Thursday, April 16, 2015

How I do laundry.

I know you have been wondering....... so today I will tell you how I do laundry.  Ha ha ha.

I have learned a lot over the past 20 years on what works and what doesn't work for us as a family.  We are a family of 5, with 3 teenagers.  We have big clothes.  Oh to have the days of tiny clothes again when you can do all your kids clothes in one or two loads.  Now we average about 10 loads a week and that doesn't include sheets or towels.  Towels will often take 3 loads a week.  So if we are doing sheets and towels (we do towels every week) it is a total of 15-17 loads a week!  That is a lot of laundry.

I am a bit of the busy type of mom. I work, I teach the kids, and I do housework.  I do get help from the kids.  That is a bonus.  My son actually likes doing laundry!  I tend to save laundry and do it all in one or two days.

In the past, I would wash and dry the clothes and then dump them on the couch to fold.  The folding never got done and the kids would push the clothes off the couch so they could sit.  The clean clothes would end up on the floor.  That method didn't work for us.

I eventually moved to putting the clean clothes back in the laundry baskets straight from the dryer.  The baskets never got folded and we would just root through the baskets to find the clothes we wanted to wear.  The clothes were wrinkled and not very attractive.  This method didn't work for us.

Then I would fold the clothes straight from the dryer and put the folded clothes back in the baskets to take up to the bedrooms to put away.  Inevitably the clothes never got put away.  They just stayed in the baskets and we rooted through the basket to find the clothes we wanted to wear, wrinkling all the others in the process. {sigh} This method didn't work for us.

Finally, I figured I would fold the laundry right out of the dryer and by this time the kids were old enough to put their own clothes away (5-8 years old in my house).  I would sort the clothes in piles of whose items it was along with sorting for the type of clothing it was.  All the pants went together, all the shirts together, all the underwear together, etc.  I would stack the piles in order of their drawers too.  Then the kids would get their piles (the 5 year old would get two types of items at a time) and take them up to put them away.  I would hang any hanging items and take them up myself. (we don't hang much of the kids items).  Finally a method that works!

This method allows us to have folded clothes that are put away.  If we don't get to the "put away" part, the pile sits neatly folded on top of the dryer.  All our socks go in a "sock bin" and I sort and match the socks while doing laundry but the singles go in the bin until a match can be found.  With socks I try to make it as easy as possible.  Most all socks are white and all the girls including me share socks.  All the boys also share socks.  Since we are all in "adult" sized shoes we all use the same sized socks.  There are a few fashion socks for the girls but not many.

Currently, we are living in a rental.  It is a "townhouse" style home and the laundry is in the basement.  We collect dirty clothes in laundry baskets in the bathrooms and in the bedrooms.  On laundry day we gather all the baskets and take them down to the laundry room to wash.  We have only one washer and one dryer.  Laundry never gets completely done.  When we were living in our own home with a large laundry room we had one washer and two dryers.  This was ideal on laundry day.  I could plow through the laundry quickly.  It takes twice as long to dry as it does to wash so the two dryers were so helpful!  I long for a second dryer now.  When the baskets are emptied they go back to the bedrooms and bathrooms empty. We have a hanging rack down in the laundry room too where we hang the hang up items immediately after drying to eliminate as much ironing as possible.

I would love to hang my laundry outside to air dry and get that fresh smells but we have allergies in the family and particularly during the spring and fall this would "kill" some of the members of our family if pollens and other allergens got into our clothes. So we don't hang outside.

When we traveled I loved using the laundromat when the clothes piled up.  While it was expensive, I could get 10 loads of laundry done in just a few hours!   So efficient having so many washers and dryers at once!  We did have a small washer/dryer unit in our travel trailer but it only took small loads and took 2 1/2 hours to wash and dry small loads.  It was great for underwear and socks and light weight items but not for jeans and towels.

I don't love laundry.  I save mine up for a marathon day or two.  I had a friend who did laundry every day of the week for her family.  She had three children as I do and she assigned each child a day.  On their assigned day she did their laundry and sheets.  At the end of 5 days she have everyone's laundry done and on Saturdays she did the towels and extras.  This method worked for her.  When she pulled the laundry out of the dryer she folded it and it went back in the baskets and back up to that person's room.  Done.  I can't get into that method because I don't want to be doing laundry everyday.  But this worked for her.

Everyone has a different method of tackling the neverending piles.  Each person will find their own way that works for them.  When tackling your piles look at what you have been doing and identify what works and what doesn't.  Then change the parts that don't work for you.  Keep the parts that do.

Friday, April 10, 2015

This teacher teaches fundraising to her kids.

This is an awesome blog by an awesome teacher.  She taught her students how to fundraise.  One of the ways she taught was through  I was so impressed by her students' projects.

Please take a look at the videos that the kids made and consider making a donation!  I was really impressed!

On her blog, you will find the links to her students' fundraising projects.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A New Job!

I am still working at Michaels.  Don't worry.  I am still getting my "employee discount".  That is the important part, right???  {giggles}

Yesterday I was offered a job with a merchandising company.  It places magazines and books in local storefronts.  I go in and set up the books, move books around, and straighten the shelves.  I am really excited about this position because it allows me a bit more flexibility, and for right now I work for both Michaels and this merchandising company too!  Double bonus!

I don't know when I start right now but I will post how it is going once I start! ~~~~ excited!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Planned Grocery Shopping

I have shopped for groceries in many ways.  I have shopped weekly. I have shopped every other week.  I have shopped twice a month, and I have shopped once a month.  I have also shopped every couple days when we need something.

Over the many years usually my shopping habits change when my income changes.  If we only get paid once a month then I do a big shopping trip when I get paid and then just a few little ones to pick up fresh produce, milk, eggs, and bread later in the month when we need them.  If we are getting paid every week then I find I shop just for that week until the next payday.  If I am getting paid twice a month ..... well you get the idea.

Over the many years I have found that I can save money if I shop sales and stock up. This is the most ideal way to shop for our family.  This also requires a nice sized storage area for dry foods as well as a large freezer to stock up on freezer foods.  When I have to shop weekly it becomes harder to shop the sales, particularly if the weekly ad for the grocery stores don't coincide with my shopping day.  For example the grocery store I shop mostly in runs their sales Wednesday through the following Tuesday.  If I am shopping on Wednesday I can't get a flyer until Wednesday making my planning hard.

Recently with our diminished income and extremely tight budget we have found ourselves in need of financial assistance.  This is temporary, but necessary for us.  We applied and have been receiving assistance from our state in the form of "food stamps".  It is a debit card nowadays and easy to use.  I was extremely embarrassed about it in the beginning because we had never accepted or applied for assistance in the past even though I am pretty sure we qualified for it.  I look at it as an "insurance" that I paid into for years and years through my taxes and now am in need and using it. When we are no longer in need we won't use it any longer. Anyway, this benefit comes once a month.  My card gets loaded with our food benefits on the 5th of every month.  The first couple months we continued to shop weekly as we had in months before but I found that I wasn't saving as much money that way.  I then switched to making a couple bigger trips to the grocery store when they had a sale but I would run out of things we needed later.

Last month I set out to make our benefits stretch as far as I could.  March would be a long month so I needed it to go further.  I was also getting bored with our regular meals.  I wanted to get creative again.

In the days leading up to my big shopping trip I planned out menus for the next three weeks.  The kids helped add their favorite dishes to our meal plan.  I began making a list of the things we would need to make the meals on the plan.  The list became longer and longer. I scanned the ads at two major grocery stores and split my list up between the stores to maximize our savings.  I clipped a few coupons, but not many.  I am not a coupon clipper as we tend to not eat what the coupons are.

On the day of our big shopping trip I did the unthinkable!  I cancelled school for that day.  We all went out shopping!  Armed with three kids to help with the shopping, lists for three places, and our grocery bags we were off.

The first stop was Sam's Club.  I find that they have the best, freshest meats for the most reasonable prices.  The hamburger is fresher. The chicken I can get in bulk already frozen, and this time I picked up a pork shoulder.  BBQ was on our menu.  The pork shoulder came in a "two pack" and was the same price as what I would have spent in the regular grocery store buying only one shoulder.  We also bought produce, butter, cheese, and some frozen foods there.  A big bag of pancake mix will last us the month as well as a two pack of syrup.  Actually a majority of our shopping was done at Sam's Club.

Next stops were at the regular grocery stores buying their sales items, deli meats, and other produce.  We eat mainly frozen veggies so we stocked up on those as well.

When the day was all said and done, I had spent nearly all but about $65 of our benefits. Scary.  Now to see how long it would all last.  With three teenagers in the house all the time eating three meals a day, food can disappear in a flash!

Each day we would look at our menu and choose what we would make for dinner.  It was fun making new and different meals.  Some we will have again.  Others we will wait a while.  I also got creative with our leftovers. Our menu was not set in stone.  It was more a list of meals that we had all the ingredients for.  We crossed off the ones we made and chose from those left of the menu.

Yesterday, I scanned our freezer.  I still have half a pork shoulder, three chicken breasts, some chicken patties, and some pork chops left.  This will actually make 4 hearty meals with left overs for lunches the next day.  I have spaghetti sauce and pasta in the pantry for a meat-free meal and we can always do "breakfast for dinner" (or as we call it in our house, backwards night).  This will make 6 more meals.

We did eat out once or twice this month but most all our meals came from this big shopping trip.  Throughout the month we ran to the grocery for this or that, mainly eggs, breads, milk, etc.  No more big shopping trips though.

A few things I learned this month:
1.  While we have always meal planned in the past, making a list of dinners and creating variety has helped us stay excited to eat at home.

2.  I am so glad I planned a couple crock pot meals.  These are so easy to throw in the crock pot in the morning and not think about it again until dinner.

3.  I hit some good sales this month and felt excited that I could stock up on some things for later.  (I have 10 cans of chicken stock and beef stock that I grabbed for 29 cents last week!)

4.  Getting the meats bought early in the month helped tremendously in my budget.  I didn't have to buy them later in the month when we didn't have as much money.

5.  We need to budget for more fresh produce as the summer arrives.  We love fresh veggies in our house and I will need to work on setting aside more money to buy fresh produce throughout the month.

6.  Big box Warehouses like Sam's Club and Costco will save you money if you know what to buy and how to store it before it goes bad.  I stick with items I know we will eat within its freshness time.  But honestly, rarely anything goes bad in this house!

7. I shopped the sales in the grocery stores and did well.  I also held back a bit of money for staples that need replenishing during the month and when a great sale pops up.

For April, I am already compiling a list of meals for our menu and adding items that we have run out of.  Next I will go back through the list of meals and add ingredients for those meals to our list.  I will then use the weekly flyers from our grocery stores to begin to sort out the list, add sale items and organize our shopping trip. I may not cancel school again, but do the shopping over two days.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Herb Stuffing/Dressing

This is one of my dad's recipes.  He was famous for his "secret ingredient".  It was always something that put the recipe over the edge.  It would be good without it but GREAT with it. This recipe also has a  "secret ingredient".

1 lb pork sausage
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 can chicken stock
2 (8 oz) packages of herb seasoned stuffing mix
1 (8 oz) can of water chestnuts, drained
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1; Brown sausage, stirring to crumble, drain.
2: Add celery, mushrooms, and onion.  Cook over low heat until tender.
3: Add chicken stock -combine rest of ingredients - spoon into baking dish.
4: Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 min.

Yield - 9 cups.

So what is the secret ingredient???  Can you find it?  Dad was nice enough to always include it in his recipes that he wrote down.  Thank goodness or we would never have been able to replicate his recipes.

This recipe starts out innocent enough until you get to the water chestnuts.  That is the secret ingredient.  It is a great item in stuffing because it gives you a little crunch.  Not a hard crunch like a nut, but an easy crunch.  The water chestnuts hold up to cooking and don't get soggy in the moistness of the stuffing.  It is there but you really can't quite place what it is.  That is what makes it the secret ingredient. See?

You can leave the water chestnuts out and the stuffing will be fine, but with them it is GREAT!

Monday, February 23, 2015

You hear it on the news but never think it will happen to you....right???

It has been cold here the past few weeks.  We have had some days that don't get out of the 20's.  Every night we are below freezing and most days it rises up to the high 30's or low 40's.  Last week schools were out all week because of 8 inches of snow that fell on President's Day.

I have heard several times on the news that a water main has broken.  They close streets to repair these breaks.  Sometimes some houses have no water for several hours.

Yesterday our church had a pipe burst in the ceiling of one of the Sunday School classrooms.  We heard about it right after it happened on Facebook.  Church wasn't cancelled though. They stopped the leak and repaired the pipe and all was well this morning.

This afternoon we heard heavy trucks come down our street and stop at the bottom of the hill.  They had taped off a section of the road and my husband walked down to see what was going on.  A water main broke.  They had turned off the water just up the hill above our house.  We had no water.

Then they brought in a big back hoe to tear up the road and find the water main break.  While digging up the road they accidentally hit our natural gas line. We went out to pick our kids up from youth group right after they hit the gas line. But at that time we didn't know for sure if they did or not.  We had just been speculating.  When we returned from picking up the kids we were met with a road block, a fire truck and a police officer.  They were evacuating our neighbors.  We were not allowed in to get anything from our home, not even our dog.  The nice fireman said it would be a couple hours before we could possibly return to our homes and at that time they would be able to tell us more and we might be able to get our dog then.  We may be evacuated for the night while they fixed the problem.

We went out to dinner (since we couldn't cook at home) and stayed out for a couple hours.  By the time we got home the fire engines were gone, the police were gone, but the repair people were still here.  They told us it was okay for all of us to return to our homes but we had no water or gas at this point. They also said that when the gas got turned back on they would go door to door and relight pilot lights, etc.  If no one was home they had locksmiths ready on call to come pick the locks and they would just go in and turn the pilot lights back on and leave.  We considered spending the night away but we realized we still had the dog to tend to.  We could leave her home alone but if they came in to our house there may be an issue. She has never bitten anyone before but we also haven't had a stranger come in our house without us here.  So we decided to stay home.

After an hour or so they turned on our gas again as we weren't on the same line as the busted gas line.  They helped us light our pilot lights again and we have heat and can cook again. No water yet.

This got me thinking. When we returned home from picking up our kids and were met with an evacuation notice, we had no clothes, no toiletries, no nothing with us.  Most of us didn't have winter coats either as it had been a rather warm (considering) day.  What if they hadn't let us back in the house after we returned from our dinner out?  What if we had to evacuate from our home?  What would we grab?

In our car I have our winter car bag.  It contained extra gloves, scarves and hats, blankets and a few bottles of water.  We have our first aid kit but that wouldn't really help us today.  What do I need for an emergency evacuation?  What do I need in the car if we drive up to an evacuated block again?

Here is my thoughts, off the top of my head tonight:

In the house: A back pack to grab and go if we have no time.  It will include a pair of underwear for each child, a stick of deodorant, a small tube of toothpaste, toothbrushes for each of us, a small bag of sanitary napkins and other feminine products we use, a puzzle book or deck of cards to keep us busy, and an extra charger cord for an iphone and one for an android phone.  Also copies of our important papers until we can get a safe deposit box.

In the car: A backpack with similar stuff in it except our important documents. (I don't want them in the car all the time)

This list of things will become longer the more I think about it, but this will give me a start.

In our old house I did have a backpack filled with these things.  I had it in our closet ready to grab in a moment's notice.  I never had to pick up that bag.  When we moved into our trailer I had that bag in our car for a long time, until we needed extra space.  The backpack got tossed into the trailer, then unpacked and used for something else for a while.  At that point all the clothing items in it were way too small for the kids anyway.  Since we moved into this new house I haven't repacked this backpack.  It is now time.  Unfortunately, I had this little emergency to remind me that we needed this.

PS: because our water hasn't been turned back on, I asked the kids to go ahead and pack an overnight bag anyway just in case we need to bug out of here some time tonight.  They haven't found the water main break yet and they are still digging.  You never know if they will hit another gas line or need to evacuate us again.

On a good note: We do have plenty of water.  They turned the water back on for a few minutes and we filled both bathtubs with water so we can flush toilets now when they turn it back off again.  The water looks dirty and filled with granules of black.  We will not be drinking it for a while.  We will use bottled water for cooking, drinking, and brushing teeth.

I have rambled enough.....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Better Homes and Gardens Red Checkered Cookbook

I was flipping through my Better Homes And Gardens New Cook Book today, you know, the red checkered one that all our parents had.  I have one too.  I was so excited to get it when I did.  It was expensive but I bought it anyway.  I knew I needed it.

That was back in 1992.  It was copyright dated 1989.  Back then I could just imagine me cooking or baking all the recipes.  Back then the pages were crisp and new. It wasn't like my dad's copy which was slightly yellowed on the pages and had recipe clippings all stuffed in the front and back of the book.  There were pages that had a paper clip on it and some that were dog-eared. I thought to myself. I will keep this nice and new looking.  I will make sure I didn't spill anything on it.  I will not stuff clippings in it.  It was a prize possession.

When we moved last year I packed it up in a box, just stuck the whole thing in the box.  I knew we would be living in the trailer and I just couldn't take a cookbook with me when I had my computer to use if I needed a recipe.  I didn't really miss it.  I looked up recipes on the computer when I wanted something.  It was no big deal.

While we were unpacking in our house now, I found the box with my cookbook.  It was like finding an old friend again.  I took it out of the box, stuffed to the gills with recipe clippings (the cookbook that is) and placed it in a place of honor on the counter.  I can't tell you how many times I have used that book since I unpacked it. I have to be careful when opening it because there are slips of paper stuffed in the front and back and the pages are a bit dog-eared and some of the pages have crusty stuff on it from me turning the page with yucky hands while cooking.


Today I was flipping through my copy of this old friend looking for a recipe for pork and while reading it I found that it called for "fines herbs".  I don't know what that is.  So I had to go to my computer and look it up.  (If my dad was still alive I would have called him.)

 Fines herbes is a combination of herbs that forms a mainstay of French cuisine. The ingredients of fines herbes are fresh parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil.

Chervil is a parsley that has a bit of anise taste to it.  

This got me thinking, how old is this book?  It was copyrighted in 1989 and it was the 10th publishing of this fine cookbook.  As I read the introduction it said that the editors struggled with keeping the classic recipes we grew up with like pot roast and chicken and dumplings but added many new tastes like taco salad.  Ha ha ha.... those were new tastes and new dishes in 1989.  Now 25 years later, I think it might be time to update my copy......