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Grocery shopping for our family of six: fresh, tasty and budget friendly

This blog post was created in partnership with FreshCo.

It took me a long time to find my groove when it comes to grocery shopping and preparing meals for six people. It’s not an easy task. But when you add on trying to prepare fresh healthy meals for your family, and not breaking the bank, the entire process can feel overwhelming.

For a few years there, my husband and I were just in survival mode. We had four young kids and would reach for what was convenient over what was healthy and probably more cost effective. But as the dust settled, and we had a closer look at our bank accounts, we knew something had to change.

One of the biggest changes our family had made over the last few months is ordering in less and actually meal planning and getting what we need at the grocery store. I may not be so far out of the trenches that I am cooking gourmet meals for our family, but I have mastered a few healthy, family-friendly meals that I can make in bulk and then reuse the leftovers in other meals.

What is my number one go-to meal? A roast, including roasted vegetables, which I cannot get enough of, especially during the winter. Now with Christmas over, it is time to reel in the spending and be very strategic when it comes to feeding my family.

Here is how I typically approach my meal planning and grocery shopping for our family of six…

For us, I have found what works best is for me to only plan for three days at a time. This is less daunting, and then if something derails us, like illness, I won’t be wasting a week’s worth of food. I am starting to base more and more of our meals around what is on sale at the moment, using our local grocery store’s mobile flyer to help build my list. I find that FreshCo not only has great deals, but will even price match.

making grocery list

I don’t mind popping out to the grocery store a few times a week either, I think that’s because I can wrap my head around a small grocery shop rather than a massive shop, which can take up hours of my day to shop and then put away the groceries.

grocery shopping with four kids

These mini grocery shops can also make it more manageable when I have all four kids in tow.

Grocery shopping at FreshCo

I have my staples that I stick to, and always buy our produce first. I will typically plan out two fresh meals and grab an easier back-up meal like frozen lasagna, just in case, well… life happens.

Roasts are one of the easiest meals to prepare in my opinion. It is a meal in one, but the best part is, it’s easy to make a large quantity without extra hassle. This is a must when you have four kids. I always go to the recipe my mother passed down to me and I will share with you.

cooking a roast

Start by pre-heating your oven. You will have to check the weight of your roast and determine how long to cook it for. Often a quick Google search can answer this question for you. Take your roast, (either pork or beef), and lay it in a roasting pan, fat side up. Although I have a nice roasting pan, I have been using disposable tin pans for easier cleanup lately.

Cut up your vegetables and place them around your roast. I highly recommend carrots, potatoes, onions and my personal favourite… parsnips.

cooking a roast

Here’s where the magic comes in… you quickly season your roast and vegetables with pepper and salt, toss on a few dabs of butter and then squirt your favourite steak sauce all over it. Yes, you heard me right; the secret is the steak sauce. I love using HP sauce on my roasts. It has a great kick which really compliments the flavour of the vegetables. Yum!

uncooked roast

Then cover and cook for the recommended time.
Afterwards, you have a beautiful roast that will most likely last you a few meals…cooked roast

…and an abundance of roasted vegetables that I love to add to pastas and salads for days to come.

roasted vegetables in salad

I am excited, as my kids get older, and life becomes a little easier, I cannot wait to add more and more meal ideas to my arsenal. It is exciting finding ways to shop and meal plan that actually work and save us money.

Disclosure: This post has been generously sponsored by the makers of FreshCo but the opinions expressed are my own.

How I Found My Confidence As A First Time Mom

This post was created in partnership with hydraSense®. Always read and follow the label.

When I tell people that for me, four kids are easier than one, a look of utter confusion comes across their face. Recently I said this to a father of one, as he argued with his toddler, who refused to put on his hat and mittens on a very cold day. He watched as I herded my four kids into our toddlers’ daycare, each wearing their winter gear without complaining.

Four kids

I gestured to my litter of kids and said, “It’s a group mentality thing. They each see the others bundling up so they don’t resist.” Then I could hear the words coming out of my mouth before I could stop them… “Actually, I find four kids easier than when I just had one.”

“Yeah right!” He said with a look of disbelief on his face.

“It’s true,” I said. “I might be busier but I stress so much less.”

It is true. It took me a long time to find my confidence as a parent. In fact, my husband and I each completely broke down within the first three days of becoming parents, and it was my mom who finally pulled us out of the darkness and helped us find our first bit of confidence as parents.

When Holden, (our first child) was born, he had a bit of fluid left over in his lungs. Because of this, almost every time we laid him down for those first few days, he would gag and cough a little, which to brand new parents was absolutely terrifying.

Although the nurses kept reassuring us that this was normal and would pass, that all we had to do was put him up right and give him a little pat when he was coughing, we couldn’t get past the fear.

That first night in the hospital, while my husband Mike curled his very tall body into a foldout chair, trying to grab a little sleep, I laid awake, all night just staring at my baby.

newborn

I was in love. This was a brand new kind of love I had never felt before, one that was a mix of awe and absolute devotion. This new self-sacrificing love, mixed with fear started to fester into an unreasonable mindset for both Mike and I… we agreed we would just stop sleeping and hold our new baby upright at night as long as we needed to.

So, the second night was Mike’s turn. As I slept as much as I could between feedings, he sat on the couch and watched movies all night as our brand new son slept vertically.

father kissing baby

As the third night approached, we were unraveling. The adrenaline had worn off and the pain of breast-feeding had kicked in. Mike offered to take the night again.

My mother, who was staying with us, watched with worry, and finally, after observing our unrealistic devotion and subsequent demise, thankfully decided to take over. Her plan: we go sleep and she would put Holden down as she slept on the floor beside his crib.

This was the best gift we could have been given, a way to safely find our confidence as parents. The next morning we felt brand new. Holden had gagged a couple of times during the night, but worked it out himself as my mother looked-on trying not to interfere with him figuring it out himself.

newborn sleeping

From this point on we found our rhythm, but as all new parents experience, every bump in the road was brand new and scary for us, whether it was teething, or our son’s first cold.

But we found our way. We found parenting hacks, little tricks, learned his noises and products that we trusted and loved.

As a result of our initial scare as parents, we found that when our son got sick, we would get particularly worried. One product that we not only trusted, but has helped us gain even more confidence as parents is the line of hydraSense products that was our go-to, whenever any of our babies got a stuffy nose due to a cold.

twin girls

We have always found comfort knowing that hydraSense is a 100 percent natural source, simply being seawater. It’s free of any medications or preservatives and is the #1 nasal saline solution brand in Canada for children*.

hydraSense

hydaSense Easydose Vials

The Easydose® Vials are convenient when on the go with your little one. Just pop them into your diaper bag and pull out when your child is having trouble breathing because of dry or obstructed nasal passages due to a cold or allergies.

hydraSense Easydose Vials

But I think my personal favourite hydraSense product that we still use today with our twin toddlers is the hydraSense® Ultra-Gentle Mist.

hydraSense Ultra-Gentle Mist

Everly, one of our twins has always been prone to nasal congestion. She has found relief from nasal spray, such as hydraSense® Ultra-Gentle Mist.

congested toddler

Those first few days as parents spent without sleep and full of fear are now over seven years ago. Finding your confidence not only takes time, but it takes support from loved ones, trial and error and figuring out what works best for your family while pushing out all of the noise.

It gets easier, a lot easier.

You can learn more about hydraSense® at http://www.hydrasense.ca/
hydraSense® is available at your local mass food and drug retailers or online at Amazon.ca

*Nielsen, National. 52 weeks ending Aug 20th, 2016. Based on combined sales of hydraSense Ultra-Gentle Mist, Easydose and Congestion Relief Kids.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by hydraSense®. While compensation was provided, most of the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the opinions of hydraSense®.

2016: My Personal Reflection And What Needs To Change In 2017

2016

I recently had a mom approach me at a birthday party asking me to please sum up my year in December. She had read my post from New Year’s last year: This is the year I put myself back on my to-do list, and she was dying to know if I stuck to my goals.

I don’t know what you have in mind for the next year, but I highly recommend you set a few goals. You might be surprised with yourself once 2018 hits.

Last year I made a pretty great bucket list for 2016. It came from a very honest place, somewhere deep down that was feeling a bit empty and a little joy-less.

I promised myself I would put myself back on my to-do list. What did that mean by that?

I would be more creative. Did you know that my background is in fine arts, and once upon a time I used to be an Interior Designer and mural painter? I had vowed that I would create some art in 2016, (something that I haven’t done since I was pregnant with our twins).

At first when I started examining my year a couple weeks ago, I thought I failed at this one. I hadn’t created any art. But the more I thought about it, I kept wondering why that creative hole in my heart not only felt full, but it was spilling over. How was I satisfying my creative urge?

Then it hit me… YouTube and video editing.

This new creative outlet has not only added the visual creation process (editing) that I need in my life, but it also solved a big problem about Nesting Story which I had been struggling with. It has allowed me to share my story in real time, now that my twins aren’t babies anymore.

So what is the takeaway from this? Creativity, (or exercise, or learning, or a myriad of other things), doesn’t have to look exactly like it once did in your life. It can take different forms and you need to make sure you embrace whatever that might be.

I would laugh more. I am, kind of. Mike and I have this running inside joke about the fact that I rarely laugh out loud. Really, I don’t. I tend to just say, “that’s so funny.” Mike told me about this, (because I didn’t realize I was doing it), a few years back, when he got me to watch an episode of Scrubs, and how Mandy Moore’s character did this as well.

I have no idea at what point in my life that I ditched a good chuckle and replaced it with narrating humour.

I am getting better at actually laughing, but it’s taking time. I think it may be a control thing, but slowly I am learning to relax and have fun.

laughing mom

I will worry less about work and find the joy again. This has probably been my biggest achievement this year. Blogging and Creating on YouTube is a bizarre job. One week you can be going viral, barely keeping up with your success, and the next week can be crickets, while you wonder if what you are saying and creating is even relevant.

For a long time, I felt that I had to say “yes” to every opportunity that came my way. I thought it was the only way to become successful, and that a pay check was more important that my happiness.

Well, guess what? That is not true at all. I don’t really share too much about the business side of what I do, but I will give you a small glimpse into the past year for me.

2016 started out full of potential. I had a lot of opportunities and revenue streams, but I was over-working myself and spreading myself too thin.

I was trying to focus on everything at once, and managing my blog, and social media platforms okay-ish, (YouTube wasn’t part of my plan then). But the further away I got from having twins, I was starting to feel like I had said what I wanted to say when I was pregnant with them. I was finding myself in some partnerships where I felt like I wasn’t in control, and what I was doing was starting to feel like painful work and less of a passion, which it once was.

working

So, I first decided to focus on the partnerships that I truly loved, and left the ones that weren’t the right fit. Then I made the decision to stop pursuing writing a book with my literary agent. I just knew that my heart wasn’t in it… at least at this point in my journey.

That’s when I started to discover video, and a whole new world opened up for me. But by mid-summer I experienced another blow. A large AD agency I was aligned with, (on the blog side), went bankrupt and despite many finished projects, I wouldn’t be paid. This had a ripple effect on my family and even changed my personal relationship with blogging.

But, in the end, here I am. I have taken control. I am learning how to say no to the wrong things and yes to the right things. I am learning that you have to choose one area to have laser focus on, and then do everything else as best you can, while keeping your eye on the prize. I have learned that passion is everything. Not quantity, or money… passion. Especially if you are self-employed, and eventually if you stick with what you love, success will come too.

I will worry less about my marriage and my kids and just enjoy life with my family. I think I can finally drop the mic with this one. If you have been following my blog for sometime, you will know that it hasn’t always been paradise around here.

After my twin pregnancy and surviving the first couple years with twins, (that’s four kids in total), my marriage was rocky and I wasn’t enjoying my kids… just parenting them.

It took a lot of work in 2015, and work to this day, to turn my marriage around and make it stronger than ever. But here we are, and I don’t over analyze each disagreement. We are truly finding our ebb and flow, now that we are on the other side.

In the past year I have truly learned how to enjoy life with my kids. Maybe it was our twins learning to walk, I’m not really sure when the shift came. We enjoyed an old-school, sprinkler and popsicles in the backyard summer together, and now that winter has hit, we are enjoying other new things together, like cooking and playing in the snow.

summertime

I am honestly excited about what 2017 holds for us.

family

You can read more about what I accomplished in 2016, and what I highly suggest you add to your 2017 bucket list on Baby Center: 5 things I did for myself in 2016, and you should in 2017

But it hasn’t all been rainbows and sunshine… I had vowed that I would obsess less about my weight and calories. But truthfully, at times I did throughout 2016. But every time I got close to my goal…

fit

I would give up and balloon back to about 10 pounds heavier and a lot weaker than my goal.

before photo

I have really spent a lot of time pondering if I am happy with my physical self at the moment and here is the truth… I could be, but I don’t want to settle. I am curious what my body is capable of. It isn’t a vanity thing. It’s almost a life after having four kids thing.

Something has to change. So, are you curious about what my 2017 goal is? It’s something that is a deep rooted problem. Something that I have dealt with my whole life and if I am going to reach my goals, whether it’s my weight, or even long-term success with my business, this one thing has to be conquered.

I must stop self-sabotaging.

I am my own worst enemy sometimes. It’s driving me crazy and becoming a real problem. This will be a topic I will be covering in 2017 and I’d love for you to follow along. I have already started on my journey, reading books and taking control of some of my biggest problem areas. I will be sharing every detail with you, including why and how to stop, starting next week.

So, 2017… I am ready for you.

Don’t forget to like Nesting Story on Facebook, so that you don’t miss an article and subscribe to Nesting Story on YouTube so that you can follow my progress in realtime in the vlogs. I will also be posting on Instagram the entire time, so come say hi!

Happy Holidays From Our Family To Yours – A Flashback And Q & A

I cannot believe another year has passed! I truly feel like we are hitting a new stage around here. Despite the terrible-twos occasionally popping up here and there, we have seemed to hit a sweet spot.

Our kids are getting more independent and I am finding it easier and easier to get out with all four. Mia and Everly are talking in full sentences, which is very exciting.

I am very thankful that we are ending 2016 healthy and happy. Here is a little look back at our previous Christmases, as well as a full Q & A our family did…

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

I’ve Decided To Start Clocking Out From My Mom Job

This morning I woke up and I was already done. My “patience bucket,” as we call it in our house was empty and I was running on fumes.

As I finally sat down to my now cold breakfast, after racing around getting my four kids their food first, my five year old started grunting like an animal, gesturing at the napkins in front of me.

I glared back at her, seething with frustration, and said, “mommy, may I have a napkin please? That is what I need to hear if you are going get a napkin.” She rolled her eyes and repeated the words with a twinge of angst in her voice. I passed her the napkin as I used every fibre in my body to hold back the explosion bubbling below the surface.

As I drove everyone around to school and daycare, thirty hectic minutes later, I could feel it coming… this all to familiar feeling of my mind breaking apart, my cheeks hot and knowing I had nothing left.

It wasn’t even 9:00 A.M. yet, and I was utterly depleted.

I requested quiet in the car and blamed me needing to concentrate on my driving, as I request all too often.

I just needed silence.

Lately I have been trying to find a new balance in my world. For a while now, while I run my own business from home, I have poured almost every penny into childcare. Recently after some very honest discussions with my husband, we decided to cut our two youngest kids’ daycare, (the ones who aren’t in school yet), in half.

So, here I am. Still working just as hard as ever, often during naps, but I am also momming hard too.

I have been making more of an effort to really enjoy my four kids more, involve them more, and focus on them more during the day. That has included reading more, playing more, cooking with them more and basically just participating in life with them more than I had when I was still in the trenches after having our twins. I am really enjoying it too.

But by about 5:00 P.M. each day I can feel a shift happen, and it’s not really fun anymore.

It’s work. Hard work.

Because my older kids are going to bed later and later, my evenings are including more reading, help with homework, or a game night. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is there too, and he is all about family (which includes me) all. the. time.

By the time the big kids are finally in bed, my husband and I eat dinner and binge watch which ever TV series we are into. Or at least he’s into and I am kind of into.

But here’s the thing… I have loaded a whole bunch of extra stuff on my plate lately, and haven’t protected any time for me.

I’d really like to get back to working out. Or maybe start reading again… you know, real books? I haven’t read a book in about seven years, which is pretty sad when I really think about it.

I’d love to have a bit of gravy work time. Just a bit of extra time that isn’t already dedicated to a deadline, where I can just work on something creatively, without pressure.

I’d love to have a hot bath. A long hot bath, where I can just lay there long enough to get wrinkly fingers and toes. Maybe, just maybe I could soak long enough that I’d have to add a bit more hot water… ohhhh while reading a book. Yes, a long hot bath while reading a book.

Sorry guys, I didn’t mean for this to turn into porn for moms. Back to the point.

As I finished my morning drop-offs, it finally dawned on me. I need to start clocking out from my mom job.

Stay with me.

I had a pretty amazing childhood. My parents are still happily married, and I too was one of four kids.

My mom mommed hard everyday too. But guess what? After my dad arrived home from work, and we had all finished dinner, she passed the torch to him.

My mom would spend every evening washing dishes in an empty kitchen, because she would request some quiet. Then head upstairs and have a long bath while reading yet another book. Well, this was her routine on the nights that she didn’t go out and pursue her dream as an opera singer.

She clocked out of her mom job in the evenings, and we all respected this fact. There was no guilt trip, no being made to feel bad, no mom shaming. It was the way it was and it worked for everybody.

While my mom was doing her thing, my dad would head to the basement with all of us, and we would wrestle, (picture a litter of puppies, only the puppies are children), play games, or go outside.

Even in the dead of winter.

After a couple of hours my dad would go take his own break, while we watched a bit of tv, or just entertained ourselves before reuniting with my mom, who would read us a book and put us to bed.

I have amazing memories of my evenings as a child. My mom was onto something.

As I pulled into our driveway and started to prepare myself to get as many deadlines done as I could before I picked up our twins in a couple of hours, I phoned my husband.

I explained to him how I felt, and that I needed to be off parenting duty more in the evening. I reassured him that we will still spend quality time together, but I needed this. He quickly agreed, I think because he had witnessed my breakfast death-stare.

Don’t get me wrong, there will still be cuddles, and books and bedtime routines, but I am off the hook in the evening. I have found that chunk of time each day for me that I so badly need.

People say that being a parent is the hardest job in the world, and I would have to agree. It’s very rewarding, but it is a lot of work, and it drains your mind, body and soul. We have to create more boundaries so that we don’t loose ourselves in it, or the joy about it.

I think my family is going to be just fine without me in the evenings.

Don’t forget to like Nesting Story on Facebook, subscribe to Nesting Story on YouTube and follow Nesting Story on Instagram to follow my journey through motherhood!