8.26.2011

Buying in Bulk: Sam's Club Shopping Trip



Today I went to Sam's Club with my friend Jacque. She has a membership there, and while I am still learning the ropes I like to slide in on her shoe strings.

I am so excited about what we just unloaded into my kitchen from our trip, that I couldn't wait to share it with you.

I spent $115.91. Here is what I bought:

  • 50 lbs white rice
  • 18 lbs Quaker oats
  • 2 gallons  white vinegar 
  • 6 lbs peanut butter
  • 10 lbs pinto beans
  • 12 lbs salt
  • 5 lbs honey
  • 3 liters olive oil
  • 3.75 lbs baking powder
  • 25 lbs all purpose flour
  • 7 lbs brown sugar
  • 13.5 lbs baking soda 


I know what your thinking... "Woah! What's she going to do with all that food!"

We are going to eat it. 

Come back tomorrow to find out why in the world it is economical for a family of 2 to have 50 pounds of rice on hand.

I know you have questions. Just leave them in the comments, and I will try to answer them tomorrow. 

8.24.2011

Slow Cooker Beans



Everyday I pack my husband's lunch. I do this for several reasons, but namely because of his food allergies, and it saves us tons of money. I also pack a lunch for Kyle's good friend Matt, who also has limitations in his diet due to severe food allergies. Kyle is allergic to soy and dairy mostly, but also bananas, avocados, and coconut. Matt, his friend, is allergic to dairy, pork, any and all nuts, some types of beans, some forms of chocolate, okra, and so many other random little things that I have seriously lost track.

You would think that packing a lunch that both of them could eat, that is also cost efficient would be a nightmare. It really isn't all that difficult, but it does require a little bit of work.

Today I would like to share with you my recipe for the main staple of Kyle and Matt's lunches, Slow Cooker Beans.

First off, if you want to be the most cost efficient, you need to buy dry beans. Can beans will work, and cut your cooking time down by more than half, but can beans will also end up costing you much more in the long run.

Here's the breakdown. At Kroger, I can get a 15 ounce can of pinto beans for 89 cents. I can get a 4 pound bag of dried pinto beans (equivalent to 64 ounces) for around $3.45. At Sam's Club, I can get a 10 pound bag of dried pinto beans (equivalent to 160 ounces) for around $7.40.

Let's look at the price per ounce:
Kroger can pinto beans: about 6 cents per ounce
Kroger 4 pound bag dry beans: about 5 cents per ounce
Sam's Club 10 pound bag dry beans: about 4 cents per ounce

Sam's Club obviously has the better deal. Buying your pinto beans at Sam's will cut your spending by almost half.

Back to the recipe.

To start out, measure two cups full of dry beans into a colander. You are going to need to rinse and sort the beans. I usually toss out anywhere between 10 and 15 beans that are black or otherwise discolored.




Put the two cups of rinsed and sorted beans into a large bowl. Add 8 cups of water. Let the beans sit for 8 hours. You can do this process just before bed so your beans can sit over night, or vice versa. I often do this part early in the morning when I first wake up, and then the beans are ready to cook that night.



At the end of the 8 hour soaking period, your beans will look like this. The water they are in will be murky I think partially due to the pigment of their shells dissolving in the water, and additional dirt that you might not have fully washed off during the rinsing step.



For this reason I give the beans another good rinse. Just pour them into the colander again and run cool water over them. Now they are ready to cook.



Simply pour the beans into your slow cooker, cover with 8 cups of water, and set the cooker on high. I let my beans cook for 2 hours on high, and then 2 more hours on low.



Right before I go to bed, I prepare the beans to cook overnight. I siphon the bean broth off of the cooked beans with a spoon. Here is the crazy part. Get ready for it. I save the bean broth.



I put it in a Ziploc bag and tuck it in the freezer. I think that it will be a great starter for chili and soups this winter, and I will already have it on hand! You surely don't have to save the broth if you don't like; just dump it down the sink and rinse well.

Next, I add one can of Rotel, and one can of diced tomatoes. Do not drain them! The juices help to flavor the beans. I also add several different basic seasonings such as salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and usually red pepper flakes. This week Kyle has asked me to discontinue the red pepper flakes. (Apparently I am making the beans to spicy!) I give the beans a stir, leave the slow cooker on low and get to bed.



When I wake up in the morning I have beautiful slow cooker beans!



All I have to do is transfer them into a large bowl with a snap on lid, slip them in the fridge, and we have a week's worth of lunch for Kyle and Matt. And it is safe for their food allergies, which makes it double yummy.
Every morning, I just plug in our rice cooker, and add fresh rice to the beans. Kyle says this lunch is much more filling than a turkey sandwich, and doesn't leave his stomach growling for a mid afternoon snack.



Not only is this a great recipe for lunches, but can you imagine this as a dinner meal! Just serve with corn cakes, or jalapeno corn bread. Mmmm.....

Much love,

8.22.2011

Yarn Wrapped Wreath Tutorial

Last weekend was Kyle's weekend to drill, so I had the house to myself. Not my favorite thing I must admit, but I took the best of it and decided to use the kitchen table to spread out a project that I had been wanting to tackle for some time now.

I made a yarn wrapped wreath! It was super easy and so fun to make. I am excited to share it with you so you can make one of your own.

Here are the supplies you need:

  • Glue gun 
  • Pipe insulator
  • Masking tape, or other heavy weight tape
  • Yarn
  • Decorative Items (I used twigs and the little bird you see.) 
  • Scissors
  • Wire




If you haven't seen this cool idea for a wreath from on Pinterest, here is a link to it on my "Wreaths" board. If you take the time to click over there, you will quickly see that I have a small obsession with wreaths.

This is seriously one of my new favorite tricks. You can use a pipe insulator from Home Depot or Lowe's as a wreath form! Wha??!! I know right! I was super excited when I heard about it too, because pipe insulator at Lowe's costs a whopping 97 cents per tube. If I wasn't planning on making such a large wreath, I could have cut it apart and made 3, maybe even 4 smaller wreaths. All you have to do is tape the ends together with heavy weight tape.


Next, put a dab of hot glue on the tape on the wreath. You could put it on the exposed foam ring, but I chose not to in fear that the hot glue would melt the foam, and the yarn would not have a secure beginning. Tack the end of your yarn in the hot glue.




Wrap the yarn around the wreath form. Every once in a while, dab some hot glue and tack the yarn in place. WARNING: This can be a very long process. Patience in the end will pay off on this project. Also, you are going to need A LOT of yarn. I suggest making sure you at least have an entire skein. I had way more than half of a large skein, and this is all I had left over.



Once you have totally wrapped the wreath form in yarn, it is time to add the details. I chose to use wire to attach the twigs to the wreath so I could change them out come fall or even Christmastime for something a little more festive.











I found this little bird on clearance at Hobby Lobby for $1.50. I couldn't pass it up! If you check out my Pinterest you will see that I am kind of a bird fanatic. I LOVE birds!



The bird came with a ribbon, so I just used it to tie the birdie to one of the twigs! I love how interchangeable all the pieces are.



Ta Da! A beautiful wreath for our home. I have plans to hang it above our entertainment center, but I have secretly been redecorating bits and pieces of our home for a few weeks now. I am going to share with you all of my inexpensive decorating updates in a few weeks, so you will just have to wait until then to see it hanging on the wall. Trust me on this one... you are going to LOVE IT!

Much love,






UPDATE: This wreath was a total flop. I am sure you have read where other bloggers have tried this and their wreath turned out egg shaped and saggy. Well, that's exactly what happened to mine. I had a friend that invested about a dollar more in a thicker type of pipe insulation that worked fine for her, but she made a regular sized 12 inch wreath. Just a word of caution for those of you trying it out!

8.21.2011

Grace and Gratitude: Decisions

Tonight I had planned on writing something on a totally different topic, but since my husband is sitting here on the couch with me, pleading with me for it to be bedtime (he has been at Navy drill all weekend), I have changed directions.

It is most likely a good thing that he is persuading me to keep it short tonight because the things that are on my heart today, and that were on my mind throughout this week may be to personal to share.

I know you understand.

I do want to share one thought though.

The decisions we make today,  however meaningless they seem, will affect our tomorrows. It may not be literally tomorrow that we are made aware of the affects of these decisions. It may be many years down the road, or even in the next life.

Our desires dictate our priorities, which dictates our changing, which dictates our becoming. And ultimately we want to become like Christ. (paraphrasing Dallin H. Oaks)

Just some food for thought late this Sunday night.

My Gratitude for this Week:

  • the blessings of the scriptures 
  • the power of the Holy Spirit as my constant companion and guide
  • the growth and development of my testimony
  • my patient, loving husband
  • the opportunity given to me as a daughter of God to continue to grow in Him


What are you grateful for this week?



Much love,

8.20.2011

New Kitchen Table Lighting

Today I am spending lots of time creating, re-purposing, and organizing. In fact, I am about to head out the door to make a quick run to Hobby Lobby.... and maybe Micheal's, and maybe Target, and.... who knows where this afternoon will take me!

I just finished an awesome wreath for above our entertainment center in the living room. I was getting ready to show you the results when I was distracted by Pinterest, yet again. (I guess you will have to wait until Monday to experience the big reveal of the wreath.) I usually check out that place at least once a day to find inspiration. Today I went looking for ideas to replace our current light fixture that hangs over our kitchen table.

Here it is, our pride and joy.
































Now I know that there's nothing wrong with it, but I have been looking to freshen up the lighting in this little nook for several months. The current light fixture is low, often bumping people in the noggin when they stand up from the table. I could raise it via the chain, and have tried that, but then the light feels like it is bearing down on you like you are sitting in an interrogation chair. I just think that there has to be some compromise here.

Keeping in mind that the budget for this little project is basically zero, I am looking for a DIY alternative that uses materials that I already have, or that I can spend around $10 getting my hands on.

Here are some solutions from my Pinterest that I have found that I am fond of.

              
photo credit

What do you think? I am trying to white wash a lot of the color in our home. I want to go with a more soothing neutral theme that I can punch up with different accents and accessories. I am open for suggestions.

For now, I'm off to Hobby Lobby!

Much love,


8.19.2011

Back 2 School: Homework Tips for Parents





With school returning to full swing for teachers, kids, and parents, I will be sharing Back 2 School with you this week- a series geared towards parents from a teacher's perspective. I taught 3rd grade gifted and talented for 2 years, and I taught kindergarten last year. Even though I only have three years of teaching experience, hopefully I can share with you some ideas and insight that will help you and your child have a better school year.


Homework can be a sensitive subject for parents. Many parents have a distaste for homework due to the struggles they have in helping their child complete what their teacher sends home. Today I am going to share with you just a few ways to make homework go more smoothly. 


Homework Tips for Parents


1. Establish a set time to do homework everyday. I'm going to repeat myself, but setting routines will help your child excel academically, as well as improve their growth and development. Kids will get into the habit of doing homework at the same time everyday, and you will not even have to remind them to get started, which means less headaches for you. 


2. Designate a homework location. Having a set area for homework provides more structure and routine for your child. It really does not matter where you designate the homework area to be, but keep in mind that it needs to be a place with little distractions, and little to no noise. Several parents choose the kitchen table, or even have a desk area designated for homework time. I do not recommend the living room floor, in front of the TV. But you could have already assumed that!


3. Keep basic school supplies on hand. If the homework area in your home is going to be the kitchen table, then keep a small basket or plastic bin in a cabinet, or even store the following school items in a nearby drawer: pencils, lined notebook paper, colored pencils, markers, plain copy paper, crayons, jumbo pink erasers, pens, a ruler, calculator, etc. Having these school supplies on hand will prevent your child from having to remember to bring home supplies that he or she keeps at school, and then remember to return them back to school the next day. Also, kids are then not wasting homework time trying to find what they need in order to complete the assignment. 


4. Motivate kids with their favorite healthy snack. Before starting homework, motivate your kids with a healthy snack. This will raise their blood sugar from the low they might have since they haven't eaten anything since lunch, in turn giving them energy to get their homework tasks accomplished. 


5. Supervise and coach. Many parents find frustration in their child's homework because school isn't what it used to be, and the methods that kids learn to solve problems, answer questions, or even read a book, are not the same way you and I were taught. 


Instead of trying to sit beside your child to help them do their homework, I have a better suggestion for parents: just supervise and coach. Stay within an earshot of kids during homework time. Check on them every 10 minutes to make sure that they are doing alright, and coach them through what they need help with. If they are really struggling, tell them to do their best, write their teacher a note, and send it to school the next day with the homework assignment. Please, please, please do not do your child's homework for them. This totally defeats the purpose of the homework to begin with, and just so you know, teachers can tell what you did. 


Just a few extra thoughts: 

  • Just because your child does not come home with a homework assignment, does not mean that they should not be practicing skills at home. I know teachers that send home a list of words to review, or even a book to read, instead of a worksheet or math problems out of the book. 
  • Remember to read, read, read. Read to your child every night. If your child is old enough to read on their own, encourage them to read for a set amount of time each night. Take turns reading to each other. Visit the library and make goals to read a certain amount of books in a month. 
  • Visit educational websites. Earlier in this series, I included 7 Websites for Kids. Let your child explore these websites for a set amount of time, but err on the side of caution; too much internet time has the same effect as too much TV time. 
Starting a new school year can be a time of transition for both parents and children. Hopefully the Back 2 School Series has given you some tips and ideas for creating a successful school year for both you and your child. 

If you have any questions or additional homework tips for parents, feel free to leave them below in the comments. 

Much love, 










8.18.2011

Back 2 School: Ideas for Cheap Homemade Lunches





With school returning to full swing for teachers, kids, and parents, I will be sharing Back 2 School with you this week- a series geared towards parents from a teacher's perspective. I taught 3rd grade gifted and talented for 2 years, and I taught kindergarten last year. Even though I only have three years of teaching experience, hopefully I can share with you some ideas and insight that will help you and your child have a better school year.


All good Moms want to send their kids to school with a homemade lunch, but this can get to be expensive! Here are some ideas on how to keep the cost of the contents of that lunchbox down. 


Ideas for Cheap Homemade Lunches 


1. Use a sturdy, reusable lunch box. Some parents send their child's lunch to school in a plastic bag, or in paper sack, both of which are thrown away at the end of lunch. A reusable, even insulated lunch box, would not only do a better job of keeping lunches fresh, but would also safe parents a lot of money in the long haul. 


2. Pack food into reusable containers. Plastic baggies can quickly run up the cost of packing lunches for kids. Depending on how may different items you are packing in their lunch, you could use anywhere between 3-6 plastic baggies easily. And where do these baggies go at the end of lunch? To the trash. After a while, throwing away pennies will add up. 


3. Buy your child's favorite items in bulk. I would encourage you to shop at discount clubs such as Sam's Club, Costco, etc. and stock up on the things that your child loves the most. Produce at these places is often much cheaper than what you will find at your local grocery store, which leads me to my next idea. 


4. Make it homemade. If at all possible, make your child's lunch entirely homemade. The thought that cooking from scratch is more expensive, is a myth. When you buy pre-made food items, you pay for the individual packaging that provides the convenience of throwing together a lunch last minute. Instead, try preparing the items that you want to include in your child's lunch that week on Saturday or Sunday, store them in large plastic bags or in plastic containers. Then all of the prep work is done when it comes time to actually putting together the lunch for the day. 


5. Shop the sales at the grocery store. When you do shop at your local grocery store, buy what is on sale. Only buying what is on sale will save you money in your budget and will give your child variety in their lunches. 


6. Pack less food. As a parent, you naturally want your child to be full and not be hungry at school. However, so many parents pack way much more food for their child than they could ever eat in one meal. Pack only what you know your child will eat to be full, and save the rest for another day. 


Looking around online, I found these great links sharing fun lunch ideas from simple sandwiches to meals that even the pickiest kid would love. 


Kaboose: Easy School Lunches 
Disney Family Fun: School Lunches and Snacks 
Parents Magazine: Let's Do Lunch
Good Housekeeping: 30 Ideas for School Lunches: Sandwiches and Munchies 


What are some ways you save money when planning your child's lunches? Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments. 


Much love, 



8.17.2011

Back 2 School: 7 Websites for Kids





With school returning to full swing for teachers, kids, and parents, I will be sharing Back 2 School with you this week- a series geared towards parents from a teacher's perspective. I taught 3rd grade gifted and talented for 2 years, and I taught kindergarten last year. Even though I only have three years of teaching experience, hopefully I can share with you some ideas and insight that will help you and your child have a better school year.


Online resources can be some of the most beneficial tools that you can share with your child. Here is a list of some of my favorite websites for kids!  


7 Websites for Kids


1. Starfall.com  This website is mostly literacy based with activities ranging from beginning letter recognition for preschool aged readers, all the way to leveled readers for older students in kindergarten and in first grade. The best part about it is that it is totally free. I believe that they also have an app for the iPhone. 


2. FunBrain.com   Math and reading are the focus of this website, but there are other fun games mixed in, too. Geared more towards older elementary aged students, this site lets you create a user name and select your skill level. Ideally, kids can start at level 1 and work all the way through each level. The popular children's book series, Diary of a Whimpy Kid, even has a game on this site. 


3. BrainPop.com and BrainPopJr.com    As a teacher, I really enjoyed these sites. Brain Pop includes science, health, social studies, engineering and technology, and arts and music, as well as the core subjects of math and reading. The Brain Pop Jr. site also features these topics, but on more of an early elementary level. The only drawback to this site is that it does require you to purchase a membership, and it is pretty pricey. However, they do offer a free trial. I highly recommend it for a good broad coverage of all the subject areas. 


4. Scholastic.com   This website is another one of my favorites. At the top of the homepage there are drop down menus for parents as well as kids, that links you to games, activities to print, resources, and noteworthy articles. Scholastic is also my number one choice when it comes to ordering books for kids. They have such a variety of books to offer, and usually at rock bottom prices.


5. PBSkids.org   PBS is one of my favorite networks as a teacher. Most kids are familiar with the characters on this site, such as Super Why!, Sid the Science Kid, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Word Girl. They LOVE exploring the games and activities it has to offer. Super kid friendly, this website is extremely easy to navigate, streams educational videos, provides links to apps for parents to download, and even has a section for grown-ups. 


6. Storynory.com   Story Nory is a site that reads books to kids! Simply click on the title and hear the audio version of your favorite tale like Cinderella, Chicken Little, The Three Little Pigs, and Little Red Riding Hood. 




7.  Sesamestreet.org   Surprisingly, kids still get excited about watching Sesame Street. I used this website as a resource in my kindergarten classroom quite frequently to help reinforce skills. The videos on this site are exceptional. On the home page there are links to a parent's resource blog, information about Sesame Street ebooks for iPad, and an entire tab dedicated to parents. 


Hopefully some of these website will be useful to your child this school year! I hope I have shared with you some new ones that maybe you didn't already know about. 
Is there an educational, kid friendly website that your child loves that you would like to share? Leave the link in the comments. If you try some of these sites with your child, I would love to hear about your experiences, too! 


Much love,