Week 1 Plan- “Eating From the Pantry and Freezer” Month

Mpm new red

As promised, here is a rundown on what I'm doing for this first week of working with what I've already got!

Beth asked me what kind of things I have stockpiled in my freezer and pantry right now. Glad you asked! Here's a basic list of the inventory I created last week:

  • Canned goods from last fall (tons of tomatoes and 1 can of peaches)
  • Frozen shredded zucchini and canned pumpkin puree, also from the garden
  • Baking supplies- kamut, oats, rye, barley, cornmeal, buckwheat, etc. and cocoa, yeast, sucanat, raw honey, spices, etc.
  • Frozen Ezekiel sprouted grain English muffins
  • Frozen organic milk, to make yogurt and kefir
  • Organic butter and pastured butter in the freezer, and one package of frozen cream cheese
  • Lots of dry beans and such- chickpeas, black beans, white beans, red and green lentils, some kidney beans
  • brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet, and also a nice big bag of organic popcorn
  • a 5 lb bag of brown rice noodles
  • some dates and organic raisins, and also some soaked/dried walnuts
  • sprout seeds, brewer's yeast, pumpkin seeds that we soaked and dried
  • large bag of organic corn chips
  • tin of olive oil, plus 1/2 gallon coconut oil
  • tons of frozen berries- blueberries, raspberries, as well as frozen peach slices, ripe bananas and a bit of blackberries and cranberries
  • frozen organic corn, plus some butternut squash and red peppers that I diced and froze last summer
  • about 8 large spaghetti squash from our garden (anyone want one???)
  • 2 whole chickens and 2 beef roasts
  • several packages of ground beef, chicken and turkey
  • a bit of beef sausage, plus some organic liver, and about 6-7 packs of grass-fed beef steaks (which are too tough eaten alone, but work really nicely in the crockpot, in stews, etc.)
  • lots of beef broth and a bit of chicken broth
  • a bit of fresh veggies- onions, few carrots, celery, couple tomatoes, green cabbage

What do you think? Time to clear things out a bit or what? I love being well-stocked, but it also seems like a good time to work through some of what we have before summer arrives again (and with it, garden produce and fruit galore!), and before I manage to save up the rest of the needed money for my next big purchase of grass-fed beef.

Armed with this inventory, I created a long list of potential meal ideas, allowing for the addition of fresh produce, milk and eggs, in addition to what we already have. From that list of meal ideas, I made a 4 week menu plan for breakfasts and dinners (we tend to eat leftovers and other odds and ends for lunch).

Here is the first week's menu plan:

Breakfasts
Baked Oatmeal x 2
Zucchini Bread
French Toast
Toast and eggs
Yogurt with granola, berries, nuts, etc.
Plus lots of green smoothies and other fruit smoothies

Dinners
Cheesy Turkey Sausage Stromboli (mine will use beef sausage) with raw veggies and dip
Beef Stew, green salad and bread (I'll toss some of the cabbage into this as well)
Spaghetti Squash with sauce (probably some kind of marinara, though I haven't decided)
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole, with a side veggie (I plan to challenge myself and create this recipe- hope it's good!)
Taco Salad (using kidney and black beans instead of meat)
Sweet and Sour Lentils, with a salad (possibly coleslaw?) and bread

I've left one spot open each week for both breakfast and dinner, because I find we often have enough leftovers to make up one dinner each week, depending on what I've been cooking. For breakfasts, sometimes we like to just make what suits our fancy one morning (common choices are pancakes or sprouted English Muffin egg and cheese sandwiches).

In addition to these meals, I'll also be roasting a chicken, which I will promptly turn into 4 packages of shredded chicken (3 for the freezer, one for the wild rice casserole), and then a batch of chicken broth for soup recipes in the upcoming weeks. Plus, I'll be baking 3 more loaves of sourdough bread, using this recipe. I tried it once and was quite happy with how simple it was. We all enjoyed it, though agreed that it might need 10 more minutes of baking time, and maybe just a bit more kamut and a bit less rye flour. Otherwise, so far so good!

This morning, I hit my beloved produce market and spent a whopping $31 for two weeks. :) I also bought some cheese in Washington this weekend ($11), because it's yummy and much cheaper than here. Other than a bit of money I had to spend on punch supplies for a wedding shower I'm hosting, that is all that I intend to spend until April 15, aside from my standard milk and eggs. Yay!

Anyone want to share what they're making from their pantry and freezer?

Menu Plan Mondays are hosted by Organizing Junkie!

“Eating From the Pantry and Freezer” Month

Pantry with home canned food
Do you ever feel like it's time for a "spring clean" for your pantry and freezer? A couple of times a year, I just start to feel that there's a whole lot of stuff in there and that I'm not maximizing what I already have.

I think I need to clean things out a bit, use up stuff that's gotten buried in the back of the pantry or bottom of the freezer, and save a bit of grocery money in the process. The money that I save will go towards stocking up on a bunch of bulk items that we could really use from Azure Standard (the food coop I like to purchase from), as well as give me the extra money that I need to up my ownership in our raw milk cow share (so that we can get more milk each week- a necessity for our growing kids and my pregnant self!).

During the month of April, I will only be buying:

  • Fresh fruits and veggies (but I will be working hard to use some of what I still have stored away, as far as canning, freezing, winter squash, etc. from last summer and fall)
  • Raw milk from our cow share
  • Cheese (first we'll use the 1 lb we have in the fridge, and then we'll try to keep it very minimal)
  • Eggs (because eggs help to work in a lot of dishes, are just a great protein and nutrient source, and will help me stretch my other stuff further)

Other than that, I've already been digging around, have written a detailed inventory of what I have, and have made a list of meals and snacks to go with that inventory. From that list, I created a meal plan for an entire month (even though I usually only do a week or two at a time). As for shopping, all I plan to do is visit my produce market twice, get a few flats of eggs from my local farmer, and I'll still pick up my weekly raw milk supply. That's it!

Just as soon as I have a moment, I will get my first week's worth of menu planning up, and I will post each new week, along with an update of how it's going and how I feel that we've been eating with such minimal shopping. I wasn't really intending to blog this, but I was inspired as Crystal blogged her recent efforts at eating from their pantry, and thought it might be fun to share what I was doing!

Do you ever do weeks or months like this, where you try to avoid grocery shopping? Does anybody feel like joining in with me for April? Would it be worth it to put up a Mr. Linky or shall I just let you follow along and comment as we go (let me know if you want a Mr. Linky, because if I don't get many responses, I won't do it)?

Links Worth Checking Out (While I Go Have Fun!)

I'm off to the kids swap meet this morning, to finish up the very last few items on their spring/summer/fall lists, and to hopefully find some cute short-sleeved maternity tops for myself. Just last weekend I finally got around to picking up my cheque from the consignment store where I was attempting to sell some of my clothes I was getting rid of, and was pleased to get $27 that I'll use for buying shirts. Not bad, for clothes I didn't want, that I let someone else sell for me!

After lunch, we're heading to Washington, to visit some dear friends in beautiful Birch Bay. We'll spend much of Saturday and Sunday with them, visiting, eating, letting our children play together, swimming, beach walking, etc. Sounds wonderful to me!

Hope you have a fantastic weekend yourself, and enjoy a few links that I've appreciated lately:

Names of jesus easter garland

Names of Jesus Garland for Easter– @ The Homespun Heart
I loved her idea at Christmas time (similar, but slightly different names and colors), and when I saw this a couple of weeks ago I thought this was such a beautiful craft to be done with little ones, to help both them and us to remember and celebrate His life, death and resurrection!

5 Tips for Balancing Hormones– @ Cheeseslave
This is an especially good read for anyone with PCOS, but even for anyone with hormone-related issues. I am always thrilled to hear how dietary changes have helped other women to improve hormone-related conditions!

Parents Buying Guide- Safety Guide to Children's Personal Care Products– @ EWG
I found this link through their Enviroblog, which was discussing some particularly concerning ingredients that have shown up in baby products. The buying guide is excellent, and I was so relieved to see that the products we are using for our children all rank well. Phew!

What to Plant Now– @ Mother Earth News
Simply click on your region of the country (I'm Canadian, but my region is virtually the same as the Pacific Northwest), to discover which crops you can be planting now, either inside or outside or transplanting. In teh same vein, another excellent resource for this that I love to use is the online Famer's Almanac (look under Gardening).

Best Deals for Moms of Young Children– @ GirlTalk
Nope, they're not talking about frugality. Rather, this is a several week series on how to make the best uses of your time when you are mothering little ones. What priorities to focus on, things to remind yourself of, excellent parenting resources (I highly second all their recommendations!), verses to reflect on… I've linked to the entire month of March, so just sift your way through and be encouraged, mamas!

100 Different Ways to Save $100 This Year– @ Money Saving Mom
I thought this was such a great concept for a series. Crystal is working her way through 100 different ways, posting about 3-4 of them at a time. Some of the suggestions I already do, some it's great to be reminded of, a few aren't applicable, and a few of things I've never thought of before and could try implementing. Overall, it's a great series to keep an eye on!

The Little Things That Add Up

I was thinking the other day, as I puttered around in my kitchen, that I've adapted myself to doing a whole lot of little things to be frugal. I don't even think about it most of the time, because it's become second nature, but I'm sure that all of these seemingly small things add up to save money over the course of the weeks and months.

1) I substitute part water when dairy is called for. I do this whether it's milk, yogurt or kefir, and I will substitute up to 1/2 water. It works just fine in most baking recipes, and we can't even tell! (Thanks Crystal, for the original idea!)

Butter-packages
2) I save all of my butter wrappers for greasing bread pans, muffin tins, etc. I simply fold them in half and store them in the door of my fridge. When I'm ready to use them, I just pull one out a few minutes before I need it (in warm weather) or pop it in my pre-heating oven or toaster oven for about 5-10 seconds to soften the butter. Not only do I save butter or oil, but they are so handy for greasing a tin and it saves me needing to use paper towels.

3) When there are ends of a loaf of bread that aren't being eaten, I grind them in my coffee grinder and freeze them for instant bread crumbs (this is especially great if you eat wheat free, as we do, to know that I always have wheat free bread crumbs on hand). I have also had the odd loaf of bread turn out a total dud, and into the bread crumb bag it goes! :)

4) Every single bone (beef, chicken, lamb,etc.) in this house is frozen and saved for making bone broths (see link below).

Broth-scraps
5) I save all onion, carrot and celery scraps and sometimes other
veggies, including onion skins (for that lovely yellow color), and add
them to a ziploc bag in the freezer to be dumped into the pot when I'm making bone broth.

6) I wash all of my ziploc bags, to be re-used again and again. My only exceptions to this are when they rip (obviously), or when they have held raw meat. I wash them in the sink with hot, soapy water, and put them upside down over large cooking utensils (mixing spoons, spatulas, etc.) to air-dry.

7) I'm currently experimenting with spending a little more on sharp, aged cheddar (rather than the mild or medium cheddar or colby I usually buy), to see if I can get by with using less in my recipes, in sandwiches, etc. My theory is that we tend to use larger amounts of cheese due to the mild taste, but would be just as satisfied with less cheese, providing it has that strong, cheesey taste that we love.

What are the little, fugal things you do in the kitchen that add up to keep costs low?

Find more tips for frugal living over at Life as Mom!

A Grander Vision

Sunrise through trees

Sometimes I get a bit lost in keeping up with the heaps of laundry, the never-ending dishes, the reading and the math worksheets (gosh, she's getting so old so fast!), and the kissing of boo-boos.

It's easy to get so focused on all of the smaller tasks that make up my roles as wife, mother and homemaker, that I often cease to see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

A couple of weeks ago, I began listening to the series "To Teach What is Good- Titus 2" by Carolyn Mahaney, and I found it so refreshing and encouraging. You see, over the course of this past month I've been feeling rather exhausted and overwhelmed by some stressful circumstances, challenging relationships, and duties I was struggling to accomplish. The fact that I wasn't sleeping well and was caring for another little boy probably didn't help.

In fact, I realized that I had gotten so worn out and discouraged that I had even begun to listen to some of the less discerning and doctrinally-incorrect voices around me, taking worldly advice and applying it to the struggles in my heart. For a couple of days, I allowed myself to think that I somehow "deserved better" and needed to make more time for myself and a few other thoughts that I know were less than true.

Listening to this CD the other day with my daughter, my heart was drawn back to this beautiful truth:

The way that I live out my life, in the context of my marriage, my mothering and my home, is a representation to a lost world of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

(If you're unsure of what I mean by the Gospel, you can learn more about it here)

Listen to Carolyn's words in the corresponding chapter of Feminine Appeal
(the book upon which the CD series is based):

Although our daily actions might not be covered on the evening news, our lifestyle speaks loudly to those around us. How sobering it is to realize that our behavior has the potential to discredit the gospel. But how exciting it is to think that we can actually commend the gospel!

As verse 10 (of Titus 2) says, we can "adorn" the gospel with our lives. To "adorn" means to put something beautiful or attractive on display- like placing a flawless gemstone in a setting that uniquely shows off its brilliance. The gospel is like the most valuable of jewels. It is the pearl of great price.

Make no mistake, by adorning the gospel, we are not enhancing or improving it. The gospel cannot be improved! But by cultivating the feminine qualities listed in Titus 2, we can present the gospel as attractive, impressive, and pleasing to a watching world.

It doesn't take away the tiredness, or make some of the circumstances any easier, but it renews my passion to do what I have been called to do, and to do it well, through His grace. I am encouraged to continue on, realizing that all the "little" things I do day in and day out have a much bigger purpose- to present the gospel as more beautiful and attractive to a watching world!

I can't do it on my own, but I can press in to Him and lay down the burdens that I have been carrying at His feet. I know that He alone can and will give me the strength and ability to do it all in a way that glorifies Him and magnifies His gospel, without buying in to the lie of "me-ism". He created me for these roles, to serve my husband and family, through all sorts of circumstances and changing seasons, and He will equip me to do it. Only in Him can I find the rest that I am longing for.

Isn't it good to be reminded of the calling that we have, to present the Gospel through the roles and the work that God has given each of us? How has God been speaking to you lately, and how has He been bringing encouragement and refreshment for the challenges that you are experiencing?

Compromising to Make the Budget Work

We all know that grocery budgets are getting tighter as food prices go up (and for some, income has gone down). 

This is where frugal mamas need to get creative to make the money
stretch as far as it can, as we continue to make wholesome food a high
priority!

Lemon-juice
Personally, I'm starting to consider small compromises in what I buy, so that I can keep buying those things that I feel are the most important, nutritionally speaking (such as our raw milk, plenty of free-range eggs, only grass-fed meats and poultry, and lots of fresh veggies).

A few that I've been making lately are:

  • Using kamut grain for the bulk of my baking, and also more rye and barley, instead of my preferred spelt (which costs about a 1/3 more than kamut and about double the price of rye and barley). One bonus I've found in this is that kamut is a bit less dry than spelt, and my husband has been enjoying the less crumbly baking. :)
  • Skipping on the fresh lemons and limes that I prefer (for their high vitamin C and enzyme content), and instead buying bottled organic lemon juice, which makes my dollar stretch quite a bit further and it's organic to boot.
  • Buying a bit less fresh fruit, and stocking up on it when I find discounts or great deals. This means we might be eating a whole lot of discounted organic grapefruits for a week, instead of breaking it up with lots of apples and oranges as we'd prefer to. I've also been making more smoothies with the stash of frozen berries we already have in the freezer plus fresh greens, and was so thrilled to find a big box of discounted ripe bananas at the store the other day to help stretch the berries even further!

Those are a few that come to mind. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's looking for little ways to keep costs low!

Edit: Since it seems relevant with the topic and the comments being left, let me link to a previous series I did on Frugality with Food. In it, I examine all of the different methods and strategies that I combine to keep our food quality high and our costs low. Here are the links for Part 1 and Part 2.

Have you found yourself making small compromises in your regular grocery shopping habits? What types of changes have you made, and what things remain as priorities or non-negotiables?

Two Reviews: Helps for Breastfeeding Mamas

If you've been around my blog for long, you'll know that I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, and so I was thrilled when I was offered to try out and review a couple of products intended to help breastfeeding moms. What I specifically loved about these two products is they are aides for times when breast doesn't feel best, or when a mom needs a little extra help.

The Shower Hug

Shower huge
This creative idea was conceived by (you guessed it) a mom, who understands some of the discomforts that can go along with pregnancy and nursing. Anyone ever had incredibly tender breasts during pregnancy, so tender that you winced if you accidentally brushed up against something, or when you tried to take a shower? How about when you're post-partum, your milk has come in, and your sweet new baby wants to nurse approximately 13 times a day? Ouch… talk about tender!

The Shower Hug is made out of very, very soft knit terry velour, and is intended for helping to shield and cushion that tenderness, obviously for when you're in the shower (hence the terry fabric and the name) but it can have other purposes as well. One I thought of in particular was as a nursing bra during the night, in the early weeks of nursing, to avoid having to wear a constrictive bra and to catch heavy leaking in the soft, thick, absorbent fabric.

I tried wearing it in the shower one day, and it was sooo comfortable! I could totally see how one of these would be soothing and would make showering very bearable during periods of tenderness or soreness. I liked mine so much that even though it was too big for me, I decided to keep it and sew it to make it fit me.

If you know of a mama who is struggling with a lot of tenderness, this just might make a very thoughtful pregnancy or post-partum gift!  To find out more about The Shower Hug, check out their website, www.showerhug.com.

PumpEase

Pump ease
Ask me just how much I admire moms who struggle to breastfeed, but continue to pump: enormously!!! 

In fact, one of the most inspirational breastfeeding stories I know of is a friend of mine who was badly burned on her chest as a young child, and had extreme pain and difficulty nursing her first baby due to her burns and scar tissue. She turned to a professional pump in order to give him the much-needed milk that he just could not get at the breast, and although it was continually painful, even agonizing, and very time-consuming, she persevered and gave her little boy 6 entire months of every ounce of breastmilk she could pump out, until she finally had to give in to her body's limits. How's that for a mother's sacrificial love?

Though I personally have not had to do much in the way of pumping, I
know of many moms who have needed to, for one reason or another.
Obviously, breastfeeding is simpler when it can happen sans pump and
bottle, but I applaud those moms who are struggling with it or have
some reason that they cannot, and yet desire to keep giving their baby
the very best milk they can give!

That's why I loved PumpEase! I can only imagine how helpful it would have been for my friend to have had a tool like this, to make two-sided pumping a hands-free experience and allow her to redeem some of the precious hours she had to spend doing it.

The big idea behind PumpEase is that you wear it around your chest, over your nursing bra, and proceed to hook up either your single or double breast pump. Start pumping, and pull out your book, computer keyboard, or even a sandwich or a cup of tea. Depending on how you feel about nursing in front of other children, you could even snuggle up your toddler beside you and read to them while you pump. What a great invention for helping moms to redeem some of the time that goes into all that pumping!

PumpEase comes in several different fabrics and their new spring patterns look cute. You can purchase directly through their website, at www.pumpease.com. Did I mention that they're Canadian-made? (Go Canada!)

Has anyone ever used either of these great products? Do you know of any other helpful products for encouraging moms in their efforts to breastfeed?

Quiet Time Bins

Meet my newest mothering helps:

Bins-on-shelf

Aren't they lovely? What's that… you want to know what they actually are?

These are the newest addition to my arsenal of tools that I am using to make portions of our daily routine run that much smoother. To my 4 yr old daughter, they are her "quiet time bins". To my 22 mth old, they are simply a fun container of toys that Mommy puts in front of him.

They were initially inspired by an article in Above Rubies, on what to do with little ones while homeschooling. One idea was to create bins with entertaining toys and activities for toddlers, with a different one to pull out for each day of the week. The idea was further inspired by seeing Crystal's bins for her daughter's quiet times- activities that she can do during the 1-2 hours that she spends in her room each afternoon (this is similar to what we do with our daughter).

Abbie-with-day-bins

Abbie helped me put them all together and choose some of the activities. She also traced each of the days of the week, for both sets of bins and helped me tape them on.

Abbies-bins

Here is a glimpse into a few of Abbie's bins: One has drawing and coloring supplies, another has beading materials, and another has a wooden dress up "doll". Each bin also has 2-3 books that she enjoys.

Cadens-bins

Here are two of Caden's bins. The first contains measuring cups and colorful counting bears. The second is wooden clothes pins and yogurt containers. His other bins have similar types of creative toys to keep a toddler occupied. All of his bins have 2 board books (read: indestructible) as well.

We've been using Abbie's bins for a week now, and they have definitely helped her to look forward to her quiet times and stay better occupied, and they are also simple for her to clean up afterwords.

Caden's will be implemented this week, as I will be training him to have a "playpen" time (working my way up to 30 minutes at a time) each morning while I do home education (learning time, as we say in our family) with Abbie. He will be given one bin to play with while he stays put in his playpen, which will free me to help Abbie with things like her printing, math, etc.

Are any of you using bin systems like this? What do you use them for and what types of activities do you have in them?

Enjoying my Kids

One area that I've been working on lately is relaxing enough from the endless things on my to-do list, to simply focus on enjoying my children (am I the only mom who has to make a real conscious effort to do that?). Since I don't post pictures of them as often as I wished I did, I thought I'd share a little about what we've been up to!

Abbie-and-flamigos
Abbie-posing-at-zoo

Here we are at the Seattle Woodland Zoo, where we have a membership. We went there for a verrrry cold (seriously…brrrr!) day while we were staying with my MIL a few weeks ago. There's Abbie with the flamingos, and posing near where the leopards should have been (smart leopards, they weren't out in the cold like us!).

Caden-stares-at-fish-tank
Caden-at-zoomazium-flax-bin

Caden was enthralled by the fish tank at the Zoomazium (the indoor kid's center- the perfect place for a chilly day!), as well as the bin full of flax seeds and hidden shells and surprises.

Kids-watch-gorillas Abbie-chooses-her-shell

The kids were so thrilled to watch a gorilla with it's sweet baby- it was truly adorable! We also observed some white tailed monkeys, and completed an observation worksheet, which we later turned in at the Zoomazium for "Nature Exchange". One of the staff members asked Abbie questions about what she had observed about the monkeys and taught her a little more about them, and then with the "points" she earned for doing the observation, she got to choose a pretty shell as her prize. (This is a really neat program to check out, if you live in the Seattle area).

Me-and-kids-at-zoo

Our happy trio. What a fun day we had!

Abbie-with-butterfly-wings
Caden-as-a-ladybug

My little goofies wearing a butterfly and a ladybug costume from their dress-up box. Can you tell they're related? Look at those cheesey, cheshire grins for the camera! :)

Ice-cubes-on-rain-jar
Kids-doing-rain-experiment

Trying a little experiment to make "rain" inside of a mason jar. This was a great way to follow up on the learning we did about the states of matter last week. Thanks Kym, for the experiment link!

How have you been enjoying your children lately? What sorts of fun things have you been up to? Is this something that you find easy or difficult as a mom?

Blogs I love

Seeing as my blogroll hadn't been updated in about a year, and I've noticed that it is a popular link on my site, I thought it was high time that I took a look at it and freshened it up a little bit.

So here is a little glimpse into the blogs I enjoy and love to visit. I keep them in my Bloglines, and read them as often as I get a chance (which isn't too often these days, but I love to read and get caught up when I have a bit of extra time).

My top 9 (in no particular order):
Amy's Humble Musings
Biblical Womanhood
Small Notebook
Girl Talk
Passionate Homemaking 
Heavenly Homemakers
Frugal Granola
Holy Experience
The Nourishing Gourmet

Family (and friend) blog lovin':
Lifestyle of Learning
A mother's musings
Motherhood Apologia

Other blogs I enjoy:
Money Saving Mom
Tammy's Recipes
Mom of Littles
Handprints on the Wall
Naturally Knocked Up
Cheeseslave
Simple Mom
The Homespun Heart
In Clothesline Alley
The Lylah blog
I'm an Organizing Junkie
Rocks in my Dryer
Preschoolers and Peace
Owlhaven
SortaCrunchy
Days to Come
Raising Peanuts
A Year of Crockpotting
Wholesome Goodness
MomAdvice (edit: this one somehow got erased before I posted it- a blog I've enjoyed for a long time!)

Blogs that link to me:
Titus 2 Journey
For such a time as this
Sarah's Musings
Stewardship not Convenience
Keeper of the Home by Jennifer
Ordinary Life, Extraordinary God
River Rock Cottage

What blogs do you love to read? Any new ones that I should check out? Do you use something like Bloglines to keep them all organized?