2 1/2 minute Cream of Wheat, 3 Hour Pancakes and a Happy Mom

I’m not sure if overfriendly, talkative grocery employees are just part of being in the South or the fact that I usually buy a boatload of food, but the cashier or the bag boy/girl usually strike up a conversation about the food I am buying.  Have you ever had that happen?  Store employees commenting on your food choices?  It happens to me all the time?? 

Recently, the nice cashier lady was scanning my groceries, the bag boy was picking up the food items and commenting….  He gets to the box of cream of wheat that I bought and said, “Ohh, Wow, Cream of Wheat.  I love this stuff!  The checkout lady says… “Yeah, me too.  The only problem is that it takes way to long to cook.  I don’t ever have that much time.” 

My daughter thows me a “Is she serious?” look.  The ironic thing was that I was buying the cream of wheat as a “quickie” breakfast.  After all, the box does say it takes 2 and a half minutes!  Maybe I don’t know how fast breakfast can really be?  Maybe I torture myself unnecessarily with hours and hours of cooking?

The cream of wheat conversation lasted few minutes as we delved into how we like our cream of wheat:  sugar and butter, maple syrup and strawberries… peaches and cream  …etc… etc. 

We left the store with our groceries and commented how funny it was that we considered Cream of Wheat a fast convenience food when others considered it time consuming.   Anything is quicker and more convenient than our 3 hour breakfast last week when I decided to make a new pancake recipe which I had to quadruple!  Those were good pancakes…but the time and cleanup were the price I paid for such delicious food!  My tip was the rave reviews from the 8 bellies who appreciated all the time and effort to prepare such a yummy breakfast. 

Cooking is time consuming.  I often have to correct my incorrect thinking when I’m tempted to think I’m  “wasting my time” cooking, cleaning and serving.  It’s a never ending, messing job around here but it’s vital to the health and well-being of my home.  

Whether it be making 2 and a half minute Cream of Wheat or 3 hour pancakes, I’m constantly putting myself back on the path of striving to be a happy mom whose heart takes great delight in the time consuming work of homemaking. 

Happy Homemaking Today!

December Means Soup

There are parts of every season that I love and parts that I dislike greatly.  I’m working on my New Year’s resolution of controlling my outlook and perspective on life to seeing things as being half full instead of half empty.  So, I will refrain from ranting about all the things I hate about the cold, bare winter. 

Winter has unique beauty and wonder.  When it’s cold outside, I absolutely love the warm fire blazing away and a homemade pot of warming soup simmering on the stove.  For our family, soup instantly becomes my friend.  I can start a large pot of vegetable soup, stew, chicken soup or chili in the morning and not only does it smell up the house with the fragrant aromas of “someone is taking care of this home and the hungry bellies who live here…” but it spurs me on to be more creative in other areas of my life.  A simple pot of soup frees me up and inspires me. 

So maybe I have a bit of winter cabin fever already…after all, I’m writing a ode’ to soup.  However, today, while the cold wind is blowing outside, inside my house there is a fire blazing and a simple pot of soup simmering on the stove.  I should fill my iron skillet with cornbread and really enjoy my soup for lunch. 

Get Soup Inspired:  link to some soup ideas and recipes from Martha Stewart

Monday Morning House Cleaning Expectations

It’s Monday and I had grand plans for getting my house in order on Monday morning to start the week off right.  Pregnancy does strange things and in my case, it makes me completely intolerant of chaos.  I guess it is that nesting instinct going into hyper-drive.  However, all my good intentions of getting the house in order are still sitting on paper as great ideas and haven’t jumped off the page into reality. 

Reality is that our air conditioning  just went out and it’s incredibly, unseasonably hot and humid.  Reality messed up my grand intentions for making bulk spaghetti sauce today and catching up on laundry because now I’m not turning on anything that generates heat.  Reality is that I am 8 months pregnant.  Reality is that I’m also trying to potty train a 2 year old boy.  Instead, we are doing a general pickup, waiting on the AC people and getting ready to take a trip into town.

Most likely, my Monday morning house cleaning won’t get done today and I’m trying to be ok with that.  As a large family homemaker, I still have to force myself to be happy with flexibility, expect alterations to the plan and know that my reality doesn’t always match up to my expectations. 

Maybe tomorrow….or next week…

Meal Planning and Cooking When It’s Hot Outside

I don’t know about you, but we’ve been experiencing hotter than normal summer temperatures lately!  Hot weather takes the wind out of my sail in the cooking department. 

We’ve been eating lots of sandwiches and sliced cucumbers and apples for lunch lately!  I hate to turn on the oven or stove when it is so hot outside!  Last week, I took the opportunity to used the grill one evening and grilling some wonderful  T-Bone steaks and grilled veggies. 

Here are some other lunch ideas and lunch additions to cool you off when it’s hot outside:

  • Sandwiches are simple, easy and quick to make.  If you can pair sliced apple, cut up watermelon or cantaloupe, sliced cucumbers, grapes or other fruit with it, it makes a nice, quick meal without heating up the kitchen. 
  • Make fruit salad!  Easy and quick solution without heating up the oven or stove. 
  • Create a salad!  Get creative with your salads.  Use avocado, black beans, chopped onion, sour cream and salsa to make a Mexican salad.  You can also use fruit like sliced apple, pineapple chunks and and sliced strawberries for adding to different salads.  Pine nuts, walnuts or sliced almonds also make nice salad additions. 
  • Create a salad and then wrap it!  We love to make sandwich wraps too out of tortillas and pita type flat breads. 
  • Grill up additional chicken or steak the night before for supper and use it the next day in your salad wraps. 
  • Keep a batch of egg salad, tuna salad or chicken salad on hand in the refrigerator for making quick sandwiches. 
  • Make homemade popsicles with real fruit juice. 
  • Chop up ice in the blender and add to your favorite drink. 
  • Create Smoothie drinks with real fruit and ice
  • My kids love freezing their juice or water bottles.  When freezing water bottles or juice bottles, I always leave a little room at the top for the ice to expand. 
  • There is always Sonic Happy Hour from 2 to 4 pm everyday for cheap cold drinks and slushies ;-)  (not that it is by any means a healthier alternative..haha!)

Tips for keeping the house cool on hot summer days: 

  • Keep the house cooler during the day by not turning on the oven or crock-pots during hot summer days.  Do your oven baking and cooking during the evening hours.  Look for summer recipes you can create! 
  • Keep the house cooler by double cooking in the evening so you can have leftovers in the hot daytime hours.  You don’t even have to heat up the grilled chicken for your grilled chicken salad at lunch the next day. 
  • Save your soup, chili and all-day cooking roasts for a cooler day! 
  • Keep the house cooler by not running your dryer on very hot days.  Try hanging out your clothes.  Use the dryer at night time. 
  • Keep your window shades and curtains shut during the hottest part of the day or at least on the hot side of the house. 
  • Don’t turn on all the lights in the house. 
  • Keep your air conditioner running energy efficient by making sure you are changing your air filters regularly. 
  • Don’t let your kids go in and out of the house a zillion times.  Keep the bought air in!

Spring Cleaning with Smaller Tasks and Simple Meals

I love spring time.  I’ve been coming out of my morning sickness coma and getting back into the swing of things.  My house is still a wreck and while I am wanting everything immediately organized, I have to keep telling myself to focus on smaller tasks and don’t get overwhelmed by looking at the disaster! 

I can’t do everything at one time as much as I would like so I have to compartmentalize and focus on smaller tasks….and when something small is completed….rejoice in the little things! 

Over the weekend, I worked on a meal plan for the week to make the week run a bit smoother.  Yesterday, I spent a lot of time going over our simplified weekly school schedule and simplified syllabus.   Today, they are outdoors on their own backyard field trip searching for and collecting geodes!  So far…so good!  Today, I’m working on getting laundry caught up from the weekend.   The rest of the week is full with farm and garden work and housework. 

Because I am focusing on a variety of tasks this week, I super simplified my meal plan this week.  We usually cook a big breakfast, but this week, I simplified it to cheerio type cereals and fruit.  I also bought sandwich fixings to make lunch less invasive into our day.  For supper time, I’m using meals that do not require “man hours” to make.  For example:

Monday Supper:  Whole chicken, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli.  Because I wanted to focus on a few projects and not have to be bothered with stopping to cook an elaborate supper, I prepared a large pan with a whole chicken surrounded by potatoes and stuck it in the oven to bake at around 3 pm.  It was super easy to throw together and it cooked while I finished schooling and putting winter clothes away.  Right before we sat down to eat, I steamed a pot of broccoli to go along with it. 

The rest of the week includes crock pot supper meals and all-in-one oven meals.  I’m learning to spring clean and organize by not becoming overwhelmed with the large insurmountable picture of disorder and chaos and altering my focus to look at smaller tasks instead!  For me…that’s hard to do!

Pantry Stocking Tips for Homemakers

Here’s a few pantry stocking tips for homemakers.  The grocery and household bill for a family doesn’t have to be huge and out of control and trying to build a pantry full of these supplies doesn’t have to be difficult. I think that any mom can benefit from learning some shopping tips as well as stocking their home with supplies and food to serve their size family adequately.

The frustration levels and stress that a mom deals with when the pantry is bare, the kids are hungry and the husband is about to walk in the door from a long day at work is draining.  Having that area of our life prepared and taken care of lifts a huge burden.

I have started building my pantry and we have been reaping the incredible benefits of returning to the idea of “grandmother’s pantry”.  I have cleaned up some shelves that now house laundry detergent, stain cleaner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, shaving cream, shampoo, diapers and other household and personal supplies.  The kitchen pantry is also being built with the same purpose: buy multiple quantities on sale with the goal of limiting immediate need buying.

I was reading an article about building your pantry that mentioned the old time custom of Grandmother’s Pantry. It said:

Your grandmother surely had one; your mother probably did, too. But as a contemporary cook in a contemporary home, you may not have one at all. A pantry—that is, a “room or closet, usually near a kitchen, in which food, silverware, dishes, etc. are kept,” as Webster’s puts it.

That’s a shame. Keeping a pantry is an honorable custom. Your grandmother’s pantry was likely filled with jars of fruits and vegetables, maybe even some she put up herself……

Pantry building is a foreign concept in today’s society. We are very dependent on the stores being open and readily available when ever we have a need.  Most families are extremely dependant on a weekly basis.  In times past, this shopping style was not common practice.

As I started to build my pantry, the first thing I realized was how incredibly vulnerable I was.  Say a huge snow storm shut the town down for a couple of days or something happened on a national level that sent food prices through the ceiling or caused a run on the grocery stores, we wouldn’t eat!  I ran a instant consume pantry.

Over the last few years, I have put much time and effort into building my pantry.  I’m striving to have my basics: pasta, rice, beans, canned tuna and chicken, oats, grain.   I am adding other items and rotating my supplies as to not buy and let sit.

For example, I have been buying juice on sale over the last couple of months. I bought 6 jugs of Motts Natural Apple Juice several weeks ago. Recently, I bought 12 more on sale for about .57 cents each. I will put my new jugs in the back and move the rest of the jugs forward. The key is to rotate your supplies.  A permanat sharpie pen works great for marking the date on your food items.  Some times I mark the date to know how long ago I bought it or just simply to know how long it takes us to go through that item.

Another example: I bought 20 cans of organic diced tomatoes last week. The sale was .77 cents buy one, get one free.  I had ten .40 cent coupons that were doubled, allowing me to “buy” those 20 cans for free.  Another one of my pantry building deals was using a $10 rebate on Delmonte canned fruit and veggies, combining that with coupons and sales to not only benefit my pantry, but saved a lot of money as well. This month I also bought  grain from a natural food co-op and figured out that 50 pounds isn’t going to go as far as I thought it would. I will need to adjust for this miscalculation and buy more next ordering time.

To begin Pantry Building:

Spend some time planning out what sort of pantry build you want to implement. A month? Three months? Six months?

What types of basic items do you consume and how much of it will you need? List out some basics: beans, rice, pasta, grain, flour, oats, salt, sugar, oil etc.

What types of flavor builders can you use with these foundations? canned tomatoes, canned veggies, cream soups, variety of spices, oils and vinegars, canned milk.

What types of refrigerator and freezer items do you use and need to have a stock of? butter, meat, frozen veggies, frozen fruit, condiments.

What types of household supplies will you need?

After you have developed a pantry list, you may have to take some time to pay attention to the amount used during a typical month. I have recorded several usage statistics on different items in our home. For example, I know about how long one tube of toothpaste lasts or how long it takes to use up a roll of toilet paper, a pack of diapers, a box of 4 sticks of butter, a bottle of laundry detergent etc.  I use a sharpie pen and mark the date on the bottle or package or make a note of the date and from that am able to figure out how long it took to use it up.  I then multiply that by how long I want to store it for and determine about how many of each I item I need.

I stock up on items when they are at their lowest price and try to stock the amount I need for the length of time I have determined, although many times it takes several weeks or months to do this. The first step is making a list.

Eventually, I want to implement several freezer building days into my work week. I have experimented with making and freezing bread dough and cookie dough with excellent results. I know it is probably my overworked mind, but I literally dream of a freezer with neatly stacked and labeled bags of homemade pizza dough, bread dough, and varieties of cookie dough.

Pantry building is one of the wonderful managerial opportunities we have as homemakers to provide for our family.  Happy Pantry Stocking!

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