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 😀 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?

The Concrete Serengeti ~ Part 1 on Frugal Mealtimes

Today at graftedvine we are going to observe the lioness as she stalks her prey.

As of late there has been a scarcity of food, and increase in hunting parties, crowding into her domain. She has to always be on guard.

Alas she see her prey! She stealthily moves on  padded feet careful not to draw attention to herself.

Then she waits for that opportune moment, settling her weight on her haunches. Muscles tightly coiled ready to spring into action.

That moment comes and in her full glory she pounces on her prey!

Satisfaction wells up within her as she carries her prize back to her cubs.

So does that happen in real life? Sure it does! The main thing missing is the lioness doesn’t hunt alone.  If you’ve ever watched a hunt, they always travel in a pack! Right now the headlines are trumpeting the drought that is happening in the US. The economists are saying that we are going to start feeling the effects of the drought in our wallets and our bellies. Have you started to feel that yet? Today we venture into the concrete Serengeti to try to figure out ways to effectively save money, while getting the most nutrition for our $$.

1. Coupons– well duh! Grafted you are a little behind the times here, super couponing has been the rage for a few years now! Or then I get the other side….well we only eat organic foods. Did you know that most organic companies have coupons on their website? Check it out! I love getting coupons from Applegate and other brands. The down side to couponing is that you can actually spend more with coupons if you aren’t careful….whoa…whoa! Wait a minute here! Back up the crazy train! Spend more using coupons? The whole point of coupons is to SAVE money. Well stop for a minute and look at that coupon that you just clipped for the razzle dazzle cereal. If you didn’t have the coupon would you have bought that cereal anyway? No? With the coupon is it cheaper than what you would normally buy?  I think as consumers, especially here in the states we are sometimes  make that a lot of times sucked in by the idea of getting a deal that we don’t stop to really think about the big picture.

2. Shop only the perimeter of the store.  You’ve probably heard this before, but the food on the perimeter of the store is a lot healthier for you. All that stuff in the middle? Cheap convenience food, which when you get right down to it, is not cheap. Say what?!?! You heard me, it isn’t cheap! If the vast majority of the world is able to live with out that food, and live healthy lives, can’t you? Yes it is yummy, but most of that stuff is full of non food items. Powdered coffee creamer…silicone with your coffee anyone? Um, no thanks I’ll pass! Most of the stuff you find in boxes or cans are filled with fillers. When you take out all those fillers and preservatives, there isn’t much left. So the whole crux of the matter is you are actually spending more money, while being led to believe that you are spending less. True there are exemptions to the rule i.e. rice, beans, canned tomatoes, rolled oats, nut butters. No I am not listing broth, cereal, or other canned veggies.

3. Manager Specials. So how else can you save by shopping the perimeter of the store? Most supermarkets have mark down bins/ shelves on the outside. Apples for $0.29/ lb? $0.99 for 4 LARGE russet potatoes, etc. Typically there is nothing wrong with these items. I spoke to the produce manager at my store, he said that there may be 1 bad or bruised apple in the bag. They can’t sell it that way, so they remove the 1 apple, repackage it and sell the rest for $0.99. So that bag of apples that way $1.99+ is now half price because of 1 apple. I’ve gotten bags of clementines for more than half off because the skin was slightly mottled. The fruit was still perfectly good, it just didn’t LOOK pretty. Of course you have the meat markdowns and markdowns in the milk and cheese section. Did you know that you can freeze all that stuff? Ask your manager when they do the markdowns, they’ll be happy to tell you what day they mark stuff down. After all they’d rather sell the stuff at a lower price than to have to chuck it, making no money at all. It economics people….supply and demand! I personally love the scratch and dent section at our local grocery store!

4. Bulk buy, but only when it makes sense! So you were hunting for those elusive mark downs that I was telling you about. Uh huh! Caught you, you savvy shopper you! On your hunt you found several bags of onions marked down to an irresistible price. What’s a savvy shopper to do? You know that you can’t use them all up right away, so what’s a girl to do? Well if you have freezer space available that is one option, depending on the produce you could can the item. Or even do it the old fashion way and ferment it. When in doubt it is better to pass up any items that you can’t reasonably use before they go bad. After all, it wasn’t much of a deal if you have to throw the food away.

Up next….getting cultured! Great DIY foods that you can make at home and save $!

$$$ 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 🙂 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 😉

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 😉 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 🙂

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?

Asian Noodle Soup

So my church is currently on the Daniel fast and everyone is trying to find recipes. I don’t typically do meatless meals as my body personally does not function well on that type of diet. I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out recipes that I can share. I don’t like recommending things that I have never tried, so now my goal is to adapt recipes that taste great to fit the need. Here is a take on my Asian Noodle soup that is Daniel Fast friendly 🙂 As you can tell the only changes that have been made is substituting the chicken stock for vegetable and omitting the chicken all together. You still get the great flavor, just slightly different 🙂

Ingredients:
1 Tb sesame oil
1 medium onion,diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
6 c vegetable broth
1/2 c hoisin sauce
1/4 c soy sauce
crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
16 oz frozen bag of asian vegetable medley (defrosted)
8 oz soba noodles (make sure they are made of wheat or rice)
3 green onions sliced thinly both white and green parts.

1. In a stock pot heat oil over medium heat. Add onion garlic cloves, cook until soft. About 5 minutes, stir as necessary.

2. Add the following : broth, hoisin, soy sauce, pinch of pepper flakes, coriander, mustard, ginger, pepper, and salt. Allow this to heat to a simmer.

3. Add vegetables, cooking until soft. About 8-10 minutes.

4. Allow soup to simmer until you are about 15 minutes away from serving. Bring soup to a boil, then add the soba noodles and cook for about 6-8 minutes or according to the package’s directions. Throw in green onions a few minutes before the noodles are cooked through.

* Salt and pepper can be adjusted to taste. If you desire more heat, just add more red pepper flakes. Enjoy!

** If you are allowing fish on the diet, you can add 1-2 TBSP of fish sauce to the recipe for more flavor, just taste before adding in the tsp of salt so that the soup doesn’t become too salty!

Reflections of 2011, Goals for 2012

Looking back at this past year we have made some great strides. We doubled the size of our garden, and the produce picked at the peak of freshness has been carrying us through the fall and winter months. We purchased a large deep freeze for this purpose and to put our purchase of a 1/8 of a cow to good use. We have started purging items we don’t need, selling them to make some extra $$ and organizing the rest. We were blessed to be able to purchase a mini van in great condition for cash, so no car payments!! Praise God!

Andrew learned to walk, climb, and get into almost everything! His vocabulary is expanding and he is speaking in short sentences. Vivian is now reading and has completed level 1 of Hooked on Phonics. She also can count to 100, count by 10’s, and do basic addition. Her handwriting is improving tremendously, and is using her memory verses as copy work. I am so proud of both my children, growing and learning new things! I feel so blessed that I am able to stay at home and watch them grow in knowledge and stature.

Dan started working at a new job around the time Andrew turned one. I feel so happy and blessed that my husband is working in a new job that he loves. He works fairly regular hours compared to his previous job, and the new one has a lot less stress involved. If any one has been in that situation where you or your spouse were in a stressful job situation you understand how much of a relief it is to get out from under it! God has been faithful every step of the way and we are trusting in Him. We aren’t perfect and still stress out about things, but I hope at least that we are getting better. There are still times that we look back where we didn’t see Him in the situation, but once we were through His hands were visible all over it. Thank You Lord for being so good, faithful, and true!!!

Of course the biggest change that happened this year, and will carry over to the next, is we are expecting a new baby! I am currently 17.5 weeks as I am typing this 🙂 I have been starting to feel kicks and twists a little more frequently as the days go by. It is such a blessing to feel the new little one moving inside me! The recent urge to purge and organize has started with this little one. It seems that I go through this with every baby I have sometime in the 2nd trimester. That way I can focus on cleaning, cooking, and last-minute details in the 3rd. This week we have been organizing and packing up the kids old clothes.

We have purged our least favorite outfits, and ones that are stained. The worst will be turned into rags, and then we will donate or sell the rest. Since Vivian is so much older than this baby we are only saving our favorites and classic style clothes. If this baby turns out to be a girl, a lot of the clothes will not be in style when she is old enough to wear them. In my defense we do try to buy mainly classic clothes for this very purpose, but I won’t deny her a few trendy items. Thankfully with boys their clothes don’t go out of style very quickly so we have saved the majority of those. We are very blessed to have the space to store these items because in the long run it will save us money! Soon we will be focusing on purging and organizing toys.

Dan and I have started on our goals for this new year. Not surprisingly it mainly has to do with the baby and saving money. Dan wants to make an effort to not eat out as much, and to cut back on his junk food. I am very proud of my husband for making this a priority! We are also discussing how to more efficiently plant our garden for optimal use. I won’t have as much time this summer with a newborn, but I don’t want the land to lie unused. Even with the baby coming we need the produce that Lord can provide to help with groceries! We are cutting out the pumpkins and squash this year. They take up a lot of room, and we didn’t use them as much as we thought. In their place we will try fruit: strawberries, honeydew melon, and possibly huckleberries.

On the baby front, we are investing in more cloth diapers, so that I can cloth diaper exclusively. That will save us hundreds, even thousands of dollars over the course of this baby’s life (until they are potty trained). In addition I will be trying to line dry our clothes to save on energy. It’s also better for the diapers to be in the sun! I’ve been busy sewing cloth wipes, and as soon as I know the sex I will start on burp rags and receiving blankets. We have been blessed to receive the money to purchase a new infant car seat (ours expired), replace the play gym that was ruined, and purchase a bouncy seat! The bouncy seat was the only used item, and the family before hardly used it, so it is like new! We are trusting in God to provide the finances for the double stroller, cloth diapers, high chair, etc. that we still need. He has provided thus far, so I will continue to trust!

I am praying for another good nurser, so that we won’t have to use formula. I know that some people aren’t able to nurse even if they want to. I had this problem with Vivian, no matter what I did, it was too difficult. Even trying to pump I couldn’t get enough milk, and she would take 30 minutes to drink 4 ozs out of a bottle!!! So believe me if you are in that boat, or have been, I understand!! I am so thankful that God answered my prayers with Andrew and we had minimal problems on that front. I am praying and believing for the same for this little one. Not only will it save us a lot of money, but it helps create a special bond between mother and baby.

In addition we have decided to scale down on birthday parties this year. Just cupcakes and ice cream with the family. Each child will get 1 small toy, the rest will be either clothes, books, or handmade items. Some of those things will not be necessarily new, but new to them. My daughter wants baby blankets, cloth wipes, and cloth diapers for her baby doll. So I will be making those for her. Also she has saved up her money from chores and presents to purchase an American girl doll. I am very proud of her because 1/2 that money she actually worked for and the other 1/2 was gifts. So I will test my skills to see if I can make some outfits for it. She needs a few new dresses as she has outgrown the ones she has. As for Andrew and the other people in our life that we love, I will be busy praying about hand-made/ home-made items to give them as well. We are attempting to scale down as much as possible. As Dave Ramsey says, live like you don’t have money! Oh and my other favorite…beans and rice!!

My personal goals is to become more crafty, expand my sewing skills, be more frugal in the kitchen/ home, be organized, and to make an effort to post more to share!!! Hopefully that will start this week, I would like to share our experience in purging/ organizing clothes & toys. The importance behind it and why it will make your life easier! Then my new project will be menu planning to make the best use of my pantry and freezer. God willing I will do better managing my home for Him this year, and I will be able to share my journey!

On the Home Front

So I have been very busy lately…and I won’t lie, I don’t know when things will slow down. So please bear with my sporadic posts. My garden is in full swing! We have harvested the carrots, but most of them ended up woody and tough. I have gotten some tips on how to make the soil more conducive to growing them. So I will give it a go one more time, but probably not until the fall. I had my first picking of sugar snap peas this weekend. Which I promptly blanched and froze. As there were so many little ones that will be ready in a few more days (plus many more blossoms) it just made sense. I also did the same with my lovely summer squash as well, and of course it wouldn’t be that time of year without me burning myself while draining the squash! My dear hubby insists that I purchase oven mitts that go up to my elbows since this seems to happen every year 🙂 Next on my agenda it to grate, steam, and freeze zucchini…..hmmm I can already taste the zucchini bread I will be enjoying this winter!! Also the cucumbers are coming in like crazy 🙂 I am excited to make relish and try out a few new pickle recipes as well.

We have been enjoying the lettuce from the garden, eating more salads than normal. It makes for a happy belly and wallet 🙂 The kale is plentiful and I find myself craving this yummy leafy green. There are so many recipes out there to make use of this wonderful veggie, but I have so much of it that I need to start freezing it as well 🙂 The tomato plants are turning out better than I hoped. I can wait until the tomatoes get big enough to ripen. I can almost taste the sauce and salsa that they will make.

On the homeschool front, we have finally found a reading program that works for Vivian. Of all things it is Hooked on Phonics. Who knew?!?! I was able to get all 5 levels on Amazon for under $70. Once I teach her to use the cassette portion on our stereo system she will be able to do everything herself and I can just oversee it 🙂

On a more personal level God has been really stretching me out of my comfort zone. I am heading up a MOPS group at our church this fall. MOPS in Mothers of Preschoolers and it is a wonderful program for mothers of infants to ages 5/6. My problem….asking for help. Not that I don’t want it, I do! It’s the asking part, mainly out of fear of rejection. But God is doing amazing things!!! We need at least 1-2 more Moppet volunteers to help with the amount of children we anticipate on having. However we can use as many as possible because the more volunteers we have means the more children, and the more mothers. It’s the 1st Thursday morning of every month from September to May for a few hours. Even if you know you can commit to every month we can fit you into the schedule or use you as a back up! It is a wonderful way to reach moms in that critical time of their life and help support them. The children’s program has become my passion, as God is really teaching me in this. But that it another blog post for when I have time….I’ll share what God has been working in my heart about that subject. It probably won’t get posted until I can do it without ranting but out of love 🙂 So if you would be willing to help out please contact me. Also we are chartering this week, so hopefully we will be able to take registration by the end of the week. If you are interested in joining let me know as well so that I can get a registration form to you 🙂

Grocery shopping challange

This is just some of the pantry items on hand, the grains are in 5 gallon buckets, and the canned produce from last year’s garden is in another pantry in our basement.

I am more than a little embarrassed by the amount of food I have on hand in my house when I think about all the people in the world that are starving. I am making a grocery challenge. This is something that I have been wanting to do for over a year now, but I am finally taking the plunge! I am going to see how long I can go without purchasing food from the store. Now I am not taking into account my hubby’s tv dinners for work. He is a very picky eater so I will not push this off on him. Also not included will be the milk that I get from my milkman. The milk comes every week because of my milk share which is paid for at the beginning of every month.
I went to the store this week to purchase some produce, that will hopefully help us through. Although no meat has been purchased since last week. So it will be interesting to see how far this can go. The below is a rough estimate of what I have on hand.
In my freezer I have: 1lb ground beef, 1 chuck roast, 1 flank steak, 1 soup hen, 2 tuna steaks,chicken breasts, lots of green beans, spinach, carrots, peas, fruit, nuts, etc.
In the fridge : turkey kielbasa, sun-dried tomato chicken sausages, hotdogs, eggs, turkey bacon, cheese, a wide variety of condiments, applesauce, chicken stock, broccoli, carrots, celery, apples, pears, avocados.
In the pantry: whole oat groats, spelt, hard white wheat, hard red wheat, pastry wheat, rice, beans, lentils, pasta, canned tomatoes, greens beans, pasta sauce, coconut milk, sugar, stevia, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolled oats, coffee, tea, cereal, raisins, cranberries, honey, olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, macoroni & cheese, powdered sugar, coconut flour, millet, quinoa, corn, olives, ancho chiles, applesauce, crackers, baby puffs, baby cereal.

I am sure I have forgotten some of what I have in storage, but this is what I have to the best of my knowledge. I have yet to determine if I will include baby food in the challenge as well or not. The challenge is going to be a test of my frugality, my creativity, and force me to look into portion sizes. It will be interesting to see how long I can last. I’m hoping to last at least 2 weeks. I will be extremely happy if I can make it the whole month. Yet with hosting a playdate and a bible study this week, I’m not sure I will make it a whole month. I shudder to think of how large my grocery bill will be when I finally do go to the store again. How long have you gone in between shopping trips? Do you have any tips on how to make things stretch?

Today: breakfast- cereal w/milk
lunch- leftovers from the Superbowl party & carrot sticks,
dinner- spanish rice w/ 1/2 keilbasa, beans, & spinach.
baby- oatmeal w/applesauce, homemade baby food-acorn squash, peas, & chicken, dinner- carrots & rice