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Baby Stuff: Channah Shalom

Sisters
Ruth (4) holding Channah (2 weeks)

It's nap time / quiet time at our house right now... we'll see how much typing I get done before Channah wakes! :) At 2 1/2 weeks old, Channah is probably my most content baby ever. She's nursing great and sleeps a lot, mostly with me. I figure since I'm supposed to rest and take it easy for a few weeks, I may as well rest with the baby in my arms! :)

So let's see... where to start. With a little about her name, I guess! :)

Channah is the Hebrew name of Hannah in the Bible. The "ch" is a soft "ch" sound like in the word "Chanukkah" or "challah" or "loch", and the "a" sounds are like the "a" in "father". Channah means grace, or compassion.

Shalom is (of course) the Hebrew word meaning "peace". When we were expecting our first baby, we decided we wanted to use Fruits of the Spirit (from Galatians 5) for girls' middle names. Ruth's middle name is Patience, and for Channah we decided to use Peace -- but liked the sound of the Hebrew word Shalom better with Channah. :)

Yehoshua and Channah

During rest time one day, when both Ruth (4) and Moshe (2) were asleep in their beds, I put Channah by the window for some sunshine. I came back to find Yehoshua (7) had gotten his camera out and was taking pictures of her as she slept. So sweet!

Channah's bed

Here is Channah's bed, in Ruth's room. Currently it's mostly being used as a changing table. A friend gave us this pack'n'play with the bassinet insert, which replaced my old pack'n'play that we had used for Moshe. Having a pack'n'play has been so handy! The boys helped me set this up the day I came home from the hospital with Channah. I was not very ready for her yet!! :)

Girls' dresser

Ruth and Channah will share this dresser now. I will probably need to hang a few things in the closet to make room for both girls' clothes, but I haven't gotten much arranging done yet. I also want to swap where the dresser and bassinet are currently placed, but am waiting a few more weeks to do any furniture-moving. ;)

New car seat!

The week before Channah was born (!!) I got an infant car seat for her. My old one had expired a year ago. I didn't spend too much time agonizing over all the infant car seat choices: I knew I wanted something with a handle/carrier feature and 5-point harness, and I liked the last SungRide I had. Then I splurged on one with an easy-adjustment strap and a fabric print that I liked. :D

Even though we don't travel much (in fact, so far Channah rode home from the hospital but that's been it!), I will use the car seat in the house as a rocker if needed. I don't have a swing, bouncy seat, etc. etc. -- so aside from being in bed or in a carrier (like my Ergo or mei tai), the car seat is the other option for a temporary safe place to put the baby. :)

Our comfy couch :)

This is where I get to spend time resting: on our wonderful comfy couch with a nice fluffy pillow (and as many kids for company as will fit). :) Two and a half years ago, before Moshe was born, we replaced our broken falling-apart futon with this couch and I LOVE it. It's my favorite place in the house to sit or lay and gets lots of use for nursing babies, naps, reading books, watching movies, etc... :)

Notice cute little Moshe sweeping the floor in the background? :) He's so helpful... always willing to try to clean up the messes he just made... ;)

Cloth diapers

Amazingly, I had pulled out baby clothes and diapers before Channah was born. Honestly, I looked at my long list of "things to do before the baby's born" and all of it sounded like too much work. Haha! So I decided to wash baby clothes, since that sounded like the most fun. :D

I have lots of thoughts about Channah's birth (and my hospital experience!) but I think I'll save them for the birth story. Which WILL come! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Washing and drying rubber spatulas

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I know I mentioned a family update (and more baby pictures!) last week, but I'm totally guilty of just lounging on the couch and doing a bunch of baby-holding. :D

So this week, I will. I WILL turn on the computer and write about baby stuff and include kid pictures and tell you how we're pronouncing "Channah" and things like that. By Wednesday. (There, I gave a day... so it's official.) :)

Channah and Ruth

But here's just one... Ruth holding Channah. I shared her for a few minutes. ;)

Now, for a kitchen tip:

Spatulas in drawer

When I wash rubber (or silicone) spatulas, I feel like I need to take them apart (pull out the handles) in order to get them really clean. It just seems like food and germs probably get trapped where the spatula meets the handle and I can't NOT take it apart. ;)

But washing the parts separately means that the slot on the spatula gets wet, and it takes a long time to completely dry. I don't want to put the spatula back together before it's completely dry, but I also don't want spatulas out on my counter waiting to dry when everything else is put away.

My solution? Put both parts of the spatulas back in the drawer, but not assembled. The drawer isn't air-tight, and the utensils are stored loosely enough that the spatulas can finish drying. When we need a spatula, we grab both parts and put it together before using. :)

Related: Use a spatula to reach things in a high cupboard without needing a stool

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Kneading tip for smooth rolls (Donna at Moms Frugal)
2. Egg tips (The Local Cook)
3. Organizing and filling spices (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
4. Plastic shoebox in the kitchen (Frugal in Florida)
5. Almond milk tip (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
6. Stretching bacon (Kolfinna's Korner)
7. Greasing pans tip (Gwen at Gwen's Nest)
8. Water kefir tips (Gretchen at The Little Pink House)
9. Making bread kits (Gretchen at Extraordinary Ordinary Life)
10. Brown rice tips + switching rice types (Deb at Wholesome Homemaker)
11. Tip for crispy sweet potato fries (SnoWhite at Finding Joy in my Kitchen) 

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Tuna Can Comparisons (and a tuna salad substitution tip)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I've always wondered which kind of canned tuna I should be purchasing. Chunk Light tuna is the cheapest per can, but it never seems as meaty as the more expensive ones.

When we were first married 10 years ago, I would stock up on the Chunk Light tuna when it was $0.25/can at Kroger. Now, twice that price is about the lowest I've seen it get recently.

(Anyone have cheap[er] tuna tips? Our family could easily use 5-7 small cans of tuna for a light tuna salad lunch... which is why we don't have tuna salad very often.)

I decided to compare the 3 kinds of canned tuna in my cupboard. The Chunk Light tuna (top) was $0.60 on sale; the Solid White tuna (middle can) was $1 on sale, and I can't remember how much the Albacore tuna from Costco (bottom can) was.

Tuna can comparison

I opened all three kinds (Chunk Light - left, Solid White - middle, Albacore - right).

Tuna can comparison

I drained them well.

Tuna can comparison

I weighed them each on my kitchen scale.

Tuna can comparison

I figured out the price per ounce for the drained tuna meat...

...and they were all right around the same price per ounce. :)

So instead of a tip about which can of tuna is the cheapest, here is a tip for making tuna salad!

Tuna salad substitutes

You can change up the flavors when making tuna salad by substituting various things in place of the mayonnaise. Try:

White salad dressings (like Ranch or Caesar)

Sour cream

Plain yogurt

Cream cheese (at room temperature, or whip with some milk to make it easier to incorporate)

Tuna salad
Tuna Salad

Depending on what you use (like plain yogurt!), you could even end up with something a little healthier than normal. :)

I don't have a tuna salad recipe online, but here is what we like in ours:

Canned tuna, drained well
Mayo (or others from the list above!)
Chopped celery
Minced onion
Finely chopped dill pickles (or dill pickle relish -- easier!)
Garlic, salt, and pepper

Mix until creamy; serve on bread with lettuce added, or serve in lettuce leaf "cups".

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Tips for braising/stewing (The Local Cook)
2. Make your favorite cookies healthier (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
3. Make baked potatoes in the crock pot (Purposely Frugal)
4. Tip for making "drop" cookies (Robin at Happily Home After)
5. Stretching pasta sauce (Kolfinna's Korner)
6. 7 ways to use leftover cornbread (Wholesome Homemaker)
7. Checking the doneness of meat without marring it (Alea at Premeditated Leftovers)
8.

Our little surprise...

Channah

Just when I thought life couldn't get any crazier!

Channah Shalom was born this weekend, weighing 6 lbs. 5 oz., our smallest (and by far, earliest!) baby and with the longest labor (but thankfully not the hardest labor).

Our planned home birth ended up a hospital birth when my water broke and the baby wasn't head down. Several hours later, she did turn head down, but labor was very, very slow.

After almost 24 hours I used pitocin to (gently!) get labor going, and she was born 15 hours later. Phew! I had a really great hospital experience. While I would much rather labor at home (especially with a long, slow labor!!), I chose to be there and was blessed with nurses who left me alone as much as possible, and my midwife who provided moral support and coaching at the very end.


Yehoshua took a picture of me waking up this morning :)

I'm so glad I started early on my freezer meals, and just last week I washed a load of baby clothes and got a car seat (to replace our expired one).

Pretty much everything else on my "want to do" list didn't get done, I missed my kids like crazy during the 2 days at the hospital, and I had a very emotional labor (I just wasn't mentally prepared for an early baby with a labor that needed augmentation, etc.).

We're getting lots of family time and pulling together to share new responsibilities. Joshua is only 2 weeks post-op from his second craniotomy, so now we're both on 10-lb. lifting restrictions and our boys are getting to exercise their strong muscles! ;) Everyone is in love with little Channah and now, life really does need to slow down for a little bit!! :)

I will eventually write Channah's birth story and share it here! Until then, here are the announcements from Ruth and Moshe's births:

Ruth Patience (2008) (birth story here)

Moshe Paul (2010) (birth story here)

Update: Here is Channah's birth story (with lots of baby pictures!)

5 Ways to Make Food Prep Fun (Eat Well, Spend Less)

I think I breathe a sigh of relief when dinner is finally served every evening. I've become more and more of a "morning person" and making and serving dinner is like my last big challenge of the day. Unlike many other things, dinner can't "wait until the next day" or just be skipped... ;)

So food prep... whether I love it or hate it, whether I'm in the mood or completely exhausted, it's something I've just gotta do most days. (Does "taking a day off" count if it means I did double the day before?) ;)

Here are 6 ways I make food prep more fun. If you have any tips for me along these lines, I'm all ears! :)

1. Food prep is more fun when you... Plan a menu!

I'll be the first person to admit that "menu planning" and "fun" don't usually end up in the same sentence for me. When I first started trying to plan weekly menus a few years ago, it was one of the most challenging things I made myself do each week!

It does get easier, though. While menu planning still isn't my favorite chore, I don't dread it like I used to, and I love the benefits of having a menu plan! :)

Some tips for easier menu planning:

Use a category for each day of the week. A category could be a meat (beef, chicken, fish, meatless, etc.) or a cuisine (Mexican, Italian) or even just something you love (like breakfast for dinner, using the crock pot, or having Friday night pizza!). Planning the week's menu would involve coming up with something from each category -- meaning less "thinking" involved (hopefully)!

I don't use categories for every day, but I do have my own habits, like making beans in the crock pot on Saturday, and using up leftovers from the fridge for weekend lunches. And unless we're really burned out on pizza, homemade pizza on Friday nights is the perfect ending to the week. :)

Balance between tried-and-true and something new. I love variety, so my menu plans usually include trying something new. But, old favorites that always turn out well and are faster to prepare help me get through busy days without spending so much time in the kitchen.

Be okay with what works for you. I do "three things for dinner" a lot, and while it's not a gourmet meal, it satisfies us and keeps us healthy. Take advantage of the convenience foods that help you (like canned or frozen items)! :)

Get help with menu planning! Sometimes when I'm really stumped (and nothing sounds good to me, at all), I ask Joshua or the kids for suggestions. They help me come up with things we haven't eaten recently, or things that sound good to them.

I'm not on Pinterest, but I've heard lots of people say they head there for menu planning inspiration! And I have scrolled through my online recipes here when planning my menu... it's more visually stimulating than my recipe box. ;)

Cooking...

2. Food prep is more fun when you... Start early!

I have a lot more fun in the kitchen when I'm not rushed and running late with a meal. Start plenty early, even the day before for some things, if you like to cook at a leisurely pace like I do. ;)

Of course, starting early is so much easier when you have a menu planned! :)

3. Food prep is more fun when you... Keep things stocked!

Ever go to bake cookies and realize that you need to refill your containers for flour, sugar, and oatmeal? :) I enjoy cooking and baking more when I've kept things refilled as needed. I don't always refill something right away, but I do leave it out on the counter so I can fill it later before putting it away and forgetting about it.

Tip: I buy my spices in bulk, so I do lots of refilling. When I run out of one spice, I check to see if any others are getting low, and if they are, I refill them too. This post shows how I label and easily access the spices in my kitchen cupboard.

Half-sheet with silicone baking mat

4. Food prep is more fun when you... Have the right tools.

Since I do a lot of cooking, we've invested in some good kitchen tools through the years we've been married. A friend recently commented, "You seem to have the right 'thing' for everything in your kitchen!" Well, yes -- for everything that I regularly do. :)

Some of the kitchen tools that make food prep more fun and a whole lot easier for me include a sharp knife and big sturdy cutting board, stainless steel mixing bowls (including large ones), my glass 9x13 and 8x8 bakeware, my bread machine, half-sheet pans with silicone baking mats, and some really great stainless steel cookware.

(You can see more of what I use in the kitchen at my Amazon "store", with notes about many of the items.)

Your most-used items could be very different from mine! But as a rule, when we consider which kitchen items to get or to upgrade, we start with the ones we use on a daily or near-daily basis.

Kitchen helpers
Ruth (4) helping with granola bars and Eliyahu (6) having an apple for a snack

5. Food prep is more fun when you... Enlist helpers (or company)!

I have my own built-in helper team, since all four children will gladly help with just about anything in the kitchen (including things I won't let them do yet!). ;) This post has lots of ideas for things my young children like to do to help in the kitchen.

I really love it when Joshua has time to help with food prep. Even if it's just chopping a few little things, having help gets me moving faster and having someone to talk with while we work is nice (and working together is a great relationship-builder!).

If you don't have a noisy house full of little helpers, plan to chat with a friend on the phone while doing the more mundane food prep tasks like washing dishes, chopping veggies for a salad, or peeling fruit for sauce or dessert.

When the house is quiet enough for me to be on the phone while I work (a rarer occurrence as the years pass!), I like to:

  • Make a list (or get everything out of the fridge/pantry) before I'm on the phone, so my brain can run on "autopilot" and I can have a more involved conversation
  • Use a headset or other hands-free option that doesn't involve putting my shoulder to my ear while on the phone

What do you do to make food prep more fun? I'd love to hear about it!

Related: 6 tips for cooking with a baby

Eat Well, Spend Less series

This month, the Eat Well, Spend Less team is blogging about making food FUN!

For more fun foodie inspiration, check out:

Jessica at Life as Mom

Katie at GoodLife Eats

Aimee at Simple Bites

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship

Alyssa at Kingdom First Mom

Carrie at Denver Bargains 

Mandi at Life...Your Way

Shaina at Food For My Family

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Hosted at Armstrong Family Fare this week

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

My friend, fellow food blogger, and cousin (!) Willa will be hosting Kitchen Tip Tuesdays this week at her blog, Armstrong Family Fare.

Check out Willa's post with 6 menu planning tips, and add your own tip over there in a comment or with a link! :)

Joshua is home and slowly but steadily recovering from surgery again. Thanks for understanding as my online presence has been scarce these past few weeks! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Thicker homemade yogurt, and my faster slow-cooker homemade yogurt method

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I know I said I was giving up on making homemade yogurt after all my tries had produced less-than-stellar results... but a friend shared a jar of her really perfect homemade yogurt with me a few months ago, and I was inspired to try again.

I'm still using the same basic method I outlined in my post: heat milk to ~180 degrees, cool milk to ~115 degrees, add starter, and keep warm for ~8 hours.

But now, my yogurt has been turning out great! I know, that's crazy. How could something go from difficult to magical without even changing the recipe? Here is what I've been doing, with a few tips:

1. Heat milk on the stove on medium-low heat, with a candy thermometer stuck to the side of the pan. Don't stir, don't bother with it -- just get the milk to 180 degrees or higher. I try to do this when I'm already going to be working in the kitchen so I don't accidentally boil the milk for an hour and have a big mess on the stove to clean up. ;)

Tip: If the milk does boil, it will still make good yogurt.

2. Let milk cool in pan to 115 degrees. When it's getting close to 115, I check on it every 10-15 minutes.

3. I like to culture the yogurt in my crock pot. It's big, heavy/thick, and can be done on the counter top.

(I prefer to warm the milk on the stove rather than in the crock pot, though, because the crock pot takes so long [and hence a lot of "babysitting"] to heat up and cool down.)

Tip: To culture the yogurt in my crock pot, I first "preheat" the crock pot. Pour some boiling water (at least a cup or two) in the crock pot, turn on high, and get nice and hot. Turn off, and when you're ready to incubate the yogurt, dump out the hot water and pour in the warm milk.

Yogurt

4. Stir in the yogurt starter. I just gently stir it in... no whisking. Then, I put the lid on the crock pot, cover with thick towels (I get clean ones from the bathroom!), and let "grow" for 8+ hours.

5. When yogurt is done culturing, DO NOT DISTURB. This seems to be the key (for me) to really thick yogurt. I've been setting the crock (with lid on) outside to chill when it's finished culturing. Chill for 6-8 hours and yogurt should be firm!

Using these tips, my homemade yogurt has been thicker than plain yogurt from the store (but not quite as thick as Greek yogurt), without straining.

Why does it matter how thick my yogurt is? I can just strain off some of the whey to make it thicker, right? Well, yes... but here is why I want yogurt that is thick without straining:

1. Straining the yogurt is an extra step and extra dishes.

2. The end result (yogurt) is more expensive per volume when strained (you end up with less of the "yogurt" part).

3. I don't really enjoy having lots of whey on hand that I need to find uses for.


Frozen blueberries have been a favorite kid-snack at our house for years now... :)

And lastly, a Plain Yogurt Eating Tip:

Frozen blueberries are our favorite fruit to add to plain yogurt! They're so sweet, and their flavor makes the yogurt irresistible! I like to add the frozen blueberries to our yogurt as we serve it.

I also love fresh or canned pineapple with plain yogurt. Pineapple is another sweet fruit that goes great in yogurt! :)

Next week, Kitchen Tip Tuesdays will be hosted by Willa at Armstrong Family Fare! Willa's stepping in to make my load a little lighter as Joshua will be recovering from another surgery at that time.

I am planning to be back at the computer blogging a little more this week... last week got away from me and I've been wearing myself out doing "life stuff"! :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Removing labels from jars (April at I Think I Can)
2. Cooking dried beans (Keri at Growing in His Glory)
3. Sour cream and yogurt tips (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
4. 3 ways to cook dried beans (The Local Cook)
5. Softer hands scrub (Frugal in Florida)
6. How to make heart-shaped muffins (Anne Jisca's Healthy Pursuits)
7. Using breadmaker for jam (Tried It, Liked It)
8. Dishes within kids' reach (Gretchen at Extraordinary Ordinary Life)
9. Citrus zest in baking (Deb at Wholesome Homemaker)
10. Rolling pin substitute (Alea at Premeditated Leftovers)
11. Tupperware/storage tips (Cheryl at The Bz House that Love Built)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: 10 tips for organizing a chest freezer

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I'm curious as to how you keep your chest freezer organized. I've been trying to stretch my grocery trips to once every 12-14 days, and I'm happy with it so far, but my freezer is a wreck! I have a running list of its contents so I know what's in there, but with so many oddly-shaped foods in it (bags of bread, jars of broth, bags of veggies, etc), it just ends up being a huge jumble of stuff. Then I get annoyed when I have to dig through everything to find what I need. Any advice?

My chest freezer

We have a 7-cubic-foot chest freezer, which I think is a great size for holding lots of food (if well-packed) without becoming overwhelming to organize!

Here are some tips for how I keep my chest freezer organized and under control:

1. I don't have a lot of different, little items floating around. We buy things in bulk, so I usually have 5-10 pounds or more of any given item. Fewer items = easier to keep track.

2. We find and use medium-sized cardboard boxes that fit the width of our freezer. I have a stack of several boxes that fit just perfectly along one side of the freezer. I put smaller things (like individually frozen/sealed fish fillets) in the boxes, and it's fairly quick and easy to unstack them and get to what I want -- even if it's near the bottom. I find that boxes are the most efficient space-wise for the freezer. For "tote-like" boxes, just cut off the top flaps.

3. When stacking foods, alternate types. When I stack several bags of frozen veggies, or several boxes or bags of frozen fish or meats, I try to alternate the types as I'm stacking them. This way, I never have to move 3 bags of green beans to reach the corn! ;)

4. Take foods out of their original packaging and re-package them. See the bag of Pollock in the top right corner of my freezer picture above? It's actually stuffed with 2 bags' worth of fish. Many boxed or bagged freezer items are individually wrapped inside the bag or box, and can be opened and re-stacked or re-packaged to take up a lot less space, and this helps things be less crowded and more organized.

5. Put extras of things on the bottom of the chest freezer. We froze gallons of fresh blackberries last summer, and I keep a bag handy to use from. The other bags are packed in the bottom of the freezer, where they're out of the way.

6. Go through "the little stuff" and use it! I find that "the little stuff" tends to get freezer burn if it's not used within a reasonable time frame. I keep little things like bread crumbs (from homemade bread), dry yeast, chopped nuts, etc. in the door of my small freezer so they don't get lost AND so I can remember to use them!

Freezer meals stacked in the freezer

7. Have a freezer inventory sheet. I made a simple one on a scrap paper with lists of my freezer meals and tallies (in pencil) for the number of each. Why tallies in pencil? It's easy to erase tallies as they're used -- or to add a couple more on later if I've made extras of something! So much nicer than crossing out a number to write a new one. :)

8. Every couple of months (or before any big shopping trip or stock-up), go through the freezer. I pull almost everything out, look over what I have, and stack it back in a reasonable fashion. It probably takes me 10-15 minutes to do this with my chest freezer, and afterward I have a much better idea of what I need to buy, or what I need to focus on incorporating in our menus. :)

9. THINK before you freeze. Some of my freezer untidiness is simply a result of freezing something to avoid having to eat it. Leftovers that we didn't really like? NOT a good candidate for the freezer. Sure, it'll keep the food from spoiling, but we probably won't feel like eating it later, and I'll just end up shuffling it around and around until it's so freezer-burned I throw it away.

The same thing applies to packaging. When I take the time to properly package something for the freezer, it stays fresher and I won't dread the possibility of freezer burn later. I've had food that I thought was probably freezer burned (due to my poor packaging) and I ended up waiting until I was SURE it WAS freezer burned, and then tossed it. How sad! It's much better to plan ahead and/or take the time to package well before freezing. :)

And on a related note -- label everything, even if you're sure you won't forget what it is.

10. Hmmm, I think I am out of freezer tips! ;) Anyone have a good one for my #10?! :)

By the way -- I'm sure that upright freezers are easier to organize than chest freezers, but I love having a chest freezer. Chest freezers are more economical than upright ones in a variety of ways (price, operating cost, usable space) which is why we decided on a chest freezer.

I've also found that packing my chest freezer efficiently (especially the cardboard box tip -- #2 above) has really eliminated most of the frost accumulation. Only the top few inches of my chest freezer has a thin layer of frost -- the rest is completely frost-free -- after a whole year of use without defrosting! :) So -- I guess that's the #10 tip. ;)

Related posts:

Freezer meal tips
Labeling frozen food
Frozen food tips
Freezing casseroles without tying up a dish (video)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Use Pam to set nail polish (Frugal in Florida
2. Buttermilk substitute (Living So Abundantly)
3. Tart-making tips (The Local Cook)
4. Ground turkey and chopping olives tips (Robin at Happily Home After)
5. Shred chicken in your mixer (Shannon at Chickens in My Kitchen)
6. 15 green and frugal foodie tips (The Cheapskate Cook)
7. Meatloaf meatball tips (Tried It Liked It)
8. Cookie sheet comparisons (Gretchen at Extraordinary Ordinary Life)
9. 5 alternative uses for dish racks (Rachel at Trial and Error Home Ec)

Your questions answered: TV, coupons, gardening, FoodSaver bags... plus a family update!

I've got a bunch of questions to answer, plus it's been way too long since I've done a real family update-type of post! So, here is all of that... plus the first pregnancy picture of myself with #5 (thanks to my cameraman Yehoshua)! :)

Having fun in an indoor tent...
Moshe (2), Ruth (4), Yehoshua (7) and Eliyahu (6)

I was wondering if you could tell us what you do for entertainment without TV and netflix. I know its possible but just curious.

As far as "screen" entertainment, we have an Xbox360. We use it to watch DVDs, and we have a small selection of our own DVDs. Some are educational (like Planet Earth or Matthew) and some are just for fun (like Up). :) We do let the boys play video games on the weekends (usually not on school days).

Pretty much any day of the week they are allowed to play games that use the Xbox Kinect (camera) because those are indoor exercise games (Fruit Ninja, Kinect Sports, etc.). With the weather being rainy so often, it's really nice to have an indoor exercise option for the kids (and me...) that is FUN! :)

And aside from that, we do things like board or card games, puzzles, books, drawing, play dough, building blocks, Legos, coloring books, Duplos, making tents with blankets, all that good stuff. :)

Tammy, do you ever use coupons? You can really save money on personal items like deodorant, shampoo, any vitamins or medicines.

I do coupons occasionally. We honestly don't purchase a lot of personal care items, but when we do (like for toothpaste -- since I'm partial to Crest Original) I usually have a $0.50 coupon which does help. And I try my best to wait for the Costco coupons to help lower our grocery budget for things we'd be purchasing anyway! :)

One thing I found for us personally was that since we don't use most of the items, even if it was free-after-rebate or coupon, we still pay 9.5% tax on the pre-coupon pre-rebate prices here in Washington and it just wasn't worth my time and gas to make a stop for items that we might end up needing (or might not use at all before they expired!).

I used to regularly do Rite Aid's single check rebate program and get some good deals on toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. but they've changed that program and I wasn't finding good enough deals to warrant going often enough to use the "rewards" before they would expire.

I'm also a homebody, we just have 1 vehicle (so any errands have to be done at the busiest traffic times of the day/week -- and take away from our family time), I have 4 young children, and we eat a lot of plain "ingredients" like milk, butter, cheese, veggies, beans, etc... The store sales here usually are within pennies of what I can pay at Costco, and I admit I really like Costco. ;)

So... that's what has shaped my grocery shopping method for this season of our lives. :)

Have you considered teaching beginning music to a few outside kids for some extra spending money?

Yes, I have! I haven't advertised for any music students in recent years, though. I love teaching but don't feel that it's a good time for me to pursue it as a business.

Also, do you garden? Even a small vegetable garden can make a huge difference in your grocery bill.

I had some herbs in pots last summer, and hope to grow more herbs and some lettuce this year! We don't get a lot of direct sunlight at our house/yard due to all the trees nearby, and our summers can stay on the cool side (highs of 65-70 degrees) so that can make it tricky if you live in a shaded area. ;)

I also have a food saver and I LOVE it, but I find the bags to be pricey and felt guilty about throwing them away.... I now wash and re-use them repeatedly!! I write on the edge just like you do so when I cut them open to use nothing is written on the useful part of the bag. I have been doing this for more then a year now and find the bags work fine used repeatedly. I was wondering if you did the same thing?

Yes! I definitely re-use my FoodSaver bags, because they are really expensive. I bought my last box at Costco with a coupon, but it was still expensive! It's worth it to me that we *love* our freezer meals/food, though, and don't have to "endure" them. ;)

Even better than washing the Food Saver bags: if I've just frozen a casserole and then vacuum-sealed it, the FoodSaver bag doesn't get very dirty at all (since the food is already frozen when it goes in). When I take the food out, still frozen, and put it into a baking dish, I put the empty nearly-clean FoodSaver bag back in the freezer without washing it, to save it for later use.

This seems to put even less wear on the bags than washing them... and makes me a lot more comfortable with the amount of bag it takes to FoodSave a casserole. ;)

Yehoshua
Yehoshua

Yehoshua is 7 1/2 and is in second grade. He does part of his homeschooling with my mom on the phone each weekday. It's a big help to me and gives him some extra accountability, too. :) Yehoshua loves Legos, math, art, RC cars, sports, science, and video games.

He's a great big brother and shows such kindness to the younger children (in-between the moments of rough-housing!). Some of Yehoshua's chores are folding laundry, vacuuming, clearing and washing the table, dishes, picking up, and yard work. :)

Eliyahu
Eliyahu

Eliyahu just turned 6! He's a big boy (nearly the same size as Yehoshua) and is constantly melting my heart with the cute things he says. Eliyahu is in kindergarten (homeschooled) and loves drawing, starfall.com, puzzles, games, cooking, riding his bicycle, Legos/Duplos and RC cars. His chores are the same as Yehoshua's. :)

Ruth
Ruth

Ruth just turned 4 and is our sweet smiley sunshine girl. Ruth loves doing preschool work (at home), dolls, coloring, stuffed animals, Boggle Jr., babies, the color pink, Hello Kitty, her quilt, organizing things, and anything "baby" or miniature. Ruth's chores are sweeping, cleaning her room, setting the table, and putting away laundry. :)

Moshe
Moshe

Moshe just turned 2 years old. He's a cuddly little guy who runs around the house getting into mischief or joining in whatever everyone else is doing. Moshe is starting to talk and his little uh-huhs and thank-yous are heartwarming. He loves his stuffed tiger and orangutan and usually takes a good nap every day.

Moshe is also my early riser, usually by 5am daily! His "chores" are helping to clean up whatever mess he's just made. ;) Moshe loves hanging out with dad, even if it means sitting quietly on dad's lap while reading the news.

Baby...??? :)

And the new baby! We're all getting excited to meet him or her. Late March is the estimated due date, so I've got a good 8 weeks left... which doesn't feel like very long when I start thinking about all the things I'd like to get done before then. :)

...one of which is to be as much help to Joshua as possible! He is recovering well from his first surgery (a brain/nerve surgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia) and getting lots of rest. He still has a headache (surgery was 9 days ago) but the doctors are impressed at his recovery so far. We're so thankful there haven't been any complications at all!

In 2 weeks, Joshua will have a second surgery (involving the inner ear and brain, but for an unrelated condition). So, we'll be having a long stretch here of keeping the house calm/quiet and making sure Joshua gets as much rest as possible. :)

I had no idea Joshua would be off work for 4 months! Is there anything you guys need? Prayers to you all. And you are doing awesome. --Katie

Barring unforeseen complications, Joshua should be able to return to work after 10-12 weeks. We've been blessed with help from family and friends -- and I'm thankful that (despite feeling like a whale much of the time!) I still feel pretty good and am able to keep things running smoothly while Joshua gets better. :)

And, since we've known for a while that these surgeries could become necessary, we've been putting aside anything "extra" to get us through Joshua's time off work. I'm just so thankful that we have insurance and that Joshua can get the medical care he needs! :)

Homemade cloth baby wipes


One of my projects recently: making cloth baby wipes! I pulled out my hand-me-down sewing machine and some hand-me-down fabric and made some really affordable baby wipes (I bought thread only!).

I'm not an experienced seamstress by any means, but baby wipes are simple and fun and something I am constantly using... now I have some soft new ones for the new baby. ;)

What kind or brand of covers do you use for your CD prefolds?

I really like the Dappi brand nylon pull-on covers. (That link is to the best price I've found for them. I've ordered a couple times.) They're affordable, last a long time, are soft and comfy, and are quick to pull on. :)

I also have a few knitted wool soakers, which I LOVE, but only use when my baby is "predictable" enough to not need to wash them. ;) They're great for overnight wet diapers... SO nice!

And, I have a few miscellaneous covers (Thirsties, Bummis, and Flip) that were given to me. They all work well; Bummis are probably my favorite brand for wrap-style covers (that I've tried).

I like having wrap-style covers for younger babies; at Moshe's age now (2), the pull-on Dappis are my favorite. :) Actually -- I just really like having some variety, because sometimes different things work best depending on the baby/age! :)

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