2018 is here and if I could only have one goal for the new Year, I would have to choose to reduce stress. I know, who wouldn’t like to be less stressed, right? But, seriously, stress can affect your life in so many ways- think physical, mental, and emotional health- so aiming to reduce stress should be a lofty goal all of us strive for.
However, saying we should try to be less stressed is not as easy as it should be- especially for us busy mommas! Between family, work, and all of the other obligations I have, finding time for me is often more difficult than I like. This means that I let myself slip between the cracks more times than I should.
I figure that I’m not the only momma who feels this way, so I compiled a list of easy, and cheap, ways to reduce stress for busy mommas.
1. Learn to meditate.
Meditation can help reduce stress, help with concentration, help with self awareness, and increase happiness. That’s a lot of benefits! Plus, meditation does not have to take a lot of your time. I always thought that you needed to meditate for hours at a time in order for it to be effective (I have no idea why I thought that.). However, just setting aside a few minutes a day can help drastically change your mood.
Afraid that it wont work for you? There are plenty of free resources online or at your local library and on Amazon Prime to help you determine if this is a way for you to reduce stress. I started my research online and then found some materials on Amazon.
“Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy.” Thank you Legally Blonde. There are several options to make this feasible for you. You can work out at home following different personalities on YouTube, Facebook, or even Amazon Prime for free. Or you can always go to your local library and check out workout DVD’s. Many gyms also give free memberships for a specific amount of time to lure customers in. You can try different gyms, machines, and routines to see what works for you without spending a dime. Plus- many gyms have free childcare for members! Your kids can be playing and socializing while you reduce stress! Win-win!
3. Find a hobby.
I know that it seems like I’m forgetting about the busy part but hear me out. I write when I’m stressed. Right now I’m writing this on my phone while my husband drives me to work. By the time I get there I will feel less stressed (even if it is minimally) and be able to focus on my job. I also write with my kiddos. Two of my girls are creating their own content because they want their own blogs. While I definitely don’t get as much written with my chatterboxes as I do when writing alone, it is a way to relax and bond with my babies.
Try making a list of activities you enjoy doing. They don’t have to be complicated or cost money to do. Do you enjoy reading? You can squeeze in 10-15 minutes to read before bed. What about skydiving? Schedule yourself a jump once a month. A hobby is not necessarily something you do every single day.
4. Take time for you.
The only thing this costs you is your time. Take a bath after the kids are down. Or, maybe you just need to go take a nap. Ooooh, a nap.
Want to read a book? Schedule yourself 15 minutes 3 times a week and take that time to read that book. Even if you are just doing it while you are sitting in the car line, or right after the kids go to bed take this time for yourself. I have even heard a rumor that some people are morning people and like to get up before the kids to do things for themselves! I’m not one of those people but I have met some.
Going back to the previous way to reduce stress, perhaps you would like to take a class to develop a new hobby. Do it! Invest in yourself. Your family will thank you.
5. Take time to enjoy your kiddos.
I remember that during a time we had something like 12 weeks in a row of not having a weekend that wasn’t booked solid with activities for the kids. One weekend we decided that we need to just take time for ourselves. After canceling any premade plans, we loaded the kids in the van and drove to the beach. My husband and I relaxed in the sun while the kids built sandcastles and soaked each other with squirt guns in the surf. We ate sandwiches and chips while our youngest marveled at the seagulls. Staying until the sun relaxed into the Gulf of Mexico, we felt refreshed as the kids fell asleep on the drive home.
Now, obviously not everyone lives within driving distance to the beach. Check out National Parks, or even city parks, near you. It doesn’t have to cost money or even be far to relax with your kids. Rent a movie and build a fort in your living room!
Are there any other ways that you reduce stress in your life? Leave ideas in the comments!
Check out: My meal planning mini series to reduce stress when planning meals! Start with PART 1 HERE.
If your family is anything like mine, there are lots of turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving. It isn’t like we didn’t eat a lot of it, as there is plenty of photographic evidence of over-stuffed tummies to prove otherwise. But I make a very large bird to ensure that we have plenty after our feast. This is a strategic move. If I didn’t make more turkey than necessary, how could we have turkey taquitos the day after Thanksgiving? That would be a travesty!
Turkey taquitos are probably tied for family favorite dinner with Yo Momma Romma Chicken and my easy Sausage, Potatoes, and Onion dinner. We have very diverse taste buds in my family. But while these dinners seem to have nothing in common, they actually share two important qualities- simple and quick.
Another plus for this dinner is that I usually use the dark meat that no one particularly wants on Thanksgiving. I shred it up and no one even notices. Waste not, want not, amirite?
Here is your quick, cheap, and simple solution to using those Thanskgiving turkey leftovers!
Shredded turkey (dark or light meat)
Shredded cheese (I use mozzarella for mine because I love that mixture with turkey. However, I use Colby jack for everyone else.)
Reheat some of your turkey in an oven safe dish with a little of the broth to keep it from drying out, and add some extra flavor).
After heated through, pull turkey out and shred.
Coat the bottom of a nonstick pan with vegetable oil.
(I use a pan similar to this one. It can be very frus-
trating if you use the wrong pan! Trust me!)
Heat pan at medium heat while you shred the cheese.
Check to make sure your corn tortillas are not stiff. If they are place about 5-7 tortillas in between a couple of paper towels, sprinkle some water on them, and microwave for about 10 seconds. You want the tortillas to be pliable but not tearing apart.
Lay the tortillas flat and place some turkey towards one end.
Sprinkle some cheese on top of the turkey. You may fill the tortilla as full as you would like, but remember you are going to be rolling them before you fry them.
Start at the end with the stuffing and roll the tortillas.
Place the tortillas in the hot grease very carefully, seam-side down. You should try to hold it for a moment to make sure the taquito does not unroll. You can use a spoon if you are nervous. (Tip- if they come unrolled you can just turn it into a taco. I had a few tacos last night.)
Only place three or four in the pan at a time to ensure even cooking.
Use two forks to flip the turkey taquitos after you notice the side in the oil is starting to get golden, about 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
After all sides are golden, remove from pan and sprinkle with salt.
Serve with whichever sides you would like.
If you do not have a lot of turkey left, sprinkle some corn, blackbeans, chopped onion and red pepper into the cheese and turkey mixture for some delicious southwestern style turkey taquitos!
Make a big batch and reheat for lunch or dinner the next day. You can nuke them in the microwave or heat them in the oven. My family has even been known to eat them cold for breakfast!
The holidays are coming, and if you are like me you may be starting to panic just a little bit. I start out each year with this big plan to save money each month and pick up little sales items throughout the year. Then November comes and I’m like, oops! If you can relate (surely I am not the only procrastinator around here!), here are some ways that you can make some extra money for those “last minute” presents.
For The Crafty Mommas…..
Oh, this is soooo the time that you start organizing and honing your craft! Plenty of people want to buy unique decorations, jewelry, or other crafts around the holidays (me!). Not only do people enjoy purchasing festive decorations for their own homes, but many like to gift one-of-a-kind items as well.
If you think you may be crafty, but are running dry on ideas check out my Pinterest board for Christmas decor. The majority of them are homemade because that is all that my budget allows for this year. All of them are super cute, but only a few of mine (hopefully, anyway) will not be Pinterest fails. A lot of people will pay to have homemade décor and gifts that are not, well, fails.
Places to sell your crafts include, but are not limited to:
For The Creative Mommas
If you enjoy writing, try freelancing or blogging. Now, let me go ahead and warn that typically it takes time to make money from writing and/or blogging. I have heard some of those wonderful stories where people start writing and their career takes off. But for most people, this is not the norm.
See if your local publications will accept submissions from freelancers, or search online for publications that pay for submissions. My first submission was accepted in less than a week! But then I froze up and have only pitched two other articles since (in two years).
As for blogging, you will need to think of how you want to monetize your blog. Do you have a service that you want to offer, such as web design or stock images? Or are you wanting to help people by sharing a part of yourself? I have a friend who strives to help women slay their goals so she created a Slay Your Goals Planner. She not only blogs inspirational content, but created a product to help others and make money!
Would you be interested in utilizing affiliate marketing to make money (that link to the planner- an affiliate link!)? Would you consider g ads on your page to earn you extra income, or are you completely against them? You have to consider if you want to self host (which I would recommend if you want to make money. I use Bluehost.), or if you are planning on using a free platform. Like I said before, blogging can take a long time before you see any money but I had to mention it just in case you could be one of those rock stars straight out of the gate. Plus, you can always start now in order to be prepared for next year!
Another interesting way to make some extra money is to take old beat up furniture, give it new life, and then sell it for more than you have invested. Think Flea Market Flip on HGTV. You can either go out and buy used furniture from flea markets or garage sales, or you can look at furniture that you have that you may not want/need anymore.
For The Not Crafty, Not Creative, But Still In Need of Extra Money Mommas….
Think outside of the box. There are plenty of ways for you to make extra money for the holidays even if you don’t fit into the categories above.
Are you good at wrapping presents? People like me would gladly pay for someone to wrap gifts for me. Not only do I get aggravated trying to even get the stupid tape to stick to the stupid present instead of my stupid fingers, but it looks like my toddler did the work instead of an adult woman. I mean seriously, it’s bad.
Babysit for people while they Christmas shop. Sometimes it can be nearly impossible to find time to shop without your kids- especially if you are a busy momma with a large family. Figure out how much money you would be willing to pay for some quiet shopping time ( and maybe a latte all by yourself, if we are going to dream) and charge that price. Just check out your local laws regarding day care services- some states have strict guidelines. There are different places to advertise, as well. I belong to several supportive mom groups on Facebook that allow for advertising posts on certain days. Many of my local stores have bulletin boards for people to advertise on, as well. And, don’t forget your friends! Word of mouth is always a great idea!
If you enjoy working with kids, tutor. I know, right now you are wondering what tutoring has to do with the holidays. Well, a lot of school districts have the end of the semester right before winter break. High school students, especially, may need extra help to get their grades up in order to get credit.
Why You Should Make Extra Money (Even If You Don’t Need It)
Now that Halloween is over, and the skulls and gravestone displays are being replaced by jolly fat men and designer trees, it is a good time to begin thinking of ways to make some cash for the holidays. Even if you don’t necessarily need extra money, wouldn’t it be nice if you could have some in your wallet after the holidays?
Think about what you could do with a surplus budget after the holidays!
You can actually do something for yourself! I know, sometimes that seems impossible for us mommas. Or maybe it is the last thing that you would even think of doing. My husband just recently reminded me that I have not purchased any new clothing for myself lately. I am so guilty of saying that I am going shopping for me and then get sucked into a good sale at one of my favorite children’s stores. If you don’t need anything new, try a new experience! Never been to a spa? Go! Wanted to try skydiving but never had a sitter? Splurge! Yes, there is a pretty big leap from getting a facial to leaping out of a plane. But think outside of the box!
Do something for you and your significant other. Hire a sitter and go dancing! Or try that new comedy club that you heard great things about! Perhaps you haven’t slept without a kiddo in between you in forever. Find a sitter and take a nap!
Throw it on some debt. Make an extra car payment. Pay off a credit card. You never know when you are going to be thanking yourself for being so resourceful. Check out my post on how to create a budget.
Save it! We don’t have a crystal ball, so we don’t know what is in store for us in the future. Having a cushion can really save you some sanity if something unfortunate was to happen.
Are there any ways that you like to make extra money? Give us some ideas in the comments!
We all know parenting is hard. We read it in every form of print; watch it in every form of media. We live it. Every. Single. Day. But, admittedly, there is one particular time of day that has been especially challenging for me as a momma – finding a bedtime routine.
However- finally, finally, FINALLY, FINALLY, I have found a bedtime routine that has saved my sanity. And it is not even all that difficult! Can you sense my excitement? But let’s start at the beginning.
I Am Not An Expert
“How? How do you get them asleep?” My friend was pleading, her new-mother, sleep-deprived, desperate voice coming loud and clear through the phone. It was after midnight and I was her final lifeline. Only, I was the worst choice for a savior of sleep.
“Mine don’t sleep,” I meekly replied as my youngest girl peered silently around the corner at me. “You know they don’t!” I protested before yelling to my daughter to, once again, go to bed.
I was not exaggerating. My youngest girl is notorious for fighting sleep. We have tried everything. I have read books, listened to podcasts, begged, borrowed and stole every method I could possibly get my hands on. Yet, every night she was silently clawing her way back into my bed. And eventually, I stopped trying to fight it.
Even if I was a failure at establishing a bedtime routine, at least if she was sleeping in my bed- she was ASLEEP!
The Final Straw
It was a Monday morning, sunny and warm as most of our mornings are here in the South. I should have felt refreshed and rested after the weekend. Only, when my alarm went off, I had not even had four hours of sleep- less than two of which were consecutive. I was starting my week off even more exhausted than I had finished the previous week.
To compound matters- it was a big week. Unnegotiable meetings at work; multiple (necessary) doctor’s appointments for more than one family member; and family obligations that I could not wiggle out of.
And then…..right before I walked out the door, our middle daughter began vomiting. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. I couldn’t take it anymore and knew that needed to do something, and quick! There was no way that I could continue going on as a mommy zombie.
The Bedtime Routines That Were Not Working
After trying several methods, I decided to take a backwards approach. I started thinking about what was NOT working. Bath time immediately before bedtime? Not effective. Walking after dinner? Negative. Letting them choose a bedtime story? Ummmm….no.
But these things all had more than being a waste of time in common. These strategies were stimulating my child, instead of winding her down. Since she was one of five kids, this also meant my other children were galvanized. We all know that kids feed off of each other, and in large families that can lead to a very, very long night.
So, since I was not being effective in the “expert” ways of establishing a bedtime routine, I committed to making a list of opposites. I was going against the grain; going rogue.
The Bedtime Routine That Saved My Sanity
That entire week I shook up our evening routines. We got home and completed homework and resumed normal play for the littlest kids. We finished whatever chores we had. But, before dinner was finished, we went for a walk instead of waiting until after we had eaten.
We are fortunate to live in a relatively slower neighborhood in the outskirts of town. We have empty fields full of wildlife, and virtually no traffic. The kids run up and down the block, socializing with whoever else is outside or chasing birds and bunnies, while I walk behind. They get plenty of exercise and have a blast while doing it.
After terrorizing the neighborhood, we went straight into our bath time rituals. They could smell dinner and were getting hungry which made bath time actually go more smoothly than the nights that we waited until right before bed. I didn’t have to beg or threaten to get anyone out of the tub!
Then came dinner. By now it was later than they were used to eating, but there was still plenty of time left until bedtime. (There are a ton of reasons that children shouldn’t eat right before going to sleep, but we have a child that has night terrors so we definitely try to avoid it.) Comfy in their pajamas, the kiddos ate and then scampered off to play quietly or watch TV (I know, shame on us!) until 30 minutes before bedtime.
Then came story time. Now notice, I did not say reading time. I will reiterate that I am a huge advocate of reading to your children. I still read books that interest even my older kids (such as The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe) so that they can hear how I use inflection, etc. However, now I am reading to them during homework time. When it is time to go to bed, I am telling a story. I am using my kiddos as the main characters and allow for suggestions. But while I am telling the story, we have already turned down the lights. It is dark and calm, with less stimulation. I tell them to close their eyes and imagine the story instead of them fighting to investigate the pictures in a book.
Pretty clever way to get their eyes closed right?
Then it is kisses and hugs, more kisses and hugs, and then time to go to sleep. And it has happened!!!! They have been going to sleep….and staying asleep!
How To Make A Bedtime Routine Work For You
Here is your action plan.
Jot down what your evening typically looks like. Do you have routines? Does your family eat at the same time every night, or are meals planned around extra curricular activities, errands, etc.? Do you have a set bedtime? Busy families have a lot going on, but there are ways that you can try to come up with a routine. Studies show that kids do better with a routine. If you need help coming up with one, email me or leave a comment below. We can figure this out!
Evaluate what you have tried that didn’t work. Have you tried reading books? This works for many families. I just found that it wasn’t working for me. Have you tried bath time right before bed? Again, many people swear by soothing lavender baths before bed. Just not a solution for my family.
Determine what you can change. Can you try establishing a new routine? Maybe try telling stories instead of reading a book. Not creative? Google short stories and retell them using your kids as the main characters. Or, even easier, retell one of their favorite shows or movies using your kids as the main characters. I usually have my stories last about 5 minutes and then leave with a cliffhanger.
Don’t give up! IF at first you don’t succeed, try again! But give it a few days to a week before switching things up. It is only tried it for one night and said forget it.
Do you have a bedtime routine that works for you? Let us know in the comments. You never know who you might help!
Halloween is coming soon and if you are not careful, the scariest part of the creepiest holiday could be the cost of all of the costumes! The sticker shock of some costumes can make any parent faint in fear. But, have no fear! I am here to save the holiday. I have collected seven ways to save money on Halloween costumes for kids, and the best part is most can be applied to saving your budget on adult costumes too!
7 Ways to Save Money on Halloween Costumes for Kids
Save your Halloween costumes to use as hand-me-downs.
All of my girls have wanted to be a witch at least once. All of them have shared the same basic costume, but with little tweaks to emphasize their unique personalities. My oldest daughter was the cutest mean witch- with blood red lips and a gigantic wart on her nose. We used a pick and a ton of that glitter hairspray to make her curly hair stand on end and she was DARLING! My middle daughter was a star witch. We added some sparkly tulle adorably decorated with shiny stars. We made a broom out of tulle similar to this one and somehow stumbled upon a clearance witch’s hat that resembled her skirt so much you would have no idea we didn’t purchase the skirt and hat as a set! This year, my youngest daughter is going to be a Hello Kitty witch. It is an actual costume that I purchased (at a discount shop), but will be recycling the same broom as soon as I convince my hubby to find it in the attic. Another costume that has made the way down the ranks is the ninja.
Don’t “discount” discount shops!
Seriously. The aforementioned Hello Kitty Witch costume is still brand new in the package. It comes with the dress and the hat, and cost SEVEN dollars. What?!!!! I bought it at this store that is set up in an old warehouse. The closeout shop is only open during specific hours and reminds me of the love child of a outlet store and a flea market. I actually was hesitant to enter this place because I am not always fond of outlet stores. While I will never, ever claim to be the most organized person, I do prefer for the stores I shop in to be organized. I typically find that some of the outlet malls or stores are difficult for me to navigate, and thus a waste of time. However, if you are trying to get a big bang for a little buck, discount shops are the way to shop for Halloween costumes!
Buy used Halloween costumes.
I know that some people really see this as a faux paux. I’m not one of those people! In order to save money, I’ll scour Craig’s List for costumes and/or props. I also belong to many of those “mom” groups on Facebook. You know the ones- supportive, swap, or sell groups. Just like the discount stores, some of these Facebook groups can be difficult to navigate and/or trust. Sometimes people do not represent their “product” correctly, or can do other actions (such as raise a price) that are not agreeable. If you do not feel safe, DO NOT DO IT! I typically meet in a public place, without my kids, and escorted by my husband. If you prefer more secure methods of purchasing used costumes, consignment shops are a great option. I have also scored some super cute Halloween costumes at garage sales for a steal!
Shop for clearance Halloween costumes.
This does not necessarily mean shopping the year before, but that can definitely be a good way to save some serious cash. I will take the kids shopping when the Halloween outfits (and decorations) prices are slashed. This usually means that the aisles are pretty picked over, and most likely a monster of a mess (See what I did there? Monster? That’s funny!), but sometimes you can find some serious steals. I will let them pick out a tentative outfit for the following year if the price is right and the size seems plausible. If their tastes change between now and the following Halloween (yes, it can happen), then I can sell the costume that I bought for 90% off for more than I purchased it on Craig’s List or one of those Facebook mom sites. Win-win!
Be creative and make your own!
Oh, don’t check out just yet! I am not suggesting you tackle sewing, painting, and bedazzling (Still a thing, right?) in order to create the BEST. COSTUME. EVER. But, use your imagination and bargaining skills a little bit. One of my girls wants to be an angel this year. I already had the wings and halo from about six years ago, but could not reuse the dress. Hellllllo discount store. I bought her the “perfect” (her words, not mine) white dress at Burlington Coat Factory for less than 13 bucks. D.O.N.E. Sprinkle her with some glitter and she is ready to go. However, I have to dress up at work this year- with my team. All of our costumes are going to revolve around a theme. Do you think that we are going to spend a bunch of money? No!!!! We got on Pinterest and had a great time trying to figure out what we were going to make for cheap (as in less than $5, cheap). You can even layer different items of clothing for a quick no-sew fix. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to all things Halloween.
Swap costumes with another budget conscious momma.
I have done this a couple of times and it was awesome! I lent a Star Wars costume to a friend that had a son that was dying to be Darth Vader. The following year she lent us a Ninja Turtles costume. As long as it is someone you know will take care of your stuff (and return it), then this is a great money saving option!
Sell your old costumes to offset the price of new ones.
Remember those places that I suggested you search for used costumes? Those are also great places to unload your unwanted costumes! My warnings from before are also applicable here- only do what makes you feel safe. Like I said earlier, I will buy clearance outfits and sell them the following year. I also have bought costumes at a garage sale and sold them for more money.
Hopefully these tips made Halloween a little less frightening, at least to your budget! Do you have any other tips that I didn’t think of? If so, leave them in the comments!
Here at Momma Making Moves we concentrate on saving money, time, and sanity. However, I will be the first to say that in order to accomplish this, we need to continue to learn and try new things. With that being said, I have to make a confession…
Couponing can be more than a little bit scary to me.
There! I said it! While I advocate doing what is necessary to save money, especially for us big families, I have just recently jumped on the couponing bandwagon. And I am going to share one more little secret…
I may not know much about couponing, but I know how to find good bloggers who do!
Tiffany at The Crazy Shopping Cart not only explains everything you need to know about couponing, but offers great resources to help you be successful. Annnnnd, she agreed to guest post on Momma Making Moves to explain couponing 101 to us. Here is her advice!
When you hear the word “couponing,” what do you think of?
For me, I remember my mother sitting every Sunday evening at the kitchen table, intently pouring over the weekly ads and clipping the newspaper coupons. She spent hours each week preparing and executing each shopping trip, only to save a few dollars. (Although, a couple of dollars was quite a lot of money back in…..well, let’s just say that when I was kid, it was quite a few years ago!)
This image is what came to my mind two years ago when, at a church activity focused on emergency preparedness, a woman in our church raised her hand and stated she used couponing to help build an emergency supply of food to have on hand in her home. I started to tune her out until she said, “I haven’t paid more than $.50 for a box of Cheerios in years, and I always get my toothpaste and shampoo for free.”
Couponing With the Internet
After that meeting, several of us surrounded her and begged her to teach us her ways. I braced myself for hours of work, repeating that it would be worth it. Imagine my surprise when our first meeting with her took less than 30 minutes, and I ended up saving over 50% on my groceries that week!
What makes the difference between my mother’s way of couponing and my own? Two words: the Internet!
Now, instead of having to find each deal on your own when the Sunday paper comes out, someone else has most likely already had an early edition of the ad and upcoming coupons, done a matchup, and posted it on the internet to share! What used to take hours of work to clip and catalogue coupons, read ads, and prepare shopping lists is now already completed several days before the sales actually begin!
In fact, there are now so many different websites, blogs, Instagram accounts, etc. that focus on couponing, it’s a bit overwhelming! When I first began couponing, I felt adrift in a sea of acronyms and phrases that were more like a foreign language than English. Thankfully, my friend from church walked me through it all until I was confident enough to go on my own. And now, two years later, I even blog about it!
Couponing can be very simple, if you follow the steps and go slow. Here are some steps to help you along the way:
Get coupons. You can purchase the Sunday paper each week, or there are even some websites where you can order pre-clipped coupons mailed to your door!
Start learning coupon terms, slang, and rules. It’s extremely important to recognize that there are rules to couponing.
Pick a grocery store that you already shop at and feel comfortable with. Chances are, there is a website or Facebook group that is dedicated to that store! They will provide you with lists of deals each week, matching up coupons with sales to help you get the best deal.
Choose just one or two deals that you want to try out. Perhaps something that you would normally purchase anyway (like diapers or cereal), collect the necessary coupons, and go try it out!
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help! If you get to the store and feel lost, just slow down. I found it helpful at checkout to tell the cashier something like, “Hi! I have some coupons to use today. I’m new to couponing and haven’t really done this before. Please let me know if I’ve messed anything up.” They’ll be very happy to help you out!
Continuing With Couponing
After the first few trips, as you start to get the hang of one or two deals, you can then start doing more. Please, please go at a pace that you feel comfortable with. It’s so easy with today’s technology to see posts on couponing Facebook groups of amazing hauls that cost almost nothing and feel like you are so far away from that. I used to feel that way, too! In fact, I still make mistakes sometimes! Just last week, I messed up my coupon count and ended up losing out on $10 of savings. It was pretty disappointing, but since it was something I normally needed anyways (diapers), I reminded myself that any savings on something I would already buy is better than the full-price I would have otherwise paid!
If you’re still feeling nervous or overwhelmed about couponing, you’re in good company! I can’t count the number of times I received emails or Facebook messages from people who just feel lost with couponing. To help them (and you!) get a firmer understanding, I’ve put together a free ebook: it’s called “The Beginner’s Guide to Couponing,” and it walks you through all of the different steps I mentioned above. You’ll learn all about where to get coupons, how to organize them, what the coupon rules are, coupon lingo, and so much more!
How To Find More Information
You can find Tiffany’s ebook (and so, so much more about couponing) at The Crazy Shopping Cart. I plan on utilizing her ebook when my hubby and I sit down to do our meal planning tomorrow. If you want ideas on how you can save money on meals for your family, go snag her ebook and then check out my series on meal planning here.
Tiffany is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals! She and her husband, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart. They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi, and saving money.
Welcome to the final post of Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families. If you have not read part 1 or part 2, please start there. No one likes to start school already owing homework! This part will focus on meal planning on a budget. So get ready meal planning mommies….we are going to have you saving money and time by meal planning today!
Where we left off…..
Your job was to have a family meeting and decide some of your family favorites. No meals were to be left out, including snacks. Snacks are important because, even if they are small, they can be total budget busters! We also decided collectively that glitter was not to be included, much to the chagrin of my youngest girl.
Where do I start meal planning?
Well, technically, you already started. By creating a list of your family’s meals, you have a visual of what you like. Now we are going to fill in any empty slots.
Are there any recipes that you would like to introduce? If your family likes breaded chicken, can you top it with some tomato sauce and mozzarella, and throw it over pasta? Or if your family really loves lasagna but you think it is too time consuming, can you try a skillet version? (I think that I may be in the mood for some Italian!)
Making a list of your family’s favorite meals was the beginning. Now, look through your fridge, cupboards, and pantry.
What meals do you already have most of the ingredients for? What family staples are you missing? Are there any meals that you can make without grocery shopping?
Why is this a good idea? you ask. Well, let me count the ways….
It saves you money. Obviously a win!
It saves you time. If you already have the ingredients you don’t have to spend the time going to the store. Also a win!
It saves your sanity. Duh! Not spending money and avoiding the grocery store. Hat-trick for the win!
If you already have the ingredients handy, it is most likely because all those people in your house eat them!
I’m started! What’s next in meal planning?
Now, look at those family favorites. (If you struggled with creating a list, check out my Pinterest board for large families here .) What ingredients are you missing? Are they feasible for your budget? What do you have room for? What are your goals (planning for a couple of days, a week, a couple of weeks, a month)?
Yeah, I know I promised baby steps. And easy. Now it may seem like I am asking you for a whole resume. I’m really not.
YOU. CAN. DO. THIS!
But let’s take this one step at a time.
What ingredients are you missing for your favorite meals?
Now, when I first started I noticed I had a lot of potatoes, pasta, and rice. Yes, I have a carb problem. I like potatoes (except sweet potatoes) any which way you can make them. Pasta- well, my Italian roots are strong. And rice, rice can be enhanced by so many things!
I also had some chicken thighs in my freezer because anytime my local grocery store has buy one get one, we cook one and put one up (if you don’t like thighs I will give you some amaaaaazing and easy recipes), a couple packages of Italian sausage, and various frozen veggies (if we can’t buy fresh we buy frozen-in bulk of course).
I had most of the ingredients for three of our favorite meals- chicken tacos (only missing sour cream), chicken and noodles, and spaghetti and sausage. But one thing that you definitely want to consider is which foods were going to spoil first. We needed to probably incorporate the potatoes into some meals before the end of the week. So I switched spaghetti to Italian sausage, potatoes, and peppers (a twist on my amazing sausage recipe).
Dinner for three nights was essentially covered. Now onto lunch. I like to start with dinner because I often take leftovers with me for my lunch. Our kids prefer peanut butter and strawberry jelly (needed more bread), chips, juice, some type of fruit (we buy whatever is on sale and had a whole bag of apples), and fruit snacks. I planned on leftovers and my hubby decided he was craving tuna sandwiches. Not too shabby!
Breakfast gets interesting. Three out of five kids eat breakfast at school. My husband enjoys eggs (needed) and some type of breakfast meat (sausage patties were on sale that week). The younger kids rotate between cereal and eggs. I, however, am not a big breakfast person so I change up what I eat and try to incorporate protein. That week I had refried beans in the pantry so I decided on bean and cheese burritos (needed cheese).
Snacks! Can’t forget them. Looking at my list I decided on cheese and crackers and apple slices dipped in peanut butter. Easy, peasy.
We can’t forget other things that may be essential to your week. This can include drinks (we always need milk), condiments (somehow we also always need ketchup and olive oil), or treats. No one said meal planning on a budget required you to take away the sweets!
Summing up my meal planning.
Let’s check if I checked all of the questions.
What ingredients are you missing? Listed. Check!
Are they feasible for your budget? This time absolutely was. Check!
What do you have room for? Everything on my list AND more! But instead of wasting part of my budget on things I had room for but did not need, I reserved that part of my budget for the next grocery trip (next time I was going to need some meat). Check!
What are your goals (planning for a couple of days, a week, a couple of weeks, a month)? I was planning for three days. I have found meal planning for three or four days at a time works best for my family, so- check! (If you plan on doing it once a week, choose a predetermined date to plan for the following week.)
And voila! We are meal planning on budget like pros. If you have any questions leave them here in the comments. Also, leave some of your suggestions. Have a favorite meal? Definitely leave that! I am always looking for new recipes.
But we also agreed that we don’t know what works until we try. Then, I explained why I tried (and how I failed at) meal planning. I did, however, find a way to successfully begin meal planning for my family- saving me money, time, and more than a little bit of sanity. I explained all this and all you had to do was commit to trying something new.
Well, yesterday I did all the work. Today, you get to do some work.
What is meal planning?
Simply speaking, meal planning is deciding what you are going to eat. See! Not scary at all! We do this every day for every meal. Only, with meal planning you are not waiting until you are hungry. You are thinking about it at a predetermined date (more about this later), and considering every meal- not just what you are craving for that moment.
It does NOT have to be super specific, though. This was where I made my first mistake. Obviously some details are necessary- “Dinner” written on a scrap piece of paper does not constitute meal planning. However, “chicken breast, mashed potatoes, veggie” on a piece of paper pinned to the fridge would suffice if you have various veggies available at home and a cupboard full of spices.
I am one of those people that may come home after work and not want Italian chicken. Or, perhaps I have heartburn (no, no more babies!) and the thought of Cajun chicken makes me want to die. As long as I have other spices and staples in my pantry, it will be okay! I feel like I need to say this because these exact situations helped me be discouraged with my meal planning at first. I don’t want this to happen to you.
However, if you need that type of structure- do what is right for you! Meal planning can be as rigid or flexible as your family needs it to be. I don’t care if you need to measure out how much of protein each person is getting to the ounce! Do what works for you!
What is my next step?
If you have a significant other, discuss with them how long you plan on meal planning for. This is actually really important, and if no one else tells you that there is NO correct answer, I will! This was seriously crucial to my family’s success.
While everyone told me that I need to plan for at least a week, we struggled. We do have a deep freezer in the garage, but we only have one fridge. Sometimes, one fridge cannot hold all of our necessary items (such as milk) for the week. It made me feel slightly discouraged. Then I talked to a friend. After listening to my vent, she asked me why I wasn’t satisfied that we were at least planning for a couple of days.
Were we still not saving time? Most importantly, were we not still saving money? The answer was yes to both questions. I kinda felt a little bit foolish.
The research that I was reading did not take in to account the size of my family. I think that this may be a trending situation for larger families. We may have a lot of mouths, but that does not mean that we have a lot of space. (Spoiler alert- we shop for staples once a week, and necessities as needed- usually twice a week.)
Have a family meeting. This decision is not going to just affect you. In order for meal planning to actually be effective for your family, your family needs to be involved. We started the initial conversation without the kiddos, and then brought them in. Our first question was, “What are your favorite dinners?” and the conversation went a little like this-
Kid 1, teenage boy- “Meat. And shrimp. And seafood.”
Kid 2, preteen girl- “Everything that he did not say.”
Kid 3, 5 yo girl- “Tacos and spaghetti. Can I have both for my birthday?”
Kid 4- 4 yo girl- “Glitter. No wait, red glitter!”
Kid 5- 2 yo boy- “No!”
Okay, it is not verbatim, but it is pretty damn close. The last three kids are actually verbatim, hence the reason why my daughter is not allowed anywhere near glitter without my supervision.
But you get my point. If you do not take into account what your family actually likes to eat, you are shooting down the possibility of successfully meal planning before you even get started.
Don’t stop at dinner, though. In order to effectively avoid the grocery store for any amount of time you need to consider alllll of your meals. This includes snacks for every member of your family.
What is my homework for now?
Okay, maybe that wasn’t your next question. But it does not excuse you from your homework. Make a running list of all your family’s favorite meals- breakfast, lunch dinner, AND snacks. Don’t worry about ingredients or planning. This is baby steps people! If you need some ideas check out my Pinterest board on meals for large families.
Don’t forget to ask any questions in the comment section and go to Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Made Easy Part 3.
How many times have you heard, “Ugh! Chicken again?” Or, how many times have you received a text from your other half asking you what you had planned for dinner, even if it was their turn to handle it? (Don’t worry, we’ll save that convo for a whole other post!) Well, let me tell you that there really is a way to have these annoying interactions happen less frequently- and you have heard of it before! Meal planning!
Why should you try meal planning?
I know, right now you may be rolling your eyes at me. Believe me, I get it. Meal planning for busy moms is hard enough. Throw into the mix that we have multiple mouths to feed, all with their own little quirks and opinions, and the phrase “meal planning” almost seems like a fantasy. At one point, the only way that I was meal planning was remembering which pizza place we ordered from last. It was expensive, unhealthy, and honestly time consuming in it’s own right.
Ain’t nobody got time for all that!
So instead of throwing your hands up in the air and saying you are too busy for meal planning, take a breath and think about it this way- if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work! At least you tried! But, in all honesty, I am sure that I can help you (and that you can help me). And to make it easy, we are going to do this in baby steps! Tonight, the only thing that you need to commit to is telling yourself that you are going to try something new.
Why did I try (and fail at) meal planning?
Truthfully, I did not plan on meal planning. It was kind of a circumstance of necessity. When budgeting for our meals, we figured out that buying most of our grocery list was cheaper when bought in bulk. At first, I promised myself that I was going to take what was needed for the meal I had planned for that evening out, and bag the rest of it up. I pictured myself creating this terrific organization method of frozen bags and we would just be the happiest family ever!
Yeah, that didn’t happen. Number one- I am kind of busy. I didn’t like taking my precious time separating the meat and veggies into various piles. Number two- I forgot to buy bags. Then once I finally remembered to buy bags, I didn’t label my bags (nor did I organize them) and all of my bags became a frozen mountain of meat in the back of my freezer.
Not effective at all.
But, our grocery fund really could be stretched much farther if we JUST FIGURED IT OUT. So I committed to trying again.
What FINALLY worked for us?
We gave up. No, seriously. We gave up trying to do it the only way that I knew how and decided to try what would work for our family. Our family does not mind eating chicken three nights in a row, or various hamburger recipes through the week. So, after that simple of a solution, we had our own meal planning start.
My usual requirements for a favorite dinner include easy, cheap, and fast. I mean, I’ll cook other meals, but those three boxes need to be checked if it is a meal that I’m going to cook often.
Last night we returned home after evacuating for eight days and needed a quick, easy, and cheap meal. Hurricane Irma ravaged my area but we were extremely lucky. Other than minor damage, our house was standing and our family was safe together. We did, however, lose power for 5 days causing everything in our fridge and freezers (we have a deep freezer as well) to expire.
To complicate things, the stores within a close proximity were either still out of power or recovering from losing power. The stores my husband ventured into were full of people even if many shelves were empty. Dinner was going to be a slight challenge.
While he was searching the stores, I was scouring the pantry. I found that somehow we still had potatoes and a couple of onions. Right then he called to say that he found some of the Hillshire Farms sausage that we like on sale- three of them for five bucks. Score!
I knew what we were going to have for dinner and it checked all three boxes. And it is delicious. Perfect for our first home cooked meal after an extended time away.
We are a family of seven, so if you are a smaller family you can obviously use less of the ingredients.
Beef smoked sausage (2 of them)
6 large potatoes (I only had small potatoes and beggars can’t be choosers)
1 large onion (again…you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit. Ignore my miniature onion.)
Cayenne pepper (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
Slice up potatoes, onions, and sausage.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place frying pan on stove and turn to medium high heat in order to preheat.
Drizzle the oil into a glass pan.
Add potatoes and onions.
Toss with oil and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
Place in oven at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.
In the meantime, place sausage slices in the frying pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Let cook for 4 minutes and check for desired doneness on the side that is down. My kiddos think that anything slightly dark is burnt; my hubby and I like crispy edges. If you are cooking for a small army, like me, you will need to do batches.
Drain sausage on napkins.
Add sausage to potatoes and mix.
Continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through (tender enough for a fork to pierce through without mushing the potato)
Top with sour cream if desired and enjoy!!!
Hopefully your family will enjoy this dinner as much as mine does. What are some of your go-to dinners? Leave me ideas in the comments!