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Camp Mommy 2014 – Summer Fun Bingo

summer bigLast year was our first year of Camp Mommy, where I wasn’t working and the kids were therefore home with me. This year we are doing it again, but since we did so much last summer, I was feeling a bit unexcited to go to the same places, So to freshen things up, I have created a new version of my Camp Mommy Summer Bucket List.

To see last year’s version, where we drew slips of paper from different cups each day, see my post “Summer Bucket List (aka Camp Mommy).”

This year I created a Bingo board with many choices! There are so many places to go that we definitely won’t cover the whole board! Again it includes places at a variety of price points and time commitments. I try to do as many free or inexpensive choices most days. I thought it would be fun for my boys to close their eyes and each day one boy points to a bingo square to decide what we do for that day. We normally go somewhere 3-4 days a week (the park and the library are often several days a week and are great for afternoons). I try to leave Fridays for work around the house and getting ready for Shabbos.

I also made a new schedule for the day. I found a great resource to make a schedule to display on the refrigerator. I plan to mount it on cardstock and laminate it so I can use it from year to year. If you want to get your own, check out the post “Printable Summer Schedule.”

Summer-Schedule-Printables-print-out-and-put-on-refrigerator-to-help-organize-your-summer-days--500x708Here is our schedule for the day (which of course varies if we have specific plans):

7 – 8 a.m. – Play, breakfast
8 – 9 a,m, – Outside play
9 – 9:15 a.m. – Clean up
9:15 – 10:15 a.m. – Television time
10:15 – 10:30 a.m. – Snack, get ready to leave
Outing or if home – art, games, activities, schoolwork
Lunch
Books
1 – 3 p.m. – Nap for youngest three, computer time for oldest
3 – 3:30 p.m. – Outside play
3:30 – 4 p.m. – Make fun snack or do an art project
4 – 4:30 p.m. – Schoolwork to review for upcoming year
4:30 – 5 p.m. – Rotation of computer time between younger three boys
5 – 6 p.m. – Television time while we get dinner ready

* The times after lunch may vary some based on what time we get home from our outing and if we plan to go somewhere in the afternoon.

The Bingo board is available in two versions:

Summer Bingo 2014

Summer Bingo 2014 StL version

I left a bit of space on each square so you can put stickers on each as you complete an activity. If you see any mistakes, let me know! I did not include prices this year since things change so quickly!

What are you doing with your time this summer? Please leave a comment or feedback below!

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Family ideas, Forms for everything

 

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Making the most of the whole bird

Thanks for your patience with my lack of posts for the last few months. With being back to full-time teaching, I don’t seem to have time to blog much. But, I am not complaining with the economy the way it is and with teaching jobs so hard to get!

Recently my husband has found a new way to save us more money and time. He has been using our freezer to make our cooking very efficient and allow us to have meals we couldn’t afford otherwise (like boneless breast recipes).

Let’s start with chicken.

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When we get chicken for Shabbos, we do not always eat the whole thing and some parts get wasted (or eaten as a not-so-healthy snack for my husband). So instead, my husband has been using all the parts of the chicken very creatively. From two chickens, he puts aside:

  • one chicken breast for a meal later,
  • the wings for a meal later,
  • the necks, back of the breast, and wing tips are saved for making soup stock and then used for soup meat,
  • and one thigh for a meal later.
  • If we are having a roasted chicken, he saves the carcass for making soups, too.

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After several weeks or months, he has enough of each part to make:

  • a boneless chicken dish (from the breasts),
  • teriyaki or barbecue chicken wings (from the wings) – pictured above,
  • chicken soup stock and chicken soup (from the necks, backs, and wing tips),
  • and smoked chicken for seasoning or chicken pieces for a stir fry (from the thighs).

Cheese:

We buy large packs of shredded cheese from Costco. The pack contains more cheese than a single meal uses. So he packages the cheese into smaller servings as soon as we get home. These get frozen in freezer bags to use later as needed. For more ways to cut down on meal costs read Stretching your dinner dime… dollar.”

Refried beans:

My husband has created the best refried beans recipe. He makes a huge batch in our largest soup pot and packages it up in large Gladware containers. (We used to be able to use the soup and salad size, but our family eats more now!) One container or two small ones makes for a great meal of burritos. They are also good to pull out when we cook for a friend with a new baby or for another occasion.

Milk:

Sometimes we stock up on milk if it is a particularly good deal or we have been given milk that is close to expiring. If we freeze it and then thaw it later, we can get a few more days out of it than if we had used it right away. For more tips on how long various foods will last, check out my post “Shelf life of your food.”

Bread:

We recently found an Entenmann’s outlet that sells Arnold and Thomas bread products as well as Entenmann’s baked goods. They have store coupon as well as a punch card. We can spend $10 and leave with 5-7 items! We keep a few out and save the rest for later. Between this and our bread maker, we our saving a ton of money on bread. This has been a big help with all four of our boys in elementary school this year!

Challah:

We always make several challahs at once. What we don’t need for that Shabbos gets frozen for later Shabbosim. To see why making your own challah is worth it moneywise, read “Making your own challah.” We have also tried canning. Read more at First canning experiment: apple butter.”

Kugels and desserts:

This is not always possible, but we try to double kugel and dessert recipes when preparing for Shabbos so we have one to freeze for later. This depends on what ingredients we have available.

How do you use your freezer to its potential? Share your tips below!

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Making lunches – a matrix of choices!

healthy gluten-free school lunch

Many of your children have probably started back to school already. Mine do not start until next Wednesday. However, with this being the first year my little boys have gone to camp, we have been making lunches for the past four weeks. (Or should I say my husband has.) It has gotten me to thinking about how to make this chore easier and to provide the most variety for my children. My husband and I typically take leftovers to work, because we can heat things up or don’t mind eating something cold if we have to. The boys on the other hand…

I used to have a list on the refrigerator of lunch choices, but it has gotten a bit out of date. So I created a new one. It mostly includes dairy options because with keeping kosher meat is expensive. There are also only certain days the kids can bring meat to their Jewish day school.

Below is my matrix of lunch choices (in green). It will be a great tool for adding to our grocery list each week. Then each day when we pack lunches, we will choose one item from each column. This way our kids will get a variety of foods and it will make sure that all of one type of food doesn’t get eaten up in a week! (I just bought a lot of Chex Mix on sale last week at Walgreens and if I let them, my kids would have it every day!) Feel free to edit this document for your needs and your kids’ tastes.

Lunch choices 2013

Other tips for saving money on packing lunches:

∞ Use up your leftovers when you can. This may not work as well for the kids, but the grownups can eat them!

ziploc divided container∞ Use as little packaging as possible. We use reusable water bottles, lunch bags, and as many containers as we can instead of bags. I just bought these Ziploc divided containers for my kids’ lunches and today was their first day using them. I figured it would be a great way for them to know what was their lunch food and what should be saved for snacks. We also use cloth snack bags for some items when we can. For more details, see my post Switch over your disposables.”

∞ Buy cheap water bottles. I have learned from camp that my kids lose water bottles constantly. It does not pay to buy nice ones because I cannot count on them coming back! So the dollar Spot at Target and the dollar store are my favorite places to buy water bottles. See my posts on Why I love Target! and Are ‘dollar stores’ really a good deal?

∞ Stock up on nonperishable lunch items. When you spot something on sale (and even better have a coupon, too) get a few! I got granola bars on sale at Target yesterday and had a manufacturer’s coupon and a Target coupon. This is the best way to stock up – having all three conditions! I also buy in bulk when I can through Costco and Whole Foods. See my post on “Bulk discounts.”

∞ Make as much homemade as you can. We recently got a breadmaker and my husband is enjoying figuring out the best recipes to use. It smells so good when he has a batch ready to go in the morning, With all four boys in elementary school this year, we could easily go through a loaf of bread in a day! Our next project is to experiment with some homemade snacks. See Little House Living and my posts on (More) Make your own… and Don’t buy it, make it homemade – Part 3 for recipes.

∞ Look for outlet stores. We recently found a local outlet bread store (thanks, Lori!) that saves us a ton on bread, bagels, and sandwich thins. They even have store coupons!

∞ Use your price list. Make sure you are buying things at the best price you can get. Just because something is in a larger size of is on sale, doesn’t always mean it is the best deal! To learn more, check out my post “Keeping a price list.”

∞ Check out the sales at the end of this month. Pretty soon all the back-to-school items will go on sale, which means lunch bags, containers, and the like on sale for cheap prices (check out Target, Wal-Mart, drug stores, etc. for these deals). Last summer we got the boys their current lunch bags for $3 each! I love them because they have a zipper at the top and a space for their name on the back. I also got backpacks from Lands’ End at a very deep discount last summer! Be sure to stock up on those swimsuits and rash guards while you are at it, too!

Do you have any tips for packing lunches that you would like to share? Please add them in the Comments section! Thanks Rivka H. and Jessi L, for your ideas I incorporated into the matrix.

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The best $10 a month I spend – Dropbox!

A few years ago, right around report card time, my laptop got one of those horrible trojan worm viruses. It hid all of my files and I couldn’t access anything even though I could see the files were somewhat still there. It took me hours to do research and figure out how to bring them back. Shout out to Bleeping Computer for helping me solve this awful problem!

But back to my story… After this I went out and bought an external hard drive, for fear of losing my files again. I had eight years of digital photos and all of my teaching and personal files on that computer! The hard drive worked great, right up until a month or two after the warranty and then for some reason it stopped turning! We took it to Best Buy and they said it could not be fixed for any reasonable amount of money. It would be a couple thousand dollars to recover the data! That’s was the last straw! I also had lost about a 100 ebooks from Scholastic (that luckily they reloaded for me on their website, but now I have to take the time again to download them!). I would not be relying on an external hard drive or any device again!

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

I had heard of Dropbox, but had never tried it. I decided it was worth looking into. With Dropbox, a cloud storage solution, you can get up to 2 GB of space for free. You can then earn more free space by referring others and sharing Dropbox via social networking sites and completing other activities. However, even with that extra space, it was not enough to store all of our files and photos.

So for $9.99 a month, I get 100 GB, which is more than enough. However, there are higher plans that can accommodate 200 and 500 GB. They also have business plans for multiple users.

Why should you try it?

  • Gives you the peace of mind that all of your files are protected and backed up.
  • You have the ability to share files and folders with others. This has been great for accessing my husband’s files. He doesn’t need to keep sending me certain files I need when he updates them; I just click on the link on the first email he sent me with that file.
  • It is easy to set up.
  • It works without you doing much. You just put everything you want to be backed up in your “Dropbox” folder on your computer. It backs up files any time you create new ones, make changes, delete files, etc.
  • You don’t have to remember to back up your computer on a certain schedule. It does it every time your computer is on.

Definitely worth that $9.99 a month! Give it a try and let me know what you think! FYI – I am using a PC; I hear from friends with Macs that backing up your information is done differently.

Note: I am not working for Dropbox and receive no benefits from posting this information!

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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Other savings tips, Reviews

 

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Purim is coming too fast!

Last year I started preparing for Purim early and really worked hard not to leave everything to the last-minute. I was so happy not to be finishing my boys’ costumes right before the sueda! However, this year, with my new job, it has been hard to get started early. Now I am down to one week before Purim and so much to do: costumes to make, shaloch manos to assemble, and food to cook. Luckily we are not hosting a sueda, so that is one less large task.

Thankfully all of my past research and checklists will help me get through it all. Here is my Purim checklist that you can adapt for your needs: Purim prep.

We did our shopping today for our shaloch manos supplies (thank you Costco) and spent the afternoon making shaloch manos as part of a charity project we have done for the past 16 years. Now my goal is to get supplies for my kids’ costumes. I always have luck finding ideas at Family Fun or Parenting magazines’ websites, so I will check there again. Here are a few links to check out:

Here are my kids from last year — my oldest as a knight and my little ones as superheroes.

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If you are like me and are behind in your Purim preparations, here are a few of my older posts to help you:

 

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Financial New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions 2012When I was in high school and college, making New Year’s Resolutions was a big deal. I used to pore over magazines coming up with plans for how I would lose weight, exercise more, etc. However, now that I have become religious, I tend to make more serious goals around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, thinking about how I will become a better wife, mom, daughter, friend, teacher, and Jew.

With New Year’s approaching, though, I realized it might not be a bad idea to come up with some New Year’s resolutions related to our finances. My husband’s job has not turned out to be what he expected and finances have been really tough. He is looking for new work and I am hoping the new year will provide that. But in the meantime, new job or not, we need a plan to get us in better financial shape.

Here are my goals for the new year. I hope they will inspire you on your own quest to get your family set.

1) Get back to menu planning on a regular basis.

With money being so tight, my husband has become a master at creating meal plans based on whatever is in the house. We haven’t had the money to make full shopping trips and therefore have let our menu planning slide. However, it makes extra stress for him every morning to have to also figure out what to make. I want us to get back to menu planning each week regardless if we can buy two things or a loadful! See my posts on “Menu planning” and “Monthly menu planning.”

2) Keep up with our receipts.

Bill paying and entering receipts into our Quicken program are my least favorite tasks. So of course, I procrastinate. But then we are more likely to bounce or to encounter fees for paying things late. I am going to work harder at entering them every few days instead of waiting until I have several weeks worth! See my post on “Make your checkbook digital!”

3) Get our oil changed on a regular basis.

I always think of car maintenance last. When we don’t have much money, I think we can’t possibly afford to spend money on the car. Well, that thinking got us into big trouble this past year. We have neglected to change the oil on our van, for probably years. As a result, the engine died completely. After several hundred dollars of repairs the auto repair shop thought could fix the problem, we had to get a whole new engine. The repairs were then several thousand. It was the most expensive and embarrassing mistake we have ever made. I guess I should take my own advice. See my post on “Pay now to save later” and “What does an oil change cost?”

4) Really watching our budget.

During my husband’s trial period at his new job (when they were paying him a base), we were doing a bit better financially. I started a new routine that really helped us budget better. I virtually set aside a certain amount for our monthly and irregular expenses each half of the month. Then whenever we spent money in those categories, I would debit it from that amount/transaction. I knew how much we had left to spend in those categories by what amount was left in that transaction. It really helped us stay under our budget for the month on categories that we have more control of.

What are your financial New Year’s resolutions? Please share in the Comments section.

 

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Time to get ready for the 2012 High Holidays!

Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is just 17 days away and I am realizing it is time to start our preparations. As I have mentioned before in my posts on getting ready for Pesach (Passover), I have a checklist to help me get ready for each holiday. It really helps me not forget anything that needs to be done and it gives me a timeline to do them. It also reminds me of things that have worked and not worked from past years.

Here is my High Holiday prep checklist, which includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. You may want to adapt it to your needs and to include the following things which we do not do:

  • Holiday cards (we send ours our around Chanukah/Christmas)
  • Babysitting arrangements (either at shul (temple) or at home, for whatever days you want to go to shul to daven (pray))

I store this file on my computer, but also have a copy in my Holiday Prep binder, which has preparations lists for all the Jewish holidays. I have separate binders for Chanukah/Christmas and Pesach, since those two involve a lot more preparations!

When planning our menus, I like to type them, too, so that I can print them out and put them on our refrigerator. Then my husband highlights items as he cooks them! I can’t wait to try some new recipes and hope the New Year brings us some better mazel!

Related posts (sorry – there are a lot!):

If you have any tips about how you successfully get ready for the holidays, please share them below!

 

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