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How To Simplify Your Dinner Routine

How to Simplify Your Dinner Routine {using Simplified Dinners} | RaisingArrows.net

Meal planning is one of those things that seems like it should be a breeze, but in reality, can quickly become a nightmare.  Some weeks, I really enjoy meal planning, but as soon as life gets busy, meal planning becomes a chore that feels nearly impossible.  Not to mention the fact that I am a stay at home homeschooling mom.  I have no less than 8 people (sometimes 9, soon to be 10) eating 3 meals a day on any given day!  Add to that a steady flow of guests, and you can imagine what one little hiccup in our routine will do to a meal plan.

In fact, I can totally relate to what Mystie Winkler has to say in this video:


Simplified Dinners ebook with recipes!

Get $3 off Simplified Dinners when you use coupon code: raisingarrows


Are you burned out on meal planning?

Simplified Dinners is Mystie’s creative answer to a busy mom’s frustration with meal planning.  It implements a master grocery list along with versatile recipes to create a method of meal planning that is streamlined and easy to use.  It even creates a pantry and refrigerator/freezer that can accommodate someone who isn’t used to running your kitchen – say a young cook, dad, or Grandma.

In fact, I decided to have my 13 year old daughter read through the ebook to see if she understood the concept and thought she could implement it on her own.  Her words were, “This is really neat!  I could definitely do this!”

Simplified Dinners - even my 13 year old can do it! | RaisingArrows.net

So, how does it work?

Every recipe in Simplified Dinners gives you a starting point.  This is your “base”.  From there you add in other options to create a variety of different meals from that starting point.

For instance, let’s look at the Slow Cooker, No Defrost Chicken section (because, let’s be honest, how many busy moms actually get around to defrosting the chicken before it goes in the crock pot?)  The starting point is the chicken, a sauce, and a crock pot on low 8-10 hours.  From there, Mystie gives you 6 different kinds of sauces, along with notes on serving ideas and additions.  

This is how ALL the recipes are!  Tons of options, all laid out for you – easy peasy!

LEARN MORE HERE!

Use coupon code: raisingarrows to get $3 off your purchase!
code expires 10/20/14

None of the ingredients are crazy weird.  There is a shopping list included, so you could potentially always have everything on hand, no matter which starting point and which addition you choose.  The entire process is Simple, Simple, Simple!

But, let’s say you DO want to plan a little more than just opening the ebook.  (By the way, I printed out Simplified Dinners and put it in my Food Notebook so I don’t even have to open my computer to grab the recipes!)  Why not snag Mystie’s menu planner?

It’s FREE and Totally customized for use with the ebook!

Download Mystie’s Simplified Dinners Menu Planner & Master Grocery List!

This is especially helpful if you have someone coming into your home to care for your family and they might need a bit of help knowing what to feed everyone.

Simplified Dinners is also fabulous for new moms!  You know that newborn fog?  Don’t worry about it!  Lean on the recipes in Simplified Dinners!  Give the shopping list to your husband or other family member and you are all set!  In fact, most of the meals in Simplified Dinners are perfect freezer meals!

So, give yourself a break and order a copy of Simplified Dinners!

(Don’t forget that coupon code!  raisingarrows gets you $3 off! - code expires 10/20)

Simplified Dinners ebook with recipes!

By chance, would you want to win a copy of Simplified Dinners???

Great!  Let’s have a giveaway!  (If you are reading this via email, click here and scroll down to the giveaway to enter!)
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Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? {Kitchen Tour – Part 1}

Back in March, I wrote a post about keeping your kitchen clean.  I mentioned in the post how reducing clutter in your kitchen helps tremendously, but I’ll be honest, sometimes clutter lurks in places you forget about, or sneaks onto your counters, and sometimes it shows up in the form of a gift from a well-meaning someone who brings it into your kitchen and leaves it there.  Before you know it, the kitchen has been overrun by things that do nothing but take up space.

So, when I saw a post on Pinterest that begged me to take a look at one woman’s minimalist kitchen, I couldn’t help myself.  What I saw made me sigh happy, clean counter, sighs.  But, it also made me wonder…

Can a large family live without a lot of extra kitchen appliances, dishes, tools, and gadgets?

In other words…

Can a large family have a minimalist kitchen?

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? (plus Kitchen Tour Part 1!) | RaisingArrows.net

I will start off by telling you that kitchen gadgets are NOT my thing.  They hold no appeal for me, so you won’t find a lot of that type of thing in my kitchen, minimalist or not.  In fact, in nearly every area of my life, I tend toward the minimalist category.  Decluttering is cheap therapy for me.  I like to throw things away.  But everyone knows a large family naturally accumulates more stuff than a smaller family.  More people bringing in more things, not to mention outsiders who figure you need more stuff since there are so many of you, can easily overtake a large family kitchen.

I was determined to take the minimalist approach to the kitchen, and run with it – just to see how far I’d get.  I can definitively say that you ABSOLUTELY CAN HAVE A MINIMALIST KITCHEN in a large family, but there are a couple of things you have to take into consideration.

1.  Have the RIGHT SIZE of tool for the job.  You will waste a ton of space if you are trying to accommodate a large family with 3 too-small pots, rather than 1 perfect-sized pot.  Don’t hang onto items that don’t really fit your family.  Upsize and declutter the too-small things.

2.  Purge often.  Because of the sheer number of people in a large family household, you have to be on your toes with sorting and getting rid of things that don’t truly belong in your home.  If you receive something that is a better fit, get rid of the item it replaces.  And don’t look back!

OK, let’s get started with the tour…

{affiliate links included}

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? | RaisingArrows.net

This is the main wall of my kitchen.  This is by far, the largest kitchen I have ever had; however, it has a few tricky spots I’ll point out as we go.

On the far left, you see a glimpse of an antique ice box that holds our teas and my Bosch mixer.  While I use my Bosch often, I decided it was not often enough to warrant counter space.  On top of the ice box is a glass pitcher, a flower arrangement my 10 year put together (she has a real knack for home decor), and a plate for fruit.  These things are all decorative and functional.

Working our way to the right, you’ll see a counter space that has a basket for bread with a butter dish next to it.  I could get a bread box, but that’s not something I’ve ever owned, so until I do, a basket works.  I also hung my hot pads on a 3M removable hook next to the stove.  (I LOVE these hooks!)

Above that counter space is my Baking Cupboard.  I have had a designated Baking Cabinet/Cupboard for years.  If you bake a lot, and you can spare the space, I highly recommend doing this.  This is also where our often-used seasonings go, so they are quick to grab when cooking up meat and other dishes.

Below that counter, are casserole dishes, cookie sheets, and other baking dishes.  Here is a list of exactly what I own:

I could rid of the items we don’t use often, but for now, I like to have them on hand for the few times I do want to make something that calls for one of those pans.

Next, is the stove.  I do not keep anything stored in the oven or in the drawer below (except the broiler pan that belongs with the stove…and never gets used).  On top of the stove, I have a tea pot.  This would not necessarily have to be there, but I like the way it makes the stove look all homey. ;)

Above the stove and microwave, is where I keep olive oil and olive oil spray, along with my knife sharpener.

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? | RaisingArrows.net

The next counter space over has an upcycled utensil holder made by my friend Char at New Life Treasures.  It holds a few wooden spoons, an assortment of spatulas, whisks, tongs, a ladle, and a couple of other utensils.  I was brutal and got rid of any utensil that didn’t get used regularly.  If there was something that didn’t get used often, but I still thought ought to be kept, I moved it to a container in a cupboard – more on that in another post.  I will say this counter top space is also where clean dishes go to dry.  We hand wash any dishes that don’t fit in the dishwasher as well as any dishes or knives that are not supposed to be put in a dishwasher.  I use an XL Envision Dish Drying Mat to put the overflow dishes on to dry.

Above that counter is where our plates and bowls are kept.  I have 3 small plastic bowls and 3 small plastic plates for my little guys.  I have 6 more plastic bowls that work well for snacks and such, along with 8 pottery bowls that match the 8 dinner plates I have of October Franciscan pottery.  I also keep 3 deep bowls in that cupboard that work well to mix small batches of things.  Besides the 8 dinner plates, I also have 8 smaller Corelle-type plates.  Typically, when the table is set, Mommy, Daddy, and the two oldest children get large plates, and everyone else uses the Corelle or plastic smaller plates.  Sometimes, depending on the meal, we all use the smaller plates.

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? Kitchen Tour!| RaisingArrows.net

Excuse the horrible photo.  I was taking it with my phone and there was no making it look pretty.  You can see below the sink there is a cupboard and another right next to it.  These hold cleaning supplies.

Next to those cupboards, you will see the only drawers in the kitchen.  They are small and shallow.  Very strange setup for such a large kitchen, but we’ve made it work.  The top drawer is silverware and extra DrinkBands for guests.  The next drawer contains kitchen towels.  The 3rd drawer contains Bosch attachments, gadgets we actually use on a regular basis (pastry cutter, apple corer, beaters, etc).  The bottom drawer used to hold plastic storage container lids, but I’ve decluttered enough of those that it currently stands empty! *gasp*  It will probably end up housing my drying mats (yes, I have more than one) or some of the less used kitchen gadgets that are put away on the opposite side of the kitchen (another topic in Part 2).

The counter top above those drawers is the dirty dish holding area.  That is where all the dirty dishes go until my Dishwasher Helper takes care of them after every meal.

And lastly, the cupboard above that counter is where glasses go.  We have two glasses for each person, colored coded with their DrinkBand.  There is also a place for sippy cups, and a box that holds plastic reusable cups that my husband takes with him on his daily commute.  I use a box for these because inevitably, someone would open the cupboard door and out would fall all the plastic cups!  I do have a few extra glasses for when company comes stored on the top shelf as well.

I will be sharing what is housed on the other side of the kitchen along with the island in a later post.  Feel free to ask any questions and offer ideas for other readers to create a more minimalist kitchen of their own!

Posts in this Series:
Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen (with Kitchen Tour Part 1)
Minimalist Kitchen Tour Part 2

Want to read more about Homemaking?
Check out my Homemaking Basics!

Homemaking Basics | RaisingArrows

Finger Food Lunches for Busy Moms

Finger Food Lunch - having a snack lunch is a quick and easy homeschool meal! | RaisingArrows.net

Once a week for many years, we’ve had what we call an Amish Lunch or Finger Food Lunch.  This meal, which consists of, you guessed it – finger foods – was a concept we were first introduced to while reading The Amish Cook syndicated column in a local newspaper.  The Amish Cook would talk about her daily activities as well as the meals they were having, and often, one of those meals was this very simple, yet delicious finger food concept – thus, the reason we have always called it an “Amish Lunch”.  This type of meal always sounded so yummy and easy, so I began to brainstorm how we could incorporate it into our homeschool lunch menu.

Lunch for the Busy Homeschool Mom

Homeschool moms have a lot on their hands – especially around lunch time.  It is VERY difficult to break away from studies and make time to eat, let alone make time to cook.  Most homeschool moms I know choose to make very easy lunch meals or use up leftovers.  The Amish concept of a finger food lunch fits in perfectly with these!

Finger Food Lunch - a quick and easy way to serve lunch in a busy homeschooling household! | RaisingArrows.net

While you can certainly plan to buy specific foods to have for your Finger Food Lunch, you can also simply use up foods in your refrigerator and pantry that meet the finger food criteria.  Serve them on plates and platters and let everyone dig in.  You could even get fancy and give them toothpicks to choose their foods – but then again, toothpicks might end up being used as swords…or is that just my household?

Ideas for Finger Food Lunches

Meats – deli, summer sausage, hamburger patties, pepperonis, Canadian bacon, etc.

Cheeses – cheese wedges, string cheese, cheese slices or cubes, etc.

Cut Veggies – carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, jicama, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.

Fruits – grapes, apples, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, blueberries, bananas, etc.

Dried fruit

Pickled foods – beets, olives, onions, cucumbers, you might even want to try my pickled green beans!

Crackers

Jelly/Jam/Fruit Butters

Relishes

Dips – this Autumn, try my Caramel Apple Dip!

Nuts – at Christmas time, we like to have Sugar-Coasted Roasted Nuts - YUM!

Breads – see my Large Family Recipes page for some of our favorite bread recipes!

Drinks – water is easy, but we like to do homemade lemonade because I have a daughter who really enjoys making it for the family!


 

Megan’s Famous Homemade Lemonade

2 cups of sugar (or comparable sweetener)
2 cups of lemon juice
1 gallon of water

Mix all ingredients well in a gallon pitcher.  Watch it disappear!


I have a friend who calls this type of meal Snack Lunch; however, one complaint she has about it is that it does not seem to stick with her kids, and they are soon hungry again.  I have a couple of suggestions to remedy this:

1.  Be sure you have put enough food and enough caloric density on the platter.  You may want to add popcorn, denser breads, and plenty of meat and cheese to your platter.  Maybe you have a great roasted garbanzo bean recipe or you’ve made some savory oyster crackers – throw those in the mix!

2.  Have your Finger Food Lunch on a day when you are able to have a heavier snack or an early dinner.  Finger Foods may not be a good choice if you are going to be out all day shopping with the kids.  It all depends on #1.  If you can’t pull together a more caloric dense lunch, then save those lunches for days when you are home and snack time will be some homemade yummy or when dinner time will be early.

So, what would you put on your Finger Food Lunch platter?

2014 Canning Season Recipes

2014 Canning Season - so far, we've made salsa, spaghetti sauce, pickles and pickled green beans, freezer green beans, and sandhill plum jelly!  Recipes included in the post! | RaisingArrows.netThis year, we were blessed with abundant produce that was free or nearly free to us.  We had a small garden and very generous landlords.

I’ve admitted in the past that I am not a gardener.  I like to blame it on my sensory issues – there is nothing about playing in the dirt that intrigues me.  However, I REALLY like having fresh produce that WE grew.  So fun!  This year, we grew peas, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, corn, green beans, and there are cantaloupe on the vine as we speak.

As for our generous landlords – they are an older couple who plant WAY more than they could ever eat (as in 60 tomato plants!).  They have sent tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and green beans our way in bucket-fulls!  And I am sure not going to waste it!

Tomatoes!

And then, to top it off, this has been a stellar year for the sandhill (or wild) plum!  These little beauties grow roadside and are usually free for the picking by whomever makes it there first!

sandhill plums

As promised last week in my Pregnancy Update, here are the recipes we’ve been using this canning season.

Sandhill Plum Jelly – Apparently, I’m one of the few sites out there with this recipe because this time of year, I get a lot of hits on this post.

2014 Canning Season - sandhill plum jelly, spaghetti sauce, pickled green beans, and more! | RaisingArrows.net

I mention in my plum jelly post how I was running my pulp through mesh with a spoon.  Well, thankfully, I found my sieve!  This isn’t the cleanest job in the world, but that tart jelly is oh so worth it!

Freezer Green Beans – Early on, we froze our green beans.  This is a nice, simple process that yields beautiful, bags full of bright green veggies!

1.  Wash your beans.
2.  Trim the stems off your beans and cut them in half.
3.  Blanch the beans in boiling water for 1 minute.
4.  Dunk in ice water for 1 minute.
5.  Pat dry (we used paper towels).
6.  Bag in “meal sized” freezer bags.  For our family, this means full 1 gallon bags, but that may be too much for your family.  Adjust accordingly.

Pickled Green Beans – As the season wore on, and the landlords had more and more and more green beans, my kids begged for pickled green beans instead of freezing them.  Now for some of you, the idea of pickled green beans seems pretty “out there”, but you really ought to try it!

You can use any pickle recipe, but this one is very similar to what we use for our pickled okra (when we have it) and has been a favorite for a very long time.  It includes dill, garlic and red pepper flakes, and ends up quite yummy.  By the way, if you ever want to hear my “angry okra” story, fell free to read all about it HERE.

Cucumber Pickles – We didn’t end up with very many cucumbers, so what we did end up with became pickles that went straight into our refrigerator.  When you do this, you really need to let them set in the refrigerator unopened for about a week (more would be ideal) to get the full flavor.  It was all we could do to wait a week, and they were gobbled up all in one setting!  The recipe we used came from Sheri Graham.

Salsa – When the tomatoes first started rolling in, we did up huge batches of our favorite salsa.

Fresh & Tasty Homemade Salsa - nothing like it! | RaisingArrows.net

This is a very chunky salsa with some surprising ingredients like balsamic vinegar and soy sauce!  The acid content in the salsa was plenty high enough to be able to water bath it (the only kind of canning I do), so we ended up doing about 3 gallons.

Later, we moved on to a less chunky salsa that we found HERE.  However, I don’t think either salsa is really going to be hot enough.  I need to put more heat in them next time.

Spaghetti Sauce – I had never canned spaghetti sauce, and frankly, we don’t use the stuff.  For years, we have simply used tomato sauce with spices in it.  That’s it.  However, I thought it would be nice to have some real homemade sauce for our italian meals, so I dug around for a recipe and came up with THIS ONE.

Canned spaghetti sauce

It was VERY tasty, but by the time we had done up a dozen quarts (plus the salsa we had already done), my kids (and myself) were sick of tomatoes.  I happened to mention on Facebook how we were all tired of peeling and seeding tomatoes, and my Facebook blew up with people chiming in saying they didn’t peel or de-seed their tomatoes and I shouldn’t either!  I was astounded.  I was under the impression this was a RULE.  So, when the landlords called and asked if I wanted yet another round of tomatoes, I exasperated my children by saying Yes…because I really wanted to try this little experiment!

Well, the truth is, I will be trying this little experiment later today.  HERE is the recipe I’m going to use. Now, I know the woman in the post freezes hers, but I will be adding some tomato paste (to thicken) and lemon juice (to up the acid content) and water bath them for 20 minutes.  I will also probably run them through the Vita-Mix…just in case people are pulling my leg about having the skins and seeds in there being ok.

Once I’m through the last of the tomatoes and the sandhill plums, we will be finished until apple season…which also looks like a bumper crop.  We buy seconds at a local orchard and turn them into all sorts of yummy treats!  We’ll be freezing slices for pie, making applesauce to can, making apple butter (probably in the crock pot), and maybe even some apple pie filling!

Until then, the rest of the tomatoes on the vine will be picked green and fried.

Brand New DrinkBands & You Could Win!

Win the Brand New DrinkBands on RaisingArrows.net!Guess what came in the mail the other day?!  Some fun new goodies from DrinkBands!  DrinkBands now has PERSONALIZED bands, so your family members can have their name AND their favorite color on their glasses!

Personalized DrinkBands!

DrinkBands is also pleased to present CAMO BANDS!  My family was super excited about these!  My daughter even got creative photographing them (shown in the photo below are 3 of the 5 designs).

Camo DrinkBands!

There are 5 camouflage patterns in all:

Camo DrinkBands!

I know you can’t wait to get your hands on these new DrinkBands, so how about a fun giveaway?  There will be 2 winners – one winner will get a set of 9 regular DrinkBands that are personalized, and another winner will win a set of 5 camo DrinkBands!  Giveaway ends this Friday, so hurry!

(Reading this via email?  CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway!)
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Stop Opening Every Jar of Peanut Butter We Own!

You may be a large family if every time you turn around someone has opened a new container of peanut butter…

or mayonnaise…

or [insert name of food that already has a full container sitting open in the refrigerator or pantry].

It’s maddening!

So, I got proactive and did this:

How to stop the kids (and dad) from opening brand new food containers when there is one already open | RaisingArrows.net

X marks the spot!

This is the ONLY peanut butter jar that is allowed to be opened.  And if you can’t find the one with the X, you find mom and together the two of you will look for it before determining it is a good idea to open a new one (which will be promptly marked with an X by the way!).

This works for anything that tends to get opened without thinking.  Maple syrup, boxes of cereal, and yes, mayonnaise!

Sharpie marker saves the day!


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so you can buy more peanut butter?

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