Let's Eat!

30 Minute Meals

You might have admired Rachael Ray and her colorful delicious full course meals prepared in a thirty minute TV show.

For my family, I don’t require colorful. And delicious is negotiable. But I really need to limit meal prep to thirty minutes if possible.

Here are some meals that can be prepared in thirty minutes or less.

I won’t reinvent the wheel, and Rachael Ray is awesome! Create your own list, and find recipes online or visit my Pinterest boards for other 30 minute meals.


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chili season; injoyinc.com/ohjoy
Let's Eat!

3 Easy Go-To Meals for Busy Days

(For your convenience I’ve included a link to the chili seasoning I use. When you use this link to purchase this seasoning, a small commission is earned by this blog to help with blog expenses.) Thanks!

Agh! I’ve been asked three times, “What’s for dinner?” and I still don’t know!

It’s not a trick question. My family gets hungry at least three times a day. But there are days when I wish I could give them a stick of that gum Willie Wonka invented, so they could chew it, and enjoy a three course meal (without the blueberry pie for dessert)!

I’ve learned to keep a few key ingredients on hand at all times, so I always have an easy go-to meal for those days when it’s nap time and I still haven’t changed out of my pajamas. (Admit it–we’ve all had those days!)

Quick Chili

My favorite winter Go-To Meal is chili. Keep some hamburger frozen in 1-2 pound packages. You can pull out a package, defrost in the microwave or put it in a dish of warm water to thaw quickly. Brown hamburger, add some chili seasoning, tomato sauce and chili beans, and then serve with corn chips and cheddar cheese for a quick meal that will warm your family’s heart on a chilly day!

[quote]When you hear your husband pull in the drive and you haven’t started supper, don’t panic. Quickly squirt some olive oil in a frying pan and add an onion slice or a garlic clove. The fragrance will permeate before he makes it in the door, and when he smells dinner cooking he’ll be so happy that he’ll greet you with a kiss! – a wise woman[/quote]


A quick meal that my kids enjoy is spaghetti. If you keep a package of spaghetti pasta and a jar of spaghetti sauce in your pantry, and a package of French bread and a few 1-2 pound packages of ground beef in the freezer, you have a recipe for family togetherness around the table. Put on the water to boil for the pasta and take out a frozen package of hamburger to thaw, and prepare the bread. After the hamburger is browned and drained, dump in the sauce, heat and then serve over pasta. I like to add some onions in with my ground beef, but if you have picky-eaters, check out how Denise creates a 3-step Spaghetti for Picky Eaters.


Tacos are easy and fun, and picky eaters can garnish their own to taste! Brown some hamburger, drain and add some taco seasoning. Keep a package of taco shells in the pantry. Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese, lettuce, salsa, and taco seasoning, (add sliced olives, tomatoes for more colorful fun). To add some fun, serve your meat and garnishes with taco chips for a colorful Taco Salad.

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cheese ball office party snack; injoyinc.com/ohjoy
Husbands, Let's Eat!

My Husband Needs a Snack for Work Today

For your convenience, I have included a couple affiliate links. If you purchase these products using my link, I receive a small commission to help with expenses of this blog. Thanks!

[quote]Oh, by the way, we’re having an office party today, do you have anything I can take?[/quote]

Has your husband (or kid) ever told you at the last minute that they need a snack to take to school or work or soccer practice?

Yeah. Me neither. ūüėČ

Here are five of my favorite recipes that can be whipped up in an emergency–if you keep some basic ingredients on hand. There are no glossy pics, no step-by-step instructions–they are too easy for that! Enjoy!

5 snacks that can be prepared from some basic ingredients in less than fifteen minutes

Cream Cheese Spread and Crackers

  1. Soften an 8 ounce package of cream cheese.
  2. Dice the tops of about 3-5 green onions.
  3. Dice up 6-8 slices of Hormel Dried Beef.
  4. Stir beef, then onions into the cream cheese and serve with crackers.

(Dried beef comes in a jar, and is usually found in the grocery store along with the canned meat like Spam or tuna.) Do yourself a favor and order a twelve-pack, and you’ll have canned beef for all the office parties until your husband retires–or save it for the apocalypse!

Chocolate Ecclair

This one is so easy that your kids can make it themselves when they need a quick snack to take to a club meeting.

  1. Mix up a 6 oz box of vanilla pudding according to the pie filling directions on the box.
  2. Stir in one small container of Cool Whip.
  3. Layer the bottom of a 13 x 9 dish with graham crackers.
  4. Spread half of pudding/cool whip mixture over graham crackers. Repeat another layer of graham crackers and pudding mix.
  5. Top with a third layer of graham crackers.
  6. Melt a container of chocolate icing for a few seconds just to thin, then pour over one more layer of graham crackers.
  7. Chill and serve.

Cheese Ball

Combine 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, an 8 ounce package of softened cream cheese, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder together and form a ball. Roll in a mixture of 1 tablespoon each of chilli powder and paprika. Chill and serve in a cheese ball container with crackers.

Cherry Pie Filling Salad

  1. In a large serving container mix:
  • 21 ounce can of cherry pie filling
  • 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained
  • 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 ounce container of frozen whipped topping, thawed

Chill for two hours before serving.

 Marshmallow Fruit and Dip

  1. Soften one 8 ounce package of cream cheese.
  2. Mix cream cheese with one jar of marshmallow creme.
  3. Chill and serve with fruit. (Apple slices or strawberries surrounding the dip create a pretty dish.)
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American Girls Histojoyry; injoyinc.com/oh
Curriculum, My Favorites

10 Subjects You Can Homeschool for FREE

It may sound too good to be true … 10 subjects that can be homeschooled for free. But it’s one of the things that drew me to homeschooling – the ability to customize it to my lifestyle and my budget.

Susan Wise Bauer said in her excellent book that every homeschool parent would enjoy, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition) (page 30):

In about thirty minutes per day, plus informal teaching as you go about your family life, you can easily teach your child beginning reading, writing, and math concepts, all without workbooks or teacher’s manuals. -Susan Wise Bauer

Free Ways to Teach Math

Use a flashcard app on your smart phone or electronic device to let your kids hone their skills with math operations. After they do so many minutes of math, they can play with mad birds!!

Free Ways to Teach History

We learned most of our elementary history by reading interesting books that used accurate historical settings. These books prompted a desire to learn more about that time period. You can checkout the free resources of Eyewitness books and Dorling Kindersley books at the library. Some books are fun to purchase for your home library (and to save for grandkids) like the American Girls Boxed sets Samantha’s Boxed Set (The American Girls Collection/Boxed Set) and the¬† Little House on the Prairie books,¬† Little House Nine-Book Box Set.

Free Ways to Teach Geography

Use the Geography Challenge at A Broader View, maker of the Global Puzzle. Here are some fun ways we use the world map puzzle.

Free Ways to Teach Literature

Reading good literature is the easiest way to teach vocabulary. Encourage students to keep a vocabulary journal. As they read, jot down words they don’t know. Later, they can look up the words and study the pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and more. Make reading a big part of your school day. It is relaxing, quiet, and educational!!! Create an annual book list from some of these sources:

Free Ways to Teach Writing

Sign up for my free Wednesdays Writers series, where I post simple writing lessons and prompts and ideas to keep your child writing and creative writing.

Free Ways to Teach Science

Science is just part of everyday life; don’t wait for the textbook. As you live life, learn science! When use yeast to bake bread or clean with vinegar or baking soda, you are using science. When you find a tadpole or caterpillar, you have found a science experiment. Watching the stars (astronomy), using a magnet or a flashlight (physical science), and welcoming a new baby into the family (biology) are all excellent reasons to study science! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Use the Bible to teach Science

Here’s an idea for Kindergarten Science.

Extracurricular Clubs

Check out the options at Currclick for classes with other homeschoolers like the free clubs,   (like the LEGO club) and free ebooks. You can start a club for anything! Have a skill, or want to learn one? Find someone willing to teach it, and put out the word! If you are tenacious, you can find people who will share their passions for free. Check out the general aviation pilots at the local airport if your child is interested in flying; I know pilots who mentor young flyers for free, just to encourage the love of flying! Horses, cycling, shooting sports, fishing, and more can be learned by making friends with someone who just loves the sport.

Free Ways to Teach Bible

This is one of the most important subjects you will every teach your child. Begin the day with it. Read through the Bible in a year, using a one-year calendar like this one from the Gideons. Your Bible reading will most likely launch further discussion about character, spiritual matters, morality, and even science and history. You can also use a Chronological Bible like  The One Year Chronological Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt) or an Archaeological Bible like  NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture

Free Ways to Teach Foreign Language

You can find many online free options to teach a foreign language like  Live Mocha and Pronunciator. We have used both of those free programs with great success. Attend a bilingual church service and listen to the translation. Find a family friendly radio station that broadcasts in a foreign language. Make friends with a family that wants to learn English, and teach each other!

Free Ways to Teach Speech

You can teach speech for free by just encouraging your students to give oral presentations–about everything. When they are young, ask them questions about the book you just read them, and let them tell you what the main character did. Ask them to tell the steps they followed in a science experiment, how they made cookies, the three best ways to train a dog, and more. Let them give oral book reports instead of writing them, and they will consider this speech assignment a treat! When they are older, check out a book, or study online resources to learn how to prepare various speeches.


Use the Khan Academy to learn almost anything! For free. Every subject!

Tara, at This Sweet Life, has a list of ten free sites she uses in her homeschool. She also has a great post on how you might be able to homeschool for free.

What questions do you have about this topic? Where are you struggling in your educating journey?

For your convenience, some of these products are linked to a shopping page. It is possible that by purchasing one of these affiliate linked products, at no cost to you,  a small commission will be returned to me to fund my online projects. Thank you.

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Curriculum, My Favorites

How To Teach Science With the Bible

Did you know that the Bible stated that the world was round three hundred years before Aristotle suggested it?  And did you know that  Matthew Maury(1806-1873)  used Psalm 8:8 to look for the paths of the sea, discovering continental currents, allowing merchant ships to use trade winds, revolutionizing the shipping industry? It’s time to teach science with the Bible and we’re here for it!

The smartest people, the ones who will have a head start among their peers and in their career, are the ones who discover mysteries of the Bible, to advance science.

It’s Time to Teach Science with the Bible

This year we’re going to learn science from the Bible. And it isn’t going to be as hard as it might sound at first!

We’re using  this little 98 page book  as our syllabus: Scientific Facts in the Bible: 100 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Supernatural in Origin (Hidden Wealth Series)

We’re using the Bible as our textbook. We happen to have an extra one like this, Compact Kids Bible: Green Camo
that was left in the lost and found, so we are going to redeem the lost!

Scientific Facts in the Bible: 100 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Supernatural in Origin (Hidden Wealth Series)
is packed full of scientific facts that were revealed in the Bible years or centuries before the scientific world discovered these mysteries. The facts are presented in one or two sentences, with Bible reference and scientific notation. Here’s how we’re going to use Scientific Facts in the Bible: 100 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Supernatural in Origin (Hidden Wealth Series)

  • After reading the scientific fact, we will find it in the Bible, and underline the reference verses.
  • We will memorize where the reference is, and give an oral mini-presentation of the scientific fact and the Biblical location.
  • We will study the scientific fact, and mark the discovery by the scientific community on our timeline.
  • If we are interested in further study, we will research more resources online and at the local library.
  • We will spend as much time as we want on each fact.

The goal will be to study to show ourselves approved to give a reason for our faith–to anyone who asks for proof that the Bible is real!. They’ll take this info into all the world with them as they grow and go!

Christians should have the mindset that the Bible is true, and someday the scientific community and anthropologists will advance to make the discoveries that prove the Bible true. Until then, we have the inside track, and are wiser than our peers!

This post may contain links of items I use and love. If you make a purchase by clicking on one of these affiliate links, the blog may earn a commission that will help with expenses to maintain these online services. Thank you!

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Curriculum, My Favorites

How To Homeschool Science Without a Curriculum

When I first started homeschooling, I didn’t know what curriculum to choose, and the thought of spending big bucks on something that I’d be stuck with for a year was a little overwhelming. Since I’d helped compile a curriculum database when I worked for a public school, I knew what learning objectives were required for each grade level. So, I just decided to make sure we covered those objectives‚ÄĒany way we could and homeschool science without a curriculum.

Instead of purchasing a boxed curriculum for kindergarten, I just bought a handwriting book and a math book. The rest of my educational budget was spent on lots of hands-on learning books, educational toys, and field-trip activities – thus, supporting my goal to homeschool science without a curriculum.

[quote]My kindergarten science curriculum cost less than $5, and was a truly outside the box/inside the box idea! [/quote]I purchased an index card box, some index cards, and some alphabetical tab dividers. Each day (about the time that I was beginning to run out of patience), I’d send the child outside on a Science Nature Hunt. They simply had to go outside and explore until they found something interesting. Depending on the frustration level of the day, I’d make the scavenger hunt a little more challenging, so they’d be gone a little longer (like looking for a butterfly in January)!

When they came in with their treasure, the real learning began!

  • We’d classify it as to whether it was animal, plant, or mineral.
  • If it was an animal, then we’d examine it further and discuss its physical characteristics, habitat, where it was in the food chain, and classify it according to its taxonomy (insect, reptile, mammal).
  • We sounded out the letters of the name and wrote it on the card
  • We wrote some simple things on the back of the card. Or, the child would tell how or where they found it, or some interesting facts, and I’d write it on the back of the card.
  • We wrote the date on the card.
  • Using wide clear tape we mounted the treasure on the card. If it was a large item (or alive), we just drew a picture.
  • If we had a book about the item, (like The Adventures of Frog and Toad) we’d read it together.
  • We filed the card alphabetically in the box.

Many days their nature walk prompted more exploration when we wanted to know more about a frog, or a walking stick, or how to create a habitat for a caterpillar cocoon. We’d research what happens to tadpoles, and what a cicada looks like after it comes out of that shell. On rainy days, they could get out their cards and resort and file them while remembering the day they discovered each treasure, or they could stand at the window and go on a pretend adventure as they wondered what all the creatures were doing on a rainy day, or they could take a virtual nature walk in a book or online, or create a card about a mythical or extinct creature.

With this activity we covered (and enjoyed) so many educational subjects:

  • Handwriting
  • Spelling
  • Math (by counting legs, notating the date, estimating, measuring)
  • Science
  • Reading
  • Map Skills
  • Research skills
  • Speech (as the child dictated, and recounted their adventure)
  • Art
  • Language Arts (alphabetizing, grammar, punctuation)
  • PE

Best of all, we enjoyed the added benefit of loving science from the very beginning. Science was their favorite subject! [quote]They developed a love of learning, and got some fresh air and Vitamin D at the same time–and Mom got some added peace and quiet![/quote]

We had so many fun learning adventures because of that one little box. One day we found a woodcock; we’d never seen one before since we’re outside its normal migratory route, but it must have gotten off track, and we used the discovery to do further research, and look at the map, and discuss that interesting bird. Our Science Nature Box didn’t always wait for its turn on the schedule! One day (probably when a reluctant child was looking out the window instead of concentrating on a row of math problems) we discovered a roadrunner (another bird that isn’t often seen in our area). Suddenly it was time for science as we threw the schedule out the window and ran out the door, spotter’s guide in hand!

Don’t worry about spending lots of money on an expensive curriculum. Some of our best learning adventures are free! Teaching your child HOW to learn is more important than finishing that worksheet, and there is a wealth of educational resources‚ÄĒright outside your window‚ÄĒoutside the box!

What about you? Have you found a great way to learn that is outside the box? Have you done homeschool science without a curriculum before? How have you used inexpensive or free resources? What fun ways do you learn with your children? What is your most creative way of learning on less? Have you ever purchased an expensive curriculum‚ÄĒand been disappointed? I’d love to hear from you.

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back to school jactivities; injoyinc.com/ohjoy
Fun Stuff

Fun Ways To Commemorate the First Day of School

back to school jactivities; injoyinc.com/ohjoy

Homeschoolers miss out on some fun school activities like the big yellow bus coming and picking them up, and first day jitters, but your child doesn’t have to feel like they are missing something if you replace these things with other exciting moments.

Ways to make the first day of school special for homeschoolers with photos and special memories

  • Go shopping for school supplies together (nothing says first day of school like a hand full of unsharpened pencils and a new notebook!). Get new notebooks and glue sticks to put in a new school supply box. Get some brightly colored labels and highlighters. Here is a list of my favorite school supplies.
  • Plan a fun back-to-school tradition (like smiley face pancake breakfast). Kick off the day with a celebration.
  • If you need to purchase some new clothes, save the shopping trip for a back-to-school special day with each child, and then let them wear one of their new outfits on the first day of school.
  • Every first day of school, do some traditional things like measuring all the kids and marking it on a wall stud or trim board somewhere.¬† Can’t bear to mark on the walls? Make your marks in an out-of-the-way place like a basement or in a closet or pantry, or if you are not in your forever home,¬† make a special wall hanging that can move from house to house with you.
  • Don’t forget to save time for the first day of school photo op session! Maybe get the kids in the same pose or with the same item (a tricycle or playhouse or tree house) year after year, so you can see how they’ve grown. Maybe plant a tree, and watch how they grow along with the tree!
  • Bless your kids. Write a blessing in the front cover of one of their notebooks, or on special notepaper that they can slip in a textbook, or make a special bookmark they’ll use all year long. In one of their new notebooks, flip through the pages and write a love note or encouraging word on several pages that they will discover throughout the year.
  • Make hand prints on a piece of paper and then list goals for the year. Or include ID info like their current weight, height, and save space for the school pic.
  • Include your faith in your important first day of school schedule. Pray over your children. Read a devotional or inspirational word on the first day–and then do it every school day.
  • Plan a debriefing dinner together at the end of the day, so you can all talk about the day, encourage each other, build up their confidence, and reassure them about their concerns.
  • Let them try out a new hair style.
  • The start of a new school year is a great time for new beginnings. Encourage your child to lay aside old and immature things in exchange for new and bigger things.

You are creating memories when you do special things with your children. Make some traditions!


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favorite school supplies for homeschoolers; www.injoyinc.com/ohjoy
My Favorites

My Favorite School Supplies for Homeschool

favorite school supplies; injoyinc.com/ohjoyMy favorite school supplies are pretty basic. I’m including a list of my must-haves. I’ve included affiliate links to some of these products for your convenience in shopping (at no cost to you, I may receive a commission on some of these products if you decide you like them, too!).

First, I have to have a student planner. This is the hub of student responsibility for us. If it, is listed on the assignment book, it has to be completed before electronics, etc! Since I love all the well-planned products from my friend, Rebecca Keliher, this is the student planner I use. It comes in two designs: techno and floral.

And I use the On-The-Go Planner to keep track of myself!

Nothing says first day of school like a newly sharpened Ticonderoga Pencil! You have to try these: Dixon Ticonderoga Wood-Cased #2 Pencils, Box of 24, Black (13926)

I use the old fashion, good old composition book for everything from copy work, to keeping track of Bible Memory verses, to daily dictation, to essays, to spelling lists, book reports, and more!


Index Cards and recipe box. Here’s how I used them for Kindergarten Science.


Binder Notebook; you can get a heavy duty one like this: Case-it Large Capacity 3-Inch Zipper Binder, Black, D-146-BLK
Or recycle an old one you already have. Fill it with wide rule paper and dividers like these Avery Durable Write-On Plastic Dividers with Pockets, 8-Tabs, 1 Set (16177) and plastic sheet covers like these to collect all the important items you will want to sort through to include in the student portfolio:Avery Economy Clear Sheet Protectors, Acid Free, Box of 100 (75091)

Let your student decorate a school supply box, or just purchase a simple supply box like this. Sterilite 17234812 Plastic Pencil Box Having all the supplies your student will use each day in one place will save you lots of time in searching for things. A place for everything, and everything in its place. You will never have to hear,

[quote]”I can’t do my math because I don’t have a pencil.”[/quote]

Of course, you will want to add some art supplies like markers, colored pencils, highlighters and more, but we’ll save that for another post!

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100 Money Saving Tips for the Homeschool Mom from Proverbs 31 Woman; sharipopejoy.com

100 Money Saving Tips for the Homeschool Mom From the Proverbs 31 Woman

100 Money Saving Tips for the Homeschool Mom from Proverbs 31 Woman; sharipopejoy.comIf anyone needs money saving tips, it is the homeschool mom, who voluntarily gives up income to invest in her children, and who (in addition to paying taxes) bears the expense of educating her own children.

In addition to other valuable wisdom, the Proverbs 31 Woman left us an outline to categorize ways to save money in fifteen areas under four major categories:

  • Material Necessities like food, clothing, and housing
  • Educational Expenses like curriculum and educational supplies and extracurricular activities
  • Relationship enhancements like marriage,¬† personal care, physical health, medical, and community service
  • Looking to the Future with tips for extra income, character development, and investments

Read more in my article at the HEDUA site.

Download your own free guide: 100 Money Saving Tips for the Homeschool Mom from the Proverbs 31 Woman

or click add to cart.

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You might also enjoy this free resource: 100 Financial Tips from the Proverbs 31 Woman

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Fable Writing Program

Fable Writing Template

How to Write a Fable; injoyinc.com

The deadline to enter the Injoy, Inc. Fable Writing Contest is coming soon! Enter by October 18, 2013.

Here is an easy way that you can help your students write a fun and interesting fable. Use this fill-in-the-blank template to create the first draft of the fable, and then polish it up and enter it in the Fable Writing Contest. Students can dictate their fable to parents, so even young students and reluctant writers can enter this contest!

The top 50-100 fables will be published in an e-book, and the proceeds from the sale of the e-book will go to purchase reading and writing supplies for students in Moore, OK. Plus, there are some great prizes, too! Add this to the school schedule for fun today!

Download your free Fable Writing Template here.

If you can fill in the blanks, you can write a fable for this Fable Writing Contest.

For more great tips on how to write a fable, go here.

To enter the Fable Writing Contest, go here.


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