Monday, January 2, 2012

I Only Cook Dinner Once A Month

I only cook dinner for my family once a month. That's right, I spend a whole day, slaving away in the kitchen, literally! Before we implemented Once A Month Cooking, my family lived off frozen convenience meals, such as Lean Cuisines, Healthy Choice, and Smart Ones. They were quick and easy and  dirtied little dishes...however they also cost us a fortune. There was no way we were able to continue spending $240 a week on just dinners. Crazy I know but it was what we were willing to pay to have dinner on the nights The Hubs worked late and I was running Sassy Britches to cheerleading practice and Girl Scouts.

That's when I read about Once A Month Cooking...of OAMC as it is referred to. You plan your meals one day, shop for an entire month's dinners another day, and then on the third day you cook all the meals, label and freeze them. Then on the nights you plan on serving them, you simply heat and eat- very much like those TV dinners. The ingredients, bought mostly in bulk, end up being cheaper, fresher, and healthier. I love that I dirty all the dishes once, except for what we eat off of and what few pots, pans or Crockpots we use to heat the food in.

I have found this to be so incredibly helpful. Couponing has also played a major role in the success of OAMC for my family. When I find a great deal on basics, such as condensed Cheddar cheese soup or canned diced tomatoes, I stock up, knowing that they can be used in my recipes. Having a stockpile is helping to continue to lower what we spend a month in groceries sicne many months, I find myself having most of the ingredients I need on hand. My shopping list is getting smaller and smaller!

So on December 31st, the Hubs and I set off for our grocery shopping, hitting up just three stores- Gordon Food Service (GFS), Costco, and Publix. We purchased 40 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast, 10 pounds of ground beef, 5 loaves of bread, and more. Some of our purchases, such as quite a bit of the chicken and at least 5 pounds of the ground beef will carry over into next month or further as in the case with the loaves of bread.  Our grand total?
My dining room table, AKA prep station

TOTAL SPENT: $302.83
for what we believe will be about 2 months worth of food
(that's less than $40 a week for a family of 4)!

 And that's not even using a lot of coupons, since this was the end of the month, I was pretty wiped out of coupons, having just cleaned out my coupon binder of all those that were expired.

Yesterday I committed myself in my kitchen, except of course for the hour and a half break I took to go to church service of course! Earlier that morning, I boiled and baked all the chicken I needed for my 17+ recipes and browned all my ground beef. I used my trusty Crockpot to help melt down some our the sauce mixtures I was going to be using. I chopped and diced all my vegetables, and put them into pretty little prep bowls. I then labeled and laid out all my freezer bags and ingredients with their corresponding recipe card so when I returned from church, all I really had to do with measure out the ingredients and put into the bags then freeze! Easy peasy!

And in a total of about 8 hours tops, I completed a total of 41 meals. Now all I have to do it heat and eat! The only hard part now is remembering to take whatever is planned out the night before to defrost!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Personal Video From Santa

The holidays are the time that most children are working on being extra good, anticipating Santa's arrival on Christmas Eve. Our family "adopted" an Elf On the Shelf which we named Bernard. Since November we have had wonderful "visits" from Bernard as he traveled back and forth from our house and the North Pole, where he reports to Santa each evening. His job is to inform Santa if Shaylee has been naughty or nice. She has awaken each morning with excitement as she looks to find where that mischievous little scout elf has hidden upon his return from the North Pole. She totally believes he is real and I am loving getting to share this bit of childhood innocence with children of my own now.

Maybe its the excitement of the holidays, or perhaps just a stage she is going through, but Sassy Britches (aka Shaylee) has been more difficult than normal these past few months. Even the presence of Bernard hasn't helped remind Shaylee that Santa is watching. We don't call her SASSY Britches for nothing, LOL! The Hubs has sworn to email Santa and tell him about her naughtiness. I have threatened that she won't be getting any presents. But nothing seemed to be working- she still talks back, throws mini fits when she doesn't get her way, and whines about everything ...something more drastic had to be done.

That's when a friend of mine on Facebook shared a link with me to get a personal video from Santa himself. Surely there had to be a cost associated with something like this. Curious but skeptical, I looked into it and I was so glad I did! This site is AWESOME!!! It asks for all the required information about the child such as their name, gender, age, etc. You get to decide if your child has been naughty or nice. It even has a drop down menu to select what your needs help in, whether its picking up their toys, being nice to a sibling, doing well in school, or in our case- temper tantrums. Best of all, its FREE! You can link it, email it to yourself, or even purchase it as a video.

I presented this personalized video to Sassy Britches after school this afternoon, explaining to her that Santa got Daddy's email and has sent her a special message. He even went so far as to show himself to her in this video so that she will understand how important it is for her to start behaving properly. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she witness Santa Claus himself deliver a message about her and telling her that she is on his naughty list. I was a little worried she'd get upset, but he kindly reminded her that she still has time to start being good.

I used to think that NORAD Santa was an awesome tool for parents to help keep the magic of Santa alive in our children's lives. Then we introduced Bernard and now we have Portable North Pole with personalized Santa videos! I highly suggest all parents try this out- its just too cool! To see for yourself, check out Shaylee's personalized video here....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Easy Photo Wall Arrangement Trick

So we have a walker. Little Big Stuff is now completely mobile and is into everything. In order to accommodate her new "baby prison" AKA 'playyard', I had to move around our living room furniture which also meant rearranging the photographs that are framed on our wall, since they had been placed to balance the furniture. I had been meaning to take them all down and make them current since the majority of them are still of Shaylee. We have two children now but glancing at our shrine of photos of Sassy Britches that adorn our walls, you would never know it. I also requested 36 little 4x6 frames to make this adorable wall arrangement I saw on Pinterest for Christmas. To make applying this arrangement to the wall easier and to avoid putting a gazillion hole in my wall trying to get the nails to line up right with the backs of these frames, I came up with a wonderful idea to make photo wall arrangements easier.

I started by tracing all the frames onto recycled newspapers (finally a use for all those Sunday papers I bought just for the coupons!). I put a mark on the paper as to where the hanger on the frame was located as well. I cut them out and arranged them on the wall as I found pleasing to the eye and as symmetrical as possible. I just used some tape to hold them up and was able to rearrange them as needed. Now all I have to do is nail where the hanger mark is on the paper then tear the paper away and replace it with the frames.

Once I get all the frames and once I can decide which 36 pictures I want to display, I will post an update with the final results. In the meantime, I think you get the picture, no pun intended! LOL!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Is Your Car Seat Expired? How to Tell and What To Do Next

Did you know that infant/ child car seats EXPIRE? I didn't until I attended a free car seat inspection at my local fire station. I had always wondered about Little Big Stuff's infant seat even back when it used to be Sassy Britches'. I receive it brand new at my baby shower when I was carrying her. It was one of the newer marketed models.

Anyhow, the volunteers from the Florida Highway Patrol looked over both of the girls' seats. Sassy Britches' booster seat passed with flying colors and I received praise for having her in booster since they see far too many children her age without any type of booster, just sitting in the backseat regularly. But Little Big Stuff's seat failed on a couple levels. One being that the shoulder restraint straps started behind her shoulders and then went up and over them. The seat did not offer any additional holes to move the straps up so she was already too tall for the seat. Seconds, the warning stickers on the seat were being to peel and fade. They prefer all stickers remain visible and attached to the seat. And lastly, the seat was nearing its expiration date.

If you check the underneath side of your car seat, you will be able
to see when your car seat expires. Mine only had about 14 months left,
as it's expiration date clearly shows December of 2012 but mine was considered unsafe
for Little Big Stuff because of her height and that the shoulder straps did not fit her properly.
There was no way this car seat could hold her for the next year, since it is now recommended that
children be rear facing until the age of 2- she barely fit in it now! And also since the life span of
this car seat was coming up so soon (car seats usually have a "lifespan" of 5-6 years max), I was
not comfortable risking someone else receiving this car seat and then not replacing it before the seat expired. 
Expiration date? Car seats have expiration dates??? This was new to me. The wonderful woman went on to explain that car seats have expiration dates because materials over time break down. A car seat that is old or has been involved in a crash can weaken, making it more likely it will be faulty in a future car accident. This is also why it is always best to buy a car seat new, never used (same for cribs) as you wan to be able to  be able to know of any recalls and have all the model information available, and know its accident history (which if new is never, unless you are the one involved). She also explained that technology improves and standards change. In fact, just the standard of having kids remain rear facing until 2 years of age was a new standard that was never the case before. 
Another view of where you can look for the expiration date.
Mine was found underneath the car seat, below the crotch latch
adjuster. I had no idea car seats expired let alone where to find when mine did!
So it was highly recommended that I get Little Big Stuff into a new car seat ASAP. She even told me that a neighboring county gives these car seats out for free (my county only offers discounts on them). So we arranged to meet up in her county, about 45 minutes away, to get the new seat. She explained there is also a proper way to dispose of them which includes cutting all straps and removing the seat cover- making the car seat useless to anyone who might attempt to pick it up and salvage it. We don't want anyone, unacknowledged about the dangers of used car seat making these life threatening mistakes. The pics below show how I disposed of my car seat. Photographing it also gave me a bit of closure, saying goodbye to the very car seat that brought both of my beautiful babies home safely from the hospital and survived the leaky diapers, spit up, spills, crumbs, mysterious stains, and such that comes with babies. It was a good ol' car seat and still one of the prettiest ones I have seen (it was from the Laura Ashley Baby Collection). 

When you dispose of your seat, be sure to cut the straps,
clearly making your car seat unusable. 
Also, when you dispose of your car seat, it is a good idea to
remove the seat cover. People are less likely to stop to pick up
the seat if there is no seat cover. You might be able to salvage the car seat cover, maybe
give it/sell it to someone who has the exact same model and perhaps would like a replacement seat cover,
but if their seat was purchased new in 2006 like mine was, their expiration date will be coming up just as
quickly and they too should be looking to properly dispose of their car seats as well. 
When I put my car seat to the curb, I made it very clear that
the car seat was not salvageable. On trash day, people drive around
looking for discarded items that they either can use or try to sell. I didn't want
anyone to even be bothered trying to retrieve this car seat from my garbage. 

Now Little Big Stuff is riding in pure luxury! Her new car seat is AMAZING! Its bigger of course since it is able to hold her for the next couple years- up to I believe 65 pounds! But its adjustment features are what makes it truly amazing- its sooo easy to adjust! I always has such a hell of a time when the girls needed adjustments made to the old car seat but this one is a breeze. LOVE IT!

Little Big Stuff loving her new ride!
 And I am truly, deeply, incredibly thankful for Ms Barbara Brown, the woman that helped me, for giving me the tip on going out of the county to get one of these bad boys for free. I was really nervous on where I was going to get the money for a new car seat on such short notice. The new one, if I had to purchase it, would be around $300. And it was brand new- still had the owners manual attached to it and everything. I suggest everyone checking with your local highway patrol, NHTSA, Safe Kids organization, or Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association in their area for more information on how they can get inspected and possibly get a brand new car seat that meets all the standards for free or at a discount.

To learn more about car seat expiration visit these links:

I'm Still Alive

Just wanted to check in with everyone and let you know I am still alive as is this blog! Its been a while since I posted anything, I didn't want y'all thinking this blog had been deserted! I have just been busy with a sick household. First it was The Hubs, then Sassy Britches, then Little Big Stuff, then myself. Then back to Sassy and Little Big Stuff. And now I think The Hubs is getting a cough again. So playing mom and nurse to the family has taken a bit of time and after the kids go to bed, I am usually so wiped out, I just retire to my bed with my remote and catch up on my TV programs saved onto my DVR. Fun and exciting, I know, LOL! So anyways, I have a really great blog post I am working on about car seat safety that you won't want to miss so PLEASE check back soon!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Solution to Toys Under the Couch

Little Big Stuff has an amazing ability to make 8 Avent Soothie pacifiers magically disappear in a matter of two days time. Her favorite hiding spot? Under our couches in the living room where they then get a lovely coating of dust, dirt, and pet hair. Yes, I am guilty of not cleaning under my couches regularly, LOL.

Our solution? Pool noodles. Yes, that's right. Pool noodles.

 Stuffed expertly under the ends of my couches, they prevent the toys, pacifiers, stray socks, dirt, dust, and pet hair from ending up under there. And whats nice is that they can be found at the dollar store and grocery store! We purchased four red ones at our local Publix for $1.99 each. Now I am sure you could probably color them somehow- paint or something, maybe even cover them in coordinating fabrics, but I left mine as is. I don't mind the colors so much- or I am just too lazy to worry about them blending in I guess. But here is a solution all you momma's can grab.

Moms- what was the weirdest thing you found hiding under your couches?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baby Daychart Android App

So not too long ago my precious Droid X took a tumble resulting in areas of the touch screen that did not work (i.e the "r" and "4" on my keyboard, and the "0" and "9" on the dialer) so I had to have my phone carrier send me a replacement. This also meant having to reload all the apps I had put on my previous phone (thank goodness they were all free, and nothing happened to my photos or contact!). While hunting down the apps I could actually remember, I came across Baby Daychart.

Just a sneak peek into Little Big Stuff's
morning after adding this app to my phone.
Baby Daychart is an app that can help parents log baby's activities and analyze to simple and clear charts. You can view and know at a glance the time of your child's last meal or diaper change, which breast you last nursed off, and more. With this info, you can better predict what your baby's needs are and when as many babies had very distinctive daily patterns. It also is a place you can record medical or health information such as vaccines, medicines, appointments, height, weight, and head circumference. You can also track your baby's mood (who wouldn't love to know baby's crankiest time of day and just avoid EVERYTHING during that time, LOL!) But the main reason I just had to have this app was to track Little Big Stuff's sleep patterns. This app is perfect for that...and is super duper cute to boot! With Baby Daychart you can share with friends on Facebook (or other social networks) and post pics. You can also sync data between multiple devices via Dropbox's free web storage service.

"If you're a new parent, this is a must-have app. It's a great way to not only record everything in one place, but give you a way to track it and see how it all effects each other, meaning you're more likely to have a happy and healthy baby (and well-rested parents!"-

I am so excited to start using this app, even if I use it for nothing more than recording Little Big Stuff's sleeping schedule, I can see it is going to be very useful! I recommend it!

Moms- do you use any phone apps to help track your baby's activities? Which ones would you recommend?