Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What's for dinner, Momma? Yummy!!

This has been one crazy summer.  After trips to Wichita, the four corners area out west, and Branson for a few days, we are finally home for a good long time.  I'm so glad to be back on a routine, and getting everything back in order.
Photo: This is one great Daddy!  Aren't they cute?!

First order of business when I got home (besides unpacking and all the normal "mom" stuff), was making a month-long grocery menu in order to buy more in bulk, cook from scratch more, and save money.  I used pinterest and some large family blogs to come up with a menu and shopping list that would suit our family for this past two weeks and the next two.  So, basically, my "months" begin in the middle of the actual month.  Here is a list of things I am trying out in order to save money on food:
1) Making a month-long menu plan, instead of the weekly plan
2) Keeping better track of things that I could be buying in bulk
3) Making almost all of my recipes from scratch
4) Using online coupons, but only the ones that make sense for my family
5) Shopping at Aldi first (which I have always done)

I've really enjoyed this process and the things that I have been learning.  My husband also contributed a great idea that I thought I would try.  He suggested having the the same weekly menu every week for 4 weeks, then the next month, have all different meals.  That way we don't get burnt out on anything in particular, plus I can save the menus and repeat them every 4 months and already have the shopping lists on hand (with just a few adjustments).  I hope this makes sense.  I'm not that great at explaining things in writing.  :o)

So here is the menu for this month:

  Saturdays- Homemade sloppy joes with store-bought buns, potatoes (however I wish to make them that week), broccoli
  Sundays-  Tater tot casserole and green beans
  Mondays-  Chicken tetrazzini (using homemade cream of chicken soup)
  Tuesdays-  our Life Group is this night, so it changes each week according to what the group decides
  Wednesdays-  Ham sandwiches, carrots with Ranch dressing
  Thursdays-  Biscuits and gravy, fruit
  Fridays-  Homemade pizza (toppings will vary)

  Saturdays- Beans and brauts, fruit
  Sundays- Spaghetti (homemade sauce with italian sausage), salad
  Mondays- Burritos, corn
  Tuesdays- Tuna sandwiches, cucumbers with Ranch
  Wednesdays-  Leftovers
  Thursdays-  Quesadillas, fruit
  Fridays-  Peanut butter and honey sandwiches, carrots with Ranch

Breakfasts: (these will always be the same every month)
  Saturdays-  Pancakes (made by Daddy)
  Sundays-  Cereal with milk (quick breakfast for a church morning)
  Mondays- Oatmeal (different flavors and variations)
  Tuesdays-  Eggs and sausage, fruit
  Wednesdays- Toast (with varied toppings), fruit
  Thursdays- Oatmeal
  Fridays- Cereal with milk (quick breakfast for grocery shopping day)

Photo: BLESSINGS come in many forms.  Thanks, Mike Fowler!I've tried to eliminate as much snacking as possible, unless its really necessary.  Our children have become dependent on the 10am and 3pm snack times.  They will ask for a snack at those times whether they were really hungry or not.  Little Joel still gets a cup of milk when he wakes up from his nap, though. So far we have stuck to this schedule for 2 weeks.  Its been pretty easy, and even though I've been making my own bread, I've not spent any extra time in the kitchen because I can double and freeze a lot of the recipes.  Next month, I will let everyone know how much grocery money I saved by this new method.  I'm really excited to find out!!

Speaking of making my own bread, it's been WAY easier than I thought it would be!  The recipe that I found is at .  It is fluffy, smooth, and rises nice and high!  Did I mention that it smells amazing!?  But that goes for almost all homemade bread!!

Also, the Lord has been encouraging me with Psalm 107 this month, so give it a read.  I'll probably be blogging about that soon, so stay tuned! :o)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Wheels on the Yukon go 'round and 'round...

Recently, as most of my readers know, our family went on a very long semi-vacation.  I say "semi-vacation" because our reason for hitting the road was not about having a vacation, but honoring the memory of my husbands grandmother.  When we found out she was put on hospice, we started planning in our minds what it would take to get to Mesa, Arizona (an 18 hour drive) with our family of 8.  Little did we know she would pass away two days later, giving us 2 1/2 days to pack and get to Mesa.  I found out on a Wednesday afternoon that we needed to leave for Arizona the next morning in order to make it there by Friday evening.  Fortunately, instead of going into panic mode, God gave me the grace to move into planning mode!  This blog is about what that looked like for our family.

1. The Lists
--I immediately began writing lists for packing.  I like to categorize things into smaller lists to insure that I am not overwhelmed, and that we forget less.  My categories: girls, Joel, twins, dad and mom, swim stuff, toiletries, food, electronics, and misc.  Once I had it all written out, I put it on the dining table so that David or I could add to it if the need were to arise.  I always, ALWAYS pack each thing first before I mark it off the list.  A few times in the past I have marked something off while on my way to go get it, got sidetracked, and never actually ended up packing it.  

2. The Bags
--Something different that we tried this time was packing according to our stops.  Normally the girls' would have shared a bag, Joel and the twins would have get the point.  For this trip, we packed a bag for each hotel stop that included all the clothes, pajamas, shoes and diapers that everyone needed for that particular stop.  That way, we wouldn't have to unpack ALL of our luggage at EVERY stop.  It worked out great, and even helped with space because when we were finished with a particular bag, it became the dirty clothes bag for that stop.  We packed the twins their own duffle bag that would be brought in every time.  So basically, at each hotel stop we only had to unpack the twins duffle, crib, family bag for that particular stop, toiletries bag, nursing pillow, and the kids' pillows and blankets.  Also, David did not have to reload ALL the luggage every time.  Just those things we took in.  It worked really well for us.

3. Help!!
--The night before we left, when we were doing our packing frenzy, we realized that we needed to get some things from Wal-mart.  We enlisted the help of our good friend to sit at the house after the children went to bed so that David and I could run our errand.  Bonus: She did some packing and cleaning while we were out!  We are so thankful for good friends.  What a blessing!

4. Entertainment
--David made some copies of car games that he found which included Car Battleship, Vacation BINGO, and Tic-Tac-Toe.  We also bought a portable DVD player with double screens to help stave off the boredom.  The children each chose a certain number of movies, and we transferred them to a CD case that could easily fit in a pocket in the back of one of the seats. We brought minimal books, toys, and crayons as well.  We chose things that would be easy to have in the vehicle.  

5. Rearranging
--David came up with the idea of rearranging the carseats in the Yukon.  He made sure that each baby had a big girl in the seat beside them in order to help with pacifiers, blankets, and entertaining.  It worked out pretty well except for when the big girls were watching a movie when the babies needed something.  Then they didn't want to stop watching their movie, and just got frustrated with the babies.  They did, however, learn a lot about entertaining a baby on a long trip.  

6. Misc.
--One particular thing that I did was make sure that the dresses that the girls and I chose for the memorial were fabrics that would not have to be ironed.  That way they could just be packed right in the bag, and hung up when we got to the hotel in Mesa.  I was so glad when the time came to get everyone ready!!  Only had to iron the boys' shirts.
--We let Rachel or Miriam have the camera a few times.  They were entertained by taking pictures of their siblings, and got some great pictures from their own perspective.  
--We saved soooo much money by taking sandwich stuff for lunches and our own snacks!  It also gave us the opportunity to stop at some nice parks and let the kids run off some energy.  
--It was important for us to be a little less strict about things such as how many movies they were watching, yet a little more strict about certain behaviors such as little ones holding a grown up's hand at all times in certain places.  Also, explaining what we were going to do, and what behaviors we expected before going into any building or site.

Besides going to Grandmother's memorial, we took our time on the way home and did lots of sight-seeing.  We saw a meteor crater (which went really well with our Astronomy we have been studying in science), the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Natural Bridges, Four Corners, the Great Sand Dunes, and lots of mountains.  We stayed in hotels in Albuquerque NM, Mesa AZ, Williams AZ, Blanding UT, Alamosa CO, and Garden City KS.  We had our vehicle break down in the mountains and David had to change the fuel filter in the Auto Zone parking lot in Durango, CO.   

It was definitely an adventure.  David and I both agreed that we never would have planned a trip like this on our own with our children the ages that they are (10, 7, 5, 2, 4 months, 4 months).  However, we are thankful that we took the time to go, as we were able to see family that we haven't seen in a long time, as well as be there for David's grandfather as he mourned the loss of his loving wife.  We are so thankful to have been able to take part in that.  We had a blessed time and we will remember it forever!