Mom’s Minute Monthly- eMeals

In case you missed our last MMM, we shared some great ideas as we get back into a routine now that summer has ended. One of those tips was eMeals.

eMeals is a site designed specifically for busy moms (not really, but it is super helpful!).  You can select the plan that you like (for instance, classic, kid-friendly, gluten-free, diabetic, paleo, etc) and your family size. Each Wednesday a new menu plan is emailed to you and includes recipes and a shopping list specifically for your plan. It’s wonderful! If you have a smartphone, you can download the eMeals app and it will allow you to add items to your shopping list, cross off items you already have, and if you have the classic menu plan, it will even calculate your total grocery cost for the week. It has been a huge blessing in the two weeks that I’ve used it!

I signed up for the classic plan with a family size of 3-6 (the most it would allow me to do). I then selected Publix as my grocery store. For my family of 9, I’ve been spending about $80 each week on groceries since starting the program. What I like most about eMeals is that I can preview the recipes prior to shopping so I can adjust the amount of meat I need to purchase. Plus, every meal I have prepared has been so delicious- even my kids love them! I also really like that most of the meals include fresh produce, and I am broadening my cooking skills as I prepare different recipes and dishes.

So, have I sold you on eMeals?! If so, right now if you sign up you can save 20% off a yearly subscription. The dinner-only plan is regularly $58, but when you enter code SCHOOL, you will pay only $46.40. That’s less than $4 per month for stress-free meal planning!

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The Virtuous Woman

Yesterday was the Mom’s Minute Monthly gathering for June. If you weren’t able to join us, we studied some of the qualities and characteristics of the Virtuous Woman as described in Proverbs 31. After reading the verses, we discussed our thoughts and made application to our lives in today’s modern world compared to when the passage was originally penned. We then imagined what those qualities would “look” like and made a pictorial collage, cutting and gluing images from magazines and catalogs. The goal is for the collage to be a visual reminder of the characteristics displayed by the Virtuous Woman, and the challenge is to work on the areas where we fall short.

Some of what we discussed included the fact that in v.11, the word “trust” means to be confident in, to feel safe, to be careless. Our husbands should leave the home each day and not worry about what we are doing while he is away. Not just in terms of fidelity, but our conduct, finances, managing the house, child rearing, etc. As one mom shared, it means the freedom to “fight” without worrying about serious consequences; that both husband and wife know that both are committed to the long-term covenant of marriage and that even though they may disagree on something, one spouse isn’t going to walk out on the other.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing verse 12. One mom pointed out that doing good is an intentional thing; it doesn’t just happen. We talked about ways we can do “good” in our daily lives. Examples included doing things the way our husbands prefer over the way we usually do it. For instance, my husband doesn’t like his clothes to be put in the dryer. It takes a little bit more time and effort on my part to sort out his clothes from the washer as I’m putting the wet clothes into the dryer, but I do try my best to hang his clothes as he likes. We also discussed giving our spouses the benefit of the doubt, and another mom shared that we need to be willing to overlook the small stuff “in love.”

In v13 we discussed synonyms for “work”: make, produce, attend to, deal with, observe, acquire, etc and how that applies to almost all aspects of being a wife and mother. We make meals, we attend to children, we deal with arguments between siblings, we acquire food, clothing, and other items in order to meet the needs of our families.

Verse 15 was also discussed at length. The room seemed to be pretty even in the number of early risers versus night owls, but we all came to the agreement that it doesn’t matter which one you are. One is not superior to the other, and the point of the passage is simply that from the time the Virtuous Woman wakes to the time she goes to bed, she is productive in her day. She has excellent time-management skills and makes the most of her day. She accomplishes what needs to be done and doesn’t waste her time sleeping or being lazy.

We had to end at verse 15 so that we would have time to work on our collages, but I challenge you, read the passage (Proverbs 31:10-31) for yourself and make your own collage as a way to help you be a better wife and mother. Of course no one is perfect, and the passage is given as a model for women to know how to live. When we read about the Virtuous Wife, we should compare our own life to hers. When we find shortcomings (and we will), we need to ask God to help us make the necessary changes so that we can bring glory to Him. This type of study is a great way to spend some time in God’s word, getting to know and really understand what He desires for us as women, wives, and moms.

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

~Proverbs 31:30

 

Overcoming Anxiety: or “How to stop feeling like you’re drowning in responsibility!”- Part 4

In this series, I will share my own struggle with constantly feeling overwhelmed and the steps I took to significantly reduce it.  This is a topic I think most moms can identify with, especially moms with young children.

frazzled-mom

So far, I have covered setting goals, implementing a schedule, and, meal planning. Regardless of the area in which you struggle, the key is to think about your thinking. Philippians 4:8 says,

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy
meditate on these things.

None of my suggestions are going to completely help if you are still thinking the wrong thing. When you get your thoughts in check, act upon correct thoughts (or simply “do the right thing”), your feelings will follow. Trust me.

Managing your Home (McDonald’s Style)

Don’t get me wrong, my kids have been doing chores for years, but I often struggled in this area.  I had a difficult time enforcing chores on a regular basis because of guilt.  As a child, I had chores to do.  My mother worked and I was required to help around the house.  As I got older and the responsibility increased, I (selfishly) became angry at having to do so much.  Now, as a mom, I struggled with my own children because I didn’t want them to become resentful towards me for having to help out around the house.  It was a constant inner battle that often resulted in me trying to do everything that needed to be done…and accomplishing nothing!

One of my jobs as a wife is to be the manager of my home.  However, I didn’t know what that looked like.  It took me several years to really have a clear understanding.  I did not grow up in a house that modeled a father as the head of the home and a mother who was the manager; my mom was both!  As the manager that means meal planning, housework, laundry, child-rearing, and schooling (or homework for my children in public school) all fall on my shoulders.  It can be daunting at times, especially without help in the form of chores.  I began to pray about ways I could improve in this area, and literally one afternoon my understanding of chores (regarding why to implement them) became so clear.

My husband used to work as an assistant-manager at McDonald’s.  He is now a manager of the IT department at a local university.  He often shares some of his stories from his McDonald’s days with me (usually to make me laugh) and things he used to have to do.  I began to think about that one afternoon, and I pictured 2 scenarios in my mind.

In the first, the manager was scrambling around, trying to take customer’s orders, fill orders, run the drive-thru, and assist an employee with a problem.  The other employees were just standing around, watching him (or her) do this.  It was a chaotic scene and the atmosphere was tense, to say the least.  In the second scenario, I pictured the employees each performing their assigned duties, one taking orders, one on the drive-thru, the other cleaning tables and emptying garbage, while the manager was overseeing the employees and assisting when needed.  It was clearly a much smoother operation and had a calming atmosphere.  That’s when it hit me- my house is like that McDonald’s.  I am the manager. It’s not my job to do everything; it’s my kids’ jobs to each do their part with my help/assistance, in order for our house to function in a calm, smooth way.  And that brings us to this….

Delegate duties to kids

o   Older siblings help the younger ones
This is so important as it trains your older children to be mindful of the needs of others, as well as trains your younger children to not always come to you for everything. It also frees up much of the time spent on the “little” things.

  •   Pour drinks, get snacks, tie shoes, zip coats, etc

o   Daily room chores.
These chores never change and are the same for each child. This is for an “allowance.” I pay 25¢ for each chore, up to $1 per week day or $5 per week. Rooms are to be done before school. I check the rooms sometime during the school day and mark the child’s chart accordingly.

  •   Examples include make beds, pick up clothes, straighten up closet, etc

o   Daily house chores
This schedule rotates weekly and are not paid. These are the chores that are key to the smooth functioning of the household. All children help to the best of their ability.

  •   Examples include dishes, laundry, vacuuming, caring for pets, setting the table, etc.

o   Weekly house chores
These are age-appropriate chores that do not change and are not paid. Again, all children help but the assigned chore is based on age. My 2-year-old will wipe the glass on doors and windows, help with dusting furniture, and clean up toys.

  •   Examples include cleaning bathrooms, dusting living spaces, mopping, etc

Simplify your life

o   Say “No” to things/commitments that are not necessary

  • Overscheduling yourself and your kids has a major effect on the overall mood of your house. If you are constantly hustling and bustling to get from one activity to the next, you are bound to be frazzled, anxious, and overwhelmed.
  •   Keep in mind, things can be “good”, but not necessary (i.e. participating in Bible study, PTO)

o   Take one day off each week for rest/relaxation
For me, this is Sunday afternoon. Some Sundays are harder for me to rest than others, especially if we’ve had a busy weekend and I am behind in housework. But, taking a break for a couple hours each week helps me to re-energize and focus on the week ahead.

  •   No laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, just simply rest!

Macaroni & Cheese with Ham and Broccoli

Mac cheese

Guest post by Erin Bradley

Enjoy leftovers in a new way and that your kids and hubby are sure to love! Easy, all-in-one homemade Mac & Cheese with leftover ham (or chicken) and broccoli is a quick weeknight meal that is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters!

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
16oz. dry noodles of choice
1 dash salt for water
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 1 lb. package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 to 2 cups cooked, diced ham or chicken 

Directions:
1.       Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Spray 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2.       Cook noodles according to package directions in lightly salted, boiling water. Drain and return to pot.
3.       While noodles are boiling, whisk together 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. flour over medium heat.
4.       Slowly add 2 cups of milk, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, about ten minutes.
5.       Remove pot from heat and add in 2 cups shredded cheese.  Stir until smooth.
6.       Meanwhile, break apart larger broccoli florets into smaller pieces and place in a medium bowl. Add the meat and mix together.  Pour contents on top of drained noodles. 
7.       Pour cheese mixture on top of noodle mixture and stir well.  Pour entire mixture into baking dish.
8.       Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of mixture.  Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through.  Serves 8

As a wife and working mother of three girls ages 6, 4, and 2, Erin Bradley enjoys embracing the many life experiences that come with raising young children.  Erin seeks to follow and serve the Lord daily while working hard to provide for the needs of her family. Finding new ways of organizing her home and simplifying different areas of her life has become one of her many passions to make more time for the important things.

Tips for Getting Your Family Out the Door on Time!

Guest post by Erin Bradley

This is the second post in a series written to help those who struggle to get out the door on time.  The first post contains tips to be implemented at night.

As a working mom with a swing schedule three days a week, it is imperative for my family to run as smoothly as possible.  Although I may not be able to be home some nights, or in the morning for that matter, I try to help my husband and children prepare for everything they will need for that evening or the next morning before school.  Some of my tips I have been implementing for a long time, and some I recently gathered from an amazing book I read titled The Get Yourself Organized Project: 21 Steps to Less Mess and Stress (2012) by Kathi Lipp.  When applied, they can definitely help you and your family get out the door a little quicker if your family struggles with getting to scheduled activities on time.

In the morning I try to wake up two hours before my leave time.  This gives me plenty of time to spend some alone time with God reading my Bible and devotionals while drinking coffee before really starting my day.  Quiet time with God is so crucial to the outcome of one’s day and should be made a priority. God and I time doesn’t have to take hours, even 15 minutes to half an hour can nourish your spirit and refresh your soul.  The more you learn about God, the more you learn to depend upon and trust Him in your daily struggles.

After getting myself ready, I begin the process of getting my girls ready.  A simple change that helped with my morning routine included setting out my girls’ toothbrushes, complete with toothpaste on them, so they are easily accessible when the girls come in to brush their teeth.

Another idea that has helped in my family is to stagger wake up times for the kids.  My oldest wakes up first, so she starts with breakfast.  When she finishes, I send her to the bathroom to get dressed and ready for the day.  Once completed, I get the baby up and change her diaper, have her eat breakfast, and brush her teeth all the while the oldest is making her bed and getting her shoes on.  My middle daughter loves to sleep in, so after the baby is situated, I will wake up my sleeping beauty and get her going.

After everyone is ready, I allow ten minutes just to get us all out the door and in the car.  An easy way to be sure you’re not running late is to set an alarm to signal when it’s time to begin the load up process.  If you have more than one child, then I’m sure you can relate to this exhausting process!  Our sleeping beauty runs in slow mode in the morning, so we normally get hung up waiting on her to get her coat and shoes on.  Instead of getting frustrated and making the rush more dramatic, I plan ample time for her to get herself prepared to get out the door.  I make the most of my time by buckling the other girls in the car while sleeping beauty finishes up inside.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or work outside the home, these simple tips can help get your morning off to a better start!

As a wife and working mother of three girls ages 6, 4, and 2, Erin Bradley enjoys embracing the many life experiences that come with raising young children.  Erin seeks to follow and serve the Lord daily while working hard to provide for the needs of her family. Finding new ways of organizing her home and simplifying different areas of her life has become one of her many passions to make more time for the important things.

Tips for Getting Your Family Out the Door On Time!

Guest post by Erin Bradley

This is the first post in a two-part series. You can read the second part, which contains tips to help your morning run more smoothly, here.

As a working mom with a swing schedule three days a week, it is imperative for my family to run as smoothly as possible.  Although I may not be able to be home some nights, or in the morning for that matter, I try to help my husband and children prepare for everything they will need for that evening or morning before school.  Some of my tips I have been implementing for a long time, and some I recently gathered from an amazing book I read titled The Get Yourself Organized Project: 21 Steps to Less Mess and Stress (2012) by Kathi Lipp.

When applied, they can definitely be applied to help you and your family get out the door a little quicker if your family struggles with getting to scheduled activities on time. 

1.  Keep a family calendar. 

Whether you print a blank calendar every month (and print your family pictures on it!), get a free one from the church or veteran’s clinic (which is what we do every year), or buy one at the store, just make sure the boxes have plenty of room to write.  

On my calendar, I keep track of the days I’m scheduled to work, my volunteer schedule for church, library story times, girls’ activities and due dates for homework, PTO meeting dates, meals for the evening, what-have-you.   So needless to say, we need a lot of room!  Just be sure the calendar is placed in a room where it can be viewed daily by everyone without being for forgotten.  

Another option is to use Microsoft Outlook for your family’s calendar. “Invitations” can be sent to your spouse, and “Reminders” can be set to alert you of your upcoming appointment.  If you have an iPhone, you can sync the calendar on your phone with your computer which will help to keep track of your appointments and commitments.

My husband is very particular about making sure everything is written on the calendar…if it’s not on the calendar, you’re responsible for any mishaps that occur for forgotten activities!  

2. The night before school/work:

a.  Pack lunches for work and school-if your child is in kindergarten or above, I recommend letting them pack lunch on their own (with your approval) to increase their responsibility and make less work for you. 

b.  Set out clothes and shoes for the next day.  This is a huge time saver!  Also make sure you place the clothes in an easily accessible place, such as the bathroom or a spot on the floor in the bedroom.

c.  Make sure all items needed for school/work are packed in backpacks or purses.  Children should also be responsible for making sure this is complete!  Also, make sure any needed items for your day are in your purse…ie keys and wallet.  Then place these items by the door so they won’t be missed and left behind.

d.  Charge cell phones, laptops and tablets if needed.

e.  Check your gas gauge.  It’s the worst feeling in the world when you are running late for work or school and realize your tank is on empty!  I have gotten into the routine of filling up on Sunday afternoons on my way home from church. 

f.  Make sure your coffee maker is ready for the morning.  Program the timer so you can wake up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee!

g.  If you are planning a freezer meal, make sure the meal is thawing in the fridge or counter.  Set out side dishes that can stay at room temperature such as a can of vegetables, rice, or pasta for easy access.

h.  Run the dishwasher if needed and try to empty it before bed so morning dishes can be placed inside immediately.  

I.  My husband is not the best at fixing the girls’ hair so I try and make sure their hair is done after bathing.  Sleeping in a braid cuts down on knots and tangles and they can easily leave it in for school the next morning.

j. Plan the breakfast meal and set out needed dishes and utensils.  If I leave early in the morning, I will make a plate of French toast sticks before I leave for my oldest child who wakes up starving early in the morning and leave it in the microwave.  The syrup and utensils are out for her already.  All I have to do is pour her a glass of OJ before I leave. 

k.  Check your calendar and/or To-Do List for the next day to be sure nothing is forgotten.  Remind your family about upcoming activities or responsibilities.

l. Lastly, be sure to get to bed on time!  We all know a well-rested mom is a better mom!

So whether you are a stay-at-home mom or work outside the home, applying these tips at night can help get your morning off to a better start!

As a wife and working mother of three girls ages 6, 4, and 2, Erin Bradley enjoys embracing the many life experiences that come with raising young children.  Erin seeks to follow and serve the Lord daily while working hard to provide for the needs of her family. Finding new ways of organizing the home and simplifying different areas of her life has become one of her many passions to make more time for the important things.

Meals on a Budget- Part 1: Planning Your Menu

As a mom to a large family, I am often asked how I feed our family without breaking the bank.  Our grocery budget is $500 per month, which includes not only food, but diapers, paper goods, and personal health and beauty items.  This is the first of a 4-part series in which I will share tips, a sample menu, and recipes. In the final post. I will share about using coupons as a great way to save money each week!
Image

First and foremost, planning is key to reducing not only costs in your food budget, but it also contributes to reduced stress. If you know in advance what you are serving for supper each night, it eliminates the “What’s for dinner?” followed by “Do I have that?” panic that often ensues.

For us, our greatest money saver is through the use of coupons, and I will share a separate post dedicated to couponing. Outside of couponing, planning your menu reduces costs because you are not buying items you already have, throwing out food that is past its expiration, or settling for fast food out of necessity.

I plan our meals a week (or more) in advance, making note of what items I’ll need from the store. You may have a different preference based on your family’s needs, but I write our meals on my calendar so that, during times of being in a “meal rut”, I can look back to the weeks or months before for meal ideas. Another suggestion is to print and laminate a blank menu and use a dry erase marker to fill it in. You can find weekly or monthly menus online, or you can use this one from Organized Home.

It sounds simple enough, but planning a menu that includes a variety of foods can be challenging, especially in a family with many tastes and preferences. One way I handle this is to allow the kids to help plan our menu. I ask each of them what they would like to eat for supper, and I get a general menu plan from their responses.

I have also recently begun teaching my boys, ages 11 and almost 9, how to plan, prepare, and serve meals. This means that they look through a cookbook to choose an entree and use the ingredients in the recipe to go through the pantry and refrigerator to create a grocery list. I also assign them a night to prepare their meal based on our schedule and my availability to assist them.  I typically do not schedule them to cook on nights we are pressed for time.  However, exceptions are made if it is a recipe they have made before or if I am confident they can prepare the meal independently.  Implementing this skill is invaluable to me as a busy mom: I get a couple of nights “off” in the kitchen and they are gaining a needed skill!

Below is a sample menu for my family. I follow three steps in finalizing it.  Step 1: I ask my kids and husband for their input. Step 2: I take stock of the items currently in my refrigerator and freezer. I often purchase my meats in bulk while on sale, so this step is a MUST in order to keep food waste to a minimum. Step 3: I inventory my dry and canned goods. My final menu plan includes the main dish and side items. Doing all of the above helps me to stay within my budget.

 

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Monday

Cereal, Oatmeal, Pancakes PB & J, Party Tray, Yogurt Tacos, refried beans, rice

Tuesday

Same

Same

Lemon pepper chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans

Wednesday

Same

Same

Homamade Tomato Soup, grilled cheese

Thursday

Same

Same

White Chicken lasagna, rolls

Friday

Same

Same

Hamburgers, potato wedges, corn

Saturday

Same

Same

Chinese chicken, egg rolls

Sunday

Same

Same

Leftovers