Raising Daughters in a Fashion Doll World

Saying “no” is very much an easy solution in dealing with child training. No, we do not do sleepovers. No, you are not taking ballet lessons. No, we do not allow fashion dolls in our home. No, you can’t have any candy. A dear mentor of mine encouraged me to be a mother who tries to say “yes.” Saying “no” can be an easy solution, but it can also shut down doors to teaching opportunities and experiences where my children can grow. So, I am learning that very often there are ways to say “yes” to things within biblical perimeters. I am not saying that my answer is “yes” to everything, but I try not to give an immediate “no” until I have thought something through.

I had a Barbie doll for a short time as a child. I truly enjoyed playing with it. But after having concerns with the impact the unrealistic image that doll could have on me, my parents choose to substitute my doll with another toy of my choice.

Like many young women, I did have a season where I struggled with having a godly perspective about the shape and weight of my body. I don’t believe playing with a Barbie doll had nearly much influence as the conversations and perspectives of the friends I listened to at that time in my life. But as a result of my struggle, even before I was married, I decided I would never let the world influence my daughters about what their body should or should not look like. I never wanted my children to own a fashion doll.

I truly was naïve then, in thinking I could protect my daughters from being critical of the body God gave them by not allowing them to play with a Barbie doll. And I wasn’t brilliant to think I had power to protect them from ever being exposed to worldly influences. At some point, my children will be exposed to the influences of the world. I can choose if I will be the person to discuss things with them or not. If I don’t address issues with them, it will be someone else who will. I have come to realize that I am unable to protect my children from the world, but I am able to prepare them how to respond biblically when they do encounter worldly perspectives. I actually fail in teaching my children how to think biblically if I protect my children from the exposure to the evil around them. They will be in shock and unable to grapple with what is out there if they are faced with it when they are on their own. I must make it a point to gradually, and purposefully address issues like body image with them while I am able. I currently have control of when and how they are exposed to things right now and I can teach them how to interact and perceive worldly influences in light of Scripture. Or I can even to allow another trusted adult, like a grandparent, Auntie, or godly older woman to also to be a part in the development of my daughter’s Spiritual development.

Allowing my daughters to play with fashion dolls is a perfect opportunity to teach them how to think and play appropriately with clothing and dolls, without being influenced by the image the doll portrays. Fashion dolls can be a great way for little girls to learn how to make and design clothes that are modest and creative. My girls also can learn how to fix hairstyles by playing with the doll’s hair. I consider incorporating fashion dolls into my girl’s lives as an asset.

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This is what I do. I buy used Bratz dolls. I take time to repaint and make them into child friendly wholesome faced dolls, instead of the seductive, dolls they are. A few years ago, I came across an amazing up-cycled version of fashion dolls by an Australian Artist, Sonia Singh. Sonia remakes the gaudy dolls into something lovely. She freely shares her methods and patterns about how to do that yourself. I spent time learning what she did and made dolls for my daughters from her website, Tree Change Dolls, and her printable instructions on Etsy. I have been able to create sweet faced fashion dolls for my daughters thanks to Sonia’s printables. For instance, the little blond doll pictured above is the same blond doll pictured at the top of this blog post. It is true! Following Sonia’s instructions, I can easily make footwear, hairstyles, faces, and clothes. It is incredible fun to be a part of the doll’s transformation and I know my daughters will enjoy repainting their own dolls in time.

My other concern with fashion dolls is finding them around the house with nothing on. I want to teach my children that it is wise to cover up and be discreet. So, my next step for the dolls is to make permanent swimsuits for them. The swimsuit will be stitched on and my girls can change their doll’s clothes, without the doll ever being completely undressed.

Fashion dolls can be used in an incredible way in my daughters’ lives to teach them about discretion, appropriateness, and modesty. As my daughters get older, I know they will also be able to learn how to create outfits for their dolls. So, the dolls will play a role in allowing my daughters to be creative with clothing learn some sewing skills, and have simple fun playing with fashion that is not over sexed. So instead of telling my daughter’s “no.” I have found a way to use a worldly toy to the advantage of teaching my children biblical principles, homemaking skills, and art.

Food: One of the Most Unifying Tools in the Hands of Homemaker

Every family has their own food culture. Favorite recipes and traditions passed down through generations, foods from an ethnic heritage, as well as lifestyle foods based on health, convenience, and economics all make up the circumference of foods a family regularly enjoys. Certain foods in each family are also traditional for certain holidays, and occasions.

My Food Heritage: My mother fed my family a diet of real food, very little sugar, a lot of vegetables, whole grains, venison my Daddy hunted and everything made from scratch. We ate out only a few times a year. My family also ate foods from my Dad’s Norwegian heritage. Lefse was a common evening treat. And for many years I requested fish soup for my birthday dinner. We also ate a lot of Mexican food. My Dad was raised in the Southwest, and my Mother met him while she was getting her degree in Spanish there. My mother has a lot of German in her heritage, so we also enjoyed plenty of meat and potato meals. My family gardened unfaithfully. I remember a couple of years of a good garden, but it wasn’t a huge part of my life. We bought most of our produce. My Dad is a hunter however, and we ate a lot of venison and wild turkey from what he killed. We also raised chickens for many years and we ate their eggs and sometimes we ate them.
My mother didn’t buy jello, cool whip, cake, frozen foods, processed foods, white bread, margarine, or pudding mixes. We never kept soda in the house. I only got pop on a very rare occasion…courtesy of my Daddy. I grew up enjoying a large variety of food. And to this day, I am always up for trying food. I especially like trying foods from other cultures. Korean food is one of my personal favorites.

My Husband’s Food Heritage: My husband has other cultivated tastes. His family had a garden throughout most of his childhood, and his mother canned, and canned, and canned. His family was also very restricted in their food budget due to income. So, he did not eat a huge variety of foods nor did he eat out much as a child. His mother is a phenomenal cook. Many of her recipes are my husband’s favorites to this day. She did use canned soups and a lot of prepared foods in her cooking, so my husband is accustomed to those flavors. My husband is still very content eating chocolate pudding from a mix, cool whip, or frozen french fries. My husband, being raised in southern states also LOVES sweet tea. It is a huge part of his life. He isn’t opposed to drinking a can of Pepsi on occasion either. My husband is not necessarily health conscious, he would tell you that is my job. Jim is particular about the taste and texture of his food, so the quality of cooking and the methods food is cooked are important to him. He would probably say that classic American fair is his favorite food genre…hamburgers, hot-dogs, meatloaf, fried chicken, and a hearty steak; all served with fries…. Although Italian foods would not be far behind.

Our family’s Food Culture: As a newlywed, I did my best to learn how to cook the foods my husband grew up eating. I had fun experimenting on him with some new recipes too, but I admit I also had a good share of failures, even though I was a home-economics major. My biggest challenge was in choosing what foods to cook. My husband and I both have a different food heritage. We both have different likes and dislikes. We are also both genetically different and were born with different dispositions toward food.

For a while, I simply tried to adapt to the foods my husband was raised eating. I stuck to a lot of his mother’s recipes. But, as children came along, my pursuit of healthier foods increased. I was also more restricted in my budget the larger our family grew. I could not afford the amount of beef and leaned heavily on meatless dishes and poultry. I don’t care what anyone says, as soon as one is buying anything prepared, the grocery bill goes up. Even a pack of taco seasoning or gravy mix is more expensive than mixes ones own spices. And additives and sugars in those packets are not healthy to intake. Eating healthy is far more budget friendly than unhealthy food. I gradually began adding whole wheat pasta to our white pasta, whole grain rice to our white rice, and making my own mixes and such. Eventually we had a diet whole grain. Other than making play-dough, it has been seven years since I have purchased white flour. I even learned how to make my own whole wheat bread, and quit buying store-bought foods as much as possible.

The change was not quick. But over time, our family has morphed into eating foods that are normal for us. How we eat is not like my family ate when I was growing up, and it is not like how my husband ate growing up. In fact, I cannot say it is even a combination of the two. It is simply a culture of food unique to our family. As my menu guide explains, I have a workable pattern for buying and cooking meals for our family.

I remember making my first pack of instant pudding. I used hot water instead of cold and ruined it. I continually failed in making my husband’s favorite chicken and rice casserole. The rice was always crunchy. Apparently instant rice was the key. I didn’t know there was such a thing. I never ate a box of mac ‘n cheese until I was married and cooking in my own. I got nervous cooking up my first batch from the box. I think it turned out okay.

What determines how we eat?

My budget dictates the majority of the food we eat. I try to have at least one meal a week without meat to save money. Other than a steak my husband will pick up on occasion, I rarely buy beef. We eat chicken a couple of times a week, ground turkey in place of ground beef, occasionally pork roast if I can get it for .99 a pound, and if we are lucky some venison from my Dad. Meatless dishes often play a role for dinner. Tonight, we had loaded baked potatoes for dinner. Another night we might have, home-made Mac ‘n cheese, or even breakfast for dinner, like waffles or eggs.

Nutrition is also something I consider valuable when planning meals. I rely heavily on whole, real foods. I try to get foods that do not have labels. So most of our food is in its truest form. I buy organic when it is reasonable, but I don’t sweat it if I can’t afford that. Honestly, I am not entirely convinced it isn’t a marketing scam. Quality is of most importance, and organic produce is often the best looking with the truest flavors. A farmer’s stand or market is ideal, but not currently most practical for our family. I buy whole grain flours, rice, and pasta. I am also careful not to incorporate much sugar into our diet. We don’t eat dessert, and I substitute coconut sugar or raw honey in most of my baking. My goal in food for our family is simply to make it as real and nutrient dense as I am able to afford. The book: Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Plank is probably the most influential book on healthy eating that I have read. Nina also has a blog with some great recipes that we enjoy http://ninaplanck.com/.

Affection and comfort also are important in the food choices of our home. I save my experimentation for lunchtime with me and the children. My husband does not need the stress of trying new foods at the end of a crazy day. So, I will have seaweed and sticky rice with kimchi for lunch with the children, but never for dinner. I often will make something that is a favorite of my husband to cheer him during a stressful time or to simply show I love him. I also do the same for my children. I like to use food as a tool to bring comfort and show love during certain times.

Sharing the food our family eats with others is also an important way to minister. Since we often have people eat with us, it is a great opportunity to share the culture of our family through the venue of food. It allows a person to become a part of our family in a way, while they eat dinner with us. If I were going to Africa and sat with a family for dinner there, I would be taking part of their culture and family through the meal they served me. It is the same in the states from family to family. We each can allow someone to enter into our zone, but sharing a meal our family would normally eat with them.

Food is for celebration. I was recently reminded of the children of Israel and how God set aside special days for them to celebrate and feast. There are days that we set aside for celebration. Generally I do not insist on healthy eating during those days of celebration. There are special seasons for feasting and being grateful. And I do not tag those times with health concerns.

Food should unify not separate. Overall, my point in creating a certain food culture for my family is that it brings people together in unity.  I use food as a tool to build my family and bring others into the dynamics of our home. Food is a method to help my family be healthy and strong, but it is not my reliance as my article on nutrition points out. And I don’t argue with my husband about food. Yes, I tend to be more health conscious than my husband, but our relationship is more important than if he eats his vegetables or not. And I make a batch of sweet tea with real sugar for him every weekend. I bring people together in our home around food. I bless my family and guests with wholesome meals for my family and guests. I use food to create warm feelings and memories. Who doesn’t cherish the morning waking up to the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls smothered in cream cheese frosting? We gather together nearly every evening for dinner in our home. It is the point in the day we can be together. I serve dinner on time and I am usually well planned in my menu and ingredients that making dinner is stress free. Food is such a great method to bring people together. Even taking a batch of freshly baked cookies to a new neighbor can help breech any divides and begin to build a relationship. Food opens doors of building relationships with people. I truly believe that food is a very important tool in the hand of a homemaker. A wise homemaker will study how to use food for the advantage of the gospel and the blessing of her family.

Graham Flour Banana Bread

The nutty, warm flavor of graham flour has made this one of my favorite banana bread recipes. I make this recipe into muffins as well. And for those with egg allergies…this recipe doesn’t have them.

1/3 Cup Oil (I use grape seed or coconut)

½ Cup Applesauce

2/3 Cup Honey (Coconut Sugar may be substituted for honey. It will lower the glycemic index)

3 Small Mashed Bananas (2 cups)

1 ½ Cup Graham Flour (Whole Wheat Flour may serve as a substitute, but it will not taste quite as good as graham flour, and it will have a higher glycemic index than the graham.)

1 ¼ teaspoons Baking Powder

½ teaspoon Baking Soda

¾ teaspoon Salt

1) Mix ingredients together
2) Pour into muffin tins or lined loaf pan
3) Bake bread for 1 hour or muffins for 25 minutes at 350.

Mashed sweet potatoes can be substituted for the bananas, add a dash of cinnamon for a great autumn flavor.

I often make muffins or quick bread for breakfast. It is an easy way for me to use fruit and vegetables and simple to keep on hand for the children to have for a snack later in the day as well.

I keep a variety of flours on hand in my freezer. I enjoy using various grains instead of just wheat. Graham flour is a wheat based, whole grain flour it is ground differently than whole wheat flour producing  a higher fiber and courser grain than traditional whole wheat flour. Graham flour gives bread, crusts, and even some cookies an amazing rich flavor. It is like adding graham cracker crust to baked items…simply delicious.

My Husband’s Safe Place

A few weeks after Jim and I began dating, we were still feeling very vulnerable and cautious in our relationship. It was at that point  that a quarter entered the picture. Jim described his heart like a quarter a little boy has. Sometimes the little boy pulls the quarter out of his pocket to show it, but then puts it back in his pocket for safe keeping. I remember Jim telling me  “Rebecca, someday I would like you to have my quarter to keep forever.” We both understood that “quarter” meant his heart.

It was a few weeks later (our relationship moved fast) when Jim pulled out a slim, flat, blue box with the words “U.S. Mint” on the top. He handed it to me. I opened it to find two shiny new quarters. Based on our earlier conversation, I knew Jim had given me his whole heart. Jim told me that he actually had no trouble giving me his heart, and it came easily and naturally. I remember fighting back tears as I handed him one of the quarters to show him, that I too was entrusting my heart to his care. The other quarter I have kept until this day.

We are now eleven years and four children deep in our marriage. And I still keep my husband’s quarter safe. I do not take the keeping of his heart lightly. Our challenges on a daily basis supersede the simple crisis that popped up during our courtship days. My husband kindly bears the brunt of the burden of the care of me and the children.

It is a tough world for the only money-maker in our home. There are people my husband works with who are demeaning, irresponsible, egotistical, lazy, cranky, and negligent. Such people he is around every day for 9-10 hours. Besides the difficult people my husband engages with on a daily basis, he, like most working folk, has a job that is stressful. There are problems and crisis that pop up even simultaneously. My husband’s days are full of deadlines, schedules, classes, and meetings. Even at home, he is bombarded with phone calls in the evenings and weekends, and required to settle company concerns at a moment’s notice. Such is that nature of what my husband does. I do believe, it is a common type of life most employed people have.

My day is also full. I am greeted with a whining baby first thing in the morning. He tends to be cranky until after his morning nap. My children are not always pleasant. They argue, complain, and can be disobedient. Even when the children are cheerfully obeying, we are busy. My days are full of tending to children, housekeeping, cooking, planning, schooling, laundry, and the business of the home. I can get tired and ornery. Just like those who go to work, my days are stressful, even though my stresses and concerns are different from those with jobs outside the home, the topics of concern are just as meaningful to me as though I was paid for my work. It is easy for me to become self-focused on my needs and the troubles of the home that I neglect to have compassion on my hard-working husband.

But I have found it easy to set my selfish feelings of the day aside when I think with compassion toward my husband. Love is self-sacrificing. My husband sacrifices every day of his life by working hard and giving his hard earnings to feed, shelter, and care for the needs of me and the children. His sacrificial love for our family is something I truly cherish. I get to enjoy the days at home with my children because my husband works hard. Even those rough days I have at home, are probably better than one of his easy days at the office. I wouldn’t trade the moments I am able to share with my little ones for anything in the world. I am truly grateful for my husband’s job and his willingness to give me his earnings to spend on electricity and groceries.

Besides working hard to provide for our family, my husband takes our emotional and spiritual needs seriously. He is responsible for our hearts, and he knows it. There are days I save certain issues for him to deal with after he gets home from work. For a time, he gave our eldest daughter her reading lessons because she wasn’t putting forth her best effort for me. She seemed to do better for Daddy. He also helped potty train our littlest girl, who simply became too lazy to take the time to go potty when she needed. Somehow, Daddy was able to get through to her when mommy had no effect. My middle child wears glasses, she doesn’t like them, but it is necessary. Often our baby boy needs a bath in the evening. My husband is quick to volunteer with that task while I clean up from dinner. It helps for my husband to get involved in asking her about them when he gets home from work. So, when he gets home, there is no putting up of his feet watching TV. He is busy, just like me, until every child is in bed for the night. And then, there is me. I am a woman…emotional…hormonal…and well complicated. My husband loves me dearly and does his best to help me sort out my heart and re-focus ton the Lord.

My husband also has jobs around the house that he does. He mows the grass, fixes broken things, moves heavy things, repairs and remodels as needed. He has come home many an evening to do manual labor on the house until dark.

So, after taking the time to reflect on all my husband does and the burden he bears in life, I can easily find gratitude and compassion for him. He is tired and emotionally spent from a days work. He needs a place he can be at ease I feel very strongly that I am to be my husband’s safe place.

I am cautious about addressing my concerns. Not that I do not share my opinions and timidly hold up the wall. But that I am gentle with my words and careful about timing when I do discuss heavy topics with my husband. The moment he walks in the door from work is never the time to bombard him with my concerns, difficulty I have had with the children, or a crisis that came up. That can all wait until he has taken a few long breaths…usually after dinner. I am not saying this is how it is ALWAYS played out in our home, but I do put forth a conscious effort to give him some peace after he gets home, and time my conversations for when he is relaxed. Sometimes, I have waited a few days until he is through a stressful situation at work.

I am not my husband’s critic. When Jim is with me, he should feel free and open. He can be vulnerable with assurance of my support. He shouldn’t be on edge, wondering if he is going to do something to upset me. He shouldn’t have to worry about everything he says in case it might hurt my feelings. He shouldn’t feel my critical eye with how he disciplines the children, eats, organizes his day, or addresses a situation. My husband needs to feel at ease and at home with me. There are times I fail in this matter, but with every passing year, I am learning to allow my husband to make his own paths with my support. Perhaps I will eventually be consistant in relinquishing control of his choices and methods.

I make myself available for companionship. Jim and I curl up on the couch together nearly every evening after the children are in bed. I don’t pull out my knitting, a book, my phone, or the laptop. We might watch a show we both enjoy or a NASCAR race. It makes no difference. I am there, strictly for snuggling. I don’t mind curling up on him and doing nothing for a couple of hours at the end of the day. Being a warm companion is crucial to being my husband’s safe place. My world and his are joined. Although we both have tasks throughout the day that we must do, our hearts are all knotted up together and we look forward to being together the end of each day. I want my husband to long for that time snuggling with me. It is when he is with me that he does not get criticisms, conflict, or reproach.

I want him to be at peace with me. We have had brief seasons of tension, and neither of us like that, and work at making those moments of tension as brief as possible. I am not a perfect, supportive, devoted wife, but I value my position as my husband’s safe place and I guard that role. I struggle with submission, but the point is that I struggle. I do my best to give my husband preferrance. Sometimes that comes easily, and other times it is difficult. But i know, he loves me, and also seeks what is best for me, even if I disagree as to what that might be.

I speak highly of him. I never degrade him in public or private conversation. My husband knows, at least I believe he knows, that I do not ever paint him in a bad light even when chatting with my closest family members and friends. In fact, very much the opposite. He is a fabulous man. So, I honestly have nothing bad to report about him. I love everything about him…even his quirks are very dear to me. The husband of the virtuous woman mentioned in Proverbs 31:23, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” I believe no man stands a chance of success if he is not promoted first by his wife. No wife does her husband favors if she complains and makes fun of him. I find much of my inspiration from women like Clementine Churchill and Elizabeth Bunyan. Women who truly sustained their husbands through difficult and complicated years. Because of women like them, we have men like Winston Churchill and John Bunyon. 

Now, one might ask if I have a bit of an old-fashioned mentality in such devotion to my husband. Perhaps that is the case, but it is my mentality about the untily of marriage that is probably the motivvation for my adoration of my husband. I believe marriage should have a mutually supportive role, adorned by a selfless love for each other. I don’t see my husband as alone, and he doesn’t see me as alone. We are one…one unit…one person. Just last night, a leaf ended up at the bottom of our sheets. I made the comment that it must have gotten stuck to “our foot.” My husband got a kick out of that, but truly, his foot and my foot are pretty much a part of the same unit in my mind. We don’t peruse our own agendas and goals. We are as one single being working together for one goal. And that goal is to bring God the most glory we are able through our lives, love, and oneness in marriage.

And if anyone were to ask where my safe place is. Most certainly it is with my husband.

The Second Life of Grandma’s Old Hankies

Old things have gradually found a place in my home. I have a great appreciation for rekindling a period of time when life moved at a slower pace than today. Grandma’s old handkerchiefs have replaced boxes of tissues many times. I keep a hankie in my purse, apron pocket, and bed stand. If my children have rubbed their little noses raw with paper tissues, grandma’s hankies never fail to soften the blow of a cold. The soft batiste cottons of times past are easy on the nose, the economy, and my budget.

Grandma has passed a few stacks of lovely old hankies on to me. Some hankies were folded neatly in a tissue box and paper, with a note about who embroidered them and who they belonged too. My Grandmother is a great family historian. I have found her old handkerchiefs to be a treasure. It is like having a little history in my pocket. I think about my grandmother, aunt, or great-grandmother who finely embroidered the hankie every time I blow my nose, or wipe a tear. Using old handkerchiefs brings me warmth and thoughtfulness for a brief moment. Not one of those hankies can be bought in a store today. I truly cherish them. In a world where paper has replaced finery, I like to bring a little charm back into my life, by incorporating practical pieces of history. For me, grandma’s old handkerchiefs are great additions to my daily life and add a personal touch in a sweet and easy way.

I do not like all things old, for me, it has to save me money, be practical, and it is nice if it belonged to someone I knew. Some other heirloom items I enjoy using in my home are old recipes, furniture, books, and dishes. I don’t keep something for the sake of keeping it. Although, there are a few exceptions to that rule. Overall,  like to be able to use a vintage item, not tuck it away in a chest. My grandmother’s old hankies are certainly one of my favorite keepsakes.

My Modern Shopping Techniques


My mother created a grocery spreadsheet on her computer. She spent time every other week going through her list on the computer and marking down everything we needed to buy. She wrote items in short hand to save space and time. She did not coupon or shop sales. She loves getting everything in one store and getting it done efficiently. My mother is a goal oriented shopper.

Then I come along, and I am a little of both mother and grandmother. My shopping methods have changed throughout the years. I am certain most woman find that to be the case. When it was just me and my husband, we often got groceries together and there was not the concern for budget and time or even nutrition that children bring into the picture. Now that I have four children, time, budget, and nutrition have become the basis of my meal planning, grocery lists, and shopping trips. I also consider the stress factor. Taking four children in and out of a car, missing nap times, or being gone during lunch, all play a role. So I try to keep life simple, and as stress free as possible. I keep our errands down to one or two stops, and no more. I often plan to buy or bring a snack for the children to eat in the car as we journey. (Note: I plan the treats, we don’t get to the store and beg for this and that. We either already have something in the car, or I told them they could pick out a pretzel at Lidl or get a box of goldfish crackers at Aldi). I also combine shopping trips on days we are already doing something like a doctor’s appointment. That saves us the hassle of going out more than once a week. We don’t get fast-food lunches while out. That is costly. If I know we are not going to make it home by lunch, I pack them something. They love it, and so do I.

In our era of technology, shopping itself is undergoing a transition from my mother and grandmother’s generations. Online shopping and smartphones both play a huge role in my shopping lists and purchases. I find I can easily check out deals from various stores with the store apps. I also can see if an online order would be advantageous.

In our current location, I have found Aldi generally has the best quality for the best prices ON FOOD. I also like the fact that the store is small, and I can get through it quickly with my cart loaded with children. We also have Lidl and Walmart where I seek out deals. Target and CVS also come into play and I typically get PAPER GOOD, DIAPERS, and WASHING SUPPLIES from those two stores.

How I make a Grocery List


I use the Walmart grocery pick-up app. Many Walmart stores offer free pick-up. By using the grocery app, I can create a list and use it to quickly compare prices at other stores.


A day or two before we get groceries, I browse ads from local grocery stores, in particular, Aldi and Lidl. Aldi and Lidl have comparable prices, but Aldi is far superior in quality. Lidl however does come up with some surprisingly good produce and meat deals. So I watch them both. I will plan my shopping trip by going to the store that has the best deals for the weekend. On a rare occasion that may include a couple of stores, usually one to get the majority of groceries and another to run in and stock up on a Coupons? particular deal.

Using my Walmart list, I shop through Aldi. Since the Walmart app lists a price for each item, I can see my shopping total and easily compare between Walmart and any other store. For instance, I can see that a gallon of whole milk is $3.29 at Walmart, while I am at Aldi, they are selling a gallon of milk for $2.98. So, I pick up the milk at Aldi for $2.98, and delete it from my Walmart list. Sometimes an item is cheaper at Walmart than Aldi. For instance, a pound of butter is about $2.50 at Aldi, however, if I purchase the two pack at Walmart the butter is only $1.99 a pound. So I leave that on my list and will get it at Walmart. Whatever is left at the end of my trip to Aldi, I get at Walmart. I will either send my order to our Wal-Mart pick-up store and go pick it up at a later date, or run by a store and get those items that day. It depends on the day.

Coupons? I don’t clip coupons anymore. I used to be an avid coupon shopper, but coupons seem to continually decrease in value. I also kept finding that I would get the paper only to clip out one coupon. I simply don’t most items promoted on coupons. I don’t purchase many cleaning products, I don’t buy a lot of prepared food, and name brands are still more costly than generic even with a coupon added. Besides, Aldi doesn’t accept coupons, and I like the simplicity of that. I do use coupon on apps like Target and Lidl. This past week Lidl had a coupon for a pound of pure maple syrup at 50% off. Target has a cartwheel feature on their store app, they also have coupons that can be printed. CVS and Walgreens also have apps with coupons. CVS allows me to send coupons to my store card.

My shopping rules:

  1. Don’t by name brand items-generally I have found various store brands to be equal in quality and much more reasonable in price than a name brand. The white kitchen trash bags in Target’s Up and Up brand are superior in quality to the similar versions in Glad or Hefty. Most of the food we eat is created from a staple product in my kitchen. It is economical and healthy.
  2. Stick to Staples. Like my mini wardrobe, staple items in the kitchen are the building blocks for any meal. I can create a lot more variety with a box of macaroni or a package of jasmine rice than I can with a box of mac’n cheese and seasoned rice. I can do anything with a whole chicken, Asian, Mexican, Roasting, Soup, Strogenoff, Thai, African, Sweet and Sour…but a pre-seasoned or rotisserie chicken is what is it…nothing more.
  3. If something is added to the list, take something off the list. I have a budget for the month for groceries. I divide that amount up per week, and stick to it. Generally, my goal is to even purchase items below my weekly allotment, because I know there will always be an item I run out of before expected to purchase it. Like milk, tissues, diapers, or dish soap. In an effort to keep myself under the grocery bill allotment for the week, I do not buy items that are not on my list. This works great if my children ask me if they can pick up a box of cereal or something else that catches their eye. I just tell them “it is not on the list.” For some reason, that works. If it is not on the list, we don’t buy it. I do give myself room for a few exceptions though. If there is an item I choose to purchase that is not on my list, I substitute it for an item on my list. For instance, if I get to the store and find the peaches are at an amazing price and they look fabulous, I will pick up peaches, and remove the apples from my list. It doesn’t always work out that the items are of equal value, but I do my best to keep my budget balance, by allowing little room for a drastic price change.
  4. Remove any non-essentials from the list before going shopping. I often create a list of all the items we need on my Wal-Mart list. Then as I shop, I ask myself if it is something we can live without for another week, or it is something we need now? It is amazing how many items are either luxury items and can wait…especially if it is the end of the month when my grocery well is about dry. I will even pass up sales of items I do not truly need. It is cheaper not to buy at all than to buy an item on sale.
  5. Don’t habitually make-unplanned shopping trips. Those spur of the moment trips to the store, even to grab one needed item. They not only take valuable time, but always cost more than a planned trip. For instance, if I need a gallon of milk, and I run into a store, I am often going to choose a store that is an easy in and out, and will pay more for that gallon of milk than is reasonable. I inevitably will be lured into purchasing a couple other items on my way through the store. Even if those extra items are on sale, that trip still cost me more than it should have. So, planning is essential to avoid spur of the moment excursions to the store. I need to know how much milk we go through in a week so I can get it at once and not have to run out before my scheduled shopping trip to get more. Menu planning, grocery planning, and a little time spent in knowing where the best prices can be found are essential to a good grocery trip. Yesterday was Wednesday, I usually get groceries toward the end of each week, but we had simply run out of milk. I either purchased too little or we used more than expected, so I needed to get more milk. Instead of just running out to get milk, I planned my entire shopping trip early. We got everything we would need for the next week and a half.
  6. Know prices. I pay attention to prices. I know the prices of staples our family uses. When we moved from the mid-west to the east, I immediately knew my groceries would cost more here, because the milk at Aldi cost more in The South than in the Mid-West. It is hard to know a good deal on apples if I don’t even know the regular price per pound. So, I have a mental idea of prices and can spot a good deal when I see one, not just because a grocery store tells me it is a good deal either. What might be a good deal at one store, might be the regular price at another store.
  7. Easy on the meat. Meat and cheese are generally some of the most expensive grocery items. I generally purchase meat that is under a dollar a pound. To do that, I wait for sales, and usually only buy certain cuts or uncut meat like whole birds. Whole Chickens are .89 a pound at our Aldi. And who says turkey has to wait until Thanksgiving? A turkey can be priced below a dollar a pound and be a great poultry buy. Often there are sales on chicken breasts, legs, and thighs and when they dip below a dollar a pound, I stock up. I do splurge on beef and buy organic ground beef from Aldi (I have my reasons). I try to make the ground beef last a month or more and use ground turkey for most of our ground meat needs. I generally save the beef for company.
  8. I do the Prep myself. I do not buy foods that have been cut, shredded, or prepared for me. Not only do I find those items to be low quality, but more expensive as well. For instance, pre-shredded cheese might be convenient, but it lacks the creaminess of the cheese I shred myself. I find it to be dry, and it is coated with cornstarch to prevent it sticking in the bag. It doesn’t cook up or melt the same as the cheese I shred myself. I can buy a 32 ounce block of cheese for $7 and shred it my food processor when we get home. It is far cheaper and tastier than the pre-shredded cheese. The same thought goes for produce and meat. Produce looses nutrients when it is cut as well, so I am doing my family a favor by cutting it as we need it. I do not buy the little carrots pre-cut. Not only are they serious choking hazards, but far more expensive than a pound of organic carrots for .99. I can cut them into sticks myself.

And that is pretty much my philosophy and methods of getting food and essentials for our home. I imagine it will change through time. And I also don’t believe it is the best method for everyone. My grandmother would find my method of shopping very unsuitable for one person. And larger family may find buying bulk foods from Costco or Sams to be the most effective method of getting groceries. I do hold to the fact that planning is essential for any effective shopping trip and I also believe, no matter the size of the grocery budget, we are to be wise stewards. A large or non-existent grocery budget does not permit us Christians the freedom to spend carelessly. We are also held accountable for our time. I don’t believe we should over-obsess in the process of getting groceries. It can become materialism if we are obsessed with the best deals and always printing coupons. So, again, moderation is essential to biblical living.

First Day of School

I have been anticipating this day for some time now. I printed Ambleside Online’s lesson plans, created a daily lesson plan, and ordered books. I was awake at four this morning in excitement for the day.
I have four children. The oldest, Emma, is seven. She will be starting her second year of school today. I don’t hold to the standard grade system strictly. She has twelve to thirteen years of learning in front of her. This is her second year. If I had to place her in a specific grade at this point, I would say she would be in first and a half grade.

As Emma begins her second year, my other two daughters will be joining in the short group study. I will be reading to them some good storybooks. I expect they will accompany us on nature walks and various activities outside regular book learning as well. But other than that, I am giving them play time.

With the Charlotte Mason Methods, I do not use a large variety of textbooks. Most of the books we use are biographies, books with stories, and classical books. To keep my life simple, I stick to Ambleside Online’s lesson plans and book lists. Until Christmas, we will be finishing up a few books from year one, while beginning year two. After Christmas, she will be completely year two.

Emma’s Year 2 Lessons:

Math: Math-U-See Alpha Single Digit Addition & Subtraction Instruction Book, Student Workbook, Test Booklet & DVD
History: Fifty Famous Stories Retold, D’Aulaire biographies, Our Island Story: A History of England for Boys and GirlsTrial and Triumph: Stories from Church History
Natural History: The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Dover Children’s Classics), Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books), James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small
Geography: Charlotte Mason’s Geography, Home Geography for Primary Grades, and Mapping Paddle to the Sea
Copywork: Language Lessons for a Living Education 2 and Scripture Passages
Reading: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Books from Ambleside Online’s Free Read List
Timeline: Continuing to build a personal timeline of Emma’s life
Recitation: Memorizing the Walrus and the Carpenter by Robert Lewis Stevenson
Drawing: Step-By-Step Drawing Book (Activity Books for Little Children)
Handicrafts: Plastic Canvas Art
Piano: Basic Piano Lessons

Group Lessons:
Bible: A variety of Bible Stories, Scripture memorization, Catechisms, and Hymns
Poetry: Book of Poms
Art: John Constable
Language: French and Spanish from Little Pim (available on Amazon Video Prime)
Classical Music: Carl Maria Von Weber
Folk Music: Three a term, starting with Cockles and Mussels
Hymns: There is a Fountain by William Cowper
Exercise: Wii Fit for 30 minutes, or a nature walk
Nature Study: Handbook of Nature Study, National Geographic Kids Magazines, and Emma does a nature notebook

The day went very much how I expected. We accomplished what we set out to do, but it was not without its rough spots, some whining, and there is always the baby fussing and a telephone call. But we did it. We will spend a few days working out the bugs, but it will come together into some sort of system before too long. After a very rough start last year, I quickly learned to allow myself and the children grace as we begin a new school year.