Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Menu Planning 101= $aving$

One of the best money & time saving tips we do in our house is menu planning!  I have been doing it for years.  We cannot function efficiently without doing it.  I took for granted that everyone did something similar.  However, last summer when I posted something on FB about menu planning, I was surprised of how many people don't do it and even received one request to explain how I do it.  So I thought the new year would be a perfect time for a menu planning tutorial so you can reap the same benefits for your family!

Reasons why I menu plan:
I love organization and having a plan.
Forces us to eat a variety of foods and we eat more healthy. 
Saves money (because we go out to eat alot less and I can plan meals around the shopping ads). 
Saves time.
Less running to the grocery store.
Less impulse buying at the grocery store.
I plan meals according to our schedule (i.e on busy days...simple meals).
Reduces stress, tension and hurriedness. 
We have more friends and family over to our house for meals. 
We try more new dishes, foods, and desserts. 

Over time, I've found it works best for us to plan one week at a time.  But others might find it better to plan 2 weeks or even 1 month at a time, especially those of you who live "West River" and are only able to grocery shop once a month.  :)  No matter how short or long you plan ahead, I guarantee you're home will be happier because you menu plan.

During the school year, I only plan our suppers and weekend meals.  But during summer vacation, I plan lunches, suppers and sometimes even snacks for Josiah. 

First, I review our schedule-- practices, Bible Studies, volunteering, birthday parties, and special occasions or days when I know I'll be gone all day.  I do this so I can account for what nights I need to make an extra simple, or extra early, or even a crock pot meal and/or take a dish/snack if we are invited to someone else's home or if we need to eat leftovers. 

Then, it's kinda weird, but I evaluate the weather forecast because we love to grill ALL YEAR LONG, so I want to know which days will be most favorable to grill.

Next, during the school year, I review what Josiah will be having for lunch so that I don't duplicate meals and avoid him ingesting too much dairy (since he is moderately allergic to dairy).  And if it's summer, then I plan our lunch menu, as well. 

Last, I look at what we had last week or even within the last month, so I can be sure we are having a well rounded diet and don't over-do the same dishes too much.  I also consider cravings or requests from Rob, Josiah and friends we might be inviting over, as well. 

Plan & Write

I like to write our menu plans on a weekly calendar that I buy in the office supply section at Hobby Lobby.  However, Post It notes has a nice one that I have been eyeing at Target, too (above photo).  You could also create your own printable menu plan or find a blank calendar to write it on, as well.  Even a piece of scratch or notebook paper will do! 

Once I know all my "factors", I then sit down with my cookbooks and arsenal of recipes to plan out the week.  I write what we are having on what day and what page # and cookbook I will find the recipe.  After I'm done, I place "the week's cookbooks/recipes" in one special place so that they are easily accessible (since I have ALOT of cookbooks and cooking magazines). 

While I am jotting down our menu plan down I also simultaneously write our grocery list. In order to make grocery shopping even easier, I categorize my list by produce/dried goods/canned goods/cereals & snacks/bakery/baking & spices/dairy/frozen/meat/misc and Sam's.  In fact, I nearly always have a grocery list posted on our refrigerator so I can write things down pantry items as I use them. 

This Week's Menu Plan
Here is a peek at our menu plan for this week. 
  • Thursday:  Roast Beef, Corn, Apple/Lettuce/Marshmallow Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Bread
  • Friday:  Calico Bean Casserole, Broccoli, (left over bread) Pumpkin Pie
  • Saturday: 
    • Breakfast:  Breakfast Sandwiches
    • Lunch:  Grilled Chicken Wings & Tequilaberry Salad
    • Supper:  White Chicken Enchiladas, Spoon bread, Chips & Salsa
  • Sunday: 
    • Lunch:  BLT's, sliced apples with caramel dip
    • Supper:  Chicken Parmesan, Spaghetti, Caesar Salad
  • Monday:  Chicken & Wild Rice Soup, Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Bread
  • Tuesday:  Cinnibake, (left over bread), toss salad
  • Wednesday:  Hawaiian Grilled Chicken & Coconut Rice, Broccoli
  • Thursday: Tomato Tortellini Soup 
  • Friday:  Scalloped Potatoes and Ham, corn, toss salad
 Let me know what recipes you want me to share from this week's menu plan and I'll post 3 of them by Friday!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Magnetic Memo/Picture Frame Board with Glass Gem Magnets

Last Fall I garnered enough interest to start a monthly craft club at my house.  I plan the craft project(s) and then send my friends a supply list so everyone can put their own spin & touches on our creations. Then we gather once a month at my house to craft and create! It's so fun to feed off one another's energy and creativity, share supplies, and just generally catch up on one another's lives. 

This is what my memo/picture board looks like!

Today we made a memo/picture frame out of sheet metal and some 2 X4's and magnets out of flat bottomed glass gems.  I had seen several examples of this craft but struggled to find clear directions on how to make it, so I'll share our tips & techniques to help the rest of you if you want to create 1 or 2 of them yourself. 

Supply List: 
  • Sheet Metal (a 24 X 36 piece was $9.52 in the plumbing department at Lowe's)
  • 2 X 4 (cut to your desired length--we made ours a couple of inches wider than our sheet metal pieces)
  • Large flat bottomed glass beads (a bag of about 30 cost $1 at the Dollar Tree-- the kind for filling vases with)
  • Scrapbook paper
  • tin snips 
  • paint
  • paint brush
  • magnets
  • Mod Podge
  • brayer
  • 9001 glue
  • 1 1/4 circle punch
  • scissors
  • sand paper and file
  • embellishments (ribbon, stickers, etc...)

  1. Cut 2 X 4 according to desired length.  We made ours 1 foot long. 
  2. Using a table saw, cut a 1/2" deep groove about 1" from the front edge. 
  3. Use tin snips to cut sheet metal according to desired length.  We made ours 10 X 10. 
  4. Sand edges of the 2 X 4 with sandpaper and sand the edges of the sheet metal with a file. 
  5. Paint 2 X 4. 
  6. Cover and/or embellish sheet metal piece with scrapbook paper.  We mod podged our paper onto the metal by applying mod podge to our sheets of paper and then adhering it to the metal. Lay it down carefully because it adheres quickly with little or no wiggle room. 
  7. Use a brayer to roll out any bubbles in your paper. 
  8. Using a circle punch, punch out your desired magnet designs out of scrapbook paper. 
  9. Apply a thin layer of mod podge to flat bottom of glass bead and to scrapbook paper. 
  10. Afix the bead and paper together and let it dry. 
  11. Using scissors trim excess paper from sheet metal and glass beads. 
  12. Apply 9001 glue to the back of  your gem/paper and add your magnet.  You only need to use a very small amount. 
  13. Give the 9001 glue sufficient time to dry (about 5 minutes). 
This craft will be perfect for displaying a favorite Bible verse, grocery list, new years resolutions, pictures or recipes. 



Close-up view of my magnets
If you don't want to create the magnetic board the magnets themselves would make a nice small gift for a teacher, hostess, secret sister, etc...

Monday, January 2, 2012

My One Word--- Restore

Happy New Year!  Rob, Josiah and I just got back from a wonderful trip to Nana and Gramps for Christmas!  It was a very special and relaxing vacation and a long overdue one.  We hadn't seen most of Rob's side of the family for three years so it was very fun reconnecting with all of them.  We truly couldn't have asked for a better Christmas! 

While we were gone, I meditated on 2011 and envisioned our family's 2012.  I started to think about my new years resolutions, however I eventually decided I would take a different approach in 2012.  I have decided to pick one word to focus on my character and vision in 2012 versus a whole laundry list of things I hope or want to accomplish.  You can read more details about this exercise at One Word

My "one word" that I have chosen for 2012 is "restore."  Let me explain why...

Our family's past couple of years, three years (to be exact), haven't lived up to our expectations, goals, dreams or desires.  And in 2011 our lives became more chaotic, frustrating, dark, depressing, messy and more out of sorts than anything Rob and I have ever experienced before in our lives. 

I truly question how we were able to find any sort of peace in 2011 when so many circumstances spiraled out of control to achieve any kind of peace.  Storms constantly raged throughout our lives in 2011---broken relationships/friendships, failed business attempt, losing our family pet, child rearing struggles, and serious financial struggles top the list.  At one point, we thought we were moving across country, so I started packing up our house in anticipation of a new beginning, only to be sorting back through all those boxes almost daily because we are still here and the seasons keep changing.  We more or less have been hanging by a thread but we are still hanging on!!!

Despite our stormy circumstances, we celebrated many good things throughout 2011--God protected our health, Mom and Dad sold the store and retired, a special visit from Vikki, Austin and Phoenix to celebrate Josiah and Phoenix's birthdays together, a special Kindergarten year for Josiah at Christian Center Education, Camp Cousin Week, God's provision in many unexpected ways/resources, new friendships and new opportunities, and I was able to stay at home throughout the entire year.  And most recently we enjoyed our first family trip in three years! 

Throughout most of 2011, I confess I was truly lost about what God was up to in my life/our lives. Because we encountered one roadblock after another in 2011, my eyes have become zeroed in on my imperfections and flaws causing myself to be riddled with guilt and fear.  I won't lie, at times the guilt and fear suffocates me.  Therefore, in 2012 I need to restore myself....thus, my "one word" for the year. 

In 2012 I will not allow my days to be defined by failure, messes, stress, busyness or everyday difficulties. My life is hidden in Christ and I know he wants to restore my peace and joy.  So, in 2012 I intend to find myself again and let God find me again!

I desire to be more patient, flexible, joyful, etc... But, I also want to discover what He desires me to be.  For three plus years, I have focused on Rob's desires, dreams, and goals.  I wanted to and was happy doing that for Rob, but throughout that process, I lost myself and my identity. I know God has a lot of unfinished business in my life that is hindering my future.  So, I desire for Him to restore my soul.  In 2012 I want to soak in his love and acceptance and discover what He desires of me.   

I need to return to work, but I do so with a heavy heart.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE being a stay-at-home mom.  But, like most families, we need the extra income so I am contemplating taking a couple of classes to renew my teaching certificate.  But, maybe there is another plan?  Substitute teaching, waitressing, etc... I don't know... I would covet your prayers about this decision. 

All I know TODAY is that I desire to be transformed and restored by God's grace.  I want to put the voices of failure, condemnation, doubt, fear behind me and begin to embody my "one word"-- restore. I need a spiritual makeover to smooth out the rough edges and touch up my life. 

I deeply desire God to restore me in a fresh anew as it says in Colossians 3:3:  "Your old life is dead.  Your NEW life, which is your REAL life-- even though invisible to spectators- is with Christ in God.  He is your life." 

Only God knows how He is going to use my "one word"-- "restore"-- in my life in 2012.  Who knows all the ways He plans to restore my being?  But, I will keep you informed of my vulnerable journey. 

I would love others to join me on this "one word" journey.  Check out the One Word website and think about it!