Tag Archives: Motherhood

How to Save on Groceries

Who doesn’t like saving money? I am always excited to find new ways to save. Over the past two years, I have really worked hard to find ways to cut back and save some money. Since I don’t work, this is a way that I can “contribute” to our financial well-being.

When I really started to investigate different ways to cut back on our expenses, there was one that stood out. It was the easiest place to start and reaped the fastest benefits. One thing that will never change is that we have to eat. Groceries are so expensive! Here are some things that I have found to work to save on groceries for our family. I’d love to hear what works for you!

✍ Make a menu. I like to make a menu for a month at a time. This is what works for me, but weekly might work best for you. It’s not my favorite thing to do, so I’d rather do it once month rather than once a week. I sit down with my menu calendar and my calendar that homes all of the families activities. This way I know that I need a quick dinner on nights that there are sporting events, or a crock pot meal on a night after I had a day of running errands. I make a menu for breakfast and dinner. I usually make a general menu, more of a list, for lunches, we switch it up a little each week. Lunch meat, cheese, yogurt, fruit, juice, and a snack. I buy enough to last the week. There are several benefits to making a menu.
✎ You won’t have to come up with last-minute meal ideas.
✎ The kids will know what to expect.
✎ It’s a great asset to making your grocery list.

✍ Avoid processed foods. I make as much as I can from scratch. This way, you know what you’re eating and you save a lot of money.

✍ Avoid disposable things and use re-useable instead. I bought each of the kids a sandwich box, a juice bottle and I have various size small containers to pack lunch snacks in. I used to only use Tupperware, but my kids have a hard time getting the seals on and off, so I started using Ziploc containers instead. They aren’t as expensive and if they leave their lunch box at school all weekend, you don’t feel as bad throwing out the rotten container when it cost 50¢ as opposed to the $4 Tupperware container.

✍ Avoid individually wrapped items. Individualized snacks might be convenient, but they are overpriced. Instead of buying a large package of individual chips, I buy a bag of pretzels for $1.19 and put them in containers. I don’t buy juice boxes, I buy a large jug of juice and put it in individual juice bottles. It almost always costs less to divide things up yourself, than to buy it already done. You pay a lot for a little bit of convenience.

✍ Set a grocery budget. Don’t go over. Adjust your list to fit your budget not vice versa.

✍ Make a list! Never go grocery shopping without a list! It’s so easy to go to the store and spend a ton of money, get home and wonder what you’re going to have for dinner. Use your menu to make your list. When I make my grocery list, I get my menu down and the first things to go on my list are the items that I will need for the meals I have planned. Don’t forget to add your lunch items. During the week anytime I run out of a staple item, it gets written on my dry erase board that hangs by my refrigerator. These things will go on your list. When I have completed my list, I go over it and make sure I need everything on my list. I usually end up crossing a few things off that I will not need that week. Keep your list within your budget!
**DO NOT buy anything that is not on the list!

✍ Watch the sale flyers. Make sure you watch the sale flyers for items that you regularly use. Sign up for the store shopper card to ensure you get the sale price. Keep in mind the things you will need for your menu for the month. If it’s on sale and you will need it next week for breakfast, buy it ahead of time if you can.

✍ Use coupons. I never used to use coupons. I always thought “what’s a dollar here and there?”. Was I ever wrong! I have learned to save a ton of money using coupons. We get the Sunday paper just for the coupons. If Wishbone salad dressing is on sale for 2/$3 and you have a 75¢ off 2 coupon, you can get 2 bottles for $1.50. Most grocery stores double coupons. So that 75¢ coupon just turned into $1.50. I am not a pro yet, but I usually save 50% using coupons matched up with sales. Make sure you know your stores coupon policy. I could say so much more, but there is a lot of info available from people who are far better at couponing than I. There a lot of great blogs to help you get started couponing. Here are some that I have used.

http://coupondivas.com/
http://couponing101.com/
http://thekrazycouponlady.com/

✍ Aldi. Three years ago had you told me that I would be shopping at Aldi, I wouldn’t have believed you. I had an ideal of what I thought Aldi was like. After reading the book

    The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bill in Half

by Stephanie Nelson, I decided to give Aldi a try. It turns out Aldi is great! I don’t buy everything there, but I will try anything once and I have learned what to buy there and what items I would rather get somewhere else. Aldi is a great place to buy breads, cheese, butter, chips, sugar, flour, fruits and vegetables, just to list a few. Take a quarter for your cart and your own bags.
Aldi doesn’t accept coupons. They accept cash and debit cards.

✍ Don’t be committed to one store. I usually go to four or five different stores when I go grocery shopping. They are all in the same town. I don’t go driving all over creation. I like to get my meat from Wegmans. They have good consistent low prices, but they don’t typically have big sales. Price Chopper usually has good sales, so I go there for whatever I need that is on sale. I try to avoid Walmart only because it is so easy to spend money there, but there are some things that you can get for a better price. Just be sure you stick to the list. It might take a little bit longer, but if you have the time, I would suggest shopping around.

I would love to hear ways that you have cut back on your grocery bill. Let me know what works for you!

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Good Mom, Bad Mom

Do you ever feel like you’re a “bad” mother, like you’ve failed your children in some way? The house isn’t clean enough. You forgot it was Billy’s snack day. Susie went to school with a hole in her tights and her pigtails are lopsided. My children are out of control, if I were a good mother they wouldn’t behave this way. And the list goes on…

We all have days when we feel inadequate as mothers. We compare ourselves to others such as June Cleaver, Claire Huxtable, the mother whose children sit like perfect angels in church, or the mother who always appears to be ready for anything. This mother carries with her extra clothes for every season, a full first aid kit, tissues, camera, umbrella, blankets, extra shoes, towels and enough snacks and bottled water to feed an army. What about the mother who is crafty and has (for each child )a scrapbook for each year. She is always doing crafty things with her kids. Or the mother who takes her children on a different field trip each weekend. The zoo, science museum, you name it they’ve been there or are planning to go within the next month. Better yet, the mother who is never late for a doctor appointment, church, dropping her child off at music lessons or picking them up from practice. Her calendar is perfectly colored coded and looks like a scientific chart of some kind.

Here is what you don’t know. June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsly) was divorced after only 6 years of marriage. Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) married three times, all of them ending in divorce. The mother whose children sit like angels in church had an awful morning, the kids were not cooperating at all. The only reason they are sitting still is because they were promised that if they didn’t, they would go home to take naps instead of going on the picnic that was planned for the afternoon. The mother who is always ready is actually a nervous wreck. She is so worried about what “might” happen, that she can’t relax and enjoy watching her kids on the playground or at their baseball game. The crafty mother is very talented, yet, she can’t make a home cooked meal to save her life. Her family eats microwave dinners every night, expect when they have cold cereal for dinner. The mother who takes her children everywhere has put their little bodies on overload. While trying to have fun with her kids, she has actually caused them to become exhausted from all the running. They have very little down time. Her children are tired and cranky. The mother who is never late, is very organized. I love her!! She always knows who is supposed to be where. What you don’t see is that she also has help. She has a few friends that she teams up with and they help each other with carting kids to and from events. Turns out, she is late on occasion too.

I am obviously exaggerating to an extent, but what we see in other mothers is not always reality. As a matter of fact, it usually is not reality. I have had people comment that I am a good mother. Ha! I think to myself, if only you knew about the time I lost my child on an elevator, that we missed our 6 month dental check ups and that I yell on a regular basis. No one sees you as the mother you see yourself to be. We are our own worst enemies. The mother you look up to and admire is very likely feeling the same way you are. None of us are “perfect mothers”, it is humanly impossible, but we can give it our all.

When you look at “perfect mommy” who makes everything from scratch, instead of thinking “I can’t do that”, you should try it. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit. If you see a mother who apparently has it all together or has a talent that you would love to learn, ask her about it. Don’t be afraid to ask another mother for advice or to teach you something new. Not only will they most likely be excited to help you, they will love that you asked them. There is probably something you are good at, that they would love to learn also. That doesn’t mean that you will ever be able to scrapbook the way they do or that they will be able to cook the way you do, or that you will become organized overnight. Everything takes time. While you may, over time, learn to do something well, it doesn’t mean that you will be an expert. And when it comes to things like discipline and routine, it’s great to take advice from others, but remember each child responds differently. What works for your friend may not work for you and what works for your firstborn, might not work for your second child.

Our children appreciate our efforts. Give yourself a break and quit comparing yourself to others. God has made you who you are and he gave you the child/children that you have, he knew you would be the best mother for them. Always know that your children’s failures and misbehaviors do not mean you have failed as a parent. As you are not perfect, your children will not be either. Accept it and get over it. We all have a sinful nature, even those precious little ones.

We tend to focus on the moments that are children make bad decisions or when we “mess up”. Try for one day, to pay attention and really soak up the good things your children do, and your accomplishments also. For me, it’s when my children stop and hold the door for someone, when they are kind and thoughtful to the underdog at school, when all the other kids leave and they stay to help cleanup. It can be as small as sharing a toy or doing a chore for a sibling. About a year ago, the “homework” for our family devotion was to intentionally show kindness to someone the next day and report back. Even now, a year later, Taylor remembers this and often comes to me and says “mom, I know what I did nice for someone today.” These are the moments to cherish, so what if they missed brushing their teeth before bed one night, they know what it is to be kind to others, and they learned it from you. These are the things your children will remember. They might also remember that they never had clean socks in their dresser, but this won’t really matter in the end.

Let’s encourage each other. While none of us want to believe anyone who tells us we are a good mother, it’s still nice to hear it once in awhile.

Mom Time

My children consume my life. Most of my time and energy are geared towards them. Does this sound familiar? With all the time that I dedicate to my children, sometimes life gets a little crazy.

Here is a look at a normal day in the Cook household during the months of November through about April or until spring arrives. They say it’s here, but I haven’t noticed yet.

6:00am My alarm goes off.

6:30am I get out of bed. (It takes me a while to wake up. I’m not a morning person.) Justin and Darren are up doing their morning chores. Garrett and Ryan are usually up now too. I brush my teeth and then pack Hunter’s lunch.

6:45am Hunter leaves for work. I pack school lunches and get the kids breakfast.

7:20am Justin and Darren get on the bus.

7:30am I realize Taylor isn’t out of bed yet. I go wake her and tell her to get dressed for school. She doesn’t know what to wear. I tell her to get the clothes out of her Wednesday box.

7:45am Taylor is ready for breakfast.

8:00am I make sure Garrett and Ryan have brushed their teeth and combed their hair, then I have them put their shoes on.

8:15am I do a double-check to make sure the backpacks and lunch pails are ready to go and everyone has everything they need.

8:20am I have the kids get their coats and backpacks on. Ryan remembers it’s show and tell and dashes upstairs to find something. He comes down with something of Garrett’s. Taylor immediately makes it known that Ryan has Garrett’s toy. Garrett doesn’t want Ryan to take it.

8:25am After much discussion, Garrett decides to let Ryan take his toy. Taylor remembers it’s her snack day. I run to the kitchen to grab the snack.

8:27am I am stuffing Taylor’s snack in her backpack and we see the bus coming down the road. The boys run out the door. I finish zipping Taylor’s backpack, give her a hug and tell her to hurry to the bus. Ryan gets halfway to the bus then turns around and runs back to the door because he forgot to give me a hug.

8:30am The children all made it safely on the bus and I can breathe a sigh of relief.

8:30am – 3:00pm I am home alone! I turn the radio on to my favorite Christian radio station, start the laundry, take care of any dishes in the sink and then sit down for my breakfast. After breakfast I try to have my quiet time, although I admit that it doesn’t always happen. While the kids are at school, I busy myself with my daily chores. I do laundry every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday’s I run all my errands for the week (or try to anyway). Wednesday’s I bake bread, and make snacks for school lunches. Every Thursday morning I volunteer in Taylor’s class and Friday’s I pay the bills.

3:00pm Darren gets off the bus. He bursts in the door yelling “MOM, Hello” and he continues yelling until I have replied. He is very happy, he asks me how my day was and typically he says his was great, terrific, or awesome. Occasionally he says ok, but this is not normal. He does his homework , has a snack, completes his afternoon chores and heads for the Wii. (The Wii is their favorite winter past time. We don’t have any other gaming systems and we do not allow them to have hand-held gaming devices, so the Wii it is.)

4:00pm Garrett, Taylor and Ryan get off the bus. This is when things get crazy. Coats and backpacks are flung, children are racing for the bathroom, and “What’s for snack” are the first words I hear.

After they have put their shoes away, unloaded their backpacks and hung them up along with their coats, and emptied their lunch pails, they may have a snack. You would think that at some point they would catch on and put their things away without being prompted, but this hasn’t happened yet.

After or during snack, depending on their moods, they do their homework. Some days this goes smoothly, especially if they have something to do afterward. Other days one page of math review has turned into World War 3. I prefer the first scenario, but nearly every week we have one day when World War 3 is looking very near.

4:20pm Garrett and Ryan make their way to the living room and inform Darren his time is up. Taylor is in the kitchen with her school papers. She is either still doing her homework or she’s quizzing me on papers she has completed at school.

4:45 By now, Taylor is usually looking for something to do. The boys are all occupied and she is left alone. She goes up stairs to Garrett’s room, randomly grabs a toy and parades through the living room with the toy of choice. She marches directly in front of Garrett and says to the toy “I love playing with you.” Garrett is upset that Taylor has gone into his room without asking and begins yelling…you guessed it, “MOM”. I head to the living room. Taylor takes the toy back up stairs, whining all the way.

This doesn’t happen everyday, some days, it goes more like this.

4:30pm Garrett and Ryan have just now chosen a game that they have agreed on. They begin to play. Suddenly, Garret has done something. I don’t know what because monster truck racing isn’t my thing, but never the less, he has done something that has upset Ryan. I begin to hear bickering in the living room.
“Garrett, STOP!”
“Ryan, don’t do that.”
I go to the living room and say in a not-so-nice voice, “That’s it, you’re done, turn it off.”
To this I hear “but Mom.”

4:45pm Since Garret and Ryan are already unhappy, Taylor chooses to go upstairs. A few minutes later, I hear a commotion. Taylor has barged into Darren’s room. This is Darren’s biggest pet peeve. He cannot stand this. It infuriates him. I leave the living room and head upstairs. I tell Taylor not to go in Darren’s room without permission and I ask Darren to be kind to his sister. I ask Taylor “What would Jesus do?” I leave her to think about things and head into the kitchen, where the pot of water I was boiling has gone dry as a result of evacuating to the living room, followed by a hurried retreat up the stairs.

5:15pm I start dinner over again. I hear fighting, yet I choose to ignore it. The water is boiling, the meat is in the oven and I need a vegetable.

5:30pm Dinner is going. I happen to notice the clock. Oh no! Justin’s practice just ended. I hurry to turn off the stove and make sure nothing will burn. I tell Darren to watch the kids while I go get Justin.

5:50pm I arrive at the school to pick up Justin. I wait in the car for him to come out.

6:00pm
Justin is not out yet, evidently practice ran over. Taylor calls me.
“Mooooom.”
“Yes, Taylor”
“When are you coming home?”
“I’m waiting for Justin. I’ll be home as soon as he comes out.”
“Okay.” She pauses a moment. “Mooooom.”
“Yes, Taylor.”
“I’m sorry I was being whiny.”
“I forgive you Taylor. I love you. I’ll be home soon.”
“Moooom.”
“Yes, Taylor.”
“I’m hungry.”
“We will eat as soon as I get home. Why don’t you set the table so it will be ready when I get there.”
“Okay. I love you.”
“Bye honey.”
“Bye.”

6:15pm It is 8 degrees outside. Boys are starting to come out of the school. Suddenly, I see a crazy child running out of the school in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Wait a minute, I look closer, that’s my child!! “What?” he says, looking at me as if I am the one who is crazy.

6:30pm We arrive home. The table is set and no one is in sight. It’s quiet, but why? Did someone break in and kidnap the kids? I go upstairs. I look in Taylor’s room. That’s odd. There are no blankets on her bed. I look across the hall into Justin’s room. Hmm…there are no blankets on his bed either. I go down the hall and look in Garrett’s room. What happened? Someone broke in and took my children and their blankets? I go across the hall to look in Darren and Ryan’s room. Aha!! Every blanket in the house is in there and I assumed that the kids were also, but who could tell. I announce loudly “Time for dinner.” Suddenly, a stampede appears out from under the enormous heap of blankets. I am nearly trampled.

6:45pm We are all finally at the table for dinner, but we are not all happy. It begins.
“I don’t like chicken.”
“Do I have to eat the rice?”
“I don’t like green beans. Do we have any corn?”
Ahhhh!

7:00pm Three of us have eaten dinner, three of us have picked and complained and are contemplating starting to eat now if they can have a slice of bread afterward.

7:05pm Taylor gets in the shower.

7:30pm I go check to see whether Taylor was sucked down the drain, because she has not come out yet. She’s fine. I make her get out and have Ryan get in. Ryan doesn’t think he needs a shower because he took one the other day.
“Yes,” I say “you did, but that was 2 days ago and now you need another one.”

7:45pm Ryan is finally in the shower.

7:55pm Ryan gets out of the shower, Garrett gets in. I have Taylor and Ryan head for bed, an hour past bedtime.

7:56pm Garrett gets out of the shower. I make him get back in.

8:15pm Garrett gets out of the shower again, clean this time, and I head him upstairs to read. I go tuck the others in and as I walk down the stairs, I release a huge sigh of relief.

8:17pm Ryan comes back down stairs to go to the bathroom. Taylor sees him walk down and decides she needs a drink of water. I send them both back upstairs.

8:20pm I send Darren to take a shower and then sit on the couch with Justin and he begins telling me about his day.

8:22pm Ryan comes down stairs.
“Mom, Taylor came in my room.”
“Ryan get back to bed. I will take care of Taylor.”
Taylor peaks her head around the corner, “I just wanted to give him a hug!”
“Both of you, back upstairs, now!”

8:30pm Darren is out of the shower. I send him up to read and ask him to let Garrett know it’s time for lights out. Justin gets in the shower.

8:40pm I have just begun to relax, when I see headlights pull in the driveway. Hunter is home and he’s hungry. I go to the kitchen to get his dinner and sit with him as he eats.

8:45pm Justin gets out of the shower and sits down with us.

9:00pm Hunter gets in the shower. Justin heads to bed.

9:20pm Hunter gets out of the shower. We are both tired and decide to go to bed ourselves.
Once in bed, I try to start a conversation. I haven’t had any adult conversation all day. Hunter, however, has been dealing with people all day. Although he is trying his best to listen, he can no longer stay awake and falls asleep in mid-sentence. I end up falling asleep as well.

I have possibly exaggerated slightly, however, we do occasionally have a day like this.

With all of the commotion of everyday life, sometimes we forget the important things. It is important as mothers, that we don’t forget to take time out for ourselves. We need to have to time to relax and remember who we are. Sometimes we lose our identity in our children. There are days when I am Ryan’s mom and I lose myself. We need to stay rested and maintain ourselves so that we can keep up with the fast pace of motherhood.

Along with mothers taking time for themselves, it is important that we make time for our children. Children also need time for themselves. They need special time, which is focused on them. In our house, we call it “mom time.” It is a time, when I take one of the children and do something with them. Usually, it consists of getting picked up early from school and having a special lunch out. This time should be centered around the child. I give them options and let them decide where we go. Taylor will choose the bookstore and Ryan loves Wal-Mart. Garrett just loves being with me. He has learned to handle the grocery list well. On this day, I spoil them more than normal. On a normal day, when I am asked to buy small treasures, I say no. But on this day, I say yes. They a get a quarter for the gumball machine and they always come home with a special treat. They usually get ice-cream on the way home.

When your children are young, sometimes it is better to choose something at home. Taking a toddler out can be a tedious task. Here are some things my children have enjoyed. If you have more than one child, make sure the other children are down for naps or ask a friend or family member to watch them for a couple of hours.

Girls love tea parties. Taylor has an inexpensive tea set. If your daughter doesn’t have one, it would be a great investment. Instead of your normal lunch, plan a special “tea party” lunch for you and your princess. Make a big deal out of it and be sure to have foods that she likes, along with a special snack for dessert. She will love this! This would be great to do once a month or so with your special girl. It will create memories that will last a lifetime.

For your toddler boy, Lego’s or train sets are great. My sons love Geo Trax and so do I. They are well-built and very durable, which is a plus in our house. My boys have always been hard on their toys. Take time to sit down and just play with him. Make sure it is a time when you focus your undivided attention on him. Don’t jump up to switch the laundry or check your email. This is time for you to focus all your attention on your little man.

Boys and girls alike, love helping mom in the kitchen. For this, it is fun if they have their own apron. They think this is great! My children love baking cookies. Cutout cookies are their favorite. They are more work than drop cookies, but the kids have so much fun with the cutouts. We have a great recipe for sugar cookies that I got from my Aunt Cora. Look for it in Remarkable Recipes. It makes a large batch of cookies. You can make what you want and freeze the rest for later, or you can make them all and share them with your neighbor or a shut in. This is a great way to teach your children to think of others. Let them help you decide who to share them with and have them color a picture to go along. Be sure to allow your child to join you for the delivery. This really makes them feel good and elderly people love getting visits from little ones.

If making your own cookie dough is more work than you would like to do or have time for, buying a mix or dough from the store is fine too. The kids love rolling out the dough, but they do need guidance. We have a large assortment of cookie cutters they can choose from. Cookie cutters are relatively inexpensive. Cutting them out is the most fun. When they are baked, we ice them and put sprinkles on top. This is another part they really enjoy. Don’t let this become a chore. Relax and allow it to be a fun activity. If they don’t get the maximum amount of cookies out of the dough you have rolled out, it is not a big deal. The sprinkles will not be evenly spaced on the cookies. I’m not sure at what age they really get the art of cutting them out “properly,” because my children have still not figured this out. It can become aggravating if you let it, but remember this is supposed to be for them, not about you making perfect cookies in minimal time. It will take you considerably longer to do this with your children than it would take you to do it alone, and they will be less pleasing to the eyes, but your children will be proud of their creations. Take a deep breath, relax and have fun!

Play-doh is always a big hit too. Play-doh is not one of my favorite things, but kids love it. No need to buy special play-doh toys, you have plenty of things in your kitchen they can use. Remember, the point is to be spending special time with your child. Look in Remarkable Recipes for a recipe for Homemade Play-doh.

Children love the outdoors. If the weather permits, you can pack a picnic lunch and head to the park. After lunch, you can go on a nature walk. Make sure to bring a basket or bucket of some kind to collect your special treasures. They will love collecting colorful leaves and funny shaped rocks. This is also a great time to teach them about nature.

Enjoy spending time with your kids and don’t forget to take time for yourself!

I would love to hear your ideas for special “mom time.”