Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April's mom panel (part 2)

Our April meeting was a huge hit... we had four of our own MOPS mamas take the "hot seat" as our speaker panel! A huge thanks to Meagan, Margaret, Bekah & Sonia for sharing your tips & tricks with us! Here is Part 2... be sure to check out Part 1 as well!

Meal Planning (by Sonia)

Do you ever realize it's almost dinner time & you have NO idea what to feed your family? Sonia provided an awesome handout for the moms at the meeting, but here are just some of her fabulous tips on how to plan ahead & avoid that panicky, unprepared feeling!
  • Make a list of 7-10 meals that your family loves (or will at least tolerate), as well as a few new recipes you want to try. (Use this printable to help get organized!)
    CLICK HERE for printable!
  • Ask the kids for their input... the more involved they are in meal planning, the more likely they'll eat it!
  • Have designated meal nights to take the guesswork out of planning (like Spaghetti Saturday or Taco Tuesday)
  • Every once in a while, play a game of "Chopped" with your family! Put out a variety of ingredients & leftovers (whatever you have onhand) & let each person create their own dinner masterpiece!
  • Figure out which nights need to be fast & easy... do your kids have ballet lessons or softball practice? The crockpot is a great option for those nights.
  • Once you have a list of 7-10 meals, make a grocery list based on the recipes. Be sure to check your pantry first so you don't buy ingredients you already have. 
  • Figure out the best time for you to go to the grocery store, & put it on your schedule. If you use coupons, prep them ahead of time. 

AFTER GROCERY SHOPPING... 
  • Wash & dry your produce before putting it away. The kids can help with this!
  • Set aside a designated time for food prep. It's an easy step to skip, but it saves lots of time in the long run! Prep ingredients for all meals (chopping, slicing, washing, etc). 
  • Pre-portion snacks, lunches, lunchbox items before storing so packing lunches isn't a rush & snacking is healthier.
  • Save leftovers! Freeze or keep in fridge for leftover or "Chopped" night. 

MORE TIPS... 
  • Buy family-size packs of meat & pre-portion into 1- or 2-lb amounts before freezing
  • Take advantage of the discounted "Manager Specials"! The meat is still good... it just needs to be used or frozen. 
  • Buy frozen veggies if you're not able to buy fresh
  • Shop the perimeter of the store first - focus on the fresh & frozen options. Try to avoid boxed or canned foods. 
  • Shop at ALDI
  • Skip the meat once a week & have a vegetarian meal
  • Try to have fish once a week... it's healthy!
  • Bake, broil, boil or grill if possible. When necessary, saute in a small amount of oil.
  • "Color your palette"! Having various colors on your plate makes your meals more appealing.


Managing your Budget (by Bekah H.)

Money can definitely be a stressful topic, regardless of how many incomes or kiddos your family has. Here are a few tips on how to make things run more smoothly:
  • Use a shared family calendar to keep everyone on the same page. Using an electronic version is a great idea because it allows you & everyone else to check the family calendar even if you're not at home.
  • In a relationship, there's almost always a spender & a saver... which are you? If you're the saver, you are probably the one who does the finances in your household. If you're the spender, you may not feel super enthusiastic about budgeting. However, it's important that both partners be involved in the finances... it keeps the lines of communication open!
  • Consider having family business meetings. Once a year, sit down & talk about goals & the big picture for your family. Once a month (or quarterly), sit down & talk about upcoming expenses such as birthdays, vacations, or car taxes.
  • The envelope cash system is an awesome concept. But it only works if you & your partner hold yourselves accountable! 
  • Looking for a tool to help you & your family get on the same page? Check these out:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April's mom panel (part 1)

Our April meeting was a huge hit... we had four of our own MOPS mamas take the "hot seat" as our speaker panel! A huge thanks to Meagan, Margaret, Bekah & Sonia for sharing your tips & tricks with us! Because these moms gave so much great info, I'm doing this meeting recap in two posts. Be sure to check back for Part 2!

Managing your Photos (by Margaret)

As moms, most of us snap pictures. LOTS of pictures. But sometimes, that's as far as it goes... our pictures end up living forever on our phones, our cameras or our laptops. Margaret gave out a fabulous handout full of great tips, but I'll share a great idea that I plan to implement myself!

  • Try to make an annual yearbook for your family highlighting events & activities you enjoyed together! January is a great time to compile last year's photos & put them in chronological order... but since it's not January, April is also a great month to start! :)
  • Start with the most recent year, then try to stay current while catching up... start with 2014 & work your way back. If you go back to 2009, you'll get overwhelmed REALLY quickly!
    (source)
  • Create digital photo books online... it's super-easy to upload your pics & most of these companies will automatically put your photos in chronological order. You can stick with just one company or jump around to get the best deals.... all of them offer discount codes & sales! If you "like" their Facebook pages, you'll be notified of discounts & specials.
    A few sites that Margaret recommended are:
  • Margaret has an entire shelf of these books where photos & memories are easily available to her family.... what a great idea!!
  • If you don't want to go the digital route, you can also make mini-scrapbooks using brag books from the Dollar Store, journaling cards or printing your pictures with the free deals that stores (like Walgreens & CVS) often run on 4x6 prints. Use an acid-free pen to record memories.


Managing your Household (by Meagan)

Meagan shared the motto for her household: if  you don't USE it or LOVE it, get rid of it! Less clutter equals less chaos. As a mom, I tend to hoard things "just in case".... but all that stuff piles up & creates messes that quickly feel overwhelming. During her talk, Meagan touched on several areas that are often the most difficult to stay on top of... here are a few notes!

LAUNDRY... what works in Meagan's house?
(source)

  • divided clothes hamper so that the clothes are already separated into lights & darks
  • Teaching the kids to put their clothes directly into the hamper when they take them off
  • Putting the hamper in the laundry room...this eliminates the weekly or daily search through each room for dirty clothes
  • Once the kids are old enough to dress themselves, have them help put away their own laundry. 
  • Use a hanging closet organizer or a drawer unit to label Monday through Friday for each child. At the beginning of the week, have your kiddos pick out their outfits for the entire week. This eliminates fights & scrambling for clean clothes during the week.... yay! This idea is pictured to the right.
  • Lower your standards. Does your family's underwear REALLY need to be folded neatly? Do your kids dig through their drawers & unfold all your precisely folded play clothes? What if you stopped folding? I know, crazy talk!! I love it!

TAMING the CHAOS... what works in Meagan's house?

  • Again, just in case you missed it the first time... if  you don't USE it or LOVE it, get rid of it! Less clutter equals less chaos. 
  • Clearly explain the expectations to your kids for cleaning the rooms. They can't do it right if they don't know what "right" is. 
  • Implement quiet time every day. When kids get too old to nap, give them a quiet box for an hour a day. What is a quiet box, you ask?
    (source)
    It's a box that is ONLY for quiet time. Collect those little toys with a million pieces, or the little kits & games that never get played with because they're buried in the bottom of the toy bin, & make a quiet box! It gives you an hour of time-out & it gives them a chance to play with toys that they had forgotten all about. 
  • Use a picture chart to help with daily routines. Click here for a printable idea.
  • Designate an area by the door for items that you always need... diapers, bookbags, jackets, wipes, keys, etc. If the coat closet is on the other side of the house, the kids probably aren't going to hang up their coats. Just saying. 
  • Instead of trying to clean the entire house at once, give yourself small manageable tasks each day. If you've never checked out FlyLady, you should!
  • Each day, spend 10 minutes of designated one-on-one time with each of your kids! The day can get away from you, but setting a timer helps.

Tasty Tuesday: Parmesan Tilapia

Do you have any seafood lovers in your house? Try this healthy & easy recipe!


The Ingredients:

  • 1 lb tilapia, cut into fillets
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • (optional) 1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • (optional) 1 can mushrooms, drained & chopped
  • (optional) 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper 

The Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Wash fish fillets, pat them dry & season both sides with salt & pepper. Place them in the baking dish.

In a bowl, combine parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, oregano, lemon juice, artichokes, mushrooms & capers (if desired). Mix well.

Spoon the parmesan mixture onto each fish fillet. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until fish is cooked through & flakes easily. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Broccoli Slaw

What a great side dish for spring!



The Ingredients:

  • 2 (12oz) packages broccoli coleslaw mix
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup craisins (optional)
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled

The Directions:

Rinse broccoli slaw mix with cold water; drain well.

Stir together mayonnaise, sugar & vinegar in a large bowl. Add slaw, onions & craisins. Toss gently to coat.

Cover & chill 8 hours. Sprinkle with bacon before serving.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Salted Twix Bars

Need a delicious dessert? Give these a try!




The Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp molasses (or substitute additional corn syrup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • kosher or sea salt
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

The Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment, leaving a 3-inch overhang on two sides.

Using a mixer, beat sugar & 6 tablespoons butter in a large bowl until light & fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low & gradually add flour, mixing until fully incorporated. Using floured fingers, press dough into prepared pan. Bake until set & golden brown at edges, 16-18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine condensed milk, corn syrup, molasses & 5 tablespoons butter. Stirring occasionally, bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, about 8 minutes. Gently simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened & pale golden brown, 5-7 minutes more. Remove from heat & whisk in vanilla & 1/4 teaspoon salt. Immediately spread the mixture over the crust. Refrigerate until set, about 30-45 minutes.

Place chocolate & remaining tbsp of butter in a microwave-safe bowl; heat on high until beginning to melt, about 30 seconds. Stir until mixture is melted & smooth. Spread over caramel & sprinkle lightly with kosher or sea salt. Refrigerated until set, about 30 minutes. Cut into 1-inch squares.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese + slow cooker = DELISH! Give this recipe a try for your next dinner...



The Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (8 oz) elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 can cheddar cheese condensed soup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

The Directions:

Boil macaroni until tender. Drain. In medium saucepan, mix butter & cheese. Stir until cheese melts. 

In slow cooker, combine cheese mixture, eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard & pepper. Stir well. Add drained macaroni & stir again. 

Turn slow cooker on "low" setting & cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Buffalo Bites

These buffalo bites work as an appetizer, snack or pair with a side for dinner!


The Ingredients:

  • 2 (8 oz) blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 2 (4 oz) cans chopped green chilies
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 10 flour tortillas

The Directions:

Mix cream cheese, chopped green chilies & taco seasoning together. Microwave tortillas for 30 seconds to make them easier to work with.

Spread mixture on tortillas. Roll tortillas & cut into bite-size pieces.

**Tip: it's sometimes easier to cut the rolls if you put them in the fridge to chill first