My Menne Favorite Things….

I am not Oprah and certainly don’t claim to be but I like the idea of sharing a list of my favorite things. As a busy Mom I know how important some ‘things’ are and how much they can save time, money and well, my sanity sometimes.

My ‘Menne’ Favorite Things (in no particular order)

  • Magic Erasers Let’s face it..with kids in the house you are going to get a few Picaso’s on your walls every now and then. These things are amazing! I keep a box on hand at all times.
  • Good ol’ fashion Bleach. I have 6 boys so bleaching is a necessity. If you ask any of my children they will tell you “Mommy loves to wash my clothes.” Although I do love being their Mommy and enjoy a clean house that doesn’t mean I enjoy cleaning it and washing clothes all day. I guess they may be looking for a good excuse as to why they decided to use their sleeves as a napkin. I get the generic bleach at the dollar store of target.
  • Any leap product is awesome in my book. The leap videos like The Word Factory and Math Circus are great for learning and entertainment. I am not going to lie, my kids watch TV. If they are going to watch I feel much less guilty if it’s educational and these programs are just right.
  • Carpet Spray is another must have for my home. Kids spill, accidents happen but knowing that I can spray the stain and make it all go away is fantastic! I can carpet spray at the dollar store and that works just as well as the more costly brand name carpet spray.
  • Speaking of accidents…sickness is inevitable. When the bug is going around you never know when or where someone might vomit or well…something might sneak out the other end. 🙂 For all of those incidents I love lysol disinfectant spray. It smells wonderful and provides peace of mind that the germs are being killed.
  • The Perfect Sweeper is a must have right next to my Simplicity vacuum. Our house isn’t a massive soap opera estate but I vacuum it so frequently and got sick of going through so many cheap vacuums we finally went a step up and got the Simplicity and I don’t regret it one bit. To cut down on how often I use the vacuum my hubby bought us a perfect sweeper which is great for the kitchen to get the crumbs and cheerios which find themselves on my floors daily. The perfect sweeper is light and rechargeable and my favorite part….drum roll….You DON’T have to bend over to use a dustpan!! Woo hoo :O
  • Vinegar: This stuff is so under appreciated. It has many uses! Mix vinegar with water for cleaning off the counter, add to the wash for fabric softener, and of course cooking. I buy it at Aldi or in bulk at Sam’s.
  • The Boppy is a must have. It’s great for nursing, tummy time, learning to sit up and of course as a photography prop. The boppy now comes with removable covers to help with cleaning. It’s a great shower gift and worthwhile item to buy for oneself. 🙂
  • The Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper is genius. It’s a crib that attaches to our bed! I can sleep, baby can sleep and when it’s time to nurse I don’t even have to get out of my warm bed. Win-win! AND, it converts to a regular pack-n-play when the baby grows. The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper is seriously amazing. They sell a mini co-sleeper as well so if you don’t have as much bedroom space you still have options. (full disclosure I bought mine on craigslist because well, I am cheap..i mean thrifty)
  • Born free products are very loved in our house. The babies love the Born Free pacifiers and bottles. I like that they are free of all of those not baby friendly chemicals and the bottle and sippy parts can work together. It makes for an easy transition and helps when washing dishes. They also have teething toys my babies have loved during that phase. I find their products online as well as in Babies-R-Us stores.
  • Huggies lil’ snugglers. Yea, I’ll admit it… I used to swear by pampers but feel as if that mesh fabric on the inside tends to stick to the baby’s bottoms in some weird way. The lil’ snugglers Huggies makes doesn’t do that and still keeps my babies dry. I have made the full conversion from Pampers to Huggies. I also found the Huggies to be a bit cheaper (at Sam’s Club) than Pampers. I also use the Huggies rewards program and love being able to ‘buy’ things with those points since I am buying diapers and wipes anyway. (I have tried to use generic diapers but have ended up with leaking issues and diaper rash problems)
  • My favorite lotion isn’t some scented spendy brand, it’s Goldbond Cream. It’s not greasy, it helps babies skin retain moisture and lasts long enough to keep their skin soft in between baths. (I also like Goldbond Cream for myself)
  • BOB jogging strollers are the best strollers ever. Seriously! No joke! They are also very expensive but so worth every penny. After 5 kids I had finally learned to spend the money to get the best stroller rather than trying to save money and get something that isnt’ exactly what I want or need. The BOB has single and dual options as well as breaks, no breaks, swivel or stationary front tires, etc. Endless options really. I have a BOB duallie and love that I can collapse it down to fit in the back of the van and still feel the kids are safe when it’s opened up. (I don’t have to remove tires, etc.) I can pop it up and clip it together quickly. I use it for running, walking, shopping…It’s more than just a jogging stroller. The tires are inflatable so they go well over various terrain, it has optional cup/snack holders, enough storage for me AND my storage includes a zipper so my phone or keys don’t fall out when running. The canopy is great on the duallie because each child has their own and it can go all the way down to accommodate the fussiest of kiddos. It has great shock absorption so I feel comfortable pushing my little ones when I clip the infant carrier into it. (Also worth mentioning, there are many options for clipping in infant carriers to accommodate all the brands). Living in Minnesota I also opted to purchase a shade/mosquito cover that keeps the babies away from the elements. We purchased ours from REI using our membership discount you can also find them at places like Target and used ones are on craigslist.
  • Bebe au lait: It’s the original hooter hider and I love it. I have 4 or 5 of them and use them regularly. I have one in the stroller, one in the diaper bag and a few around the house. They are so wonderful to be able to cover when needed but I can see baby and baby can see me.
  • Ergo Baby Carriers: I have tried a few different brands and styles throughout my years of babies and have found my Ergo to be the best for babies. I have a larger backpack style for hiking with toddlers but this one is amazing for babies. It’s so comfortable! I love the infant insert for newborns. I use it all the time when they are tiny to get things done around the house and they sleep so nicely in it. As they get bigger they transition well to using the carrier without the insert and then can ride on my back as well. I also got mine at REI with a discount coupon but they are also at Target and vary in price and style.
  • Nissan NV Passenger : When are family was too large to fit in our suburban and we didn’t really wanna drive two suburban’s everywhere we started researching a larger vehicle. We weren’t excited about the standard 16 passenger van so we looked into the Ford and Nissan vans. After reading too many reviews to count and watching many video reviews we test drove both the Nissan and Ford and although there is a large discrepancy in the cost we feel in love with the Nissan. It fits up to 12 people, the seats can move around (and I can even lift them), it comes with a backup camera, it drives like a truck, it has USB outlets and lots of storage. We opted for the 3500 for the larger engine for towing purposes. I love it. Oh, and I forgot to mention-the window on the opposite side of the sliding door opens! It’s great to have that option.

What are your favorite things? There is no such thing as too Menne or too many 😉 so PLEASE SHARE!

 

Grocery Shopping for a large family

With such a large family it takes a lot of planning and preparation to feed everyone. I never thought I could get behind a meal planning calendar but for budget’s sake it needed to be done. I had the kids sit down with me and plan a 2 week rotating calendar. We do this in the fall for a winter meals and again in the spring for summer meals. If I or the kids decide a particular meal isn’t working we just change it.
I have the menu on a clip board in the pantry to whomever has the kitchen for their chore that month can get out the ingredients and possibly prep. Under the menu I have the recipes for those meals clipped as well.

imageBelow that clipboard hangs another one. This is the special ‘shopping’ clipboard that has a lovely spreadsheet clipped into it. (Yea, there are probably a few post-it’s on there too so I don’t forget to add things) The spreadsheet includes items we typically buy in alphabetical order as well as a separate list of what I call the ‘target’ items (toothpaste, diapers, etc.). I don’t buy all of those things at Target (after all we are talking cheap) but that seems to sum up the contents of the list for our family budgeting purposes. As we run out of things we can simply mark it on the spreadsheet or add it to the bottom. So each month when we go shopping (yes, it’s a monthly trip) I bring along a clipboard with the items needed highlighted in yellow and as they get tossed into the carts (yup, we require at least 2 carts) I can cross them off with a blue marker.

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I am a BIG FAN of Aldi although most folks think we shop at Sam’s Club or Cosco. The reality is those stores are great for some items but the vast majority of the grocery items are cheaper at Aldi and I can get the family in and out quicker because it’s a smaller store. (They carry all but a couple items on my list it’s just that they don’t carry a bunch of different brands of the same product) What works best for us is bringing 2-3 quarters for carts, 6 laundry baskets and a baby carrier. I can do all the shopping on my own if I put the little one on my back and the toddler in a cart and have one of the older kiddos push the second cart. The Kids are great at helping put items in the cart and have gotten accustomed to how this operation works. We discuss our budget with them and how that whole process works in hopes that they will be fiscally responsible adults. They have fun trying to estimate the cost at the register.

We purchase most of our groceries at Aldi, a few at Walmart and Sam’s club. I try to get most ‘Target’ budget items at the Dollar Store or Walmart. I also LOVE the thrift stores. I have a big selection of thrift stores to shop at and love that I can find treasures at a great price and the little ones can always find a toy of $1 or less.

After pushing 2 or 3 full carts out to the suburban the real fun begins ;). Those laundry baskets I referred to early come into play. I load the groceries up into the baskets in a manner which my hubby calls “Tetrus” but really I just put the cold stuff in 2 baskets, heavy stuff on the bottom and the lighter stuff on top with one basket reserved for chips, breads, etc. This process can be a quick one depending upon the weather and how the kids are behaving. On one occasion I did have a lady sit and watch me load the whole thing because she said she didn’t believe I could fit it all in. (I kinda enjoyed I proving her wrong .)

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When we get home those baskets then get unloaded one at a time placed in a super cool wagon and wheeled up into the kitchen. To get up into the house through the service door I use a ramp my hubby made for the kids to ride their bikes over but it works just fine for my needs. I can get the whole suburban unloaded fairly quickly this way and the organization helps so I can get the cold stuff put away and take my time getting the rest put away.

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I’d love ideas from other large families. How do you do it? Any tips for me?