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2016 Goals (and an update)

December 29, 2015

goals 2016

First, a quick note: I haven’t yet posted part 3 of the Feeding My Family series because I haven’t done a normal grocery shop since being on winter break! I promise that it will come shortly🙂

It’s crazy hard to believe, but this will actually be my 6th or 7th annual posting of goals over the years here at TBP. I’ve done resolutions, Day Zero Projects, and anti-resolutions, but this year, I’ve decided to stick with goals as my term for the year because resolutions just don’t stick. It’s pretty normal for me to goal set at three different points in the year: the beginning of summer break, the beginning of the school year, and during winter break. I wouldn’t call them goals as much as course corrections and the product of a reflective life. I’ve also expanded my goals to include a “why” and steps to take to help achieve each goal, all thanks to reading up on Lara Casey’s Powersheets (I didn’t get to snag any before they sold out, but I really need to get my hands on these!). So here are my resolutions for the year, barring a couple of personal ones that I will keep just for myself.

  • Increase TPT paychecks by at least $500 per month.
    • To increase financial security
      • Make at least 10 new items per month
      • Add variations of popular products
      • Pay for upgrade to premium membership
  • Build French curriculum
    • Make job less time-consuming and more effective teaching
      • Build integral routines
      • Making lasting, effective plans
  • Significantly declutter house
    • Less anxiety and housekeeping burden – easiest achievable goal!
      • Start with basement
      • Go room by room
  • Regular workouts – running, ice skating, etc.
    • Long-term health and energy
      • Use what I have already
      • Little, consistent steps
      • Ice skating lessons begin end of February
  • Regular meditations
    • Purpose-finding and anxiety reduction
      • Find meditation guides to help start me on the right path
      • Write down what works to keep things going
      • Note any on-the-spot stress relievers
  • A LOT more water and less caffeine
    • My caffeine addiction is nearly insatiable and no longer helping
      • Increase water intake by at least 8 oz daily per week until at a normal amount (decrease caffeine intake by same amount)
  • More regular prayers and relationship with God
    • Spiritual health and longevity
      • Explore scientific-based Christian community (e.g. Biologos, theistic evolution, etc.)
      • Try to pray daily for others
      • Read more scripture
  • Waste less time on phone with meaningless stuff
    • Need healthier forms of escape and winding down
      • Limit to 10 minutes social media and 10 minutes gaming per day unless actually making a true connection (not just scrolling aimlessly)
  • Form better routines
    • Ward off anxiety and be more purposeful
      • Create morning and evening routines and STICK TO THEM – 21 days in a row to make new habits
      • Make rewards for attaining goals

I hope that seeing my goals helps you in making your own! Leave them in the comments below🙂

Feeding My Family: Part 2 – Shopping

December 5, 2015

feeding my family series copy

This post is part of a series on how I plan, shop, and prep food for my family. I explain my processes so that you can adapt some of the strategies to your individual situations.

Okay, so you’ve meal planned and you are ready to join me for part two. Great! Grab a notebook and come back; I’ll wait.

*whistling and listening to elevator music*

One of the best ways to speed up your shopping and save money is to know your grocery store. If you start out writing your list grouped the way your store is set up, you can get through faster and avoid picking up those random items as you hunt for the things you’ve missed. I don’t go down aisles where I don’t need an item, and that helps a lot with splurges. If you aren’t sure, ask for a store map when you go to the store the next time. Chances are, they probably have one at the service desk.

Regardless of your store’s layout, you should move from dry good to frozen food to make sure . Here’s the order I suggest:

  • If you are fortunate enough to have a coffee shop in your store, stop there first. I treat myself to a Venti Mocha so that I’m not hungry while shopping and so that I don’t get tired and shove random stuff in my cart. I don’t even have to touch my grocery budget thanks to my monthly Teachers Pay Teachers earnings.
  • Pharmacy, Health, and Beauty Care
  • Baby Items (if needed)
  • Cleaning Products and Kitchen Items (paper towels, toilet paper, ziploc bags, detergent, etc.)
  • Pet Items
  • Dry Food Items – these are almost always grouped together in the middle of the store. If you STICK TO YOUR LIST, you will end up doing less damage to your time and wallet here!
  • Bakery/Produce/Deli/Cheese Counter
  • Fish Monger/Butcher/Meat Case
  • Dairy
  • Frozen

This is my store layout (roughly) with my pathway. Yes, I circle the store twice. I need the exercise, and it’s actually much quicker than wandering every aisle. You can click on the image to view it larger. I labeled things as I would visit them. And, yes, my Kroger is AMAZING and huge, and I absolutely adore the market-style experiences (and NO, they aren’t paying me to say that, haha).

Kroger Marketplace Map copy

Now that you have your store order down, separate your page into three columns and leave space for groups of items. In the first column, group items in aisles 1-11 and 12-19. In the second column, make groups for 20, 21-22, 23-24. In the third column, make groups for 25-26, 27, and 28. I’ve thought about making a cute sheet for this, but each column changes sizes based on what I need that trip, so I just use a regular piece of paper. Here’s an old list from my most recent trip. Sorry for the chicken scratch – I had a kid in the shopping cart so I didn’t have anywhere to set my list.

old shopping list (2)

What are all of those notations? I write the price (rounded up to the next dollar, even if it’s $1.01) so I have a rough price and plenty of wiggle room for tax. Please excuse my idiocy in adding them all up – I transposed 21 instead of 69 from the second column when trying to corral the cart and the kids. The tally marks next to items are when I need multiple quantities – for example, I purchased 5 pounds of ground beef. I didn’t write it on the list, but I purchased 3 pounds of bacon instead of 2. You can see I had a couple of extra items that I had forgotten – containers for lunches, pot roast sauce, and breakfast waffles. My most expensive category is nearly always dry goods, since I have one kid in diapers and another in overnights. Meat is also high, but usually not quite this high (I splurged a little for the farmer’s bacon, cubed ham, ground sausage, and pot roast).

How did I get this list from my meal plan? I looked at each of my meal plan items individually, then began adding them to the columns. I left off what I knew I had in the cabinets (and scratched off a few things I had forgotten about already having when I double checked before leaving the house). Here’s what I thought through with each meal:

Hamburgers – buns, ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo
Vegetable Soup – ground beef, stock, 2 cans green beans, carrots, corn, tomatoes, peas, black beans, onion salt, soy sauce, chopped onion, parsley
Chicken Fajitas – chicken, fajita seasoning, sugar, tortilla shells, queso, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream
Chicken Alfredo – chicken, Italian seasoning, onion salt, butter, garlic, sundried tomatoes, heavy whipping cream, parmesan cheese, milk
Crock Pot Roast – roast, carrots, onions, potatoes, McCormick’s Beef Stew Liquid Seasoning (2)
Meatloaf – ground beef, onion soup mix, stuffing, eggs, ketchup. potatoes for mashing, peas, flour (to make gravy from drippings), milk
Stir Fry – chicken, stir fry veggies, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, white rice, eggs
BLTs – bacon, bread, lettuce, tomato, mayo
Beef Tacos – ground beef, tortilla shells, taco seasoning, queso, lettuce tomatoes, sour cream
Skillet Lasagna – ground beef, ground sausage, bowtie noodles, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, Italian cheese, Italian seasoning, onion salt, onions, garlic
Potato Soup – butter, onions, soy sauce, parsley, bacon bits, cubed ham, heavy whipping cream, milk, potatoes
Tuna Noodle Casserole – tuna, rotini, cream of mushroom soup, shredded cheese, potato chips
Breakfast for Dinner – bacon, pancake mix, maple syrup, apples (for apple pancakes)
Kids’ Lunches – bread, turkey, colby jack, raspberries, clementines, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, black olives, cucumber, yogurt (special request from Clark)

At this point, I try to add other things I know we will need, and do a quick inventory through the house in case we are running low on toothpaste or toilet paper and didn’t realize.

Is this involved? Yes, the first few times I did it, it was. It’s become so normal to me, though, and I know nearly every recipe off-hand, so I can rattle the ingredients off. It really only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish to meal plan and make my list.

Finally, I log onto my Kroger app and go through my paper coupons to pull out what I will need so I don’t have to mess with it at the store. I do not calculate coupons into my prices – I’d rather be pleasantly surprised when I check out.

Looking at the list above, I had $256 listed for my $250 budget. I knew I had at least enough coupons to be at budget, so I didn’t worry. The grand total? $235.21 – comfortably under budget. Considering the huge expensive of dry good items during this shop and the fact that this will feed my family for two weeks with really good meals in big enough portions to eat leftovers for lunches, this is actually really great for a family of four! That breaks down to roughly $120 a week to feed and care for our family — pretty awesome. We’ve cut it down to much, much less when we’ve been on tighter budgets. I also stock up when I have a little bit of extra budget and see a sale on things we use that can go in the pantry or freezer — for example, I spent $4 getting two loaves of take-and-bake fancy bread so we can throw it in the oven to go with our meals any night without worrying about it going bad. I will do a big pantry shop once every 4 months or so if we have a little extra cash.

It’s taken me awhile to develop this method, but each time I use it, I get faster at the process and I find that grocery shopping stresses me out less and less.

Our next post will be on prepping – what do you do with all this food that you just bought in bulk??? Click on over to see it soon!

Feeding My Family: Part 1 – Menu Planning

December 5, 2015

feeding my family series copy

This post is part of a series on how I plan, shop, and prep food for my family. I explain my processes so that you can adapt some of the strategies to your individual situations. 

Even for someone who *loves* food and cooking, everyday food planning and prep is tedious. However, I’ve found some ways to make things run more smoothly overall. It does require some up-front work, but you’ll earn it back in one night not spent wondering what to make for dinner and searching your cabinets. Multiply that by 5 nights a week, and you’ll have an hour back every week.

What kind of grocery shopper are you? Do you:
a) just throw a bunch of stuff in your cart and hope that you end up with something edible?
b) go to the grocery for dinner food nearly every night?
c) buy the normal stuff every week, but get sick of eating the same three things?

For me, I make a big shopping trip once every two weeks, with a quick stop at the beginning of the second week if we need more milk/bread/produce. It’s so much less stressful not to have to worry about what we are eating or how to squeeze in shopping every night (let alone the savings!).

We’ve been meal planning for a few months now, and when we fall out of routine, we instantly regret it — life gets more hectic (and much more expensive). So here’s how I do it.

I start by picking a meal for each theme day while looking at my calendar, sticking mostly to the days but switching things around if we have a crazy night or something else. We mostly adhere to the schedule, but sometimes something just doesn’t sound great, so we will swap days around.

We were really worried about meal planning being boring or tedious, but it actually helps us keep more variety in our dinners. How? When planning a month at a time, we try to plan something different for each of the theme nights with as few repeats as possible (unless we are just really into a certain dish at the moment).

Let’s look at the next two weeks (I didn’t plan a whole month this time because of the holidays making our schedules weird):

Week One-page-0 (2).jpg

(Like the colors to match my Emily Ley Simplified Planner?)

There are some abnormalities to this two-week plan, but overall, it shows how different our meals are night-to-night. Note – we usually eat fish at least once a week, but I’ve gotten a bit burned out on it lately. Also, we don’t mind eating the same meat two nights in a row as long as it is prepared in a different way, either.

The other portion of meal planning for us is lunches. My husband and I eat leftovers or lunch meat for our lunches every day, and since I usually make a big pot of soup on Sundays, that fills in any gaps. My kids, however, have to have specific portions of things for lunches due to government regulations, so we’ve developed a series of items:

  • Whole Grain/Protein: Turkey and Cheese or Peanut Butter and Jelly on Honey Whole Wheat Bread
  • Fruits: Two fruits each day per week – this week, it’s raspberries and clementines.
  • Veggies: Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers for little boy and black olives for big boy

Ready to start meal planning? You don’t have to do theme nights! This is just how we ensure that we don’t eat the same five things every week. You could also just make a list of all of your favorite meals to look at each week, or modify my nights to suit your family’s tastes.

Once you’ve got your meal plan ready, join me for the next post, where we plan out your grocery trip and talk about money saving tips.

My Favorite De-Stressing Secrets

November 30, 2015

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My job comes with A LOT of stress. I mean, a whole heap. Now that my husband is a teacher, too, our stress is often doubled.

(Hey, Amanda: are we really going to completely ignore the fact that you’ve only posted once this calendar year? Yes, yes we are. See the first sentence of this post.)

Even taking away my three-hour daily commute and transitioning into a fantastic school with amazing kids and great administrators, my job is still stressful. That’s just the life of a teacher.

So it’s absolutely essential that I find ways to de-stress, and I’m starting to get this relaxing thing down. Wanna know my secrets?

Hot baths. Like, an obscene number of hot baths. Something about the warm water just calms me instantly. One day, I’d love to have a hot tub; I seriously use it every single night.

British tea. I’m totally not trying to be a hipster, but I adore PG Tips (an English breakfast-style tea) with milk and sugar. I’m so thankful that my local Kroger has been carrying it for a few years now and I don’t have to order it from a specialty store anymore.

Alone time. My husband and I make sure that both of us get some kind of alone time every single week. Even if it’s just an hour, this time to recharge really helps personally and to keep our marriage going strong. For me, this usually coincides with hot bath time.

Mandatory kids’ bed time. Our kids get put in bed at 7:00 nearly every night, with very few exceptions. It may take them until 8:00 to fall asleep sometimes (and, okay, maybe sometimes even 9:00 on a rare occasion) but this is a huge key to our sanity. It guarantees us time – sometimes together, sometimes separately, sometimes working in tandem – which is definitely our most precious resource. It also helps when one of us, usually me, isn’t feeling well because I know I can go to bed at 7:00 without seriously burdening my husband and vice versa.

Daily grind coffee body scrub. I love pampering products, but I don’t always have the budget for things for me, which means Perfectly Posh is a great fit — amazing products at fantastic prices. I also love their Drop Dead Gorgeous Dead Sea Mud Face Mask. Be forewarned, however: this is a highly effective product so the tingling is intense! It doesn’t bother me and I have super sensitive skin, so I get over the tingling for the awesome results.

Magazine binges. I have been known to buy 5 magazines at a time. I really should probably just buy a subscription to one of my faves each month, haha. When I can get a quarterly issue, I absolutely LOVE Domino, and I don’t mind settling for an Ikea or Crate + Barrel catalog. Some of my favorite magazines are Real Simple, HGTV, Southern Living, Traditional Home, Southern Living, Kentucky Monthly, Food & Wine, Food Network, Martha Stewart Living, Bon Appétit, House Beautiful, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and many more!

Perusing Instagram. A few months ago, I came across an article listing several of the best photographers on Instagram. Because of this, my feed is full of gorgeous images from accounts like @natgeotravel, @natgeo, @gavman18, @tuulavintage, @sarahirenemurphy, @kirstenalana, and @nunziacillo and feels sort of curated. And, I’m not going to lie, some other favorites such as @westelm, @potterybarn, @nbcsnl, @bethbehrsreal, @walkinlove, @vrsly, @kjp, @taylorswift and @dominomag don’t hurt, either😉

A great book. Or really, a quick read will do, too. I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to (mostly because I borrow e-books on my Kindle Paperwhite from the local library, and I often don’t finish them before the loan expires) but I eat books up when I have time. This is something I have been trying to make a priority this year.

Dedicated work time and family time on Sundays. Let’s be honest: it’s a lot easier not to stress knowing that at 9:15 every Sunday, my kids leave with my mom and I have until 3:30 to myself to work on school work, house work, or fun stuff. Then, at 3:30, I go to my parent’s house for family time until 7:00. I try to be finished with work by this time (because I actually want to hang out with my kids and parents).

And when all else fails, television. Whether it’s Fixer Upper (love Chip and Joanna!), Dr. Who, Harry Potter, or Hunger Games, a favorite movie or TV binge definitely lets me escape from the daily grind.

When it comes to de-stressing, it’s important to have a lot of tools in your arsenal. What are some of your favorite ways to de-stress?

Themed Menu Planning

June 13, 2015

I’ve been off for a full three days and I’m already starting to try to sync back into some kind of routine. Luckily, since I will no longer be driving three hours each day for work, I will actually be able to sustain routines and make them carry through. Heck, I might even post more often than once every six months😉

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Y’all know that one of my obsessions is food. I love cooking (but not baking, thankyouverymuch) and it’s one of my stress relievers from my job. I also crazily love grocery shopping. I have a routine and a local Kroger that, with its market-style layout and amazing employees, makes my experience another chance to relieve stress and get some me time.

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First stop: Starbucks, right in my Kroger.

But I hate meal planning. I often get stuck in a rut of what to make and forget about the dozens of other awesome items I can cook well that we haven’t had for 6 months.

So we are going to do what all sane   rational crazy families do: theme nights! I’m sure these won’t work for everyone, but they work well for us.

Mexican Monday- enchiladas with sour cream queso sauce, fajitas, tacos, quesadillas, taco salads, and anything else I learn how to make.

Italian Tuesday- Oh man, do I know a lot of recipes in this category! Alfredo, spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, etc. and so on.

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New Ideas Wednesday- Catchy name, right? If you think of a better way to put it, please let me know. We love finding new recipes (my husband even pins things that look good for me to try*), so this is the day that I’m dedicating to finding new favorites. This is in place of Pinterest binging and making like 6 meals in one day to try new things. What??? Don’t pretend you’ve never done it!

#ThrowbackThursday- Thursdays will be dedicated to all our family favorites and traditional recipes: grilling, salmon, fried catfish, meatloaf, tuna noodle casserole, Chicken Bryan. I could probably name 100 recipes here.

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Fun Friday- We budget eating out once a week. For us, we’d rather buy quality ingredients for the rest of the week than eat out all the time. This day is for Chinese food, pizza, and restaurant trips. Can you say Texas Roadhouse?

Sandwich Saturday- We’ve usually got a lot going on on Saturdays, and with all the rush, sandwiches are great. Hamburgers, goetta grilled cheese, paninis, cold sandwiches, tuna melts, BLTs, and homemade accompaniments such as potato or pasta salad.

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Soup and Salad Sunday- Sundays are the days that we actually only have to worry about lunch, since we go to my parents’ every Sunday evening. We usually like to eat light, and I often make a pot of soup that we can take for lunches during the first half of the week. Plus, who can resist a spinach salad with goat cheese, candied walnuts, and raspberry vinaigrette? Tomato Bisque, beef vegetable, broccoli cheddar, potato (with ham and bacon, duh), and maybe I need to expand a little in this category with some new recipes!

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What are your favorite themes for planning meals? Have a suggestion for our Wednesday nights?

*Before the Internet explodes with sexism remarks about my husband, he can and does cook, and often. I just prefer to cook and he, being awesome, does the dishes. I hate doing dishes *shudder*.

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