Monday, December 27, 2010

Meal Planning & Budgets

Recently, we were told we have a very low food budget for the three of us. In all honesty, it would be a high food budget in terms of couponers. We are right at $350 a month for three of us, and that doesn't account for FishPapa's allowance that he eats lunch off of most days. We still enjoy convenience foods some of the time, but there have been two things that have truly changed that budget. Once upon a time, FishPapa and I sometimes spent $700 on dining out and groceries. JUST the 2 of us.

Probably the biggest thing was sitting down and limiting ourselves to a cash based budget. I'm not always good about it, but we usually stay really close to our budget.

But there are two other things that have made a huge difference. A deep freeze in our garage, and taking the time to plan our meals. Some people plan a week at a time, but that seems like a lot of extra work for me. I plan a month at a time, and write it on a calendar that I post on the fridge. I look up, and see what our game plan is, shop once a pay period, and then only run to the store for fresh produce and milk as we run out. I spend less time shopping when I do this, and am tempted less to spend money on extras.

I discovered freezer cooking last spring, which has helped TONS during the week that I have to really focus on work each month. Either Fishpapa or I can go out to the freezer, grab the meal and set it cooking, and know we will have a wonderful meal to eat later that evening. :)

I really do wish that I had learned to value being frugal when we were younger and made more money, but I'm grateful that even though i came to the party a little late, there is always time to learn these wonderful habits!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Dinner

Once upon a time, I lived in one of those families. You know, the one where the kids get shuttled back and forth for holidays. Christmas was always especially crazy. We would spend the week before Christmas with our Dad and Stepmom, then on Christmas Eve we would have THREE celebrations. One in the morning with just family, one in the afternoon with Stepmom's family, then one later in the evening with Dad's family. (Dad's family is HUGE!)

We would then go to a late night Christmas service with Mom (and usually her parents). We'd go to bed, wake up and do ANOTHER round of presents, and then settle in and have a big meal for Christmas dinner.

You can see why even as a child I thought Christmas was fun but exhausting. Everyone was stressed and I hated that feeling.

The first Christmas that Fisherpapa and I spent together was the one we got engaged. It took years, but eventually we got the running around to a minimum, in part due to Fisherpapa having to work every Christmas eve (working for a church is like that).

I was usually so exhausted by the time Christmas dinner rolled around (and having some rather traumatic memories of Christmas dinners I made as a 12 and 13 year old that turned out HORRIBLE) I just didn't want to stress about it. SO Christmas is our no-stress day. We wake up and have cinnamon rolls (I made these this year, and OH MY are they good!) and then hang out. And somehow in the last 10 years our tradition as become having chicken nuggets and tater tots for Christmas dinner. It's really funny - others have come and shared this holiday tradition with us and love it too - because it takes the pressure off the holiday.

This year with Fisherpapa and I watching our waistlines, we'll make chicken strips from scratch and have sweet potato fries. But ti's still our funny, weird tradition, and I love it!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

No Room?

I've been very affected by the idea of simplifying recent. I bought a FABULOUS book called "Organized Simplicity" that I would recommend to anyone, and checked a book called "Simplicity Parenting" out of the local library.

I started by putting into practice some of the things from the first book - and by that I mean, I'm going through the house and doing the ultimate de-clutter. I started the day after Thanksgiving, clearing 7 outdoor garbage bags of clothing and other stuff from our room. Most of it went to charity, though I am also prepping a garage sale once the weather turns a bit nicer.

What I didn't expect was how emotional it was for me to remove all those items. I'm a saver by nature. Sentimental, soft, I love things that remind me of the past. But when I have bins and bins of things that don't fit and are not useful to me, it all becomes overwhelming to hold onto. I was shaking and near tears when I realized the massive amount of waste and time and money and energy all of that stuff represented.

The rest of the house has not been anywhere close to as emotional, but this week I will begin on my office. I'm positive that this room will also be hard for me. I'm trying to clear out as much as possible, especially trying to make the room somewhere that BabyFish (though I probably should be calling him ToddlerFish) can hang with with me while I work. All he wants is to be with me, and because my office is too cluttered I have to keep him out.

I wonder how many other things I am keeping out by having too much clutter in my life? How much I miss out on because of the emotional and spiritual clutter?