Parenting Tales, Uncategorized

Some Truths About Having Older Kids

It seems but a few short years ago that we were the family “with all those little kids.” Maybe right now you are that Mom, or maybe you are just starting to shift into the strange land of “older kids.” Well, before you know it you will look around at your crew and wonder what the heck happened to all those little, sweet bodies that once inhabited your house. I know it was a gradual process here (after all, they’re not ALL the same age), but it sure seemed to happen FAST. I once wondered what it would be like to have kids all in school, or even all potty trained for a start. Now I know. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows like I once dreamed, but there are some pros and cons to having all older kids. Here’s what I’ve observed…

There will be smells. Notice that this is at the top of the list? For years our bedroom (the main baby changing area) was all Eau de Diaper Pail. Alas, it is finally stink free, but the odors have shifted to other areas. My boys’ bedroom, for example? Imagine a locker room aroma all the time. Can’t get rid of it. And just wait until your precious one suddenly develops BO. Shocker for the senses, y’all.  My 12 year old, who is really good about wearing deodorant regular, forgot to put it on for about a week just recently. It must have slipped his adolescent mind to also WASH under his pits while showering. It was bad, friends. So bad that his Dad even noticed and ordered him to scrub one night after driving him home from an outing. Start stocking up on Febreze and deodorant now. You may scoff but I’m serious.

You will become a taxi driver/chauffer. I hope you like your current ride because as soon as your kids are in ANY activities you and your vehicle will be like one. Sad but true. Even if you limit their extracurricular activities (we do), if you have multiple children you will find yourself driving—a LOT.

You can sometimes grocery shop all by yourself. This is a definite perk! At first this may seem like a vacation. Then you get kind of used to it. I think it took me a solid 2 years before I stopped shifting the cart back and forth whenever I stopped to look at an item. I was so used to keeping a little one calm while shopping that the movement was like muscle memory. Now I actually sorta like taking an older one with me so they can help me carry everything in the house!

Speaking of grocery shopping, you will be doing it OFTEN. No joke. Even up until a couple of years ago I could do a main grocery haul every few weeks and just do a fill-in here and there. I even did a little series about once a month grocery shopping. There’s no stinking way that could happen now!! It’s ridiculous how much can disappear in a few short days, especially once you have a teenager or two. A couple of days ago we had a big cooked lunch where everyone had plenty. Maybe an hour later I heard a package crinkling in the kitchen. There stood my 14 year old with a giant gross sandwich made of multiple Pop Tarts and an inch thick of peanut butter in between. He shrugged his shoulders, gave me a sheepish grin, and stated that he was hungry.

There’s lots of crap to keep track of. BIG one here, my friends. Once anyone is in school it begins. You’d better have a good paper-keeping and calendar system in place now or it could go south quick. Lots of papers to keep/toss, reading logs to sign, homework stuff, permission slips, fundraiser crap, snack sign-ups, and the list goes on forever….There’s been many a time that I’ve accidentally thrown a paper away and ended up digging through trash to locate it for a crying child. On the scheduling note, once upon a time my life revolved around preschool days and naptime. Now? Not so much, but just about a gazillion other things to juggle and generally keep track of in a day’s and weeks’ time. Moms, you will still be busy, just a different kind of busy. Though having lots of littles was all consuming, I feel like life was generally simpler than it is now.

The laundry increases. Sure, you may not be washing multiple baby outfits and nappies or whatever, but here’s the truth…..the clothes get BIGGER and therefore take up a lot more laundry space. The clothes get closer to adult sizes and therefore you just have generally more laundry mass and volume to keep under control. I know that for sports Moms the whole uniform thing can be a pain.

You can play more games together. A fun plus as they get older! We honestly didn’t do a ton of board games until recent years because now they can all understand rules and play on their own without Mom or Dad having to supervise. My youngest guys just turned 9 and we bought them Settlers of Catan. (Some of the best money ever spent!) We’ve had a blast learning it and were quickly and oh-so-nerdily addicted!! It’s been too fun just being engaged together in this way.

They get more adult humor. I’m not talking raunchy or anything like that. Just more grown-up humor in general. One evening my oldest just “had” to show me something online and we ended up looking at and cracking up over pictures of Pinterest fails. He also comes up with the greatest one-liners that are so witty.

You get to watch them blossom. I am getting more and more glimpses of the adults these guys will become and it’s pretty awesome! I love seeing the personality differences and watching their individual interests and talents come alive.

So I’m sure there’s more that can be added to this list, but those are some of the high points for me. I loved having a house full of littles and all the wonderful things that came with that. Looking back I do believe we enjoyed that stage very much, and I’m glad we did. However, there are so many neat things about each and every stage that a parent can enjoy.

Points to Ponder

Last Week’s Frugal Accomplishments + A God Story

My life has been a little topsy turvy lately, so I am way off in sharing what I call my “frugal accomplishments.”

It has been one heck of an expensive year for this family, all with unforeseen crazy things that have cropped up. Therefore, instead of despairing, I am trying to be thankful that we have been careful with finances and have some savings to cover unexpected expenses.

So, in keeping with my frugal mindset more than ever, here are the latest money saving things to happen here….

*Had several people bless & surprise us with meals right after Jeff’s accident. (If you are one of those people, thank you!!)

*I’ve been able to hang out laundry most days.

*I keep washing out ziploc bags, drying them, and reusing them, as long as they are in good shape. (Not any that contain meat products–I do throw those out right away.)

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*I found these cool vintage burlap feed sacks at a yard sale for pretty cheap. I would love to try using them in some projects and plan to start with re-covering a stool top with the design portion of one of them.

*Haven’t had to do any big grocery runs in a couple of weeks.

*We have picked beets, sweet corn, onions, cucumbers, squash, blueberries, and green beans out of our garden. I blanched and froze many, many bags of the beans this past weekend. I also froze some blueberries.

*My boys foraged around for some wineberries last week. We ate some and the rest I made into jelly. I had also made some black raspberry jelly a couple weeks back, plus some black raspberry/grape blend jelly. Yum.

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*Sold this rag rug that I had made on Ebay.

*Before his accident, my husband brought me a really nice Pampered Chef glass baking dish with a snap-on lid. It had been sitting around his work lunch area for awhile with no one to claim it, so it was free to a good home!

*Used zucchini from the garden to make Chocolate Zucchini bread. It was the bomb.

*This probably sounds awful, but since my oldest has been working and mostly living at a camp, I haven’t had to feed him much or do his laundry (they make him do his own wash there, so thank you camp people!) this summer. Seriously, with how much he eats, it’s like they’re paying me;)

*Speaking of my oldest son, he is headed to a camp in Virginia next week that is offering a “Mountain Man” outpost. He doesn’t need to pack that much, but needed a couple of specific items to wear. I scored two pairs of Carhartt beige work pants for an amazing $9.99 each off of a clearance rack. That’s like an absolute steal for Carhartt products (local people, FYI, it was at Good’s store). Then my husband took him to Outback Trading to find a certain style of hat for this Mountain man thing. I am proud to say that they found a really cool one that is perfect for only $8 (normally probably a $40-$50 hat!!) on a clearance rack.

And last but not least…..

*Not really a frugal accomplishment per se, but a testimony to how awesome God works–this is what happened just yesterday. We had had another bill roll in from the dentist for two root canals Jeff had to have like two weeks before his incident. (As if the poor guy has not been tortured enough lately, yowza!) Within a couple of days, we had 3 different reimbursement checks show up for things him or I had paid for at work or church lately. Y’all, this is SO cool–without thinking, I added up the amount from the reimbursement checks and it was literally the SAME amount as the bill from the dentist, plus 9 cents to spare. I could have cried. God is good. They were cashed and taken directly to the dentist.

Thanks for stopping in! Hope your summer is going well.

Rachel

Parenting Tales

Where Have All the Groceries Gone?

You’ll have to forgive my cheesiness. I just came up with this little poem last night as I was lamenting the fact that all the food I just bought last week is already practically wiped out by growing children. Seriously.

ALL.THE.FOOD.

This one’s for my fellow Moms of hollow-legged kiddos out there…

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I remember it oh so well,

That trip I took just last week,

When I went to the store,

And drove the cart with the squeak.

Grapes, gouda, and granola,

Were tossed into that cart,

Along with beans, butter, bran,

And a box that said Pop-Tarts.

My cart was really quite full,

By that last stretch of aisle,

I had ‘em piled on high,

Paid and left with a smile.

Then I came on home with that load,

Bottles, cans, and many a box,

I filled the fridge, pantry, freezer,

We had everything but Maalox!

“Oh the meals I can prepare!”

“The lunches I can now pack!”

How naïve I was just then

Before that first snack attack…

The kids came home from school,

Cracked open the Cheez-its to eat,

They quickly emptied that box,

And moved on to something sweet.

Next went the apples and grapes,

And the Pop Tarts as well,

Also the nuts and the chips,

The bag now an empty shell…

By a few short days later,

I was struck almost dumb,

For those once filled-up cupboards,

Now contained but a crumb.

My tale is just about through,

It would make quite a sad song,

If you have a houseful of kids,

Food NEVER stays around long!

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Once a Month Grocery Shopping: An Update

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!

Points to Ponder

Once a Month Grocery Shopping (Part 2)

I’m back…..this time with tips for making once a month grocery shopping work for you and your family. Again, I am not claiming to be some kind of expert in this area, just someone who’s tried it and liked it. I have lots of fine tuning to do yet, but I believe there is a real learning curve with this concept. With that being said, here are my personal tips for once a month grocery shopping:

*Go alone. Yes, I realize this isn’t too feasible for some of you. However, if you can snatch a few hours to yourself, take advantage. I am not one of those people who claim to just love hauling their kids with them everywhere. Knowing myself, I have realized that I shop much smarter and can focus more if I am by my lonesome. You can get it done so much faster too!

*Time it well. While shopping just once a month for a majority of your groceries does save money, you do have to lay out more $$$ in one go. Time it so you’re not going on a week where your finances feel extremely slim.

*Know what you use. Have a good idea of what your family goes through in one month. I did a little experiment this summer to see how much of certain items we use in a month. Am I a big nerd? Yes I am, but I also got a good feel for what we consume  in a month’s time.

*Keep a master list. Post it on your fridge, bulletin board, wherever. Keep a running list of what you’ve run out of, than add to it what you anticipate using this next month. Literally go through every pantry shelf, freezer, refrigerator,  and see what needs replenished. I also stock up on our paper goods, trash bags, etc on my grocery run, so take a look at those as well.

*Meal plan. I have never done a post on meal planning, but this is something I’ve really depended on as my kids get bigger and busier. Granted, I don’t plan out for the whole month, which would be even more helpful. (I usually do a week at a time.) Looking ahead for the whole month would really help with amounts of what’s needed.

*Buy in bulk. Large amounts don’t always yield the best deal, but sometimes they truly are a good deal–especially if it’s something you know you’ll use. Last month I went ahead and bought a huge bag of flour just because I knew I’d be baking more often this fall.

*Do your homework. Have your coupons ready with possible match-ups for the stores you want to hit. Know what’s on sale that week and any loss-leader items you may want to stock up on.

*Hit multiple stores. I don’t get all crazy with this and usually just go to two. It all depends on where you live and your store preferences.

*Unload and put away the same day. No, you may not feel like it. However, when you get home, just get it over with and put everything away where it belongs. If anything needs divided up into smaller packages or cut up, now is the time.

And last but certainly not least….

*Go easy on yourself. As I mentioned earlier, there is a learning curve with this and it takes time to fine-tune what works for your own family. I still do a “milk run” and have ended up going for a couple things that I thought we truly needed before my next grocery run. (Like butter–this family wasn’t going to do without real butter! We’re not that hard core.) Maybe you want to even start by going to the store every other week and work from there.

Parenting Tales, Points to Ponder

Once a Month Grocery Shopping (Part 1)

For starters, I am not claiming to be any kind of expert in this. However, I am excited to share it with people because I believe there are many benefits to doing your grocery shopping once a month. I know it’s not exactly a new concept and you’ve probably heard all these things before. For myself, I have tried it out the last couple of months and have really, really liked it. I had been toying with the idea for a little bit and decided to give it a go this summer when lugging 5 kids to the store every week didn’t seem like my definition of fun. So, I gave it a test run one month and have been learning more and getting better at it since. If you’ve ever thought about it, or even read about it and thought it may be a good idea, here are what I see to be great benefits to doing once a month grocery shopping…

Benefits of Once a Month Grocery Shopping

*Saves time. Yes, that one shopping trip will be longer than normal, but I can almost guarantee you that it takes much less time than venturing to the stores every week or so. Even a “quick trip” for me used to take awhile–time I could be spending doing other things.

*Saves gas. I don’t know about the area in which you live, but where I live it’s about 10 miles just to get to any store at all. 20 miles for a round trip. Consolidating all of your running in one go can really add up when it comes to gas.

*Saves money. This isn’t just for the gas you just saved. I believe that with good, proper, once a month planning, you can end up spending far less than those weekly grocery runs. Just as a quick aside, the last time I was at Wal Mart there was a man in front of me chatting to the cashier as he unloaded his full cart. Apparently he was a stay at home father of 3 who was in charge of doing all the grocery shopping for his family. He was complaining about how much they spent  on groceries–a whopping $240 a week! I do not have a good poker face, so I tried to disguise my look of shock as best as I could. “Yeah,” he said,” I’m here all the time. It seems like we’re always running out of something.” To be honest with you, I really wanted to tell him that I barely spend that much per month, and I have a couple more children to feed. (Don’t worry, I kept my mouth shut!)

*Forces you to use what you have. You know those lingering boxes and cans in your pantry? The ones that you have a tendency to push to the back because you don’t know what to do with them? This is a great time to be creative and use those babies up. If you use most of your favorite ingredients up and still have some days left, give it a try! You may be surprised at what you come up with.

*Helps you know what you actually use. If you start out the month with 5 pounds of pasta and it’s gone by week 3, then you know to either buy more next month (or not cook pasta as often). On the other hand, if you bought 10 pounds of flour and by the end of the month half of it is still languishing in your pantry, then you know not to go buy such a large amount next time. It also helps you keep a good tally of how much $ is going towards groceries each month.

*Keeps you out of the stores. Unless you have really good self-discipline, most people end up with a number of impulse purchases. I just read a quote that says as much as 50-60% of purchases are based on impulse, not what’s been planned on a list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of this one! This concept is simple–if you’re not going to the store, you’re not doing unplanned spending.

Well, those are the main things that I see as beneficial. I want to also clarify that I do make a mini-trip or two in between just to restock our milk and fresh produce. Next time I will share with you my own personal tips for making once a month shopping successful.

Points to Ponder, Uncategorized

Why I Shop at the Bent and Dent Store

There’s an absolute gem of a grocery store a mere 15 minutes away from me. It seems that everyone in our area has heard of it and has a strong opinion about it. They either love it and shop there frequently or they can’t bring themselves to shop there for whatever reason. I fall into the first category and swear by it to help keep our grocery bill low, shopping there at least twice a month. Actually, I usually leave with a cartload of goods and rarely spend over $50.

Sound too good to be true? Wonder why others can’t bring themselves to shop there? It’s what I would call a “bent and dent” store, or maybe it’s classified as a grocery “salvage” store. Packaging that is dented or not in mint condition, items that are out of date, and other such issues are why these groceries are going so cheaply. I personally don’t have a problem with most of that stuff and my family has never gotten ill or had really any quality issues with the products. As you can tell, I am not a super picky person and am not put off by a dented box or can, or even something that just hit its expiration or sell-by date. Here’s an example of a shopping trip I made there just last week, spending just under $45 for the following items:

1 dozen eggs

1 pkg. cream cheese

1 box Special K crackers

2 Lg bags kettle corn

3 boxes Barilla pasta

1-8 pk Motts for Tots juice

2-10 pks Capri Sun juice pouches ($1 a box)

1 bottle Wish Bone dressing

2-6 pks Motts Berry Applesauce

1 Lg can crushed pineapple

2 cans cranberry relish

2-6 oz packs Ocean Spray craisins

1-3 lb bag onions

1 pk oyster crackers

5 packs Kool Aid

1 bottle Balsamic vinegar

1 bottle White Tea

1-4 pk Izze sparkling juice

1 bottle Suave for Kids shampoo

1-4 pk Softsoap bar soap

1 hand sanitizer spray

3-20 oz bottles juice

1 Motts Plus apple juice

1 Juicy Juice

1 3 Lt Ocean Spray Juice

1-5 lb bag flour ($1!)

4 cans Spaghetti-O’s

2 loaves bread (99 cents each)

1 pkg Chips Ahoy cookies

1 pk Lance Peanut Butter crackers

2-2 Qt cartons Dole juice

1 Lg box Cheez-its

2-1 lb bags noodles

1-12 pk Austin Peanut Butter crackers

Whew! I know I would have spent at least double what I did at any other store, even if I did use coupons. As you can see, this specific trip was heavy on the juices and packaged snacks, mostly because I was almost out of lunchbox items and snacks to take to kid events. The inventory there is always changing, but you can usually find some of the same items each time. They also have some pretty off-brand and oddball items, so it’s sort of like a treasure hunt when I go. I’m not sure if you have a store like this in your neck of the woods, but if you do, it’s worth trying out.