Sunday, January 31, 2010

Challenge Wrap-Up

Mama Squirrel has posted her eat-from-the-pantry wrap-up, and as I began writing a book rather than a comment when I tried commenting on her post, I decided to post it here instead.

I found it difficult after the first two weeks to keep away from the grocery store, because I didn't have a well-stocked pantry to begin with. I have always wanted to shop in a pantry-stocking way, but I don't coupon as well as some folks do (unless I make it my full-time job), and we just don't have the budget to build up a pantry supply. One of these better months, I will have to break down and include a budget item, just for that month, called "stocking the pantry".

Anyway, it's hard to fathom a concept like 'extra food' when you have big kids, lol. These growing girls keep wanting to eat! I felt stingy this month telling them, "No, don't eat that. I am saving it for a dinner later in the week." (It was usually cheese or a can of something or ham or something like that.) But we had fun coming up with ways to use up the flours and grains and other items we had. In fact, Aravis is in the kitchen toasting oat-and-millet granola (her own concoction) right now. The kids really enjoyed the Hillbilly Housewife hot cocoa mix (we substituted Splenda for the sugar), too. There were a couple of things that didn't work out-- for one thing, we all got tired of Mexican soup (I had quite a lot in the freezer).

We went into cracker and sweet tea withdrawals this month, too. At this point, we are keeping white sugar out of the house as much as possible, and trying to switch more of our carbs to whole grains, fruits and veggies. We found a great recipe for a non-sweet oatmeal quick bread last week. The only sweetener in it is 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey. I made this at around 10am on a school day, and the kids ate it warm as they went about their school work.

We use our grocery money for paper goods, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and any eating out we might do, as well as food items. We allot $400 per month in the grocery category, although the amount spent often creeps higher. This month as I compared the costs of conventional versus organic/grass-fed dairy and meats in the markets, I realized those items don't fit within our spending limit. We may have to put off the clean meat and dairy effort for awhile.

All told, we spent $494.06 this month, so we actually went over our budget by around $95, even with all the meat we had stocked in the freezer at the end of December. I think I just shuffled around the spending rather than spending less-- we spent a lot more in the last half of the month than in the first half.

Our dinner plans for the next four days (Friday is payday!):

1. Chicken, pinto bean and rice bowls with Mexican seasonings

2. Chicken and rice soup (These first two meals will be made with leftover roast chicken-- the rubber chicken recipe, you know.)

3. Homemade cream of tomato soup with 'doodles' (they're kind of like dumplings) from the More with Less cookbook.

4. Autumn millet bake, which we have never tried.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Haiti Relief

We have a friend with a personal connection to One5 Foundation. This is a smaller organization that has been helping in Haiti for years and is able to be more effective than the larger groups. From their website:
The One5 Foundation has been working in Haiti over the last few years to bring healthcare services to orphan children in several Haitian communities. One5 volunteers will provide emergency healthcare and logistical support for earthquake relief efforts.

If you are planning to donate to the relief efforts in Haiti, please consider this organization.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where Are We?

We have been sucked into the science-theater-music-math-laundry-lunches-life vortex. Instruments, 3x5 cards and socks are swirling around in here. Seconds fly by. I can either use the calm moments to hug folks and wash dishes, or I can blog.

My choice is... hugs and dishes. :D I'll return to posting sometime. Perhaps soon.

P.S. We came to the end of the pantry this past Tuesday and I have started back to regular meal planning. We still have some extra grains to work through, but everything else was gone. It was kind of pitiful. I spent almost $200 restocking. I restocked with good stuff, though, and no sugar or white flour. Except I got cake mix for a happy cake when the book club came to my house on Monday, and another for a birthday cake for my mom tonight. And cookie dough for Science Night and for dessert at church tomorrow. I guess I'm not doing as well on no-sugar as I thought. Sheesh.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Looking Up

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
of the mountains I can't climb

I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
of the oceans raging wild

I will lift my eyes to the Healer
of the hurt I hold inside

I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You.

--Bebo Norman

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Pantry of the Everlasting Dinners :)

It never fails. You cook your family dinner and the next night there they are wanting you to do it again, lol.

I enjoy it, though, and we are really working through the bits and pieces in our pantry and freezer!

I am preparing my lunch for church tomorrow. I forgot to purchase broccoli for my casserole, so instead I am making barbecued chicken casserole, but with brown rice instead of hash browns.

While I wait for the rice to finish, I am planning my meals for next Wednesday (1/13) through the following Tuesday (1/19). (Mr. Honey-- who has made it past the one-week mark in his battle against nicotine, woot!-- is watching the football game, Aravis is visiting on AO Unlimited and Mariel and Cornflower are in bed.)

I have some blue cheese to finish, so one night this week we will have this frittata with onions, spinach, tomatoes and blue cheese. (The kids will probably have scrambled eggs.)

We have one more ham, this one is the last of our Omaha Steaks gift from my grandparents. We sure have enjoyed those meats! Traditionally, a baked ham is served with scalloped potatoes, but the potatoes are gone and I do not want any more. (We have a box of instant potatoes, but I'm pretty sure you can't make scalloped potatoes with that.) We're trying to go easy on starches. Instead, I think I will make oven-roasted sweet potatoes and green beans.

We have one more freezer bag of Mexican soup to eat this week. This time I will serve it with salad and biscuits.

I also found some sad sorry little tilapia filets that have been touched with freezer burn. I'm going to use them in a seafood casserole-- I'm taking this tuna casserole recipe and using my tilapia (which I will bake first) in place of tuna. I am leaving out the mushrooms.

We have some pinto beans in the freezer. I'm planning to make them into what is called Red Beans and Rice in Texas. (I always called kidney beans red beans, but my TX friends tell me pintos are used in Texan red beans and rice.) I'll cut up some sausage in there, too, and serve it with raw apples and/or carrots.

We had turkey hot dogs and carrots and celery sticks for dinner tonight, and still have another meal's worth of dogs in the freezer. I wanted to do something different with them, so I think I will cook them with barbecue sauce (we had three unopened bottles of barbecue sauce in the pantry) and serve boxed macaroni and cheese (my kids' favorite kind) and broccoli on the side.

That does it for protein sources already hanging out in my kitchen-- except for a partial bag of dry garbanzo beans that we use for math manipulatives. ;o) For this last meal, I'm going to purchase a roasting chicken, which Mariel loves. She loves to eat it, she loves to roast it, and she loves getting the guts out and rubbing the bird with seasonings. I am blessed to have a child that likes getting her hands messy. (That means I don't have to do it. ;o) I want to serve it with potatoes, which means I have to use the instant potatoes in the pantry. We are not fond of instant, so I'll make gravy, too. And we can use up the spinach I got for the frittatas in a salad.

I posted my meal ideas for this past Wednesday through next Tuesday here.

Grocery list for next Wednesday:

Sweet potatoes
Green beans
8 ounces grated cheddar (it is actually cheaper this way at Kroger)
1 lb kielbasa-type sausage
1 roasting chicken
2 boxes Kraft macaroni and cheese
Peanut butter
2 loaves bread

I generally do menu-planning a day or less before going to the store, so this is way in advance for me. These plans may change!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Dinner Plans

Tonight we had navy bean and ham soup, salad and cornbread, and puddle cake for a treat. Tomorrow night we feast on Omaha Steaks beef tips, baked potatoes and green beans. (Yum!) The menu for the weekend and into next week include turkey hot dogs, more ham (that'll be the last of it), pasta with feta and tomatoes, chicken/broccoli/rice casserole, and semolina-crust pizza.

We ran out of natural sweeteners last week, so I have been using Splenda when I need to sweeten something. (My dad cannot eat natural sweeteners, but Splenda is okay, so I purchased a bag in December with which to make Christmas goodies. I think I might keep it on hand from now on.)

I went to the store on Wednesday, and purchased produce; bread; milk, eggs and cheese; turkey hot dogs; and frozen veggies. The only organics I purchased were carrots, bananas and romaine lettuce, since the prices of those items are so close to conventional. I spent just under $50.

I did not purchase peanut butter because this month I wanted us to eat out of our pantry as much as possible, but after one day I am already neglecting regretting it. A couple of us (I) have problems with low blood sugar, and apparently we (I) depend on peanut butter as a regulator more than I realized. But we have roasted almonds to snack on.

And I just want to ask for prayer for Mr. Honey-- he decided to give up smokeless tobacco cold-turkey, and is being a soldier through it, but it is hard. He is almost to the one-week mark. Go, Mr. Honey!

Monday, January 04, 2010

About that pantry dealybopper...

Just a quick post to say that I misread Mama Squirrel's post on the Eat From The Pantry challenge. I thought she had decided to participate, but she was only thinking about it. I apologize for not paying closer attention. I'll read more carefully next time. Ya'll are really kind to put up with me.

Also, we are going to need to do more purchasing than I originally thought-- more meat, and possibly more grains. It'll be more of a Clean Out The Pantry challenge, I guess, since I am still trying to get through the foods that have been around awhile.

I haven't purchased groceries yet this month, and here is what we have eaten for dinner, starting tonight and working backwards to Jan. 1:

Garlic Chicken, rice and stir-fry veggies
Ham-potato soup, saltine crackers, broccoli and raw carrots
Fried ham and potatoes with apple slices
Pinto beans and cornbread

A little repetitious, but that never hurt anybody. Here are my plans for Tuesday and Wednesday (Thursday I will go to the store):

Scrambled eggs, biscuits and orange slices
Mexican soup (from the freezer) and rolls (left over from Christmas)

Why Study History?

"Then, for the first time, the boy had realized how good and bad can be blended together in a single man, and in the story of a nation. That thought Livy was to put down in the introduction of his great history of the Roman people, which he was to write in future days.

'That is what makes the study of history so valuable,' he was to say-- 'the fact that you can behold, displayed as on a monument, every kind of conduct; thence you may select for yourself and for your country that which you may imitate; thence note what is shameful in the undertaking and shameful inthe result, which you may avoid...'"

--from Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster, pages 44-45

Friday, January 01, 2010

Reading the Bible in a Year

For three years now I have resolved to read the Bible through in a year. I have failed each time. As I gaze into the clean and shiny new year, I wonder what to do with this failed commitment. I have decided to examine whether to keep this goal or discard it, and, if I keep it, what do I need to change in order to meet it?

First, is it a goal I ought to pursue at this point in my life? That may seem a strange question to my Christian friends-- I agree that we should want to read the Bible as much as possible! But when I think about my lack of motivation in this area, I realize that I do a lot of Bible reading, and a lot of reading in general, as part of my work teaching the kids. I love to read, and I do not shirk scripture. The kids and I currently have books going in both the Old and New Testaments, averaging a chapter per day during the schoolweek. In addition, all three kids have personal Bible study books going that we discuss. I have my own Bible study books going as well, although more intermittently.

I am in the scriptures practically every day. Why push myself to personally read every single word in one year? Just so I can say I have done it? That sounds prideful. I do not need one more thing to encourage my self-righteousness. It does just fine by itself, thank you.

There must be another reason.

Reading the Bible through in a year is the precursor to reading the Bible through *every* year. Why would a person do that?

Early this past year, I realized that if I were going to knuckle down and really do this, I was going to have to change my way of reading for this particular task. When I read something important, I look things up. I stop and ponder. I reread. I flip to other portions of the book to see if things connect. These are great things to do, but when the goal is to read through the Bible in a year, concurrent with other Bible studies, it may be better to restrict myself to just reading the text and moving on. Similar to, but not quite the same as, reading a novel for enjoyment. I enjoy reading in depth, getting every last bit of meaning I can out of a text. I am a pretty intense person. Reading a novel for enjoyment is a different kind of enjoyment, more relaxed. Maybe it would be better to get closer to that kind of reading, without completely going into the novel-before-bedtime approach. (Can you tell I am having a hard time explaining this?)

So why just read the text and move on, when it is so rich?

This year I made the most progress ever on my read-the-Bible-in-a-year goal. For instance, I made it all the way to 1 Kings in the Old Testament, whereas before I always fizzled out in Leviticus. It was different this year because many days, when I read, I simply read the words and then went about my day with prayer. The Lord worked in my mind throughout the day, illuminating the truth of a passage that perhaps I didn't even understand at the time I read it. Reading quickly also helped me to see the big picture, so easy to miss when doing in-depth Bible study. When I read in this way, I was able to accomplish the task of reading the daily portion.

This rumination makes the reading of the entire Bible in one year something to be desired, even though we may be doing Bible studies through specific books at the same time.

So-- there is my 'why'. I have spent the last year alternately remembering and forgetting it. When I forget, I slip into my habit of squeezing the last drop of meaning I can possibly find out of my daily Bible reading as I read-- a valuable practice, but not suited to this endeavor, as it makes the daily reading a large chunk of my morning. When I remember the 'why', I am content to leave the pursuit of deeper understanding for later, which causes me to think on it as I have spare moments in my day.

After failing three times, it is clear to see that I am not going to be able to do this the "normal" way. Obviously, I need to retrain myself to relax into my daily Bible reading. This is going to take some time. Besides, I do not want to start over from Genesis when I have gotten almost halfway through the OT this past year! The goal is to read the Bible *through*, as well as read it through in one year. I need to solidify the daily habit of reading 1/365 of it each day, even if I am not beginning at the beginning on January 1.

Here is the how: I will begin where I am in 1 Kings in the OT (and the epistles in the NT) and read my daily portion, praying that I will remember to relax and not be so demanding of this particular reading. That sounds weird, because we ought to be demanding readers, but I really think my analytical tendencies are messing me up where this goal is concerned. I think I just need to read it.

I have my progress listed in my sidebar, because this helps me, and I will continue to add to it as I go. When I get to the end, I will start over. Let's see how that works.

Today* I will spend time reading Acts 1-10 in the NT and Psalms 73-133 in order to line everything up with June 15th (the day I have gotten to in the OT) of my Daily Bible, which is portioned into daily readings of the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs. Then I will use the divisions given in that book to portion out my daily readings.

*Okay, I just realized that is a *lot* of reading in one day! I'm still going to attempt it, but if I can't make it through today, I will divvy up the Psalms into tomorrow and Sunday.

Later thought: How much of my neglect of this goal is due to my fear of not understanding? I frequently read things in the Bible that I do not understand. Reading scripture provokes me to wonder, and sometimes I feel threatened by it. I want to know, not wonder! But, as Miss Mason said, "What a barren and dry land should we dwell in if our spirits were narrowed to the limits of that which we can comprehend!" And--

...without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

I Timothy 3:16