IKEA Kitchen Reno: Before & After!

I’m so excited to share our IKEA Kitchen Reno with you!

From beginning to end, this was an 8-week labor of love that my husband and I did together, and I’m spilling all the details in this post! 

IKEA Kitchen Planning 

Our IKEA Kitchen Reno began by taking a serious evaluation of the original kitchen and determining what changes were necessary in helping our lives run more smoothly.

Good planning is essential to a good outcome!

The lack of cupboard and storage space in the kitchen was one of the first things we noticed about our house when we bought it two years ago.

For the elderly lady who lived here previously, the kitchen was ideal, but despite our minimalist bent, it’s a challenge for our family of seven (now 8!) to find a place for everything.

Our kitchen truly is the heart of our home.

More than just the place where food is prepared, it also serves as our dining room and homeschool room.

We eat here, talk here, play here, and study here. We decided to renovate the most used room in our house this year by designing a homeschool-friendly kitchen on a budget.

The main goal for our new kitchen was functionality. Aesthetics are important too, but our biggest objective was to squeeze the most use out of our space!

To do this, we’ve settled on a few features:

  • tall cabinets (40″)
  • 2 pantries
  • no glass doors or open shelving (I love the look of open shelving, but it would cut down greatly on our storage space. Glass doors are pretty, too, but they’re also more expensive and can look cluttered if they’re not styled properly.)
  • a built-in desk
  • cabinets for school books

Why an IKEA Kitchen?

A few months ago, I found a used kitchen on Kijiji that appeared to be ideal for our space for $1200. It came with a new, stainless steel 36″ double door refrigerator with a bottom drawer freezer, 2 stoves, and a dishwasher. I knew the refrigerator alone was worth well over $1200, so even if the cabinets didn’t pan out, we still would’ve scored big time. The tall, shaker-style cabinets were right up my alley, but they were stained a light brown with a pink undertone, so our plan was to get them refinished in white (I adore white and grey kitchens alike, but our kitchen is too dark to handle grey cabinets).

I sold the two stoves, the dishwasher, and an unused fridge in our garage for $450. We consulted with a cabinet maker who priced out the cost of refinishing the cabinets. It was 3x more than I expected, and he told us that the cabinets only had 5 years of life left in them. It was simply not worth it. I re-listed the cabinets on Kijiji and they sold within a few days for $1100. We kept the refrigerator, which essentially ended up being free after the sale of the cabinets and the other appliances!

I went back to the drawing board and researched (read: scoured the Internet for inspiration and visited all of the custom cabinet builders in our town) different ways to achieve a simple, affordable, quality farmhouse-inspired kitchen with a touch of elegance that suited the style of our house.

We concluded that an IKEA kitchen would be the best option for us. Their price was unbeatable. The cost of a brand new IKEA kitchen was less than the price we were quoted to refinish and install the used cabinets I had originally bought off Kijiji!

After talking to other friends and family and touring their IKEA kitchens, I was convinced the quality would stand up to heavy use by our tribe of seven, too.

IKEA Grimslov Kitchen Inspiration Pictures 

Image via Houzz


Image via Zillow


Image via Pinterest

Aesthetically, I had a couple dreams for our new IKEA kitchen. My wish list included:

  • white GRIMSLOV cabinets (Luckily for me, they are one of IKEA’s most affordable options per linear foot! I really wanted pure white cabinets, but GRIMSLOV ‘s shaker style doors only come in off-white. With the right counter top, wall paint, and backsplash, I think it will still be bright and beautiful! Plus, off-white shows dirt less, right? :) )
  • a chimney style range exhaust hood
  • brushed nickel door and drawer pulls
  • subway tile back splash
  • granite-look laminate counters, or solid surface in a medium grey color/pattern

How To Use IKEA’s Kitchen Planning Tool 

After taking our kitchen measurements (a boring, but  essential step), I spent a few days designing our kitchen on IKEA’s handy kitchen planner tool. IKEA was on top of their game when they launched this thing (which now allows you to design your own office, bathrooms, and closets too!).

With a keyboard and mouse, you can have a realistic picture of what your future kitchen will look like without even visiting the store.

The IKEA kitchen planner features a floor view and a 3D view. You can zoom in and pan out; add, delete, and open up all the different cabinet, drawer, and pantry configurations; change the door fronts for a different look; move cabinets and appliances around; add furniture; select different handles, knobs, pulls, faucets, and sinks; add counter tops and crown mold, and even choose your wall and floor colors!

Proposed new kitchen layout via IKEA’s Kitchen Planner

There are a few things to be aware of if you use IKEA’s kitchen planning tool to design your own kitchen:

  • Disable any ad-blockers for IKEA’s webpage. I was getting frustrated about not being able to set up an account (which is free, but necessary in order to use the planning tool), until my husband disabled the ad-blocker for the IKEA webpage. The planning tool worked like a charm after that.
  • Measure, measure, measure, and be sure to add any permanent fixtures such as windows and doors to your plan.
  • Be aware that your ceiling height must be at least 96″ in order for the IKEA’s taller 40″ cabinets to work. This is standard for newer homes, but double check, just in case!
  • Take into account any plumbing or electrical changes. The plumbing for our kitchen renovation is staying the same, but we will need an electrician to hard wire the under counter lighting, the exhaust, and the new lights above the table.
  • The software can be a little glitch-y at times, so it’s important to save your work as you go. (Did you notice the misplaced cover panel next to the window in the drawing above? That was one of the issues the planner couldn’t resolve for me!)
  • Keep the “Work Triangle” in mind as you plan your layout. You want your fridge, stove, and sink to be close enough to each other that you’re not wasting steps between them.
  • Change things up to see how they look. I changed my mind about a few things after seeing how everything looked put together. Play around before you buy so you don’t have any regrets later!
  • Make use of the open cabinet feature. This allows you to see what’s behind your cabinet doors so you can plan your kitchen with maximum efficiency and functionality.
  • Don’t forget to add cover panels to your design. You’ll want these on the sides of any cabinets that are exposed to the eye to cover the frames.
Image via Cape 27 Blog

Initially, I thought I wanted black knobs for our doors and black pulls for our drawers, but realized it looked too heavy for the cabinets. I eventually settled for much sleeker, matching LANSA handles of the same size for all the cabinets and drawers (pictured above).  They feel classier and more cohesive to me.

IKEA NORRSJÖN Double bowl top mount sink

I also changed our sink selection at the last minute. Instead of the pure white DOMSJO double-bowl apron sink, which I thought clashed too much with the off-white cabinets, we chose the stainless steel NORRSJÖN sink. It can be top-mounted or under-mounted.

IKEA Countertops 

After touring IKEA’s kitchens, we decided to pass on their laminate counter tops.

I really loved the look of their grey stone and white marble laminates, but one stretch of counter top will be over 10 feet long, and IKEA’s largest laminate slab is 98 inches. This means that we would have a seam somewhere in the stretch that would be near the sink or over the dishwasher, which can cause major moisture induced problems later on.

White Ice Granite laminate counter top via Formica

We settled on Formica’s Argento Romano laminate. Real granite is not in the budget, but laminates have come a long way and the White Ice Granite or Argento Romano laminate looks incredibly close to the real deal!

Best Backsplash for IKEA Kitchen 

I was torn between a light grey subway tile backsplash with white grout, or white subway tile with a light grey grout.

Grey tile back-splash with off white cabinets. Image via Jeleba.

I like the depth grey adds to white kitchens, but I feel grey tile is a fad that will be over long before white tile is. I planned to paint the main walls a very light grey paint, and the accent wall by the patio doors a wonderful charcoal paint called (Cracked Pepper by Behr). Paint is easier and less expensive to change.

GRIMSLOV cabinets with white subway tile via Southern Hospitality

Subway Tiles That Match IKEA Grimslov Cabinets 

White subway tile appeals to me because it’s timeless, bright, and has a definite farmhouse feel about it. The trick is finding an off-white tile that will work with the GRIMSLOV cabinets. Pure white tile would make the off-white cabinets look grungy.

After searching online, I discovered Home Depot has an off-white 3×6 tile by Daltile that’s almost an exact match to our kitchen cabinets! I took a cabinet door to the store with me last week to make sure, and was thrilled to discover that these perfectly matching tiles were on sale!

IKEA Kitchen Lighting 

For the lighting in our kitchen, we settled on IKEA’s hardwired under cabinet lighting by UTRUSTAWe currently have recessed lighting over our sink that will be staying, and I’m still deciding on which pendant lights to put over our farmhouse table. It’s a toss up between IKEA’s RANARP or ALVANGEN pendants:

RANARP Pendant lamp via IKEA
ÄLVÄNGEN Pendant lamp via IKEA

or, these pendant lights I found on Amazon:

For the wall color in our kitchen, I was leaning towards Sherwin Williams’ Repose Gray, but since Behr paint is my favorite, we checked out Home Depot to see if they carried a similar color. My 7 year-old found nearly identical match: Dolphin Fin.

Dolphin Fin will be our new main floor color. It’s a gorgeous gray that has just enough of a greenish brown undertone to keep it from feeling cold.

For a depth and drama, I planned to paint the accent wall (where the patio doors are located) and possibly the walls behind the cabinets Cracked Pepper by Behr.

Miss Mustard Seed’s kitchen via Miss Mustard Seed

I think it will make the cabinets pop. Miss Mustard Seed did this in her kitchen and I love how it adds a bit of contemporary moodiness without detracting from the farmhouse feel.

While my type of farmhouse style has evolved over the years, I’ve always loved the country look. Even as a little girl, I decorated my side of the bedroom (my poor sister) with twinkly lights, tin pails, and anything wooden or rustic. I’ve saved several farmhouse pieces, similar to the ones below, and can’t way to display them in our new kitchen!

IKEA Kitchen Ordering & Delivery 

After I finished designing our IKEA kitchen, we decided to make the trip to our nearest IKEA (a 40 minute drive) and order at the store instead of online.

I am so glad we did!

We bought our kitchen cabinets during IKEA’s Kitchen Event, which resulted in the kitchen department being insanely busy. We happened to arrive half an hour before the store officially opened, so we were third in line. By the time we had placed finished ordering, the line-up of people waiting to talk with a kitchen staff member was longer than the whole department!

I highly recommend arriving well ahead of time if you plan on ordering your kitchen at the store during their sale. We received 10% back in IKEA gift cards which easily covered the cost of our back-ordered sink, and light fixtures.

When we got to the store, we looked over our selections on display in the kitchen department before ordering. I wanted to make sure everything looked as good in person as it did online.

This is where we made the decision not to use IKEA’s laminate counter tops. The largest slab of laminate was 8 feet long, and we needed a piece that was over 10 feet. In addition to very obvious seams, IKEA’s laminate counter tops looked more plastic-like to me than the Formica samples I had seen at Home Depot, so we nixed the idea completely.

Everything else was just how I imagined; better, actually, because the GRIMSLOV cabinets looked more white than off-white!


Suggestions from IKEA’s Kitchen Department 

A member of IKEA’s kitchen staff, Maureen, looked over our design online with us, confirming measurements and placements, and made several great suggestions, one of which was purchasing an extra set of shelves for each 40 in. upper cabinet that we had two or more of in the same size.

Shelves are sold in packages of two, which we had included for each cabinet, but it turns out that 40 in. cabinets can fit 3 shelves very nicely. We had four, 24X40″ upper cabinets in our kitchen design, so we bought two more packages of shelves which gave us enough for 3 shelves in each cabinet.

Pay for delivery! 

Maureen also convinced us to pay for delivery rather than picking up the cabinets ourselves and we are SO glad we did!

 If you’re ordering a kitchen, do yourself a favor and pay the $75 to have your kitchen delivered to your house. IKEA takes care of picking out all the boxes from the warehouse, loading them onto the truck, delivering it to your house (which was a 40 minute trip for us), and unloading everything when they get there.

If anything is damaged or missing, they will deliver the replacements for free within 4 days. Our only complaint about IKEA’s delivery service is that the driver cursed an awful lot in front of our kids (which he thought we had too many of, ha!), even after my husband asked him to stop swearing.

Taking Inventory Of IKEA’s Kitchen Delivery the efficient way

Taking inventory was the first thing we did after the mountain of boxes arrived. We had 4 days to let IKEA know if anything missing or damaged if we were to receive free replacements and delivery. I started doing the job by myself, but was overwhelmed but the magnitude of everything that needed to be checked!

It didn’t help that our itemized sheet was sectioned by all the different parts needed to build each cabinet, rather than listing each item in alphabetical or numerical order. Brad stepped in to help me out and we quickly learned the most efficient way to go through the list.

First, we grouped like with like.

Doors and cabinets of the same size were stacked on top of each other, bags of matching hinges were grouped together, suspension rails  and toe kicks were stacked together, sink components were set aside in a corner, etc.

Then, Brad counted how many of each box or bag was in a group and I used a highlighter to mark them off our list. Everything but two back-ordered items was there, and only one door was warped (which we found out about after it was hung), so we could get started on our kitchen as soon as we were ready!

How long does it take to build an IKEA kitchen?

8 weeks, we found out.

Between the 2 of us, working mostly at nights and on Saturdays, it took us 8 weeks to rip out our old kitchen and put together our new one. This included everything from building the Sektion boxes, installing the cupboards, doors, and hardware, installing the new appliances, light fixtures, and counter tops, and tiling our backsplash (a first time experience for both of us!). 

It felt like a long haul while we were in the middle of the chaos, but now that it’s finished, I’m so thrilled we plowed through the challenges of doing a kitchen reno with 5 kids under foot! 

This was the part where I seriously second guessed our decision to renovate the kitchen!

Most of the kitchen renovation went very smoothly. Brad fell off the ladder during the install of the upper cabinets at one point and busted a hole through the drywall on his fall down, but thankfully, that was the only catastrophe, and no bones were broken! 

IKEA Kitchen Reno Pictures: Before & After!

I legit happy danced when the last kick plate was snapped into place! Words cannot describe how happy I was to have a have a stove after 8 weeks of “cooking” for 7 without one!

(By “cooking,” I mean we ate prepackaged carbs that tasted similarly to the boxes the came in.)

It’s an overcast day, so these photos aren’t great, but I thought I’d share a few shots anyway.

Here’s a photo of our old kitchen from the MLS listing when we bought our house two years ago:

This is our kitchen now!

Everyone asks where our microwave is….we hid it in the cabinet above the dishwasher! 

Another before:

Same spot, after:

A before photo of the dining area:

And how it looks now:


Removing the island resulted in a much better flow of traffic for our family of seven.

We also built our Farmhouse Table, and Brad drew up the plans, which you can find here. 

The kitchen is so much brighter, even on this rainy day, thanks to IKEA’s white Grimslov cabinets, shiny white subway tile, under cabinet lighting, and new, recessed lights.

We chose Formica’s Argento Romano laminate counter tops because of their affordability, but everyone asks if they’re granite!

The addition of two pantries and a built in desk provide more than enough storage for food and all our homeschooling books.

The kids love to do their schoolwork here, and when they’re not using it, it makes a wonderful command station for me!

This invisible spice drawer in our double bank of drawers next to the stove is one of my favorite features. I love seeing my most-used spices at a glance and knowing how much of everything I have left.

Originally, I had envisioned an undermount sink, but since they aren’t yet compatible with laminate counters, we opted for IKEA’s NORRSJON stainless steel double bowl, top mount sink that sits almost flush with the counter. We’re loving our IKEA Kitchen Sink!

We also chose IKEA’s RINGSKAR faucet. It’s a super simple, sleek design with a pull-out sprayer. It’s quite high, which makes it really nice for filling up large stock pots.

You can see more of this art gallery wall on the other side of the table here.

A few side by side before & afters:

Help! I Want To Do Trim Healthy Mama, But I’m Overwhelmed!

Lately, I’ve been receiving some exciting emails and messages. They all sound similar to this:

Help! I want to do Trim Healthy Mama, but I’m overwhelmed! Can you help me understand it?

How is this exciting?

It tells me that people are taking their health seriously!

It’s a wonderful thing when people begin to treat their bodies as the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells! From eternity, the Lord has all of our days numbered and we cannot surprise Him with an additional second by choosing to eat better; but, we can use our life on earth to serve Him with the energy, clarity, and joy that caring for our bodies affords.

Why Do I Feel Overwhelmed by Trim Healthy Mama?

I think the overwhelming feeling people get when they look into Trim Healthy Mama is largely due to the impending lifestyle change.

We like the comfort and stability of our routines, but sometimes we become too comfortable with unhealthy eating habits and it shows in our waistline, energy levels, hormones, and even our mental health.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, if “easy” means continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.

Power to change starts with the mind; if you truly want to be a Trim Healthy Mama, you need to be willing to give some things up…but I promise you’ll gain a whole lot more (and I’m not talking pounds).

Read my personal THM Testimony here. 

Physical Benefits of Trim Healthy Mama

  • …Stabilized blood sugars
  • …clearer skin
  • …the ability to feel satisfied for hours after a meal
  • …more energy
  • …increased mental clarity
  • …balanced hormones
  • …a trimmer waistline…

…these are the things hundreds of thousands of women have gained by adopting the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle, myself included, and we’ve done it while enjoying from all the food groups, and healthy versions of all our favorite meals that certainly don’t taste like diet food!


Chicken Wings?


Yep, we eat it all!

(Just to give you an idea of how well Trim Healthy Mamas eat, I’m going to litter up this post with photos of some of our favorite recipes, all of which you can find here.)

If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, and serious about getting healthy for life, I want to offer you a simplified explanation of Trim Healthy Mama, on the condition that you’ll buy the Trim Healthy Mama Plan (or borrow it from the library if finances are tight!), and allow yourself 5-10 minutes of devotion to the most thorough explanation of the plan, written, of course, by Serene and Pearl themselves.

Keep a highlighter and a notebook handy, and read it word for word. You owe yourself the best explanation of THM!

Below is my personal summary of this sustainable, healthy lifestyle based on biblical principles and backed by science that has helped me discover what Food Freedom really is and rediscover my love of cooking.

Pink Strawberry Delight | THM:S

What Trim Healthy Mama is NOT.

  • Trim Healthy Mama is not a quick weight loss program. You might finder faster, more immediate results with another program, but if you’re looking for life long trim, THM offers that with principles you can apply any time, anywhere.
  • Trim Healthy Mama does not count calories, points, or grams of fat. Trim Healthy Mama recommends keeping your “E’s” (healthy carb-based meals) to 45 grams of carbs and a maximum of 5 grams of fat in a sitting, but the authors don’t want you to obsess about these numbers. In 4 years of doing THM, I have never counted a single carb, even though I have lost 45 pounds post-partum on plan. I prefer to keep things simple and focus on separating fuel types (fats and carbs) instead of counting numbers. I’m sure there have been many times where I have had 6 or 7 grams of fat instead of 5 in my E meal, but it’s the consistent application of Trim Healthy Mama principles that makes this plan work and gives meaning to the term “Food Freedom.”
  • Trim Healthy Mama is not expensive. You can eat on plan very frugally using only foods that you grow or can purchase locally, or you can invest in the wide variety of specialty ingredients found online or in health food stores. The plan is completely doable on any budget. It’s as expensive as you make it.
  • Trim Healthy Mama does not require the use of special ingredients. By “special ingredients,” I mean things you can’t find locally. Even here in Canada, I can find every single ingredient for all of the recipes on this blog in my own town.
  • Trim Healthy Mama is not just for Mamas. Countless men and children are enjoying the THM way of life too. What makes this plan special is that it’s adaptable to pregnant, nursing, and menopausal women and has proven to work and even eradicate female related health issues such as PCOS, endometriosis, and menstrual irregularities, etc. Trim Healthy Mama was created by two busy mothers with the goal of helping other mothers become healthy and strong for their families like God created them to be. As a result, whole families are benefiting from physical and mental improvements in the Queen of her home, and even more so if they participate in the THM meals she prepares.

Trim Healthy Mama S & E Lunch Platters

How does Trim Healthy Mama work?

Remember, this is meant to be a lifestyle. Please don’t view it as something you have to do; it’s something you get to do!

You get to eat fat!

You get to eat carbs!

You get to get healthy!

This is a blessing, a gift! You’re about to learn a few principles that will equip you to loose or maintain your weight and heal your body from the inside out for the rest of your life. You can do this in any place, any time, on any budget.


Trim Healthy Mama in A Nutshell 

  • Choose good fats (S’s) or good carbs (E’s) for each meal. Do not eat both together unless you’re pregnant, nursing, or need to gain weight. Eating both fats and carbs together is called a Crossover. These are excellent meals for growing children and men who have very physical jobs. Fuel Pulls, another term you’ll hear a lot, are meals that have a lean protein source and not enough fat or carbs to be considered either an S or an E. These types of meals can be helpful for stubborn losers who have trouble shedding pounds, but they shouldn’t be eaten too often by those who are at or near goal weight.
  • Always have a source of protein in your meal that fits your fuel type. Fat-based S meals can have a fat-based protein source like beef, cream, nuts, and cheese. Carb-based E meals need a lean protein source like chicken breasts, beans, collagen, broccoli, 0% fat Greek yogurt, egg whites, and 0% fat cottage cheese. Having protein with each meal keeps you feeling full, boots your muscle mass while you shed excess fat, improves your mood by helping to stabilize your blood sugar levels,  maintains strong bones, protects your heart, and improves your mental clarity. In other words, it’s a very important part of every meal.
  • No sugar.  In addition to cane sugar and its various forms, this includes all other blood sugar-spiking sweeteners like syrups, nectars, and honey (use Monkfruit – Lakanto is my sweetener of choice – xylitolGentle SweetSuper SweetErythritol or SweetLeaf Stevia instead).
  • For your E meals, skip refined or empty carbohydrates or starches. No white potatoes, white flour, cornstarch, or rice flours. Choose healthy carbs like fruit, root vegetables, oats, and sprouted grains, etc., pair them with a lean protein source, and don’t combine them with fat.
  • Wait 3 hours between each meal (unless you’re pregnant or nursing; then you can enjoy a meal every 2 hours, if needed). This gives your body enough time to burn through its last fuel source. (Your two fuel sources are fats and carbohydrates).
  • Alternate fuel sources. I eat mainly fat-based meals (S’s), but it’s important to throw a carb-based meal (E’s) in there every once in a while to keep my metabolism guessing and revved up. Trim Healthy Mama recommends at least 7 E meals a week (or one a day).  If you eat too much of one kind of fuel, you may notice a weight-loss stall, gain, or find yourself irritable if you’re not getting enough carbs (especially during PMS).

Chicken Cordon Bleu | THM: S

What do all the letters in Trim Healthy Mama mean?

S’s, E’s, XO’s, FP’s, GGMS, DST, MIM, ACV…if you’ve been lurking around the official Trim Healthy Mama Facebook page for a while, you might think learning Trim Healthy Mama is like learning a whole new language, but I promise you it’s not that hard. These are just short-forms or acronyms for popular THM terms.

S stands for Satisfying meals.

These are fat-based meals, desserts, or snacks that contain protein and fat, but no sugar and little to no carbs or starches.

A good example of an S meal would be: bacon, eggs, peppers fried in butter, and a coffee with cream.

A favorite S recipe: Low Carb Peanut Butter Cups

E stands for Energizing meals.

These are carb-based meals, desserts, or snacks that contain a lean source of protein and up to 45 grams of healthy carbs, but no sugar and little to no fat (1 tsp or 5 grams of fat is acceptable).

A good example of an E meal would be: grilled chicken breast, roasted root vegetables, and a salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

A favorite E recipe: Mushroom, Chicken & Rice Pilaf 

XO stands for Crossover meals.

These are meals that contain both fats and carbs. These types of meals are not conducive to weight-loss, but they are wonderful options for men who have physically taxing jobs, growing children, and can be enjoyed as a treat by those who have reached their desired weight and are in maintenance mode.

A good example of a Crossover meal would be: A sandwich made of  heavily buttered sprouted bread, a smear of mayo and mustard, sliced meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato.

A favorite XO recipe: No Bake Chocolate Macaroons 

FP stands for Fuel Pull meals.

Fuel Pulls are meals that contain a lean source of protein (the same as you would find in an E meal), and very little fat or carbs.

A good example of a Fuel Pull snack would be the Cottage Berry Whip on page 374 of the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook, made by blending a low-fat cottage cheese, frozen berries, and on-plan sweetener together.

A favorite FP recipe: Pickle Juice Ranch Dressing

SH stand for S Helper.

These meals are S meals with a enough carbs in them to push the meal out of S mode, but not enough carbs to be considered a Crossover. These types of meals aren’t talked about as often since they’re more frequently utilized by diabetics and the same people who benefit from Crossovers.

A good example of an S Helper would be grilled steak, broccoli with cheese sauce and 1/4 cup of brown rice.

A favorite S Helper recipe: Meatball Sub Casserole 

ACV stands for apple cider vinegar

ACV is the main ingredient in one of Trim Healthy Mama’s most famous drinks, the Good Girl Moonshine.

Shrinking Southern Sweet Tea ‘Shine

GGMS stands for Good Girl Moonshine.

This is a delicious non-alcoholic, drink with numerous health benefits (improves digestion, clear up skin, boosts the metabolism, gives you energy, etc.) that my husband and I enjoy every single day! I kick myself for waiting so long to try it because I was so put off by the thought of drinking apple cider vinegar! Don’t be like me! GGMS can be made in all kinds of flavors (here’s a great list from MamaShire) and none of them taste anything like ACV! My current favorite is the Shrinking Southern Sweet Tea ‘Shine!

DTS stands for Drive Thru Sue.

This is a term of endearment for Trim Healthy Mamas who often need to eat on the fly, with little time or ability to prepare their meals at home. The beauty of THM is that Drive Thru Sue’s can still eat on plan at virtually every restaurant!

MIM stands for Muffin In A Mug.

These are fabulously quick muffins (most of them low-carb) that can be cooked in a mug in just a minute in the microwave. Want to make your own quick MIM? I’ve got a list of 22 favorite THM Muffin In A Mug recipes, right here

These are the most popular THM (Trim Healthy Mama 😉 ) acronyms. If you’re wondering about one I haven’t listed here, feel free to ask in the comments.

Key Lime Pie| THM: S

Which Trim Healthy Mama Book Should I Buy? 

Since its recent release, I now recommend Trim Healthy Table to start. It contains a summary of the whole plan in the first 3 chapters, along with over 300 recipes to get you started.

If you can afford it, I also highly recommend purchasing The Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. This book doesn’t contain any recipes, but it is a wonderfully detailed, accurate, humorous, authentic explanation of THM, and it’s 100% worth the investment.

For a thorough break down of what’s included in each of the 4 Trim Healthy Mama books, please check out this post.

For clarification purposes, if you’re just starting out with Trim Healthy Mama, you want the Trim Healthy Mama Plan, OR Trim Healthy Table. Either one will explain all you need to get started. Trim Healthy Mama Plan is just a lot more in depth. 

If you’re purchasing through Amazon, you may see copies of the original, 600+ page book entitled Trim Healthy Mama: No More Fads, also by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. This is an enjoyable read and contains hundreds of wonderful recipes but is no longer in print, so it will likely be very expensive because it’s practically a relic. 😀 The revised edition, Trim Healthy Mama Plan, is much more succinct and simpler to follow. 

Helpful Trim Healthy Mama Resources

Aside from the Trim Healthy Plan, there are a couple of other very helpful things, I would recommend to every Trim Healthy Mama at any stage in her journey. These include:

  • The Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook – this is the first official recipe book published by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. Our family has tried and loved almost everything I’ve made from it and the vast majority of the recipes can be made without the use of special ingredients.
  • Trim Healthy Mama’s Trim Healthy Table by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. A mentioned previously, this book has both a summary of the plan and 300+ recipes to go with it!
  • The Poddy podcasts. “The Poddy” is the name of Pearl and Serene’s raw, unfiltered, unedited podcast host by “a guy named Danny.” Every Wednesday, a new Poddy is released. I listen to them on Podbean via Bluetooth during my daily walk, and I cannot even begin to express how much I enjoy getting inside the sisters’ heads. They are a wealth of wisdom, and full of grace, humility, and honesty, with tremendous knowledge regarding physical, spiritual, and mental health. These podcasts are free and I highly, highly recommend listening to them as soon as you can.


  • THM Sweetener Conversion Chart. I created this THM Sweetener Conversion Chart because I wanted something that was easy to read and follow! I have an entire post dedicated to explaining all the different sweeteners, how they taste, and how to you can use them, here

  • Lakanto Monkfruit Sweeteners. I recommend these Monkfruit sweeteners to everybody! Not only do they taste and measure like real sugar, they have an extremely low glycemic index and are easy on the digestive system. They aren’t fatal to pets, and they are easy on the digestive system, too. You can read my entire review of Lakanto Sweeteners here, or use the Coupon Code: NORTHERNNESTER and save 15% OFF your purchase, here


  • The Slim & Staisfied Handbook  If you’re still feeling overwhelmed after reading this summary of Trim Healthy Mama, here’s my digital 4-week NSI (No Special Ingredient) Menu Plan, The Slim And Satisfied Handbook, to help you get started! It contains gluten-free, sugar-free, high-protein recipes for every meal of the day and alternates low-carb and low-fat meals for the optimum metabolism boost! You can read all the details about this digital download here

Apple Flapjack Pancakes | THM: E

Anything else I should have on hand to start off?

Absolutely! Here’s a list of things I use almost everyday to make the Trim Healthy Mama plan work for us.

Indian Spiced Chicken Skewers | THM: FP

Do you have any tips for Beginner Trim Healthy Mamas?

Yes! I so wish somebody had told me these 5 things the day I started:

  1. Don’t wait until you have everything figured out before beginning. Start by making one THM-friendly meal at a time, and then make another 3 hours later. You are not a failure if you make Crossover by accident. Every 3 hours you have the opportunity to re-set and start again!
  2. Drink at least one GGMS every day. I usually have two. They are so hydrating and life-giving. They help with digestion and will keep you “regular.” Tweak the amount of sweetener and ACV in your moonshine until it’s exactly how you love it, and then drink, drink, drink!
  3. S meals are the easiest and, in my opinion, the most delicious. I aim for 2-3 meals a day, and try to eat E snacks, or 1 E meal a day. Just remember to switch up your fuels and not eat too much of one type. Keep your metabolism guessing and enjoy all the food groups!
  4. If you give in and eat off-plan, you don’t need to eat 27 cookies just because you ate 3. Your day does not have to end off-plan just because it started off-plan. As the sisters say on The Poddy, practice your comeback!
  5. Stick with easy, no-special-ingredient recipes at the beginning. There’s a small learning curve to baking with different flours and sweeteners; we don’t want you giving up on THM just because you’re learning your way around a few new ingredients in some seriously delicious (but a bit complicated) new recipes.

Salted Almond Coconut Squares | THM: S

Where can I find free, on-plan Trim Healthy Mama recipes?

Allow me to introduce you to some of my dear friends and their amazing Trim Healthy Mama-friendly blogs. You’ll have so much fun looking through all the plan-approved dishes they’ve created for us to enjoy!

A couple Facebook pages and groups you may want to join:

You can find yours truly posting at Northern Nester on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

I hope this was a helpful summary; don’t be shy if you have any questions!

50+ Favorite Trim Healthy Mama Friendly Christmas Baking Recipes

You know what’s amazing about the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle?

You can make it through the holidays on plan without feeling the slightest bit deprived!

Nowadays, you can Google search a THM-friendly version of your favorite Christmas treat, and someone has probably already converted the recipe for you!

50+ Favorite Trim Healthy Mama Friendly Christmas Baking Recipes! 

This Trim Healthy Mama Christmas Baking Round-Up features over 50 healthier, on-plan versions of the popular baked goodies we all crave this time of year, courtesy of several THM blogging friends.

Eat up and enjoy the taste of the Season without spiking your blood-sugar or feeling miserable later!

Chocolate Peppermint Log: S |via Northern Nester

Keto Spice Cookies: S | via Yellow Glass Dish

Low Carb Peanut Butter Cups: S | via Northern Nester 

Hazelnut Meringue Torte: S | via Northern Nester

Peppermint Whoopie Pies: S | via MamaShire

Cinnamon Roll Cake: S | via Northern Nester

Eggnog Dessert: S | via Northern Nester

Keto Toffee with Pecans: S | via Yellow Glass Dish

Christmas Cracker Toffee: S | via Briana Thomas

Buckeye Brownies: S | via Northern Nester

No Bake Chocolate Macaroons: XO | via Northern Nester

Cinnamon Swirl Keto Coffee Cake: S | via Yellow Glass Dish

Almond Crunch Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies: S | via Joy Filled Eats

Low Carb Speculaas: S | via Northern Nester

Cappuccino Cheesecake: S | via Northern Nester 

Perfect Pound Cake: S | via Northern Nester

No Bake Cinnamon “Sugar” Cookie Dough Bites: S | via Northern Nester (scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe!)

Mocha Cheesecake Squares: S | via Northern Nester 

Low-carb Pumpkin Muffins with Maple Frosting: S | via Northern Nester

Cinnamon Loaf: S | via Northern Nester

Low Carb Refrigerator Cookies: S | via Northern Nester

Healthy Cinnamon Rolls: XO | via Briana Thomas

Butter Pecan Cookies: S | via Joy Filled Eats

Low-Carb Strawberry Pretzel Dessert: S | via Northern Nester 

Cinnamon Cookies: S | via Joy-Filled Eats

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes: S | via Briana Thomas

Salted Almond Chocolate Coconut Squares: S | via Northern Nester

Easy Coconut Almond Macaroons: S | via Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen

Chocolate Almond Butter Brownies: S | via Northern Nester 

Eclair Cake made with Wasa crackers: S | via Northern Nester 


And of course, you can find plenty of baked goodies (like a Peppermint Trimtastic Cake!) in both the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook and in Trim Healthy Table.


Top Tips And Tricks For Successful Trim Healthy Mama Baking

I’ve loved to cook and bake ever since I was a child, but 6 1/2 years ago, when I dove head first into the  Trim Healthy Mama plan (read my testimony here), I traded in all I knew about working with all-purpose flour and white sugar for a whole new world of healthier baking with different ingredients!

It took some time for me to get comfortable baking with alternative flours and sweeteners, but through a lot of trial and error, I’ve come to love baking the Trim Healthy Mama way even more than I previously enjoyed baking off-plan.

There are few kitchen experiences more wonderful than making a scrumptious cake that not only looks and tastes divine, but does your body good, too!


Flourless, protein-filled Mocha Roll | THM: S

If you’ve been disappointed trying to bake on-plan, I hope these tricks will eliminate the learning curve!

Here are my top tips and tricks for successful Trim Healthy Mama baking!

Cookies and baked goods made with Trim Healthy Mama approved sweeteners are not nearly as shelf stable as baked goods made with sugar. They should be stored in the fridge or freezer in an air tight container.

Trim Healthy Mama baking tastes the best the next day. This gives alternative sweeteners a chance to lose any cooling effect or aftertaste.

A very filling, but delicious Peanut Butter Cheesecake that will feed a large crowd!

Trim Healthy Mama baking is typically much more filling than traditional baking with empty carbohydrates.  It contains more protein and fiber, and the ingredients are usually more dense, so you can serve smaller pieces and get more servings out of a recipe!

For fluffier cakes, I use a stand mixer to whisk the eggs for a solid 5 minutes until they’re very light and airy before adding in my dry ingredients.

Sweetener Help

1:1 substitutions are my favorite. Aside from the obvious bonus of not having to do any math 😉 , 1:1 subs generally provide the best results in baking because they have a similar consistency to their traditional counterpart.

Often, the bulk of a granular sweetener is needed for a baked good to turn out properly, which makes erythritol or xylitol based sweeteners (i.e. Lakanto Classic, Swerve, and THM Gentle Sweet), a better choice for baking than pure monkfruit or stevia.

Pure monkfruit and stevia are only needed in minuscule amounts, and can have a bitter aftertaste if too much is used. These sweeteners are better fit for drinks like Good Girl MoonshineSinging Canary, and The Shrinker. Any aftertaste is usually masked by the stronger flavor of apple cider vinegar and flavored teas. Adding a pinch of salt in drinks sweetened with pure monkfruit or stevia also helps take away any bitterness and diminishes the cooling effect.

Xylitol has a nice granular consistency, a bit larger than real sugar, which gives volume and substance to baking. Some people use a coffee grinder to decrease the size of the granules, but I don’t find it necessary.

Xylitol is not a perfect sweetener. It doesn’t dissolve quite as well as real sugar, so it requires whipping or beating longer than normal to get it fully incorporated. Xylitol is also not a good choice if you have pets; it can be fatal to furry animals, especially dogs. Additionally, xylitol can also cause digestive distress in some people if they consume excessive amounts.

To me, the perfect THM Sweetener should:

  • not have a bitter aftertaste
  • measure cup for cup like regular sugar
  • taste like real sugar
  • dissolve easily
  • be available in granular, brown, and icing sugar consistency
  • be available locally
  • be pet friendly
  • be easy on the digestive system
  • be affordable

My quest for the perfect sweetener found me experimenting with all kinds of brands: Pyure, Swerve, SweetLeaf, Trim Healthy Mama, Truvia, Xyla, and generic Bulk Barn sweeteners. In the end, one sweetener stood out among the rest.



Disclosure: I am a Lakanto Affiliate because we use and love their sweeteners! We earn a small commission from purchases made through our link.

Lakanto Monkfruit Sweeteners were the last ones I tried, and I kicked myself for not giving them a go first! They were the only sweeteners that met my long list of “perfect sweetener” qualifications.

Lankanto’s Monkfruit Sugar Substitutes:

  • measure and taste like real sugar
  • dissolve easier than xylitol
  • are on the digestive system
  • are pet friendly
  • are available in classicbrown and Confectioner’s consistency
  • are available locally (In the U.S., you can find them at Costco; in Canada you can often find them at Winners or Home Sense)


  • Lakanto Monkfruit Sweeteners are affordable! If you use the Coupon Code “NORTHERNNESTER,” you save 15% off all your online purchases (plus, they offer $5.99 flat rate shipping, and free shipping on orders over $75!).
  • Lakanto also offers a variety of other sugar-free sweeteners and THM-friendly products, including:

Enough about me and my favorite sweetener. 😉

Alternative Flours 

Trim Healthy Mama Baking Blend

Trim Healthy Mama-friendly baking blends tend to be more thirsty and drier than whole grain flours, so you cannot substitute cup for cup with all-purpose or whole wheat recipes. THM flours are also missing the gluten that holds wheat-based recipes together.

This means that, when substituting with a THM-friendly Baking Blend in an off-plan recipe, you will need to add more liquid (ex: eggs, butter, coconut oil, or nut milks for S; egg whites, nut milks, 0% fat Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, mashed banana for E), and you’ll need a binder (like eggs or egg whites, xanthan gum or gluccie, pysllium husk, oat fiber, or whey protein powderto keep your baked good from falling apart.

If you can’t afford the Trim Healthy Mama Baking Blend (a Fuel Pull flour suitable for all baking fuels), you can make your own by using equal parts of coconut flour, almond flour, and golden flaxseed meal. However, this substitute is an S and will turn your E baked goods into Crossovers. Alternatively, Briana Thomas has a Fuel Pull baking blend recipe with a few more specialty ingredients that you can also make yourself.

Lily’s Chocolate Chips

Lily’s and Trim Healthy Mama chocolate chips are wonderful, convenient, sugar-free chocolate chips that work well in recipes, but if finances are tight or you have a large family, chopping up a bar of 85% Lindt chocolate, or melting down unsweetened Baker’s Chocolate squares, adding in your own sweetener, and pouring the mixture into a chocolate chip mold or honeycomb shaped silicone trivet is an easy, frugal alternative.

Almond Flour Pound Cake | THM : S

Almond flour is on plan as an S ingredient, but be careful of using it in large quantities as it is very calorie-dense and too much of it may cause a weight loss stall for some people.

You can often replace 1/2 a cup of almond flour with 2 Tbsp of psyllium huskor 2 Tbsp of coconut flour.

Blueberry Sour Cream Cake: a delightful coconut flour based coffee cake.

Coconut flour is also on plan as an S ingredient. It is a very absorbent flour, so you will only need a small amount in recipes that call for it.

It’s very hard to substitute for coconut flour in recipes because of its unique thirsty properties, but sometimes you can replace half a cup of coconut flour with 2 Tbsp of pysllium husk mixed with 1/2 cup of almond flour.

Boston Cream Pie: this cake uses psyllium husk powder as a high-fiber binder in the cake layers.

Pysllium husk is extremely high in fiber and can absorb a lot of liquid. It has a tendency to gel, and works well as a binder, holding dough together much like the gluten in wheat flour does. You only need a very small amount (1-2 Tbsp) in a whole batch of dough. It is carbohydrate-free. You should be able to find it in the laxative or supplement aisle of your grocery or health food store.

Trim Healthy Mama Oat Fiber

Oat Fiber is a carbohydrate-free ingredient that is nearly impossible to purchase locally, but you can buy it online and use it to flour your pans, and as a fiber-enhancer and moisture-absorber in homemade baking blends.

Other Baking Ingredients 

Xanthan Gum


Xanthan Gum and Glucomannan are interchangeable in recipes. They act as thickening agents and binders. You can use them in sauces and puddings you might have previously thickened with white flour or corn starch, but you will need much less with these two. Glucomannan (or “gluccie”) tends to be slimier than xanthan gum.

Gelatin is used to set the pumpkin layer of this fan-favorite Layered Pumpkin Dessert

Trim Healthy Mama Gelatin

Gelatin is such a wonderful and interesting ingredient. In addition to being a relatively tasteless, dairy-free source of protein, it has the ability to set liquids into delicious desserts and treats that are firm enough to slice. You can read more about it and find 44 Trim Healthy Mama-friendly gelatin recipes here.

Peach Cobbler | THM: E

E baking can be tricky since little to no fat is used. I’ve found the best fat-free ingredients to use for moisture are egg whites, unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree, 0% fat Greek yogurt, nut milks, and mashed bananas. 

Trim Healthy Mama Pristine Whey Protein Powder

Trim Healthy Mama Collagen

Aside from giving baked goods a protein boost, protein powder and collagen can often act as a Fuel Pull flour and a lifter in Trim Healthy Mama-friendly cakes, breads, and muffins.

Example: Candy-Cane Cake from Grace-Filled Homemaking

Egg yolks can accumulate quickly on Trim Healthy Mama since only the whites can be used in Fuel Pull or E dishes. My favorite use for extra yolks is turning them into these Lemon Squares which use up 7 of them!

Pure Vanilla Extract

Pure extracts are a big part of Trim Healthy Mama baking and beverages, so they are well worth investing in. I can hardly wait until Trim Healthy Mama’s Natural Bursts line of extracts becomes available (which should be very soon!). The extracts I use most are:

  1. vanilla
  2. orange
  3. almond
  4. caramel
  5. peppermint
  6. rum (for in eggnog-flavored recipes)

Low-carb Pumpkin Muffins: replace the butter with coconut oil and leave off the whipped cream frosting for a wonderful, dairy-free muffin!

Coconut oil, eggs, cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, and butter are readily available and essential Trim Healthy Mama-friendly baking ingredients. In most recipes, you can replace butter with coconut oil and heavy cream with canned coconut fat for dairy-free alternatives.

Trim Healthy Mama Himalayan Salt

Baking soda, baking powder, and salt are regular baking ingredients that you can still use with any Trim Healthy Mama Fuel type. Consider switching from refined salt to Himalayan salt and from regular baking soda to aluminum-free to increase the nutritional benefit of your baking and decrease the toxicity.

I hope that was helpful to you! If you have Trim Healthy Mama baking related question that I didn’t address, feel free to ask in the comments and I will do my best to answer. 🙂

Trim Healthy Mama Friendly Holiday Recipes | A Special Recipe Blogger Collection

Ever wonder what gets served for the holidays in the homes of the Recipe Bloggers?!

We’ve put together a collection of our very favorite Trim Healthy Mama friendly Holiday Recipes, the ones we personally love best – recipes our own families request and look forward to each year! 

These are more than just fan favorites, they are our favorites.

They are recipes we’re excited about about sharing with guests and non-THM extended family members. Consequently, you can feel confident about serving up these Trim Healthy Mama Holiday dishes to yours, too!  

Note: Always disclose alternative sweeteners to guests, as some of them may not tolerate all of them well. You wouldn’t want to be responsible for ruining their dinner!

Trim Healthy Mama Friendly Holiday Recipes

I’ve divided our favorite Trim Healthy Mama Holiday Recipes into two categories: Savory and Sweet. One section for dinner and the other for the dessert table!

Each recipe is categorized by fuel type, and discloses which blogger’s table you can find it (you know, in case you want to crash their party, ha!).

We think Holidays are great opportunities to enjoy a Crossover, so go ahead and create your holiday menu with a pile of S’s and E’s! 

Savory Trim Healthy Mama Friendly Holiday Recipes

Main Dish

Chicken Cordon Bleu – S. 

This low-carb, gluten-free Chicken Cordon Bleu looks impressive, but is incredibly easy to make! A Dijon Cream Sauce brings vegetables to the next level. A great THM S meal to serve to company. From Northern Nester 

Deviled Turkey – S.

This is about as easy as cooking a turkey gets! From Briana Thomas

Low-Carb Brown “Sugar” Glazed Ham – S. 

The combination of flavors in the glaze reminds me of a honey- or brown sugar-glazed ham. Absolutely delicious! From Briana Thomas

Vegetable Recipes

Green Bean Casserole – S

This green bean casserole is easy to make using the Instant Pot (or you can use the stove). It doesn’t require any canned soups! From Yellow Glass Dish 

Mashed Cauliflower with Cream Cheese and Asagio – S

This is the best mashed potato sub I have tried. No one will complain when Mashed Cauliflower with Cream Cheese and Asiago takes that starchy side’s place. From Joy Filled Eats

Creamy & Crunchy Broccoli Salad – S. From Northern Nester

Broccoli is naturally high in protein; paired with sunflower seeds, bacon, cheese, and sour cream-based dressing, this recipe can also serve as a high protein meal on its own.

Loaded Green Beans – S. From Northern Nester 

You may never prepare them another way again after you try these Loaded Green Beans! They take just 5 minutes of prep and are on the table in 30 minutes. Low-carb, gluten-free, keto, THM: S.

More Vegetable Recipes:

Breads and Stuffing/Dressing Recipes

Trim Healthy Mama Stuffing – E

Do you know what’s better than stuffing that comes from a box? This Trim Healthy Mama stuffing that’s free from sugar and full of energizing carbohydrates! From Northern Nester 

Easy, Fluffy Sprouted Wheat Rolls – E

Wonderful rolls for the holidays or anytime! From Joyful Jane

Bread Stuffing – E

Everyone loves bread stuffing. My mother always made the best stuffing. From Around The Family Table

Fluffy Sprouted Rosemary Rolls – E or XO

These delicious rolls are sure to impress on your special occasion! From Joyful Jane 

More Breads and Dressing/Stuffing Recipes:

Cranberry Recipes

Aunt Kathy’s Holiday Cranberry Salad – S

Tart cranberries, crispy pecans, rich whipped cream, and a special low-carb veggie make my Aunt Kathy’s cranberry salad Trim Healthy Mama friendly. I’ve loved this dish as long as I can remember and I hope this delightful recipe will become a favorite at your holiday tables, too. From Oh, Sweet Mercy 

More Cranberry Recipes:

Cranberry Orange Relish – E. From The Healthy Milestone 

Sweet Trim Healthy Mama Friendly Holiday Recipes 

Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie – S. 

This Pumpkin Chiffon Pie is the perfect ending to your Trim Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner! Light, creamy and smooth, it’s a no special ingredient S. From Northern Nester

No Bake Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Snap Crust – S

Say hello to your new favorite fall (and holiday) dessert, Trim Healthy Mamas! My No Bake Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust pairs light, airy, creamy, fall-spiced pumpkin filling with the warming spice of a buttery gingersnap-flavored crust. All without sugar or gluten (or baking)! Perfect for taking to family dinners, holiday parties, and potlucks to avoid the temptation of sugar-laden, off-plan desserts. From Oh, Sweet Mercy 

Low-Carb Pumpkin Cake with Maple Frosting – S. 

This Low-Carb Pumpkin Cake With Maple Frosting is an incredibly impressive dessert that’s easy to make and doesn’t require any special ingredients! A perfect blood sugar-friendly recipe to add to your Fall repertoire! A gluten-free THM S. From Northern Nester 

More Pumpkin Recipes: 

Chocolate Dessert Recipes

Peanut Flour Chocolate Cake – S. 

This Peanut Flour Chocolate Cake will rock your low-carb world! It’s light, moist, and chocolaty, full of healthy fats and high in protein! THM S, Keto, GF. No special ingredients. From Northern Nester 

Chocolate Peppermint Log – S. 

This no special ingredient Trim Healthy Mama, keto, and gluten-free Chocolate Peppermint Log has just the right amount of festive peppermint flavor in the creamy filling, and without any flour in the cake, it’s a cinch to roll up without cracking! From Northern Nester 

More Chocolate Dessert Recipes:

Pies & Other Favorite Holiday Desserts

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert – S. 

This low-carb Strawberry Pretzel Dessert is a deliciously slimming version of the classic, made without sugar, gluten, or artificial colors and flavors! A THM S with no special ingredients. Sweet ‘n salty, creamy ‘n crunchy goodness! From Northern Nester 

Cinnamon Swirl Keto Coffee Cake – S

This cinnamon swirl coffee cake is perfectly spiced for your holiday gatherings. It is gluten-free and dairy-free and is easy to make! From Yellow Glass Dish

Cranberry Pie – S

 This pie combines the tartness of cranberries with a creamy cheesecake layer. It’s so refreshing! From Around The Family Table

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie – S.

This delicious Blueberry Cream Cheese Custard Pie is so easy to make and incredibly satisfying! A graham cracker-like crust, cheesecake filling, and sweet blueberry topping make this THM S dessert a no-special-ingredient crowd pleaser! From Northern Nester

More Favorite Holiday Desserts:


3 Poems To Encourage A Mother’s Heart


A dear, seasoned homeschooling mother and mentor, Monica O. shared these beautiful poems in a support group recently. I was so blessed by them, I asked her if I could turn them into printables to share, and she graciously gave me permission to do so.  Thank you, Mrs. O! 

I hope you’re encouraged by them as much as I am! 

You can print them off by simply right clicking on the image and downloading it to your computer. They are formatted to fit a regular 8.5 x 11″ sized piece of printer paper. 

Poem #1: A Mother’s Prayer

Author unknown.

Right click to download and print. 

Lord, who am I to teach the way

to little children day by day,

so prone myself to go astray?


I teach them knowledge, but I know

how faint the flicker, and how low

the candles of my knowledge glow


I teach them power to learn and do

but only now to learn anew

my own great weakness through and through


I teach the love of all mankind

and all God’s creatures, but I find

my love comes lagging far behind


I teach them, Lord, to listen to me,

but every day I plainly see,

how I do not listen to THEE.


I teach them how to speak kindly,

yet I use language most unholy,

and say things that are ungodly


I teach them anger not to use,

yet so often I my temper lose

when I am having a day of blues.


Lord, if their guide I still must be,

oh, let my little children see,

Their mother leaning hard on THEE.

Poem #2: Prayer Of A Young Mother’s Heart

Author unknown.

Right click to download and print. 

Oh give me patience when wee hands

Tug at me with their small demands

And give me gentle and smiling eyes

Keep my lips from hasty replies.

And let not weariness, confusion, or noise

Obscure my vision of life’s fleeting joys.

So when in years to come my home is still,

No bitter memories its room may fill.

Poem #3: What I Would Tell My Younger Self

Adapted from Darlene Schacht, the Time Warp Wife.

Right click to download and print.

Encourage More

Nag Less

Pray more

Worry Less

Listen More

Fight Less

Kiss More

Complain Less

Smile More

Criticize Less

Laugh More

Stress Less

Sing More

Sigh Less

Hug More

Hurry Less

Love More

Never Less

Veterans Day Songs To Listen To On Nov. 11

Veterans Day Songs, or Remembrance Day Songs – no matter what you refer to November 11th as, this playlist of famous War Time music honors the lives of those who have fought, or are still fighting for freedom.

On November 11, at 11:00am – the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, the time the First World War came to an end in 1918, we remember all the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict, and peace. 

It doesn’t matter where you live: human life is sacred because all men and women are created in the image of God. For this reason, I have included famous Canadian, American, and British war time songs. While these countries may have been at odds with each other in the past, men and women from both sides have stories that need to be heard and songs that should be sung to help us remember how awful war is, and to help us strive to never allow the worst of history to repeat itself. 

Paying the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live freely deserves our honor and gratitude. Listening to Veterans Day Songs (or Remembrance Day Songs, if you live in Canada) is a healthy exercise and a living education. It can transport us back centuries, and give us a glimpse into the lives of those who stared (or currently stare) death in the face every day for the sake of freedom. 

I’ve divided this list of songs into 3 sections. The first section is full of fun, rhythmic melodies like Over The Hills And Far Away, It’s A Long Road To Tipperary, and Yankee Doodle that can be marched too. It’s easy to see why these types of songs were often responsible for keeping morale among the cavalry high! 

The second section has several sobering songs. Soldier’s Cry is one of personal favorites. These songs speak to a soldier’s purpose, loyalty to one’s country, and the price of freedom. 

The last section is a collection of familiar bagpipe melodies such as Amazing Grace and Going Home. One can often expect to hear when a soldier has been lost. 

I hope this collection of songs will instill an even greater sense of gratitude for freedom in the ears of all those who listen. 

Old War Time Songs With Rhythm

War Time Songs About Purpose, Loyalty, & Freedom

Traditional Remembrance Day Songs With Bagpipes 

If you would like to listen to all of these songs in succession, I’ve put them all on a Playlist entitled, Remembrance Day/Veterans Day Songs for Nov 11.  

Hot Chocolate | THM: S


Pure decadence.

That’s what this hot chocolate is!

You’d never guess it was friendly to your waistline, but it is! This favorite Winter drink is a rich THM S. It’s also gluten-free, and Keto compatible. 


Personally, I don’t care for the taste of canned coconut milk on its own, but I used it in this recipe!

The coconut flavor is completely undetectable, masked completely by high-quality cocoa powder. It lends a wonderful smooth, silky consistency to the hot chocolate, that I guarantee you’ll love even if you’re not normally a coconut fan! 

If you don’t have Gentle Sweet on hand, you could also use a 1/4 cup of xylitol or Lakanto’s Classic Monkfruit Sugar Substitute, or 1 Tbsp of Super Sweet instead. 

If you’re not in the mood for something chocolate-y, I’ve got another suggestion for ya! 

You’ve got to try this Butter Caramel Hot Sip, also a THM S!

It’s equally warm and velvety, but posses no caffeine. A wonderfully sweet night time treat! 

You can get the recipe here

Here’s the recipe for that hot chocolate!

It serves 4, so halve the recipe if it’s date night, and double it if your family is the same size as ours! 

Yield: 4 servings

Decadent Hot Chocolate | THM: S

Decadent Hot Chocolate | THM: S

The flavor of the coconut milk is undetectable in this hot chocolate, but it provides an amazing consistency and smoothness to this decadent Winter drink. A THM S.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 cup Gentle Sweet
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Garnish:
  • naturally sweetened whipped cream
  • 85% Lindt chocolate, grated


  1. Whisk together all ingredients together (except garnish) in the saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until hot. Pour into mugs and garnish with whipped cream and grated chocolate.


You can sub coffee for the water in this recipe and make a Mocha instead!


Best Tools for Turning Soil: Complete List

Heavy frost has hit our area, and I’ve been busy pulling out annuals and cutting down perennials as they prepare for a season of dormancy. 

Fall is a great time to aerate the soil in preparation for Spring planting as the cold weather prevents weeds from taking root. You can save yourself a tremendous Spring task by amending your soil with organic matter on a dry, Fall day, rather than waiting until a mucky Spring. 

Turning soil with a traditional handheld cultivator is pretty hard on my back, but thankfully, that’s not the only tool for the job!

Here’s a compilation of the best tools for turning soil!

Corded Electric Rotor Tiller

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If you need a bit of help getting your garden ready, or just don’t have the muscle capacity for hard labor, then a rotor tiller is the perfect solution.


  • Environmentally friendly as you can use electricity to power it
  • 8-inch depth means you don’t have to pass over spots multiple times
  • Adjustable width, between 11 and 16 inches gives lots of choices


  • Be careful not to trip over the cord

Cordless Electric Tiller

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Being both cordless and electric is the perfect environmentally-friendly combination.

This powerful tiller will help you dig deep when you’ve got an unruly piece of land.


  • Works for 40 minutes off a single charge
  • Rotating tines are removable and easy to clean
  • 5-inch tilling depth is enough to tackle most yards.


  • Does not include battery and will cost extra to purchase

Gas Rotor Tiller

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This rotor tiller means business. If you have a yard that is close to pure wilderness, then this heavy-duty tool is perfect.

Whether it’s tree roots or rocky soil, in just a few passes you’re one step closer to the perfect garden.


  • 10-inch tilling depth means less time working the soil
  • Gas-powered so you can work as long as needed
  • Powerful 6.5 HP engine means serious business


  • Weighs over 200 pounds so you need to be strong to work it

Tiller Attachment for weedeater

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Sometimes the product you have just isn’t right for the job. Instead of purchasing a brand new, expensive tool, save some money with an attachment instead.

This tiller can be attached to most Weedeaters, including brands such as Craftsman, Remington, Greenworks, and many more.


  • Works with almost all major weedeater brands
  • Can adjust the tilling width up to 9 inches which is quite versatile
  • Tine technology means rocks and debris won’t fly at you


  • Better suited for small tasks

Drill Tiller

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What do you do if you really love your drill, but also need to garden? Create a drill tiller, of course.

This innovative design allows you to attach 3 tools right to your drill.

Not only will it save you money in the long run, but it will definitely lead to a bit of celebrity status on the block.


  • Includes 3 attachments: tilling head, hold digger, weeder
  • Easy to use and won’t strain your back
  • Strong construction will last for a long time


  • Weeds still need to be manually removed

Disc Cultivator Attachment

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This disc cultivator is perfect for working the soil. It is better suited for farm use and will look very out of place in a backyard garden.

However, those that have farmland, or even untouched land, will do well to dig deep with this attachment.


  • Strong and powerful
  • Up to 38-inch width which leads to fewer passes
  • Discs are powder-coated for durability


  • Attachment only; need to purchase a sleeve hitch

Hand Tillers

Hoe and Cultivator Hand Tiller

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Want to get up close and personal with your garden soil? Then garden hoes are the way to go.

This two-in-one tool has a hoe on one side and a cultivator rake on the other side.

There’s no need to search for missing tools when you’re gardening.


  • Ergonomic handle makes it easy to grip
  • Made of solid oak for extra durability
  • Includes lifetime warranty


  • Tines may bend but can be put back in place

Twist Tiller

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Need to turn the soil in your garden but are afraid of the effects it will have on your back?

Instead of stooping over, try this twist tiller. It is 38 inches tall which is perfect to allow you to stand up while gently moving dirt.


  • Perfect for mixing in soil amendments
  • Padded, ergonomic handle is comfortable to use
  • Able to easily pull weeds out


  • Not meant for hard-packed clay

Rotary Hand Tiller

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Sometimes when you see a tool, you just know it means business. With its three tines with multiple spikes, this hand tiller looks like it can get the job done, and it can.

The long handle allows you to stand up while working so you can stay comfortable, making it one of the best rotary tillers on the market.


  • Pole can extend from 40 to 60 inches, depending on preference
  • Made from stainless steel and aluminum so won’t break or rust
  • Middle wheel is removable for more gardening options


  • Extendable pole has a habit of collapsing

U-Bar Digger (Broadfork)

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When it comes to tilling your soil the old fashioned way can make the most sense.

This double-handled broadfork works to mimic the natural process of soil aeration.

It gets the job done and instead of relying on batteries or gasoline, it is powered by pure arm strength.


  • Extremely environmentally friendly
  • All-American made materials and construction
  • Relatively light at 12 pounds


  • Need serious arm strength to work it

Soil Knife

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As most expert gardeners will attest, knives are valuable tools.

A soil knife won’t fend off attackers, but it will allow you to complete all your basic gardening tasks, such as planting holes and pruning shrubs.


  • Used by Japanese gardeners for centuries
  • Multi-functional
  • Dual edged: flat and serrated edges


  • Blade can be sharp; keep out of reach of children

Hand Trowel

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A hand trowel is one of the best tools for the job. Kid gardeners are often given trowels as their first tool, and master gardeners are quick to share their opinion on their favorite brand.

If you have a garden, you need this tool to create your horticultural masterpiece.


  • Includes inches and centimeter markings for perfect planting
  • Handle is ergonomic and comfortable for continued use
  • Hole in handle allows for easy organization


  • Relatively small; will need extra tools

Digging Shovel

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You’ve tilled the ground and aerated your soil. Now comes the fun part – digging.

If you have a hole to be dug, or just need to move some dirt around, a digging shovel is a tool for the job.

This is a smaller shovel, and perfect for tighter spaces such as planting shrubs.


  • Paint is rust-resistant for a longer-lasting tool
  • Easy to store because of its small size
  • Light in weight and easy to use


  • Taller people should consider a longer product

Digging Spade

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Unless you’re a master gardener, it can still be hard to understand the difference between a shovel and a spade.

Spades have flat bottoms and look rectangular in size. They are meant for breaking up compact soil.


  • Rust resistance construction
  • Handle is made from one piece of wood for durability
  • Evenly distributed weight makes it easy to use


  • No tread on spade to rest your foot on

Digging Fork

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If you’ve got tough ground to break through, a digging fork can help you out.

Whereas spades and shovels will remove large patches of dirt, a digging fork works to aerate and break up the hardened dirt.

It especially works well in the spring when you’re getting your raised garden beds in order.


  • Uses muscle strength, not batteries or electricity
  • Constructed to not break or bend
  • Handle makes it easier to grip and prevents wrist strains


  • Large width is unsuitable for compact areas


Cultivating Claws

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We’ll forgive you if you seem a little confused with this gardening tool. These cultivating claws are exactly that – claws. Simply hold onto the hand in each hand and start raking your dirt.

You can get back to nature and digging in the dirt, and might even realize that your spirit animal is indeed a bear.


  • Lets you really experience your garden
  • Allows you to target hard-to-reach areas
  • Materials are strong and durable


  • Hands can get quite dirty

Small hand cultivator

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This cultivator is described as a ninja rake, which is pretty apt considering its design.

Based on a classic Japanese gardening tool, the cultivator will easily rake through shallow soil in flower beds.


  • Includes 5 prongs instead of the standard 3
  • Excellent at removing weeds
  • Prongs are very sharp and powerful


  • Small and only good for shallow dirt

Ergonomic Hand Cultivator

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Gardening is strenuous. If don’t have back issues to begin with, you can quickly develop them after a hard day’s work in the garden.

As a result, finding good ergonomic tools is a must.

This hand cultivator works to break up soil but because of its design, you can remain standing up.


  • Ergonomic design eases tension from back
  • Bright orange color means never losing it
  • Can be taken apart for easy storage


  • Can be hard to assemble

High Wheel Garden Cultivator

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No, you haven’t traveled back in time with this contraption. Garden cultivators have existed for centuries, and if the wheel still works, why re-invent it?

For those looking to gently hoe their garden without straining their back, this unique design can work wonders.


  • Easy to use and very comfortable to push
  • Handles are adjustable to fit different heights
  • Shallow cultivation won’t harm root crops


  • Some customer service issues with the manufacturer

Garden Rakes

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What garden is complete without a garden rake? As with many gardening tools, there are different types of rakes.

This flat, metal rake is perfect for both raking leaves and combing through dirt.


  • Handle is light in weight and easy to hold
  • Strong steel construction in rake head
  • Good customer experiences


  • May still need a fan leaf rake for larger trees

Spading Fork

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A spading fork is necessary to aerate your soil. Without oxygen, nutrients, or water, your soil will suffer, as will the roots of your plants that depend on dirt for nourishment.

To work this tool, simply place it in the earth and pull up.


  • Can place foot on forkhead for better leverage
  • Works best with raised flower beds
  • Even has the ability to move hay or compost to cover crops


  • Might be too cumbersome for some

Garden Hoe

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If you’re looking to sow a large swathe of seeds, a garden hoe will help you with your task.

Made with a long, flat bottom, a garden hoe works a bit like a rake, but with a more singular purpose.


  • Disc blade is made from recycled agricultural tools
  • Edges are nice and sharp and will last a long time
  • Blade and socket are welded together so won’t fall apart


  • Blade can nick if hits rocks


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If you come across a tree stump or a compacted piece of clay, it’s time to pick up your pickax.

This tool is small enough to hold in one hand but strong enough to be a formidable weapon on your quest for a cultivated garden.


  • Dual-head combo for all matter of rough terrain
  • Handle grip is made from rubber and won’t slip


  • Handle could be longer to reach more objects


If all else fails, just use your hands! Gardening should be fun. Unleash your inner kid and start digging.

After all, what’s the point of fingernails if you can’t get dirt stuck under them?

Related Questions:


Once you have decided to plant seeds or flowers, you will need to prepare your garden soil.

To loosen the soil, a cultivating fork will work best. Its large tines work to quickly aerate the soil which will make it easy to start digging holes for your garden.

You can use a stand-up cultivating fork or get down on the ground and use a smaller-handled fork.

Which shovel is best to break through soil?

When it comes to shovels, there’s actually a lot to understand. Shovels are tools and you will want the right tool for the job.

To break through soil, choose a spade. This will have a flat edge at the bottom which will allow you to break through hard ground.

A pointed, or rounded-bottomed shovel will help to move dirt but will be too cumbersome to break more solid ground.

How do you turn soil?

Garden soil needs to breathe. If there is a hard crust on top of your dirt, then air, nutrients, and water can’t penetrate. As a result, any roots or even seeds won’t be able to grow.

You can use many different tools to turn your soil, depending on your needs. First, start with a shovel to turn large areas of soil.

Then, use a hoe to work on more tedious parts.

Finally, use a rake to smooth out the soil and capture any large-sized rocks you want to remove.

What do you use to loosen soil?

To loosen soil, you can use a hand tiller. Made with rotating tines, tillers can move large areas of ground.

If you have a much larger piece of land, you might want to consider a rotor tiller, which is a large machine.

If there are other trees or plants around the area you want to loosen, you can also consider a shovel.

While not nearly as fast as other tools, it is more precise and will only dig up the area you want it to.

That sums up our list of soil turning tools! What do you use and love? 

Free Farmhouse Table Plan

free farmhouse table plan

We outgrew our little golden oak table when Baby #4 arrived.

I dreamed of having a long farmhouse table that could seat a large family and still have ample room to accommodate guests, but buying one new was so expensive! We didn’t need chairs (ours were still in good condition), just a table and a bench.

Walking through the lumber department in Home Depot one day (my idea of fun!), I noticed that the 4×4″ pressure treated pine deck posts were shaped just like farmhouse table legs!

They were also much cheaper than buying actual table legs made from a harder wood like maple.

Photo Credit

I told my husband about the idea of using the deck posts for table legs, standard lumber for the brace and apron, and spending a little more on nicely planed boards for the table top.

My idea was to sand down the legs until they were relatively smooth, paint them white, then distress and seal them. That way, you couldn’t really tell we were using outdoor lumber for an indoor project! The Farmhouse look is only improved by distressing, so it seemed like a good fit for life with six kids. 🙂 

farmhouse table plan

Brad was totally on board! I quickly sketched out what I envisioned the table looking like, and we set to work!

I bought the lumber and finishing materials, and he built the table in our basement with our oldest son, who was six at the time, and more than happy to operate the drill! 

farmhouse table

In all, this Farmhouse Table and Bench (plan for the bench coming soon!) cost us around $300about $700 cheaper than buying one new! It comfortably seats our family of 8, with plenty of room for a few guests. 

Over the last 3 years, this Farmhouse Table has stood up to 3 meals a day with the whole family, homeschooling, crafts, food preparation, fellowship meals, potlucks, cupcake decorating with friends, and hours and hours of of playing card and board games.

It’s a constant hub of activity, and while we would build it again in a heartbeat, it’s so durable, we probably won’t ever need to! 

We’ve had so many requests to build this Farmhouse Table for others, but we’re pretty pinched for time and space, so Brad drew up the Farmhouse Table Plan on SketchUp Make (read his review of SketchUp Make here), so you can do this project with your own family!

It’s very easy to put together (we’re total newbies at this!), affordable, and you can build the whole thing on a Saturday afternoon with standard size boards from your local lumbar yard. 

Here’s the Free Farmhouse Table Plan!  

Free Farmhouse Table Plan

Free Farmhouse Table Plan

This Free Farmhouse Table Plan is easy, affordable, and can be made in one afternoon with standard size boards from your local lumbar yard. 

Prep Time 15 minutes
Active Time 4 hours
Finishing Time 2 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $250 plus finishes


  • 4 pcs 4” x 4” x 40” Wooden Deck Post
  • 1 pc 2”x4”x8’
  • 1 pc 4”x4”x8’
  • 7 pcs 1”x10”x60”
  • 3 pcs 1 ¼”x6”x7’ 0
  • Wood Glue
  • Plugs
  • White Paint
  • Stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Pocket Hole Screws


Overall size:


Be sure to glue each joint before screwing together.

Step 1

Start by cutting all the pieces to size. This build uses lumber very efficiently and you will only need to make a few cuts for this table.

Cut list:

Cut 2 pcs 2”x4”x42”

Cut 2 pcs 4”x4”x42”

Cut 2 pcs 1 ¼”x6”x42”

Cut 2 pcs 1”x10”x46 ¼”

Cut 2 pcs 1 ¼”x6”x84”

Step 2

Cut one end (or both) of the  4” x 4” deck posts. Just locate the shaped part of the post where you like it.

It starts out roughly like this:

We left about 1 ½” of the flat part of the leg underneath the shaped portion of the post, to serve as the bottom of the table leg like this:

Step 3

Add 4 pocket holes to the top of all 4 legs like this:

NOTE: It depends on which pocket hole jig you're using so just set it up as per the instructions

Step 4

Take 2 of the legs and one 1 ¼”x6”x42” board and screw them together using pocket holes screws after gluing. Pretty important to glue this before screwing as this is a critical joint of the table 🙂

You might even want to bolt this joint; we didn’t, and our family of 8 has used this table for over 2 years at the time I wrote this post.

The ends of the board should align with the legs. Make sure everything is square and both legs are parallel.

Repeat the same step with other 2 legs and 1 ¼”x5”x42” board.

Step 5

Use the 2 leg assemblies made in previous steps and two 1 ¼”x6”x84” boards to make tables frame.

Joint these pieces using pocket holes in the legs of the table.

The end of the boards should align with the ends of shorter boards on the leg
assemblies as shown.

Step 6

Once the table frame is standing stably, screw-in 2pcs 4”x4” pieces to the inside of the frame on each end of the table.

If only 3 legs are touching the ground, letting it sit overnight on a flat surface will let things settle out the way they should be.

There should be 1 ⅞” gap between the edge of the leg and the edge of the 4”x4” pieces.

Step 7

Screw in the middle supports for the table.

Use 2 pcs 2”x4”x42” pieces and attach them 20 ½” from the 4”x4” supports.

Step 8

Now that the base of the table is completely done apply white or any other color wood paint you prefer to the base of the

Step 9

Once the base is painted and dry its time to make the tabletop for the table. It will be made from 1”x10” boards.

In order to hide screw holes used to attach these boards to the tabletop, you will need to stain them in 2 steps.

First, stain all the edges of the boards and one surface boards as well.

Leave one surface of the boards unstained. This will become the tabletop at
the end and will be stained after the boards are put in place.

Step 10

Now that both the base of the table and boards for the tabletop are dry, screw all the boards to the frame using predrilled

First, take one of the 1”x10”x46 ¼” boards and place it stained side down so there is 1 ⅛” gap between the frame and the edge of the board both on the sides of the table and end of the table.

Make sure this first board is screwed in accurately. It will be used as a guide for all the rest boards.

Using 5 pcs 1”x10”x60” boards, assemble the middle of the tabletop.

Take the first board and align it with the end board. Make sure the corners align perfectly and the board is straight.

Once this board is screwed in place the rest 4 boards putting them right next to the two boards already attached.

Lastly, take the remaining 1”x10” board and screw it in aligning its ends with the edges of other boards. Screw it in like the rest of the boards.

Step 11

Using wood filler, fill in all the screw holes left in the tabletop.

Let it dry according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

Step 12

Once dry, cover the base of the table with plastic and stain top part of the table using wood stain.

Step 13

After the stain dries you can apply a clear coat to the desired finish.


Be sure to glue each joint before screwing together.