Family, Homeschool, Organization

How to Rock Your Meal Planning

The dreaded phrase: Meal Planning!

Meal Planning for my family is hard work!. My husband, 8 children, and myself all have extremely different taste buds. I was exhausted after planning our meals for the week. Between taste preferences, severe allergies, and making sure meals were healthy, I felt like we were eating the same foods over and over again.

A while back, I knew it was time to come up with a solution for our house. I decided that I did not want to be limited to just the things that I “knew” how to cook, but I also wanted to begin to explore new foods. I knew before I began adding to our meal list, I needed to write down all of my family’s favorite meals. You won’t believe it, but I went straight old school. I wrote each meal on an index card. By the time I was done, I had 30 index cards.  Each time I decided to make our meal plan for the week, I took out the cards and selected 7. I wrote them down on a piece of paper and then took the list to the store. Can I just say, this process was a true nightmare? I had tiny index cards all over the place. I knew this wasn’t the best system, but for a while it worked.

Needless to say, my anxiety got the best of me and I no longer could stand this system. I still felt like we were eating the same thing. Some how, I was still selecting the same few recipes every few weeks. Then it hit me! I decided to take each of our meals and break them down into categories, beef meals, chicken meals, pasta/turkey/pork meals, seafood meals, slow cooker/freezer meals, and fun Friday meals. Once again, I took out my little index cards and sorted them according to their category. I decided that each day of the week, we would have a different category of food. I created a meal plan that allowed us to have a different meal each day for four weeks.

The birth of an 8 week meal plan!

I challenged myself to come up with 8 meals under the six categories (I doubled our beef meals) for a total of 56 meals. I enlisted the help of my hubby and kids. We sat down, selected our favorite meals, and even created a Pinterest board for new ideas. Ya’ll, we created an 8 week meal plan. It was amazing! Each week, I would just select something from one of the categories and add it to the list. I could decide meals based on supermarket sales and even how our weekly schedule was looking. I thought I found the magic solution.

In comes Organize Your Life With Trello

After thinking meal planning could not get any easier, I saw a post over at A Purpose Driven Mom about being a Beta Tester for a new online course that would help Organize My Life!! As a work at home mom, homeschooling mommy, Director of a non-profit, and wife, I am always down for anything that helps organize my life. I signed up for the course and the way I look at organization has changed forever.

Trello is an online tool that allows me to have my meal plans, task, and daily planner at my finger tips. I decided the first area I would test out this course was in the area that I needed it the most, Meal Planning. I figure the best way for me to get you to see how this program has revolutionized how I meal plan is for me to show you. So check out my video below:

 


Now tell me that is not awesome!! In less than 5 minutes, I am able to create our meal plan for 8 weeks and create a grocery list to go with it. I no longer have to carry around my little tiny index cards or even a paper with our meals on it. Since Trello is also an app, I am able to take my phone into the store and grocery shop with ease.

More than Meals!

I know you might be thinking, “O.K. great you can plan your meals, but what else?” For the record, I have now begun to use Trello for multiple areas of my daily life. I have a board for Perfectly Blended and Blessed, our daily chores, and I am even working on one for my kid’s to use for as their home school planner. Don’t think Organize Your Life with Trello is all that big of a deal? I invite you to take a FREE Mini Class. Take some time look around and see for yourself and when you sign up for the course (which I know you will), come back here, click on Meal Plan to copy my board to get you started. Also, download this Ultimate List of Trello Boards (freebie)

   

 

Chime In: How do YOU Rock Your Meal Planning?

Free Printables, Freebies!, Homeschool, Organization

FREE Home School Planner!

Can you believe summer is almost over?

Home school Planning for the upcoming school year is in full force in our home and my kids are already bummed that it is August. For the record, I am not a naturally organized person. However, disorganization causes me great stress and anxiety. Go figure! You would think being a mother of eight children would give me some sort of organization super power.

Organizing materials for the upcoming school year is by far one of my greatest challenges. I spend countless hours preparing and planning, all to make sure things run as smoothly as possible. Organizing our school for this Chaos Coordinator and naturally unorganized mom is accomplished using my Sanity Savers for Home school Planning.

 

Take Time to Investigate

Being responsible for the education of my children is not something I take lightly. Most home school parents are often questioned about their ability to teach their own children. I even had well-meaning family members attempt to quiz my children on the spot, just to see what they knew. Being the child of an educator and having worked in the education field for almost 20 years, I am adamant about making sure my children are getting a well-rounded education. As you plan your year Take Time to Investigate. There are so many options available! Read the scope and sequence, take a sample lesson, speak with other parents and read published reviews. Don’t be afraid to select material from different publishers and authors. This year we have incorporated material from long-standing Christian publishers all the way to easy to incorporate resources from Evan-Moore like the Teacher File Box.


Get the Kids Involved

Homeschooling multiple children on different grade levels and abilities can become quite tricky. Each one of my children, including my twins, have a very different learning style and extremely different interest. When planning for the year, I always take time to check in and ask my kids what they are interested in exploring and learning during the school year. Giving your kids a voice in their school year empowers them and gives them a sense of ownership of what they are learning. Getting the kids involved doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Even more, simple conversations over breakfast, during a drive in the car, or before bed is all it takes to pick their brains and give you insight into their world.

 

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

As the QUEEN OF PROCRASTINATION, this Sanity Saver was something that I had to learn the hard way. At the start of last school year, my 1-year-old son was hospitalized because of his Chronic Medical Condition. This unexpected event significantly impacted our home school because I was drastically unprepared. Before school began, I only planned for the first few weeks of school. I figured I would have enough time to get lesson plans done, material ordered, and copies made. During our hospital stay and the subsequent weeks after coming back home, my children were barely getting any school work done because I did not have time to even think about lesson planning. One major Sanity Saver for Home School Planning is to Start Early! Use your down time to begin researching curricula and checking in with your children to see what is and is not working.

 

Use FREE/Low Cost Planning resources

As a large family momma, I have come to appreciate the beauty of FREE! I am all about finding a good resource or item at a low cost or free. When preparing for the year, it took me awhile to find planning tools that fit my many needs and style. As a blended family dealing with some High Power Blending, our children’s schedule varies because of visitation schedules. We have found that a four-day school week is the best option for us.  The fifth day serves as a catch all to complete anything that was not completed, possibly because of the visitation schedule.

Incorporating Circuit Learning into our home school has opened the door to our children exploring interest not covered in their core courses. Courses such as puppetry, coding, sewing, woodworking, animation and more are added to their weekly list. Circuit Learning essentially allows my children to select three areas of interest to explore for a pre-determined time.  Once selected, they rotate through each interest area during the week after all core work has been completed.

This year, I decided to utilize the File Folder System to organize our materials. I purchased a simple binder, dividers, hanging file folders, and manila folders.

Check out a short video on how I use the File Folder System!

 

I have created The Chaos Coordinator’s Homeschool Planner. This amazing FREE printable home school planner provides you with simple planning pages to get you ready for the year.

 

 

The last thing I did to organize and plan for the upcoming year was participate in a course that seriously changed the way I look at organization.  Organize Your Life with Trello totally helped me create a system that got rid of all my little sticky notes and journals, ditched my paper clutter, and left me with my task list at the tips of my fingers. Click the picture to check out the mini class! You will LOVE it!

 

No matter if you are new to homeschooling or not, planning is important to a successful year. So Chime In:

 What are you doing to plan for the upcoming school year?

Faith, Family, Freebies!, Organization

6 Sanity Savers for Getting to Church on Time!

And We’re Off…

The blaring sound of the alarm clock is ringing in your ear! You jump out of bed, run through the halls shouting for the kids to wake, hurry, and get ready for church. As you load up into the car, you notice that one of your lovely children has somehow managed to wear clothing that looks like it has been balled up in a corner for days. Your tires screech into the church parking lot, your children file out of the mini-van like circus clowns, and you manage to make it to your seats just as the first note is played by the worship team.  You think to yourself, “Hey, at least I made it, but man we could use some sanity savers to get here!”

Does this scenario sound a bit familiar? Do you find your family consistently just making it to church each week? Are you so flustered by the time you get to worship that you are unable to really receive all that worship has to offer?

As a large family momma, with 6 kiddos still home, this was our normal for so long. I started to dread going to church. It felt like another task and obligation added to my already overflowing to-do list. I was so overwhelmed with the thought of getting there, that I couldn’t even hear God over the silent sound of the chaos that came into the sanctuary with me.

Two years ago, our family moved to a new state. In the process, we also had to find a new church home. Through God’s infinite wisdom, he led us to an amazing new body of Christ.

It was at this time, my husband and I realized that we needed to come up with a new outlook on  “HOW” we would make it to church. We were very clear about why we were there, but we knew that we no longer wanted to continue the chaotic mornings.

We prayed, met with our children and brainstormed a list of all the things that created chaos in the morning. Then, the real work began. We knew that it was now or never. We worked together and created a list of 6 Sanity Savers for Getting to Church on Time!

Sanity Saver #1- Pray

When our family first started on our quest to get to church on time, we knew that we had to first come in agreement with the will of God for our lives.  Our family didn’t want church to feel like one thing we could check off each week.  Learning God’s word is important to us and we realized we needed to treat it that way. We took time as a family and prayed, asking God to order our steps and help us come up with a plan that worked for our family. We knew that this step needed to be the foundation for controlling our chaos. With God’s direction, everything else would fall in line.

Sanity Saver #2- Manage Your Mindset

Saturday nights are notorious for events to take place. Everything from a wedding reception, birthday party, cook outs, family game nights and more, are planned for Saturday. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that my husband or I have woken up on a Sunday morning too exhausted to go to church. We would look at one another hoping the other would be the initiator to get the house moving. It never worked. Our kids are also involved in sports. In our community, a lot of teams would hold games or practices on Sundays, right during the middle of church.

This is where Manage Your Mindset comes into play. After we decided that we were going to make church a top priority for our family. We knew we had to shift how we planned and scheduled our time. Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t stopped going to special events and spending time out as a family. Our kids also still participate in sports and extra-curricular activities. We have just changed our tactics! We no longer stay until the party is completely over unless it is truly necessary. So, instead of leaving at midnight, we now leave an hour or two early. We also have decided that we would not sign our kids up for activities that required participation during church. At first, some of our kiddos were a little upset, but after reminding them about “why” we were making these changes, they got on board.

Sanity Saver #3- Organize Your Wardrobe

When you look in your family’s closet, what do you see? Too many options for church? Too little options for church? Absolutely no clue because things are toss all around. Organize Your Wardrobe is something that might sound like a daunting task. With 6 kiddos and 2 adults in our house, this Sanity Saver lived up to its name. Our church does not have a formal dress code; however, I still like my kids to look presentable when going to church. We decided to go into the closets and pull out clothes that were designated “church clothes.” These items were placed on hangers and put to the side. This allows the kids to be more independent when it is time for our Saturday night routine of pulling out our church clothes. All clothes are taken out and hung on the over the door hook, like this one all the way down to socks, underwear and shoes. When we rise Sunday morning, the hassle of scrounging for clean clothes, matching socks or shoes is eliminated!

Sanity Saver #4- Lend a Helping Hand

With 6 children in our home, we have managed to create an instant buddy system. Outside of being a good sibling, we ask that each of the older siblings helps with one of the younger kiddos. Task can range from helping a little one put on shoes and socks, overseeing morning hygiene, such as washing their face or brushing their teeth, or being a mother’s helper and entertaining the baby as I get dressed. Regardless of the task, the idea is to be a help and not a hindrance to getting out of the door. Ultimately, my husband and I give the kids a once over, but having helping hands makes a world of a difference.

Sanity Saver #5 – Basic Breakfast

When I grew up, my mother would cook an elaborate breakfast on Sunday mornings. I am talking about eggs, bacon, biscuits…the works! It was almost without fail that we were late or really cutting it close to church. Although I love the memory of those great Sunday morning breakfasts, I decided to forgo the Sunday morning breakfast routine. Those Super Breakfasts are not scheduled for Saturdays or days where we have nowhere else to go. In our home, we have a Basic Breakfast using recipes from Easy Kids Breakfast: Quick Healthy Recipes which can range from pre-made casserole dishes, cereal to toaster waffles. I find that this Basic Breakfast makes our mornings run much faster and smoother! I even use an amazing free Recipe Binder that Cara Harvey put together over at A Purpose Driven Mom.

Sanity Saver #6- Plan to Arrive Early

If you are on time, you are late! This has become our new motto for our home. Gone are the days when we say church starts at 9 am. Yes, Sunday School starts at 9 am. However, it takes approximately 15 minutes for our family to find a parking space, take the kids to their classes, drop the baby in nursery, walk to our classroom, and find a seat. If we plan to get to church at 9 am, we are not leaving any time for all the possible obstacles we face, such as, traffic, last minute bathroom breaks, a whiny 4 year, or my favorite, a baby blow out! Although it only takes 10 minutes to drive to our church, we have set it in our minds that we will arrive early. Since I am the one who absolutely HATES mornings, my husband is the gatekeeper to ensuring that everyone is up, moving, and out of the house by 8:30 am.

Being a mom to many is not easy task. Getting us all out of the door on time is an adventure. Regardless of your family size, time management and organization are essential to relieving stress and chaos in your home. Take some time out and call a family meeting. Discuss what is important to your family and develop a plan.

What are some Sanity Savers your family has put in place?

Need Help Getting Started?

Download my Sanity Savers Worksheet

 



Blogging, Organization, Self Care

5 AMAZING Places to find Vision Board Graphics

5 AMAZING Places to find Vision Board Graphics

Creating a Vision Board is a great way to start the year. If you are a frequent visitor of Pinterest, you will easily find ideas on how to create a vision board and why you should have one.

I, on the other hand, am not like many people, I really do not enjoy crafty things. I love the idea of  vision board, but just do not enjoy doing anything that revolves around cutting, gluing, or pasting.

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What I think my house will look like after I do arts and crafts!

With that said, I decided to bite the bullet and make an attempt to challenge my own children to make their personal Vision Boards. I wanted to support them, as much as I could, and help them find some amazing quotes and graphics.

So, I went to my close friend, Pinterest (we go way back) and was able to locate a ton of bloggers and websites that offer FREE graphics and quotes.

After saving all of my pins, I realized that I wanted to help other people find them. So, I made a post about the ones we used! Here are the links to the bloggers. You might have to subscribe to their email list, but it is totally worth it!

  1. A House Full of Sunshine
  2. Our Hand Crafted Life
  3. Shining Mom
  4. Purple Splash Studios
  5. It’s Always Autumn

 

So there you have it folks! Visit us over on Facebook and post a few pictures of your Vision Board. We would love to see them!!

–Christel, “The Chaos Coordinator”