Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DAY 30This is the final day of the 30 Days of Nothing.

It has been pretty slim pickings around here these last few days, for sure. Today being the slimmest. Still, we all had food to eat, even if it wasn't exactly what we might have liked to have had. But, that is good for us, isn't it? And a good lesson in thankfulness?

For breakfast we had oatmeal and milk. My oldest child doesn't like oatmeal so he had toast with jelly. We were out of eggs.

We had our homeschool co-op classes in the next town over, so we packed a lunch consisting of PB & H (last of the bread), salad, and leftover lasagna and onion cheese supper bread.

Dinner was the sketchiest meal we have had this month, by a mile. But, it really forced me to be creative! The kids wanted tacos. I browned the deer meat before I realized that I didn't have taco seasonings of any kind...no salsa, taco seasoning mix, or chili powder. So, to the deer meat I added ketchup, garlic powder, salt, and all of the taco bell sauce packets that were languishing in the back of my fridge. I didn't point out my doctoring to anyone, and they didn't say anything, so I guess it was good! They also had corn on the cob, which had been in the freezer and frozen blueberries. For dessert, I was looking at a couple of leftover flour tortillas and a small bowl of cream cheese icing left over from the cinnamon rolls I made a few weeks ago. I cooked the tortillas on the griddle with a little bit of butter and sprinkled with cinnamon. Then, I spread the torilla with the icing and folded it over. I left it on the griddle until the icing softened and warmed. The kids and I loved these! They were really good and the boys were impressed. Iron Chef has nothing on us. Ha! It is really fun to come up with new "recipes" when faced with a weird assortment of ingredients. They may not make it to the table for future meals, but it is fun to experiment.

My grocery list is fairly long and I am looking forward to going to the store. However, I do not plan on going crazy now that September is ending. I won't be holding myself to spending only $200 next month. I will resume shopping in a more regular manner, but am going to document how much I spend each week and may occasionally post on what I am doing differently, how my shopping has changed post-experiment, and what things I am allowing back into the cart after a month of living with less.
I am still processing what I have learned from this month, and will probably post more about it later, as time goes on and as I shop in a less restricted manner. I am curious about you. Were you doing this challenge? And, whether you were or not, as you read about my and others' experiences, did you change anything about the way you shopped or the way that you perceived what qualifies as a necessity?

I really thrive on challenges. My creativity and excitement for homemaking is heightened when I have a goal in mind. I always learn things as I am forced to evaluate and reconsider habits. Now that I am coming off of the 30 Days of Nothing (but still working through what I learned in my mind), I am thinking of a new challenge and wondering if any of you would be interested in participating in it with me. I am thinking of taking the 30 Days of Nothing idea and tweaking it a bit...more like a 30 Days of Less, Christmas Edition. It will involve being really intentional about gift giving and holiday spending. Being creative with decorating. Making and giving gifts that are meaningful, but not necessarily expensive. It won't be just about pinching pennies, but rather, spending the Christmas season focusing on things of lasting value. That is something that I always want to do better. I will flesh this out a little more over the next few days but please let me know if you are interested in participating with me!

*Creative Commons image from Dan Taylor on flickr.com

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CALLING ALL SIMPLE SHOES LOVERS!For any of you out there that love Simple Shoes as much as I do, I thought I would alert you to a sale. Several of their styles are about half off, and free shipping. I am thinking about getting a pair like mine for one of my boys. They are technically for girls, but I am not too hung up on that. They are the most comfortable shoes ever and I love that they are made out of repurposed materials. And, they are super cute!

Monday, September 22, 2008

HOME FROM AFAR, AND BEARING YUMMY GIFTS!My dear hubby arrived home safely last night, after five days in Seattle, WA and the surrounding countryside. During his trip, he toured apple orchards, potato fields, seafood boats, and several factories where the produce was sorted, washed, and packed for shipment. His favorite stop on his trip though was Pike's Place Market. I had read about/seen shows about Pike's Place, and of course, was green with envy that he was able to go! He gave me the next best thing by calling while he was there, sending me multiple pictures and videos, and best of all, bringing home some delicious items from the market!

-Honey sticks. Tiny tubes of honey, lightly flavored with the essence of different fruits.
-Cheese Curds. I am quite sure I can make these when I get my next raw milk supply. After tasting these, I definitely want to try. They are delicious!
-Two other cheeses that the merchant recommended. A smoked gouda, and a house cheese.
-10 lovely apples, that he picked from one of the orchards. The boys have already eaten 5 today!
-Fresh pasta! Oh my, the fun I am going to have with these. Such unusual flavors. Basil Tangerine, Tunisian Harissa, and dark chocolate!
For the chocolate, I am thinking of topping it with a white chocolate "alfredo", or fresh whipping cream and raspberry sauce. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

At $10 a pound for the pasta, and $17 a pound for the cheese, it is unlikely that I would have purchased these if I had been there, so it was even more fun to get them as a gift! My hubby is a wonderful gift giver. He always surprises me with his attentiveness, often purchasing things that I never thought of, yet absolutely love upon receiving. And, he loves to give me things. He keeps it in check, because I am not a big stuff person, but the gifts he does buy are so thoughtful.

Seeing my excitement when he pulled the items out of his bag, he remarked "now you can feel like a real foodie for a while!".

Ah, I love that man!

*Creative Commons image from cwbuecheler on flickr.com

Friday, September 19, 2008


Today we ate:

Breakfast: French Toast, bananas, milk
Lunch: Corn and Black Bean Quesadillas, grapes
Dinner: Lentil Soup, homemade bread. The kids had spaghetti (wheat pasta, homemade sauce), green beans, and bananas

Thursday, September 18, 2008


My friend and her children came to town yesterday. She called on the way down and said that when she arrived she wanted to go to the store to pick up some foods for her children, since they are pretty picky eaters. I felt a little panicked...I was unsure if that was something I should pay for, or if I should just let her go to the store and get what she wanted. I had spent some time the day before, planning out meals, going to the store, etc. I really didn't want to go spend more money at the store, because of this challenge, yet, I didn't want to be inhospitable either.

We ended up going to the store together, along with our five boys. As my friend filled her cart with mac and cheese, cheetos, chicken fingers, juice, crackers, frozen waffles, pizza, etc. I nervously watched my children, waiting for them to start asking for those things too. We picked up some more fruit, as we were almost out, and my friend's children liked grapes, bananas, and apples too. I purchased some graham crackers for the boys, after saying "no" to about 15 other kinds of crackers. After biting into one today, I regret purchasing them. I should have just made more of these chocolate graham crackers, because they were much better, and I already had all the ingredients. Oh well.

My boys asked for cheese sticks and yogurt. I told them they could pick one. They picked yogurt, and I bought a block of cheddar to cut into sticks. I spent $21 at the store, on an unplanned and unnecessary trip. I felt really torn between being hospitable and being frugal (and not going over my $200 for the month). I know that most of the time it doesn't have to be one or the other. We regularly invite people into our home for a meal, or have something on hand for when friends drop by. I guess this was a little different because they were staying in our home for several days and didn't want to eat what I had planned to prepare. What would you have done in this situation? Should I have let the 30 days of nothing go, and purchased the food items they wanted to eat for the sake of hospitality? I still don't know if I did the right thing or not. And, with that $21 in extra food added to this month's total, next week is going to be veeeerrry slim. I am going to have to get really creative in the kitchen next week!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

JUST A COUPLE QUESTIONS, FOR FUNInspired by this post, I thought I would do a little fun questionnaire of my own!
I can't wait to read your answers!

::If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

::If you could change your name, what would it be?

::If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be, and why?

::What would you eat for your final meal?

::You are on a desert island and you only have one CD. What are you listening to?

Feel free to answer one or all in the comments box!

*Creative commons image from eleaf on flickr.com
NATURAL BODY CAREBody care is an area of natural living that I have not yet made any real changes in my life. It feels very overwhelming, with lots of conflicting information (or little information at all!). It is time for me to dive into studying and researching and making changes. I have been thinking about it more and more, especially in the morning, when my eyes are burning and watering for 10-15 minutes after putting my Aveeno Daily Facial Moisturizer on. Not good. What goes on our skin seeps into the rest of our bodies, so it seems a little counterintuitive to only focus on what is going INTO my family's bodies, but not ON them. I use more products than anyone else in my family. My children only use Tom's of Maine toothpaste and bar soap (links below). My husband uses Colgate toothpaste, and Old Spice deodorant, but everything else we use is the same.

The products I currently use:

-Shampoo and Conditioner (various brands)
-Tom's of Maine Bar Soap
-Suave spray Deodorant (I was using Tom's of Maine (Calendula), but it just smells awful! And that defeats the purpose, doesn't it?!)
-Arbonne Foundation
-Mascara (various brands)
-Eyeliner, eyeshadow (used very infrequently, various brands)
-Aveeno Facial Lotion
-Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm
-Tom's of Maine Toothpaste
-Clinique Astringent

Growing up, I was well acquainted with using natural herbal remedies for every day maladies. Oregano was used for fever blisters and cold sores. Tobacco leaves were used on stings. Aloe was used on burns. Chamomile healed and soothed a whole host of ills. But when it comes to every day skin and body care, I am pretty clueless. I have switched to Tom's of Maine and Burt's Bees for many items, and I know they are better than most other brands, but I still haven't researched them enough to know whether they are really natural or not.

When I am in the kitchen, I sometimes use items found there on my skin. When I am baking, I will dab any vanilla extract on my fingers behind my ears, for a natural perfume and often use olive oil on Bauer's bottom, or on my hands, in place of lotion.

I would really like to get away from using conventional body products altogether, but I am not ready to go no-poo.

So, this is an area that I will be looking into more in the coming weeks and months. I would love to know what you use, and what natural products you really like. I have heard good things about Aubrey Organics, and of course, Dr. Bronners. Do any of you use these products?

As with most other areas of my life, I will be making small, slow changes that over time, will (hopefully) result in a more natural, simple, and frugal way of living. I welcome your thoughts and experiences on this topic. It really seems overwhelming. Perhaps I will focus on finding one product at a time to use in place of the chemical laden products I currently slather on my skin. :)

*Creative Commons image from creo que soy yo on flickr.com

Monday, September 15, 2008

GROCERY LIST AND WEEK 3 MENUI have perused my pantry shelves, looked at recipes, and made my grocery list. I am keeping the cooking pretty simple this week (as I have this whole month!). I have a friend (who is pregnant) and her children coming in from out of town for several days, as well as the hubby going out of town.
Factors that were considered when making this week's menu:

-5 picky little boys to feed this week, as well as...
-1 picky pregnant friend to feed :)
-Incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into our menu
-making snacks from scratch. They might not be super healthy, but at least I can make them healthier than they would be if purchased.
-the hubby will be out of pocket for several days
-several dinners that are easily transportable, in case we want to picnic in the park
-using ingredients on hand: the hubby bought chicken thighs for dirt cheap last week. I am not thrilled to cook/eat chicken thighs, but we have them now, so I want to find good ways to cook them for Matt and the boys.


-Green smoothies
-Blueberry muffins
-Eggs in a basket

-PB & J, apples, potato chips
-Pizza, fruit, salad
-Grilled cheese, fruit

-Chocolate graham crackers, peanut butter
-green smoothies
-banana "ice cream"
-stove top popcorn

-Spaghetti, salad
-Salad bar (lettuce, spinach, nuts, cheese, various veggies, dressing, dried fruits, shredded chicken thigh meat)
-Mac and Cheese, green beans, fruit
-Pizza, salad, fruit
-Egg Rolls, raw sweet and sour slaw

On a totally unrelated note, I was reading this month's issue of Women's Health, and they had an article on 125 packaged foods that are good to eat/not that bad for you...and seriously, Reddi-Wip was on their list. Reddi-wip as health food. Crazy.

*Creative commons image from House of Sims on flickr.com

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Breakfast: Cereal with milk
Lunch: Frittata and deer sausage, for the guys
Snack: stovetop popcorn
Dinner: leftovers

I am running low on food in the house. There is nothing to snack on and not many quick meals. I am going to make some snacks tomorrow, as well as buy groceries. I feel like our healthy eating has kind of gone down the drain the last few weeks, so I am going to be buying a lot of fruits and vegetables this week and focusing on eating and preparing more raw foods. I haven't planned out my menu yet, but here are a few healthier snacks I have in mind.

-Banana "ice cream" (this great snack came from Sara. It is nothing but frozen bananas, whipped up in the food processor. It is just like ice cream and my children LOVE it. Sometimes I add a little chocolate sauce.)
-Frozen Grapes
-Apple slices with cinnamon
-Homemade granola bars
-Green smoothies

*Creative Commons image from longhorndave on flickr.com

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Breakfast: We went out with friends for donuts
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: PB & J, apples, water, carrots, raisins, homemade marshmallows

I knew that the hubby would be hunting this evening. The house was relatively clean (and I wanted it to stay that way), so I decided to take the boys to the park for a picnic. We met friends there, and spent two lovely hours playing frisbee, football, soccer, blowing bubbles, running in the grass, playing on the playground, and having a picnic. I wanted to insure that my boys were worn out by the time we headed home, so we had several timed races too, just to get them running a little harder. :)
It was very hot, but we all had a nice time. We don't really have grass at our house, since our lot is very wooded, so it was great to have a big expanse of grass for them to run on. As it cools off, I hope that we can meet and play with many more friends at the park in the evenings. We stayed until the moon was out and three little boys had heavy eyelids.

I am almost halfway through the month, and, for the most part, this challenge has been a great experience. I am really learning a lot, finding new ways to be frugal, and am just generally more mindful of all that we have and enjoy. However, I will admit that I feel like I have spent A LOT more time in the kitchen these last two weeks. I also think about/plan for/prepare food more often. I am feeling a little burned out on food (just a little). Now that the discount food store is closing (and food costs continue to rise), I think it will be very hard to keep my spending to $200 a month on a regular basis without a lot of work. It would be nearly impossible if I had to purchase diapers and cleaning products. I feel pretty confident that I could (and will) keep my spending under $300 a month, without nearly as much effort as I am spending to keep it under $200. But, even only spending $200 this month, there have still been plenty of non-necessary food items that I have purchased and/or made. Homemade marshmallows aren't exactly essential!

Here are the new (to me) items that I whipped up in the kitchen this week:
-Chocolate Syrup
-Cinnamon Rolls
-Egg Rolls

The marshmallows tasted pretty much like normal marshmallows. Not nearly as amazing as I had anticipated them being. I did like the square shape though. Yesterday afternoon, one of the boys asked for hot chocolate with marshmallows. Another child glumly replied that we didn't have any chocolate syrup...or marshmallows. I thought for a moment, then said that I could probably make both of those. The look of awe on their little faces was positively priceless.

Cost of homemade marshmallows: $1.25

Cost of homemade chocolate sauce: $1.00

Having your children think you're a super hero: Priceless


*Creative Commons image from Cadesa on Flickr.com

Day 11 (Thursday):
Breakfast: Green Smoothies*, cinnamon rolls
Lunch: PB & J on homemade bread, grapes, water
Dinner: Baked potatoes, egg rolls, salad, sweet tea

Thursday afternoon, I went to the store and bought:
-4 peaches
-1 onion
-2 potatoes
-Bag of carrots
-6 Bananas
-Wheat flour
-Toilet Paper
-Corn Syrup
-Egg Roll Wrappers
-1 head of Cabbage
-3 apples

I went to three stores: the produce stand, Save-a Lot, and Bi-LO. I spent a total of $27.70, which brings my total monthly spending to $124.34. I am definitely going to have to be careful for the rest of the month, if I am going to stay under $200. Especially since a good friend of mine and her two children will be visiting for five days this week.

Day 12 (Friday):
Breakfast: Green smoothies*, cereal
Lunch: Caedmon and I went with a kindergarten class on a field trip to Applebees (for "A" week). The younger two boys had lunch with Matt's mom at her house.
Dinner: Kids had homemade pizza. Matt took me on an impromptu date night to dinner and a movie!

So, the hubby and I are walking in to the theatre and he asks me if I would like popcorn. I didn't, but looked at the menu, curious to see how much it cost. $5 for a small popcorn! I turned to Matt and said "Do you realize that I can feed one member of our family for 3 1/2 days on $5?!!" He laughed and said there was no way that I could do that. So, I showed him the math. $200 for 1 month, for a family of 5. That's $50 a week, or $10 a week, per person. That means I can feed one person in our family for half a week, for the cost of one small bag of movie theatre popcorn. If I had wanted the popcorn before I figured that out, I sure didn't after! This experiment is really opening my eyes (and I think, my husband's!), not only to how much excess is in our lives, but also the value we put on products (not necessarily related to the monetary cost). Stuff to ponder.

*Green smoothies have become a daily thing around here again, after a couple of months without making them very often. They are the easiest way to insure that my youngest children get fresh leafy greens in their little bodies!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yesterday (Day nine) we ate:

Breakfast: Green smoothies, cereal
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Leftovers

Today (Day ten) we ate:

Breakfast: Green smoothies, cereal
Lunch: Homemade bread with fresh, warm jam, cheese, grapes
Dinner: Matt is going out for wing night with the guys. The kids are having grilled cheese. My friend, Lauren, is coming over for homemade chinese food and project runway.

I know I already have a week's worth of meals planned out and shopped for but I am thinking of changing things up. I would like to try some new recipes such as this and this and this. I have most of the ingredients already, and the few that I need won't cost much. So, I think I might add in some new recipes, along with the menu I already have planned out, to stretch the current menu into two weeks.

*Creative commons image from audinou on flickr.com

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I was told today that reading about the thirty days of nothing is getting old. I am guessing by the fewer comments that others out there concur.

Is it getting a little too tedious? Would you rather just read a once a week synopsis instead of a daily play by play?

I don't want to suddenly change course in the middle of this 30 Days, if you are still interested in reading about it. But no biggie if you aren't.

Feedback would be appreciated.
My blog is boring me. It needs a face lift.

For one thing, I need to learn to take pictures. I want to have good pictures that depict what I am writing about.

For another thing, I am too loquacious. My blog has too many words (shout out to Amadeus here).

I want my blog to be more like this and this.

Just a heads up, in case you notice an identity crisis in progress around here for awhile.

Also, this picture has no significance in regards to this post. I just wanted a picture up.

Today we ate:
Breakfast: Green smoothies, french toast
Lunch: Tacos, fruit
Dinner: Homemade pizza for the boys. Date night for the adults!

Grocery Spending:
-Cream Cheese and...
-Powdered sugar, for these (per Caedmon's request) hat tip to Soule Mama
-Cheerios (generic)
-1 Ib. mozzarella
-4 Peaches
-4 Bananas
-Yard Eggs

Total spent: $20.12

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Week one went well. It was very enjoyable to make do with what was in my pantry, to have a plan for meals, and most importantly, to be more mindful of the blessing of abundant food, and being thankful. It is a good thing to be aware and that heightened awareness is something that I really appreciate about challenges such as these.

Here is a run down of Week One, as well as my menu for Week Two.

Money spent on Groceries: $76.52

Number of meals eaten at home: 18 out of 21 meals were eaten at home this week. 1 meal was eaten at my parents, and 2 were eaten at restaurants.

Number of Friends and family that came over for a meal: 11 people came over at various times during the week to share a meal with us. Several times this was a spontaneous, last minute thing, which was easy to do because I had a menu made out and always had something readily available to feed everyone. Having a menu really made hospitality easy. I need to file that for future reference.

Menu for Week Two:

1/2. Cereal
3. French Toast
4. Muffins
5/6. Green smoothies, toast
7. Eggs and toast

1/2. PB & J, apples
3. Cheese toast, grapes
4/5/6. Left overs
7. pizza, fruit

-Popcorn (olive oil and sea salt)
-Crudites and hummus
-Green smoothie

1. Pasta Faglioli, salad
2. Corn and Black Bean Quesadillas, salad
3. Frittata, Fruit Salad
4. Loaded baked potatoes, Salad
5. Baked Fish, corn on the cob, green beans

My grocery list is pretty long for next week, but because I spent so much this past week, I will only be buying a few things off my list, and making do without the other items for now.

-Block Parmesan
-Monterey Jack
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chili Powder
Baking Potatoes*

*These are probably the only items I will buy this week. While I am out of most cheeses, I will just purchase a little mozzarella this week, which can fill in for most of the other cheeses in the meals I make. I might buy cheddar too. I am going to try to keep my spending around $20, if possible, so I will be back on track for the rest of the month. The cocoa, chili powder, and EVOO are not needed this week, but I am beginning to run low...I can just grab those in the next few weeks.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Today was another lovely day at home. After a week of teaching, cleaning, canning jam, and the other normal things that come with running a household, I used today to just putter. I rearranged my living room, rehung pictures in new places, edited (always, the editing). I like the changes. It is so fun to spend a day every now and then, looking at my home through new eyes and making changes.
The desire to change things around the house seems to come with the changing of the seasons. I am not a person that does a lot of decorating for the holidays...I mostly just acknowledge the changes that occur in nature...bringing in fresh flowers or branches from out of doors, or maybe some nuts, or leaves, or pine cones in the fall. However, I do like to have a more sparse feel to my home in the spring and summer, and then make it cozier in fall and winter with snuggly blankets and pillows, candles scented of cinnamon, and a warmer palette.

It was still quite warm outside today but I could still feel the shift in the air. It's hard to verbalize, but I recognize it when I feel it. Can you feel it where you live too? Is it happening there yet?

Since I stayed home all day, I didn't spend any money on groceries, so yay for that!

This is what we ate today:

Breakfast: waffles (I substitute additional applesauce for the oil), milk
Lunch: vegetable soup, homemade bread, grapes
Dinner: Pizza! I know, I know, but seriously, this pizza was AMAZING!!

OK, so my friend, Lauren Sharp, and I made this pizza together a few weeks ago and it was SO GOOD. I have been dreaming of it. So, I made it again tonight. Good heavens, it is yummy! Here is a very loose recipe, if you are interested.

On one pizza crust, add...
-pesto (I omitted the parmesan, since we were going to top the pizza with cheese)
-Big handfuls of fresh spinach
-artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
-sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
-block parmesan, grated

Bake in a preheated oven until cheese is melted. Really good with white wine (I prefer a sweet wine all the time, so I can't really give any "pairings" LOL). I think I could eat this pizza four or five days out of the week!

Friday, September 05, 2008


Our day didn't get off to the best start yesterday morning and pretty much led to a chain of events that altered the intended course of the day. But, we make plans, and the Lord directs our path, doesn't he?

I had intended to get up and run in morning. I went Thursday and it was just lovely. The weather was so nice. But, our early riser, the poor middle child, climbed into bed with us at six thirty am, just as he does every morning. He always peeks over my side of the bed and whispers "Mama, the sun is up!" I can't seem to make him understand that just because the sun is up, doesn't mean he has to be! Sometime I am sure I will be glad he is an early riser. Anyway, he was extra snuggly in the morning, and more effusive than usual with his words of adoration. "Mama, you're my best friend EVER in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD". So, instead of running, I spent extra time enjoying his affections.

So, I was a little behind, since I didn't get up before the boys and get a head start on the day. As I was writing out what I wanted to accomplish, Landing (the-two- year-old-middle-child-early-riser) brought the hamster downstairs and was playing with it on the floor. This is Caedmon's beloved hamster that he ADORES. Anyway, our dog ran over, chomped down on the hamster and punctured its lungs. The hamster died on my living room floor. Caedmon was surprisingly stoic about it all. He is by far my most emotional child but when it comes to stuff like this, he is really unaffected, or at least seems to be. It is kind of unnerving.

Anyway, since the hamster died an untimely death, we decided to have a little family outing to Savannah in the evening to have dinner and purchase a new hamster of Caedmon's choice. This was after my monthly book group meeting at my Mom's house. We did manage to sneak in a little school work too.

No money was spent on groceries. I did buy stamps at the post office, purchase two (!) new hamsters (Matt did manage to talk them down $6), and have dinner out. Surprisingly, for our family, this was the first time we had eaten out this week. As I have mentioned before, we usually eat out a few times a week. My hubby is a food sales man and we often eat at some of his customer's restaurants to support them.

However, my desire to eat out is greatly diminished when I have a menu made out, and all the groceries in the house to fix said menu. I love to cook and I love meal time. For me, it is much more about the experience than it is about the food (though I love that too!). We have friends over for dinner on a regular basis because we love the social aspect of eating so much.

Dinner prep is so much more fun when you have a girlfriend in the kitchen with you, chopping vegetables, laughing, sipping wine, having good conversation. We have eaten with friends/family three times this week (actually, four for Matt, since he was out of the house last night), so I guess we just didn't feel like eating out.

Friday's Menu:
Breakfast: Green smoothies, cereal
Lunch: Grilled cheese, vegetable soup, water
Dinner: dinner out

I am amazed at how productive a day can be when I don't leave the house. Yesterday (Thursday, Day four), was another great day. It was our first official day of school and it was actually really fun! The boys, who had been apart for several days, played together beautifully and it was so nice to see them actually getting along. I spent the day reading to the boys, organizing their room (with their help), teaching, cleaning, reading, making more jam, etc.

Matt and Caedmon were out of the house for the evening, so after the little ones were in bed, I sat on the couch with a towel on my lap and hulled the last batch of muscadines and watched Babette's Feast. It was a lovely movie and I enjoyed seeing all the crockery and copper pots. It was a very beautiful movie to watch. I loved the Puritan simplicity of the home, which sharply contrasted with the rich colors of the food later in the movie. For anyone who enjoys food, and who finds cooking for others a way to express love, I highly recommend this movie.

What we ate on day 4:

Breakfast: cereal (generic cheerios) with milk and blueberries (kids), homemade granola with blueberries and milk (me)
Lunch: more leftover pizza (where is it all coming from?!), grapes, water
Snack: chocolate ice cream cone (kids), frozen grapes
Dinner: Vegetable soup, homemade bread, water

This wasn't our healthiest day of eating. Once the leftovers and snacks (from when Matt was in the hospital) are used up, I am definitely going to have to bring our whole family's nutrition back into alignment. We have been really short on fresh, leafy greens this week, and vegetables in general.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I stayed home today and made more muscadine jam, as well as some yummy yeast bread to spread it on. I love being in the kitchen, cooking and baking. Canning is especially gratifying. Is it so nice to see the tangible rewards of a hard day of work!

Matt stopped by the store for me to pick up a gallon of milk...and also grabbed a gallon of ice cream. I said that I wasn't going to include Matt's impulse purchases in my budget, but I was pretty happy to see the ice-cream, so I am going to include it. Those two items brings my grocery bill for the week to $76.52. I am definitely going to have to be really careful for the rest of the month. Yikes!

Here is what we ate today:
Breakfast: Green smoothies
Lunch: homemade pizza, grapes, water
Dinner: Enchiladas (friends came over and made us dinner! What a treat!), ice cream

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

This is my menu plan for the rest of the week (Wed-Sun). I just plan general meals, then decide each day what we will have. I like doing it this way, because it allows for impromptu dinner company or other plans. My husband likes to be spontaneous and planning this way allows for that, but still gives me the organization and preparation I need.

1/2. Cereal, fruit, milk
3. Oatmeal, milk
4. Green smoothie, toast
5. Waffles, milk

1. Grilled cheese, apple slices, water
2. Crackers, cheese, grapes, carrots and dip, water
3/4. Leftovers from dinner
5. PB & J, carrots, grapes, water

-Fruit (apples, grapes, peaches)
-Green Smoothies
-Popcorn (made on the stove with olive oil and sea salt)
-Beignets (made from a mix)
-Ginger snaps (a gift while Matt was in the hospital)

1. Vegetable soup, homemade bread
2. Lasagna (gift while Matt was in the hospital), salad, homemade bread
3. Cheese and Broccoli baked potato, fruit salad
4. Quesadillas, salad
5. Leftovers

*Creative Commons image from j.fisher on flickr.com

Today's Menu:
For breakfast this morning we had eggs in a basket. We have just recently started having these, and the boys love to make AND eat them. We also had fresh peaches and milk
For lunch, I had leftover pesto pasta and salad. The boys had PB & J, baby carrots, and water.
We will have having dinner tonight at my parents house, to celebrate Darcie's tenth birthday. We are so happy that we will be celebrating at home, instead of in the hospital!

I bought groceries this morning and am already waaaaaay over the $50 a week budget. I had several big items to pay for this week. No worries though. I will just make up the difference in next week's grocery bill. I still have apples, eggs, and milk to purchase later on this week. We are also running low on bread, but I am planning to make some. Here is what pushed my grocery budget over the edge this week.

10 pounds of sugar to make jam: $5.11 (just as an aside: I am planning to make two kinds of muscadine jam, then compare. One, that uses only grapes and sugar (no pectin), the other, that uses only grapes and pectin (no sugar). Who knows, I may end up making a third kind that uses grapes, pectin, and sugar!).

Ingredients for Darcie's birthday cake: $5.56 (cocoa, butter, cream cheese). She wanted a rich chocolate cake with pink frosting. I am using this recipe for the cake, and this recipe for the icing.

Bulk order of grapes and pizza crusts from Matt: $27. Two days after saying that I usually don't order from Matt, I placed an order! Oh well. I ordered 22 pounds of grapes, which I split with Brandy (who is also doing 30 of Nothing). I ordered a case of pizza crusts to make pizzas to freeze for nights when we have lots of company with kids, and for date nights when the kids are with a sitter. I am going to keep experimenting with homemade crusts until I find one that I like (the last two haven't been great) but for now, these will do. My kids love frozen grapes, so most of these will be washed, dried, and frozen for a yummy snack. They should (hopefully!) last us through the month.

Stocking up at the Discount Food Store: $25.94 Since they will be closing, I stocked up on things that I have no need for now, but will in the future. Here is an itemized list.
Taco Shells $0.85
Kids Vitamins $2.50
Airborne (2) $6
Loose-leaf organic Earl Gray Tea $3.50
Ivory Bar soap (2, for laundry detergent) $1
Shampoo/Conditioner (3) $5
Facial lotion w/ SPF $3
Artichoke hearts $1.25
Black beans (I normally use dry beans, but I do like to keep a can of beans for those days that I haven't planned ahead) $0.50

For the rest of my grocery needs, I went to Sav A Lot. I had never been, but several friends have recommended it. I was very pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness and the selection. I also prefer small stores, so I appreciated that too. I purchased the few things I needed for the house, as well as baking supplies for Darcie's cake.
Baking Soda $0.49
Toilet paper (4 double rolls) $2.19
Cream Cheese $1.08
Butter $2.29
Cocoa $1.79

This brings my grocery spending for the week to $68.13 and my weekly allowance (in order to stay under $200 this month) down to $43.95.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I am not quite ready to post my menu for the week, as I want to include links to some of the recipes I will be using, so for now, I will just post today's menu.

Breakfast: I had homemade granola, frozen blueberries, and milk. The children had Cheerios (generic) with blueberries and milk.

Lunch: Leftovers. We were blessed with several meals while Matt was in the hospital, so we are finishing those off. Lasagna, grapes, salad, and chicken fingers. Popsicles for dessert.

Snack: Muscadine grapes

Dinner: We are having friends over for dinner and will be having pesto pasta with pine nuts, salad, and bread. Simple dinner. We will make the pesto out of the fresh basil in my garden. Served over a bed of wheat pasta with a sprinkling of pine nuts and slivers of parmesan. Yum.

Last night, I was surveying the pantry, and realized that I am running low on Jam. I am not a huge fan of peach jam, and the only other local fruit that I could think of is Muscadines, but I didn't know where to get any inexpensively. This afternoon, I took the boys to visit Darcie. As soon as I walked in the door, my daddy asked me if I would like muscadines (I didn't know they even grew any!). I spent an enjoyable half hour with him, filling metal tubs with all the muscadines I could carry home. Matt loves them, as do the boys. I am sure they will eat their fill, and the rest will be made into jam (muscadines make unbelievably delicious jam!). That is one thing I really appreciate about these times of living with less. I become so much more aware of the wonderful provisions God supplies us. When I am being really careful with our resources, the joy of every unexpected gift is heightened.

Living with less shows me how much I have. The more I eliminate, the richer I feel. The things that really matter are able to take center stage, after removing the clutter of the excess. The more I let go off, the freer I feel, and the more I want to let go. Then, the gift of a simple desire, answered in a most unexpected way, can really shine.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." -James 1:17

"Gourmet cooking means food that truly satisfies the server: food in which the balance of texture and flavor is exactly right, food that looks and tastes delicious. And contrary to what many people believe, such foods do not have to be elaborate." -Rose Elliot, The Festive Vegetarian

A few months ago, I purchased a cookbook called Twelve Months of Monastery Soups for $1. I don't remember where I found it, only that my mom and I were together at the time, and we both reached for it. I reminded her of the quilts. I got the cookbook (but agreed to share, of course!).

Anyway, I was drawn to this cookbook because I find monastic life very interesting, and I really loved that the the recipes in this book were organized according to the months. I like having that starting point for finding a seasonal recipe. Of course, seasonal foods can vary greatly by region and sometimes I want to use an ingredient that I have canned or frozen, so I might look up the month that the particular item would have been fresh.

I have had a bit of a cold the last few days, and with Matt being sick, I thought a nice pot of vegetable soup and cornbread would be good. The recipe below, from the September section, will be made later today (with a lot of modification to suit what I have on hand). Maybe with some warm homemade bread instead of the cornbread. Hmm, tough call.

Potage du Jardin
(Garden Vegetable Soup)

2 quarts water or vegetable stock
2 bouillon cubes (if stock not used)
1 onion
1 zucchini
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
2 swiss chard or cabbage leaves
1/2 cup pastina
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese

1. Cut the vegetables into small slices julienne style.

2. Place the water in a soup pot. Add the bouillon cubes and vegetables and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes.

3. Add pastina, salt, and pepper and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.

4. Serve soup hot, and sprinkle grated cheese on top of each serving.

A friend emailed with some questions about how I have kept my grocery spending down over this past year, and I thought I would take a post to answer them.

First, I would just like to say that I hope my words do not come across as though I consider myself any authority on the subject. I by no means think of myself as an expert in this area, and I have much to learn in the areas of frugality, nutrition, and the like. There is much room for growth and improvement. And even within those areas, there are differences of opinion. For example, when I say I want to feed my family fresh and nutritious foods on a budget...the word "nutritious" can mean different things to different people. For some, nutritious could mean buying wheat bread at the store. For another, it would mean grinding wheat and making preservative free bread from freshly milled grains.

I am just saying that because, as you read my menus and grocery lists and such, you may think that you could never do what I am doing (or eating what I am eating), or, you may think that I am not doing that great, or that the foods we eat could be more nutritious. Or that my money could be better spent on other items.

I don't claim to be perfect with our food choices, or with our spending. But, I am trying to make slow, small improvements and changes, that, over time, add up to a healthy lifestyle. So, while I welcome your comments and suggestions and ideas, please do keep it positive and encouraging for everyone. We can all learn from each other!

So, all that being said, here are a few ways that I have kept our grocery costs low over the last twelve months.

-No paper towels or napkins, or disposable plates or cups. We use glass, metal, cloth, etc. The only paper products we regularly buy is toilet paper and wet wipes. I bought these at the discount food store.

-No disposable diapers. I use cloth.

-No laundry detergent. I make my own.

-Dishwashing detergent (Seventh Generation) I purchased in bulk at the discount food store.

-Cleaning supplies. I bought in bulk from Caldrea a few years ago when they were having a sale, I have samples from Matt, and I make my own. Occasionally my mother in law buys me cleaning supplies, because it stresses her out that I only have two or three bottles under my sink. :)

-Beauty supplies/personal hygene. We purchased bar soap and shampoo/conditioner at the discount food store. Razors, feminine products, etc. from the grocery store. I don't wear a lot of make up, so what I have lasts a long time. I stocked up on Burt's Bees tinted lip gloss at the discount.

-Meat. I buy almost no meat. I have probably purchased meat twice in the last year. The meat that we do eat was either 1. killed by matt or 2. a sample from Matt. We eat vegetarian meals 90% of the time, though this is a pretty new thing (late spring).

-I buy very little prepackaged foods. No individual yogurts or cheese, no crackers or cookies, no microwave popcorn. Most of it isn't healthy, and it definitely isn't cheap.

-We have cut way back on dairy products. About the same time we started eating less meat, we also cut back significantly on dairy products. We still use butter, milk, and cheese regularly, but in smaller quantities. I rarely buy sour cream, whipping cream, yogurt, cream cheese, string cheese, etc.

-I cook according to the seasons. By shopping locally, it is really easy to spend less on fresh produce because what is available locally and in season, is also less expensive. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver is a great book for inspiration on eating locally/seasonally.

-Spices and seasonings. I keep my seasonings pretty simple, more out of taste preference than cost. I grow my own rosemary, basil, parsley, and oregano. I make my own vanilla extract. Sea salt, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and olive oil round out my arsenal of regularly used seasonings.

A few questions answered...

What does a typical week of meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) look like for you?
I will be posting my weekly meal plans through out this next month, so more details on this later. Look for this week's meal plan later today.

Do you plan all your meals out? I ask this because I realize with Discount Foods, you can’t necessarily come with a list in hand.
When I shop at the Discount, I buy the things that they have available that I know we will use. I don't worry about a list b/c you never know what they will have. I plan my meals by looking in my pantry and freezer at what is available. I then make my grocery list for the produce stand and grocery store for any items that I need for that week that I don't already have on hand. I used to go about this the other way around. I would make my meal plan first, then look and see what I already had in the pantry. Seeing what I have first, then making my meal plan makes a lot more sense...but it took me several years to figure this out! :)

How many meals does $50 cover? In other words, is that for all 21 meals for the whole family for the week? Or do you have one night a week that you go out? Does that include lunch for Matt, too?
$50 a week would typically include 7 breakfasts (without Matt), 5-6 lunches (maybe 1-2 with Matt), and maybe 4-5 dinners (2-3 with Matt), 2 of which would probably include guests. Because Matt is in the food industry, it is important to him that we support the restaurants that he sells to and has a relationship with. For this reason, he eats most of his week day lunches at his restaurants, and we eat dinner out a couple times a week as well.

Since Matt works for a food distributor, are you able to get certain foods (I’m thinking mostly meat) at a deep discount?
We are able to get a discount on food through Matt. However, because he sells to restaurants, the items come in large quantities. For this reason, I very rarely purchase items through him. Occasionally, he will buy a slab of meat and split it with someone. He does get samples fairly often though. However, they are usually of things that I would never buy, so they don't really affect our grocery spending much. We consider them just a special treat. Right now we have some snack packs of oreos, 100 calorie snacks, etc. I wouldn't buy that, but it is fun to have. He also gets spices pretty regularly, most of which I pass on to others, and occasionally he gets some meat samples.

Do you have your own garden?
I do have a garden. A very sad little garden. So far, our garden has produced 4 banana peppers, 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes, and a ton of basil. That's about it. I am hoping my fall garden will do better. I was able to get some corn and green beans from my dad (who got them from a farmer he sells to), as well as blueberries (from my parents house). I bought tomatoes in bulk from the produce stand (they were cooking tomatoes/seconds, on sale for $0.50 a pound). I think I bought 50 pounds, which I made into pasta sauce.