Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Food For Thought

I've been trying to figure out what went wrong here. Initially I wanted to "blog" about homeschooling. Having written about four posts now I see that is clearly not the direction this is going. I think what's really in my heart to do is encourage others. Specifically women with families.

So tonight I'm going to share with some not so secret things I do in my home that save me time, money and sanity ! I know lots of women have been doing this for ages but to me I only started menu planning a few months ago when baby number five was born. I never had to before because cooking comes fairly easy for me and it was hardly ever an issue to throw a meal together for my family or even if a group of people popped by unexpectedly.  But once that last baby came my mind was just too cluttered and having a menu set out made one less thing to think about. So here's how I approach it.

I gather my flyers. I make my grocery list. We spend $140 a week for our family of seven. This includes diapers and any cleaning products, toiletries , laundry, pet food, etc. I mark down what I need and on my list I put in brackets which flyer contains the lowest price. On the left margin I write down a dollar figure rounded up. I total my expenses for the necessary items. With any money I have left I plan the extras based on the sales.

This is what my basic weekly list begins like;
20 milk
20 meat
10 fruit
10 vegetables
7 cheese
20 diapers/wipes
5 eggs

Then I continue with the other staples and end with sale items. When I shop I stick to the list, I buy seasonally , sale and bulk. We don't usually budget for snacks so if we want them I either bake them with on hand ingredients or I might use my spending money on that. This works well because I avoid impulsive eating a little ! When you get to the cash put the flyer sale items on the belt with the corresponding flyer - Walmart, Freshco and No Frills will price match.

I make most of our meals and our bread from scratch. When I get everything home I make up the menu based on what I was able to buy that week. I rarely use recipes so if I do I make sure to add that to the list before I shop. I save leftover bread for crumbs that I use in meatloaf, meatballs or as topping on casseroles. The ends of vegetables (carrots/onions/mushrooms/celery leaves/etc) are tossed into a freezer back. I cook them when I boil chicken and then strain. Believe me when I tell you it makes the most delicious stock you've ever had. Toss the mushy boiled veggies and freeze the stock. If you are really clever you measure it into cup or half cup baggies and label it.

When I make muffins, banana bread, cookies ,scones and such baking I measure twice and bag the dry ingredients. I label the bag with what wet ingredients need to be added and the oven temperature and baking time. How impressed are your unexpected guests when you whip up something special like that on the spot and all you did was beat an egg !

Recently I made an awesome breakfast casserole. I sprayed the baking dish with oil, layered leftover bread and whisked together eggs, leftover veggies, hashbrowns and poured it over top and baked it.

Your crockpot will make almost anything amazing with few ingredients and little time ! Chicken or pork chops with a can of mushroom soup, sliced mushrooms and onion flakes (of which I cannot say enough good things about).  Chicken and/or ribs with a bottle of bbq sauce. Even simple meat sauce for pasta tastes so much better when it's been simmering all day !

Wraps, fajitas, whatever you want to call them. I put out a big pile of wraps (whole wheat and sometimes other flavours), put out all sorts of leftovers in little dishes with some shredded lettuce and grated cheese and usually sour cream and the kids eat it all up. They really love making their own food and it makes use of small amounts of leftovers instead of throwing them out.

Fruit that is passing it's time gets chopped up and thrown in a zip bag.Get ready for the GOLD NUGGET : chop up your bananas and dropped them in too. When the bag is full, pop it in the blender with some apple or orange juice and voila ! Smoothie !

Tomatoes get chopped and frozen  to be added to pasta sauce... sometimes if I have the right stuff I make up a bag of stir fry type ingredients or pasta ingredients. Saves time and food does not go to waste. And as  an added bonus the meal tastes much fresher than if you just use canned "stuff".

Here's a sample week;

Sunday - Breakfast : Banana bread, fruit, milk
               Lunch :  Chicken, roasted root vegetables, salad and cake
               Dinner :  Mac & Cheese
Monday -Breakfast : Cereal, fruit, milk
               Lunch : Fajitas
               Dinner : Pork chops, mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and salad
Tuesday -Breakfast :  Scrambled eggs and English muffins
               Lunch : Sandwiches
               Dinner : Pasta
Wednesday -  Breakfast : Croissants, yogurt, milk
               Lunch : Leftover pasta
               Dinner : Tuna casserole with vegetables
Thursday-Breakfast : Cereal, fruit, milk
                Lunch : left over casserole and salad
                Dinner : Ham, mashed potatoes, salad
Friday -    Breakfast : Eggs and toast, milk
                Lunch : Leftovers
                Dinner : Chicken, Rice and salad
Saturday- Breakfast : french toast, fruit, milk
                Lunch : Sandwiches
                Dinner : Shepherd's pie

If anyone is interested I can put up a whole month or give "recipes".

That's it for Food for Thought because I read that blogs are more appealing if they are kept short -oops.

Is there anything you want to know how I do ? I don't want to write braggy posts but I do want to make someone else's life easier if I can.

Daughter of The King
Wife to Richard
Mother to five beautiful boys
My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Some days I just think about  my "to do" list and I want to crawl right back into bed. In fact, not long ago I was so discouraged , tired and overwhelmed. Without much support from a 2.5 children per family society and little appreciation from my precious children, I wondered how I could even get from morning to bedtime on any given day !
No matter how hard I worked I never got ahead at the homefront. I felt like the stove and the washing machine were constantly on all day. On top of that, the dishwasher was running at the same time as I scrubbed a sinkful of dishes !
Showers and baths had to be timed just right or we literally ran out of hot water and I would have to boil water to finish filling the tub !
Even then I had to be very careful since I would try to multitask and boil the kettle, run the washer and the vacuum and blow a fuse every time.
All this while I tried to teach less than willing children to participate cheerfully in household duties.
Around the same time I took up the difficult challenge to stop yelling at the boys - I know, good moms don't yell at their kids. I nearly imploded...
Then the most wonderful thing happened. I got an attitude adjustment ! It was a Sunday morning church service, the kind made just for you. I listened as the woman speaking talked about all the same fustrations I was going through. And then she said it. That every time she would stretch a meal she did so gladly because Jesus would be at that table. Wow. Think about it.
I realized that I don't need to internalize or experience deep maternal satisfaction each time I change a dirty diaper or wipe a runny nose. It doesn't matter all that much if my children notice that I slaved over a stove most of the day or calloused my hands cleaning the house. It matters that God Himself is The Father of each member of my family and that He appointed me guardianship. Whether or not anyone else cares it pleases God when I wash those little faces, hold their hands or read them stories. God is at my table when I serve their breakfast , lunch or dinner. And it's worth the extra effort to put out nicer napkins or remember the salt and pepper.
Ever heard of the expression "God is in the details "? I think about that quite a bit now. It's always that extra little effort that shows someone how much you care. It's making a "smiley" face with their ketchup when you serve their eggs, or fixing their crooked clothes even though you will be home all day and it doesn't seem to matter. How about tucking a surprise into their pocket just so they can find it. Or winking at them when you make eye contact accross the room. It is so easy when you think about it. And when I do these things I can imagine God giving me a "thumbs up" , smile or nod.
So I'm still busy and I'm still tired but I'm encouraged. I feel like my life has a purpose. To be God's outstretched hand to my family.And by the way - our husbands are part of our families too. What about tucking a note into his lunch bag ? Or offering a smile or complimenting the way he handles a parenting moment.
I've found now that as I think on what God would have me do my list does get shorter. There are some things that simply can be left off or left to when there is time.
How long is your "to do list " ? Are there things you should be doing ? Are there things you can just let go of ?

Daughter of the King, wife to Richard
mother to five beautiful boys
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God !"
I John 3:1

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Doing things that make me happy

So, the question was asked ; What drives me to keep seeking "more" to fill my free time.  I actually thought this was a great question !

A couple of weeks ago I did make it a point to find more work for myself. Since I didn't have "time" I made "work" for myself . It will make sense, I promise ! The key was "for myself".

I was feeling like I was on a medaphoric treadmill. Getting on every morning, running all day and at night getting off right where I started.

Sure, I know  the time and energy I am investing in the boys will reap great rewards. Lovely. But I am impatient and I need to see that I am accomplishing something today.

I realized that I record what the boys are doing  regularly so that we can look back and see what we have accomplished. Sometimes I will see  a picture of them enjoying an activity and think I'd forgotten how much fun it was ! Let's do it again !

So I decided I would make my own album. This week I can look back and see that Richard learned about mixed and improper fractions. Matthew learned how to read a weather map and all about the water cycle. Evan finally learned to print his last name and Timothy peed in the potty everyday (and pooped once. Not so much "in" the potty as on the carpet right beside it. Good times). Eli can put himself to sleep, roll over both ways and reach for objects to put in his mouth... more fun is on it's way.

Great. I'm overjoyed that I was a part of all of that. No sarcasm, I really am. Now what did I do just for me ?

The past two weeks I have learned to; bake bread and scones ( thanks Jenn! ), make a no sew fleece blanket, felt bows and little  felt "activity" pockets. I made my husband's favourite food, finished sewing the place setting place mats I started months ago. I implemented an idea I had taking up space in my head for ages (the art display wall). I made a busy book that is too ugly for words but that did in fact keep Timothy busy for at least half an hour. I made a soft baby book for a Christmas gift.

These are the things that I love to do. The things I always imagined doing as a mom and homemaker that I never had "time" for. Guess what ? I do have time for that ! I cut all the squares for a rag quilt I'm making next week while cooking dinner. (Before you think I missed any other duties, I made every meal this week except for one trip to McD's) I made the felt bows on the floor after the big boys were in bed, while playing with Eli.  I collected my baking ingredients slowly throughout the day . Measuring out one at a time each time I passed the kitchen. HERE'S A GOLD NUGGET, while I measured,  I  measured a second measure and put it in a zip lock bag. Labelled the bag with the missing wet ingredients and the baking time and temperature. Next time I make scones and banana bread most of the work is already done !

The point is that I don't feel any bit busier but the week was so much more enjoyable. And it flew by ! Okay, so I didn't find any more time for myself. But I did figure out a way to enjoy my life a little more.

What makes you happy ? What is standing in your way ?

daughter of The King,
Wife to Richard. Mom to 5 beautiful boys.

May the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing His will, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.
Hebrews 13: 20-21