November 30, 2009

Apple Pie Muffins

Here is another recipe. I made these for our Thursday morning "muffin day" breakfast. Most of the boys each ate two and asked for a third. One of the boys said they were "horrible" but then ate his anyway. I think he just wanted to say "horrible". The original recipe called for some other type of topping but I didn't like how it looked so I used my own crumb topping recipe which is actually for pies but is also good on muffins or quick breads. This makes a double batch (24) but they freeze well. I froze some to save for our next muffin breakfast day but they didn't last... we already got them back out of the freezer and now they are gone.

Apple Pie Muffins

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups diced peeled firm tart apples (Granny smith)

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oats
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
3 T. butter or margarine

Make topping first by putting the first five topping ingredients in a small bowl and cutting in the butter. Set that aside until you need it. In large bowl whisk together brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, soda, and salt. Stir oil mix into flour mix alternately with buttermilk. Fold in apples, mixing just until combined. Spoon into greased muffin cups. Sprinkle topping over each muffin evenly. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 24 muffins.

*If you don't have buttermilk put 1 T. lemon juice or vinegar in a measuring cup. Add milk to the 1 cup line and let sit for several minutes. Then use as you would buttermilk.

November 29, 2009

Fresh Butter

We tried this simple "recipe" for our Thanksgiving meal and it was such a hit we'll be adding it to our annual traditions! But you don't need a special occasion to give it a try. Try it sometime with your kids just for fun or save it for a special Christmas dinner.

Fresh Butter
1-2 cups heavy cream
dash of salt

Place cream and salt into a jar with lid. Screw lid on tight! Shake jar until butter forms. Takes about 25 minutes or so.

We were about ready to give up when the butter suddenly formed. It will be a lump of soft butter in a cup or so of buttermilk. Be sure to save the buttermilk and make pancakes or biscuits!

November 25, 2009

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

A Prayer of Thanksgiving
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Lord, behold our family here assembled.
We thank thee
For this place in which we dwell;
For the peace accorded us this day,
For the hope with which we expect tomorrow;
For the health, the work, the food
And the bright skies that make our lives delightful,
For our friends in all parts of the earth and our friendly helpers . . .
Let peace abound in our small company.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Birthday Barn Cake

My fourth son just had his fourth birthday last week! I just had to share the cute little cake I made for him. I got the idea from Betty Crocker's website. It turned out even cuter than I expected and it wasn't hard at all!
The main cake is a barn and the leftover batter is used for cupcakes in the shape of a chicks, pigs, and sheep!

November 23, 2009

Thankful Tree

This week we are making a "Thankful Tree". After Bible time each day we are each going to say something we are thankful for and write it on a leaf. The only rules are you can't say the same thing as someone else and you can't say the same thing each day. After we've written our name and what we are thankful for we then take the leaves and hang them on the "tree".

The leaves are just some fall coloring pages I printed from the internet onto colored paper. I used red, orange, and yellow paper. The tree is just a branch stuck into a jar. I put dried corn into the jar to weigh it down and because it looks festive. You could use beans or rice too. I added a little bow to make it prettier as well.

The boys enjoyed helping me cut out and put the string through enough leaves to get us through Thanksgiving Day. It's a little bare right now but by Thursday it will have plenty of leaves! It's kind of a reverse of the trees outside!

Seasonal Cleaning: Living Room

This should be one of the easier rooms in the house to clean. If you are like most people you probably do a pretty decent job of keeping up with the living room since that is the room people see most often when coming to your home. And this is a great time of year to clean the living room since a lot of people are movingknick knacks and furniture to bring out the Christmas decorations anyway.

1. Take down all window treatments and wash them (if possible). At least shake them out if you can't launder them or take them to the cleaners. Dust or wash the blinds.

2. Wipe down ceiling fan, if you have one. Remove all the (removable) parts of the light fixture(s). Wash glass shades in hot soapy water and dry. Wipe down the remaining parts of the fixture that cannot be removed.

3. Dust the ceiling first, then dust the walls. Use a rag or an extending duster. A regular (dry) Swiffer also works nicely.

4. Wash door (front and back), door knob, and frame. Don't forget the top of the door and the door frame.

5. Wash window(s) inside and out. Don't forget the sill and frame. Brush window screen with a dry, stiff brush.

6. Vacuum any upholstered furniture. Don't forget to take cushions off furniture and vacuum under them.
7. Move each piece of furniture and vacuum under it using the vac tool to get along the wall. Dust any parts of the walls (including the baseboard) you may have missed before you moved the furniture. Dust the furniture (top, front, back, and sides) before returning it to it's place. Clean any decorative items and lamps on tables. [You can move all the furniture at once or do it one piece at a time.]

8. Dust any remaining items hanging on the wall. Wipe down frames/mirrors, clean glass with glass cleaner. Remove any items from wall shelves, dust the items, and the shelf.

9. Wipe any heating/cooling vents. Wipe light switch plate.

10. Go around room and wipe baseboards with a damp rag.

11. Vacuum floor/rug. Use vac tool to get along the edge of the wall.

12. If you need to declutter: Don't put back any items you don't use or belong! Keep only a few items on top of tables or shelves. This makes it much easy to clean on a regular basis.

13. Nothing should be stored loose on the floor (books, videos, toys, etc.). Find a home for these items-use baskets, drawers, or shelves. We store the kids books in a basket inside of an end table that has a door. We also keep a small basket of toys out as well, but most of the toys are in the basement. If you do keep a lot of toys in the living room figure out a way to keep them tidy. Kids can't be expected to put away their toys if there really is no place to put them!
14. If you have a front entryway, clean that as part of the living room. If you need tips on cleaning out a closet, follow the tips in the master bedroom post. We don't use our front hall closet for coats... we converted it to homeschool storage by adding shelves. We hang our coats by the back door. When we have guests we just put their jackets in the master bedroom. If you lack storage somewhere in your house, seriously re-think the extra space in your front hall closet. At our old house we used the front hall closet for toy storage. Get creative and think outside the box closet. Toy storage, homeschool supply storage, or even extra pantry space are all good options!The living room cleaning checklist can be found here. Want to keep it looking great?
  • Pick up toys and clutter daily or twice daily.
  • If you get something out, put it away.
  • Dust and vacuum once a week.
If you have a family room, just follow these instructions. I'm not going to do a separate post for halls or entryways, but don't forget them! The last room we have left is the kitchen. We saved the hardest for last. I'll save my kitchen post for the first week of December. Then your whole house will be clean and ready to go for the Christmas season! I am planning on doing a whole post on organizing the paper that can clutter up our homes and lives after the new year!

I'm a Stockpiler

I have been thinking about this idea a lot lately and then I came across this blog post that I found interesting. Thought you might want to read this too. I have been following the "pantry principle" for about 10 years now (since I first read about it in the Tightwad Gazette) and I think it has saved us a lot of money. If you have been in my basement "pantry" or looked in my upright freezer you know it's true I have a lot of food stockpiled. But that food was bought at the LOWEST price I could find.

part of our stockpile

When my four "biggies" go on sale I really stock up and those are: peanut butter, cheese, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and ground beef. I only buy peanut butter when it is $1 or less. I buy a case or sometimes 2 to get us through until the next sale. So I spend $12 on peanut butter at once instead of buying each one individually for $1.50 saving myself $6 maybe more (not including coupons) that I know I'm going to spend anyway.

Chicken breasts aren't a good deal to me if they aren't about $1.66 per pound but sometimes I have to settle for anything under $2 per pound. If it's more than that I just don't get them. I used to be able to get ground beef for $.99 per pound but that hasn't happened for a LONG time. Now anything at about $1.5o or less per pound is a good deal in my opinion. (Found some at Woodman's two weeks ago for $1.25 per pound!)

Cheese also used to go on sale for $1 (8 oz. packages) but the lowest I've gotten it lately is $1.25. The cashier always gives me a strange look when I buy 20 packages of cheese. Once a lady at store even asked me what I was going to do with it all. I told her the expiration date for cheese is usually a long way off so as long as you keep it in the fridge it will be fine. (I used to freeze it but then it crumbles and I hate that.) I stack it on the bottom shelf in the way back of the fridge. But it doesn't last long in this house of cheese lovers...we go through a lot of cheese. Since it is perishable and takes up fridge space sometimes I do pay more for cheese since I just cannot buy enough to last me until the next sale.

Just think of all the things you buy on a regular basis. Even if you didn't use coupons, if you only bought that item when it was on sale, buying enough to last you until it is on sale again, you would save a good sum of money. Don't have enough space in your cupboards or linen closet to stash bargain food and toilet paper? Think of other places to store it. Keep a few items handy in the kitchen (or bathroom) and put the rest in the basement on shelves. I very rarely run out of anything. I don't ever use the last bit of ketchup and say "oh, we're out of ketchup I better get some when I go to the store". I open the next bottle that I had stored in the "pantry" and add it to my list to get when I see a good sale or find a coupon. It has gotten to the point that when we get down to 40 rolls of toilet paper or 10 jars of peanut butter Jerry will say to me: "Hey, did you know we're getting low?"

Aldi has lessened my need to stockpile some. Lots of items are the lowest price there all the time, so I don't feel like I have to stockpile things that I know I can get there on a regular basis. But sometimes with a sale and a coupon I can beat an Aldi price so I try and stock up when I can. Sometimes I don't have enough coupons to really stockpile. Sometimes it is too perishable to stockpile...can't stock up on lettuce! Some things never have a coupon or rarely go on sale. That's when I think Aldi saves us money. We're able to get most of our groceries there for around $100 per week. Not back for a family of eight!

Stockpiling also saves money in other little ways. Saves on gas, fewer quick trips to the store to get one or two items. Cub scouts knocking on the door for the food problem, just pull out a few cans and boxes. It's also a bit of "insurance" in case we have a bad snowstorm and can't leave the house. We could eat from the stockpile and would really only need milk and produce for at least a month or maybe even two!

November 21, 2009

Homemade Whole Wheat Pretzels

Friday the boys helped to make pretzels. We made them with fresh ground whole wheat flour. The boys enjoyed kneading the dough and sprinkling on the salt. We found out one of the boys has a knack for twisting the dough into the pretzel shape. We made some in letter shapes too.

Here are the boys with the pretzels just before we stuck them in the oven. After they were done baking they ate them for a snack.

Here is the recipe if you want to give them a try:

1 T. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 t. honey
1 t. salt
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
(you can use white flour too)
1 beaten egg
coarse salt

Dissolve yeast and honey in warm water. Mix in flour and salt. Knead for 5 minutes. Divide into eight pieces and shape as desired. Brush with egg and sprinkle with salt. Bake on cookie sheet at 450 for 10-15 minutes. (Other option: skip salt and put sugar & cinnamon on warm pretzels when they come out of the oven instead.)

November 18, 2009

Soup and Bread

We try to have a soup dinner once a week in the winter and a salad dinner once a week in the summer. My daugher likes creamy soups and this is one of her favorites. Everyone likes the biscuits! Served with a side salad this makes great weeknight meal.

Potato Chowder
2 T. oil
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 T. flour
1 t. salt
dash pepper
1 cup water
6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup cheese, grated

Boil potatoes until tender. Mash half and leave half as cubes. Saute onion in oil until yellow. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper. Add water. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add mashed potatoes (approx. 1 cup), milk, cheese, and cubed potatoes. Do NOT return to boiling after adding milk. Heat through. Garnish if desired.

Cheesy Garlic Bicuits
(just like Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits!)
2 cups Baking Mix* (like Bisquick)
2/3 cup Milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Mix baking mix, milk and cheese until soft dough forms. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Mix margarine and garlic powder; drizzle over warm biscuits before removing from cookie sheet. Serve warm. Makes 10 to 12 biscuits.

[*To save money make your own baking mix. There are tons of recipes for homemade mixes online. Personally, I don't like Bisquick...I just use my regular biscuit recipe and add a bit more milk and then the cheese.]

November 17, 2009

Best Internet Finds

Just for fun I thought I'd share some of my favorite internet finds of 2009. Who knows, you mind find something you enjoy on this list as well...

The Pioneer Woman website is one of my best finds! Ree is hilarious, takes beautiful pictures, and shares awesome recipes.

Conversion Diary
- the blog of a lifelong atheist turned Catholic. Very interesting. Be sure and check out her conversion story in the side bar as well as her most popular posts.

Amy's Humble Musings - the blog of a mom of many who tells it like it is. She has a little something for everyone. Her ever-changing "Also Worth Visiting" links in the sidebar are great.

Little House in the Suburbs - a shared blog. These gals live the "homestead" lifestyle right where they the middle of the suburbs. A little more self-reliance is a good thing!

Everyday Food Storage - a great food blog, full of recipes made with items everyone should have in their pantry. If you have wheat kernels and a blender you should try her blender pancakes! They're delicious and a good way to get whole wheat into the kiddos!

JANE4girls $800 Annual Budget - a coupon/money saving blog. This gal had a grocery/household budget of $800 for 2009 (the WHOLE year!) and still has some money left! Makes me wish I lived in the land of double coupons! I hope she does it again this year!

Google Reader - Okay, I know what you're do I have time to check all these blogs? I can check them all and MANY more in just a few minutes by using a reader. When you use a reader you can check all your favorite blogs at once from the same page. Google Reader is free and easy to use. If you read blogs and aren't already using a reader...put getting one on the top of your "to do" list.

Sitemeter - if you have a blog and want to keep track of your statistics, Sitemeter is a must have!

ScrapBlog - a free, online digital scrapbooking site...yet, so much more! You can make headers or blog elements. If you want a more "personalized" blog start here. It's addicting!

Delicious - an online bookmarking site that helps you keep all your internet finds organized. If you find a recipe, tip, article, or craft online you just add it and tag it so you can find it again easily. If you use Firefox (and you should be!) you can get Delicious built right in so it's super easy to use.

Paper Back Swap - get free books. I wish I would have joined PBS sooner! If you read and/or have books sitting around...PBS is for you! If you would like to join email me and I'll refer you and get a book credit!

My Points - earn gift cards for clicking emails (and shopping). I've made probably about $100 in gift cards this year clicking on My Points emails. I like to get CVS or Walgreens gift cards. With those gift cards (and a couple from prescription transfers) I haven't paid ANYTHING out of pocket at CVS since February 2008...and I've gotten a LOT of stuff. If you're interested in joining let me know and I'll refer you and earn a few extra points!

Pandora - internet radio. Listen to the music YOU like. Put in an artist or song and a "station" will be created for you. I really enjoyed this during the holidays last year; Christmas music with NO commercials.

Library Elf - If you check out books from the library, and your library doesn't offer a reminder, this a must have! Just register your library card number and Elf will let you know when your books are due. It's saved me many $$ in fines this year!

AllRecipes - online recipe book. Find recipes by recipe or ingredients. If you only have tuna and broccoli in the house (I hope that's not the case!) and are wondering what to make...put "tuna" and "broccoli" in the ingredient search and you'll get several recipe suggestions.

Seeing this list makes me wonder what's out there that I haven't discovered yet...

Gratituesday: Recipes on the Internet

Do you remember ten or fifteen years ago when you wanted a recipe you had to call someone who had it or dig through recipe books? One of the biggest blessings of the internet, in my opinion, is to pull up just about any recipe you need in about 2 seconds. I have had a tasty dish at a restaurant and googled for the recipe so I could make it at home. I have longed for a favorite childhood cookie (that was made by a neighbor I lost contact with years ago) then searched for and found the recipe online! It really is amazing if you think about it!

Then there are sites like AllRecipes that allow you to put in the ingredients you have (or don't have) and see what you can make! It's a frugal homemaker best friend!

Here are just a few of the recipes I searched for and have been glad to find this year:
If you want to make a new dish you can find the recipe and read reviews about it and sometimes even see a picture tutorial. I have to say this wealth of resources has made me a better cook and more courageous in the recipes I am willing to try! I even found a great way to keep track of all the recipes I find online... but that's another post!
Find more things to be grateful for at Gratituesday hosted by Heavenly Homemakers!

November 16, 2009

Jesse Tree

Christmas is just around the corner. If you are looking for a wonderful way to make Christmas meaningful I highly recommend a Jesse Tree. We did this for the first time two years ago and it was great!

You can start with Advent or you can just start on December 1st. Each day read a Bible verse and devotional then hang an ornament on a little tree. There are many websites out there to give you ideas and there is no "right" way. Each family does it a bit differently.

There are "kits" you can buy, but it is easy to just make your own. The ornaments can be printed on paper or if you get real creative you can buy items to hang as ornaments that are a bit more three dimensional (like a mini-globe, twine, etc.). I'm seriously considering making some salt dough ornaments with the kids for this years Jesse tree. The tree itself can be a branch that is secured in a pot or you can use a mini-Christmas tree. That is what we did last year and it worked well.

If you are interested, here are some links:
Jesse Tree Instructions, Devotions, and Printable Ornaments
Another Tree with Printable Ornaments
Yet Another Option

November 15, 2009

Free Flu Resource

Crystal at Everyday Food Storage (and her family) were recently hit hard by the flu. She put together an AWESOME flu resource (A Mom's Guide to Surviving the Flu) full of information on taking care of yourself and your loved ones if you get sick this season. I pray that you all stay well... but just in case... download her helpful booklet here.

Homemade Kettle Corn

If you like kettle corn or HAVE to try this! Today! Right now!

1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
scant 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
one large sauce pan (I used a 3 qt.) with a lid (very important!)
one large bowl

On the stove top, in a large sauce pan with a lid, heat oil over medium until hot. Add sugar and popcorn and stir. Cover just before you think it's going to start popping. Keep the pan moving on the burner until the popping slows. Dump the popped corn into a bowl and eat!

Tip: If there is any residue in the pan get it soaking ASAP or it will harden.

Ham and Cheese Braid

Last night I made a family favorite for dinner. We call it Ham & Cheese Braid and you'll see why. As I was putting it together I told my daughter to grab the camera and take a few shots for you. I don't really have a recipe to type out. Just make your favorite bread dough (by hand, in the bread machine on the dough cycle, or in your mixer). I made mine using half whole wheat flour and half white flour in my Bosch mixer. I made four loaves worth of dough so I could make two braids plus some cinnamon swirl bread for breakfast.

This is my wheat grinder. It's a K-tec Kitchen Mill (actually they renamed it a couple years ago and it's now called the Blend Tec Kitchen Mill). I love mine and highly recommend it! I buy wheat in large bags from a little country store up by my mom's. I used to get it from a food co-op but, sadly, the company went out of business. I store my wheat in five gallon buckets that I got from the bakery. A fifty pound bag lasts me a long time since I don't make bread as often as I should (according to my husband anyway). If you have never tried 100% whole wheat bread from fresh ground wheat you are missing out!

Once the dough is made, roll it out into a large rectangle, I didn't measure but this is about the size of a cookie sheet. And put diced (or sliced) ham down the center. I like diced better so the whole slice doesn't slide out when you bite into it. Top the ham with a cheese of your choice. I used mild cheddar, but swiss would be good too!

Then slice the sides into little strips and start braiding. I fold the end in first so I can cover it up as I go.

One all braided. And then two, ready to go into the oven. You don't have to let them rise, they'll puff up just fine in the oven. I bake them at 350 degrees. They come out about 45 minutes later golden brown. Trust me on this...let them cook until they are really golden. Check the bottom to make sure it's done before you take it out. If it's not done put them back in on the bottom rack for a few minutes. If you don't cook it long enough the center will be doughy. The gooey cheese doesn't help with that!

Now it took me about twice as long to type up this post as it did to actually make the braids so don't be discouraged. It really is very easy. I promise your family will love you!

November 12, 2009

Seasonal Cleaning: Laundry Room

The laundry room can be a challenge. Some of you might not have a laundry room at all. At our old house we had a laundry area in the unfinished basement, but I still tried to keep it tidy. I didn't really have walls to dust, but I'd still get the cobwebs and complete the rest of what is included in the checklist below at least yearly. Personally, I spend a lot of time doing laundry, so it's nice to have a tidy area to work in! Even if your laundry area is in part of storage area, garage, or basement you can still give it a good cleaning once or twice a year and keep it neat.
How it should look!

How it usually looks!
At least those clothes are clean!

1. The first step is to get the clean laundry put away. I need to work on this. I get the laundry done, but I am really bad about putting it away. Our goal right now is to clean the actual room so the first thing you want to do is get the clean clothes out of the area so they don't get dirty while you clean.

2. Dust the walls and ceiling. Wipe down any decorations. Wipe any vents or fans. Wash any rugs and curtains. Lint gets all over in a laundry room. (If your laundry room is in a bathroom follow the bathroom cleaning checklist.)

3. If you haven't already, clear the tops of the washer and dryer. Wipe down all sides of the washer and dryer. They get dusty! You may also want to wipe out the inside of your dryer, especially around the door area where lint can build up.

4. Clean any counter tops and wipe out the sink, if you have one.

5. Wipe down the outside of cabinet doors and drawers. Empty each cabinet and drawer, wipe down shelves and replace like items together. If you store cleaning supplies in the laundry room, safely dispose of any that are really old or stuff you know you'll never use before returning them to their spot. If you need to dispose of household chemicals, you might want to find out about proper disposal. In our county you can take chemicals to a county facility where you leave what you can't use and others can take it if they need it. And it's free! (A great way to get a little bit of paint for small projects by the way!)

6. Organize what's left. Place it on shelves or in cabinets. Use bins or storage containers for items you use most often. If your laundry room doubles as another room it can be a challenge to get it organized. Sometimes laundry rooms are the back entry or part of the basement or even in a bathroom. Our laundry also happens to be a half bath. Try and keep like items together. Cleaning supplies in one cabinet, laundry supplies in another. Some other things I keep in the laundry room include: batteries (regular and rechargeable), light bulbs, shoe polishing supplies, and bug spray.

7. You might want to take the time to clean our your dryer vent. Not just the trap in the dryer but the actual vent that goes to the outside. If you get a lot of lint built up in there it can be a fire hazard.

8. Clean any mirrors or windows.

9. Sweep and scrub the floor. If you are really motivated (I wasn't this time) pull out the washer and dryer to clean behind them and look for any lonely socks that may have dropped back there when you weren't looking! If you haven't moved your dryer in years it would be a good idea to do this, like I mentioned before, lint can be a fire hazard.

Here are some other laundry room tips:
  • Have a designated place for dirty laundry. I highly recommend a 3 bin laundry sorter or two! This is how we store all our dirty laundry. I requested these for Christmas a couple years ago and I can tell you they are worth every penny.
  • Have a designated place for clean laundry. If you are really good... put it away immediately. If you're like me, you'll use a laundry basket and the top of the dryer. Whatever you do don't mix clean and dirty laundry! That just makes more work for you!
  • Have a rod handy to hang clothes on hangers right as they come out of the dryer. I refuse to iron so this is really important for my hubby's wrinkle-free work clothes. This can also be used to hang items to dry when necessary. We just have a rack on wheels that I got at Walmart for under $20. It's held up surprisingly well.
  • Keep a trash can handy. For lint, used dryer sheets, and candy wrapper that you wash.
  • Create zones. A pet supply area, cleaning supplies, laundry stuff, a place for tools, etc. Keep like things together so you can find them and so they are tidy. Baskets and containers are your friends!
  • The junk drawer. Above is our "junk drawer" for lack of a better name. We have a basket for the rechargeable batteries that are "dead" right above a basket of the charged ones. I keep a few screwdrivers in here to open the back of any toys to replace batteries. This is also were we keep tapes of all kinds (electrical, duct, clear package, etc.). I have another drawer between the washer and dryer where I keep the lonely socks that have lost their mate. They keep each other company there until their mate comes along. If you don't have a spare drawer you could use a small basket.
  • Keep a small container for junk. I keep mine right on the counter. If I find coins, rocks, beads, screws, or buttons in a pocket or the washer I toss them in this container. Every couple months I dump out the container and put the stuff back where it belongs. In the meantime if we are missing something small that is where I usually look.
  • Get it out! If you don't use it often, don't keep it in the small amount of space you have in the laundry room. Like I said, I rarely iron so I don't keep the ironing board in the laundry room. There really isn't a good spot for it and I'd rather use the precious space for something else or nothing at all!
  • Go vertical. If you have brooms and mops that you keep in the laundry area get one of these organizers from the home improvement store to hang them on. Then they won't be flopping all over the place and in your way.
A printable laundry room checklist can be found here.

November 10, 2009

Menu Planning

While I love saving money, I really dragged my feet on this one. I don't know why, but I just did not want to do it. Now that I have been menu planning for over a year I can promise you it is worth the effort. If you are really busy then a menu is a must! You will not only save money, but time as well. I plan my menus for one month at a time (weekly can work too). When I sit down with the calendar, the first thing I do is mark all the games, meetings, etc. so I know what nights I need a quick meal. A planned, quick meal means no fast food, which saves us a bunch of money.

The real key to saving money with menu planning is to do it backwards. To save money, you DO NOT plan a menu and then go shopping for the needed ingredients. You shop, taking advantage of the deals and sales, then plan your menu around what you have in your pantry and freezer. That way you are getting the best deals and using what you have. Always keep an eye out for sales on the items you use most. When you see a good deal...STOCK UP! When you use what you have and only use items bought at low sale prices you save even more!

I have menus for breakfast and lunches too. Those aren't as creative as the dinner menus, but I didn't just want to have cereal every morning either. So I made a two week rotating breakfast and lunch menu. I don't even have to think about what to make for breakfast or lunch anymore! I love it! I always know what to stock up on (saves money!) because we have the same 10 things! Since half of our family can't read yet I put together a clipart menu for the rotating breakfasts and lunches; the kids know what to expect and really hold me to the menu. Now not only do I save money, I don't have to wonder what to make, AND I don't have to answer the dreaded question: "Mom, what are we having...?"

Here are a few additional links to help with menu planning if you are interested:
Organized Home
Family Grocery Budget
Menu Planner
Money Saving Mom
The Simple Dollar

[I wrote this (minus the links) for my twins club newsletter but thought I would share it here as well.]

Gratituesday: Veterans

Tomorrow is Veterans' Day so today I am thankful for veterans and the those currently serving our country. Many in my own family served in some branch of the armed forces (my dad, grandpa, uncles). Some of those serving our country end up sacrificing their life and some a part of their body, but ALL sacrifice time away from their precious families.

So tomorrow thank a vet, hang your flag, and most importantly say a prayer for those who are currently helping to make this country a safer place.

Want to read more Gratituesdays? Head over to Heavenly Homemakers.