Project: Food Budget (Week 13)

Hello, hello.  I’m writing to you with a mixed-up heart.  Our holiday trip is coming to an end, and normal life is just a few days away.  I’m not ready to end the festivities.  I’m not ready for the good-byes to come.  I’m really not ready to unpack and find places for our new belongings.  But…I’m excited to continue setting up our new house, establishing new routines, and working toward new goals.  I’m ready to get serious again about our food budget.  January is going to be fantastic!

Here’s the plan:

I will make my menu and shopping list on the long drive home.  I will be ready to shop on Tuesday, and I’ll be shopping on Mondays from then on.  I will be adding more meatless meals to our menus.  Specifically, I’m going to make some large meat-free dishes that will serve as my lunches through the week.  My breakfasts and lunches are often boring and not nutritionally-dense.  I want to do better, so I’ve been investigating hearty recipes (mostly soups) made of lots of veggies and beans.  I’m going to try to make Crockpot meals on Sundays.  We try to make Sunday a restful day, and I want to be able to provide a good meal without a lot of prep time.

I’m still working with a goal of $400 with a potential budget of $600.  I learned a lot in the first months of this challenge, and I’m ready to get back to the numbers in January.

The Week 13 Participating Blogs:

Project: Food Budget 2.0 (Week 12), a.k.a. “Just Say No to Slim Jims”

We don’t actually eat Slim Jims.  I’ve never had one, but to me, those odd little tubes of meat represent all that is yucky and somewhat mysterious about convenience store food.  I enjoyed the Week 11 post by Katy Rank  Lev, and I thought I would spend this post thinking about the money spent on food while traveling.

I had a lovely post typed and ready.  It was eloquent and clever….well, maybe.  But it disappeared.  I’m so bummed.  I’ll try to get back later to replace this “stand in.”

The Week 11 Participating Blogs:

Welcome home!

Have a look at some of the warm scenes from my parents’ home.  So happy to be here!

My grandma made the little Christmas village more than 20 years ago.  My sister and I loved it when we were small, and now my boys enjoy looking at the tiny skaters on the pond and  the miniature nativity in front of the church.  They tell little stories about the people, and for some reason, they like to hide little crackers throughout the village.  Not sure what that’s about!  My mom decorates so carefully, and home just feels so…well, homey.

Project: Food Budget (Week 11) & a gift idea

Another week of zero food organization.  No meal plan.  Only a fuzzy sense of the numbers, but I’m here.  I’m here because taking charge of our food budget and meal planning is important.  It’s important because the less money I spend on food, the more I can slip into savings for unexpected things like unexpected car repairs.  That means less stress!  It’s important because having a menu for the week allows us to eat healthier, and have…guess what…LESS STRESS!  I’m seeing a pattern here.  I’ll write more about my new year’s goals later, but for now let me say that I’m choosing “peace” as my theme for 2012.  Being smart and thoughtful about what we eat and what we spend is part of bringing about the peace that I crave for my family right now.

Here is an estimate of what we spent this week:  Groceries $125; Eating out $20.  Despite not having a firm meal plan this week, I made some yummy things.  We had creamy chicken tacos one night (very much a family favorite), and we had a nice chicken casserole.  I was excited to find a fairly simple casserole that didn’t begin with canned soup.  Everyone enjoyed it.  Success!  The “Eating Out” was well worth the little splurge.  Hubby and I had a breakfast date while the boys were in school.  Charlotte was with us, of course, but she just hangs out.  I have no idea what next week will bring.  We will be with family much of the time.  I’m sure we will do some dining out, and there are always treats at holiday time.  I’m not worrying about the totals for December because it’s been a wacky month, but I’ll be a bugeting queen in January!

Here is the list of my food budget peers, but keep reading below!

The Week 11 Participating Blogs:

On to teacher gifts…

We are a family of teachers.  Hubby is a teacher.  I’m a teacher at heart, if not in practice at the moment.  My sister is a teacher.  My brother-in-law is a teacher.  I have one uncle and one aunt who are teachers.  My cousin is studying to be a teacher.  Another cousin teaches in dear little Catholic school.  I have many teacher friends.  My mom has been a Sunday School teacher forever.  You get the idea.  I have a HUGE respect for educators, and I have a soft spot in my heart for all things school related.  Anyway, I’m always looking for something different, special, and simple to give to teachers at Christmas or the end of the school year.

This year’s homemade ymminess:  Pecan-Molasses Granola.  I found the recipe in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food  magazine, and it seemed like it would make a nice gift in a pretty little jar.  So my three-year-old and I made two batches of the crunchy granola.  This is a very kid-friendly recipe.  Lots of measuring and stirring.

I bought one cup Ball jars.  I’ve been saving Christmas cards for years, always looking for just the right craft opportunity.  I found it!  We traced a circle with the jar’s ring on to a Christmas card.  Cut out the festive circle, and taped it to the jar lid.  We used another rectangle from the card to make a matching gift tag.

J chose a gingerbread house (quite emphatically!) for his Musikgarten teacher.  We had fun making these little gifts for the special teachers in our lives.

A Different Kind of Advent

Advent is the beautiful season of getting ready.  Every year at this time the preparations begin. Lists and trips and evening obligations fill the days leading up to Christmas.  Growing up in a Christian home, I’ve always known that Chistmas means more than the stuff of the secular celebration, but I still hurry around checking off a to-do list like the rest of the world.  I know that when we “get ready” during Advent we are preparing in a way that is far more significant than finding the right gift, the perfect poinsettia, or an unforgettable dessert recipe for the big day, but I get caught up in the hunt!  The Advent, this waiting, is even bigger than the best Advent calendar, the most stirring devotional booklet, and the sweetest rendition of “Silent Night.”  These are good things, meaningful things, but I often see Advent and Christmas pass without the encounter that I want and need.

This year is different.  Yes, we’re getting ready in practical ways for the upcoming celebrations.  Gifts are being planned and purchased, eventually wrapped.  Travel plans are being made, maps selected, reservations obtained.  Our celebration of Advent–a season that I love for its opportunity to tell and retell the most glorious story of all–is necessarily pared down.  We are just starting to unearth cookie sheets, special ornaments, and other pieces of our Christmas stash from dusty boxes.  There won’t be much time for baking and gift-making as we stumble through new routines in a brand-new-to-us house.

But this sense of difference is more than the fact that so many of our belongings will stay in boxes until well into the winter months.  This year, more than ever before, I have a sense of expectancy, a readiness to encounter the living Christ in a profound, yet quiet way.  My soul is in need of the deep Peace that He represents.  My insides have been tossed like a little ship on a stormy sea, and I am so longing to return to familiar waters where I can settle my heart and mind in the assurance of God’s love and His promises.  Aside from the fact that we have to drive about 1000 miles to celebrate with our families, this Christmas season is going to be exactly what I need it to be: simple.  I don’t have time to be engrossed in many of the traditional activities, and this year, that’s just fine.

Thinking of Thanksgiving

It felt strange to celebrate our first major holiday without our families.  We received a generous invitation to dine with new friends.  What a sweet offer!  But having just closed on our new house, we wanted to give thanks in our very own diningroom.

(Please pardon Miss Drooly.)

After dinner, we went back to the rental home for apple pie and some Skype time with family.  My sister-in-law took this picture of her younger son “Skyping” with my boys.  Celebrating Thanksgiving in our new town and new house was joyful, but what I would have given to jump through the computer screen into the arms of the people I love!