Category Archives: Budget
When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I “only” had three children. Along the way, it has always been possible to squeeze out a number of blogs per month, often 3-4 per week! But, starting with baby Jean’s birth in June, these have been been my slowest months ever. Here’s why:
- Time and priorities. I love writing. But, I also love reading. I love keeping up with my friends and family on Facebook. I have other responsibilities, besides homeschooling my children and running my home — I still lead worship weekly at a homegroup, and I essentially have a part-time job as a host and coordinator for a CSA (weekly, local farm-share). I just can’t do everything, sadly. Most days, just doing school, laundry, and making meals about taps me out. I could drop any one of these things and have time for blogging, but I don’t want to. So… it’s just a busy season that precludes blogging. I have very often started drafts and by the time I finish, they’re just no longer relevant or pressing. So, slowly nibbling away at drafts doesn’t seem to work for me, either.
- The current culture of blogging. When I started blogging, most people hadn’t even heard the term “blog”. I wrote with the abandon of one who was pretty certain that no one was reading. In many ways, I was flippant and too-disclosing. I wasn’t careful at all. I could just dash off some thoughts without considering possible repercussion. I’ve become wiser over the years, and have realized that people ARE reading, and therefore, I need to measure my words. In addition, if I want to make a statement about health, science, Scripture, pretty much anything, the only responsible way to do that is to provide supporting links, which is the blogging form of end notes. However, gathering and inserting appropriate links is time-consuming. And THEN, you add Pinterest. If someone wants to post something on Pinterest, you really need a picture. So, I either hunt for a pic online with no copyright protection OR I hunt for a pic to upload and insert from my own. Both of those add snippets of time to an already labor-intensive process.
- My mind is blank. JUST KIDDING. Actually, there are more things than ever that I want to share… Inside my brain, my blog is crazy-active!!
Here, though, are a few small things happening around here:
- We are still slowly remodeling our home and redecorating. Both my husband and I are frugal, and our tastes overlap, but aren’t identical. That’s why the process is slow: if ONE of us didn’t care, we could get things done a lot faster. But, we both care. Here’s a shot (not a great one) of our living room. It’s a mix of new and vintage/Craigslist purchases.
- We finally had to buy our first new piece of baby equipment. Virtually everything on Jean’s body and which she uses here in our home is a hand-me-down, a gift, or purchased second-hand. Oh, wait! I did purchase a jogging stroller for about 1/4 the price of a new one, at a true outlet — a store that handles all the returns and overstock from Costco, Home Depot, and Rite-Aid. It was new in the box… So, I guess that counts as a new purchase. So, purchase #2: a highchair. I can’t wait until it arrives; baby Jean is six months and eating (limited) table food, but up until now, she has just been perched on my lap. That is becoming increasingly messy. I searched on Craigslist for the last month, looking for a chair that had some sort of modern appeal (to at least partially fit in with our updated decor), was well-reviewed, wasn’t too bulky, that both my husband and I like, and wasn’t too expensive. I struck out. So, this highchair is being shipped, as I type this.
- Just last week, I finished my favorite book of the last… year or so. I have a few current authors that I follow; I read everything they write. Those tend to be dependable authors; I like their craft of storytelling. However, they’re not necessarily books that, upon closing, I reflect, “That was so very worthwhile. I am enriched by having read that.” Not that they’re trash; they’re just entertainment, and not necessarily profound. The book I recently finished? Profound. I had read quite a few (nonfiction) essays by Wendell Berry, as well as a number of his poems. But, I hadn’t read any of his fiction. Following the families in a community in rural Kentucky? Sounded campy, à la Mitford (which I’ve never read, so, yes, I’m passing judgement based upon incomplete information). But, my oldest son, a junior, read Fidelity as part of his homeschool curriculum. When he finished, he handed it to me. “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I think you’d like it.” Which made me love him all the more… And he was right; I did like it. I plan on reading more in the series, after I get through the next two books on my list (Leaving Everything Most Loved — I like Jacqueline Winspear’s storytelling. However, as her works progress, each book seems more like “Zen Buddhist with an agenda, who is telling a mystery story on the side.” It’s rather annoying. I’m a Christian and I don’t even like it when CHRISTIAN authors try to proselytize via fiction. I like it even less when the author’s beliefs don’t parallel mine. And, An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch. I found Charles Finch, whose stories are set in Victorian England, when I had exhausted the surprisingly large genre of literary mystery serials set in WWI-era England.)
- And… This little sweetie. How I adore her. She is perfect, except she doesn’t like to sleep. Really, she doesn’t like to sleep at all. You can try your suggestions, but I’ve probably tried them all, short of letting her cry long enough to give up and feel abandoned. She is a darling baby, an absolute delight to our whole family. Everyone is smitten, still. She is beautiful and chubby, cheerful and funny, and loves to snuggle. So, so perfect. Except the sleep thing. I’m tired.
The babymoon filled with tortilla chips* and ice cream** is over.
I won’t say that we’ve returned to “normal”, though that is what I was initially thinking… “Wow! We’re approaching normal!” There is no “normal”. And, upon further reflection, it was like thinking, “Hey, baby! You’ve upset our family’s routine! You rascal! How could you do that?? You’ve DISTURBED things!!” And, truly, I don’t think that.
But on the other hand, I have been working to re-establish a new flow to our family.
I wrote this to a friend yesterday, who probably instantly regretted asking me how I was doing:
But, just to be real, yesterday SUCKED. It was the worst mothering day in a solid year, if not more. Frankly, Jean cries a lot. That isn’t bad, theoretically. I was telling my kids that Ethan cried a lot, and he turned out just fine. Some babies are just… needier than others, and I am happy to provide that extra comfort, extra soothing, more careful… care. But, OTOH, it means a lot of time in my room with the door shut, nursing (not that I always nurse behind closed doors), soothing, trying to help Jean sleep… and then my children are like Lord of the Flies out there, unattended, giving into sin nature, selfishness, unkindness, sneakiness, bullying… Ugh. I kind of flipped out yesterday. For a valuable 45 min of time when Jean was napping, I sat the five down and we went over Colossians 3:12-17. We talked. I lectured. We prayed. But did things improve? No. I had to spank***. I called Martin. And today hasn’t been much better…. But, I’m trying. Played Bethel YouTube worship videos for four hours straight in the main living area of our home, both to worship and sing, and to just invite the Holy Spirit in our day. And I have nipped everything in the bud, as much as possible.
There would be days like these in the past and I would think that I have totally failed as a mother. The good news is that I feel like it’s a temporary failure from which we all need to recover. I need to pull the reins in on my kids after letting things coast, slide, for too long. And they need to be loving and to obey.
So, see? There’s no normal.
But, this morning represented a step in the right direction: For the first time in Jean’s six weeks and two days of life, I made myself a “real” breakfast. Granted, I absolutely gulped it down, so as to eat it hot, in case Jean awoke. But, it was: Three eggs, tomato slices, avocado slices, a cup of raw milk, and coffee. YUM. The first week of Jean’s life, I ate like a queen, because my hubby fixed my breakfast, and delivered it to me in bed. The time since then has been altogether spotty: A hastily eaten bowl of cereal (and I don’t even eat cereal!), a protein bar, a hastily-eaten pear, occasionally asking one of my boys to fix me eggs… Or, more likely, me looking at the clock at 11:00 a.m. and thinking, “Crap. I haven’t eaten anything yet today.”
Speaking of food… While I absolutely, 100% agree with the thought that post-partum mothers should not give in to an appearance-centered culture that pressures us, “How are you going to lose that baby weight???”**** I also know that I’m carrying 12 extra pounds from the pregnancy — not much, I know! — and
- It’s crazy how much even just 12 pounds can make your clothes NOT fit. Even tee shirts.
- I know that most of that wouldn’t be there had I not daily indulged in food I shouldn’t be eating in the first place: like the aforementioned tortilla chips, ice cream, and cereal.
- I just feel better when I’m trim, when I don’t to have to select clothes that hides one sloshy part or another.*****
So, unless I want to purchase a whole new wardrobe — which WOULD be nice, but
- Where would the money come from to do that?
- More importantly, where would the TIME come to do that??
I need to lose at least some of that weight.
Hence, the subtraction of the carb-laden foods, and the triumphant reemergence of healthier food…
*Organic, from Costco. I love those chips!!
**Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra. It was a lot easier to resist when I had to purchase it for $5/pint from the grocery store or wait for a coupon. In the last year, pre-baby, I probably indulged twice. But, since we discovered that the regular price at Walmart is $2.88/pint, and I got my hubby hooked on that particular flavor, it’s been MUCH harder to resist. “Babe!” he grins, coming in the door with a bag from Walmart, “I got you some ice cream!” Hahaha!!
***I probably just lost a good 10% of my readers right there. “SHE SPANKS???” Um, yes. On occasion. I can’t remember the last time I had spanked anyone, prior to Tuesday; a couple of months, at least. It’s not my go-to discipline; it’s my last-resort discipline.
****And if you haven’t read Sarah Bessey’s fabulous post on the Duchess of Cambridge’s post-partum hospital appearance, you should. Absolutely, you should.
*****And we’re not talking “skinny” here. I’m at 150 lbs now, and my goal is 140. Pre-baby, it was 138 lbs.
When I make a dish for the family to eat, it’s always my hope that EVERYONE will like it. Something that all seven people at the dinner table will adore has proven rather elusive, however. I now see this as a good thing, mostly. For instance: I made sauerkraut earlier this week, and it is done fermenting today. My 13-year-old son has been highly anticipating its readiness, and is already preparing his sandwich in his mind. He mentioned that he wishes we had ham, but we don’t. So, he’ll have turkey, mustard, and sauerkraut. Not everyone else is so excited. 🙂 But, other family members are expectant of different foods. I am roasting six bunches of small beets right now. My three youngest children are REALLY excited about that. I have received beets a number of times these last few months from our CSA and only ONCE have the beets actually made it into a dish. The rest of the time, after I roast the beets, peeling them becomes somewhat of a party, with everyone popping cooled, newly-peeled baby beets into their mouths, just like candy. I can’t say that I’m disappointed that not everyone feels this way about beets. My husband can’t stand them. My older two boys are rather ambivalent. The rest of us ADORE beets.
- Our new home is an older one, and it is an endless project. We knew it needed more insulation, as some of it was missing in wide swaths, some was thin and compacted, and some of it had shrunk away from ceiling joists and the outer walls. When we got our electricity bill for the time spanning from mid-April to mid-May, and the stinkin’ thing was north of $350 (and that is with our air conditioner thermostat set at 80-81°), that was a wake-up call. Last weekend, my husband Martin, after quite a bit of research (wet-blown cellulose? dry-blown fiberglass? fiberglass batts? do-it-yourself? or hire it out??) he decided to do dry-blown fiberglass, which requires a big machine. The blowing machine is rentable from Home Depot, or free with the purchase of enough packages of insulation. It was quite an undertaking. He purchased a head-to-toe coverall, and with goggles, mask, and gloves, ventured up into the attic. Actually, we have two attics, as part of our home is single-level, and part of it has two stories. It was hours of work. Our oldest son, Ethan, stayed at the ladder and fed the tube up into the attic as needed, and relayed hollered messages to our next-oldest son, Grant, who was feeding the batts into the blowing machine and turning it off and on as needed. At Home Depot, they supplied a cardboard measurement stick, telling us how deeply the insulation needed to be to supply a certain R-value. “How deep does it need to be again to reach R-38?” he asked Grant. “Thirteen inches,” Grant replied. “Good. We have about R-100 in most places,” Martin announced with satisfaction.
In the above pic, you can see a bit of the washing machine, with which I have a love-hate relationship. It is an LG, and when it works, it works WONDERFULLY. However, yesterday, we had the LG repairman out for the SEVENTH TIME in less than a year. Seven times. Granted, his visit on Friday was a follow-up from Tuesday’s assessment, and he was installing the parts that he had ordered on Tuesday. And two of the previous visits were — umm… — due to user error, as a quarter coin had slipped into the wash undetected, and had lodged in such a way that it was keeping the drum from agitating. BUT, this washing machine was the most expensive purchase my husband and I had ever made, barring cars and houses, in our 18 years of marriage, and frankly, I didn’t expect the thing to be a lemon. Or, I don’t know if it’s a lemon, exactly, but it just doesn’t seem that such a high-tech and expensive item should continually require repairs. So now, we are considering purchasing an extended warranty. I have kind of a moral objection to extended warranties. My thoughts are, “BUILD IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND AN EXTENDED WARRANTY ISN’T NECESSARY!!!” And yes, this is said while shouting. I’m also kind of upset, because, before purchasing this unit, I did a lot of research to find the right product for our lots-o’-laundry family. This washer had glowing reviews and was universally touted as a heavy-duty, GIANT-capacity washer with few problems, certainly less problematic than a front-loader. However, the LG guy has been refreshingly honest with some information that I wish I had access to before I purchased. He has mentioned that, while the unit is power- and water-efficient, it actually runs better on the cycles which use more water (mostly the “Bulky/Bedding” setting). Also, the heating element in the washing machine, which allows the water to heat up super-hot (in the “Sanitary” cycle) especially for whites and cloth diapers, isn’t particularly powerful, and it takes a LONG time to actually heat the water. In the meantime, as I had observed, the washer just slowly spins, waiting and waiting and waiting for the water to heat, automatically adding MORE time to a cycle that is already THREE HOURS long. I guess I’m not the only LG customer who feels rather crabby about this, because just last night, I saw an ad for a new LG washer that heats up super-hot, but has an incredibly short cycle time. Hmph.
- Another thing I had wanted to add to our home is a clothesline. In our last home, the HOA forbade them. Even in the back yard. This house has no HOA and plenty of space. However, my husband wants to do the clothesline “right”, on its own separate poles, sunk in concrete, on the side of the yard, out of sight. But… that has been added to the very long list of to-dos, here in the house, and we have now been here ten months with no clothesline. So, last weekend, I procured four eye bolts and screwed them right into two trees in our back yard, and strung up some perfect nylon rope, handily left in the shed by the previous occupants. Voila! Clothesline. So, for a little more than a week now, I have been hanging up about 95% of our family’s laundry — everything except my husband’s clothes and the bath towels. Our handy new LG dryer (with which we have had no problems) has a great moisture sensor, and the few items from each load that go into the dryer are completed in about 20-25 minutes, instead of the 50-60 minutes each load was previously taking. A friend on Facebook (well, she’s a friend in real life, but she mentioned this on Facebook) said that she finds hanging clothes to be “meditative.” I didn’t quite understand her at the time, but now I do. I bring out a glass of ice water, put my basket of wet clothes on a chair, and actually enjoy the quiet efficiency of hanging clothes. I’m outside (which I love anyway); the sun is shining on me; it’s a gentle form of manual labor; I feel like I’m…. benefiting our family by saving money on power that would otherwise be spent on the electric dryer; it feels satisfying to provide my family with freshly sun-warmed and sanitized laundry; and it just feels RIGHT to be using the plentiful solar energy here in the desert to dry my clothes. Even when the day is hot (though I typically hang the clothes in the morning or evening), I have my ice water, and when I stand between the lines of damp clothes, the breeze cools and refreshes me… It is, indeed, a meditative activity.
With the Crooked Sky Farms CSA I host, I feel like we have a good plan for what’s going to happen when the baby comes. The sixth week of the summer season is on Wednesday, June 26, and the baby is due on the 27th. And… the baby could come at any time, really. I’ve been anywhere from 11 days early (twice!) to eight days past my estimated due date. While there have been a number of people offer to help, the most promising person is, ironically, a woman with seven kids. She hosts a raw milk pick-up (where I am a customer), so she is rather familiar with the ordeal of people coming to her house over the course of an afternoon and picking stuff up. 🙂 Also, she’s a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom whose oldest is 16. Just like me! She said that she would be happy to either come to my home and host the CSA for a day, or to even have it at her house. So, the plan is that, if I have the baby on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, she will have the CSA in her home. If I have the baby Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I’ll probably just tuck myself upstairs with the baby and she will stay here for the afternoon, with my kids helping her. If I have the baby on a Sunday, it could go either way. That’s at least the plan. Another woman, who participated in the spring CSA season, sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that she would like to help around the time the baby comes, if need be. I was quite touched by her thoughtfulness. She isn’t participating during the summer because she has her own garden which is being very productive right now — no need to pay $20 for organic veggies if you grow an abundance of your own! I sent her a reply sketching out the basic plan, and asked if she’d like to be back-up, or perhaps be the host (as her home is much closer to mine, and would be less of a deviation from the regular plan for the other CSA members). Anyway. It just feels nice to know that things are taken care of, and that people are kindly offering to help out. 🙂 I feel surrounded by wonderful folks.
- We’re almost done with school. Kind of. Three of my kids will be finished on June 7th, in less than a week! My oldest, who is a sophomore, won’t be done. He got himself behind and will likely be playing catch-up until the end of June. I’m rather displeased with that because, as a homeschooling mom, if he isn’t done, that means that I am not done! But, as he is a sophomore, we can’t just say, “Ah, well. We’ll come back ’round to it in the fall.” There aren’t really any do-overs once you’re in high school. So, he’ll keep working until he’s finished with the year’s curriculum… I will admit that I am very ready for summertime, and I’m very ready to focus on the baby. Two weeks ago, I told my middle boys (8th grade and 6th grade) that they will finish the last three weeks of school primarily on their own. Normally, I do about 60% of their work with them — reading to them, discussing assignments in depth, having conversations about the topics at hand, reviewing their work, etc. But, in order to help me be able to have time to prep for the baby, I was straight-up with them: “Listen, I know and you know that you learn better when we do school together. Having an actual teacher helps you glean so much more out of the material than if you just cover it yourself. However, you will be doing virtually all your remaining work for the year on your own, reading to yourself or reading to each other, because it’s either that or nothing.” That is one of the benefits of homeschooling: You can make it be flexible when you need to. They would learn more if I was more highly involved, so I feel kind of badly. But, three weeks of independent work within a 35-week school year won’t kill ’em, I guess. It’s better than just stopping school. That sounds like I’m setting the bar rather low. Perhaps I am… But, that’s what is necessary for these last few weeks of school. 🙂
I’m 36 weeks pregnant today.
That’s rather a milestone, because Arizona law only “officially” allows home births between 36-42 weeks. So, I’m IN!!
In general, I’m not feeling miserable. Well, I kind of am… And part of me thinks that must be my age (I’ll be 40 next month!), but another part of me well-remembers the last weeks of pregnancy with my first, at age almost-24, and I think that, perhaps, I was even MORE miserable than I am now. So, I can’t blame it on age. Really, I just don’t enjoy pregnancy. My body resists it, and all the more so as the birth approaches.
I do enjoy the birth itself — so satisfying, so joyful! — and I adore having a newborn.
I’m not going to have a water birth.
It’s kind of funny, because with most of the home birth pics I see — like on the ever-encouraging Birth Without Fear — inevitably, they’re of a vernix-coated brand-newborn being pulled straight from the water into the mother’s waiting hands. And I just don’t… want that. I don’t know why, exactly. I just don’t. Every time I’ve had the opportunity to labor in a tub — with all but one of my five previous births — I have gladly done so. And I do envision myself in labor in my swimming pool and in a bathtub here in my home. But, birthing in the water? I just don’t want to. Part of me feels like I should have a birthing pool on hand, just in case. But, I have successfully, joyfully birthed five children while NOT in the water, and I think I’d feel a lot more comfortable doing the same with baby #6. I don’t like the feeling of NOT feeling… grounded while in the water. My midwife and her assistant (who is a friend of mine — a doula training to be a midwife) assures me that, with a rebozo (basically just a long, cotton shawl), they could wrap/loop it around me in such a way that I wouldn’t feel like I was floating away. But that makes me feel even more twitchy — having fabric looped all around my body and two women holding it while I push out a baby. I don’t want that… much touching me. And I’m just not a fan of plastic touching me, either. A rented pool is a blow-up plastic pool with a thin plastic liner. Not a fan of the plastic-to-skin sensation. No, thank you.
Plus, the pool rental is another $100 that I’d rather not spend, and my husband is worried about the second story of our home successfully supporting that much weight — and WET weight, at that — in the corner of our bedroom.
So, a birth pool is out.
For other baby-preparations…
Friends have POURED out love and blessing and baby stuff on us. I’ve received:
- A gorgeous crib. (Actually, two of them. I’m going to give one away.)
- The first six months of clothing — really, really nice clothing from a friend whose baby girl was born in August of last year. She works for a mall development company and I’m confident she spends WAY more time shopping at WAY nicer stores than me… Plus, she has two boys and her family was thrilled that she had a baby girl, and of course, everyone gave clothes. And she has passed them all down to me. And we’re going to meet up soon and she’s going to give me a Boppy (which I love), a breast pump, and some other items, too.
- A really nice car seat.
- A bouncy seat.
- Baby toys.
- A play pen.
- Some cloth diapering supplies.
- Some baby linens — like bath towels and blankets.
I already owned a nice, big, rocking, oak bassinet. I purchased it second-hand when Fiala (who is now 4.5 years old) was not yet born, and it has been making the rounds, so to speak, ever since. I’m kicking myself for not having all the mothers who have borrowed it write their baby’s names in pencil with the dates the bassinet was used. I think the count is at seven. Seven babies who have slept in that bassinet between the birth of my four-year-old and this new baby. I think that is such a rich, sweet history. And now, the bassinet has come back to me from the most recent baby (born in November) who had it… Along with the bumper I made for a friend who used it for HER little girl, who will be four in August. It’s still in great shape, still super-cute.
All I have purchased are:
- More cloth diapering stuff.
- A pail liner for said cloth diapers.
- Another wet bag (a friend already gave me one) for cloth diapers on-the-go.
- A diaper bag.
- A Moby wrap.
And with all of that, I have spent less than $200.
For diapers, I have purchased all-in-ones, pocket-diapers, prefolds, diaper covers… I have nearly enough diapers and supplies to last from newborn until potty-training. Craigslist is a GREAT source for cloth diapers. Thankfully, cloth diapering is quite trendy right now. However, countless mothers have spent HUNDREDS of dollars on pricey, new cloth diapers, tried it for a week or two, and freaked out and decided to stop cloth diapering. Then, they offer their nearly-new stash on Craigslist for 10-50% the cost of new. And I come in and scoop everything up, happily. 🙂 There are also die-hard cloth diapering moms who keep meticulous care of their cloth diaper supplies and have great items to sell — even if they’re older — that have been so well-cared-for that they’re worth buying. I’ve also purchased a number of diapering items from eBay. I’m still bidding on some more infant-sized prefolds… And I still need a few additional items, but I’ll still probably end up spending just under $200.
And that’s even with my pricey diaper bag.
NOTE: I am so NOT trendy. I’m really not. I have zero interest in being a stylish, hot mom who uses her baby as a public indication of her ability to spend loads of money on the best, most expensive brands.
So, on one hand, I’m kind of embarrassed about my Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag. This brand, in “touring” style I purchased, retails for around $150. Discontinued fabrics — such as the one I purchased — can be found for $75-105, typically. That just seems so, so, so pricey. Like, ridiculously so.
On the other hand, I absolutely ADORE my new diaper bag. I adore it. I can’t wait until it arrives. I bought it used, for about $40, and I literally cried with joy. Though it is a fraction of the cost of a new bag, it still seems crazy-expensive to me. But, once I saw that diaper bag… I just felt like I had to have it. Me, the immensely practical, pragmatic, penny-pinching mother of almost-six, “had to have” a $40 diaper bag. And I was willing to spend more! Ack!!
I consoled myself that I had been so frugal with my other purchases, and overall, have spent so little for this baby, that the $40 was justifiable. 😀 It’s my one baby-splurge.
So… with me now being 36 weeks, and with procuring — in one way or another — almost all of my baby supplies, I’m feeling almost-ready for the baby to come. She could come any day and we’d at least not be in a panic, though everything is not quite ready…
Here’s part of a message I wrote to a friend, who has an 11 month-old with NO teeth, and is trying to figure out some non-milk ways to add protein to his diet.
For little ones, this sounds a little crazy, but I like serving beans. Of course, too much beans will make anyone gassy… But a small amount is a great source of protein. Garbanzo beans are the least gassy of all beans and have a very mild flavor that is appealing to most babies.
Also, you can use a blender or mini food processor to mash up beans and even meat. It’s really easy, actually, to make your own baby food. Put some cooked brown rice, some cooked beef (stewed works well), some cooked garbanzo beans, and some spinach — raw or cooked — into the blender (or some other healthy combination you think he’ll like — cooked squash, chicken, oatmeal is another idea, or plain yogurt*, blueberries, and oatmeal) and blend to process. Put it in an ice cube tray, and when frozen, pop out and put the cubes in a Ziploc. Then you’ll have quick little portions. I’ve even saved store-bought babyfood jars, and in the a.m., put 2-3 cubes in the jar in the a.m., and by lunch time, they’re thawed and ready to eat.
When I make babyfood, I will often just set aside an unseasoned portion of whatever I’m making for the family either to grind up for baby’s dinner that night OR I’ll save brown rice one night, beef the next, squash the next, etc. and then when I have small bowls in the fridge of a good babyfood combo, I will put them in the blender and make the babyfood.
I do that, though, because I’m cheap + healthy. Gerber and Beechnut typically have so many crappy additives, especially in the stage 2 & 3 meals, but the organic baby food is SUPER expensive. And once you get in the habit, it literally is about five minutes extra of your time to make and freeze babyfood cubes.
For babies younger than 11 months, it’s even simpler, as you should only use one food at a time — steamed carrots, baked squash, etc. When your baby is around 7-8 months, they can usually tolerate a simple combination of two foods at a time. The older they grow, the better able they are, typically, to digest more complex food.
Making your own babyfood is more trendy than when I started to do it, nearly 15 years ago. Responding to consumers, the are now a number of babyfood cookbooks, “kits”, and other supplies… Although I love cookbooks and kitchen gadgets, I find most of that stuff to be kind of a waste of money. Just take plain versions of what YOU eat — provided that you eat healthy, whole foods — and prepare it as babyfood. Voila! No cookbook needed. And if you have a blender or a mini-prep food processor and some ice cube trays, you don’t need any special gadgets.
*And, yes, I know I just said “non-milk” and there was a reference to yogurt in there. It appears that her little one MIGHT have a sensitivity to milk — but milk sensitivities can be tricky. Is it just lactose? Lactose is milk sugar. In honest, fully cultured yogurt, there is virtually no lactose; the yogurt cultures “eat” the milk sugar, and the resulting fully cultured yogurt has no lactose. Same with hard, aged cheeses — like cheddar. The process eliminates lactose. But, if a child has a sensitivity to casein or whey or another milk protein, you’re up a creek, and even yogurt won’t help; you have to quit all milk products altogether.
So… My husband and I have always been budget-minded. We came away from our respective childhoods after watching at least some of the adults in our lives be fairly irresponsible with money with a wounded awareness of how that affected us, as children. Both of us, independently, had said, “That won’t be me when I’m an adult.”
As a result, as young adults, each of us were already very mindful of responsible fiscal living, and that only increased after we got married.
However, it took Martin and me what I thought was a REEEEEALLLLLLYYYYYYY long time to get on the same page with how to approach exactly HOW to approach being “fiscally responsible.” His tactic, for a number of years, was, “Don’t buy anything, ever, and save all your money.” That sounds all right, but what about when there are real needs?
I was reminded of that time in our lives this morning, and one major way I got through his tight-fistedness.
Most mornings, I sit down with my six-year-old, Audrey, with my now-ancient copy of The Pregnancy Journal. There are daily entries in this spiral-bound book of what is happening in the mother’s body, how the baby is developing, plus other tidbits about childbirth in other cultures, hints on nutrition, pithy — or touching — quotes about parenting, et al. There are also lines on which the mother can record how her particular pregnancy is progressing: her weight, mood, and other thoughts.
My current pregnancy is only a week different than my first, as far as due-dates go. My oldest, who will turn 16 on June 23, was due on July 4th. This pregnancy, my sixth, is tentatively slated to end on June 27. So, I have found it especially interesting, comparing my thoughts now, as an experienced mother, with my thoughts from sixteen years ago.
This morning I read something particularly poignant: It detailed how I really needed maternity clothes, and Martin wouldn’t release the funds. I now find that almost laughable: He’s a lot more reasonable now; I almost can’t believe that I could have made it to 20-ish weeks in my first pregnancy with ZERO maternity clothes, and him still saying, “No.” Additionally, I’m now a lot better at finding good deals; most of my current maternity wardrobe came, second-hand, from Craigslist. Some items came at no cost via Freecycle. And just a few things, I purchased new. I’m certain that, back then, I had no intention of buying secondhand maternity clothes.
In my journal entry, though, I noted that even if my husband was wrong, I didn’t want to develop any bitterness. I didn’t want to harbor any anger for him. He wasn’t in sin. He wasn’t breaking the law. He was simply unreasonable. I felt it then, and now, looking back, I still think he was unreasonable. Reading that journal entry caused all my old feelings to come flooding back: I remember struggling mightily with feeling hurt and unprovided-for.
However, in the midst of that dilemma, I decided to pray. Really, it was my only option.
I’m 39 and have been a Christian since I was five years old. However, I still tussle with the basic premise of prayer at times. “Why would God listen to me? Why would He move on my behalf? What if I’m praying the wrong way? Or for the wrong thing? I don’t even fully understand why He wants His people to pray. He knows everything, right? He already knows my needs. I don’t know why He works like that. Hmph.” Prayer often seems like a non-action.
Even though I’m not really fond of aging, one thing that I am appreciating is having a history and a longer perspective. I can look back on a current difficulty and say, “Well, I don’t know why God would answer my prayer. But He has, so many times before. I’m just going to pray. I’m just going to exercise some faith that He will listen and that He will move on my behalf.”
And, whaddya know??? Sixteen years ago, God provided. He showed up, and in a BIG way.
My pen from 16 years ago records the names of seven people who had, in a period of three weeks, given me money for maternity clothes, gift cards, gifts of clothing, and loans of maternity clothes, all of them unasked-for. I don’t know what prompted them; but whatever the method of prompting, God was behind it.
There were seven of them*. In three weeks. Immediately after I started praying.
I wrote, “The Father has seriously overwhelmed me.”
Shortly after my firstborn entered my life, I started going to a ladies’ Bible study. It was held at a church so near to my house, I could walk. It was attended by about 200 women weekly, most of whom were in the midst of marriage difficulty.** The lady who led it — a wise and grandmotherly sort — was fond of telling us women that the line we draw is sin: If our husbands are so wrong that they are requiring us to SIN, we don’t comply. However, if it’s just that our husbands are wrong, if it’s just that we don’t agree, if it’s just that they’re unreasonable… The best course of action is to turn it over to God in prayer, and let God be God in our husband’s life, and trust HIM, Almighty God, as the true source of our provision.
Easier said than done.
Well, maybe. It’s not even easy to say! But, I’m glad for the reminder, this morning, of God’s provision. And, I’m glad for the reminder of how far my husband and I have come as a couple.
*Five of those ladies are still in my life, incidentally. 🙂
**I wouldn’t say that my marriage was in difficulty, however, I was — two years into it — still having a tough time adjusting to being married, being other-oriented, thinking in terms of “two become one”, etc. I learned a lot in the 3-4 years I attended.
If you think this is a post in which I
berate encourage you to do a better job planning, it’s not.
I don’t plan. Not really. Well, sort of, I do.
But not like my friend Daja at the Provision Room. She’s a pro.
A friend asked me yesterday, “Do you have a website that you use to plan meals or do you just wing it?”
Here was my response:
Somewhere in the middle. I don’t use a website. What I do is see what is on sale for the week, and plan my meals — roughly — around that. “OK. Pork roast is on sale. I can do a Crockpot with green chile pork.” And I know that I always have green chiles, onions, garlic, and the spices to make that happen. “OK. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are on a smoking sale. I’ll buy four packages, put one in the freezer, do stirfry with one, grill two packages using one batch of grilled chicken for dinner that night and saving the other grilled chicken for chicken sandwiches on the night I have small group and I need a fast meal…” Like that. I also purposefully make LARGE dinners, both so that Martin can take leftovers for lunch at work (he prefers that, and it saves money) AND so that we can have at least one night during the week (usually Saturday) where we have a whole meal of just leftovers.
And then… if there isn’t a cut of meat on sale at a price I want to pay, or if there are other staple items that have taken a big chunk out of that week’s grocery budget, I pull stuff out of the freezer.
So… I don’t plan stuff out like with a website. But, I do make a rough plan in my head, based on what I know I keep on hand in the pantry, dishes I know our family likes, and dishes that will best use what’s on sale that week.
Hope that makes sense.
This does bring to mind a few things:
- I have quite a few standard pantry items. When I run out of one thing (or come close to it), I always put it on my grocery shopping list. I know my pantry well, and I ensure it stays stocked.
- When I make my grocery shopping lists, I combine both what I know I need with what is on sale that week, using the weekly ads, if the store has one. With the sale ads, I can see what “occasional buy” type items might be found at a good price that week. For instance, in my shopping trip last night to Sprouts, I had, among other things, arborio rice, chia seeds, and yogurt on the list. When I looked at the sale ads*, I saw that Sprouts also had bulk quinoa at $2.49/lb, Mom’s Best cereal (not g.f., not organic, but all-natural and my older two boys can eat it) at $2/box, and Cascade Fresh 6 oz yogurt cups at 2/$1.00. Those are all things that I can and will use, even if they weren’t initially on my list. Yes, there was yogurt on my list, but I usually only buy plain. Cascade Fresh is one of my favorite brands — all natural, fruit-juice-sweetened, and it was nice for a treat. So, I purchased. (I also purchased one soy-based yogurt at $0.99 for my son who can’t have dairy. It was a brand that uses non-GMO, organic soybeans… I’m not a huge fan of soy, but when he only has one soy yogurt every month or two, I think his body can weather it.)
- I have a mental file of what is a good price for pretty much everything. For example, on my shopping list were dry beans and canned pumpkin. However, this shopping trip, both were expensive – – not on sale. So, I didn’t purchase. I’ll wait until next week or another store to get a good price. Can I wait for a few days or a week or even more to purchase those things? Yes, I can.
- I cook exclusively from scratch and mostly without using recipes. I know not everyone has this skill… My mom taught me how to cook, starting at age seven. I’m 39. That’s 32 years of cooking. I enjoy it, too! So, while I often keep an eye out for a new recipe to try, I would hazard to say that nine out of ten dinnertime meals are made without a recipe. This allows me to be more flexible. I know what I can make, I know what our family likes, and I can make those items, sans a recipe. I don’t have to pull out a recipe card, look at the 15 items, realize that I don’t have 13 of them, and then put all 13 things on my shopping list. In other words, what’s on sale dictates the menu, not the other way around.
- If I have a hankerin’ for something or someone makes a special request — like homemade pizza or homemade Caesar salad — I’ll put mozzarella cheese, (nitrate-free!) pepperoni, and tinned anchovies on the list, and I’ll purchase them if I can find them at a good price, and make that special item. Often, though, I will “plan” to make a special dish for two, three, or even four weeks before I find all the items needed to make that special dish at the right price. If those items cost too much that week — or if they don’t otherwise fit within the budget — I will add the “special purchase” item back to the grocery list for next week.
- My flexible approach makes participating in a CSA, farm share, or other “random” produce plan work well: It really doesn’t matter what kinds of produce I get that week. Whatever comes in the basket, I can find multiple ways to make it work.
So, I guess that’s what it boils down to: I prefer flexibility and saving the maximum amount of money OVER having all my ducks carefully lined up in a row and me knowing a week (or a month!) in advance what I will be making on any given day. But, like I wrote to my friend above, that doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all; I just don’t plan in what might be considered a traditional, menu-planning way.
So, how about you? What tools do you use? Any? Are you looking to change your meal-planning habits any time in the future? If so, why? If not, why? Inquiring minds want to know….
*As a bonus, Sprouts has double-ad Wednesdays. Each sale ad starts on Wednesday and ends Thursday, eight days later. So each Wednesday, two weeks’ worth of ads are valid. So, when there is a screamin’ deal — like navel oranges at 4 lbs/$1.00, I know I can buy 10+ this Wednesday, and 10+ lbs next Wednesday, too. I virtually always shop at Sprouts on Wednesdays to take advantage of double ads.
There are a lot of resources (including recipes) on the internet for all sorts of natural cleaners. I still get asked frequently, though, about what I use.
So, here’s what I do.
First, gather your ingredients:
- Baking soda. I buy baking soda at Costco in 13.5 lb bags, about $6.50 per bag.
- White (distilled) vinegar. I also buy this at Costco. It comes in a 1.33 gallon size, about $3.75.
- Essential oil. I buy this at Sprouts — there are a lot of online resources for essential oil, too. Depending on the oil, it will run you $4-15 per 0.5 oz dropper jar. I typically buy tangerine or lavender, both because I like the scent and because they’re one of the less-expensive varieties. Various essential oils are supposed to accomplish various things (for example, lavender has disinfectant properties and is calming), but I just buy them for the scent.
- A natural, phosphate-free dishwashing liquid. I like the kind from Trader Joe’s, but you can find it just about anywhere. Method, Meyer’s Clean Day, Seventh Generation, even Clorox Green Works is fine. Just not Dawn or Palmolive or the like; they contain chemical detergents and dyes and scents that aren’t good for you or for the environment and just don’t work when you’re using it as an ingredient to make a household cleaner.
Now, make your cleaners:
- For my Everything Cleaner: Fill a 32 oz squirt bottle about 60% full of white vinegar. Add about 20 drops of essential oil. Add about 1 tsp dishwashing liquid. Top bottle with filtered water. Shake gently. This cleaner literally works on everything non-porous: toilets, counter tops, windows, mirrors, stainless steel, whatever. And, it’s non-toxic, so use it without fear in the kitchen. The vinegar is a disinfectant, so if that’s important to you, let the cleaner sit on the surface for a while before wiping down. If you notice streaking on windows, mirrors, and stainless steel, you’re using too much dish soap.
- For things that need scrubbing: Baking soda. That’s it. If you want to get fancy, fill a bowl with baking soda and add 10-20 drops of essential oil. Store in a shaker jar. Use this to clean out tubs, sinks, cook tops, ovens, etc. This also works as a stink-remover on carpet and furniture. Sprinkle, let sit for a while, then vacuum off.
- For floors: A squirt of dish soap in a bucket of hot water. For floors that are NOT a natural stone, add a cup of white vinegar. You don’t need a fancy, expensive floor cleaner.
- For laundry: For about two years, I made my own laundry soap; I don’t any more. I now buy Costco’s Kirkland brand “environmentally friendly” laundry detergent. It is scented (much to my surprise when I first purchased it). To the bottom of each tub of laundry, I add 1/2 cup of baking soda. I fill the fabric softener compartment with white vinegar. The white vinegar is especially effective if you live in an area that has hard water, and/or if your family suffers from eczema and you need all soap residue removed from clothing. If your washing machine does not have an extra rinse/fabric softener cycle, when your clothes are washed, run an additional rinse cycle, adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar. I use regular ol’ unscented bleach on my whites. I do not use fabric softener in the dryer. Don’t need it. Our clothes aren’t as highly scented as if I were using Tide and Downy, but they are CLEAN and what I’m doing is better for our skin and our environment, not to mention cheaper.
Where I do use purchased cleaners:
- Murphy’s Oil Soap. I still use this on wood surfaces like kitchen cabinets.
- Method Wood For Good Furniture Polish. I like the scent, I like the shine. It works well.
- Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. You can use bleach or even baking soda, but the Cling variety of toilet bowl cleaner is still my old standby.
- Dishwasher detergent. I typically buy Palmolive Eco+.
There are folks who make their own dish soap, their own dishwashing detergent, their own laundry detergent… I have experimented with all of those. But from a cost + effort + effectiveness, at least for now, these are the things I have found to be the best choice for our family.
In some ways, the clichéd accusation is true: my homeschooled children are sheltered. Two events happened in the last 24 hours, though, that made me chuckle while thinking, “Being sheltered isn’t such a bad thing.”
- Yesterday, I took the five children to the Prescott area, about an hour and a half north of here. Among other things, we picked up my nephew and went to Costco. So, I had six children, ages 3 – 16, in the store with me, and everyone was fabulous. I was so pleased with how smoothly everything was going, and wanted to bless them. So, I decided that everyone could have a frozen yogurt or a berry smoothie. Oh, I laughed as my children inadvertently reminded me how infrequently we do this sort of thing — both because of cost, the sugar, and because who knows what’s in “yogurt” at Costco?? I usually avoid that sort of stuff like the plague. But, this was a special occasion. “Chocolate, vanilla, or swirl?” I asked each child. “What’s swirl?” replied two of them — my six-year-old, Audrey, and my 15-year-old, Ethan. Swirl. They didn’t know what swirl was. Adding to Audrey’s confusion was the whole topic of “yogurt.” She is familiar with plain, whole milk yogurt, which she very often has for/with her breakfast. “Yogurt can be ice cream??” she marveled. Once we got it sorted out what swirl and frozen yogurt was, we could proceed. Ethan and Audrey both decided to try this novelty of an idea: swirl. I had chocolate and gave Fiala (my three-year-old, who has almost kicked a systemic, REALLY BAD candida albicans yeast infection) six little bites. Everyone else chowed down, and by the end, two of my children were saying it was too sweet and they had a stomach ache. Ha! It was a learning experience for all of us, and a really good ~$8.50 spent.
- Yesterday, we also received a package from Riega Foods for us to review*. Now, this isn’t the official review, but I had to share: I wanted to finish cleaning bathrooms before getting lunch ready, and the clock was ticking, especially since I sat down after being 80% done and chatted with my sister for a half-hour on the phone, which I absolutely do not regret. 😀 My oldest, Ethan, was especially interested in the cheese sauce mixes, and asked if he could make some macaroni and cheese for lunch. I thought this might be a good idea, especially since my dairy-free child is gone at a friend’s house for the day. Well, we didn’t quite have enough of the right sort of gluten-free noodles to make a whole meal of it, but I decided that he could work on that to be a “lunch snack” while I finished cleaning the bathrooms. Now, you need to understand something: Ethan is my sous chef. He is a great hand at food prep: washing, chopping, slicing, stirring, flipping, mixing, pretty much anything I need him to do at the cutting board and the stove top. Very often, I’m the brains behind making a meal, and he’s the brawn, doing a good portion of the actual work. So, it’s not like he’s inexperienced in the kitchen. However… he continued to come to me to ask me a question or two or three about the process of making what is the (almost) natural equivalent of Kraft Mac & Cheese — powdered mix combined with ¼ cup milk and a couple of tablespoons of butter. I was partly annoyed that he was having difficulty with such a simple kitchen task when it dawned on me, “He has very little experience following the directions on a package!!!” We make virtually everything from scratch, and I can’t remember the last time a “cheese sauce mix” was in our home!! He’s more accustomed to, “Slice these ¼-inch thick and sauté them in butter.” I finally had to stop what I was doing, and go over in great detail how to make boxed pasta. I also completely abandoned my annoyance, and was amused and rather pleased that, in his fifteen years of life on this planet, he has virtually no experience with “cheese sauce”.
*Stay tuned for a whole review and a giveaway!!!!
Thus ends the most French-filled blog post I think I’ve ever written.
Wee little garden update:
This morning, I harvested $6.58 worth of fresh, organic produce. Here’s how I figured it:
- One head of lettuce (Simpson Black Seeded — one of the BEST choices I made for my garden this spring). Seven oz, after being torn and washed. Five ounce containers of organic lettuce are typically $3.99. At that rate, my lettuce is worth $4.49.
- Two ounces broccoli — actually my largest head of broccoli so far, only about 5″ across… Turns out that broccoli typically doesn’t produce well at first try… Still, I’m not giving up. I may try a different variety next time, though. And plant it later, as the best of my broccoli has been harvested this month, when it’s warmer. Anyway. I can typically get organic broccoli at the store for $1.49/lb, so my two ounces equals $0.19 worth.
- Turnips — 3.5 oz. Actually, they’re not turnips. They’re the roots of Tyfon greens, which is a cross between a turnip and a kind of Chinese cabbage. Tyfon was a good choice when they were young and it was cooler, and we ate a ton of it, usually garlic braised and mixed with red chard. But as the weather has warmed, the Tyfon has been an absolute aphid MAGNET. Gross. So, I pulled the remainder of them out this morning, and a few of them had biggish, turnip-looking roots. Thus, 3.5 oz of “turnips”, at $2.99/lb = $0.65 worth.
- Six ounces carrots. We have a spot at the end of the garden where my daughter Fiala dumped an entire packet of carrot seeds. Even with regular thinning, it has turned into a carrot forest. I did a little research, because these carrot tops were developing powdery mildew. It turns out that powdery mildew — which is fairly harmless on carrots, though it can spread to other plants and stunt growth — flourishes in dry days, in shady conditions, and in crowded plants which inhibits circulation. The “carrot forest” is, unfortunately, largely shaded by a tree. It’s dry here. And, they’re crowded. Thus, I’ve had to pull out lots of baby carrots, which really aren’t akin to grocery store “baby carrots”. When they’re not full-grown, they’re rather bitter. But, they’re still edible. So, 6 oz carrots at $0.99/lb = $0.38 worth.
- I also harvested eight cherry tomatoes — 4 yellow and 4 red. Organic tomatoes are really expensive — typically $3.99/lb. So, my 3.5 oz of cherry tomatoes is worth at least $0.87.
If my math is right, that is $6.58. And that’s just from today! I’m daily harvesting produce. AND, there’s still a bunch of red chard I need to harvest before it bolts, which I will do later today. Organic red chard is typically $1.99/bunch this time of year, and I have enough for a good 4, 5, 6 store-sized bunches. Maybe more. And there are some lovely green onions that can be harvested. Even though my garden is small — about 7′ x 20′ — it has been extremely productive, once I got it going… Definitely more productive this spring than last; I’ve learned a lot in quite a short period of time.