Sheila

The Best Essential Oils For Work At Home Moms

If you are a WAHM managing house, family, and career, then you likely have any number of things going on at once.  Right this minute, for example, I am tutoring a student, baking a loaf of sourdough, doing the laundry, and writing this blog post, and that is only because my Little Mister really wanted to watch Sesame Street.  This morning consisted of countless other tasks involving my online teaching job, my natural wellness business, and my role as wife and mother.

And that is just how my day goes from about 5:30am until 11:00pm.  I have a feeling you know what I mean.  It takes an enormous amount of what teachers call withitness to work from home with children around, and it takes just as much withitness to be the moms we want to be while work is around.  Withitness combines commitment, focus, organization, flexibility, and of course, eyes and ears all over your head.  Thankfully, CPTG® essential oils have the ability to enhance those facets, so we can be goddesses of withitness who our families adore and the other mommies admire.

Best Essential Oils For Work At Home Moms

Why CPTG® essential oils?  Well, the fact that you can sometimes find essential oils at Dollar Tree should alert you to the fact that there is a wide range in price and quality of oils.  We only use dōTERRA in my home because we trust their practices.  These oils are harvested at the right time from plants that are grown in their native environment by experienced growers, and they undergo lots of testing throughout the process to ensure they are unadulterated.  dōTERRA was founded upon these principles, and that is why they adopted the Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade label.  When I shop with dōTERRA, I know that I am getting the highest quality oils on the market.

Below, in no particular order, you will find my top recommendations of essential oils and oil blends that every WAHM needs within reach.

  • Peppermint:  Peppermint is an essential oil that no one should be without!  It is stimulating, so it is wonderful to diffuse or apply topically, especially in the afternoon when we need to reenergize.  It’s also helpful when we have to wake up early after being up all night with one of the little ones.  It is “essentially” the eyes and ears all over your head piece.  Peppermint keeps you alert to you know what is happening in the kitchen, the kids’ room, and the office all at once!  Peppermint is fantastic for relieving headaches and fever, too, so it is a great alternative to acetaminophen, which research indicates is not as safe as we once thought.  Finally, peppermint regulates the digestive system, so it can be used to prevent and treat all sorts of tummy issues on patients big and small.
  • Lemon (or other citrus):  Citrus oils are incredibly valuable for many reasons, especially when used throughout each day.  Aromatically, they are energizing and mood elevating.  I love to mix wild orange and peppermint and just breathe it in when I need a pick-me-up; the combination is  just divine.  In addition to being uplifting – and I would argue that lemon tops them all – citrus oils are also very cleansing, so they help detoxify the body when taken internally*.  I keep dōTERRA lemon and peppermint oils in a big pitcher of water and pour from it all day.   A glass pitcher is really important here because essential oils (especially citrus) will pull the chemicals right out of a plastic container and into your drinking water.  Yuck!  A drop of lemon on the chest can also eliminate heartburn, and it will really brighten up those homemade fruit snacks you’ve been wanting to make for your kids.
  • InTune:  One of the hardest things for me to do as a WAHM is to devote my full attention to a project when there are so many distractions around me.  When I do get a moment to work alone, it seems that I suddenly remember everything I’d been meaning to do for the last three months or so!  I could list the myriad of oils that, when combined, come together to help you maintain focus, but I lean on a proprietary blend of oils that is specifically designed for this purpose.  InTune is a blend of frankincense, lime, Hawaiian sandalwood, patchouli, amyris, Roman chamomile, and ylang ylang.  Besides being a fabulous all natural perfume, it is wonderful for enhancing focus and supporting healthy thought processes. Parents of children with ADHD are finding success using InTune to reduce or even replace medications.  Usually by the time the kids are in bed and I really need to get busy, I would much rather bury myself in a blanket in front of our Netflix series of the month.  These are the times when I find InTune so beneficial.  Often, I can focus well enough to be super productive and still have some TV time before turning in.
  • Balance:  “You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together…”  You guys remember Des’ree, right?  You gotta love that song!  And that line is what I think of when I want to describe Balance, which is pretty much what the name implies.  This blend of blue tansy, frankincense, ho wood, and spruce is very grounding, so it helps you maintain (or regain) a level head when feeling anxious or overwhelmed  (For example, you’re trying to make an important phone call and your two-year old is yelling and chasing the cat all over the house.  Or, during a trip to Walmart, with or without the kids – take your pick!) . Balance is also a good one to help promote sleep, so it is great during the kids’ nighttime baths or on their feet just afterward.  Finally, Balance is helpful for healing diaper rash!  I would be lost without my Balance.
  • On Guard:   We all know that kids are a magnet for germs and viruses, and you cannot be your best “with it” self if you or your loved ones are sick, can you?  It is important to do what you can to guard against illnesses that might slow you down.  Just a couple of drops on the bottom of everyone’s feet every day, and dōTERRA’s Protective Blend of wild orange, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, and rosemary will strengthen the immune system to protect you and your babies against whatever strikes.  And in the event that someone does get sick, you can apply it several times a day to shorten the duration of the illness. The oils in On Guard can make it warm to the skin, so it is always a good idea to dilute with a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil to slow absorption. (Applying oils to the feet in another way to avoid issues of skin sensitivity.)  On Guard is great for a sore throat; just dilute with water to make a throat spray or with honey for a kid-friendly dose.  You can clean with it too!  Studies have found it highly effective against MRSA, so it is one of the most powerful natural antibacterial and antiviral cleaners you can use.  It has been so popular that dōTERRA has put it in convenient gel caps, toothpaste, cough drops, beadlets, foaming hand wash, cleaner concentrate, and laundry detergent!

  • Calming oils:  Being a WAHM can take a lot out of us, and we all need good sleep so that we can recharge and do it all over again every day.  Oils like lavender and chamomile are great for promoting relaxation and healthy sleep.  Vetiver is another oil that many people find helpful for a good night’s sleep.  I list several because sleep is so personal, and each person’s experiences will be unique.  My son responds to a blend called Serenity, which also includes sandalwood, marjoram, vanilla, and ylang ylang.  I apply it to his back, his neck, and his forehead (and depending on how much help he needs to relax!) just as he is climbing into bed.  By the time we are through a story, he is ready to turn out the lights.  Serenity is also known for soothing anger, so the hubby gets a good dose once in a while, too.  I love it with coconut oil and my homemade bath salts in a warm bubble bath, which I would say that every WAHM needs at least once a week.  Experiment with some essential oils for relaxation until you find the right one for you.

  • Elevation:  You Southerners out there might relate when I say that sweet tea is perhaps the most comforting thing there is for me.  I grew up on it – we didn’t know people drank plain water.  My mom probably made a pitcher of tea every day, and it was much more sugar than tea.  I don’t drink it that often these days, but when I do, it takes me back… woven baskets and church picnics, cocker spaniels chasing squirrels in the yard, floral wallpaper in shades of mauve and peach and country blue…to the bountiful love of mom’s kitchen, where the only expectation is that I’m there.  That’s Elevation for me.  It’s a delicious blend of Lemon myrtle, Melissa, tangerine, ylang ylang, and then some.  I would love to say that I do not need this essential oil blend at all, that I only wear it for the lovely scent, but that is not the case, friends.  Sometimes, the pressure and the expectations that I put on myself leave me feeling inadequate, exasperated, and even resentful.  It’s not every day, thankfully, but it does happen.  And Elevation helps me get back to the comfort of mom’s kitchen, where smiles and love and sweet tea abound.

*I do not recommend internal use of just any essential oil.  dōTERRA CPTG™ oils are rigorously tested by a third party for purity and potency, so that I feel safe recommending them for aromatic, topical, and internal use.  Please read labels carefully and only use the highest quality essential oils available to you.  You can shop with me for dōTERRA oils and products at http://mydoterra.com/theessentials.

So, there you have it, folks, a rundown of the best oils around to help you maintain that elusive withitness that makes you the WAHM that your family and clients depend on.  Remember that essential oil usage and preference varies by individual experience, so it is important to go into this venture with an open mind and a willingness to experiment to find what works best for you.  The most important thing is that you DO go into this venture!  Give oils a try, and email me at essentialperspectives@gmail.com to let me know how it is going!

business card ep

me at oki

Lindsey Beth is an online high school teacher, a consultant for dōTERRA, a wife to her beloved partner of 14 years, and a mother to a very active toddler.  As a natural wellness consultant, Lindsey Beth teaches classes each month regarding how to use essential oils to manage health and wellness, as well as classes on whole food nourishment.  She chronicles all of her experiences in natural wellness and essential oils on her blog at http://thepith.weebly.com, and she posts tips and ideas her Facebook page as well at http://www.facebook.com/EssentialPerspectives.  You can also follow her on Twitter @LindseyC79. 

 

 

Prom Dress Shopping Online

I vividly remember what I wore to both of my high school proms…one dress was actually a bridesmaid’s dress that I’d be wearing that summer in my brother’s wedding, and the other was chosen specifically to accentuate my hair, my eyes, even my date. It sparkled with sequins and was just a tiny bit sultry, being off the shoulder. I felt beautiful, and fancy, and loved every second of choosing the dresses and working my whole look around them.

Now, my daughters and my nieces are getting older and edging their way towards their own proms (though not too quickly, I hope). They also love to get dressed up, fix their hair, paint their nails and show off their inidividuality.

When it comes time to find them prom dresses, we’ll be looking somewhere with a lot of different styles, colors, and perhaps most importantly, price ranges, like JenJenHouse. Prom dress shopping online has come a long, long way.

When it comes to high school, I lean towards more modest dresses, but I also love that they can be fun and a little grown up (just like the high schoolers themselves). But some girls love the strapless styles or shorter hemlines and JenJenHouse has looks for all of those girls (and the approval of their moms).

One of my personal favorites, and one that I can see my oldest niece in, is this A-Line Princess Tulle and Chiffon dress with Sequins. The ocean blue color is gorgeous and the dress itself is classic but modern. It also comes in a variety of other colors to choose from, so you know that the one you get is the perfect shade.

prom dress

What’s more, not only can you choose a standard size, but JenJenHouse does custom sizing as well. So you know that the perfect prom dress your girl has picked out will fit her perfectly! But what I love the most is that there are so many different dresses to choose from that a girl knows she’s going to be one of a kind when she walks in the ballroom for her prom. And, they carry accessories and shoes so you never have to step foot in the mall (if you don’t want to).

Check out the dresses at JenJenHouse, and have fun!

This post is sponsored by Sverve, but my love of online shopping and playing dress-up is all my own.

Surprising Careers to Look Into as a Stay at Home Mom

If you’re a stay-at-home mom and wanting to return to the workforce, don’t even think about that long commute. Here are some surprising jobs you can do at home, with your kids present, without having to put on that pantsuit every morning.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

 Surprising careers to look into as a stay at home mom:

Gift Basket Maker

According to bankrate.com, a Gift Basket review survey found 72 percent of respondents making annual gross sales of at least $50,000.

  • Making a basket for a corporation averages at about $61.89 while birthday, get-well, and sympathy baskets average at about $20.00 less.
  • This job provides a flexible, work-at-home schedule that still gives you time with your kids.
  • You may have to invest a little in startup costs, depending on the types of items you choose for each basket. 

Culinary Consultant

Companies like Chefsline.com hire experienced cooks to give kitchen advice over the phone and through chatting online. You can literally cook up a satisfying career by providing paying customers with your cooking knowledge and expertise.

  • While no degree is required, having some teaching or culinary experience will increase the likelihood of getting hired.
  • If being your own boss sounds more appealing, start your own culinary blog!

twahm surprising career food

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Proofreader

If you have some writing or editing experience, proofreading from the comfort of your home may be the job for you. Proofreading can even lead to online tutoring if you have some teaching experience.

  • According to Kiplinger Magazine, Cactus Communications, an Indian editing and translation company hires proofreaders to edit academic papers and the like written by non-native English speakers.
  • While it’s hard to make a living off of just one freelance gig, paired with a freelance writing job, a proofreading job can be a productive “side hustle.”

Sell Your Crafts

Are you creative, crafty, and artsy already? Are you constantly drawing, painting, sewing or making jewelry? Why not sell your one-of-a-kind items online? There’s a growing market for handmade goods today.

  • Creating a personalized shop on Etsy is fairly easy and costs very little.
  • Customers can pay you through an online service such as PayPal.
  • You’ll have to be available to pack and ship orders by yourself. 

Re-sell Vintage Items

There’s a good market for vintage items on the Internet, whether you’re selling furniture, clothing, or jewelry. Start your own online store and present your unique and desirable taste to the wanting world.

  • Browsing thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, estate sales, and consignment stores are a great way to get out of the house. You can even bring your kids with you if they’re not too rowdy.
  • List each item online through eBay or Etsy and watch them “fly off the shelves.”

Did you know that, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research, there are 10.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S.? Stay-at-home-mom jobs can range from crafting and cooking to marketing and designing. Whatever your ideal home business may be, it’s certainly possible to work, make a decent income, and never miss a moment with your kids.

Naomi Shaw is a stay-at-home in Southern California. After being a stay-at-home mom for seven years she works fulltime  as a freelance writer. She enjoys blogging about mommy tips, small businesses providing insight, advice and more! She hopes you enjoy this article.

Stay Organized With Home Office Accessories

Working at home means having to stay organized, so you don’t end up with Doc McStuffins coloring pages where you should have a copy of this month’s invoices. Whether or not you’re working in a dedicated office space or tucked in a corner of a family area like a dining room or open kitchen, having the right office accessories will save you time when you sit down to work. Organizing a home office often takes a few attempts, because different things work for different people. Start with these seven home office accessories — they’re stylish, functional, and won’t take up too much space.

home office must-haves

Start with a desk calendar

A large desk calendar can be a lifesaver for work-at-home moms. Even if you use an electronic calendar, seeing deadlines and tasks on paper helps many women organize their time and avoid double booking on important days. Try the bloom daily planner desk calendar pad in blue and pink chevron (Amazon, $13).

Desk Calendar
Stay inspired with a French memo board

A memo board, like the Hanging Fabric Wall Memo Board, is the perfect place to gather the things that inspire your work (Amazon, $20). Tuck in business cards of people you’ve been meaning to contact, your favorite inspirational quote, a note about a project you’re working towards, or even a photo that helps you feel less stressed and more centered.

 

Home Office Collection French Memo Board

Choose the right file folders

They’re a small thing, but choosing the right file folders will help keep your papers organized. The Semikolon Striped Vertical File Folders come in eight different color combinations — the pink and orange is fabulous — and have a reinforced vertical side to protect your files (Amazon, $8 for 6). Vertical file folders are useful because they tuck neatly into organizers like magazine holders or wall systems.

Semikolon Striped Vertical File Folders

Magazine files keep your workspace neat

Magazine files help you organize any workspace without taking up too much room on your work surface. You can go with a solid form and hide everything away or choose a decorative holder, like the Design Ideas Vinea Magazine File/Holder (Amazon, $20). It comes in white or black, letting you choose your favorite way to tuck in actual magazine, file folders, or old homework papers your kids can’t seem to keep off your desk.

Design Ideas Magazine File Holder

A divided organizer keeps small things in place

A desk organizer or hanging wall organizer helps corral small items like binder clips, business cards, letters, and pens. The Design Ideas Magnetic Divided Bin can sit atop your work space or attach to the wall (Amazon, $11).

Design Ideas Divided Bin

Small notebooks keep your thoughts in order

A simple notebook is a working mom’s secret weapon. Tuck it into a bag on the way out the door, and you don’t have to worry about wi-fi access or draining your phone battery. Keep shopping lists, notes about school, and project priorities all in one place. Moleskine notebooks are popular options — they’re lined, inexpensive, and come in all sorts of colors and sizes (Amazon, $12).

Moleskine Large Notebook

Pick the perfect pen

Gel pens roll smoothly, come in fun colors, and make writing longhand just a little more fun. When you’re used to spending your days typing, having the perfect pen makes your writing neater and more comfortable. Pilot’s Acroball pens come in a four-pack of fabulous colors (Amazon, $10).

Pilot Acroball Colors Pens

What are your favorite home office accessories?

Angela Amman is a busy work at home mom of two, juggling her blog, her job as a Listen To Your Mother-Metro Detroit co-producer/director, author/publisher, and various freelance writing gigs.

Links are affiliate links.

Easy Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

The other afternoon, I was trying to find something to make for dinner. We only had three frozen chicken breasts left, and with a family of six, that isn’t going to cut it unless I put it in something. I remembered pinning this recipe the other day, though, and thought I might be able to try it out.

I made a couple of small changes to the recipe, and ended up with something easy but impressive and something that I wouldn’t normally make (but will definitely be making again). I also made it gluten free by using gluten free pasta and brown rice flour.

We also had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day, but it would also be really simple to divide the pasta before baking it…bake one dish for supper, and cover the other (unbaked) pan with a double layer of foil. Freeze it to thaw and pull out for dinner another day!

Easy Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Ingredients
  • 1 package penne pasta (I used Tinkyada gluten free penne)
  • 3 cooked, chopped chicken breasts
  • 8 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
  • half stick butter
  • ¼ cup flour (I used brown rice flour)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ranch seasoning packet (I used Hidden Valley)
  • ¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions

1. Cook and drain the pasta according to package directions.
2. Add about a teaspoon olive oil (to keep pasta from sticking), chicken, and bacon. Stir together.
pasta, chicken, and bacon

3. In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat, then stir in the flour. Stir together for a minute or two, and pour in milk, whisking it all together. Continue whisking until sauce thickens, then stir in ranch seasoning.

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4. Pour sauce over pasta and mix together, then add the cheddar cheese and stir.

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5. Pour into baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

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Notes

I cooked the chicken in the crock pot on low for a few hours with about a half cup of chicken stock and ¼ packet of the ranch seasoning so it was done when I was ready to make the dish. You could also use a rotisserie chicken from the deli.

To save even more time, warm a jar of alfredo sauce and add the ranch seasoning in place of the roux (butter, flour, and milk).

How to Have Stress-Free Weeknight Dinners

Every week day with three kids (or 1 or 2 or 4, or, you know, none) seems so busy, right? I feel like I’m constantly in search of ways to make the weeknight dinner rush less stressful – and reduce the number of days we resort to fast food. Over many years (almost 13 since my oldest will be celebrating her 13th birthday this summer), I’ve come up with several keys to stress-free weeknight dinners.

stress-free weeknight dinners

Planning Ahead:

The main step in the process for me is always taking the time to plan out our weekly meals on the weekend. I sit down and look at our calendar to see what evening activities we have in any given week first, so that I know if there are certain nights that need not just a quick and easy meal, but a super-fast one. I then look through our meal spreadsheet (yes, that makes me sound like an accountant) and the weekly grocery store ad to see which meats will be the center of the plate for us in the current week. I use some of my favorite Knock Knock pads to plan out the week in meals and make my grocery store list.

Prepping Ahead:

If I’m having a very productive weekend, I will do some of my prep work for the week’s meals. This is essential for weeks that are extremely busy, and while it takes a little bit of time out of the weekend, it makes the week go so much more smoothly.  The best days are the ones where I’ve managed to come home from the grocery store, prepare meat and veggies for 2-3 meals, store them in freezer bags and stash them in the freezer or refrigerator to be moved to the slow cooker on meal day. It makes me so happy to be able to take the food straight from the refrigerator to the slow cooker, and straight from the slow cooker to our dinner table.  A few of my recent recipes and tips for freezer-to-slow-cooker-cooking can be found here.

I also like to do as much prep work as possible for other meals to decrease the work necessary at the end of the day. For example, this Bubble Up Pizza can be prepared ahead of time and then simply placed in the oven at the end of the day.

Any type of pasta or rice casseroles are also great for early morning or mid-day prep so they just have to be popped into the oven at the end of the day – lasagna, baked ziti, chicken and wild rice casserole. And one more great meal to prepare ahead of time? Mini meatloaves.

Combination Cooking:

I also like recipes that combine slow cooker preparation with oven preparation. Cooking meats in the slow cooker really makes dinner prep less messy and more convenient – from the simple salsa chicken (chicken with a jar of salsa tossed into the slow cooker and shredded) that can be used in so many other meals like tacos, salads and casseroles, to some of my favorite recipes like Garlic Chicken Farfalle and Baked Chicken Parmesan Ziti. Making a hearty spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker and then boiling the pasta and adding some garlic bread at dinner time is another convenient weeknight meal. Since the meat has already been cooked for these recipes, most can be easily finished off within 30 minutes right before dinner.

Reviewing the Plan Daily:

Every night before I go to bed, I double check the meal plan for the week to see if anything needs to be done for the next evening’s dinner. Sometimes this just involves taking a bag out of the freezer. Or taking meat that hasn’t been prepared yet out of the freezer. Or cooking the meat and pasta for a casserole and putting it in the refrigerator. The nightly review keeps us on track and reduces the likelihood that we’ll decide to ditch the plan for a day and pick up fast food instead.

What are your tips for stress-free weeknight dinners? What are your favorite weeknight dinners?

Katie is a busy, full-time working mom of three. You can find her at her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Work From Home Organization: The Family Binder

When I was in a local chapter of The Mom’s Club I was introduced to something pretty wonderful at one of our officer meetings.  Another one of the moms brought her “family binder” with her and inside was pretty much everything she needed to keep her kids’ school and extracurricular activities organized.  I was in awe.

In that moment I realized I needed one too so I went home and decided to create my own.   After taking one last look at the unorganized pile of papers on the desk in our kitchen I was so happy to finally have a solution!

Family Binder

I happened to have a decent binder at home already but

I hit up the local office supply store the very next day for the other items I needed to complete the binder.

All you need to create your own family binder are these few items:

3” View Binder with pockets

binder

Divider tabs (one per child/family member)

individual tab

Sheet protectors

 

Helpful items to also have on hand:

3-hole punch

Staple remover

Sharpie (for labeling tabs)

Each of my kids has their own tab and everything we need is in there and easily found – class instructions and calendars, school or team rosters, even passwords for online educational sites.  If it is something you know you will need to look at repeatedly it is great to put it inside a sheet protector so it does not easily tear or get marked up.

keepsakes

In the pockets I stash drawings or other keepsake items from the year and on the top of the binder, in the view pocket, I also put some “art” from school that makes me smile.

This simple binder has made my life a lot easier when it comes to finding things we need for pretty much anything the kids have going on.

schedule

I would also say that you could add a tab for yourself and include things that you might need for your own activities, as well as reminders or medical paperwork, tax paperwork, etc.  The sky’s the limit really for getting organized in your own family binder!

Elaine writes at The Miss Elaine-ous Life. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Product links are Amazon affiliate links.

Weekend Round-Up: Homemade Natural Household Cleaning Products

Katie Schmidt has a degree in Environmental Health Science, and she uses her blog Katie Thinks to share homemade natural household cleaning products and other ways to “go green” and get healthy.

She has a huge collection of “recipes”, and here are some of her favorites:

Making your own chemical-free All-purpose Cleaner

Homemade, non-toxic household cleaners save you money and reduce the amount of chemicals in your home!

Household uses of essential oils, including the all-purpose cleaner, air freshener, and a lot more!

Homemade powdered laundry detergent, which is great for sensitive skin and a HUGE money saver.

And homemade dishwasher detergent cubes!

Homemade, non-toxic household cleaners save you money and reduce the amount of chemicals in your home!

Not only do all of these homemade products reduce the amount of chemicals in your home, they also save you a lot of money. For even more homemade, chemical-free household cleaning products, follow Katie’s DIY Household Cleaners Pinterest Board. 

Do you have favorite “recipes” for homemade natural household cleaning products, or personal care products? 

Follow Katie for more ways to go non toxic, reduce chemicals in your home, and save money. She’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Plus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trash to Treasure Dining Room Set

My semi-flexible hours have made it possible to frequent local thrift stores during the day every few weeks. Much of what I see is absolute junk, but some of it, upon second glance, has promise with just a little tweaking on my part. Saving money on thrift store (and even curbside) furniture helps with our budget and gives me fun projects to do. I have zero carpentry or sewing skills, so any DIY projects I do must be SIMPLE.

Trash to Treasure: Thrift Store Dining Room Set

 

Today I thought I’d share our dining room set with you. When I first saw it at the thrift store: one orange-y brown table and five 70’s style chairs that reeked of B.O. and cigarettes, I almost turned on my heel and fled.  But something about the open design on the chairs intrigued me. This was six years ago, before we were seeing Moroccan shapes everywhere on fabric and furniture, but that’s what they reminded me of.

At the time, I’d been looking into buying a farmhouse table, but it was almost $1200,not including chairs, and it seemed like it might overpower our small dining room.

Before anyone else could grab it, not that it seemed like much of a risk, I plunked down $47 for the entire set. I then had the hassle of shoving all of the stinky chairs in my minivan and coming back later with a borrowed truck to pick up the table. I wasn’t sure my husband, Tim, would share my vision or even welcome the wretched furniture into the house, so I just left it on the porch to air out while I formulated a plan.

First, I cleaned the table and chairs with Murphy’s oil soap and threw the nasty fabric and chair padding away. It was a gag-worthy experience.

chair before

Then, I put the chairs in the grass and spray panted them with my favorite spray paint color, Heirloom White. It’s a soft, creamy vintage white that I thought would be very forgiving if the chairs got any dings over time.

Next, I added new foam from the fabric store, and used discount fabric to cover the seats. If I were to do this again, I would have chosen a more expensive, denser foam that would be softer on the rear during long dinners!

Making dining room seat cushions is one of the easiest, quickest home improvement projects, so if you are sick and tired of yours, don’t be afraid to jump in and re-cover them. All you need to do is fold the fabric over the padding and wooden seat base and then use a staple gun to secure it. If you can fold and staple, you can do it! I’m probably going to recover these soon, transitioning from the brown zebra print to the soft aqua velvet (right hand side of photos).

chairs after

Next, I bought a MinWax dark walnut gel stain.  Tim rubbed it on the table using an old t-shirt as an applicator, and the ugly orange surface transformed to a dark, almost ebony wood. It looked streaky at first, but as he added several coats, all of the streaks disappeared. He did not need to add a protective top coat, but that could make the surface even more durable.

When this project was finished, I had spent under $100 for the entire dining room set, and perhaps even saved this sad, smelly furniture from a land fill. What was going to be a temporary fix for our empty dining room, continues to serve us well. We add the two extra leaves and pull up extra chairs if we ever have a crowd.

What’s your favorite trash to treasure find?

Anna Whiston-Donaldson blogs about life and loss at An Inch of Gray. Her Memoir “Rare Bird: A Mother’s Story of Tragic Loss and Surprising Hope” will be published Sept 2014 by Convergent Books.

Product Links are Amazon affiliate links.

Saving Money on Groceries With Meal Planning and Once a Week Shopping

When I looked at our budget recently, I noticed that over the past few months, our family’s food spending kept creeping higher and higher.

Right away, I saw that we were making several trips (usually 2 or 3 or sometimes more) to the grocery store each week. In addition, there were usually a couple of trips to the corner store on the way home from work.

Usually, the trips were for one or two things – often milk or bread. Though that was the intention, what inevitably happened is that we ended up buying a near cart-full of extras. Sometimes I tossed things in because I was hungry – I typically stopped mid-afternoon, when everything looks especially tasty – or, more often than not, because something was “such a good deal.”

These extra trips were adding big $$ to our weekly grocery spending.

I decided to try to reduce the number of trips needed by planning all of our meals – breakfasts, lunches and suppers – for the entire week and shopping for those needs. One grocery trip per week – the prospect was a bit scary.

Once a week meal planning to save on groceries!

Here are some things that I have done to make one trip last:

List, list, list

I have a list app on my phone that I use now, but before that, I was a pen and paper devotee. Whatever your method, lists will keep you organized. I plan our meals first, based on what we had on hand, what was on sale in the weekly flyers,  and our family’s preferences.

Once I know what we are going to be eating for the week, I sit down with the flyers and my phone and make the lists. I have separate lists on my phone for each store if I need to make more than one stop.

When we run out of something during the week, I put it in my phone right then. Otherwise, I will forget.

Know Your Family’s Eating Habits

Planning meals and shopping for weekly meals for the family means know what your family eats, and making sure it is on hand. Once you take care of the basics, the rest is easy.

For example, we are simple breakfast folks at my house – it is fruit and cereal for the boys and toast for David and me. I make sure we are stocked on those items for the week and BOOM! Breakfasts done.

For lunches, we tend to rotate the same few lunches that the boys prefer: sandwiches, bagels and pizza. I make sure we are stocked on the extras (granola bars, fruit and cheese) to round out their mid-day meals.

Then I plan our suppers.

And don’t forget the snacks!

If we don’t have it, we don’t eat it. 

I am bad for deciding that “I feel like tacos tonight.” I get cravings and decide that nothing else will do. If I don’t have the necessary ingredients, a quick trip to the store and voila! Craving quenched. Now, if I start thinking about a meal, I put it on the meal plan for the next week. Then I have a start on a menu and something to look forward to next week.

So, after 4 weeks, how are we doing?

I have made 1 extra trip in that time – when I needed a quick meal and had forgotten to take something out of the freezer. Oops! I still mess up. (I have started to set up reminders on my phone to take things out the day before.)

Other than that, we have made our one weekend grocery trip and that is it.

No more scrambling through the grocery store midweek, with hungry children in tow. No more wondering what we will eat for supper and thinking it would be easier to just pick something up.

Eliminating the extra trips is giving us predictability in our grocery spending. Even though the planning takes time, I think that one stop saves time over the course of the week.  And we are eating what we have, so we are wasting less food.

Do you meal plan? What are some of your time and money saving strategies?  

Kim writes at Co-Pilot Mom, about her adventures with her husband and two boys. You can find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.