When Andre and I were first married we both worked at Hy-Vee. Working at the same place was really convenient as far as transportation to and from work, but a little too convenient when it came to grocery shopping. We were already at the store so why not pick up some dinner. Or get an employee meal at lunch. Or pick up a six-pack after a particularly hard day.
So about six months into our marriage we decided to only do our shopping on paydays, which was every other Friday. We would still occasionally buy some Chinese during break or a snack after work – some Hy-Vees have fruit bagels and they. are. delicious. – but we really tried to limit big spending until those paydays when we would buy groceries to make dinner at home.
The thing I learned was that taking a bigger list less often saved us a ton on our grocery bill!
Even though we haven’t worked at Hy-Vee in over six years, we still shop every other week to avoid overspending from multiple Aldi and Target runs.
When I make the menu I consider a few things:
1. I try really hard to make sure most of my meals are things my kids like. I do ask them to try new things 1-2 times a month so I get their help during the planning process. That way at least the days they chose the meal should be meltdown free ("should be"- not that it always is).
2. I also try to plan meals that need fresh ingredients for the first week (something with lots of produce like these sausage foil packets from Damn Delicious) and things that use more canned items the second week (like our family favorite Cheesy Taco Pasta from Emily Bites). This works the same for snacks, too. Apples, bananas, grapes, etc. the first week and applesauce pouches and fruit cups the second.
3. I use the space under the day of the week for reminders of worship practice or gymnastics so I don't plan super complicated things for those nights.
4. Andre has leftovers for lunch so I try my best to make things that are likely to result in 1-2 days of leftovers if I know the next meal is likely to not have any leftovers.
5. I stock up on frozen fruits and veggies for smoothies, sides at lunch or things that would go well in a snack tray. Our favorites are broccoli, mixed fruit and sweet potatoes in the steamable bags!
I’ve gone through a ton of menu templates – I am way too obsessed with Microsoft Publisher and creating templates with different fonts and themes – but recently I’ve been using the one below and it has worked out really well for us! When I created this menu template I also created a shopping list document. It has all of our most frequently purchased items organized by their location in our particular stores and it makes creating a grocery list so easy!
I’ve included printables of each document below in case you want to try them out for yourself! Just click on the image :)
Although we aren't quite to the official start of the next season (SPRING WE ARE READY FOR YOU!!), I thought it would be fun to round up some of my favorite things from the past few months. I'm hoping to do this every few months to share a bunch of random things I'm loving. There could be some beauty items, food recommendations, new shows I'm loving, articles, really anything! So, here we go :)
First, I've been trying to eat better and that has helped me realize that I am not eating nearly enough veggies. I don't mind snacking on carrots, celery or some steamed broccoli, but I'm not a huge fan of jicama, salads or raw cauliflower. And then along comes riced cauliflower. It is delicious and can go with every meal! With eggs for breakfast, in a quesadilla for lunch or with chicken for dinner. I've been buying mine at Target but I'm sure most grocery stores carry it!
I used to sell Mary Kay and after I stopped I had a hard time finding other products that I liked but that could be purchased from an online or in-store retailer. The company Tarte had a sale so I decided to give a few of their products a try and I ended up LOVING the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer. A little goes a long way and it is great for covering up dark circles and my recently acne prone skin! (They have sales ALL the time on the Tarte website and QVC so I'd wait for one to come around if you want to try it out!)
This is not necessarily a new thing to me, but something I've tried to take more advantage of recently. Did you know you can subscribe and save with items on Amazon? We have been subscribing to diapers, wipes and diaper genie refills for YEARS - since before my oldest turned one and she turns eight in April...and we're NOT going to talk about how that is possible already...but we hadn't been using it to its full potential. About 3 months ago we realized we could save even more if we added 5 monthly items we essentially got my youngest daughters diapers FOR FREE! With Amazon Prime's Amazon Mom, once you have 5 items in your subscriptions (or at least 5 items delivered each month so you can switch up items if you don't need a particular item monthly) you save 20% off of diapers and wipes. 20 PERCENT!!!! We added things like Downy Unstoppables, contact solution, lotion and dishwasher packets. As long as we keep 5 items on there, we have a huge savings!
The last one is a podcast. I LOVE a good podcast and as a fan of The Office and random trivia, my newest favorite is the Office Ladies podcast. Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey (Pam and Angela from the show) are rewatching each episode of The Office and sharing behind the scenes info. They go through the evolution of Mindy Kaling's hair, read from journals they kept during shooting, dive deep into the history of Chili's involvement in the show and even have guests from writers to directors to fellow castmates. It is well done, entertaining and is my favorite thing to listen to while cruising the aisles of Target.
So that's it for this season's The Things I'm Loving! What are you loving this season?
5 years ago I was listening to the God Centered Mom podcast (Now called the Don't Mom Alone podcast) on my way home from work. I didn't remember who the guest was (I went back and found it and I'll put the link to the podcast at the bottom of this post) but I did remember one part of the interview. The guest talked about how her and her husband spend 1 hour each night, after the kids go to bed, together with no phones, TV or other distractions. At the time I listened to this I only had 2 kids and this seemed like one of those "great in theory but yeah right I ain't doin' that" kind of things. I'm sure I have an hour but that seems like a lot of time to give up when I've had an exhausting day. And that was that. I dismissed the idea and forgot about it...
...until a little over a month ago. My husband and I talk to each other a lot but we were having many evenings where it was midnight and I felt like I hadn't connected with him at all that day. Randomly one night this podcast came back to my mind and I proposed the idea to Andre and immediately he was interested (what took me five years to consider took him 5 seconds). We started that very night. We talked about our day, plans we had for the next day, plans we had for the next year, even what we ate for lunch. For part of the hour we even sat and didn't say a word. The hour went faster than I expected and it was so fulfilling. So much so that we haven't missed a day in the 5 weeks we've been doing it.
Not only have we found it great for catching up on each other's days and random thoughts, but it also makes finding time to be intimate a lot easier. It is so easy to get caught up in how much laundry needs to be done or the kitchen that needs cleaning or the kid that has a spelling test the next day and has yet to practice the words. This certainly doesn't take those things away, but when you have committed to NOT doing those things within your hour together, it helps you focus on more important things.
So, the biggest thing I've learned over the last 5 weeks is that I am fully capable of giving my husband 1 hour (or really any amount of time - you choose the right amount for your schedule!) of my undivided attention per day. The benefits should show very quickly after trying this out :)
Here is the link to the full episode but the talk of what she and her husband call "Date night every night" starts at 36:14 :)
Guys. Guys. GUYS.
I finally don't hate being at home.
I'm not going to say that I love it because that would be a lie. But for the first time in the 6 months I've officially been a stay at home mom, I am not counting down the days until I get to work again. Sure, I still check the Teach Iowa website multiple times a week, but that is more to seek out dream jobs (9-12 choir with NO show choir) and not so much out of desperation.
I think a few things have contributed to this newfound not-hate of staying at home:
1. Routine - we've gotten into a weekly and hourly routine. Certain days we go to the gym, other days we have bible study, certain days of the month we have outside activities. And when we get back from those activities we have lunch and nap and school pick up and soon all 7 of us are together for the evening. Long days feel so much more doable when you know what comes next.
2. Self reflection - I know I am fortunate to get to stay home. It's something I didn't necessarily seeing myself doing, especially since I always said I was a better mom because I worked, but I've come to really appreciate the ability to see the big and small moments my kids have day to day that I typically missed when I was leaving the house at 5:30am and not getting home until 5:00pm.
3. Friends - Whether it is scheduling a playdate or texting to say my kids are driving me crazy, having friends who are going through the same things is so helpful. You know you have a solid friendship when you can communicate solely using gifs to describe you or your child's day.
4. Not giving all of my paycheck to child care - We have been so fortunate to love all of our daycare providers. We have never felt like they weren't cared for, fed or nurtured while my husband and I were at work and for that we are incredibly grateful. That said, for the past 6 years I was paying two mortgages: my house and childcare (which was actually more than my house payment).
5. My kids - I still count down to nap time everyday but in between breakfast and nap time I get to see my kids' creativity and personalities in action. Drawing pictures of themselves, towers being made, contagious laughter during a movie, cuddles on the couch, their kindness, and even their conflicts. I really have the world's best kids and I'm glad to spend day to day life with them.
I still plan to go back to work at some point. Maybe in a year, maybe in 5 years. Teaching is something I enjoy and know I am good at and I look forward to the day I can get back to it. But for now, I am going to try my best to enjoy the everyday SAHM life season I am in.
This guy right here turns 6 today. He has the best imagination, loves Iron Man (hence the Iron Man pose above), shows kindness always and is a great brother to his 4 sisters. That's right. One boy and four girls + mom and dad make up our family. And do you know what...he. doesn't. NEED. a. brother. And you don't need to "feel sorry" for him that he is not growing up with a brother. Is he outnumbered? Technically speaking, yes. But his sisters also like Iron Man and enjoy playing with Legos and help him when he's outside and wants to try his sister's roller blades. The only times he feels like he is missing out on something is if YOU TELL HIM HE IS. God has given me the world's best son and I can't stand when people assume they know what is best for my family and my children.
So how about, instead of focusing on what is wrong with being the only brother in a room full of sisters, let's focus on the fact that he is growing up with four strong sisters who will fiercely fight for him and he'd do the same for them. Love for siblings comes from seeing people for who they are through their personality, kindness and passion, not based on their gender.
Happy birthday, Bud. We love you 3000.
I have five kids. Ages 7, 5, 4, 2 and 1. That means I have had 18 kid birthdays. Not every kid has had a solo party but I figure we've still had about 12-15 birthday parties at my home. We've done rainbows, Minnie Mouse, Moana, Zelda, Pokemon, Carmen Sandiego, ice cream and, most recently, rainbow Star Wars.
I, personally, enjoy planning parties from creating the invitations to picking a theme. One of my best friends and I usually meet a week or so before the party and figure out decorations, food and, if necessary, activities. And in all of our party planning we have learned many things, the biggest one being: don't lose yourself in the planning & executing.
If you like decorating your house and making food/snacks for 30 people, do that. If the idea of cleaning your home for party guests makes you want to punch a wall and you have the option to host the party somewhere else, do that. If you want to go to Chuck E Cheese because they provide the food and entertainment, do that.
Creating an environment where you are most comfortable, in my experience, will help you focus on your kid and ensuring they have a great time. Knowing that the cake is taken care of when you didn't have time to organize the pickup of one at the store or feeling financially secure because you were able to save money by having the party at home will allow you to provide the attention your kid craves at their party.
Here are other tips that have helped us plan:
Goals for lunchtime:
Prep the kids for nap
Make sure they eat a well balanced meal to keep them full for the duration of said nap.
Here are some of our go-to lunches that will get the job done:
Mozzarella/Pizza Blend cheese
Toppings - sausage, pepperoni, ham, green peppers, olives
When we have these, I let the kids do all of the assembling. My 1 & 2 year olds need a bit of help but starting at 3 they have a pretty good grasp of how to make them. Follow the heating directions on the naan package and serve with a side of fresh veggies.
Colby Jack/Mexican Blend Cheese
Rice (1 ready rice packet is good for 6-8 quesadillas)
Add-ins - Chicken, veggies
Assemble tortilla (I give each kid one folded tortilla), microwave for 20-30 seconds (tip from NaptimeKitchen so the cheese doesn't make a giant mess), heat butter in frying pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Serve with fresh veggies, salsa and/or additional rice.
No real ingredients here but most grocery stores carry ravioli in the fridge or freezer sections with multiple fill ins. Cheese, meat, eggplant, asparagus, tons of options which is especially great for picky eaters since it's all packed in pasta!
Serve with or without sauce and a side of fruit.
Muffin Tray Lunch
This is another one that doesn't exactly have a recipe and can also be used as an after school snack tray (I've shared some of our recent ones on Instagram!)
Some things we like to put in our lunch time muffin tray are:
Honestly, there are an infinite number of possibilities and this is the perfect lunch or after school snack to get rid of things in your fridge that you just need to use up! When I do use this as a snack tray I try to fill the majority of the spots with fruits and veggies and then leave the tray on the table until dinner. My kids know the tray is their only snack option until dinner.
Do you have any go-to lunches for your kids? Share below or on my Facebook or Instgram post!
Two months ago I wrote about the 30 second hug and how it has really helped my stress and anxiety. Recently I've realized that my kids can have very similar feelings even if our behavior looks a little different. So I took my original post and made some edits imagining this same idea from the mind of my 3 year old:
I can get overwhelmed very easily. All of my siblings running around me, having to wake up when my brother wakes up since we share a room, not being able to go outside everyday since my mom says it's too cold outside. It can be a lot and when my mom tries to help me relax it can be hard to ease my frustration.
So a couple of weeks ago we started 30 second hugs. I don't always think to ask for a hug and sometimes it is the last thing I want to do. But when I am ready to feel better and get some one on one time with my mom, I walk over to her and ask for a hug. Once I'm there mom begins counting to 30 in her head. And as she counts, I lean in a little more and I can feel some of the stress release. It doesn't take all the stress away, but even 50% of the stress leaving my body is incredibly helpful and allows me to get through whatever I'm struggling with a lot easier. And, not only will I feel better, my mom usually feels better, too :)
The thing I've learned since starting this is that I absolutely have 30 seconds to give myself a break and my mom an extra expression of love. So when you are having a rough day because your little sister is trying to take a toy from you or you get a paper cut after coloring, just take 30 seconds. That's sometimes all it takes.
Anyone that knows me pretty well knows that I don't really plan on my current house being our forever home. Ideally, it wouldn't even be our home in our 3 year plan. We have good sized bedrooms and LOVE our kids' elementary school, yet when we have people over, our tight living room seems to get smaller and smaller. For those who have seen How I Met Your Mother, we are basically living in the episode where Robin tries to convince Lilly and Marshall to stay in the city but every time they go back to their apartment it gets smaller and smaller and no lamp is left unbroken.
I'll be honest. I still want a different house - one with a fenced in yard, a dining room and a master bathroom - and I hope one day I can. However, one thing I've learned is kids just wanna be where you are. Do they care if the living room is 200 square feet or 1400 square feet? Nope. They will still sit as close as possible to you when you sit down on the couch. Do they care if you need to put up an extra table when you have guests over because there isn't enough room in your eat-in kitchen? HECK NO. They will love the chance to eat somewhere other than the kitchen table.
Over the past week we have been in close quarters with a large number of family multiple times. And while some people sat in unconventional seating and others chose to stand, having everyone together was so special that not a single kid complained about it being too cramped.
Two days ago I was straightening my hair and this word hit me in the face. I was thinking about how I didn't need my hair to be perfect but I wanted it straight to at least feel a little more put together. And it was this sudden moment of clarity that I decided my word for 2020 is: imperfect.
I couldn't decide if this year my word should be imperfect or imperfection but either way, the idea is the same.
I am imperfect.
So often I think I need to be perfect. Have perfect hair. Be the perfect mom. Make only perfect tasting dinners. Be the perfect weight. Be the perfect wife. Have perfect parties. Appear perfect. But again I say, I am imperfect.
Google defines imperfect as:
"Incomplete". The lives we are living right now are incomplete so they don't need to be perfect since that implies completion!
So in 2020, I am going to try my hardest to let my hair fall as it may and not worry about the flyaway baby hairs. To try a new dinner and NOT GET DOWN ON MYSELF WHEN IT ISN'T 100% RIGHT. Focus on health goals instead of weight goals. And let more people know that I am not perfect by making that part of me more visible. And know that the way to being the perfect mom is to love my children (and make sure they know that) and support them. My children and my husband love me for the real me. The mom and wife who is present. One who takes an interest in their interests. And one who sets a good example of how to be completely one's self. Which also means showing them that I am imperfect and that's okay as long as I stay try to myself.
Hi, I'm Rebecca
I’m a wife, mom to 5 kids, former choir teacher, Christian and advice giver? I can honestly say I never expected to be the one giving advice when I so frequently ask for it, but the advice I’ve received is so valuable and must be shared! Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far!