Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bulk Cooking

If you are looking to save a ton of money and time, then consider the merits of bulk cooking.  For many years I have cooked nearly all of our lunches and dinner for the week in five to six hours every Saturday morning.  Allow me to share with you some reasons to cook in bulk, 

*Note:  This is a real photo of my dining room table and I cooked all the food on it in one day! *

Why Does Bulk Cooking Save Money? 

Why does bulk cooking save money?  I mean, really!  If you are eating the same amount of food each week, regardless of whether you bulk cook or not, what possible difference could bulk cooking make in your monthly food budget?

BULK COOKING: eliminates"Fast Food Temptation"

If there is prepared food in the fridge or freezer, you really have no reason to resort to heading to a restaurant after a hard day's work.  According to a 2016 article in Money Magazine, Americans now spend more money at restaurants than at grocery stores.  Simply reversing this trend for your own family will save you money every single month.

BULK COOKING:  allows you to customize your portion sizes 

If you want that chicken and rice to last for two meals, just put it in two freezer bags and freeze it separately.  If you only thaw one bag, no matter now much your ten year old claims to be "starving", you are hardly likely to go to the effort to thaw the second package for him.  You will hand him a piece of fruit, a second helping of vegetables, or cheerfully reply, "Its all gone.  But, you can go help your sister with the dishes now."

You must remember the rule of "boys and food":  "Boys have an innate ability to consume any amount of food that you place in front of them."  It's true!  For boys, everything is a contest.  Put 24 hotdogs on the table, and I guarantee you that you may deal with a lot of upset stomachs a few hours after mealtime, but they will consume every hotdog on that plate!   So, package that food into meal-sized portions and only thaw what you want them to eat.

BULK COOKING:  keeps you out of the store

Statistically speaking, the more often you shop, the more money you spend.  There is an entire science based on getting you to spend more time and more money in stores.  I took an advertising class when I was in college over 30 years ago.  We studied a host of methods for getting customers to lay down their hard-earned dollars. Color, shape, texture, packaging, signage, product placement, end-caps, point-of-purchase sales:  these words all spell one thing to national brands and grocery stores:  M-O-N-E-Y!

 BULK COOKING:  ensures less food waste 

Ask my kids to name my number one pet peeve and they are sure to reply, "Wasting food."  I hate it!!  My personal goal is to throw out no more than 3% of our food.  As a result, I make certain that I know exactly what I have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Before I even begin making a list of recipes or shopping for ingredients, I inventory these areas and make a list of "available ingredients".  Then, I base that week's menus on what I already have in the house.  This truly helps me spend less money in two ways:  1)  Using fresh produce before it rots.  2)  Using items in my pantry that have been sitting on the shelf for a while.  If you don't know you have it, you won't use it.

Don't Be Intimidated!

Finally, don't be intimidated by books that tout the wonders of Once a Month Cooking.  If you have this amount of organization and energy, then go for it.  But, if the mere thought of this level of cooking raises your anxiety (it does mine) then, consider giving once-a-week cooking a try.  Another method, which is very successful and less stressful is doubling every recipe that you make.  Use one portion that night and freeze the other for another night.  It's easy, doesn't take any extra time, and works wonders for starting a stockpile of frozen entrees!

What about you?  Have you tried once-a-month or once-a-week cooking?  Did it work for you?  Do you have any thoughts or tips to add to my list?  I'd love to hear from you.  Be sure to leave a comment below.  


Do all to the glory of God,


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Kids: Your "Happy Helper Team"


 School has begun.  Fall has arrived on the heels of summer.  In the all-too-short summer months I do a lot of organizing. Then it's time for back-to-school and my house, which is fairly clean and orderly during summer, suddenly becomes a path of mass destruction during the school year.  In an effort to keep this from happening again, here are my tips for getting your children involved in helping keep the house tidy.  


As soon as possible, teach them how to do a job and do it well.  We have a mantra in our home when it comes to chores:  If you can toddle, you can tote.  It’s not original to me, but I love it!  As soon as my children could walk, they were given jobs to do. For help in figuring out tasks that children can do and at what ages, I just wrote a post on age appropriate chore suggestions.  You'll find it here


We’ve tried a weekly printed chore chart.  But, we have found that it works best for us to list daily chores on my dry erase board in the kitchen.  I let them pick the ones they would most like to do. If one of the younger boys selects a task, which he is being trained to do by an older sibling, then that older brother will automatically get to go with that little brother to complete that chore.  At other times, I add a name beside the specific chores.  It depends a bit on how much time I have for training that day.  Given the option, the younger boys will pick some of the harder and more “exotic” items on the list. And that means T-I-M-E to show them how it’s done.  However you do it, try to be sure you that “hit all the bases” and that each room of the house is eventually rotated through by each child. 


 If they cleaned the bathroom, they wanted to know that (just because we were having company) a job, which was rated as “acceptable” last week, was “just not good enough” this week.   They have told me that they want to know the “right” way to do it the first time and they will strive to have it in that condition each and every time.

You must be sure that you are not asking them to do something that you have not trained them to do or have given them something to do that is beyond their frame of reference.  I have struggled with getting frustrated with a child when they fail to complete a task, only to have them say, “But, Mom, you never showed me how to do it.”   


To insure this consistency, you must TRAIN them.  The first time a new task is introduced, I have them just watch me do it – along with my snappy and interesting running commentary on each step I am making.   The next time, I have them do it while I am watching them.  I have them repeat each step back to me while I watch.  The third time, they complete the task alone – with freedom to ask me if they need help or forget a step.  By the fourth time, they do it all and then I inspect their work when it is completed.


It is said that “variety is the spice of life” and so, too, it is with chores.  Our boys have certain areas of cleaning which they prefer.  For instance, my middle son loves to clean the bathroom.  I’m NOT kidding!  So, for many months, he cleaned the bathroom every week.  His brothers began to expect that “John will take the bathroom cleaning on the chore list.”  One day, while gesturing with the toilet brush, he explained to me, “Mom, I do like the bathroom.  But, that doesn’t mean I want to be the only one who does the bathroom!”  I got his message.  I now make sure that we “share the love” when it comes to the bathroom.  Although he still cleans it more often than the other boys.


 If you receive coupons for free children's dinners at a local restaurant,  instead of giving them out, create a chart and have the kids earn their certificate.  We did this once.  I had a HUGE chart on the wall of the hallway.  They got to color in squares each day.  After 40 squares were colored in, they received their certificate.  But, all the Happy Helpers had to make it to 40 squares before we went out to eat.  The older ones were providing help and encouragement every day to their younger siblings to help them get their squares colored in!  (Sibling solidarity - unexpected side effect).  Unbeknownst to the kids, my husband and I had decided that whoever got the most points got to order dessert - a HUGE deal for my kiddos because we never order dessert at a restaurant!  In a weird moment of serendipity, the children's meals all included dessert.  So, the kids all voted that Mom and Dad got to order dessert and split it!  Best scoop of ice cream I ever had!  

Here's a link to a free customized chore chart over at  I love this idea and her themes are really cute!    

  •  Name your cleaning team.  Ours was:  "The Happy Helpers".
  •  After about 60 minutes of cleaning we have a well-deserved "Happy Helper Snack"
  • I made it clear that we were a team and that each member was equally important.
  • If a team member was sick, then their chores were equally divided among the other team members.  That's what we do when we are a team; we look out for one another.
  • Keep it positive!  We listened to music while cleaning.  We shouted encouragement to each other.  If a young one was struggling, an older sibling came along side of them and helped them.  
  • Keep your expectations realistic.  The job may not be done as well as I would have done it, but if it's good enough, I leave it alone!  
  • Point out positives before negatives.  "I love the way you arranged those candles on the end table.  But, let's see if we can stack those magazines so that they don't unexpectedly fall over."  Or "I can see that you took a lot of care in making your bed this morning.  Let's see if we can work together to clear off your desk so that you can use it later for doing homework."   
  • We cleaned on a schedule - at 8am every morning before we started school. 
How have chores worked in your house?  I'd love to know your system to organize chores and teach children how to keep a house tidy and clean.  Comment below to share your thoughts. 


Do all to the Glory of God, 


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Chores: Moving Your Kids from Dependence to Independence

Years ago I sat in a group of moms having a conversation about housekeeping. They fussed and sighed, " It takes so long to even load the dishwasher properly!"  I sat, pretty much mute. At some point it became clear that I didn't have a mechanical dishwasher.  One woman looked at me and blurted out incredulously, "You don't have a dishwasher?!!"  I replied, "Sure I do!  I gave birth to four of them and they all work pretty reliably  - unless they have a cold or the flu."

Our family's stance on chores is simple:  If you can toddle, you can tote.  As soon as you can walk, you become an official member of the "happy helper club."  This exclusive club comes with a lot of perks!  You get "happy helper snacks."  You receive a weekly allowance beginning at age 5.  You get "high-fives" for a job well done.

Chores help move children from a position of dependence to independence.  Guiding your children in a systematic way through increasing levels of personal sustainability also guards against feelings of entitlement.  If Mom does all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry, when they are 18 they continue to rely upon Mom to fulfill what they now consider to be her God-given role as their provider.  In short, they adopt an attitude of entitlement.

So, what can your kids do and how early in life can they do it?  Here is a list of chores and the ages at which we taught our children each chore.

AGE 2 -5

  • Matching and folding socks
  • Dusting baseboards and furniture legs
  • Cutting bananas with a butter knife
  • Emptying small garbage cans
  • Sorting plastic lids and matching them up with their containers
  • Helping cook by dumping pre-measured ingredients into the bowl or pot
  • Collect laundry and help sort the darks and lights into separate piles
  • Helping Mom load the washer or dryer
  • Putting toys away on the toy shelf or toy basket
  • Putting laundry in the hamper
  • Folding small towels and washrags
AGE 6 - 10

(These are the ages in which I do a LOT of training.  They begin with a lot of supervision at age 6 and become fairly proficient by age 10 at most household tasks.  Use your discretion). 

  • Setting the table
  • Clearing the table and scraping plates
  • Feeding pets
  • Watering plants 
  • Help rake yard (My older boys were being paid by neighbors to do this by age 10 and 12!)
  • Help Dad or older sibling wash vehicles
  • Weeding (with supervision so they pick weeds and not baby vegetables) 😏
  • Vacuuming the edges of rooms with a handvac
  • Cleaning up messes (unless it involves broken glass)
  • Helping with meal planning and grocery shopping
  • Drying dishes and putting dishes away in cupboards
  • Washing dishes
  • Help put groceries away
  • Doing laundry independently (by age 9 or 10!)
  • Making the bed daily
  • All household dusting except high shelves
  • Help make meals
  • Organize drawers, closets, and bookshelves (with help from older siblings)
  • Properly folding ALL laundry items
  • Cleaning room (with supervision)
  • Take out the trash     

Children should master the skills listed above and be able to do these additional chores:  
  • All Dusting
  • All vacuuming
  •  Preparing easy recipes and meals
  •  Cleaning the bathroom
  • Cleaning the kitchen
  • Shoveling snow
  • Mowing the lawn (My older boys had neighborhood lawn mowing jobs)
  • Cleaning their room
  • Stripping bedding, laundering, and then placing the bedding back on the bed
  • Wash and wax automobiles (generally as a group in a mix of older and younger siblings)
These are all, of course, just my suggestions.  They don't represent a complete list or the "right" way to do things.  They are a representation of how chores worked in our home.  The focus should be on teaching your children how to do the work that it takes to run a household efficiently.  In addition, you will be teaching your children valuable life lessons, like how to keep working when a task is difficult, how to ask for help if they are confused, how to work as a part of a team, and how to do a job with a spirit of excellence.

Watch for next week's post:  I'll take you step by step through how we trained our children on chores.  

What has been your experience with children and chores?  Did I miss anything on my list?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Do all to the glory of God,


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kids and Money ( up to age 16)

 We currently have four boys, ranging in age from nearly 21 - 9.  Our policy on paying children has fluxuated over the years, mirroring both changes in our own financial fortunes and our children's needs.  This post shares our family's principles for Teaching Kids Money Management from the age of  5 -1 6.  Enjoy! 


AGE 5 -11

 When our children are in grammar school, we pay them an allowance. They understand that this money is for doing specific tasks, which are assigned weekly.  If they do not complete tasks in a timely, appropriate manner, then their “paycheck” will reflect their job performance.  They are expected to tithe ten percent, save fifty percent for future goals, and may spend forty percent. 

I'll be posting a list of age-appropriate chores and what we taught our children at each age, next week.   

We do not intervene in how they spend their money except in specific circumstances.  They are not allowed to purchase any item, which we consider to be inappropriate or immoral.  We council them about items which are cheaply made. We have a lot of conversations about “quality” versus “quantity”.  A few times they opted to purchase an inferior item, and were sadly disappointed when it broke within a short time.  This helped them consider the importance of thinking before purchasing an item.


Prepare yourself!  Soon, you will be standing at a garage sale and they will see something that they “just can’t live without”.  Gasp!  They have spent all of their allowance.  Their piggy bank is empty!  They will plead with you to advance them money for the item.  The first time this happens reply, “Mom and Dad don’t spend money we don’t have and we expect that you won’t either.  However, if you wish me to loan you $5.00 for that toy, you will need to pay me back $8.00 next week.”  Their face will fall.  They will be aghast.  They may even scream, “That’s not fair!”  Simply reply, “No, THAT’S  paying interest.”  I did it – once – with each of my older boys.  My oldest son was the only one who decided that the price of the loan was equal to the worth of the toy.  However, he learned his lesson.  I later overheard the older boys warning one of the younger ones, “If you don’t have the money for that, you’d better put it back.  Never ask Mom to loan you money!” 

AGE 12-15

By the time our older boys reached their teen years we realized that their needs had changed.  Older children need to see the importance of saving and planning for specific goals.  So, we explained that they would no longer receive a weekly allowance.  That's right!  We cut them off.  But, not completely.  Instead, we explained to them that we wanted to invest in their dreams and simultaneously send them off to utilize some of the "striving-for-excellence" work skills we had endeavored to teach them.  They were to set their own goals and save for specific items.  Then, they would need to find work (and receive pay) from someone besides us.  When they had saved up one half of the amount needed for the item, we would kick in the other half.  We continued to pay for school related supplies and events, clothing, and occasional extras. 

The boys were ambitious, busy, and hard-working teens.  Because half of the money to be spent was theirs, they carefully researched the best prices and values for each item.  They were paid for installing a barbed wire fence, cleaning a condo, pet sitting, lawn mowing, and lawn maintenance.  They purchased digital cameras, electronic book readers, camcorders, an iPod Touch, a 7 inch tablet, and laptop computers.  

 The year our middle son was 15, he presented us with a long list of items that he wanted to purchase.  He was well aware that, like the Cinderella fairy tale, our offer to match half of his savings would vanish at the stroke of midnight on his 16th birthday.  He worked every spare minute.  He met every goal.  Larry and I spent the year writing "matching funds" checks.  This plan has undoubtedly cost us far more than the weekly allowance ever did.  But, I believe it prepared them more effectively for life as they turned sixteen. 

AGE 16+

As you might imagine, at the age of 16 our boys are expected to get part-time jobs in the community.  They pay for their own clothing, gifts to others, extra-curricular activities, car insurance, gas, and any other items they wish to purchase (computer accessories, electronic gadgets,etc.)  Before you ask, "no", we do not supply them with a cell phone.  If they wish to have one, they must purchase the phone and pay for the monthly plan or minutes.  We do not.  This may seem harsh to some, but our goal is to send young adults out into the world knowing what "things" cost, understanding how to comparison shop, and  having the ability to separate "wants" from "needs".  These skills are sharpened as they invest their own time and money, instead of us handing them what they need.  We would rather they experience all of these realities of life while residing under our roof, so we can help them navigate the tricky world of finances. Additionally, remember, I hand our boys "finances on a silver platter" when they are in high school and take over our family finances for six months.  If that doesn't give them a realistic view of money, I don't know what will.   Our adult sons tell us that they appreciated us helping them set "reachable goals" and giving them the tools to do it.


Do all to the glory of God,