The big trip, clearly, was to Costco this week. I didn’t even figure that into the original budget. We usually spend about $200 there, so I feel pretty good about $154.44. A trip like this will get us through the next six weeks to two months. Aside from lotion and Advil, the rest was stocking up on: canola oil, guacamole, shredded cheddar, naan, cereal for the children, bread, pizza, mac and cheese, Bisquick, and so on. I don’t even remember what all. Because of bulk shopping, we came in under budget every where else!
While I still did the meal-planning, with some input from Flora, Dan did all the shopping. Dan shops strictly on-list; he doesn’t compare prices or deviate from the letter of the list. I feel a little bad; he went to Aldi — which I can get into and out of in under 30 minutes, but since he doesn’t know where everything is, it took him longer. And Costco on Sunday, was, according to his text message “INSANE”.
And he made choices differently. For example, I choose either Annie’s mac and cheese or Back to Nature, both brands sold at Costco. Dan came home with Kraft brand. Which, my children certainly won’t turn up their noses at that. Also, when he couldn’t find almond milk at Aldi, he got a half gallon at Target instead, whereas I would bought a case of soy milk at Costco.
We just do things differently. I’m pretty happy he shopped. It gave me a chance to go to the library with the children Saturday, and on Sunday to hang out with my fellow LTYM cast members (videos coming soon!).
I should either start baking bread from scratch and/or get a bread machine. We go through two loaves a week. It’s ridiculous.
Sunday: Rice and bean salad (for potluck we were attending)
Monday: Sesame noodles with tofu or chicken stir fry
Tuesday: Pizza and salad
Wednesday: Brinner (by request; probably have pancakes and eggs)
Friday: lunch, mac and cheese, corn dogs; dinner, Indian channa masala, rice, and naan
Saturday: burgers, baked potatoes, baked beans, macaroni salad
Yesterday, I got up during the homily, in which the priest was going to address the Supreme Court’s decision to make marriage equality the law of the land, and I walked out of church.
And then when I got home, I cried because I walked out of church.
When the priest started his homily, he was completely upfront about what he was going to talk about. I froze. I thought to myself, “Okay, now what am I going to do?”
The priest suggested if we hadn’t read the dissenting opinions on the ruling, that we should. And then he brought up the First Amendment, and I’m pretty sure he was going to head into an argument about how the Supreme Court’s ruling infringed on my freedom to practice my religion. And *that’s* when I leaned over the Flora and Kate and said, “We have to go.”
It wasn’t fair, what I did. It wasn’t brave. I should have sat and heard the priest’s argument so that I could adequately state my position, whether for or against.
But all I could think about was my cousin and his husband, and how happy they looked in pictures. All I could think about was my new friend Kristen (who was in Listen to Your Mother with me) and her wife Beth, and their little girl, with whom I had just spent the bulk of the day. And I couldn’t sit and and risk hearing hateful words about these people, because I love them. And because if the priest said hateful things about them from the pulpit, it would break my heart, because I love being a Catholic.
The American bishops have declared that the Supreme Court’s ruling is a “tragic error”. That marriage is between one man and one woman, and that a human establishment can’t overrule that.
I did go and read the dissenting opinions. I understand the arguments for states’ rights, and I believe, that given time, enough people in enough states would vote to make marriage equality the law of the land. But how much time should we have given states?
The court had to order states to free slaves, allow blacks and women to vote, integrate schools and businesses. So the argument that the court overstepped its role to bring marriage equality to the states just doesn’t fly.
Sometimes people in states have to be told to do the right thing. Sorry, people in states.
As for the potential arguments that same-sex marriage impinges on my First Amendment religious liberty, that I just do not understand. I cannot see how the marriages — and divorces — of my friends and family curtails my right to go to church, receive the Eucharist, pray as I like, and preach the word of God.
“I say that gratuitous interference in other people’s life is bigotry. The fact that it is often religiously motivated does not make it less so. the United States is not a theocracy, and religious disapproval of harmless practices is not a proper basis for prohibiting such practices, especially if the practices are highly valued by their practitioners. … That isn’t to say that people are forbidden to oppose same-sex marriage; it is merely to remark on one of the costs of that opposition and one of the reasons to doubt that it should be permitted to express itself in a law forbidding such marriage.” — Richard Posnar, writing for Slate
When I got home and burst into tears in the kitchen, Dan held me. He said, laughing a little bit: “I love you, and this is what I love about you. That you struggle with this.”
He assures me that I can reject what the priest was saying and still be a good and faithful Catholic. “Jesus gave us one commandment,” he reminded me. “Love one another. That’s it. That’s what we have to do.” I have to love everyone, including that priest.
And I suppose Dan is right. I *love* my faith, I love going to church and receiving the Eucharist. It is so integral to who I am as a person. I love the creed and the message of Jesus to love and help one another, to minister to those less fortunate, to bring the light of the Word to others by my speech and by my actions.
If accepting and celebrating the fact that same-sex couples can take advantage of the legal protections and benefits of marriage makes me a bad Catholic — well, it won’t be the first thing. I’ve said before, I am a creed Catholic, and a New Testament Catholic. If Rome parses the Gospel in such a way to declare that holy matrimony, that is, sacramental marriage, is only for heterosexuals… then so be it. But the civil and legal institution of marriage, the right to join your life to the person you love above all others, to live in peace and raise children (if that is your choice) — I’m going to celebrate that, too.
I suppose I’ll go to confession this week, because I walked out of church and did not receive communion, and prevented my children from receiving communion. And we’ll move forward from there. As with women in ministry, I can do more good in the pew than outside the church.
1. I am hardly reading books at all right now. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m in the middle of a non-fiction book that is super interesting, Hellhound on His Trail. I get sucked in every time I pick it up. I only pick it up about once a week.
I did plow through Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, both by Stephen King, on the Chicago road trip. Good summer books, although Mr. King could really use an editor with some backbone. I don’t think Advil was available as a brand in the 1970s, and one cannot turn off a cell phone, and then pick it up and speed dial someone. Just little things. Didn’t make me regret reading!
I also picked up Life of Pi, which is a beautiful book. And I’m just not perusing.
2. I attribute this lack of reading to dropping and breaking my Kindle. I am a victim of my own clumsiness and carelessness. Do you have any idea how easy it is to get library books on the Kindle? SUPER EASY. It makes going to the library to actually pick up books seem like a trip to the moon. (Hyperbole much, RPM?) Plus, I never have late fees anymore! The book just disappears off the device.
I miss reading. Twittering and Facebooking my way through an evening isn’t satisfying or good for my blood pressure. Dan and I have been watching movies and TV shows via Netflix (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Highly entertaining, highly comedic, not inspiring deep thoughts.
I can feel my brain turning to oatmeal.
Give me some books I can request from the library. I promise I’ll go tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain all day anyway, isn’t it?
3. I seem to be accidentally raising a racist kid. He won’t go near brown people — I’m not even exaggerating. We were at the dentist office yesterday, and he had to go to the bathroom. When we got back, a little Indian boy was playing with dominoes in the playroom.
Michael didn’t want to go in the room. He told me he doesn’t like the color brown.
I pointed out that nothing was wrong with having brown skin. He insists that it’s not about brown skin; he just doesn’t like the *color* brown. He likes blue and green. I then pointed out that people don’t come in blue and green; they come in white and pink and brown and yellow.
I need to meet new people.
4. The idiots on Twitter who think @SCOTUSblog is the actual Twitter account of the Supreme Court of the United States.
5. I shouldn’t let Dan go to the State store or the grocery store by himself. Though, I have had a thirst for some bourbon lately.
Aldi (2 trips) = $76.20 and $44.62
Target = $45.80
Farmers Market = $40 (green beans, snap peas, strawberries, broccoli, cucumber, honey sticks, 2 packages of pierogies, bottle of wine from 6 Mile Cellar)
Giant Eagle = $38.27
We were a little over budget at Aldi this week (about $20) due to the fact that we had to restock when we got back from Chicago. My poor children had nothing to eat on Wednesday except dry cereal. M headed next door at 9 a.m. for breakfast.
I had to add a trip to Giant Eagle for FOUR THINGS this week, which was frustrating. I blame Father’s Day. Dan’s worth every penny of course! We got the salmon there — incidentally, two of my three children REALLY LIKE salmon; Dan could’ve bought twice as much, and I don’t think we would’ve had leftovers — plus ginger beer, bananas, and yogurt. As much as I have tried, I just have not found satisfactory yogurt at Target or Aldi.
Aside, the yogurt tangent version: I HATE fat-free yogurt, and I REALLY HATE fat-free Greek yogurt. If that’s is your preference, that is fine, but I want another option. The Target brand of low-fat yogurt is chalky. All the yogurt at Aldi is 0% fat. The brand I prefer the most is almost impossible to find — I think the brand name is Greek Gods? Greek Goddess? It ranges in fat content from 1% to 10%; their honey vanilla yogurt is delectable. I find it at a health food store near my office. Otherwise, it’s Stonyfield 1% French Vanilla, the 32 ounce container.
Aside from the Giant Eagle trip, though, I feel we did well! The $40 at the farmers market included some treats for the children (namely honey sticks and strawberries), plus I splurged on a bottle of wine to pair with the salmon I was going to make for Father’s Day dinner. I got there too late for eggs this week! Curses, foiled again.
Sunday: Grilled salmon with pesto and red peppers, rice, green beans
Monday: Ramen, tofu, frozen vegetable mix
Tuesday: Santa Fe Soup (recipe below)
Wednesday: Vegetarian chili and pierogies
Thursday: Fried rice, stir fried protein and vegetables
Friday: Sesame noodles
Saturday: Pizza and salad
Note: A lot of us Food Budget people seem to like coconut oil a whole lot. It has changed rice from something Flora will barely touch to something she asks for seconds and thirds of. I also use it when I make stovetop popcorn. Do you use it? If so, how?
Sante Fe Soup with Melted Cheese
Adapted from the Fix It and Forget It Cookbook.
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. soy crumbles (I use Morningstar Farms)
Chili powder to taste
1 can corn, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can diced tomatoes
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
1. Put olive oil and garlic in slow cooker; turn it on high. Let “saute” for about 5 minutes. (You can saute the garlic and crumbles in a separate pan and add to the slow cooker, but I like to minimize clean up where I can.)
2. Add soy crumbles and chili powder to taste. Stir and let warm through.
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients (minus the chips) with the soy crumbles in the slow cooker. Cover; cook on high for 3 hours.
4. Serve with tortilla chips as a side or crumbled on top.
On Sunday, we went to visit a college-era acquaintance of mine and her family. (The bright side of social media — she wrote about it here.) We hit the Midsommer’s Day Festival in Andersonville. It was a wonderful stroll through a Chicago neighborhood that we otherwise would not have seen. Kim, her husband John, and her two children were lovely and fun hosts. The children got their faces painted, climbed a wall, and ate french fries and chocolate frozen bananas. I believe her oldest and my two girls have a life-long bond formed in Minecraft.
We also spent much time with my friend Erin and her husband Brian. I have dubbed Brian The Angel of Chicago for all the logistical help he gave us. They are both wonderful with our children, and if I had to guess, they have big giant soft spots for Kate especially. We stayed with them Sunday night through Tuesday. Monday morning they absconded with the children at 7 a.m., enabling Dan and me to sleep past 9 a.m. for the first time since we had arrived. They could not have been more welcoming or generous.
We lost some stuff, most notably my debit card and — for about two hours — Dan’s phone. He must have gone to put it in his cargo shorts pocket as we were getting off the train on our last day (Tuesday), and he dropped it instead, and didn’t notice until the train pulled away. It was… panic inducing and infuriating, to say the least. Dan leapt into the car (with my phone, from which he had texted, “I am texting from my wife’s phone. If you find this, please turn it into the lost and found.”) The Metra conductor found it, and held onto it until Dan got to Harvard, IL. I mean, he held the train for 20 minutes to return Dan’s phone. He was a hero.
So, Metra, the conductor of the Harvard 5:33 express on Tuesday June 16, went above and beyond to help an out-of-towner. He wouldn’t even accept a cash tip as a thank you.
And, as I mentioned, logistics were tricky. I love the city of Chicago, but driving there is a nightmare, parking is outrageous, and we only navigated the Metra because The Angel of Chicago helped us.
The Other High: Pretty City
Chicago is such a photogenic city. If I had a real camera, I would’ve taken a thousand pictures, half of them at Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) alone.
All-in-all it was a good trip. It had its ups and downs, and despite two attempts, we never did get through the doors of the Shedd Aquarium. We walked *a lot*, and the children feel they didn’t get to swim enough. Driving home overnight on Tuesday was brutal — because of the phone fiasco, aside from the hour he was at Erin and Brian’s to eat a little dinner and finish packing, Dan was in the car for nearly 14 hours — but worth it to be at home getting organized to return to our regularly scheduled program.
(We are in Chicago this week, no doubt blowing the food budget out of the water.)
I won’t lie: My meal plans are not fancy.
I’m feeding five people on a budget, and three of the people are children. We are mostly vegetarian, although Dan, Kate, and Michael are omnivores.
The actual, written meal plan took shape when Bella and I found ourselves feeding between six and 11 people a couple of times a week. Bella was constantly fretting about what to feed everyone, and calling me to see if I had ideas.
Before that, I had a general plan in my head, and usually spent some time worrying whether I had what I needed in the freezer, pantry, or crisper drawers.
Meal planning reduces stress, reduces food costs, and reduces waste. What’s not to like?
The general shape of my meal plan is this:
Monday: Pasta, protein, vegetable
Tuesday: Tacos (or other ethnic — quesadillas, sesame noodles, channa masala and naan)
Wednesday: Child friendly (think mac and cheese, hot/not dogs, vegetarian beans); or brinner
Thursday: Rice and protein; stir fry
Friday: soup and sandwiches or burgers, fries, and salad
Saturday: pizza and salad
Sunday: Sunday dinner-ish
See? Not complicated.
I usually shop on Saturday, which is one reason that evening’s dinner is something fast and easy. Ever spent the day running errands and shopping and not felt like cooking a big dinner? That’s how I do Saturdays many weekends. Shopping, errands, cleaning, soccer, and so on. Everyone likes pizza and salad! I usually get take-and-bake from Aldi or Costco, although I have been known to make pizza crust on occasion. (It’s sinfully easy, and yet.) Costco’s is better than Aldi’s in my opinion, but not by much.
Also, I tend to cook or bake on weekends if I have time. So, I may put on a big pot of lentil soup, for example, for later in the week. Or I’ll bake a batch of brownies. Instead of making another mess in the kitchen, I just pop a pizza in the oven.
Sundays, OTOH, I do like to make a big dinner. Sometimes we collaborate with the in-laws next door, and I’ll do a couple of vegetable dishes and my MIL will throw something in the crockpot. Sunday dinner usually is something that takes more time, or something I can put in a slow cooker. It’s also something that I usually want to eat, not something I’m throwing together to feed the kids. For example, I’ll make falafel and rice; or gingered chickpeas; or something that’s just a touch more complicated than the weekday dinners. The children are getting better about trying everything, which helps.
My children and I eat at home almost every night. It’s better for the budget, and we get the advantages of eating as a family, although Dan is absent Monday through Thursday. The children help with setting and clearing the table, and rinsing dishes.
They help with meal planning, too, usually along the lines of me saying to one of them, “Pick a meal for next week.” They aren’t cooking yet, although I do let them make their own dinner if they don’t like what I make. This drives Dan crazy.
So that’s how I do a meal plan: a general idea that I fill out once I go to the store or farmers market. Monday’s pasta dinner could be gnocchi with pesto sauce and beans and greens, or spaghetti, “meat”balls, and salad; Thursday’s dinner could be rice, vegetable stir fry, and tofu or chicken, with the vegetables frozen from Aldi or fresh from the farmers market. With enough foresight, you could put together a whole month of meal plans! (No, really, you can do it!)
Our dining experiences in Chicago have been *fabulous* so far.
When we finally trundled into the city proper last night at 7 pm Central time, we headed straight to the Chicago Diner in Logan Square. Our hotel was still very distant — more on this in a bit — but we were hungry and irritated from having been in a car since 11 am East Coast time.
Plus, we had white-knuckled our way through serious storms in Indiana, and nerves were frayed.
Dinner came quickly; the children were fairly well behaved considering how tired they were; the drinks took too long (mine was comped). I think I was the happiest with my meal, but *everyone* loved dessert.
Then it was time to find the hotel and go to bed.
M promptly barfed in the car — not a lot, but still, barf — and leaping out of the car to help him, I pulled my left thigh muscle. So.
Hotel, checked in, yadda yadda yadda. I took some ibuprofen. Everyone fell asleep.
The hotel where we are staying is not as convenient to the city as I had hoped. I should’ve done my homework better. Driving in Chicago is insane.
We got started too late today, and basically, we got to the city, ate another fantastic meal (the Eleven City Diner this time), cut our losses, drove back to the hotel and swam for an hour or so.
Of course, we also managed to play and barely win gas tank chicken; find parking for $3; and lose my debit card.
I canceled my card, and pulled my *other* thigh muscle at the pool. We snacked at the hotel room, and we’ve reset our for tomorrow. We found out where the Metra is — my stupid GPS told us we’d be on public transportation for 2+ hours, and this is not the case — and we’re going to head to the city for The Blues Fest.
It’s going to get better. We’re going to do more than just eat great in this city!
This is what I learned when we dog-sat for 10 days.
1. Flora is totally ready for a dog.
She assumed the bulk of the responsibility for walking and feeding Oscar. She made sure he got treats and was put properly in his crate.
She did not hesitate to pick up poop. It didn’t faze her one, tiny bit.
2. Kate is not ready for a dog.
She hogged, she hassled, she wanted all the dog’s attention all the time. I think she picked up poop a few times, but it wasn’t her favorite. She liked to play tug-of-war with the dog, and she wanted to cuddle him. All the time.
She was kind of a pain in the ass about the dog.
3. Michael was just status update boy. “Oscar’s in the dining room.” “Oscar pooped in the yard.” “Oscar is upstairs.” “Oscar drank some water.” But since I’m not depending on him to be ready for a dog, this is fine.
4. Dan and I are not dog people.
I can’t speak for my husband, but I know he found the exercise of taking the dog out and then crating him before Dan left for the day to be a bit of a hassle.
I thought I was a dog person. I am incorrect. The *idea* of having a dog doesn’t bother me, but in the idea, my children are completely, 100 percent responsible for taking care of the dog, and — this is important — DO NOT FIGHT over taking care of the dog.
I may be more of a cat person, but since Flora and I are allergic to cats, that is not a pet option for us.
Ultimately, I think I do not want a pet for the following two reasons:
1. I am done with other creatures’ poop. Michael is learning to wipe his own butt, and I cannot express how liberating this milestone is — if you are a parent, you understand without me having to use more words. I don’t want to pick up poop or clean a litter box. I want to be done with poop.
2. I do not want another creature to be dependent on me. For goodness sake, people, I don’t even feed the fish.
If we get a pet, the children have to be in charge. It can’t shed, because ain’t no one in this house equipped to do that much vacuuming. And it can’t bark. Or wake me up at 5 a.m.
Nope. Mama’s done.
Of course, despite all these protestations, if it is financially feasible to get a dog this summer, we will get a dog this summer. Dan has been promising the girls a dog for YEARS now. We’re just going to have to suck it up. And hope the dog picks Flora to be its alpha.
Cash Market is my Aldi’s stand-in this weekend, and as you can see I was way under budget there. I only picked up what I needed for Thursday night’s dinner.
At the farmers market, I bought strawberries, broccoli, spring mix lettuce, 2 pounds of gnocchi, meatballs, and breakfast pastries.
At Target, I didn’t just get my meatless stuff, I also did some shopping for staples. So while I was a touch over budget for my original goal, since I didn’t make a big Aldi’s trip, it more than comes in under budget.
Note: I waffled on buying eggs at the farmers market. They go for about $3 to $3.5 a dozen there, depending on which vendor you choose. Next time, I will buy them there, because they are a whole dollar to dollar fifty more at Target.
Since I’m posting on Tuesdays, my menu is going to run Wednesday to Wednesday. Here’s what I made/am making. (I’m already a week behind!)
Wednesday: brinner. Pancakes and eggs for the children, and a salsa/egg/cheese/guacamole burrito for me; Dan had pancakes and a ham/egg/cheese omelet.
Thursday: burgers and veggies burgers, salad, baby carrots, and tater tots.
Friday: Flora, M, and I ate at the end-of-the-year soccer party. Pizza, chips, cheese puff balls, watermelon.
Saturday: Another dinner “out”. We went to a graduation party, and ate there.
Sunday: sesame noodles with stir fry chicken and stir fry tofu.
Monday: gnocchi and meat- and “meat” balls. I recently discovered my children like gnocchi — nay, *love* gnocchi, and I have leapt at the chance to serve it. I made a salad as well.
Wednesday: Leftovers. We gotta clean out the refrigerator before we hit the road.
The strawberries have been doled out accordingly. Half were Sunday night’s dessert, and the other half were frozen for smoothies.
We are heading to Chicago on Thursday, next week’s P:FB post will talk more about meal plans. We will probably shop and picnic some of the time in Chicago, but we’ve also got some restaurants picked out to visit.
I had to schedule this year’s visit. For the first time, I had to put it on the calendar in my phone.
We came Sunday, a day early, technically speaking. I knew if I waited, the day, the week would get away from me.
Earlier in the day, I was scheduled to be on book for a JV basketball game at our school. This is the age you would be.
In a different life, you would be one of these boys. Probably on the tall side, possibly a little awkward and uncoordinated, like I was at 12. But serious, attentive to your coaches, and wanting to play well.
Or maybe you’d be a little more like your dad, more naturally athletic, and a bit of a clown, fiercely cheerful as you dribbled down the court.
I think you would tease your sisters; I think your little brother would idolize you.
I think; I wonder; I don’t know.
And… in a way, it’s okay. We come to terms. We’ve learned so much; we’ve walked so far.
I put a visit in my phone, just the same. Picked up flowers. It’s not for you; I know that, I have peace in that. It’s for me; a moment I need to steal, a moment that I need to remember. That I have four children, not just three.