Reduce wasted time and money when mom isn't able to help

When Mom Gets Sick

by Amy Burns

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Last fall, our family moved from the Southwest to the Upper Midwest. We love the climate, the people, and the cultural offerings. We hate the new (to us) viruses and bacteria that made last winter miserable for all of us, especially mom.

No, I'm not a total wimp. I'm just not used to getting sick very often. The real challenge was having continually sick kids, which was a new experience for me. Our doctor assures us that new locations have new germs, which is one of life's little irritants. So, we've been eating well, staying hydrated, sleeping late, exercising, and taking our vitamins.

But autumn is near, and lurking in the back of my brain are memories of bad nights when my husband brought home takeout because mom was passed out on the couch, the various over-the-counter medicines we tried at premium prices, and the endless boxes of Kleenex. You get the picture. When mom got sick, a lot of frugal practices went by the wayside. Dear husband tried valiantly to keep up, but the kids and some house chores were about all he had time for after work (he stayed pretty healthy).

This year, I am preparing for the worst case scenario (mom gets colds a lot) and hoping for the best (the whole family stays healthy). Here are the steps I've taken to reduce wasted time and money when mom gets sick:

  • I bought Kleenex at the warehouse store (with a coupon). This way, we'll have many boxes available. One cold can easily wipe out two or three boxes.
  • I've frozen soup each time I've made it in the last couple of weeks, and will continue stocking the freezer. Here's an easy way to make chicken broth and have meat on hand for tacos or a casserole. Cover six skinned (but not boned) chicken thighs or whatever cut you have with 8-10 cups of water. Liberally add black pepper, oregano, salt (if desired), thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer chicken slowly until the meat is falling off. Remove the chicken from the pot, chop the meat, and return half of it to the pot. Use the other half for your casseroles. Refrigerate the broth; skim fat off top, then freeze. Thaw broth when ready and add carrots, peas, parsley, egg noodles, or whatever makes chicken soup special at your house. Correct seasonings, then enjoy.
  • I've organized our medicines by putting them in a basket along with the spoons, cups, and little dispensers. I threw out the expired medicine and decided what else we should have on hand. Now I'll cut coupons and check sales, etc. to get the best price on the medicine, avoiding those 2AM trips to Walgreen's.
  • I've vowed to cruise Aldi for some inexpensive frozen entrees that will be strictly reserved for "We are Sick" nights.
  • I've double checked that I have plenty of warm kid pajamas, throws for the couches, and snuggly blankets for the beds.
  • I've washed the humidifiers with a bleach solution.
  • I've put some inexpensive toys, games, and books (bought at a dollar store) away for the kids so mommy can potentially rest if she's sick.

If I do get sick a lot, I will feel better because I'm not compounding my colds with outlays of cold hard cash. If I don't get sick, I'll have a stocked freezer, some extra stocking stuffers, and a warm and cozy house. I'm ready for you, Winter!

Amy Burns is a stay-at-home mother of two young children. Having recently survived a move from the Southwest to the much more expensive Windy City, she is enjoying applying frugal living techniques in a new environment.

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