Monday, May 5, 2014

This week's meal plan (Menu Monday)

I realized years ago, that shopping without a plan and a list practically doubled our grocery bill. I would grab random things, and then get home and I couldn't put together enough meals to last us. And there was no money left to go buy even more food. Then I tried the random shopping trips for a couple meals a couple times a week. That was even worse!
I knew I had to do something, or we would go bankrupt buying groceries! I am, by nature, a list person. I always made a list for non food items, for parties, for gifts, for cleaning. But I always forgot for grocery shopping. Don't ask me why, because I couldn't tell you!
So I bought 2 notebooks with tabs and a pack of multi colored pens. And the savings rolled in. Here's how I did it, and what I've changed over the years as our family grew.
I listed every meal and snack I ever made. Then I divided those up into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
From there, I broke my dinners into categories.
Soups and Stews
On each tab in the notebooks, I added the titles.
Then I listed the meals and their varieties.
A lot of my meals have multiple versions. For instance, I make ground beef tacos with garlic salt or packaged seasonings. I make those sorts of tacos, plus chicken (about 4 different versions), shredded beef, shrimp (2 of these), carne asada. You get the idea. So in each category I listed sub categories. It looked a bit like this:
Shrimp: grilled with shredded cabbage and pico de gallo. Skillet with veggies.
Chicken: Ranch chicken. Seasoned chicken. Shredded chicken; with spicy tomato sauce. Shredded chicken; deep fried.
And it went on. Once that was done, I typed it into the computer and printed it and placed it in our family binder. And every other week, I opened it up, chose a dinner from each category and added it to my meal planner.
Over the years I changed it up only twice. I added an ingredients list to each meal first, to make my shopping list easier so I wasn't thinking of what each thing needed. Recently I took each meal and put them on index cards and put them on rings for each category. I like this one the best because I can remove a meal from each category, pop the cards in my purse and use them as my shopping list. No more writing out each list. I do the same with breakfasts, lunches and snacks/desserts.
All of my cards are laminated for durability. I just keep a dry erase marker in my purse to cross everything off. And before I leave the house, I cross off what I already have or when it's a multiple item or a large package, like chicken or frozen veggies. Then, after each trip, I wipe the cards down, they go back on their corresponding rings and they're ready for the next trip.
This is something that took me several hours over several days to do. It's not a fast and easy project, but it's super worth it. And you can save so much money being prepared! Plus it's nice to see all your meals in one place, where you can just pluck a few out for the week and your menu is already done.
This week's menu:
Split pea soup with ham and fresh bread
Blt's with sliced avocado, french fries, corn, and cottage cheese.
Sloppy Joe's with fruit salad
Ground beef tacos with seasonings and refried beans
Stroganoff with strip steak, broccoli and garlicky dinner rolls
Garlic chicken and pasta with veggies
mini cheese pizzas with English muffins
Grilled cheese
bean burritos from leftover beans
BBQ chicken salads with corn and black beans
pancakes twice
oatmeal twice
Eggs with hash browns
breakfast casserole
veggies and dips
trail mix
peanut butter cookies

Next Monday I'll share another way I save money along with next weeks menu.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Wonders of Breastmilk

My daughter came down with a case of conjunctivitis. Pink eye. I didn't suspect it, in fact I was alarmed by the redness, swelling, discharge and pain because night before last during a water gun fight she was hit with a direct stream of water in her left eye. And within two hours, her eye was hurting and swelling, and goopy. So yesterday morning I took her to urgent care, suspecting a terrible scratch. Nope. Just pink eye. Uncomfortable and gross but much better than I thought.
And then I failed as a parent. I forgot to drop off the prescription for the antibiotic ointment. I had planned on picking it up when I went to the store, but an impromptu visit from Grandpa and a trip to the pool changed my afternoon and we had pancakes for dinner because 4 hours in the pool equaled cranky, tired and hungry kids as soon as they walked in the door. I was in a hurry to do baths and get 3, 4 and 5 in the tub and into bed before EVERYONE had a meltdown. So I failed. And I felt terrible.
We're not the kind of parents to rush our kids to the Dr for everything. Not even a cold or the flu phases us much anymore. Cuts, weird looking poop, puking toddlers are all taken in stride and addressed at home. We avoid medication whenever possible, which is about 98% of the time. Because should they get really sick and need medication, we don't want them to have a resistance. We also want their immune systems to work out their own kinks as naturally as possible whenever possible.
That's not to say we don't give them motrin or tylenol or other needed medications...because we do, when they're necessary. But we also do hot baths, steam, hot and cold compresses, lots of water and broth and teas for a variety of ailments. So how do we fix a bacterial infection that obviously needs medication, when we can't get it, or the pharmacy is closed when you suddenly remember you didn't pick it up?
Breastmilk. Yep, breastmilk. That stuff with all the goodies in it for our babies. Turns out, it's perfect for pretty much anything. And I mean ANYTHING. I pretty much knew this. I breastfeed my babes for a reason, right? I've used it for sore nipples, cuts and rashes, but there's a lot of things it's good for besides. Every one already knows the virtues of breastfeeding our babies, and some of the other things it can do, so I'm not going to wax poetic about it (although I could because it's super!). But do you know what else it can do for you and your family?
 It can help ear infections,  exzema, psoriasis,  cradle cap, diaper rashes. It can even help with the chicken pox! It helps sore throats too. You can also use it in your hair and on your skin as a regular beauty regimen. And for all you contact lens wearers out there, you can apparently store your contacts in it! Supposedly it's extra moisturizing in addition to all the antibacterial properties. I am going to give it a shot, because who doesn't need a little extra boost of germ killers for their contacts??
And, it most definitely works on pink eye. I kid you not! I panicked a bit when I realized I had forgotten the prescription,  and then I remembered reading about the wonder drug that is breastmilk. My daughter's eye looked horrendous. Swollen, and red. She looked like she lost a fight. So I pumped 2 teaspoons of milk into a little clean cup, sucked it up with an infant medication syringe and put a couple drops in her eye. And then forgot about it for awhile during evening clean up. As we were relaxing on the couch, I looked at her and her eye was so much better! The swelling was down by half. The redness outside the eye had gone down significantly.  And she said it felt better too. So I dosed her again. Hey, I know a good thing when I see it! When she got in bed, it looked way better than it had 3 hours prior. And the great thing is, anyone's breastmilk will work! You can use donated milk from a friend or family member if you're not nursing for a whole host of things. PLUS It's free.
If you're a nursing mom,  pump a few ounces here and there, and freeze it in ice cube trays then store in a freezer bag. Pop one out when the mosquitoes start biting and rub it on the bite and it'll sooth and heal. Defrost one and put some drops in your child's ear when they have an earache. Add some cubes to some healing tea and let it help tummy aches and sore throats.  Or, defrost it and cook with it! Works perfect when you're out of milk. Plus, who doesn't need an extra immune boost? Serve it INSTEAD of regular milk. Put it in oatmeal or rice or a smoothie and no one will know. (In case you have a squeamish one in the bunch.)
I am NOT a physician. While I do encourage natural healing, I can't promise a miracle cure. And what works for me, or you, may not work for someone else. But there's tons of research and proof that breastmilk can and does help so many ailments. Check it out for yourself. Talk to your doctors. Call the Le Leche League. Try it!
At the very least, use it on your hair. The shine people!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A full heart?

We have what most consider a "large" family. And I suppose we do, according to today's standards. We have five children, ages ranging from 14 all the way down to 10 months. Often, we are asked odd, if not rude and nosey, questions. And sometimes it's just comments, like, "You have your hands full." I've been used to these comments for a long time actually. We started getting them with our third baby! And I'm always amused, and sometimes made a little sad by the meaning behind the comments.
 Children are such a blessing! Not only are they sweet and snuggley, but they provide comic relief and pride. I spend my days laughing so much you would think I was at a comedy show. And my heart swells with pride over every. little. accomplishment. My days start and end in hugs, every day. I am loved unconditionally, even on my bad days. 
So I'm always confused by the comments and questions, because why wouldn't someone want that? Or at the very least, understand why we would? 
The bible tells us children are a heritage from the Lord. A blessing from God. We have been blessed greatly and rejoice in them.
We love our gifts, and our hearts are not full. How can we ever not have room in our hearts for God's love?