Climbing Out of the Comparison Trap

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This post is one that has been niggling at me for awhile. After another candid conversation with my best friend about this subject, I decided to actually sit down and write out what I was thinking.

You see, I think this is something that affects almost every woman at some point, maybe even daily. I’m sure men have their own version of it, but I’m obviously not a guy, so I’m mostly addressing the ladies here.

Comparison. I really, truly believe that comparison is a deceptive thief that sneaks in and leaves us feeling cruddy about ourselves. It can work the other way and make one feel superior or self-righteous too.

Either way this is NOT a good thing, my friends. With our society’s overdependence on social media, I’m certain this has escalated to the Nth degree.

I consider myself to be a relatively joyful person who exercises thankfulness and is usually quite content with what the Lord has given me. As I get older I find myself even more comfortable with who I am and how God has designed me. However, I still fall victim to the comparison trap ALL the time.

It can start innocently enough. I may be feeling like things are going honky-dorey and Bam! All it sometimes takes is one little picture, post, blog, phone call, article, or visit to someone’s house to suddenly evaluate and compare many aspects of my life to my perception of that person—my looks, home,  kids, personality, marriage, style, talents or gifts….the list could go on.

A few recent examples from my own experience:

*I was invited to a pool party at another Mom’s house. As I enjoyed an afternoon there, I admired her beautifully landscaped pool area. Excusing myself to use the bathroom inside, I found myself envying her neat and well decorated home. Right away my own little Cape Cod seemed cramped, messy, and lacking in charm.

*Back in July we took a simple yet beautiful vacation as a family. For the second year in a row we rented a small cabin at a State Park, a nice week-long getaway for just the 7 of us, completely unplugged. We also celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary at the tail end of it. Well, upon coming home I decided to “catch up” on Facebook for a bit. Immediately I was bombarded with what seemed like tons of pictures from all these great getaways that other people were having. The wonderful trip we just took seemed a little so-so compared to the places these other families visit!

*One weekend night we had a quiet evening at home. I baked some homemade pizza and we watched Netflix, very content to be together with no other happenings going on. I even remember thinking, “wow, this is so nice. This is just who we are and I’m good with that.” Again IT hit, this time a day later when I heard of someone’s fun party they attended that same night I was sitting at home. Now I thought, “Wow, maybe we need a better social life after all…”

*On yet another day, I was actually feeling fairly self-confident as far as looks. I had what I would consider to be a cute outfit on and my hair was not a complete mess. I felt “put together” and was pretty sure I had a few appreciative glances from the male species when the kids and I were out and about. (Not that I should notice that or care, but hey, I’m being honest here.) Better yet, my wonderful man looked at me when he got home from work, smiled huge, and gave me a good old fashioned wolf whistle. I felt good, right? Yeah…not so much later on when Facebook (Yep, that again!) was fired up and I saw a picture of another Mom almost my age wearing a bikini on the beach. That self-confidence I had just hours before was blown apart and I felt old, fat, and frumpy.

I’ll stop with the examples now. I’m sure you have your own times when comparison has done a quick job of making you feel crappy about yourself in some way.

However, as I did mention starting out, it can work the OTHER way too. This doesn’t happen as often, but I have fallen into that trap as well, and it is equally as dangerous.  I won’t give personal examples of this one, but I’ll readily admit that I’ve sized other women up, made a quick judgement, and deemed myself better in some way. It pains me to write that, but it’s the truth. I know I am in no way better than anyone out there. Not in any way, shape, or form.

So ladies, what do we do about the comparison trap?

I wish I had some pat answer to give you, but I am in the same boat here.

What I would recommend is to seek some scripture verse that personally speak to you regarding this subject and memorize them or write them down on index cards so they can be referred to easily.

Here are a few that I really like:

“…But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

 

I think another important thing to remember is that what we see may not be what is really going on. We are comparing all of our inside stuff with what they are choosing to show on the outside. That person who you may think has it made may really be a mess on the inside, or is hiding all sorts of hurt.

 

Another thing is that that person may be comparing themselves to YOU. You know that conversation I had with my best friend regarding comparison? She pointed out that those same people that I found myself not measuring up to in some way may be comparing themselves to me and feeling the same way. I was kind of like, “Whoa, really?” Yup. Yikes.

I’m not going to stretch this out any further. I obviously haven’t “arrived” in this area of my life and am not sure I ever totally will. Ladies, we need to stop doing this. It only causes discontent, jealousy, and all kinds of ugliness. Next time we find ourselves falling into the comparison trap, let’s stop and remember all the good things we do have going for us. Let’s be thankful for all the blessings God has given us. You are amazingly made with care by a loving God who treasures you just as you are. He has a specific plan for your life that looks like no one else’s.

My Favorite Narnia Quotes

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I am happy to announce that our family is almost done reading through the Chronicles of Narnia series.

We began this winter and try to read about a chapter a night. Granted, there are many evenings during the school year where this didn’t suit, so we could have finished much faster. However, we try as much as possible to stick to this as part of our nightly routine. Believe me, these kids would remind me if I forgot to break out the Narnia book of the moment! They absolutely love them.

I didn’t actually read this series myself until I was in college and I could have smacked myself for not reading it sooner.

It is an absolute treasure! I was blown away by the genius of C.S. Lewis and love all the correlations and symbolism between the book series and the Bible. What has made me proud as anything is hearing my own kids put together things from the books and the Word.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t let them watch the movies that go along with them until after we had gotten through that particular book. However, I think the movie series was pretty well done and enjoyed them too. (Confession: I get teary eyed every time the kids have to leave Narnia at the end. Every. Single. Time.)

So, in celebration of our almost completing the series, I put together a little list of some of my favorite quotes from this remarkable series. They are in no particular order at all, just random. Each one spoke to me in some way–as I mentioned, C.S. Lewis was very gifted and has a special way of expressing truths. Hope you enjoy!

"You would not have been calling to Me unless I had been calling to you."

You wished yourself away, and with it much more . . . You doubt your value. Don't run from who you are.

For what you see an hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.  -- C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

Since it is so likely children will meet cruel enemies... #quotes #authors #writers

Forever Narnia- Forever Heaven. With Him for eternity. That was C.S. Lewis' best description of it..

Safe Lion Narnia Quote by RebeccaHDesigns on Etsy, $5.00

This is why CS Lewis and Tolkien were friends... they saw the same Truth.

Aslan print for baby girls room (MAKE ONE!) Love it.

Determination.

One of the best Narnia quotes. It comes from The Silver Chair. And Puddleglum says it!

Aslan, Chronicles of Narnia. I read that in Liam Neesons voice.

C.S. Lewis is a genius, and all Chronicles of Narnia books are excellent. If this profound and thought-provoking quote doesn't convince you, nothing will.

I learn more from fictional characters than real people.

The Horse and His Boy- one of my favorite scenes in the Chronicles of Narnia

I just love this...I would love to find a plack or something that has this quote and hang it on my wall!

“Welcome, Prince,” said Aslan. “Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?”
“I – I don’t think I do, Sir,” said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.”
“Good,” said Aslan. “If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not…”
Prince Caspian – Chapter 15

If you have any recommendations for a new series for us, I would love to hear them!

–Rachel

Summer Boredom Buster Series: Spy Obstacle Course

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Well, August is literally right around the corner and we’re starting the back to school countdown in our house.

Today I am sharing a little idea that I actually did the first week school was out and it is one of my favorites.

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Think obstacle course mixed with a little spy/secret agent intrigue.

It would be a great one to break out on a rainy day or when the kids are bored to death and driving you bonkers.

All you need is a ball of yarn, scissors, painter’s tape, and a hallway area.

Cut lengths of yarn long enough to stretch between both walls. I used red to mimic the laser lines used for security systems in a spy movie. (I was thinking along the lines of spies and secret agents, but my kids instantly thought bank robbers and jewelry store thieves. Hey, whatever.)

I placed them at varying heights and at different angles so they would have to maneuver through them all to get from one end to another.

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We started out with some yarn lines, then as everyone had a turn, I stepped it up a notch and added more lines to make it more challenging.

My older kids obviously had a harder time as their bodies are much bigger.

The twins, who are still little and wiry, did a pretty good job of it. My 8 year old niece, who is also very wiry and flexible, was the only one who didn’t eventually knock down a yarn line. When we were all done I let her run through them and knock them down for fun.

Overall, a fun way to kill some time and get those little minds and bodies working.

Apricot Pineapple Jam

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This recipe is a newbie for me as I have never really worked with apricots much before.

At first I was planning to make a basic apricot jam, but then in my research discovered that some people combine it with pineapple.

I am so glad that I did, for this was a winner! In fact, it turned out so well that I plan to make another batch later today.

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The recipe was taken directly from Sure Jell’s website, seen here. The only variation I had from this was that I used the basic yellow box of Sure Jell, not the MCP box (which I’ve honestly never even seen before).

Here is a breakdown of how to make this:

3 C prepared apricots

1 can crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 C lemon juice

1 box pectin

1 tsp butter (to reduce foaming)

8 C sugar

Prepare jelly jars. Wash, pit, and then finely chop apricots (with peels on) until you have 3 cups of it. Place in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot, then add drained pineapple, lemon juice, and pectin. Heat until it comes to a rolling boil, stirring often. Add sugar and stir in, then bring to a boil once more, allowing it to boil about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Skim off foam if desired.
Ladle into jelly jars, then place lids with bands on tightly. Process in a hot water bath about 10 minutes. Remove from water and let jars sit about 24 hours before removing bands.

Summer Boredom Buster Series: Ice Excavations

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Today’s idea is one to bust out on a hot day when the kids are bored or looking for something different to do.

By the way, have your kids been bored yet? We’ve had maybe two days where this was the case. I felt like we were not busy at all, then suddenly had WAY too much going on, now we’re headed off on vacation. Maybe I’ll find a happy medium come late July:)

Anyway, back to today’s little idea.

Ice excavations.

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The idea is super simple and easy.

Take a large container, fill it with water, and then add various toys to it.

Freeze for a number of hours until everything is solid.

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Give your kids some “excavation tools” and let them go at it. We used a variety of kitchen utensils.

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The goal is to excavate all of their toys out of the ice. They can also experiment with salt to see if that expedites things.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures from when everything was solid, but you get the idea.

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My little boys really enjoyed this, especially since I let them pick what toys they wanted to freeze, then did a separate container for each kid.

As you can see, army men were the prime choice for one of my guys, but they can put in about anything.

Well, that’s all I have for now. Hope you’re having an enjoyable summer!

Peanut Butter Monster Cookies

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We go through tons of peanut butter in our house. I am seriously considering buying those giant gallon-sized containers of it because it disappears so quickly. My main PB consumer is Daniel, our oldest son who just turned 13. He eats peanut butter on EVERYTHING, even really weird stuff that kind of grosses me out**. So, for his birthday I made these cookies in lieu of cake this year.

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Imagine your basic Monster cookies (which I love just a little too much) with Reeses Pieces instead of M & M’s.

Peanut butter cookie dough with chocolate and peanut butter pieces added in.

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Yup, it’s good stuff.

These got gobbled up pretty fast, so I guess they were well liked.  I may have had one actual baked cookie out of the batch, but I can testify that the cookie dough was awfully tasty.

Here’s the recipe for these guys:

2 cups flour

2 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup softened butter

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup Reese’s Pieces

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Chill dough for at least 1/2 hour. Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes.

**Moms–Do not, I repeat Do NOT watch a 12 to 13 year old boy eat pretty much anything. You will quite possibly be disgusted and nauseated. Yes, make your kids great food and love them to bits, but be ready to turn away when they are ready to actually eat/inhale it. Consider yourself warned.

Summer Boredom Buster Series: Aqua Beads

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SO…we’re a full week into summer break and everyone is pretty much transitioned by now.

Even with everyone home with me 24/7, it has actually been sort of relaxing.

It has been a welcome change to not have to remember 20 bajillion end-of-the-school-year details every single day. Those last few weeks can be a bit of a doozy in that way and I chuckle at my 11 year old telling me one morning (as I was going through my mental and literal daily checklist), “Mom, I think you need a brain break when school is out.”

Yes, I kinda did, and I’m quite enjoying it too. I’m also enjoying not having to run around to so many activities as well.

One day that we did have some errands to run we hit a Dollar Tree store to check out a couple of things.

While there, we saw these little bottles lined up and thankfully I stopped to really look at them. I remembered seeing something with these guys in a summer boredom playlist. A light bulb went off in my head and I promptly popped a bottle in my shopping basket.

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One of the best bucks I’ve ever spent, my friends.

They’re called aqua beads and they kept some kids occupied for long periods of time.

Heck, I couldn’t resist and was playing with them too.

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Fresh out of the jar they look like clear glass marbles. These I had poured into a greenish glass bowl, hence the light green hues. They are really very clear though.

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Though they look like glass, these little wonders are actually quite soft and squishy, but don’t easily break. Here’s what they look like in my hand, before being submerged in water.

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Now here’s what a bowl full of water + aqua beads looks like. They all but disappear in the water. If you look close you can see some roundish shapes. Pretty cool, eh?

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My budding scientist was beyond thrilled with our purchase. I asked him what they were made of. His answer? Hydro-something-super-polymer-something-something. Not sure if he made it up or not, but I nodded my head and acted like I knew just what he was talking about. (Remember, this is the kid who told me I needed a brain break before school ended. Really I may need a brain break after hearing his Super Scientist lingo, but it’s all good.)

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The little boys really enjoyed these too. Notice I threw a towel down under the bowl? Yup, I’m on top of things like that, ha ha. Never mind the fact that a couple hours later I stepped on a couple of wet squishy items in my bare feet.

Overall I would recommend getting these as maybe a rainy day activity or just a little something to add to a Mom’s summertime bag of tricks. They are great for sensory play, I would just use caution with really young kids as I would think they may be tempted to pop one into their mouth. And, as I said earlier, I have no idea what they’re really made of. (Ask Andrew though and he can tell you;)) I found them at the Dollar Tree in the crafty aisle with floral arrangement stuff.

Stay tuned for some more summertime kid activity ideas!

 

 

Parenting a Teen

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We hit a landmark moment in our household next week. Well, you can sort of say it is a landmark.

Next Tuesday we will be the official parents of a teenager.

Frightening, I know.

You can pray for us right now because I can say that when it comes to parenting a teen, I am completely out of my realm. Give me a baby, a toddler, or a preschooler and I would like to think that I know what I’m doing by now. Heck, give me an elementary aged child and I feel like I’ve hit my groove.

But give me a teenager to parent? And parent successfully? Lord help us.

I had a wake-up call one day a couple months ago when we sat down at the dinner table to pray. Normally we all hold hands, but my oldest usually doesn’t sit next to me. For some reason this particular day he did. The hand that reached out and grabbed mine did not belong to a little boy anymore. It most definitely belonged to a young man and I was shocked at how much that hand that I could once enclose in mine had grown.

Fast forward to a couple weeks later and my son was walking around the yard. I happened to catch a quick glimpse of him out the window as he passed by and for a second I thought his dad had gotten home from work early. I couldn’t help but be downright startled again at how much he had grown over the last 13 years.

Yes, that tiny baby that entered the world fighting six weeks too early quickly grew into a fussy little toddler.

While praising God for the gift of his life, we prayed for things like healthy growth and extra doses of patience on our part.

In a flash this little guy became a preschooler, a big brother to 4 additional siblings, then my first to go to kindergarten.

The miniature hand that I once cradled in mine I now held to walk to the bus every day. We now prayed for spiritual growth and things like safety while at school.

Soon enough he was joined by one sibling after another at that bus stop and was excelling in school. At the same time our Daniel, aptly named after the Old Testament Daniel, became quite a little missionary and made no bones about what he believed and Who he believed in.

That same little hand had grown and now held things like chapter books, pocket knives, and army men.

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Fast forward to now. My boy is now a man-child and I no longer have to look down to talk to him. He’s had a full year at middle school and absolutely loves it. The little boy voice that I was so familiar with now creaks and cracks with the changes of adolescence. He rarely ever holds my hand, but I do get some great bear hugs (when his peers aren’t looking, of course) on occasion.

I don’t know much about raising teens, but I do know how to unconditionally love my child.

For all the areas I’m sure I will absolutely flounder on, there’s other things that I plan on (hopefully) doing okay at:

*Pray, pray, pray. Any child of any age needs covered in prayer and so do their parents! As my boy gets more independent and will be more and more exposed to the world at large, I just have to entrust him to God. I will never forget what another Mom said to me years ago when becoming anxious at the thought of her baby driving a car one day: “As much as we love our kids, we have to remember that God loves them even more.”

*Being available. Yes, I know there will be days that he doesn’t feel like talking much or wants to pull away from us. However, I think it is still important that they know you are THERE for them. At Daniel’s middle school orientation the principal said something that resonated with me. It was something like, “at this age you may think you are no longer needed, but this is the age when they need you more than ever.”

*Being firm. “Mom can be tough but she’s not mean.” This is an actual quote from my husband, talking to our kids just recently about us and discipline. There are SO many permissive parents out there, it makes me want to shake them!! Yes, I love my kids and want them to be “in this world but not of this world.” However, just because “everyone’s” parents let them do _____________ or have a ________________ doesn’t mean I will allow you to do it or have one! We haven’t had to encounter this much yet with our own kids, but I’m sure the day will come. Thankfully we have some like-minded parents in our community so we can hopefully back each other up.

*Not doing it alone. Thank the Good Lord we don’t have to do this parenting thing alone. I have a loving husband who is an amazing Dad. As our boys get older, he invests lots of time into taking them to do guy things and teach them some manly stuff that I would just make a mess of. We also have awesome parents who love to spend quality time with each of their grandchildren and reinforce what we believe. In addition, we have a solid church family, good teachers, and others who have invested in our kids’ lives. For that we are very blessed and grateful.

So, basically this may be a giant learning curve, but we have a firm foundation on which to rest in.

Please pray for us as we enter this all-new stage of parenting……and if you have any words of wisdom, please let me know!

Whole Wheat Hamburger Rolls

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We had a most beautiful Memorial Day here. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and we took full advantage of it.

For dinner we had a great campfire meal of burgers and cowboy beans, along with a couple of other things. Oh yeah, and some yummy s’mores to top them all off.

I had really, really missed burgers cooked right over the fire and hadn’t had any since last fall.

To take them to a whole new level, I decided to make my own rolls to accompany them.

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Oh.My.Goodness. They did not disappoint.

These are not hard or really too time-consuming to make and are really worth the extra effort.

Here’s the recipe I followed:

1 package yeast

1 C warm water

1/4 C + 1 TB sugar

2 TB melted butter

3 1/2 C wheat flour

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

Mix together yeast, sugar, and water. Let sit for about 10 until it gets nice and bubbly. Add in the rest of the ingredients (except for egg!) and mix and knead really well. Place dough ball in oiled bowl and let rise in a warm location for about 1 hour. Divide into at least 8-10 pieces and form into roll shapes. (I rolled out the whole dough ball so it was pretty thick and just used the top of a cup to make circles.) Place on baking sheet and let these rise for another hour. Preheat oven to 375 F and brush top of rolls with egg wash. Bake for 12-16 minutes. Let cool and then slice in half before serving.

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When I make these again, I may be tempted to do a double batch and then freeze a portion of them for future meals. I would also like to use the same recipe and make hot dog buns as well.

Summer is almost here, so enjoy!

Once a Month Grocery Shopping: An Update

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Do you hear that giant sucking sound? Perhaps your house makes a strange noise like mine does. It comes from the vicinity of the fridge and pantry area. It is especially loud first thing in the morning and in the evening. It is the sound of food being consumed at a rather alarming rate by children whose appetites are growing exponentially. Groceries are disappearing at that same rate and a cupboard that is overflowing one day can be wiped out with only a trail of crumbs to tell the tale by the next.

This is one of those articles that I really should have written awhile ago. You see, I did a short, 2-part series almost a year and a half ago on how I do once a month grocery shopping. (You can see my original posts from October 2012 here and also here) Anyone who read them may have wondered if I was able to continue doing it, or if I’ve made any tweaks or changes to how I go about it. Today I hope to answer those questions for you.

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So, have I continued to do Once a Month grocery shopping?

Yes. Sorta. I still try to buy the bulk of what we use in one big trip. Usually I have a hugely overflowing cart and multiple things stuffed in the under portion of the cart as well. By the last aisle it takes a lot of muscle and good steering abilities to get that cart around a corner and down the home stretch. I buy a lot from a local bent and dent store and then some other things on my list on the way home at another store. This trip typically covers a lot of our basic staples that we use in a month. I thought I had a really good idea of what we go through as a family and was doing pretty darn well for a long time. However, I’m not sure what happened this past school year, but now I’m not so great at predicting amounts of things. Some of it I attribute to the fact that my kids are just growing like crazy and I now have several that eat just about like adults. The other thing that has changed is now my littlest guys are in school all day and I have to pack their lunches as well. I do try to cram as much as I can into that one trip and have one (and lately more like two) in-between trips to pick up what is missing or milk and produce. With summer veggies and fruits coming into season hopefully soon, that should remedy this just a tad bit. Of course then my kids will be here all day and the dynamics will be somewhat different for a couple months again.

What have I changed or need to change?

I haven’t changed the basics of how I go about planning for a grocery trip. I still need to get a grip on what we go through now that a year and a half has passed. Soon I will have one teenage boy in the house, 2 tweens, and 2 seven year olds that seem to be going through a growth spurt. Oh yeah, and my husband and myself. The amount I buy has obviously gone up and so have grocery prices! Holy schmoly! That’s one for another day, but we are definitely spending a bit more than we once did. Perhaps I need to do a running tally again of how many staples we consume in a month (check out where I did this before here). I think that would be really practical and helpful.

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Would I still recommend the once a month shopping?

Absolutely. I really believe that overall it really does save time and money. If you haven’t tried it yet, read my past articles on it and get a game plan in place. There is a learning curve involved and as I can testify to, family needs change with the years. Maybe try out a twice a month plan and go with that for starters.

Thanks for tuning in and if you try this, let me know how it works for you!