Thursday, December 29, 2016

Planning Meals Multiple Weeks at a Time

It sounds crazy, but honestly... it's my favorite "lazy" way of planning meals ahead.  ;-)

I am an avid list maker.  Lists are my thing.  I truly adore making lists.  Every. single. day.  

But for some reason, I'm not a big fan of sitting down to plan out meals and grocery lists.  If I don't have a plan, we are far more likely to eat out at a restaurant or get fast food, so I prefer to create a multi-week plan, recently that has been a 10-week meal plan. Once the 10 week period is up, I repeat with a few minor changes for new recipes or special occasions coming up.

Easy peasy.

Unfortunately, the first set of meal plans and grocery lists will take a considerable amount of time, so if you do this, set aside a couple of hours for your first set of lists.

In the past, I've done 8-week plans, 6-week plans, and more often than not my plans have been 4-week plans.  Last year, though, I found that the 10-week plan works well for during the school year when life is super busy.

Where to Begin: 

  1. I suggest you first create a master menu if you haven't already.  This is a list of about 40-50 dinner meals that you and your family enjoy.  In the future, you'll just choose from this master list when you are making your plans.   It also helps to have a master menu of breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, but don't stress over it too much. You can add those things in over time. 
  2. Feel like being an overachiever? Put a list of all ingredients needed next to each meal. Making your grocery lists will be a breeze! (This is something I have yet to do.)
  3. Choose 6-7 meals for each week.  Every once in a while, plan for a family dinner at a restaurant or a date night with your spouse.
  4. I like to keep my meal plan and grocery list on the same page.   No extra time is spent going back and forth from page to page to figure out what ingredients are needed for the different meals. 
Additional Tips: 
  • I don't write in the dates until I have already printed out the list.  Keeping the document dateless makes it easier to recycle the list later on. 
  • I limit each week's selection to 2-3 meat meals, 2-3 meatless meals, one salad-only meal, and I try to always include vegetables with each meal.
  • I take into account nights where we are going to need to eat quickly (Wednesdays are Awana nights), so I plan very quick and easy meals for those nights.
  • I only plan on using two different types of meats each week.  I'm very stingy with meat since it's not cheap.  ;) 
  • I try to cook meat one night a week and use it for multiple meals throughout the week. 
  • Don't forget to include groceries needed for ALL meals for the week in the grocery list:  breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner. 
  • I write down lunch, breakfast, and snack plans at the bottom of the page as a reminder of what we have on hand.  Otherwise, I forget what we have and we end up eating a hodgepodge of random things that I find in the pantry for lunches and breakfasts.  
  • Write yourself helpful notes with reminders that will help you prepare for the meal the next day, such as getting an appliance out of storage or taking meat out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge overnight.
You can type up your meal plans & grocery lists and keep them in Google Docs (as I do) or just write them out in a notebook. Whatever floats your boat.  ;)

Below is an example of one of my weekly lists.

I print out the pages and keep them in a binder or folder in the kitchen. The current week's plans are hung up with a small Command Fridge Clip on my pantry door in the kitchen.   I'll bring the printed list with me to the grocery store or I look at my list through the Google Drive app on my phone.

Let me know if you have given this a try and what has worked for you.

Happy Meal Planning!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Nothing Compares to the Hope We Have in Christ

This year, one of the most prominent things that God has shown me, is there is no way to truly know where a person stands with God.  Only He has the power to know this. 

As a result, I now have a new kind of love for the people I meet.

I watched someone that I love go through some big hardships that could have easily be prevented. My heart broke, I experienced grief, forgiveness, happiness, and hope all within a period of about three weeks.

I've had to watch someone else that I  love, who had appeared to be so strong in Christ, stray away from their faith, and embrace sin.  I had to come to terms with the fact that all I can do at this point is pray and encourage them through Christ.  My heart is still grieving.

I've witnessed many fruitless political rants, driving families and friends apart. The things that were said were so frivolous and left so many people with nothing but bitterness and even hatred towards others.

These few events this year left me searching for hope in more ways than ever before. 

So if you know me well, you'll know that I have a strong love and appreciation of the writings of Douglas Wilson.   Well, last night I stumbled upon this debate between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson from several years ago.

It is two hours long. And I watched the whole thing.  :-D :-O

I appreciate these types of debates.  They are a far cry from those silly presidential "debates" that take place on national TV every four years. After I watched the video I started reading this book review written by Douglas Wilson of a book titled 'The Faith of Christopher Hitchens' that was released earlier this year (2016).   Both Taunton and Wilson wrote very respectful accounts of their friendships with Hitchens, despite their polar opposite opinions.  I had always assumed he would be someone more along the lines of Dawkins - constantly in attack mode, but that wasn't the case.  His personal persona was very different from his public one.  After watching and reading these things, I couldn't help but wonder if Hitchens ever had any real hope.  Of course, on this side of Heaven, we'll never know that, but it's still an interesting thought to ponder.

All of this reinforced my belief that we are in no place to make public judgments about a person's salvation that are outside of what we know to be absolutely true

Proverbs 18:2 ESV A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Growing up as a Christian, I have heard many of the following statements, many times.

 "______ is a Christian because he DOES _____."

 "_______is not really a Christian because...". 

"There is no way there is any hope for ______."  

"I don't worry about ______ because he's a solid Christian." 

I've said these things myself, and I've done so repeatedly over the years. I'm telling you now, WE Christians assume way too much when it comes to salvation.

The truth is, God is sovereign.

If we truly believed that God is sovereign, He is all powerful, and He loves His people, if we truly had that hope within us, we wouldn't make statements like those ones that I listed above, at least not without conviction.

We cannot know what is going to happen.  We cannot read minds and hearts.  But we CAN have HOPE in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior.  Amen? 

1. We need to have HOPE for all who proclaim His name.

This includes:

Hope for the person who will happily claim the title of Christian, but only gives much thought to Him at Christmas time and Easter.

Hope for the person who has always been called Christian, but has never understood what it means when someone says, "Jesus died for you."

Hope for the person who has always known Jesus, but struggles with obedience and faith.

Hope for every Christian in every denomination out there.

If we automatically assume, either privately or in a publicly,  that a professing Christian is not actually saved, all that does is show that our hearts are not in the right place.  We are taking on the mind of the all-knowing God at this point.

We should be treating our fellow Christians the way we would like to be treated.   We should be overwhelmingly gracious and merciful.  

Don't think that Christian over there is really a Christian? Okay then.  Instead of publically or privately shaming them on the matter, go over there and share the gospel with them again.  It may turn out that they knew more than you thought they did.  They pray when they are alone.  They have ongoing battles with God through their acts of defiance.

We truly do not know what the end result of a person's walk with Christ is going to be when they take their last breath.

So, from here on out, if someone asks me, "Is ______ a really a Christian?"  I will only say that which I know to be true. If all I can say is that they are a professing Christian, then that's that.  If I am not sure, I will not say no.  If I have strong doubts, I will not say no.  I will choose to have hope that God is working in their heart and that complete repentance is in their future.  I do not know what is going on in the heart of most people, and I am not going to act like I do.

I want us to stop making assumptions about His people and believe that God knows what He is doing.

2. We need to have HOPE for those who reject Christ. 

Hope that the person who has always rejected Christ with fervor, would one day come to know Him.  We have no reason to show them disrespect.  We have every reason to show them love and kindness. They need the gospel, not constant nagging and criticism. They need to be engaged in logic-driven, mindful conversation, not to be called childish names.  We need to have hope that they will one day be blessed with the incredible hope that we have!

The least likely of person to become a Christian could very well be someone who God has chosen for himself.  We hear about atheists turning to Christianity all the time.

3. We need to have HOPE for the "strong Christians".  

We all have people we look up to, who influence us and teach us.  It is so important to remember that we can't let our admiration of people take the place of God.   And we should never allow ourselves to view others as sinless.  All humans are sinful, no matter how "perfect" they may appear to us.  Every person is fully capable of making the wrong decisions and even turning their back on God.   Just as we shouldn't assume a person is not walking with Christ, we shouldn't assume that a person is incapable of succumbing to a life of sin.   Knowing this can easily break your heart, but we need to faithfully maintain a hope that these people will persevere until the very end.

4. Absolutely NOTHING compares to the hope that we as Christians have!
Romans 5: 1-5 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
We should be falling on our knees, in absolute awe of this hope every single day.  God gave us himself and then he gave us eternal life.  No one could ever argue that he could have ever given more than that.  It is the epitome of all gifts that could be given.  The very least we should do now is to persevere until the end and proclaim this hope for all to hear.   If we are willing to humble ourselves and look at ever. other. living. soul as just that - a soul, we'll no longer look at them as just "people".  We will look on them with HOPE and we will see them as they are:  precious, hopeful souls created in the image of God, worthy of our love, prayer, and compassion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Homeschooling + Messy Houses + My Brain = Too Much

I'm not sure who made this meme, but I can strongly attest to its accuracy.   It doesn't matter how clean the house was yesterday, today, the house will be just as messy as it was before you cleaned it yesterday.

Now, you know I adore my life as a Mom.  I wouldn't trade it for any other full-time job on the PLANET.  I absolutely love staying home with my kids every day.  I can't imagine a different life.  I don't want a different life. I have the life I always dreamed of.

That said, I do love a clean home.  And since my kids are not making messes at daycare all day, they are at home making messes.

It's just what they do.

They pick up one toy, put it down, grab some scissors and cut up a piece of paper into 30 tiny pieces, then they grab a snack that comes in some sort of package and they forget to throw away the package,  then they get a cup of water and leave the cup in some strange place because they spotted a ride-on toy to play with in that moment.  Then it's time to change clothes for the 3rd time, leaving your clothes on the floor, despite the fact that Mommy told you exactly where to put your dirty clothes about 50 times.  Then they decide to get some milk, which requires a second cup.  But there are two of them, so that means a total of 4 dirty cups.  Somehow, by the end of the day, nearly all of the kids' cups are dirty.

The cats like to knock things down off of countertops and tables... that only adds to the daily chaos.

The dog thinks that peeing and pooping in the house is acceptable about 30% of the time.

Many times I need to quickly tend to one of the little ones, so I lay books on the couch that will remain there for days.  We get mail every day, most of which I immediately put into recycling, the rest I have no idea what to do with so it just sits in piles all over the place. At one point I did have a paper solution because I organized file folders and binders to hold such papers, but that requires work too, which I don't have the time for now.

This type of stuff goes on for 8 hours or so and you've got yourself a huge mess.  If I could follow them around and clean up after them and consistently encourage them to clean up after themselves, that would be great...but I homeschool.   During these same hours, I need to be present to teach.  I have to teach, clean, and discipline all at the same time.   That's not all, though.   Theoretically, I need to plan meals, cook them, and do the laundry at some point.  Those are the things I have been failing at the most, so thankfully I have my wonderful husband who is there to take over these things for me most of the time.  I'd much rather have it all together though, so that he wouldn't have to do so much after coming home from work!

Having 3 children under the age of 10, homeschooling, and having a clean and well functioning home?

One can only wish.

Coming to terms with the fact that I absolutely cannot and will not ever consistently have all three of those things has been my biggest challenge this year.

My second biggest challenge: the strange new diagnosis of epilepsy.  Though, it's not exactly new.  Apparently, I've been having seizure activity in my brain for years and just wasn't aware of what it was.

It may explain why cleaning the kitchen isn't just "cleaning the kitchen" to me, but something I have to mentally prepare myself for.  It's not just one task but 100 little tasks that result to one clean kitchen.   I feel like I am pushing myself to think through each task, "Put away the salt.  Put this dish in the dishwasher."

When my entire house is a mess, every room, every floor, every bed... I get completely overwhelmed.  I So much so that I feel that all is lost.  There is no recovering from this.  Why bother?  It's a full blown panic attack at times.

This happens multiple times a week.  Breaking up the task of cleaning it into smaller tasks seems nearly impossible.

If I ever do get the house clean, and I'm diligent about maintaining it, it still only lasts about 4-5 days, tops.   The kids, especially the 3-year-old, know how to completely destroy a room in a matter of minutes. Try getting said 3 year old to clean up her mess and you end up with a bigger mess.   :-/

To help with this problem, I have had the goal to simplify every aspect of our life.  One way to do this is to get rid of stuff.   I am trying to go through everything I own and get rid of as much as possible.  This even is too much for me to think about on most days.

So here I sit, in my messy house, with another headache, dealing as best as I can with the dizziness, trying to figure out some way to balance all of it.  I've read numerous other blog posts by women who say things like, "You don't need to balance it all.  That's okay. You're doing your best."  Yes, that is true to an extent, but when you're me, and your brain can't handle the chaos, you have to find some sort of a solution, at least SOME sort of balance.

I've made charts.  Schedules.  File systems.  I've invested in expensive planners, which I use, most of the time. I have a calendar hanging up in a very obvious place.  I check my Google calendar daily.

There is just too much to keep track of in this life.   Even when I step back and look at the situation from an eternal perspective, I am still baffled.  It seems like so much, even when I scale everything back.

I'm going to have to think about this for a few days or weeks... if I figure it out, I'll let ya know. ;-)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Gift Savings [The Hood Magazine]

Christmas Gift Savings

By: Shaina Herrmann
Originally published in the November 2016 issue of The Hood Magazine

This season brings about many beautiful decorations, delicious foods, and many special times with family.  Unfortunately, it is also is a time of year that is commonly known for draining your bank account.  

The American Research Group says that the average family will spend over $800 per year on Christmas gifts.  That number, while still being high from my perspective, begins to make sense when you take into account the number of gifts needed to include immediate and extended family members, close friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even pets! It becomes a real challenge each year to find gifts for all of the people in your life while still maintaining a reasonable budget for your family.  When you are out shopping this season, there are quite a few things you can do to to save money as you search for those perfect gifts.  Below I’ve listed a few of my favorite ways to save!

Make it Yourself -  If it can be made at home, and it will save you money, why not make it yourself?  You can learn how to make just about anything if you do one quick internet search.  Additionally, a DIY gift adds a little extra sentiment, having it be a one-of-a-kind gift made just for them!

Framed Photos - We live in the age of photography! We all love to see images that remind us of good times we’ve shared with others. Photo prints are affordable and likely to be cherished by anyone who receives them.  Did you go on a trip with a friend this year? Give them a framed print of the place you visited, or gather groups of images from the trip and place them into a photo book or album.

Hobby Gifts - Consider the hobbies of the person you are buying for.  Does your friend love to write? Pick up some pretty stationary and some stamps.  If your budget allows, add in a few nice pens and her favorite candy!  Does your cousin love concerts? Find them a good scrapbook or photo album to put all of their momentos into. provides numerous opportunities to save big amounts on gifts throughout the season.  Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and every day during those first three weeks of December there will be multiple deals by the hour, known as their Lightning Deals.  They offer free two day shipping for Prime members as well!

Snail Mail -  Can’t afford many gifts this year? You can still show your appreciation and love to your friends and family. When is the last time you mailed someone a letter? You could make it a card, postcard, a letter, or just a little note of appreciation on some nice stationery.   If you have a few dollars to spend, include a favorite snack or candy with your letter.

Free Shipping Day - For all of those late minute shoppers, hundreds of companies offer free shipping on December 16th of this year! Visit a list of the participating stores.

Budgeting for Christmas … and What to Do if You Didn't! [The Hood Magazine]

Budgeting for Christmas
… and what to do if you didn’t!

By: Shaina Herrmann
Originally published in The Hood Magazine | December 2012 

The Christmas season is upon us! For many people, this is their favorite time of the year. Unfortunately, this season can also be the most stressful time of year if you are not well prepared.  Planning out a Christmas budget is one of the best ways to prepare!

I recommend that you begin a Christmas savings fund as early in the year as possible.  Set aside an envelope to fill with cash little by little every month. If you are a last minute shopper, you are more at risk of overspending.  This means it is very important to shop with a planned out budget! To make sure you stay within your budget make sure you pay with cash only and try to do all of your shopping alone.  The fewer distractions you have while shopping the less you are likely to make unnecessary purchases.  Paying with cash forces you to see every dollar that you are spending and it discourages you from spending more than you have budgeted.

To create a budget, first, you need to make a list of all of your expenses this Holiday season.  Make sure to include not only gifts but decorations, food, the tree, cards, postage, and travel costs too.  It is also helpful to make a list of everyone you need to buy a gift for and everyone you’d like to buy a gift for. Once you have your gifts for those on your need list, you can work on the other list depending on how much money you are left with.  

Need ideas for affordable last-minute gifts?

Think outside the box -  Gift certificates to the movie theater or bowling alley, a magazine subscription, a grocery gift card, a gas card, or a coupon book may be the perfect gift!  There are many simple things that would be well appreciated and they are affordable.

Homemade Gifts - You don’t have to be super crafty and have a lot of time on your hands to make homemade gifts!  Framed photos, homemade baking mixes, coffee, tea, or sweet treats can make wonderful gifts.

Non-monetary Gifts - These won’t cost you a penny, just your time! Think of ways you can help your gift recipient throughout the year - painting, cleaning, babysitting, etc.  Make up a certificate or multiple “coupons” for them on the computer, and you’re done!

Meal Planning Benefits and Tips [The Hood Magazine]

By: Shaina Herrmann
Originally published in The Hood Magazine

Have you ever given meal planning a try? Our family has been using meal plans for the past seven years. Recently, I gave the 8-week meal plan a try and it has been working beautifully for our family. Your meal plans can be one week, two weeks, four, eight, or even longer if you desire.  You can choose to do one big monthly grocery trip or go once or twice a week.  Choose a plan that you know will work for your family.  There are numerous benefits to planning your meals ahead!

Top Benefits to Meal Planning:

  • No more stressful evenings spent wondering what to make for your family!
  • There are a couple different ways that it prevents you from going over your food budget.  1. It’s so easy to pick up fast food on the way home from work or an event, but when you have a plan for dinner you are less likely to give in to the temptation. 2. Having a plan means more efficient and less frequent grocery shopping trips. You and create your lists ahead of time and know exactly what you  need when you enter the store each week.
  • You are able to incorporate healthier meals into your routine.
  • Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to search and clip only the coupons that you know you are going to use.

Top Meal Planning Tips:

  • Create a master meal list of meals that you regularly make for your family.  Ask members of your family to contribute their favorite meals to the list.   You will use this list to refer to each time you create a meal plan.
  • Use up what you have first.  Shop your pantry before making your weekly or monthly plan.  
  • Choose one meat per week.  Cook a large batch early in the week to use throughout the week for separate meals.
  • For a more affordable weekly meat option, incorporate meals with canned tuna, deli meats, or a rotisserie chicken.
  • Take into account birthdays, anniversaries, and other events that will disrupt your regular routine. You don’t want to accidently buy ingredients to use on a night that you are not going to be home.
  • Find a few meatless meals that you can make each week to save on the cost of meat. This could be a pasta meal, soup, or breakfast for dinner - pancakes or french toast.
  • If you like to visit restaurants regularly, choose a few that will fit into your food budget and work them into your plan.

If you’ve never tried meal planning but would like to give it a try, start with just one week’s worth of plans and see how it goes! You’ll quickly see the many benefits to planning meals ahead and it may become part of your regular routine.

Visit The Hood Magazine for more family-centered articles, delicious recipes, and helpful tips for parents. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016


The blog will be gradually changing over the next month or so, so don't be surprised if a few things don't work properly.  :-)  I've decided to start blogging more about education and our homeschooling experiences.  The URL will soon be and I plan to create a Facebook page for it as well.  I'm excited to start blogging again! It's been a long time coming.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Homeschooling, Gilmore Girls, Little Girls, and Podcasts

November is over.  This frenzied year is coming to a close.  This year has surpassed all of my expectations so far, with both the good and the bad.   The good far outweighs the bad, of course.  God is so good. 

My third daughter, Kaylee Lynne, was born in February, and already I feel like she has always been a part of our little family.  She is so beautiful, excitable, loud and precious.  There really isn't much greater than peering across a room to find her gorgeous little face, beaming at you with the most delightful smile you've ever seen!   

Avery, our three-year-old, has been gracing us with the most incredible laugh-out-loud comments lately!  She wants so badly to be like her big sister, while at the same time is still striving to hold onto the much-beloved title of, "baby".  Her little face is beginning to gradually change from her baby face to her big kid face.  I'm not sure that I'm ready for Avery to be past the toddler stage!  Last year at this time she still nursed, she was still in her toddler bed, she was just a baby, wasn't she?!  

Zoe.  Oh, my sweet Zoe.  I am not sure where to go with this... she is growing up so fast that I feel like if I blink she's just going to graduate high school.   She loves art, music,  baking, and growing her friendships.  She is a true fashionista now - picking out her outfits ahead of time, making sure that her pants, skirts, shirts, scarves, shoes/boots, and her earrings are all properly coordinated! Truthfully, I am very proud of her for this.  I personally did not learn how to dress until just recently! :-)  Having three girls has been redeeming my ability to put together an outfit, and for that, I am extremely thankful!

Homeschooling has been a challenge, but the richness of what we've both been learning has been edifying and has broadened my outlook on what education truly is.

I feel like this year I had my "ah-ha" moment and I came to realize that the modern educational system no longer offers anything that I want or need for my children. It's a wonderfully freeing feeling!   I no longer worry about getting through a specific "curriculum". Meaningful rabbit trails, rich discussion of the different aspects of life we're learning about...these are always going to be more important than completing every last English or math lesson. We spend much less time "doing school" this year, but make the absolute most out of the time that we "do school".  I have very few qualms about teaching anymore.  There are so many wonderful resources available, and I know that God can and will give me everything that I need to take my kids all the way through their educational journies.  I have a clear end-goal and we are WELL on our way to that goal, that is all that matters.  

In addition to our home studies, we have been so enriched through our experiences in both Classical Conversations and Living Legacy Academy this year.  I'm not entirely sure that we will continue to do LAA forever, but for now, it is essential for our family to be actively involved in both.  Classical Conversations has improved my overall view of the world and education.  There IS a way to redeem my own education and provide my kids with a rigorous, quality education!  I no longer see life in different sections or "subjects".  God created all of this world to function together.   We are integrating everything now - math, history, music, astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, handwriting, languages, fine arts, and so on.   

We'll be watching a show such as Gilmore Girls, and Zoe will pick up on the HISTORICAL references.  She will watch historical documentaries with me and recognize people, places, or events that she's heard about through her memory work.  Those types of things would have completely gone over my head when I was her age. 

Speaking of Gilmore Girls... there is no way the show is really over for good.  Don't worry, fellow fans.  :)  I am holding to that hope for the next several years, or until they release a real ending.

Lastly, podcasts.  When I was pregnant with Zoe (9 years ago) I listened to Way of the Master Radio all. the. time.  I loved listening to it and I learned SO much during that time, but alas, when the show changed I ended up tabling it.   I have listened to a few podcasts very sporadically over the years but never really put too much effort into listening.  Well, this week I changed that, and boy am I ever glad that I did!  I finally discovered podcasts that line up with my interests in education and motherhood, and let me tell you, I have been SO encouraged by these men and women leading these podcasts!  I no longer feel like I'm in my own little mommy bubble, floating around above a sea of terrible news stories, distasteful ads, and heinous facebook comments.   I can listen to helpful, lovely things that remind me that there is still beauty and truth in this sinful world.  My favorite so far is called "Read Aloud Revival", which has also been encouraging me to read more! 

And with that, I leave you, for now.   Zoe just asked me if I wanted to help her bake some Christmas sugar cookies.  Um... yeah!  How could I ever turn that one down?

As with reading more often, I am trying to put more of an effort into blogging.  We'll see, I can make no guarantees! 

Finding Joy in the Winter Months

For our family, this time of year is full of two things: celebrations and a slightly overwhelming sense of cabin fever. Both Gage and I cel...