Tricks for Banishing the WITCHING HOUR

TEH-witchinghourMy eyes glance at the clock. My breathing starts to speed up and my heart starts to race. It gets harder to breathe…..My muscles tighten and then I hear the garage door open. Hyperventilation. Panic.

Don’t get me wrong….I LOVE my kids. LOVE them. I honestly believe…..

“Children are an heritage of the Lord and . . . happy is the man [and woman] that hath [their] quiver full of them” (see Psalm 127: 3-5 ).

And boy do I have a quiver full,….thankfully. And I absolutely agree with Ezra T. Benson, who said,

“Yes, blessed is the husband and wife who have a family of children. The deepest joys and blessings in life are associated with family, parenthood, and sacrifice. To have those sweet spirits come into the home is worth practically any sacrifice.”

Although many would try to convince me to be somewhere else, to get a job and avoid this trying block of time, as a mother and homemaker, I know the importance of this: “First, take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going–when they leave and return from school–when they leave and return from dates–when they bring friends home.” (Ezra T. Benson, To the Mothers In Zion, Feb. 1987)

I KNOW this is where I’m supposed to be. But I still inevitably suffer from being at the crossroads, also known as

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Every day about 3:15 p.m., I suffer from extreme anxiety and overwhelm and stress. It lasts until about 8 p.m. EVERY WEEK NIGHT.

The kids come in and they don’t say hi, they say “what can I eat?” And bless their hearts, they all want to talk to me at the same time and tell me about their days, and lists of things they need me to spend $$$$ on, and things they WANT me to spend $$$$ on. And homework, and reading, and dinner, and choir concerts and church youth group meetings, and visiting and home teaching, and on, and on, and on……

Is it a rough time of day for you, too? Rough might be downplaying it, yeah? And while Xanax is lovely when needed, taking it every single night…..not a good thing.

Here’s a few ideas that have been helpful for me, and hopefully will be helpful for you, to get through the Witching Hour….who knows, maybe you’ll avoid it all-together.

TEH-menuPlanMenu Planning: I shop once a month, which is hard sometimes, but that’s what works for us. So it is essential…ESSENTIAL that I have a meal plan. So I sit down once a month and plan out what we will eat. In addition, I have 15 meals (times 6) that I have stuff on hand for all the time (more about that in another post coming soon).

PM Planning: I find it really helps if I look at what is going on the next day, before I go to bed. It helps me carve out my time to prep, so that I can avoid that witching hour.

TEH-AMPrepAM Prep: I like to do as much meal prep as I can in the morning, when things are quiet, and my little XY is doing his online preschool work. Whether it’s getting all the ingredients chopped and measured, and assembled, or putting a meal in the crock pot to be done when dinner rolls around, I find the more I can do in the morning when things are slow, the easier it is on me later in the day.

 

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Bulk Cooking/Bulk Prepping: When I go to the store and come home with a ten pound bag of carrots, but best thing for me to do is chop, slice, (etc) that whole bag, then and there. Not only does that make my day-to-day easier, but I (and the minions) end up eathing alot more veggies if they are prepped and ready to go. In all honesty, this doesn’t always happen, BUT when it does….things go much better.

Prep ahead Veggies, Prepping and freezing in portion sizes, Home Canned Beans, Frozen Cookie Dough Balls, Home Canned Chicken Stock

Homestore: Having a home store means I have the ingredients for at least 15 meals on hand at any given time. I am working on having three months worth of foods we regularly eat on hand so I can provide in times of economic hardship, or some other disaster, or simply just have what I need for a quick meal so I don’t have to run to the store. Some of the meals on my list are: Spaghetti, Hawaiian Haystacks, Homemade Pizza, Burritos, Fried Rice, Southwestern Chicken & Rice Soup, Macaroni & Cheese, and more.

 

IMG_4237Mixes: Having my own “convenience foods” ready to go makes meal time so much easier. Not only can I control the food we eat, but I can do most things cheaper than their grocery store counterparts.

Pancake Mix , Instant Oatmeal Mix, Muffin Mix, (if you’re doing “Breakfast for Dinner”), Pizza Sauce and Seasoning Mix, Cream of Anything Soup Mix, Tortillas, Bouillon

TEH_BCN1Freezer Meals: By bulk cooking and freezing the extra in portion sizes, I can have meals ready to go in the freezer that just require a few minutes in the microwave, or can go from freezer to oven in a snap.

Bean & Cheese Burritos, Homemade Chicken Nuggets, make and freeze Homemade Pizza Dough,

TEH-tomatobasilsoup1Meals with 5 Ingredients or Less:  Something quick and easy, with few ingredients like Tomato Basil Soup which is awesome with grilled cheese sandwiches, helps make dinner quick and easy, and lets us get on with the rest of the evening crazy.

TEH-MIJvarietyMeals In Jars: Taking an hour or so on a slow day to put ingredients together in a jar, makes dinner come together in 20 minutes.

Prepping Meals in JarsSouthwestern Chicken & Rice Soup, Summer Porridge,

TEH_scHamPot_8Crockpot/Pressure Cooker: Slow Cooker Ham & Potatoes, Rosemary Chicken, Turkey Breast, Roasts, Dry beans…..all things that can be cooked in a fraction of the time in a pressure cooker, or cooked on low heat all day in a slow cooker, for spectacular mealtime results.

By using these tricks, I can focus on what’s really important FOR ME as a mother and a homemaker. Being at the crossroads. Because I am a mother who knows how important it is for me to overcome my anxiety and be there for my children. Finding ways to eliminate and avoid stress during the Witching Hour is one way that I try to make peace and preparedness a part of my every day life.

What things do YOU do to avoid the crazy stress of the Witching Hour?

 

How To Find Balance In Your Life As A Busy Mom

I love the mormonchannel.org, so when they contacted me about whether or not I’d be interested in having them do some guest posts on my blog, I was thrilled. My role as a mom is the most important one in my journey as the essential homemaker, because everything I do is based on raising great people. And I’m not going to kid you, and I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, it’s hard. Like HARD. But I’ve determined that, as in every other area in my life, if I can just find balance, everything will fall into place.

Here’s a great post from the mormonchannel.org on finding that balance.

healthy-balance-blog-postAs a mom, your family comes first. And they should. When you choose to start a family, you’re also choosing not to be the No. 1 priority in your life — your family takes that slot.

Being a mom is a very important and divinely instituted role, but you can’t forget about your identity as an individual. Your family may be your No. 1 priority, but you still have to make yourself a priority!

For your own well-being and your family’s well-being, you need a proper balance in your life, giving time to your family and their needs and also allowing time for yourself and the things you enjoy doing. You’ll be an overall happier person, and a happier and better wife and mother, when you learn to give balanced time to your family and yourself. If you don’t have happiness in your own life, how are you supposed to give it to your family? If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of your family?

It’s not always an easy balance. Some days you may feel like you didn’t get anything done you needed to.

While trying to meet all your family’s needs and your own is a challenging balancing act, it’s an achievable one, and here are four tips to ensure you give the needed time and attention to your family and yourself.

1. Plan ahead and create a schedule.

You probably already have a family schedule where you plan your week out at the beginning of every week. If you’re like me and you don’t write something down, you’ll forget it. You plan ahead for and write down every basketball practice, doctor’s visit, and play date, so do the same for your “me” time. Schedule it on your calendar so it actually happens. It doesn’t have to be long. It can be anywhere from five to 30 minutes a day or week where you sit on your patio and read or call a friend just to chat. Treat this time as seriously as you do with all your kids’ practices and doctor’s visits.

2. Earn the support of your family.

This might not be the easiest task to accomplish on this list, but it needs to be done. Gather your whole family together or talk to them one-on-one, whichever you think is best, and explain that you’re not abandoning them but that you just need some time to yourself every once in awhile. Compromise with them and help them understand why it’s important for you to take this time. Earning their support will make it easier on them and you when your scheduled “me” time arrives.

3. Don’t do everything for your kids when they’re capable.

You want your kids to think you’re the perfect mom; that you’re Super Mom! But you’re not — and that’s completely OK. You can’t do everything by yourself, and you shouldn’t have to, especially if your kids are old enough to do things on their own. It’s your responsibility to nurture and care for your kids, but it’s also your responsibility to teach your kids how to do things for themselves, i.e. making their own school lunch, packing their book bag for the next day, folding and putting away their clothes, etc. When your mind knows you physically can’t and shouldn’t have to do everything for your kids and your kids know they have responsibilities of their own, your motherly balancing act becomes a lot easier to achieve.

4. Rid yourself of the guilt.

One of the main reasons moms struggle to take even a few minutes a day for themselves is because they feel guilty for doing so. Don’t! Rid yourself of any guilt. It’s not selfish to still make yourself a priority in your life. A great mother is one who sacrifices herself, her time and energy, for her family, but who also is able to give of herself. Without taking care of yourself and achieving your own happiness every so often, you can’t give that to your kids. Rid yourself of the guilt, and give yourself time to be a mom and a woman.

file000166859946How have you found time to balance taking care of your family and taking care of yourself?

Thanks to the mormonchannel.org! I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing more from them.

The Art of Time Management

I struggle….I mean STRUGGLE with time management. There is so much going on….things that need doing, places I have to be, 1/2 a million kids with different stories that distract. As a person who is easily overwhelmed, organization and time management are critical to my productivity, and well, my general well being. But that doesn’t translate into “good at it.” I’m trying all the time to figure out how to keep it together. (Side note: for Mother’s Day my daughter filled out an “all about my mom” page in primary….incidentally, “My Mom is good at: everything” and “My Mom isn’t very good at: keeping it together.” OUCH.)

I ran across a Facebook post by one of my favorite people to follow, Jennifer Wilson over at Simple Scrapper. She wrote a great article this week on Time Management and I loved what she had to say. Although it’s written for a scrapbooking site, it’s principles are applicable to life in general. Check it out: My Every Day Productivity Tricks by Jennifer Wilson. It got me thinking (again) about how to make my day more productive.

Her number one is also my #1 way to stay ahead of the game: Get Up Earlier.

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Because of health issues and fatigue, I have struggled (ah, there’s that word again) with this so much lately. I don’t always wake early, and when I do, I’m not always able to get up right away. Let me tell you that when I DO get up earlier (15 minutes earlier that usual, or 15 minutes before anyone else….whatever “earlier” is to you), my day goes SO MUCH BETTER! I get some of those things done that I can’t do in the midst of chaos, like morning prayers and scripture study and mapping my day. And I feel like I’ve gotten some ME time.

My next favorite way to boost productivity is my planner.

IMG_5284Whether you do it in your smart phone or in a paper planner (I ADORE the Mormon Mom Planner. I’ve used it for the last two years and it helps me keep my focus and be deliberate in my….everything. You can check it out here). Prioritizing and defining your focus is so important to a productive day. It helps me see where I can fit little projects in and helps me make sure I’m where I’m supposed to be. It also helps ME because I have places to write quotes and inspiration to help me remember this years “one little word” which for me, is INTENTION. Each week I have a “sub-word” and I write ideas and quotes about that secondary idea on each weeks page. Mapping my day gives me an opportunity to make sure I’ve got all the important stuff in the forefront of my mind so I don’t forget things.

My next favorite trick to time management and productivity is the FlyLady philosophy….living life 15 minutes at a time.

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Especially when I am completely overwhelmed, setting a timer and going to work on one specific thing for 15 minutes, and then moving onto the next critical thing for 15 minutes, really helps me power through a whole lotta stuff. I get so much more done, particularly housekeeping stuff, when I operate 15 minutes at a time. And on days when I am really struggling to go, because of health issues, that 4th quarter (work on three different projects for 15 minutes and then take the 4th 15 minutes to relax, get a drink, READ A BOOK, etc) makes such a huge difference for me mentally.

Next, I find there are a few small, but critical items to be accomplished every day for maximum productivity and success. Yours might be different….

  1. Make my bed
  2. Read scriptures
  3. Pray
  4. Exercise
  5. Get dressed for the day
  6. Put in laundry
  7. Put meals in motion

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There are probably a million and one more ways to increase productivity and manage  your time as a woman, but the last one I’m going to mention that I need to remember is the importance of being fluid. Things are not always going to go according to plan. Sometimes only 3 of the 254,698 items on the to-do list are going to get done, and that’s ok. Making sure that I’m tuned in to catch a teaching moment with my children, or recognize the beauty in this amazing planet we’ve been blessed with, or realize a blessing, see a neighbor in need and help out, or share a hug or loving word with my loved ones is so much more important that having everything crossed off the list.
They are the TRULY essential things.
I never want to be so busy, so wrapped up in my to-do’s that I fail to recognize what is truly important.

I’m not there yet. Everyday is a new journey, a new attempt at managing my time and being successful at…..well, everything. But working to manage my time better and increase my personal productivity is one way I work to make PEACE and preparedness a part of EVERY DAY LIFE.

Leave me a comment and tell me YOUR favorite time management ideas!

Inspiration: Weeks End Roundup

March 14, 2014

This is a moment each week when I take the opportunity to show you some things that inspired me over the past several days. Enjoy!

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I attended a class last night at a local Real Foods store. It was a class on making and using natural yeast and it was fantastic. Not only am I concerned about the health implications of commercially produced synthetic yeast, but (and here’s where my mind always goes) at some point, I may run out of any yeast I’ve stored and not have the resources to get more….what would I do? My great grandmother and her mother knew how to do this, so there has to be a way to make bread without packaged yeast. So this was where my mind was when I came across this class and decided to go see what Caleb Warnock could teach me. I learned so many things that confirmed my gut feelings, no pun intended. Really. But it actually kinda works, right?

yeast

Uh, yeah….right….back to business. So when I got home, I read the book he co-authored, The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast. Cover.to.cover. Talk about a bread geek. Yes, that would be me. And then this morning, I went to his website and read some more, and I want to live like he lives. Almost completely self-sufficient. There is something about a self-sufficient lifestyle that resonates so deeply with me. Being self sufficient actually brings me closer to my Heavenly Father, because I believe He helps those who help themselves, and when I’m working to be self sufficient, I have to rely on Him, and not on the worldly philosophies that would have me believe that I can’t survive without big food companies, big drug companies, big oil companies, and the list goes on and on.

Caleb says on his website, “As a society, we’ve pretty much abandoned self-sufficiency. We rely on corporations to grow our food, produce our seeds, and make sure the grocery store is stocked.” YES!

But here’s the big thing. My “a-ha!” or “Eureka” moment of the evening. Something he said really struck me. Amongst talk of rationing and Victory Gardens, Caleb said (paraphrasing): If our grandparents and great grandparents had a need to be self sufficient, how much more desperately will our CHILDREN need those skills? That is OUR burden. To teach them.

I have so much work to do to learn and teach my children skills of self sufficiency. It requires so much faith. Faith that one bite at a time (of that big old elephant) is good enough as long as you keep consistently taking bites. He will bless us for our efforts, and doesn’t expect us to be perfectly self sufficient, or perfectly anything for that matter, in a day.

If you want to be inspired, check out these links. I’m looking forward to reading Caleb’s other books, Forgotten Skills of Self Sufficiency, More Forgotten Skills, and Backyard Winter Gardening.

Caleb Warnock’s Website
Caleb Warnock’s Facebook page

 

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A Simple Mindset at From the Mrs.
A friend of mine is on a fantastic journey to simplify her life, and simplify her home. She has lots of great ideas and info on her blog

 

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Lemon Pudding Cake at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
There’s just some about lemons that scream “SPRING”

 

huge-cabbages-growing-in-container-garden-300x225Plan a Canning Garden at Awesome Mitten

 

Thanks for letting me share what inspired me this week!
I’d love for you to leave me a comment and tell me what inspired YOU!

Planning Ahead: What’s a HomeStore?

MjAxNC0zYzRlZmMyMjMyZDVlYjBhHas this ever been you?
Have you ever started a recipe and half way into the process, you find out you are out of one of the ingredients and have to run to the store, or give up and toss the project?

It’s happened to me before, but not in a while. I love this new concept we’ve been living. Although it’s not completely new to me, being that I have had food storage and lived on it several times, the concept of having a store in your home of items that you use everyday is relatively new.

Thanks to the variety of nutritious, delicious, and convenient products available, having a HomeStore is easier than ever before.

Think of this….

  • how often do you throw away mushrooms, or celery, or onion because it goes bad before it all gets used?
  • How often do you have nothing in the house and no way or no time to go to the store?
  • How often do you need a meal in a jiffy and resort to fast food or pizza?
  • How may times have you gone to the store for one little thing and walked out with a receipt that reflects $50 or $100 more than you intended to spend?
  • How many times have you thought, “I should have stocked up on these last week before they doubled in price.”
  • How may times have you wished that dinnertime could be easier? Or that your teens and tweens could do more of the cooking?
  • How may times have you looked at what’s available in your cupboards and realized that you don’t have what you need to put a balanced, healthy meal on the table?
  • How many times have you gone to the store with a bunch of tired, hungry littles and been stuck in the middle of a major meltdown the likes of Mount Vesuvius? (oh, and the littles were throwing tantrums, too.)
  • How many times have you reached the end of your day and the thought of dinner and people walking through the door asking “what’s for dinner” is enough to make you call and reserve a padded cell and the latest model straight-jacket?

 

Having a HomeStore gives you the power to:

  • Reduce waste
  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Save your sanity
  • Provide healthy, balanced meals for your family, whether you’re cooking for 2 or 10
  • Teach your kids to cook
  • Allow you to feel the peace that planning ahead brings to your life and your heart.

Having a HomeStore is EMPOWERING.

For example, we haven’t shopped in over a month. I was going to do some shopping this week, but the car is throwing a temper tantrum broke down, so not only can I not get around easily, I have to reallocate that money for repairs. But I’m not freaking out…because I know that I can feed my family from my home store. What have we eaten in the last few days? Steak and cheese sandwiches, waffles, Southwestern Chicken Soup, Greek Chicken and Rice, Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, Burritos, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Cinnamon Rolls and more. I have everything I need to make healthy and delicious meals for my family. It brings incredible peace and comfort knowing that I have an insurance policy in my HomeStore.

So, how do you start? Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? So the best advice I can give you is to take one bite of the old elephant at a time. (Yes, I’m having a contest with myself to see how many epigrams I can include in one paragraph.)

So buy an extra can or package or two every time you go to the store. At first it will seem like not much, but it adds up, it really does.

Qlogo-LGOne other way that I really love is Thrive’s “Q” program. It’s their monthly auto-ship program, where you choose your budget and select the items you’d like to have, and it is shipped to you once a month, to your door, without fuss. That means no taking kids to the store, no impulse purchases, no gas expenses, no hurried trips at dinner time. It’s the perfect way to save time, spend less and eat better every day. And the great thing is that you don’t even have to come up with extra money each month! You can just re-allocate funds from your regular grocery budget.

They even have a Q Club, where you can get things like exclusive recipes and Qpons, gifts, first access to new products and even earn points that can be cashed in for free product. If you want more info on Thrive’s Q program, email me at jenn AT theEssentialHomemaker DOT com and I will be happy to send you more info.

TEH-homestore(playing with panorama settings on your camera is so much fun!)

Having your own HomeStore is a perfect way to make peace and preparedness a part of everyday life.
Do YOU have a HomeStore? What do you love about it? If you don’t have a HomeStore, what items do you use everyday that you think would be great to have on hand?
I love to read your comments, so please take a moment and say hello!

Organization: Grocery List

TEH_velcroboard5

At my house, everything imaginable grows legs and walks away.
Eve.ry.thing.
Even when I try to be organized, the effort is frustrated by nothing ever being where I put it.

I used to keep my grocery list (things that needed replacing as we used them) on a clipboard, but inevitably, someone would grab it and use it for scratch paper, or walk away with my pencil/pen, or just swipe the entire clipboard, which was never heard from again.

I love it when inspiration strikes. Really. One day while looking at a stack of picture frames in my closet I was frustrated that there wasn’t anywhere to put a lot of them, and that they were taking up space in my teeny-tiny little closet.
A large lightening bolt later, I was heading out of the closet with my beautiful black 12×12 frame, and rummaging through my scrapbook stash to find a piece of 12×12 paper..

Eureka!
It worked. I then found some squares of velcro with adhesive that have been sitting in my sewing area for.ev.er. I put the hook and loop parts together removed one side of the backing and pressed them to the frame. I then removed the backing from the other side and lined it up with where I wanted it on my refrigerator and pressed it on. Keep in mind that it takes 24 hours for the velcro adhesive to make the strongest bond, so if your frame is very heavy, you won’t want to do it this way. However, mine was light so I just pressed it on and there it was in all of it’s glory. Now to find a solution to the pens that sprout legs and walk off…..hmmmm…..

I cut one of the squares of velcro in half and put half of it on the fridge….

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And half on the dry erase marker…..

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Sorry about the blurry pictures….but stainless steel, glass, and flash….no bueno.

 

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And there you have it…..an easy way to keep track of what groceries/supplies you are using up, that will stay put.

TEH_velcroboard4

 

You could also try a large magnet or magnet strips if you have a fridge that it will stick to. Unfortunately, mine is stainless steel and we’ve got no magnetism going for us.

Do things walk off at YOUR house? What do you do to keep track of things?

Recipe: Slow Cooker Ham and Potatoes

You might recall that I promised you a recipe to try out the
Cream of Anything Soup mix that I posted on Monday.
Here it is….my mom has been making this for as long as I can remember, and as kids we loved it. And as a mom, when I need something that I frequently have all the ingredients on hand for, I love it. And as a woman, when I want something that screams “comfort food” ….again, I love it.

It’s not too hard, really. Grab a bunch of stuff……

TEH_scHamPot_1

like the Cream of Anything Soup Mix, dehydrated onions (or fresh chopped onions), potatoes, ham, cheese, mushrooms, salt and pepper…yeah, it really is that easy.

Grease your slow cooker. I can hear it now…”excuse me…is this really necessary?”
Only if you don’t want to spend an hour scrubbing that baby down after dinner when all you wanna do is put your feet up and relax. After all, that’s what slow cooker meals are for, right?

 

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Layer your ingredients, starting with the ham,

 

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then potatoes……

 

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onion and mushrooms……

 

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some cheese and pepper to taste.

 

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Spread the Cream of Anything Soup that you have made over the top. Be sure to spread all the way to the edges. This seals out the air and prevents the potatoes from turning a peculiar shade of….grey.

 

Cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 4 hours).

 

Call your hungry kids, and meat and potatoes man for dinner and sit back and revel in the sounds of snarfing polite enjoyment all around the family table.
What more can a momma ask for?

 

TEH_scHamPot_8

Slow Cooker Ham and Potatoes

Recipe by The Essential Homemaker
A quick and easy do-ahead meal, sure to have your family singing your praises.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
Total time: 8 hrs 10 min, mostly unattended

Yield: 9 servings

Ingredients

  • 9 slices ham
  • potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • onion, chopped OR 1/3 cup dehydrated onion, rehydrated in hot water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup Cream of Anything Soup mix, cooked with 1 1/4 cup water till thick and bubbly
  • 1 can mushrooms, chopped
  • pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Make several layers in slow cooker beginning with ham, then potatoes, onion, mushrooms, and cheese, seasoning each layer with pepper.
  2. Cover with soup so air doesn’t reach potatoes.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours or high 4 hours.

Notes:
This recipe is easily adapted for different sized families. My basic rule of thumb is that you use one potato, and one slice of ham for each serving you plan on; adjust your cheese and onion according to taste.

Please enjoy, and now we interrupt this fabulous yum-fest to announce the winner of our Shelf Reliance Gift Certificate giveaway!!!

Please give us a nice round of applause for:

Karen Hanshaw Dinsmore
who entered by liking
The Essential Homemaker on Facebook.

I’ll be sending you an email with the info you need to collect your prize, and BIG HUG SMOOSHY thanks to Julie Buckner for her generous prize, and to all of you wonderful readers who took the time to enter!

Stay tuned for Friday! I’ve got a fun project to share!