Monday, March 30, 2009

We're on the Road!

This post was pre-scheduled for this afternoon, but I'm not home! I'm en route to Billings, MT where we are going for King Jo's "hardware removal" surgery which is tomorrow. Please pray for us as there have been massive storm warnings all weekend and especially today and high winds. The canyon and some of the roads we're supposed to travel on were closed this morning. I'm so nervous as I hate driving on icy/snowy roads and even though my hubby will be driving up there for me, I still freak out. The two months between trips to Billings were of course dry and sunny and warm. I shudder remembering the horrible conditions when I went there and back to get him the first time, but I try to remember how God cared for us, protected us, and guided us in safety and know I need to trust Him for this trip too.

I'll be getting to see my Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin and we'll get to shop at a Christian bookstore for the first time in ages and a Target too. I'm packing lots of snacks, activities, and of course, my Ergo and stroller to help me manage 3 kids in the stores alone. And we'll be bringing FOUR kids home! A friend from church has a little 3-year-old girl in Billings visiting her dad and we are giving her a ride back to save her mom 10 hours of driving in bad weather.

Dear Mommy of a Strong-Willed Toddler....

Alathia took this Valentine Card from her Grammy for Show n' Tell on her special day at pre-school.
Alathia helped me make bread the other day and made a whole loaf all by herself (except some help with measuring ingredients) from start to finish.

Eating a s'more while dressed up like a princess fairy at a friend's house.


Dear Mommy of a Strong-Willed Toddler,


Here is a message of hope for you. When you have a strong-willed child, some days are unbelievably overwhelming and discouraging. No book seems to have answers that work. People around you shake their heads and say, "Wow, I never expected you to have such a naughty kid" or "She's the strongest-willed child I've ever seen in my 55 years...." Few understand the depth of what you go through since public behavior is often different from private behavior at home. You are humiliated, angry, and always second-guessing yourself. You are tired of your child pushing other kids down constantly, disciplining what feels like every minute of every day, trying to keep your active toddler from killing their newborn sibling, and are feeling a little bitter about parenthood. This wasn't how it was supposed to be, you think inwardly. You pictured a little girl playing daintily with dress-ups and tea sets, not screaming at the top of her lungs and throwing toys like a tornado!



I'm here to say that there is HOPE! I've only made it 4 years into the journey but there is a huge, huge difference in my child compared to where she used to be and I am so excited about what our coming years together hold. I have grown so much and learned so much and most of all, have seen that consistency does pay off even if it's 2 or 3 years down the road. AT 4 years old, my daughter isn't remotely perfect (but neither am I!) but she has become a delight and a joy to be around! I would have never imagined I would hear her preschool teacher say, "She's NEVER been in time-out once!" just a couple of short years ago. And though it felt like an eternity going through it and I cringed thinking about the teen years, I can honestly say that things have improved SO MUCH that I know we will get through them and I have hope that God will see us through.




So, don't lose heart. Rely on God and know that though parenting is always hard, and there are always issues of training and dealing with sin, that the toddler stage with strong-willed/spirited kids doesn't last forever. After what felt like endless training and no sign of results in sight, I can now say my challenging child is no more difficult than my compliant child. There are still struggles, fights among them, and attitude issues as with any child, but she is normal now instead of being about 50 times more challenging than other kids. My girl is continually helping me out with different projects, mothering her little brothers and taking care of them under my oversight, and loves to please. She enjoys memorizing Scripture, praying, and learning about God. She tackles projects with enthusiasm. I know that she will be a leader and will be incredibly strong and committed in what she does and won't be easily influenced. She loves being given tasks to do independantly. She is such a blessing to our family and I can say that now with a real smile and without whispering..."sometimes.."


God bless you and be with you in the toughest job you will ever have.

Love,
Mrs. Jo

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Best of COF--Salsa Skillet and Stroganoff

It's Saturday and that means "The Best of COF" Day! Here are two great recipes that I received from my friend Laura, back when she had just gotten married. Hope you enjoy them! We certainly have over the years. We have found that salsa skillet freezes well and is a quick and delicious meal to make for busy nights!

Laura’s Easy Salsa Skillet

Laura says, "This was the 1st dish I ever made as a newlywed! It’s now one of our favorites!"

1 lb. Lean hamburger
1 jar salsa (preferably chunky)
½ cup sour cream
1 cup water
½ tsp. Salt
2 C wagon wheel pasta (uncooked); you may use fiori pasta or something else if you can’t find this.


Cook beef in 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Cook 8-10 minutes until brown. Stir water, salsa,
uncooked pasta and salt into beef. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until pasta is tender. Stir in sour cream and cook just until hot! Enjoy!



Norwegian Venison Stroganoff


1 Chunk Stew Meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 can mushrooms
¼ c. chopped onion
2/3 c. red cooking wine (or beef broth instead)
1 c. sour cream
Sprinkle cubed meat with salt, pepper, and paprika. Let sit for ½ hour. Brown meat in butter in skillet. Take meat out with a slotted spoon, leaving juices in skillet. Fry mushrooms and onions in skillet with juices and butter and saute 10-15 minutes. Stir in red wine and sour cream in the skillet and simmer. Add meat again. Cook 10 minutes. Serve over egg noodles. This is really, really good!


Circle of Friends (COF) was a newsletter I published for 3.5 years to share recipes, mom tips, and encouragement with young moms. Now that I am no longer able to publish it because of costs, I am sharing the best of it here on Saturdays!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

What a Dork!

So, remember when I said that I typed up my whole Birthday Recap post and somehow lost it? I was so bummed and retyped the entire thing complete with hyperlinks. So, I was surfing through my old posts and found it! Apparently instead of scheduling it to post on March 26th I accidentally hit March 2 and so it published in my old posts a page or two back instantly!!! Crazy! Just a warning to those of you scheduling posts, learn from my mistake! If a post "just disappears" check through some older posts before you retype it all!

Odds and Ends

For those of you who didn't catch it on Money Saving Mom, Kmart is having double coupons week this week! So, if your Kmart is participating, you can snag some great deals on things! Coupons up to $2 are doubled.

For those of you who live in buggy MN, you may want to buy this hat for your kids. I haven't tried these kinds of hats so I don't know if they work, but $3 isn't a bad price!

Done and Undone

I'm excited about a series my friend Heather is starting called Done and Undone. You can post 5 (or more) things that you accomplished on your blog or in her comments section and then list 5 things you didn't get done. It's good for reminding us moms who feel overwhelmed by the many, many chores we have each day that we are accomplishing things even if we can't do it all.

5 Things Done
1. Took my 3 kiddoes swimming. We all had fun and none drowned. Oh, and none threw toys at other kids either!
2. Made a taco lunch for my family and cleaned up. Fed baby 4 bottles and peas and some crackers. Fed the kids two snacks so far today in addition to meals!
3. Chatted with a gal in the finance department of a Montana hospital and found out we may be able to get some financial aid with one bill. (But if not, Samaritan Ministries will cover it.)
4. Spent a lot of time (too much!) thinking about how to spend my birthday money. Lots of ideas! Debated for a LONG time on putting it towards a dishwasher, but decided that dream may have to be put aside for a while.
5. Washed a load of laundry and put folded laundry away.

5 Things Undone

1. Need to go to the used book store where a friend who works there is holding a Dave Ramsey book for me for pick-up
2. Didn't get to the county clerk's yet to obtain a copy of my bro's marriage license for the errands I'm doing for him. Oh well, I have a couple of weeks to get this done.
3. All the dishes. But at least the silverware (what I hate doing the most) is done and put away.
4. I still haven't found the bottom of my laundry pile. I try to do 2 loads a day, but if you skip a day, you're way behind! Mt. Everest!
5. Haven't packed yet for our trip to Billings coming up.

How about you? Join in and share by going to Bless Your Family and linking up to the Done and Undone post, or share in the comments on Heather's post what you did and didn't accomplish today!

On Kid Crocs and Gender Differences


For those of you who think that I buy everything on sale, I'll let you in on a little secret. I think buying croc-style shoes for kids full-price is WORTH it! I try to find them at a yard sale or on clearance (Got Ali some adorable bright pink OshKosh Mary Jane crocs marked down to $3.80 from $20) but if they aren't on sale, they are still worth the $6 or $7 they cost at Wal-Mart. Croc-style shoes may not look very manly, according to my hubby, but this Mama loves them because they wash easily, dry easily, stay nice to hand down to siblings, and most of all, a child can put them on by himself/herself!!!


I began to notice that getting Jer's shoes on was a HUGE hassel and took way longer than it should. His shoes were always lost and if we happened to find two of them, they usually didn't fit (he seems to grow out of shoes overnight). Then it was a pain to find socks and get him to sit down to get the socks and the shoes on before his attention span took him elsewhere. He didn't own any shoes that could be worn without socks and had grown out of last summer's croc-style sandals. I remember Ali putting her own socks and shoes on herself before she was 2. Also, the little girl I babysit who is Jer's age can quickly get her shoes on and off by herself (she has croc-ish shoes too). I decided that the frustration just wasn't worth it. Especially when he enjoys going outside to play multiple times a day and we face this trauma every time. So, I had my mom pick up these little crocs for him when she went to WalMart. And he put them on himself! I guess we'll just need to work on the left/right thing now!
This whole thing made me think about the differences between boys and girls. Ali was so fiercely independant and has always been "responsible" and interested in dressing herself and taking care of herself. Likewise, the little girl I babysit, who is the opposite personality of Ali, does the same. When Ali was smaller, her best boy friend didn't dress himself or do for himself even though though he was 11 months older than her and the same personality type as her. Jer's favorite phrases are, "I can't do it." and "Help me Mom!" He will stand there and half-heartedly attempt to pull up his pants and give up so easily. I have been working with him a lot on pulling pants up and down after going potty and he's doing better. And I realize it's a GOOD thing that he doesn't know how to take clothing off since Ali did this at 17 months and flung poopy diapers everywhere.
He will try to take his crocs off by himself by kicking them and when they don't fly off he says he can't do it. He doesn't try to sit, try to bend, try to use his hands, etc. He seems to lack problem solving skills or the motivation to even try. He would rather ask someone to do it for him. He reminds me so much of my brother (whom he is named after--middle name) who loves nothing more than to be spoiled by others!
So, I ask you other moms out there, do you think that boys are "in general" less likely to do for themselves and to be "helpless" or is it just a personality thing? When I asked my mom, who is a teacher, about this, she adamantly agreed that little boys are more helpless than little girls and thinks it relates to the curse where men are tempted to be passive and women are tempted to rule. What do you think? Do some of you out there have helpless girls and motivated boys?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thanks so Much!

Thanks to those of you who de-lurked for me yesterday! I had so much fun reading about you and discovering that lots of people read my blog whom I didn't know did so! (Including you Cousin Ash!) Thanks for the sweet comments, the facebook greetings, and the e-mails. This blog has been such a fun way to stay connected with old friends, meet new friends, and grow in the pursuit of being a Christian woman!

Birthday Recap

A part of me hesitates to share my gift here because I don't want anyone to feel bad. I want you to know that if you are a friend who doesn't get give me gifts you are no "lesser" of a friend. I don't expect gifts from my friends and don't want anyone to feel obligated. I also don't want anyone to feel bad because I got a gift from so-and-so and others may not have. Because I love being gifty and finding creative, new ideas for gifts, I do want to share them here to give my readers ideas. I was truly humbled by the gifts I received this year.Justus was a major fuss-bucket all morning on my birthday. He's our easiest baby and yet we both agree he has the shrillest, most glass-shattering scream of any baby we've ever heard when he's worked up. I think he's teething. I tried my Ergo in the side-hip position for the first time on my birthday and he seemed to like it.
Unlike my friend Kristin's daughter, my daughter wasn't into taking pics yesterday so I had to self-time and that's why they are kind of blurry.

My sweet sis-in-law Kandi made me these quilted hot pads and sent me a funny card saying that even though we are getting older we will always be major babes. I got this and the gift below in my mailbox right on my birthday, which is suprising since the mail can take anywhere from 4-8 days between here and MN.











Heather of Bless Your Family sent me this cute and classy apron she made using this tutorial.
The funny thing was that a week or two ago she did a post on aprons and I recommended this link to her as a fun gift for someone since it supposedly takes only one hour to make. She had already seen the link and was already planning to make one for me! I was so excited to get it since I have been "meaning to" make one for myself and hadn't gotten around to it yet. She did the work for me! Thanks SO MUCH!






My friend Shiloh had her butler, (okay, so he was actually her husband) deliver this wonderful batch of goodies. A vintage handkerchief in a spring bucket with a fragrant candle and dove chocolates tucked in there, some fancy paintings from her kids and a plate of delicious chocolate cookies. I seriously think Shiloh is turning into Monica before my very eyes!




My exercise and calorie accountability partner Amy got me some low-cal candies and some Acai pills! Acai is supposed to be a super-antioxidant that gets your metabolism going. I'm trying to lose that last stubborn chunk of baby weight!






My folks gave me some daffodils and a sweet card with some spending money and 3 great coupons!





The coupons are for:
A morning of watching Ali and Jer so I can have some "Justus time" during Mom's spring break coming up in April.
Watching all 3 kids over the supper hour so we can go on a dinner date sometime
A subscription to a health magazine
My in-laws fulfilled my long-time dream of making my blog into a book at www.blurb.com I have had some fun playing around with the program. However, I quickly realized that if I publish all of the posts I want to publish it would make a VERY expensive, and not to mention BORING-BECAUSE-IT'S-TOO-LONG 400-page journal! I decided to start by doing my Kid's Funnies posts into a small, inexpensive book for $5. I hope to order my in-laws a copy too and maybe some of the other grandparents. Then, I may combine some of my family posts or mothering adventures into other books. I'll probably have a little leftover to buy clothes or something too! This site offers some great opportunities for those of you who hate to journal by hand or scrapbook but love to blog! Preserve your memories in a book written by YOU!
My hubby asked me if I would like to have some surprises this year or some cash to spend. Since we've had tight times I requested cash so I can get something I really need or really want at this time. I think he was relieved that he doesn't have to wrack his brain to try and think of the perfect gift this year! He got me a sweet and romantic card and took me out to supper the night before my birthday. We hadn't been out to eat in a couple of months and so it was so fun to have a delicious meal that I didn't have to make or clean up and silence to savor (the kids were at my parent's house). We had garlic chicken alfredo pizza and homemade breadsticks with nacho cheese sauce and got out of the restaurant staying under our budget of $15! Then we went back to my parent's house for fruit pizza mom had made for me.

Two of my friends really shocked and humbled me. I don't mention them here because of reasons listed above. They don't normally give me gifts and this year they really gave above and beyond and I felt like saying, "No! You need that money more than I do!" One friend gave me some spending money and another a generous gift certificate for some flowers and plants. I am truly grateful and thankful. It will be fun to buy some flowers in a couple of months and fill up the flower beds outside our little house and make things bright and cheery!

Ali woke up and bounded into the kitchen to tell me, "It's your birthday! You're 57 now!" I told her it was actually 27, so later in the day she got into a drawing mood and drew me about 4 different birthday cards folded up in envelopes. I would open the paper to find the whole page covered in A's, L's and I's. Then she would tell me, "It says, Have a Wonderful 20th Birthday Mama. I love you! Love, Ali." It was very cute and I'll be saving those for life!
I had a great birthday in spite of the continual whining, fighting, shrill screaming, and demands of my kids! I don't remember ever receiving so much spending money before so my mind is spinning with ideas. Should I revamp my wardrobe? Save for a Whisper Mill? Buy some quality earrings that don't tarnish after a few wears? Buy some expensive walking shoes? Buy some composting supplies? Order some fun patterns at Marie-Madeline studio? Buy a bunch of fun fabric for craft/sewing projects? Buy some cute accessories to perk up my outfits? I guess time will tell! The great thing is that after having gone over a year since seeing a Target or a mall, we will be going to the BIG CITY next Monday and Tuesday for King Jo's "hardware removal" surgery. So, I'm sure I'll find options for spending my birthday cash!
(After typing this ENTIRE post last night and scheduling it to post this morning, the entire thing disappeared and I had to re-do it!!!! That's never happened before. I guess auto-save wasn't working last night.)







Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Birthday Favor---De-Lurk!!!

Every year I request Fruit Pizza for my birthday dessert from my mom. It's a once-a-year treat and is so yummy!

Today is my 27th birthday! I'm going to be a copy-cat and request as other bloggers have done on their birthdays, that my silent readers de-lurk! If you read my blog, but have never commented, or rarely do so, please leave me a comment and introduce yourself!

And for those of you who do comment often, let me know:

Why do you read my blog?

and

What are your favorite kinds of posts that I write here?


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Early Rising Experiment--Recap of Week One





It's been a week since I started rising before my children and all I can say is "WOW!!!" I am so excited about this new discipline in my life and hope to continue to make it a habit. I'll give it another couple weeks of experimentation, but even after plenty of challenges this week, I can already tell that it is a huge blessing to my life and one practice I hope to continue throughout my years when children are in the home, especially during the busy homeschooling years.

The Lord faithfully woke me up before the kids and I somehow managed to sneak out of my room without Justus waking half the time. A couple of mornings he was the one God used to wake me up and I fed him, put him down, and resisted the temptation to crawl back in my warm bed and instead headed out to plan, pray and read. Whenever we seek to draw closer to God it seems our enemy doesn't like it and sure enough, this week, Justus, who had been sleeping really well, had a few nights of continual wakings every hour or so which had me totally exhausted combined with my early rising and later nights. On Saturday, which I have given myself as a "day off" from the early rising and usual schedule, I was so desperate for sleep I fed Justus and then returned to the bedroom to hound my husband to get out of bed whining "Didn't we agree you'd get the kids up just one day a week?" Thankfully he let me sleep in until about 8:30a.m. and I caught up on some sleep and therefore survived the weekend. Adjusting from my night owl schedule to "early bird" schedule is difficult, especially as I have no opportunity for naps, but my body is making the adjustment and I feel absolutely ready for bed now at 10 or 11 which is unbelievable for me since I used to consider that an early bedtime (yes, even while pregnant with my third kid after a day with toddlers.) This 3-kid thing has really thrown my body for a loop! Juggling 3 sure has changed me whereas having 2 didn't in the area of bodily fatigue!

But in spite of the extra grogginess as I adjust to my new schedule and try to kick myself in the rear to go to bed earlier, this early rising thing is the cat's meow! It is amazing how refreshed I feel and ready to tackle the day when I've had time to think, time to pray, time to sit and plan out my day, etc. I feel less overwhelmed and way more productive. I feel more like a human instead of just a slave who is roused out of bed by her masters who are loudly demanding food. I can go potty in silence, have a cup of tea, and refresh my heart and mind before the clamor begins and when it does, I have a much more patient and "I'm ready to be your mommy" type of attitude. Today I even went into the kid's room with a big smile as I heard them stirring and waking up! The old-sleep-in-as-long-as-you-possibly-can-and-pretend-you-don't-hear-the-kids mommy would have never done that!

The extra planning time for my day has helped me to get more accomplished and work smarter. If I start the day with the kids yelping for breakfast, I can so easily forget this or that that needed to get done in the morning and if I try to sit down mid-morning and make my daily to-do list, I'm always interrupted and forget important things on it. Having silence has made such a HUGE difference! I suppose one could make a list the night before, but there is something about a new day and a new project that really gives me a big boost in motivation. By getting up early, I was able to start my yogurt batch earlier, eat breakfast with the children each morning instead of trying to wake up and get dressed while they eat, make a hot breakfast one morning, have a nicely cleaned off table to eat off of (which to me cultivates a haven-like atmosphere so much more than a cluttered table), and have things ready to bless my kids right away and save myself from hearing endless pleas for juice or cereal while I stumble around trying to open my eyes.

Getting up earlier has also helped give me a jump on getting showered and dressed right away and I'm finding time to even curl my bangs again! So, although I am a bit more tired, I think it's totally worth it and encourage those of you out there who want to have a smoother day to try joining me in the next couple of weeks of the experiment! As I mentioned before, this practice may not be the best if you are in a hard season of life that is physically draining.

Mrs. Jo's goals for Week #2 in this experiment:

*Weekends are tough because we often watch a movie together or have some couple time and always seem to go to bed way later than we should. Time to relax, talk and connect as a couple is way more important than "my schedule" but I want to balance them both so I don't feel utterly pooped on the weekends doing this early rising thing. I hope to combat the staying up too late by telling myself that I cannot get on the computer after 10pm and that we need to try to get the kids in bed and start date night right away instead of dinking around and doing chores or surfing the net looking for a good movie to watch for an hour. Planning ahead by choosing a movie the day before and getting the kids off to bed a little more efficiently (not reading to them for a half an hour before bed on date night) would help out in this area.


Next week I'll report on how I'm doing at getting myself to bed earlier. Please share how your first week went if you are participating with me in this experiment! Also, a question for any of my blog readers out there, "What is your biggest obstacle to overcome in order to start rising before your kids?"

Monday, March 23, 2009

First Day of Spring





































We didn't do anything super cutesy for the first day of spring, like this, but after eating supper outdoors in our backyard we decided to go for a family bike ride to the nearby park since it was the warmest day we've had all year (and we've had some REALLY warm days!) Alathia rode her little bike and I pulled the boys in the bike cart; it was Justus' first-ever bike ride and first time in the park swings! We all had lots of fun and I got some cute pics!

























Blessings

Uncle Coco says goodbye to Justy


I've shared bits and pieces of how God has taken care of us during this time of temporary scarcity. From anonymous gifts of money to wedding and groom's dinner leftovers, God has poured out His provision on our family during this time. We still haven't had to dip into savings yet and we discovered this month that we are surviving on $1,500 a month!

My brother and his new wife came back from their honeymoon last Tuesday and then flew out on Thursday to go to Florida for their huge reception at Anna's church and yesterday they arrived home to Honduras. It was sad to say goodbye and see them go knowing it will be a few years until we see them. I'm definitely going to look into getting a webcam! Hard to imagine that Justus will be about Ali's age next time they are around and Ali will be in 2nd or 3rd grade!

Because part of their honeymoon involved "camping" in a frigid, remote cabin deep in the Big Horn mountains, they had bought lots of groceries for their trip. They spent a few nights in a fancy resort lodge in the mountains and then headed to this cabin. Due to freezing temps, green wood Colter split, and no water, they decided after two nights of what my brother termed, "misery" they would head to a hotel in the closest town. I can't say I blame them! Their olive oil froze solid overnight and they had to walk 1/4 mile in to the cabin hauling their gear on a sled. They had to melt snow to wash dishes and their dishwater froze solid in the sink overnight too. In spite of all of this, Anna enjoyed this rustic trip and had a good time roughing it. Colter, the die hard mountain man/cowboy didn't!

So, when they returned home for a few days to open and pack wedding gifts and sort their things, they gave us three huge bags of groceries. How exciting and yet another way God takes care of us! We got a bag of snacks (most unopened) crackers, chex mix, etc, 10# bag of potatoes, jar of olive oil, some fancy spices and seasoning packets, eggs, tangerines, bread and english muffins, jelly, tea, etc. I also got to take as many gift bags as I wanted from Anna. My stash was getting low so I'm excited to have tons of pretty gift bags, tulle bows, and tissue paper now and it's perfect timing since we know about 7 couples getting married this year!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Best of COF--Alfredo and Chocolate Crepes

Every Saturday I plan to post "The Best of Circle of Friends" and share recipes and tips with you from my newsletter which I'm no longer publishing after 3.5 years.

Mouth-Watering Fetuccini Alfredo
Serves 6 Adults
1 stick butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1.5 cups shredded parmesan cheese
16 oz. Fetuccini noodles
1 large or 2 small cooked, diced, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (optional)

Heat butter and cream on stove on medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Cook noodles separately. When cream mixture bubbles, stir constantly. When it thickens, after a
few minutes of boiling hard, add parmesan cheese. Toss the alfredo sauce with the hot noodles, and add chicken cubes. You may add a teaspoon of Italian herbs or serve with parsley if desired to make it look fancier. A wonderful dish for company; goes well with home-made breadsticks, garden salad, or a cooked vegetable.
Originally published in the very FIRST Circle of Friends newsletter, Sep. of 2005
Cut the butter in half to make it slightly healthier!

Ashlee’s Chocolate Crepes
Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
pinch of salt
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk, warmed
2 T butter, melted
Filling:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 t pure vanilla extract
2 T sugar
Topping:
1 1/2 cups Hot Fudge Sauce (see recipe below for homemade hot fudge)
4 ounces sliced almonds, toasted
Makes 16-20 crepes
In medium bowl, mix together flour, 3 T sugar, salt and cocoa. Add eggs, warm milk and melted butter and beat until smooth. Force batter through sieve and let batter stand at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking crepes. If using a crepe maker, follow recommended directions. Otherwise, brush bottom of 6-inch, thick bottomed skillet with butter. Add 2 T batter, swirling pan to allow batter to cover the entire bottom of the pan thinly. Brown lightly on one side and turn with spatula to brown the other side. Turn onto paper towel to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. To store, place waxed paper between crepes and wrap in foil. Refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze. Allow to warm to room temperature before filling. Whip cream with vanilla and 2 T sugar. Fill each crepe with whipped cream, roll and place on serving dish. Drizzle with hot fudge and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Hot Fudge Sauce
(this makes a ton of fudge!)
Ingredients:
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
4 T butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup half and half
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
Makes 2 1/2 - 3 cups
In medium saucepan, melt chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar and half and half, and continue cooking until thick. Gradually add condensed milk. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm. Keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator; reheat before serving.
(Thanks to my cousin Ashlee for serving me this yummy dessert and giving me the recipe. Originally published in October 2005 Circle of Friends newsletter.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Frugal Friday--Frugal Wedding Gifts


My brother got married two weeks ago and we were on a very tight budget. I still wanted to get them something special and meaningful though. So, for their shower I made Anna a little cookbook filled with all of Colter's favorite recipes from growing up and special family tradition recipes. I just took a little 4x6 photo album and typed up the recipes and added them to the album and made a cover page that said, "Feeding Mr. B____"
I also sewed her an apron from cloth I had on hand only to realize it just didn't look right for it since she prefers wintery colors and this was orange and purple floral. So, I saved it for another friend who adores purple who's also getting married and bought a simple, black apron for $5 at WalMart and embellished it with red polka-dot ribbon and buttons.
For their wedding gift:
I'm not sure where I got the idea but I decided to do a "gift a day" for them to open on their 12 day honeymoon. Here are some of the things I included:
*Snacks for the trip
*Tylenol and sanitizing wipes
*Thank You notes with a note saying that if they fill them out, I would be happy to deliver them to folks in town long after they are gone (this gift made Anna do a happy dance so she said!)
*Foot spa packets and foot scrubbing brush
*Heart candle and candy hearts and matches
*Yummy chocolate!
*Love and Respect CDs to listen to
*A Christian novel and a little wooden massager tool
*Taco Bell Bucks (Anna adores Taco Bell)
*Quarters and detergent for laundry stops
*A special letter to the Bride and Groom
*An article from the internet with 100 ways to love your husband and some "pajamas" for Anna
*Some romantic dinner music CDs
*Toothbrush to share (inside family joke)
*Plastic heart goblets to toast their new life together
Other ideas I wish I could have included:
*Dave Ramsey book
*Cough medicine (they got colds and this seems to be common after all the stress)
*Paper plates and utensils
*Massage oil or lotion
Of course this gift idea works best if the couple is taking an extended honeymoon in a car and not flying, but even if they are going somewhere fancy in an airplane, a nice letter or card each day would be fun and you could add some gift cards or cash in them.
Use your imagination and consider the couple's location and preferences. I had to be careful about what I bought since my brother lives in Honduras and doesn't want tons of stuff to store here so I chose things that were mostly disposable. Who wouldn't like to get a little surprise each day on their honeymoon? Anna said she really enjoyed opening the presents! And because I shopped for deals and got much of the stuff at the dollar store (thank you notes, dinner music CDs, etc.) we spent only about 1/3 of what we had originally planned to spend on them, which was good for us during our time of temporary scarcity.
For more frugal ideas than you can handle, head on over to www.lifeasmom.com


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Peer Pressure in Reverse?

OR
Have you ever felt like there was reverse peer pressure in your world?

I do!

Peer pressure is often thought of as pressure to fit in through being popular, modern, cool, beautiful, or talented. Yet, it can appear in subtle forms, even among adults, and in a variety of circumstances. In my circle of life, if I tried to look trendy and "fashionable" I would get a lot of raised eyebrows and comments like "must be a city girl" under the breath. People in our area are plain and simple and all about what's practical and comfortable.

If I wear a skirt that's 10-20 years old or "pioneerish" I get rave reviews at church. Brownie points if it is from the thrift store or has some western flair to it! The stereotypical homeschool-mom-denim-jumper would be totally "in" here. But wear something modern/trendy and folks will think you are vain, silly, or are squandering your husband's money.

Whether it's real or imagined, or just among my Christian community I do not know. I do know that like attracts like so perhaps simple folks are drawn to being my friends because I prefer simplicity too. And at my church, the women are more likely to be cattle ranchers, rock climbers, or backpackers than they are to read fashion magazines or care about trends.

I just think it's strange that I feel "safer" and more "accepted" the plainer my clothing looks.

Where have you experienced peer pressure in reverse?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Early Rising Experiment--Day One

I used to use the index card system to organize my life. It was WONDERFUL for getting me started on serious home management and getting all of the household tasks done. I'm grateful to my aunt for teaching it to me. Once I got used to spreading the chores/tasks out in an organized way and it became habit, I stopped doing index cards and made a home management binder with a very detailed weekly and daily schedule. This was great for keeping my days productive and organized! During the summer, I went with just a very simple weekly schedule instead of daily because of our more relaxed days and time outside and with friends. Now, I'm using the Daily Docket format I found on Simple Mom's site and I just write a to-do list like the one below in my notebook, which is in my home management binder. Different plans work for different seasons and everyone is different in how they approach home organization. I find this works for me! As of 9:30a.m. this is what I had checked off on today's list. MIT stands for Most Important Tasks. As with my older, detailed binder schedule, I want to make sure I include my hubby's needs on my MIT list. It's too easy as a mom to get so wrapped up in chores and kids that you fail to ask your hubby how you can bless him each day. So, it helps to write on your Daily Docket Template, "Ask Hubby How I Can Bless Him Today!"
Today was a pretty full day (but then again most of my days are.)
Now, at 4:20 p.m. as I'm posting this, I have gotten supper half-made, have done a load of laundry, have walked to the library and to the grocery store with the kids, have done an ENORMOUS load of dishes and have gotten veggies and fruits purchased and ready for Ali's turn to do preschool snacks tomorrow. What has changed in my schedule today? Well, I ended up not having time to do roast beef sandwiches so we did tuna sandwiches for lunch. And thus I decided to make roast beef with potatoes and peas for supper since it needs to get cooked. A friend going through a rough time called and needed some encouragement and advice and my brother stopped by to hire me to do some paperwork that has to be done here in America and sent to him so that he can gain some residency in the country in which he ministers. Sometimes God plans something different for us to do than what we planned on, which is great, but it's still nice to have a general plan for your day so you don't just sit around surfing the web and feeling overwhelmed (believe me, I have those days!)




Daily Docket reference page from Simple Mom. Print your own here.
I thought about printing off copies of these for every day's use but then decided that would use a lot of ink and paper. So, I have this blank one in my home management binder and I can look it over and just write down my copy in a notebook.

Simple Mom's weekly chore chart is also free for download and is very helpful to just glance over once or twice a week. I don't check it off, but since it is in a plastic page protector, I could use a dry erase marker if I wanted to. It's just a handy reminder of the main chores that should be done weekly around the average home.


I know it's not Tuesday yet, but I had to share that today, Day One of the Early Rising Experiment has gone really really well! The Lord woke me up about 30-40 minutes before my kids and I managed to sneak out to the laundry room where I could turn on a light and read some chapters in my Bible and jot down a schedule for the day. Justus woke up in the middle of the schedule-making but I was able to feed him quietly and pray and cuddle him and then finish my schedule holding him. I squeaked in a shower just after the other kids woke up and then made them french toast for breakfast. I felt like my day started off in an AMAZING way just because I had those precious moments of silence to pray and plan before I was hit with the endless stream of tasks and my noisy blessings continual chatter. I was a little groggier-feeling today from my day beginning earlier, but that can be fixed by going to bed even earlier tonight!

I'll share on Tuesday how this experiment has worked out for the whole first week!

Now that I've taken a quick moment to post this I'm on to finishing supper and vacuuming the living room. After supper we'll go say our goodbyes to my brother and his new wife. (boo-hoo) Later, when the kids are in bed and King Jo is gone at Youth Group I will finish up laundry tasks while I'm listening to Deuteronomy on CD. I have struggled to keep up with my OT reading but have found that listening to 10 chapters once or twice a week while I do a mindless task is the best way for me to keep up with my goal of reading through the Bible in a year. I will also finish hospital bill paperwork since that really needs to get done and is on my MIT list.

And if you happened to notice that my kids' needs aren't listed on this page it is because they comprise most of my day and I don't need a list to tell me to feed them and change them because they will let me know (or my nose will) when they need attention (and all of you moms know this is about every 5 seconds!) I don't need a list to tell me to cuddle them, discipline them, help them, dress them, or read to them. They are the biggest part of my day, but sometimes in keeping up with them, I can neglect the household chores or paperwork tasks if I don't make a list and try to stay organized!


St. Patrick's Day




Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Early Rising Experiment


I mentioned in yesterday's post that one of the things that I'd like to work on that "Shopping for Time" talked about was rising earlier than the family.
I've always had a "night owl" schedule, apparently since I was an infant, and yet, I have worked jobs that have required me to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning too. Since becoming a Mama, I have always gotten up with my child/children. During the pregnancy with Justus and his first few months, King Jo spoiled me and got the kids up and fed them breakfast so I could sleep in until 7:30a.m. But ever since his injury I've been back to getting up with them.
I've heard from lots of books and blogs that it's a great idea to get up early before the family to have a quiet time/prepare for the day but it has never worked out for our situation. I have been pregnant or nursing for 5 consecutive years (until last month when Justus would no longer nurse at all.) In addition to just being tired and wanting to sleep in until the last possible second there has been the dilemma of living in tiny homes where if you just breathe funny, the kids hear it and wake up. So, when I have tried to get up early for yard sales or something, it inevitably wakes the kids too, defeating the purpose.
So, because of how things have been for our family, I understand that at different stages, this may be a great thing for the homemaker and for other stages, an awful idea to try. If you're in an exhausting phase of either being pregnant or staying up late chatting with your teens, perhaps it's better for you to get your sleep and be a happy mama instead of trying to get up really early and be a crabby mama.
I feel that I need to at least EXPERIMENT with rising before my kids. Justus is finally at a stage of sleeping 7-8 hours and thus I'm getting more sleep and feeling healthy. I love experiments, as you can probably tell from our pioneer living experiment we did recently, reducing our toys and clothing. I am going to experiment with rising before the kids for 3 weeks and see how it works out. If it is a huge blessing to our family and I am able to organize the day, pray, read my daily Bible chapters, and make hot breakfasts more often, than I hope to make it a habit. But, if it ends up causing the kids to rise earlier and causes me to lose needed sleep, I will give it up and decide that getting up WITH the kids is what works for our family right now.
If you would like to join me in this experiment, I'd love to hear what you are doing in this area. Please join in by sharing your comments every Tuesday, as I hope to post on this topic on that day of the week for the coming weeks of the experiment.
So far, according to my sidebar poll it looks like most of you mamas get up with your kids but a good amount of you get up before them too. I'd love to hear how it works out for you and what time your kids go to bed.
Our kids go to bed at 7 p.m. This is when they naturally get really tired and they've always had this schedule so I hesitate to keep them up late just so they will sleep in longer for me. It's nice to have that whole evening free to spend with my husband or go to a Women's Bible Study or run to the grocery store.
For my experiment, I won't be using an alarm clock. I'll be praying that God would get me up (if you haven't tried this yet, it works!) and will be trying to break my late-night streak and go to bed earlier than normal. Because Justus sleeps in a Pack n' Play in our room it will tricky to get up without him waking. He may need an early morning bottle and then perhaps I could put him back to bed and then have some quiet time alone.
The Mahaney women have a 5 a.m. club and they even call each other to wake each other up and hold one another accountable. My early rising will definitely not be 5 a.m.!!! Since my kids usually wake at 7:30 a.m. I will be shooting for 6:30 a.m. The term "early" varies based on your life schedule.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kid Funnies

A MagnaDoodle drawing of Justus by Ali


We were taking a walk and went by an enormous brick mansion. I said, "Wow! That's a big house!" Ali said, "One guy really loves his wife." I was confused wondering how she jumped from talking about houses to husbands and wives. I asked her what she meant and she said, "One guy loved his wife a LOT because he made her a really big house! He do'd his best work." I chuckled and thought, "I guess LOVE is spelled H-O-U-S-E in Ali's mind! We'll have to mention this to her future husband someday!"
One day I heard Ali saying to a toy that wasn't doing what she wanted it to, "Ugh! This hates me!" I don't know where she got the phrase but it was funny!
I was rolling the whole wheat bread into loaf shapes and Ali said, "That looks like poop!"
Ali told us, "I don't like Bobs or Larrys." What she means is that she won't eat tomatoes or cucumbers.
One day Ali had a little friend over for the day. I heard her telling her 5 year old friend, "You talk funny just like my friend _____ at preschool!" I began listening to them as they talked and then I noticed that the little friend can't pronounce her R's and had somewhat of an accent.
Nothing like honesty in a friendship!
I asked Ali a review question for our Little House on the Prairie daily reading. I said, "What were Laura's Daddy's new horses named?" The real answer is, "Pet and Patty." She said, "Pet and Rebate."
Ali said her bedtime prayers and said, "Please help Daddy not to be goofy and silly. Amen!" We have no idea where she got this one from!
One day before the wedding when I was getting stressed I really hollered at the kids and apologized and asked their forgiveness and prayed in front of them too, telling them that Jesus doesn't like Mama to yell and wants Mama to be good. So, the next day Ali's prayer was, "Thank you for Momma. Help her not to yell at us and help her to learn stuff with You and to be good. Amen."
I told Ali she was such a good helper for Mama and was being so nice. She said, "Everyday I want to 'cuz everyday I'm sweet enough."
One day we overheard our kids saying to one another, "I got this at Walgreens." The other one said, "I got this at Wal-Mart on a really good sale!"

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Best of Circle of Friends--The Duggar Family Butterhorns


The Duggar Family's Butterhorns


1/2 c. shortening or butter

1/2 c. sugar

1 t. salt

2 pkg. Yeast (or 4.5 t.)

2 c. flour


Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl & cut with pastry cutter.


2 eggs (beat in 2 c. measuring cup, fill cup to 2 cup mark with hot water.) Pour over dry mixture.


Slowly add:
3 c. flour.
Cover. Let Rise 20 min. in warm oven (or warm place). Pour onto floured surface. Knead. Flatten with hands into two large pizza shapes. Cut each with pizza cutter or knife into 16 slices. Roll up from wide end to point. Place on 2 greased cookie sheets leaving space for rolls to double in size. You can shape like crescents or lay on side where swirl shows. Cover. Let rise in warm (not hot) oven or warm place at least 20 min. Remove from oven. Preheat oven. Preheat oven to 375. Bake 15-20 min. depending on how dark you prefer.


The Duggar family from Arkansas is a large, Christian, home schooling family that has received television coverage because they have 18 kids! Go to: http://www.duggarfamily.com/ for more great recipes from this neat family!



*I brush with melted butter before popping in the oven. These rolls are wonderful because they only take about an hour instead of 3 or 4 hours and they are really tasty! These aren't very healthy but they are tasty and fun to make for a treat once in a while!








Temporary scarcity has caused me to cease publishing my Circle of Friends newsletter, but I am sharing "The Best of COF" with you here on Saturdays featuring my favorite recipes and tips!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My NUMBER ONE Frugal Tip of the Year

Ever since a small fender bender that occurred a few weeks before I was married, I have had some neck troubles. The first chiro I went to attempted to put me back into place with a little air thing the size of a ballpoint pen and it did absolutely nothing and was the biggest joke ever. Thankfully, I found a great chiro who was a Christian and very experienced in his field and he set me up on a rigorous plan and really knew how to adjust me properly. It was pricey, but we were both working and newly married so we made it work. I went in a few times a week for a few weeks and then a couple of times a week for a couple weeks and then once a week for a while. That got me in great shape again and the pain and "out of whack" feeling was gone.
On and off since then I have needed to see the chiro now and then, because of feeling "out of whack" after childbirth or having slept wrong on a bad pillow or having had a rough all-nighter car trip home from a MN vacation. I think it is good to get adjusted and can be a great component of healthy living. The adjustment I got at the end of my pregnancy with Justus was what helped him turn out of the breech position.
But after I had had 6 adjustments this fall after Justus' birth I began to get worried. Why wasn't I "staying in place?" Why was the neck pain returning and the adjustment not seeming to last even though I tried to be so careful and ice it and rest and not do strenuous things? I hated having to find a sitter AGAIN for my toddlers and having to lug the newborn baby in to the appt. with me and pray that he wouldn't cry while I laid on the water table to get loosened up. More than anything I hated the expense and having to tell my hubby that I needed ANOTHER adjustment. It's not that he was angry about it, but I hate being a burden and knew we really needed to save and not be spending on the chiro so much and I didn't see an end in sight.
So, I chatted casually with a physical therapist from our church and she mentioned that sometimes chiro adjustments can stretch muscles that are lax from pregnancy hormones. My neck probably wasn't staying in place because the muscles were still lax and being roughly stretched again and again. I asked her about pilates and stretching exercises and she recommended them. I then went to my chiro and asked him for some spine-strengthening exercises and asked him about pilates too since my mom was doing it and thought I should start too. He showed me how to do two excellent exercises for the spine and neck and had me practice them in front of him. I think he understood that it was getting financially hard, and physically hard for me to keep coming in.
I went home and religiously did my exercises. I also found this $10 book on amazon.com and bought it! It has been hands down the BEST, MONEY-SAVING investment for me regarding my spinal health. The exercises in it have saved me SO MUCH MONEY that I would have had to pay out in chiro fees when my neck starts to feel stiff, painful, or out of whack. The author also has a book out called How to Treat Your Own Back. I haven't read it, but it's something to think about if you suffer from back pain.
I'm not saying that I'll never go to the chiro again because as I said before it is really helpful to get adjusted as regularly as you can for overall well-being and good health. But, for those of us on a tight budget, treating your neck or back with strengthening exercise and good posture can save hundreds of dollars and help us to feel our best and leave pain and suffering behind. I have learned the importance of posture and have learned that holding my neck stiff and still when it's in pain actually makes it worse. I would have never guessed that flexing it back in the ways described in the book is actually good for your neck. I've been sleeping on a memory-foam contoured pillow for a few years and have noticed that some nights I need the fat side and other nights the skinny side. And it helps if I get a new pillow every 4-6 months since they don't work as well after that. If I get lazy about doing my neck exercises and skip a few weeks here or there and am either over-tired or under a lot of stress, my neck starts getting stiff and painful. But, immediately after following the instructions in the book and doing the exercises precisely as they are laid out, I feel AMAZINGLY better and after only one or two neck exercise sessions I'm as good as new!
If you want to strengthen your spine:
The two exercises that my chiro recommended are:
1. Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders. Arch your back up as far as you can, pulling your head down as far as you can to your chest and then slowly lower your back into an inverted arch and slowly bring your head up and back as far as you can. My pilates video has a similar exercise called "Down Stretch, Down Dog." Be sure you are not pushing the moves through with your hips. Let your spine do the moving, down into an arch like a cat arching his back, with head tucked in, and then push your belly as far as you can down towards the floor and push your head back as though you were trying to touch the back of your head to your back. Do this slowly and with control and repeat about 20 times. Do this exercise a few times a day if you have bad neck pain.
2. Get on your hands and knees and slowly lift your left arm and right leg till they are both extended. Stretch them and hold for a few seconds. Gently lower them. Again, slowly lift the left arm and right leg and hold again. Do this 5 times and then switch to lifting the right arm and left leg. Do this arm and leg 5 times. Go back and forth like this until you have done this exercise 20 times. Do this exercise a few times a day if you have a bad back or neck or once a day to maintain good spinal health.
I hope this post helps someone in pain and blesses someone out there with neck troubles. I know what it is to suffer with it and feel hopeless and discouraged and wonder if you'll ever feel good or whole or normal again.
For more Frugal Friday Tips, head on over to Life As Mom.

Cute Pics of the Boys

Boys in the tub! Justus used to hate baths until we started putting him in a little washbasin. He likes the "squished and secure" feeling!






He really does have some hair!


Jer wanted a moustache really badly one day so I gave him one with a washable marker!




I'm not trying to show favoritism among my kids but lately it is REALLY hard to get good pics of Ali and she doesn't like getting them taken so that's why I always have photos of the little boys and not as many of her.

Temporary Scarcity and Eating Healthy

Image from www.ok.gov
Is it truly possible to eat well and live frugally at the same time? A lot of people don't think so. I myself used to think that it was an either/or. But I've discovered that you CAN eat healthily, even in my area, where groceries are really high. I will say that you can't eat all ORGANIC here and keep it cheap though!
Here are my tips for eating healthily on a very tight budget:
*Buy grains and flour in bulk when possible. If you know someone going to a large city where there are bulk food stores, have them pick you up some stuff. A friend in town has a bulk-food home business and I discovered that I can get brown rice and yeast for a really great price in bulk! I also got some wonderful 9-grain flour from her last year that lasted me half a year!
*Buy reduced produce. Whereas the stores in our town didn't use to have many reductions, if you keep your eyes open you can find them nowadays. Occasionally I even find a great deal on organic lettuce which doesn't go bad for a long time even if it's past the freshness date. Often the reduced bananas look fine and are half the normal price.
*STOCK up! This is the number one way we eat healthily. When blueberries are at the lowest price of the year, we'll get a ton and freeze them for smoothies. When spinach is a loss leader, we buy it, cook it, puree it, and freeze it to sneak into foods. When frozen brocolli goes half price, we fill the freezer!
*Make it yourself. Making your own bread, muffins, granola bars, snacks, etc is much healthier for you and costs less unless you are getting some convenience foods on great coupon deals. Make your own crockpot yogurt and roll your batches. Make your own jams and jellies and add less sugar or use alternative sweeteners.
*Hunt! My hubby doesn't hunt but my dad is AN ADDICT and thankfully he shares a lot of elk with us. Elk and deer tags are relatively cheap. My in-laws often get a free deer from friends in MN since each person can hunt up to 5 deer and some guys and gals just like to hunt for fun but don't need the meat. In my opinion, elk is tastier than beef and is the leanest meat I've ever seen. It's also "organic."
*Grow it! I am excited to start a garden now that we have a spot for it! I want to avoid pesticides and hopefully keep the deer from eating it!
*Shop the loss leaders. I mentioned this in my frugal tips post. Every week there are deals to get people in the store. There are always certain produce items and certain meat items and certain dairy items on sale. If you make your menus from the flyers, you can always be paying the lowest prices for your food and you will have a variety as every week something different is on sale. So, if this week oranges are on sale, oranges will be your child's snack! If whole chickens are on sale, you will be making roasted chicken and chicken noodle soup!
*Try squeezing one healthy item a week into your budget. For example: one week I may buy a jar of flax seeds which will last me a month or two in smoothies and breads. The next week my healthy purchase may be a box of green tea which will last me 2 months. The next week I will buy some honey, or some wheat germ, almond butter, or some olive oil. Trying to buy it all at once can be pricey; buy it just a little bit at a time and you'll never notice. Better still, give up one unhealthy treat you are in the habit of buying and subsitute it with a healthier alternative. (Just as long as I don't substitute anything for my hubby's ice-cream! He considers ice-cream a necessity!)
*Be on the lookout for great deals. I posted last week about an amazon sale I had heard about where you could get groceries at 40% off and free shipping on many items. Sometimes a health food store goes out of business and everything is half off. This is how we got a year's supply of sucanat!
*Research! The fact that you are reading this post is a step in the right direction! The more I study my Sneaky Chef and Whole Grains cookbooks and the more I learn about Foods that Heal and Kitchen Counter Cures, the more I understand about health, nutrition, and the benefits of good eating. I follow blogs that encourage me in my healthier eating pursuits.
*If you're having trouble finding healthy foods you can afford, try starting with potatoes ($4 for a 20# bag), plain oatmeal ($1.50 per large canister), eggs ($1 a dozen), black beans (6 cups for $1 if you buy them dry), brown rice ($1-2 per #), carrots (50 cents to $1 per #), green tea (10 cents or less for a 16 ounce mug), and a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread ($2-$3). We've been fixing lots of potatoes recently because I found out that they are excellent for healing bones and contain lots of Vitamin C. We all love them and they are really cheap too! Potatoes can be baked, boiled, mashed, made into baked fries, or fried in olive oil. Onions (5# for $1 on sale) are wonderful for adding flavor to potato, rice, and bean dishes.
*Look for Pick-It-Yourself farms. They are rare in these parts but nevertheless there are farmer's markets and folks who might be willing to sell their farm produce. I know some of my MN friends enjoy picking berries in the summer and making jam!
*Learn to cook well. Knowing how to season food or experiment with recipes and flavors will help you to enjoy healthier eating. If you always burn the potatoes or make the cooked beans crunchy, you will find yourself gravitating back to Ramen.
*MoneySavingMom often features free samples, sales, or coupons for healthier foods.
What tips do YOU have on eating healthy on a budget?

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