The Bedtime Routine That Finally Worked For Me! (And Saved My Sanity)

After trying, trying, and trying AGAIN, I have finally found a bedtime routine that actually works!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!

Bedtime routine not working? Read this to find out what finally worked for me!
Even after 5 kids, I couldn’t help my friend get her baby to sleep.
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.

Don't be a mommy zombie! Check out the sleep routine that actually worked for me!
Being a mommy zombie doesn’t help during a busy week at all!
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.

Instead of finding your child playing after bedtime, read about the bedtime that worked for me!
Instead of being sleepy after our bedtime routine, they were wanting to play!
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!

Want to have a bedtime routine that finally works? Check out what worked for me!
They have actually 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!

You might enjoy- Meal Planning For Busy Moms.

Meal planning can definitely help save time while you are trying to establish new routines.

 

 

Couponing 101: The Crazy Shopping Cart Explains Why Couponing Isn’t Crazy!

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!

 

Couponing 101: learn how to save money with couponing!

Couponing 101: The Crazy Shopping Cart Explains Why Couponing Isn’t Crazy

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 is a great way to save money on household essentials!
Couponing is a great way to save money on household essentials!
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 101

Couponing can be very simple, if you follow the steps and go slow.  Here are some steps to help you along the way:

  1. 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!
  2. Start learning coupon terms, slang, and rules.  It’s extremely important to recognize that there are rules to couponing.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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!

    Couponing can be less daunting if you shop at a store you know.
    Couponing can be less daunting if you shop at a store you know.
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.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Part 3

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!

meal planning. saving money, large families, big families, saving time
Meal planning for busy moms with large families- made easy!
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….

  1. It saves you money. Obviously a win!
  2. 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!
  3. It saves your sanity. Duh! Not spending money and avoiding the grocery store. Hat-trick for the win!
  4. If you already have the ingredients handy, it is most likely because all those people in your house eat them!
Meal planning must- make a list of family favorites to see what ingredients you already have on hand. This will save you time and money!
Making a list of family favorite dinners will save you time and money.
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).

Dinner

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).

Lunch

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

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

Snacks! Can’t forget them. Looking at my list I decided on cheese and crackers and apple slices dipped in peanut butter. Easy, peasy.

Other

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!

Meal planning for busy mommies must- plan for all meals, including snacks.
Make sure to plan all of your meals- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!
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.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy! (Part 2)

Welcome back! If you haven’t read Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy (Part 1), please start there first. To recap very quickly, we acknowledged that sometimes we moms are a LITTLE bit busy (enter sarcastic voice here), and that sometimes the term “meal planning” gets a bad rep.

meal planning, large families, big families, part 2, saving money, saving time, Momma Making Moves
Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families Part 2

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!

Keeping a stocked spice cabinet enables you to change your menu to suit your mood.
If you have a stocked spice cabinet you can always vary your meal plans to suit your mood.
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.)

 

Okay….now what?

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.

Including snacks in your meal plan ensures you are able to stay on track.
Not including snacks in your meal plans can throw the whole plan off.
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.

Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy! (Part 1)

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!

Meal planning for busy moms with big families made easy!
It really can be easy to plan meals for big families!
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.

It is easy to stretch your grocery fund with meal planning!
It is easy to stretch your grocery fund with meal planning!
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.

And when you read part 2 of this mini series you will find your start too! Check back in a couple of days to take your next step. If you are needing a meal to feed your big family tonight, check out my AWESOME sausage recipe! Or check out my Pinterest board for recipes for big families.