Feed Me

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Other years, I’ve always included new foods in my list of favourites, but I don’t know if I tried a lot of new things this year. My food favourites this time around have more to do with how I get the food on the table, instead of what the food actually is!

Have a Plan

As I shared in January, I took an online course called “Grocery Budget Bootcamp“, which I loved, and it was super useful for getting me to be more intentional about what we were buying, as well as planning our meals. Taking the course made me realize how much stress can flair up in our home when I don’t have a plan for what we’re eating. I was consistent with planning suppers, but breakfast and lunch were more up in the air, and every single morning, around 11am, Anika (who LOVES to know what the plan is) would ask, “What’s for lunch?” And every day at 11:01am, I would get really grumpy. That may seem ridiculous, but she asked the same (legitimate) question every single day, always in the middle of our homeschooling morning, when I didn’t want to be thinking about food, and it stressed me out. Then she’d get stressed out, because there was no plan, and then everybody was grumpy. By the time we were finished with school for the morning and I had the head space to think about lunch, it was late, and everybody was even more grumpy because they were also hungry at that point. It was a disaster every time, until I finally figured out that all our problems were solved by simply coming up with a weekly menu which included breakfast and lunch. Our mornings went smoother, everyone was happier and less stressed, and we are eating better meals with more variety.

Prep Ahead

The other wonderful thing that happened this last year was that I started making smoothie packs to stick in the freezer. I usually have two green smoothies a day, so every morning and every afternoon, I was cutting and peeling vegetables. It was time consuming, and our cutting boards, knives, and peelers were always dirty. I’d seen the idea of smoothie packs on Pinterest, but I didn’t think it would work for my smoothies, because of the type of vegetables I was using – I’d never heard of freezing cucumbers! Well, it turns out you can! And freezing spinach is SUPER easy – we just buy the huge bags at Costco and put them straight in the freezer. Freezing avocados also works really well, so I was set.

A few major benefits have come out of this – my smoothie can be prepared so much faster now that my freezer is full of smoothie packs, the kitchen doesn’t get as messy, and we can buy all those vegetables at the lowest price. The Grocery Budget Bootcamp taught me the importance of grocery sale patterns – fresh produce doesn’t go on sale super often, but every few months, there will be a sale on cucumbers, peppers, or avocados. When one of those things is on sale, we buy enough to last for one or two months’ worth of smoothies. It’s ended up saving us a ton of money to do it this way, and all it took was a little bit of research to find out which vegetables work well to freeze.

I’ve never explored freezer meals, but this makes me think it’s something I need to look into…

Alright, I want to hear all your tips – what are your best tricks for getting fed in the easiest, fastest way possible? Do you like to have a plan? Prep ahead of time? Give me all the food advice!!

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Birthday Favorites: Stuff Around the House

Hey, Friends! It’s that time again – this week is my birthday, and it’s tradition around here to share everything I’m loving right now, and the things that have made this last year enjoyable/delicious/successful/positive in any way.:)

Leave a comment sharing YOUR favorites, and you’ll be entered in a draw for a prize….

Today’s topic is household hints! Here are a few things I’ve been loving around our home this past year:

1) Norwex Cleaning Paste on the Stove

When we were buying appliances for our new house, people seemed to be pretty opinionated about smooth stovetops. Either you love ’em or hate ’em, apparently. I was told numerous times, “Don’t buy one!! They are SOOOO hard to clean!”

In the end, we went with a smooth-topped stove, and I haven’t been sorry. If it doesn’t get cleaned right away, stuff can stick on pretty good, but then a brilliant friend said, “I just use Norwex Cleaning Paste.”

Norwex Cleaning Paste

Well, now. That stuff is AMAZING! I already had some, but wasn’t using it much. It requires some scrubbing , but it gets everything off.

I love it when people share their cleaning tips!!

2) Hang-Drying Our Laundry

Although I’ve done this off and on in the past, it was our “Electricity Fast” last fall that got me back into the habit again. That little experiment saved us about $70 on our hydro bill! We did more than just stop using the dryer, and most of those changes became habits, but hang-drying laundry is my favorite one that stuck.

At first, it seemed like a lot of extra work, for a small amount of savings. I think we calculated a savings of about five dollars a week for me to hang our laundry instead of using our dryer. But then there’s less wear and tear on our clothes, and in the end, it’s easier for me. That probably sounds weird, but here’s the thing: I hang wet clothes in the closet, where they belong anyway. They dry cleaned up already, and there’s so much less laundry to fold.

hang-drying laundry

When I first got pregnant in spring, and felt horrendous, I couldn’t be bothered with hanging all our clothes to dry, so I got back into the habit of stuffing everything into the dryer, and then I was left with mountains of wrinkled, clean laundry that wouldn’t get cleaned up until the next week. Someone was always freaking out about not being able to find their clothes in the mornings (“It’s somewhere on top of the dryer…!”), and it was grumpy and chaotic, and I didn’t like it at all.

As soon as I started feeling better, I was back to hanging laundry to dry, and I came to the conclusion that for me, it’s just easier! For most of our clothing, I only handle it once. I dry some things on racks, but folding it takes minimal time, because the majority of our laundry is already put away.

3) Google Calendar

I got a smart phone this last year. I always said I never would, but I changed my mind when I started missing appointments because of having the wrong information written down, or not having my pocket calendar with me. Also, my mom and friends kept asking when I would start texting, and it finally became clear that while living at camp, I did not need a smart phone, but living in the “real world” would be much easier with one.

I’m not on it that much, but with all of the appointments I make each week, I love having a way of entering in activities and events that will show up on my phone, and on our home computer.

I also wrote about how I love doing menu planning on our Google calendar. What I’m making for supper can depend on what we’re doing that day – in the city all day means the slow-cooker will save the day. Being at home all day means I should plan to “cook ahead”, and make sure we have enough granola, or cooked chicken and beans packaged in the freezer. Combining menu planning with our schedule has made things work much smoother.

menu

4) Room-Darkening Curtains

We’re super blessed to have massive windows in our living/dining room areas, but it gets pretty toasty in here during the summer afternoons. And we’re blinded by sunshine at the supper table. Which is great and all, but one day, I suddenly woke up to the fact that my light, breezy curtains were doing nothing to keep out the sun and heat.

My first big project of the summer was finding room-darkening curtains. It makes such a huge difference!!! Yes, we could just turn on the air conditioner, but I would rather save some energy, and close the curtains for a few hours each afternoon.

new curtains

5) Curtain-lengthening Trick

This one kinda goes with the previous favorite. In my search for new curtains, I found exactly what I was looking for at IKEA…except they were a foot too short. We have nine foot ceilings, and I love having ceiling-to-floor curtains, but it is really hard to find curtains that length.

Enter another brilliant friend: she just bought some contrasting fabric, and added a strip to the bottom of her curtains. Since it looked awesome at her house, I decided to try the same thing myself, and although it was a bit of work, it saved me the cost of custom-made curtains.

I actually like how the curtains look better with the strip at the bottom – it adds some interest to otherwise plain curtains.

curtains

Alright, now I want to hear from you! Please, please share! Seeing as two of my favorite tips come from friends, I think it shows how important it is to share the love! Don’t keep your household secrets a secret!:) Tell me how to make my life easier – especially with a new baby on the way…