Category Archives: Household

Everything and anything relating to the household structure.. From organization, living frugally, natural living, or fun ideas for families.

Eliminating Processed Foods Series—our month long challenge




One of my own personal goals this summer was to get away from processed/packaged foods as much as I can and replace them with whole foods.

It has been a journey that I have been on for about the last year and a half.  I slowly got rid of things like white flour and white sugar, started feeding my children breakfast other than cold cereal, and am placing an importance on more fresh veges and fruit.

So why are we doing it?

  1. Cheaper than buying processed food—I didn’t believe that for a long time.
  2. Healthier for my children–I don’t want them ending up with disease and illness because of my inability to teach them how to eat.
  3. Older, I am getting older and I see how food affects my ability to keep up with my children and how I feel physically, emotional, and mentally based on what I eat.
  4. To simplify my lifestyle. Having less things is ALWAYS better.

The question begins with …..Where do I start?

There are articles out there about trans fat, good fats, whole wheat vs white, super foods, caffeine being good or bad, organic vs non organic, the list goes on and on.

Before I begin, here are some things in our journey that  you will NOT find:

  • The perfect healthy food plan—we are human, making changes one at a time, there is ALWAYS something that we can improve upon and what works for our family in our area, may not work for yours.
  • Only organic foods, even though I like the whole organic plan, it just isn’t financially good for a large family in our area.  We try and buy fresh, local grown items as we can, but it isn’t always feasible to buy organic.
  • Expensive food that is only found at a health food store.  All our food can be bought at your local grocery store and bulk food store–if you have access to one.
  • Tasteless, weird, “my children and husband are NOT going to like beans and veges meals.”  My husband likes a GOOD tasting meal, I can’t really mess around with things like pureed spinach in my brownies.  Besides, do I really believe that my children are going to still puree spinach into their brownies after they leave the house?

This is our REAL plan, things we wanted to improve upon in our diets

  1. Eliminate white flour, sugar, bread, and pasta
  2. Replace sugary drinks and sodas with water
  3. Avoid packaged foods with more than 5 ingredients
  4. Replace fake margarine’s and vegetable oils with real butter and olive/coconut oils
  5. Replace table salt with sea or Himalayan salt
  6. Replace snack foods with fresh fruit or veges
  7. Stop eating out and start making meals
  8. Work on replacing foods each month that I buy as a “convenience food”.  Example–canned beans, taco seasoning, ranch mix, yogurt, etc. by making myself.
  9. Make most of my grocery budget go to fresh fruits and vegetables
  10. Replace our store bought meats/poultry with organic, farm raised, animal products.

Looking to make your food lifestyle choices better?  Read part 2  on how we started replacing our processed foods with whole, natural foods.

once a month shopping for large families series part 2 organizing

Okay, now that you have all of your families meal ideas planned out, it is now time to organize them.

I go in Microsoft office Word  and create a Table with 4 boxes down and 7 across.  I use this to create my Master Menu for the month.  I list which dinners I will be making each day and that allows me to be prepared for the day, knowing what I have to make.

Download (PDF, 41KB)


How I plan out my menu is I choose  certain type of meal for each day of the week.  This I have found is easiest for me.  It cuts down on the planning of what meals I have, I simply choose a soup and sandwich for Tuesdays and keep on going.  Simplify, that is what life is all about.

These are the types of meals for the given days:

  • Sunday–heartier types of meal
  • Monday–casseroles–easy throw in the oven, or cook on the stove top.
  • Tuesday–soup and sandwich
  • Wednesday–italian food
  • Thursday–Breakfast meal
  • Friday–crock pot meals
  • Saturday–easy put together meals like tacos, homemade pizza, hot dogs, etc.

I plan out the types of meals for the corresponding days based upon our families schedule.

  • Mondays are usually busier, trying to catch up from the weekend, so I like to make casseroles as they are easy.
  •  Tuesday is my office/paperwork day.  I can make a pot of soup early in the day and let it simmer all day without having to stop while in the middle of paperwork.  In the afternoon I usually have a younger child make the sandwiches we are having with the soup.
  • Wednesday is my kitchen day.  Which is the day I do all of my baking.  We will almost always have fresh bread and my husband loves fresh homemade bread with his favorite dinner–spaghetti.  Figured this was a good choice to make this day.  Thus the italian day for Wednesdays.
  • Thursday is our breakfast meal.  On Wednesday, I almost always do an overnight breakfast casserole and put it in the refrigerator for today.  Thursdays we try and do our “going to town day”  I like to keep a day each week that we do all of our errands for the week.  To help save on gas and unnecessary trips into town.  Having dinner made makes my day much easier to be able to come home to dinner all completed.
  • Friday is our cleaning day.  We save this day for big cleaning jobs in the household, catching up on any school work, and prepping for the weekend.   Crockpot style foods are good for this day.
  • Saturday, Dad is home and we never quite know what we might be doing.  I like to be able to get dinner together quickly and have found that tacos, nachos, hot dogs, and homemade pizzas are a good make for this day.
  • Sunday, I save our heartier meals for this day. In the summer months, Dad always likes to BBQ out on the Dakota hole fire and I make sure that we have chicken or deer steaks ready for that.  During the colder months I make chicken dinners, Salisbury steak, BBQ meatballs, etc.  We have our church service in the evening and have a long drive.  Since my husband and children are the worship team, we usually have to be there right at dinner time.  I like to be able to have my dinner made at home so that Dad and the older children can make a plate before we go to church and then I pack up the little children’s dinners in thermos containers and they eat dinner while Dad and the older half are practicing for service.

After I have my menu all planned out, I usually choose a few snacks to make for the month from my Desserts and Snacks master menu.  On our kitchen day, which is Wednesday I like to make at least 2 snacks each week for us to enjoy.  If my day is going well, I try and make a large batch of chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, energy bites, or Monster cookies and put them in the freezer.  Because I know that sometime in the next month I won’t be able to bake and we will have unexpected guests.  Better to be prepared.    I add this to my menu for things I want to make for the month and then start planning my grocery list.

Download (PDF, 55KB)

I try and have a stocked pantry for the most part and then as I go through my menu plan, I jot down what types of ingredients that I need to make that meal.  If my pantry is stocked, if I happen to forget something I will usually always have it on hand.

I have a master grocery shopping list that I have organized according to the store’s layout.  It makes it easier to be able to list the items that I usually get in each row, instead of getting all the way to the front of the store and realizing that I forgot something and have to haul my crew all the way to the back.  Simplify—the name of the game.

Download (PDF, 171KB)

You will notice I have numbers after certain foods on the list.  We make a large family garbage bag snack mix and I never remember how many of each item to purchase, since this is a regular item I just placed the numbers of each snack to buy next to it.

Now all of this planning and organizing, originally took me some time to do.  I didn’t do it all in one day.  But after taking the time to do it, my planning for the meals and shopping has been reduced to a very short time.

There was a time when I would take a whole day to plan out what we would eat for the month.  I would grab all of my favorite recipe books and glance through each and everyone of them.  I usually ended up making very expensive foods and we also made many desserts.  I would end up getting wrapped up in “new” recipes.  I decided I couldn’t afford to sit for a whole day and do this, there was a better way. Now I just glance and copy, much easier.  Saves me time, something we all need.

How you go about simplifying your meal planning for the month is take it in baby steps.  First make a master menu list.  Take a week and jot down all of the meals that your family enjoys.  Once you have it written down, decide how you want to organize it into categories.  We did ours under soups, sandwiches, casseroles, crock pot meals, hearty meals, italian, and quick fix’s.  That way we assign a certain day for that type of food.  Before I did a chicken day, a beef day, a Mexican day, etc, there are so many ways to decide on how to organize your menu plan.

After you have your master menu list, you are going to create a menu for  the month.  Either make a blank calendar grid in Microsoft Office or draw one on a piece of paper.  I know some women even use a dry erase board, but I would not recommend that in a household of little ones, my children have erased my “list to do” on the board by accident one day and I was left with, not knowing what to do next:)

Now fill in any special days for the month on your calendar.  Birthdays, holidays, special date nights–anything that will be out of the ordinary for the month.  If it is a holiday like Thanksgiving, I know we are going to have much turkey leftover, so I will make sure to plan multiple turkey leftover meals after Thanksgiving.

Fill in all of your Mondays, with the types of meals you chose to have that day.  Then continue onward for the rest of the weeks.

The good thing about this method, I know from first hand experience, is that there were times in my life, when I was so busy taking care of multiple little ones that planning out the months grocery menu was extremely hard.  I many times just used the same monthly menu and copied it from month to month.  Eventually things got easier and I was able to change things, but for the times it was not feasible, I was grateful that I took the time to create it.

Now that you have your list….lets go shopping……


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once a month shopping for large family series part 1 planning

Having a large family means that when it comes to food, I have to be a good planner or we are not going to eat.  I have found that the best way to purchase food inexpensively for our large family was to do our shopping once a month.  That ensures that I don’t overspend too much on the food budget.

How do I go about figuring what to do with all of the meals that I have to make each month?  It starts with this………

What I do is I sit down with my Dinner ideas master list.

I created this list out of sheer survival mode as a new mom.  There were times that I would call my friend and say , “Hey, do you have any dinner ideas because I am so exhausted I can’t even think about what to make for this week.”  Being a mom of many little ones and having all of the household duties on my shoulders, it was a tough time to get through.  My husband was busy making a living to support all of us, it was my job to figure out how to run “this ship” and do it as efficiently and frugally as possible.  I know I could of said, “Honey, would you pick up some $5 pizzas,” multiple times during the week.”  But I knew that as a help meet to my husband, my job was not to ruin us financially because I was feeling overwhelmed.  I just needed to get my head on straight and do it.

I have revamped this list many times over the past years of our marriage.  As we went towards a more homemade, less packaged foods approach, I realized some of our “old” foods weren’t going to be able to be part of our list.  Plus some of our older meals were costly when we were a small family and I knew it wouldn’t be right to keep spending when I could make other meals for a cheaper price.

When times were lean—well especially lean, during layoffs, I tried to write down all of the meals that required a prepared store bought food and learn how to make it homemade.  We have successful made our own ranch powder, taco seasoning, yogurt, steak sauce, cheese crackers, tomato soup, hummus and pita chips, and snack mix.

Download (PDF, 56KB)


Each month, I usually take about an hour on my “office day” and browse the internet for new meal ideas.  I keep this list handy when making my new monthly menu.  If we make the meal and it is a successful one with the bunch, then I add it to our Dinner ideas master list for future rotation.

Any meals that my husband or children don’t particularly care for and I can improve upon, I make a note on my copy.  I save a printed copy and put it in my household binder inside a plastic sleeve.

Okay, now that I have planned out enough of our families favorite meals, next up is how to organize them.



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inexpensive fall table centerpiece

How to make an inexpensive fall table centerpiece decoration

When we were first married and  making a home, I had the cutest little decorations all set out around our home for each season. After many moves, many children, many lost and broken decorations, I don’t even have any of my original seasonal decorations.  Plus with having a large family who has time to think about decorations?

Well my 8 year old daughter does.  Jadyn, really enjoys making things “beautified” in our home.   She and I put together this cute table decoration, that has so far stayed put in our home.  Well it probably has stayed put because we have placed our benches directly underneath our table because for the time being we have a curious 1 year old who loves to climb, the table seems to be the place you are most likely to find him.  To avoid any serious injuries, we thought it best to place the benches far away from his climbing reach.  Plus it has helped my centerpiece to stay set up.


For our table top decoration….we placed a strand of Christmas lights down the middle of our table.  We moved out the table leaf and brought the cord up through the opening so that it was centered on our table verses dangling over the edge.


We then placed pinecones all around the lights.  Image00008

We found  packages of leaves at the Dollar store and sprinkled those throughout the area.Image00007

We bought a sack of mini pumpkins at the grocery store and placed those in the centerpiece

Our neighbor gave us some pretty glass mugs—remember we don’t have glass around here it breaks too easily–but I had to find a use for them.  We placed some flowers from the Dollar Store into the mugs.  At the bottom of the mugs we put pinecones to help push up the flowers and make it look neat.  The cups are beveled glass so you can’t really see inside them.


The lantern is a household decoration.

Here is how it looks at night time.Image00002


  • christmas lights—already had                            FREE
  • pinecones—found in yard                                     FREE
  • glass mugs–from neighbor                                   FREE
  • 2 package of leaves from dollar store                $2
  • 5 bunches of fall flowers from dollar store       $5
  • sack full of mini pumpkins from Walmart           $3
  • TOTAL COST FOR DECORATION                            $10




An easy bib idea for baby or little ones

In our household, one of the things that we lose quite often are bibs.  For a few years I did really well keeping 2 bibs in rotation that I just wiped off and reused over and over.  I need to get back to that routine, but for now I am doing something else.

When my little guy is ready to eat, he feeds himself.  He is 1 and everything he eats he makes a mess of.  If I was able to sit and feed each piece of his food to him, he probably would be much neater, but unfortunately around here if you don’t learn to feed yourself at a young age, you might not eat for a bit:)

What I have found works well for us now, is trying to keep his bib wiped off and sitting on his high chair ready to use, but unfortunately I may get sidetracked and lose that bib real quick.  So what do I do when the next snack or meal time rolls around and no bib to be found?  I grab a kitchen towel and a clothespin.  I just wrap it around the front of him and secure it with a clothespin.  Works great.  It absorbs nicely and I can use it to wipe him up as well.


Just my 2 cents for the day.