Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I originally started this blog to put out on the net our experiences with Baby-Led Weaning.  When I was looking into it I couldn't readily find any info on it on the net about order of foods, how to prepare foods, or even really personal accounts of BLW.  So I decided I'd write up our own personal experiences with it, so that way if in the future any mom was trying to find info on it, she'd hopefully come across my blog and find it helpful. 

That was all great when we were in the beginning stages of starting solids and had tons of new stuff to share. Now however, my girl is 18 months (!) and I am coming up short on ideas for entries about BLW.  I would still like to include it in my blog though.  I have a lot of friends who have babies that will be starting solids soon, and pregnant friends, and I'd like to be able to have current entries for them and for all the nice people out there in internet land. 

So any ideas for some new BLW/starting solids entries? 

How about entries on any topic?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Don't be a weaner!

I need this shirt!

(Available HERE)

I love cafepress. Tons of awesome shirts with  sayings about anything you can think of.  My favorites are the cloth diaper and breastfeeding ones.


(from The Luscious Lactivist.)

and of course, for my husband-

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sample Menu

Here is an example of what one of our weekly menus looks like, this is from a few weeks ago.

Sunday- Leftovers (don't remember what they were exactly....)
Monday- Mac n' Cheese w/side salad
Tuesday- Leftovers (I usually do leftovers after a casserole/soup night)
Wednesday- Tacos w/Spanish rice (Old El Paso Spanish Rice is the only way to go.  If you don't already have a preferred brand, or tried some before and didn't like it, try this stuff, its the best.  Even my husband who hates rice loves this stuff) and refried beans
Thursday- Chicken Packets w/pasta and peas
Friday- Spaghetti w/green beans, salad, and garlic bread
Saturday- Burgers and Hotdogs w/potato salad

I am truly amazed at how much simpler this menu planning has made my life.  We purchase a big pack of individually wrapped and ready to freeze chicken breasts from Costco and keep those in the freezer.  The morning of the day we're having it for dinner I take it out to thaw and its ready by the time I need it, no more worrying about the chicken going bad, or getting freezer burn, or any of that other stuff.  It also comes in really handy when I don't feel like cooking whatever is on the menu, Chicken packets are ridiculously easy to make and sooo good, I'll have to post the recipe for you guys.

Then actual writing the menu has gotten way easier too, I glance at the ideas list and see what we haven't had recently, and quickly write up the menu.  Order of the meals depends on where our shopping trip falls.  Like say if I want to do a meal that requires a rotisserie chicken like Chicken Enchilada's or Chicken Divan, then I plan that meal for either the day of or the day after our shopping trip so the chicken isn't sitting the fridge for awhile or so I don't have to make an extra trip to the store.  If Chris has to work overnight one night, I plan something with leftovers for the night before, so I'm not cooking for just Mercedes and myself and so that way he gets a fresh meal when hes home.

I really can't stress how awesome this meal planning thing has been, I am so glad I started it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Benefits of Meal Planning

Our first attempt at meal planning and 1 big shopping trip was a success.  The two weeks went by, we followed the menu, and didn't eat out or need any extra shopping trips.  The second attempt went even better, the planning/making a list part went by much quicker and I didn't feel like ripping my hair out at all, and the shopping trip went quicker. 

It didn't us long to notice the benefits of our efforts.  Even that first two weeks- having all the food needed and being in budget.  It was nice to immediately have some positive reinforcement for our efforts.  The next two week period we had  a couple more bucks than the first two weeks.  Now at two months in some things have changed.

We don't follow the Nightly Theme anymore (that didn't really last past the first 2 week period actually), and the Quick Meal night has been mostly eliminated from our plan.  We still keep some things on hand just-in-case, but haven't had to use it recently. We are actually getting ahead of our menu, some meals yield more leftovers than expected, so we eat the leftovers instead of moving on to the next night.  (Which is a benefit in itself, before this Chris pretty much never ate leftovers, but now when I ask if he wants to have the planned meal or leftovers, he chooses leftovers because he likes to be ahead.)  Being ahead on the menu puts us ahead in the budget, which is definitely a plus.

Another change we tried this past 2 week period was not using cash.  It wasn't on purpose, we forgot to stop at the ATM before we went on our trip.  It definitely resulted in a lack of discipline. Well, that and the fact that its Back to School time, and I love (and I mean LOVE) school supply shopping.  We bought some crayons and markers for Mercy, which in itself wasn't a big deal because they were like 25 cents each. But that lead to a Color Wonder Colorbook for Mercy, some sharpies for Chris, and a notebook and pencil pouch for me. There were also some other impulse buys like extra soda, chips, and 2 dvds.  On our way home I looked at our receipt and totaled up how much our "extra" purchases were.  A whopping $80.  An $80 that I am relatively certain that if we had taken out our cash, we would not have spent.  Lesson learned- We aren't at the point where we can eliminate the Cash Only part of this.

Aside from that slip, meal planning has definitely met the goals we had in mind when we started it.  It is helping us save money in multiple ways.
-We don't eat out because we have the food at home, and because there is no "whats for dinner?" "I dunno, what do you want." "I dunno." "lets go out."
-We don't impulse buy because we have the list, and because we aren't wandering the entire store.
-We are saving gas by not making a trip to the store every couple days only to buy 2-3 days worth of food.

There have also been other benefits of the meal planning that we weren't expecting or didn't really think about.
-We are wasting less food because we are eating all the leftovers, instead of only eating it once and then the rest getting tossed after sitting in the fridge.
-We are eating healthier by not eating out, and by not impulse buying junk food while shopping.
-My kitchen is cleaner!  The meal plan has helped set up a bit of a routine.  Chris looks after Mercy while I  cook dinner, and because there is usually some down time between the prep/starting and when dinner is ready, I usually spend that time unloading and loading up the dishwasher and straightening up the kitchen.  To reduce the amount I have to do at dinner time, I also usually run a load during the day.
-Reduced our carbon footprint.  Before the meal planning we were pretty much exclusively using paper plates. I didn't want to to continue doing that when we would be eating in every night, so we bought a 2nd set of dishes (our first had been reduced down to 3 plates).  Now we haven't used paper plates in over a month, good for the environment and saving us money!

I know there are more benefits, unfortunately its after 2 in the morning and my brain just shut off.  If I think of any more I'll make sure to come back and share them!

Adventures in Meal Planning

About two months ago in an effort to help us reduce spending and shop smarter we decided we were going to take out our grocery money in cash, and only make 1 big shopping trip per pay check.  We would do our shopping and when that cash was gone, we were done spending.  I realize this concept is a pretty basic one, but for us, with the convenience of being able to magically swipe and its paid for, we had a hard time grasping it.  It was too easy to impulse shop.  We would walk into the store, walk all around the store (usually Wal-Mart, so this included toys, clothes, electronics, home stuff, craft stuff, etc.) and shop.  No list.  No idea what we were in there for, except for a few basic things. We would walk out with a full cart, a long receipt, and enough food for maybe 3 meals.  When that food was gone, Lather, Rinse, Repeat. 

After we made the decision to use cash and only do 1 big shopping trip I knew I'd have to figure out some way to get enough food to last us those two weeks.  I knew I would need an actual list to keep me on track and make sure I didn't forget anything.  For a list I would need to know what we were having for dinner.  I decided I would do a menu for those two weeks.  I went online and found a weekly meal planner.  Then I sat there at stared at it for a few minutes trying to come up with dinner ideas.  This was going to be harder than I thought. 

I decided we would start with broad categories first.  Chris and I sat down and picked a "theme" for each night of the week.  We came up with Chicken/Pork, Mexican, Italian/Pasta, Casserole/Soup, and BBQ/grill.  Yes I know that is only 5 categories.  We also factored in a night for leftovers, and a "quick meal" night.  Quick meal consists of maybe those frozen stir fry packets, or Chris is really fond of "Homestyle Bakes", $3 for a dinner for two (Chicken and biscuits, Chicken and Mashed potaotes, etc) all in a nice little box.  It's not fancy, but its quick and He can cook it. Quick meal can also be used as an Eat Out/Order in.

After that we sat down and thought of all the meals that fit into those categories.  For example-
Chicken/Pork- steamed chicken packets, pork chops, sweet n sour pork, shake n bake
Mexican- tacos, fajitas, burritos, mexican lasagna, quesadillas
Italian/Pasta- lasagna, spaghetti, manicotti, fettucini alfredo
Casserole/soup- tuna cass., mac n cheese, chili, chicken soup, chili, beef stew
BBQ/grill- burgers n hotdogs, chicken, country ribs, meaty sticks (chicken and steak shish-ka-bobs)
Our lists have more items, these are just for example.

After we had those lists we opened up the meal planner again and assigned each day a category, then picked the meal for that category. After we had two weeks worth of meals plans, I set to work on the shopping list.  To help with that I found a shopping list template in Microsoft Word that had everything broken into categories (meat, frozen, canned/dry, produce, etc.).  Then I went through each meal and wrote out the ingredients on the list in their appropriate categories.  Menu and shopping list complete.  The first attempt was pretty mentally exhausting.  It took several hours and by the time I was done I wanted to collapse in a heap and never think about dinner again.  But I also felt accomplished and proud of myself, and was looking forward to our big shopping trip.

Fast forward to shopping day- Super excited and eager at first.  We started our trip at Costco, walked around, bought our items, enjoyed a hot dog.  Then headed on to the next store for our Non Bulk items.  By the time we were halfway through our list I was back to feeling tired, cranky, and ready to collapse into a heap.  It was a bit frustrating trying to deal with a toddler, hold the list, locate our items, navigate the aisles, cross items off the list, and also try to keep a rough running total so we didn't go over.  But, when we got to checkout with a cart full of JUST groceries, and only things that we were on our list, AND coming in under budget (sure it was only a couple bucks, but still!)  I was back to feeling proud and accomplished.
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