Sunday, May 3, 2015

Need Someone To Talk To? There is One Who is Always There...

Friday night was a rough night.  My husband was working the night shift (which goes from around 4 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m.) and I had a rough time getting the kids to bed.  My oldest child, age eleven, was out with a friend (he had been invited to go with that friend for his birthday to an amusement park).  My ten-year-old, who is the second oldest, had been a big help that evening.  He had cleaned up the dinner dishes, helped the seven-year-old with her weekly chore of picking up the dog poop in the backyard, had changed the poopy diaper of the two-year-old and helped the four-year-old with going to the bathroom before bed all while I was attending to other children and problems.  After the younger kids, ages eight and under, were in bed, I was rewarding the ten-year-old with a turn playing Minecraft on my Kindle Fire and having a bowl of ice cream when the eleven-year-old walked in.

He eagerly began to tell me about his day at the amusement park and then he saw the ice cream and asked for a bowl.  Now, I had just given the last of the carton to the ten-year-old, so I explained that his brother had been such a huge help to me that night and was being rewarded for his efforts.  This sent the eleven-year-old into a preteen tantrum about how unfair life is and how he never gets anything he wants (hmmm...he just spent the entire day at the amusement park and I had even checked him out of school early to go).  He thundered up the stairs, grumbled as he took his shower and grumbled as he went to bed.  The ten-year-old finished his treat and turn on the device and went to bed.  I then went and took a bath, feeling quite disgruntled.

I sat in the tub, mulling over how things could have gone differently.  This oldest child of mine is a whirlwind of emotion.  I'd like to say that it's because of the preteen hormones and all that, but he's always been like this.  We have never been ones to give in to whims or bombard our kids with all sorts of unnecessary but fun activities and toys (they have to earn their time on the Kindle Fire, for example, and we only have the one device, the Kindle Fire, which I got for Christmas just this last year).  I don't know where this spoiled sense of entitlement comes from.  I was frustrated and alone, since Husband was at work.  I couldn't even call him to vent because he just doesn't have the kind of job where you can call unless it's really urgent.  My mom wasn't answering her phone and it was too late to call most everyone else.  I just needed to talk to someone about my frustrations with this child!

Then it hit me.  I needed to pray.  Heavenly Father is always available when I need someone to talk to and it was just what was needed.  As I voiced my frustration and prayed for understanding and the ability to communicate and teach this child, I felt my resentment and anger towards him melt away.  Not only was I able to refill my spiritual cup, which I desperately needed, but I was able to have my heart softened toward my child and I felt like I could still reach him, whereas before, I just felt a sense of utter and total failure. 

I need to remember this, that my Heavenly Father is always available to listen and often, the best choice in someone to vent my frustrations to and seek an ally.  I still talked to my husband when he got home from work around 3 a.m. and told him what had happened and how I handled it.  I also told him about my inspiration to pray and he agreed that we should both pray more often for help with our kids.  After all, Heavenly Father knows our child better than we do and sometimes just putting it all out there in His hands helps us think through how best to approach a situation. 

Prayer is such a beautiful gift that we have, a way to communicate with one who truly knows and loves us. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget Conclusion

I had someone point out that not all of my meals were healthy, in that 1/2 the plate was fruits and veggies.  Yes, I know.  It is really hard for me to add veggies to a breakfast because they seem to me to not be breakfast food.  I'm really weird about what's appropriate as breakfast food.  My husband can eat a tuna sandwich, complete with lettuce and pickle for breakfast, but the thought just makes my stomach curdle.  Anything with egg and bread usually suffice for me.  That is why I like to have juice with breakfast and often fruit.  When I do oatmeal, a lot of times I will add bananas, strawberries, blueberries, or even peaches to the oatmeal.  I like to sweeten the oatmeal with honey, which has good benefits even though it is used as a sweetener.  For example, local raw honey can help with allergies to local pollen. 

I personally think it would be impossible to eat every single meal with exactly 1/2 the plate as fruits and veggies and enjoy eating.  Besides that, I didn't really talk about snacks that my family eats outside of our three regular meals, and I guess I should have.  I either bake up something, like muffins or soft pretzels, or they have a piece of fruit or a vegetable for a snack.  Some examples include celery with peanut butter or carrots with a little Ranch dressing.  Often, I will just have them eat an apple or a handful of strawberries or raspberries, which is why I buy so many apples.  I always buy bananas and apples and then I buy other fruits according to what I find on sale.  That includes oranges (I love winter when little clementines are easy to find--they make a great snack), grapes, watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, pears, and grapefruit.  We don't like mangos and we don't eat cantaloupe or honeydew because of my son's sensitivity.  Vegetables I buy regularly include green beans, broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and potatoes (though in the last few decades, I guess potatoes are no longer a vegetable, but a starch?  I still think they have some good qualities that make them a good food, as long as that isn't all you eat). 

Also, I try to make all of the dinner meals a good balanced meal that includes a protein and always, always, sides of fruits and veggies.  We do drink a lot of milk, and that is another food that is under fire for not being something we should consume.  I still think milk, when consumed in small quantities, contains vitamins and benefits that are healthy.

In the end, you do what works for your family.  In the summers, we do more salads, like chicken salad, and lots of crock pot meals, like a chicken/potato dish my kids love.  That way we aren't heating the house with the oven being on and the foods are more seasonal.   We also eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  In the winter, I often resort to canned fruits/veggies, if I can't find what I like for a decent price in the produce section.

I really believe that a healthy, balanced diet is one where you eat foods you like and you try to have the right amounts on a daily basis, not concentrating on just each meal, but daily and even weekly total consumption.  Also, drink a lot of water throughout the day and with the meals.  

Some of the meals I have planned for this week include:
beef pot roast with carrots and potatoes (I don't do onions, they hurt my stomach)
beef stew made from the leftovers of the pot roast
spaghetti (again)
tacos (made with beef, homemade tortillas, and using veggies like tomatoes and lettuce to stuff them with)
chicken quesadillas
and the usual leftovers and homemade pizza.

I shop the sales, I use my grocery ads, and I stock up on items when I find good deals.  I hope this has been helpful.  If you disagree with my food choices or think I'm making the prices up, you are free to believe that.  I don't want to start a debate.   Everyone has their own idea of what eating healthy consists of, especially when there is so much contradicting information out there.  My mom fed us well and healthily and all of us kids grew up pretty healthy and I cook a lot like her, so I figure I'm doing all right.  This has really helped me take a look at where I can do better, though, so I'm glad I did this.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget: Day Seven--Homemade Pizza



Ham, Egg, and Cheese Frittata (more like an egg casserole than a true frittata)
Apple juice or Orange-Pineapple-Apple juice

Note on the juice:  I like to buy certain kinds of frozen concentrate juices.  I tend to buy my orange juice that way because I read that concentrate orange juice has less preservatives in it than bottled orange juice, that bottled orange juice is stored in big tanks and orange flavoring and color is added to it but not to the concentrate.  But, my favorite kind of concentrate is a brand called Hawaii's Own.  Unfortunately, they do not sell my brand of juice here in Texas.  According to the juice's website, they sell it at certain dollar stores, but I have searched all of those dollar stores in my area and the ones near me do not carry it.  So I have settled on similar juice by Welch's: orange-pineapple-apple, strawberry, or passion fruit are my favorites.  Sometimes I mix them to try and imitate the flavor of the Hawaii's Own.  When and if I am in Utah or Arizona, I will be buying a cooler of dry ice and bringing a large amount of that back to Texas with me!

6 eggs
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
Diced ham (I use a handful, so about 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese
Sometimes I add one potato, peeled and shredded.

Beat eggs, milk, melted butter, salt and pepper together.  Pour into greased 9X9 pan.  Sprinkle ham and cheese over the egg mixture.  Bake in 350 oven for 25-30 minutes until knife inserted in middle comes out clean.

Cost of breakfast:

$.99 diced ham ($3.98 bag of diced ham, but I only used a handful, about 1/4)
$.78 eggs
$.11 milk (remember, I bought my gallon of milk for $1.69)
$.05 margarine (yes, I know butter is supposed to be healthier)
$.40 cheese (~$3.20 4 cup bag of shredded cheese, I used 1/2 cup)
$1 juices (drank about 1/2 each of the two juices)
$3.33 Total=$.42/person


Hot dogs
Fresh fruit/veggies
water to drink

Yes, I know the stigma of hot dogs, but all beef hot dogs really aren't that bad if you only have them once in a while.  If you have a steady diet of hot dogs, then I can see that would be really bad for you, but a hot dog on occasion is okay.  

Cost of Lunch:

$3 hot dogs (2 pkgs of 8)
$1.50 worth of strawberries or apple slices (some of my kids don't like strawberries--I know, crazy, right?)
$1.50 worth of sliced carrots or celery
$.89 hot dog buns (because I bought two packages at that prices but we only ate one--several of my kids eat the hot dogs without the buns)
$6.89 Total=$.86/person


Homemade pizza
Fruit salad
Tossed salad
Chocolate milk to drink (which we really like with pizza, for some reason)

You can find my pizza dough recipe by clicking on the recipes tab at the top of my blog or by clicking the hyperlinked word recipe.  I make two pizzas with the dough and have some dough leftover to make a third pizza later in the week for a lunch one day.

My family likes plain cheese, pepperoni and olive, ham and olive, pepperoni and mushroom.  I make a mozzarella/cheddar blend of cheese with about 1 cup mozzarella to about 1/4 cup cheddar.

Cost of dinner:

$2.50 pizza dough ingredients estimate (things I always have on hand because I make pizza dough just about once a week--I also think this is a high estimate of these ingredients)
$.89 jar of sauce (lasts for 2-3 pizzas)
$1.99 pkg of pepperoni (lasts for 2-3 pizzas)
$3.20 4 cup shredded mozzarella (lasts for 2-3 pizzas)
$.50 worth of shredded cheddar
$2 olives/mushrooms/ham
$1 fruit (bananas, strawberries, apple)
$.85 milk
$.50 chocolate syrup to make it chocolate
$1 tossed salad (lettuce, shredded cheddar, celery)
$14.43 Total=$1.80/person

Total for Saturday:  $24.65=$3.08/person

Total for the Week:  $116.80=$14.60/person for the week in food

Friday, April 17, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget: Day Six--Macaroni and Cheese


For Breakfast, we had pancakes again.

For Lunch, same as usual.

I do admit that sometimes breakfast and lunch can get tedious, but only in this day and age do we somehow believe that everything has to have so much variety.  I try to make sure the kids get a couple days a week with eggs, and a few without eggs and to save on cereal, I try to make something else, like the pancakes or waffles.


Homemade macaroni and cheese:

Boil 1 cup of macaroni noodles until tender.

2 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheese to your liking, and I usually use a handful, so I don't really know how much)
1 can petite diced tomatoes

While they're boiling:
Melt butter in saucepan.  Add flour and salt and stir.  Then add milk and cook, while stirring, over medium heat until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and add half the cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.

Strain the macaroni, combine with cheese sauce in a casserole dish.  Add can of tomatoes.  I like the tomatoes for flavor but my kids hate them.  Sometimes I use an 8 oz can of tomato sauce instead.

Top with remaining cheese.

Bake in 350 oven for 30 minutes, until cheese melts and browns a little.

You might have to double this recipe if you have a large family.

I also served steamed broccoli and a fruit salad.

Cost of dinner:

$.50 broccoli
$1 fruit salad
$.50 for cup of macaroni
$.60 can petite diced tomatoes
$.50 other ingredients
$.50 cheese
$3.60 Total (or $5 ish dollars to double it)=$.45/person

Total cost of food for the day:

$2.17 breakfast
$8 lunch
$3.60 Dinner
$13.77 Total=$1.72/person

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget--Day Five: Surprise Dinners (Leftovers)

Okay, I know, not the most exciting meal.  However, I  have found that most weeks, we have enough left from each meal that I can get one or two portions from each leftover.  My mom used to make surprise dinners when I was growing up.  I don't remember either loving or hating it, but I do remember her doing it once in a while.  I tried it with my own kids and they think it's fun.  I don't do it every week, and many times we have leftovers, I just reheat all the choices and put them on the table and let them pick what they want.  Sometimes they take more than one entree.  It makes me happy because it cleans out the fridge and saves me money and they like it.

I often plan for leftovers, but I always have a backup, just in case there aren't enough.  The backup is almost always something easy with ingredients I always have.  That would be my homemade macaroni and cheese.



We have pancakes or waffles several times a week.  I don't know that they are particularly healthy, as in containing tons of vitamins and minerals, but they are filling and they are easy to make.  I use the same recipe for my pancakes and waffles, I just vary up how they're cooked.  It's interesting because some of the kids like one or the other better.  You can also offer a variety of toppings.  Right now, my kids tend to just eat them plain.  I think it's a little weird, but it is what it is.  My mom would offer things like different types of jam, yogurt, and different types of syrups.  Note:  She still does when we visit and we have waffles or pancakes.  Yum yum!


2 cups flour
4 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Mix together with a fork.  Then add to the dry ingredients:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
Beat all together until well blended and smooth.

Then you can cook them up stove top, on a griddle or with a waffle iron, however.


$.27 flour (based on what I buy a 5 lb sack for and how much I use from it)
$.20 sugar (same as above)
$.10 baking powder
$.02 salt
$.21 milk
$.12 oil
$.25 eggs
$1.17 total

We also had juice, more from the same bottle of apple juice and I cracked open a new can of concentrate that cost $1.
$1 juice
$2.17 Total=$.31/person

Husband did not eat breakfast but later stopped in for donuts.  What can I say?  You can only do so much...


Same sandwich lunch as Monday.
$1/person (8 people)
I know it can get boring to have the same thing for lunch every day, but sometimes it's just easier than coming up with something new.



I do the soup stove top and then I wrap the other leftovers in foil and warm in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Cost already figured in with the rest of the week. 

Total cost for Thursday:
$10.17 or $1.27/person

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget: Day Four--Spaghetti

I thought I should also add in this series that nobody in my family has any allergies or major intolerances to any food.  One son cannot have melons (specifically cantaloupe and  honey dew), but that is the only food issue.



Today's breakfast was scrambled eggs, toast and juice.  My kids are not huge fans of scrambled eggs but they will eat them when I make them.  They just don't eat a lot, so I don't use a lot of egg.  Sometimes I add cheese (which I love), but some of the kids don't like that either.  It seems the ones who don't like scrambled eggs like the cheesy ones but the ones who like the regular ones don't like the cheese.  Go figure.

Cost of breakfast:

$1 husband's sandwiches and chocolate milk
$.75 6 eggs
splash of milk, salt and pepper
$.24 four pieces of toast, cut in half
$.50 juice, apple or grape were the choices today
$2.49 Total=$.31/person


The school kids had the same lunches--sandwiches, fruit, snack, dessert.  The three of us at home had peanut butter and honey again and we split a couple of bananas.

Cost of Lunch:

$4=kids' lunches at school (four of them)
$.36 bread
$.50 worth of peanut butter and honey
$.48 bananas
$5.34 total=$.76/person


Spaghetti is a favorite around here.  Now I realize that everyone has their own way of doing spaghetti.  Obviously, this is mine.  I have tried it other ways and this is how I like it.  This time I tried ground turkey instead of ground beef to see if we liked it, since the ground turkey was a little cheaper and is touted to be healthier.  However, we didn't really like the flavor, so we will be sticking with beef and paying the extra $1-$2/lb.  We had a tossed salad as a side.  I also used leftover hot dog buns to make some garlic bread.  And we had the usual fruit salad.  I serve a fruit salad with every dinner meal (or canned fruit) because I know my kids will always eat the fruit and I figure that having some fruit when they won't touch anything else is better than eating nothing.  Also, the noodles are something I always have in my pantry.  When I run out, I buy a big box.  I think the box I have I bought for around $4 back in January.  We have spaghetti at least once every two weeks, sometimes once a week, so it lasts quite a while.  I always break the noodles in half when I add them to the water so it makes what seems to be more noodles and I end up using less, plus they are easier to eat being shorter.

Spaghetti by me:
1 pound ground beef/turkey
3 8-oz cans tomato sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 pkg spaghetti seasoning (I get the cheap store brand, but you can do the brand name seasoning packets, like McCormick's.)
Brown ground meat, drain fat.  Add sauce, paste and seasoning.  Bring to boil then lower to simmer for a five or so minutes.
All this time you are cooking the spaghetti noodles.
I always combine the noodles and the sauce.  Growing up, my parents always served them separately.  I combine them and then I don't have leftover noodles with no sauce or leftover sauce with no noodles. 

For the hot dog bun garlic bread, just put a little butter and garlic salt on each open bun and toast in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  It's a great way to use up extra buns and not be wasteful.

Cost of dinner:

$1.98 ground turkey
$1.36 paste and sauce
$.86 seasoning packet
$.75 tossed salad
$.65 leftover hot dog buns
$.65 fruit salad (containing strawberries and bananas)
$6.25 total=$.78/person

Total meal cost for Wednesday: $14.08 or $1.76/person

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget: Day Three--Pork Chops

I have been thinking about this series and decided I needed to define my idea of what "eating healthy" is because I feel like nobody really agrees on this subject.  My idea of it is to eat a well-rounded diet that includes meats, carbs (both in the form of fruits/veggies and breads), and fats.  I remember reading or hearing that one's diet should consist of about 50% carbs, 30% protein and 20% fat.  I don't recall exactly where or when and am too lazy to do the research this week, but that has kind of always stuck in my head.  So that is what I strive for.  I also try to serve food I know most of my family will like.

Now that I've cleared that up, I should also mention that I don't count calories, read labels, buy organic, or watch portion-size very carefully.  But since I've always been pretty healthy, I figured that how I eat must be all right.

Okay, let's move on.



This morning I wasn't feeling it, so I didn't wake up early enough to really cook breakfast.  So we had cereal again.  This time, we had some of it in the form of hot cereal, or oatmeal.  The kids then had second bowls of cold cereal if they wanted to.

I always have oatmeal in the pantry, and I can't recall when I bought it last, but I think it wasn't any more than $3 for the container.  The container probably contains at least 24 servings, which puts a serving of oatmeal at $.12.  And we also had cereal, so looking back at Sunday, it ranged from $.17-$.27 for a serving of that.

Cost of breakfast:

$.22 serving of cold cereal
$.12 serving of oatmeal
$.10 milk per person (1 cup, 2 4-oz amounts in the oatmeal/cereal)
$.54 Total per person ($3.78 for all)


Again, the same lunch as the day before for the school kids, so that was estimated at $1/person.  Those of us at home had grilled cheese sandwiches.  Six pieces of bread ($.36 for all the bread), about 4 oz of cheese since I had an 8-oz chunk and used half of it ($.98 because I bought the chunk for $1.99), and some sliced up strawberries (about $.75 worth of a container that I bought for $1.50).

Cost of lunch:

$.36 bread
$.98 cheese
$.75 strawberries
$4 kids' lunches
$6.09 Total=$.87/person


We had a meal called "Pork Chops and Pedros".  I don't really know what that means, only that my mother has always called it that.  It is pork chops and potatoes.
Scrub and pre-slice several potatoes (I did four).
Brown pork chops in oil, remove from pan.
Put potatoes in pan and cook in a little oil until done (soft).
Put pork chops back in pan, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 25-30 minutes until done, checking once in a while to make sure nothing sticks or burns.

We had steamed broccoli and fresh fruit salad for the sides.
I bought the pork chops on sale for $1.49/lb.

Cost of dinner:

$7.45 pork
$.99 potatoes
$1 fruit salad
$.49 broccoli
$9.93 total=$1.24/person

Total cost of food for Tuesday $19.08=$2.38/person

Monday, April 13, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget: Day Two--Oven-baked Chicken


I am not a food photographer.  Actually, I take terrible pictures of just about anything.  But I thought I would include pictures of the actual meals,  not just something I google.  I will try my best to make it pretty though.


Breakfast this morning was eggs, toast and juice.  Some of my kids prefer hard-boiled eggs and some of them prefer fried eggs.  So, I got up early enough to make fried eggs for the ones who like fried and cook up some toast.  Those who like hard-boiled just ate some of the remaining hard-boiled eggs from Easter last weekend.  I bought the eggs for $1.25/dozen (Easter special).  The loaf of bread was $1.19 and I used about 1/4 of it.  The English muffins were free after spending $6 at the bread store.  The apple juice was $1.49/64 oz and we drank 1/3 of it.  The grape juice was $1 for concentrate, which we drank about half.

Cost of Breakfast:

$.91 eggs

$.31 toast
$1 juice
$2.22 total=$.32 per person (seven people)

My husband, when he works the day shift and leaves at 7 a.m., takes two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a blender bottle (those shake blender things) of chocolate milk.  I would estimate his breakfast costs about $1 when all is said and done.  Factor that into the equation and it's $3.22, which equals $.40/person.


Four of my children eat lunch at school.  My husband gets a free burger for his lunch at work.  This is really about what I feed my family, though.  My husband is a grown man and makes his own decisions about what he eats and I don't have a lot of say in it.  Make no mistake, he eats what I fix when he's home, but when he's not around, I don't have a lot of control over what he chooses to eat.  So we will ignore the fact that he has a Coke, burger and fries every day of his life for at least one of his meals.  Moving on.

The four children take a sandwich, usually consisting of lunch meat, a piece of fruit (or some fruit), a snacky side (crackers), and a dessert.  In Utah, they got milk at school (it was only $.25, here it is double that, too much for four kids every day of the week).  So they drink water for their drink.
Sandwich, per person cost=$.45 (they usually take one half a sandwich; the meat costs $2.49 and it lasts about two weeks for each of them as they each like a different kind, then the mustard and the cheese, which only two of the kids take cheese)
Piece of fruit=between $.15-$.50, depending on the fruit and the price.  Choices include a sliced up or whole apple, a banana, an orange, a bunch of grapes, some strawberries, a handful of blueberries, etc.
Snack=pretzels, animal crackers, graham crackers, leftover homemade rolls, dried fruit.  I would say about $.15
Dessert=today it was a couple pieces of Norwegian candy sent to us by our exchange student's family (whom we hosted last year).  Usually it is home-baked treats.  I would say no more than $.15.

Cost of lunch:

$.45 Sandwich
$.25 fruit
$.15 snack
$.15 dessert
$1 Total per person

At home, we each have a sandwich (peanut butter and honey, usually), a piece of fruit, and a dessert and a glass of milk. I would estimate about the same for that, $1/person, because of the milk.


Tonight's dinner took a little more work than I usually do.  We had oven-baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, a tossed salad and a fruit salad.

Oven-baked chicken:
bone-in, skin chicken thighs and drumsticks
Place the chicken pieces in a foil-covered cake pan.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour, covered, then remove cover and bake for 30 more minutes.
I got the chicken for $.88/lb on sale, so I spent a total of $7 on all the chicken together.  I used half of it for tonight's dinner and put the rest in the freezer.

Mashed potatoes:
The usual-peel and slice potatoes and boil until soft, then mash.  I added a bit of milk and butter.  The potatoes were $1.99 for a 5 lb bag (I could always find them cheaper in Utah, but oh well) and I used half of them.

1 can cream of chicken soup, chicken drippings, 1/2 cup milk with 3 tsp flour
I had the ingredients in the pantry, but cream of chicken soup is usually around $1/can.

Tossed salad:
Lettuce, $.99 for the head and I used about 1/4, so $.25
Cucumber, $.49 for one cucumber and I used 1/3=$.17
Sprinkle of grated cheese=$.20
Salad dressing=$.20 worth, would be my guess

Fruit salad:
One apple=$.25
Bunch of grapes=$.50
One banana=$.15

Cost of Dinner:

$3.50 chicken
$1 potatoes
$.82 Tossed Salad
$.90 Fruit salad
$7.22 Total=$.90/person

We had leftovers as well, which will be part of a meal I serve later this week.

Total cost for food on Monday: $17.22 or $2.18/person

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget: Day One--Minestrone Soup


On Sundays, we have cereal for breakfast when we have early church.  This year we have early church, starting at 9 am, so it's easier to have cereal.  That's because we like to sleep until 7:30 and have to be ready to go by 8:30.  Sometimes I will do oatmeal in the place of cereal, but this day that did not happen.


Cold cereal (Cheerios--$.17/serving or Frosted Mini-Spooners--$.23/serving, Lucky Charms--$.12/serving)
2% milk (4 oz for a bowl of cereal, since I bought a gallon for $1.69 this week--great deal I know--that was about $.05/serving)

I bought the Cheerios for $3.58 at Walmart, which is the cheapest I have found for that size (1 lb 2 oz).  I bought the Malt-O-Meal Mini Spooners, Super Size (43.5 oz) at Walmart for $5.98.  These cereals usually last us about three weeks.  Each child had a bowl of one or the other, then they had a "dessert cereal" as they call it.  Usually something like Lucky Charms or similar.  On this day, they all had Lucky Charms.  I had bought about four boxes of Lucky Charms last month when a store was having a cereal deal that left them costing $1.49 for an 11.5 oz box.  I only buy such name brand cereals when I can find these types of deals.  For breakfast today, Corey did not eat anything (ran out of time) but usually he would have a big bowl of Mini Spooners.  I only ate one bowl of Mini Spooners myself.

Cost of breakfast:

$1.91 for six bowls of Mini Spooners with milk (one bowl being double)
$.44 for two bowls of Cheerios
$1.02 for six bowls of Lucky Charms
$3.37 for eight breakfasts of cold cereal=$.42 per person.


We ate tuna sandwiches and/or macaroni and cheese for lunch.  Now, I don't buy macaroni and cheese every week, only on occasion to have once in a while, and I bought the store brand at Aldi, our cheap go-to grocery store, and it was $.89/box.  It was already in the pantry.  Corey cooked up two boxes.  The tuna was already in the pantry too.  I think it was around $.50/can when we got it and we used three cans of it, but there was half of it leftover.  Plus the bread, which was probably half a loaf.  I buy the bread for $1.19 at an outlet bread store.  We also cut up a couple of apples.  I bought a three pound bag of apples for $2.99.  About four apples is one pound, so that is $.50 for the apples.  We drank water.

Cost of Lunch:

$1.78 for Macaroni and Cheese, which all got eaten
$.59 for half a loaf of bread
$.75 for 1-1/2 cans of tuna
$.50 for apples
$3.62 for lunch of mac and cheese and/or tuna sandwiches and sliced apples=$.45 per person.

Dinner:  Minestrone Soup

I admit, dinner will be the most expensive meal of the day, possibly even for the whole week. Many of the ingredients were already in my pantry.

Here is the recipe (attributed to my sister-in-law Andrea, with changes that suit my family):

1 tube original flavored low-fat ground sausage ($2.99)
1 medium onion, diced (I leave this out as I don't tolerate onions well)
6-8 cups beef broth (I used only four) ($1.79)
1/2 large can tomato juice (I used probably 1/3) whole can was $1.58)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (I skipped these, though we did have them on hand)
2 stalks celery, diced ($.69)
1 large clove garlic, minced (I used some seasoning garlic from my pantry)
1 zucchini, diced ($.60)
1 can Italian cut green beans, drained ($.68)
1 can kidney beans, drained ($.59)
3/4-1 c shell macaroni (from my pantry)
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (I used petite diced tomatoes and I only used one can) ($.72--the regular diced ones were only $.59)
1 can tomato sauce ($.25)
items from my pantry, don't know how much they were when I bought them:
2 tsp sugar

1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp ground pepper
Grand total for soup ingredients that I bought: $9.10

I baked rolls, as per my favorite roll recipe (Heather's Rolls) and already had all the ingredients, which I keep stocked up regularly.

We opened a can of fruit to have as an additional side: $.89.
We had milk to drink, so about half a gallon in the one meal for the family of eight: $.85.  I don't always find milk for so cheap, but I did this week, so I bought six gallons ($1.69 per gallon).

Cost of Dinner:

$10.84 total for dinner that I spent out-of-pocket this week=$1.36/person

On Sunday, we spent $17.83 on our meals, which was about $2.23/person.  If I were to regularly buy some of the items in the soup, which I might if we decide that soup is one we want as a food storage meal, then it would have cost less out of pocket from my grocery budget.  My food storage items I buy come from a different category in my overall monthly budget, and I make adjustments to what I buy in that category all the time.  Typical items include things I regularly keep stocked, like certain spices or ingredients like vanilla, flour, sugar, pasta, soups, and sides like canned fruits and veggies.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Eating a (Mostly) Balanced Diet on a Budget Series

Every day for one week, I will write down the recipes for the meals I feed my family and include a summary of how much everything cost me.  Now, I realize that cost varies widely across the country, but I have lived in Idaho, California, Arizona, Utah and now Texas as a parent and have had to learn to budget wisely everywhere I've lived.  I have had the same approach in each place.  I wait for the grocery store circulars to arrive in my mailbox and I plan my budget according to what is on sale.  I also have a fairly well-stocked pantry that I add to every week.  Part of it is my food storage for hard times, but the other part is the food and ingredients I use regularly in baking and cooking.  When we moved, we got rid of most of our supply, keeping mostly spices and food storage items and anything that was unopened and unused, but we had to restock the entire pantry, which we did with some of our leftover moving fund, for around $300-$400 in one shopping trip (things like baking soda, vinegar, shortening, etc.

For my meals, I don't have a plan for breakfast or lunch meals, only dinners, but the foods for those meals do come out of my weekly grocery budget, so I will include those.  See my meal-planning post from several months ago.

For this next week, the week of April 12th-April 19th, I spent $131.45 on groceries and added $16 worth of food supplies to my food storage in the form of flour, sugar, shortening, oil and canned fruits and veggies.

Some of the ingredients I will be using this week were things I already had in my pantry or fridge and freezer.  However, once you start building up a supply like that, it's not too hard to stay within a decent budget.  I will note which items came from freezer/fridge/pantry and which I bought.  Keep in mind that my "grocery" budget includes things like laundry detergent, toothpaste, cleaning supplies, and dog food, so when I spend an amount like $131.45, that actually included some of those items as well as the food.

Let's get started!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Why This is Hard

Village Baker.  Brick Oven.  BYU Creamery.  Proximity to mountains, BYU, seven temples no more than an hour away, Temple Square, Salt Lake Cemetery.  Sunrise over the mountains.  Sunset over the mountains.  Dry air. 

These are all things I miss about Utah.  Sure, I didn't go to some of those places on a regular basis, but knowing I could anytime I wanted to was nice.  I miss seeing BYU shirts and flags and license plates.  I miss the springtime in Utah, when everything is in bloom and the mountains are starting to green up.  I know I will miss the summer--hot, dry days interspersed with thunderstorms and cool, dry nights. 

I also really miss the small town feel that pretty much all of Utah, even Salt Lake City, has.  I miss watching the local news of Utah because you realize how much sense of community is in Utah by watching the news.  Here, the area is so huge and the news broadcast covers so much that things that would be big news in Utah, with people reaching out and comforting are glazed over as if they are nothing here.

And the weather!  Utah weather can be pretty crazy in the spring time, flipping back and forth between 80 degree days and 20 degree days, sometimes with snow, sometimes with thunderstorms, and almost always windy.  But you never had to worry much about things like golfball sized hail and what to do with your car that day because you can't park it in the garage.

I also miss certain friends.  People who were real friends that don't come along all that often.  I can think of four people who really fit this bill there in Utah.  I don't really know how to make friends like that; they just happen.  So far, nothing yet, nothing even promising.  People here are really nice.  They are very welcoming.  But nice people aren't the same as true friends.  The saddest thing, which has always happened when I've moved in my life, is that it's hard to maintain those friendships.  I think it's harder now with social media.  Before social media, you had to make an effort.  Now, you just follow their profile and there is no need for letters.  But there is no depth either, not without a lot more effort.

Right now, I can't find anything better about living here than about living in Utah.  It hasn't been bad, but it hasn't been anything to rave about. 

I worry constantly that my kids are missing opportunities.  Money went a lot further in Utah.  I find that ironic in a way because a lot of people here talk about how cheap it is to live here, even the others who moved from Utah.  I don't know how that is possible.  With property taxes so high, we had to buy a lot less house to afford monthly payments.  Kids' activities are really expensive and cost much more than in Utah.  And the expectation here is that if they don't start by age four, then you might as well not put them in because they will be way too far behind their peers.

The culture is different.  All day kindergarten for all and the attempt to force mandatory pre-K on all too.  I wanted to teach a preschool out of my home, but I was thinking of doing something that is three hours a day, three days a week for 4-year-olds and two-and-a-half hours a day, two days a week for 3-year-olds.  But here, the expectation is that preschool will be at least five hours and at least three days a week, which includes lunch.  I can't even fathom what you do with 3-year-olds for five hours in a "class".  These cultural differences bother me a lot and I don't really know what to do about them.  If I stick to my guns, my kids will be ostracized and so will I, but I really can't get behind putting kids in sports at age four and all day preschool that young either.

I am just having a hard time living in a place that demands my kids go to all day kindergarten and mostly all day preschool, play sports as young as four, and requires that I pay to volunteer, both at school and through church.

So I will have to be content with finding joy in the really small using two ovens to cook with at the same time, like my son having the great same band director my brothers had, like so far, I don't have to go to work to help earn the income and we're managing things, even though it's stressful.  I am able to still do my sewing and grateful that, despite having been told otherwise before we moved, I'm able to find sewing materials at my favorite place to shop for them--Walmart.  I'm grateful that so far, we haven't had much of a pest problem in our house.  Okay, birds in the chimney and rabbits in the backyard and a spider here and there inside, but otherwise, no roaches or ants in the house yet.

I do love living so close to family.  Five minutes away is the closest I've ever lived as an adult to family.  When we lived in Arizona, my parents were a 45-minute drive away.  In Utah, my brother(s) in Provo were forty minutes away and the one in Sandy was twenty minutes.  We live close enough that if we are all still here in ten to fifteen years and everyone still has kids in public school, they will attend the same high school.  That's pretty fun. 

It's also fun seeing familiar faces from my youth.  This Saturday is a celebration of my old elementary school's fifty year anniversary and if I go, I'm sure I will see a few faces I recognize. 

I will try to keep looking for the good things.  That's about all I can do.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Stifling of Creativity vs. Rules and Standards

I keep seeing articles online about how we must encourage creative thinking in our children by not expecting them to do "busy work".  I read an article by the grandmother of a five-year-old boy, complaining about the developmentally inappropriate and stifling homework he was given by his teacher.  When I first read it, I was in complete agreement. 

Then I read the comments, several of which came from seasoned kindergarten teachers who explained the reasons for such homework.   As I read the woman's article, I nodded in agreement, but then I read the comments and agreed with those as well.

It is a complicated issue.  Where is the line between practice, which can at times be tedious and even boring, and the true stifling of creativity? At what point are kids expected to hone skills, such as the fine motor skills of writing without it being considered as squashing their creative juices? Must they always have leeway to color outside the lines?

I understand the complaints about how creativity is stifled.  They interpret the routines and structures of public school as taking away the freedom to be creative.  They argue that creativity is stifled because of these rules and these standards.

But I can also understand why there are such standards and rules in place.  If there aren't standards, then how do we teach groups of children at each age level?  If there aren't rules regarding the standards and the methods, how do we assess them and determine if they are learning what we believe they should learn?  In the lower grades, kids need a foundation on which to build.  They need to develop basic skills of writing and reading so those skills become so routine, they don't even think about them later, they just do them.  Is it truly unfair to require a 5-year-old boy to develop the fine motor skills with which to write words?  Is it ridiculous to teach him what a sentence is and once that has been taught, continue to reinforce it by requiring him to use proper punctuation?

This makes education, specifically public education (which involves teaching more than one student at a time by one teacher), a difficult challenge.  While we want to encourage creativity and instill a love of learning in the students, there must be standards and rules to give structure to all of it.

I disagree with large amounts of homework for very young kids, but I also understand why some of these teachers argued in favor of this homework. It is an attempt to get families to be involved in their child's education, since many families in certain socioeconomic groups do not get involved as much as the educator wishes they would.

But that is a separate issue.  Asking a child to draw thirteen boxes might seem meaningless and time wasting, but is it really that burdensome?  Most similar homework packets are assigned on a Monday and returned on a Friday, so if the child does a little every day, they get it done without it being a burden.  Will they be punished if they turn the boxes into robots?  Not likely.  Does drawing thirteen boxes really stifle creativity?  Does practicing penmanship force creativity out the window?  I don't believe that it does.

As in all other areas of life, there is a time and place.  In my experience, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to express themselves creatively in most of today's public schools.  If most parents who complain about this would spend a few days observing, they would see that there are opportunities.  You don't always see that on a homework assignment, especially at the kindergarten level where kids are learning those basic skills of writing and reading.  That doesn't mean they aren't doing activities at school that encourage creative thought. In my experience as a classroom teacher, an aide, and a parent volunteer in four states and several different schools, I have found that most schools, while they push hard for academics and testing, they also allow time for creative outlets.

While there are probably schools and situations where creativity truly does get stifled, I don't think something like a homework assignment requiring that a young child draw a few boxes is the problem.  Kids need to learn these basic skills and practice them so they will be prepared for more difficult learning in the future.  That doesn't mean they won't have other creative outlets throughout their day.  What we need to do is make sure that they do have those opportunities but not confuse the time that is necessary for practicing basic skills as taking away from the creative play of childhood.  Both are necessary components of child development.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Trying to Adjust

This move has been really hard for me. I always thought that when I moved back to Texas, if the opportunity ever came along, that I'd be jumping for joy and charge forward, never looking back.  But that hasn't been the case at all.  It's possible that because this move affected so many people and not just me (my six kids) that it's been hard.

I still feel slightly sick to my stomach whenever I think about what has happened.  We were coasting along, struggling with every day life, trying to figure things out and BOOM! the opportunity to go to Texas jumps out at us.  I didn't even realize how great life was.  We had a good house in a good neighborhood and ward that we could afford.  We lived close to the schools, work, stores, and activities.  The kids were involved in activities that we could afford.

I had some strange notion that Texas was a less expensive place to live but I was extremely wrong.  I'm not sure how things will go for us financially here.  I'm worried that I will have to get a full time job and put my last two babies in daycare because we just can't afford to live otherwise.  We looked at renting and we looked at less expensive houses.  The difference in monthly payments wasn't enough to make much of a difference, so we settled on a house we really liked.

But it's the other things too.  We had a great dentist in Utah.  We had a great pediatrician.  We had a great optometrist and pediatric ophthalmologist.  I had a great ob/gyn.  We had a great orthodontist all lined up and our oldest was supposed to start braces in December.  Now, not only do we not have a dentist or orthodontist, but with the increase in how much everything costs, I don't know if we'll ever be able to put our kids through braces and then they'll have terribly messed up teeth.  I feel really bad about this.  If we had stayed in Utah, it would have been just fine.

Then there are the activities.  They were in baseball, dance, and fencing.  They took music lessons.  I taught piano lessons.  I was doing what I could to eventually teach a preschool out of my home.  Here, it doesn't look like people use home preschools and the expectation of what a preschool is does not mesh with anything I believe in regarding early childhood learning.  I feel more frustrated about that than I did about trying to get our HOA to allow me to teach a preschool there in Utah out of our home.

I miss my job at the school and how perfect it was for me and for our family.  It gave us an extra $200-$300/month and I only worked one day a week so my husband could stay home just that one day with the kids.  Plus, the job itself was perfect.  I got to do exactly what I love, which is teaching, and coming up with parts of the lesson plans myself but I didn't have to deal with the bureaucracy or the parents, who can sometimes be nightmares to deal with.  I have already tried finding something like that here, even just a part-time thing at the schools and all I could find was full time.  If I'm going to work full time, I'd rather be a classroom teacher, not an aide, but I don't even know where to begin figuring out a teaching license in this state.  I looks like I might need to go through a teacher training program all over again since none of my past licenses are current (California, Idaho and Utah) and it's been 15 years since I graduated from one.

I just feel like we screwed everything up.  I wish so badly that we could rewind life to September 15th, knowing what I know now about Texas, and when the offer comes up, we just ignore it and move on with our life in Utah.

I don't hate it here and there have been many wonderful events and good things have happened.  The people have certainly been kind enough.  But I am truly sorry over having to leave a happy, comfortable, though somewhat non-exciting life.  If I could go back, I would look for more opportunities to challenge ourselves.  I wish so badly that I could rewind time.  I'm so sad about leaving certain friends, friends who only recently came into our lives.  I feel like I ruined the lives of our six kids.  And I feel exhausted by having to start over.  I'm tired of putting myself out there and simply don't want to do it anymore.  It's too hard, too emotionally wrenching for me.

The worst part of all of this is that it is entirely my fault.  I only have myself to blame.  I should have said no, we don't need to do that, but it was Texas and I couldn't resist giving it a try.  When the job opportunity came along, my husband had to "put in for the opening" and request the position.  If he hadn't, he wouldn't have been considered.  I let him put in for it.  It's all my fault.  I should have said no.  I miss my life in Utah and am so sad that we left.  It was a good life.


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