Meal Planning for Busy Moms


Oh, busy mama.  I know that you’re tired.  It’s late afternoon and you’ve almost survived another hectic homeschool day. The clean laundry is dumped out over the couch.  The baby’s about to awake from his afternoon nap.  One child is still working nearby, trying to correct their math.  Two kiddos are sent outside to play, but before closing the door, one looks up and asks the dreaded question…

‘What’s for dinner, mom?’

Stop!  Let’s halt this scenario. 
This daily question doesn’t have to be faced with apprehension.

Here are a few easy steps that have kept this mama of five sane over the last several years…

1)  List the Main Dish
Make a list of 20-30 main dish dinners that your family enjoys. When plotting out our meals on the Menu Plan sheet (step 2), I refer to my Main Dish List sheet which contains about 25+ meals that we can rotate through.  Having a Main Dish List makes the chore of planning meals for each night of the week so much quicker!  It means that I don’t have to recreate a meal each time.  I just need to choose one and write it in!

2) Print and Plot
I use a printable Menu Plan sheet for each week in which I chart out our dinners. I like the sheets because I can add any notes about activities we are doing each day, evening commitments, a reminder to thaw a meal the day before it is needed, etc.  The sheet also has a sidebar to list items required to purchase.  I usually plan meals for 2-3 weeks at a time (marking them in pencil for flexibility), utilizing my Main Dish List.  Although planning for several weeks may sound daunting, I’ve found that it actually saves me time and mental energy in the long run. 

3) Shop, Wash, & Chop
Once you’ve made your meal plan and have a list in hand, you are ready to shop!  Since you are planning in advance, you could easily choose to visit the store less frequently, but our family still gets groceries weekly.  That’s just how we roll.  You may wish to wash and cut any fresh fruits and vegetables after returning from the store in order to save you even more time during the week as well.

4)  Follow the Plan
As much as possible, try to stick to the meal plan that you have written.  It can save both time and money.  However much you plan though, it is inevitable that you’ll choose to have company over at the last minute or have an activity come up that can throw off your meal plan.  If you wrote your plan in pencil, you can easily switch a couple of meals around or circle them as a reminder to save them for your next round of meal planning.

One last suggestion…. Consider choosing meals that can either be prepared in the crockpot or can be doubled and frozen.  It isn’t much trouble to either double a meal or divide it in half for two 8 by 8 dishes.   By doubling or splitting the portion (depending on your family size), you can then eat a meal that night AND freeze an identical meal for a future date!  (Do make sure to keep track of what’s available in your freezer.)

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The ‘What’s for Dinner’ question should be anticipated daily.  With one quick look at your Menu Plan sheet, you’ll have the answer!  Now, if only the meal would make itself. =)

This is just one way we’ve attempted to make meal planning manageable in our own home.  What meal planning suggestions do you have for busy mamas?

Meal Planning Printables

FREE Meal Planning Printables!
Printable Main Dish List– to list your family’s favorite dinner meals
Printable Menu Plan– a sheet to plan your dinners and grocery list
Printable Freezer Meals – a sheet to keep track of what’s in your freezer

Crockpot Ideas and Freezer Meals on Pinterest

5 Things No One Ever Told Me About Having Teens

IMG_02711. They will rise to the challenge.

So many times, I have heard disparaging comments directed at teens – for their lack of motivation and desire to be involved, for being prone to trouble, etc.  Those kind of remarks seem to set a really low bar for teens and young people.  But, can I let you in on a secret?  Teens can easily rise to your expectations..and greatly surpass them.  Encourage them to break the cultural norm of low expectations and remind them to strive to do what Colossians 3:23-24 tells all of us…. 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance
from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

        Encourage them to  follow 1 Timothy 4:12’s advice of…

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers
in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

        Also, the following books (in addition to the Bible) are great in the hands of a
       preteen or young teen. They come highly recommended by our oldest.
          – Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris
          – Start Here by Alex and Brett Harris
          – Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
          – Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg
          – The Power of a Praying Teen by Stormie Omartian
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       Encourage your teens to work hard, to pursue things that are worthwhile, and to 
       remember that everything should be done for God’s glory.

2. They can own their faith.

Being raised in a Christian home is a huge blessing, but there is also a hidden challenge.  It is possible to attend services each week, go to Sunday School, memorize Scripture, and be around other Christians without letting all of that head knowledge ever reach your heart.  You can ‘feel’ like you are a Christian just because you were raised in that atmosphere.  However, it takes the Holy Spirit reaching your heart with His Word and Truth.  At some point, you either accept or reject the Truth you have been taught.  Teens, who truly love the Lord and have a saving faith in Jesus alone, are prepared to own their faith and take a stand for what they believe.  They are eager to dig deeper into His Word with others and on their own.  They are willing to share the hope of the Gospel with others.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict your teens of their sin and that your teens will truly own their faith in Christ.

3. They want to serve and have purpose.

Teens need to feel valued and to be useful.  Provide opportunities for them to serve in meaningful ways– in the home, in the neighborhood, in the community, in your church, etc.  By serving well, they gain respect, trust, and confidence. Service opportunities provide them a bigger vision of God’s world, broadens their perspective, and builds compassion for others.  Also, teens really do make great leaders and role models…and the younger kids love them!  Encourage your teens to seek creative ways to minister and serve others – especially your more introverted ones.

4. They are constantly learning and growing.

At this point in their young lives, teens are blossoming and discovering who they truly are and what their interests are for the future.  This is the perfect time in their life to question, research, experience, and try out things they may be excited about  – writing, photography, programming, sports, theater, debate, drawing, technology, music, etc.  They need the freedom to attempt new things under-girded by your loving support.  They will learn from both their successes and failures, but within a safety net of grace.  They may never again have this much time, freedom, grace, and assistance to discern the direction in which God is leading them.  Attempt to provide experiences that will lead your teens to discover their interests and passions.

5. They still need you…just in a different way.

When younger, our children needed constant supervision, direction, structure, and ‘how-to’s.  As they have become older, they have gradually gained more and more independence – in their play, in their chores and responsibilities, in their relationships with God and others, in their education, and in their goal setting.  We are still their parent, role model, and protector, but our role is gradually shifting from rule enforcer to encourager, cheerleader, listener, and guidance counselor – continuing to point them to God’s Word as they learn to wisely manage their own lives.  They still need to know that you love them, care for them, and are always there for them!  Be intentional with your time, words, and actions in order to express your love and commitment to your teens.
 

    I’m encouraged and blessed as I see our our young teens, preteen, and their friends branch out and become who God has called them to be!  I pray that I am not in a tiny bubble here –  I see great hope in this next generation and how God is raising them up and working in and through them!  May our teens continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – keeping their hearts and minds focused on Him. 

100 Days of American History

So, what do you do when you come to the realization that the homeschool history curriculum you purchased for your kids just isn’t working out the way you envisioned? Well, you create your own, of course! 

The scheduled readings in the purchased curriculum for my first and third grader seemed dry and uninteresting.  So, I sold the guide and the corresponding books, but decided to focus on the same time period of American history.  I chose to use picture books that have great illustrations, are packed full of information, and hold my sweet children’s attention.   Most importantly, my younger kids (and I) are enjoying learning about history again.  =)

100 Days of American History Cover

Would you like to take a 100 day adventure of American history with us? Travel through books from the time when Squanto was a boy and the time shortly before the Pilgrims arrived through the late 1800’s and the turn of the century!  100 Days of American History is free and contains a list of books recommended for use during the 100 days as well as coordinating notebook pages!  May you and your children enjoy this study as much as our family.

100 Days of American History Schedule and Notbook
100 Days of American History Read Alouds

Uprooting and Replanting

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Whenever you face a move, whether God is sending you 600 miles or 6,000 miles, there is a transition – an uprooting and replanting.  As part of our home church’s most recent missions conference, they referred to it as ‘Breaking Camp’ and ‘Advancing’ based off of the Scriptural references in Deuteronomy 1.

The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates.  See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”
(Deuteronomy 1:6-8)

Breaking Camp for our family came in March of 2013, but the steps God used to work in our hearts and minds, before that actual breaking and leaving, began several years before that.

Our family had valued missions. We already supported those who went and we often prayed that God would use our children one day to serve Him. However, as a true type A personality who likes to plan and know what’s coming next, I wasn’t expecting to hear a call for us to go. Between our pastor’s sermon series on the book of Matthew, my daily devotional, and even our kids’ homeschool curriculum, God was gradually pricking our hearts, and unbeknown to us, was preparing for us to be able to clearly see the need and to hear His call.

When it came, His call to me wasn’t a ‘go to such and such a people and spread the name of Jesus’, it was a ‘Will you follow me? Step out of your comfort zone, away from the trappings of this world and trust and follow me. Are you willing to give up your home? your comforts? your security in possessions?’

God was wanting to know if I was willing to obey and to come, follow Him.

And I knew that I wanted, and needed, to be in the center of His will.

Our family never envisioned that we would be able to assist with others receiving the Bible and hearing of Jesus in their own tongue, but once God showed us the need and how He could use the skills in software development He had given my husband, we knew we had to follow His lead. For we have the entirety of God’s Holy Word in our own language, but thousands of other language communities do not – not even a single verse. We knew that we had to take the next steps to ‘break camp’ and be willing to head wherever He wanted us to go – which, we later learned, was just to the east coast of our own country. =)

When we started pursuing Jesus on this journey into missions, we had three children
that  I was homeschooling in grades Kindergarten through fourth, as well as an energetic preschooler, and a precious little guy who was just learning to walk. I was in the throes of motherhood and the thought of all that had to be done to join a missionary organization and prepare to leave was overwhelming. We didn’t know how we could add hours of training and partnership building to what already felt like crazy, busy days. On top of that, my husband had to be away for a full summer of linguistics training to take courses that would prepare him to better serve in his new role with Wycliffe and provide background for his work in writing software for Bible translation.

kids with signIt was a challenging season, but God showed me two ways that we weren’t in this endeavor alone. First, He taught me how to distinguish between self reliance and strength in Christ. He reminded me that as I focus on Him and not on my own limitations or circumstances, God would supply the strength needed each day. For it is His strength that clothes my weaknesses. Christ’s presence and strength sustaining me created needed joy and a greater dependence upon Him! Secondly, He allowed us to see, first hand, the body of Christ work together as God sent friends and our small group family to come alongside us, allowing us to follow through with what God was telling us to do.

So, those were all the necessary preparations for us being able to ‘break camp’.  And, then, after seventeen years of calling our church ‘home’, it came time to say goodbye. Stepping away from the excellent preaching of the Word, leaving our close friends and our small group, pulling our kids away from their own good friends, and even trusting God with our aging parents whom we were concerned about spiritually and physically … that final step of parting and driving away … was hard. There were lots of tears – from all of our family members.

It is now three and a half years later. Between developing mobile apps for sharing God’s Word through smartphones, working out technical issues for language translators, recruiting and sharing a vision with other IT professionals, and communicating with other Bible organizations and IT missionaries, I can see God using my husband to spread the Gospel …and it brings joy.

For me though, as a homeschooling mom of five, advancing hasn’t come as quickly or successfully and it looks a bit different. It’s hard to admit, but, it took me three years to stop looking back, to stop comparing churches and situations, to quit feeling unsettled and searching for ways I could be more involved in the mission, and to finally hear Jesus whisper to my anxious heart – EMBRACE.

I guess that is the beginning of my own journey into the ‘Advance’ part. I haven’t completely figured out what ‘embrace’ looks like yet, but Psalm 37:4-5 has helped greatly.  It states,

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him and He will act.”

Delight.  Commit.   Trust.

Embracing seems to encompass those three things!

Delighting in the Lord makes me want to dwell and focus on His attributes – His sovereignty, His goodness, His mercy, and love. Committing gives me a visual of leaning in and not holding back.  And trusting, well, it involves acknowledgement of His goodness and our dependence upon Him alone.

Delight Commit Trust

(free printable Scripture)

So, advancing for me right now is more about developing contentment as I try to delight, commit, and trust- embracing where God has placed our family, embracing the opportunities set before me to serve, encourage, and connect deeper in our new community, and embracing, with joy, the role and mission He has given me within our family – which never really changed –to lovingly support my husband in his role and to train, disciple, and equip the next generation.

As our Lord, Jesus has the authority to reveal the direction for our family and for our lives. He knows what is best, what is enough, and what our priorities should be. My responsibility is to obey Him and to keep following and trusting in Him.

A Day in My Life ~ as a 9th Grade Homeschooler

Taking Photos

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This post is part of the 8th annual “Not” Back-To-School Blog Hop over at the iHomeschool Network.  This week is ‘Day in the Life’ Week in which homeschooled students share what their days are like!  Today, I’m letting my oldest daughter take over the blog so that you might be able to get a glimpse of her day to day life as a homeschooler.  Enjoy!

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Well… I don’t think you are usually allowed to do cartwheels with your little sister in a typical school hall way,
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or make special treats for snack.

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Also, you are not normally in a class room family room with five different grade levels, all learning different things at the same time. Unless … Your home is your school, your mom is your teacher, your siblings are your classmates, and the world is your classroom!

This is my day as a ninth grade homeschooler.

We generally get up about 7 o’clock each morning. Once we’re up, we can work on school before breakfast, read our Bible, etc.  I found my 5th grade brother doing school this morning when I came out of my room. (This often occurs because he is an early riser.)

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This is what happened though when I tried to take his picture. 😉

After breakfast, I go up to the school room to see what I have for school that day.IMG_0436 IMG_0439

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This is my sheet that tells me what to do each day. As I get things done, I highlight them with a highlighter. To make it easier to see which day I did each subject, I use a different color for each day. (My curriculum this year is scheduled for four days each unit, but I can spread it out over five days or have one lighter day!)

My 7th grade sister is also taking pictures of her day today.
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Now, it’s time to study!
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Ok. So, maybe it didn’t quite work out like that. If you have ever been homeschooled for any amount of time, you know studying doesn’t always go that smoothly. There are almost always distractions …

IMG_8657 like funny little brothers…

IMG_0524or beautiful butterflies….

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or chores (Does that count as a distraction? Maybe not.)

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or giving piano lessons…but we normally get back on track.

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Also, did you think we just did book work? No way!

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Above, I’m making clay stamps. In the picture to the right of that, we are all painting our clay turtles that we had sculpted on a previous day. In the photos below, I’m writing a song and playing violin. (I also play piano.)

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For recreation, I like to do gymnastics (Remember the cartwheels in the hall way?), dance about the house,  and ride bikes around our neighborhood when it’s not too terribly hot.

Additionally, our family gets together with other families from church to do our science labs and more art. Yay!

After I finish my school work, I enjoy reading a good book (Historical fiction is great!), sewing, playing music with my siblings, and writing stories.

So, that’s my day. It’s busy, but it is also fun! Sometimes people ask me how I like homeschooling, and, to tell you the truth, I love it!  I wouldn’t trade this style of learning for any other way. Thank you for pouring so much time and effort into my life, Mom!  I love you!

P.S:  The special treat that is shown towards the beginning of this post is called Chocolate Bread. It is a yummy, easy to make, snack that my siblings and I enjoy.

Chocolate Bread
Bread

Ingredients

– 1 slice of bread  – butter  – chocolate chips  – peanut butter chips (optional)

Instructions

1. Spread butter onto your slice of bread.
2. Place your chocolate (and/ or peanut butter) chips onto your slice of bread.
3. Bake your bread in the oven until the chips melt. (As you saw, we used a toaster oven.)
4. Once your bread has been baked, spread your melted chips over the bread.
5. Eat your Chocolate Bread and enjoy!

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