A Common Life Lived with Uncommon Joy

Posts tagged ‘Harris Teeter’

The Difference Between Frugality and Stewardship

kitchen

Like any true Southern girl, my favorite place to be is in my kitchen making something delicious to bless the people I love.  My cousin Beckie has always teased me about how little TV I watch.  Truthfully, the TV is just too far from the kitchen to suit me.  Standing in the kitchen, cooking or cleaning, wearing my apron and listening to a sermon or worship music while I work is my happy place.  Today I had the urge to go spend the afternoon in my kitchen, cooking and cleaning and prepping some freezer meals.  My hands needed hot, soapy water, my favorite dishcloths crocheted by my cousin Donna (I have a lot of cousins y’all), and something yummy simmering on the stove.  I do some of my best thinking and praying when I’m in my kitchen.  As I scrubbed down countertops this afternoon, I started praying about our finances.  I know we are just one of many families struggling in the current economy, and thoughts of how to feed my family for less occupies my mind quite often.  I’m always looking for frugal recipes, tips on when/how to buy in bulk, the best place to get fresh produce or bread, anything to make our dollars stretch a little further.  Today though, as I scrubbed and prayed, a new thought entered my mind.  What if, instead of worrying and planning for how to spend my grocery money more carefully, I concentrated instead on using everything God had already blessed me with to its full potential?  What if I focused on using all the things I had stocked up in my pantry? What if I actually learned to use my fancy espresso machine (one of my best Goodwill finds) instead of stopping by Starbucks once a week?  I looked around and surveyed my kitchen, pantry and cabinets.  Everywhere I looked I could see items in need of attention – cleaning, repair, organization, or just actually being used.  I shifted my thinking from what I needed to do to acquire what I thought I needed to thinking about how to best use what I already had.

As I continued praying and seeking God’s direction in this new train of thought, I resolved to spend the month of October focusing specifically on stewardship instead of frugality.  I’m great at finding good deals and making a dollar stretch.  I’m not so great at maintenance and follow through.  Sometimes this results in unnecessary waste or things that sit in my pantry unused for several months before being donated to a food bank.  I decided a few steps that needed to be made and planned how to carry them out this month.  I will share the things I learn through the month and maybe we will both be blessed.

Here are the things I’m going to concentrate on this month:

1.  Eat from my pantry/freezer before going grocery shopping.  Each month, as soon as I get my grocery money, I rush to the store first chance I get and stock up on everything I can think of that we may need that month.  I use coupons, search for deals, know the best price and which store to find it in.  But by the 20th, I’m out of grocery money and depending on money from our regular account to get us through until next month check comes on the 5th.  It’s a feast or famine cycle.  This month, instead of focusing on acquiring more food, I’m going to focus on eating what we have, using what’s already in our pantry and freezer.  That’s not to say I won’t be grocery shopping, but I don’t plan to go until I actually need to.

2.  Inventory and make a plan.  I can’t use it if I don’t know I have it, right?  I’m going to start with an inventory of my pantry and freezer and fridge and then make a written plan on how to use what I have.  This will also give me a plan for all my #10 cans of tomato sauce, extra loaves of bread, etc. that I intended to prepare freezer meals with.  I’m not a great menu planner but I can make a list of possible meals and list the ingredients needed so I don’t use them for something else, crossing off meals on my list as I cook them.

3. Learning to use and maintain what I already have. Two years ago, the week before my birthday, I found the ultimate Goodwill prize – a $400 Starbucks espresso machine for $10.  Happy Birthday to me, right?? I must confess that I still don’t know how to use it and only have espresso drinks when Michael is off work on a weekend morning (about once or twice a month) because he’s the only one that knows how to operate the machine.  This month, I plan to watch the same YouTube videos he learned from, practice, and learn to make some of my favorite Starbucks drinks.  I already have all the equipment I need – I just need to learn how to use it.  The same goes for the ice cream maker I bought to make special dairy-free ice cream for Georgia.  I’m sure I’ll find a few other things too as the month progresses.

4. Make mealtimes special.  Just because the grocery budget is tighter and our meals are less extravagant, doesn’t mean our table has to be.  I plan to make regular use of our special dishes, light some candles, use the cloth napkins and napkin rings, maybe even add some flowers or a centerpiece occasionally.  I have a large stockpile of things that I use when we host parties or have a family over to eat, but I rarely use them for our own family.  Again, concentrating on stewardship instead of frugality – using what I have to its full potential.

Stay tuned all month! I will be posting updates to my progress through the month and at the end of October, I will let you know how it affected my monthly grocery budget.  I’m excited to see what God will teach me about stewardship.

Freezer Management 101 Part 1

Today’s post is moving us in a new direction.  So far I’ve shared adventures in my faith walk and in trying to exercise and lose weight.  Now I want to start to share a new adventure with you – the adventure of homemaking!  We will start in my favorite room of my house, the kitchen!

Many of my friends and family have asked me a lot of questions about how I manage my kitchen, from grocery shopping to meal planning to pantry organization to freezer management.  I’m going to start with freezer management because it generally gets the most questions.  There’s a lot to share so this will be the first in a series of posts.  If your question isn’t answered today, be sure to ask me in the comments area so I can be sure to cover it in a future post.

Freezers are generally used for two things:  keeping frozen items like ice and popsicles  frozen and preserving other foods like meats and vegetables until we are ready to eat them.  Freezer management is just using the functions of your freezer in the most frugal and efficient ways to make meal times easier to manage.  We will start with the preserving function of the freezer and at the end of the series, I will share several recipes for frozen treats so you can stock your freezer with yummy stuff to keep you cool this summer.

I started out small in freezer management, using my freezer as a storehouse for meats when I found a great deal.  When I shop for meats, I go to the grocery store searching for markdown stickers.  Grocery stores will lower the price of fresh meats when they are close to the sell by dates in order to move them out the door.  You can buy these markdowns at a great discount and stick them right into your freezer until you are ready to cook them.  For example, on my last meat shopping trip, I found one pound packs of ground chicken regularly $3.69 each with $3 off markdown stickers.  There were nine packages marked down and I grabbed them all at $0.69 each.  Later I will show you how to bring your meats home and prep them into a meal or main dish before freezing (I’ve got an 1/8 of a cow coming in a few weeks!), but for now just focus on adding to your freezer stock.  Once your freezer is stocked with markdown meats, you can plan your meals based on the meats you have on hand and start lowering your grocery bill.

Another way to stock the freezer is with fruits and veggies.  First, go through your fridge and pull out any fruits or veggies that are just slightly past their prime.  These are foods like limp celery or apples that aren’t as crisp or very ripe berries that need to be eaten quickly before they spoil.  Instead of losing these foods to the garbage disposal, save them while they are still viable and get them in the freezer.  I chop things like onions, celery, carrots,  mushrooms, and bell peppers into very small pieces (usually with a food processor – I’m all about working quickly!) and then spoon them into ice cube trays.  Put the trays into the freezer until the veggies are frozen solid, then pop them out and put them into freezer ziploc bags in the freezer.  When you are making dinner and you want to add a little something to a sauce or rice, grab a couple cubes from your freezer stock and toss them in the microwave for a minute to thaw, then it’s ready to add to your recipe. You can also slice veggies and freeze to add to pizzas or stir fry – just slice and place on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen, then remove and put them in freezer ziploc bags.  The same procedure can be used for fruits like apples, peaches, berries, even bananas – just peel, slice and freeze on a cookie sheet then bag them.  Berries, grapes and pineapple chunks make a great frozen snack – they taste like bite-size popsicles and they’re healthy too!  Once your fridge is cleaned out, head to the grocery store and scope out the markdown produce.  Many grocery stores will pull bruised or very ripe produce off the shelves and bag it up to sell at a deep discount.  Just take it home and process it for the freezer right away and you can enjoy lots of produce for really low prices.  You can do the same thing when you find a great deal on in-season produce like a bushel of peaches.

The last way to stock up the freezer is with baked goods.  Most grocery stores will markdown breads, cookies, bagels, and pies that are nearing their sell by dates.  Once you get them home, wrap each item in foil before placing in a freezer ziploc bag.  I will often separate things like bagels, pies and cookies into individual serving sizes and put each serving in foil then a sandwich bag and then put all the sandwich bags into a larger freezer ziploc bag.  Then I can easily pull out a bagel or dessert to add to my hubby’s lunch, make a quick breakfast or serve to a visiting friend.  The rule of thumb here is to not just throw the baked goods into the freezer in their original packaging.  The packaging is meant to keep it fresh but isn’t designed to protect against freezer burn, so be sure to wrap it then bag it before you freeze it.

A few important things to note here:

1. Use name-brand freezer ziploc bags.  This isn’t the time to cut corners with off-brand bags or using storage bags instead of freezer bags.  You’re preserving food so use the best quality stuff to do it and you will get a better result.

2.  Don’t skip the ice cube tray/cookie sheet step!  This allows the food to freeze in separate pieces before you bag it so the pieces don’t stick to each other.  If you skip this step and throw it all into the bag and then freeze it, you will end up with a big frozen chunk that’s only useful if you are going to use it all at once and have the time to thaw it.

3.  Be sure to label and date everything.  If you are going to go through the effort of preserving the food, make sure you can identify it later or you won’t ever use it.

4.  Organize your freezer.  Keep all your meats in one section, your fruits in another, your veggies somewhere else, etc.  This is easier to do when you have a full-size upright freezer but it can still be done if all you have is the freezer above your fridge.  When you keep like items together, it’s easier to see what you have and find what you need so you can use what’s there and not forget about any of the frozen treasures waiting to be eaten.

The next post in the series will cover utilizing big batch cooking and #10 cans to stock your freezer.  As always, comments make my day!  Be sure to leave your questions in the comments so I can cover them in future posts.

 

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He Ruined It For All the Girls

 

 

Being the firstborn child can be both a blessing and a curse.  Firstborn children are usually independent, strong willed and natural leaders…and guinea pigs.  Face it, your firstborn has the greatest learning curve of any of your other children – you learn what not to do through the experience of your firstborn, so that your second, third, etc children have a better chance for survival.  I know my parents learned a lot with me as a firstborn – always make sure your child isn’t standing in front of the swings if you decide to go really high or you might kick her across the playground; never chase her little fingers with the vacuum cleaner teasing “I’m gonna getcha!” because eventually you will; and always verify there is indeed not a child riding on your shoulders before walking through a doorway.  These are all valuable lessons that saved my younger brother from pain and suffering, all learned at my expense.

On the flip side though, firstborns are trendsetters.  My mother-in-law wanted to be called Granny by her grandchildren just like her sister was by hers, but Ross as the firstborn grandchild called her Nanny instead and so now she is known as Nanny to all 7 of her grandchildren to this day.  And a lot of “mom rules” – you know what I’m talking about, those nonnegotiable policies that are written in stone because you’re gonna make sure THAT never happens again – are also made into law because of something the firstborn did.  In our family, for example, we do NOT go to Toys R Us.  Those who know our family well know why and are probably laughing hysterically at the memory of why we have that rule, but that story is for another day.  Today I want to tell the story behind two other “mom rules” that at first don’t seem related to each other, but once you hear the story, it makes perfect sense and may actually cause you to make a mom rule of your own.  The two rules?  1. No balloons in the car and 2. No chocolate milk in restaurants.

When Ross was four and Gracie was only 10 pounds of spunk and cuteness, we would have a weekly lunch date with Michael on Fridays.  Those little outings with Daddy were something we looked forward to all week long.  On one particular lunch date, we chose to go to Macado’s.  They have a huge sandwich menu, the kids meals were cheap and Ross would get crayons and paper and a balloon to entertain him while we waited for our food to arrived.  Ross really wanted chocolate milk, but when it was time to order, the waitress said they only had white milk.  He pulled the oldest trick in the book, poking out his lower lip and fluttering those mile-long eyelashes at her and in no time, she was at the bar mixing chocolate syrup into his milk just for him.  She even gave him extra chocolate because he was so sweet (insert wink and a smile).  Ross loved it so much, he slurped it down before his food came and had to get a refill to go with his meal.

After lunch, I loaded the kids into the car, kissed my hubby goodbye as he went back to work and headed to Gracie’s well child checkup.  Ross was being really good, talking to his sister to entertain her while we drove and holding his balloon in his lap so it wouldn’t obstruct my view through the rearview mirror.  As we waited at the stoplight just across the street from the doctor’s office, I heard the sound every mother dreads – someone in the backseat was throwing up.  I whirled around to check on the baby and saw Ross puking all over the top of the balloon in his lap.  And then he let it go, just as the light turned green.  I rolled down the window and beat furiously at the balloon, trying to get it out of the car as quickly as possible as it bounced around above us, vomit dripping from every spot it touched.  I somehow made it through the intersection and into the parking lot, where I whipped into a parking space and flung open the door of the car.  The balloon drifted away, the baby began to cry, and Ross lifted up a little hand covered in puke crying “My balloon!  Mommy, my balloon!”.  At that moment I vowed to never, ever allow balloons in the car or chocolate milk at restaurants ever again.

Now whenever we go out to eat or leave a Harris Teeter and one of my littles asks for a balloon, Ross sighs and shakes his head and says, “I’m sorry girls.  I ruined it for all of you.”  And they all beg Mommy to tell them the story again of Ross and the balloon and the chocolate milk.

As always, comments make my day!!  I’d love to hear your “mom rules” and the stories behind them.

 

 

 

 

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