Costco – Our Necessities

Shopping at Costco can be an overwhelming experience. There is just so much to see! And so many foods to sample! (Seriously…sample everything). Honestly, the only time that we were in and out of Costco in less than an hour was when we were ordering tires. Yep. You can order tires. (Seriously….they have everything!).

When shopping at Costco, keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Make a list. Do your best to stick to that list but be willing to purchase the yummy new food that you just sampled.
  2. Remember that not everything that you want will be there. Sometimes, they stop carrying items for a short time. Sometimes, they stop carrying items for a very long time.
  3. Understand that it will seem as though 90% of the suburbs are in Costco with you. Everyone is frustrated. Try to keep calm.
  4. Park your cart as far over to the side as you can. (See number 3).

We have several things that we always buy while there. Feel free to use this list as a starting point if you are new to the wonderful world of Costco. 🙂

Paper products: toilet paper, paper towels. You know that you will need these items so if you have the means to store them, stock up.

Beauty products: We buy deodorant, body wash, and razors! And there are frequently Oil of Olay products if you use any of those.

Baby products: I love the baby wipes! They are very soft and are so cheap! We never really purchased diapers because they never carried the brand that we liked for our girls. However, if you are in the diaper-buying stage, check what they are currently carrying.

Snack foods: We buy a lot of the lunchbox ready snacks like popcorn, veggie straws, string cheese, crackers, etc. They have it all.

Dairy: Cheese! We go through a lot of cheese in our house. And if you go through a lot of yogurt or Danimals, you can find those here too. Honestly, I am not a fan of the milk but give it a try because you might like it.

Grains: Buying cereal can be a great deal if you go through a lot of cereal. Not a great deal if you aren’t – the cereal will be stale before you get to the end of the box. Bread can be a good deal but you might need to freeze some.

Fruits and veggies: There can be great deals to be had, if you have the ability to freeze the fruits or veggies. The produce, in our experience, tends to go bad pretty quickly and there’s a lot of of it. So, buy it and throw it in the freezer. However, if you are planning a party, the large bags of salad are a great buy!

Freezer foods: This is so much better now that we have a chest freezer. Frozen pizzas? Throw them in the freezer. Frozen treats or desserts? Yep. In the freezer. If you do not have a chest freezer, I recommend being careful how much you buy. Remember, it will all have to fit somewhere.

Canned foods: You will almost always find cans of chicken stock and chickpeas and jars of peaches in our cart.

Bakery goods: The muffins are some of my favorites. I like them even more than muffins from the grocery stores that we buy from. They also have great croissants. Although we’ve never purchased a cake, you can get sheet cakes of almost any size if you need that.

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Throughout, you may seem us stocking up on seasonal items as well. It’s back-to-school so I purchased a new set of Sharpie markers. 🙂 You can also frequently pick up construction paper or pens. Right now, you can purchase Christmas decorations. (Yes, it’s a little early and there will probably be more selection in the coming weeks so you don’t need to rush in for this one.)

After all of that shopping, you’re hungry, right? Time to pick up a super cheap hot dog or a slice of pizza. You can also pick up a whole pizza  but that takes some time to prepare (so, start at the counter, place an order for your pizza, do your shopping, and pick up your pizza!).

So now I want to know, what are your Costco necessities?

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How to do the Free Admission Museum Days – And Still Have Fun

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile now, you know that our family are big fans of the museums in Chicago. These amazing institutions are some of the biggest perks of living in or near the city! But this is not new information. Lots of people know that already and are ready to take advantage of all that they have to offer. The museums are not cheap, though. A family of four could easily drop close to $100 just to get in to the museum. That’s why the free admission days are such a big deal!

On the free admission days (for Illinois residents) you get free general admission at the museum. Each museum is different and the free days are different for each one (be sure to look up that information on each museum’s website!). And, although we generally take advantage of the ones during the summer months, there are days offered throughout the entire year so, if you are an Illinois resident, definitely check these out!

Since so many people want to, and should, take advantage of this money-saving perk, it can get a bit crazy. We’ve done it many, many times and in that time I’ve picked up some tips.

  1. Try to arrive as close to the museum opening as you can. If there are exhibits that you know that you want to check out, head there first. The crowds definitely build after 11:00am. Most museums open at either 9:00am or 9:30am. Generally, if you arrive at 10:00am, you won’t have to wait in much of a line and can walk right in.
  2. If possible, take public transportation. But, if you have to drive, as long as you arrive close to opening you can probably get street parking. This is usually cheaper than parking in the museum parking lots or the lot at Soldier Field. Plus, you can pay for what you will use. Just planning on being in the museum for a couple hours? Just pay for a couple hours of parking!
  3. Bring snacks! But, pay attention to where you can actually eat your snacks in the museum.
  4. Food is pricey at the museums, especially if you are buying for a family of four. I usually buy a lunch for myself at the museum, brings snacks for the girls, and will purchase a cheese plate or fruit cup for the girls to share. Many of the museums do not want you to bring in your own food to eat in their restaurants, but since I’ve also purchased something each time no one has said anything. But, most museums also have an area for use by those who brought lunches. If you are not purchasing anything, I recommend scouting out one of those spots. If you can’t find a spot to eat, ask an employee for assistance.
  5. If you can, eat a late or early lunch. The lunch areas are usually less busy after 1:30pm or right at 11:00am (or whenever they start serving lunch). There are usually many schools, camps, and daycare groups at the museums, but they tend to eat their lunch before 1:30pm since they need to return to their camp, daycare, or school.
  6. Some of the Illinois resident day admissions include almost everything (the Shedd Aquarium is great for this – you get general admission, Stingray Touch, and can get into Wild Reef and Polar Playzone – this all had at one time been an extra add on on the Illinois resident days. So glad that that’s changed!!!) but most of the admissions only include the basic admission. So, if there is a special or traveling exhibit that you want to see be sure to calculate the price of that into your visit.
  7. Do you have younger kids and will plan on spending some time in the areas designated for kids? (Like Polar Play Zone at Shedd, Play Lab at Field Museum, Idea Factory at Museum of Science and Industry, and Planet Explorers at Adler) These tend to be less busy during peak lunch time hours. So, again, if you can, try to do a later or early lunch.
  8. Do your research! Some exhibits, although free and included in your admission, still require a timed ticket. Idea Factory at MSI is one of those. Get your ticket as soon as you arrive because you might not be able to get in to the exhibit for several hours. Some exhibits are not open every day. The Play Lab at Field is only open Thursday – Monday.
  9. After 12:00noon, the museums tend to get really packed. Keep this in mind when trying to plan bathroom breaks. It’s no fun for anyone when a bathroom break is necessary and the bathroom has a line out the door.
  10. Remember – have fun! It can get chaotic and when you start to feel the chaos, take a break. Have a snack. Step outside. (Many of the museums have an outdoor spot where you can eat, and take in a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and/or the skyline.)

 

 

The Simple Joy of the Train at the Mall

We go to the mall frequently. We have two malls near us and they both offer different stores and restaurants. But, both malls are also really good about offering different activities that are available to members of the community (outdoor movies, musical performances, etc.).

Some of our girls’ favorite activities are riding the rides at the mall. Do you have a train ride at your mall? Our mall offers free rides on the train on Tuesdays for Toot-Toot-Tuesdays. (Although it’s not very expensive to ride any day of the week.)

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Our summer list thus far:

Love Your Library!

When I was a kid, going to the library was a weekly event during the summer. Not only did we check out books and movies, but it was a great escape from the heat. (At that time, we did not have central air conditioning in the house.)

Now, I take my girls to the library. We don’t necessarily need to go there to escape the heat but we do go to check out new books, borrow new puzzles or games, play on the iPad and update the girls’ summer reading challenge books.

We are usually pretty good about reading every day. But, reading can be pushed to the side when you get really busy. That is why I love summer reading programs so much. The program helps to keep us on track to ensure that we are keeping up with our reading even when we get busy with other activities.

This is the final week of the summer reading program and, although we have gone to the library a lot, we haven’t spent as much time in the library as we have during years past. The reason?

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Our library is going through a major renovation! Not all of the books and materials are easy to find because they have had to move due to the construction. Yes, it’s a bit annoying right now to not be able to find some things as easily as we have in the past and there isn’t as much space to play but, it’s mostly exciting because these renovations are going to make our library even better than it was.

 

Our list thus far:

 

Girls Day Downtown

There is nothing quite like a girls days with my little girls. They love being downtown and going on adventures, and now that they are older, it’s easier for me to do the adventures by myself. Diapers? Don’t need them. Snacks? Still needed but they can open them by themselves. And, although their legs get tired after walking all day, we no longer need to haul a stroller around town.

We recently had a girls day downtown doing two of their favorite things: eating and shopping at American Girl Place and shopping at Disney Store (this is a big deal mostly because there are so few locations of Disney Store, now…..there had been a location very near us but that closed a couple years ago).

Part of the fun of shopping at Disney Store is finding all of the buttons to press and then see what noises or actions those buttons make happen.

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And, of course, watching all of the cartoons and movie previews on the big screen.

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Now, going to American Girl Place and eating there requires a little more planning. You can, of course, just go to shop. However, there is a lot of do while you are there.

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Some things to remember:

  • Tea is fun but is served later in the afternoon so it may not a good option if you haven’t already eaten lunch. Your kids will be hangry. (Trust me. I know.) The lunch is very filling. If you’ve already eaten lunch before arriving, go ahead and do tea!
  • In addition to tea and lunch, there are also brunch and dinner options depending on the time of day that you are going.
  • If you only have a small group with you and you are already there to celebrate a birthday, go ahead and go in for the birthday package. It’s a set price, you get a full meal including a starter and your main course, you get a cake (we always go home with extra), and the kids get a goody bag. Definitely a good deal when you look at the the prices of the meals. (The basic package is $37 for kids and $27 for adults.)
  • If you are planning on taking a doll to the salon, book that as soon as you arrive. The salon can get very busy!
  • Plan on at least 45 minutes to just browse and shop. (Even if you aren’t planning on making any purchases.) The store is set up so that girls can play with almost every item that’s for sale. And, from experience, this takes awhile.

 

Our list thus far:

Hunting Trolls – A How To Guide

We recently went to Morton Arboretum to check out the new Trolls experience. This is a super fun experience for all families. The girls were so excited when we saw our first troll, the one overlooking the highway.

(We did eventually hike up to this one to see it up close.)

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It was a very hot day when we went, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. You are given a map to help find the trolls and that’s definitely useful. The map also details which parking areas to use to get closer to each one. The map itself is not as super exact as the trail maps that are located on each trail. However, it is very useful. And, there are signs throughout the trails (and on the roads) letting you know which way to go to hunt trolls.

When you find a troll, you will also find a clue written on a sign. Write down this clue on your map! (There is a section on your map for gathering clues.) It will help you to find the troll hideout.

The first four trolls are found starting at the parking lot and moving in a big circle. This circle is over 3 miles (I’m not sure the exact mileage but I asked a couple Arboretum employees and they each said at least 3 miles  – and then congratulated us for hiking those miles!). The trails are absolutely beautiful. And hiking the paths allows you to see some truly beautiful areas.

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But be warned, some of the trails are in some deep wooded areas and were very, very, very mosquitoe-y when we went. Very mosquitoe-y.

The trail leading up to this guy was especially buggy.

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The sculptures are all amazing. (And made from reclaimed wood or leftover wood from other projects.)

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Seriously cool. However, I would not really recommend doing what we did – walking the trails to find the first four trolls. It was hot. It’s a lot of walking for small legs. And the mosquitoes made it a bit of a miserable experience. If you are planning to hike it, please be a bit more prepared than we were. Please, please, please, please bring insect repellent. We were definitely covered in mosquito bites after this hike. Yuck.

Realistically, the hike wasn’t all bad. My girls are accustomed to doing long walks and/or hikes so the distance wasn’t terrible. And we had snacks and water bottles in my backpack. Much of the hike was very beautiful. I am glad that we were able to see things that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The views were gorgeous. And, many of the trails were areas of the Arboretum that we hadn’t explored before.

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But, after we made it back to the visitors center after finding the first four trolls, we ate lunch, cooled down at the Children’s Garden (one of our favorite spots in the entire Arboretum), and we stopped at the gift shop to make a very important purchase.

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Definitely necessary! (I beg you, do not attempt hiking the paths to find the trolls if you don’t have bug spray! Drive and park!)

Since we had already done plenty of hiking for the day, we drove to find the last two trolls. Honestly, if you are attempting this with younger kids (and you should, you really should. It’s such a fun, magical experience for kids) I recommend using the troll hunting map to find the closest parking spots and then walk just a bit to find the trolls. It’s a much more pleasant experience if it is super hot and/or super buggy.

After you have found the last two trolls, you can put the clues together to find the troll hideout! This was hands-down our favorite part of the experience. It’s such a fun spot to explore. The entire area is a very clever design that really sums up the entire troll hunting experience. So fun!

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The troll hunting will be at the Morton Arboretum through summer of 2019. I am looking forward to finding them again in the fall. I think it’s going to be even more beautiful to explore when the leaves are changing colors!

Have you checked out this experience yet? What did you think?

 

Going to the Morton Arboretum and going on a hike were both items on our summer bucket list!

The list thus far:

 

An Evening at the Children’s Museum

The girls love going to the Chicago Children’s Museum. There is a lot to do and it is designed perfectly for young children. I love going on Thursday evenings. Did you know that the Chicago Children’s Museum has free admission from 5:00pm-8:00pm every Thursday? Year round? It’s a great deal! But, be sure to get there as close to 5:00 as you can because this gets busy. Really busy. If you arrive too late, you might not be able to get in.

I recommend doing two things first before exploring the entire museum.

1) Get a ticket for the art studio. There are a set number of spaces open for a 5:30 and then a 6:30 studio time. During the studio time, an employee will lead you through different art projects. We’ve done sculptures, pillow characters, and water color painting during these sessions. The Art Studio space has moved from into a new space. It’s huge! In the new space, there are opportunities to do more than one activity. The last time we went, we did water color painting, and then the girls did a group activity, and explored with blocks. It’s a great experience. However, you have to have a ticket to get in. If you don’t get a ticket for the sessions, you can wait by the door when the session begins. Sometimes people don’t show and then there might be a wait list.

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2) Early on in the evening, check out the changing exhibit. Right now, this is a Boats exhibit. The exhibit in this space changes every few months and since it changes, it gets packed. The Boats exhibit gets especially busy because there are large, well, boats and they take up a lot of space in the room.  When it gets very busy, it feels a bit claustrophobic because there just isn’t a lot of space for everyone.

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After you’ve done those two activities, you can take your time to explore the rest of the museum. There is a lot to do! Since this is a museum for kids, please don’t feel that you have to do everything. There is a section devoted to fire safety and firefighters. It’s always a very popular section. There is a sign on a bench in this section that really applies to the museum experience as a whole.

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It’s ok if you don’t see the entire museum. If your child is perfectly happy in one section, they are learning as they play. Have a seat (or join in as they play) and enjoy watching as they learn through experience.

Keep in mind, there is no restaurant in the Children’s Museum. There are, however, spots for you to eat if you have brought your own snacks to enjoy. You can also check out any of the many restaurants on Navy Pier when get hungry. I recommend eating an early dinner before you arrive or having a few snacks during and then eating a late dinner (this is usually what we do).

Have you been to the Chicago Children’s Museum? What are your favorite activities to do at the museum?

 

Our list thus far: