Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Baby Food Experiment

So, weeks ago I vowed to make little guy's baby food.  And while that has been happening, I haven't made "baby food".  I've just been mushing or pureeing a fruit or vegetable for his consumption.  And frankly, for a while it was WAY too much to send to school with him.

A few weeks ago, I saw this great recipe for something I make all the time, but for a baby this time.  Apart from an easy way to start introducing meats into my little man (6 months and not even an inkling of a tooth), I never even thought about quinoa for him.  And why not?  We eat quinoa all the time.  And it's good.  And it's a super food or something...

I still haven't gotten around to making this--it's 90 effin' degrees in Philly every day this summer--but it's on my list.

Apart from veggie purees, any suggestions from the peanut gallery?  Do babies even care if they get a whole meal's worth of taste in one bite?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Life...a little less stressed!

This meal planning thing is actually working.  Last night, I went to bed on time for the first time in about 2 months, enjoyed a wonderful stress-free dinner with my husband (grilled curry lamb chops and watermelon), and even spent a few hours playing with the little guy before he went to bed....Heaven.

And the best part?  We've gone a week and a half without even MENTIONING ordering out--something we always talk about doing, fight about where we're getting the food from, and then end up eating grilled cheese.  I'd venture to say we've saved about 30 cubic feet of air and $30 so far with the elimination of take-out in this week and a half.

This week, I've got a few things on the menu:
Tonight, grilled chicken (not sure how exactly yet), coleslaw (I made a bunch on Sunday), and watermelon and blueberries.  However we prepare the chicken, I'll probably freeze an extra breast or two so I can just grab and go next time.
Tomorrow, I'm thinking hot dogs (we love hot dogs), the rest of the coleslaw, and maybe some zucchini pancakes.  I'll, again, make some extra (it's the same amount of work) and freeze them.
Friday will be grill-a-palooza since family's coming in for the weekend.
Saturday, PHILLIES GAME!  (I'm obviously not excited), so hatfield franks at the ballpark it is.
Sunday, grill pizzas.  This means I'll make a bunch of pizza dough, and freeze probably 2 batches for another day since I've used up my freezer dough stores thus far.

I'm also hoping to brew another batch of beer this weekend (maybe Friday) since we kicked our first keg last week!  I have to photos up for you soon--it's beautiful.

What do you all have planned for the coming week?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Meal Planning Sites

After my last post, I tried prioritizing a few things in terms of what was bothering me the most and what seemed to be the biggest issues.  I found that dinner seemed to be the root of a lot of my angst. After a long day at work, I have a long evening of parenting, cleaning, paying bills, advising my girls of poise and purpose, laundry, and bottle washing before I even get to think about dinner.

I figure if I can get dinner under control, it would solve the poverty issue, the time issue, and a lot of this stress.  My solution: meal planning!

First, I found this blog:
http://www.100daysofrealfood.com, which is a really great account of how a woman in NC stopped eating processed foods completely.  Now, while I try my best to eat as little processed food as possible, I genuinely enjoy my instant oatmeal, Dunkin Donuts, and pizza.  But when I cook, I really don't use processed food, so the recipes and meal plans were great inspiration for me.  There are also a few weekly menu plans, but the odd ingredients (coconut oil, almond butter, etc.) just don't really work for us and the grocery stores I have available.

Then I found another blog:
http://onceamonthmom.com, which is similar in ethos to 100 days of real food, but modified all of the recipes for bulk cooking and freezing and even has a shopping list and portion adjustable menus.  I downloaded the July menu, and I was pretty impressed.  Because you can adjust the menus to however many of you there are, it really takes the guess work out of things.  Even the shopping list adjusts when you change the number of portions.  I was even able to delete recipes that I didn't want to do (ham, yuck), which was really nice. 

I've made a few of the recipes (which are taken and adjusted from other websites) so far, and they've been pretty good.  I also substituted a few things (couldn't find sweet chili paste and I wasn't about to make my own tortillas when I'm trying to save time), but most of the ingredients were really easy to find and I already had many of them in my pantry. 

Enchiladas pre-oven
The one recipe I managed to get pictures of was the Thai Enhcillands.  They sound weird and I wasn't sure it would work, but there were really good and it was perfect for a night when we were tired and didn't want to do ANYTHING.

I'm not sure that I saved any time doing things this way, but it definitely saved me a lot of stress since so much less thinking was involved.  I even managed to get out of the grocery store for less than $150 for about 3 weeks worth of groceries and do that in under an hour...

Biggest take away from this part of my experiment--when I have the time, energy, and ingredients, I need to make a few extra servings and freeze it. 

Biggest advantage found so far--we didn't get takeout (or even suggest it) once last week...$!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cooking on a budget, with no time and hoping it's healthy

This month, I'm feeling REALLY limited on time and money.  Between the 4 weddings this summer/fall, multiple family trips and visits, being an advisor to my favorite women of poise and purpose, and figuring out how exactly this parenting thing works I'm well...stressing.  So I've made a personal pledge to myself to take a time-out and get some things in order before the end of this month.

Step 1.  Schedule a hair cut.  I've finally stopped losing my hair (post-pregnancy side-effect) and I look like the dirty hippie I am on the inside but am not allowed to look like at work.  And I'll be honest, the vain woman in me makes me be more productive when I look pretty.  I'm like Melanie Griffith in "Working Girl" I guess.  Status: scheduled for the end of the month.
Step 2.  Make a budget.  I realized the other day I have NO idea what our family income or expenses are now that we have the little guy. Status:  I've entered in my income and expenses, as well as our "family" expenses (daycare, groceries, utilities, etc.) split into monthly increments.  The big guy is reviewing and entering his info so we can figure out where we can make adjustments for more wiggle room/savings.
Step 3.  Figure out how to cut back on the grocery budget without sacrificing the yum.  This is a tough one for me, since I really value good food.  But, I think with some advanced planning and increased lunch packing for both of us, I can probably get our grocery budget down at least by 25%.  Status: Researching online meal planners, calendars, etc. for ideas. I need to cross-reference them with food costs and what the little guy can eat at this point, since I'll probably start packing some real food for him to take to school soon.
Step 4. Figure out how to make more time for me to breathe.  Probably the toughest of all, since I've found that I rarely actually sit once I get home every night.  I'm hoping that the pre-planning of meals will help a lot with that since I'll be able to plan time for my sewing, which I miss dearly.  Status:  I'm planning to sew on Saturday since the big guy cleaned out our office where my sewing stuff is located.

I plan to keep track of the websites I'm looking at, and will share them in a few weeks to let you all know what I've learned.  [Insert shameless request for suggestion here].

Looking forward to less stress come August!