3 Steps to Saving on Groceries with little effort

Let's face it, we are busy, busy, busy people.

In these 3, fairly short, steps, you can save money at the grocery without much effort.

Step 1:
Shop the sales! Right now, Kroger is having their Buy 10, Save $5 event! It's the perfect time to stock up on items that can be stored for later, since you can purchase them for a great price!

For example, pasta generally costs about $1.20 per package, right now, if you get 10 items from the Buy 10, Save $5 event, you can get the pasta for .49 per package. Definitely worth stocking up on a few items that you use all the time!

Step 2:
Have you tried ibotta? It's a great app that allows you to save money just for scanning the items you purchase and your receipt. (My referral code is azrbqrq, if that link doesn't work for you.)

Here's how it works; sign up here, refer friends if you like, scan your grocery items, snap a pic of your receipt and get money in your account!

Super simple!!

Step 3:
Meal plan. I know that sounds backwards, but if you meal plan and make a point of planning how and when you'll be using your leftovers, you will find that over time, you spend less but use more of what you purchase. Which means you'll throw away less food and you'll save money!!

Here's a great meal planning guide that I use to meal plan and grocery shop each week on one sheet!

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How to start a Capsule Wardrobe without stressing

It's all over pinterest, heck, I have a preeeeetty awesome board about capsule wardrobes, you can check it out here.

But for a lot of people, it's really overwhelming to think about getting the whole thing started! I mean, for real, less than 30 pieces for ..... how long?!? What about laundry?? How do you have clean clothes?? What?!?!

In light of that, I thought I'd share my secrets of how I made it work for me.

1. Pick out your favorites!!! Don't worry about the season, just your favorites!! Here are 3 of mine!

Banana Republic Button Down Oxford

Image result for liz claiborne collection blue jacket

Liz Claiborne Navy Blue Jacket

Image result for old navy black and white striped dress

Old Navy Black and White Stripped Dress

2. What do you LOVE about these items? (And yes, you can definitely have more than 3 favs!)
I love pockets on dresses, though that Old Navy one does not have pockets.
I love to feel comfortable in my clothes.
I need my clothes to be wash and wear.
I love good quality.
I love and need to be able to move easily in my clothes when I'm working.

3. Pick out the things that you like to wear with those favorites.

Do you have 5 outfits? Could you make 5 outfits easily?

4. Now get the items you'd need for after work, bed, working out, gardening, etc.  But follow those same 3 rules; favorites only, things you love, and whatever else you need to finish the job, maybe a jacket for running when it's cooler or pj bottoms that go with a favorite top, etc.

5. You should have around 30 pieces of clothing. If all of it is one season, you have the beginning of your capsule wardrobe! If it's not, see what else you need to finish off that season and try to only pick the items that follow your rules. Do you have something to wear for rainy weather? Do you have a hat for going to the beach or sunny days at a soccer game?

6. Once you have a season of clothes, pick your favorite shoes and accessories that coordinate with most of those clothing items.

You've made a capsule wardrobe!

Try and do it again for another season, or just add to what you have to create a multi-seasonal wardrobe.

7. Worried about laundry? Make sure you have 5 work outfits and 1 back up. If you can't repeat clothing items during the week, pick a monday outfit, a tuesday outfit, etc. Then repeat them each week slight variations of accessories. You only have laundry once a week, and your outfits are ready to go each week!

As a teacher, I have 5 outfits for each quarter of the school year. On Monday of Quarter 1 I wear the same thing each week. But, when quarter 2 comes, I switch to the next set of clothes. The kids (and teachers) don't really notice until around week 7 or later and by then it's almost over!

If you want to keep the other things to see if you need them, while you try it out, go for it.

I hope this has helped you venture into the world of capsule wardrobes! If you have other suggestions for starting a capsule wardrobe, feel free to share in the comments below!

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College Weekly Planning

As most of you know, I teach high school biology. I happen to teach a lot of really awesome, really wonderful, really not organized kiddos. (And I mean that in the most loving way.)

I happen to be a very organized person. Kids joke about the number of planners and lists that I have in my classroom. I guess I always thought that students would learn to be organized on their own and that I didn't need to take them through being organized step-by-step. However, according to numerous news outlets, teachers are expected to be responsible for more and more components of our students lives.

I am here to serve! So to speak.

So, in the photo below is the college planning checklist I used for each week. I will continue, over the next fow weeks, to share all of the checklists I used in college and in the last week I will share, for free, for a month, the entire set as one BIG file. All of these will be printables that will be free only for the time period that I have shared them for and then the links will switch to the fee based printable links.

This is a great planning guide for a college student looking to really manage their schedule. It has space for 7 classes, 2 activities, cleaning, shopping and miscellaneous. The cleaning, shopping and miscellaneous have 2 columns that are both blank, so they can be used whatever way works best! 

For most college students, this will provide the framework for total success in managing all of the things that are going on and need to be kept track of!

The link to the FREE printable is here.

I would recommend sitting down on Sunday to go over the needs for the week. I would also recommend printing 2-3 at a time so that you can write on them in advance of when things are going on.

Don't worry, there are more printable planners to come!!

Let me know, in the comments below, what printables you would like to see!

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Meal Planning and a Meal Plan

Several People have asked how I do my meal plan and my grocery list. So this week, I am giving you BOTH! I am sharing with you my FREE PRINTABLE meal plan and grocery list, my meal plan with links to recipes is below AND I'm sharing my personal meal plan and grocery list!

So, here's a couple pictures, one blank and one in progress. Then I'll give you my steps!

In Progress

Weekly Meal Planning Step by Step Guide:

First, I check my calendar. I use an Erin Condren Life Planner, to keep track of all the things going on at my house. I find that doing this BEFORE meal planning generally means that I don't plan a complicated meal on a busy night or after I've had a day that really is not conducive to cooking. It also means that I can check for when I might have time to do prep work the night before and I can put it in my calendar when I need to.

Second, I talk to my kids about what things they like to see on the meal plan. My little ones generally want the same things, but my big kids have started exploring Pinterest and watch the Food Network now and again and they have shown an interest in branching out! It also helps them feel more involved in what we're eating and doing when they get to help make the plan.

Third, we check the cabinets and the refrigerator. Maybe what you want is already in your house. Maybe something strikes you as sounding wonderful! Or maybe you realize you shouldn't buy that snack anymore because no one is eating it... No matter what, checking the pantry, fridge and freezer is a smart thing to do before moving forward.

Fourth, I gather the recipes and start planning out my meals and groceries. I do it all on one sheet. It's here and this helps me make sure that I don't get too much or not enough. Or, if I'm using half and half creamer, for example, I know I don't need the whole container that is purchased, so I may check for another recipe to use up that last little bit rather than have it go bad in the fridge.

Finally, I check the coupons and the circulars for sales!!! Chicken was on sale week before last for 39 cents per pound!!! So I got 20 pounds. So last week and this week have been lots and lots of chicken. Which obviously means, this week is.....chicken!

Here's my meal plan and grocery list.

And here are all the links to all the recipes!

BBQ Chicken
Macaroni and Cheese
Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Shredded Chicken Tacos with fixings!

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Veggie Stir Fry
White Rice

Chicken and Spinach Alfredo Casserole

Leftover Baked Potato Bar

Burgers and Hot Dogs

Beef Stroganoff

How's your week shaping up?

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Recipe: Steamer Dinner

My kids all really love when we make foil packs. They're very popular on Pinterest as easy meals. I, however, did not find them to be easy. I found that they were messy, took too long in the oven and made a HUGE mess for clean-up.

I decided to change the recipes to fit me and my family.

I prepped one cookie sheet with aluminum foil and put the oven at 325.

The recipe I use is this:

2.5 Lbs of cut up dinner sausage or kelibasa
1 lb yellow potatoes
1 lb red potatoes
1 large white onion

The whole thing costs less than $10 and fed all of my children and me with leftovers!

Here's what it looks like:

Then, I put a "tent" of aluminum foil over it and into the oven it goes to 1 hour. I turned it at 30ish minutes, just to spread the heat love. The longer it's in, the better I think it is and the softer your potatoes will be.

Here's my finished product.

In the meantime, I also made a batch of gooey fudge brownies and a cheesecake fluff.

Gooey Fudge Brownies were made with a Betty Crocker mix. (shhhh, it's a secret, okay?)

The cheese cake fluff was a layer of crescent roll dough on the bottom, a mix of cheesecake batter and another layer of crescent roll dough on top with a sprinkle of cinnamon baked in the oven at 375 for about 40 minutes.

My personal cheesecake batter recipe is 1 block of cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar and 2 eggs.

Hope this helps in coming up with your dinner plan!

I'll be back to sunday postings with the meal plan for the week, next week. All recipes will be linked and ready to go!

Be sure to tell me below what you and your kids thought of the recipes!

See you soon!!
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Ways to help our students be successful

Very seldom do my professional blog (it's for my students to keep up with my classroom assignments, etc) and my personal blog intersect and have basically the same need for the same thing. But I find myself wanting to share this blog post with as many people as possible. Below I have listed out 5 ways to help your student be successful in school. I know some of them are easier than others MANY days of the week. But, I also know the more we, as parents, work to help our students find ways to be successful the more we will see them able to succeed.

Ways to help your student:
1. Get them a planner!!! I use Erin Condren planners for my personal and professional calendars and tracking. I obviously, would recommend them, but there are truly hundreds of places to find great options! (The link gives you $10 off your first purchase at EC.) There are multiple options for how to lay out the week, this gives the user the chance to really see which method will best meet their goals and needs. (This is my personal planner shown below.)

2. A regular study/planning spot. Having a regular spot that is all theirs to plan their week, do homework and study is a game changer for most students! Making this a regular habit for your students is HUGE!

3. Quiet time! Try and set aside an hour or more that is just for them and you won't interrupt them! I know that in families with multiple children, especially older ones helping out, have a hard time setting aside time for students to focus. However, if you can make this happen, it will be a huge game changer!

4. A regular evening routine and bed time! Plenty of sleep is really important for our students.

5. Regular morning routine. This is hard in my house, so I know it can be hard in others. But, having a regular morning routine of everyone getting up, getting dressed, eating something, brushing teeth, etc. will really help you and your student to feel more capable and prepared to do well at school.

Feel free to share your ideas below! I'd love to hear what tips and tricks you have for helping your students find their own successes!

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Kindergarten is Hard!

Do you remember kindergarten? I do.

I remember the kitchen set and loving the baby dolls, we had the "diversity set" with dolls of 3 ethnicities and both genders.

I remember really fat crayons and giant headphones in computer class. I remember the monkey bars and the swings.

My daughter's experience is entirely different. She has cried so many times in the last 19 days since school started. And for her it's only 15.

We've been working on sight words, coloring homework, walking in a quite line, did I mention homework?, learning to tie shoes and .... going without a nap!

Maybe I am being a bit mellow dramatic. But, maybe not.

It seems like all of our high stakes testing and pushing is breaking our children. Kids are freaking out and losing control and getting upset over so many things that in the long run don't really work.

Why does this article on WebMD about dealing with stress in small children, even need to be published?

What happened to Montessori education?

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Long gone are the days of students self selecting their play and self selecting their activities and having time to explore the world around them.

Parents are regularly told to spend crazy amounts of time making flash cards and small little reading books to "reinforce the work done at school". I don't know about you, but I need a break after a busy day and I'm guessing our kids do too....

Yet, there I was cutting up those flash cards with the best of them. Peer pressure.

Maybe I'll learn something better tomorrow.

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Chapter # what?

Today, I sit in my classroom 4 days away from the next chapter of my life. And quite possibly the scariest one yet.

On Monday, my husband is moving to Knoxville.

Map from Memphis, TN to Knoxville, TN

Most people have responded in one of the following ways:

1. Are you guys getting divorced? No.

2. Are you crazy?!!?? Possibly, but I have 5 kids, so we crossed that bridge a long time ago.

3. Why? In short, it's his turn.

4. Are you guys moving to Knoxville? Eventually.

5. Aren't you sad or upset or??? Yes, and everything else, too.

Here's what it boils down to for me...

For the last 15 years, Geoff has said yes to me. Every thing, idea, degree, WHATEVER, that I came home and said I wanted to do, minus very little and very few, he said yes. I have done nearly all the things that I have wanted to do with my career choices, life choices and personal choices. It's time for me to say yes to my husband and give him the time and the space he needs to pursue his goal, his dream, his career and, most importantly to me, his happiness.

So, for the short term, because 8 months is a short amount of time, I will have a house, a job, 5 kids and 4 dogs to myself. I will get all the hugs, kiss, boo boos, tears, joys and everything in between to myself!

I will also be working to rid our home of excess clutter, trying to make time to see my husband, continuing to give high quality lessons and care for my children. I want to continue to sell monograms and appliques.

I will gratefully and happily accept help and swallow my pride and even possibly, ask for help.

It's going to be the busiest and possibly most dramatic time I've had in a long time, but I'm up for the challenge.

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Loved from afar....reflections after loss and Orlando

My mother died on December 24, 2011. At the time I was 30, I had been married for 10 years and had 3 children with one on the way. I had started a good career as a teacher, at a school I really really liked, my husband was finally going to graduate college and was a stay-at-home dad with plans to get a pretty good job or stay home in the fall. Life was ok.

Losing my mother put my husband and I in a tailspin. She was an integral part of our family. Picking up my children from school, having weekly dinners with us and generally just being a great grandmother to her grand children. But more than that, she was my friend. She was my husband's friend. We had no way (or desire) to replace her. But, there was such a huge void. It was more than the cliched "hole in your heart" was a crater in my life!

Over the last 4.5 years we have attempted to make small changes and edits to our lives to allow the pain of that crater to be some what diminished from the pain it was originally. But it has taken some serious work and a lot of time.

This summer, I am teaching summer school at my mother's last school assignment as an Art Teacher before she died. There are several pieces of art around the building and they are all captivating, which was her style. But, she also left a more everlasting piece of herself. Her love for gardening. She started and created a beautiful courtyard, complete with a seedling of her grandmother's rose bush. I have been asked to help maintain those flowers, and oh what a gift it is. It is a quiet gift of her love to get to care for her roses.

Earlier this week there was a shooting in Orlando. If you had not already heard, it was pretty awful. My heart hurts for those who have lost loved ones. For those who feel threatened. For those who have felt this pain. Then more recently this week, a child was ripped from his parents at a beach in Orlando at a Disney Resort Hotel.

There is no simple way to solve the many problems that are affecting our society right now. For what ever reason, some people have real fundamental problems with other people for religious, social, cultural or other reasons. I do not pretend that I understand what is going on.

All I can say to those who have lost loved ones or are affected by the many tragedies; you are loved.

I hope over time you are able to find love and support in these times and are able to find peace.

Look for the moments when your loved ones will speak to you. Because they will. It will be subtle and quiet, but it will be there.

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Day 3/365: Surrogacy

A long time ago I leaned about surrogacy. Surrogacy is when a woman carries a baby for a couple unable to conceive and carry their baby on their own. 

When I learned about surrogacy I was in high school. Now I have several children of my own and know that being a surrogate is something I am meant to do. Having babies is, apparently, something I am REALLY good at. Not sure why I got that particular "gift", but I did. 

Finding the right couple has been a challenge. I'm quite sure that one day I will meet the right couple who I will be able to help. Not sure when that will be, but I know in my heart, it will happen. 

Friends, if you're the praying kind, or spiritual in whatever way suits you; please direct your energy at the mama who needs me. She's in quite a struggle. Asking someone to care for your child is hard. Think how picky mamas can be about babysitters! But asking someone to carry your unborn child is an insurmountable fear and relinquishment of responsibility. How scary that must be! How great the compassionate she will need for that journey! How awesome the gift and responsibility. 

Tonite, mama, you're in my heart. May we meet soon that I can help fulfill this dream and may the journey be as smooth and calm for you as possible! 


Day 2/365: today

Today I really wanted to be present. To focus on my kids and the sunshine and being present in the moment. And it was awesome. 

We played in the sunshine, kicked our soccer ball, threw the softball, played in the swings, went on a nature walk, ate Popsicles, met friends and had a great day. I doubt this day will stand out in my children's or even my memory, years from now. But it was one of those really wonderful and really simple days. 

We came home, had pizza and they were right back outside, together. Playing their own game on our trampoline. Now everyone is just about asleep and all I can think is how today was exactly the kind of day I want to have with them. 

Our park, happily covered with people and sunshine. 

Day 1/365: Time to be reflective

There's a whole lot going on in my head. In nearly every corner of my life, I am at a crossroads. 

Career: I've been teaching high school biology for 6 years, spoken at several national conferences in what I do in my classroom and I'm about to self publish my first book on the same. 

Children: My 5 children are, quite literally, at every stage of child life development other than participating in college. 

Personally: I've run a marathon and an ultra and I know what it feels like to be at my top physically. 

Mentally: I'm not any where near middle aged, but I've lived a colorful life thus far. I miss my mother terribly, as her loss was premature. 

House/home: We have decisions to make regarding either selling or "fancying" up and sticking around for a few more years. 

What does all this mean? I'm not sure. But I'm planning to spend the next year working it out. Or cleaning, we'll see how it goes!

In the meantime; some ducks from the zoo today. 


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