Here’s a great idea on how to teach kids to tie their shoes from Blissfully Domestic.  I remember trying to learn how when I was a kid, and it was so frustrating to me—this would have made a difference I’m sure.  Now I just need to figure out which story to tell! ;D

special needs Tips and Techniques: Tying Shoes

“Learning to tie their own shoes is a childhood milestone that kids normally learn to do by kindergarten. Not so with many special needs kids. It may be an issue of delayed motor skills, visual perception deficits, processing delays, or a physical disability that keeps them from achieving this.

When my autistic son’s occupational therapist began working with him on tying shoes, he couldn’t even comprehend the concept and it frustrated him beyond belief. And I thought she was crazy for even trying. As it turns out, there’s a reason she’s the therapist and I’m not.

It was as if God said to me, “See how he thinks? See how life seems to him?”

She then introduced a shoe with two different colored laces, and watching the comprehension unfold on my son’s face as she showed him the process again was amazing. Now that he could distinguish them, he could visually process where the laces were supposed to go.

It was a light-bulb moment for me, as well. How much else in his mind seems all jumbled and smashed together because he can’t distinguish the different parts? It was as if God said to me, “See how he thinks? See how life seems to him?” I realized that we need unravel things for him and make them more easy to comprehend on so many other levels.

The shoe-tying technique that our therapist taught us was a great one, and I’d like to pass it on.

Buy two sets of shoelaces of different colors. Cut them down to make each color half as long as the shoelace needs to be. Tie the opposite colors together making two shoelaces of equally different colors.

Buy two sets of shoelaces of different colors. Cut them down to make each color half as long as the shoelace needs to be. Tie the opposite colors together making two shoelaces of equally different colors.

Lace the shoe normally with the newly tied-together shoelace.

Lace the shoe normally with the newly tied-together shoelace.

The child can then easily see the difference between the laces while learning to tie them, making it easier to visualize the process.

The child can then easily see the difference between the laces while learning to tie them, making it easier to visualize the process.

Success with less frustration!

Success with less frustration!”


Okay, so we took the plunge, we no longer have cable, and are trying to re-train ourselves without the DVR.  It’s taking time, but saving us a bundle.  My biggest complaint has been I don’t know when anything’s on (we never used to watch live TV!).  So…to the rescue is MSN tv listings.  Go here and you enter what type of tv provider you have (broadcast, cable, satelite, etc.) along with your zipcode.  It will tell you the exact channels for your area in your time zone—-no thinking necessary!

Love it!

Alright, so I’ve already talked a little on the whole idea of cooking once and serving twice (or more), but I got this website, Homemade Gourmet, who is also the author or Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, and I LOVE her menu ideas here.  Sure, it sounds easy enough to cook a bunch of meat and use it in several dishes, but I’m just not creative in that department.  This monthly menu idea helps me see what I could make.  AND, not only are there ideas on here, but the recipes are on here too.  Or, if nothing else, it gets those wheels turning as to other ideas you could use.

In her blog, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, she talks about her Taco Dip that is a daily staple at their house.  That and her Taco soup (along with many others) I am so excited to try!!!

Thanks for the ideas, Jennifer!!!

Check out the link for all these recipes and more!

Check out the link for all these recipes and more!

Don’t you HATE the “What’s for dinner?” questions?  Whenever my husband’s on the phone and asks me that, I want to hang up and run away.  Yes, it’s been going through my head all day, but I didn’t plan ahead and now it’s catching up with me!  It’s the inevitable question, dinner WILL come, but I try to push it off as long as possible and hope my husband will come home and do one of his creative chef creations for us all!  BUT, when I do plan ahead the week before, DO I feel like WONDERWOMAN!!!  I’m on top of the world and I’ve got it all under control.  So why don’t I do that every week?  I don’t know…  Thankfully, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam has some lifesavers for me when my brain just isn’t working.  I have a lot to learn still…

Here are her tips on cooking ahead—it doesn’t take any more time, and LESS to clean!  Amen to that!!!

“C.O.S.T. cooking – have you thought ahead?

Since I am the Queen of Best Intentions, I challenged myself to put my money where my mouth was during some of my meal planning/couponing posts, and “walk the talk” with this C.O.S.T. cooking – Cook once, Serve Twice.

If you double or triple your cooking, it will save you time later.
What is the cost of not planning ahead?
I was going to answer this rhetorical question, but I will leave you to fill in the blank for your own family.
(If you didn’t read about it the first time around, I have multiple posts, but the one where I give these suggestions are under Grocery Grumps -1.
Scroll down to the second half of that post with specifics since I won’t go into all the details again here. :)

For so many of you, this may come naturally, but as the food costs rise, and life becomes busier, it seems that this is an area which causes stress and ma ham in kitchens around the blog world.

Seeing what someone else has done might just inspire a little kitchen creativity this weekend.
So join me….take one hour to copy me or some other foodie and ease the mealtime mountain next week. This just might be the solution. Iron sharpens iron and I need to be held accountable in this grueling area as well.
As I was cooking this, I was literally just trying to get basic food on the table for my family, and then after the fact, I thought of taking pictures. I undid the spaghetti casserole after it had already been put in the freezer, so this isn’t much of a tutorial FYI.

Get out of that chair right now, and grab as much ground beef from your freezer that you have on hand.
Go on, I’ll give you a little time.

After it’s thawed, get going…cook up that stuff and drain that grease.
Oh, it looks a bit gross in that pan picture.
If you want to do just a bit more work, but work that’s so worth it….add fresh garlic, onions, and green peppers…..yum!
Now depending on how much you have browned, start separating it into zip lock bags.
You can see in the picture below, that I had about 2 pounds of beef that I seasoned with my Homemade Gourmet taco soup seasoning,
and sealed in a Ziplock bag.
We feasted on taco salad, taco dip, and burritoes throughout the week…all from this meat mixture…meals in minutes literally.
Typically, we never miss a week without taco soup, but we sure will have it this week.

Ok, I hear your screaming…we want recipes!!
Ladies – the beauty of Mexican is that you can add whatever you want…even if cooking terrifies you. Start with these basics…it’s so easy! Any of my children can fix their own dinner from these options. I promise!
Here are some ideas, but they change based on what produce was marked down, what items I have stock piled or purchased with my BOGO free items.

Taco salad – layer a plate with crushes tortilla chips, romaine lettuce (as yummy as ice burg is..stay away if you can help it – no nutritional value), top with the seasoned meat mixture, black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, and dollop of sour cream to top it off.
My mouth is salivating as I think of this favorite meal of mine. I love to mix just a tad of Catalina dressing in it, but my kids opt for ranch. Your choice.
Of course, get as healthy as you want by adding fresh tomatoes or green/ red peppers
Any of the above works well in your burrito/taco…just heat the burrito and melt that yummy cheese.
Taco dip….this is almost a daily staple at our home.
I will do this as a vegetarian option quite often with taco soup seasoning, and then add more beans. If beans make you wary, start with black beans. All of my kids LOVE them, and they are so good for you.
Mix seasoning, meat, cottage cheese if you want it low fat (or cream cheese), sour cream, black beans, cheese, salsa, peppers (my kids will eat them raw in this dip), salsa….stir and go at it with tortilla chips.

Once I removed the taco seasoned ground beef (for anything Mexican), I also put a small baggy of ground beef mixed with Italian Mozzarella seasoning.
This made delicious “meatloaf muffins” made with the meat mixture, and Pillsbury Grand biscuits that I had stocked up on with my double coupons.
I will post the recipe if anyone is interested. They are great for dinner or served the next day…cold…for lunches.
The ground beef that was left quite lonely in the skillet became homemade spaghetti sauce. I served half of it over noodles the same night, and the other half became Dream spaghetti – another family favorite. This I froze for a later date.
I know some of this I went over from an early post, but they say that it takes five times for something to sink in? hee hee
I know that one of you attention to detail ladies will notice what I wrapped around the casserole dish.
Yes, it’s true….I recycle grocery bags and use them for almost everything. I rarely spend money on wraps…and only then with a great coupon.
I add just a bit of plastic wrap (if anyone’s worried about germs), and then I really seal it with a plastic bag.

So for less than one hour of work, I had six meals (and taco dip) set for the week.
I can’t tell you what a stress reliever it was. So just go for it.
Stop procrastinating…ha…coming from the Queen….and have some fun in the kitchen.
I promise it will pay huge dividends, not just in time management, but also in the pocket book.

I know this is now two posts without a complete bedlam moment…trust me, they are continually happening. When I was cooking all these great amazing meat mixtures, let’s just say our dog agreed…..grrrrr……”

Here’s to Le Dolce Vita, and more time to ahh, relax…or so I like to think! ;D

Alright, so I’m still in the studying process of saving, free and even MAKING money on coupon savings; but with Deal Seeking Mom as I spoke about earlier, and now I’m studying Balancing Beauty and Bedlam,I’m finding it easier to gather information about how this underground business works ;D  I’m going to go ahead and post her entire post on this topic here, but I will warn you it’s long.  This link will also take you directly to her site and this particular post.  So here it is—-GOOD LUCK!

“Grocery Grumps – I

Many of you have been waiting for this follow up post.
This is a long one, so just pretend it’s two separate posts, and then I won’t feel guilty for my long windedness. It’s like your back in school….for home econics.
If you are new and haven’t read my last post, start here (see below italics for shortened 1st post).

To save huge amounts of money ( I am talking 50% on most of my transactions with the necessity of an override by the manager every time I shop), it all starts with this:
A little organization.
I have couponed for years with an obnoxious little coupon holder..if you have one…throw it away. Yes, I admit I have even stuck them in an envelope or in a side pocket of my purse. Do you know how many hours of my life I have wasted looking for that one coupon that I “knew” I had somewhere?
Well, except for today when I cut them out but hadn’t filed them in their sleeves yet….ugh!
Now stick around….you may have tried to cut coupons before and it’s just not for you. If you don’t need to save a few hundred dollars (minimum) a month on your grocery bill, I wouldn’t do it either.
But, it’s not as much of a pain as it seems. Since I am the family manager, I love to figure out my per hour rate on my grocery shopping. Today, I saved $125. It took me one hour to shop and organize the coupons. I would consider that a great rate of return.
If that would be some nice pocket change, book mark me and visit often. Now to get you started on the right foot.
The first basic step…a coupon binder.
You have an unused binder somewhere, don’t you? How about some baseball card sleeves and a few empty page protectors?
That is all you need.
Now, go get the Sunday paper out of the garbage and grab those coupons. Yep, even the deodorant coupon that you thought you would never use.

I have my sections organized just like you might have in the grocery aisle. I have a separate page for things that I buy quite often with coupons. For instance, I have frozen foods, dairy, Pillsbury (yep, its own page), soups, cereals, snacks, toiletries and make- up (mainly for my CVS or Walgreens shopping), and a misc. page
For cereal and snacks, I have enough coupons for those sections that I give them two pages each and I have one Kellogg’s page, one GM cereal page etc. That is not a priority, but cereal is a priority in our house. And some of their favorite kinds are brand name ones. I will not buy brand name cereals unless I can get it for $1/box or less. I will talk about that more next post.
Then I have a few page protectors for the coupons that I cut, but haven’t filed.
No, all those coupons shouldn’t be in the front flap when you go to the store. It leads to the feeling that “it’s just not worth it.”
Five minutes of for thought goes a LONG WAY with couponing.
This is only 1/2 of the groceries that I purchased today for a total of $120 which includes meat, catfood, 6 boxes of cereal, 2o Pillsbury items (don’t ask), ….oh, I’ll leave the rest for the next post. To get a visual idea….two full carts full…$120.
Most of my freezer goods, as well as a few gallons of milk were already put away in our outside freezer. When I wanted my boys to bring them in for the blog picture they looked at me like I was crazy….yep, that would have been. I bypassed the picture and now I regret it. :)
A good portion of the meat budget was spent on 3 lbs of Johnsonville brats that my hubby picked out (do we hear a chuckle :) “But honey, it’s such a good deal, isn’t it?
We had around 10 pounds of meat in this amount – deli turkey, ground beef, and brats.
We went shopping with all seven us…yes, we do this every Sunday after church. To put it in perspective, at LEAST $35 of that amount would not have been purchased if it was just me, because they just weren’t a very good deal. That is part of the learning process of shopping with kids, and trust me…they know what BOGO means…do you?
In the next post, I will list exactly what I bought and how I often get things for free or very close to it. When that happens, there is one word you need to know….stock pile. :)

2nd Post Resumed:
I have loved reading everyone’s comments. It just made me want to start belting out High School Musical’s “We’re all in this together.”
Whether we are single, married with kids/no kids or an empty nester, saving money in the meal department is something that we want to master since it’s easy to let the Grocery Grumps get you down.
I spent today with my home school group and got into an impromptu “class” on how to take advantage of couponing/BOGO and the CVS/Walgreen’s thing. I spent an hour poorly explaining things, and then I realized…am I really going to do this by blog post?
Can you not all come over for coffee…I’ll brew Starbucks? :) I truly am more fun in real life.

For you experienced coupon cutters, I am going back to the very beginning…so sorry. I will get more detailed as I go on.

I think I need to Address some of the core issues. I realize that food budgets vary immensely. I think the three main variables within a food budget are the amount of meat that you eat, how much you make from scratch, and if you cook from a meal plan. Now, don’t worry…I am so completely laid back, that the fact I am giving “organizational” advice on a coupon binder and meal plans are a miracle in itself. If I can do it, anyone can.
Many people commented that they don’t buy name brand items, and stick to off-brands to save money. That is a great way to save, and I wholeheartedly agree….if I don’t have coupons for name brand things that I can get for pennies on the dollar. The stipulation on that is quite often the brand name will be cheaper once I double or triple my coupons (but only if they are on sale or Buy One, Get one free…from no one referred to as BOGO).

Meat is one of those things that can get you every time. There just isn’t a great coupon for a good ole T-bone steak, is there?
How do I get around that on a budget? Well, we don’t eat meat with every meal. And when we do, I use recipes that make it stretch (yes, I love “creative cooking”). But most importantly, I only buy chicken or meat when it goes on an incredibly great sale. Then I stock pile and load up.
This is one thing I NEVER vary from….ok, my husband can’t stand it when I use absolutes. I can’t help it, I am a passionate person, passionate people use absolutes. So, I’ll clarify. Never, in the last oh, seven years have I EVER bought meat when it wasn’t an incredible sale. Changing your mind set about how you shop is KEY!

I hear your minds turning saying, I don’t have enough room for a second freezer. We don’t either, so I got creative. We bought a chest freezer and put it in our outside shed…yes, very far away from our house. We actually have a industrial size extension cord that runs from the side of our house to the shed. Doesn’t that seem red necky? I agree, but don’t worry – the grass has grown up around the cord so you can’t even see it…anything is possible if you want it bad enough. (There really needs to be a picture here, but I can’t upload them…BUMMER!) Are you visualizing “red neck” for me? Whew, I feel much better for the lack of pictures then.

Back from my tangent.
We eat meat probably 3-4 times a week, but I constantly have the C.O.S.T. (Cook once, serve twice…or three times in my case) cooking method in my brain. For instance, if I am going to cook chicken, I will fill my oven/crockpot as full as I can get it and then sprinkle the chicken with a multipurpose seasoning (Homemade Gourmet taco soup seasoning is one of my favs). For quantity sake, I estimate 6 pounds which will give me 2 pounds per meal. I actually put more in my oven/crockpot at one time, but for smaller families, use the same concept but substitute your rationing. This will give me three meals, but only “cooking” once.
The first meal, I serve the chicken right out of the crockpot over rice. The leftovers, I divide up into ziplock bags.
Do you know how wonderful it is to have slicked chicken ready to grab at a minute’s notice? The “what’s for dinner” question is what gets most of us, and we are typically asking ourselves that at 5:00 o’clock, aren’t we?
Now, you have all sorts of options for easy, family dinners options in minutes. (Oh, I am feeling a 4 meals in 4 minutes give away here in the next couple days. :)
I may serve a Chicken salad the next night, and then make white taco soup with the last baggy of chicken.


Let’s brainstorm with ground beef. For those of you near a Harris Teeter, it is on sale right now for $1.58 a pound. Stock up or go to Sam’s Club and buy the 10 pound tube. Have you seen that thing…it looks gross. Yep, I still buy it.
I am hearing a cute, cozy newlywed (Kristin :) whispering in my ear, “I would never eat this much meat.” I hear you, but use this technique to get your freezer ready for the month – maybe with five pounds.
Rock scientist question…..Does it take any longer to brown one pound of hamburger vs. ten pounds? Maybe a few moments, but it’s virtually non existence. It’s the clean up that is a pain…can I hear an “amen?”
Go buy some ziplock freezer bags.
*****Make sure that you get them cheap….they need to be BOGO, and then you should have 2 coupons on top of that. Let’s tangent and think about that for one second. If the ziplocks are $3.00 each, but on sale for BOGO, they average $1.50/piece. If you have been cutting coupons for a few weeks (seriously, ask neighbors and family to give you there Sunday section…cheesey, but you’ll love me for it), then you should have at least 2 – 50 cent coupons for Ziplocks. Sometimes, they will have a 75 cent one. Coupons up to 99 cents will be doubled, so the two- 50 cent coupons will each become $1.00. Are you following me? Yep, your Ziplock brand will end up being 50 cents each….or FREEEEE if we’re fortunate enough to have the .75 cent coupon (which has been doubled to give you $1.50 off….HELLO, they are only $1.50…I LOVE FREE! Only in AMERICA!
Sheesh…another tangent.
Back to marvelous meat….you now have your free ziplocks….hee hee…and they are set aside as the future home for your beef.
If I am going to have a messy, greasy kitchen, I want the mess done and over with, so I brown all ten pounds of hamburger at one time.
Believe it or not, if you have a large steamer or turkey fryer , large quantities can be done in there. That is an awesome alternative because all the grease drains out of the steamer, and you are left with virtually no grease in your meat. Just fork it every few minutes to turn it in the steamer.
If you like to multi-task well, the other burner should have noodles boiling for that homemade spaghetti sauce that will lovingly be served for dinner (or, a 50 cent can of Hunts sauce, mixed with the ground beef, extra Italian seasoning and garlic powder with Parm/Motzerella sprinkled on top and you’re good to go….that’s Homemade…made in your home. :) .
Once all the meat is done, divide it into your portion size – one pound baggies for just the two of you, 2 pounds for families.
What do you want to eat over the next few weeks?
Lasagna? Then mix into your cooked hamburger some italian seasoning, garlic, and salt right away…just do it in your baggy, and then label it.
Taco’s – mix in some taco seasoning.
A southwest casserole…I have an amazing southwest seasoning that I add.
If you had the noodles boiling, then hopefully you doubled those as well, and can stick half in a bag right now with some meat, sauce, etc for a freezer meal …or arrange it in a 9×13 layering it with cottage cheese mixed with eggs,Parm, etc and you have a spaghetti casserole all set in less time than you can go change the baby’s diaper.
Do you see where this is going?
You are doing battle with the dreaded, “what’s for dinner” question and conquering it courageously.
When we forget to thaw a hard hunk of raw hamburger, it ruins all dinner plans, doesn’t it? It takes WAY too long to defrost.
But once hamburger has been cooked, it can be taken out of the freezer and de-frosted in minutes. That allows dinner to be ready in moments – Healthy, homemade and cheap.
Go give yourself a Grocery Guru tiara – step one is done!
Oops, I forgot the same works with chicken like I briefly mentioned.
When I was doing one of my meal making classes for friends, I put my teen age son to task and had him grill up 20 pounds of chicken at one sitting…well, standing, but I wasn’t doing it, that’s all that counts.
Before he grilled the chicken, I seasoned it with a variety of flavors – southwest, taco, garlic basil etc. Do you know how easy that was to then bag up various boneless chicken breasts to be ready for dicing, slicing and any multitudes of meals? It didn’t take any additional time to cook 20 pounds as it would be to cook 3 pounds, but now I had a plan…but even if I didn’t, I knew I could just reach in the freezer and grab cooked chicken. Now, enchilada chicken, chicken stuffed peppers, Quick chicken and chips casserole, white chicken chili casserole could be a reality…in minutes.
Do you buy the bags of pre-cooked chicken to make life easier?
Spend ten minutes at the grill this weekend, and you will probably save $100 just like that. Make sure you buy it when it’s ON-SALE, and then stock up!!

Wow – I didn’t plan on spending time on the meat issue, nor getting this long….I am TRYING to have shorted posts..sigh, but the post evolved as I was typing. If you’re new, please know I type as I go….no editing or forthought allowed (or I would never push publish). Thanks for the grace.

Plus, you all should be getting those coupons binders ready, and stealing some coupons from the neighbor’s garbage, so you weren’t ready for that post anyhow? hee hee
Climbing out of the grocery grumps is definitely more than just cutting coupons. I am going to slowly address having a stocked pantry so you aren’t caught with your pants down, maybe a bit more about freezer meals, and definitely all the couponing things.”

Thank you for sorting this all out for us Balancing Beauty and Bedlam!

So I LOVE this idea from Financial Bliss and Coupon Mom for saving money.  I often get into the grocery store, see a sale item and think, “Is that a good price?”  and I always wish I had my sales flyers with me to compare prices.  HOWEVER, even if I did have them, they only list the prices of their sale items, not regularly priced items.  So now there’s an answer, and a very organized idea.  It may take some time to compile all of these prices, but I would think it’s well worth it—just save your receipts for a quick reference for documentation.  Alright, I’ll let Financial Bliss take it from here:

Use a price book to save money

frugal-bliss Use a price book to save money

I visit a lot of coupon forums, where almost everyone is a bargain shopping queen (or king). So it’s always something of a surprise when someone asks, “Is this a good deal?” And whether the item in question is laundry detergent or hot dogs, the same answer always pops into my head: You’d know if it was a good deal if you kept a price book along with the coupon binder.

A price book is a notebook for tracking the lowest price of an item. Simply put, it’s the best way to cut back expenses without changing your lifestyle.

The best thing about a price book is that you don’t have to maintain it forever – just until you’ve been doing it long enough to be able to recognize a good deal when you spot one. I have maximum price points in my head for almost all of the things we buy regularly, and I adjust that price as the deals get better or worse.

For example, a few months ago, I was happy to see Kleenex (our preferred brand) on sale for $1 if we needed it, and if we didn’t, I tried to wait for a price of around 90-cents. But during the last few weeks, there have been some amazing sale prices of 64 cents for Puffs (after coupon at Walgreens) and 77 cents for Kleenex (this was at CVS, and the price came down to 47 cents if you factored in the Extra Bucks that you received with a $25 purchase). So now I’m looking for a sale price under 80 cents.

No Credit Needed has a handy downloadable price book template that I highly recommend.

Here is another example of a price book template from CouponMom.com

Listing a month's prices to compare what IS "a good deal" BEFORE coupons!

Listing a month's prices to compare what IS "a good deal" BEFORE coupons!

And Coupon Mom's Pricing Book AFTER Coupons---exciting, huh?!

And Coupon Mom's Pricing Book AFTER Coupons---exciting, huh?!

Okay, so I’m in love!!!  And no, not just with my husband!  The only way I shop is when there’s a sale, and I mean a GOOD sale!  So, now I no longer have to search for the sales myself!!!  I know, I keep using exclamation marks, but I can’t help myself, I’m so excited for this freedom!!! ;D  So here she is, Deal Seeking Mom.  You can sign up to get her daily emails.  She is GREAT about explaining how things work, and she will reply back to any questions you may leave in the comments section.  Here’s a taste in what she does.  These are current deals she’s posted:

5 Freebie Coupons to Print Before Your Next Mall Trip

$5/$20 or $10/$30 Rite Aid Coupon, Good 2/20 and 2/21

Print these coupons to save $5 off $20 at Rite Aid or $10 off $30 at Rite Aid!

It’s only good Friday, February 20th, and Saturday, February 21st, so check out this week’s deals and head to your closest store!

Lowe’s: $10 off $50 Printable Coupon, Exp. 3/2/09

And those are just a TASTE for you!  I’m addicted!!!  Here’s to Le Dolce Vita and a little less stress!  Thank you Deal Seeking Mom!!!

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