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Fast & Simple Taco Bake

We are huge lovers of tacos in this house and taco Tuesday is something we all look forward to! But sometimes I like to mix it up and do something different with the tacos. I recently made a delicious taco bake that was such a huge hit in my house that I needed to share it with you. The kids devoured this dinner. Seriously. It was gone before I could even think about getting seconds!

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Ingredients:
2 cups nacho doritos, crushed
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 pkt taco seasoning
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
shredded lettuce, sour cream, chopped tomato, taco sauce for topping

Directions:
1. Cook ground beef and onions; drain.
2. Add taco seasoning and 1/4 cup water; simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Lay crushed Dorito chips in bottom of 13×9 pan.
4. Spoon meat mixture evenly over top.
5. Top with shredded cheese.
6. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
7. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and taco sauce.

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I cannot wait to make this again. And one of the best parts is how much I was able to make for the price. Normally when I make tacos I have to use at least 3 lbs of ground beef. This recipe only used 1 lb! That’s a huge amount of money saved! Give this one a try, you will not be sorry!

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5 Tips For Easy Meal Planning

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I’m a big fan of meal planning. I’ve been able to cut our monthly grocery bill in half by dedicated meal planning. I do my meal planning every week now. I toyed with doing it monthly but for some reason it was harder to stick to so I went back to weekly. 

1. Make a list. Or two. I have a list of our family favorite meals and a second list of meals that I want to try out. I generally attempt to include one new meal every week. Some of our current family favorite dinners started out on the new dinner list. 

2. Know what you have. I don’t overbuy as a general rule so it’s easier to know what I have on hand in the pantries, fridges, and freezers. When I start my weekly meal plan I check to see what I have first and choose dinners that use those ingredients if I can. 

3. Be flexible. I usually don’t assign dinners to specific nights. I’m a rebel and if I see that I’m scheduled to make spaghetti on Thursday then I automatically want pizza. Ha! So I just choose the meals in no specific order. The only exception would be nights that I need to use my crockpot because of sports or activities. 

4. Keep easy dinners on hand. I always keep the ingredients for a couple of easy, fast dinners on hand for those nights that just go wrong and the meal plan flies out the window. 

5. Use a recipe app. I use a free app called OrganizEat and it’s amazing. I have all my dinner recipes organized into categories and I reference this app when I do my meal plan. It literally takes me 10 minutes to do my weekly meal plan. 

Meal planning doesn’t have to be a chore or a pain. It can be so easy and extremely helpful, especially if you’re on a tight budget like we always seem to be. The kids are happy because their favorite dinners make it into the meal plan and Matt is happy because we’re not spending money eating out. 

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Ultimate Baked Chicken Taco Nachos

My kids love anything remotely Mexican for dinner in this house. They are always asking for nachos and I finally made some delicious ones awhile back. Tyler had a big group of friends over and they were looking for something to nosh on while they watched a basketball game. I had all the ingredients on hand so I tossed together a big pan of Chicken Taco Nachos. They were so good! 

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Ingredients:
1 bag tortilla chips
2-3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1 packet taco seasoning
1 bottle taco sauce
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Black olives, chopped tomatoes, sour cream for topping

Directions:
1. Line a baking dish with foil sprayed with cooking spray.
2. Spread out tortilla chips on foil.
3. In small bowl, combine cooked chicken with taco seasoning and 3 Tbsp water. Add 2 Tbsp taco sauce and mix well.
4. Spoon chicken mixture over top of tortilla chips.
5. Spread black beans on top of chicken.
6. Cover with shredded cheese.
7. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
8. Serve with sour cream, tomatoes, olives, and more taco sauce.

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The guys devoured this. I had to make a second pan for everyone else because the first pan was gone so fast. I will definitely be making this one again- it’ll be great in the summer time!

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He Said, She Said: New Car

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Setting the scene: Tyler recently got his drivers license and Matt and I are in the process of looking for a car for him. But we disagree on the kind of car that we should buy for him. The following conversation took place during car negotiations.

He Said: I think he should get a $3000 car just like we did when we were 16.

She Said: I didn’t have a $3000 car. I had a $10,000 Honda Accord.

He Said: That’s insane.

She Said: I was a good driver. And my parents loved me. They didn’t want me to drive an unsafe car.

He Said: Are you saying my parents didn’t love me?

She Said: No. I’m just saying they had 3 kids so technically there was a spare one.

He Said: That’s savage. 

She Said: Just callin’ like I see it. I’m not putting him in an unsafe car. His school is too far away and he has to drive on the interstate.

He Said: So what? Like a $5000 car?

She Said: Get real. We’re buying him a car that Maia will be able to drive when she turns 16 so it has to be a good one.

He Said: Fine. But I don’t know how you think we’re going to pay for it.

She Said: Don’t worry, your life insurance will cover it if needed.

He Said: Awesome.

She Said: Always good to have a back up plan.

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Why I’m Still A Stay Home Mom

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As you know, my last baby went to Kindergarten this year. And immediately the comments and questions started from friends, family, strangers….

“So when are you going back to work?” 

“I bet you’re so happy that you can go back to work now.”

“Have you found a job yet?”

Sigh. I thought about it. Matt and I talked about it. We gave it some serious consideration. The extra money from my income would be nice and really help out. We weighed the pros and cons of what it would mean for me to go back to work full time. And in the end we decided that I would continue to be a stay home mom for the foreseeable future, for several reasons that are important to us. 

1. Life is busier now than ever before. Seriously, I thought life was busy when the kids were little. Life is crazy busy now. With 4 kids in 3 different school systems this year with 3 different school schedules and calendars I don’t know how I could hold down a full time job. 

2. We don’t want latch key kids. I like being here when my kids get home from school. I like helping them with their homework and talking with them about their day. I like knowing what they are doing afterschool. We have so few years left with them at home and I don’t want to miss any of it.

3. It makes our marriage easier. We don’t have to fight over who has to stay home when a kid is sick, or whose turn it is to make dinner, or who forgot to drop off the dry cleaning. We have very clear roles in the household. And everything runs smoothly.

4. I am always available. Even when Matt is not available to attend every school function, I am. I’ve never missed an award ceremony, honor roll celebration, school play, school party, football game, basketball game, soccer game, volleyball game….I volunteer at the schools, I take my turn as room mom, I chaperone field trips. I do all these things to be involved in my kids lives and to take some of the burden off of Matt. 

5. It teaches a valuable lesson. We’re teaching our kids that everyone in the house plays a role and every role is important. Without Matt going to work every day we would be homeless. Without me staying home and taking care of everything else this whole house would literally fall apart. 

I don’t know how many more years I’ll be at home but I would love to stay home until Zoey is at least in high school. I’m enjoying this time in our life and I don’t want to be stressed or rushed or feel guilty for missing out on stuff. On the flip side, that means we make sacrifices. We don’t take the big expensive vacations, we don’t spend $500 on new clothes every other month, we don’t eat out several times a week, we don’t buy big ticket items that we don’t need. We shop frugally, I cook 7 nights a week, and we stick to a strict budget. We make sacrifices so I can stay home and we’ll continue to do so. But people don’t see that. They see that all my kids are at school during the day and assume I must be sitting at home watching Dr. Phil and eating ice cream. I wish! I love me some Dr. Phil and mint chocolate chip is my favorite! 

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