from the experts at SparkPeople.com
Get real tips from real moms.
All combined, BabyFit members have centuries of mothering experience. We decided to collect some of that institutional knowledge and repackage it in an easy-to-read article full of tips that will make your lives easier, help you save money and offer solutions to some tricky parenting problems.
Make your own snack packs. When you get home from the grocery store, separate snacks like cookies and chips into plastic bags. It will minimize overeating and help kids learn what a sensible portion looks like.
Don't show the kids the wrappers if you give them candy. That way they don't get addicted to one and don't know which ones they like.
It's OK to keep a frozen pizza in the freezer for a day when Mom has just had too much to do.
To save money and time, make LOTS of extra pancakes on weekends and freeze them. Then just throw them in the microwave when you want to eat them during the week.
When it comes to cutting pancakes and waffles, use a pizza cutter. It's faster and easier.
Start your kids on healthy food as soon as they eat table food. All four of my kids eat beans, brown rice, all the vegetables (except cabbage), oatmeal, whole wheat bread, all the fruit, soups, etc.
Get them drinking water with dinner early on and then they won't expect juice with every meal.
When I make meatloaf, I cook it in muffin tins. Then there are little individual size meatloaves, and I can freeze them, and later just pop out one or two "meat muffins" at a time and microwave them.
I keep a "stew container" in my freezer. When there are just a few spoonfuls of veggies left after a meal, I toss them in the stew container. When the bowl is full, I thaw them out and use them to make veggie soup. All I do is add some broth, potatoes, and tomatoes and season it up.
If you have a bunch of bananas that are getting too ripe too fast, separate them from each other. It will significantly slow down the browning.
Make mealtime more fun by using a cookie cutter to cut your little one's sandwiches into cute little shapes. Our favorite is star!
If you have a picky eater, try sneaking in veggies in things like muffins, breads, and pancakes. It's amazing what you can sneak into foods with a little bit of thought. And although it may not be the greatest source of nutrition, you are at least exposing them to the idea of veggies.
I have found my kids love to drink plain old water if it's partially frozen. So every morning we put their water bottles in the freezer and by snack time, they are running to get their water. They don't fill up on sugary "juice" calories, and it's great for them.
If you've got a picky eater, make a game out of meal time. Take a spinner from an old board game and draw pictures to represent each food group. Before taking a bite, let your child spin the wheel. Whatever it lands on she has to eat. It's so much fun that kids forget they're eating a balanced meal.
Taking 10 minutes a week and planning out a weekly menu will save you a ton of money. You can write out your grocery list and stick to it (saves you from nasty impulse buys that add up.).
You can plan things like having tacos one night then the next night having salad (and using the left over lettuce tomato and cheese). It's amazing how something so simple can be such a great help.
Have breakfast for dinner one night a week. It will also cut down on your weekly grocery bill. Eggs are way cheaper than a roast. And the kids usually love pancakes and waffles.
You can go vegetarian one night, too. Pasta dishes, salads, grilled cheese and tomato soup, are all filling and tasty but since they are meat free, they tend to run fairly cheap.
If you go to change a diaper and find out it just didn't need changing it is ok to just seal it back up. Those tabs are reusable!
If you hand down clothes from oldest to youngest, you can stay organized with the dot method. Use a fabric marker and place a single black dot on the tag of your oldest child's clothes. Your second child gets two dots; your third child gets three dots and so on. Then as you hand down an article of clothing you just add a dot to the tag. It saves you from trying to figure out which shirt belongs to which child.
When it's too cold, rainy or snowy to go outside, have a carpet picnic. Kids love it!
Offer stickers as rewards and tape a piece of paper on the wall with the kid's name on it. Then when company comes over or even just when daddy comes home they can show them off! Both our boys LOVE to get Spiderman stickers for everything from behaving while running errands, eating all of their food, to picking up their rooms! The sticker is the prize, so there's no need for them to get a certain number to get something.
Make storytime more fun by SINGING your child's favorite book. Pick a simple tune like :Twinkle Twinkle and then sing the words from the book.
Keep an "I'm Bored!" jar. When the kids can't find anything to do, they have to pick a card from the jar. The cards feature easy crafts, games and physical activities.
Tape coloring book pages to a kid-friendly table for little ones who can't quite anchor the paper themselves yet. That will help minimize (but not eliminate) scribbles on the table.
Sickness and Health
To make a kid-size cold pack, freeze a sponge, then place it inside a plastic bag. The sponge soaks up the water from the "ice pack" as it melts, so there's nothing to clean up and you limit leaking. Also, it's reusable!
If your little one is teething and likes to gum their fingers put one of their socks on their hand. It will stop them from drooling all over themselves (it absorbs the drool) and the material feels nice on their gums.
Take time to organize your house. It will save stress and time in the long run.
The best trick I have learned is that white vinegar cleans everything way better than a lot of cleaners. It works wonders for floors and countertops and dusting. And if you accidently leave the child lock off the under the sink cabinet and you lo spills it all over himself, the panic is just not the same.
Keep a basket in an easy to reach place. Every night, right before dinner, put everything that is out of place into the basket. No one eats until the basket has been emptied and things are put away.
Keep a small bin by the door for all outside items (shoes, gloves, bug spray).
Go through all the toys a week before Christmas (or right after if you want to wait and see what you get). Only allow a certain amount of storage space for toys, give the rest to goodwill.
Keep a chore list and make the kids actually do it.
Rubbing alcohol will get permanent marker off almost anything!
Wash flip-flops, baseball hats, toys, and even sponges by running them through the dishwasher.
Wear rubber dishwashing gloves, and just "pet" your furniture to remove stubborn pet hair better than a vacuum.
One of the leading causes of food contamination is from rancid food collecting on your can opener. You can clean it after each use by running a damp, folded paper towel between the two blades and just turning the handle like you were trying to open a can. Works like a charm!
When you make meatloaf, line the bottom of the pan with a few slices of stale bread. It will absorb the excess grease from the hamburger meat and make clean up just that much easier.
Baking soda is one of the best scouring cleansers around (plus it's CHEAP!), and you can use it around food. Just add a dab of water to make a paste, and it works just like Comet or Soft Scrub. It dissolves grease stains, scuffs and all sorts of yuck.
Windex (ammonia) followed by hydrogen peroxide will take nail polish out of carpet. Just the other day I got dark blue polish out of light beige carpet! And blot, don't scrub!
It's faster if you sort your clothes as you take them off your body. Have a hamper for darks and a hamper for lights. As soon as one gets full, you just dump it in the wash.
It is also handy to keep your stain pretreaters by your hamper. You can pretreat stains as soon as you take the clothes off.
If you lose something small and valuable in the carpet (like an earring or a stone from your ring) and you just can't find it no matter how hard you look: Put a nylon over your vacuum wand and then sweep the wand over the area. The nylon will prevent the wand from actually sucking up the object into the vacuum, but the mesh lets enough air through that it will pick it up out of the carpet.
If you have a baby and a toddler, and you need to go shopping. Try wearing your baby in a sling or wrap- that way the toddler can still ride in the cart. You won't have to use the bulky two child carts, and you won't have to work around the infant carrier. It makes shopping much easier!
Place blankets in the dryer for a few minutes before putting kids to bed. They'll love how warm and cozy they feel.
Use swimming goggles in the bathtub to keep soap and shampoo out of your little one's eyes.
If your make up has any odor to it, throw it away! Most make up only has a shelf life of 12-18 months before it starts breeding bacteria and other nasty stuff in it. Rancid make up will turn minor blemishes into monster zits- and it can cause eye infections and other yucky stuff. Plus the components in the makeup actually start to break down and not work as well as they should.
Baby wipes will remove deodorant stains from your clothes.
One way to help prolong your make up is to use, replace, and clean your make up brushes.
And don't buy those monster size make up kits with a zillion different shades in it. They will go bad before you can put a dent in them. (Or buy them and split them with friends.)
If you mix table sugar with baby oil, you can make an excellent exfoliant!
Use baking soda and honey for a wonderful and cheap face wash.
If you want a fast way to lose 5 pounds without dieting, cut out all soda and juice. Drink only water and skim milk. The pounds will come off.