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A Way Through the Wilderness: Your Home Management Binder

Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden at All That Is Good.

Are you overwhelmed? Are you constantly making lists but never getting closer to your goals? Are you drained by the constant need to prioritize your time, yet fearful that if you let your mind rest, something will leak out?

I’m with you, girlfriend.

By the time I had my third child, I began to fantasize almost daily about hiring outside help. Unfinished projects, unfolded laundry, and dirty dishes filled my time and had me constantly struggling to stay on top of things. I thought, “If I just had help, then I could do it all!” And doing it all was what my prideful heart wanted most.

One day the Lord opened my eyes to how pride was at the foundation of many of the goals that were overwhelming me. In His graciousness, He not only showed me what I needed to let go of, but also led me to some habits and strategies that brought more peace and productivity to each day. One of those strategies was to create a home management binder.

Since I have built my Home Management Binder and been using it daily, I feel like I have space to breathe even in these demanding years of little ones, sleepless nights and tight budgets. Menu planning is simpler when a template waits next to a list of our favorite meals. Big goals are getting chipped away at with small, daily progress. And I’m relishing the satisfaction I have when I live with my priorities in clearly before me.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

If time feels like your enemy or you feel like you are not making progress toward your true goals, I’d encourage you to take your days before the Lord and ask Him to show you what is most important. Then perhaps you’d like to create a Home Management Binder as a place to record what He speaks to you.

Creating Your Home Management Binder

What you need…

  • The Binder – you probably already have one lying around you could re-purpose. Two inches is a nice thickness to start with.
  • Dividers – can be as simple as an old file folder, cut down the spine and hole punched, or you can get fancy with Avery Plastic Dividers with Pockets.
  • Pages – a combination of lined paper in each section, awaiting your notes, as well as plastic page protectors to hold printables.
  • Pens – I use wet erase pens to write on the page protectors.

Time to Build. A binder that actually works for you needs to be custom made to your family’s needs, goals, and schedule It’s best to look around a bit to get an idea of how you want to organize yours. Check out these gal’s binders or my pin-board for inspiration…

I order my binder by my roles (wife, mother, homemaker, writer, etc.) and put them in order of their priority in my day, thus my binder acts as a constant reminder of what I really want to focus on. Within each section, you may jot down goals, books to read, ways to grow in that area, and printables you find to help you schedule and plan.

Printables…a gal’s best friend. I love printables! They take half the brain work out of planning and scheduling, allowing you to simply fill in the blanks.

Daily To-Do List. Finally, you should be sure to include a daily to-do list. I drafted my own with space to jot down food prep, phone calls, emails, errands, and household chores for that day. I have two weeks’ worth of daily lists printed and slipped into plastic sleeve holders. This way I can jot down something I need to remember to do next Tuesday on that page, and remind myself to take the meat out of the freezer for tomorrow night’s dinner on today’s page. Twice a month I sit down with a wash cloth and wipe down the previous weeks’ activities to prepare for the weeks ahead. Here are some great daily to-do printables…

“Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Prov. 16:3

Once you’ve created your binder, keep it out where you can see it and use it! After a few weeks, if you aren’t using a printable, ditch it. If the rhythm of your family changes, be sure to update your binder so it continues to be a relevant tool for organization and bringing focus to your days. And regularly take your binder before the Lord and ask Him to help you prioritize. Be encouraged that our God is one who makes a way through the wilderness – He can guide you through your busy day as well!

Comments { 21 }

How to Wash All Your Laundry in One Day

Yes, it’s crazy. But why not be gutsy and give it a try with me?

With this method, you can get all your laundry out of the way for the entire week. You won’t have to think about it again. It will be folded all at once saving you plenty of time and energy. And your little ones can join in the fun and learn some life skills at the same time.

Things you will need:
A timer (a basic kitchen timer will do or set up a reminder/alarm on your phone)
7 + pairs of clothes for each person in your family (to last a week between washings. We have 7-8 outfits per person with a few extra for the kids for those messes that always come!)
Several sturdy laundry baskets (different colored baskets is nice for sorting for each child or bedroom)
A fun family movie to watch while you fold the laundry together
And the willingness to move quickly

Start first thing on the desired day of chose. I personally prefer Monday morning as it helps give a nice jump into my week. After I am dressed and ready for the day, I get to the laundry room. Begin by hauling all your laundry to your laundry room and sort by colors. Whites (simplify by including white sheets and towels) coloreds, darks (to this jean load I add dark towels) towels (separating bath towels, kitchen towels, and cleaning clothes). I also have a load of cloth diapers. Begin your first load.

This is key: Set your timer for 1 hour. (the Reminders app on the iPhone/touch device works very nice because you can easily change the time with the same reminder throughout the day, but any timer will do).

Continue with your regularly scheduled program.

When your timer goes off, immediately transfer your load into the dryer and add the next load into the wash. Hang any delicate clothes to dry as needed (we hang all my husband and my shirts and dresses and our cloth diapers). Dry clean only clothes can easily be washed in a delicate cycle and then hung to dry.

Include your kiddos in the process. They love transferring clothes from washer to dryer, and sorting clothes teaches them colors and patterns. Plus they are learning basic life skills!

Repeat your timer for 1 hr.

Continue this cycle until all your clothes have made their way through the system. In this manner you can wash upwards of 10 loads a day. I currently wash 6-8 loads every Monday for our family of five.

Lastly, at the end of your day you will have a huge mound of wonderfully clean laundry! Don’t get overwhelmed. Embrace it. It means you are warm and well clothed and God is supplying all your needs.

Have fun with your folding load by snuggling up as a family and watching a fun family movie together (we are currently enjoying Little House on the Prairie). Include everyone in the folding process. Even the little ones can fold towels and help sort into the individual colored baskets. Having a colored basket for each person or room can make the restocking drawers/closets process much easier.

Once clothes are folded and sorted, deliver them to their destinations. You may wish to unload the next morning as we often do. Don’t worry about ironing. That can wait till the next day. If you have a husband like mine, he would appreciate it ironed and hung in a timely fashion. It is just one way to show him I love him without a word.

That is our basic process of washing all our laundry in one day! It leaves us with a clean laundry room for 5-6 days out of the week and our clothes are clean and we don’t have to worry about staying on top of laundry all week long. Just one little way to simplify my life.

It’s really not so crazy after all…do you think? I’ve been following this method since we were married and it continues to work with 3 busy kiddos! A precious moment saved to be used to invest in something more important.

And don’t worry…if it doesn’t work for you, then don’t stress. There is grace for your laundry pile! It will surely get done when it is needed.

Note: We do prefer to hang out all our laundry when possible to conserve electricity, but that is really only doable in the summer months here as it rains throughout the rest of the year. ;) We also usually wash a second load of cloth diapers sometime later in the week for our baby.

Comments { 134 }

Simplifying by Buying Groceries Online

Did you know that it is possible to do the majority of your grocery shopping online these days?

This has certainly be a huge blessing lately while trying to juggle three kiddos and the various responsibilities I have within our home. I have been investigating different options lately in an effort to use my time most productively. Honestly, it is pretty tiring for me to haul all the kiddos to the store. Buying groceries online saves my energy and is a simple way to protect against unnecessary stress.

Additionally, it’s far to easy to buy items that aren’t necessarily on my grocery list when I get in that environment (oh, wouldn’t the kids love trying this? Ahh…coconut milk yogurt, yum!). Surprisingly enough, shopping online has been saving me money!

It has been two year now since I shared my initial real food budget and what food purchases we make at our home. It has certainly changed and been tweaked over this period. With food prices continuing to rise, we have had to adjust and re-evaluate as necessary. I used to shop primarily at our local Trader Joe’s but have become more and more dissatisfied by the lack of freshness and packaged nature of their produce. I also found I had to make multiple stops to get everything I needed because TJ’s doesn’t have that large of selection.

Currently, our food budget is $500-$525 per month and these are the majority of the purchases we make.

Amazon.com 

I am finding myself using the Subscribe & Save feature on Amazon more frequently for finding huge savings on many food items in their Natural & Organic Grocery section. Their selection is growing each time I look. Most of the items are more bulk purchases, but they are non-perishable items, which makes it very possible to spread out their use over a 2-3 month period. With the subscription option, you save an additional 15% and have scheduled deliveries every 1-6 months as you desire. We have prime membership which provides wonderful quick free delivery (even without prime, most items are also available for free shipping if you spend over $25). In this manner, I don’t have to think about it and there is still flexibility to change as you need. You can also cancel at any time. I love food being delivered to my door!

We purchase the following via subscriptions. I have compared them extensively with my other food sources and found Amazon’s prices to be the best: Organic peanut butter, organic raisins, organic coconut milk, vanilla extract, organic coconut oil, maple syrup, gluten-free honey rice cereal (our Sunday morning breakfast), chicken broth (I prefer making my own chicken broth, but I also forget to pull it out of the freezer a lot, so I like having small portions of chicken broth on hand for easy access), toilet paper (yes, you can even save on the basics!), charlie’s laundry soap, mac & cheese (I like having Annie’s on hand for an easy lunch). Amazon also has a growing selection of quality dry goods, including beans and grains.

Safeway Delivery

I am starting to order many random food items (that are not available through my other sources) via Safeway delivery lately. Our budget is $100 per month. The time it saves is worth the slightly increased price. You can save on shipping simply by being flexible as to delivery time or they often offer free shipping if you purchase a certain number of items from their specials list or on orders over $150. I pay no more than $6.95 for delivery in our area. I try to purchase most of my produce organically, and use the Dirty Dozen as my guide. In the summer, I love to use Organics to You for fresh local produce delivered to our door.

Here are the items I purchase through these sources: Organic Milk for making yogurt (1/2 gallon twice a month), lunchmeat, pepperoni, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, fresh organic produce (bananas, oranges, salad mixes, etc), various other food needs not available through other sources.

Azure Standard 

I appreciate Azure Standard and the bulk natural foods that they offer. We spend about $100 per month through Azure. They deliver to drop spots all over the Northwest and moving more into the Midwest of the US. I buy the following: Brown rice pasta, natural soaps and shampoos, organic crackers, mayonnaise, organic produce, tortillas, raw cheddar cheese, sour cream, soy sauce, olive oil, vinegars, raw honey, spices, condiments, sucanat, oats (other bulk grains and beans), canned wild salmon, tomato soup.

In addition to these purchases, I buy local raw milk & eggs  (1 gallon per week, 2 dozen per week – $68 per month), and we also set aside $100 per month for bulk meat and fruit purchases throughout the year to stock the freezer. We buy 1/4 cow, 1 pig, and about 40 lbs of chicken breasts annually. We buy a dozen loaves of sprouted wheat bread from Dave’s Killer Bread/Healthy Bread Store warehouse (they offer a frozen dozen of sprouted bread for $25). We consume this amount of bread in about 2 months. I continue to make my own jam, salsa, kefir, yogurt, and various pastries as we desire. That’s pretty much it…

Other excellent food delivery sources:

Beyond Organic (this online store has recently been launched birthed out of Jordan Rubin’s book)

U.S. Wellness Meats (find quality grass fed products)

Vitacost (this is another growing option that has a great selection of real foods, vitamins, herbs, and more at deep discounts! I found Eden Organics, Nutivia, Bob’s Red Mill and many other quality brands available here. Many of their products are very comparable to Amazon and Azure Standard too. I just made an order because they sell cod liver oil and other good supplements.) Refer a friend and you both get $10. A fun way to save!

Be sure to search google for specific grocery delivery companies in your area!

Found any good natural food deals lately? Please share!

Note: There are affiliate links in this post for Amazon, so we receive a small percentage of any purchases made through these links. Through your support, we are able to sponsor an orphan home in India.

Comments { 103 }

Enjoying the Simplicity of Staying Home

A reader asked: How much time during the week do you allow for time away from home and/or open your home for things like playdates/hospitality towards other moms. Our church is strong on community and “living life together” and living missionally (which I am totally on board and excited about). However, lately, it feels like we are away from home more mornings than we are home. Those times usually end up with kids in one room playing and moms in another chatting/venting/hopefully encouraging one another. I want my kids to learn the importance of community, but I fear this is encouraging peer-orientation and taking away from my discipleship of my kids. I know I am to be “busy at home” and it just feels like playdates are a good excuse to ignore these duties. Any thoughts/guidelines you use?

If there is one lesson I have learned since the arrival of my third child is that the easiest way to avoid stress and outbursts of anger at my children is to simply stay home. When you consider the work necessary to get four people (including myself) fed, clothed, diapers changed, potty visited, shoes tied, and coats buttoned, I am rather worn out.

Could our time be better invested by simply staying home?

There is true joy to be found in simply being at home. We do experience a lot pressure in our culture to get out and do things in order to supposedly stay sane. It could be a pull to many good things, like much needed fellowship with other woman. Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is very important to be in fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 13:3). But you don’t have to go to the latest play group or gym class for your child to develop socially. You don’t have to go to every storytime or sing-along for your child to love books and be exposed to the wonders of music. You don’t have to go to every moms group to stay connected in community with others. “Ballet classes for 3 year olds are glorified playgrounds,” as one friend so aptly put it. You can do it right from your own living room. There is a balance that we must come through by prayer and seeking the counsel of our husbands.

When it comes to our family, we follow one basic weekly guideline we shoot for – one morning/afternoon outing per week. There may be an occasional reason requiring us to go out again, but this is the most common plan. This might be a playdate with another family, a field trip to our local children’s museum, or storytime at the local library. We believe strongly in the importance of community, so we host a small group within our home on a weekly basis where we share and live life together and challenge on another in missional living. The girls in our small group get together on a monthly basis over coffee or have a night in the hot tub for focused fellowship. We also participate in a monthly Bible study together digging into a book of the Bible. We love it! These things are manageable.

As far as hospitality goes, we usually open our home 1-2 times per month for general hospitality to families in our church or neighboring community. We have the freedom also to call one another as needed. I try to restrict phone calls to nap times so as not to detract me from my kiddos. But this can be an easy way to connect with others, to share needs, encourage one another, and pray without even leaving my home.

I’ve found that if I try to pack up multiple times per week and go somewhere with my kids, my homemaking certainly does suffer. My children ultimately suffer too. They love routine, regular nap periods, reading time together, and such. When we are constantly on the go, they are far more inclined to get grumpy and very needy. They lack Mommy’s focused attention. It’s nearly impossible to work on heart training when you are out and about as well. For the peace and growth of our family we need to be at home together.

There have been multiple times where I sat nursing my baby, untying a knotted shoe, and searching for directions to our destination all at the same time, while reminding one child (for the third time, I dare say) to find his coat, and the other to go to the bathroom. Getting three little kids that are rather helpless out the door is a lengthy and stressful process. I am helplessly impatient with my children as the moments tick by.

Mommy is certainly less stressed, children are more happy, and our household is better maintained when this Mommy slows down and finds delight in creatively using her time at home. If I am feeling lonely or experiencing self-pity about staying home, it is a reminder to stop and check my heart. Where am I seeking to find my fulfillment? Am I looking for my help in others first before my sweet Lord? Why not befriend a book, or the Book of all Books. I want to make sure my heart is still first and foremost towards my first mission – honoring the Lord in our family and home. Beautifying this place. Cultivating domestic serenity here and now.

We are learning valuable life skills and teamwork from our own home today as we work together cutting apples for the dehydrator, unloading the dishwasher, reading stories, memorizing poetry and verses, shaping letters, running around playing hide and seek, and taking a daily pause to rest. This is beautiful when you learn to see the art before your eyes. Time is too precious to waste too much of it running here and there.

I pray you would be blessed to be able to slow down and see the treasure of staying home and delighting in that.

Comments { 100 }

Simple Seasonal Family Traditions

Post by Contributing Writer, Michele Augur of Frugal Granola

As a family, we cherish each new season. Our children love the familiar rhythm of knowing what to expect and savoring the many delights of each season.

We like to keep a handful of seasonal traditions that are easy to schedule into our busy lives, as well as easy on the budget. (There are also a few “special extras” when possible.) Now that our oldest child is almost five, she has quite a memory bank of these traditions, and doesn’t let us forget!

Also, whenever we’re expecting a new baby, we let our children know in “seasonal terms” when they can expect the newest arrival. (Our summer baby came “when it was hot and sunny, after the blueberries, with the zucchini and tomatoes, and before the corn.” Our spring baby is expected “near the end of the snow, when the spring rains come, the crocuses bloom, and the green buds appear.”)

Here are some of our family’s favorites:

Photo Credit: ollesvensson

Autumn

Right now, we are entering into the autumn season of fall leaves, garden harvests, and cooler nights (probably our favorite time of year; at least for my husband & I).

  • Wild Blackberry and/or Huckleberry-Picking
  • Hiking in the Woods (It’s nice to get out in the clear fresh air, even if it’s a bit rainy!)
  • Baked Apple and/or Popcorn Nights
  • Gathered Leaf Crafts (such as leaf rubbings, garlands, “bouquets” on the table, etc.) We just completed a fun Leaf Pounding project (printing onto muslin fabric on top of a board- instead of cardboard); even our 2-year-old got in on the hammering!
  • A Fall Camping Trip (usually at the beach)- Campsites are usually less crowded in the fall, you can see the stars in the darker evenings, and it’s cozy by the campfire! (We’ve also gotten together with other family members and rented an affordable beach house together, since it’s the “off” season.)
  • Attending an Apple & Pear Harvest Festival/Farmer’s Market and/or U-Pick Farms
  • Treats of Hot Spiced Cider, Applesauce, or Creamy Pear Pie (a “mandatory” dish at our big family Thanksgiving dinner gatherings!)
  • Cream Cheese Pumpkin Muffins on Thanksgiving morning
  • Pumpkin Waffles for breakfasts (can also use some cooked squash)

Photo Credit: hello-julie

Winter

We have a few winter birthdays in our family, plus our wedding anniversary, in addition to the other holidays, so this season is very celebratory for us!

  • Advent and the Twelve Days of Christmas activities
  • St. Nicholas Day
  • Snow Angels and Snowmen
  • Occasionally, attending a performance of The Nutcracker (a children’s theater or a matinee is often more affordable, and a more manageable showing time for little ones)
  • Homemade Gingerbread Cake or Molasses Cookies
  • Mint Hot Chocolate
  • Listening to a Handel’s “Messiah” CD or DVD
  • Participating in our church’s Children’s Christmas Play/Musical
  • Seafood Christmas Dinner (often a simple Crab Quiche)
  • A Christmas Tea Party and/or New Year’s Open House
  • Decorating with “bouquets” of fresh holly & greenery (or homemade wreaths)
  • A drive or walk to see Christmas lights and/or Caroling
  • Homemade Gifts and/or Ornaments
  • Handmade Valentines

Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles

Spring

  • Starting Garden Seeds and early Spring plantings
  • Occasionally we’ve been able to attend a community “Easter Sunrise Church Service”
  • Spring bouquets of fragrant daffodils and crocuses
  • Listening to the many little frogs at the creek
  • Reading about St. Patrick
  • Picking Nettles
  • Meals of fresh, green asparagus, new leafy greens, or just-picked rhubarb
  • Puddle Jumping and Walks with Umbrellas
  • A Mother’s Day camping trip (usually at the beach); typically a less-crowded weekend before the summer crowds and hot weather arrive
  • Board Game Nights
  • Nature Walks/Hikes
  • Making Butter from grass-fed raw milk (late spring/into summer)
  • Star-Gazing on clear evenings

Photo Credit: JustyCinMD

Summer

  • Bonfires and Barbecues
  • Early Garden Harvests & Later Plantings
  • Swimming/Wading in a shady creek or river
  • A Backyard Camp-Out in the Tent
  • Bouquets of Roses and Wildflowers
  • Berry Smoothies or Blueberry Cake for Breakfasts (I know some of you live in climates where you actually get strawberries in the spring; but ours aren’t ready until at least June!)
  • More Butter-Making from grass-fed raw milk
  • Attending Farmer’s Markets
  • Lavender Desserts (such as cookies or souffles)
  • Making Lavender Sachets for adding to laundry or bed pillows
  • Gathering Herbs & Preparing Remedies
  • Ice Cream Sundae Parties
  • Picnics on the lawn
  • Jars of Sun Tea

Did you see some of your favorites on the list? What are your family’s traditions?

Comments { 11 }

The Blessings of a Small Home

Written by monthly contributor, Emily Pastor.

I grew up in a large home and assumed that’s what I wanted for my family when I got married.  I often felt a twinge of jealousy when I heard of friends my age purchasing their first house while I had to “settle” with a tiny apartment and loud neighbors.

Looking back I am so thankful for living in small spaces and the experience of moving five times in less than 4 years.  Each move left me holding on to my “stuff” with a looser grip and realizing that owning less can be a freeing blessing.

The Lord has used these moves and small apartments to teach me contentment.  The type of contentment where I’m no longer “settling” for less, but when faced with the option, I’m choosing it.  While these trinkets and “necessities” that fill our homes aren’t inherently wrong, they are temporary and fleeting and can easily become burdensome.

In our society we often think that having more than we need is a blessing.  I argue that it can be tiresome and a burden.  If you, like me, are living in a small space and struggle with contentment, here are some reminders of the blessings of less.

1. Less to Clean
Times of cleaning truly bring out my contentment and thankfulness for a small space.  I often think of how much more of my time would be spent cleaning a larger home.  I can vacuum my entire apartment in less than 10 minutes.  I love scrubbing only one toilet!  Dusting is a 10 minute breeze.  With less space I’m able to keep a deeper-cleaned home instead of spending most of my energy keeping things “looking” clean.

2. Less Chasing
When we’ve stayed at my parent’s larger home, I’m always amazed at how exhausted I become from chasing little ones.  I’m sure this isn’t a huge deal when children are older, but with new walkers and wobbly toddlers, chasing can become an all day affair.  Small spaces allow young ones the freedom to move around the house without gates and still be within earshot and eyesight of Mama.

3. Less to Decorate
Small spaces are not only less intimidating to decorate, but they are much more friendly to the decorator on a budget.  I love decorating a small room to be cozy and functional without the pressure to find pieces simply to fill empty spaces.

4. Less to Maintain
Whether large or small, all homes require maintenance.  Appliances break down.  Furniture wears out.  Walls need new paint.  Roofs leak.  Lawns need mowing.  Smaller spaces can reduce the time and money spent on keeping a home maintained and comfortable.

5. Less Space for Clutter
With limited closet and storage space I’m forced to weed out useless clutter due to the lack of clutter hiding spots.  I wouldn’t deal with my clutter nearly as much if it didn’t invade my space so easily.  This lack of space is a blessing!  My space keeps me accountable to what we do and don’t need around the house.

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world,  and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Whether you are in a large or small home, may your hearts be filled with contentment, generosity, and thankfulness to the One who provides for our needs so faithfully.

Comments { 56 }

12 Efficiency Tips in the Kitchen

Since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen between preparing meals and cleanup, I am always looking for further ways of increasing my productivity in this environment. Here are some of my favorite recommendations:

1. Multiply your meals – cook for a small army.

I always like to double if not triple my dinner meals because it gives plenty extra to spread out over other meals – leftovers are a huge time saver and makes the most of my limited time and energy. I double casseroles and freeze the second for another easy dinner when I am weary, or double soup and freeze the extras, while always reserving enough to cover lunch the next day. When you have all the ingredients lined up…why not cook for tonight and then another?

You might be surprised by what is freezable: not just stews and soups but pre-baked potatoes (stuffed or not), quiche, bread and cakes, sauces of many kinds, pesto, hummus and much more. If you’re not sure, try freezing a small quantity and test later to see how it worked out.

2. Get all your supplies together before you start.

Another favorite tip from the kitchen is to gather all your ingredients together before you begin the recipe. This helps me make sure I have everything on hand before I get out a mess, and it also speeds up the process by having all items within arms reach. Looking for this or that halfway through a recipe is no fun.

3. Clean as you go.

When you are done with that spice or dairy product, simply put it back where it belongs. It cuts down on the final dish duty but also spreads it out to make it more manageable and enjoyable. Who wants a pigsty when you are finally finished preparing a meal?

4. Keep a simple kitchen.

I keep only the essential spices on hand for my cooking so I’m not searching high and low for a spice in a huge collection. Many spices can be substituted for others (read more here), but if you keep to simple down home cooking, you don’t need that many any way. The basics include: parsley, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, basil, seasoning salt, chili powder, cumin, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, etc. I also keep one simple drawer of all my basic tools – measuring cups, measuring spoons, rolling pin, grater, can opener, wooden spoons, and garlic press. No random gadgets here to dig through when cooking time comes.

If you find yourself swamped in to many gadgets, ask yourself: Have I used this tool/gadget in the past 6 months to a year?

5. Invest in some equipment.

Having a few reliable quality kitchen appliances can save you time and energy. One reason I love my Blendtec is because of it’s auto turn off feature, enabling me to start on another task while it is going. Having a trustworthy blender and mixer have been truly a blessing to my kitchen. For my larger appliance recommendations, read here.

6. Prepare staples in batches.

Buy cheese in 5 pound blocks and grate it all at once and store in freezer ziplocs. Prepare a large crockpot of beans or lentils and freeze extras. Freeze homemade stock/broth in ice cube trays. Whip up larger batches of your favorite seasoning mixes. Consider setting up a monthly baking day for your bread making or other goodies.

7. Keep only every day use tools on the counter top.

If you are not using it every day, it doesn’t deserve a place on your counter-top. Keep your counter tops clutter free and you will find it takes less time to clean up and your kitchen will look more organized.

8. Keep simple storage tools.

I love storing leftovers in basic quart and pint size glass canning jars with these great little plastic lids. A great way to reuse what I have plus safe and economical. And they all are the same size so they are easy to store in the fridge or cupboard.

9. Organize according to area of use.

Store your items of similar use close together so you don’t have to go here and there around your kitchen when preparing your favorite apple pie. Pots and pans by the stove. Set up a baking center with all your spices, baked goods, measuring cups, spoons, and mixing bowls all in one spot. Plates and silverware should be kept close to the dishwasher for easy transfer.

10. Keep a running shopping list on the fridge.

Keep a running shopping list on your fridge with a pen right by it so that you can add things as soon as you realize you’re running low. This helps as a simple reminder not to forget it at the store and you’ll have the next package before your completely finish the last one.

11. Adopt a menu plan routine.

Whether it be monthly or weekly, adopt a menu plan routine. It will save you time and money.

12. Keep your knives sharp!

This is one I need to take care of now! Keeping my knives sharp will certainly speed up my meal preparations. Who wants to labor over a dull inefficient knife? I’ve heard they are more dangerous as well. No wonder I cut myself last week…although maybe trying to cut a frozen piece of meat wasn’t such a good idea?

Random efficiency tips:

- Hard boil your eggs - bring it to a boil and then turn off for 15 minutes. Cuts down on your electricity or gas consumption and is just as effective as letting the flame run!

- Flaxseed binder – Running out of eggs? This is a frequent occurrence at our house especially when I get randomly inspired to do a baking spree. This little trick has saved me time and time again!

Have any favorite productivity tips to share for the kitchen?

Comments { 22 }

MISSIONS in our KITCHENS

Written by monthly contributing writer, Ann Dunagan.

How can you glorify God in your kitchen?

Proclaim Your Purpose on the Fridge!

The refrigerator is a perfect place for us as moms to declare our FAMILY MISSION. We can post our prayer needs and praise reports, pictures of loved ones, recent missionary newsletters, and Bible verses to meditate on. Our fridge gives a glimpse of who we are, both to our family and to others!

Here's a glimpse of our mission-minded refrigerator!

. . . and a few Bible verses I've been thinking about!

See Your Kitchen as an Embassy Center for Kingdom-Advancement

I’m in our kitchen a lot; but it’s much more than a place to cook food. Our kitchen is our Grand-Central Station for coordinating and leading our family’s kingdom-advancing purposes.

Our homes are like God’s heavenly embassy in a foreign land; the kitchen is the command center and the HUB of our home. I think of all the LIFE that happens in our kitchen! Morning discussions with kids. Weekly home groups with church friends. Times of self-discipline (saying “NO” to a cookie or praying for more grace). And yes, lots of cooking, eating, and cleaning.

Disciple Yourself, Your Kids, & Others . . . in Your Kitchen!

Our kitchen is probably my biggest place for discipleship — of my kids, of myself, and of others.

I think about all the homeschooling-drills, dream-times with teens, world-issue discussions, or down-time with cup of coffee as I’m planning for an effective day.

My kitchen counter is where I frequently lay my writing projects and ministry work (to think about for a while, scribbling notes in-between stirring soup or taking bread out of the oven). Right now, it’s covered with papers — speaking notes for an upcoming family camp, copies of a possible new project for overseeing village churches, plus a random assortment of homeschooling books, Bibles, and missionary biographies.  The other day, my daughter and I were right there sharing Jesus with two sweet neighbor girls (while eating cookies and playing with a puppy).

We’ve also have great kitchen times mentoring for missions. Sometimes this is done in the midst of a fun potluck or party. Other times, our “discipleship-moments” are more intentional. Recently, we had two families join us for dinner and a delightful evening. In the midst of our food and fellowship, we shared stories of how we stepped out into ministry, started our orphanages, and learned to trust God for His provision. One of these families are now totally switching-gears. This month, the husband and wife are heading on a short-term mission to Tanzania, as they’re preparing to MOVE their family to Africa, long-term, to work with orphan children and to minister the Gospel. A few months ago, we were just dreaming about these possibilities; today, their family’s first missionary newsletter is displayed on our fridge!!! WOOHOO!!! That’s what I’m talking about!!!

Our kitchen is a reflection of who we are. It’s the center of where we live and enjoy LIFE. Our kitchen is a hub of our home and where we live-out our family’s MISSION for God. As the Bible says in Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house [and my "kitchen'], we will serve the Lord.”

Our kitchen decorations can also convey our passions and family mission. I specifically picked a fruit theme for our kitchen, as I was praying for a life of increased "fruitfulness" for God's Kingdom.

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Cooking: An Instrument of Comfort


Photo Credit

Welcoming our new monthly contributing writer, Emily Pastor.

“You probably need to eat something,” the baker said. “I hope you’ll eat some of my hot rolls. You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this,” he said.

~“A Small Good Thing,” by Raymond Carver

We are surrounded by hurting and weary people. Some are in our families, some are friends, some are strangers. We all face times when exhaustion and loss characterize our own seasons in life. During those times, it’s hard to overemphasize the important role that food plays in providing comfort and healing.

When I walk into my kitchen, I often consider the importance my cooking plays in physical health, but easily forget about it’s role in the emotional health and security of my family. As a health-conscious mama it’s easy to fixate on preparing frugal and healthy meals for family and forget about the comforting aspect of food. I can get so caught up in finding the healthiest ingredients, serving faultlessly rounded meals, and making sure we all get enough good fats that I forget about the hearts and souls finding refuge in these meals. Cooking can be an instrument of comfort through familiarity, routine, and provision.

Comfort of Routine

Routines revolving around meals provide security and comfort. Have you ever noticed that most families have dinner seating arrangements that never change? Whenever we go over to my parents house for dinner, my grown siblings and I still sit in the same spots. We each have a place and the comfort of knowing we belong.

Last year I took a trip to visit my sister-in-law and niece while my brother was deployed. My sister-in-law’s meal routines really impacted me. For each meal, she set the table, put out cloth napkins, prayed before the meal, and enjoyed the menu of the day. These simple routine acts surrounding meals provided a comforting and enjoyable routine three times a day.

While routines establish security and comfort, they also provide a safe stage for creativity and change. The routine of setting the table is a fun routine that can change with the seasons, the holidays, or with whatever inspires your creativity. Asking table questions provides a routine that opens up constantly different, meaningful, or fun conversations each night. Prayer centers the focus of the meal and provides an outlet for constant changing praises and requests.

Comfort of Familiarity

When I think of comfort food, random meals come to mind: bean burritos, chicken pad thai, deli sandwiches, cheap chinese food. Even though each of those meals differ greatly, they all share a thread in bringing back memories of familiar and happy times. Bean burritos remind me of leisurely lunches growing up at home. Pad Thai reminds me of the early days of marriage when my husband worked at a Thai restaurant. Deli sandwiches remind me of summer. Cheap chinese food was my family’s favorite meal to eat out growing up. Some of these meals are more “healthy” than the others, but the comfort is in the feelings and memories they bring back. Everyone’s comfort foods are different and they hold memories in the smells, tastes, and textures of those foods.

While I don’t want to downplay the importance of healthy food, I’ve realized that sometimes an “un-healthy” meal can be more “nourishing” than a Sally Fallon endorsed entree. Sometimes a bowl of macaroni and cheese feels more nourishing than a bowl of steamed vegetables. Sometimes cinnamon rolls bring more peace than soaked whole wheat bagels. While not all comfort food is “un-healthy,” my point is that we should take into account our friends and family’s comfort foods and cook in such a way that reflects our love for them and their tastes. Serving familiar foods to loved ones is a tangible way we can say, “I know you; your tastes are important to me.”

Comfort of Provision

When I’m having a hard day, I love being invited over for dinner. I really don’t care if that means driving 40 minutes away…if you invite us, we’re on our way! There is comfort in someone meeting your most basic needs. For me the comfort of that meal means more than just enjoying food with friends and family. I feel the comfort all through the day as it gives me time for a nap instead of meal prep, more time to sit and chat after dinner instead of dishes, and a little more breathing room in my food budget. Providing meals for others is a practical way we can help meet not only the physical needs of others, but social, emotional, and financial needs as well.

What foods do you and your family find comforting?

What are your family’s established mealtime routines?

Who in my life is in need of some comfort that a meal could help provide?

Whether it’s in a warm cinnamon roll or a steaming bowl of soup, my hope is that we realize the healing power of our cooking when we use it as an instrument of comfort.

In my opinion, that’s no small thing!

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Living in the Moment: A Real Life View

I am here today to take you on a little photo tour of our home in everyday real life. I am here as a simple wife, mother, and homemaker striving to live and treasure each and every moment. I am learning to grasp and seek out the treasured gifts in each day as they fly by my oft absent eye. I long for eyes to see.

And as I open my lens each picture captured is another gift bestowed to me. As I begin this scavenger hunt, my heart leaps within me to discover the joy around me. True joy results from looking beyond the mundane to see the beautiful.

“Wherever you are, be all there. It is only possible in the posture of eucharisteo (thanksgiving). Give thanks and see God. Full attention slows the current. Simplicity is a matter of focus. That keeps the focus simple.” – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

“The joy of God is the human being fully alive. And the life of the human consists in beholding God.” - Arasmus

Where do I behold God? How can I enter into His very presence in each moment? By seeing Him radiated in everything around me.

“It is up to each of us to set the example, to show by our actions our respect for intimacy, contemplation, and wonder. This is perhaps the greatest legacy we can bestow on our children: the capacity to be enchanted by the quiet gifts of everyday life.” – Katrina Kennison, Mitten Strings for God

And thus my gift list continues….

#357 – Little girl dressing up like a bride

#358 – The sweet helpfulness of 2 year old hands

#359 – Spring sun peeping through the clouds

#360 – Titus singing so beautifully on pitch without words

#361 – Blowing kisses to daddy

#362 – Titus making sure Daddy doesn’t forget to kiss Mommy goodbye

#363 – Little musicians strumming and banging to make music

#364 – For the daily workout of two stories of stairs

#365 – For a pile of dishes in the sink showing our bellies are full

#379 – Sketches across stone walkway

#380 – First blossoms of spring on the trees

“When I stop speeding through life, I find the joy in each days doings, in the life that cannot be bought, but only discovered, created, savored, and lived.” – Katrina Kennison

And thus the journey of savoring every moment continues…cultivating thankfulness, the key to the fullest life.

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