Project: Food Budget, Week 4

Project: Food Budget

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.

6 Mile Cellars
This was one of the dry whites, and it’s name is escaping me at the moment. Pairs very nicely with salmon.

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.

Olive oil

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

Tortilla chips

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.

Let’s see how everyone else is doing!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller
Shea Lennon

Project: Food Budget: The Meal Plan Edition

Project: Food Budget

(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!)

Let’s see how everyone else did!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller

Do you have a meal plan?

Chicago Blues

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!


America’s Screwy Priorities or My Week on Twitter

So a Twitter friend tweeted this news story:

Which prompted me to say this:

And this:

IT’S NOT HARD, PEOPLE! Rape is an actual crime; drugging a woman on spring break and then publicly assaulting her — ILLEGAL. Standing around and watching, ALSO A CRIME. Shades of The Accused right there.

The part that depressed me the most about the news story? “This is isn’t the first tape. It’s not the second tape.”


What is wrong with those people? Call the cops.

Now, crazy-passionate Maryland “free range” parents aside — I know a lot of people think something is fishy with the Meitevs’ story — actually letting children play outside alone, especially if they are over, say, 8 years old is not illegal. Fingers may get itchy seeing children walking or biking around the neighborhood without direct adult supervision, but guess what? NOT ILLEGAL.

(Yes, if you see a toddler wandering in the street, you may call the cops.)


And then of course:

There is not a scale in the men’s room; I asked.

Now, if the scale is there because women do Weight Watchers and need to monitor their weight, that’s… well, I guess having a scale in the ladies’ room is an option. However, I am seriously thinking of asking the person who put the scale in the ladies’ room to move it into the coat room. Equal opportunity access.


What screwed up priorities are in your life this week?

The Reckoning

Text to Dan: Did you eat the rest of the pepperoni?

Dan’s reply: I don’t remember if I did or not.

Text to Dan: I can’t find it in meat drawer so I’m guessing you did. You’ll have to reckon with Michael later.

Reply: Yikes.

I went to break the news to Michael.

“Hey, buddy. I know I said there was pepperoni, but it looks, like Daddy ate it all.”

“Okay. Will you buy some more?”

“Yes, I’ll buy more next time I go shopping.”

“And will you tell Daddy not to eat it all?”

“You got it, bud.”

You’re on notice, Dan.


Breaking Bad Ruined My Sex Life: Addendum, The Good Stuff

I realize that my last post may not have been persuasive in terms of convincing someone to actually decide to watch Breaking Bad.

For as brutal as it could be it had some lighter moments. The chemistry between Walt and Jesse is electric. They could not be less alike (unless one had not been white): teacher and student, partners, foils. Their interplay is the center of the show, and drives much of the action.

Watching Aaron Paul inhibit Jesse Pinkman’s face was revelatory.

And it had some dead on humor. It was hard to laugh, because you knew something terrible was bound to happen sooner or later in the episode. For example, “The Fly” was fall-off-the-couch hilarious. The verbal play between Jesse and his friends, and Jesse and Walt could startle a laugh out of me, even when the humor was dark.

And it was almost always dark.

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman brought much-needed levity to the show as a flashy TV lawyer who knew a lot of guys.

I do wish one of the women characters had been more outstanding or upstanding. Lydia was an uptight, neurotic mess; Jane, while delightfully quirky, ultimately chose her addiction; Marie was also neurotic and a meddling busy body. The much-reviled Skyler was too ambiguous in her loyalty and morality to be someone to root for.

Premature Worry

Michael talks all the time.

In the evenings, M will not sit. He wanders — bounces — around the kitchen until everyone else is sitting at the table. During nighttime show, he plays with cars. Sometimes very loudly. Or jumps off the arm of the couch. Or just hurls himself into a pile of pillows. Over and over. And over again.

In other words, he is, as far as activity goes, All Boy.

I admit, the talking thing took me off guard. I thought: boy + 2 older sisters = talking by the time he was 3, maybe. Plus, with the ear infections, I figured a speech delay was a given.

Not so much.

I am starting to wonder how we are going to get through evenings. M will not go outside when I ask him to.

He really needs to run around outside.

I’m starting to worry about how we’re going to do when the cold sets in.

I’m starting to wonder how he is going to do in preschool.

What’s really a problem, I’m starting to wonder how he will do beyond preschool. Which makes no sense. There’s no way of telling. He may do fine in a group of kids who are sitting still. He does okay at dinner when we all sit at the same time.


I’m sure I’m just spinning in my own head. I wish the children had their own space, but finishing the basement is in indefinite limbo.

I’m just looking for problems for some reason. I just think of me, and three children, in not very many rooms, for nine months.

I’m just worrying.

What are you worried about?

What, me worry?
What, me worry?


Twitter-ish: #Saturday

I’m having one of those Saturday’s that you hit the ground running. I haven’t sat down for a meal yet.


As a matter of fact, except for cereal this morning, my food and drink have all been in disposable containers. Coffee and muffin at the farmers market; a protein shake after my workout.


I love the way my muscles feel after a good workout. Makes me feel that I’m doing it right.


To-do list:
Farmers Market
Brow wax
Birthday party drop-off
Birthday party pick-up
Clean bathrooms
Cut basil and parsley
Write this post
Cook dinner
Clean kitchen
Put on dress and makeup
Go to Fiona’s bon voyage party


Tel me about part of your weekend in 140 characters.

First Day, and Jitters

Here’s the obligatory First Day of School shot, 2014 version.

The girls' first day of school, 2014

Flora was excited; Kate was apprehensive.


I have been out-of-sorts for some time now. I think part of it is that school is starting, with its attendant stresses on time and money. No more nanny to help keep the children on top of chores or run to the store for me. I need to menu plan, create a chart for being on time, and get the children into the school routine. We’ve been practicing, and Flora especially has been fantastic. But I’m wondering how long it can last.

The other part of being out-of-sorts is the steady stream of Bad News in my social media timelines. The news in general is Not Good. Ebola ravaging Africa — and religious leaders there declaring it’s God’s punishment. The shitstorm that is Ferguson, Missouri, and the resultant (justifiable) anger from that. James Foley’s death. Robin Williams’ suicide. Israel and Gaza. (Am I missing anything?) And, of course, the rampant sexism, racism, and homophobia, plus science denial for extra giggles, that continue to flourish in American in the 21st century.

And of course, everyone’s got an opinion on everything.

Mama needs a break. I’m taking a short social media hiatus to regroup. My plan is to return to Twitter and Facebook in a week or so.

The world will probably still suck. But maybe I’ll be able to deal with it a little better after some time off.

How is end-of-summer treating you, readers?