My New Busy Mom Target Life Hack

As every mother knows, walking through a store with children in tow can be well, let’s call it an adventure.  Even on a good trip, with my kids with me, hurrying is near impossible.  I usually end up taking at least two bathroom trips for example.  I think the kids consider it an adventure to go in the store bathroom.  It takes me double the time to go through the store, with kids than it does when they are not with me.

Then there are the trips that don’t go well.  Like, the other day I went shopping at Target with my children with me. This trip would have taken me no more than 40 minutes by myself….alas that wasn’t how long it took.  The entire trip through the store was filled with words like, “No ,”  “Stay with me,” “REALLLYYYY!  I can’t believe you just did that”  It was full of tantrums and tears.  Both mine and my kids ;).  In fact at one point in the trip, I turned my back to look at a price tag and my son disappeared.  I don’t think I have ever been so scared.  I ended up having to get a staff member to help me look for him.  He was hiding under the clothes in the men’s section.  When I finally found him, I thought I was going to break down right there in Target.

Needless to say, he is young and he is in the learning to listen to mommy in the store stage.  There are days when I purposely take him to the store just to work with him and try to teach him to stay with me in the store.  There are also those days, when I personally am not in the right state of mind.   The reasons vary, sometimes I am tired, in a hurry or just generally have no patience left. On those days I have often thought about how much I would love a drive thru grocery store!!!  What a miracle that would be to not have to get the kids out of the car and take them through endless aisles.  Just imagine, you just tell the guy your order and they go get the stuff and hand it to you through the little magic window!!! In my area that is just a dream.

Let me tell you about the life hack I just discovered! No, it isn’t a drive thru grocery window, but to me it is almost as good.

Target has a feature online, that you can purchase stuff online and pick up in the stores.  I was previously aware of that, but I recently found out that I can buy almost anything online, including toilet paper, diapers, wipes, etc., and choose free store pick up.  There are certain food items that you can’t buy this way, but most paper items, cleaning items, etc., are available to purchase with this feature.

If you do this take a look at http://www.swagbucks.com.  Swagbucks is a rewards site.  You get a certain number of swagbucks for every dollar you spend if you go through their website to purchase the items that you want (Including of course at target).  The exact number changes periodically. Right now, it is 2 swagbucks for every dollar.  You then can use your swagbucks to buy gift cards to several different retailers.  Personally, I save up my swagbucks gift cards over the course of the year and I use them to help me with my Christmas budget.  You can earn swagbucks several ways, including doing web searches, watching videos, entering swag bucks codes, doing special offers, and shopping at various retailers on-line.  I don’t spend a lot of time on the site, but I do find shopping through the site great and it gives me an extra savings.

To be clear, if you purchase your items with this method, you can’t use cartwheel or coupons, according to the Target store manager that I spoke with on the phone today.  There are many days though that I need some things that I do not have coupons for and in that case, this is what I will do.   I can go online through swagbucks, purchase whatever I want.  I then go to the store and my purchase is waiting for me at the customer service counter.  Further more, I get swagbucks back on my purchase that I will then use to get gift cards later. If you google target coupon codes, it is not uncommon to find a coupon code that takes $5 off a $50 purchase for example, for even more savings.  The best thing about this is it saves me tons of time and energy!  It will also keep me on budget, since I am not wandering through aisles and throwing random things in the cart.   I know it isn’t exactly a drive thru grocery window, but for now it is about as close as I am going to get.  I might still have to get kids in and out of car seats, but we should be in and out in just a few minutes.  Hopefully there will be less tears all around.

If you don’t have a swagbucks account, please use my referral code.  http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/mattsharonh

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Saving Money On Produce

Since I am a stay at home mom and we are living basically on one income, plus whatever I can do to supplement a little, our budget is pretty tight for groceries.  I have managed to keep our grocery budget to about $70 per week for a family of four.  One of the ways that I have discovered locally to help me manage to keep my budget low is the 30lbsveggies$5 program.  This program operates in Tucson and let me say I love it!!

http://fivedollarveggiestucson.blogspot.com/

Basically, you go to the location, pay $5 and leave with a 30 lb box of veggies.  The veggies that you come home with vary each week but they do typically post what they expect to have on their blog.  You can expect that what you are getting is seasonal and comes from near by.

I decided to give the program a whirl and went for the first time last week.  Apparently, last week, they didn’t have as much produce as usual and when I got there they were nearly out.  They gave me the option of paying $2 and getting a smaller box of veggies.  I took them up on the option of course.

I ended up with eight yellow bell peppers and six pints of grape tomatoes.  Please note, we already ate two of the bell peppers last night for dinner.  We had chicken fajitas.  They were delicious by the way.

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For tonight’s dinner, I plan to make fresh roasted grape tomato sauce.  We will be having that sauce over spaghetti, with some italian sausage I have on hand.

Making the Roasted Grape Tomato Sauce is really easy.  Here is the recipe.

EASY ROASTED GRAPE TOMATO SAUCE

5 pints of grape tomatoes

5 cloves of peeled garlic

2 tbsn of basil olive oil (regular olive oil works well here too, I just have basil on hand and thought mmm)

1 tspn of salt

1 tspn of Italian seasoning

1 tbsn of dried basil

pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the tomatoes well and pat dry.  Spread them out on the sheet pan, along with the garlic cloves.   Drizzle the tomatoes and garlic with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Roast them in the oven for approximately 45

minutes until the tomatoes get all wilty and are releasing some juices.

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Put your tomato and garlicy goodness into the food processor/blender, add the tablespoon of basil, italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.  Blend it and boom you have yummy, fresh tomato sauce and you know everything you put in it.  It makes about four cups of sauce.

I also have plans for those lovely yellow bell peppers.  First of all we did eat a couple last night in our fajitas.  They were amazing and very fresh.  My other plan for them is to attempt to make stuffed bell peppers.  I have never made stuffed bell peppers before, so hopefully it will turn out.

I found this recipe on allrecipes.com and I plan to try it.  Looks good to me.

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Beef-and-Mushroom-Stuffed-Peppers/Detail.aspx?evt19=1

For $2, I am getting most of the produce I need for three meals, plus leftovers.  That is not a bad deal.  If you consider a pint of grape tomatoes were on sale for $1.99 here in Tucson last week and the Yellow bell peppers were on sale for 77 cents, that means I got $18.10 worth of produce for $2!  I will take that any day of the week and I am excited to go back this Wednesday.  The representative told me they expect to have a lot more veggies next week, so I am hopeful to get my full 30 lbs this time.

Another, produce program I participate in is called Produce on Wheels Without Waste.  This program operates in Phoenix and Tucson.  I believe they also operate in some other southern Arizona cities as well. They rescue produce that was going to go to waste.  For $10, you get up to 60 lbs of produce.  This program is fabulous as well.  Sixty pounds of produce is a lot for me to use though, so when I go, I try to split the bounty with a friend.   The key with this program, is you don’t usually know what they have until you show up.  This always presents to me a fun challenge.  I get to figure out what to do with lots of veggies, some of which I may never have eaten before.  I usually need to freeze it, do a freezer meal, can it or use it right away, so it doesn’t turn.  Right now, my freezer is full of Roasted Eggplant soup for example, all because I received ten eggplants and tons of tomatoes, the last time I went.  Fortunately, the soup froze well and is really yummy.

Check out their site at:

http://www.borderlandfoodbank.org/POWWOW.html

If you are not from Tucson, I would encourage you to check and see what programs you may have in your area.  It is worth the extra work to process the veggies, to keep our budget as low as possible.

Blessings to you!

New journeys

Here I sit, with my hair frizzed out after a long day of taking care of kids, cleaning, and teaching my daughter school.  I am taking a semi quiet moment to write this while decked out in my favorite yoga pants and my favorite t-shirt that my husband bought me for Christmas.  In case anyone is curious, it says, “My Husband’s Wife is Is Freaking Awesome! True Story.”  I figure since my handsome hubby bought it for me I am totally allowed to wear it with pride 🙂

My name is Sharon and I am passionately in love with my wonderful husband, my five-year old daughter, my three-year old son and Jesus.  I am a stay at home wife, mommy, new homeschooler, and praying about taking yet another exciting journey, starting my own business.  We are making sacrifices to live the way we live and learning a lot in the process.

My newest journey that I am on is homeschooling my daughter, who is now in kindergarten.  When we were first making our decision how to educate our daughter, we  researched many different options.  My husband and I prayed about it a lot.  We both felt led to homeschool, but I frankly did not want to do it.  I argued with God about it a lot, I tried to convince Him that I knew better than He did.  Has anyone else tried to do that?  It is kind of silly now that I think back on it.  I had so many concerns.  I suspect they were all the usual suspects.  I was worried about whether my kids would get enough socialization of course, I worried about how to do it, I was overwhelmed by curriculum options, but most of all I was terrified!  The questions that ran through my mind were things like, What if I royally mess up my kids?  In the end, we decided that it is always best to follow the Lord’s path for our lives and trust Him to help us with the twists and turns along the way.

I wish I would have started writing this blog six months ago, because I have learned many lessons in the last six months and had so much fun.  Alas, I did not, but there is one lesson I would like to share with all you new home schoolers out there.  Remember your goal in homeschooling is NOT to finish the book!  When we are homeschooling our goals are to educate our children.  Finishing the book does not necessarily equal an education.  If you start something and it becomes ridiculously painful and is not working for your child for whatever reason, know you are free.  You can shelve it!  Maybe your child isn’t ready for it or maybe it doesn’t work for them, but whatever the reason don’t hesitate to shelve it and do something that works for your individual kid.

I learned this lessons with my daughter’s reading curriculum.  We started with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. (Let me say this, I know people who use this book and it works great for their kids but for my daughter, it was a battle.  She was learning to read but wasn’t enjoying it.)  I knew relatively early that my daughter hated this book.  I never did understand why exactly.  It is scripted and the pages weren’t very engaging to look at, but I still don’t know why she disliked it so.  She was learning to read but it was a huge fight!  By lesson 80, both my daughter and I were done.  I was doubting whether home school was the answer, but I started to pray and finally felt led to change reading curriculums.  We switched to The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons.  It uses a similar approach but is less scripted and the pages were child friendly.  We started over at the very beginning.  She went through the first lessons extremely fast and built confidence.  We also started a reward chart for her, where she gets a sticker when she reads with a good heart.  As we got further into the book, we slowed down to go at a pace comfortable for her.  Her reading has improved drastically and she has even started reading little books on her own.  No more tears!

Each child is an individual and require different things to learn.  So, if you are struggling with something, please don’t hesitate to stop reevaluate, and if necessary change what you are doing.  One of the beauties of homeschool is freedom.  You can adjust your curriculum to go as fast or slow as your child needs.

I am loving every moment with my husband and children.  I count myself as one of the luckiest women in the world because I get to share my life with them, while serving Jesus.