Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pinching Pennies

When J and I first got married, every single meal we ate was carefully planned for and prepared, sometimes a week ahead of time and frozen. We were wildly prepared for dinners and flexibility with meals and fairly well on spending. As we got more settled into "life" then life with a child, then life with children, we slacked (who am I kidding...I slacked!!) on meal planning and shopping prudently. Perhaps we were careless, unhealthy, and went out as we desired. But, tough times call for strapping down. Nov-February of each year is always teeth grinding....will there be enough money after we pay last years medical deductible and the start of this years, car insurance, life insurance AND Christmas gifts?!
So in December we committed back to our savvy meal shopping and thoroughly enjoying our meals at home no matter what. And, we tried to keep it simple, since we still have dinner on the table by 5 pm most night. 
We went out to eat on New Year's Eve, and went over 5 weeks before dining out-and even then we paid with those with gift cards!
I quickly discovered a few things:
-we spent less planning for 8 days of meals (an extra just in case we changed our minds) than we did planning for 5 (weekday meals)
- it's easier to spend money on breakfast than any other meal
- we can now effectively spend $40 less than our weekly grocery budget from two years ago (when our little people didn't eat like big people)
- we have about 2.5 weeks worth of dinner meals that we have the freedom to rotate
- we are committed to eating our leftovers as to not waste the prepared meal
- each week has a "splurge item" and it's super fun for the girls and I to choose when we are out shopping (sugary cereal week is probably the most looked forward week each month😂)
- the grocery trip has always been, but even more so now with my opinionated girls, a favorite pastime. We learn so much about our food, reading, people, and "sales"

We took the bill from our last meal out (with just me and J) and compared some prices. We can fix 5-6 dinners (to fed 4-6 people) for the price of one night out. Totally worth it when you're trying to save money!!!

So what do we fix?? These meals cost us between $4-9 a piece (4-6 servings). And we have left overs for lunch or dinner the next day.  Tacos, Chinese chicken w/fried rice (think general tso), crock pot BBQ chicken sandwiches, bow tie chicken pasta w/creamy ranch sauce, turkey tenderloin w/veggies, and some of these warm-fill-you-up meals:
Nana's chicken pot pie
Chicken casserole
Homemade pizza-EVERY WEEK :)
Minestrone soup 
Breakfast is always a winner!!-more elaborate like this, or just a simple casserole. 

So much freedom and fun in being together in this whole strategy! Always up for something new too!

Friday, February 19, 2016

The anniversary

"This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

It's come again, all too soon, another year has past and today we remember the crispness of the air and the beautiful sunshine that came through the clouds while we sat by my mother's bedside in the quiet corner in our home. Where, surrounded by all of the family and a few friends, we witnessed the last breath on earth for that sweet lady. Today marks 7 years since her death and sometimes I wonder if I'm waiting for some large emotional attack to occur at any moment. I almost never know what state I'll be in on this day, but it seems that as the years go on, my poor distraught self disappears more and more. I don't know if that's a sign of "growing up" or what, but I think that's happening a lot lately (ahhhh I'm getting old!)

This month is quite a mix of remembrances- mom's death, the rough three weeks we had 4 years ago when Ludia was born in severe respiratory distress, and another comes to mind=celebrating 16 years of owning my violin. I had to put it in the shop for the first time in 16 years earlier this month and the whole 10 days it was away I was a wreck. That's my outlet and I need to play!!! My parents got it for me as a high school graduation present right before I went to play with the All-state orchestra that year. It was such an expensive stretch for them then and sign a sacrifice. But I think they were well pleased with how it got me through college and practically paid for me to go to school. :)

Mom always loved when I played (but not practiced) and so she had requested earlier on in her treatment that I be there to play happy, uppity music when she finished her last round of radiation. That day at the clinic was filled with so much joy. We thought her tumor would soon be gone and she'd regain hair, strength and life back. 

It seemed to be a miserable 18 months that would follow until the last straw was pulled and she ended up in a hospice bed in the corner of our living room. She was unresponsive for the most part, unable to move and we simply waited around the clock until she would stop breathing. 
Then, I got out my violin, and played for two solid hours. Hymns and melodies from the hymn book on and on and on. I knew she had a few favorites and we had ours, but it was some of the most peaceful two hours we spent just hours before her death. It put us in a state of worship and we'd sing along with the praises of God's faithfulness, his mercy to us, his provisions in our lives, his goodness and his presence always, and the promises he has for us. 
I remember those moments as if they happened minutes ago. They were so real and pure. 
Shouldn't that be like our everyday? Not just in the midst of our sadness (or our joy), but that we would turn to worshipping our Creator of ALL things. 
I think as the years go on, I learn more and more about the compassion of the Father especially when I comb through memories of mom's illness. And it only points to worship and praise. And for that, I'm thankful for the beautiful orchestration of the sickness, death, and healing of an amazing, wonderful woman. 
May today be filled with praise to our Great God. May you be filled with His presence and may his love overflow out of you so that you shower it on your neighbor. 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.””
John 13:34-35 ESV