Gifts For Kids (Ages 0-18) That Will Meet Their Developmental Needs

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

 

Christmas is right around the corner! It’s time to start shopping!

There are lots of things parents could get for each child on their list… but lots of toys are just noisy or obnoxious, without really contributing anything positive to the child’s life.

This holiday season, give a lasting gift to your child (and a bonus reward for yourself!) by teaching the child something useful through your gift. Understanding the child’s developmental needs will help you choose a thoughtful and educational gift. 

 

For your shopping convenience, CLICK ON ANY OF THE IMAGES BELOW for a quick link to Amazon! 

 

Babies (0-18 months)

Babies have two main developmental goals: 1) learn how to use their bodies (fingers, hands, sitting up, crawling, walking, eating, etc.) and 2) build a relationship with loving adults around them.

Click on any of the images below for some great gifts that tailor to those needs:

  • Sensory Objects

  • Activity Cube

  • Walkers

  • Shape Sorters/Stackers


  • Soft Blocks

  • Plush Books


Toddlers (18 months-3 years)

Toddlers have mastered a few skills during their baby stage- such as walking, some talking, eating, etc.). Now that they are more capable, the big struggle for a toddler is to find ways to use these skills independently…. But this usually gets them into some trouble. Toddlers are exploring the world around them, learning their own limits, and learning their parents’ rules.

One important way that a toddler gains independence is through toilet training.

Learning to communicate through speech helps toddlers accomplish these developmental goals.

  • Buckles, Snaps, Dressing


  • Blocks


  • Nuts and Bolts (Builds fine motor skills)

  • Thick Cardboard Toddler Books



  • Potty Seat



  • Puppets


Early Childhood (4-6 years)

Children in early childhood are beginning their school years- bringing new challenges such as learning to sit still, wait their turn, stand in lines, listen and attend to the teacher, play cooperatively with friends… Not to mention academic demands like learning the ABC’s and reading.

Having mastered basic communication skills, they are able comprehend basic logic, such as cause and effect. Children at this age often struggle to comprehend abstract concepts.

Play really expands during early childhood as children’s imagination allows them to pretend with their friends.

  • Dress Up/Pretend Play


  • Color Coordinated Tea Set (Matching Skills)

  • ABC Fun



  • Beginning to Read Books


  • Coloring Set (Promote artistic expression)
  • Musical Instruments

Middle Childhood (7-10 years)

Children in middle childhood are beginning to understand abstract concepts. They are ready for more advanced learning- in school (such as in math) and outside of school (such as in learning to use money).

They have excelled in their communication enough to grasp irony and humor.

With more understanding of why’s and how’s, these children are ready for advanced teaching about moral character. They can start deciding for themselves who and what they want to be. They can plan for the future and start setting goals independently.

These children have more awareness of their surroundings, so they start to catch on to social norms and expectations. Children start to take on roles at home and at school that define themselves. They are ready for a little more responsibility.

  • Comics or Joke Books


  • Geometric Blocks

  • Chapter Books


  • Pets or Pretend Pets


  • Money Management Tools


  • New Skills (Playing an instrument, sewing, cooking, etc.)



Late Childhood (11-12 years)

In late childhood, children are in a transitional phase. They are beginning to outgrow younger children and prefer to interact with older youth. They are looking for ways make themselves more accepted by teenagers.

This is a time of parental teaching and warning. These children usually haven’t hit the rebellion that often comes with adolescence, so they are still willing to listen to their parents. It is an important time for talking about peer pressure, sex, drugs, alcohol, bullying, how to use technology responsibly, porn, and other major topics that will arise during adolescence.

  • LIFE Board Game

  • Lessons or Materials to Play an Instrument, Dance, Play a Sport, etc.



  • Dream Boards
  • Family Friendly Games




Adolescence (13-18 years)

Adolescence is surprisingly similar to the toddler stage. The main challenge for adolescents is to find independence, while still operating within their parents’ rules. Adolescents push boundaries, trying to find the limits.

They are almost adults- and need to be prepared for every situation that they will encounter when they hit adulthood. They need to be prepared for: cooking their own meals, managing their own money, keeping track of time, working a job, cleaning their own home, balancing work/school and play, having positive friendships, having positive romantic relationships, organization, being a responsible citizen, and graduating college.

Adolescents are also finding their own unique hobbies, interests, life skills, and exploring possible future careers.

Teens are strongly influenced by their peers, so any gift that will make the adolescent feel “cool” will help your child in their social skills.

  • Cash (Encourage them to save some of it!)
  • Appropriate Clothing/Shoes/Jewelry/Accessories



    • Money Management Tools


    • Time Management Tools


    • Things for their Future Apartment/Dorm




    • Tickets to the Movies, Gift Cards for Restaurants (For hanging out with friends)




  • The Gift of Making Your Home “Teen Friendly”

Making your home “teen friendly” depends on your child’s interests and the interests of his friends. Adding perks to your house that appeal to them will encourage your teen and their friends to want to hang out at your house. This is awesome because you can get to know your child’s peers- and keep an eye on things to make sure they are being safe and responsible.



  • Vacations/Family Time Rather than a Physical Gift

I’ve known families who go on a cruise, rent snowmobiles, or go for a hot air balloon ride with their teens instead of buying gifts for Christmas! This builds your family togetherness, and is a ton of fun!

Enjoy your new gift-giving confidence, knowing that your gift will be loved and useful.

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

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Optimal Health Before a New Baby

Photo by Angelos Michalopoulos on Unsplash

Every mom goes through a unique phase before she gets pregnant. It’s a time of preparation… Time to start thinking about what kind of health I should be in before my pregnancy.

This is always a tough time for me. I typically make much better choices eating and exercising when I am pregnant or nursing than I do normally. I’ve got to reign in all the emotions that come with eating, not just the eating itself. It’s an entire lifestyle change, a whole new mindset. More than just eating your veggies. 

I just like tasty food. And I’m not a dieter. And I hate exercising.

But I also don’t want to be unhealthy or overweight, especially when there’s another little human who depends on me.

If only chips and cookies were nutritious… But they’re not.

So, I go through this terrible process before every pregnancy where I try to prepare my body for building another person- and that means being in good physical condition.

Nothing crazy, mind you.

Again, I am no dieter and I hate to exercise. All I’m aiming for here is being healthy in general.

No counting calories, or cutting out carbs altogether, or cayenne detoxing.

So how do I get prepare my body for having a child- without going crazy?

  • Healthier Choices

Ok, we all know about this. We know that refined sugars and carbs are bad. We know that veggies are good. We know that we should have a balanced diet with lots of colors.

So the first (Unavoidable!) step is to make a few healthier choices.

When I’m thinking about getting pregnant, I try to change my diet a few months in advance. Here’s some of the changes I make:

  • Take a prenatal vitamin. Ok, so I usually do this all the time, but it is especially vital now! (Click the image below!)

  • Buy whole wheat everything. Tortillas, bread, buns, you name it. I can’t seem to function without carbs, so I at least try to make them a little better for me by choosing whole wheat.
  • Increase fresh veggies. I eat at least one veggie with each meal. No exceptions. Buy a variety of colors. This ensures that I’m getting a balance of nutrients from my food.
  • Drink water. Pregnancy requires a ton of water, even more than normal. Before pregnancy, I start getting used to that by increasing my water intake. There are great resources out there, like water bottles that help you track your water intake (Click image below!)

This also means giving up other drinks- especially those with high sugars (like soda) or high caffeine (like coffee and energy drinks- read here for more information on how to keep your energy up without the caffeine!). And we all know that pregnancy means limiting or cutting out alcohol, so this is a good time to get started.

  • Just stop buying unhealthy snacks that I can’t resist. Chips, chocolate, ice cream, and cookie dough are a few of my weaknesses. I can’t have them in my house if I am going to make a change to being healthy. So I just don’t let them in the house.
  • Get through the cravings. It helps me to know that cravings for my favorite carbs and sugars should go away after a week or two of the new, healthier lifestyle. I just have to make it til then!

But that is only the first step!

  • Sweat and Stuff

Ok, seriously, who has time to exercise?

Nobody.

And who wants to exercise?

Nobody.

So how on earth does anyone ever get it done?

The only times in my life where I have been successful at keeping a consistent workout routine is if I am working out with a group. That way, they know if I am missing my workouts and they hold me accountable.

Effective. But I hate it.

My favorite way to get in some good physical activity is to play with my kids for 30 minutes to 1 hour every day.

I love this, especially right before another pregnancy, because I just want to soak up my little ones before I have a baby that needs most of my attention. I feel like it helps my kids cope with a new sibling because they get lots of mommy’s attention beforehand and it helps me feel connected with each child. And I get my workout in. And let me tell you, it’s an intense workout.

Win, win, win.

Click the image below for some great family fun!

  • Power of Fluids

Here’s a simple trick that I use to make sure I am drinking enough water and also monitoring my portions at meal times.

About 30 minutes before the meal (usually right as I am starting to cook dinner or lunch), I drink a BIG glass of water. Not your average 8 fluid ounce cup. A BIG cup of water.

That’s 3 glasses of water (one at breakfast, one at lunch, and one at dinner). Not the entire day’s worth of water, but a good start! Again, if you would like some extra help keeping track, try these water bottles that keep you updated on how much water you need! Click the image below.

The water fills up my belly so that I eat a more appropriate portion of food rather than helping myself to a heaping plate.

This trick alone is responsible for a significant amount of my pre-pregnancy weight loss.

  • Time Limits

Another pitfall of my everyday eating habits is that I allow myself to eat whenever I want.

That means if I want a snack, I can have one. If I want a midnight snack, I can have one. If I want all the hobbit meals- breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper- there’s no stopping me.

If I’m working on being more healthy, I cut out some of these extra meals by setting rules for myself.

And, I don’t just mean lines in the sand, but firm, for reals, no joke rules.

For example, I don’t eat past 6pm.

I don’t let myself snack between meals.

I make my mealtimes consistent every day, such as breakfast between 9-10am, lunch between 12-1pm, and dinner between 5-6pm.

And that’s the only 3 hours in the day when I am allowed to consume food of any kind.

I know, I know, it’s healthier to eat small snacks often rather than big meals. If I had enough self-control to do that, I would. But when I try to eat 6 small snacks in a day, I just end up with 6 big meals.

In that case, it is more healthy to limit myself to meals rather than trying to snack.

Please note that this is one habit that I give up after pregnancy. I find that snacks are a helpful way to keep morning sickness away, and you need more calories during pregnancy anyways.

  • Feeling Zen

Emotions about food are difficult.

It is a tough topic for a lot of people. Media portrays a perfect body type that many people aspire to obtain. This brings up feelings of self-doubt, self-esteem, being in control, feeling accepted by others, health and wellness, confidence, and mortality to name a few.

(Click below for a great resource on emotional eating!)

Lots of big emotions are tied to food.

Success at changing a lifestyle takes more than just grudgingly following steps that you don’t want to do.

That’s where I went wrong for a long time.

As I have said many times, I’m no dieter. I’m no exerciser. I’m no good at counting calories.

These few tricks I have identified are the prefect mix (for me) of small and simple changes that I can handle. They are things that work for me, but they don’t send me into big emotions of frustration, regret for foods I have eaten, wishing for foods I can’t have, or self-punishment when I mess up.

At the same time, I find new ways to reward myself, to rejuvenate myself instead of eating (many ideas are mentioned in this blog post). 

I can feel happy about my food choices without putting myself under intense stress for giving up a major part of my life.

In doing so, I control my feelings and my food.

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

 

Share this post with any parent who needs to feel Zen about their food!

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A Rockstar a Day Keeps the Children At Bay…. When You Gotta Have More Energy to Keep Up

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

 

As parents, we are always out of energy.

(Clink the image below if you need a Rockstar right about now!)

Between waking up during the night for our kids and catering to their needs all day long, not to mention the day to day grind of normal life (working a job, meals, laundry, dishes…..) there just isn’t enough energy to go around!

And with all that, it seems like the kids have energy to spare! So not only are we juggling everything, but we have to do it at a run just to keep up with the kids.

It’s exhausting.

And it’s never ending.

No weekends off, no holidays off, no 9-5 shifts. So it’s vital that parents get some much-needed energy boosts here and there.

These are my top hacks to keeping up with the kids when you’re out of energy.

(Please note- depression or anxiety disorders may need professional help of a doctor and/or counselor.  These steps should not take the place of professional help.)

  • Energy-Boosting Foods

What if I told you that you could boost your energy… and at the same time be cutting a few of those extra pounds??

That’s right. Who knew?

There are lots of foods that naturally contain the perfect ingredients to cure your mid-day lull. Look for things like fiber, protein (increases concentration and focus), and complex carbs.

Watch out for the short-lived high that comes with a spike in your blood sugar from things like starches and sugars (especially refined sugars) or caffeine. Yes, they give you a quick boost in energy but this is followed by an energy crash that will leave you struggling to continue your everyday tasks. And then the natural tendency is to seek out that high of the sugar rush again! It’s a vicious cycle.

On the other hand, the following foods provide longer and more stable increases in energy.

  • Yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Whole Grains
  • Eggs
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Salmon or Tuna
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Spinach or basically any dark leafy greens
  • Quinoa
  • Chia Seeds
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin Seeds (Click the image below)

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Asparagus
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Hummus (Click the image below)

  • Beets
  • Grapes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pistachios (Click the image below)

  • Sesame Seeds
  • Ginger

Besides all these great foods that help you feel awake and energized, there are great foods that help supplement your sleep. These foods contain ingredients like lactucarium, tryptophan, omega-3’s, melatonin, and serotonin, which can help you sleep more deeply and restfully- thus helping you feel more rested the following day!

Try snacking on one of these great foods just before bed to improve your sleep:

  • Halibut
  • Cherries
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Small amounts of Cheese
  • Lettuce
  • Chickpeas
  • Honey
  • Elk Meat (Click the image below)

  • Turkey

You can also save energy preparing meals using customizable freezer meals. 

  • Don’t Forget Hydration

Water is a very important factor in keeping your body energized.

Being dehydrated can cause you to feel sluggish and lethargic. People often mistake feeling thirsty as feeling hungry, which can increase unhealthy snacking.

As we mentioned earlier, if I chose to eat a snack that is high in refined sugars and carbs, I will have a spike in energy followed by a crash. Lack of water can trigger this cycle.

Drinking plenty of fluids will decrease feeling tired as well as decreasing unhealthy snacks.

Remember that not all fluids are created equal. Watch out to make sure you aren’t drinking unnecessary calories or sugars.

  • Get Your Sweat On

Exercise increases serotonin to your brain. This directly increases your energy level.

When I think of exercise, I immediately want to go crawl into bed instead. But exercise doesn’t have to be mundane.

Any activity that gets your blood pumping and your heart rate up will release endorphins.

My favorite way to get exercise in is to include my kids and neighbors by playing games. It feels great to spend some quality time with my family and also build a healthier lifestyle at the same time. That’s two things checked off the list!

Here’s some great activities to do with your kids that will also give you a great workout and get your energy up:

  • Tag
  • Freeze Tag
  • Trampoline (Click the image below)

  • Dancing
  • Anything at the park- swings, climbing, etc.
  • Any kind of sports- soccer, football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, tennis…..
  • Playing catch
  • Jump rope
  • Climbing trees
  • Piggyback rides
  • Foot races
  • Pretending to be an animal
  • Hopscotch
  • Playing Twister (Click image below)

  • Yoga
  • Riding Bikes
  • Roll down hills
  • Read for more options of Indoor Activities 
  • Turn on the Tunes

Sometimes, we have done everything we can think of and we are still just tired.

These are the moments when we need a little pick me up.

The first thing I do in these moments is turn on the radio or Pandora!

A little bouncy music can change the mood for the day. Instead of moving slow and lazy, it makes me dance! I can get so much more done with some nice background music playing.

And the kids love it! It’s a great way to cheer them up too- since kids seem to feed off of the adults’ moods. If we are tired and lethargic, it affects them. Sometimes, they mimic a lethargic adult and are also tired…. And other times, they do the opposite and have enough energy for both of you!

In any case, music will get them moving to use up some of that extra energy while giving you the boost you needed to keep going.

Plus, music just makes us happy. We need that.

  • Hey, Good Lookin….

When parents are feeling zapped, I always recommend putting on a cute outfit. Keeping your body image up is so important to life, but it’s also something that gets overlooked in the busy life of a parent.

So, if you’re so drained that you can’t keep moving, go change your clothes. Find something cute, pizzazz-y, spunky. Something that will put some pep in your step.

Give yourself a confidence boost and then go try again with whatever you needed to get done.

Don’t underestimate the power of your look.

Click the image below.

  • Making Moments Count

If I’ve done all this and I am still feeling lethargic, it might be time to sit down and take a break to consider my own mental well being for the day.

Some days just suck.

On those days, I try to see the silver lining.

Remember that the time you do have matters- even if it doesn’t seem like much. The time you have to sleep matters, so make the most of it. The time you have for “you time” matters, so make the most of it.

And the time you have as a parent matters. Yes, we are exhausted. A lot. But we are so lucky to have these wonderful kids in our lives. They bring so much fun and excitement. They keep life real. They make us carry on.

When things just suck, remember to make the moments count. Love your kids. Tell them and show them.

This will brighten your day and put the pep back in your step.

When you are too tired to do anything, just smile. (What about the days when you have nothing left to give? Read more here!)

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

Share with an exhausted parent!

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Creative Ways to Save Money

Photo by Madison Kaminski on Unsplash

 

Of course, we all know the basics of saving money.

  • Pay yourself by saving money every paycheck.
  • Less debt= fewer monthly payments.
  • Earn more by doing side jobs.
  • Stick to your budget. There’s an app for that- Click the image below!

  • Decide what things are needs and what things are wants.
  • Buy cheaper brands.
  • Watch the credit cards! Credit cards= more debt= more interest= more $$$.
  • Eat out less. Or at least order water. Maybe pack a lunch for work instead of eating out.
  • Use coupons or compare prices between grocery stores.
  • Spending money is not a band aid for your soul. Watch out for emotional shopping!
  • Find websites that offer better deals.
  • Buy in bulk.
  • DIY everything (Shaving cream, air fresheners, cleaners, laundry detergent, etc.)

But there are infinite creative ways to save money. Things that don’t just pop into your mind when you try to think of ways to cut out expenses.

And they really work!

Here are some of my favorite tips to saving money here and there… beyond the usual tricks.

  • Think Twice

As I shop, I make a hundred tiny decisions about which items to put in my cart and which items to leave on the shelf. Purchases often affect each other due to opportunity cost (If I get this, I won’t have enough money for something else). And yet, I often forget to double check the items that made it into my cart to make sure I really want them. If I review my cart before checking out, I often find that there are a few things that I put into the cart that I don’t want after all.

I have also found that things worth having are worth waiting for. When I make major purchases, you know things out of the ordinary that usually cost a lot of money, I wait 30 days before I buy. If I still want it at the end of the 30 days, the purchase is worth it. Often I lose interest in that item and save myself a lot of money!

  • Energy Efficiency

There are so many ways to be energy efficient, which saves you money and is great for the environment. Double whammy.

Try putting energy efficient seals under your doors! Click below.

Or try alternative forms of heating (Click the image below!)

Or use less energy by switching off your power outlets when you’re not using them. Click the image below!

  • Hanging Out

We all need to have a little time out with friends here and there. When you’re in a social group, there are many ways to save yourself a few bucks.

The hard thing about being in a social group is that there is often peer pressure to spend money, not to save it.

But that doesn’t mean you have to cave.

Who knows, maybe one of your friends is trying to save money too? Your being conscious of your money sets a great example for them and reduces peer pressure to spend because everyone else is.

If you are the voice, you will find that there are many people who were thinking the same thing. They were just afraid to say it until someone else said it first.

  • Peer Pressure

Nobody ever talks about how peer pressure can be a good thing.

Use peer pressure to your advantage to help you make and keep financial goals. Tell other people what you are working on so that they will encourage you. Knowing that other people will check up on you makes it easier to keep your goals.

If you have a friend who is good at saving money, talk to him or her about it. Get tips that you can try out. Learn from their example.

If you really want a challenge, tell your kids about your financial goals. They will really hold you to it. 

  • Declutter

Often, your old junk is worth money to other people.

Earn back a little cash by selling old items that you don’t want or don’t use anymore. There are great tools online to help you find buyers for your old things, such as Craigslist or local Facebook pages.

Or you can have an old-fashioned garage sale.

  • Avoid Entitlement

Entitlement is an expensive attitude.

It sounds like this, “I deserve… Blah blah blah.”

Nobody “deserves” anything other than basic human rights (speech, education, protection) and the bare necessities (safety, food, water, shelter). Those of us who have more than that are lucky and should be grateful for what we have rather than thinking of what we “deserve.”

That being said, it is important to find balance in work and play. A lot of people enjoy purchasing a special treat for themselves when they’ve worked hard.

But that doesn’t mean that they have to be entitled.

There’s a big difference between “I deserve this” and “I am so lucky that I can get a special treat today”.

When you want something special, work hard and save for it. A great way to afford small treats is to save change. You might get enough to go get ice cream or a soda. My parents used to save change until they could afford to take the kids to Disneyland!

And don’t forget to teach your children to work hard rather than being entitled!

Here’s one great idea of a resource to help children learn to divide money between self and others: Moonjar Classic Moneybox: Save, Spend, Share.

  • Family Fun

Once challenge to many people is how to provide fun experiences to their kids without breaking the bank.

The great thing about kids is that they still appreciate the small things in life. It’s the parents who are mistaken when they think they have to take their kids to Disneyland every time they want to do something fun as a family.

There are so many fun and exciting family activities that you can do at home for free or with just a little $$.

Read about our fun and cheep Mother and Daughter Spa Day! 

  • Medical Headaches

Take care of your body. I know- how is that supposed to save money? If you’re healthy, you can avoid medical bills. This is one of those times that prevention can save you a lot of headache.

      • If you ask, some doctors are willing to give you a 3-month supply on prescriptions. This can be cheaper and cut down copays.
      • Avoid things that can be harmful to your body, like cigarettes, drinking, or drugs. All of these habits have potential to cause medical issues. It also costs a lot of money to maintain these habits.
      • Rather than paying expensive fees to participate in live fitness classes, check online for free fitness classes or buy DVD’s for a fraction of the cost of a gym membership. Click the images below!

      • Drink water rather than soda. This keeps you healthier and saves you from having to buy sodas each day.
      • Take vitamins daily!

      • Timing is Everything

There are some purchases that we can anticipate we will need or want in the future. If we can plan ahead, we can often save money by being in control of the timing of these purchases.

When choosing your timing, keep the following in mind:

      • Purchase seasonal items (warm clothes for winter, swimming items for summer, etc.) after season ends. These items are often discounted up to 50% off.
      • Similarly, holiday items go on sale after the holiday ends. You can buy Christmas ornaments, Halloween dishes, or Fourth of July decor after the holiday for half price or better. Buy what you need for the next year and have it ready to go. Then, restock again after the holiday ends.
      • Various businesses have slower times when they discount prices to attract customers. Theaters have matinees, restaurants have happy hour. You can save a lot of money by shopping during a particular business’s slow time.
      • Don’t shop hungry. Control the timing of your shopping trips to avoid buying more food than you need because you were hungry.
      • Visit local farmer’s markets during summer and fall months. You can find cheap, fresh produce and other goodies.
      • Use up the food in your fridge before shopping again. This avoids expiring food in the bottom of your fridge. It’s hard to use up the older food when there are fresher options available to you because you just went shopping. Eat the food that needs to be used first.
      • Check for hidden expenses that will pop up later on. Does that toy need batteries to work- meaning you will have to spend more money? Is that outfit dry clean only- meaning you will have to pay later to clean it?
      • Is it Worth the Effort?

Do small things that force yourself to put more effort into shopping. Often, a little more effort isn’t worth it and we end up saving money.

  • Leave your wallet at home so you aren’t tempted to buy things.
  • Remove your credit card number from Amazon or other online shopping accounts so that you have to go through the effort of plugging the numbers in.
  • Make yourself save a certain amount of money for every dollar amount that you spend. For example, for every $100 that I spend I will save $10.
  • Help Yourself Out

We are all human. We all have pitfalls that get us every time. If there’s a certain temptation that you just can’t resist, then stay away from it altogether! Avoid those at all costs!

If you can’t help but order take out when there’s nothing good to eat at home, make sure you’ve got easy meals at hand. Have freezer meals ready or put something in the crock pot so that it’s ready to eat when you get home from work (crock pots are very energy efficient and easy to operate).

If you can’t help buying something every time you log in to your Amazon account, then stay off Amazon!

If you buy a pack of cigarettes every time you go into a gas station, then don’t go in!

 

Be aware of your habits and make the necessary adjustments so that you can be successful! If you want to change your financial habits, learn how to write successful goals here.

And remember, this is a great learning opportunity for your kids, so let them know what steps you’re taking to improve your finances. They will grow up to be smart savers just like you!

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

Please share with all your friends who could use some extra cash!

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Custom Freezer Meals- So That You Can Spend Your Time with Your Family Instead of In the Kitchen

Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

 

parent’s time is in high demand. The to do list is endless, the kids need our love and attention, and we need a break ourselves.

Any possible way to cut down on our demands is a blessing!

That’s why I created these custom freezer meals- for parents who just need a little less time cooking and a little more time with their kids.

These meals are super basic but very yummy! My favorite part is that they are , customizable so I can eat something new, something I’m excited about, and something that my kids will eat.

The basic components are: 1- Meat, 2- Veggie, 3- Side of Rice or Potatoes, 4- Sauce or Seasoning.

Each meal is freezer safe. They are easy to cook when you need them- easy enough for my husband to feel comfortable putting them together. It is so nice to have a break from cooking once in a while or to just have a quick meal that seems like it took all day to cook.

Improve your freezer meal by adding healthy and delicious energy-boosting super foods!

Here’s how to do it!

  • Write the directions for cooking on a gallon Ziploc bag. (The freezer bags work best if you plan to keep these meals long term for a rainy day. They help avoid freezer burn on your food over time.) This step is best to complete first because it is hard to write on the bag once it is full of food. However, it doesn’t make much sense until after I explain the rest of the freezer meal. For that reason, there are more specifics in step #7 about what to write.

Click the image below to purchase Gallon sized Ziploc Freezer bags!

For the following steps, feel free to include the kids for the assembly of your freezer meals!

  • Choose your meat.

Some of our favorites are:

  • Chicken breast
  • Chicken legs
  • Chunks of beef or pork
  • Pork chops
  • Steaks
  • Turkey breast
  • Ham
  • Fish

Place your meat in a gallon, freezer-safe Ziploc bag.

  • Choose a sauce or seasoning to go with your meat.

I love premade sauces at the store, like barbecue sauce or honey mustard. They usually only cost a couple bucks (or less!) and I don’t have to put any extra energy into preparing a sauce. This makes these meals cheap and easy to throw together.

Examples include:

  • BBQ sauce
  • Ranch seasoning packet
  • Italian seasoning
  • Lemon pepper seasoning
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Orange chicken sauce
  • Kung pao sauce
  • General Tso’s sauce
  • Mesquite smoke packet
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Seasoned Salt
  • Honey Mustard

Add the sauce or seasoning to your meat.

  • Add liquid.

If you chose to flavor your meal with a dry seasoning, it will need more liquid for the cooking process. Add about 1 cup of water or broth. I prefer broth because it adds flavor.

If you chose to flavor your meal with a sauce, it doesn’t need quite as much liquid. Only add 1/2 cup of water or broth. Again, I prefer broth for the yummy flavor.

The extra liquid will keep your food (especially the meat) from drying out.

**Don’t be afraid to add more liquid during the cooking process if you would like!

  • Veggie time.

Decide if you want your veggies to be soaked in the sauce with your meat or separate. This could change which vegetable you want.

(For example, I like broccoli on the side of my BBQ chicken, but I don’t like broccoli with BBQ sauce on it. I do like onions mixed in with my BBQ chicken.)

**I prefer to buy the frozen packaged veggies. Some fresh veggies don’t freeze well, so buying the frozen kind ensures that your frozen meal will turn out great! Plus, frozen veggies are cheap and there is no prep necessary!

Remember to check this post to find out what veggies will increase your energy!

If you want your veggies in the sauce, add them to the gallon Ziploc bag with your meat.

If you want your veggies separate, place them in a smaller Ziploc. Add butter, salt, or any seasonings desired. Place the small Ziploc into the gallon Ziploc bag. You will cook the veggies separately when you are ready to enjoy your meal, but this keeps everything together for easy storage.

  • Prepare your side of rice or potatoes.

We won’t cook the side just yet- but we will keep each component of the meal together in the freezer for easy storage. (This also helps me when I’m cooking because I have mommy brain and don’t always have the wherewithal to piece together a full meal. It’s better to have it all in one place for those days.)

Place 2 cups of uncooked rice, potato flakes, or potato pearls in a small Ziploc bag. Place the small Ziploc bag into the gallon Ziploc bag. This is enough to feed 3-5 people as a side, depending on how hungry they are. 😊

Rice and potatoes are so simple to prepare, they are wonderful recipes for children to help with! 

Feel free to add yummy extras to your side if you would like. For example, you could add garlic salt, ranch seasoning, or parmesan cheese to your potato pearls or flakes. You could put a chicken bouillon cube or a bay leaf in with your rice. Then, when you cook it later, you’ll have some extra flavor!

Make sure you write directions on how to cook the rice or potatoes on the front of the gallon Ziploc bag (see step #7). Do not write the directions on the small bag since it could get rubbed off.

  • Write directions on the gallon Ziploc bag.

Like we said before, this is actually the first step. It’s easier to write the directions before you prepare the meal because it is difficult to write on the Ziploc when it is full of food.

We include it last because your directions for cooking depend on how you decided to make your freezer meals. Here is all the information you need.

When you are ready to cook your frozen meal, follow these steps:

Thawed chicken, beef, turkey, and pork takes between 3-4 hours to cook in a crock pot depending on the quantity of meat you use. If your freezer meal is larger, it will take longer to cook. If your meal is still frozen, no problem! Just separate any small Ziploc bags from the rest and plan 2 extra hours for cook time.

Fish tends to cook faster, around 1-2 hours in a crock pot (thawed) or it can be yummy cooked in a pan with butter as well (around 15-20 minutes).

Most varieties of rice cook at a 1:2 ratio of rice to water. That means if you have 2 cups of rice, you will need 4 cups of water. Check on the box or bag to make sure this applies to you.

(How to Cook Rice Over the Stove- When it is time to cook your meal, you will place cold water and rice in a pot (remember, 1:2 ratio of rice to water). Bring the water to a boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer until the water is completely dissolved and the rice is cooked through. You can also cook your rice in a rice cooker if you prefer that method.)

Potato pearls or flakes are easy to cook. Just add boiling water to the flakes or pearls until you reach a consistency that you enjoy. Some people like a little more or less water. It’s up to you! The potatoes usually need a little more flavor, so I like to add butter, salt, pepper, and garlic to mine. You can add these seasonings before you freeze the meal, or you can add it to the meal as you are cooking.

If you chose to put your veggies in a separate bag, sauté the veggies in a pan with butter or boil the veggies. If you included your veggies in with the meat, they will be added to the crock pot and you won’t have to worry about this step!

That’s a lot to write on a gallon Ziploc bag.

I shorten these directions so that it’s not too much to write. Here is an example of what I wrote on a bag of Mesquite BBQ Chicken:

Mesquite BBQ Chicken with Broccoli and Rice (I always include a title so that I know what I’m eating)

  • Cook chicken in a crock pot (Estimated 4 hours if thawed)
  • Cook the Broccoli separately in boiling water, then sauté in butter (Estimated 15 minutes)
  • Cook the rice separately in 4 cups of water (Estimated 30 minutes)

Here’s one more example:

Ranch Pork Chops with Zucchini and Mashed Potatoes

  • Cook the pork chops and zucchini in a crock pot (Estimated 4 hours if thawed)
  • Boil water. Add boiling water to the potato pearls. (Estimated 15 minutes)

So simple, my husband can follow these directions easily if I’m too tired to cook!

Here’s some examples of freezer meals that my family has enjoyed!

Mesquite BBQ Chicken with Broccoli and Rice

*Ingredients: Mesquite BBQ sauce, chicken legs, onion (included in the sauce and chicken              mixture), water, broccoli (separate), rice (separate)

*Directions: Cook chicken in crock pot (estimated 3-4 hours if thawed), boil broccoli separately   (estimated 15 minutes), cook rice separately in 4 cups of water (estimated 30 minutes)

Italian Chicken with Squash and Rice

*Ingredients: Chicken breast, Italian seasoning, chicken broth, squash (included in chicken and seasoning), rice (separate)

*Directions: Cook chicken and squash in crock pot (estimated 3-4 hours if thawed), cook rice separately in 4 cups of water (estimated 30 minutes)

Salmon Stir Fry over Rice

*Ingredients: Salmon, lemon pepper seasoning, water, frozen stir fry veggies, rice (separate)

*Directions: Cook salmon and frozen stir fry veggies in a sauté pan with butter (estimated 15-20 minutes), cook rice separately in 4 cups of water (estimated 30 minutes)

Kung Pao, General Tsao’s, or Orange Chicken Stir Fry over Rice

*Ingredients: Chunks of chicken or turkey, sauce (choose from list above), water, frozen stir fry veggies (included in sauce and meat), can of pineapple chunks, rice (separate)

*Directions: Cook chicken and veggies in crock pot (estimated 3-4 hours if thawed), cook rice separately in 4 cups of water (estimated 30 minutes)

Ranch Pork Chops, Carrots, Bell Peppers, and Rice

*Ingredients: Pork chops, ranch seasoning packet, water or broth, carrots (included in water and meat), bell peppers (included in water and meat), rice (separate)

*Directions: Cook pork and veggies in crock pot (estimated 3-4 hours if thawed), cook rice separately in 4 cups of water (estimated 30 minutes)

Steak and Broccoli with Mashed Potatoes

*Ingredients: Steak, seasoned salt, broccoli (separate), potato pearls (separate)

*Directions: Cook steak on the grill (estimated 30 minutes), in a sauté pan (estimated 30 minutes), or a crock pot (estimated 3-4 hours if thawed), boil broccoli separately (estimated 15 minutes), add boiling water to the potato pearls (estimated 15 minutes)

Think about how much time you’ll have with your family now that you won’t be spending hours cooking every night! Try some of these unique indoor activities with your kids!

Enjoy your meals!

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

Share with any parent who needs a break from cooking!

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