It’s “Getting Food on the Table” Month

Getting food on the table month

Happy August!  It’s my birthday month and my husband’s too.  Plus our daughter, his mother, his sister, my grandfather, my aunt, our niece, and a cousin too.  Everyone shall eat cake!

It’s also the month that school starts.  3 of our kids start in 9 days.  Honestly, I’m not done with summer yet but que sera.

In light of all the crazy that is happening in homes across the nation Read more

Day 1: Summer Here We Come

Storm Clouds

Today is our first Monday of summer vacation.  I’m a barrel of mixed feelings about school being out.  I love having the kids home and the sound of stirring in the lego bin as they search for that perfect piece. We are making different education choices for next year and I am mourning the change.  I’m not ready to talk about it publicly yet.  Soon, I hope.  For now, I want my friends to know we weren’t offended or upset in any way.


I’m still trying to figure out the whole summer vacation thing. In the past, I’ve written a summer bucket list and then had terrible Mommy guilt when I didn’t do much of it.  Last year I made a list of things I wanted to do around Kansas City, one a week. We did 2 things, then adrenal fatigue had me mostly bed bound the rest of the summer.


I want to be a fun mom.  I look at the pictures on facebook of families doing things together, like eating in a restaurant, going to the trampoline park, or in an extreme case, taking a girls’ trip to England….and I feel a little small inside.  It’s dumb to compare, I know.  But I do it anyway–it comes naturally.

I hope my kids tell their therapist that I really loved them.  That they know I tried.


I need summer to be as restful as possible.  School is hard.  Teaching; spelling lists, math facts, reading charts, reports and posters, fund raisers, and things to sign x 5  nearly puts me under.  Then we also have ballet class, soccer teams, basketball teams, violin lessons and piano lessons.  Plus Zion’s League and YAChoir for the High School one; Zioneers for the Middle School ones; Young Adults for the parents; Priesthood classes, Gatekeeper training; and family visits for the Daddy who also helps lead the Trailblazers group….and takes the boys to Boy Scouts too.  There’s Handmaidens and Lamplighters for the girls.  The only night we can be home as a family is Wednesday night, and the church would prefer we come to prayer service instead.  We don’t usually go. I have stay at home guilt on those nights, but if anyone walked a day in my shoes, they wouldn’t judge.

We’ve talked about limiting activities more.  We haven’t come up with a perfect solution.  The kids each have special needs that make a certain activity important for their development. The ones that aren’t crucial for congnitive and physical development are the church activities–and that feels kind of wrong to quit.  So we stay with the crazy and ask ourselves often if we’re doing the right thing.


This summer I have no bucket list. The 4 oldest kids will each go to a summer camp.  I will take the children to a family camp (we call it Reunion) while my husband stays back to earn money and hold down the fort.  We are going tent camping in the Rocky Mountains at some point.  And there’s a week of Bible School for the little ones.  There will be a lot of time just at home though.  If I can keep the screens off until 3pm, I will consider it a win, plus minimal fighting, and maybe cleaning once a month week.


Maybe we’ll air up the bike tires and send restless kids out into the neighborhood.  And a summer membership to a local pool.  That was a good thing last year.  I have a few house projects I’d like to squeeze in, but I’m hoping to find lots of peaceful moments.  Lots of peaceful moments.



My mediation:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness.

May all our strivings cease.

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Freezer Bag Cooking: Lunch and Dinner

Freezer Bag Recipes lunch and dinner

Yesterday I shared with you some really simple Freezer Bag Breakfast Recipes perfect for camping or just to make ahead for busy moments.  Today I’m going to give you my best Freezer Bag Lunch and Dinner recipes.  When meals are packed frozen in a cooler, you need less ice and they gradually thaw to be ready when needed. (My FAVORITE part of this series is how often I can use the word smoosh <3.)

 Dutch Oven

Dutch Oven Pizza

Crust: 1 2/3 cup water; 1 Tbs yeast; 1 Tbs olive oil; 2 Tbs Honey; 1 tsp salt; 4 cups flour.  Mix together, kneading right in the bag, then press out the air and freeze.

Sauce: 6 oz tomato paste; 1/4 cup water; 1 tsp sugar; 1 tsp garlic powder; 1 tsp onion powder; 2 tsp parsley flakes; 1 tsp basil; 1/4 tsp oregano; a few dashes of oregano.  Mix in a smaller baggie and freeze.  Snip the corner to easily spread onto the pizza crust.

Additional ingredients:  Shredded mozzarella cheese; browned ground beef, pepperoni;

This is enough for 2 pizzas. Spread the thawed crust in the bottom and up the sides a bit of your well seasoned dutch oven.  Top with sauce, cheese and desired toppings.  Top with a lid. Bake for 20-3o minutes with 7 briquettes under the oven and 21 on the lid.
Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joes

2 lb Ground meat (I use a combination of turkey and beef.)

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced bell pepper

2 cans, 8 oz tomato sauce

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic salt

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Brown the ground beef, peppers and onions together, drain.  Place the tomato sauce, chili powder, garlic salt and worcestershire in a freezer baggie.  Smoosh it around.  Add remaining ingredients and smoosh to mix evenly. Seal well and lay flat to freeze.  To prepare, squeeze thawed contents into a dutch oven or saucepan and heat through. Serve on buns or stuffed into pitas with slices of cheese.



l lb macaroni noodles (dry)

8 cups tomato juice

4 tsp sugar, xylitol or similar

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp garlic powder

1 lb ground beef, browned and drained

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped bell pepper

8 American cheeses slices

Brown ground beef with onion and bell pepper, drain.  Combine all but the cheese slices in a baggie (pasta should still be dry.)  Seal, and smoosh flat to freeze.   To prepare, pour contents of the bag into a casserole dish or dutch oven.  Top with cheese slices.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes (For a Dutch oven: 7 hot coals on the bottom 21 coals on the lid) or until heated through and pasta is soft.



8 oz broken spaghetti noodles

4 cups tomato sauce

3 cups water

1 tsp basil flakes

2 tsp parsley flakes

1 tsp salt

dash of cayenne pepper (opt)

1 lb ground beef

1 cup onion

Brown and drain ground beef with onion.  Add all ingredients to a freezer bag (use the noodles dry.)  Smoosh flat and freeze.  To prepare, pour thawed contents of the bag into a pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender and dish is thickened.


2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into strips.

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 red onion

1 white onion

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lime juice

1 1/2 Tbs Seasoned Salt (like Lowry’s)

1 1/2 Tbs oregano flakes

1 1/2 Tbs ground cumin

1 Tbs garlic powder

1 Tbs chili powder

1 Tbs paprika

1 tsp salt

In a large baggie combine the oil, lime juice and herbs and spices.  Smoosh all around.  Add the chicken and sliced vegetables.  Press flat and freeze.  To prepare, thaw the bag. Use tongs to lift the meat and vegetables out of the bag into a hot skillet, discard remaining marinate. Stir fry until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender.  Serve with tortillas and salsa.  (Other toppings as desired: lettuce, cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole….)

Fiesta Chicken Bowls

2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup lime juice
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lb corn kernels
1 tsp garlic powder
1 chopped red onion
1 can, 15 oz  black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Combine everything into a freezer bag and smoosh flat to freeze. To prepare, thaw bag.  Pour entire contents into a hot skillet and sauté until meat is cooked through.  Layer bowls with crushed tortilla chips and chopped lettuce.  Top with chicken mixture and serve with salsa, cheese, and ranch dressing.

Teriyaki chicken over Rice

2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

1 lb sugar snap peas

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup pineapple juice (I drain it from canned pineapple)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

1 tsp garlic powder

Combine all ingredients into a freezer bag and smoosh to freeze.  Freeze 4-6 cups cooked brown rice in a separate bag.  To prepare, pour contents of the bag into a skillet and saute until chicken is cooked through. Heat rice, by simmering the bag in hot water for 2-3 minutes.  Serve Teriyaki chicken over rice.

Taco Soup

2 lb ground beef or turkey

1 cup chopped onion

1 lb corn kernels

2 cans, 15 oz each black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can rotel tomatoes, undrained

4 Tbs taco seasoning

Brown ground beef with onion, drain.  Combine everything in a freezer bag.  Smoosh flat to freeze.  To serve, pour contents of the bag into a stock pot or dutch oven. Add 1 cup of water. Heat through.  Serve with Frito style corn chips and cheese or sour cream.

Freezer Bag Cooking: Breakfast

Freezer Bag Recipes Breakfast

Prepping food at home and freezing it in baggies takes up less space in the cooler for camping.  Things stay colder longer this way. (Here’s hoping they thaw out in time for cooking. I’ll let you know on that one.) Even if you aren’t planning a camping trip, these recipes can easily be cooked in a regular kitchen and make rushed mornings that much easier.

Today is just about breakfast.  Tomorrow we’ll talk about dinner and then desserts :).  All of these recipes are good feed our family of 8.

Quick tip: Be sure to label your bags with a sharpee.  A few weeks later pancake batter and frozen smoothie can look kind of similar.

Breakfast Recipes

protein pancakes 033


3 cups flour

1 Tbs sugar or stevia blend

1 Tbs baking powder (or 1 tsp baking soda plus 1/4 tsp cream of tartar.)

3 eggs

3 Tbs oil

3 cups milk

Blend all ingredients together and process for 1 minute.  Pour into a gallon freezer baggie and squeeze out the air.  Lay the bag flat smooshing all the batter into an even layer and place it on a cookie sheet or tray to freeze it flat.

To cook, thaw the batter.  Then snip off a lower corner of the bag and use it to pipe the batter into a hot skillet.  (I’m going to test this method on my protein pancake batter and let you know how it freezes.) If you don’t want to use a blender, you could also just dump the ingredients in the bag and smoosh it around. It won’t be as smooth, but it will be ok.

Hash Brown and Egg Casserole

1 lb frozen hash browns (Raw potatoes don’t freeze well, so if you want a homemade substitute, cube leftover baked potatoes. For a low carb substitute, try frozen cauliflower bits or diced radishes.)

1 lb bulk sausage, browned and drained

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced bell pepper (I like the baby bell peppers because of the pretty colors.)

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup shredded cheese

8 beaten eggs

1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper

Beat yogurt or sour cream and salt and pepper into eggs.  Pour into a gallon baggie and add remaining ingredients. smoosh around until well blended.  Seal well, removing all air. Lay flat and freeze on a tray to keep it flat. To bake, pour thawed casserole into a dutch oven.  Use this handy guide to decide how and where to place your coals: Bake at 350 for about an hour.  You’ll need around 24 hot briquetts, 6 underneath and 18 on the lid.

This casserole can be made without all vegetables (but why?!) To make it dairy free, 1/2 as much plain almond milk can be subbed for the yogurt and the cheese can be left out or replaced with Daiya cheese.  I’m slightly milk sensitive, but found Daiya cheese (cheddar variety) to be pretty gross and would rather just skip it.

Apple Muffins

¾ C milk

½ C applesauce (or oil)

1 egg

2 C flour

½ C sugar

3 t baking powder

1 t salt

½ t cinnamon

1 med apple, pared and chopped

Mix everything together in the gallon baggie, then freeze flat.  To bake, snip off a corner and pipe into a seasoned cast iron muffin tin OR fill hollowed out orange skin halves 2/3 full with batter. Wrap loosely with aluminum foil (to give room for rising batter.) Nestle down into the hot coals (right side up!) and bake for about 1o minutes.  Any muffin batter can be baked this way.  Imagine chocolate in an orange. (If you compare recipes, the difference between a muffin and a cupcake are minimal….)


Use a quart sized freezer bag for each person.  Crack in 2 eggs then add whatever you like:  spinach, onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, ham, bacon, sausage, cheese etc.  Mush it all around, then freeze.  To cook, drop the bags in a large kettle (or dutch oven) of boiling water.  Boil for 8 minutes.  Only put in enough bags that can float freely (you don’t want them resting on the bottom of the pot.)


Blend up your favorite smoothie ingredients, then freeze flat in a freezer bag.  Thaw until slushy, cut off a corner and pipe into drinking glasses.

Portable Yogurt

Fill snack size baggies with a half cup of flavored yogurt.  Fold over and tape the zipper seal to the side and freeze firm. Snip off the end and push up to eat. Credit

Quick Oatmeal

This doesn’t need to be frozen, but goes in a baggie….so here you go.  Add 1/3 cup quick oats; 1 Tbs sweetener (brown sugar, coconut sugar, or xylitol etc….); 2 Tbs dried fruit; and 1/4 tsp of flavor (Cinnamon, nutmeg etc.)  Other flavor options: 1 Tbs chopped nuts; 1 Tbs mini chocolate chips;  1 Tbs peanut flour; 1 tsp flax meal; 1 tsp chia seeds; 1 Tbs cocoa powder; 1 Tbs dry milk; scraped vanilla bean.  To prepare, pour contents of the bag into a mug.  Add 2/3-3/4 cup of boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes.

Just for fun, let’s clear up some confusion about the different types of oatmeal.

1. Whole Oat Groats: look similar to wheat berries and are the hulled seeds of the oat plan. Since the seed is intact, there is no danger of oils going rancid. These take a long time to cook.

2. Steel cut oats: Whole oats that have been chopped into pieces for faster cooking.

3. Old-fashioned rolled oats: Whole oat Groats that have been rolled on a press. Oats can be thick rolled if the setting is changed on the roller.

3. Quick Oats: Rolled oats that have been chopped into smaller pieces for faster cooking. Nutritionally no different than Old-Fashioned roll oats.

4. Instant Oats: Quick oats that have been steamed and re-dried for faster cooking.  There is likely some nutrition loss in the heat process, but instant oat’s bad reputation mostly comes from the sugary additions in the prepackaged individual serving variety that make it so yummy.  By packaging up your own flavors you can control the quality of the ingredients and nutrition profile.

We are going camping!

lit up tent

I’m terrified!  I have great memories of family camping as a child.  We went several times a year, almost always to Watkins Mill where they have a fabulous swimming lake and a gorgeous paved bike trail.  In the autumn, we would lie on lounge chairs after riding at least 10 miles, glistening with sweat.  If we were still enough, butterflies would come and land on us and lick up the salt from our skin. It was peaceful and renewing. At least for us kids. As I think back on things, Mom had to work pretty hard to give us such a relaxing time.


I couldn’t wait to start a camping tradition with my own family!  I begged Darren to take us.  I did all the planning and packing, just like my mom did when I was growing up. Except things were different for us. I was 7 months pregnant with WD and it was the hottest day of the year. The first night, my 23 month old daughter cried all night long.  We helplessly comforted her while listening to our neighbor’s Harley revving into the wee hours of the morning.  The next day,  I begged Darren to take us home.  He said, “No.”

Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site, Lawson

We groggily continued with our plans to enjoy the area.  The swimming lake had been drained for repairs and the bike trail was torn up in the section that went over the dam.  Undaunted I strapped my  toddler daughter in the bike child seat and headed on the 5 mile trail around the lake.  When I got to the torn up dam I had two choices, go back the other way and ride 5 miles back to the start or carefully ride the rubble.  It was 104 degrees, I was exhausted—none of this had been fun so far.   I chose the rubble.   In my attempt to ride carefully, I fell way behind Darren who was pulling our older 2 children (aged 5 and 3 in a double bike trailer.)  He was completely out of ear shot when I fell off the dam, taking my pregnant self, bike and back seated baby with me.  Thank the Lord we had helmets!  They were dented but we were relatively safe.  I was bloody and Heather was crying pretty hard.  I put her back in the seat and walked the bike back to our campsite.  I left a trail of blood in the road.   When Darren saw me, I didn’t have to beg to go home.  We just went.

Watkins Mill Bike Trail

We tried camping again 5 years later. This time we went with friends who knew what they were doing and agreed to do the cooking if we would help with clean up and paying for food. I packed no supplies except a borrowed tent, a sleeping bag and a hand crank flashlight. (Yes, not even a pillow or a lawn chair.) The first night, I sat up all night sitting at the campground supplied picnic table, cranking my little flashlight with all my might and pointing it into the woods.   My arm got tired really fast, but I had to keep my babies safe from those loud, stick-popping sounds coming from the woods.  The best part of that trip was the FOOD!  Oh man, my friends knew how to fix a mean campfire meal.

With my frequently pregnancies, illnesses, and financial strains, we have only taken 2 family trips with all the children.  We would like to fix that now that life seems to be settling down for us. Camping is one way to afford a family trip, enjoy lots of together time and see the country.  So off we go!   Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Prep work is the key to a successful trip.  Planning food in advance can help make the trip more relaxing for all.

2.  The right gear is important. Battery flashlights are better than hand crank ones in this situation :).  We will invest in a few small pieces of gear this time, but are borrowing some things to help keep the trip affordable.  If we go camping again, we will be able to buy a couple of things next time too.

It’s a short list, because I’m awful at camping :).  I’ve love to hear your tips in the comments.

Tomorrow I’m going to share some camping friendly recipes I’ve gathered.  If you aren’t planning a camping trip, don’t worry.  These are perfect at home freezer meals too!

Caleb’s Bedroom Budget Details

Desk Wide shot
I’ll be honest.  I didn’t have a set amount to spend on Caleb’s room. The goal was just to do it as cheaply as possible without so much DIY that it would get overwhelming. I was dealing with cash, so before I made a purchase I really weighed whether this was the best use for the money.  There were several times I was standing there hemming and hawing about whether I should buy something or not (desk, bird pillow), and I told myself, “It’s for your son….just do it.” I can be really cheap at times, then at other times just spend the money thinking I’ll be happy I did later.  (Which isn’t always the case.)

I haven’t added it all up before I do it live right here….I’m a little scared to see the total. What’s a good room makeover budget anyway?  The little things add up quickly for sure. I could have easily spent an extra $1,000 if we had done the hardwood floors and removed the ceiling texture….so I’m calling this a win for now :).

Item Store Details $
Duvet fill Target Twin Down alternative 20.00
Curtain Rods Target 2 brushed nickel café rods 7.18
Paint for walls Home Depot Behr Sterling (2 gallons) eggshell 58.12
Floor Paint Home Depot Behr Anonymous (1 gallon) 27.98
Grass Plant and pot Ikea Fejka and Socker 4.78
Gray textured pillow cover Ikea Gullklocka 7.00
Stripe Pillow Cover Ikea Vargyllen 5.00
Bird Pillow Ikea (Already stuffed–not online) 5.00
Black Frames Ikea 7 Nyttja 14.00
Black Box with lid Ikea Kassett set of 2 6.99
Desk Lamp Ikea Barometer 29.99
Trundle Mattress Ikea Moshult 79.99
Floating Shelves Ikea Lack black brown 39.98
Desk Ikea Micke Black brown 69.99
Desk Chair Ikea Snille 19.99
Area Rug Keno ACR177 Rug 229.20
Total 625.19
Stuff I had from before
Duvet Cover Target Clearance/Discontinued 15.00
Supplies for lego desk Home Depot saw horse brackets 14.00
2x4s * 2 6.00
Hollow core door 27.00
Pillow inserts Cargo Largo 2* Pottery Barn 20×20 feather inserts 10.00
Total 687.19

There was some additional expense for printing the pages at home.  Ink and paper are not free, but I’ve never figured out what it costs to print a page.  (Some things I’d rather not know so I can happily print in ignorant bliss.)  We do have a printer with the cheap refillable Costco cartridges.

I also plan to go back to Ikea and grab him a Trysil nightstand for $39.99.


And a Svarta trundle bed for $79.99.  We often have extra guests and the kids have been dragging our extra mattress from bedroom to bedroom.  It will be nice to have one just for this space.


Caleb's desk Micke

After I finished building his desk, I turned the page and found the instructions for building it the other way, you know, so the cord hole would be right by the outlet, forehead smack! I think I’ll move the lamp to the nightstand anyway, so it won’t be a big deal. It still would have been handy for his laptop though.

Bird pillow


Here’s a closeup of the bird pillow that makes me giggle. Caleb smiled when he saw it. I like it when he smiles, dimples everywhere.

Caleb's pillow detail

Here are all the textures of pillows together.  I almost didn’t buy the bumpled gray one, but then I remembered “texture” being one of the things to add interest to the room. I’m glad I got it.  To be honest I almost didn’t buy any of them, but I already had the pillow forms at home and Darren was making comments about putting them in the yard sale. These were Potty Barn brand feather inserts that I got for a steal. It seemed right to give them a useful purpose.

Lego Wall

This is the beginning of his lego wall.  He spent a long time getting his collection all sorted out into the bins (which are $8 for a 4 pack and can be ordered online from Home Depot.)  The rails they hang on are bright yellow, but you can’t see them when the bins are put away.

The floating shelves are to store his finished creations until he’s ready to make something new. (He used to store these treasures on the floor, ouch!) He also has some airplane and car models for the top shelf.  The black boxes hold his lego manuals, Boy Scout guides, and his favorite drawings.

Beneath My Heart Sawhorse Table

I’m going to make this work table for him to put under the bins and have all the parts with one change. My table top is a hollow core door that I’ll paint with the leftover floor paint.

Calebs wall art


These are 3 of the pictures from here. (The ones on either side of his window are from here too.  I love putting up scripture for him to look at and be inspired by.) I’m going to grab another frame and put a fourth one up to fill the space out better.  He has a poster sized map of South Dakota that he bought on vacation with my parents. I’m going to grab a matching frame for it and put it somewhere too.  It means a lot to him. The stick of bamboo in the corner was Caleb’s first addition to the room.  I’m not sure what it is about boys and sticks.

If you’re wondering where all the rest of his stuff is, it’s in his closet.  His closet is 6 x 13 with tons of shelves which is handy for keeping his room clutter free.  His dresser is in there with his toy shelf.  That room is in desperate need of tidying up, a task for another day.

Just to prove I’m human, when I spend two days working on a big project, my kitchen looks like this:

messy kitchen

Thank goodness for 2 dishwashers…..

Are You Spring Cleaning With Toxins?

cleaning supplies

Every day I hear about a friend with cancer.  I don’t know if cancer is really on the rise, or if social media means I just find out about it more.  These aren’t strangers though.  These are my friends: some young, some old, some live near me, some are across the country.  The cancer part of our prayer list is really long.

I hate cancer.   No one knows the cause of an individual illess, unless there was a big environmental problem such as smoking or prolonged asbestos exposure that is glaring.

Baby after bath

On the other hand there are chemicals that are KNOWN to cause cancer used in common every day products like baby shampoo, laundry soap, hand sanitizer, and air freshener.  We might not be able to avoid all risk factors leading to cancer, but we can do something about THIS.

Don’t be mislead.  Just making your own cleaning products will not keep you safe. If your recipe contains ammonia or bleach, it’s not safe.  Plus, many recipes such as homemade laundry detergent, are a combinations of purchased ingredients. Does the soap base for your homemade detergent have SLS, SLES, parabens or 1,4 Dioxine in it?  If it does, it’s not safe.

I made a video for you that scratches the surface of what you should look out for.  Below I’ve added a lot of links below to source the information that’s in the video.  If you want to do your own research, it’s a starting point.


Click here to request more information.

More Resources

 What to look for in laundry detergents

Tide to reduce not eliminate 1,4 Dioxane

More on Tide and here

More on Laundry

Baby Shampoo


Breast Cancer and Triclosan

Dishwashing Products to Avoid

Is Ajax hand dishwashing detergent safe?

National Cancer Institute Speaks out about Formaldehyde’s list of known cancer causing agents

How Toxic are Your Cleaning Supplies?

What’s so Dangerous about Bleach?

More on Bleach

Even more on bleach

Clorox corporate’s defense of bleach

6 Common Household Products known to cause cancer

5 Household products that increase your risk of  breast cancer

More on Breast Cancer prevention

Why you should avoid Ammonia

More on Ammonia





Can I Afford to Stay Home With My Kids?

mother and baby

When we first married I was a 5th grade teacher. It was a great job, but also really stressful.  I became pregnant after we had been married just 3 months.  I had already signed my teaching contract for the next year. There was a steep contract breaking fee, but it didn’t matter.  My husband was in grad school and I was the only income producer in our family.  I had to work.

This was not how I planned to be a mother.  My mother stayed home with my brother and I, and it was a really good life.  I wanted to be a mother just like that.  Instead, I handed my newborn girl to someone else and went to work to spend time with other people’s babies (albeit 11 year old babies.)  It was the hardest thing I’d done so far. When I was at school, my heart was at home.  I counted the days down to when the year would end and I could stay home forever.  By then, my husband would graduate and his internship would turn into a real job.

When my dream finally came true, being a stay at home mom was a lot harder than I thought. It was a challenge just to take a shower or get dressed and still meet the needs of a fussy baby.  I didn’t have a single moment to claim for myself.  I started dreaming about teaching again! (The grass is always greener, right?)

Shortly, I became pregnant with baby #2 and spent the next 10 years pregnant or nursing, or both.  Working outside the home wasn’t practical for me.  I settled into my new role and learned to love it. While I did a few things to bring in income (like teaching music lessons, taking in sewing, running a paper route, or selling Mary Kay) my main contribution to the finances was saving money.

For us, the decision for me to stay home wasn’t difficult.  We were never a 2 income family.  When my husband went to work, he made $15,000 more a year than I did.  So my quitting didn’t reduce our income at all.

For most families, one person choosing to stay home can really affect finances. I recommend a trial run before quitting a good paying job.  Take these steps:

1.  Make a new budget only using the income from the partner who will continue to work.

2.  Allocate the other income completely to Savings.

3.  Live on the new budget for 3-6 months without touching the 2nd income.  If it’s possible, you’ll know you can quit and what kind of lifestyle you’ll need to live to do it.  PLUS you’ll have 3-6 months of your income in savings for an emergency fund.

Here’s a detailed Stay at Home Calculator.

Keep in mind, choosing to come home is still work.  It’s just a different job.  It may mean using cloth diapers, baking your own bread, ditching paper products & convenience foods, and growing a garden.  It can mean fewer vacations and no more restaurants. It means you are the full time child care person. It also means that you will be the single biggest influence in your children’s lives.  That is hard to put a price tag on.

Read more on staying home

P.S.  For newly weds where both partners are working, consider saving the wife’s entire income.  Then when the children come along, you will only be used to living on his salary anyway.  Her income can be use to dump debt, pay cash for a house, or whatever will help speed you towards your goals.

The Busy Mom’s Dinner Survival Guide


Busy Mom's dinner survival guide

Today we have basketball practice for 2 teams, 2 ballet classes, Boy Scouts, Handmaidens, Lamplighters, and Trailblazers, plus practice time for 2 violin and 4 piano students.  Those are just our after school activities.  We’ve talked about limiting kid activities more, but when it’s time to choose the thing to drop, we freeze up.  Each child only plays one sport at a time and the club activities are part of our church—it’s just when you multiply it times 6, it gets a little nutty.

I was fixing a quick supper tonight in between my taxi duties and thought how my meal standards were lower on nights like these. It’s not that what I was fixing wasn’t healthy, it was just simpler–not as many dishes.  I threw some turkey burgers on the indoor grill and serve them with Whole Wheat bagel thins and a condiment bar.  Done.

When I grew up, my mom had an elaborate meal almost every night with at least 3 veggie side dishes and often fresh baked muffins too.  We sat down together and had an electronic free dinner in the dining room with good conversation.  It was awesome! On our quieter nights, I try to make meals like my mom did, but today I’m giving myself grace for the busy.

When we order at a fast food restaurant, we never order drinks and rarely order fries.  It’s more affordable that way, and realistically there are enough calories in the sandwich without the extras.  So I decided the same meal at home was ok too–only better.  It cost less and had whole food ingredients.  win-win!

super mom

Here are the ways I survive on busy nights:

1.  Crock Pot it–When I remember, I put something in the crock the night before (then chill in the fridge to start in the morning) or in the morning.  Especially a dump and go soup like this one or this.

2.  Breakfast for dinner–pancakes, French toast, or bacon and eggs are fast to make and everyone likes them around here.

3. One pot it–Making an all in one meal in the skillet (like Skillet Lasagna, or Stir-Fry) is not only fast, but makes clean-up easier too. Just searching “one pot” on Pinterest brings up a whole bunch of yummy ideas.

4.  Cold Cuts–If I can’t do anything else, I can throw out a sandwich bar.

5.  Baked Potato Bar–Potatoes cook really well in the slow cooker.  You don’t even need foil.  Just scrub them and toss them in.  And if you forget, 8 minutes in the microwave will save dinner. Perfect toppings:  armed up chili (out of a can or leftovers); steamed broccoli cuts; cheese, bacon bits, green onion, sour cream, ranch dressing. Baked sweet potatoes work great too.

6.  Taco Bar–I put 2 lbs of ground meat (beef or turkey) in the slow cooker (still frozen!) and 4 tablespoons of taco seasoning.   Then cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low all day.  When it’s dinner time I just break up the meat with a potato masher and set out the condiments for taco night.

7.  Rotisserie Chicken:  Costco sells these for $5 each.  They say they are all 3 lbs, but that’s just the minimum weight.  I look around for the biggest ones and have scored a 4 pounder before. The price is the same.  We eat these with warmed up canned or frozen veggies and a tossed salad from the fridge.  I throw the leftovers in the fridge to boil up for soup on a calmer day.

8.  Get a child to cook.  I’m blessed to have older kids (Aged 14, 12, 11, 9, 7, and 3.)  Tuesday is kid’s cook night.  I just print off the Tuesday dinner recipe from the GSP menu plans and hand it to the kids.  Then I work nearby in case they have questions.

9.  Have a FULL pantry.  Cooking on the fly only works if you have plenty of ingredients on hand.  If you’ve been stocking your pantry with the Grocery Shrink method, you’ll be good to go.

How do YOU manage dinner when life gets a little too busy? I’d love to hear your tips.

A Drop in the Bucket

A Drop in the Bucket

Right after we got out of debt, my husband received word that they were transferring us to Indianapolis, Indiana and renting us an apartment so he could open a new department in that branch.  It would be for about a year and then they would transfer us back. It sounded like a fun adventure.

We gave notice on the house we were renting and our landlord quickly found a new renter to move in as soon as we were gone.  I set aside the bare necessities for living (one set of dishes, one pot, one set of towels etc.) and packed the rest up into a storage unit. Not too long after, my husband’s work changed their mind. The move wasn’t going to work out after all.  And just like that we were homeless.

to farm 037The West view from their porch

Even though we had 3 babies, my in-laws invited us to come and stay with them until we could figure something out.  Their house was a charming 1920’s bungalow with only one bathroom featuring a cute cast iron tub. For cleaning up after coming in from the fields, there was an open shower in the basement.

Yellow Bucket

The plumbing in the house was old (and plumbed backwards so the left handle was cold water and the right hot ) The bathtub faucet dripped.  My mother-in-law put a bucket under the faucet and then used the water to water her plants, or to get a head start on the bathtub filling when it was time.  It just dripped once every second or so, but if we didn’t watch the bucket it would overflow in just a few hours. She couldn’t keep the bathtub stopped up all the time to catch the drips or by the end of the day we’d have a tub full of cold water and not enough room to add hot water to warm it up.

Gray bucket

When I look at our finances I catch myself saying stuff like, “And that’s not even a drop in the bucket.”  Meaning, we could save a few dollars here or there, but it won’t make a difference.  That’s wrong.  A few cents or dollars here and there if found CONSISTENTLY and at increasing frequency will fill a bucket in no time.

Leave a comment and give us some ideas. Where can you find a drop for your bucket?

P.S.  Keep in mind that if it costs more than you save by driving too far to get a special deal…that’s not saving anything.  If you cancel a membership or subscription that is saving you money than it costs you (like a Costco membership or a Grocery Shrink Plus subcription #shamelessplug ….. then that’s going backwards too.)  Take some time and look at the numbers so you can make your decisions with wisdom.