Meal Planning

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 ūüėÄ 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?

God Bless Betty Crocker (circa 1961)

My poor husband has been really busy and up until now all the snow we’ve had was powder. The snow shovel we have is perfect for it, but then 2 weeks ago we got snow with freezing rain. Our driveway isn’t exactly covered in ice, but it isn’t exactly snow….When shoveling it comes up in slabs. The little fruits have had fun making forts out of the stuff, it stacks really well! Unfortunately our shovel isn’t up to par. Hubby did a great job of clearing a path to get the cars in and out more easily. Then this weekend our van starts acting up and hubby spent all weekend getting it fixed. Today I felt bad that he didn’t have time to go get a better shovel.

As I looked out over the driveway I thought how it would be nice to surprise my husband when he gets home with a cleaned off driveway. So early this morning I went out to the garage and got the snow shovel down. I soon realized how much it took for hubby to clear the path that he made. Now that path was again covered in more snow! Determined I went back into the garage and started perusing all the tools hanging up. Spying a landscaping tool, I grabbed it down. I thought “Self this looks like the perfect thing to clear the driveway with” So began the saga of clearing off the driveway.

It was going well, I re-cleared the path that my husband had made and was working on the other half of the driveway. Neighbors slowed down, some waved and some simply watched. I thought “Self don’t we just have the friendliest neighbors?”¬†These were the neighbors that had the right kind of shovel or hired someone with the right shovel to clear their driveways. Then the mailman handed me the mail “Getting tired of all this ice?” Why yes, yes I am…..I attacked the big pile of snow ice at the end of the driveway with a vengeance. In a mighty thrust, I drove the landscaping tool in to break up the snow ice. I easily tugged out the handle and noticed something was amiss as I went to drive it back in. “Self, did we just break husband’s landscaping tool?” Why yes, yes we did.

 

Broken edger :(

Broken edger ūüė¶

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Uh oh….perhaps I will just tell hubby that my anemia got the best of me and I gave up. I surely was tired and perhaps I could buy a new edger before he noticed. After all he won’t need it until spring…No better to face the music (think Beethoven Symphony number 9). So I thought to myself “Self we better go inside and clean the entire house so that it is spotless and it’s a good thing there are left over cupcakes (lemon chiffon from my mom’s Betty Crocker cookbook)for hubby surely has a sweet tooth.” So that is what we did.

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Then I prayed “God bless the 1961 Betty Crocker staff” Amen.

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Of Comfort and Love

Cheery flowers

Cheery flowers

Have you ever been sick or in a stressful situation? I think the majority of us would say yes. If you are one of the lucky few that hasn’t, then count yourself blessed! It is in times like those that your friends and loved ones can be such a comfort. From kind words, prayers, flowers like the beautiful ones above, food, or just plain being there. When difficult times come, the little things make you feel so loved and blessed.

Recently I have been through a difficult time, and I have never felt so loved! I was surrounded by prayers from my friends both near and far, I treasured them so much. I received several sweet cards and flowers. I had friends and family help with the children. This was so helpful allowing me time to rest and heal. I also received scrumptious food. While I wish that I had thought to take pictures of all that I had been given, the memories will be ones that I cherish. I might not remember exactly what was given, but I will remember the love by those that gave. Like a hug, spreading warmth encompassing your whole being. The physical effect might fade, but the feeling stays like a the memory of snuggling under a favorite blanket.

parmesan chicken, garlicky green beans, lemon dilly carrots, and a brioche roll

parmesan chicken, garlicky green beans, lemon dilly carrots, and a brioche roll

When I came home after surgery my throat felt scraped and raw. Simply taking a shower left me feeling like I ran a marathon. The warm comforting chicken noodle soup not only soothed my tender throat, but warmed me by the tender expression of friendship. The velvety potato soup and sweetly spiced rice pudding brightened my day. While I am not eager for the opportunity to return the favor (I don’t wish illness or sadness on anyone), when life eventually happens (as it so often does) I will eagerly return or pay forward the love. Hopefully when the next opportunity presents itself it will be for a blessing (like a new baby or adoption)!

a delish chocolate Bundt cake

a delish chocolate Bundt cake

Have you ever been delightfully spoiled as I have? Or perhaps you were the one to spoil someone else? What are your favorite memories? What are some of the meals that you like to share with people?

Growths and Pruning on the Vine

So many things have happened since I’ve last been on graftedvine. I decided to try another blog, break out of the rut that I had gotten myself into. Turns out a change of scenery didn’t help all that much. I¬† need to be true to myself, write what is relevant to me. Before I tried to write what I thought my readers would want to see, what would draw more people to the blog. Unfortunately that was a complete drain on me. So my goal this year is to share me, my life, my hopes, dreams, and failures. What you see is what you get. I hope that someone will enjoy it, but if not that’s ok. This blog is for me, not for others.

So some of the highlights from 2013: Baby fruit is walking, talking, and climbing. Nothing seems to be wrong with her spinal cord (praise God!) Eldest fruit completed the 1st grade, it was crunch time over the summer to make sure that we covered everything. Honestly I think the crunch was my fault, trying prove that I can do home school. hah! Middle fruit is growing like a weed and just adventurous as ever. We took our first family vacation in 5 years. We had a wonderful time in Charleston and Savannah! It was a great time of bonding and relaxing as a family, truly something we¬† needed. We found out that we were expecting a 4th little fruit! Christmas was a low-key event as the children all came down with a tummy bug. Despite the sickness they still enjoyed themselves. On the home school front we switched to My Father’s World. I wanted to make sure that I had everything covered this year, and not feel panicked when it was time for our evaluation.

So far in 2014: School is plugging along, I feel more relaxed about everything. Middle fruit just got some preschool workbooks to help keep him busy during school time. His favorite activity is cutting and pasting. Littlest fruit is getting several new teeth in all at once. This is a very exciting, but painful time for her. At 10 weeks pregnant we found out that our 4th fruit hadn’t developed properly and we were looking at a possible miscarriage. At 12 weeks, the miscarriage has started. Prayers are appreciated during this painful (both physical and emotional) time.

Garden: Our garden didn’t do so well this year for multiple reasons. I was having symptoms of anemia again, so I had no energy to put into the garden. It languished under my inattention and then came under attack by ground hogs.¬†Hubby and I did our best to chase these intruders off. I can still see us running out our back door weapon in hand (shovel, hoe, garden claw, etc) to¬†dispose of this foe. Unfortunately they were too savvy and quick, having multiple escape routes out of our yard.

Currently there are snowflakes swirling¬†about outside, while I lay huddle on my couch. I’m not in any physical shape to do much yet¬†as the miscarriage is still in progress. I flip through¬†seed catalogs daydreaming of warmer weather and making plans for the future. ¬†Trusting in my Gardner who brings new growth and prunes away the excess.

Making Progress~ Baby Step 1 complete!

So after starting Financial Peace University at home in the beginning of December we have met our $1000.00 emergency fund! Woot Woot! Time to cancel all those credit cards! Wait already done~ well except 1 card, hubby needs to call that one in. Either way, the cards are still gone.¬† It is sooooo¬†freeing to not even have the temptation anymore. Buh-Bye Mastercard….you will not be my master anymore!

On the debt front we are working on baby step #2 The Debt Snowball. I paid off 2 medical bills today (high-five!) and we’re working on the next one. We started off with a total of¬†7 creditors and $45k in debt. This is credit card, student loans, and medical. We are now down to 5 creditors ūüôā Yippee! The goal is to by the end of January be down to 4 and by tax return time be down to 3.

Littlest Fruit

However there is a slight glitch in the plan…..littlest fruit has to go see a neurologist¬†soon. She has been recently having a few issues caused by something that happened at birth. It is no big deal as far as her health goes. Everything will be fine and the problem should be treat-able. Now we are staring down another medical¬†bill that we didn’t know was coming. Her umbilical cord was too tight against her spine as she came out¬† which we were told could cause a pinched nerve. It doesn’t always happen and just to keep an eye on her. A few days before Christmas we started noticing a few of the signs that they told us to watch for. Unfortunately hubby’s medical insurance has a LARGE deductible that has to be met before they will pay even 80%. Given that he also just got a smallish raise, we have decided to have that amount put into our HSA¬†pre-tax to help cover any new medical expenses.

This is disheartening on so many levels. I want my baby to be healthy and whole. We were relieved as she was hitting developmental milestones without a problem and even a few early. I am so thankful that we caught this problem right away and that it shouldn’t (other than financially) be a problem to correct. It is also frustrating on another level to feel like we are getting somewhere with this debt only to have more future bills that are going to delay our goals. Don’t get me wrong I will pay ANYTHING to help my baby or any of my other kids. My top priority is their health, education, and happiness. I also recognize that this is also our fault for not putting more into our HSA¬†to begin with. My mentality is that in general we have a very healthy family so what was being put in the account would have been sufficient. Aside from the occasional ear infection, we don’t need to go to the doctor unless I’m pregnant. We have been praying asking the Lord to show us things we can sell or ways to make extra money so we can stay on track with our goals and ¬†be able to pay off the new medical bills is full when we receive them. Our God is faithful and I believe that since we are acting in accordance to His will, in regards to paying our debt, that He will provide a way! We would appreciate prayers in this as well!

Living Like No One Else

It’s that dreaded time of day again. Maybe you have put it off yesterday, but today you begrudgingly¬†put one foot in front of the other.¬† Why does this short distance seem to take so long? Finally you are there. It’s like ripping a band-aid off, right? Just get it over quickly. You open the door, close your eyes, and reach in. Grabbing a stack of envelopes, you slam the mailbox closed and hurry back inside.

One step done, but your stomach twists inside, hurriedly¬†you riffle through the mail and sigh in relief! There are no bills today. Then you gather your courage to login to your bank account. Your stomach drops and¬†tears start to well up. The balance is dangerously low and you don’t know how you are going to make it to the next payday. Flip on the radio to drown out all the tumulus thoughts screaming in your mind. Then an ad plays for Financial Peace University. What a crock, finances and peace? Uttered in the same sentence?

Yes my friends it can be done! You can be in control of your finances, tell your money where to go and what to do. Maybe you don’t have debt or don’t live paycheck to paycheck. Have you saved up for a rainy day? Have you invested in your future? Have you started leaving an inheritance to your children’s children? Do you know the joys of being able to bless someone else? Maybe you have all that, but you and your spouse aren’t on the same page, or nobody has ever taught you how God wants you to handle your money.

Financial Peace University is a Biblically based program about how to handle money. Did you know that God gave us a manual in the Bible on what to do with our money? Rules and guidelines? I’m sure I’m parroting everything that I have heard. I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey for quite sometime now. Currently I am getting ready to help lead the class at my home church. I am going through the program at home before leading the class. I assure you that it is NOT dull or boring, Dave is very funny and makes it interesting.

So why am I taking FPU? Well my husband and I grew up in different types of households, which affect our view on money. When one person is in charge of the money it is too restrictive, when the other is in charge it’s too free spirit. This has caused us to miss step in our finances. It isn’t one person’s fault, it’s both our faults. So we are taking the class to get on the same page, find balance, and re-direct our financial course. I am excited to start this journey and I hope you can join me on it.

Dave breaks down the key to financial success into what he calls 7 baby steps. The 1st step is to have a $1000 emergency fund. I am excited that as of tomorrow we will have that fully funded! Then on to step 2 debt snowball reduction.

Do you have financial peace? Do you have a budget and how does it work? What successes or trials have you faced?

While I am leading a FPU class I by no means am paid/compensated for this post. It is a program that I fully believe in and I am excited to share with you. If you would like more information please visit https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu

Looking Forward

Hello Friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here. Starting Coop for my daughter’s schooling, taking a trip to visit my dad, and just life in general. I have several recipes that I have been working on and I hope to get them on here soon. However today I want to address something that has been on my heart. Half of the country is celebrating the re-election of the President, while the other half is angry and perhaps even fearful. This country is changing, whether it’s for the best or not is in the eye of the beholder. While I am not going to make this political in the sense that I will say one man was a better choice than the other, but I want to address the concern many may have. To be honest with you I didn’t like Obama or Romney. I think it’s a sad time in America, if that’s the best we have to offer. Many felt they had to pick the lesser of 2 evils, some felt that was Romney, while others clearly felt that was Obama. Who was right and who was wrong doesn’t matter. This is for my friends that are concerned about the President’s stand for Israel (or lack thereof) and their civil liberties.

In my Bible Study we have been studying the story of Balaam and Balak in the book of Numbers. As many of you are aware God uses real people and real events to teach us about Him. Also Jesus says we can search the scriptures and find Him. This morning I felt clearly the Lord telling me to remember the story of Balaam.

The story begins in Numbers chapter 22. The Israelites are camped by the river Jordan and Balak King of Moab became terrified (v1-3). For those curious Moab is where the modern-day country of Jordan is located. So he summons Balaam, who seems to have some sort of spiritual authority/ power. Not necessarily power given by God.

“….(v6) For I [Balak] know that those you [Balaam] bless, are blessed, and those you curse are cursed.”

Here Balak makes clear that he is summoning Balaam because he wants Balaam to curse the Israelites, in hopes that Moab will not be destroyed. So Balaam spent the night in prayer over¬†Balak’s request¬†and¬†the God of Israel spoke to him that night.¬† God tells Balaam¬†not to curse Israel.¬†The next morning Balaam sends Balak’s messengers back to tell Balak he can’t curse them. However Balak isn’t going to take no for an answer and sends more messengers (vs. 8-17)So again Balaam spends the night in prayer. God again comes to Balaam and tells Balaam he may go, but he is to obey God.

Now on a side note, I have been taught that many Jewish historians believe that Balaam is the great great¬†nephew of Laban. That’s correct, his uncle is Leah and Rachel’s father. If you remember Rachel hid her father’s idols when leaving his home. Apparently these idols were objects that people could “divine” information from. Similar in the way people use magic 8 balls, or Ouiji boards. The objects were not little statues as one might think, and apparently spoke. The Jewish scholars believe that Rachel took them with her to keep her father from using them against her and her husband. So if these connects are true, then Balaam quite possibly would have knowledge of these practices and also through knowing of Rachel about the God of Israel.

So then the next morning Balaam set out on a donkey, but God was very angry. and set out an angel to stop him (v21-22). So why would God be mad a Balaam for going when He told Balaam to go? Remember¬†men look at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart. So God must have looked at Balaam’s heart and saw that Balaam intended to curse Israel after all.

As Balaam goes on his journey the donkey is able to see the Angel of the Lord with his sword drawn and turns from the angel 2 times. Both times Balaam beats the donkey for what he believes is non-compliance or disobedience. The 3rd time the donkey sees the angel, he can’t turn away from the angel as there is nowhere to¬†go. So the donkey lays down, once again trying to protect Balaam. Balaam becomes enraged, beating the donkey with his staff. The Lord opens the donkey’s mouth and the donkey asks why are you beating me? What have I done? (v28)

Now I don’t know about you but would have run¬†if a donkey started talking to me like the horse from the Mr. Ed show. Yet remember Balaam¬†is use to using objects (perhaps even animals) to divine¬†information. In verse 29¬†Balaam responds to the donkey “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

Then later in v31-33 God opens Balaam’s eyes to see the angel. The angel informs Balaam he was going to kill Balaam if it had not been for the donkey. Yet (remember this part) he would have spared the donkey. Balaam repents and continues to Balak telling Balak that he will not curse Israel.

Now some Christian scholars believe that in the Bible the donkey is often a type of shadowing of the church. Ex. Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem¬†is Jesus leading the church, heading to what will soon be His crucifixion¬†making the redemption of the church possible. On a whim I decided to look up what the name Balaam means: foreigner or one without people. Next I re-read the story with these to things in mind and found something surprising. So let’s look at the story again and put in the type shadowing.

The foreigner, one without a people, is leading (ruling over)¬†the church. In his heart he has decided to curse Israel on behalf of Moab (Jordan) despite what God has told him. God sends an angel to destroy the foreigner, yet the church sees the angel and makes¬†the foreigner turn¬†unwillingly from his present course. Both times the foreigner beats the church for what he sees as noncompliance with his demands. Finally a 3rd time the church sees the angel of God and can not turn away. So the church lays down (and in essence digs in its heels). Finally the foreigner begins to beat the church with his rule or law (staff). Yet God finally opens the foreigner’s eyes to see the angel that would have destroyed him, but spared the church. The foreigner repents (v34) and says to Jordan I can’t curse Israel.

Take of it what you will. But God admonished Israel (and we dear ones are grafted into the line of Israel) to remember Balaam and that journey. What I see is that God has in this story and in many others clearly states whatever happens, Israel will not be cursed. So fear not for Israel, however we are to be on the lookout and turn just as the donkey did. Pray for our leaders so that their eyes may be opened as well, so that they do not curse Israel. That doesn’t mean that our leaders will necessarily become saved. If you continue the story of Balaam, you will see that Balaam tries to get Israel to defile itself. Yet remember what the angel of the Lord said. He would have destroyed Balaam, but he would have spared the donkey (church). So no matter what happens, we may be beaten down, but God will not have us destroyed and He will not allow Israel to be cursed.

Maranatha!

$$$ saving tips

Ok, so by now there are about a million posts out in the blogosphere about how to save money at the grocery store.

Yeah. This is not one of those posts…

If you aren’t open to thinking outside the concrete maze. Or the card board box.

This post probably isn’t for you….then again, maybe it should be.

By now you’re extreme couponed to death. I know the grocery stores are!

Ha! My local grocery store is now putting limitations on coupons.

I guess they got tired of owing people money! ROFL

And it’s not new news that you can purchase meat on clearance that needs to be frozen,

same with veggies and fruit. Yes, even those bananas that are turning brown.

Throw them in the freezer (peeled, wrapped, and then sealed in your vehicle of choice)

Then when you want a smoothie, throw that bad boy in there! No need for ice or really

sweetener for that matter. It defies logic, but for some reason bananas are sweeter when frozen!

Any who, back to what I was saying…. this is not one of those posts.

Here’s my tips:

1. Become a farmer. Uh, well maybe not really. But I venture to guess that most people have a window that gets some¬†sunlight. A few small pots and some seeds can get you started. Oh and don’t forget the water! Depending on space and sunlight there are a variety of things that you can grow. If you don’t have a ton of space, but are very excited to get started check¬†out pinterest. There are a lot of great ideas to maximize space to grow food indoors. ¬†Say what? You’ve never grown anything before? Not even in elementary school for earth day? Oh well. Start with something simple, say a herb or even lettuce. I highly recommend butter crunch for lettuce, oregano, or thyme for herbs. I’ve killed a lot of stuff over the years and those seemed to have held up well despite the blunders that I have made while learning. This coming from the girl who grew up in a family where a vegetable garden was the norm. If I wanted a snack, I went out back for berries, or to the front yard for apples. Yeah. I still killed stuff despite¬†my “experience”. Enough about me, back to you.¬†The nice things about the butter crunch lettuce is that if you leave say an inch on the plant when you cut it, it’ll grow more. But keep up on cutting it so that it doesn’t go to seed.

What does go to seed mean? Basically the plants at the end of its life cycle and is going to “reproduce” by providing more seeds. It’ll send up a tall(ish) shoot (on lettuce) and flower. The flower thing is the same for herbs btw. You don’t want to eat it once it has done that, tastes very bitter. blech! Even if you can’t use it right away, don’t throw it away! Give it to someone else ūüôā Which leads to…

2.¬† Be a good steward. All right, I’ve got the first point down pat. Don’t believe me? Scroll back up! That pic at the beginning was all produce that I grew! But back to reality. I may grow all that stuff, but I’m not necessarily a good steward of it. So according to some article on Yahoo!, yes Yahoo! Americans are terrible about throwing their food away. This is where I. AM. GUILTY! Sigh. Ever since reading that article I have been *trying* to do better. Hold on a minute…….

Sorry ’bout that! Thinking about that article reminded me I picked a bunch of basil today to make/ freeze pesto. Had to take care of it before I needed to toss it ūüėČ

Try to be very deliberate about what you purchase or grow. Make sure it is something that you will eat quickly or stores well. Found the deal of the century on onions? Chop those suckers up (don’t cry on me now!) and portion it out to freeze. Veggies looking like they are almost on their last leg? Don’t look at me all crazy. ¬†You know what I mean, those ones that were hiding in the back of the fridge that you forgot about ūüėČ Don’t throw them out, make a soup! Bought chicken breasts in a pack of 5 but there are only 4 in your family? Cook them all and immediately put up the largest. Sweet mother of pearl, I have been able to take 1¬† large chicken breast¬† and turned it into shredded chicken tacos for my entire family too many times to count! Actually it’s one of my family’s favorite meals ūüôā

3. Prep not plan. I know the big push is to meal plan. Sorry not going to happen. At least not for me, I’m not a meal planner. I may be a sahm, but I’ve got 3 little kids and I home school the oldest. Anyone that has had children knows stuff comes up. It’s getting close to dinner time, I’ve started getting things together. Then WAAAAHHHHH! Little fruit decides it’s milky time, and she likes milky time. It takes her a while, not because she’s a slow eater, but because she eats so much! Or middle fruit didn’t tell me he needed to go potty, so now he needs to be changed. Big fruit¬†decides to¬†pick a fight with middle fruit. Screaming and yelling then ensues. I have to put down a now crying little fruit (who wants her milky back) to stop the argument between big and middle fruit, before there is blood…er juice.

You get the picture, life happens. You just gotta learn to roll with it. In a matter of minutes or hours your meal plan goes flying out the window because something happens. Keeping a well stocked pantry and freezer can help with that. Buying items that use frequently in bulk can help with this. Some other good ideas is to have pre-cooked rice or beans in your freezer. It’s much cheaper for you to buy these dry and cook them yourself, then freeze. Although if you are not one of those people, you by all means can buy the rice that way in the freezer section and can beans. Keeping items on hand that you can quickly throw together with the few spare minutes you have is key. Go through the recipes you have under your belt. Which ones do you make well? Which ones take the least amount of time? Make sure you keep the ingredients always in stock at your home. Try to do any prep work that might save you time, i.e. frozen chopped onions, cooked rice, etc.

The last and quickest way to keep from picking up the phone for pizza, is to make sure you have completely cooked meals in your freezer. Making chili this week? Double the recipe and freeze it. Grilling chicken? Well you get the idea. In a pinch I have been known to fall back on scrambled eggs, pb&j, or pasta. I try not to make a habit of it, so when it does happen I refuse to feel guilty.

4. Get out of that concrete maze! Farmer’s markets are a great resource. 1st of all, the longer a fruit or veggie sits before it gets to you, the less nutrition and flavor it has. Local farmer’s market (not all but most) consist of produce that was grown near you. Most of which was probably picked that morning or the day before. You may discover you have a love of carrots. I’ll never forget the day I served big fruit a raw carrot from our garden. She thought it was cooked because she hates raw carrots. This carrot was good! So it had to be cooked! It took a while to convince her that it wasn’t. Her question…why don’t all carrots taste like this? Good point! There’s the obvious: different varieties of carrots. However nothing beats a carrot just pulled from the ground or a tomato just plucked from the vine. The flavor is incredible! My hubby hates apples bought from the store. He claims that they must suck all the flavor out of them before they hit the store. Why and how the stores does this he doesn’t know, but he wants his apples from the local orchards. Which means eating seasonally, that also helps lower costs. Do you realize that the tomato you bought in Decemeber doesn’t grow here in winter? It had to be shipped (typically) from another country. Before it was ready to be picked? Also that because it isn’t local that is why it is so expensive?

Another benefit of farmer’s markets? The people and the wealth of knowledge. Don’t know what to do with those little ity¬†bity¬†green cabbage like things called brussel sprouts? Chances are the farmer can give you several good recipes to try. After all they more than likely eat what they grow! See an unusual fruit or veggie? Farmers love to share that kind of thing. If it’s something that can be eaten raw, they may even give you a small one to try right there. At the end of the day markets will start marking down their produce. Typically stuff that they don’t think will sell well the next day. You can save a lot of money this way! Now please note not all markets allow their sellers to do this, why I don’t know. So try to contact whomever is in charge of organizing it before you go. I’d hate to see you get your hopes up for nothing.

5. Go directly to the source. So by now you are (hopefully) getting excited about checking out your local farmers market. Your taste buds are tingling in anticipation that they will finally know what foods¬†are supposed to taste like! How about taking it a step further….go to the source. If you have a deep freezer, or have room for one (space and budget wise) you may want to consider this. While your mouth is doing a happy dance over all the new produce, there is another world waiting for it to discover! Do your research, get to know the farmers. Some of them also offer meat and dairy products. While I haven’t found the dairy products cheaper, the meat can be. This is where your deep freeze comes in handy.

Wow! A lot of beef huh? To be precise it’s a 1/4 of a cow. Which will keep my family well fed for the year. How much does it cost? Well there are a lot of factors that figure into that. Location, conventional vs. organic, grass-fed vs. grain fed etc. This beef is organic and grass-fed. So it’ll be more $$ but it still beats buying organic grass-fed from the store. Where I live 1/lb of this ground beef would go for $6. I got every cut for $4/lb, every cut (yes that includes sirloin, new york strip, and filet mignon). So with that kind of savings on organic grass-fed you can imagine the kind of savings for conventional, since it’s always costs less. 1/4 cow too much of an investment? Find someone to go in with you to split the beef and the cost. ¬†Just please, please research the source if you decide to go this route.

Don’t know where to start? Check out www.localharvest.org

More tips coming soon! What are some ways that your family tries to save?

Newest Fruit on the Vine

 

Our little girl fruit was born¬†a few weeks ago at a whopping 9 lbs 7 ozs!¬†She is by far the largest¬†fruit that we’ve ever had ūüôā The last few weeks have been rough, but it is starting to get better. First an infection, followed by thrush, of course round the clock feedings, and watching my two other¬†children. We are¬†cloth diapering and line drying our clothes now in an effort to cut down on expenses. Babies really aren’t that expensive, but the hospital bills are! So as you can imagine I’ve been very busy.

I hope to¬†try to find time to do some more posts in the near future. Right now I am not experimenting with recipes at all. I am¬†using my¬†frozen meals (that I made before baby came) to make my life a little more simpler. However I am having to adapt¬†them or make a separate meal for my self, as I am on a modified candida diet to help¬†get rid of the thrush. So my posts¬†that I will be doing is to review¬†new products that I am using and which of my frozen meals¬†held up. Hopefully in the next month or so I can get back to making new recipes ūüôā I hope that you¬†will be patient with me over the next few months and I apologize¬†for the lack of new recipes.

Mimi’s Garden

 

These are some pictures of my mom’s flowers that have been blooming around here. While she is no longer with us, I still wanted to remember her and give her a small mother’s day tribute. I am glad that my daughter had the chance to know her for a short period of time, but my son and LO on the way will never know their Mimi this side of the earth. I am blessed to be living in her old home, surrounded by her memories to share with them. These are just a few of “Mimi’s touches” that can be found in our yard.