Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Grocery Budget

If there is one area in our budget in which we could be more careful, I would say it's our grocery budget. Several months ago I would have said it's the amount we spend on dining out, but a busy toddler (and a cold winter) has remedied that for us, thankfully.

There were a couple of things that I've decided to implement to help us track and hopefully, spend less every week.

1. Use cash and bring a calculator. The calculator does slow down the process a little bit, but it helps me track how much I have in the cart. And the cash ensures I don't overspend.

2. Have a rough meal plan for the week. We get the circulars each week, and it's given me an idea of what we could make with what is on sale.

3. Have a cooking day. Last Sunday I made some soup, roast, and enchiladas, so that on the days I'm tired or running late, we don't feel the pressure to resort to pricier, unhealthy, convenience meals. The roast easily lasted us four meals. Plus, I'm not feeling so stressed about getting dinner on the table. Less stress = happy mom/wife.

4. Cook from scratch. We're pretty good at doing this - mostly for health reasons, but recent studies have reminded me why it's worth taking the extra time to eat whole, non-processed foods. It's not only cheaper and tastes better, but is so much better for you.

5. Buy what produce/meat is on sale. We have a tendency to spend a lot of fruits and veggies, which is better than the alternative, but I'm trying to be more efficient. Over the summer we froze some fruits and veggies, for soups/stews/chilis/smoothies. That has helped our budget too.

6. Stock up. Meat went on major sale here, so we stocked up.

7. Use what's already in the pantry and refrigerator. This is one of the things that we do that drives us crazy - we end up throwing good food out that we just didn't end up using. So we're clearing out our fridge and freezer, hoping to save some money and curb waste.

8. Eat more oatmeal and less cereal. Oh my goodness. It's so much cheaper and better than that boxed stuff. Another downfall of ours.

9. Buy in bulk - it's often cheaper. Plus it helps curb unnecessary packaging, which is yucky for the environment.

10. Have fun. Get creative and enjoy creating meals at home with the family, and the kiddos. Food should be enjoyed, and not stressed over, in my opinion.

Anyone have any other good suggestions for curbing the grocery budget? I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Motherhood and Faith

Today we attended a different church than our home church, mostly because this one was only five minutes away and our home church is 20 minutes. The service is certainly more traditional than I grew up with, but the sermon is always solid and they have a great children's ministry.

Today on the way home from church, e was singing "Amen". It was really cute. The pitches that were supposed to get higher just got louder.

Anyway, I've been happy with E's interest in Jesus lately. Ever since Christmas, she talks about Jesus a lot. She wants to watch "Jesus" (The Nativity movie that we got for Christmas last year). She wants to me to read "Jesus" to her (her little Bible). She will take our hand and say "Amen" when she wants to pray.

Obviously I'd like to continue cultivating this desire or interest, and just want to be sure we're doing everything we can to encourage relationship with God. We've been talking about how Jesus loves us and how He wants us to love Him. We chat about how Jesus is everywhere and wants to talk with us.

And maybe talking about God is good, but maybe seeing relationship is better? That's the tricky part.

Anyone have ideas on how you share your faith with kiddos?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Project Connect, Dave, and the Cutie

So the past couple of days have been beautiful. Last week, not so much, but the past couple of days have been great with sunshine. We got outside a played yesterday afternoon, and guess who complained about the cold? The hubby. I just wanted to state that for the record.

And so this post doesn't really have anything to do with the photo, but my kid is cute, so I had to share. :)

Anyway, onto the REAL post. :) Some great news for our local church, friend, and community. Our church has organized a Dave Ramsey class for the past few years (?), and this session has 50 people (which is a lot for our little area) signed up. 75% from the community, only 25% from our church. I'm really proud of our friend, K, who teaches the class. So if anyone is in the Charlevoix/Petoskey area, you should take this class. And kudos to K, and hope this session is transforming.

Also, my boss, who is uber involved in the community, and the "Who's Who" in community organizing in our town, has been planning our second annual "Project Connect". It's Thursday February 5th from 10 am to 6 pm at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

I am INCREDIBLY excited to take part in this event. It's a community wide effort to help those in need. It's kind of a "one stop shop" - hair cuts, tax prep, hot meals, bags of food, blood pressure screenings, free diapers, ASQs (Ages and Stages), joint recruitment for preschool, warm blankets, attire for interviews.... the list goes on. Last year they planned for 150 people, and got over 400. This year they're expecting over 600 people due to the struggling MI economy.

I just love it when our community pulls together to help each other out. As a Christian I just feel like it's our call to serve and love those around us, and this is a practical way to do so. Feel free to pass this info on!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another week has come and gone. Everyone else is still sleeping, and so it's very quiet here. I like mornings like these... especially since they are few and far between. Now I know why my mom would get up at a ridiculous time in the morning to have a few moments to herself.

I am feeling very blessed today. Yesterday we were given the keys to the vehicle that's been in the shop for two months. That's a long time. Praise God for two working vehicles, though in reality, we were very blessed just to have one, yes?

We are blessed to have our health. To have a house full of food. To have a roof over our heads. To have two jobs we both enjoy... that's such a luxury nowadays. To have family and friends that love us, and that we love so much. We're blessed that they're healthy, so that we have them to love. I'm blessed to have a wonderful, devoted husband who has more wisdom than I give him credit for sometimes. And we're blessed to have a crazy girl with wide brown eyes that gives us an extreme amount of joy, and to know there's another kiddo on the way to add to the craziness.

And I'm thankful that I was shown forgiveness. May I always show others the same kindness that was shown to me.

I pray that I am always aware of these blessings, and not the, "If only we had...." trap we can easily fall into.

Please keep us in prayer as we are in the process of making a couple of decisions that require wisdom and guidance. One of them might even require a kick in the pants. :)

Anyway, time to wrap up and get ready for church. May you all have a lovely Sunday and a good week! Remember your blessings!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


You know, I ate a lot of tomato soup growing up, but didn't really have it again until last winter, when I made it homemade. Now, though, it seems that we have it once or twice a week - I just can't get enough of this stuff! E was less than thrilled initially, but now she's liking the soup idea (and tries to imitate making soup with her own dishes).

What can I say? I really love it.

It seems especially wonderful since the temperatures outside are ridiculously low. Oh my - it took everything inside of me to bundle us up to go grocery shopping. That wind is pretty crazy. I know it's really cold when E starts demanding her mittens that she typically neglects to keep on for any period of time.

Hopefully spring comes soon.

In other really unrelated topics of life, I'm feeling like my work dilemma is slowly being solved. My boss is being really flexible with me, and is allowing me to be more creative with my hours so that I can do some things from home, or maybe some evenings so L can be home with the kiddos. So, of course, God is working everything out, as always. :) Why do I worry so much?

You'd think I would have learned by now, right? :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back to the Grind

This was random shot of E when we were having craft time over the holidays. She got some fun craft items, and has spent a lot of time at the table... not eating, mind you, but creating art.

Anyway, this was my second day back at work since the break. Sunday was pretty emotional for me. I went to church completely sad that the next day E would be in daycare, and I would be away from her. For some reason it felt much more traumatic than my very first day of work. I was holding back tears the entire day. Of course, Monday did come, E waved goodbye when L was taking her to daycare, and gave me kisses. I was convinced she was going to cry for me, since she was pretty clingy over the week.

L told me later that she cheered and clapped when they pulled into the daycare worker's driveway. Hmph.

So it wasn't as traumatic as I pictured, thankfully, and we're back into the groove. The break was SO nice, though - we all had a restful time. Plus, I'm now an old woman at the age of 28, so I need all the rest I can get. :) Hope that you all had a restful holiday season, too.

Anyway, I'm exhausted readjusting to our wake up time, so here's an easy list of my life:

Reading: "Under the Overpass" - I'm hooked. More on this later. Just read it.
Listening: Bebo Norman's new CD... but I don't remember what it is. It's good though.
Craving: Fruit again. Blackberries. Yum.
Loving: My new crockpot. Simple pleasures.
Sad: That we had to put one of our kitties to sleep the day after my birthday. :*(

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And 2009 Begins

So this was part of how our New Year's Eve was spent. Cake and candles. What can be better?

Our 2008 was a year of pretty decent focus. We moved into a two bedroom duplex to save more money and time (less cleaning, no snow plowing/mowing), and it's been such a blessing. Also, we spent much more time getting healthy, which was surprisingly more fun than expected.

For 2009, we discussed what it means to "simplify", and for me, the definition often gets blurred. L and I were chatting about it last night, and he said, "I think simplify just means you act with more focus. More purpose." I liked that.

We are hoping to scale back a little on some of the responsibilities we've taken on, and focus this year on people, our family (as we will expect a new addition to our family), and our faith. Back to the basics, but also stepping up on some things we haven't been willing to commit to. As we get more refined on what that means, I'll write more about it.

So, if you think about it, please pray for us as we venture into the New Year and that our eyes would be opened to opportunities around us. Thanks!