Morning Prayers

We have so much FREEDOM in Christ that we are often very lax in our prayers.  When I see the rigidity of other religions I am reminded of two things:

1) We are FREE in Christ - free to worship at any time, anywhere (not to mention freedom from our sins); and  2) We sometimes abuse this freedom.

We end up not praying regularly or with solemnity, or deeply.  We can jot off a "Help me, Lord" in the car, or in the bathroom.  Other religions may find such familiarity disrespectful.

But since we are FREE in Christ to pray anywhere - and prayer in secret is encouraged - we often forget to bow down before our Lord!  We forget the power of praying ALOUD to our Father.

I know that 60 years ago it was still common for a mother and child to kneel in prayer at bedtime.  What happened?

My New Year's Resolution is more intimate, respectful, worshipful prayer, first thing in the morning, out loud.

This year, we can all set the example for our children by bowing down before God, and standing up and raising our hands to Him, in our home, in the morning, not in a haphazard manner, but with real respect and awe, like the prophets of old.

To help get our lives in order, and get our priorities straight, prayer should be the first thing we do every morning.  Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God..... May God bless you in this New Year!


How to Wake-Up 45 Minutes Earlier

Arthur Sarnoff
It is important to change your body’s rhythms – that will take at least one week.  The KEY is that you are changing your NIGHT rhythm while actively changing your MORNING wake-up rhythm. 

If you go to bed at midnight or later, your body gets less deep rest.  Every hour you are in bed before midnight is like TWO hours after midnight to your body. 

In order to change your rhythm you must know your natural rhythm – how many hours does your body WANT each night – without using an alarm clock to get up, and without forcing yourself to bed at a certain hour?  Mine is 9 hours.  When I worked, I never got 9 hours, so I always had to make up for it on the weekends, which totally ruined most weekends.  My husband also needs 9 hours.  Many people only need 8, or even 7.  Some need 10 or even 11!  You must know this before you can correctly and successfully set your internal alarm clock.

You know you have successfully changed your clock when, after even a bad night’s sleep, you wake up at the correct time (before the alarm), and WANT to go to bed at the correct new time.

It doesn’t work to say, “I think I’ll get up at 7:30 and bed at 10:30” and just begin doing it.  Your body revolts…it won’t let you fall asleep early, and you’ll be cranky upon arising.

I have successfully changed my rhythms over the past 10 years to allow for changes in schedule, without turning into a grouch.  Recently I changed from my DH’s schedule of midnight to 9:00 am, to 11:15 pm-8:15 am, and then again to 10:30 pm-7:30 am.

Here’s how!  I credit Rhonda Britton with first telling me I could change my life 5 minutes at a time.

Day 1:  Set alarm 15 minutes earlier.  This gives you the jumpstart you want.
Day 2-7:  Set alarm only 5 minutes earlier each day.

I know it's not really what you want to hear, but this way works. If you do the full 45 minutes, or even 10 minutes, your body will lapse back to your original time on weekends, which will then keep you up later at night, and then Monday morning you will be LATE!   

Five minute increments work like a charm because it is gradual and your body wants to beat the alarm clock up by 1 minute or so.

Think back to how difficult it is to change your (and your children’s) internal clocks to adjust to Daylight Savings Time.  You grouch for at least a week - until you have reset.  Reset gradually one week before DST and you and your little ones won't grouch.  Promise!

45 minutes is a reasonable change.  The best scenario, if you need to wake up even earlier than 45 minutes, is to keep this new time for several weeks.  You know you are successful when you are yawning at your new bed time, and are awakening before your alarm clock.  Then you begin the process again.

I would love to be one of those people who arise early…but realistically, I can only get to bed as early as 10:30 pm.  To set my goal earlier would result in many failures.  I need 9 hours most nights, so most days I realistically will not be up before 7:30 am.  I’ve just had to adjust to these facts!

If you are the exception then you don't need to be reading about how to wake up 45 minutes earlier - you just magically jump out of bed, happy and smiling, and can change your schedule on a whim.  But that isn't MOST of us!

Good luck and be patient as you change your life 5 minutes at a time!


What I Don’t Use & Other Thrifty Tips

Arthur Sarnoff
A reader asked me the intriguing question, “What do you not use to save money?” 

·       I no longer use dryer sheets, but when I did, I cut them in half.  And then I used the USED dryer sheet on my swiffer to pick up dust bunnies under the bed before I used the Swiffer pads.  Now I use 1/3 cup of vinegar in the wash to control static cling and make clothes softer, instead of dryer sheets.  It works, too!

·       I no longer use Swiffer pads, either.  Now I use $1 micro-fiber cloth from the dollar store.  I bought 4 for dry mopping my wooden floors, 1 for mirrors, 1 for furniture, and 1 for wet mopping.  There are quite a variety and they work great. 

·       I never do drive thru!  I made it a rule that we cannot eat in the car.  I take water and snacks on every errand, fieldtrip, daytrip, and vacation.  I use a steel or glass thermos, blue ice, ice chest, and vintage picnic basket.  I keep an old quilt in my car for impromptu picnics.

.     I no longer use tin foil, esp. in my oven.  I use wax paper to wrap items that might touch food, and parchment paper in the oven.  I no longer wrap potatoes - I just cook them in their skins.

.    I no longer use zip lock type bags.  I buy the cheaper bags that use a twisty tie.  For me, the savings is worth it.

.    I no longer buy bakery cakes.  I think my "homemade" Duncan Hines cakes are much better, not to mention how much money it keeps in my pocket.  After my son's party he cleaned the cake plate exclaiming, "These are the best crumbs I ever ate!"  I am also going to try the truly homemade chocolate cupcakes and homemade piped vanilla buttercream frosting from www.ourredhouse.blogspot.com/2009_02_01_archive.html.

.    I no longer buy water bottles.  I refill both Thermos and stainless steel containers daily, and we bought a countertop filtration unit for the kitchen (that even filters out fluoride), as well as a filter for the shower.  Our savings from no more water delivery and no more water bottles quickly paid for filtration.  This was the best move we ever made!  Now even our cooking water and ice cubes are filtered, and we also aren't getting poisoned from warm plastic bottles.

.    We plan to get a Soda Stream instead of buying soda.  My husband really likes soda water, and we think this will be a cheaper alternative, not to mention better for us and for the environment.  Then, for parties and other occasions, we can make our own root beer, etc. as well. No more phosphorus, high fructose corn syrup, or paying CRV.

·       I bought 10 washcloths for $10 and use them to wipe up bathroom spills, instead of using the hand towels or toilet paper.

·       I use cheap baby wipes to clean the bathroom counters instead of skin-harming wipes.

·       I buy the 30-pack of toilet paper.  We use 24 rolls a month.  This means I can go 5 weeks if necessary before heading back to Target.  It also means I always have an excess of t.p. which means less stress.  My disaster stock includes plenty of food and toilet paper!  Just imagine the computers going down for days and you are unable to buy toilet paper…what would you do?!  Go stock up now!

·       I stock up on Kleenex at low prices.  When it is 10 for $10, I buy 30, even if it means cutting down in a different category. 

·       I store my fruit properly (see grocery shopping tips).

·       I dump from my little trash cans into a bigger one, instead of tossing the liner into the trash.  Trash bags are literally tossing money in the trash, right?  However, they are necessary.  I make them last a little longer by not tossing until used several weeks. 

·       I don’t have cable, etc.  We have the cheapest Netflix plan and we stream movies through Roku.

·       I run my washer, dryer and dishwasher before noon if possible.  I don’t use heat on the dishwasher.  But I DO wash sheets, towels, pajamas and whites in HOT water to kill dust mites and cut down on asthma and allergies.

·       I set my kitchen timer for 40 minutes to get clothes from the dryer – I don’t let it cycle on and on.

·       I cut a bath mat in half for the shower to last twice as long.  CVS has a great price.

·       I cut my vitamins in half and only take them every other day, because I feel like I get enough nutrition from my food.

·       I love paper towels, but since it is tossing money away, I make sure each sheet is only 1 cent.  I use hand towels and rags, but paper towels are so handy for germy and messy jobs.  I use the Ralphs store brand “Home Sense” because they work well.  I only use the Select-A-Sheet ones – most jobs only require a small sheet.  And sometimes I tear that in half, too.

What can you cut in half to make it last longer?  What disposable item can you stop buying?

Janine  www.keeping-house.blogspot.com


Happy Organizing

Arthur Sarnoff 1955
Rule #4: Nothing on the Floor No More! ...Once you have a firm grip on the fact that a floor is not a big shelf at your feet, you can begin to clear the space…  from page 23 of The Beverly Hills Organizer’s Home Organizing Bible by Linda Koopersmith 

Murphy’s Law means my neighbors only come to visit when my house is a mess.  No one drops by when it is sparkling.  Therefore, we now e-mail each other when our house looks especially good.  We pop over and ooh and ahh and laugh and compare notes.  We all have had hoarding tendencies and paper problems, and we all love FlyLady. 

Keeping house is not about perfection or having model homes.  It’s about living and doing our best, without stressing over the small things.  But when those small things cause major problems, it is time to dig in and find new ways to solve the nagging little problems that cause continual frustration.  We need to constantly implement them, because we so easily slip back into old ways.

Organizing from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your LifeThat’s where Julia Morgenstern helped me.  I listened to her audio tape on Organizing from the Inside Out and did the steps.  I highly recommend her book or tape (she even has a DVD now, but I haven't watched it).  On graph paper, I quickly outlined my rooms.  I wrote down what the room holds, the activities it supports, the supplies it has, and storage available.  Then I was able to assess what worked, and what didn’t. 

She asks a series of questions that I answered in writing, and then, with my goals in mind, I was able to 1) determine how to change what didn’t work, 2) if things were stored in the proper room, 3) what needed to be decluttered, and 4) how to organize what was left.

My goals were:  A clutter-free home (although clutter goes and comes in again); a relaxing, comfortable place we want to spend time in, a place to read, write, do genealogy, scrapbooking and homeschooling. 

What I expected to achieve when I decluttered and got organized:  Enjoyment of my environment, gaining both energy and calm from our space.

Issues at the heart of my organizing challenge:
 1.     Entry: dumping ground; magazines and mail don’t have homes (Solved – two pretty bins on kitchen desk)
2.     Front room: bookcase cluttered.  Need open spaces.  Husband needs his own space for his items.  (Solved – only books in the bookcase – looks cleaner.  Lined books to the edge, like I noticed they did in a visually appealing library I visited.  Rearranged the furniture to show more blank wall space; removed coffee table; bought DH his own beautiful wooden floor holders for magazines and papers. Created a shelf in the bookcase just for his books.)
3.     Dining: Need places for bills, genealogies, pictures, recipes, baby info, menus, home fliers, warranties and repair paperwork. (Solved – a pretty bin on kitchen desk for bills, moved everything else into the front room walk-in closet in its own see-through plastic bins.  Put recipes into a photo album. Put menus and warranties into their own binders.)
4.     Linen closet: Too many things, and it’s unpainted and ugly.  (Decluttered, but still need to paint)
5.     Junk room:  Too many papers and unused stuff (Ugh.  Still there.)
6.     Bedroom: Papers and blankets need homes.  Need shelf sorters and risers.  Need more drawers.  (Solved – papers put in room they need to be used in, bought the sorters & risers at Big Lots, used plastic zip bags for blanket storage; used suitcases for off-season clothes; put more clothes on shelves instead of buying drawers.)
7.     Bathroom: Floor needs cleaning, door painted, more storage. (Solved – Hooks over shower doors for towels, gathered items into small plastic shoeboxes for in-cabinet storage, removed rarely used items to linen closet.)

Needed:  A drop-off table when coming home, instead of using the couch or the kitchen table.

·       I also went through and put one or two trash cans in each room of the house.  I put them and other items where I use them. 
·       I designated a huge basket at the bottom of my entry way closet as “the give-away closet.”  The second we have an item to give away, in it goes.  I drop items off once a month.

The House That Cleans Itself: Creative Solutions for a Clean and Orderly House in Less Time Than You Can ImagineI was excited to get the book The House That Cleans Itself because she was going to give me more ideas than what I thought of doing on my own.  This should have been a great book.  Her premise is to rearrange your house to suit your needs.  Right before I read this book I did this for my house and it works.  Well, the book was fun and motivating, but it ultimately failed me because she only gave one example – her entryway (big deal!).  If she had detailed each room I could have borrowed some great ideas, I’m sure.  What insights did she have?  What changes did she make?  A fun read, but disappointing.  If you’ve never thought about rearranging your house to suit you, you may get something out of it though.  I probably would have liked the book more if it had come out the year before I thought of doing her suggestions on my own! 

The Beverly Hills Organizer's Home Organizing Bible: A Pro's Answers to Your Organizing PrayersNow, next to Julia Morgenstern, the lady that helped me most through her books is The Beverly Hills Organizer, Linda Koopersmith. Her book Home Organizing Bible is so good I paid full-price for it at the bookstore.   It has plenty of pictures and ideas.  I love to read organizing books, and I’ve yet to find one better.  The thing I liked BEST about her book is she showed me HOW TO USE all the organizers on the market!  I realized that for about $300 I could totally organize every room in my house!  Now, I didn’t have $300, so I went to Big Lots instead and bought what I could there.  Her rule:  Measure First, Shop Second.  I put on paper what I wanted to do. 

I bought risers for my canned food, a shelf for my freezer, shelves for under the sink and in bedroom closets, shelf dividers so my husband’s jeans didn’t fall into his folded shorts, 4-shelf shoe racks, put shelves up in my front-room closet, bought plastic drawers for the closet, wicker baskets for homeschooling books that sit out, shelves for videos, small wire holders for Ziploc bags and wax paper that could be attached to my pantry door, a caddy for our remotes in the front room, a bakeware rack to keep my casserole dishes on their sides and easy to grab instead of stacking, a rack for my pot lids, and more.  I also made drawer dividers using cardboard lids covered with contact paper.

Because she explained HOW to use these items, and had a picture of them, with a picture glossary also at the end of the book, I was readily able to implement.  I compared prices online but didn’t buy.  I went to Big Lots, Home Goods, and The Container Store with my price list.  My budget was $100.  I bought all of the above.  I didn’t get everything she suggested in her book that sounded great due to my limited budget, but the changes I implemented made a HUGE difference! I highly recommend her book.

Happy Organizing!

Janine  www.keeping-house.blogpot.com


Finding My Way Home

Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time. ~ Margaret Bonnano

Photo by bridgetroll
Finding Your Way Home by Lucynda Koesters is the most complete book I own on figuring out how you can stay home with your child, and I bought every book I could find on the subject.  Many are good, but this is the best.

Part I includes 10 compelling reasons, in full chapter detail, on why someone would want to stay home. She discusses the needs of infants, toddlers, grade schoolers & teens. She discusses mental and physcial health, your marriage, family life, and having no regrets.

Part II discusses your options, your finances (which is excellent), contingency plans, your new life, the Porch Swing Test, and even creating an action plan (very useful).

Part III discusses how to be successful at home. Daily schedules, managing your children and your house, staying motivated, creating a safe haven, weekly routines, and being at home.   There is also an addendum for single parents and how they can come home too!

I came across an e-mail I had written to the author in early 2005 after reading an article she had written in Stretcher.com.  I was only 8 weeks pregnant and making more than double what my husband made, because he wasn’t working full-time. 

I wrote that we were spending $900 in groceries and another $300 eating out.  Today my budget is $600 for groceries and $20 for pizza.  I use the envelope method, so there is no fudging.  But when we spend less than the budget, we can either buy something fun or go somewhere fun.  When I have to, I can get the grocery budget down to $300 for the month.

Susan Branch Spiral Notepad
S. Branch notebk
I mentioned the waste of food and not shopping frugally.  She was very encouraging about how to get started, and suggested the price book.  I simply typed up my grocery receipts with the amount paid, sorted it alphabetically, taped it inside a small hard-backed notebook in my purse, and began comparing prices to it.  Over time I was able to determine the cheapest price paid at what store.  For example, I had the big box of Fishy crackers listed as $X.xx from Ralphs, and then when I went to Target and saw the same box for $Y.yy I was easily able to compare which was the better deal.  I noted the stores side-by-side in my notebook.  Once this was established I then was able to make a master shopping list for each of my favorite stores on what items to buy.

Yes, it took a little bit of time to type the list (15 min?), cut and glue it into my notebook (2 min), and when at the stores compare and write down the different price.  Was my time worth it?  Of course it was!  This is completely do-able.  I also have my lightweight coupon carrier with me at all times.  Since I’m only using coupons for things I really need, I don’t have a huge coupon binder. I put the coupons I think I'm going to use in my money envelope (so I don't forget to use them) but keep the rest in my purse in case I come across a great deal that will be even better with a coupon I hadn't yet planned to use.

I do my main monthly grocery shopping (see my top grocery tips) at three stores which carry the majority of our staples, rarely going off list.  I’m fortunate that I live in an area where all grocery stores are within a few blocks of each other.  I circle the best deals from the flyers and pop in for just those items.  I do not overdo it, going to six stores in one day or one week.  No, I have my top 3 stores that I visit once a month, and then the next three weeks, based on the sales fliers, I choose which store to visit for their deals. 

This system has developed over time, and I do this shopping while I’m in the area running another errand. 

Finding Your Way Home: How To Become A Successful Stay-At-Home ParentMrs. Koesters’ e-mail back to me was very encouraging:  “I think you and your husband can make this work simply because you both have the same goal which is to have a stay-at-home mom for the baby.  Keep this very important goal in mind as you work through the process of transitioning to one income.  A key to your success is compromise.  You both must be willing to compromise and negotiate in order to reach your goal.  He is willing to be frugal and use coupons; you are willing to plan the meals he likes and do the shopping.” 

I also followed her advice to set a weekly (monthly) budget for food and I estimate each item’s cost so I know an approximate total before checking out.  I watch prices closely as I go through the store and consider substitutes or not getting something that week. 

photo credit
Our old habit was to buy whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, whether it was on sale or not.  Our new habit is the envelope method:  $200 for TJ’s, $200 for Ralphs, $100 for Target, $100 for my husband to spend at whatever store he chooses.  (He loves to shop for loss leaders and new items.)  Whatever money is left over from the once a month trips gets to be used for the next three weeks at other grocery stores.  Then, what is left at the end of the month is used for something fun (such as a small pool) or to go somewhere fun (like a kid’s museum).   

Being motivated, continually revising your budget until you can live on one salary, and strategic grocery shopping can go a long way to helping you find YOUR way home.  
Janine  www.keeping-house.blogspot.com 


What Time is Dinner?

What time do you plan on eating dinner?  Most organized women begin dinner preparations at 4:30 p.m. OR, preferably, before breakfast!  Early risers lay out all the nonperishable ingredients and dishes, and do preparation such as chopping celery and grating cheese.  Shocking, but true! 


I'm not an early riser, so in the beginning 4:30 p.m. was always my starting time, unless I was using a crock pot, in which case preparation must be done in the morning, and at 2:45 p.m. if using a bread maker.  You must begin at 4:00 p.m. if you need to clean up your kitchen beforehand.


If you plan to eat at 6:00 p.m., then 4:30 is your LATEST starting time!

Have a child set the table.  Check his or her work.  Make sure you have taught them properly, and remember to SMILE and praise them!  No criticizing!  Ask your children to come up with a centerpiece.  Keep a Bible handy to read a passage right after dinner.  Use themes whenever possible, esp. to tie into a Bible story.  Get a manners book and practice.  Tell them WHY we use manners, and that we are showing consideration for others.


I once heard a French woman say that American women get fat because they eat bland food standing up.  French women take pride in what they cook, and serve it as though at a fancy restaurant, even if she doesn't own good china.  Even if it is just for YOU at lunch, set the table!  It seems silly, but it works and helps keep off the weight.  My lunch at the table helps me savor the moment of being home with my child in my cozy home.


If your DH gets home much later than when you need to eat, set his place and when he comes home warm up his food if at all possible, instead of throwing it into the microwave and him eating in front of the computer or tv. 


It took us YEARS to accomplish a nice evening dinner routine, even though it is such a simple thing.  My child and I eat at 6:00 p.m. or earlier, as daddy doesn't come home until after 7:30 p.m. 


My Dear Husband shared that he really liked it when I remembered to turn on the porch light.  It made him feel welcomed.  He also liked it when the table was clear and inviting – which was rare for the first 5 years of our marriage.  Since I do not cook meat, we decided that whatever I made would be his appetizer – if he liked it.  That would take the edge off his hunger and he'd get his nutrition.  Then he was free to make his meat, etc.


It was a very difficult process, as our tastes in food are complete opposites.  I like any type of pasta except spaghetti.  He only likes spaghetti.  I like sweet sauces; he likes spicy.  I eat vege-burgers; he eats meat.  I like raw veges; he likes cooked.  We couldn't even agree on our mustard and mayonnaise.   I like my food piping hot; he likes his room temperature.  I like to eat and move on; he likes to linger and take hours, esp. when surfing the net or watching a movie.  Sometimes he'd take so long the cat would finish his meal for him!  I get up in the morning and eat first thing.  He eats hours later.  When I'm making an early lunch, he is eating breakfast.  When I'm beginning to make dinner, he's just finishing his lunch.  He is definitely on his own schedule!  We eventually worked it out, but it took a long time.


A word about Nutrition

Eat For Health: Lose Weight, Keep It Off, Look Younger, Live Longer (2 book set)In "Snowbound with Betsy," each morning mom poured orange juice from the squeezer into everyone's glass!  Now, I have an orange tree and I've only done this a few times.  But it is an inspiration.  However, even if you use "fresh-squeezed" o.j. from your grocery store, the point is that you have personally looked into what juice is best served to your family, and that it is available for you and your family every morning.  This is what normal used to be.  This is our goal.  


Based on what you read about nutrition for your family, YOU need to decide what comes in from the grocery store and goes into your child's growing body.  I recommend "Disease Proof Your Child," "Eat for Health", and "Eat to Live," all by Joel Furhman, M.D., if you don't know where to start. 


Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids RightWhat YOU feed your children NOW will determine if they have a long and healthy life or a shortened and sick one.  It really is YOUR responsibility.  YOU are accountable.  It IS that important.  (I am preaching to myself, too!) 


Not only does what you feed your children now affect how often they will be sick as children – catching colds from other children at the playground, classes, or schools – but it affects their ENTIRE life span – if they will develop asthma, diseases, cancer, etc.


It is a MYTH that children need to get sick as children in order to build their immune system. (I am not talking about eliminating germs.)  If it were true, then school teachers would be immune from their students' colds and flus.  However, since most school teachers eat about as well as their students, they also get sick as often. If the myth were true, then the school teacher would no longer get sick. (The funny thing is I often hear teachers brag that they no longer get sick – yet every time we see them they have a cold.) Proper nutrition helps make a difference.  A teacher that eats plenty of fruits and veges won't get sick as often.  It is the same with children.  However, if your child isn't eating as well as he needs to be, and he is around other nutritionally-deprived children, he will probably get sick, thus causing weariness for the entire family.  

The person who decides what shall be the food and drinks of a family, and the modes of its preparation, is the one who decides, to a greater or less extent, what shall be the health of that family.  ~Catherine Beecham and H.B. Stowe 1869


My Top Grocery Shopping Tips

We cut $300 from our grocery budget when I quit working. These are my top tips.

photo credit
 1)   Organize grocery coupons by the MONTH they expire (not item).  Check before your weekly trip to see if you need the item.  Chances are the date will pass without you ever needing the item, because most coupons are for junk food or cleaning products that you really don’t need anyways.  That is big money saved.  Use coupons only for what you really need.  Coupons can cause you to waste money if you aren’t disciplined.

2)    Understand how supermarket fliers and loss leaders work. (Miserly Moms taught me.)

3)    Find the lowest priced grocery store in your area – you (or your child) may have to bag your own groceries.  I ended up going two miles farther, but my savings were immense on produce.  A full cart of food for only $30!  The store was in a “poorer” section of town – but I noted plenty of Mercedes in the parking lot.  However, this is not my main store because they do not carry enough of my staples.  I also go only when my husband can accompany me, because he likes to find new foods that are not on my staples list.  Because the produce is so cheap, we can eat to heart’s content.

4)    Keep a small grocery price book in your purse to compare prices when out and you “think” you see a good deal.  Your booklet will tell you if you are right.

5)    Eliminate breakfast cereals, except oatmeal.  Cereal is the number one money waster according to Miserly Moms.  It is a high price point for what you get, and it really doesn’t nourish your body.  Wean yourself.

6)    Try going grocery shopping only once a month!  This really works when you are desperate to cut expenses quickly and efficiently.  Plus it saves you a ton of time and really frees up your weekends.  I did this for quite a few years.  I’m sure my grocery bill was cheaper than anyone else’s in my area because I shopped two stores only once a month.  Usually by week 3 we were cleaning our cupboards of our non-favorites but good-for-you food.  It really helps you stick to your budget.  Buy frozen vegetables, freeze some bread and milk.  I occasionally had to make a run to a bread store outlet.  I used green storage bags for lettuce, celery and carrots and they lasted.  We ate a lot of fruit during the first week, not much for the remainder except in smoothies from frozen fruit.  We also ate canned pineapple and fruits, and I used canned milk for cooking.

7)    Use green bags for produce storage.  Have a chart on your cupboard that tells you which fruits and veggies are best stored together and follow it.  Don’t store onions anywhere near potatoes.  Put potatoes and onions in their own dark bags or boxes, in their own cabinets.  Onions can be separated in an old nylon with twisty ties between each onion. When you buy fresh berries, remove them from the carton they came in and put into a glass storage container.  With strawberries, put only ONE level of berries in the container and they will last at least 8 days.  Once you pile them on top of each other they go bad.  When slicing cheese, don’t touch the cheese with your hands.  Remove cheese from its toxic wrapper and keep in a glass container.  I found that Tillamook tastes better and doesn’t go moldy on me.

8)    Another great exercise to make the absolute most of your budget is to go to the grocery store and buy ONLY FOOD.  How much is the total?  Now, how much is in your grocery budget?  The next day go back to the store and buy your other necessities without exceeding your grocery budget.  Non-food items usually cost a lot more than food items.  This way you are ensuring your family will eat well.  You can always squeeze out a little more toothpaste or shampoo.  You can learn how to buy non-food items at a cheaper store like Target (but you must compare prices, and have a set amount in your envelope so you won’t overspend).  Then make a master list of these nonfood items with their size and price.  Some stores fool you into thinking the price is lower, but really they are just giving you less product (for instance, diapers and toilet paper).  Always check OUNCES you are receiving for make-up and other toiletries.  Carrying an old-fashioned, easy to use calculator in your purse to compare unit price is very helpful.

9)    Once you have your grocery list and budget fully set from doing the above, you can then shop like a true frugal homemaker:
A)  Once a month, after your main payday when you fill your money envelopes, do your main grocery shopping – every item you will need for the entire month.  If you eat spaghetti once a week, buy 4 or 5 packages of noodles and sauce, 4 cans of beans and frozen veggies, etc.  Always buy 4 or 5 of what you need, one for each week. 
B)  Then, choose a day each week when you will typically do your shopping, say, Monday.  The next 3 Mondays when you grocery shop, you are only buying fresh fruit, fresh veggies, bread….FRESH.  The first Monday your expenses are high.  The next three they are very low.  Plus you are in and out of there quick!  It works!!!

10)  You might have a bread outlet near you.  

11)  Don’t shop at membership warehouse clubs.  If you truly compare prices, you will find they are not lower after all.  There is much research to prove this.  Miserly Moms also backs this up.  (I did my own research and I can beat a warehouse anytime, without coupons, on both food and nonfood items.)  I know people will argue this, but many women have proved it true.  Plus, you won’t be over-buying or spending money on impulse buys.  (And your children won’t be wearing the same bargain holiday clothes as your neighbors!)  Plus, you don’t have to pay people to shop for your basic necessities!  You can shop online there without a card, and you can also fill prescriptions without a card, plus you can shop with a friend who has a card if need be, or you can quite simply break your shopping habit!  (Update - just beat warehouse store prices again in 2014)

12) Eat vegetarian at least once a week.

13)  Ask people where they shop and why.

14)  Quit buying cleaning products.  All you really need is a big bottle of vinegar (one for laundry and one for kitchen, plus a squirt bottle of it for the bathroom), Bon Ami, Borax and Washing Soda (Ace Hardware usually carries this; or you can order online & pick up at a store with no s/h charges). 

15)  Stop going through drive-thru’s. 

16)  Know what is worth your time versus what is worth your money.  Usually a mixture of using a few coupons, reducing grocery needs, and cooking from scratch are the top ways to save.

I will update this list as I remember items.   Janine     www.keeping-house.blogspot.com


A Word Study of Titus 2:3-5

1951 Arthur Sarnoff
The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children; to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

These are not suggestions; they are God’s will for us!

To be Sober:  To be moderate, self-controlled, humble, well-balanced, steady, calm, cool, collected, quiet, thoughtful, serious, earnest, sincere, use common sense,  to do one’s duty, to simplify, and to learn to make wise decisions and judgments.

To Love Their Husbands: Be sexy for your husband!  Love on him physically and provide a place he wants to come home to.  Meet his physical and material needs in the home.

To Love Their Children:  Seems like an easy one, but I hate it when I hear mom’s bagging on their teens.  Or telling others they can’t wait for them to get back to school.  How sad is that?  I’m so thankful my mom didn’t treat me that way – she wanted us at home!  Hold your little one’s hand – train him – don’t let him get away with throwing off your hand.  It is secure for him when you hold it.   They do need to be trained when they are a toddler, though, and you will reap the benefits for years!   Smile, smile, smile!  Many times each day look into their eyes and smile.  Play games in between chores.  Teach them the why of things, not just to do it. 

To Be Discreet:  Sensible.  To show discernment (quick and accurate detection) or good judgment in conduct and especially in speech!  Prudent (or even prudently silent!).  Wise in avoiding error.  Wise in selecting the best means to accomplish a purpose.  Circumspect.  Courteous.  Polite.  Honest dealings.  Considerate.  Careful.  Thoughtful.  Discerning.  Well-advised.  Cautious.  Highly sensible.  Has foresight.  Foresight implies prudent care for the future.  Prudent means capable of conducting oneself wisely and judiciously.  Judicious means directed or governed by sound judgment; wise. 

Chaste:  Pure.  Virtuous.  Decent in behavior and character.  Pure in thought, word, and act.  Modest, decent, respectable and honorable in all things.  Worthy of respect.  Pure – without taint; innocent, especially of unlawful intercourse.  Undefiled. 

Keepers at Home:  Keeper - One who watches, guards and maintains.  Being on guard, watching, caretaker.  Home – Seat of domestic life.  The vital center or seat.  Abode of one’s family.  One’s abode after death.  The abiding place of domestic affections.  Keeping the home is more than just staying at home – it is having a heart that is fixed upon our homes and family.  Sanctuary of peace, love, and order.

Good:  Genuine, joyful, virtuous, valuable, competent, ready, kind, benevolent, merciful, hardworking, agreeable, pleasant, congenial, honorable, faithful, gracious, wise, friendly, well-behaved, proper, becoming, honest, sincere, pious, devout, untainted.  Virtuous – pure, of moral excellence, chaste.  Benevolent – promoting the prosperity and happiness of others, kind, charitable, and generous.  Pious – dutiful and loyal to parents and family, devotion to God, not profane or secular.

Obedient to Their OWN Husbands – Respectful.  Yielding, willing and eager to accomplish injunctions or desires, abstaining from that which is forbidden.  Attentive.  Dutiful – a sense of duty prevails; heedful of the comfort of others, courteous.  Yield – to give precedence to another.  A lot of women are obedient, yielding, attentive and respectful to their male bosses and pastors, but what about their husbands?

Collecting these definitions has been quite an eye-opener!  I urge you to do your own Word study.  It is much more meaningful when you WRITE these definitions down yourself. 

I used a dictionary from the 1940’s and found that the words were much more descriptive than my most current dictionary.  I also incorporated definitions from Debi Pearl’s “Created to Be His Help Meet.” 


Keepers at Home - A Sacred Responsibility?

I knew that God had called young women to be “Keepers at Home” (Titus 2:5), but someone recently pointed out to me that raising my son at home is a “sacred responsibility.”  God has given me a sacred responsibility!  Am I living up to it?  Am I doing what God requires of me?  Am I wasting money?  Wasting the hours of my life?  Wasting the hours of my son’s life?  Am I content?  Fearful?

In the past I have been very unhappy with our home.  It just wasn’t what I had in mind.  Slowly, through prayer and hard work, I have accepted the house and have been making it more ours.  There were so many little detail things I could have done to make it nicer, and I am finally accomplishing them.  My heart is now fixed on my home.

I have always wanted to “keep house,” but not moving into an empty or clean home when we married really put me off balance.  I felt I was failing miserably, first because I worked and didn’t have the time, and then when I came home the baby took all my time.  After much elbow grease and decluttering, the house is finally coming together, and now I am really reveling in being at home.

When I get fearful, looking ahead to bills that will need to be paid, I wonder how in the world we will ever make ends meet.  But then I remind myself that I have been saying this for more than five years now, and something always comes our way…refunds, unexpected gifts, or just skimping and saving on necessities.  (This week I learned that I can save on electrical rates by having my washing/drying and dishwashing finished before noon!)

But most important of all, when I get fearful and wonder if I will be compelled back into the workforce, I remember that it was God Himself who called me to stay home and take care of my son, my husband, myself, and our home.  He is the one who said I am to be a “Keeper at Home.”  I have not called myself home.  HE wants me home, and it isn’t a suggestion either, it is His will! 

I’ve given up trying to buy happiness, after realizing that most of my purchases became clutter and didn’t live up to their happy-factor. 

I’ve realized that matching china dishes on holidays do not matter…but using our prettiest glasses every day, and treating my family like company, does. 

I’m giving away more, and trying to get less. 

I don’t go shopping looking for what I might be missing, or for pretty items to camouflage a dirty house. Instead, I’m deep cleaning and purging “what if” items. 

I’m also no longer reading to find the perfect answer to my problems (I found it! It was a book called “Fascinating Womanhood”!); now I just read for pleasure and to better myself, after my work is done.

Housework is just the daily duties that must be done to have life run smoothly.  Some days are going to require deep cleaning, and some are just going to require basic chores.  Some days all the work will get done, on other days it will be a little bit messy. 

When I have laundry to do it is done with a good attitude, not with a scowl.  Instead of lamenting that my washer and dryer are in the garage, I notice that I can hear the birds, watch a few butterflies, and see the clouds through the trees on my way to the garage.  I can even fold some laundry outdoors while my son plays.  It is very peaceful. 

And most of all, I am being a Keeper at Home, the one who watches, guards and maintains our home…the vital center of our life…the abiding place of our domestic affections.  I want our home to be a sanctuary of love, peace, and order. 


Organization and Doing Hard Things First

I have always wanted to be “at home” and so I am reveling in it.  I thoroughly enjoy each day.  I know I have taken excellent care of our son, and myself….but my husband and our home?  Well, I had wimped out.  It “wasn’t my fault” I came into a dirty, cluttered up house.

I have always wanted to care for my home, and did just fine before I married my husband.  I enjoyed cleaning, laundry, and decorating to a degree.  I’d get up early and bake muffins and light candles and dream about the future.  After I got married and real-life hit, I wasn’t quite so good as I thought I would be about being a homemaker.  It was easy to just pick up after me, but do HIS laundry?  Clean up his kitchen messes?  I certainly was not his slave, and I was feeling like a martyr. 

Once I “came home” I first adjusted my attitude, realizing that while I finally had my dream of being home, my husband still had to go off to work.  (He still has to arise every day to meet a deadline, he can’t nap after spending two hours at the park, he is limited to eating what he can bring to work or by how much cash is in his wallet, he has to drive to and fro, he can’t pick and choose activities and appointments and the time to meet.)

Organizing from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your LifeI realized that picking up after him wasn’t that big a deal, as long as he wasn’t purposefully being difficult (he wasn't).  Then I tried to meet him where he was, by trying out laundry baskets in strategic dropping places.  (Update - he always uses baskets now!)

I gave a lot away, and I assigned homeless objects to permanent places.  I sat down and began planning my rooms and their functions, and thought out and implemented ways to make our home run better and look nicer, like putting all our cell, video, etc. cords into baggies inside a pretty wooden bread box under the outlet we charge them in.

I used Julia Morgenstern’s Organizing From the Inside Out to help me – and DID the steps.  It was difficult to take time out from stashing my clutter to plan, but the plans I put into place after completing her steps ON PAPER are still working today, several years later.  When you consciously prepare and plan to take care of life, it frees you to live your life.

I took an online class from Nikki Hunter on homemaking.  Before, I felt like I cleaned and cleaned but my house would be messy again in 2 days…or 3 hours.  I was always overwhelmed.  The first assignment was to choose one room at a time and detail clean it.  I chose to do my most difficult room FIRST (the kitchen), instead of doing the easiest room (our bedroom) like I usually do.  I did a concentrated focus, while listening to a book on tape, and put everything else on hold.  I put it on my calendar and cleared out the time.  It took 10 hours the first day and 7 hours the next.  I was shocked it took so long, and didn’t realize I had so many kitchen cabinets.  But everything is DONE and looks fantastic.  Instead of rushing around daily picking up things and trying to do the entire house, I detail cleaned each room, building on top of each other. (Update - 4 years later, I'm still benefiting from this decluttering and detailed cleaning day.)

Because I have a clean base to start from, I have been able to keep on top of the dishes and daily finish each chore without getting sidetracked.  This allowed me to move on to the bathroom.  It has now been purged of excess and is squeaky clean.  Next came the living and dining rooms, and with so many now clear horizontal surfaces, the place looks bigger and it is easier to clean.  I haven’t touched the junk room and patio room yet, but they will be done, too, eventually!   Fully completing these rooms and not moving on to new rooms until one was finished, worked wonders. 

I know I am living my life to the fullest.  I am no longer running around shopping, trying to make my house look better with cute things I could buy.  I am no longer neglecting the household chores that were “too difficult” for little ol’ delicate me.  I’ve put away crafts that took too much time.  I still read, but I take my job in the home seriously, and my house is really beginning to come together. I wish the same peace for you!

If we don’t own it, we don’t have to take care of it, and we have more time to do what we want.  ~Kathy Peel, The Family Manager