My house is a castle, kept perfectly clean. Meals are always on time and come out looking like a magazine spread (cooked from scratch of course). My children are dressed to the nines, playing quietly on the living room floor. I am the mistress of my castle, everything is just as it should be. Then I reach up, adjust my crown, and then I’m snapped back into reality. It’s almost 2:30, I’ve been so busy with homeschool and playing I’ve lost track of time. I’m just now putting my lamb chop in the oven to bake for lunch. My 4 yr old daughter is sitting at the table eating her mac n’ cheese (yes organic) and my 6 month old son is screaming in the living room. I hurry and get the lamb in the oven, go scoop my son into my lap and try to distract him with blocks. He makes it very clear that the only he is interested in is nursing. So I settle onto the couch, prop up my feet, and turn on Little Men. Ahh…a few minutes to relax, until my 4 yr old spills food all over her new outfit. Oh well, I can dream. I love my life and appreciate all the blessings God has given me. Although I strive to be Christ-like I am no where near perfection. In fact I hate the terms super mom and cookie-cutter mom. I am just pushing through life the same as you. I hope that this blog will inspire you, and I would love your input as well. Happy reading!
Over the weekend I asked on my personal Facebook page for ideas for a new hobby. I got a great response with many different ideas and I can’t wait to start trying them! I started playing around with a tool that I use for my social media posts and graphics. Next thing I knew I was hooked! What else could I make? I decided to share a few here by giving them away. I hope you enjoy them!
Fall Gift Tag (Right click image and choose view image to access):
Meal planner for the month of October: October-2
October Calendar: Octobercalendar
“Thankful Gift” Tag(Right click image and choose view image to access) :
“A Gift for You” tag & “Thankful” gift tag: Thankful2
About 2 years ago, Mr. Branch and I discovered the importance of setting time aside just for us as a couple. Finding or making the time isn’t always easy and consistency is definitely our downfall. However, we have noticed the more we make it a priority the more connected and happy we are. The more connected and happy we are, the less likely we are to get bogged down in everyday life, and the more our love grows. We aren’t always able to hire a sitter to go out, so with 5 fruits, we have to get creative. Mr. Branch and I have decided to challenge ourselves to having a date night every week, even if that means a date night in. I will share some of our ideas and let you know how they turned out.
This weekend at the last minute, we hired a sitter to go out. After googling and searching the local websites to see what was going on, we discovered there wasn’t much to do. The time we picked also meant that there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of daylight left for the date. We did have lovely fall weather, with a nice crisp breeze, so we enjoyed a restaurant with a patio and pretty lights. Had I realized how big the entrees were, I think we would have split the chicken marsala. Mr. Branch enjoyed a local IPA while I sipped on the house reserve wine. We enjoyed talking about things outside our children, like a trip we are hoping to take for just the two of us in the near future.
After dinner, we took a short drive to a local bookstore and perused different titles and shared what we found. I have been looking for some new hobbies to give myself a creative outlet. Mr. Branch looked with me in the arts and craft section making suggestions. We giggled over silly books and topics, and then purchased a few selections.
Finally we ended up where we said we wouldn’t. Target. Seriously I don’t know what it is about this store. I needed to pick up an item on my list and Target has it for the lowest price, so we decided to get the rest of our groceries here as well. Of course the first thing you see if the dollar section. We got silly and tried a few of the costumes on, then decided to see what was in the Halloween costume section. Mr. Branch was a good sport and posed for a picture with a lego head on. I spotted some books (hey we just looked at books!) that the kids enjoy. So I read them with all the voices to Mr. Branch as he hadn’t heard the stories yet. We also picked up some green apples to put in the pumpkin basket I chose from the dollar section.
When we arrived to a quiet home, as the sitter had gotten all the children to bed. So we snuggled on the couch with a few snacks and watched Oceans 8 on Amazon. We had a fun, relaxing evening. What do you like to do on date nights?
So I was hoping to be able to do a post of what my shopping trip was like and what we ate this past week. That is just not going to happen. The fruits have been sick, so Mr Vine and I have been dashing to the store when we can, but not any real formal shopping trip.
I thought that I would share some of the ideas that we typically use.
Breakfast: Oatmeal (made fresh that morning or overnight in the crock pot), homemade granola (lightly doused with milk or a dollop of yogurt), pancakes, dutch oven pancakes, coffee cake, toast, or french toast (on rare occasions).
Lunches: Leftovers, soups, pasta, loaded baked potatoes, pbj, hummus sandwiches, quesadillas w/ re-fried beans and rice, grilled cheese, homemade pizzas, breakfast for lunch, hot dogs, dal and rice, and lunch meat sandwiches (rare occasions)
Dinners: pasta, tacos, fajitas, chili. chicken and rice casserole, bean/ sausage/ spinach soup, lasagna soup, taco soup, white chicken chili, 2 meal roast (split into 2 meals 1 pot roast other bbq beef, or Asian beef w/ noodles), chicken Caesar salad sandwiches, Egyptian Lentil Soup, Sausage w/ peppers & onions (served w/ rice or couscous),Swedish meatballs, risotto, gnocchi, philly steak sandwiches, beef stroganoff, and blts.
Snacks: fruit, yogurt, veggies & dip, cheese, bread w/ butter, popcorn, and homemade cookies
I’m going to be up front and honest, I hate meal planning. It is so laborious. I am not the type A person, I can be to some extent, but I love to have the freedom to go with the flow. The freedom to give in to the whims of my cravings. When those cravings come a knockin’ it’s hard for me to ignore. This has been one of those weeks, nothing has sounded good. I’ve slugged my way through the week, and to be honest I have slipped up big time this week. Oh well, today is a new day to start fresh.
So when I do meal plan I give myself grace, I think that is where I failed this week. Having a few ready to go meals (preferably homemade, so much cheaper!) stocked in the freezer or pantry help when the day gets away from you or your original meal no longer sounds tasty.
I use a method which is referred to as reverse meal planning, when I am not on a kick to clean out the freezer and pantry (more on how I adjust for that). I use to meal plan by picking all these fabulous meals, that would call for gobs of ingredients I didn’t have on hand (thanks pinterest!). I would dutifully write out my grocery list, filled with items that I would only use a fraction of (spices, exotic veggies/ fruits anyone?) Then after a week or so these moldy odds and ends would get pitched or the spices shoved in the back of my spice drawer to be forgotten. My grocery bill was crazy! So I tried a new plan.
On Sundays I get the circulars of the local grocery stores delivered (free!) to my house. After church I take a few quiet minutes to peruse them. I jot down all the food that we like that is on sale and at what store. Now for those of you that hate shopping at multiple stores, I don’t blame you, but sometimes (when your budget is tight) you have to. Thankfully I can typically go to 1 store and get everything I need. Once I find the sales, I look at what I currently have to see what I can make based on what I have and what is on sale. I make a meal plan based on this. I do take to pinterest if my creative juices get clogged (I guess you redeemed yourself here pinterest!)
That is it! So basically unless an item is an absolute staple (i.e. milk, butter, eggs, etc.) I will not purchase it if it isn’t on sale. For example: I hardly ever pay more than $1.99/ lb for chicken breasts. In fact I know that if I am patient enough I can get chicken breasts at my favorite store for $1.77/lb. When they run that sale, I stock up baby! I love grassfed beef, but it is so EXPENSIVE! Again at the same store they will run it on sale for $3.99/lb (everywhere else sells it for $6/lb), I even was able to get it for $2.99/lb once 😀 I won’t pay more than $2.99/lb for roasts (beef), but I live for when they put it on sale for $1.99/lb.
This is where knowing what items typically cost when not on sale, and what the typical sales are, comes in handy. Again I am not a type A personality. I love lists, lists do not love me. In fact they typically run away from me….er get lost…or thrown away or destroyed by the fruits. So if you are like me and you are blessed to have a smart phone, take a picture. Sounds nerdy I know, but it works. Someone recently asked me if the organic maple syrup at Costco was cheaper than the regular maple syrup at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t know! I hadn’t looked at their maple syrup in a while, in fact I hadn’t been to Trader Joe’s in a few months. As fate would have it I need to go to TJ’s a few weeks later. I took a picture of the maple syrup with the price listed below. Then on my next trip to Costco I compared the price. Costco was $2-$3 cheaper! I was so glad that I took that picture because I had run out of maple syrup that week.
So what do you do when your money is really strained or you just need to come up with a little extra cash? Cut the groceries of course! Typically you have to cut money some where (or make more income) and groceries (when you are already on a bare necessities budget) is what gets cut. I sat down and meal planned 4 weeks worth of meals based on my freezer and pantry, then allotted myself $50/ week. It is similar to the above, but the emphasis is on using what you have 1st before buying the sale items. Typically I have my meal plan already written out based on what I have before I even look at the sales. So my grocery list is mainly staples (milk, eggs, etc.) and then only fruits and veggies that are on a great sale. As a sample here is what I purchased this past week:
12 lbs chicken breasts ($1.77/lb!), asparagus, peppers, lettuce, peaches, 2 pineapples, bananas, onions, 3 boxes of pasta, 1 rotisserie chicken, soda (yeah bad habit that needs kicking), and baby food.
My total was $60 for this week, I allowed myself to go over because of the sale on chicken breasts. I only had enough food to get through the 4 weeks on $50, but I really needed to get through 6 weeks. Purchasing the extra chicken will allow me to do that, thankfully my wallet also had the room to allow it. Wait! No milk? I have cut down on the amount of milk that I serve my children per day, so now I can make a gallon of milk last longer than a week. They each get one small cup a day and we might have to skip a day of milk, but they will live! They still get plenty of calcium from cheese and yogurt that they eat throughout the week. Again cheese is bought in bulk from Costco, so I only need to purchase 1x a month and the yogurt is every other week deal.
I think that about covers it! How do you do grocery budgeting? Do you meal plan?
Life has a way of just flying by. The last time I was on here, I had a miscarriage of our beautiful baby. I miss that child with a fierceness! There were many health issues as a result of the loss that had to be dealt with. I am so thankful for my health physicians. I was on the road to recovering and a few months later, we were blessed with the news that we were expecting again. This newest fruit has been a blessing and a joy! Our family has been growing by leaps and bounds. We have eldest fruit, the 2 littles in the middle, and baby fruit.
We didn’t put in a garden this year, much to my dismay. The groundhogs came back in the spring and it just wasn’t worth it to see all of our hard work eaten again. We enjoyed visiting u-picks this spring. I took the product of our labors and made a lot of jam….and I mean a lot of jam! Pretty soon it will be apple picking time and I will be able to put those up as well.
Eldest fruit has completed the 3rd grade. I am so proud of her and all of her accomplishments! The eldest male fruit (aka one of the littles in the middle) will be joining us this fall for kindergarten. I am looking forward to this year’s school, it looks to be a fun one! We have switched to Tapestry of Grace and I am excited to see how it fits our family. On the homeschool front I have decided to help start up a new homeschool community. I am in charge of communications via facebook, pinterest, and instagram. God has great things in store for this community! We have been blessed by the number of families that He has drawn to us.
On the debt front, we have hit our $6000 medical deductible this year. It is almost completely paid off! The insurance is now kicking in and paying 80% of our medical bills (yeah, kinda stinky). August and September are our busy months, debt reduction has been put off in favor of school supplies, school books, and fall clothes. We have decided to take a vacation this year and trying to keep it as frugal as possible. In order to come up with the money that we need, I have drastically reduced our grocery budget. I haven’t been able to stick to it 100% I went over by $4 the first week and $10 this week, mainly due to poor planning on my part. So what put us over? I decided to take the children out on an excursion, but I didn’t have any snacks ($4) and baby fruit has gone through a growth spurt, putting a run on baby food ($10). Thank goodness for Big Lots! I was able to go there and stock up on organic baby food ($.30-$.50 each). The only caution I have about buying food from there is to make sure to check the expiration date and plan accordingly. So by now you may be wondering what our grocery budget is.
Yes that is right, I am attempting to feed my family of 6 on a budget of $50 a week. It has been more like $60 though. I am going to try to plan better so that I can get my bill consistently down to $50. No I won’t be able to afford everything organic, but I will do my best and I will feed my family real foods.
So that is what has been going on around the vine. What have you been up to?
Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His wrath, and terrify them in His fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kinds, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalms 2:1-12 ESV
How do we kiss the Son? I was blessed to be taught by a man on great faith, that we kiss the Son when by declaring His Words to him in prayer.
Let us today kiss You with Your holy words. Many of our brothers and sisters are being killed for their faith. Just as You proclaimed Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all the nations for my name’s sake (Matthew 24:9 ESV) Thank You that You are our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Thank You for Your Word says He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.: Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are thrustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:4-7 ESV)
Lord we wait for that day when all these temperal things shall pass away and You make all things new. You are our God and we are Your children. Thank You that You give us water from the spring of life, without payment. It is only through Your Grace, not anything we have done or can do. Thank You for being the beginning and the end. For what You start You finish and we can trust in You, for whatever You say, You do. Send Your Comforter to our brothers and sisters. Remind them of Your Word, of Your promises.
Soften the hearts of those that rage and plot in vain….against You and Your anointed (Psalms 2:1-2 ESV). Help us to Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5 :44 ESV) instead of pursuing anger, bitterness, or revenge. For Your Word says Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vegeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; of he is thirsty, give him someething to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good. (Romans 12:17-21 ESV) Lord this command goes contrary to our flesh, our human nature. Only through Your power can we do this. Thank You that You are the one who stands as Judge, for You are holy, worthy, and true!
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalms 1:1-6 ESV
Thank You for planting us by streams of Living Water. Let the life that Living Water brings us, come to fruit in our lives. Bless our brothers and sisters that are being persecuted for Your Name sake! Bring about the fruit of Your Peace and Love in their lives. Bless them and keep them Abba God! Let Your Word be sustenance to their souls. Thank You that through Your Son we are made righteous, for there is no other way. Lord, as Your Word says let the wicked be as like the chaff that wind drives away. Drive the wicked away from Your loved ones! Just as Saul on the road to Damascus, let these wicked oppressors be blinded by Your light. May they know You as Saul did and change them as much as You changed Saul to Paul. If you can change this zealous killer into a man after You, so You can do the same to those that now persecute Your children.