I recently shared a sort of serious, sort of poking fun of myself post on Tips and Tricks. I thought for sure maybe five of you would read it, smile sweetly, and say “She should really stick to writing about her family.” Well, you readers are kinda awesome and proved me wrong. I actually heard from many of you that you that you would welcome more tips and tricks, especially from the kitchen.
I can only guess that you are asking this of me because I am like a safe place. I am not a gourmet cook, nor am I the girl that is going to tell you all about the fabulous methods she has for canning, or spending endless hours creating fantastic meals for grand dinner parties. Some days I wish I was that girl. Most days I am just glad we all ate something.
I do know, for most of us, just figuring out this mommy/cook/wife/housekeeper thing can be a process – and a long one at that. It certainly has not come easy for me.
When I left the full time working world, I was sure that my house would be cleaner, my meals would be fresher, and my children would bathe more. The reality is that the three of us, home all day long, eating a minimum of three meals a day, making messes in every.single.room of the house (did I mention all day long?), has changed the homemaking landscape for this momma, dramatically.
Now, before I go any further, please know I will never say that my job is more difficult now than when I worked outside the home. The years that I was working full time and being a single mom were absolutely the most difficult, physically demanding, and emotionally draining years, EVER. These days, every time one of my boys is sick and up all night long, I say a 3:00 AM prayer of thanks that I don’t have to get up in 2.5 hours and go to work. There is just no comparison.
However, having said that, the expectation I have of myself and the level of mess we create is much, much different. For example, when you work full time, your children leave the house, still half asleep, for at least 8-9 hours and then come home for dinner and bedtime only. There is only so much mess that can be made. Or, when you work full time, you can afford to pay the sweet, struggling lady you met at church to help clean your house once a month because she needs the money and you need the help. Different levels of mess, different levels of expectation.
I have had to purpose in the last few years to learn as much as I can about this thing called homemaking – and I am happy share what little I know.
1. Ask Other Moms
This may seem simple, but I think sometimes we are too shy, or worried about what people will think if we ask questions about how to manage our homes. Perhaps it is because I am just that desperate, but my best resources are other moms. I shamelessly ask questions of my mommy friends. For instance, I have learned just about every one of my friend’s laundry routines (or lack thereof), in an attempt to rethink my own. I know how they plan their days, and what planners they use (if any).
I know how they grocery shop and where. We have had collective conversations around the “go to” dinners we serve in our homes, attempting to steal each others and thereby almost have a meal plan for the entire week (too bad we all said spaghetti or tacos).
2. Take Time To Research
If you did not grow up with a mom at home, gently leading you in the art of homemaking, or surround yourself with girl friends who did, chances are you might need some additional resources to inform your approach. I recommend really, really simple resources. I love the pretty books and blogs that show the most amazing homes and kitchens, but they rarely match my own. I don’t want to take the time to read something that leaves me feeling worse than when I started. I recommend checking a few mommy blogger sites that specialize in the practical, day to day. I have learned and been able to apply so much to my life from these resources:
They have recipes and pictures of their very real kitchens, some posts on natural living, and even one on how to stretch a whole chicken into 5 meals. Very practical, and very timely for this homemaker.
3. Make Decisions Based On Your Family
Just because a blogger posts an amazing picture of her kitchen remodel, doesn’t mean you need to begin your own. I think the most important part of intentionally serving our families, is weeding through what will work in our individual circumstances and what won’t.
For example, here are some of my best tricks that I use in the kitchen. ALL of them came from a need specific to our home.
Double Bagging – Because of Sourdough’s intense sensitivity to smells, I was in the habit of radically cleaning out the fridge and never, ever keeping leftovers. (If you have had morning sickness, you might be able to identify with him. When I was pregnant, I could walk by the fridge and if the door was open, I would gag. Sourdough is like that all the time). Enter Ziplocks. Lots of them. Now, it may not seem very eco-friendly, but bare with me. I have learned to put every single container with a smell or leftovers into a Ziplock bag. Then I put that bag in another. Unless something leaks, I reuse these outer bags over and over so we are not wasting (the bags or the smelly foods).
Baskets and Bins – My children need help to keep things neat. I need help to help to keep things neat. You have already seen my leftover bin (which, by the way, has still continued to improve our family’s grocery budget and meal plans). Here is a picture of the other bins we have labeled in the fridge.
I also do the same thing in the pantry, labeling bins and baskets for things like pastas, breads, and snacks. The labels help my boys help themselves, and they keep me honest in using the items I have on hand.
3. Summer Salads – My children do not eat vegetables as much as I would like. With the amount of sensory issue related food stress we encounter, this is not my battle right now. My husband and I do however, enjoy fresh veggies this time of year, especially on salads. The problem is, since it is just two of us, one diced pepper is way too much for one salad. Same with one cucumber. My solution? At the end of the week, I throw all of the unused diced veggies into a bowl, add a little oil and vinegar, and we have a summer salad as our side dish.
Again, all three of these are examples that are very specific to our family. They may not be even remotely helpful for yours. I share them, only to encourage you to think very specifically about your home and your needs. You may have no need for a summer salad, but leftover meat is a big deal in your fridge. I would encourage you to look for soups or chilli recipes that will allow you to use this to your advantage.
The good news is, by God’s grace, I am learning more every day. By God’s grace, I am also learning to have the diligence and self control needed to better manage my life (always the most difficult part for me!).
Maybe you are in the same boat – learning and diligently working to improve. Maybe you are way ahead.
If you are either, you are welcome here. I need company AND I need advice.
I am curious… what would you share if you were asked for your best kitchen tip?