Category Archives: Cooking

Cooking adventures- The Baby Edition!

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Cooking adventures- The Baby Edition!

With my little one at 7 months, and finally interested in food and eating, also, enjoying a bit of time in the height chair from time to time, I decided to get adventurous. This is the first baby I’ve seriously made my own baby food for, other than a try here and there. It is much easier than I thought, not to mention a sight healthier! We did delay introducing him to solids, since he was doing just fine, and quite interested in breast feeding alone up to 6 months. It is only in the past week or so that he’s begun reaching for our food.

So I tried a new recipe today: Teething biscuits!  It is easy, cheap, and without all of the preservatives in the ones you buy at the store.

I got the original recipe here: As you can see, I have modified it a bit to suit the ingredients in my kitchen.

Teething Biscuit Recipes – Eggless Baby Cereal Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 cup dry infant rice cereal/multi grain cereal
3 tablespoons cooking oil (I used olive oil)
Pureed fruit
ice water

Directions:
Preheat oven 425F
Mix flour and cereal.
Gradually stir in oil. Mix ice water and pureed fruit together, making roughly 1 cup of mixture. (1 part fruit 3 parts water.)
Then mix in ice water/pureed fruit mixture, a little at a time (start with 1/4 cup) until dough begins to form a ball and pull away from the bowl. You may need extra ice water on hand in case more than 1 cup is needed to get the right consistency.
Put dough into cookie press, and squeeze shapes onto cookie sheet.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet 8-10 min. or until lightly brown. Cool completely.
(alternate: Roll out onto floured surface, cutting into desired shapes. Bake 10-12 minutes for thicker shapes.)

Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Is Canning Cost Effective?

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2 years ago I was terrified to do canning. I thought it would be expensive, difficult, and that it would not be something I could do with 3 children under the age of 5 in tow. I managed.  But was it expensive? Is it cost effective? The answer is: no. Not conventionally, but my husband has a knack of making ANYTHING cost effective! Here are some of the ways we’ve made canning cost effective in our home:

  1. Never Buy Full Price.  First rule of all penny pinchers! We found a variety of ways to do this:
    Buy in bulk. Grocery stores are not the place to buy your produce, if you want to be cost effective. We buy ours at the produce auction, in bulk. (Last haul was $35 for 200lbs of produce, mostly peaches, nectarines, with some tomatoes, and green beans thrown in.)
    Work hard. Growing your own produce is another way to cut costs. Also, swap with friends, family, or neighbors. I cannot begin to count how many times we got free plants, or swapped produce with someone who had a prolific tomato plant. My husband has an arrangement with his Brother. Allen’s brother and his wife have 2 apple trees. They don’t want to harvest the whole lot every year. So Allen picks the apples, his brother’s wife picks out the ones she wants, and Allen brings the rest home. Didn’t cost a cent, but it did cost some work. The apples pictured are only SOME of what he brought home. I’d already made roughly 12 pints of apple butter and apple sauce.
    Shop around. Don’t just go to Wal Mart to get your canning supplies. Allen found out the Dollar General near our home was cheaper. This way we saved on gas AND canning supplies. Double win! Remember that your jars and rings are reusable. The first year might seem like quite an expense, but every year after, all you really need to buy are the lids, and those run $2-$3 for 12.
    Buy used. Allen found me two water bath canners for a song at an auction. Yes, they were used, but who cares? Its only water. Be careful though about buying used jars. Check for nicks, scratches, and imperfections in the glass, it could end up costing you in produce later, if the jar bursts in the canning bath.
  2. Skip the gadgets, doo dads, and tools. All you really need are the jars, the water bath canner,
    22240

    Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

    rack, a jar lifter, a knife/peeler and a few bowls and pots for cooking. In my experience the gadgets don’t ever work as well as you think they do, or process as fast as you think they will. They’re fun the first couple of gos, or can be good when your hands need a little bit of a break, but nothing can replace a knowledgeable person on the business end of a knife. It is faster for me to core, peel, and slice apples myself than to use this gadget. (pictured)

  3. Be humble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people up their calculation of the “cost” of canning by factoring in time spent. How much is your time worth? My time is worth whatever I want it to be worth, and it is worth it to me to have low sugar preservative free foods for my children to eat.
  4. Consider your habits. Do you only eat canned veggies? Or canned tomatoes? Those are cheap at the store, and so it might not be a better option to can them yourself, if that is all your family eats. But there is the other group of items to consider, do you eat a lot of pie filling? Canned fruit? Pickled items? Jams and Jellies? It may be more worth your while to can if your pantry is usually full of these more expensive items.
  5. Limit your expensive ingredients. It does not cost much to buy the produce, if you are careful about where, when, and how you buy/get it. But you can spend a lot on things like pectin or sugar. Try to make sugar free applesauce with apples, Don’t do a ton of Apple Butter or Pie Filling, if the cost will be prohibitive. Also, buy bottled lemon juice. It goes farther than the lemons themselves, and makes for a more stable acidity content. You know what you’re getting, and it costs less.
  6. Do big batches. It takes a LOT of energy to heat up the water bath canner. Try to manage your canning so that electric and energy is not wasted.

I’ll be honest, canning isn’t all roses and Unicorns. Some downsides of canning:

  1. You’ll have no life. It really takes up a lot of time and energy to can. I spend most of that time on the couch, peeling apples, peaches, or whatever else. Helps me not to be bored, plus it is nice time with my kids, watching their favorite Disney movies together.
  2. Your house will be a wreck. Canning is messy. It makes a lot of dishes, and you have no time to do much more than take a few minutes to swish some clorox in the toilet, tidy the house a bit, and hope nobody comes over to see you, in your sweatpants, hair slapped back in a hair tie, and covered in apple sauce.
  3. You don’t come out unscathed. Nicks, burns, and blisters, Oh My! If you are like me, you’ll sustain an injury, or eight.
  4. Your muscles will be angry… Believe it or not, canning requires massive amounts of fine motor skills, and large motor skills. You’ll have achy muscles from head to toe, despite the fact that most of your canning hours will have been spent on your bum, peeling stuff.
  5. Your house will be a myriad of smells. From fabulous (Apple Pie Filling!) To dreadful (Apple pie filling mixed with pickled jalepenos? Ew.)

Canning is mostly a lot of hard work. So the question is, is it worth the work involved? If not, then it will never be any kind of effective, cost or otherwise. It takes a lot of time and effort to peel, cook, clean dishes, etc. If you are up for all the elbow grease required, then happy canning!

Repurposing… With a Twist!

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Repurposing is quite the buzz word these days. For a couple of reasons, I think. The current state of the economy is forcing many families to do more with less. So we repurpose all sorts of things we have, but do not use for their original purposes. A bookshelf as a shoe rack. An old sewing table for an end table. An entertainment center for a kid’s play kitchen… etc. We’re learning the value of working with what we’ve had, because even in our state of need, we are still very blessed.

So today, I’m going to tell you about repurposing… with a twist.
Ready?

Repurposing Food.
Sounds like a waste, or gross, or something like that, but it can be an oh so tasty way of not allowing food to spoil in your fridge when the price of groceries is skyrocketing higher and higher and higher!

Repurposing no. 1- Taco Meat to Chili

Tacos. Yum. For tacos you might eat: Shredded Taco Pork, Chips, tortillas, cheese, tomatoes, salsa, etc. In our house, we LOVE tacos! But so we don’t get tired of them, I take all the ingredients the next day, toss them in the crock pot with a bunch of kidney beans and some tomato paste and Voila! Chili! It is delicious, uses up the rest of the ingredients, and doesn’t overplay the leftovers!
Recipe for Taco Meat Chili
Ingredients:
Taco meat (whatever you got, this is more for flavor than weight.)
1 can of tomato paste
1-2 diced fresh tomatoes (Whatever you have leftover from tacos!)
3-5 cans of kidney beans, depending on your crock pot size.
Leftover Salsa, whatever is left in the jar, 1/2 or 1/4 of the jar. The more you use, the more kick and flavor it will provide, and the less optional ingredients you will need. If you’ve got enough salsa, you won’t need/want any other ingredients.

Optional (to enhance flavor, if salsa is not plentiful):
2-4 cloves of garlic OR a good sized dash of garlic power
1 onion, diced
1/2 diced green pepper
A handful of rice,
1 cup of sweet corn
1-2 pickled jalepenos, plus juice from jar

Directions:
Put Taco meat with a little bit of water in the crock pot (don’t cover the meat with the water. Think of it as cereal and the water as milk. Use the water accordingly.)
Dump in tomatoes, Salsa, Tomato Paste, Chili beans, and Green Peppers. If you want chili with LOTS of flavor, cut up some onions and garlic cloves and add those in. For kick, use some leftover jalepeno juice from that jar of pickled jalepenos with one or two of the jalepenos. Cayenne Pepper will do in a pinch too.
Set crock pot on High, cook for 2-3 hours. Set to low, let simmer till dinnertime, for a total of roughly 6 hours. A little more or a little less isn’t a big deal. The point is to let the flavors marry. I like to add a little bit of rice or sweet corn during the last hour, just to add a few carbohydrates.

Spaghetti Sauce Pizza
Ingredients:
Leftover Bread, stale is fine. (We’ve been known to use leftover garlic bread from spaghetti dinner the night before.)
1 cup or less of Spaghetti sauce. (We use whatever we’ve got from the night before.)
Cheese (One 8 oz. pack mozzarella.)
BONUS: if you used sausage with your spaghetti and saved a little for tonight’s pizza.
Directions
Cover each slice of bread (or half a roll, or bagel, whatever you’ve got!) with a shallow covering of sauce. Sprinkle on cheese. Bake at 425 for 16 minutes, or until cheese bubbles.

This can apply in many ways, I’ve been known to use leftover beef broth from soup to make onion gravy the next day, or leftover roast chicken bones to make stock and chicken noodle soup. I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes for Shepherd’s pie. There are many ways you can “repurpose” food, you just have to think of your leftovers as ingredients, not meals.

Bon Appetit!

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 3

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In Part 1 I wrote about the presuppositions we hold on children and their sin nature, and how this influences our parenting.
In Part 2 I wrote about what scripture says about raising our children.
Here, I have some practical applications in how to train, guide, and love our children on a daily basis, giving them opportunities and ways to work and play in a God honoring manner. These aren’t the only ways to do this, but they are some that have worked beautifully in our home, when I apply them faithfully, because, lets face it, no Mama is perfect! I’m still growing and learning myself, and this is written as much to me, as it is to anyone.

So how can we practically apply scripture in our daily lives training, teaching, and loving our kids?

  • Don’t put your children in the next room to watch TV so you can clean and bake undisturbed (full disclaimer, I STILL struggle with this, and catch myself doing this.) Invite them to bake bread with you, fold laundry with you, make beds with you, wipe sinks while you clean the toilet, sweep the floor while you tidy up. I am NOT talking about slave labor here, but age appropriate training and exposure to the value and satisfaction of work. For instance, my 2 yo uses the dustpan to sweep the dust into the trash after I sweep the whole floor. My 7 yo likes to sweep the whole floor herself. My 2 yo only puts clean silverware away (after I’ve removed all of the sharp stuff, of course.) While my 7 yo usually   does the plates and cups, and my 5 yo usually does the plasticware. Each child has a job that varies based on their abilities.
  • Reward hard work with *positive consequences.* This keeps consequences from becoming a bad word. My 7 yo rushes to finish her school and chores, because she knows once she has done them, she gets to go outside to play, or choose one 1/2 hour show to watch. If she rushes too much, and does them poorly, she knows she will have to work with me to learn how to do them properly. So she doesn’t rush too much. My 2 yo, for instance, only has to complete the chore, I teach her as she goes, and we work together. They know that once work is done, good things come. Things like free play. They also keep their playroom clean now, because, as my 5 yo put it. “It’s no fun to play in a dirty playroom. I can’t find my toys!” They also LOVE to do kitchen chores with me, because a clean sink, a clean counter, and a clean stove means we can BAKE! Baking means…. brownies, muffins, fresh bread, you name it. I always bake enough to meet our needs, plus that initial “taste test” for the hard workers.
  • Don’t overwork your children. Work is not a distasteful thing. Lets not make it one. Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it age appropriate. Give them chores they have a stake in, chores like putting their own laundry away.  I have an agreement with my 7 yo. She is expected to help with dishes, laundry, and tidying, because she lives in our home. My flower garden, however, is purely for my pleasure and beauty. If she weeds *MY* flower garden, I pay her money. She has the option to say “no” to that chore, as it is really mine. She also has the option to name payment, within reason.
  • Work CAN BE a natural consequence. I’m not a proponent of work as punishment, but if a child is careless, or downright naughty, I do allow it to be a consequence. For instance, my 7 yo stole $5 from my 5 yo. She worked it off. A single Aunt offered her a “job” folding her laundry. We did one load a week, to the tune of $1 per load, and at the end of 5 weeks, she had worked off her debt and repaid the $5 she stole. That was a natural consequence.

As you train, guide, nurture, and love your children, remember that as God has a purpose for our lives, and as scripture is explicit in giving us good instructions for a productive, happy life, so we as parents should teach our children about our God of order, beauty, and righteousness. We should be an example of the blessings of obedience, and the beauties of grace, and mercy in our own lives.

We are a living example of what God can do in our lives by Grace, and every day is a day to show them firsthand his work in our hearts and homes. Paul said it best in Ephesians 2:8-10 :

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Why “Oh, Let Them Play, They’re Only Children!” Shortchanges Our Kids: Part 1

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Heavy statement, I know. But when we say “Oh, just let them play, they’re only children!” we do our children a disservice.
Disclaimer: I am FAR from perfect on this issue myself. This is just as much a Series aimed at me, as it is to anyone. This does not mean I’m opposed to play either, just that I’m opposed to play without a purpose, or play without discernment.

So why do I think this? Let’s unpack this statement.

Hairdresser

The girls playing “Hair Salon”

Firstly, as an Early Childhood major, I’ve read a LOT of expert opinions on play. “Play is the child’s work” is the prevailing opinion in the early childhood world. I’ve studied all sorts of things, mostly stating that play is something we ought not to limit, guide, or contain. But that we should feed children’s ability to play by listening, repeating back, and providing materials, encouragement, or opportunity.
This is built upon the idea of a “blank slate.” That every child is born perfect, and only sullied by their environment. This presupposition leads us to let the child direct the play, and follow along, allowing their pure spirit to teach themselves. We are only there to facilitate experimentation. Any kind of negative response is only limiting them, and any wrongdoing on their part is because we are deficient as teachers, parents, adults. I used to believe this wholeheartedly, and constantly found myself puzzled because I was doing everything right, so WHY did the children in my care persist in doing wrong? I felt like such a failure, and I ran out of tools quickly. I just couldn’t keep a perfect enough environment to produce a perfect child. It took a long time for me to say: “This isn’t right.”

Why? I knew scripture says this:
Psalm 51:5 ESV “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Romans 3:23 ESV “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Romans 5:12 ESV “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”

We are born with a sin nature. Children are born with sin in their hearts. As Proverbs says: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” We need to avoid this child led form of play because it is giving free reign to the natural sin in their hearts, without turning them from it.

Adam and Eve aren't the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

Adam and Eve aren’t the only folks who enjoy a good fruit!

This is why I think that allowing them to play without a purpose, without guidance, and without goals isn’t the best we can give them. We teach them to make their own rules, morals, goals, and outcomes. Under it all, we’re telling them that to trust, obey, submit, and to learn from others mistakes is wrong, that experience is king and the source of true wisdom, and to disregard rules is right and good. The underlying truth we communicate frequently is that nobody really loves you enough to want what is best for you. Selfishness is the only way to survive, and thrive. We teach them to “follow your heart” “Do what is best for YOU” and to “get rid of anything or anyone that doesn’t serve YOU.”
I think that after 2 generations of this approach to child rearing we are seeing a society that is making its own laws, its own morals, and disregarding authority, except the individual authority of man. And I don’t think it is too much of a leap to say that a lot of our gleeful declarations of “Don’t be afraid to break ALL the rules!” in nursery school are now finding purchase in the hearts of young people, who “call evil, good, and good, evil.”
“But studies show…!”
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditi
cutefilleron, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
As Christians, our authority isn’t the philosophy of fallible men, but God’s wisdom. Proverbs says the beginning of wisdom is the Fear of the Lord. Paul says that “ALL scripture is profitable for reproof and instruction in righteousness.” We know where to go if we need to know what to teach our children, and how to raise them.
I always have to bite my tongue when someone says: “Too bad they don’t come with an instruction manual!” Oh but they do! In God’s Word! Who better to look to on how to raise, train, and teach them, then their creator?

(Want to know where I’m going with this? Check out Part 2)

Establishing Homeschool Routines and Another Budget Meal

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Spelling lesson.

Spelling lesson.

As this school year begins (we began on Monday.)  I am staring last years inadequacies down. I know a lot of it had to do with being demonstrably pregnant for a large portion of the year, and it being a difficult pregnancy, not in terms of health or complications for Isaiah, so much as in terms of managing 3 young children, and MY health throughout.

So this year, I am determined to juggle things with more aplomb. Not to say that I will be the perfect Mom, Wife, and Teacher (Ha!) But that this year I will make a more concerted effort to meet some goals.

School books just aching to be cracked open!

School books just aching to be cracked open!

 
This year’s goals:

  • Be more organized
  • Set a schedule
  • Follow a routine
  • Be more organized
  • Keep the house fairly clean
  • Be more organized

See the pattern here? I’ve got years of bad housekeeping habits to break. I’ve never been a dedicated full time Mom and Home Maker before last year, and I am determined that in this chosen career I WILL hone my skills. But goals are nothing without a plan, and so, we’ve implemented a plan for about 2 weeks now, with some success. This past week has been that plan integrated with school, so in 2 weeks, I feel comfortable sharing how we ‘Manage it All.’

History lesson... in a tutu and tiara... This is how we roll.

History lesson… in a tutu and tiara… This is how we roll.

Firstly- Routine does not equal SCHEDULE. I am a seat of the pants kinda gal. I haven’t yet mastered the art of the type A personality. Being child no. 4 out of 6, I was always the clown, more interested in pleasing people in a puppydog sort of way than actually accomplishing much for the sake of just accomplishing things.  I am not the woman to have an excell spreadsheet with a seperate spot for each child. We have a routine that factors in each child’s needs, and quirks. It is flexible enough to accommodate all of that, Mostly because I can’t be bothered to write it down in specifics. Too tedious. I know the baby naps in the AM, while we do supervised lessons. No need to write it down. He’ll change it when he no longer needs 2 naps, and we’ll find something else for him to do during that time. We’ll tweak our schedule to accommodate everyone’s needs. I don’t mind. I know too much tweaking occurs when we attempt to control every detail. There is an art to flexibility that helps children to adjust. Too rigid, and we have to change too often.
Our Daily Routine

Our daily routine is simple, because that is what makes it so flexible.

  • Wake Up
  • Breakfast
  • School-Language Arts
  • Snack
  • School-Reading with Mom time- (Supervised lessons, can be inside or outside. Morning nap for babies.)
  • Chores (While Mom preps lunch)
  • Lunch
  • Finish Chores
  • Quiet Contemplation (Naptime)This is how we do.
  • Outside Play
  • Dinner Prep (Kids play outside with Dad.)
  • Set Table
  • Dinner
  • Family Devotions/Family Time
  • Bedtime

In instances where our day is derailed due to a Dr’s appointment, play date, piano lesson, or money earning ventures, we scoot the chores to directly after breakfast and either a.) Bring school along to said event, or b.) Do school when we get home in place of “play with Dad time.” or directly after dinner during Family time.

Chores are as follows (Again, we keep it simple.)

Mom: Supervise-Train, Polish up undone items.

  • Load Dishwasher/Do Dishes
  • Switch Laundry Loads
  • Cook Meals
  • Vacuum/Mop w/Sarah
  • Clean bathrooms w/Emma and Ava
  • Litterbox w/Sarah
  • Tidy Kitchen w/Ava
  • Clean own bedroom/nursery-inspect, correct, and assist with children’s bedrooms.

Sarah: (7)

  • Unload Dishwasher
  • Sweep Floor (kitchen)
  • Tidy Bedroom/make bed
  • Tidy School Books/Living Room
  • Fold/put own laundry away
  • Clean Litterbox

Emma: (5)

  • Wipe table after meals
  • Unload Dishwasher
  • Tidy Bedroom Room/make bed
  • Tidy Schoolbooks/Playroom
  • Take out Trash w/Mommy (Bathroom cleaning)
  • Put away own laundry

Ava: (2)

  • Help Mommy Tidy kitchen
  • Unload Silverware (dishwasher)
  • Clear plates off of table, put in sink
  • Wipe out sinks w/ vinegar cleaner (Bathroom cleaning)
  • Put away own laundry

As you can see, I’m not a huge worrier when it comes to dusting, washing windows, etc.  It gets done when it does, mostly when company comes, and in a fit of  “AHHHHH! They’ll see the DUST!” At this point in the game, I’ve got a LOT of littles, and I don’t want to unbalance my Bigs with work that doesn’t matter right this moment.

Let the obsessive vacuuming begin!

Let the obsessive vacuuming begin!

I want to teach them diligence, but rather than barking orders over a child who is trying NOT to break the precious family photos whilst wielding a rag full of Pledge, I just dust when company comes, and that is often enough to keep it from getting obscenely thick and dirty.  There are also a ton of unlisted stuffs, like the normal things you do when you clean a room regularly, like wiping the counter, cleaning the toilet, etc. The children are always welcome in a moment of curiosity/boredom, or if their tasks are done early, to work alongside me to learn a new task. A lot of this isn’t done in a “list” fashion. We just have a period of “LET’S RACE!” While lunch is cooking/heating up. We tend to spend roughly 20 minutes a day power cleaning at each meal. Most of the kitchen cleaning is done directly before meals, and other cleaning done at appropriate moments, general tidying as we go (Living Room is always tidied prior to nap, bedrooms prior to breakfast for instance.)

Tips and Tricks:

  • Chores in tandem with major home events, such as meals, or Naps. This makes them a regular part of routines, not something to be thought of independently.  Dishes as a part of mealtime is a natural segue, and ensures clean dishes for the next meal.
  • Work alongside your children, teach them each task, and guide them kindly through it, by either repeating the tasks with them, or by giving them an example, for instance: “When I wipe the sink, I swipe like *this.*  Your turn now!”
  • Begin the work yourself, and the children will work too. Don’t start by announcing “time to clean!” Then the onus is on them. Lead by example, Mamas. Once you’ve begun to clean yourself, if they’re not on board, that is the right time to use verbal reminders.
  • Check in frequently with Bigs, during tasks until completed. This keeps them on task, and avoids the hours later discovery that someone lied about making their bed.
  • Allow children to clean creatively! Sing while you work, dance while you work, groove, boogie, whatever! Or, in our house, laundry folding is a coveted job, because the laundry folder may watch an episode of I Love Lucy while folding laundry, with one caveat- If there is no progress from commercial break to commercial break, the show gets turned off instantly. I’ve only had to do that once.
  • Break it up. Let them do a set of chores with each home event allows for it to seem like a smaller task, and more manageable. Don’t give them a whole list, give them a task, one at a time, and they won’t feel overwhelmed. I know my oldest (7) is beginning to love lists. This rule *may* change in her case, but when it comes to training littles, keep it short, keep it sweet, keep it simple, and keep it predictable (aka, we always do dishes after the meal.)

On the subject of deep cleaning:
With so many Littles, and still learning Bigs, deep cleaning (dusting, baseboards, deep decluttering) is usually something I do late at night, or while the children are folding laundry together, etc. We do a weekly “deep clean” where I focus on one room, not the whole house. I’d LOVE to do the whole house as a deep clean, but I can’t get that far in one day! I’m usually interrupted by nursing, or some other need. One room takes an hour or two, and I can move on to the next room next week! Yes this is an issue, as far as the whole house being clean at once, but it is just how it has got to work for now! I have one CRAZY spring cleaning week once a year as well, where my Mother In Law takes my children to VBS, and I spend a 3-6 hours every day that week going whole hog on one room! By the end of the week, the whole house is MUCH cleaner!

                                                                                                   And now…. For the Thrifty Recipe!

Image credit: Kalyn's Kitchen http://www.kalynskitchen.com/2010/12/recipe-for-baked-mini-frittatas-with.html

Image credit: Kalyn’s Kitchen

I love making this on days I am tired and busy. Deep cleaning days are a good time to make this. It is easy and healthy, not to mention this is obscenely cheap and can be made with whatever is in your fridge at the time.
(For a different recipe than the one I posted below, the inspiration for my version, and the source of the photo: See Kalyn’s Kitchen’s Fritatta recipe made in Muffin Cups!)

Garden and Cheese Fritatta– Heat oven to 350 F
For our family we use 1 dozen eggs EASILY. But the recipe can be made with 4 or more. Just adjust veggies to match portion sizes.

Fry veggies in Olive oil. (I use combos like Broccoli and garlic and carrots. Or zuchini, onions, garlic. Or peas, carrots, tomatoes, garlic. This part is usually free, because this is usually done using whatever we get out of our garden.) Whatever veggies you have in your fridge/garden, toss them in a pan with olive oil. Fry til clear, or tender.

Put veggies, salt and pepper to taste, in bottom of casserole dish. Meat can be added to the pile here too, I like bacon crumbles, sausage crumbles, Pepperoni etc, any leftover meats you have that need using are great for a bit of extra flavor. But it tastes just as good without them!

Beat 1 dozen eggs, pour into casserole dish, covering veggies with beaten eggs. (veggies should be barely covered, but covered nonetheless.) salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: Put a bit of grated cheese on top of the eggs. Mozzarella, Cheddar, whatever floats your boat.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes (time may be adjusted for less eggs.)
During last 1-2 minutes, turn on broiler, til golden, and cheese is bubbling (if cheese is used.)

Serve HOT!  This is your entire meal in a dish! Great with garlic bread, toast, or nothing else at all! It is filling, warm, and very healthy! Not to mention, super frugal! Enjoy!

Eating Well on a Tight Budget

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Eating well on a tight budget isn’t as hard as it sounds. It just requires… creativity.

For instance, my husband bought one of these:
A Sweet Italian Sausage Round. It was roughly 2-3 lbs of meat. He bought it for $1.99 a lb.
I wanted to make this last for 3 meals.
pepperonion

Meal #1
I didn’t have money to get new ingredients, and some of my pantry staples were already claimed for two planned meals, one for a party, and one for my daughter’s birthday supper of choice. So I have to get more creative here. I made up my own recipe. Now that I’ve been cooking for nigh unto 6 years as a married Mama, I’m a bit better at this than I once was. Still learning though! But this one turned out fabulously:

I started  with the sausage. Before starting to use it for any meals, I cooked it for an hour at 350. It dries it out a bit, makes it crumbly and crunchy. JUST how I like it! If you like it more moist, cut your cooking time by 15-25 minutes, and ramp up the heat, maybe to 425, for 30 minutes.

Everything but The Kitchen Sink Summer Garden Pasta
Makes 8-10 servings. (Enough for our family for 2 meals. Dinner, and lunch the following day usually.)

1 LARGE freshly picked Zucchini, sliced as needed.ttar_zucchini_v
4-5 cloves fresh garlic (Finely diced)
3 LARGE garden tomatoes (coarsely diced)
2-3 tbspns Olive Oil

aprox. 1 lb (pre-cooked as mentioned) sausage, cut into medallions.
1 lb mini bowtie noodles
Salt/garlic salt to taste

Drizzle Olive Oil into large, deep skillet. Turn into medium/high. (remember, the sausages are already cooked through, so we’re just heating up and flavoring.) toss in medallions and diced garlic cloves. Stir to coat,
Add in Sliced zucchini, and diced tomatoes.  Add water (Enough to steam veggies and stew tomatoes a bit. Don’t stress over the skins,) Put lid on skillet, and cook on medium, for about 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and zucchini is clear. About the time it takes to boil the noodles in another pot.
Once noodles are boiled, drain. While draining noodles, remove lid from veggie skillet, allowing the water to boil off a bit, and the “sauce” to thicken. Salt to taste, using table salt OR Garlic salt. I did a mixture of both.
Add noodles. Toss. Serve with buttered bread and green veggie, such as broccoli or salad.

Meal #2

Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage. Need I say more? 🙂 Everyone had one “link” This used almost 1 lb. A bit less.

Meal #3

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
(I got this from Allrecipes, but I modified it a bit to suit our needs. Makes 2 large and 1 medium pizza crusts. Enough for one meal for our family, plus lunches the next day.)

3  .25 oz. packages of yeast ($.79 at Aldi!)
3 tsp White Sugar
3 cups warm water pizza

Mix, let stand 10 minutes till frothy.
Add: 6 tablespoons oil
3 tsp Salt
7 1/2 c. flour

Mix til smooth. Let sit 10-20 minutes in bowl. 10 is fine.
Turn out onto floured surface. Knead. Separate into 3 rounded balls. We used 2 large pans and one medium, so I separated the dough accordingly.
Cover pans in light dusting of corn meal or flour. Spread dough into pans (Keep your hands well floured to prevent sticking and tearing of dough.)
Use desired toppings (we used sausage medallions, Pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. I like to throw in green peppers and onions for veggie power!) Bake until cheese is golden and bubbling. Aprox. 15-20 minutes.

Sauce for pizza:
Mix:
1 can Tomato paste
2 cans of water
1 tsp salt
1 tbspn sugar
spices as desired (I use an italian blend plus sweet basil and garlic powder.)

Put all ingredients in saucepan, heat and stir until thoroughly combined. Spread on Pizza dough, then add remaining toppings.

There you have it! 3 frugal easy meals that are delicious, nutritious, and just plain good eating! Enjoy!

 

 

 

How to: Save On Groceries

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I know, this is totally an exciting topic that everyone is dying to dive into. But seriously, my husband has made an art of this! On average we spend $60-$100 for two weeks worth of groceries for our family of 6. He has a lot of *trade* secrets that help us to make our budget, and eat fairly well. I have some as well, being the cook, on how to make food last throughout the week, while giving everyone plenty to eat.

First, a few qualifiers, our youngest, Isaiah, isn’t eating food yet, and our three daughters, Sarah, Emma, and Ava eat about the equivalent of 1 1/2 adults. Sometimes of 2 adults. Depends on what the meal is. (Emma generally can eat more than I do!) So we are pretty much paying for the food of 4-5 adults, depending on the appetites that week. Our budget does fluctuate because sometimes we just don’t find fabulous deals, and sometimes we do. On some weeks, we don’t buy any food because we do some modest stockpiling. No, we are *not* the family with scads of shelves in the basement and enough food to survive Armageddon, our pantry does get empty too! And no, we do *not* empty the sale shelf on a regular basis. We do try to leave some good deals for other folks too. But we do get more than one when there is a great deal. Our rule of thumb is this: If it won’t be used fast enough, if it would spoil before we could use it, we won’t buy it. We buy enough to last our family until the next time we go shopping, and then a little bit more for the nonperishable pantry stockers. This comes in handy for our own needs, or if someone else is in need, we have some to spare immediately.

For all of you folks out there who prefer organic items, and have special dietary needs, portions of this list may help you, but I will tell you, when someone in our home has a dietary issue (it has happened!) our entire grocery budget goes downhill fast. We aren’t picky, we just eat what is on sale, unless someone is sick and needs a particular type of food or foods to help recover.
Stomato and garlichopping tips: (This is my husband’s set of secrets! I love a man who can do a killer shopping trip! I don’t do any grocery shopping unless it is the emergency kind!)

  • Buy reduced. We can’t say it enough! Reduced everything! The dented can? Still good. Buy it.
  • Note what pantry staple items are never on sale, buy those (2 at a time) every time you go to the store. This way you get quite a nice pile without spending a lot all of the sudden when you are out of these pantry staples. My husband does this with kidney beans (we eat them a lot, cheap and nutritious!) and tomato paste. (Same thing, I use it for everything from chili to veg. soup, to spaghetti sauce. One can at 30-something cents can make an entire meal tastier!)
  • Don’t do brand names. Coupons can save you a lot, but generally we have found it is cheaper to buy at Aldi than to coupon brand names at Wal-Mart. There are exceptions to this rule, but not always.
  • Buy local. You save more in fuel. Some staples cost the same no matter where you go. So buying milk up the street when you are getting low is a lot cheaper than going to Wal-Mart 20 minutes away and then buying a ton of food because you went hungry.
  • Don’t shop hungry. You buy more.
  • DO buy reduced fruits and veggies. Yes, the nutrition isn’t as fabulous, but they are great for soups and stews.
  • Have your own Garden. What you pick, you don’t have to buy.
  • Buy pantry staples on sale, get multiples. When he finds flour, or sugar on sale, he will buy 2-3 bags. I package them and keep them in the pantry. This usually gets us to the next sale for the same pantry items that are staples. This doesn’t mean he gets more than I can package, but he does get more than he would if I were out and needed enough to complete a recipe.freezer-bag
  • Skip the snacks! You don’t need them, they aren’t healthy for you. We rarely buy beverages, chips, pretzels, breakfast bars, or any kind of prepackaged food really. I cook a lot from scratch, so it isn’t necessary. We drink water, and if necessary, I make home made soda or Gatorade.
  • ALWAYS look in the pantry/fridge before you shop. You save a lot of money this way. It keeps you from buying things you don’t need, and then having them spoil.
  • Go (semi) vegetarian! Beans, Eggs, tuna etc are all an excellent protein cheaper than meat.
  • Don’t shop at big box stores, or specialty stores. Hunt the deals, then stick with them. We like Aldi, Produce Junction, etc. In your neighborhood it might be something else, Like Wegmans or Costco, I don’t know, but do sniff out the deals, and then keep shopping there.
  • Plan your shopping. Try to minimize trips to the store by going when you know there is a sale, with a list of items. try not to do mini trips when you need something. Do once every two weeks, and limit yourself to trips for staples in between if absolutely needed (like a gallon of milk.) This saves money by reducing unnecessary expenses. Example: You go every two weeks and buy a bag of apples, 10 pounds of meat, 2 gallons of milk, 1 5lb bag of onions, and a 10 lb bag of potatoes, 2 cans of kidney beans, and listed items going short/on sale, like flour, or sugar, or noodles.  This is cheaper than going on Monday to buy chicken breast, rice, and veggies (in small amounts) then on Tuesday for steak, potatoes, cheese, and sour cream, etc. When you buy your cravings, instead of sticking to staples, you spend more than if you buy your staples, and make food based on what is in your kitchen.

Prepari63933_179254385434638_120861161273961_594105_1792248_nng/Cooking tips: (This is MY set of secrets! Combined with my husband’s set, it makes for even more savings.)

  • Cook right away. My husband brings home meat they sold that day because it WAS the sell by date. Before you get squeamish, here is the secret. I cook it THAT day, or the day after. This prolongs the preservation of the meat. If he gets a LOT (once he brought home roughly 15 lbs of hamburger.) I cook it as plainly as possible (I fried it with onions) and then pack it into 1 and 2 lb baggies and freeze it. This makes for an easy “frozen” dinner later. Pop out a baggie of meat, fry it up in a pan, add spaghetti sauce and boil some noodles. VOILA! in 15 minutes you have a meal that costed pennies on the dollar. I love using these as prep for times when I know cooking will be hard. Like weeks I am canning, or when I’m coming up on a due date for a new baby. For hamburger you can use the meat for anything from tacos, to shepherd’s pie, vegetable soup starter, spaghetti, lasagna,  onion gravy starter, Beef Stroganoff, the list is endless.
  • Cook from scratch. It really is cheaper. Generally I find baking bread from scratch is comparable, and sometimes storebought bread on sale is cheaper, but literally 9.9 times out of ten, it is ALWAYS cheaper to make an entire meal from scratch, especially if a home garden is involved. There are other things too, which are cheaper to make from scratch, such as Home made Gatorade, Home cleaning products, etc.
  • Preserve right away. If you have meat or fruits or veggies which you can’t cook now (no time, or whatever) pack them up to freeze. My husband keeps freezer baggies on hand so I can package food however I need to to preserve it. I will take a pack of 8 chicken breasts, and separate it into 2 or 3 portions, and freeze them that way. The same goes for reduced fruits and veggies. clean them up same day or next day, and then freeze or can them. I like to freeze berries, and use them all year in scones and muffins, I also like to clean and freeze bell peppers, as they come in handy in all types of dishes.
  • Substitute. If you find that it is cheaper to make your own baking powder, then do it! I often will use milk in recipes, but I’ll half it with water to limit the calories and the cost. 1/2 c. of milk in cornbread? Nope! I do 1/4 c. of water, 1/4. c of milk. Most recipes it does not affect. Also, if you want to eat a particular thing, find a recipe that uses ingredients already in your pantry. I try to skip recipes that have expensive or exotic ingredients in them. Generally I can find a simpler version that tastes just as good, but doesn’t require a special trip to the store.
  • Stretch the meat. Using beans, peanut butter, eggs, etc, find ways to make meat go longer. Don’t make everyone two hamburgers, Make enough other foods that one will do. Baked beans, salad, potatoes, etc. Fill up on the other foods, preferably fruits and veggies. Don’t rely on a meat heavy diet. It isn’t the healthiest, or the cheapest. Be creative in finding ways to use your meat as a base, not a main food.
  • Reduce the sugar. IF you are making a recipe, easy way to make it cheaper AND healthier is to reduce the sugar. Eventually you find it DOES taste better that way anyway! canning
  • Find a cheaper, healthier, version. Like ice cream? Cool, buy a ton of bananas reduced. Peel them, freeze them, then when you want ice cream, toss those babies (still frozen!) in a blender with a smidge of yogurt or milk, and some chocolate syrup or fruit for flavoring. No sugar required. Cheap ice cream. Healthier too.
  • Portion control. I know, sounds awful doesn’t it? We have 3 meals a day, and 2-3 snack times. Snacks are generally fresh fruit or veggies. Can be a handful of frozen blueberries on a hot summer day, or a muffin on a cold winter day. But most of the time it is carrot sticks, or apple slices with PB or something like that.  This kind of self discipline is good for the waistline, AND the wallet.
  • Limit waste! Use all your leftovers (I try to use them up in lunches, this keeps them from languishing in the back of the fridge!) And re use what you can, or use all parts of a fruit or veggie. I know, it sounds crazy, but we try to use all parts of a food if we can. If we have lemons, we use the juice, and then use the rinds to make our cleaning vinegar smell nice! If we have an empty jar of pickles, we put a fresh cucumber in there for some crunchy no cook pickles! (I wouldn’t recommend doing this more than once though!)
  •  Limit your condiments. Keep it simple. Using ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and relish, white vinegar, and olive oil we can pretty much cover anything. We do get some salad dressings from time to time, but we do a lot of home made ones!
  • Keep a lot of fresh fruits and veggies handy, and always have a steady supply of onions, garlic, and salt to make broths and stews from scratch.
  • Don’t experiment without a recipe. No matter how much you think you know how to make something, taste, taste, and taste again. Follow the recipe, and make sure you know what you are doing! This reduces nasty food that nobody likes. Same with keeping on track with your baked goods. If you know you’ll be distracted, don’t bake, it isn’t worth a ruined panful of biscuits that burned!

My Disclaimer: This list is to help you better budget your money, and work with a little. As I’ve said in the past, we are far from rich, and live off of very little. If I had a nickel for every time someone squeals: “You guys work with THAT little?” We wouldn’t be so tightly budgeted! But we live this way because it enables me to stay home with the children. We buy what we can afford, no more, and very little less sometimes. We depend on God to provide our needs, knowing that any day, a disaster can, and has happened. We do not have a lot of “surplus” in the way of finances.
Every family, large or small, goes through tough financial times. We have had times of need, where we didn’t know where we would have enough money to buy the next bunch of groceries. It doesn’t happen all the time to us,  but it has happened in the past. Know that whether or not you have the money to buy that next meal, God will provide, somehow.  This doesn’t mean we should spend irresponsibily and assume God will give our children food. Scripture says it is worse to evade your responsibility to provide for your family, than it is to not believe in God. (I Timothy 5:8)

This does mean that if we are doing all we should, and can do to provide for our family, and yet some surprise happens (a totaled car, a roof to replace, a surprise expense.) that God has his hand on us. God WILL come through.

If you have all of your needs met, and you see a family in need, be the hands that help. Step up. Buy them a box of groceries, pass them the extra potatoes your family just can’t eat before they spoil. People have done that for us. We never got to a point of asking for help, because help came before we could ask. I know in the future, as we see families in need, when we have blessings to share, they will be passed on, not just because we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end, but because it is what we ought to do.  BE the person who gives. This isn’t the responsibility of society, of our state, or our country. In other words, it isn’t *someone else’s* responsibility. It is OUR responsibility. WE should step forward to help the people we know and love in our own church and community.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.  Proverbs 19:17

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ … Matthew 25:35-40

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:11

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31

How to: Plan An Inexpensive Vacation and Day Trip

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My husband isn’t big onimages vacation. So not big that he has racked up days and days and days and DAYS of vacation and sick time. It is amazing how much time he has. But, being the man he is, and the man I love,we end up doing a lot of “staycations” with a day trip or two thrown in. We try to keep them as expense free as possible, but every now and then we splurge on a really awesome opportunity for learning, like a day in Philly, or, eventually, a day trip to NYC.  Our day trip this year is *fanfare please* 4th of July in Gettysburg! This will be our *entire* summer vacation budget all for this one day trip, because it is so special!
When I was a teenager, I used to think I lived in the most boring state ever.  (Why couldn’t we live in say… South Dakota? Where Laura Ingalls lived? HER life was exciting!) As a homeschooling Mom, I am glad we live in a history rich state that has MANY ways and places that my children can touch history for relatively little expense. Gettysburg is one of them. I am thrilled to pieces to go see the biggest re-enactment yet for the 150th anniversary of this turning point battle.

But, we have a budget. And a tight one at that. For the entire day, for our family of 6, we have to spend less than $150. Now I know that sounds like a lot on first blush, but we’ve reduced the costs by:

  1. Avoiding an overnight stay (Could easily cost us over $100-200 per night during this high traffic week.)
  2. Making our own food. (Could cost us more than $15-$30 per family meal eaten at a restaurant, or on the grounds. That is a total of $60-$90 or more for food in one day alone. Not counting drinks or snacks.)
  3. Driving our own van (we considered going with Vision Forum, but it would cost $65 per adult, including Gettysburg tickets, but we would still have to meet the bus in Harrisburg, which would cost us roughly $40 in fuel round trip. The total for that is roughly $190.)

This is a day trip that will *be* the highlight of a “staycation.” When you consider the costs of a vacation for a family of 6 for a whole week, or even a not so DIY version of just this day trip, this is a steal! We also “reduce” costs by NOT using our family budget to pay for this. How do we do that? I have a few jobs on the side (Lilla Rose, House Cleaning, and Rental Property Management.) While we plan for a trip like this, we stow away a little bit of money with each earning, and save it up until we meet our budget goals. Not all of it though, some of it gets saved or used for other needs, and 10% must go to tithe.

Here is a break down of how we will meet our budget:

Fuel: The trip to and from Gettysburg is roughly 232 miles. Our minivan gets a respectable 18-20 highway. So we’re looking at roughly $45-$50 in fuel.
Tickets: Tickets to Gettysburg re-enactments cost $35 per person, per day. Children 6 and under are free. So tickets will cost $70.

Food: This leaves us with $30 for food  and drinks for 6 for an entire day. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack/dessert.
How can we get that much food for that little money? Impossible on the grounds, but they do allow you to keep things in your car. Food, drinks, etc. So we’re planning on packing!

Drinks: We are packing a cooler full of home made gatorade. For 5 gallons, that is roughly $3. ($1.50 for the sugar, and a little over a $1.00 for flavor packets. The rest pays for the salt and filtered water.) Also packing full water bottles.
Total: $3.00
Snacks: I am baking a boatload of things. Baking bread costs me roughly $2.0o a batch. This yields 3 large loaves.  I will be using $3.00 worth of flour and sugar, free frozen organic apples, and $1.00 worth of blueberries to bake muffins, scones, and possibly an apple crisp type deal. Add in $2.00 for butter, eggs, and milk.
Total: $6.00
Main meals: I will probably bring along a jar of jelly, and a jar of Peanut Butter. That will be roughly $3. Combined with one loaf of the bread, that’ll be lunch.  Supper might be a loaf of the bread with $5 in lunchmeat and cheese. Breakfast will be a portion of the snacks.
Total: $8.00
Incidentals: Fresh organic veggies to munch on, green beans, peas, cherry tomatoes, all free and fresh from our backyard garden! Same goes for some strawberries. Apples, and some other munchies, like bananas and other fruits to munch on, will probably come to $3.
Total: $3.00faq3

Unless we feel the need to do anything else for food, which I can always bake or harvest more, it will cost us a total of $20.00 for food. That leaves us with $10.00 in our pocket in case of minor emergencies, or for price fluctuation. Not bad for a daytrip for a family of 6. It would cost us so much more to go on vacation for a week. This is the perfect “staycation” finale!

Happy 4th of July!

Curriculum hunting

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Emma (4) and Sarah (6) at the kids Creation Seminar run by Answers in Genesis.

Homeschooling appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite things about homeschooling is that it is FLEXIBLE! I love that one day we can do back to back doctor appointments, and another we can stay home and learn there. My children’s learning doesn’t suffer from this, in fact, it often benefits! They have the benefits of multiple social situations and master teachers. (Who better to teach my children about the structure of the eye than our Optometrist?) But they also have the benefit of relaxed days, and a comfortable classroom. I want my children to think that although we must be diligent in completing our tasks, we can be creative in completing them too! Who says I have to wash the dishes grimfaced and snarling? I can sing and dance instead! Who says we have to do school uncomfortable and forced? We can have fun and explore instead!
One of the first places to start in this, something I am still tweaking as we go, is the area of curriculum! Some parents thrive on routine and predictability, and if that is the case, I would recommend a boxed curriculum with a teacher’s manual and lesson plans. I am the opposite. A seat of the pants kinda gal. I cobble together curriculum until I get everything just right. I am not a fan of across the board choices. So I find what curriculum I like in one subject, and supplement it with something fun. I prefer basic and thorough curriculum that uses a mastery concept. This way I can apply it in real time using real life situations and experiences to reinforce what they are already learning in their books. I’d rather be done with book work by lunch, and then spending the rest of the day learning incognito, than spending all day with our noses in books, tears pouring out in frustration!

So if you don’t want to go the boxed curriculum way, and you’re a seat of the pants kinda Mom or Dad, how can you cobble together a curriculum? Simply stated, do your research. Find out how your child learns, take your schedule into consideration. Do you need a mobile curriculum? Do you have a LOT of outside opportunities set up for your kids that can supplement something basic and simple? Or do you need a curriculum that covers everything in one book? After you’ve determined what kind you need, go for it! Ebay has a lot of books for good prices if you can snag them. We gambled on McGuffy’s Readers and bought a WHOLE set on there for a steal of $30ish dollars! But, now we have chosen that as our reading curriculum for several years now. At least for 6 years, maybe longer! Understand that if you choose this route, you may or may not have access to teacher’s manuals, you may have to plan lessons to fill in areas you feel are scanty, or in areas that your child needs extra instruction and reinforcement. Also know that you may have to tweak things year by year until you find things you like. We may have McGuffy’s for reading, but we will be adding Easy Grams, and perhaps English From The Roots Up. As the children grow older, so will our curriculum. We will add and adjust with them. It can grow in books, or experiences, or in any way that it works! That is the beauty of customizing!
Here is how our curriculum looked this year, and may look next year, with a few adjustments:

For reading, we use McGuffy’s Readers for formal instruction and supplement it with books or phonics programs (Dr. Suess, Little Bear, Peter Rabbit, Starfall website for phonics support.)

The girls making dough ornaments.

For Math, we are currently using an online website called IXL, but I am not satisfied, so next year we may just do Horizons. After 3rd grade, we are considering The Life of Fred. For now we’ve been supplementing IXL by applying the concepts we’ve learned online with in home situations. Measuring fractions for cooking, using an abacus to add, subtract, or make calculations for home needs, like how many grapes each child should get, etc. Also, paying for and calculating the price of objects when shopping.`

We are really liking “History for Little Pilgrims” for our history this year. We supplement this with social studies situations,

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Tea Party!

such as watching Rand Paul Filibuster in real time, or taking part in a community service project etc. We also do a geography element to this, learning about our state, our country, and using real life experiences to educate the children about other cultures and languages. This multi-cultural experience is organic and natural.

For science we are members of the Da Vinci Science Center, we can go there any time for hands on fun, we also use the book “The World God Made” by E.J. Shewan. We also supplement by going to any seminar we can find that includes our children’s grade levels.

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Emma, climbing a tree.

Another way to apply science year round is our plethora of pets to care for (rabbits, cat, and fish) and our organic vegetable garden, and mini fruit orchard in our backyard.

For health and wellness, we use doctor’s well checks as unit studies. We pick body parts and study how they function and what they do. We’ve enjoyed opportunities to do so in depth with Da Vinci Center’s Bodies Revealed exhibit. One of the girls also received a really cool body toy that one can remove the internal organs and replace them. It came with a booklet that describes the functions of each organ. Of course, a lot of outside play is involved, and this year, since I was pregnant, we did a constant study on how Mommy’s body works to bring life into the world. We studied how the baby grew each month, watched videos of what was happening in the womb, and learned all about the miracle of birth. (Age appropriately of course!) This will have a more formal curriculum as they grow, but now while they are young, visiting our doctor, and talking about how our bodies work, spending time daily to discuss nutrition and healthy practices, in hygiene (brushing teeth) or in diet, or in activities, we make this a part of everyday life.

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Emma (4) at the Lyons Fiddle Festival listening to some prime fiddlers!

For music and art we do a variety of projects, crafts, (all by the seat of our pants!) Lots of play doh play, We have a series of CD’s on the classical masters, each has examples of their most famous music, and a narrated biography fit in throughout the CD. We also do field trips like the Lyons Fiddle Festival, and Band or Orchestra concerts. None of this is from a formal curriculum, it is just LIFE! I love that.

We do not use a formal Bible program. This is something we do on our own too. Sola Scriptura is a great way to go! We take times to memorize scripture together for AWANA, and every day we review the Proverb of the day. (We use this website, and often listen to the devotional of the day, but I don’t like how they cherry pick scripture for the devotional, so we don’t use that every day.) The goal is that within a year of doing this, each child will know the Proverbs well, or perhaps even by heart. This is an excellent character building program, as throughout the day we apply the Proverb we read! Next year we may do something else, like a daily reading of the gospels, or a jaunt through Genesis. The point is to have them reading scripture. We are strongly considering a program of reading the Bible in a year, to expose them to the whole work of God. I have yet to find a program that suits my idea of doing so chronologically, but that is not overwhelming for little ones to sit through. (All of ours are 6, 4, 2, 1 month, presently)

It is very easy to cobble together your own curriculum if you choose. It can be cheaper, and more eclectic! This way you can customize it to meet your child’s needs, and to educate children of multiple ages at once. We LOVE field trips, because each child, no matter their age, takes away an age appropriate experience. Same thing with Bible programs, or Home Economics.

The best part is when the whole family participates side by side,the older ones helping the younger, and the younger’s questions challenging the older. Homeschooling just naturally provides a multi faceted approach to learning.

This time of year is perfect for considering curriculum options. Better to prayerfully consider now, than to have to change mid year, or have to buy things last minute during the summer. Once we buy programs we like, we will probably use them for child after child, handing them down as each child reaches the next level. Buying new books for our oldest at this juncture is also handy, in case she finishes her current book, and still needs to continue on.

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Our Kempton train ride field trip! Looking out the window of the caboose!

Happy Curriculum hunting!