheet pan for roasting

Asparagus – asparagus is ready for a full harvest the third year after it’s planted. It’s one of the earliest crops of spring – so delicious!! We look forward to fresh asparagus every year.

Spring Veggies to Plant before the Last Frost

Spring Onions / Potatoes – can be directly sown from seed six weeks before the last frost if the ground is workable. Onions grow quickly and the greens can be cut pretty soon after they start growing. If you leave the bulb in the ground and just cut the greens, they will even grow new greens for you!

Potatoes are generally ready for harvest a little later, but you can carefully collect new potatoes without disturbing the plant ten weeks after the potatoes were planted. We use the no-dig planting method to grow potatoes. Learn more here.

Spinach / Kohlrabi / Kale – can be directly sown from seed five weeks before the last frost date. It’s especially important to plant spinach early as it needs six cool weeks to reach maturity and bolts quickly in hot weather.

Peas / Radish / Carrots – can be directly sown from seed four weeks before last frost date. Peas also don’t do well in hot weather, so make sure to plant them as quickly as possible. Every year I have volunteer radish crops in my garden because I let some go to seed in the summer. They are some of the first fresh veggies we eat!

Forellensuss Lettuce

Lettuce / Swiss Chard – can be directly sown from seed two weeks before last frost date. I also have volunteer lettuce in my garden from time to time and love it! Fresh lettuce is just delicious.

Check your seed packets to see which varieties mature the quickest. Some radishes are ready within 25 days! And lettuce is very quick growing too.

A collage of pictures including strawberries in a bowl, forelenschuss lettuce, and a basket of eggs and lettuce harvest.

What plants do you look forward to most in spring?

10 Practical Gardening Tips and Tricks to Help Your Garden Thrive

Gardening for beginners does not have to be hard! If you want to start your first garden but aren’t sure where to start, these ten practical vegetable gardening tips and tricks for first time gardeners will be a big help.
Ten Practical Tips for First Time Gardeners

Practical Gardening Tips and Tricks to Help Your Garden Thrive

Growing a garden can be very rewarding, but there are a few things you should consider before you start.

1. Start small and manageable

Gardens take a lot of work and the work increases exponentially with the size. You’ll need to have time to plant, water, weed, de-bug, harvest, and cook, so it makes a lot of sense to learn small. You can still grow a lot of food, even in a small garden. You’ll be surprised at how much food you can grow in a 4 x 8 or even a 4 x 4 raised garden bed! Keep it small the first year so you don’t get scared off from trying again. grow veggies you like

2. Grow fruits and veggies your family loves to eat

It’s really easy to get caught up in the beautiful seed catalog and order many different types of seeds, but keep it simple the first year. If you don’t like zucchini, there’s absolutely zero reason to plant it. I give you permission to skip zucchini if you want! 

The Best Garden Seed Organizer Ever!

3. Plant these seeds directly in the garden

Some plants do fine when you plant them as seeds. And some you must plant as seedlings. Knowing the difference will make a big difference in your success and can save you a lot of money too. Seeds are a lot cheaper than seedlings. The following ten common garden vegetables can be planted directly from seeds and they will do great.

Follow the instructions on the back of the seed packet and plant them at the right time of year using proper spacing and depth. Don’t forget to water your garden after planting the seeds as seeds need water to germinate. 

  1. Carrots
  2. Corn
  3. Cucumbers
  4. Beans
  5. Peas
  6. Lettuce
  7. Radish
  8. Spinach
  9. Watermelon
  10. Zucchini / Squash

4. Plant these as seedlings

The following six plants are best if you plant as seedlings. They have a longer growing season and need to be well established in order to bear fruit. Make sure to plant them according to best spacing and depth requirements as well. You’ll want to water your plants well after planting to make sure the plant roots have everything they need to really take hold. Most plants need an inch of water a week to thrive, so pay attention to rain and water your garden as needed.

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Peppers
  3. Broccoli
  4. Cauliflower
  5. Cabbage
  6. Brussel Sprouts

Buy Tomato Seedlings

5. Buy vegetable starts at the garden nursery instead of trying to start your own.

Stating seeds is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding, but if this is your first time gardening, it’s easier and more practical to just buy the baby plants at the store. It might even be cheaper in the long run too.

6. Learn your frost free dates and garden zone.

It’s very important to plant your garden at the right time, so head on over to this first and last frost calculator, plug in your zip code, and learn when it’s safe to plant your garden. Frost kills plants so make sure you know this very important detail! You’ll also want to know what your garden zone because some plants grow better in certain zones. Go here to learn your garden zone.

7. Choose a good garden location.

Most plants need full sun (at least six hours of sun each day) so keep that in mind when choosing where to place your garden. You’ll want to avoid trees of course, and also consider tall fences or other vegetation that may cast shadows on your garden.

8. Keep a garden journal.

If you want to continue gardening, it’s important to learn from your mistakes. Keep track of what you plant, when you plant it, how it grows, and how well it harvests. This will help you plan future gardens. This is the amazing garden journal I have!

don't forget mulch

9. Don’t forget mulch

Mulching your garden will help keep moisture in and weeds out. All of your plants will benefit from mulch, so don’t forget to include it in your garden. Straw, grass clippings, and wood chips can all make good mulch and sometimes you can even find free mulch too!

10.  Spend time in your garden each day.

Make sure you head out to your garden each day to check for bugs, weeds, and other problems. Tending a garden does take devoted time each day so make sure you’re able to spend at least 10 – 30 minutes a day with your plants (depending on the size of your garden).

More awesome garden posts to check out!

5 Must Know Tips for Planting Tomato Seedlings

Tips for Planting Seedlings

How to Plant Potatoes – No Dig Method

Tips for Spring Garden Planning

Tips for Ordering Garden Seeds

How to Grow a 3 Sisters  Garden

Companion Plants You Must Have in Your Garden

My Favorite Garden Seed Organizer

If you want to start your first garden but aren't sure where to start, these tips for first time gardeners will be a big help. Growing a garden can be very rewarding, but there are a few things you should consider before you start.

Happy gardening, my friends! Make sure you check back each Tuesday for more gardening tips, tricks, and tutorials. If you liked this post on gardening tips and tricks to help your garden thrive, you may want to sign up for my weekly newsletter too!