Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Challenge: Week 2

Week 2: March 11-17

This week has been challenging.  I've learned to give myself a TON of grace, and I've realized that I can plan as much as I want, and try as hard as I humanly can to stick to something, but I do not control everything.

My boys are sick, and have been sick all week.  It started out Monday morning.  Caleb woke up coughing and clear runny nose, what I thought were for sure allergies.  After all, the weather here in Dallas has been all kinds of crazy lately!  One day it's in the 50's and the next, in the 80's.  Well, Tuesday, Caleb woke up with what I've deemed "eye yuckies".  It's the nicest, least gross way to explain it that I could come up with, and one that Caleb would understand.  I did some research online, and since his actual eyes were still completely white, I knew it wasn't pink eye, and still deemed it allergies.  I even thought maybe he had an allergy to the new laundry detergent I was using, the homemade stuff I had made and started using Sunday night.  Well, by Wednesday, he was WAY worse off, and now was starting with a tiny cough, so I took him to the doctor.  Thankful I did, he had an eye infection.  Grateful that his ears, lungs and throat were completely clear, and got him some eye drops and we were on our way.  Note that during this time, he's been SUPER cuddly, and hanging on momma, which I TOTALLY take advantage of since he's not usually like this.  So, my time keeping the house clean, cooking, and so on has definitely been put on hold this week!

While I have stuck to the all natural and organic challenge with everything that I cook at home, with the sickness that has now been passed on to Asher, I must confess that we ordered in this week, and it wasn't anything even close to all natural or organic, it was Chinese, Wingstop and Pei Wei.  Ahhh, it feels good to get that out in the open!  And that is where my abundance of grace is.

So, to get to the fun stuff, here's what we ate this week:

Sunday: Chicken Chili
Monday:  Spaghetti
Tuesday:  Chinese
Wednesday:  Pancakes/Bacon
Thursday:  Maple Glazed Chicken
Friday:  Pei Wei
Saturday:  Wingstop

Wow, looking back, I don't think I realized how much we actually ate out!  We VERY RARELY eat out, especially that much in one week!  Ok, now I'm a little embarrassed!  Yikes!  As far as groceries, I purchased enough groceries to cook for 6 out of 7 nights, so technically, the groceries I didn't use this week, will roll over in to the next two weeks, which will be good on our grocery budget for the remainder of the month.

So, here's the cost breakdown for this past week:

Tom Thumb:  $81.15
Target:  $32.80
Sprouts:  $55.06
Natural Grocers:  $33.49


I will say, I can definitely tell a difference in the way I feel, in the sense that the times we did eat out this week, I felt SUPER FULL, heavy and bloated afterwards, and on a night when I have cooked at home, I don't feel that way at all.  Other than that, I haven't noticed much else that's really different.

I'm really hoping this next week the boys will be healthier and back to actually eating again!

Be Blessed and Encouraged!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March Challenge: Week 1 (and a half) 3/1-3/10

I must warn you, in this post, I will show you a few VERY personal (and slightly embarassing) photos of my kitchen and pantry.  You will be very tempted to judge me, be appalled at what you see, maybe even convicted to do a deep clean within your own kitchen because of how you feel after seeing these photos.  (See how I made it seem so much more dramatic than it really is so that when you actually look at them, you won't be nearly as "impressed" with what you see)?!?  It is EXTREMELY difficult for me to post these pictures, knowing that I struggle with people pleasing and would never want any of you to judge me based off of what you see below.  But, I'm sure that will likely happen, and after much thought, I'm going to post them anyway.  With all that said, HERE IT GOES!

Prior to the start date of our month, I spent an entire evening cleaning out our pantry.  As you can see, there was A LOT in it.  I still wonder how it all fit.  We do live in a small apartment, with a pantry 1/2 the size of a normal house pantry, (same with the fridge), and so I feel like it looked a lot fuller because everything was so smashed in there.

As I was taking everything out, I found some interesting things, like an overload of less than half full boxes of pasta, an insane amount of melting chocolate that I had not used in well over a year, an entire shelf full of snacks, practically empty cereal boxes, bulk amounts of animal crackers, goldfish and the like.  So many snacks that it consumed nearly half of our counter top space shown below.  Snacks that I'm sure each and every one of you have in your pantry, but nonetheless, snacks that ultimately were not healthy for any one of us.  I don't tell you this to make you feel guilty, there's not much that tastes better to me at 3:00 in the afternoon than a hand full of nilla wafers or goldfish.  But with the focus of our month being on consuming only what is all natural and/or organic, I was convicted to rid our apartment of any temptation, more so for me than the boys!  So, what did I do with all the extra, uneaten, but still eatable food?  I gave it to a friend, who's family I know will likely finish it all off within a week!  And man, did it feel WONDERFUL and FREEING to get all of that out of here!

So, now, I will walk you through our past week and a half.  As you can see below, I reorganized and restocked our pantry with the items we kept after the overhaul as well as new items.  We kept items that were within our guidelines for the month, and if I'm honest, I was actually shocked at how much we ended up keeping.  Although I did have to restock quite a bit on snackage, but we'll get to that in a minute!

 What our kitchen looked like during the clean out. (Insert embarassing, blushing, red cheeks face here)
 Oh wait, there's more!  And let's just add in a sink full of dirty dishes, just because!

 And finally, the finished product!  Oh how wonderful it feels to have everything organized and put in it's place again!

 And finally, the big green box.  Oh boy, my boys were fascinated on Friday (3/2) when we came home from running errands, and this lovely lime green box was on our doorstep!  Back in February, Groupon had a great deal to Greenling, a company that delivers fresh, all natural and organic foods, veggies, fruits, meats and ready-to-cook meals right to your doorstep, from LOCAL farms!  I purchased the Groupon before we had even talked about doing this challenge during March, so after we decided to, I was super excited that I already had a plan in place for at least some of our produce and such!  And let me just tell you how excited I was to open up that box and find fresh produce, veggies, organic cheese, hummus, organic cream of chicken soup, and more!  And we've already consumed almost all of it and it has been GREAT!

So here's the breakdown.

Everything I've used is all natural, organic, or whole wheat/grain with the exception of stuffing(cannot find all natural stuffing and haven't had the time yet to make my own) and ministry (Moneywise on Wednesday nights when we truly do not have time to eat at home, and they provide us dinner there)

Thursday, 3/1 - Crocokpot Roast with Red Potatoes, Carrots, Celery and Onions
Friday, 3/2    - "Guest Favorite" Chicken - Chicken, Swiss Cheese, Cream of Chicken Soup, White Wine Vinegar, Stuffing, Melted Butter, Green Beans, Carrots
Saturday, 3/3 - Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Fresh Green Beans, Whole Wheat Sister Schubert Rolls
Sunday, 3/4   - Baked Salmon, Fresh Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas, Whole Grain Brown Rice
Monday, 3/5  - Meatloaf
Tuesday, 3/6 - Pancakes, Bacon
Wednesday, 3/7 - Jason's Deli @ Watermark's Moneywise
Thursday, 3/8 - Frozen Newman's Own All Natural Pepperoni Pizza
Friday, 3/9 - Chinese (date night got cancelled last minute, so we ordered in)
Saturday - 3/10 - Crispy Chicken with Pasta and Cream Sauce - Chicken, Flour, Cream of Chicken Soup (actually homemade this batch since I didn't have any on hand - turned out great), Organic Cream Cheese, Milk, Organic Pasta

Grocery Bill:
I am actually impressed at how little I feel like I spent.  It was truly less than I thought it would be, and I feel like I actually got some great stuff.  Although, y'all might think I'm crazy, and it's very likely that some of you spend this amount to feed your family for up to 3 weeks.  So, here's an overview of the bigger ticket items I purchased, and the final cost for 10 days (mind you, since I got rid of most of our snacks, I did have to replenish, so I knew our first week would be higher than the rest).

Big Ticket Items:
All Natural Chicken (that will feed us for at least 2-3 weeks):  $17.00
All Natural Ground Beef (that will feed us for at least the whole month, if not longer): $13.00
Eek (I'm a little ashamed at this one, but we LOVE Fig Newton's at our house), Newman's Own All Natural Fig Newton's: $5.29 (needless to say, this snack is now a commodity, an investment really, and will be eating sparingly so as to not have to purchase more this month!)
O Organics 2% Milk:  $6.19
Hebrew National Hot Dogs:  $5.99
Cranberry Trail Mix:  $6.99
Archer Farms Maple Syrup:  $15.19

Those were our highest priced items, but things definitely add up fast!  

Total Grocery Bill for Tom Thumb:  $195.50
Total Grocery Bill for Target:  $50.88
FINAL BILL:  $246.38 (not too bad for 30 meals, B, L, D, and snacks for a full 10 days if you ask me!)

I have yet to figure out how/where to get some good organic and all natural product coupons, and even cut the cost down outside of just buying things on sale.  If anyone who reads this (assuming there are some of you out there) has any tips, thoughts, or ideas, PLEASE let me know!  I'd love to hear how you feed your family healthy meals on a budget!

Be Blessed and Encouraged!

Friday, March 9, 2012

18 Months

Asher, you are now officially a TODDLER!  OH. MY. WORD.  You have to stop growing!  Please!  I truly want to freeze time with you right now!  Outside of your little 5 second fits when you don't get what you want, you truly are such a little honey!!  Your schedule is really consistent now, which is great, and you are fully running all over the house!  You still adore Thomas and playing trains.  And, when you want to leave the house, you are now bringing me your shoes, sitting down in front of me and waiting for me to put them on.  You also go and knock on the front door too.  It's so cute!  I have a feeling that after we move, and have a yard to play in, I won't be able to keep you inside!!

You are also consistently giving kisses, sometimes without me even asking!  You grab my face, pull it in and just kiss away!  I LOVE IT!!!!  Oh how I wish this cuddly phase would last forever!  You are your brother have been so cuddly lately!

My little pancake lovin' boy!

 kisses for mommy!!
 happy boy!
 sleepy boy, cuddling with daddy!
 mommy's hat, daddy's shoes and little bear
 our own little Linus!  This kid carries his blankies around with him by the tags, it's hilarious!  Oh, and we'can't get little bear out of his mouth unless he's eating.  It's going to be rough getting cutting him off from his pacy, I'm thinking tougher than Caleb for sure!!

Be Blessed and Encouraged!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

38 Months

Caleb, you are 38 months old!  WOW!  This past month has been full of fun at school with Valentine's Parties, watching Cars 2 for the 1st time, going potty for the 1st ALL BY YOURSELF, a nasty stomach bug, and probably the biggest surprise, you dropped your nap!  Very bittersweet ending to a LONG stretch, over three years of napping buddy, great job!  Although I do miss getting a little regrouping time during the day, I will say, it's been super fun having you all to myself for a couple hours!  I haven't had that in a long time!  I've been trying to be purposeful with you during that time by teaching you the very beginning steps of learning to read, playing games with you, doing puzzles, and cuddling a TON!

You are such a honey and we love you soooo much!!!  Happy 38 months Caleb!

Be Blessed and Encouraged!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

All Natural or Organic Month

So, last month was our no dining out month, and now, during the month of March, we are going to try something new.  A month filled with foods that are only organic or all natural.  I'm not sure I fully understand what I'm getting myself in to, but as soon as I mentioned it to Aaron he was completely on board (am I really that surprised?!?).

As the month goes on, I will be posting our weekly menu plan.  It might not look too different to start off with,  as far as the actual meals, but the biggest difference will be the actual ingredients in them.  I feel like we already use a fairly good amount of all natural or organic foods, such as pasta sauce, pop-tarts, etc..., but there will definitely be a challenge for me because I will be giving up my beloved strawberry toaster strudels, Aunt Jemima's buttermilk pancakes, ultimate buttery microwave popcorn, and so on and so on.  Definitely more work for me than Aaron, he's the ultimate healthy guy in the family!

So to start us out, here is our menu plan for the first few days:

Thursday:  Crockpot Roast, Potatoes and Carrots (haven't figured out bread yet, need to look in to my options with this one!)
Friday:  Guest Favorite Chicken (should be interesting...chicken, swiss cheese, cream of chicken soup, milk, stuffing and butter)
Saturday:  Grilled Pork Tenderloin with veggies

I do my meal planning Sun-Sat, so I will post every Saturday what my meal plan is for the following week, as well as do a recap from the previous week.  And I'll also be updating with costs, so if you are reading these posts and have any ideas on how to save the most possible money on all natural or organic foods, I'd LOVE to know!  Leave me a comment or send me an e-mail!

Be Blessed and Encouraged!

No Dining Out Month

During the month of February each year we do a "no dining out" month.  We take a month off of eating "convenience food", and I spend the month being purposeful about cooking each meal at home.  The only two exceptions are my birthday and ministry.  Our purpose behind it all is to be reminded how blessed we are to have the option of indulging in dinners out with friends and family, or even just the convenience of ordering pizza last minute because of a long hard day with the boys and not "having time" to prepare dinner that night.  

One of the ways I prepared for this month is that I sat down and did an entire month's worth of menu planning.  YIKES!  It's definitely a challenge, but it was actually enjoyable this time around, thanks to the MANY new recipes I found on Pinterest!  I think I tried 3 or 4 new ones throughout the month, and they were all winners!
Sneak peak at my monthly menu planning for February

Another way that makes this month a little easier, is that I do a dinner swap with a friend who's family also does no dining out during the month of February.  She cooked on Tuesdays for her family and ours, and I cooked on Thursdays for our family and hers.  This definitely helped take out some of the stress!

One added challenge we had this month, was half way through the month we all caught the stomach bug.  Needless to say, we didn't cook or eat anything for a couple days, and the one night that we felt ok enough to try and eat, we did order Chinese.  That was our one mess up during the whole month, which I'm really sad to admit.

As I think about this past month, I walk away feeling blessed.  Blessed by the fact that we had food on our table, with plenty to spare, at each and every meal.  Our pantry is still full, as is our fridge and freezer.  And I also feel challenged.  Challenged to continue this no dining out as often as possible.  If we can do it for an entire month, why not continue it?  Why not continue to use our money more wisely, and be more intentional to eat more healthy? 

I also felt like through this challenge and also through the Moneywise table we are leading this month, that I have a refreshed and much needed perspective change in the sense that this money we have is not ours.  It all belongs to the Lord, and I need to continue asking myself, "is this something the Lord would have me purchase or spend HIS money on?" rather than approaching it with an entitlement outlook of, "I earned the right to go and eat out tonight, I had a really hard day today."  

And even though I had {A LOT OF} moments of temptation, I'm so thankful that I did not give in.  I feel like each year we do this challenge, it brings new insight and I walk away encouraged in a different way.

Be Blessed and Encouraged!