The Key to a Happier Home and Fewer Meltdowns

The Key to a Happier Home and Fewer Meltdowns

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

The Key to a Happier Home and Fewer Meltdowns

With 4 girls 5 and under, it’s safe to say that our house gets pretty chaotic–regularly. Goodness gracious, a lot of emotions fit into those tiny little bodies! We’ve had epic meltdowns–sometimes all four of them at the same time. Parenting small kids can be maddening, but simple changes truly can have massive results. In the last several months, I have actively tried to constantly shower my children with affection and it has drastically reduced those meltdowns and created a much happier home.

Children crave affection.

They need affection more than they need food. To get it, sometimes they act out and misbehave because that is pretty dang effective at getting our attention.

But how do we respond? Do we hold them and love them? Or do we snap at them, send them away to time out, and deny them the snuggles they so desperately need?

The Key to a Happier Home

Body language is our mother tongue.

I was listening to a podcast on a run when I literally stopped in my tracks. I had to write down what the speaker said. Esther Perrel, a psychotherapist, was talking about communicating without words–something we do without even thinking about it.

“We spoke with the body for the first 18 months before uttering a word. It is our mother tongue.”

Whoa. While she was specifically talking about a couple communicating with each other, I could not help but think about how we use our bodies to communicate with our children. Children crave affection and attention. Are we giving them enough? What are we communicating throughout the day?

We all know that yelling is bad and we feel terrible when we do it. But what about our body language? Our actions can be just as loud and damaging as yelling. What are we saying when our child is trying to talk to us while we are rushing around the house trying to get stuff done and we dismiss them saying you’ll talk later and then we continue rushing around? Sure, we are all busy and somethings absolutely need to get done. But can we stop, bend down and put a hand on your child’s arm and calmly ask if it can wait just a few minutes while mom is finishing something up? How different the mood will be in the home!  

Are we making eye contact? The affection we show with our body–snuggles, stroking the face or an upset child–all these things are communicating in our children’s native language. We need to watch what we are saying. 

Touch helps an upset child reason and relax.

When a child is having a meltdown, the child is in their brain stem. They’re in fight or flight mode and are not rational or capable of reason. Touch helps build the connection that helps the child get out of their brain stem and into their frontal lobe. We have to help the child use the frontal lobe to be able to have effective communication.

I’m not saying a child does not need discipline. Discipline is essential, but so is tremendous affection.

Here are several ways that you can connect with your child and show more affection. Try what works for you and see the amazing changes that happen.

6 Ways to Show More Affection to Your Children & Create a Happier Home

1) Use touch to help calm a meltdown

Reducing meltdowns will automatically help create a happier home. When a child is having a meltdown (and it’s safe to enter) use affection to calm your child and bring them from their brainstem (fight or flight) back to the frontal lobe where they can reason. I have found that holding my child tightly, stroking their face and singing (singing is amazing at calming) almost always can calm a meltdown. It’s magic sauce. There are very few meltdowns that I have encountered that have not been calmed by those 3 things.

If the child needs to get some emotions out, let them get it out before trying this. But once they release their emotions, help them come back to themselves and start reasoning through touch and building connections.

2) Start the day with physical affection

How you start the day sets the tone for the entire day. How often does a bad morning bleed into a bad day? Avoid bad mornings (and morning meltdowns) by building connecting first thing in the mornings. I like to start the day with a giant hug and exclaim “I am so glad to see your sweet face this morning!” 

I have a child that often wakes up crabby and I find that this helps her to avoid a meltdown. Showing love and giving her my focus right off the bat helps create a calm and happy tone. 

3) Use touch as much as possible when giving instructions

Ever give instructions to a child and they just look at you like you are speaking Greek? Try putting a hand on their shoulder or arm, making eye contact and then giving instructions. It will help your child actually listen to you and process what you are saying. Point, snuggle, and use your body when you give instructions. This makes it more likely that your kid is engaged in what you are saying and able to follow through with the task

4) Hold hands  

This is especially effective with young kids. My girls love to hold my hand. Even if it’s just walking around the house, making this connection creates a calmer, happier home. Holding hands while walking on a sidewalk, in a store, or crossing a street has the added benefit of keeping your child safe!

5) After any absence, physical affection should be your first response to child

After any absence–whether school or an outing– make sure physical affection is the first things they get be it a hug, affectionate pat, or a high five. Couple it with a warm smile and your are communicating with your child that you missed them, you love them, and want to hear about how their day has gone. 

After a long day of school, my kids are exhausted and emotional. If I am rushed and forget to show affection, a meltdown is 100% right around the corner. Snuggles help my kids make the transition from school to home.

6) Give your child 100% attention when talking 

When you are talking to you, what are you communicating through their body language? Are you communicating that they are the most important thing right now? Or are you looking away and busy doing something else?

Make eye contact and whatever physical connection that seems appropriate–whether snuggling on the couch, hand on their shoulder or arm,  etc–when they tell you about school or about anything they may be feeling. It completely changes the dynamic of the conversation as it communicates.

 Avoid meltdowns and tantrums and create a happier home with these simple tips to show more affection for your children.

Resources

If any of this resonates with you, I HIGHLY recommend anything by Dr. Becky Bailey. I’ve completed one of her Conscious Discipline parenting workshops and it has 100% changed my parenting and my life. Her youtube channel is filled with incredible gems and insights and her book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline is downright amazing and will change how you parent. Just be prepared to take lots of notes!

Touch truly has the power to transform your home

As parents, we ALL fall short. But we can all make small changes that will help to create calmer and more happy homes.  We can change the way we communicate. Implementing these strategies have created a happier home for my family. We’re far from perfect, but I have found that if there is a problem or conflict, snuggles are usually the answer

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The Ultimate Guide to Slashing Your Grocery Budget (While Eating Healthy)

The Ultimate Guide to Slashing Your Grocery Budget (While Eating Healthy)

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

The Ultimate Guide to Slashing Your Grocery Spending (While Eating Healthy)

 

Several months ago, my husband and I decided to drastically reduce our spending in order to reach our financial goals. I wasn’t a big spender to begin with so I wasn’t sure how we’d do. But to my pleasant surprise, the results were amazing:

We drastically reduced our grocery spending, ate healthier, both lost lost 10-15 lbs within a month or so, and saved a ton of money.

Sounds incredible, right? Well, it has been! The 13 steps that I am sharing are the result of a lot of research and work and I know that they can help you too. I’ve broken down the process and made an awesome workbook (see the end of the post to get download) for you so this process doesn’t have to take you as long as it took me. But as long as it took, it was 100% worth it!

The Results

 

While I felt we were pretty cautious with our money before, we went from spending over $1300 a month on food and grocery expenses to spending around $600 a month for my family of 6 (that’s ALL food and grocery expenses with buying a lot of organic products).

Need to save money on groceries, but not sure where to start. This is the ULTIMATE guide to grocery shopping in a budget. This is detailed (with a FREE workbook) and takes you step-by-step to mastering your grocery budget and living a healthier life!

Getting Started: Two Books I HIGHLY Recommend

 

While I’ve always been a budgeter and a planner, I needed some extra help. In my research on budgeting and spending I found two books that were particularly fantastic. I seriously think everyone should read these. Oh, how different our world would be if people took control of their spending! They really helped me set the stage for planning how to drastically reduce my grocery spending.

1) Total Money Makeover: Like many people wanting to get finances in order, I turned to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. This is a quick read yet full of super fantastic information that will give you a big picture strategy about how to attack your debt, build savings, and plan for the future with investments. I highly recommend it for a big picture strategy.  

2) Personal Finance For Dummies: While I’ve never been attracted to the “For Dummies” series of books (because while I certainly can be a giant dummy, I really hate to admit it), I found experts (like the Wall Street Journal) recommending this book over and over. Sure enough, it has been an indispensible source of information. Eric Tyson is a legit financial expert with loads of real-world experience. It basically takes you through step-by-step getting your finances completely in order from top to bottom, looking at everything from your credit score to insurance and investments.

The Work is Worth it, Trust Me

 

After reading these books, I knew I needed to cut my grocery spending, but they didn’t really provide concrete steps to do so. After doing lots of additional research, I decided to take the 13 steps that I am sharing with you.

These simple steps took some time at the start, and some things were a bit hard. But honestly, we got used to the changes pretty quickly and it was so motivating and empowering to see the positive changes in our bank account and health.

BTW, it’s a total misconception that it costs a lot to eat healthy–it cost us a lot more to eat less healthy!

13 Keys to Slashing your Grocery Spending

 

1) Figure out how much you are actually spending on everything.

Do not skip this step. I repeat: Do not skip this step. While this is the most time consuming step, it will have the most impact on your spending. You have to know where your money is going. Like every single penny. And I’m willing to bet, you’re going to be surprised how much you are spending. I know that I was.  

Check ALL Accounts

Check out your online banking and any credit cards you have used. Most have spending breakdowns so instead of going through each transaction, it’s easier to figure out exactly how much you are spending each month on food and groceries. But if you really want to see your expenses, go through every transaction. Do this with every account you use.

Find out exactly how much you have spend in the last 6-12 months on eating out and grocery expenses. If you are analyzing 6 months of data, add up every single eating out and grocery expense from every single account, then divide by 6. Now you have your monthly average.

Are you surprised?

I certainly was.

I seriously did not think we ate out much–my husband mostly took his lunch to work and I cooked a lot. But I’d occasionally run through a drive thru for lunch for the girls, we’d get take out once a week, and my husband picked up lunch once or twice a week.

But holy cow, that adds up: $219/mo on average for what I thought was not eating out much. Yikes. Then move to grocery spending. Ouch, again. Over $1100 a month on grocery expenses. For me, that was waaaay too much for our family of 6 considering the goals I had.

Yes, this is time consuming. But it will help you get down to the truth about your spending habits. As they say, the truth will set you free…or maybe scare you into changing behaviour!

2) Stop eating out.

I know this can be hard when you want something quick. As a working mom, it was hard to not fall back on picking up dinner instead of making it. But if I can do it, so can you! See how long you can go without eating out. It is absolutely insane how quickly small cheap trips add up. And small cheap trips are usually loaded with fat, calories, sugar, and salt. I promise, you will adjust quickly. We did. And it felt amazing.

3) Set your budget and stick to it.

You know how much you are currently spending if you followed step 1. Now, decide what is a realistic goal for your budget. I would caution against slashing your budget too much. You want to set a goal that you can keep. What good is a budget if you are not sticking to it?

As your habits change and you experience success, you’ll find it easier to then cut your budget further.

4) Create system to keep track of spending.

This is how you make sure you stick to your budget. There are two easy ways I suggest that don’t necessarily involve tracking each and every expense:

1) Use the cash envelope system: Old school but effective for many. Set aside cash for different budget categories and when the cash is gone, you stop spending! We did this at different points, but prefer option 2. If this strikes your fancy, check out The Budget Mom’s Ultimate Guide to the Cash Envelope System.

2) Open another checking account: I have a separate checking account attached to my other accounts. I transfer my budget allotment every other week. Anything that fits the grocery/food budget comes out of that account. And that’s it. It make sticking to the budget and knowing where our money is going so much easier.

Note: some banks charge for accounts, but there are usually ways to avoid fees for accounts. I use Wells Fargo and I avoid a monthly fee by simple having 10 transactions a month (which is super easy since all my food grocery comes from here). Make sure you aren’t actually paying for your extra account!

5) Consider reducing your consumption of meat and processed foods.

Both meat and processed foods can be pretty expensive. Cutting out both has helped us feel so much better and lose weight quickly.

Processed food is full of nasty stuff that we don’t want in our bodies. Making your own food will save your health and pocketbooks.

I’ve always liked the idea of eating less meat, so I’ve mostly stopped buying meat. Ever since I watched this awesome TED talk on becoming a weekday vegetarian, it’s been a goal of mine.

Not only has it been very helpful in saving money, I seriously feel so much better on the weeks we don’t eat meat. Even if you cannot imagine cutting out meat, just try to reduce your consumption and see how you and your wallet feel. You may be surprised.

6) Create your Standard Grocery List.

This is your core grocery list of everything you buy and use. Intentionally creating this list will help to focus and plan your spending long-term. Your Standard Grocery List consists of three categories of food items. These food items will vary depending on your eating habits. 

Standard Grocery List

1) Staples you buy in bulk every couple of months: For us, these are things like  grains, quinoa, rice, beans, pasta, baking supplies, cooking oils (olive, coconut, and avocado), spices etc.

 

2)Stuff you buy monthly: For us, these are things like cheese, canned foods, frozen fruits (for smoothies), bread (I buy in bulk at Costco and freeze extra loaves), Costco frozen pizzas (I keep this one processed convenience food on hand because sometime you just need something fast!)

3)Stuff you need weekly: fresh produce in season, milk (we just do almond milk).

Write your list of everything you use. Cut out the expensive stuff you can live without and find a less expensive alternatives. Keeping a core list (and sticking to it) will eliminate impulse buys and otherwise wasting money on food that you do not use or need. That’s why it’s important to be as thorough as possible with your list. 

In making my list and tracking my spending, I realized that we spend a ton on fresh fruit. Switching to in-season fruit and focusing on buying more of the less expensive vitamin rich vegetables was the right move for my family.

Also, this is a great opportunity to more carefully curate the kinds of foods you want to have in your home. You can simply cut out unhealthy food you want to eliminate and add in healthy foods you want to bring into your family’s diet. This really helped us be healthier since I just planned meals around the inexpensive and healthy food I had on my list.I pretty much cut out buying white flour. While I still bake, I use wheat flour and everything still tastes awesome! We’ve also used natural alternatives for sugar as well.

7) Make a list of all the meals breakfast, lunch, and dinners you can make with those ingredients.

Once you have your standard grocery list, go through and think of all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners you can make with those ingredients. Keep this list on hand when you can’t figure out what to make. It will be a serious money saver.

8) Using your list, figure out who has the best price for each of the items you buy.

You don’t have to do this all at once. As you go to stores, take note how much your items cost. You will quickly figure out where to get each item.

Also, I highly recommend finding a place with super cheap produce. Ask around and see what hidden treasures exist. In my area, there are a couple places to get super cheap produce. They’re pretty busy and I have to plan ahead, but it’s so worth it to get a cart completely full of produce for $30 (much of it organic). Often it’s produce that is going to go bad soon, so if you meal prep (step 13) you can prepare it all and freeze it right away. Win-win.

A note on Costco and other big-box stores:

For many items, you will clearly save with Costco (or your big-box store of choice), but with others you will not. If it’s something you use often and Costco has the best price, go for it. But they don’t always have the best prices, so be careful.

And if it’s an item you use only occasionally, even if they do have the best per ounce price, it may still be a more expensive option.

Think about it: if you spend $15 getting a truckload of some spice or product that you rarely use, it will expire before you use it all. That is the more expensive option to buying the $4 version at another store that will last you 6 months to a year.

Need to save money on groceries, but not sure where to start. This is the ULTIMATE guide to grocery shopping in a budget. This is detailed (with a FREE workbook) and takes you step-by-step to mastering your grocery budget and living a healthier life!

9) Don’t go shopping again until you’ve emptied your refrigerator.

This is key to fine-tuning your grocery shopping and eliminating costly food waste. If you get in the habit of emptying out your fridge of all your produce and perishables before you restock, you start to really get a sense of how much you actually use. And it forces you to be creative and use produce you may have just let get bad.

It’s seriously like a game for me. I ALWAYS have loads of veggies in my fridge that I’ve ignored. If I’m forced to use everything before I go shopping, I usually end up making a really healthy dinner full of food that would have otherwise gone bad before I used it.

This reduces food waste and saves $ and time by not running to the store. Also, keeping my fridge cleared out makes it easier to know what I have and I am more likely to use everything.

10) Have ingredients for 3-4 super easy, healthy and cheap meal your family will eat always on hand.

This will keep you from getting take out out of desperation and blowing your budget. You probably already have stuff on hand for several meals. This takes some planning and creativity, but it’s worth it!

For me, I always have stuff to make a whole wheat pasta in a quick homemade marinara with roasted veggies, black bean soup, sandwiches and a quick homemade tomato soup.

For quick and easy breakfast food ideas, check out my post 7 Healthy & Delicious Make-Ahead Breakfasts That Will Change Your Morning.

For other ideas, Bless This Mess has tons of recipes for healthy meals under 30 minutes.

11) Use Recipe Substitutions

How many times have you run to the store to get one item for a recipe you are making? Or you spent $10 for one spice or item for a recipe you found on Pinterest that you only make once?

I am definitely guilty of this.

When following recipes, use substitutions that you have as opposed to going out to the store and buying something just to finish your recipe. There are almost always great substitutions at the end of a quick google search. This has saved me money and it’s been empowering to know that I truly can make due with what I have.

Print this awesome and comprehensive list of ingredient substitutions form allrecipes and keep it handy.

12) Take inventory of what you have every few weeks

How often have you bought a bunch of stuff only to find a stash of it hidden in your pantry?

While you may use it eventually, keeping too much on hand is taking up space and costing you money. Taking a quick inventory doesn’t take long. Note staple items that will need to be purchased in the next few weeks. Repeat this every few weeks or so. This will save you from running to the store to grab just 1 or 2 items and guard against blowing your budget with impulse buys and eating out.

13) Meal prep

Take meals you listed from step 7 and make them in bulk and freeze. This will save you some time and money. For help getting started with freezer meal prep, check out my post Busy Mom’s Guide to Getting Started WIth Meal Prep.

Take charge of your grocery spending and be empowered!

Whew! That was a lot of information. Congratulations on getting to the end. You definitely deserve a treat for that 🙂

But there you go! Following these steps has really had fantastic results for both our bank account and our waistlines. With these steps, we naturally ate healthier. To make it easier to follow these steps, download my  free workbook that walks you through the process. You can do this! This is such an empowering process and you will feel so great.

I would love you to know what you think!

Please let me know in the comments or drop me a line at erin at theincrementalmama dot com. I would absolutely love to hear from you!

 

7 Healthy & Delicious Make-Ahead Breakfasts That Will Change Your Morning

7 Healthy & Delicious Make-Ahead Breakfasts That Will Change Your Morning

*This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means that, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission)  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

7 Healthy & Delicious Make Ahead Breakfasts That Will Change Your Morning

 

No matter how you slice it, mornings are especially crazy if you have a young family. With kids and babies demanding to be fed, it’s all too easy to turn to processed foods like eggo waffles, sugar-laden cereals, or perhaps slip through a drive thru before you head to the school drop off line.

 

If you want healthy, simple, budget friendly alternatives make ahead breakfasts will absolutely change your life. Make ahead breakfasts can be prepared in bulk and will alleviate much of the stress of crazy mornings by providing healthy, filling, food for the whole family.

 

Honestly, I couldn’t survive 4 kids 5 and under without preparing breakfasts in advance. My 4 small children always seem to need me at once and let me tell you, they are crabby before they have been fed.

 

Once they wake up, I’ve got to get food in their little bodies or we are barrelling down the road to disaster.

 

However, it’s really important to me that my family eats healthy food. So I try to avoid the processed junk, but there is no way I could make a nice healthy breakfast every morning without losing my mind.

 

So these recipes literally start my day off on the right foot. We get to start the day will fantastic healthy breakfasts that have been prepared ahead of time.

 

These recipes can all be prepared quickly in bulk, and frozen or stored in the fridge. My whole family loves them and they can even double as a snack during the day!

 

Crazy mornings with no time for a healthy and quick breakfast? These will save the day! These are 7 super yummy AND healthy breakfasts recipes that you can make ahead and eat in the days and weeks to come.

 

7 Healthy and Simple Make Ahead Meals

 

From A Sassy Spoon

 

1) Protein Banana muffins — A Sassy Spoon

 

Holy smokes, we love these guys. Not only does every member of my family love them, they always disappear very quickly at potlucks. I quadruple the recipe and put them in gallon freezer bags. In the morning, it just takes 30 seconds in the microwave and–boom–delicious breakfast! 

Since I legit make breakfast muffins A LOT, I started using these amazing silicone muffin tins and no more scrubbing metal baking pans. Wahoo!!!

 

Tip: Prepare the muffins according to directions, but don’t add the choco chips. Instead sprinkly a few on the top before baking. This limits the chocolate and really helps with equal choco distribution (I found that they tend to pool in the bottom) 

 

From Clean Food Crush

 

2) Green smoothie prep packs — Clean Food Crush  

 

Green smoothies are a great way to start your day with a blast of plant-based vitamins. This is a fantastic recipe to start you out with freezer smoothie packs. And you can take the concept and literally put in any smoothie ingredients that you want. Before blending, I also love to add various seeds and nuts to add a bit of protein. 

 

From Real Mom Nutrition

 

3) Whole Wheat Freezer waffles — Real Mom Nutrition

 

As easy to prep as eggs waffles, but sooo much healthier! I pop them in the toaster and top with PB and a little bit of maple syrup. Kids love them!

 

From Organize Yourself Skinny

 

4) Blueberry Coconut Almond Overnight Oats — Organize Yourself Skinny

 

Oh my gosh, these oats in mason jars are genius. She has loads of different recipes at her site (I also seriously love her mason jar salad recipes) and I’ve yet to try one I didn’t like. My husband and I really love this particular recipe and it’s just so stinkin’ easy. Just throw some ingredients into a mason jar, mix, and stick in the fridge overnight. You eat these oats cold and they last for up to 5 days.  I love to add chia seeds and substitute steel cut oats (I just add a bit more almond milk).

 

From Eat Yourself Skinny

 

5) Healthy Veggie Egg Muffins — Eat Yourself Skinny

 

Oh my gosh, I love these! These are great veggie-filled egg muffins. Protein and fiber for the win! I like to use spinach (since that is a staple I always have) and sharp cheddar cheese along with plenty of zucchini. Again, these silicone muffin trays are heaven sent–scrubbing eggs off metal pans is no fun. 

 

from Thriving Home Blog

 

6) Protein blueberry muffins — Thriving Home Blog

 

Another muffin favorite at our house. These blueberry muffins are packed with fiber and flavor! Freeze in gallon freezer bags. Microwave for 30 seconds and you’re good to go! I also love them as quick snacks during the day.

 

from Thriving Home Blog

 

7) Whole Wheat Pumpkin Freezer pancakes — Thriving Home Blog

 

My kids are obsessed with these pancakes right now. They are so tasty! The pumpkin adds a tasty alternative to plain pancakes. I freeze them in gallon bags between sheets of parchment paper so they separate easily.  Microwave or toast for a quick breakfast! We top ours with PB and maple syrup. So yummy.

 

Which recipes look best to you?

 

So which one are your going to try out the week?Try one and let me know what you think!

 

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