Author: The Mom

Learning to Trust When It Comes to Health

Learning to Trust When It Comes to Health

Enough already.

I didn’t scream it, but I wanted to.

The doctor had been lecturing my son and myself about what had to be done – and so far he hadn’t run any tests. He had asked the basic question, “what brings you here today,” and then gone into his monologue.

My son turned to look at me and rolled his eyes.

My internal rant when on as long as the doctor’s monologue.

Look, I get that you went to school to learn, but I can guarantee that you didn’t learn about everything and everyone.

I get that you went through training, but I guarantee this is the first “me” you’ve dealt with.

I get that your time is valuable and that you have lots of important things to do, but I guarantee we are all valuable and important.

When he finally finished, I spoke for my son – since eye-rolling is sometimes his strongest response. “I appreciate what you are saying, but I’m not sure we agree. We’ll talk it over and let you know.”

We did talk it over and we ended up looking for a different doctor. It was important to find someone that would treat my son, not follow the same path that the symptoms normally led.

It wasn’t my first time dealing with doctors that knew it all without knowing the person.

Several years ago, I had an encounter with a doctor that left me with a taste of distrust. Maybe distrust isn’t the best word to describe it, but I came away with a leery look at people that try to tell me about me without knowing me.

At that time, I trusted the doctor over my own instincts and cues from my body. It didn’t end well, but I learned through that painful experience to trust myself and listen to what my body had to say – and to look for someone who would be willing to listen as well.

When my son became sick, we talked, we researched, we questioned.

Finally, we contacted the doctor to see if he could help. It was not normal for my son to go to the doctor, except for the yearly physical for scouts.

We explained the issues. We connected the dots of this event to a prior accident. I shared some the research we had done.

Despite all that we had to say, he offered his trained opinion and expected us to accept it and go on.

We didn’t. We questioned, so the doctor ran some tests before sending us home. The office called the next morning and said they were concerned about the results. Further tests were needed.

Again, we talked and researched and then went to the follow-up tests.

The process went on – each time we would talk and research and always I tried to defer to my son (because I didn’t want to be the one telling him what he needed for him). He appreciated my being there and my willingness to go either direction with him. It gave him the courage to speak up for himself.

Doctors are a huge benefit for healing and health – but they can only work with what you give them. Be determined to stand up for your uniqueness.

  1. Listen to your body. If something feels wrong, uncomfortable, or out of the normal for you then speak up. If you don’t share it with the doctor then the doctor will never know and the doctor can’t work with you the best way possible.
  2. Write it down. Keep a record of all you experience leading you up to the visit with the doctor and also what occurs when you follow the orders. It will give you something to follow up on when you have a return visit.
  3. Take someone with you. We are stronger together, and when you are dealing with health and wellbeing – or when you aren’t feeling your best – having the backup can be all the difference in the world. Plus, someone else will be able to help you remember what you need to share and also be there to hear what the doctor shares.
  4. Be okay with walking away. Not all doctors are suited to all patients. It is important to find the medical care person that you feel comfortable working with – because it is a team challenge.

You know more about you than anyone else. Listen to your body. Be honest with yourself first, and then be open to sharing with your medical care professional about it all. You only get back what you are willing to invest in your health.

A First Look at Butcher Box

A First Look at Butcher Box

Reviewing of the Butcher Box Service

For several years, we invested part of our income tax refund into organic beef. Basically, we would go in with several other folks to purchase a cow and then when it was butchered we’d collect our portion.

It’s expensive if you consider it has to be paid all in one lump sum. It’s not as expensive when you realize we have beef for almost a full year.

Or we used to. I got made at our stand up freezer because I had to keep defrosting it – plus, it was big and took up a large portion of my laundry room. Plus, the older boys were off to college so I didn’t have as many folks to feed. Plus, the youngest and husband go off to school all day so I don’t have as many meals to make.

I wanted the organic beef, but I didn’t need as much of it. Plus, I also wanted other organic meats as well.

I had been seeing the advertisements for Butcher Box for several months, but after a visit to the grocery store sent me home empty-handed (I was searching for a free-range chicken), I decided now was as good a time as any to make the leap.

Besides, there was a bonus of free ground beef for life and that’s ALWAYS an item I can find a way to use.

The ordering process was simple. I chose a variety of chicken, pork, and beef. Fortunately, I only ordered one whole chicken because the school served chicken six out of ten days after I ordered. My family is not thrilled about chicken at the moment.

It took longer than I expected for the package to ship, and then I was panicked about the delivery. We had an issue earlier in the week with the FedEx guy mixing up our address with the neighbor’s address and I didn’t want that to happen with a box of meat (especially with a momma bear and her two cubs wandering the neighborhood – but one issue at a time).

I called the local FedEx office after lunch to make sure things were still on track. The lady who answered assured me they would make the delivery before the end of the day.

As I was telling my husband about the call with FedEx, the FedEx guy showed up.

I enlisted my son to help with the unpacking.


I was surprised that the meat wasn’t in a styrofoam box – the last time I ordered meat delivered, it came that way. But this had boxes around boxes and an empty plastic bag which I suspect had once been dry ice.

We moved all the meat from the box to the sink and sorted the frozen from the thawing.

I then used the Butcher Box chat feature on the website to update them about our shipment.

We just received our first box and we were almost the last delivery of the day for FedEx. All of the dry ice was gone, and the items on the bottom of the pack were thawed or in the process of thawing.

There were four sirloin steaks, two of which were completely thawed and the other two on their way. The ground breakfast sausage was also partially thawed. The chopped sirloin tips were also partially thawed.

We brought the box in as soon as FedEx delivered – but that was 4:30 pm our time.

We checked the box, and it only had one place where it said the items were perishable. It might have been all frozen had it been delivered earlier.

I’ll keep up updated on how things go.

Thank you, Kathryn

. They immediately responded and offered me some safety tips about temperatures of meat (which I didn’t know). After using my digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature, two of the steaks were right on the edge.

Grace offered to make it right, and she did. She then sent me an email with a complete transcript from the chat, which I definitely appreciated (and it’s the first time I’ve had a chat service do that). It makes it easier to keep records – and also to blog later on about the moment.

Most of the meat went into the freezer. Some of it went into the meat drawer of the refrigerator because I know I’ll be using during the next week. I originally put the chicken in the refrigerator, but I’m think about holding off on thawing it for now.

All and all, it was an eventful start. It may not have started out the way I expected, but it’s good to know that they are willing to back up their product.

If you want to try out Butcher Box for yourself, you can use http://fbuy.me/nIZkx

Be sure to let me know what you think of the experience and I’ll keep you up to date about how I put these treats to work in our meal rotation!

Have you ever tried a meal service? Share your thoughts, concerns, or blessings!

The Mom

To Home School or Not to Home School – the Struggle is Real

To Home School or Not to Home School – the Struggle is Real

“You can’t have a bb gun because you’ll shoot your eye out.” The sentiment might have been from a movie, but I often thought about it when I contemplated homeschooling. People told me I would regret it. People told me I’d ruin my children. People told me I’d hinder them from pursuing higher education.

After all, I was not a teacher (and I didn’t even play one on television). Who was I to educate my children?

The struggle was real – and even now the struggle continues. Despite having graduated two sons already (both of which made the rank of Eagle Scout and are maintaining A averages in college), I still doubt having made the right choice.

I also doubt having made the choice not to finish out the school journey with my youngest son and letting him choose to attend a local Christian school. Even though we offered every year to allow the boys the choice once they reached middle school and he was the first to request the change. I doubt having made the right choice.

Homeschooling is no better (or worse) for education than any other path. It comes down to what you choose to put into the journey and what you instill in your child to put in. In the end, there will always be what-ifs and if-onlys that will make you doubt your choice.

Home Schooling Basics

Pros:

  • Flexibility – for timing, for topics, and for focus
  • Community – the homeschooling community is vast and widespread. No matter where you go, there will be homeschooling gatherings nearby.
  • Connection – you invest more time with your children and that created more opportunity to engage, connect, and grow together.
When you homeschool you can make costume design part of your school day.

Cons:

  • Funding – it’s all out of pocket.
  • Responsibility – the buck stops here because it’s up to you and with you.
  • Naysayers – there will be plenty of people explaining to you how your choice is wrong and you will find that you doubt your decision on multiple occasions (no matter how good things may be going).

Truth:

We homeschooled for 17 years with a variety of systems, methods, and schedules. Our two oldest graduated as homeschoolers – the oldest received an Associate in Business and will be attending JSU on a Presidential Scholarship in the fall. The middle maintains a 4.0 in college. The youngest chose to shift to traditional school last year. Along the way, there were lots of bumps and plenty of bruises (on me) but the boys learned to learn and have taken that into the world.

Myths:

Homeschoolers are the smartest or not as bright – there are as many different levels of homeschoolers as there are in any educational organization.

Homeschoolers lack socialization – there are opportunities to be around kids all day, every day. The only limits are your willingness to attend events (or host if you so choose).

Homeschoolers are shielded from society – most people choose to home school to direct the educational journey not to isolate the child.

Homeschoolers only spend time with people like them – my first week of homeschooling many years ago, I encountered unschoolers (that don’t have a set schedule or even set curriculum) and restrictive homeschoolers (that followed a traditional school schedule and procedure – just at home) and the variety hasn’t stopped. Even attending co-ops I found different lifestyles, interests, family dynamics, and personalities.

Making the Choice Right

No matter which way you move, you can make the choice the right choice by making the investment to make it work.

  • Set aside time to work with your child. No matter where school happens, be up to date and invested with your child in the school work. Designated times for review will keep you from having negative surprises in the results.
  • Listen to your child. Each person has unique learning tilts – although the ideal learning environment implements ALL learning paths. Let your child show you the preferred path for his (or her) success and don’t try to force her (or him) into yours.
  • Listen to the teacher. No matter who is teaching your child, you need to take time to listen to what they are experiencing. If it’s you, then keep a journal of what is working and where there is a struggle. If it is another, keep in contact to see how you can help with the process (and don’t just wait for there to be a problem).

In the end, homeschooling will be what you make of it and what your child makes of it.

Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts for or against homeschooling?

The Mom

Use Grocery Delivery to Make Up Lost Time

Use Grocery Delivery to Make Up Lost Time

Being already behind the cart doesn’t make me excited about needing to go to town. Don’t get me wrong. We only live eight miles from town, but when all is said and done it will take at least an hour for any trip and it was an hour I didn’t have (since I had already misplaced a few).

But I needed some items from the store to finish the task I was tackling. We had several shelves of leftovers that I had started doling out for freezing before I realized my entrees outnumbered my sides.

I needed some veggies and I needed them fast.

Option #1: Text my husband and ask him to stop what he was doing to bring me what I needed to do what I was doing. Any time I can interrupt my husband at work is a good thing . . . yeah, I didn’t think you would believe that.

Option #2: Try out the delivery option from Publix.

I chose option #2.

I had been watching friends take advantage of these grocery delivery services, but I didn’t think it would work for me. I can’t even get Domino’s to deliver to my house, so why on earth would the grocery store help me out?

I clicked on the delivery option, did my shopping, paid for the groceries, and then waited.

Within a few minutes I got a message that Ashley was doing my shopping for me – all while I sat at my computer working. Wow! Thanks Ashley.

It’s only been a few minutes and the phone buzzed to tell me Publix was on the way (now I’m wishing I had ordered that sub sandwich for lunch).

Thirty minutes after hitting the buy button, I have the groceries unloaded and put away.

This was definitely a win moment for my day and helped me get back some of the lost minutes I didn’t think I could capture.

Publix Grocery Delivery for the WIN!

Using Grocery Delivery

  • Keep it simple. Choose the items that are standard. Canned foods, frozen foods, and packaged foods are perfect for delivery because they are all the same.
  • Be gracious. You have the option to give a tip, so do. The shopper (and the one delivering) made your day easier. Show your thankfulness.
  • Be realistic. A yearly subscription costs $99 (for the Publix site I used). How many times would you need to order before you recouped your cost?
  • Think outside the box (aisles). You could order take out from the deli to be delivered instead of the same old fast food for those times when you need an easy fix. Or, let Publix deliver your next party!

I will confess I had my doubts about anyone ever delivering to my house. It was quick and easy, and the lady was a delight.

I have no doubt I will be using this service down the road.

The Mom

Check to see if the service if available in your area using:

https://inst.cr/t/bdwZxSCLY

Code:KLANG45312D

And be sure to let me know what you think or how you use grocery delivery in the comments below.

Two of the freezer meals (a total of 10 today) – this is blackened chicken alfredo with veggies
Facing Down the Trees Trying to Keep You Stuck

Facing Down the Trees Trying to Keep You Stuck

It takes a village – almost literally – to maintain the gardens around my house. It’s my fault (mostly). I had grand visions of botanical gardens running through my head each spring so I kept adding to the beds until the beds overtook me.

And then I had kids. I kept up the beds until the third one arrived. After him, a series of life events got in the way and before I knew it I had a garden of gigantic weeds with root systems that apparently hold the world together. Think Boaboa trees (from the Little Prince, not from Southern Africa)!

Garden on Weeds

For the last several years I have had the mindset to get things back under control. It seems it’s easier to make the beds than it is to reclaim the beds. I do what feels like a lot, turn around, and it’s actually less than a little. When you are talking acres of beds, five feet of clearing and cleaning don’t make that much difference.

Besides, I couldn’t get anyone else to help me. Nobody would get the tiller running so I could keep the weeds out of the beds I did clean. Nobody would use the chainsaw to cut down the weeds that conventionally clippers couldn’t touch. Nobody would help me with the tasks that needed to be done just to make room for the tasks that had to be done.

Nobody looks suspiciously like my husband.

Last weekend, I had a mind shift in what I was doing for my business which lead to the launching of Stuck Writers. Apparently, dealing with stuckness in one area gave way for other areas because I started the week in the garden and am making a little progress every day. I have determined that if I only get five feet cleared then I will just keep that five feet of garden looking as amazing as possible all year long.

Yesterday, I hit upon something that I would never have considered before. What if I could launch a whole new garden with less work than it takes to reclaim the old one. So, I jumped on the tractor and went to experiment.

It’s not a perfect plan, but I said that before I set my flower beds on fire the first spring I gave that a go. The benefits of digging up and starting over is that I’m not restricted by what was. I have the freedom to do or to be whatever I decide.

So, let me ask you this, where are you stuck?

What part of your life, your home, your garden, is just sitting there getting bigger and bigger weeds because you are stuck in a rut of what to do next?

Getting Unstuck

  • Dare to do something – because something is more than nothing.
  • Don’t wait for others – you are all you need to take your step. Others may be needed for other parts, but you are only in charge of yours.
  • Start RIGHT now – and I mean right now – or at least as soon as you are finished with this article. Take one step (no matter how small) and get moving.

No matter how big the mountain or how deep the pit, you can get there. You start with the first step and then you add to that one step one step at a time.

Don’t stay stuck. Take your step!

The Mom

Throw the Kids out of the House

Throw the Kids out of the House

According to a report on Fox & Friends on March 29, 2019, kids are having more surgeries for sports injuries than professionally athletes.

Why – because we aren’t throwing them out of the house.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t what they said. But it was close.

Kids aren’t free playing anymore. The aggressive sports players do get out and practice, but that’s not the same. Attending exercise classes or working out at the gym is not the same. Free play gets the kids out of the house and into their imagination, their group engagement, and activities that don’t happen any other way.

My sons have always been free-ranged. It’s a little easier for us, because we live in the back corner of 40 acres and neighbors don’t see the free-ranging for the most part. Living in town, neighbors that don’t know you, complete strangers that have never met you, and even family members that just don’t like you want to get into your business are all watching and waiting to pounce on your lack of parenting skills.

But we live in the woods, so in the woods they go.

One day, the older boys (probably 8 and 10 at the time) came in and told me there was nothing to do. I encouraged them to go dig a hole. Later that day, they came in and asked if they could dig a tunnel from the shed to the creek.

“Absolutely,” I replied without hesitation. Not because I wanted a tunnel from the shed to the creek, although it might be cool. I was quick to respond because I understanding of how much would have to go into a tunnel.

To their credit, they did manage to dig a hole about five feet deep and four feet wide. Years later my youngest son would continue their efforts, but the giant rock that stopped his brothers also put a damper on his tunnel plans.

Did I tell them they were exercising? Nope. Did I mention they were working their joints? Of course not. Did I explain to them the value of getting the natural D from the sun? I bet you know that answer by now.

It’s not as easy with my youngest. His brothers are off at college or work. They don’t have time for playing or hanging out with their brother. I’ve started encouraging him to get out with me to build, to dig in the garden, or to burn (boys LOVE to burn).

Together, we dug a fire pit in the back yard, so now I’m more comfortable with him going out to build a fire without supervision. He’s a Boy Scout and has his firem’n chit (which means he’s supposed to be responsible), so that’s another reason to let him go.

Over the last several days, I have been pushing him more and more to get out. It’s spring break, the sun has been shining, and he needs to have less screen time. So do I. And in encouraging my son to free play and enjoy all that is around us, I have been encouraging me as well to get out and do more.

So encourage your children to free play more, even if they are involved in structured sports. And try to make some time to join them. Free play – it’ll do your heart good (and don’t forget your own rubber boots)!

The Mom

Girl, Stop Washing Your Hair

Girl, Stop Washing Your Hair

Confession time!

I gave up shampoo three years ago and haven’t looked back.

I used to tell people that I quit washing my hair, but it made my husband uncomfortable. “You DO wash your hair,” he kept insisting.

It’s true. I wash my hair, just not with anything you might expect.

It all started with a pool.

After the tornados, we installed an above ground pool. I went to the pool store to get the things I needed to keep the pool healthy and almost passed out. It was going to cost more to upkeep the pool than it had to install it.

My research instincts kicked in and I went searching for a better way. The research led me to the BBB Method on Pool Solutions.

It worked and it got me thinking. If there is a better way to maintain a pool, what about other tasks?

My research uncovered an ant killer solution that was simple, safe, and quick.

My research uncovered a homemade alternative to quick fix rolls.

My research uncovered a shampoo replacement.

And that is when I quit washing my hair.

It’s simple. Every week or so, I mix a small bottle of baking soda and water. I use this paste to scrub my scalp. After I’ve rinsed out the past completely, it’s time for the second round. I mix a larger bottle of ½ water and ½ Apple Cider Vinegar. I then coat my hair and make sure it gets over every bit of my scalp.

All that is left is rinsing well and letting my hair dry.

My hair is naturally curly, and always been more than a bit unruly. The more humidity the bigger it would get. It is also tight curls, which has always made brushing and styling a challenge. If I wanted it to be soft curls, I had to wait until it got “dirty” or I had to apply lots of product. I then had to take the time to curl it with hot rollers or with a hot iron. I spent a lot of time with my hair in a ponytail.

My hair is VERY think, which means my scalp had always stayed dry making it impossible to wear anything dark (especially if there was a chance of a black light making an appearance).

My scalp had always broken out once a month. It would itch so bad I had been known to pour Sea Breeze (original formula, of course) right on to my scalp. Yes, it would hurt, but it would also stop itching.

Now, it’s all changed.

I can brush my hair as soon as it dries and it doesn’t frizze up at all. It falls into a soft curl. I haven’t used product of any type in the last three years. The only time I use any styling tools is when I want to direct my bangs – although they still revert to their own thing when they choose.

Hair – on the road and on a rainy, humid day!

In the last three months, I have had dozens of people tell me how nice my hair looks. My reflection amazes me almost every morning. I haven’t had to “treat” my scalp for itching and I can wear any color I want. Most importantly, I don’t have to put my hair up to control it.

All in all, not washing my hair has changed my life.

The Mom

What secret natural tips do you have that you’ve implemented for drastic change?

It’s Okay to Do Things a Little Different

It’s Okay to Do Things a Little Different

I give you permission to do things a little different – a little different from the way you do them, a little different from the way others do them, or a little different from the directions. When you dare to try new things, you never know what you might discover.

While cleaning out some of the final boxes of items from storage, I found my mom’s spiced tea infuser – at least that’s what I remember her using it for when I was growing up. It was always exciting for me to see the container come out because I knew the treat that would be around the corner.

I love sipping on warm drinks while I write. Coffee is great for the early mornings, but when my husband gets up and the pot is empty then he begins to worry. I don’t worry . . . although I do hit a speed of going that often ends up in a collision.

Coffee all day will make me nauseous no matter how good the coffee.

An alternative became a necessity if I was going to work beyond lunch (and it turns out I’m supposed to do that).

Brewing one cup of tea at a time was not an option. I want to take a break, walk into the kitchen, and refresh my cup without an hassle. I tried brewing a pot of hot tea after the coffee ran out, but I forgot to tell my husband. It turns out if you are expecting coffee and get tea, it’s a shock to the system.

We received a second coffee maker from a family member. It was white. It was perfect. I know could brew tea to my heart’s content.

I then found my mom’s infuser and everything changed. The tea bags I had were quickly put to work and it was time to find a better way to brew the tea.

Did you know they make loose leaf teas? I didn’t. I found a new world of flavors when I discovered these wonderful delights.

Recently, I ordered two blends from Tiesta (through Amazon) and the Blueberry Wild Child Blueberry Hibiscus Fruit Tea – which is a lot of words for WOW!

The first time I brewed a pot, I used about a half a cup of blend. I put the infuser in the pot and then ran the water through the coffee maker and let the hot water steep with the tea. The result was a dark purple – almost black – liquid with magical properties. I drank a few cups, added some more water to the pot and brewed some more.

It was still thick and when I finished the pot I left the infuser to brew a second pot the next day.

Today I used only ¼ of a cup and it was the perfect amount.

How I Do It Different

  • Add a little hot tea to the sweet tea for a tasty blend.
  • Add a little cayenne pepper when you are feeling rough. It’s a great healer.
  • Change it up. Follow the directions the first time (if you must) but be willing to change it up until you find the perfect level of flavor for you.
  • Mix it up. You can blend blends with blends to blend the perfect blend for you need. You can also add spices to existing blends.

If you have been trying to find a good alternative to coffee then I recommend checking out the different flavors from Tiesta.

The Mom

How to Spend ONLY $40 at the Grocery Store Each Week

How to Spend ONLY $40 at the Grocery Store Each Week

The first thing you think of when it comes to cutting the budget probably doesn’t have to do with food. After all, you have to have food – especially if you have kids. If you do have kids, you probably have already figured out that you need lots of food.

But when you have cut everywhere you think you can cut, you have to start cutting in places you didn’t think you could.

It started with a new way of budgeting – which is actually an old way.

Many years ago, when I had first started my freelance writing career, I put the envelope method into practice. Every time I got paid, a percentage went into each envelope (based on a outflow budget we set up). I only used the money in the envelope to pay for what was intended.

It worked. Our finances got back in balance, and I could focus on the writing and not worry about how to pay the next bill.

That’s a good feeling.

Flash forward to a new business and a new direction and new financial issues, and it was time for me to implement the envelope plan once again.

The first week, there was only $40 in the grocery envelope, so instead of cheating – which you know I wanted to do – I determined to make it work.

It helped that I had a freezer partway filled with veggies and meats. The pantry also had odds and ends I could piece together. I took cash to the grocery store and got what I could get based on the $40.

Hint: Prioritize the list. Instead of putting the list together by aisle, I put it in order from “must have” to the “would be nice.”

The first week, there was nothing left for pre-packaged snacks. I knew I had zip lock bags back at the house, so I purchased two large containers of snacks and then put them in the baggies when I got home – ½ cup per bag.

The next week was a little tougher. I got sick, and I didn’t want to say the word “food,” much less cook anything. I knew I needed to boost my immune system, so I used what was in the pantry to come up with some soup ideas.

    Do you have a can of diced tomatoes? Sautee some onion, garlic, and those tomatoes – add a dash or two of cayenne pepper and then some cumin, and top off with chicken broth. Call it spicy soup, tortilla soup, or tomato broth – as a matter of fact, you can name your meals whatever you want. No matter what you call it, the entire dish will only cost around $5 to cook – even less if you make your own broth (which is what I do every holiday with the turkey carcass).

Weeks four and five are a little bit of a blur. I was still sick (and tired from being sick). My husband did most of the shopping, so we edged over the $40 a little – but only a little. Still, most of the meals were made from the freezer stash.

By the sixth week, I was back to myself. Even though the freezer was not quite as full as I had last seen it, it still had a few surprises for me. I went back to working off the $40 because that was guaranteed (and because I now challenged myself to keep it up – and I can’t resist a good challenge). I broke down and got some chicken breasts, which I then slowed cooked in the crockpot for a day (add some diced onion, garlic and butter and you can use the cooked chicken in a variety of dishes).

I used the first breast – shredded – in a chicken salad. The second one – again shredded – went into a stir-fry dish. The last went into the freezer.

Hint: Freeze your extras. It will make fixing a quick meal easier if the main component is already cooked.

Last week was week seven. I made my list by priority, but there was way more left than there was purchased. It’s about time for a “once a month” shopping trip and cooking day – I totaled up what that would cost and was shocked it would only be around $220.

After I got home, my husband asked me about sandwich bread. Bread had not been on the grocery list, and if it’s not on the list, then odds are it’s not coming home with me. Instead of trying to figure out how to buy bread from a budget I had already spent, I made bread.

I was blessed to have been given a Kitchen Aide blender as a gift shortly after I got married. I set it up, attached the dough hook, and then added the ingredients:

I will continue to get creative with both my cooking and with my purchasing. My grocery budget has shifted from $250 per week to only $40 per week plus $220 once a month. That is a lot of savings.

It Takes a Plan

I always plan my meals by the week. When I was planning for a picky eater, I rotated the menu so that the main entrée never repeated more than twice in a week, and never within a couple of days of each other.

Here is that template.

This is the template filled out with rotating entrees

When I don’t have to plan for a picky eater, I give myself an idea of what I want to do, but I allow myself grace if something else gets done. Also, be okay with “fend for yourself leftovers” day.

You can see by the picture from my Focus Folder that I don’t fill out all days and I don’t always cook what I do fill out. That’s okay. Move the idea to a blank place in the week or to a different week completely.

Here is that template.

Having a plan – even an outline of a plan – will make it easier to cook your meals quickly so that you don’t find yourself falling into the habit of “it’s quicker to pick something up.”

No matter what you do, there will be an investment. Either it will take more time and less money or less time and more money. You have to choose what is right for you and what works for you and your family.

The Struggles – They Are Real

I always plan my meals by the week. When I was planning for a picky eater, I rotated the menu so that the main entrée never repeated more than twice in a week, and never within a couple of days of each other.

The hardest expense to cover is the snacks. If a bag of chips gets opened around my house, it gets eater. It doesn’t matter if the bag is a single serve or a family sized bag. The same goes for most snack foods. The best bet for me is to buy the large containers and divide them up separately.

OR . . . and this can be more fun than it sounds . . . make the snacks yourself.

Cheese crisps – one tablespoon of shredded cheese topped with a dash of seasoning. Bake on parchment paper or a Silpat for 5 – 10 minutes at a375 degrees. Not only are these a great snack, but they also work as toppers for salads and baked potatoes.

Boiled eggs – my boys love these for meals and for snacks. They even come in their own container. 😀

Granola bars – all you need is some rolled oats, chopped nuts, honey, butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract – plus anything you want to add in to spice up or dress up your bars. There are literally hundreds of recipes out there, so try some or make up your own.

The next hardest thing is meat . . . and I have a house full of meat eaters. In the past, we have gone in with a group of folks to purchase a locally raised, grass-fed cow. That meat usually lasts us about a year. When I break down the budget, it fits into my new plan. The key will be to save up for the big buy like I need to save up for the “once a month” buys.

I’ll keep you up to date with the progress.

So, what are your top grocery budget tips?

The Mom

Holiday Inn Express Offered The Mom a Rare Weekend Alone

Holiday Inn Express Offered The Mom a Rare Weekend Alone

You can always find a reason to complain – or you can find a reason to praise. The difference is not just in your experience but in the experience you leave with those you encounter.

find positives
The Mom had a treat this past weekend. I had the opportunity to spend two whole nights in a hotel . . . ALONE!

I had to work the days at WordCamp Birmingham 2018, but I had the hotel room all to myself.

The Holiday Inn Express in Pelham, Alabama was one of the sponsors for the conference and that was the hotel of choice for many of the attendees, speakers, or organizers. Not only did HIE provide a great group rate AND amazing amenities, but it was also within walking distance of the Pelham Civic Complex.

I checked in after we met to get set up for the weekend event, and was immediately impressed with the ease of the process. The staff welcomed me and had me checked in within a couple of minutes – even though I didn’t have my confirmation code available.

I LOVED the room!

Room at Holiday Inn Express

The next morning, the breakfast offerings caught me off guard. The omelets were tasty and just what I needed to get my morning started, but I’m fairly certain I could have eaten the cinnamon buns all day. If you can make a cinnamon bun delicious without having to drip it in icing then you have my attention.

I tried to say relatively “smart” in my breakfast choices, so I did complete the meal with some yogurt.

The hotel was packed full for the weekend, as was the parking lot, but even with folks having a party in the indoor pool area (or maybe it was the meeting room – I didn’t bother to investigate), my space was quiet and I had a second peaceful night’s sleep.

Breakfast on the second morning was even more of a surprise – because I came in expecting the same offerings. Sunday morning featured bacon . . . do I really need to say any more?

Great Parts of My HIE Stay

  • The room was fresh and clean – but not overly scented. I have stayed in hotels that used air fresheners to “present” clean, but that much scent only gave me a headache – NEVER fun when you are on a trip.
  • The staff was amazing! Everyone greeted me with a smile and was helpful (and even eager) to answer my questions. Sometimes you can run into crowded weekends that wear out the staff, but these folks never seemed to slow down.
  • Coffee

  • Coffee! The breakfast was spot on, but the never-ending coffee was even better. I was only a few doors from the lobby coffee, so it was easier to walk down and get fresh coffee than it was to make coffee in my room. *BONUS* The lobby cups were much larger than the room cups.
  • The location was perfect for WordCamp Birmingham 2018. It was easy to get to all the different after events, the conference, and even local stores.

All in all, I can say that HEI met and exceeded my expectations.

The Down Parts of My HIE Stay

  • The in-room refrigerator was small – not normally an issue, but with all the left-overs from the event, I could have fed my army of men for a few days if I could have kept it all cold.
  • COFFEE! Okay, so the lobby coffee wasn’t exactly never-ending. Day two of the conference left us without afternoon coffee and me without afternoon energy. I slipped away from the event to grab some lobby coffee from the hotel and was sad to find that at 3 pm there was not coffee to be had.
  • Ground floor room – which was great for getting in and out of the room but not so great for opening my curtains. I like to sleep with the curtains open so the morning light pours in and wakes me. Being on the ground floor meant I had to keep my curtains closed the whole time. *NOTE* I believe the staff would have moved me if I had asked – and a room had been available – but I knew I wasn’t going to be in my room that much so I adjusted.

The down parts of my stay at Holiday Inn Express Pelham were easy to adjust around and not really things I expected (as much as wanted). I could have found things to complain about – like the fact that the parking lot stayed crowded and there was always one 18-wheeler in the lot at night – or I could focus on the praise – did I mention the cinnamon buns to you yet? Often the place where I put my focus determines my experience – and also affects the experience of the people around me.

Thanks to the HEI. It was a wonderful stay and I appreciated that they were willing to join WordCamp Birmingham 2018 as a Community Sponsor.

Share your stays

Share your stories of “nights away” in the comments below. Share your favorite parts and how you think it could be better (or what others should watch for).