Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Your Pantry: Disorder Costs Money!

Disorder Costs Money!

Have you ever stood and stared at your pantry shelves thinking, "I KNOW that I have vanilla extract.  But, where is it?"  Or, worse than that, you purchase a large bottle of vanilla extract only to get home and find a completely full, never opened bottle sitting on the pantry shelf.  Variations of this theme happen all the time, don't they?

One of the number one things we all look for in a home is storage space.  Lots of shelves are a lovely thing to behold.  But, even with adequate space, if you don't organize what you have on those shelves in a meaningful fashion, then chaos ensues and food goes to waste.

Organizing Your Pantry

Today I'll share with you my methods of pantry organization, which allow me to quickly and easily inventory what I have and keep me from either overbuying or underbuying pantry items.

I promised you that I would do a pantry makeover post before I began my June food budget challenge.  I want to be aware of every item on the shelf, since cooking with what I have on hand will be crucial in not going over my $320 food allotment for the month of June! 

I am blessed with wonderful built-in cabinets lining the back of my basement. 

When we moved in eight years ago I quickly discovered that I needed a system for tracking food items or I would surely forget that they existed and wind up throwing them out.  And we all know how I feel about wasting food from my enthusiastic, fervent statements on previous posts.

Although your storage space will be configured differently than mine, let me give you some examples and general rules for organization.  I'll include some photos to show you my system.

First, a confession: 

My pantry is currently a TRAIN WRECK! 

 It's so bad that I hesitate to even take before and after photos.  But, in an effort at transparency, I will do so.

Absolutely nothing was in categories. 
I couldn't find a thing! 
 Items were starting to fall out.
The doors wouldn't close properly!  

Repackage Bulk Items and Store in Labelled Rubbermaid Containers. 


  •   Use clear Rubbermaid for bulk items and label the outside.
  •  I buy rice, grains, and beans in bulk. 
  • Brown rice will stay fresh for up to six months.  This is because of the oil in the bran layer.  If you won't use it in that amount of time, keep it in the freezer instead of on the pantry shelves.  By the way, you should refrigerate or freeze nuts, too, for exactly the same reason.  
  • Beans and whole grains will stay fresh on your shelves for at least a year - probably longer.
  •  If you want to kill any pest eggs, throw the filled gallon sized freezer bags into the deep freeze for 48 hours.  Then, bring to room temperature and place into the larger, clear rubbermaid containers for longer-term storage. 

Think like a grocery store.  Group "like" items together.  


Here are some of my categories: 
  • tomato products
  • gluten free
  • pasta
  • baking section
  • condiments
  • sweeteners
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • breakfast cereals
  • teas and other drinks
  • peanut butter and jelly
  • tuna/salmon

Rotate your stock.

When we get back from the store I often have my boys put the groceries away on the shelves.  I've shown them where to find each section in the pantry and how to rotate the stock.  New items go to the back.  But, how do you know which items are the oldest?  Use a permanent marker and write the month and year on the side of boxes or the top of cans.

Label items with the date they were bought.

  • This makes it super easy to see which items you are overbuying and how long certain things last you.  
  • This helps me be aware of how often we need to purchase a new bottle of maple syrup, for instance.  
  • As soon as you grab that last bottle of ketchup, write it down on that week's grocery list.  Don't wait!  You'll forget!  When you have a half a dozen people taking items out of your pantry, you need to have a grocery list.  The grocery list for the week is best kept in a specific location where each family member can add something to it. I have a certain child (who shall remain nameless, but is the youngest) who has been known to randomly add things like, "ice cream", "candy", or "soda" to the grocery list. 
  • This also helps me see which items need to be used up.  For instance, canned no-salt vegetables went on sale at HyVee super cheap a while back.  I bought 40 cans of corn and 40 cans of green beans.  It was clear from my pantry reorganization project that we are using the corn up at about a 4 to 1 ratio to the green beans.  It's time to dig out some good green bean recipes. 

Sometimes you find a "surprise".  

Yes!  That is barbeque sauce squirting out of that bottle!  It was on the shelf that way.  Opened and set on the pantry shelf.  Who knows how long it was in there - out of refrigeration.  Akkkkk!!!  It is now in the garbage!  Yet another reason to keep your pantry in order and to go through it once a month so that you know what is in there and that the items are not reaching their expiration date. 

What I Love Most About My Reorganized Pantry:  

Easy to inventory.

Easy for kids to help organize and find items! 

Helps avoid wasting food and money!


That's it for today.  What about you?  Do you have any super savvy pantry hacks to share?  We'd love to hear about them!  Share in the comments below.  

Remember to enter for your chance to win a book!  

Go to my June Food Budget Challenge page to enter.   All the details are at the bottom of the post!  

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Monday, May 28, 2018

How I'm Getting Ready for My June Challenge!

 June 1st is just days away and I am getting nervous!!! 

I'm super excited to share my June Journey with you all.  

As the first of June gets ever nearer, I'd like to remind you of my four June budget goals and then tell you how I will update you about my progress on each goal throughout the month of June.

These goals were born out of my quest to cut our family budget by twenty-five percent

My June Budget Challenges!

  1.  Simplify meals and utilize bulk cooking strategies. 

  • I'll be concentrating on entrees that are filling and go a long way. 
  •  NEW recipes!!  Cheap Eats!  I have been in the kitchen with my amazing 13 year old sous chef son creating some new, healthy, budget-stretching recipes!  I can't wait to share them with you in June!
  •  I'll be posting menu plans.
  •  I'll be posting bulk cooking plans and review with you how I "chart" ingredients before beginning to cook.  
  •   I'll be utilizing ingredients which I have on-hand as much as possible.  
  •  Every Monday I'll be showing you what came in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box  that week and then tell you how I plan to make the most of the array of veggies.  

2.  Organize my pantry! 

  • Speaking of "ingredients which I have on-hand", I can't start my grocery budget challenge without knowing exactly what I have in my freezers and pantry! 
  • I have been seriously procrastinating on this project.  But, I'm at a point that I can't find what I need ... and things are beginning to fall out when I open the door.  LOL! 
  • You'll get a look at what an absolute WRECK my pantry is!  
  • I will (hopefully) show you how my son and I put it back in order. 
  • I'll give you my tried and true tips for organizing your pantry.  
  • It's a family affair!  My pantry is organized so the my kids can help bring in groceries and know exactly where and how to put them on the shelves.  

3.  Be hyper-vigilant at tracking my expenses every week.  

  • This is, admittedly, a hard one for me.  And you would think as much as I enjoy counting nickels and dimes that it would be easy. 
  •  This feeling of doom could have something to do with the fact that I am WAY behind on filling in my spread sheet, on which I chronicle my monthly totals in each budget category.  Granted, I have tracked my expenses on Every Dollar and even printed out my monthly reports.  But, I have not filled in the monthly totals on my excel spread sheet at ALL for 2018!  I'm not kidding!  I have five totally blank monthly total columns in 2018!   Of course, my husband being diagnosed with heart failure did put my life on "hold" for a substantial length of time.
  •  But, in order to immediately be aware when adjustments need to be made, I must kick myself into action and get that spreadsheet all caught up to date! 
  •  I'll let you all know if my lack of diligence created any self-made budget challenges.   

4. The June "food budget challenge".  

  • Our family of five will be a family of seven for the month of June.  Our oldest son is home from college and our son John's girlfriend is coming up from Mississippi to visit.  
  •  My husband thinks I can't do it -  just all the more reason to try to prove that I can!  
  • Please keep reading all month long and cheer for me!  I'm going to need it! 


This is the exciting part! 

 I'm doing a giveaway of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.  

Here's what you need to do to enter the drawing:   

Go to this link!  
You must use the June Food Budget Challenge page to enter the contest!! 
There are instructions at the bottom of the post!! 
You just need to do three simple things to enter:  

1.  Sign up to receive my blog posts via e-mail.  There is a link to do this on the main page of my blog.  Look for the "follow by e-mail" link and just fill in your e-mail address. 

2.  Share the original giveaway post to social media. 

3.  Leave your best tip for saving money on food in the comment field on the original giveaway post.   

That's it!  You'll be entered into the drawing. At the end of the month we'll wrap up our month-long journey, (hopefully) celebrate my success, and I'll announce the winner of the book!  

Best of luck to you and keep those tips and encouragement coming my way!

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Do all to the glory of God,

Friday, May 25, 2018

This Week's Best Buys!

What Were the Best Buys I Found at the Store This Week? 

A.K.A - Feeding a family on just $320 a Month!   

In preparation for my big June food budget challenge, I decided to show you this week's amazing food deals!  I have been trying to stretch my May grocery budget to stock up on some items that I will use during June.  These are just my best deals, not my entire grocery haul. 

This is all a part of my quest to cut my family's budget by 25 percent!

I was so excited about my grocery store finds this week!  

Orecchiette Pasta:  $1.00 a pound on clearance at HyVee

This specialty pasta usually comes at a premium price.  The translation from the Italian means "little ears".  I've used it before and this pasta presents beautifully!  Taking it to a summer potluck makes you feel fancy!  At $1.00 a pound, it was a great deal!

EDIT!  Okay, I had to edit this post right before I published it!  I could, literally, hear that pasta calling my name last night when I was getting supper ready.  Two pounds of it was destined to be covered with my special homemade squash sauce!  Here's a link to the post that tells you how to make it. 

See?  It does present beautifully! 😋 No worries.  There are still two pounds of pasta left to use in June.   By the way, I have been creating in the kitchen with my 13 year old sous chef!  We have some exciting, brand new Cheap Eats recipes to share during my June Food Budget Challenge! 

Bacon:  $2.88 a pound at HyVee

The meat-eaters in my family are super excited.  I haven't bought bacon in, literally, years!  But, $2.88 a pound seemed like a great price.  Although I don't eat meat, my son's southern belle loves bacon.  So, I got two pounds and stuck it in the freezer.  When she comes to visit in June, Melanie and I will combine the bacon with some of the orecchiette pasta and a creamy sauce for pasta carbonara.  

Kroger Purified Drinking Water:  $1.99 for 32 bottles  



This amazing deal was Saturday only.  We had not digitally downloaded the coupon.  But, a wonderful fellow-shopper overheard us whining about not being able to take advantage of the deal.  "No worries," she said, "Just tell them at the checkout.  They have a code that they will scan so you can get the deal."  We tried it and it worked just like she said!  Yay!  You could get up to five at this price.  We got two (and I now wish we had gotten more.)  

Cottage Cheese:  $.69 at HyVee 



We had to show our gas-saver's card to get this deal.  Even though stores use loyalty cards to track your spending, I still think they are worth signing up for and using.  It was limit one.  But, since my 13 year old sous-chef son had to get some major oral surgery done on Wednesday and was limited to soft foods for 48 hours, this was something that he could certainly eat.  I feel so bad for him.  But, the orthodontist assures us that this is the only way to try to save the tooth.  

Organic English Breakfast Tea:  $.99 each on clearance at SAMS



I've been keeping my eyes on these for a while now.  SAMS has been slowly reducing the price.  In fact, I bought two packages when they were not quite so low.  But, when I walked in this week and saw them reduced to this bargain-basement price, I bought SIX of them!  There are 100 tea bags in each box.  We love sun tea and these will allow us to quench our thirst all summer long. 

That's it!  My five best buys!  What about you?  Have you found amazing deals this week?  Comment below and let us all know.  So, we can celebrate successes at the grocery store together!

Remember to Enter My June Contest!

If you've not already entered, head over to our contest page!  Click here!  You can read all about my June food budget challenge and enter for the chance to win a copy of  of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.

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Do all to the glory of God, 


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My June Food Budget Challenge and a GIVEAWAY!

June Grocery Money
I have issued myself a "food budget challenge" and my family is less-than-enthusiastic.

I've decided to spend no more than $320 on food for the month of June.   

That's $80 each week!  

 For the record, my husband thinks I can't do it -  all the more reason to prove that I can!

The photo above shows my actual grocery money.  I have it all set aside in an envelope, labelled "June".  I'm ready to go!  

Quick Facts About Our Family Food Dynamics:

1.   During June there will be seven in our family.

Our oldest son is home from college and our son John's girlfriend, Melanie, is coming from Mississippi to visit.  So our family of five will become a family of seven.  Yes, I told Melanie about the challenge.  She is still coming.  So, I haven't scared her off.  In fact, she is excited about rolling up her sleeves to help me be creative in the kitchen.

I really wanted to try allocating just $10 per person each week - or $280 for the month.  But, I chickened out at the last minute and added another $10 bucks per week.  In reality, I didn't know if I could do it on less than $300.

2.  We eat mainly vegetarian. 

I try to eat seasonally, buy from local small farms, and purchase as much organic as possible. Some of you may know that I am vegan, eating a whole foods, plant based diet.  But, most of my family does not.  So, although meat, dairy, and eggs play a minor role in my monthly food budget, they do make an appearance.

3.  We are CSA members. 

The fact that growing season has begun should prove to be helpful in me reaching my food financial goal.  The CSA food is already paid for.  So, it will be food that does not come out of the available $320 for the month.  I'll take photos of our weekly CSA share and show you what we got.  Then, I'll tell you how I plan to incorporate that produce into my weekly menu plan to make the absolute most of it.

4.  I will be spending cash. 

Remember, that's a photo of my actual grocery cash at the top of this blog post.  Statistically, when you use cash you spend less money.  See this post for information on why spending cash reduces how much you spend.

That's it!  Within those parameters I will have $80 a week to spend on food! 

I'll be visiting the farmer's market, going to the store, and spending no more than $320 in total.

This really is a challenge for me! 

I'm super excited to go through this process with all of you.  I think we can prove to my husband that it can be done!  When I told him of my intentions he used the word "crazy" and jokingly prophesied that before the end of the month I would be asking him to eat grass in the back yard for his daily portion of "greens". 

 Nope!  I'm going to be a "food ninja" for 30 days and show him how it is done!

  But.... I Need Your help!!  

I need your encouragement and tips.  To thank you, I'm doing a giveaway of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.  

Here's what you need to do to enter the drawing.  

1.  Sign up to receive my blog posts via e-mail.  There is a link to do this on the main page of my blog.  Look for the "follow by e-mail" link and just fill in your e-mail address. 

2.  Share this original post to social media.  

3.  Leave a comment in the comment field below.  Be sure to tell me that have completed #1 and #2 AND  give me your best tip for saving money on food.  

That's it!  You'll be entered into the drawing. At the end of the month we'll wrap up our month-long journey, (hopefully) celebrate my success, and I'll announce the winner of the book!  

Best of luck to you and keep those tips and encouragement coming my way!


Do all to the glory of God, 


Sunday, May 20, 2018 Guide on The Best Homeowners Insurance recently reached out to me to make me aware of a great resource for homeowners insurance.  They have an on-line Guide on the Best Homeowner's Insurance. 

I was intrigued.  When Larry and I first got married, we didn't purchase a new appliance, tool (or pretty much anything else) without first consulting Consumer Reports.  They were the "gold standard" on research and recommendation of whatever could be bought or sold.

I took a look at and I was impressed!  I would compare their website to Consumer Reports.  But, I like better.  Here is why:

They don't paint purchases with a broad brush.  Not only have they done research, comparing various aspects of products, they have "personalized" their research.  By this, I mean that they realize that not every product or service is right to everyone.  If you are newly married, your insurance needs are different than a person like me, who has been married three decades.  If you own a lot of antiques or park a large boat in your garage, once again, your needs differ from mine. has broken down each company into pros/cons, strengths/weaknesses.  I noticed immediately that some of the insurance companies which we have been impressed with through the years were represented on their site.  I also became acquainted with some new products, services, and companies.

They compare a variety of markers as well to provide you with a well-rounded look at each company.  In the homeowner's insurance guide, they evaluate financial strength ratings, endorsements, customer service, and discounts.  Then you can browse through each company and read about their services. You can also see their top picks and learn why each company earned a top endorsement. 

The website is extensive!  But, it is well organized.  So, if you are shopping for insurance information, it is easy to look at their bold font headings and find what you want.

Just a note:  some, though not all, of the companies represented on the site do have advertiser agreements with  But, they are very up front about this fact, and it did not make me feel that their research was less than honest or skewed to favor their advertisers.

There is a space to enter your zip code so that you can compare rates and get quotes.  But, this is not necessary to access the information on the website.  I was impressed that you can do plenty of research and comparing without being required give away your personal information to get a quote.  This tells me that is confident that their site, recommendations, and reviews are solid.  They don't feel that they need to compel you to give away your e-mail address in order to find the information that you need to make a well-reasoned decision.  When a company is willing to do this, they get high marks from me. 

If you want to take a look at the insurance guide, here is a link:

This link will take you to a list of all the reviews on the site.  They say that it covers everything from "4G to Yoga Mats."  And, oh boy, they are right!  It is quite complete and you'll find a lot of interesting reviews to read! 

So what about you?  Do you find websites like this helpful when you are researching products?   Or do you rely more on recommendations from friends?  Or do you just head out to the mall and ask salespeople for their recommendations? 

Leave comments below and me know what you think.

As always,

Do all to the glory of God,


Thursday, May 17, 2018

No overtime!!! Cutting my Budget to the Bone!

Our budget has me thinking like a minimalist!
It's time to get real with you! 

 After Larry got ill, he gave up his extensive overtime hours.  That money accounted for a full twenty-five percent of our income!

Larry announced that he would no longer work any overtime (a decision with which I whole-heartedly agreed).  I looked him in the eye, smiled, and replied, "Don't worry honey.  There are lots of areas that I can cut in the budget." I wasn't really lying.  I knew that I can be very creative when it comes to money.  It's just that at that very moment I had absolutely no idea which areas I could cut or how much. 

I crossed my fingers behind my back and hoped that I would really be able to follow through on that promise.  He had worked overtime for so many years that I had long ago incorporated that money into our monthly expenses.  Removing it would be painful! 

 Back to the Basics

I quickly realized that panicking would do very little to help our situation.  That's sort of like getting depressed about the lack of food in the house.  So you go out, get a gallon of ice cream, and eat the entire thing.  Now you are sick to your stomach, you've gained five pounds, and you STILL have no food in your fridge.  It is self defeating.

 It's time to "circle the wagons".  During Westward Expansion each night the wagons formed a circle for defensive purposes to ward off attackers.  I needed to devise a plan of defense, envisioning each element of our budget as a separate "wagon".  When combined, they would provide us with both safety and defense. 

 I went back to the basics.  I warped back into "newlywed mode".  When we were first married, we survived on practically nothing.  How?  We didn't spend money.  We worked, ate at home, took walks, read books, visited friends and family, and enjoyed time with with each other.

And you know what?  We loved it!  We didn't feel deprived.  We didn't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves.  We embraced simplicity.  Additionally, we (literally) gave thanks to God each and every time He brought unexpected blessings our way. 

Here are four steps to follow if you need to cut your budget in a hurry!  

 Step 1:  Ask Yourself, "Is this temporary?"

Take a deep breath and consider whether this downturn in fortunes is temporary or permanent.  Are there circumstances which would change the situation for the better?  If it is temporary, how long is it likely to last? 

 In our case Larry's diagnosis of heart failure forced him to downsize his work schedule.  Heart failure is exhausting - in a very literal sense.  When he returns from work it is as though someone unplugged his batteries.  He lays down for a deep, long nap every day.  He has to.  This really does not lend itself well to overtime hours.  

We began the budget hacking by asking ourselves how long the lack of overtime was likely to last.  The answer is:  at least a year.  Probably more.  We have made the decision that even when he regains his strength that never again will he work extensive overtime hours.  It simply isn't worth the loss of our family time to gain extra coin in our pockets. 


Step 2:  Concentrate on Your "four walls".  

Next, look at your budget and place a mark next to those items which are your "four walls".  This includes:  Housing, food, and transportation.  Look for ALL the items which encompass these categories.


Home insurance
Property Taxes
Gas and Electric
Home Owner's Association Fees


Personal care items
Cleaning and hygiene products


Car Gas
Car Upkeep
Car Payment (See this post for my advice on paying cash for automobiles.)  

See?  It's a lot more than just paying your rent or mortgage.  These areas must remain funded.

Step 3:  Isolate and Cut

Consider each category of your budget as a separate entity - or "wagon" if you think back to our "circle the wagons" analogy.  Ask yourself if there is any way which that category can be trimmed.  You may be able to lower some only a few dollars a month.  But, when you see the cumulative effect of your efforts, you will be amazed that you were able to shave that much off of your budget.

There are lots of ways that even the "four walls" categories can be trimmed down to size.  

 I give you great tips for cutting expenses in this post.  And also in this post.

Step 4:  Challenge Yourself!  Be specific!   Put it in writing! 


 I believe that people commit to things which are written down and posted in a prominent place in their home.  For me, that is using a magnet to attach them to my refrigerator.

  Be sure you have the agreement and help of either your spouse or an accountability partner.  You'll be more likely to succeed if you know that someone else may ask you unexpectedly, "So, how are we doing on those budgeting goals?"

To show you an example of how to do this, I am sharing my June budget challenges! 

My June Budget Challenges!

Here are four budget-related items that I will be posting about in the next few weeks.   

 1.  Simplify meals and use bulk cooking strategies, concentrating on entrees that are filling and go a long way.  I'll be posting some "cheap eats" and some menu plans. 

2.  Organize my pantry!  Disorder costs money!  You'll get a look at what an absolute WRECK my pantry is!  I show you how my son and I put it back in order.  I promise lots of photos!

3.  Being hyper-vigilant at tracking my expenses every week.  This way I will immediately be aware when adjustments need to be made.  I'll report any successes or challenges.   

4. I have issued myself a "food budget challenge".  My family is less-than-enthused about this one.  I've decided to spend no more than $320 on food for the month of June.   That's $80 each week!  Our oldest son is also home from college and our son John's girlfriend is coming from Mississippi to visit.  So our family of five will become a family of seven for most of June.  I'll lay out the details in the next few days and update you regularly on how it is going. For the record, my husband thinks I can't do it -  just all the more reason to try to prove that I can!

Don't miss my next post!  

Not only will I give you the low down on my June challenges, I'll also be telling you how you can enter to win a copy of one of my favorite books, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half, by Steve and Annette Economides.  

Until next time,


Do all to the glory of God,




Sunday, May 13, 2018

Book Review: Meals Made Easy: Fat Man's Essential 40 Plant Based Recipes.

 Whew Hoo!  It's time for a cookbook review!  

A few weeks ago I was thrilled to receive a review copy of Fat Man's Essential - 40 Plant Based Recipes.  The subtitle explains the purpose of the book :  Quick and Easy Plant Based Food.  I have a LOT of cookbooks on my shelf.  This one stands out from the rest, because it is chock full of recipes that work in real life, are easy to follow, and don't take a lot of time.  Every single recipe that I have tried has been unanimously voted a "make again" by all of my boys!

Author, Tim Kaufman shares with the reader his story of being told by his doctor to "get his affairs in order".  Approaching middle-age, he had young children and a long list of medical disorders. He was obese with out-of-control blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides.  It was a "change or die" situation.  He chose to take control of his health, beginning with his diet.  You will not believe the transformative photos in the cookbook!

Here is the best part of this cookbook: You all know that I am the queen of stretching my food dollars to the utmost.  I don't like to waste a penny, prefer to eat seasonally, and consume a whole food/plant based diet.  This cookbook is masterful at allowing the reader to do exactly that!  It is not a large book.  But, you won't be disappointed with your purchase.  Every recipe has been equally delicious and is comprised of easy-to find ingredients and easy-to-follow directions.  There is a full page color photo of each recipe.

Here are a couple of photos of my versions of some of Tim's recipes.

In the Smoky Cauliflower Chili recipe Tim noted,"Do not be afraid to substitute and experiment.  It's hard to screw up."  I did.  And he was right.  I had a bag of Normandy vegetables - which was a mixture broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and summer squash. Although the recipe called for just cauliflower, I made the substitute and the finished product was fantastic!  His choice of herbs and spices is spot on!  Like most recipes in the book, the portion sizes are very generous.  This recipe filled my pressure cooker to capacity and lasted us for several meals.

Smoky Chili before pressure cooking

Finished soup - thick, spicy, and delicious!

The Fat Man's BBQ Meat Ballz are hands-down the BEST vegan meatball that I have ever made or eaten!  (And I've made quite a few.)  The texture felt identical to ground beef when I was forming the "meat" balls.  They cooked up beautifully, froze perfectly, and were very versatile.  I made a double batch, which made nearly 60 "meat" balls.  They lasted my family of five for several meals.  Even my grown son, thought that 4 balls covered in sauce was a generous and filling portion.  I served them with some of Tim's BBQ sauce (recipe included in the cookbook).  You could add a bit of nutritional yeast or vegan cheese.  My non-vegan kids added a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  With a side of roasted beets and sweet potato, our meal was complete!

The quinoa corn fritters were very unusual, tasty, and were actually about the size of burgers when I made them.  The recipe made 15 generous-sized fritters.  We actually served them on buns for a couple of meals like a burger.  The kids loved them!

Quinoa Corn Fritters with Cheesy Onion Tater Cubes

Tim's Cheesy Onion Tater Cubes were divine!  They crisped up perfectly on parchment paper without a bit of oil.  My kids topped them with ketchup and then begged for them to be served again. 

As I mentioned, I have a lot of cookbooks on my shelf.  Fat Man's Essential has already become one that I will go back to again and again.  Well done, Tim!  I can't wait for the sequel, scheduled to come out in a few short months. 

Fat Man's Essential - 40 Plant Based Recipes is available as a Kindle download for the amazingly low price of $2.99.

Here is the link from Amazon to get your copy.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Creating Margin In Your Life

 Before Larry's illness, we had allowed a HUGE number of commitments to crowd out our weekly schedule.  I often felt like a human octopus, using all eight arms to coordinate the schedules of four boys and one husband - all heading in different directions and all with different needs.  I still homeschooled, made every meal from scratch, and kept a tight reign on our finances. 

Some days I would wake up already overwhelmed.  As the day progressed, the feeling of being "behind the eight ball" would increase to almost panic-attack dimensions.  I would go for days without sitting down to read a book, play a game, or even having a decent (non-school related) conversation with my kids. 

We were seriously out of whack, with seemingly no way out! 

Then fate intervened!

When you face a life-threatening illness it is often difficult to find any silver lining.  But, in this case the need to re-evaluate our busy lifestyle became the unexpected blessing of Larry's medical diagnosis.

We cleared our schedule in a hurry to allow time and space for his gravely ill heart to recover.  This week I'll lead you through the process we employed in making decisions as to what activities stayed in our lives and which activities were set aside for a time (or for forever).

Let me help you create margin in your life, categorize your commitments, and simplify your schedule.


Our number one marriage goal is to create a life in which we are "in the moment" together as a couple and a family.

When we look at our daily, weekly, and monthly commitments, I'd like to remind you that it is better to not give your word hastily than to back out of a commitment once it is made.  It's easier to tell someone, "I don't feel that I can commit to your event at this time.  But, if I find that I have time in the future, I will reconsider and let you know." 


Organizing and optimizing your schedule!

 1. List it:  

  • Make a list every single event or commitment.  
  • Try to think of them all.  
  • Even the ones that are for fun.  
  • For instance, we like to schedule Friday night picnics during nice weather.  

2.  Label it:

The first step gives us a general word for each commitment.  I like to think of this next step as making each commitment "three dimensional".  It tells us exactly how much time and energy each event takes.  

        Is it:

  • Daily, weekly, monthly?  
  • Seasonal?
  • Length of time? 
  • How many weeks or months?
  • Time commitment?  Two hours a month?  Six hours a week?  (Be sure to include travel time)
  • Who is involved in this commitment?  
  • If this is a class, sport, or extra-curricular activity for your child, do you need to attend each week?  
  • Are you required to invest "sweat equity" as a back-stage Mom or an assistant coach?  
  • Are you required to help raise funds?  
  • ALL of these factors need to be taken into consideration for each commitment!  Otherwise you are not tracking the TRUE amount of time that each takes.   


3.  Prioritize it: 

Give each event one of these three designations:  

     * Necessary

Events which rank highest on your family's priority list.  Church might be one of these designated weekly commitments.  However, a weekly family movie or pizza night might also rank closely to that of church on your list.  

    * Optional

Your family really enjoys this event.  On a perfect week, you'd all like to continue doing this event or keeping this commitment.  Helping monthly with the church food bank is super important to us.  But, if we HAD to give it up, we could.  But, we would rather not. 

    * Extra

This event has filled space on your calendar, but it may not make the "cut".  Sometimes kid's sports, musical activities, or personal improvement events go into this category.  Just because an activity is given an "extra" designation doesn't mean that it won't make the "cut," it just means that other things have been given greater priority.   

4.  Order it:  

 We all need margin in our lives!  

  • Designate an amount of time each week that will NOT be filled up with activity! 

  • So, you might say, "We feel comfortable having a weekly commitment on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday evenings."  But, the rest of the days of the week will remain free for family time.  

  • Then fill in the spaces on your weekly schedule with the events that you have already listed and prioritized.  You probably won't get then all on the schedule.  That's okay!  

  • The idea is to free you up to be "in the moment" as a family and not constantly be running from one place to another.  You want to fill your time with events and give you life, peace and "refuel" you, and not those that wear you out.  

  • That's not to say that the choices won't be tough.  Or that the events that you choose to step away from for a time aren't worthy.  You simply cannot wear yourself thin and be the best mom, dad, son, daughter, or spouse that you can be with too much on your plate.  So, don't be afraid to let go of some things.  If you find later that you really truly miss doing that event, then you can re-add it to your schedule later. 




Designate a period of time after which you will, once again, take a look at your schedule.

Ask yourself:  
  •  What is working?  
  • What is not working?  
  • How does the stress level feel? 
  • Have your circumstances changed? 
  •  You may need to readjust.  

These photos depict our current methods of stress management.

This is about all the stress I want or need at this time.  LOL!

Until next time,

Do all to the glory of God,