More Budget Meal Planning

So, for the past couple of weeks, usually on a Saturday afternoon, hubby and I have sat down and made a for-real meal plan for the week. I have tried meal-planning before, but my hubby wasn’t exactly ‘with it’ at the time, so I’d make a plan based on what I wanted, then hubby would suggest something, or he’d offer to cook or take me out to eat, and the meal plan went out the window. It’s not his fault, we just weren’t working together. Now, we’re sick of being ‘stumped’ about what to have for supper when 5 p.m. rolls around – or having partial meals everywhere, like a meat but no side dish, or a side dish idea but no meat. So we’re meal planning.

We start with thinking about what we have in the house – loads of pasta? Potatoes need eating? Relative gave us a ham? – and make them into the ‘bones’ of the plan, and then work out what we’ll need to buy to make meals out of them. This works for our budget, because we’re using the never-ending supplies in our cupboards. Right now we have about 9 jars left of pasta sauce, so we’re having a pasta dishes every week – and using the sauce on pizza, etc.

Once we have the meals planned out, we organise them according to the perishables. So, if we have a sloppy Joe night, and a burger night, they should be next to each other so that we only have to buy/use buns & meat once. If one was on Sunday and the other was the next Friday, the buns and meat would go all gross in that time.

We’ve also discovered that leftovers don’t really work for us all the time, so we are trying to make meals without having loads left over. Having leftovers usually means we end up eating them for lunch (a full dinner-sized portion of food) and then either having to make another meal later that night, or have sandwiches for supper. We’re being kind to our waistlines if we keep leftovers out of the picture.

Our food budget for the month has kept steady at a lean $200, and when we go shopping on Saturdays for the following week’s meals, we spend anywhere between $25-45 (less if we have coupons). That leaves us with a little bit extra to go on milk-and-egg runs, because we’ve also discovered that you can’t plot shopping trips around when you’ll run out of those things, because it’s utterly unpredictable.

Summer Is Coming

So, despite the snow and winds and below-freezing temperatures that have characterised this Midwestern spring, I do have hope in my heart for summer. I am planning to go out during the sunniest, warmest part of the day to just bask. Just be with my own thoughts, wrapped in warmth and brightness. I am looking forward to our apartment’s pool opening, and as soon as it’s warm enough I will be going all the time.

Michael is still looking for a second job, and I am seeking opportunities to earn a few dollars from home. Hopefully summer will bring an end to worrying about finances.

I want to learn how to braid my own hair – by summer I hope it is long enough for me to try.

I want to restart my herb garden. 

I want to wear dresses again.

I want to see a drive-in movie.

I want the sunshine to dry my tears. Penelope is my winter baby and I am desperate for summer but afraid of leaving her behind with the season.

A Money Post

A Money Post

I just want to start by saying, I feel tremendously lucky that we have such good health insurance. It is expensive to have a baby without insurance, or if your insurance has a high deductible, and it would have stung a lot more since we did not get to bring Penny home with us. But all we had to pay for my whole pregnancy and birth was a $175 co-pay. And $5.50 when the Dr. prescribed me a back support thingy at 36ish weeks.

It makes the decision to try again much easier. Still terrifying, but easy.

Though we are still not without money issues. Michael got his pay cut at work, and I am not working at all any more, so it’s not going to be easy. We’re looking to get hubby a second job, and I would go back to work if I had to, but I do not think I can work through another pregnancy. I just am not strong enough.

As of now we are getting by. We will have to cut back even more and our house-savings are at an all-time low. But any time between April and July, hubby is due for a payrise that should even us back out again and make things a little easier. And if he gets an evening job it will just be bonus money towards the house.

Establishing A Routine

Now that we’re back home, and mostly settled (I still have unpacking/laundry to finish, and we’re trying to get over some kind of monstrous cold that we contracted in England), I figured I should be getting myself into a daily routine.

I am happy that I don’t have to work, but work does make routines a lot easier. Michael has hour morning routine down pat. I have been getting up around 5.45-6am, when Michael’s alarm goes off, then I make our breakfast while he’s making his lunch, then we eat, shower, and he gets dressed and goes. Simple! Then I usually just loaf around until naptime, then start on supper when Michael gets home. Terrible, huh?

So I’m going to try setting up some kind of weekly routine, where each day has my regular daily chores, a load of laundry, general tidying, loading/unloading dishwasher, etc. And then in the afternoons I can do one big ‘weekly’ chore, like hoovering and dusting. Obviously I need to allot time to hobbies like art,writing, and knitting, because I’m even too lazy to have fun some days!

England – Recap

Chicago

Landing in Chicago. Gorgeous!

We overall had a really good time in England. It was so nice to see my sisters and brother, and my niblings! The most important thing they did for me is talk to me, and let me talk about, my motherhood experience. Most people I’ve spoken to seem to want to avoid bringing it up in case they remind me or upset me, so talking about Penelope with my sisters felt like a really nice way to honour her. My older nieces (6 & 8) understand that Penny grew in my tummy and was born straight into heaven. My eldest niece had a teacher who died, so she decided she’s the one looking after Penelope until I die. My sisters and I compared pregnancies, labour experiences, plans for my future, etc., and they encouraged me to try again as soon as possible. Which I was planning to do anyway, but it is nice to have support because I was worrying about being judged.

But we are REALLY glad to be back home. We missed our creature comforts like under-floor heating, proper water pressure (showers in England feel like you’re being slightly dribbled on by a tall Scotsman), and toilets that flush on the first try. Floors that don’t creak, doors that close all the way (and lock), and our own car used to be things we took for granted, but now we really appreciate. We didn’t get to do all the touristy things I had planned – we ran out of money and time – but we kept busy and had lots of fun.

Food Post

We have definitely been eating well during our stay in Nottingham. We have discovered such delights as chippie chips, bangers and mash, steak and wedges, home-made pie, but the best meal so far has been the Red Hot World Buffet. It had food from all over the world, including American (that I didn’t try, but I don’t think it impressed Michael), Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian, British… And a giant dessert area! I couldn’t possibly try everything they had, I tasted bits of each cuisine but I was full before round 2. To me that is the mark of a good buffet – you want to go again to try things you missed the first time!

We skipped breakfast to make sure we were starving by the time we arrived at noon. It was a gorgeous restaurant, huge and well decorated. It was designed to look like an airport as you walk in, and I saw people being ‘checked in’ with two suitcases and I cracked up laughing, because it looked like they thought it was a real airport. I was super excited to sit down and start eating! First I had sushi (which is smaller than American sushi, weird), then an array of Indian starters, then I gave a bunch of beef, noodles and veggies to a guy and he fried them up and tossed them in Satay sauce for me – it was amazing. From there I stopped taking photos, but I had a slice of pizza, some french fries, chicken nuggets, and then got started on dessert. I was full to bursting by the time I was done – and I’m not sure exactly what it’s done to my waistline. But whatever… I’ll worry about that next time we’re there :P