While some parents may try to go shopping alone to avoid the headaches sometimes involved with shopping with children, some others choose to embrace it as a learning experience. A field trip, of sorts. As a homeschooling mom, I look at everything as an opportunity to have my kids learn. Grocery shopping is no different – and it’s an excellent time to introduce so many concepts all in one place. It keeps the kids engaged, too. There is less misbehavior and boredom. What can you do while grocery shopping? Depending on their age you can…
- Do scavenger hunts (while in the aisle with you of course, I wouldn’t send the kids off alone with a list!). “Who can find red skinned potatoes?”
- Identify different varieties of the same item. “What differences do you notice between the gala and granny smith apples? “ or “What differences do you see between beefsteak and roma tomatoes?”
- Estimate and round. “If this item is 7.62, what do we round this up to?” “Here is a list of items rounded up on our shopping list. What do you estimate our total to be?”
- Add. “If this item is $2.50 and we buy two, how much will it cost?” or, “Add up our list of items to find the total.”
- Read. “What is the name of this item?” “Can you find the bag of vegetables labeled ‘mixed vegetables’?”
- Learn about food. “Does this item have sugar in the ingredient list? Where in the list is it? What does that tell us about this item?” (If sugar is listed in the first few ingredients, it’s got too much sugar for our shopping cart!)
Kids also learn about labels on fruits and vegetables, different brands, cost comparison between units, find aisles based on numbers or names, learn about symbols and abbreviations, work on some basic conversions and fractions, keep a list of tally marks to total up how many items we buy, skip count when adding the same items to a bag, estimate how many green beans are in a bag (and count them when we get home), estimate how many apples are on the shelf then skip count the total (assuming no one is waiting to pick out apples! Normally we shop in the morning during school hours when stores are pretty empty). The ideas are ENDLESS for a fun (because there is no pressure!) learning experience where you can not only get your shopping done – but keep your kids engaged and behaved also.
How do you turn grocery shopping into an educational event?
Life has taken a big turn with lots of new and exciting changes. Of course, our sixth baby is due this summer which is probably the most notable and important exciting change. The next one: my husband has finally jumped on board with keeping chickens in our city backyard, and meat rabbits as well. Our city ordinances do allow chickens – there are no limitations or restrictions other than the fowl must not have their wings tied to keep them from flying, they must not be overcrowded, must be kept contained at all times, and must be well cared for. Our backyard is big enough even with our big garden, and this year seems to be the right year to do it as everything is finally falling into place (I’ve been researching backyard chickens and suggesting we give it a go for the past 8 years. We were going to do meat rabbits, but ended up moving before that got established – so now that we own our own home and are established in it, we’re going to do it this time… We’ve already got a coop, we’ve already lined the whole area the chickens will be in with wire mesh to prevent digging rodents from getting in, then filled dirt on top of it, and we’re putting a privacy fence up along the back fence to offer some protection for our hens against the dog that will bark at you the entire time your outside. Considering we’re outside most of the day, and the dog often is too, a privacy fence is a welcomed barrier between us. It will also offer a bit more protection against rodents and keeping the neighbors out of our business so they aren’t forced to look at our backyard farm if they don’t want to.
So as we are figuring out all we need for chickens and meat rabbits, I am trying to get it all established before our baby arrives so that I can get the hang of it and not feel overwhelmed with our baby gets here. In addition to preparing, we have our garden to tend (seeds are already sprouted and growing well) and I have canning and dehydrating to look forward to this fall, and boy what a garden I am growing this year. More of everything than I’ve ever done. And happily – my asparagus bed produced asparagus this year (my dog dug up all the roots last year, I wasn’t sure it would make it!) and my strawberries are spreading like crazy. We pulled a bush from the front of our house and I am taking over that entire bed for edible herbs and peas. I added a new garden plot in front of my normal garden to make up for the space lost for the chicken area and I am planting more beets, spinach, and green beans than ever before there. Spinach, beets, peas, and kale are already in the ground.
My goals this year are to preserve more than ever so I don’t have to buy any canned vegetables this year. Each year I try to keep records of what I’ve canned and dried so I can revisit that at canning time to determine what we need more or less of. Due to more mouths to feed (the baby who wasn’t eating much to speak of last year at canning time eats like a normal toddler now, plus this baby who will be eating around next canning season, plus the additional food my kids will eat because they’re older) I feel more pressure to can more than I ever have. I don’t like needing to have a store at all. Of course, I need a grocery store for some things, but my list has grown smaller and smaller over the year. I am much happier, secure and at peace when I know all we need is already in my home. We shop once a month to reduce our dependence on the grocery stores and I make all I can to avoid them. There is something to be said about making and doing things yourself. We are the self sufficient type. I find great joy when I realize I can re-create something I’ve been buying or want to buy and save money or make it healthier.
Another thing I’ve been up to is learning how to make my own toothpaste/tooth powder, going the ‘no-poo’ method to eliminate the expenses of shampoo and conditioner, and using our cloth baby wipes in place of toilet paper because we go through a million rolls of toilet paper each month – many lost by falling in the sink or the tub (we had a holder that kept it on the wall, but then the baby grabs the toilet paper and runs through the house, or one of our multiple cats gets stuck in the bathroom and paws the paper off the roll… We pay a lot of money each month in wasted toilet paper so I got fed up and we use cloth now. My husband isn’t quite on board with that, but he’s not the main ‘problem’ with our toilet paper issue so I don’t mind. We’ve managed to save 5 rolls in the few days we’ve been doing this, so it’s worth it to me. I wash them with our cloth diapers. They come out nice and clean just like the diapers and its no different than washing the cloth wipes I use on baby butts, really. I know it isn’t for everyone – even I wasn’t all for it the past few years, but for the time being, I am. We put all the wipes in a little garbage can I keep under our bathroom sink, where I put the cloth diapers. I empty it once or twice a day as needed into the main diaper pail in the basement, and wash every other day with diapers. Done.
I’m on a roll to live more frugally than normal so we can put the money saved towards our current large projects. We’ve dropped cable, both my husband and I have gone from smart phones back to stupid phones to ditch the monthly data package, and we’ve parked our cargo van that we don’t use much anymore and put parked car coverage on it. In the event that we do drive it, we put full coverage back on it for that time but it sits more than anything. We’re not quite ready to sell it yet because it does come in very handy, but I don’t see the point in keeping full coverage on two big vehicles, as it’s quite expensive! Plus we don’t need to keep gas in both vans. One is a v8 and one is a v10, both suck down gas like crazy so it’s better to use one vehicle instead of fueling two. We have paid off our only credit card after my husband had extensive dental work put on it last year just this past month and now we have one more debt to work down and we’ll be back to being debt-free aside from our house payment. Just as much as we’ve saved, we’ve put back out in expenses for starting our coop and rabbitry. I will write about the details of how we did that if you’re curious about doing it yourself, but another time because it’s not finished yet J
Keeping along the lines of frugal living and self sustainability, I am starting a worm bin. Breeding worms which will eat my kitchen scraps, create excellent compost for the garden, and be a treat to my chickens. We’re planting clover in the backyard as a special treat for the rabbits. I am researching ways in which I can prepare my own chicken or rabbit feed, or maybe supplement their feed with homemade options to reduce our need for commercial blends.
As it stands currently, we have 9 chicks, and this weekend we are picking up 6 Californian rabbits, one buck and 5 does, plus the remaining babies the moms have with them that didn’t sell by Easter. The owner is selling his rabbitry so he can travel this summer and has offered us a package deal on those rabbits, a bunch of hutches and all the supplies we need that he was using. Can’t beat it. I am a complete novice with chickens, but rabbits are something I have a lot of experience with as I raised them through much of my childhood. My husband hunts rabbit, and we have eaten both wild and domestic rabbit enough to know we like it and will eat it. In the future I’ll do a write up of why we chose meat rabbits, and you may find it is something you’d like to take on, too. If you’re local to me (near Detroit) I would be willing to help you get started if we have any babies ready to wean when you’re looking to start up.
I will end this entirely-too-long blog post now. It runs on just about as much as my brain right now. So much is happening, and so quickly, but I know if God is allowing this then it is in His plan and I am certainly up for the challenge. Having healthy meat and eggs at our disposal is so important, especially in the coming days when food may become more and more expensive. I’m not a doom and gloom kind of person, but I have seen prices steadily rising, and more so now that the cost of gas has gotten so high. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize times are getting tight for everyone (and have been for quite some time), and this is one way we can avoid the high cost of super market food and replace it with home grown, healthier options. I will share my experiences as I have time to write them to encourage anyone else who is interested. You can learn through my mistakes that I’m sure to make!
If you’re trying to live frugally and try to get ideas from others, you may have heard of a price book. If you’re anything like me, you’ve procrastinated about putting it together for quite some time. The idea may seem daunting. But from one procrastinator to another – do it! This is one of your greatest partners when it comes to saving money, aside from making and doing thing yourself instead of buying them or paying others to do it for you.
A price book serves several functions. You can approximate your next grocery bill based on current prices from your last shopping trip, allowing you to know exactly what you need and how much money to bring. A price book will allow you to track pricing trends – some food will rise and never go down, some fluctuate depending on the time of year. You can track sales, and if you use coupons, track coupon cycles so you can know how much of an item to buy to get you through until the next sale price. You can compare prices from one store to another breaking down each advertised price to price per unit to make sure you’re getting the best deal. A price book will do nothing but save you money when you put it together and keep it updated.
So how do you get started? I started by printing out simple price book pages that are used for one item per page. Then I created my own index dividers by using cardstock as the dividing page and taping cardstock tabs to the edges each tab just a bit lower than the previous one on the last page. This way I can divide my book up into categories such as: fresh, meat, frozen, canned, ingredients, dairy/eggs, snacks, drinks, household, pets, kids, etc. Each family and home will have different tabs depending on what you buy. You can use a 3 ring binder or use a binding machine and use comb-bound or spiral bound binding. Then put your book together. I print my price book pages on each side so I can get two items per page. You could make your price book to hold two items per side, but the longer you keep your price book the more room you will want to have to track sales and grocery receipts. If you buy something every month, and the price changes even a bit every month, you’ll want to track that. Each time you buy something, if there is a change in price, you write it down.
Now the fun part. Inputting your data. I mentioned I procrastinate, right? Well that means I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time. I just put my book together last year, then just recently made it bigger. I kept receipts each time we shopped, meaning to put them in the price book, so when it came time to sit down and put prices in my book and figure out what items deserve to be entered in my price book I had a pile of receipts. I started with the first trip I had on hand – the oldest – and inputted data consecutively after that ending with my most recent trip. I shop at stores that do a pretty good job of listing the items and cost on the receipt, but then I sometimes shop at other stores that just list prices. If the item information is not listed with the price, the receipt is about useless. If you shop at a store like this, you may have to actually walk in the store and write prices down in your book while you’re looking at them.
If I buy an item regularly or have it included in my food storage rotation, it gets a page in my book. I may not buy rice often because we often purchase it in 50lb bags, but that doesn’t mean the pricing information should not go in my book. It is a staple in our home and I want to track the price changes. If I notice a change in price BEFORE I buy it, I write that down. I don’t always get to, but I do try to keep an eye on prices and if something looks different even if I am not buying the item during that trip, I will update my price book to reflect the new price. I don’t like surprises while I’m out shopping so I like to know approximately how much I’m going to spend. Sales circulars? I try to input sale prices on items we would buy, even if I don’t actually purchase the item, to keep track of sale cycles and rock bottom prices. You will find some items go on sale regularly – but only a time or two per year do the prices actually drop to rock bottom. For instance, 4-6 times a year around here I notice cream cheese on sale 10/$10. But only once per year do I find it on sale $.79 per block. I wait for that one sale and stock up, freezing any I may not use before they expire. Stores are pretty dependable on sales cycles – you will get to know your local cycles as you track prices.
So gather your shopping receipts, if you have any, and your local sales circulars for the stores you shop at and begin inputting information. Your price book sheets should include a place at the time to prominently display the item you are writing prices down for. Below that in table form you should track date, store, item/brand, size, price, unit price, sale or coupon price. If you used a coupon to help get a rock bottom price, you can reasonably expect to find a similar coupon you can match with that sale again in the future. Keep track of regular prices, sale prices, and prices with coupons (if you use them). If you notice your local store did a ‘price drop’ on an item, write that down too. Price drops normally last longer than a sale and are not always regular but it’s nice to know how low a price can go so you can decide if you’re safe to wait or if you should buy then.
Bring your price book shopping with you. Compare prices as you shop – if you have prices written down for one store and you’re shopping at another, pick a few key items and write down prices from that store for comparison. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your grocery bill.
Keeping inventory of your food is another excellent way to save money. And I’ll get into that point at a later date. Until then, organize your pantry so that all like items are together and by the time you’re done with that I might have my inventory post written up. Having like items grouped together is very helpful for inventorying to go smooth.
One of the projects I am excited about doing with my girls is our scrapbook cookbooks. Each of the girls, when they become old enough, will start a scrapbook collection of their favorite recipes. Recipes from friends and families they’ve tried and liked and the best part: pictures of them cooking with the people they got the recipes from. Of course, not every recipe will have pictures, but I think it would be so neat to flip through a cookbook years down the line and have the happy memories and pictures of cooking golabki with great grandma, or baking bread with grandma, or learning how to roast a duck with grandpa. I intend to outfit their cookbooks with helpful charts and tutorials and by the time they leave the house to start their own families they will have a plethora of recipes and memories to take with them!
Last year a local scrapbooking store had a great sale. I went in and purchased papers and stickers that I thought she’d enjoy for her cookbook (I’ve been waiting for the right time to do this for a while now! hehe). A lot of the papers are cooking related with patterns such a pots and pans, strawberries, apples, chocolate chips, leaves for fall recipes, sunflowers for summer recipes, and some misc. cute papers she can use for just about anything. She is very excited to get more involved. I’ve recently tagged almost all the pictures I’ve ever taken, using Picasa, so I can easily search for our cooking pictures and send pictures involving my oldest daughter cooking to the next store having a deal on printed pictures that I can’t pass up.
The Top Things Large Families Need:
It’s no secret – raising a large family is different than raising a small family. As your family grows, there are certain things you’ll find very helpful or essential for the day to day running of your home! The gals and I from the Christian Moms of Large Families on Facebook came up with a list of items we find helpful in our day to day lives.
• The Lord. Yes, we call on Him for help several times a day as things may get crazy and we all know we just cannot do it ‘all’ without Him. God is our rock!
• Towels. This is the first thing that pops into my mind, mainly because if you have a lot of towels and hand towels, you can weather a stomach virus a little easier because you don’t have to do laundry in the middle of it. Stomach viruses are like the end of the world when your whole family, including yourself, falls ill. So, simple ways to make it just a little easier make the thought of it little easier to bear…and the reality of it easier to handle, too. We have a family of soon to be 8, and have two shelves worth of towels in our linen closet, plus a shelf full of towels we keep in the bathroom for baths. Of course, they’re handy for spills (and there are a lot of spills) and other mess clean ups, too.
• Bunk Beds
• Bigger Pots, Pans and Casserole Dishes. There comes a point when smaller pots and pans serve very little purpose in your kitchen and you move on to industrial-sized cooking equipment to get meals prepared. If you can’t find industrial sized cooking equipment you will find yourself cooking in two or more 9×13 dishes, etc. so you may want to keep extras of those on hand!
• Lots of laundry baskets!
• Extra bedsheets for every bed.
• While not completely essential but incredibly useful, a large refrigerator (or two), a deep freezer (or two), and two washers/dryers. I keep two deep freezers in my basement and pull food from them as needed. My husband wants to get a second fridge, and that will go in the basement as well.
• Enough seating space – two or more couches.
• A bigger van. There comes a point when you grow out of normal vehicles and graduate to the passenger vans!
• An area for food storage. Large families go through a lot of food!
• At least two toilets in the house.
• Membership to bulk stores like Sam’s or Costco
• Bookshelves and lots of books. One of the gals made a very good point: library visits get expensive. With so many little hands and so many books out at once, it’s easy to loose books and find them damaged. She suggested buying lots and lots of educational books from garage sales and have plenty of bookshelves to go with them.
• Bins. And labels.
• A big mixer for all that baking you may be doing.
• A roaster oven – cook up a bunch of chili at once, have it double as a huge crockpot, roast a couple chickens at once, so many uses!
• Memberships to your favorite attractions/science centers/zoo’s, etc. You’ll find after a while It’s cheaper to buy a yearly pass than pay admission for each member of your family… Then you can visit more than once!
• Lots of crayons and coloring books. Buy them in bulk.
We have a very small kitchen – and it is one of the most used rooms in the house. To accommodate our large family, from-scratch cooking lifestyle I’ve come up with a few ideas to keep many essentials close at hand.
Shelving. We found a place to put shelving that was out of the way yet convenient. Since taking this picture the items on the shelf have been switched with other items as I figure out the best place to put everything. I’ve also added hooks to the metal shelf supports to hang mugs during the winter season, aprons and some electric gadgets like electric knives. At some point we will add more shelving because there are a few more spots in the dining area that can accommodate shelves. I envision putting our plates, bowls and glasses on shelves in the dining area for easy access, freeing our cabinet space for more pantry and kitchen items. I’d also like to take the doors off of all my cabinets to reveal the shelving only – I feel it opens a kitchen up… And I hate bumping my head on the corner of an open cupboard door!
Ikea cups and rods, and suction cup hooks on the window. I keep suction cup hooks on the window to hold oven mitts. I have one of those Ikea kitchen rods that goes across the width of my kitchen window, and the 99 cent cups hung on it for silverware and tea bags (we like tea around here and pull the tea out often enough for them to earn a cup of their own. There is normal lipton type tea and green tea). I have a cup for each type of silverware (knives, spoons, forks), and some cups for tea. I use the windowsill, too.
Here is a better look. I also have two sets of measuring spoons put together on a binder ring, hung on a clip type keychain. It keeps my teaspoons together (I rinse them off after using them and hang to dry, or run the whole set through the dishwasher still on the binder ring if they’re all dirty), and it keeps my teaspoons easy to access. I used to keep them all in a drawer and I’d have to search for the size I need. Here I keep them all together with two complete sets. I also keep my kitchen timer and mortar and pestle on the windowsill. My aloe plant hangs in the window. Originally I used my Ikea cups as planters for herbs, they have holes on the bottom of the cup for easy drainage for plants. But my window doesn’t get enough sun to make them grow worth a darn.
I keep my knives on a magnetic strip behind my kitchen sink. They are easily accessible for my cooking needs, and out of the reach of my kids. The magnetic strip I got from Ikea. I normally have the front part filled and the back part has a couple knives sticking to it, too. A knife for every purpose and several of each I much prefer this method of storage, the last method was storing them all in a drawer where they’d get dull rubbing on each other. I’ve had knife blocks, but have always had excess knives and never enough counter space to keep enough blocks to house my knives – so this is the next best thing.
I have a second magnetic strip for steak knives and smaller knives, to keep them out of reach of the kids as well. My pizza cutter sticks up there, too. Below I have two different sizes of utensil holders and my pasta house my oldest son picked out for me for my last birthday. I keep larger utensils in the taller holder and serving spoons and kid-sized utensils in the smaller holder. And yes, I keep a pound of spaghetti in the pasta house For birthdays we normally let the kids pick a present for the birthday person from a thrift store because there is such an assortment of stuff there and it’s in our price range for the kids to pick a birthday present out. The first year we started this, the pasta house is what my oldest son found for me. I love it!
Chains and S hooks. I asked my husband if I could mount something to the ceiling to hold our cast iron skillets, pots and pans and this is the idea he came up with. Heavy eye hooks screwed into studs in the ceiling with chains attached, then S hooks hung at intervals. They hang higher than our heads so I can have the whole thing filled up all the way across with no problem. Huge space saver, because we have a lot of skillets and pots. storing them all in the drawer under the stove was breaking the drawer from all the weight held in there and I didn’t have any other place to keep them all. This is a perfect arrangement. I also keep a lid rack next to my stove on the wall to hold lids, but I have an overflow of those too that I store under my stove.
Magnetic clips on the range hood. I keep a magnetic clip to hang up a recipe I’m working with if it’s loose (not in my cookbook). It keeps it a eye height. On the wall above my stove I have another Ikea rod this time it holds utensils and a magnetic basket (also found at Ikea) which is perfect for my cooking spray, a peri-bottle filled with extra-virgin olive oil, and folded up foil I re-use every time I bake bread to prevent excess browning. I also sling my tongs over the rod. In the upper right corner you see a magnetic organizer hanging on the range, that holds my lighter kitchen equipment, like digital thermometers and such.
Binder clips. I keep one clipped on the bottom of a cabinet with another clipped right into it. This turns into a very handy recipe or chart holder, at eye height, right over my sink. To use, simply put pressure on the top of the binder clip and the clip that is clipped into the bottom clip opens up. Insert your recipe or chart, release pressure and voila! You can do this on the bottom of any cabinet that has a bit of a lip or overhang. The big binder clips seem to be the only effective way to do this because they’re big enough to clip over the wooden overhang, smaller clips don’t have as wide of a span.
Wire shelving normally meant to hang on the back of a door. We screwed this into the kitchen wall for a great spice rack (and we hang our sunglasses and wish bones from it, too). I have another set of this shelving in my kitchen room that holds some smaller food items. these are the handiest things, all of which have been found at yard sales. Hoping to find more – can you imagine the uses? Backs of closet doors, in play rooms, school rooms, they’re so convenient. But in the kitchen it holds our taller bulk spice containers, vanilla and almond extract, vinegars and some homemade mixes.
I use a drawer in the kitchen to hold my homemade mixes and dehydrated foods that should be kept in a dark place, as well as spices or herbs in smaller containers that might get lost on the wall shelf. I also use drawer space for holding smaller canisters and canned goods that I will be using soon, brownie pans and casserole dishes, etc. I only have four drawers in my kitchen, and do not use a drawer for silverware so I have an extra storage space for other items. I somehow find space for a junk drawer though. I wish I could kick that habit. No matter how small the kitchen, we always end up with a junk drawer!
This is our kitchen table. The benches with backs all have seats that lift off to reveal a small storage space along the length of each bench. Here I store cloth napkins, bibs, and the FoodSaver. Behind one of the sides I keep our highchair that folds up (from Ikea). Because our babies don’t normally eat solids until near their first birthday, I don’t have a need for the bigger highchairs with reclining backs. Our kitchen is pretty small and they take up a lot of room, so we went with a condensed model that folds so I can put it away when not in use. Otherwise the baby sits at the open end of the table.
This is under our benches. We keep crates filled with kitchen utensils I don’t use often. I have a room devoted to food and kitchen storage where I keep my larger kitchen appliances I don’t use on a regular basis so I don’t need to keep everything in my kitchen. But here I keep kitchen utensils, attachments to my mixer and food processor, etc. I change out contents for the seasons too – during the summer I pull out the burger presses, corn dishes and spikes, Popsicle molds, etc. During the fall I switch a crate out for canning equipment, etc. I used to keep two long yet short containers under the longer bench (the containers are meant to slide under a bed), and that worked well for cookie sheets, baking pans and dishes, etc. but I used them so often it became a pain to access them.
Bare Essentials. I don’t house tons of cookbooks in my kitchen. I keep my master from scratch cookbook (which you can buy from this site – look at the page ‘Books I’ve Written’ for Scratch Cooking), a canning book, a dehydrating book, a freezer cooking book, and another book I helped write (again look under ‘Books I’ve Written’ for “Recipes from Mom, with love.” I do keep cookbooks in my kitchen storage room but only books that are informative or house more recipes that we like than we don’t. I have baby food cookbooks, childrens nutrition cookbooks, culinary school books and some old favorites down there. But I try not to be bogged down with a collection of cookbooks – I take what I like and want to try and copy them into my master cookbook or the ‘to try’ recipe holder then move the book out.
Recipes to try. I keep all the recipes I want to try organized into file folders in this file holder. I go through cooking magazines, remove recipes I want to try, then pass the magazines on to my kids to use in their school or personal projects. I also print recipes from the internet and keep recipes I’ve scanned from books in here. When I try them, if they’re a keeper, I add them to my master cookbook. I try to plan at least 10 meals and sides a month from here because the collection is growing bigger than the storage container…. Does anyone else have this problem?
If I need extra counter space in the kitchen, I pull the kitchen table next to the stove to create an island. I put a cutting board over an open drawer to create extra temporary space. I keep a garbage can under the cabinet for easy access and to keep it out of the reach of the kids and pets. I keep a bucket under the kitchen sink to collect compost material – egg shells, tea bags, vegetable and fruit scraps. I put cabinet locks on cabinets and the fridge/freezer when necessary. All of my cookie sheets, muffin tins and casserole dishes are housed under my microwave on the shelving there. Anything I don’t use regularly is stored in my kitchen storage room. I have 2 1/2 upper cabinets in my kitchen, one cabinet stores pantry staples, another stores our cups, bowls and plates. I have one and a half lower cabinets – including the cabinet under the sink. I keep some dehydrated or staple items in large containers in the half cabinet that is not under the sink with the garbage can, and where I should have another full lower cabinet we installed a dishwasher. That was the best improvement to the kitchen, ever.
Hopefully some of this will help others with a small kitchen. It is possible to enjoy your small kitchen
A few weeks ago I came up with an idea my kids loved: a photo show focused on them for each birthday. I could chronicle each childs life and include the events and people dear to them in a photo show that starts with pictures of my pregnancy and ends with their latest pictures. Each year I could add to this with their previous years pictures.
I’ve tried scrapbooking but the cost of supplies and the time needed is impossible to keep up with. With five kids and a camera-happy momma, I just take way too many pictures. My firstborn has her first year turned into a scrapbook, and as much as I’d love to get each child’s first year done, I just don’t know if I can. Granted, my biggest challenge was trying to figure out where I left off in my huge collection of pictures broken onto multiple CD’s to try and figure out where to print more pictures from… Now that I have actually managed to organize my pictures based on dates and have all the pictures on one computer, this might be possible. But, for now I will focus on what I can do, what will be free: a photo show.
They love the idea, so my first challenge would be to find all of our pictures and get them off of the multiple CDs, moveable storage devices and memory cards. Get it all backed up on CD if necessary, but put everything in one place and start my memory cards off fresh and clean so I know where my picture-taking has restarted. I normally clear my memory cards and back up pictures every new years eve.
I have tried using several programs including Windows Live Photo Gallery, Picasa (the downloaded program), and Kestre lGX. These are all free programs. For my own needs and ease of use, I find Picasa to fill all of my needs. I can tag my kids whenever they show up in a picture, plus tag the events – cooking, homeschooling, traveling, etc. so I can pull up all the pictures relating to a specific tag. Once I go through and tag all the pictures I will be able to click on one name and all the pictures that name is featured in will pop up. I think this program does the facial recognition thing, but I’m not going to rely on that.
The first birthday we coming up is mid February. So I need to tag thousands of pictures in time for this big day. Ready, set, go!
This year, for my daughters second grade spelling, I created the curriculum myself. I wrote a post about how you can do this pretty easily here. I used the spelling lists and dictation sentences found here. That link is for the second grade lists, but they have other grades, too. There they provide you with spellings lists for 36 weeks, plus dictation sentences and a worksheet for the kids to write the spelling words out. I supplemented this with a homemade activity sheet (circle the misspelled word and rewrite it, write the list words in alphabetical order, pick the misspelled word from the sentence, unscramble words, the activities differ from one week to the next). I also add in a word search and word shapes worksheet using generators online.
I printed out a full 8 weeks worth of activities, but weekly spelling lists for the full 36 weeks. Before we run out, I’ll create the supplemental material for the remaining weeks. I’ve created a binder using 5 tabs, each labeled ‘teacher’, ‘past’, ‘present’, ‘future’, and ‘tests’. Right at the beginning I have a chart with one square for each lesson we cover. My daughter gets to number the chart then cross them off one by one as she completes them so she can see her progress.
In the ‘teacher’ tab, I have the master spelling lists and dictation sentences. In the ‘past’ tab I keep all the work that has been completed. In ‘present’ I keep our current weeks activities, and in ‘future’ I keep all of our future lessons. All of her tests are done on looseleaf paper and filed under ‘tests’.
We also do activities that don’t involve paper – unscrambling magnetic letters, or building words with alphabet tiles. In the ‘teacher’ section I also have a running list of activities we can do on the fly to keep things interesting.
It seems as though as soon as I get going on the blog, life gets in the way and the blog gets pushed to the back corner. I have to live with the fact that I am just too busy to turn this blog into what I had hoped it would become (daily posts, lots of useful resources, networking with other bloggers, etc.). I just don’t have time to participate in all the blog hops, carnivals and link-ups, commenting on others blogs.
I have to be happy with what I can do – and that’s blog when I have the time. I have heard such positive feed back from many of you over the years and I want to continue doing whatever work the Lord has me do to make this blog a positive experience for you. That is how I see this blog, and my free monthly newsletter – a ministry of sorts. A way to reach out and let God work through me to reach you. If “my” actions , posts, articles or whatever can cause a positive thought or change in someone elses life, God has been glorified. From time to time God will bless me with the opportunity to really help someone, or mentor someone. I enjoy being used by God, and being able to make a positive impact in someones life is the best!
I’d love to reach out and help others more regularly in various forms of service – but, I’m a mom of many little ones and my main ministry is in my home. But I have found that being able to blog, or write articles for my newsletter, are outlets God would have me working through to extend His blessing on to others. So, that’s why I continue even if it may mean only a handful of posts in a year here on the blog. Of course, I do hope to get more active – in fact I will be scheduling older articles in my newsletter to post on a more regular basis here on the blog, I have a bunch of printables to put up to help you create your household notebook, and I have about 50 drafts going right now that I just need to sit down and finish, but sometimes it feels like my mind is going in a million directions at once. An idea that seems like a good one is formed, and I start a draft to finish later. Then as the inspiration strikes, I finish it. But honestly my “free” energy goes into my newsletter (sign up, its free! A PDF file emailed to you monthly), which is why I’ll schedule older articles from it to post here. Work I’ve already done, that won’t require me to spend any more time in front of the computer.
If you want to keep in touch a little more regularly, you can find me on facebook and friend me (see my badge on the right).
God has blessed us again! We are expecting another baby due late August 2012. This will be, Lord Willing, our sixth baby on earth. We have a baby waiting for us in heaven, so this is our 7th pregnancy. I guess it’s a good thing we went for the passenger van two years ago when we were pregnant with Aaron. This birth will be in a hospital after the events following Aarons beautiful homebirth (which you can read under ‘our stories’ I’m actually working on getting all of our birth stories up there). So I am in the process now of learning the ins and outs of hospital births and I can tell you I’m already missing a homebirth. But, I will make the best of this. I’ll likely blog about the differences between home and hospital births based on my experiences. This isn’t my first hospital birth – my first was born in a hospital but our last four were born at home. It seems a lot has changed in the hospital birth world – or at least my perception is off. I have my first appointment set up, and Lord willing we’ll be able to keep it! I’m still quite early – only about 6 weeks right now.
I just wanted to share with you a quick time-saving tip that I have found very useful around our busy home. Double sheet the beds. Literally – put down your fitted sheet and a top sheet, tuck the top sheet in all around, then lay a barrier blanket – fleece or wool or something water resistant if you can, then put on a second complete set of sheets then your comforter.
This accomplishes two things: first of all, if you change bedding weekly like I do, and have a lot of beds to change at once like I do, you get a break every other week as you strip the top layer of bedding off. I keep the same comforter on, unless it’s dirty too. Second, if someone gets struck with a stomach bug and this happens to occur on a week you have double sheeted the bed, you have super-easy quick way to change the bedding without having to remake the bed each week. In fact, you could just keep a second set of bedding on the bed at all times and change the top layer each week and always have two sets of bedding on the bed.
I do realize that on the weeks I have to double-sheet the bed, it’s about double the effort, but if I’m already doing it anyway it feels easier just to do it twice. Then the next week I just strip the top layer of bedding off and get a big break from having to make the best all over again.