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How I Read 15 Books in January

“How did you manage to read 15 books in January?”

I’ve gotten this question over and over again the past two weeks. Truth be told, I had to stop and ask that question myself when I got to the end of January and realized I had finished 15 books in the first month of the year!

As I reflected on the last month, I realized that there are 4 tweaks I made in January to how I approached reading that made a big difference… even though they were really minor tweaks.

How I’m Fitting In More Reading Time

1. I stopped answering Instagram messages (or getting distracted on Instagram) while on the treadmill and instead I use 20-30 minutes of my walking time each day to read a book.

2. I began setting weekly reading goals that I’m posting on This has been highly motivational for me to set weekly goals instead of yearly goals.

3. I started listening to audiobooks again and try to get in at least an hour of audio listening while cleaning, cooking, getting ready in the morning, or driving by myself.

4. I revived family read aloud time again — something that we’d let go of in recent years.

In this episode, I share more about how I’m making each of these tweaks happen and the way that they are making such a difference in our life.

In This Episode: 

[02:46] I’ve been reading Originals by Adam Grant and had several takeaways.

[07:38] We recently got a couple of suggestions from our listeners. Listen in!

[09:16] Jesse has been geeking out on our new soundboard.

[11:15] My Spalding leggings have been saving my life.

[13:01] I dive into how I read more. Specifically how I read 15 books in January.

[15:53] How reading instead of scrolling Instagram has made such a difference.

[17:32] My practical suggestions for fitting in more audiobook listening.

[20:12] Why (and how!) we started prioritizing family reading time again.

[22:55] The difference that tracking my reading and setting weekly reading goals has made for me.

[24:27] Bonus tip: How reading multiple books at once allows me to read more quickly too.

Links and Resources:

How to Listen to The Crystal Paine Show

The podcast is available on iTunesAndroidStitcher, and Spotify. You can listen online through the direct player here. OR, a much easier way to listen is by subscribing to the podcast through a free podcast app on your phone. (Find instructions for how to subscribe to a podcast here.)

Ready to dive in and listen? Hit the player above or search for “The Crystal Paine Show” on your favorite podcast app.

My 9 Goals For This Week

(All dressed up for Silent Disco Night at camp!)

I could look at last week’s goals list and be discouraged at how little it feels like I crossed off. But then, I look at all that actually happened last week and I can remember that maybe it doesn’t look like I got a lot done, but I focused on people versus projects and being present versus being productive… and I realize that it was a really good week.

Last week’s goals:

Personal Goals

1. Get in 54,000 steps total. (I use the FitBit Ulta HR to track my steps every day.) 

2. Finish reading The Path Between Us and Counterfeit Gods. Listen to The Atomic City Girls. (I decided to stop listening to this book because it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. More details on that on my book review post this week.)

Home/Family Goals

3. Read 40 more pages of Carry a Big Stick aloud as a family. (I only ended up reading aloud once and we made it through 10 pages. Hey, that’s something, right?)

Work/Blog Goals

4. Finish editing chapters 1-3 and finish the rough draft of chapter 4 of my manuscript.(I only got a chance to work on the book a few times last week between my friend’s funeral and being out of town helping at Youth Group camp all weekend. Here’s to hoping I make more progress this week!)

5. Run a book giveaway on Instagram with some books I’ve already read.

Word of the Year Goals

6. Pop popcorn and watch another classic movie as a family. (We watched Treasure Island. Review coming later this week!)

We have what looks to be a calmer week this week. We are actually home three evenings out of seven — I can’t remember the last time that has happened! And we don’t have any big things happening this week… well, anything that I know of yet! 🙂 So I’m planning 9 goals and we’ll see how it goes!

2020: Week 6 — Goals

Personal Goals

1. Get in 54,000 steps total. (I use the FitBit Ulta HR to track my steps every day.) 

2. Finish reading Counterfeit Gods. Listen to Eat That Frog! and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids.

3. Go to bed by 10:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Home/Family Goals

4. Read 30 more pages of Carry a Big Stick aloud as a family.

5. Research strollers, baby carriers, and car seats. Decide what we’re going to purchase.

6. Complete 4-hour Foster Care Training.

Work/Blog Goals

7. Finish editing chapters 1-3 and finish the rough draft of chapter 4 of my manuscript.

Word of the Year Goals

8. Pop popcorn and watch another classic movie as a family.

9. Go to a movie with Jesse.

What are YOUR goals for this week? How did you do on last week’s goals? Tell us in the comments!

Gretchen’s $77 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan


1 loaf Bread – $.0.95

1 pkg Hot Dog Buns – $0.85

1 bag Spinach – $1.39

1 pkg Hot Dogs – $0.79

1 bag Frozen Chicken Breasts – $5.85

2 bags Shredded Cheese – $2.75 each

1 can Pineapple Chunks – $0.95

1 gallon Milk – $2.15

1 pkg Fruit & Grain Bars – $1.35

1 pkg Flour – $1.15

1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $1.25

1 pkg White Tortilla Chips – $0.89

1 pkg Chicken Drumsticks – $4.83

1 lb Oven Roasted Turkey Breast – $3.99

1 pint Blueberries – $1.29

1 dozen Eggs – $0.98

1 Grape Jelly – $1.29

1 can Black Beans – $0.48

1 Half & Half – $1.55

1 Frozen Peas – $0.79

1 pkg Tilapia Fillets – $3.79

Roma Tomatoes – $0.86

1 Deli Cheese Pizza – $4.99 (not pictured)

Total: $46.45


4 Post Cereals – $0.99 each after digital coupon

1 Zone Kidz Bars – Marked down to $2.57, used $0.20/1 Ibotta rebate – $2.37 after rebate

1 Core Water – $1, used Free e-coupon (no longer available) – Free after coupon

4 Danimals/Go-Gurt Yogurt Packs – $1.99 each after digital coupon

2 Kroger Mac & Cheese – $0.50 each

3 Ronzoni Pasta – $0.49 each after digital coupon

1 Kroger Peanut Butter – $0.99 after digital coupon

2 pkg Strawberries – $1.67 each

1 bag Apples – Marked down to $0.99

1 Green Leaf Lettuce – $1.69

1 bunch Bananas – $1.87

1 jar Pickles – $1.99

4 cans Chicken of the Sea Tuna – $0.50 each after digital coupon

1 Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks – $0.99 after digital coupon

1 lb Jimmy Dean Sausage – $1.99 after digital coupon

Used $0.25/1 Ibotta rebate for any receipt

Total after coupons and rebates: $31.36

Total for both stores: $77.81

Menu Plan for This Week


Cereal, Eggs, Toast, Yogurt, Cinnamon Rolls


Turkey Sandwiches, Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Salad Bar, Mac & Cheese, Fruit/Crackers/Cheese/Veggies, Leftovers


Deli Pizza from Aldi, Popcorn, Apples

Baked Chicken Drumsticks, Steamed Broccoli

Homemade Chipotle Bowls, Chips

Grilled Tilapia and Chicken, Biscuits, Mashed Potatoes

Lasagna Casserole, Steamed Peas, Tossed Salad

Pancakes, Eggs, Fruit Smoothies (from fruit I frozen last week)

Meat Potato Quiche, Fruit Salad

Life Update: Pregnancy update (28 weeks) + Camp No Boys Allowed

28 weeks! Third trimester, baby!!!!


This week I felt quite a bit better than last week — and I had a good week last week so that was unexpected to have an even better week this week!!

Last week, mentioned having a lot of pelvic pressure. To my big surprise, the pressure was almost non-existent this week — I think maybe the baby moved up some + I sat on the exercise ball a lot and went to the chiropractor??

I still can’t believe I’m 28 weeks pregnant and feeling as great as I am!


I had my last monthly appointment with my OB. Now, I’m moving to every 2 weeks until I get to 36 weeks and then it will be every week until the baby arrives!! My appointment went great and I’m measuring right on track.

The weeks are still going by quickly and I’m so grateful! Some days, I do miss the pregnancies when my kids were little and I could spend a lot more time resting because our life was much quieter.

But most days, I’m so grateful to be in this season with multiple activities every day and people coming in and out of our house + full-time work I love so much, so many opportunities to pour into people, hang out with friends, & be involved in our church.


My appetite has picked up even more again — it feels like baby is going through a growth spurt! Since all of the third trimester is a growth spurt, this might be par for the course for the next number of weeks… until I completely run out of room for my stomach.

Weight gain: 20 lbs.

Kaitlynn and I spent Friday night through Sunday afternoon at our church’s girls’ youth group camp called Camp No Boys Allowed. (I co-lead one of the 8th grade girls’ groups.)

We spent the weekend laughing, having deep conversations, listening to messages, more late-night talking, eating too much junk food, a Silent Disco Night, a Musical competition, and lots of games.

I came home tired, but so, so happy I get the honor of helping to lead and pour into these girls. I love them and their hearts and their personalities so much!

They performed a song from The Sound of Music for the competition. Aren’t they beautiful??! Their hearts are even more beautiful!

Brigette’s $91 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6


1/2 gallon Orange Juice – $1.59

1/2 gallon Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.65

1 gallon Whole Milk – $0.97

1 32-oz carton Half and Half – $1.55

1 box Butter Quarters – $2.58

1 box Rice Squares – $1.49

1 pkg Plain Rice Cakes – $1.45

1 32-oz carton Egg Whites – $2.95

1 jug Pancake Syrup – $1.29

1 jar Chicken Bouillon Cubes – $1.69

1 jar Beef Bouillon Cubes – $1.69

1 jar Hot Sauce – $1.53

1 jar Chili Powder – $0.79

1 jar Onion Powder – $0.79

1 4-lb bag Sugar – $1.73

2 loaves Sandwich Bread – $1.34

1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $0.95

1 10-lb bag Fresh Chicken Leg Quarters – $4.99

1 jar Green Olives – $0.79

3 cans Green Beans – $1.14

1 pkg Romaine Hearts – $2.29

1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.69

1 pkg Zucchini – $1.17

1 Cauliflower – $1.99

1 bag Lemons – $2.09

1 pkg Mini Cucumbers – $1.99

1 pkg Broccoli Crowns – $1.979

1 large tube Organic Spring Mix – $3.49

1 2-lb bag Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $4.99

1 2-lb bag Shredded Mozzarella Cheese – $4.99

1 pkg Deli Sliced Cheese – $1.33

1 tub Goat Cheese Crumbles – $2.19

1 pkg String Cheese – $1.99

1 24-oz carton Cottage Cheese – $1.55

1 16-oz pkg Deli Meat – $2.85

1 pkg Pepperoni – $2.09

1 pkg Turkey Bacon – $1.89

2 bags frozen Steamed Mixed Vegetables – $1.14

2 pkgs frozen Broccoli Florets – $1.92

1 carton Grape Tomatoes – $1.49

1 jar Salsa – $0.79

1 jar Spaghetti Sauce – $0.85

2 cans Biscuits – $1.90

3 dozen Eggs – $2.88

Total: $85.29

Harris Teeter

I got all of the above for $5.88 during 3-day Double Dollar Coupons last weekend. I’m not including the coupon links as the prices are no longer valid, but I am including this in my grocery total this week.

Total: $5.88

Grocery Total for the Week: $91.17

Weekly Menu Plan


Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include:

Cereal, Toast, Fruit (we have lots of leftover fruit from the last few weeks), Cottage Cheese, Scrambled/Boiled/Fried Eggs, Veggie Omelets, Smoothies

Lazy Monkey Bread  (for a brunch with friends on Saturday)


Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Apples, Cucumbers x 2

Cooked Pasta with Shredded Cheese, Oranges, Carrots/Mini Peppers x 2

Leftovers x 3


Crustless Broccoli, Bacon and Cheddar Quiche, Biscuits, Applesauce

Chicken Noodle Soup, Dill Bread

Shredded Venison BBQ on Homemade Buns, Roasted Broccoli, Tossed Salad

Crispy Baked Chicken, Tossed Salad, Roasted Cauliflower, Creamy Milk Rice

Date Night Out (kids eat Grilled Cheese and Green Beans at home)

Pepperoni Pizza, Mixed Vegetables, Tossed Salad


How to Afford Being a Stay At Home Mom

Want to be a stay at home mom, but worried about the financial implications of transitioning to one income? This post is full of practical advice and helpful encouragement on how to afford being a stay at home mom!

how to afford being a stay at home mom

Guest post by Kristine of

Giving up a full-time or part-time salary isn’t easy, but my sisters and I wanted to stay home with our kids.

To make it happen we knew we needed to get creative with lowering our monthly expenses.

Here are 19 things we did (and still do) to save money:

We Cut Hair Ourselves:

Even at Walmart a haircut for a child costs $12 — and that doesn’t include tip!

Instead of going to the hairdresser, we ordered some nice clippers off Amazon and now we cut everyone’s hair at home as often as we need to.

We Use Grocery Pick-Up:

We love using grocery pick-up! It is convenient and saves us money as it helps us avoid impulse shopping.

We also love that every time we add an item to our cart, we can see the total go up; this allows us to decide if we really need that item this week or if it can wait.

We save an average of $20 per week by using pick-up only!

We Don’t Eat Out:

Eating out can blow a monthly budget really quickly!

We plan a weekly or monthly menu for our family and stick to it. We try to cook our meals at home no matter how good take-out sounds.

We also try to get the whole family involved by giving each kid a job to do.

Dinner tastes so much better when you are proud of what you have made — and that goes for kids, too.

Psst! Check these extra tips to help you stop eating out!

We Buy Used Clothing:

We buy gently used clothes for our children.

Shops like Once Upon a Child, Goodwill, Facebook Marketplace, and garage sales are great places to start!

See if there is a friend or family member that you can swap clothes with. This has been a huge blessing to our family.

We Sell Outgrown Clothing:

We sell our outgrown clothes at a local kids’ consignment shop and then get store credit, which usually offers more money to buy the next size up for our kids.

We Use the Honey Extension:

We installed Honey on our computers and it will alert us when items get marked down and if it’s a good time to buy.

You are able to see the price trends and if there are available promo codes you can use.

We love using Honey!

We Watch for Christmas Deals Year-Round:

Rather than shopping for Christmas presents in November and December, we look for deals all year.

It is easy to get pulled into impulse buying with all the advertising during the Christmas season.

We Buy Used Items off Amazon:

When we find an item we want to purchase off Amazon, we check to see if they have the same item “Like New” or “Used, Very Good.”

These items were typically opened and returned. We have had great success finding brand new items marked down this way!

We Ask Before we Buy:

Shopping online is SO easy… maybe a little TOO easy!

To reduce impulse purchases, we wait and talk to our spouses before we purchase something. This makes us aware of what we are spending our money on, plus it allows us to say whether or not we think it is the right use of our money.

We Make Our Own Baby Food:

Baby food is expensive.

Pinterest has lots of recipes for making your own healthy baby food at a fraction of the cost of buying it from the store.

We Canceled Cable and DirectTV:

This is an expensive monthly bill that isn’t necessary.

We have used Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney Plus instead of cable, so we can still enjoy our favorite shows and movies while paying significantly less.

We Switched to an Off-Brand Cell Phone Service:

We have our cell phone bill down to $50 a month for two smartphones with 5 GB of data each.

Honestly, the service isn’t as good. We do drop calls frequently. We mostly text though, and it was worth the annoyance to lower our monthly bills.

{Psst! Looking for an inexpensive option? Twigby has phone plans that start as low as $9 per month!}

We Implement Meatless Monday:

Meat is one of the biggest expenses in a grocery budget. Having a meal once a week without any meat allows us to lower our grocery budget significantly.

If you need some inspiration, try one of these great meatless meal ideas!

We Share One Vehicle:

When possible, we share a vehicle with our spouse.

This cuts down on gas, car insurance, and other car-related expenses. It’s hard at first but worth it when we look at the savings.

We Always Look for Free Activities:

We take advantage of free classes/activities offered by our local libraries.

Hiking, visiting National Parks on free days, and bike trails are other activities we regularly have on our schedules.

We Make Coffee at Home:

We make coffee at home instead of buying one at the local coffee shop.

Even using a Keurig at home only costs 26 cents per cup compared to almost $2 per cup. This adds up when we start each day with six cups a cup of coffee. 😉

We Look for Coupons:

We compare ads and use coupons or store apps when grocery shopping.

We also plan our menus based around meat that is on sale that week.

We Use Groupon:

We shop Groupon in advance to buy tickets and get the best deals.

We used Groupon to get a great deal on tickets to Sky Zone for the whole family.

We Use Cashback Sites:

We use cashback sites like Rakuten to stretch our shopping budget by getting money back on online purchases.

These are just a few of the many ways we save money every single day.

These little (and big) savings all add up to allow my sisters and I to stay home with our children!

What are some of your favorite tips on how to afford being a stay at home mom?

Katie, Nicole, and Kristine are sister-in-laws with eight kids between them. They now blog at about mom survival tips, what is helping them get through their days with their kiddos, and how their true hope and encouragement comes from knowing their Savior, Jesus Christ.