Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chores for Screen Time

My son, Ronan, received the Melissa And Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart for his birthday a few years back.  The chart comes with a good assortment of responsibilities as well as lots of "good job smiles" to mix up the responsibilities each week. For a time, we picked chores for the 7 chore spaces, and Ronan would get 10 cents for each job well done.
Unfortunately, we didn't enforce the chores as much as I would have liked and our routines started to fill with TV, tablets, movies, and smartphone games.  I was getting a little concerned about all the time my kids were spending watching the screens and a little annoyed that I was constantly reminding the boys to pick up toys and help around the house.
Then I had an idea.  I got our chart back out and picked out some chores from the assortment that my 6-year-old and 34-month-old could do together.  They helped me pick one color for each of them and one color to share.  When one of the boys does a chore by himself, he gets to put his smile on the coordinating day and chore.  When they do a team effort on the chore, they can use the "shared" color.  For each chore that they participate in, they get to have 10 minutes of screen time.  They can pick a movie, the tablet, Wii, or another "screen" to use up the time they have collected for today.
It has been a great way to get the boys to work on chores, and I feel ok about the amount of time they are spending in front of the TV.
If you are interested in charting your kids chores, the Melissa And Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart sales for $19.99 and has a 4.9 out of 5 stars on their reviews. Right now, Melissa & Doug is offering FREE shipping on orders over $50. Use code FSFIFTY.  Don't forget to check out their outlet as well for other high quality toys.
Let me know if you have any other good ideas for encouraging chores and reinforcing a good limit to the TV.  I would love to hear more ideas!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Apple Nut Bread

I know it is the wrong time of the year for apples, but my boys love them so we try to have them on hand.  One apple this week was VERY bruised and I found this recipe to try to salvage the rest.  It was delicious.  I was happy that I could use just any apple and not necessarily a "cooking" apple.  I may have to find more bruised apples as the bread disappeared quickly! ☺

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk (I didn't have buttermilk so substituted 1/8 tsp lemon juice and 2 tablespoons milk.  Let this mixture sit for 5 minutes before using)
1 cup grated, peeled apple
1 cup chopped nuts
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.  Fold in apple and nuts.

Pour into a greased 9-in x 5-in x 3-in loaf pan.  Combine the cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over batter.  Bake at 350° for 60-65 on until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Zaycon Foods: Beef franks, polish kielbasa sausage & more!

Have you tried Zaycon Foods yet?  They deliver meats, produce, and now milk to different locations all over the United States.  You pre-order the food and pick it up on the day and location you selected.

My family has ordered beef, chicken, bacon, and sausage links from them, and all have been excellent.  We will definitely continue to use them, and the prices are quite good.  It is also nice to have meat waiting in the freezer.

Currently, they are offering beef franks, polish kielbasa sausage, bacon wrapped pork fillets, and pork loin ribs.  To sign up, go to Zaycon and fill out your information to create an account.  You will then be able to order for the current event and will be notified by email of other events.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Extreme Couponing: Believe it or not?

Talk about extreme couponing has been floating around for the last several years.  I'll have to admit, when I first heard about the TLC show, Extreme Couponing, I was kind of excited to watch it and learn some tips even though I regularly used coupons when shopping already.  What I learned was that for the show, extreme couponing was sometimes "made" and that it is not very practical. 

After being amazed by the families on the show saving 90% on their groceries, I started to look into their methods.  One family had about 4 or 5 upright and chest freezers to save all of their frozen food finds.  Another family dedicated their entire garage to their stock pile.  Where do they keep their tools and cars? 

I also recognized one of the grocery store chains on an episode.  After watching the shopper hand off 50 of the same coupon in amazement, I started to look into why she was able to do that.  See, most grocery stores have a coupon policy on the amount of same coupons you can use in one shopping trip.  My favorite local store only allows 5 of the same coupons for the exact same product.  So why could this shopper use 50?  As it turns out, the store allowed her to use all the coupons in the same trip for the show recording only.  They allowed her to use 50 coupons just to benefit the show! 

Now where does one get 50 of the same coupons?  Probably printed off from a website or from Sunday coupon circulars which would possible mean 50 Sunday newspapers.  Most coupon websites only allow 2 prints of the coupons per computer.  So you would need 25 computers to print them out unless you were really savvy in tricking the coupons to print over and over.  I know that these people did not purchase 50 Sunday papers.  That would be more than $50 in newspapers.  So the best answer is that they purchased the coupons from a couponing service, dumpster dived, or others sources to gain that many of the same coupon. 

Extreme couponing is just that - extreme.  The store I shop regularly would ask me to do several different transactions to use 50 coupons or ask that I come back another day. I also didn't see me buying more than one deep freezer.  Having frozen pizzas on hand is nice, but I don't need 50 of them sitting around...and I really don't need that many tubes of toothpaste.  Though I’m not below grabbing a Sunday paper from the top of a trash can if I happen to notice it, I will not take the time to dig through people’s trash.  And cutting out that many coupons every week would be a full-time job - 40 to 50 hours!

With extreme couponing debunked and my store savings of 90% out the window, is couponing still worth it?  Absolutely!

It is still possible to eat well and save money on groceries with a little time investment.  A more practical approach to coupons would be about 2-3 hours spent in meal planning, store match ups, and coupon clipping.  The savings would be closer to 50% off.  With the rise of grocery and food costs, I would say it is definitely worth it.

Start by finding a good savings blog like Bargain Blessings (great one for Colorado residents) or another one on DealPros to help you with matching coupons to store sales and invest in a major local paper for coupons (I have two papers delivered to my house).  Then find an area of your home that you can store a modest amount of food on items you find at great prices (when you find something for free, you might as well buy as many as you can).  Start investing a couple of hours every week in meal planning and coupon clipping for only the week of sales and you are on your way to saving 50% on your groceries and still feeding your family good food!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Teaching Children God's Love

Over the last several years, I have read some Bible stories to my boys.  We've enjoyed Noah's Ark and David and Goliath.  One of the favorites is Adam and Eve.  My son, Ronan, received a children's picture Bible and enjoyed listening to it to the very end.  I really wanted to move on from Bible stories and go a little more in depth with the boys about God, faith, and His enduring love.

This last Easter, I found a simple solution in VeggieTales 365 Bedtime Devos for Boys when I was looking for a little Easter basket stuffer.  The book features the well known VeggieTale characters and includes a short devotional for everyday of the year.  The devotionals are simple one page reads, but they are the right length for a 6 year old and 3 year old to listen to together.  It has given me the opportunities I needed to talk more in depth about God and his desire for us to follow Jesus.  Each devotional also includes a prayer.  Hopefully, we will even start to memorize some of the verses that go along with the devotionals.

Next spring, I hope we have covered the entire book.  My oldest son, Ronan, is excited to stay on track and finish this "thick" book.