Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Homeschool Questions: What Does an Average Day Look Like?

Continuing with answering some of the more commonly asked homeschool questions, I decided to use my white board to write down my entire day on Friday.  I'm often asked what a typical day looks like...what we do, how and when I get household chores done, which subjects get covered, how I "do it all" (hint: I don't), when I work out, etc.  The problem is that because I'm very relaxed in our homeschool approach and often practice student-led learning, we don't usually have a "typical" or "average" day.  I  often have goals for which subjects I'd like to do that day, but the children may have a totally different idea of what interests them instead.

The weather lately has been amazing!  It is still hot, but definitely cooling down and starting to feel a bit like fall.  This means that the kids have been playing outside a lot during the day, which they couldn't do previously since it was so hot (this is why I do some school in June...I love the option to play outside more in September!).

This is what my Friday two weeks ago looked like.  As much as it appears I accomplished a lot on Friday, all moms know that there is always more to do!  This is meant as a learning post, not a comparison post (again, my own personal day-to-day schedule is always changing!).  My goal with this is to help those of you considering homeschool to see that you can fit little things in here or there throughout the day, and that you don't necessarily have to have a "school morning" or set hours for schooling.  The words in bold are items I consider part of my kids' "homeschool."

5:00 Wake Up
5:30 Strength Workout with my friend, Erin
6:30 Breakfast, financial budgeting, & bills since it's payday
7:15  Shower, fold first laundry load, start another load
7:50  Kids clean their rooms & do chores
8:15 Kids outside to play while I clean the kitchen
8:35 Boys find a bird outside interesting so we pull out books and do science on the grass
8:50  Girls-history, Aaron-handwriting, Levi-playing
9:30 Snack, outside play, order teas online for our kombucha, pack lunches
10:00 Errands-bike shop and Target
11:15 Outside play, clean the house
12:00 Martial Arts class for myself; kids play with friends and eat lunch
1:10  Bring a coffee drink to Ben at work
1:40  Quiet time; kids read books
2:20  Outside Play; Backyard clean-up with kids, feed/water chickens, tend to garden, load dishwasher, laundry
3:00  Snack and get ready for evening classes
3:45  Take kids to martial arts classes (PE :))
4:00 Squeeze in a 20 minute mini workout on the TRX bands while kids are in class
4:45  Drive another kid to a separate class elsewhere
5:30  Sparring class-my favorite part of Fridays!
6:20  Pick up a child from a friend's house
6:40  Prep for my Saturday Kindermusik class, shower
7:00  Ben comes home with Costco pizza and we eat
8:00  Books & Bedtime & audio books as they fall asleep

By the end of Friday, my children had completed:
*Lots of outside play
*Played with friends
*Listened to audio books

I had personally:
*Worked out (strength workout, martial arts class, sparring class, and TRX workout...yes, it's a lot!)
*Done 3 full loads of laundry
*Cleaned up the backyard
*Cared for the animals
*Cleaned the house
*Prepped for teaching
*Surprised my husband at work with a treat
*Gotten the kids' bikes fixed
*Shopped for necessities

I try as often as possible to do chores and take care of my responsibilities while the kids are playing or are occupied with self-directed schooling.  Several times a week I do a short workout while my kids are in martial arts classes.  When we are leaving the house or starting on school, I try to start a load of laundry.  Kids help with chores, too.  You can see that my boys' fascination with a bird in our backyard led them to hunt through books for specifics...this is child-led learning!  We fit this type of learning in as often as a question or curiosity pops up. Homeschooling and getting all the other stuff done comes down to being creative and purposeful with your time.  Homeschooling is doable...and your house can still be clean, your groceries bought, and your health and fitness prioritized too!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Homeschool Questions: How Do You Make Sure To Teach Everything They Need to Know?

I've been taking the past couple weeks to answer some of the more common homeschool questions that I receive.  My hope is that these posts will find their way into the homes of mommas who may be considering homeschooling, new to homeschooling, or struggling with homeschooling in some way.  I hope you find encouragement and peace as you read about some of our approaches, thoughts, and methods for homeschooling.

Today's question is one that I personally struggled with for a few years.  It's the question of, "how will you make sure that you teach them everything they need to know?"  OR, an extension of that question being, "what if you 'miss' certain things in their education?"  You know what?  It's a really good and hard question.  It honestly took me until last year to feel at ease with this question, and with my answer.

My answer in short?  I will absolutely, unequivocally miss certain things.  And I'm okay with that. 

Now hear me out.  I'm not saying that I am being flippant in how or what I teach to my children.  I'm not saying that I'm not going to try my best to ensure that they learn all they need to know in life.  What I AM SAYING is that things will be missed or excluded.  Not necessarily by choice, but because you know-it happens.  Life happens.  They can't possibly know EVERYTHING anyway.

Here's where I find my comfort and satisfaction in my answer....

1)  I went to public school all my life.  I graduated with an honors diploma.  I worked hard, got pretty much straight A's, and hated missing school for any reason.  And yet, as an adult, I knew absolutely nothing about American or World History, American Government, or Geography.  I'm certain these subjects were taught at various times in my school career, but I'm also certain that I just studied to pass the tests and then put it out of my mind because they were subjects I wasn't presently interested in learning.  Twelve years of public school, and I couldn't tell you anything beyond "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

Guess which subjects are my first-born's favorites?  Yup.  You guessed it.  All of those.  And guess who now finds it fascinating?  ME!!!  So guess who is learning it now with her?  ME!!!  These were "missed" topics/subjects for me in public school, but because I know how to use the internet and library to do research, when the time came that I had a need and interest to learn it, I did (and still am).  We learn it together, which has been really fun for both of us (she loves that I don't 'know it all').

2)  Homeschoolers have the advantage of having continuity of education.  I never have to wonder if her last years' teacher taught multiplication with this method or that one.  I never have to wonder which topics she's covered, which ones interest her most, or which ones she really could do without for now.  I know every book she's read, video she's watched, topic she's inquired about, and more.  We can pick up where we left off, and don't have to worry about spending weeks reviewing the basics since I know right where she sits.  I know which subjects are difficult for her and need more work.  I get more inside knowledge than a teacher (even the best of teachers) could ever have with her because I'm her mom.

One of my main goals in homeschooling is to teach my children HOW to learn.  If I can equip them to be able to take their curiosity and questions and turn them into research and answers, they will be set.  If there are certain subjects or topics that we "miss" while they are young (whether by mistake or because of lack of interest), if and when they have the interest or need for that information, they should be able to know how to find it on their own.  And with that, I am completely satisfied.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Homeschool Questions: How Long is Your School Day?

One of the most common questions among homeschoolers and those looking to homeschool alike (and let's face it-non homeschoolers as this all the time, too) is, "How long is your school day?"  Everyone wants to know how long it takes to homeschool a child.  Does it take all day?  Can you do it quickly?  What about when you have multiple children to homeschool?  Are you going to be stuck at your table all day long?  Is there time for fun stuff?  Time for work from home moms to get work done?

So today....I'm going to tackle this question!

To start, I must preface this by saying that your individual teaching style and your kids' learning styles will undoubtedly have a HUGE impact on the amount of time you spend each day "schooling" your children.  If you are a parent who aims to recreate a traditional school setting at home, your day will likely look a lot different than a mom who aims to make her homeschool unlike anything at a traditional school.  Neither is right or wrong, just different, but they will affect how much time you spend homeschooling.

I lean towards the relaxed homeschooler, student-led, interest based type style in our home.  I consider our "sit-down school" to be math and language.  History, science, geography, social studies, art, fitness, home economics, and reading are all subjects that are generally taught through living books or hands on projects, with all the kids together, at varying times during the day.  These subjects are relaxed, and accomplished all over the house, and outside of the house.  Sometimes these are even done via audio books at bedtime.

Now that we've got that out of the way...

On most days, my kids are done with all aspects of math and language within an hour total.  Yes, an hour.  And for some of them, it's actually less (like my kindergarteners).  These are often the first subjects we tackle in the morning since they are our "sit down" subjects, and it feels good to get them done.  Once these are done, all other subjects are much more relaxed throughout the day.

Kindergarten is usually a breeze.  I'm currently on my 3rd kindergarten student, and have found that EVERY subject can be easily covered in just two hours if you are teaching just a single kindergarten student (not accounting for play breaks).  Each grade level beyond this adds a little more time to accomplish all subject matter.

I currently have a 5th grader, a 3rd grader, a kindergartener, and a preschooler.  All children work on language and math with me at the table in the morning.  Sometimes, one child may start earlier than the others, and other times we all start together.  If one child is needing a lot of hands-on direction, I might send the other kids to go play a while so we can work distraction free. On these types of days, our day will extend a little longer.  Otherwise, it works really well to have all the children working on math at the same time while I'm available at the table to help them all out as needed.  I have early birds, and when my children have highly motivated mornings, we are sometimes done with math and language and even a few other tasks by 9:00 in the morning!  Those are fun days, with lots of time for exploring and playing.

Beyond math and language, which take us about 1 hour in the morning, it is actually difficult to put a finger on how much time we spend on school each day because it generally is so relaxed and weaves into our day so well.  We read books in the living room or outside together, do projects at the table while I cook in the kitchen, and regularly watch Youtube videos to answer the five-million questions that pop up throughout the day.  We do martial arts in the evenings all together as a family, co op classes once a month, field trips twice a month, and meet up with friends in between.  I would estimate that in total (even with four kids), we spend only 4 hours on school-related activities each day, but it's very broken up.

As a mom who also runs a business on the side, I find that I have more than enough time to get all my work on the computer done throughout the week.  I can usually budget time to work on my Kindermusik business, write for my blog, and work on building and household projects.

The kids go grocery shopping with me, and I use this as a learning experience for them (lots of math can be done here!).  The children are responsible for helping with household chores like laundry, sweeping, cleaning bathrooms, washing windows, taking care of animals, and more.  This means they not only are helping around the house but are learning their home economics.  My girls (8 & almost 10) are responsible for making lunches nearly every day.  They love to work in the kitchen and so I give them lots of opportunities to do so.

In my opinion, a lot of school can be done just by being intentional about every day life with them.  There are so many great opportunities for learning throughout the day, and I just try to capitalize on them.

Remember, every homeschool will be different.  Your style may mean that your day is longer or shorter than mine.  Hopefully this glimpse into how long it takes us to homeschool with my style of homeschooling is helpful for you.  Find what works for you and your family.  What is important?  What subjects do you feel you need to do everyday?  What subjects make you feel accomplished?  School doesn't have to take all day.  Start with those and move onto the others throughout your day.  Don't forget to plan time for play and exploration and FUN!

Do you already homeschool?  How much time do you spend on school each day?  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back to Homeschool Supplies

I recently posted a picture on Facebook of a pile of my homeschool supplies and a little joke about how I somehow have to buy new scissors every school even though we homeschool and they literally have no where to disappear to (update-I found three pairs in Zoe's bedroom just yesterday when we cleaned it).  A friend asked me to put together a list of the supplies that I use for back to school for our homeschool.  And because I like her, I'm obliging :)

While many homeschoolers don't follow a traditional school year calendar, the stores all do, which means to save money, you really do need to purchase your homeschool supplies at "back to school" time.  Over the years, I've done the store hopping to get all the penny deals at stores like Office Depot.  The only problem is that I then found myself waisting a LOT of time each week running into all of the stores with the great deals, AND often spending MORE money since they'd somehow rope me into the unnecessary items, too (I can't resist a cute notebook).  Eventually, last year I got smart.  I decided that (in general) the best one-stop-shop is Walmart.  The only downside is that it means I have to go to Walmart.  Sigh.  Sometimes it's unavoidable.  So below is my general back to school list from this year.  I get most all of these at Walmart, and I've listed the prices that I paid (7-20-17) next to the items from there so you have a general idea of costs.  I try really hard to OVER buy if anything, because the middle-of-the-school year costs for things like crayons are ridiculous!

Quick note:
-I DO try to buy name brands, as off brands typically are not worth the hassle.  I stick to Crayola or Cra-Z-Art for markers/crayons.  For pencils, I ONLY buy Dixon Ticonderoga (really, I hate spending all morning sharpening pencils, and these are the best).
-Sometimes I use crayon boxes or marker boxes to add to birthday gifts during the year. It's an inexpensive way to add something all kids love!

This year's list:

*Washable Markers-10 boxes @ $.50/box (I still had 7 left over from last year)
*24 Pack Crayons-14 boxes @ $.25/box (I had 4 left over from last year)
*Glue sticks-38 total sticks @ $.25/2 pack
*Pencil sharpeners-2 @ $.47 each
*Scissors-4 @ $.50 each
*12 pack colored pencils-4 packs @ $.97/box (we don't seem to go through these as quickly)
*Spiral bound notebooks- 10 @ $.25 each (I had 5 left over from last year when I bought a larger quantity)
*Cute composition notebooks- 5 @ $.50 each
*5 tab dividers- 2 @ $.47 each
*3 Pronged Folders- 4 @ $.50 each
*Regular folders- I have PLENTY of these left over from last year when I bought them for $.10 each at Office Depot.  I usually plan to have about 4 per child per year.
*Index Cards- 4 @ $.50/pack
*30 pack Dixon Ticonderoga Pencils, pre sharpened- $5.97
*16 watercolors pack- 2 @ $1.64 each (we don't use a lot of watercolors-my children prefer messier paints)
*Construction paper pack- 1 @ $5.88  (we will need more of this as the year progresses, but I only bought one pack today)
*Expo markers- 20/year...I already bought these or had leftovers from last year

What I still need:

*Glue bottles- 4 (I have a gallon of glue with a pump and just refill these all year)
*White printer paper- 10 reams

Other supplies that I keep on hand for homeschooling, though already had in my cabinets:

*Staples & stapler
*3 hole punch
*Paper clips
*Thumb tacks
*Hot glue
*Gallon jugs of various paint colors
*Paint brushes
*File folders
*Index card boxes

 I spent about $50 on this trip, and about $5 in previous weeks.  I will need to spend another $20, I'm guessing (I watch the office supply stores for my white printer paper-those deals are worth going in for!). These supplies will easily last us through the year, and many items will likely have leftovers going into the next year.  I store them all in labeled tubs to keep them organized.

What supplies did I miss that you find necessary during the school year?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gearing Up for Homeschool 2017-What We're Ditching/Adding/Trying

(Over the next couple weeks, I hope to not only dive back into regular blogging, but I plan to answer some of the homeschooling questions I've received recently.  I hope that these homeschooling posts help you to feel encouraged and more at ease if you are considering homeschooling or are new to homeschooling.  If you have questions/topics you'd like me to cover, please send me an email!)

It's summer! And for this homeschool momma, that means a little break from our normal homeschool routine and a lot more time for fun activities! It also means planning ahead for the new school year.  While I am still intentional about learning through the summer (my goal in homeschooling is to create life-long learners who seek out learning opportunities everywhere), we mostly reserve any of our "book-work" learning for the more traditional school year.

Anyway, we are trying some new things this school year, ditching some old curriculums, and learning more and more about who our kids are, how they learn, how I like to teach, and what works for OUR family. We are four years in (we've always homeschooled, and my oldest is now 9), and I feel like we get a little more comfortable and look a little more like "us" with each year of homeschool.

So what are we ditching...

We gave My Father's World: Exploring Cultures and Customs a try this year.  I had heard many great things about this curriculum from friends, and so I gave it a try.  I really liked that I could conquer many subjects all at once with kids of varying ages.  This is how I had been operating anyway with our A Beka Science and History curriculums, so I figured having a resource that was intentionally designed this way would be helpful.  Unfortunately, I honestly found the curricula itself hard to follow.  I'm not sure what it was, but it was really challenging for me to sort it all out.  HOWEVER, all of the books that go along with it were FABULOUS!  Both my kids and I enjoyed reading aloud a good majority of the books that went with it. I decided that while the curriculum was not for us, we would reference and use some of the books that go along with it in the future since we enjoyed them so much.

A Beka math has slowly been dying in our home.  I really do like it for the younger grades, but it is just so intense at about the third grade level and on.  Read below for more about why we're ditching this one and what we're trying instead.

What we're adding/trying...

The further we get into homeschooling, the more I realize that I love Charlotte Mason style learning.  We read aloud A LOT and tend to gravitate towards living books instead of text books.  Half the time, I find myself crossing out tons of math problems in our A Beka program (because holy smokes...A Beka is crazy intense on the math end), and I want something that is set up in a way that meets both my kids' math needs AND doesn't make us feel like we were going crazy doing math all day.  I stumbled across a Facebook review of a Charlotte Mason style math curriculum and it looked so enticing.  After a little more research, I decided to jump in and give it a try this year.  We are using Math Lessons for a Living Education by Master Books for all three big kids this year.  Hopefully it works out well for all of us!  This will actually be the first time not using A Beka for my younger grade kids.

Tales2Go...technically, we added this last school year, but it was at the very end of the year, so I'm going to tack this on here.  I was able to participate in a homeschool co op buy of Tales2Go, which is like an Audible type program (audio books).  While it's typically $100/year, I was able to get it for $10/year in the group buy.  And let me tell you, we already LOVE it.  My girls listened to all six books in the American Girl doll series' for at least 6 different dolls.  When they'd finish a series, we'd print some free lap books online and we'd review whatever was of interest for them-the time period in history, the culture, home life, etc.  We studied WWII this way (the doll Molly is in the WWII time period), as well as immigration (Kirsten was a Swedish immigrant), and a variety of other topics.  The best part?  They listened to these books at bedtime as they were falling asleep.  It was passive learning and didn't add any extra time to our school day.  I'm excited to explore other books within the Tales2Go app and see how access to audio books transforms our homeschool.

We will be returning to the A Beka History books this year.  My oldest (9 1/2) simply LOVES history.  And she really doesn't seem to mind textbook style learning for this subject.  Since she enjoyed A Beka's history books in the past, I think we'll plan on adding these books back into our regular reading.  We don't utilize the full curriculum (again, it's just not our learning style), but she loves to read through them and talk about it.  Fifth grade A Beka history is ancient civilizations (she is already a few chapters in), which just so happens to be about the ONLY thing I ever found interesting about history when I was in school.  I may be a little excited about this.

Something I've learned over the years is that it's okay to not like a curriculum.  It's okay to ditch something that isn't working, but it's also okay to hold out and see if it will just take some time.  It's okay to love a program everyone else hates, or to be the odd one out when everyone seems to love a particular curriculum but you don't.  Find what you love.  Ditch what you don't.  Change when you need to.  Your kids will appreciate your flexibility in finding what works well for them, and you will be much happier when you are teaching in a way you both enjoy.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Our Favorite Preschool & Kindergarten Toys from Melissa & Doug

With my daughters getting bigger, I have found that I have to be even more intentional about our preschool and kindergarten aged boys having adequate and purposeful learning time.  I can easily dive into the higher math and language lessons my girls need, and totally forget that Levi has been very curious about learning his numbers.

Fortunately, we have a good foundation of play activities, toys, games, and more that we have used for all our children and are still in great shape for our boys.  We do not stick to one particular style of study, but I do have a love for Montessori learning (and a general hatred for cheap plastic crap).   So Melissa & Doug products generally make me really happy.  Plus, many of these items that were purchased earlier on have lasted through all four children.  Others are newer additions to our home and are finding an enormous amount of use from both boys.

I wanted to share some of our favorite Melissa & Doug products (and why we love them) with you!  

1.  Puzzles. Our oldest and most loved Melissa & Doug products are our puzzles.  We purchased or received as gifts many of these when our girls were little.  We have a variety of them- the alphabet, animals, numbers, and colors.  All of these focus on matching, fine motor skill development, and letter/number/color/animal recognition.   The letters puzzle also works on letter-sound recognition, as each letter has a picture underneath. When the kids get a little older, they'll use the letter puzzle pieces to spell words, or the number pieces to create larger numbers ("can you build me the number fifty-two?"). 

2.  Clock puzzle.  Another puzzle we love is also used for math!  This cute clock not only has a variety of shapes and colors for the numbers of the clock, but it has labeled minute and hour hands, as well as minutes by the 5's written on the inside, too.  While my little 3 year old moves the hands to match up with the number he's currently placing, my 5 year old will match the hands up to particular times that I ask him to show me. 

 3.  Toy car parking garage.  I bought this for my 3 year old this past Christmas and he absolutely LOVES it.  He already loved cars, but this has so much more for him.  He loves matching up the cars to their proper color, and then running his finger along the numbers and saying each one.  Or, he'll even count backwards from 10 using the numbers as a guide.  He really enjoys watching the cars fall down the ladder as he pulls one out from the bottom, too.  

 4.  Pizza Kit.  We all know young children love imitating real life.  My 5 year old really enjoys creating pizzas and serving his customers.  He'll often walk around the house asking for your order.  I love how he is practicing his question-asking skills, as well as his listening skills as he prepares the correct types of pizza slices for his customers.  

5. Car and Truck Carrier. My littlest just loves all things that "go." This car and truck carrier is another perfect toy for imaginative play and fine motor skill development.  This has been a well-loved toy by Levi for the past year.

Basically, Melissa and Doug products are super awesome.  I love them.  I love that they're made from wood and totally aren't crap.  These are just some of our favorite products from M&D that help in our homeschool, but really, you can't go wrong with ANY of their products.

Do you have a favorite Melissa & Doug product that you use in your home for intentional learning?  What are your favorites?

(Some of the links in this post are my referral/affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy HERE.  Thank you for supporting the continuation of this blog by using my links!)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

How to Save Money on Groceries When You Want to Eat Organic Foods

Once upon a time, I started this blog as a response to so many people asking HOW I could possibly keep our grocery bill so low, how I used coupons to pay just pennies on the dollar, and how I fed our family with so little.  At the time, our finances were so tight that I kept our entire grocery and consumables budget (i.e. food as well as toilet paper, shampoo, dog food, etc.) to just $400/month.   We had three small children at the time.  Organic went out the window in favor of just simply feeding my family.  I had mastered the use of coupons, and would often walk out with bags of groceries from Target for just a few dollars. People wanted to know how to do it, and so this blog started as a response to those questions.

Fast forward four or so years, and our finances are drastically different.  We've been able to go back to eating mostly organic and natural foods, which has always been a priority for me.  But now I have four bigger kids, one of whom eats more than I do already at the age of 5.  And it's become increasingly more and more difficult to keep our budget in check.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, a family of our make up (6 total people, with children ages 3, 5, 7, and 9) in the "moderate cost plan" spends an average of $300/week.  Even under the "thrifty plan", the average family my size spends $185/week on groceries.  This chart does not factor in non-food consumables like I do, however.  My current weekly grocery budget is a whopping $200/week, but it does include things like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toilet paper, medicines, dog and chicken food, etc.  Some months our budget does go as high as $1000 for the month.  So....now that I'm feeling sufficiently better about my (crazy high) food costs in comparison to the rest of the U.S. families like mine, here are my tips for keeping costs down while eating as naturally as possible...

1.  Shop in bulk. There are several parts to this one point.  It is by far the most helpful tip for saving money, but there are many ways to do it.

*Shop bulk bins.  Depending on where you live, you may have a store like Winco that offers a bulk bin section.  You fill your own bags with exactly what you need, and can truly save a tone of money.  I have found the most incredible savings when doing this for spices.  Winco does offer some of their bulk bins as organic, but most of them are not.  Still, this is a great way for you to buy your raw ingredients for making food at home at a huge discount.  Winco also offers some big-bag bulk purchases like Costco.  We buy our oats in a 25 pound bag here and save a bunch of money (they do sell organic oats).

*Buy full cases at places like Whole Foods and receive a case lot discount.  Often times, natural foods stores offer something like a 20% discount when you buy a full case of an item.  If you know you'll use all of an item before it goes bad (think shelf stable items or items that everyone will eat through quickly), spring for it all at once and get the discount.

*Costco is great for bulk shopping, and they now carry a surprising assortment of organic products.  We regularly purchase lettuce, spinach, rice, bell peppers, bananas, and more from Costco, all at great prices, and almost all organic.  If you have a big family, bulk produce doesn't even stand a chance to go bad.  So 6 heads of organic romaine lettuce for just $3-4 is a steal!

*Buy items in larger sizes with lower prices per ounce.  Instead of buying 4 regular sized bottle of kombucha, spring for the giant sized bottle with a lower price/ounce cost.  You can always portion it out or pour it into your own jars if you need to take it somewhere besides your home.

2.  Shop local. This one can actually go with the shop in bulk tip, as well, but I thought it needed it's own space because it's so awesome.  We purchase our local honey from local farmers by the gallon for a huge savings.  We also purchase a naturally fed and raised cow, usually in increments of 100 pounds at a time which truly saves us a lot of money.  When averaged out among all the steaks, ground beef, tri tips, roasts, etc., the cost is currently only $4/pound!!!  For reals!  And it's good quality beef, which is super important to us.  We also do this with local pigs for all our pork.  Just make sure you have a freezer big enough to handle all of your meat!

3.  Shop around.  It may go without saying, but every store sells items for different prices.  Between Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, and Trader Joe's, some items can fluctuate by as much as several dollars depending on the store.  Pay attention the prices and make a mental note of which stores to shop at for which items.

4. Plan ahead. Planning ahead is a life saver when it comes to saving money on groceries.  If you don't think about dinner until 5:00 at night, there's a good chance you'll be running out to the store for ingredients.  All those little trips for "just one more thing" usually yield many more things, raising your budget significantly over time.  If you want to be able to eat organically, keeping the unnecessary purchases at bay will help leave you with the budget to do so.  Know what is on your menu for the week, and stick to it.  Have a plan!

My favorite way to plan ahead is to crock pot freezer cook.  Essentially, you spend a chunk of time one day to prep a bunch of meals for your freezer.  Each day, you just pull one out, pop it in the crock pot, and have a hot dinner at night when you come home.

5. Reuse and recycle. We made the switch to alkaline water within the past couple months.  I would buy it by the gallon from the store, which would run me about $3-4/gallon, meaning I really couldn't afford to do it all the time.  We ended up shopping around (tip #3) and found a great local place where we could bring our bottles in (reuse and recycle) and fill them up with alkaline water for just $1.50/gallon.  By not needing to buy a new bottle every time, I'm saving a ton of money.  Plus, I get to support a local family in the process.

Another way to save by reusing is to bring in your own bags when you shop.  Some stores offer a monetary discount (usually only 5 cents or so) for each bag you reuse. It's small, but it adds up.

6.  Share with a friend.  Sometimes when we need more meat but don't have enough saved up for a full pig or portion of cow, we will go in with a friend, splitting the cost and the meat.  We still get the great price for purchasing in bulk from the farmer, but our out of pocket expense in the "now" is much lower.  Find a friend who also wants to buy good quality meats and make the purchase together!

In the end, if you want to eat organic and natural foods, you will have to pay more money than conventional foods.  But if it's a priority to do so, try some of these tips to help reduce your overall costs so that more of your budget is freed up for the types of foods that you want to feed your family.


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