Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Saving Time AND Money : Monthly Menu Planning

My organization skills are a mess.

If it wasn't for my husband's Type A personality, literally nothing would ever get done in our household. Lucky for me, I married an OCD man with a Business degree...(And he's handsome too ;-) )

So, together, we have put together a system that works for both of us. 

It is organized, helps us save money, 

And (most importantly for me) 
... It's Easy.

And because it works SO well for us, I am going to share it with you today. An easy, peasy, 10 step process of keeping a monthly meal plan (with pictures!).
You're Welcome.

1. Make The Folder:
This part is important, so pay attention.

To make your meal planning folder, you need two essential things : 

A calendar page (right), and a pen. 

I personally have included the "Family Dinner Favorites" printable that I found on Pinterest from the Clean Mama Blog, and I use this reference sheet to help me decide on meals while I am planning the new month's menu.

Behind these sheets, I also include an area for coupons/flyers and my shopping lists.

2. Review The Old Menu:
As you can see, this is the menu from September. I keep track throughout the month of what meals we ate, what meals we switched around, etc. (This picture was taken on Thursday the 25th, See where it says "groceries"). Knowing when we last ate what meals, and what meals perhaps got skipped throughout the month, helps me plan my new month's menu.

3. Decide what food / recipe ingredients you still have left from last month:
I do this on a simple blank sheet or notecard. 
The top picture is a list of random foods I have left to use:

And the bottom is a list of some meals I still have all the ingredients left to make:

4. Get the new months' calendar sheet out:
I print mine off of a Word Doc template.

5. Fill out the calendar page with your obligations for the month:
This includes: appointments that effect dinnertime, obligations that would make the day too busy to spend cooking a complicated meal, days we plan on having people over and would need to cook extra, days we plan on going out, etc.

6. Pull out any coupons/flyers that you've acquired and review them:
If you plan your meals based on what coupons you have/what's on sale at your favorite stores, you will save some money.
I keep my coupons in a clear sheet protector.
We only shop at BJ's (wholesale club) or Target, so I only keep coupons for those two places.
Time is a factor in our family and I just don't have time to be shopping around.
We also have a very small home and do not do "couponing". I strictly use coupons ONLY for things that I would be buying ANYWAYS. I am NOT going to be buying in bulk strictly to save money...Just don't have the time or space!
/EndRant. :-)

7. Planning the menu:
Based on the above steps (favorite family meals, ingredients that we already have left in the house, and coupons), it's time to plan the meals! Working around your schedule for the month, plan meals that make sense for your family.

I try to do one new meal (usually from Pinterest) a week, but as you can see, we tend to recycle a lot of the same meals. We are a simple family. This month, my husband and I are both leaving town, so the menu is even more simple than usual.
(When trying a new recipe, be sure to write down on the menu where the recipe is from, so that you don't forget. Four weeks is a long time to remember where you found that crazy new chicken casserole recipe...)

8. Grocery List:
As you're writing the meals on the menu, keep track of what you need to buy and where you need to buy it from. Since we only shop at 2 stores, it's a pretty simple system for us:

Before we head out to do the shopping, I triple check the fridge and pantry to add anything else we might need, as well as bath and paper products, etc.
This list stays up on our fridge all of the time so that we are constantly adding to it as we notice things that we need to buy. This cuts down on our trips to the store quite a bit.
(Although we still find ourselves going weekly for small perishable things, like lunchmeat or fresh fruits/veggies, and things that we forget. There is no perfect system!)

9. Replace old month's menu with new one:

10. Enjoy stress-free dinner planning for the rest of the month!
Thanks to a recent gift from my local MOPS, I write the menu for the week on a little dry-erase board and hang it in my kitchen. It's an easy reference for me to remember to pull out whatever needs to be thawed for dinner that night. Plus, it looks cute! Double Win!

Please comment below if you have
any questions or suggestions! 

Thanks for reading! :-)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Journey

10pm on July 9 (2014)

Four years ago, at this moment, I was finally sleeping after receiving my epidural. 34 hours of induced labor had exhausted me. I didn't know it at the time, I was so clueless and naive, but I was two hours away from being wheeled into the OR for surgery. 

I remember at one point that night, a friend of mine asked if I thought I might need a c-section. I responded very confidently - NO WAY! This induction would work ... The doctor said so!!! It had to!

It didn't.

And I will always regret that unnecessary decision to induce labor at 41 weeks - because for the rest of my childbearing years, it will affect me; doctors will deny my care, insurance companies will refuse my coverage, and every birth will face extraordinary opposition no matter what option I choose. And for the rest of my life, it will leave me physically scarred. 

Yet in the midst of the anger, resentment, sadness, and regret - I feel gratitude as well. Not only for the healthy, perfect, and beautiful little girl who turns four in two hours ... But also for the journey that began that night.

While motherhood does not define me - it has certainly shaped me to be the woman I am today. It has created in me a beautiful mix of passion and love that I never imagined could exist in me before. 

The night Phoenix was born also gave me the gift of later becoming a "VBAC mom". To passionately study child birth and educate myself, and then to conquer the nearly impossible and successfully birth vaginally with a scarred uterus - to defy the uneducated voices who would try to convince me day after day throughout my pregnancy that I was endangering my baby, people who tried to steal my gift from me - is an awesome and empowering feeling that I will always be grateful for. 

My hope is that as I share my story, other women will also find themselves empowered. That I can share my knowledge and help to educate other women , offering them the wonderful experience of redeeming their God-given right and ability to give birth. That someday I can stand by the bed of a woman who needs my support and cheer her on as she cries out in passion, delivering her newborn into the world, and say "You did it!".

And most of all, that ALL of the glory would go to the One True, Most High God, for creating our bodies so flawlessly and lovingly. 

That women would learn to trust in HIM again... Despite what their doctors, or anybody else, might say.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

SOBO Project

A year ago, I had a very young baby who slept like a champ. One night, however, he was inconsolable and I took him into the living room to watch TV so that his daddy could get some sleep for work the next day.
Flipping mindlessly through the channels, I came across a random news story about human trafficking in Quincy, Massachusetts. My heart was overwhelmed with grief as I listened to the stories and statistics of what was happening right in my own backyard. I spent hours that night after Jonah had finally fallen asleep searching news stories, blogs, statistics, and anything I could get my hands on - overcome with interest, sorrow, and a feeling of "SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!".
The next morning, on very little sleep, I decided to Google "Fighting human trafficking in Quincy Massachusetts". For some strange, Godly reason, a familiar name came up as the very first link : Kristina Kaiser - pastor from the River Church. Just a few weeks prior, their church had attended our church's Good Friday Healing Service and also held their Baptism ceremonies in our sanctuary. I read a blog post, I believe, (or perhaps listened to a sermon - now I can't remember) about how she, too, had learned about the problem in our city and was searching for ways to become involved.
I contacted her that morning, asking if we could get together to discuss. I was representing Glad Tidings Church, with permission from my pastor, as the Outreach Coordinator - and I truly felt God was pulling us in this direction.

A few days later, I sat in her kitchen - and neither of us really had any clue where we should go with this. We agreed on all points; this was a very real issue, we needed to help, and God was calling us. So we decided to start small, and planned a book reading club during the summer months of the International Justice System's "The Just Church".

The 'small group' went well, and by the end of the summer we had established a fairly solid "Justice Task Force" - a group of dedicated people, responding to God's call. We held a food drive at the local Stop N Shop for a Boston-based rescue home for trafficked women, called Amirah House (Who, by the way, spoke at my home church the week after my initial meeting with Kristina - talk about a confirmation from the Lord!), and split ourselves up into a few groups - One group leading fundraising, one group creating a smartphone app, one group focusing on the possibility of opening our own safe shelter, and one group - the one closest to my heart - focused on reaching out to the youth of Quincy; educating and equipping our children before trafficking becomes a reality in their lives.

Today, a year from the strange night I first learned about this issue, we are 3 days away from launching our very first Community Youth Program with the SOBO (See the One. Be the One) Project, as we've come to call ourselves. We are now officially a Not-For-Profit Organizaton (NGO). 

For four Sundays in May and June, we will provide Free Professionalism training through a Workshop taught by one of our very talented and experienced SOBO members, Kimberly Meyer. A former intern for the POTUS, Kimberly has an AWESOME curriculum put together and I am BEYOND excited about what God is doing through her! We have this great opportunity to equip the young people of Quincy with the information and knowledge needed to be successful and active professionals in the community, providing them with the resources they need to provide for themselves - keeping them out of the "at risk" zone for trafficking - and equipping them to go out into the world and make a difference.

I will, of course, keep the blog updated as the SOBO Project grows. I undoubtedly believe that, as long as we stay open to responding to His call, the Lord is using us - and will continue to use us - to bring Freedom to those in Bondage. 

ISAIAH 61:1-3

This was the purpose of Christ's life, death, and resurrection - And the calling of all of His chosen people.
Will We Answer His Call???