Feeding a family on a budget without the headache!

Well, tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of our adventure in starting over. It wasn’t supposed to be starting completely over. It was supposed to be move where hubby could work from the office instead of the field, only he lost his job as soon as we moved here, and oh I was sick too and everything really kinda fell apart so we had to pretty much put ourselves back together again and learn a new family dynamic since hubby was in the oil patch the last several years. However, that is a run on sentence and way too hard to fit into the title! Part of this adventure this past year has been reigning in the budget. That meant taking a serious look at our grocery spending as well.

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Feeding a family on a budget does not need to stress you out! Photo by Pixabay

Feeding five people, one of which is a teenager now and another is my husband who eats a lot, is a challenge to budget. We are a pretty active homeschooling family so that can be a challenge too because I don’t always have a lot of time for meal prep. Over the last year, I have worked on reigning in the excess spending. We now have a $400 a month grocery budget for our family of five. This budget includes all our food and also diapers, wipes, toiletries, feminine products, trash bags, paper towels, and cleaning supplies. All of that fits into our  $400 a month budget. No one goes hungry. We eat healthy meals, and I am gonna tell you all some things you can do to trim the fat on your budget too.

One of the first things we trimmed from our budget was convenience dinners…ie boxed dinners and pre-packaged snacks. I found that I could make my own macaroni and cheese for less than the boxed kind, and it was better for us. I started a list of staples that I always had on hand. That way if the day got away from me, and my meal planning went to heck, I could grab a few things and make something good quickly. Here are my staples:

  • beans. I always have black beans on hand
  • frozen veggies. You can always throw them in a casserole.
  • tomatoes: In the summer, I use fresh because the grocery has specials, I have them growing in my backyard, or someone just gives them to me. In the winter, I used canned tomatoes.
  • rice. Use what you like. We like Basmati.
  • Macaroni or pasta. Again, use the kind you like…whether it is plain, whole grain, gluten-free. Just keep it on hand.
  • Cheese. I always have three kinds of cheeses on hand. Buy it on sale. Buy it in a block, or buy it in a bag. It comes in handy.
  • A variety of fruits and veggies. You can refer back to frozen if you wish, or when you are at the supermarket, get what is on sale. I keep squash, zucchini, peppers, baby carrots, apples, avocados, and bananas on hand all the time.
  • eggs. Get some to hard-boil and some for cooking.
  • a creative mind. You will see what I mean in a moment.

Start by making a grocery list every week. Here, our grocery ads come on Tuesdays. The prices are for that Wednesday to the next Tuesday. Check to see where you can find the most deals, but in the end realize you will only be hitting up one or two grocery stores in a week. It really is not practical to chase every deal unless all those stores are right next to each other. To be honest, I do not hit most of them up anymore, unless it is really good. I found a local chain that has THE best prices on produce and great prices on meat. I also go to Aldi. I usually go to Aldi first and then the other place to fill in the gaps. Since I have gotten to know the local chain, I know the prices on most of the produce and meats, and there is not much fluctuation. At Aldi, some meats and produce change weekly. There are times that Aldi has the better deal on everything that week, and so I never make it to the local chain supermarket.

I mentioned Aldi a lot there in the last paragraph. No, I am not advertising for them. However, they are making leaps and bounds where I live to be a great place to shop. When I was a kid, my mom used to shop there, but it was never a place where you could get everything. NOW…I get my diapers, wipes, meats, and staples there. They have a great gluten-free section at my Aldi. I cannot have meats with nitrates, and they have sausage and lunchmeat without them. AND, it is cheaper than most other places. We eat yogurt, fruit, veggies,nuts, cheese, and homemade snacks. It is easy to obtain them there for a lot less. So, with that in mind, you might want to check out your local Aldi. With that being said…

Make a grocery list, and stick to your list. Whether you go to Aldi, Walmart, Target, Giant, Costco, or any other place, you will blow your budget if you do not stick to your list. Do not get into the mindset of overbuying because you may end up with a pantry of unused food. Do not get into the mindset of, “Well this is on sale…I just got to get it!” You will overspend. If you are going somewhere that sells things other than food, put the other merchandise you need on your list. If it is not on the list, don’t buy it.

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Photo by Jeshoots (PEXELS)

I plan about five to six of my dinners a week. For breakfasts and lunches, we have cereal, fruit, veggies, waffles, bread, peanut butter and jelly, and leftovers to choose from for those meals. I usually keep tortilla chips and popcorn to make for when we have the munchies. We cook our popcorn in a pot or use a popcorn maker. The tortilla chips are more of a staple at this point because I use them as a snack, for taco salad, as a garnish, with my southwestern rice dish. It is all about being creative. While I plan my meals, sometimes, I have days where I am just too tired or maybe I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer. That is when the staples really come in handy. I might grab some beans, avocado, cheese, tomatoes, and rice…throw it together…and there is dinner in a half an hour or less! The kids are happy. I am happy. We are full, and we did not need to call out for pizza.

Planning your meals and reigning in the budget does not happen overnight. You need to tweak it a bit before you find what works for you and your family. I will say that we eat better, and I am actually enjoying cooking a whole lot more. I hope you found these tips helpful. Remember sharing is caring, and I would also love to hear from you in the comments below.

Taking time for yourself

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As a homeschool mom, blogger, and former party planner, I used to run myself ragged. In fact, I am pretty sure that my lifestyle choices helped with everything that sent me to the hospital last summer. Since then, I have been trying to put things back together in a way that I am not overly stressed, like I used to be.

Like most moms, I want to be a great mom. I used to think that I could just do everything after the kids went to bed or when the baby took a nap. It really did not work so well. I just ended up being overly tired, and as for working while Crankles napped, well there were too many other things to do during that time, like homeschooling with the kids or housework to keep me from having time for me or for the things I really wanted to do, like blogging. (That is probably a big run on sentence there. You may diagram it at your convenience to see for yourself.)

Anyways, I was looking at our daily schedule. It is kind of a rough draft for our daily lives…or more of a way to say, “Hey, you’re bored! Check what the schedule says.” It really works for that. However, I realized even with that, I am excluded from that schedule. Then I would get frustrated because while I wanted to blog or read an occasional book or something, I could not do so because there was no time for me in the schedule. With my husband now being home and not on the road, I wanted to keep nighttime for us because time with my spouse is important, especially when he has been more or less out in the oil patch for seven years. That left me staying up really late and then being a grumpy mommy in the morning because I have a toddler. It means I get up in the middle of the night sometimes still, and I wake when she wakes to nurse (because I still do that too).

I chose something that works for all of us and doesn’t require me to sacrifice sleep. The kids do better at doing school work in the afternoon, so the morning is playtime. All three can play, watch educational videos, enjoy the backyard. During that morning time, I can drink a hot cup of coffee, get anything organized that day for school work, make phone calls, pay bills, or write blog posts. I don’t get every morning as we do have a few days a week that we are out the door by 10am, but it is nice to be able to count on those days so that I can start doing the things I need to do without sacrificing time with my husband or time I should be sleeping.

It seems to work for us. As it is, it is late afternoon, and the kids have finished with schoolwork. They decided to go back outside, so here I am writing. However, I had this post in my head this morning. I am caught up on other things as well, and I am in a fairly good mood because I am not stressed out.

Putting too much into our schedules does not do us any good, but it is not great for our kids either. Happy mommies homeschool better. We are more cheerful, and our kids benefit from having all of us instead of burned out versions of us.

I know it is difficult to balance life. However, it is something in which we need to be more mindful. How do you stay balanced? How do you take time for yourself?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or feel free to start a conversation on Facebook!

Taking back the stories

I have sat down so many times over the last several months to write, only to come up with nothing. Sure, I have posted here and there. Yes, my health problems, which also created brain fog, had a bit to do with everything. However, my biggest problems was that I came to terms that before I really took a break from the blog, I was starting to feel like a sell out.

I started this blog to promote my business. I don’t really have a business anymore, but I do have a lot of parenting stories to tell. I also have three kids at very different places in their lives which makes for an interesting story as well.

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It is hard to get your story seen sometimes, and there are SO MANY social media outlets now, more than when I first started. It is easy to get caught up in the social media aspect of blogging to the point that the story you want to tell starts to feel like a chore after you schedule everything and post to each and every social media outlet in hopes that someday your blogging efforts will be noticed. For me, it has taken the joy out of writing, and I don’t want that because then I don’t want to write which defeats the purpose of having a blog. It also undoes all the work I have put into this little slice of the blogosphere over the years.

I had a nice talk with a fellow blogger and then another one with my main contributor. While I would love to make money with this blog, my priority here is telling a story and sharing my blog in ways that are manageable to me. While some bloggers can manage hitting up all social media outlets, and I commend them because I know they work really hard. I love them for that. However, I cannot do that right now.

So I ask of you, my dear readers, if something I write, or something my contributors write, speaks to you, please pass it along to your friends. For now, I will be here writing my stories and hoping that some of you can relate to them!

 

Little House in the City

(It’s been difficult to write because of working on the house and migraines, but we are still here, and I am hoping that my migraines will be getting less.)

 

A little over a year ago, our house hunt began for a new house and subsequently a whole new life. The process of coming to the decision to move was a long one that actually started about three years ago, shortly after my husband changed companies and I had lost another baby.

My husband worked in the oilfield as a geologist, which meant he was often gone for long periods of time. When I lost my first baby, he was stuck in Canada for the whole ordeal. He couldn’t come home until a few weeks after it happened. While I had some support, what I really wanted was my partner in life to hold me and tell me it would be okay. When I lost the second one, we were having issues with neighbors that eventually escalated by the end of that summer to a scary experience (that I don’t feel like sharing) before they were removed from the neighborhood, much to the rejoicing of the ENTIRE neighborhood. My husband had a few days off from work when the miscarriage happened. However, I felt lost when he went back to work. There was talk of office positions with his company if we lived closer to the actual office. We did some searching but didn’t know enough about the area to pull the trigger on a house hunt, so we tabled the discussion. I busied myself with my kids, my eventual pregnancy, godchildren, and other things. I started gaining confidence again that I could make the oilfield wife thing work. Then we had Crankles. She didn’t sleep. I ended up having postpartum depression. I felt like I was coming apart at the seams. I couldn’t do it anymore. I bawled every time my husband left. Then he ended up on a rig that lasted about two months. By that point, I was just done. The subject of moving came up again because we wanted to be a family again. While Crankles liked her daddy, she didn’t have a strong bond with him. The kids missed having him home, and I wanted my husband back!

One night, we were talking over Facebook when he said that if we moved closer to his company’s office, he could eventually get in the office. He kept being passed over for the office because we were in another state and about 400 miles away. We decided to just go for it. We didn’t know a lot about the area. What I knew was from visiting one of my best friends from college during breaks. However, I lost contact with her when my oldest daughter was younger. She wasn’t on social media, and I didn’t know how to get in contact with her. As luck would have it, one of our mutual friends, who lived somewhat near to her, WAS in contact with her. I got her number, reconnected, and got information on where to look and a great realtor.

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We spent the latter part of spring loading the kids in the car on weekends that my husband was available, driving five hours, and looking at several houses. By the end of May, we settled on one. Granted, it wasn’t the one I really wanted. THAT house was almost finished and had beautiful bathrooms. (I am vain in wanting pretty bathrooms with spa-like features. I don’t know why. It is not like I get to pee alone anyways.) However, the house we chose was a few minutes from my friend and near an awesome park that had tons of playgrounds and trails for hiking, biking, and walking. It was also pretty cheap because it needed some love. We could move into the house and fix it up as we had time and money. It sounds like happily ever after right? Roll credits. Bring out the rainbows, chirping birds, happy faced suns, and Julie Andrews singing in a field. Well…since this is real life, things didn’t quite go as planned.

About the time we found out that we actually got the house, my husband got a notification from work saying that they were laying people off. Those that still had jobs were forced to take a pay cut. Because he worked 12 hours a day for however many days he was on the job site, his daily rate was figured with what he got for overtime as well. It was supposed to be a 25% pay cut. It ended up being close to 40% instead. Oh, and those office jobs…well some of those in the office were now going back into the field. There would be no more openings there. Basically, we were now going to be moving to a new area where we knew hardly anyone, and we would never see my husband because he would have to work almost constant to put food on the table. It really is no wonder I ended up in the hospital almost a week later. I think my body just kinda said, “I give up.”

We decided to go ahead with the move anyways. As much as I loved my friends where we were, my husband and I had been saying for years that we really didn’t fit in to that area. Moving to the new house would put us in a metro area, and right between our sets of parents, about three hours in either direction. With my mom having breast cancer and other health issues over the last several years, I liked the idea of being closer to her. We would still be within a decent driving distance from my husband’s dad who was having health issues as well.

Financially, it seemed like a good idea as well. Things are just cheaper here. The utilities are cheaper, groceries are cheaper, and even the taxes are cheaper. It would allow us to be able to live on my husband’s pay cut. Because of my stint in the hospital last summer and problems post-hospital stay, we were unable to do what we wanted to get our old house on the market to sell. I also had no idea who to use as a listing agent. Luckily for us, that never became an actual issue. A friend of mine knew a family that was looking to rent, and I had met them already. The house seemed like a perfect fit for them. They may even eventually buy the house. The whole thing just felt right. At the end of August, we said goodbye to our home in Pennsylvania and hello to our new life in Ohio.

We have now been here for a little over eight months. We moved on Crankles’ first birthday. It hasn’t been easy, but we finally feel settled here. It is starting to look and feel like our home. We are now loving our little house in the city!

When you feel like your child is being overlooked

By Delia, contributing writer

(Delia’s story starts before Christmas break. Enjoy)

I graduated from college more than fifteen years ago. During my years spent receiving my degree in special education, the paper that I learned the most from was one that I wrote for my class on learning disabilities. It turned into the largest paper I had ever written- 35 pages with fifteen pages of appendices.

It was entitled: Cerulean Sky- The Twice Exceptional. It documented the under-represented populations of students who are gifted with learning disabilities. It made me realize that every student’s intelligence is not a black or white issue but there are many shades of gray. A student can be exceptionally talented in art but struggle in academic pursuits or may be gifted in math but struggle to read.

Needless to say, I never imagined that 16 years later I would be struggling with my daughter’s school to get her the help that she needs. My daughter, Sweet Pea, is extremely intelligent. I had her tested for gifted the summer after first grade because she seemed to innately understand multiplication and division. However, as time went on, I noticed that she had difficulty focusing at home to complete homework and chores. As the years progressed, her problems with focus migrated into school as well. I started receiving notes from her teachers complaining about her distractibility.

Her teacher last year seemed to complain about her behavior more toward the end of the year. I figured it was time to seek some help. I had the school complete the ADD evaluation forms and I completed the parent form. I scheduled an appointment with my pediatrician and went in thinking things would be resolved. Unfortunately, I got into that appointment and was blindsided by the pediatrician that according to the teacher’s form there was no problem. Feeling utterly confused, my husband and I left that meeting and resolved to wait and see what happened in third grade.

Well, this year has been the worst. Within the first three or four weeks, I received more than ten notes. Sweet Pea was getting more and more frustrated with school. My husband and I decided it was time to contact the local psychologist that our pediatrician had recommended and start the process again. Many more forms were sent this time. We, including Sweet Pea, filled out the forms and returned them quickly to the doctor. As we waited to hear from him that the report was finished, things got even worse.

Sweet Pea started coming home upset about school. She whined about getting in trouble for talking and being off-task. She expressed to me that she was bored most of the day. Things escalated last week to the point where she felt physically ill Thursday morning. Luckily, my husband was on second shift that week and was able to calm her down before she had to go to school. Thank God that this is the last week before Christmas break. The activities they are doing in class are distracting her and keeping her interested.

I had contacted the gifted teacher at the beginning of the week about having a meeting before the break, but was told that wasn’t possible. I dropped off a copy of the evaluation report within an hour of receiving it Wednesday. I spoke with her teacher on Friday about more challenging work and received the answer that she needs to complete her third grade work first so that she can give her a grade. Needless to say that left me more upset.

It is now the last half day of school before the break and I have yet to hear about a time and date for our meeting. I am not feeling very hopeful about resolving this issue without a very angry Momma Bear coming out at the meeting. I hope that the administration is ready for a fight. They are not dealing with an uneducated momma here. I have a degree in special education and am doing my research. They better be prepared to change their archaic view of what gifted education is supposed to look like. I will not be satisfied until they do.

Toddler Logic

(Figured it is also time to bring back Wordful Wednesday…Besides, I take way too many pictures to keep them to myself.)

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Why yes, this is a My Little Pony eating a bowl of Cheerios. Why is her head buried in the bowl? Well apparently, Miss Crankles (the Toddler formerly known as Sweet Pea) decided that she was NOT going to eat her dinner unless Applejack was eating too. It wasn’t worth arguing with a 1.5 year old, so I pulled out a chair for the pony. I made her a bowl of Cheerios, and my daughter ate her chicken. I call that a parenting win!

When it all needs to change…

For those of you following my blog and social media, you may have noticed that I have been very absent from everything. If you have been following for a while, you know that I have had a rough few years, and over the last year and a half, it included having a baby, getting diagnosed with post-partum depression, ending up in the hospital twice, being life-flighted one of those times, moving to a new state, and having my husband get laid off and start a new career. I really tried to hang on there for a while, and I do feel I have a story to tell. I had brands that I had products to review as well. I didn’t want to let people down. However, I think I finally realized late last fall that I was doing no one any good the way I was, myself included and took a break.

I had intentions to start the blog back up again much sooner than now. However, I realized that my blog as it was no longer fit as I am going forward. I am no longer Bear Haven Mama. I no longer have a children’s shop or party planning business. I had wanted to start my business back up after moving, but I have made the decision to just be done with it for now. My heart is not in it. I do not have the energy for it. It is not who I am anymore.

So, now what? Well, I didn’t want to lose my domain, so I decided to change the name of the blog to something that would fit me, the contributors I am adding to the blog, and the feel of the direction I would like this blog to go.

Therefore, I proudly welcome you to Misfit Mama Bear Haven! It’s a place where we tell stories…about us, our kids, and our spouses too! It is where you can read about people who are just trying to go through life making it however they can. It is a place where being a misfit is okay and even celebrated.

So if you have decided to stick around to read this far, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and invite you to continue the journey onto the next chapter of my family’s tale, as well as some new tales from some new friends too!

Welcome to the Misfit Mama Bear Haven!