Monday, August 31, 2009

A Challenge

Mary, who blogs at Owlhaven, has been one of my favorite bloggers ever since I discovered the world of blogging a few years ago. She is Mom to 10 children - four by birth, and 6 by adoption from Korea and Ethiopia. She does a great job of feeding her lovely brood with tasty, healthy, yet frugal, meals. Her chicken enchilada bake is one of our family's favorites (divided by 1/4, of course!).

Mary recently wrote a book called Family Feasts for $75 a Week. For the month of September, Mary is challenging her readers to feed our families for just that - $75 per week (or any amount that we feel is reasonable). I've decided to take the challenge!

For new readers visiting my blog, we are a family of 5 - Dad, Mom, and three girls, ages 10, 7 and 5. All three girls are in school, though only two carry lunches to school (our Kindergartener goes in the afternoon after lunch at home). I stay at home full-time, so I am able to spend a good part of my day in meal planning and preparation.

I am adding an additional challenge for our family. We will not eat out this month, unless truly necessary (like a day trip). We did quite a lot of eating out or eating takeout during the summer, and it definitely had an impact on our budget.

I was telling a friend of mine about the challenge, and she asked me to get back to her at the end of the month and tell her the 5 top ways I was able to accomplish this goal (she seems pretty confident I'll be able to do it!). I can think a few things already...

1. Plan meals. If I write out a menu plan for the week, then shop only once for that week, I don't have to keep running to the store, which usually results in extra purchases I didn't really need to begin with. And we don't have to resort to takeout or eating out because I have nothing planned for that evening.

2. This is directly related to #1 - shop the pantry and freezer first. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much food I have in the house already that will make complete or almost-complete meals.

3. Make more food from scratch. Now that school has begun, I'm back at home a lot more, and am able to cook and bake more foods. Definitely cheaper, as well as healthier and yummier.

4. Make larger amounts of foods and then freeze meals for those busy nights when it would be much easier to order a pizza or pick up a rotisserie chicken at the Jewel.

The challenge officially begins tomorrow. I did a stock-up shopping yesterday, but followed the challenge rules and stayed within my usual weekly grocery budget to do so (actually, I was well under!). Here's my menu plan for this week...

Sunday - hamburger stroganoff on noodles, sweet corn from the local farm stand

Monday - pot roast, potatoes and baby carrots in the crock pot

Tuesday - garlic basil chicken in the crock pot, rice, sweet corn

Wednesday - tacos

Thursday - ravioli, salad

Friday - chicken and stuffing bake, sweet corn

Saturday - baked fish, pasta salad, sweet corn

(Yes, I know I listed sweet corn four times. It's been a great year for sweet corn, and we won't be able to get it much longer.)

Lunches are usually sandwiches for the big girls, and anything I can improvise for the rest of us, including leftovers. Breakfasts are also pretty simple, except for our big Sunday breakfast that Al prepares for us every week. Desserts are a treat, not a requirement (as I keep telling our girls), but now that I have time for more baking, they may appear more frequently on our menu!

I forgot to mention - the $75 per week includes paper goods, cleaning supplies and health and beauty products. Eep!

I CAN do this! I WILL do this! Stay tuned...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Three Years...

As of today, our dossier has been logged in at the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) for a full three years. At the rate referrals are currently being released, we've got a good two more years to go...

I won't fill this post with whining. Just saying that on most days, I'm OK with the wait. I can be philosophical, I can remind myself that God's timing is perfect, that the child He has chosen for us is just not ready yet, that maybe our family is not ready yet...

Other days are simply sad or hard. I just want to get on with our lives as a complete family.

So I rest in this...

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
Psalm 130:5

(Taken shortly after receiving Abbie's referral. Rachel is 2, Hannah is 5. It took us 5 1/2 months from LID to referral for Abbie...)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Making Memories, Part 2

We've finished the first week of August already! The summer is flying by, and we've done lots of fun things this past month...

  • Hannah attended a friend's birthday sleepover
  • Went to a Kane County Cougars game with some of Abbie's China group
  • Learned about bees at a local forest preserve program
  • Al played oboe at church, and I sang a few times
  • All three girls saw the dentist - NO CAVITIES for any of them!
  • Saw Kit Kittredge at the movie theater - $1 each for tickets, but spent nearly $20 on snacks
  • Went to Splash Country with friends from Hannah's China group
  • Saw another movie at the Purple Store in Kaneville
  • Learned about butterflies at another forest preserve program
  • Had some new friends over for lunch and play time
  • Heard a friend's band play at our church
  • Went to Kiddieland in Melrose Park with Hannah's China group
  • Hosted a Knitting Day here - six moms, 14 kids, yummy lunch, lots of fun, not so much knitting
  • Attended a Homemade Gourmet party and got to know some more moms from the girls' school
  • Had several play dates with girls' friends from school
  • All three girls enjoyed a week of Chinese Culture Camp - I worked in the kitchen that week and really enjoyed it (though I was exhausted every evening!)
  • Al and I attended a concert by a virtuoso erhu player (erhu-ist?) at Fermilab
  • Spent a Sunday afternoon at Shedd Aquarium and had dinner that evening in Chinatown
  • Girls enjoyed a week of VBS
  • Checked out a couple of new gymnastics schools for Hannah
  • Got all three girls' school supplies bought
  • Ongoing shopping for First Day of School outfits, sneakers, activity clothes, backpacks, etc.
  • Attended the tenth wedding anniversary celebration of friends from Abbie's China group
  • Celebrated my Fortysomethingth birthday
  • Al went to Maine to play oboe for his niece's wedding

Hope to post pictures soon - pictures I'll be taking with the new camera Al got me for my birthday!

Just a couple of weeks left before school starts - more fun planned!

Monday, August 03, 2009

How Things Get Out of Control Around Here

So I made homemade mac and cheese for lunch today. And there was SO much left over that I needed to put it away in a container in the refrigerator...

1. Noticed there were no containers in my cabinet (except for the little tiny ones I send to school in the girls' lunches).
2. Looked in the refrigerator to see if they could possibly all be in there, holding leftovers.
3. Suddenly recognized The Horror.
4. Took everything out of the refrigerator and either threw it away or put it on the counter.
5. Took drawers and shelves out to scrub.
6. Except the door doesn't open more than a 90-degree angle from the fridge. So I had to move the whole fridge out from its little alcove so I could open the door wider and remove one drawer and the bottom shelf.

So right now...
- my trash barrel is full of garbage,
- my counters are covered with food,
- my sink is full of dirty containers,
- my refrigerator is stuck out in the middle of the kitchen at an odd angle.

And the leftover mac and cheese is still in the crock pot...