Works for Me Wednesday: Make your Own Hamburger Helper
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Or, Who Needs A Claymation Hand when You've Got a Plan?

Today, a recipe: Make your own Hamburger Helper. It's so easy, and you'll be kicking yourself for spending $2-3 on those little boxes of chemicals all these years! You can also make this gluten free by using chinese rice noodles and cornstarch.

We can't eat MSG or food dyes, and we would be a 3 box family by now, so this really saves money and health.

Hamburger Helper is basically meat, sauce, and noodles. The sauce usually comes in a powdered form, and is highly processed so that all you have to do is add water. I use egg noodles (plain, yolk free, whole wheat - whatever floats your boat) or no bake lasagna noodles, broken up, work well too. Now you know what to do with those crushed pieces in the bottom of the box! You can scale this up or down: the ratios are roughly 1 lb. ground meat, 8 oz. egg noodles, 16 oz. of sauce (that's two cups). But since YOU are in charge here, not Betty Crocker, you can make it noodlier, saucier, or meatier. Allow 1-1/2 oz. noodles for each adult portion and 4 oz. of uncooked meat.

Basic recipe
Brown the meat (sometimes I get sassy and use ground sausage. I always use ground turkey or turkey sausage, it's cheaper, healthier, and once you throw all the other stuff in you can't tell the difference). Add some chopped up onions if you've got them. Drain it to reduce fat (dump meat in colander, rinse with hot water, dump back in pan.)

I usually use half an onion in a recipe, but I'm lazy, too, so I sometimes chop the entire thing and save half in a sandwich baggie so I only have to wash the knife and cutting board once. Save money on soap, too!

Now, add sauce:
For Lasagna style, add 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, which I get free with coupons or buy the WalMart brand, for $1.00/16 oz. jar. I can't make this same amount of marinara sauce for cheaper than that! My family's big, so I brown 2 lbs. meat and add 2 jars of sauce, or 1 jar sauce and 1 large can of crushed tomatoes. I like the crushed tomatoes, it is thicker than tomato sauce but doesn't have chunks like diced tomatoes. Add garlic and italian seasoning to taste.

For Cheeseburger style, put about a cup of beef broth per pound of meat in a measuring cup. Add a spoonful of flour or cornstarch. Flour will give you brown gravy, cornstarch will give you a translucent sauce; use a small spoon if you go with the cornstarch. Mix it up with a fork until there are no lumps. Pour it into the skillet and bring to a boil.

For Taco style, drain 1 can of diced tomatoes into a measuring cup (15 oz. size). Add beef broth to make 1 cup, add flour, dump broth and tomatoes into pot. Add garlic and cumin, and maybe a spoonful or two of salsa if you prefer. Bring to a boil. (You can add a can of corn or whole pinto beans if you need to stretch it, or make it meatless. Use the bean juice and corn water from the can instead of adding water.)

For Stroganoff, make it like the cheeseburger style at this point, using milk instead of broth. Or use 1/3 dried milk powder mixed into 1 c. broth . Or, you can add in canned mushrooms; drain into a measuring cup and add milk to make a cup. I don't buy canned mushrooms, because they are pretty much expensive and tasteless. I buy dehydrated mushrooms at the Chinese food store (not shiitake, just generic dried mushrooms). You put them in a bowl, add boiling water, and let them sit. Much tastier, easier to store, and you get tasty mushroom water to use instead. Of course, that takes some of the convenience out of the hamburger helper style meal. Put a dash of Worcestershire sauce in if your family like it.

Bring meat and sauce to a boil, stirring often. (For stroganoff, make it a gentle simmer - don't want to have burned milk taste!)

Add the noodles and stir them in. Add more water if needed, so the noodles mix well into the sauce (note: it should not cover the noodles. You are not making soup Just enough water that you can mix the noodles in easily without a lot of clumping or your spoon getting stuck.)

Cover and continue to simmer, stirring often, until the noodles are soft (15 minutes or so down here at sea level for 16 oz. of noodles).

Now, top it off:
Lasagna style, turn off the stove and stir in some ricotta or cottage cheese, or I just sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top. Serve.

Cheeseburger, reduce heat to low, add a handful of cheddar cheese, and stir it in until it melts. Turn stove off, sprinkle more cheese on top, and serve.

Taco, turn off stove, top with cheese - monterey jack, pepper jack, or queso fresco are good choices. Serve.

Stroganoff, reduce heat to very low. Add a couple of big spoonfuls of sour cream and stir into mixture. Cook gently until heated through - do not boil! You can use non-fat plain yogurt as well, but it has a more acidic taste so it won't taste like true stroganoff.

I like this recipe because it is a true pantry recipe (except the stroganoff). Everything can be stocked and stored on a shelf, (My freezer is part of my pantry, so the meat counts as a pantry item too!) It cooks up in one pot. It's quick, convenient, and you can make it without meat for vegetarians or meatless Fridays. (Just add some sort of bean or tofu for protein.) You can easily make it fat free, or whole grain; it works as an organic recipe or regular; you can use stuff from your garden or from cans; you can use up your leftover spaghetti sauce or noodles; you can easily hide veggies in here for picky kids (shredded zucchini, carrots, smushed up white beans... )

Works for me!

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/31/2007 07:19:00 AM | Permalink | |
A Friend in Need
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 Desperate Indeed.

Our family moved to SC 6 months ago. Actually, 30 weeks ago - I got pregnant about 2 days before we arrived. In that time, I've met....

No one.

Well, I met my father-in-law, and his girlfriend. And I know my landlords. I would probably recognize my kid's teachers on the street. That's it!

It's a little strange here.

In Colorado, I had lots of friends, acquaintances, friends of friends. My 5 sisters and 2 brothers lived there also. My biggest problem was planning a get together, and fitting everyone in my house (there's 16 adults in my immediate family alone! Plus 14 children age 8 and under.)

Here, I'm missing that Southern Hospitality- which I've mentioned before. People have actually turn their backs on me if I am walking up the street. We live on the corner, and our next door neighbor came over once, right after we moved in. I've never seen him since (although, he's older and single - 6 little kids are probably intimidating for him). The kids have friends that they play with on our street, but their parents all work, and they are latch key kids. Occasionally I wave at their moms. That's as far as it goes. Empty houses as far as the eye can see.

I do not know a single other stay at home mother. My church is fairly small, and in the next town over. There are 8 children that attend there - 6 of them are mine. One mother of a 1 year old lives 30 miles west of church (I live 30 miles east of church) and the other mom works full time. I've been to the town church, which is closer, but don't usually attend there because there is a lot of singing (and I mean A LOT. Like 20 hymns throughout Mass. People spend the entire time in their hymnals and don't even crack their missals.) Not only do the deacons purify the sacred vessels, they chug the leftover wine and hosts first. (I know that went right over your heads if you're not Catholic. But, my readers with Roman tendencies will recognize this as A. Big. Deal.) Plus, the church that I do attend has the Latin Mass, is not in schism, and the priest is a retired psychologist who spent his life evaluating, teaching, and counseling people with mental illness. As you may have read, this is an issue my family deals with every day - and I know this is where God intends for us to be , especially as Mr R is at the age where most children begin receiving the sacraments. Mr P like him, too, because he let him go to the bathroom during confession when Mr P was nervous. The kid's only 7, and hasn't been in there that often.

We've gone to story time at the library and been the only ones there. If I take the little ones to the grocery store during the day, the other shoppers are all retired. There is one park in the entire town, and I've never seen anyone playing there. I dutifully went to PTO meetings and school plays. The other moms who aren't career women are just... not for me. They are the mothers with one child, who drive to the city to have their hair done and are, basically, ladies who lunch. I am a lady who makes lunch. From leftovers. Then decides whether to fold the laundry or take a nap. Sorry you've been living out of the laundry basket, honey!

I joined a homeschool group, but the kids there are older; also I'm not always...included? welcome? noticed? as I don't homeschool all of my children, just some of them. Not to mention, the leaders of the group are pastor's wives (different pastors at different churches, there must be some sort of coalition!) here in the Bible belt, and seem to have enough friends in their own church, but I'm welcome to stop by for services...

Usually, it's not too much of a problem. Husband dear is working a job that actually gives him weekends off, and he's home at a normal time every night. So he's home a lot, for once (after 4 months of living away from us, that's nice.) I still talk to my Colorado friends online, or by phone. Even if we talk less often, I still feel just as close. I'm not really lonely, as such.

There are a few times I really notice the hole that neighbors and local friends fill. My FIL's girlfriend works at a local Abbey, which is a tourist stop as well. The brothers support themselves in part by raising chickens- lots and lots of chickens, and selling the eggs to specialty shops. They are free-range chickens in a town with no health food store, so they go fast.
The monks hatched some new chicks. For the first couple of months, the chickens lay "beginner eggs" - too small to be sold. So they give them away. We gladly said we'd take some. Then, she showed up with two cases. A case of eggs holds 30 dozen. Now, I can make a carton eggs into quite a variety of dinners, but 720 eggs is a lot. We decided to give them away - took some to neighbors (who took the eggs, but still haven't ever talked to us). Husband gave some away at work. Finally, we put an ad on Freecycle.

So no one to give eggs to. No big deal. But there is also no one to help in an emergency. No one to ask to keep an eye out for our stolen bike. No one to find out the secret shopping place for good meat. No one to let me know that the town Christmas parade is a waste of time, but the Martin Luther King, Jr. activities are not to be missed.

No one to call in an emergency. Last Saturday, we were faced with the prospect of taking 6 small children with us to the hospital. I've been having blood sugar issues, blood pressure issues, and contraction issues and they all kind of came together after Miss E's party on Saturday. I normally contract every 5 minutes for several hours at a time. They might come and go, and pretty much they are just the Braxton Hicks variety that is all show and no dilation. I'm probably the only woman who gets the "turkey check" (you know, where they stick their hand up in there like they've got cornbread stuffing on Thanksgiving morning) at 24 weeks. By the time you get to #7, you just accept it. But my blood pressure was 150/90 and you couldn't see the bones in my legs due to swelling. Oh, it was 11 pm as well. And raining. Fortunately, the pressure went down after some time flat on my back (which really stinks with the contractions. Mine always hurt more if I'm on my back.) Heaven only knows what we'll do when the baby is actually born - although my little sister might come visit us the week before Easter and the baby is due around that time.

So, bloggy friends, keep me in your prayers that I'll meet some friends IRL.
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/30/2007 06:54:00 AM | Permalink | |
First paid writing submission!
Monday, January 29, 2007

I finally got someone to pay me for my random thoughts wisdom.

Associated Content lets you submit articles and they pay a token amount - but hey, it's a step in the right direction! Especially because the better paying magazines require you to have a portfolio of published work before they will even consider you.

if it seems a little...familiar... it's because it *might* have Worked for Me on Wednesday.

If you want to help a girl out, check out the article or recommend it to anyone you think might benefit. If I can get enough hits, they might pay me more money and/or offer me more for my next article!

If any of you wonderful, thoughtful readers out in Bloggetyville are also writers, click this button and let them know I sent you. My AC email is mommyjo2(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Join Associated Content
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/29/2007 03:26:00 PM | Permalink | |
Montessori Monday: Discipline
Or, Don't These Desks Come with Shackles?

A frequently misunderstood principle of the Montessori method is discipline. Many people, after hearing a brief overview of her methods, or seeing a "Montessori-inspired" school (as opposed to one that only employs certified Montessori teachers), jump to the conclusion that Maria Montessori was all about letting kids do whatever they want, when they want.
Critics hear the phrase "liberty of the child" and alarm bells ring so loudly in their minds they never hear the rest of the sentence.

First, one needs to remember that Dr. Montessori developed her methods at the turn of the 20th century, in the poorest of poor neighborhoods in Italy. Not exactly a time and place conducive to a happy childhood. It was not a time when child development with black and white toys and classical music boxes played in utero were common place; children were to be seen and not heard, education, should it occur at all (this was before free, public schools in that country), was generally force feeding of dry facts to memorize and a student should have no opinion on anything at any time. It was not a happy, fuzzy trip to the elementary school in which children would have a tough decision whether to use the sand or the water table that day.

I think the words of Maria Montessori herself will help dispel any notions of a chaotic free-for-all in the early education classroom:
"...Liberty is activity. Discipline must come through liberty. Here is a great principle which is difficult for followers of common-school methods to understand. How shall one obtain discipline in a class of free children? Certainly in our system, we have a concept of discipline very different from that commonly accepted. If discipline is founded upon liberty, the discipline itself must necessarily be active. We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.
We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself, and can, therefore, regulate his own conduct wehn it shall be necessary to follow some rule of life."
- Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method

In short, just as Dr. Montessori advocated education for life, she advocated discipline for life as well. She envisioned a school where children were taught to move, rather than sit still (that is, to move without making undue noise, without disturbing others, with purposeful and useful movements).

The children are free because they are disciplined - not just when Teacher is around, but a self discipline they can take with them to many different situations.

Montessori never advocated letting a child do as he pleases - he must be taught self discipline in a loving environment:

The liberty of the child should have as its limit the collective interest...We must, therefore, check in the child whatever offends or annoys others, or whatever tends toward rough or ill-bred acts.

"...avoid the arrest of spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary tasks. It is understood that here we do not speak of useless or dangerous acts, for these must be suppressed, destroyed."
- Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method

The liberty of the child lies in allowing him to decide his activities, and to allow him to work on an activity for as long as he feels necessary. He should be uninterrupted, and not forced to complete a work if he stops without finishing every part of the work.

(Note: I refer here to "work", and "works". These are the tools that a child uses in his learning, and activities to master. You'd probably call most of them toys or manipulatives. My daughter's blocks are her works, as well as her pegboard, baby doll, pouring exercise, broom, puzzle... she spends her morning doing her work, and I do mine. The concept of "work" vs. "play" is worthy of another post, so I won't go into detail here.)

The death of liberty in the Montessori classroom is to arbitrarily require a child to stop his work, to break his attention, and to call him to complete a series of useless tasks. (Ever read Holes, where the children are forced to dig a hole and fill it in?) A famous hallmark of the Montessori system is the Three Hour Work Period - children are allowed to pursue spontaneous education for three hours, without being required to attend a class, stop their work because it is convenient for the teacher to take them to the bathroom, or so on. In a way, they are at their leisure in pursuing educational activities... which brings us to the Prepared Environment.

I'll be posting on the Prepared Environment in the future, and I would like to call for pictures of your Montessori environment if you have them to publish with that post! So please e-mail me:
mommyjo2(at)yahoo(dot)com. Or even your schoolroom/kids area in your home!

Read Dr. Montessori's Own Handbook, digitized by Google!

posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/29/2007 08:30:00 AM | Permalink | |
Don't Burn Me at the Stake
Saturday, January 27, 2007

I'm not a heretic!

I guess all of my reading has paid off.

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

How about you?

H/T to A Catholic Mom in Hawaii

**** UPDATED TO ADD ****

Pelagianism is an early heresy that denied Original Sin and also grace. Basically, Pelagius denied that there was a Paradise where Adam wouldn't die and that death and sin entered the world by his act in the Garden of Eden. He also denied that Christ's death opened the gates of Heaven, saying that some Old Testament people could have gone there by following Moses' laws.
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/27/2007 08:09:00 AM | Permalink | |
I Can't Believe I Did This
Friday, January 26, 2007

Or, good party fun on a budget.

We're not having any fun this Friday... well, I'm having fun but it probably won't amuse you!

I am participating in AntiProcastination Day, graciously hosted by Mrs. Wilt of The Sparrow's Nest.
****UPDATED TO ADD **** It also qualifies as a Frugal Friday for BiblicalWomanhood! Woo-hoo, a Mr. Linky two-fer!

Of course, I put off getting started, so the "day" runs from noon Thursday to noon today!

What project, much procrastinated, did I take on?

Getting ready for Miss E's sixth birthday party. Which is Saturday. Like, tomorrow. Yes, if I were to join the Procrastination Olympics, I'd take the bronze! (I could've had a gold, if I had gotten around to training for it...)

I vaguely planned on getting ready Friday night, leaching into Saturday morning. But, Mr P was home sick from school, which always messes up my schedule (I don't know why... he pretty much just lays on the couch!), so I thought I'd tackle some party prep.

My children don't get a big party every year, so this is a big deal. It's actually the first real birthday party she has had.

I had already bought most of the materials I needed, and planned the games. I had carefully stored them hidden them at midnight on a moonless night, craftily using my sewing machine box, so the candy was pretty much intact. I practiced the craft we are doing (making lace fans, decorated with ribbons, flowers, and butterfly stickers), made a model to show the girls, made the goodie bags (yeah, they're white lunch bags. I'm cheap.), and filled them. I also decorated the cake.

I wrote down the Grand Plan, and some games, including a couple of ideas for games to play while waiting for parents to pick up their girls or while waiting for other guests to arrive.

Grand Plan
The Cake - Homemade - and finished now!

The Decorations
- the usual suspects- crepe paper, balloons. I have some butterfly wall decals I bought for over the baby's bed, and I'll put those up as well. We'll also use some tea party-ish lady like things I already have, including candles, lace runners, and flowers from the yard.

The Fun
- Victorian lace fan craft, Butterfly in the Web game, Pin the Butterfly on the flower, Butterfly Teacup scoop, and Toss the Butterfly in the Basket. The invitations asked everyone to come in their best tea party clothes, so the games are all of the 'parlor' variety. The Butterfly web game is probably the most active- give each girl a different colored ball of yarn, have them toss them into the middle, and then untangle. I plan this for the very end, because you can play it more than once and if someone has to leave in the middle it's okay.

The Food - the party is at 2 pm. We will have Red Zinger tea, lemonade, and mulled cider. I also plan peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (cut into shapes with a butterfly cookie cutter), Fairy Bread (raisin bread, cream cheese, and colored sugar sprinkles), fruit salad (a can of pineapple chunks, a can of mandarin oranges, and some marachino cherries), cake, and ice cream. Not much food, the cake is the 'big star', but the party is in the middle of the afternoon. If it were at a meal time, I'd plan more (and better) food.

The Party Favors
- I cut down white lunch bags, punched holes in the top, threaded it with ribbon and glued a fake flower to the front. I managed to dig out my mini glue gun, so the flower was pretty easy! The bags contain Tootsie Rolls, Smarties, Jolly Ranchers, butterfly stickers, butterfly shaped erasers, a candy necklace, and a couple of balloons.

The Craft: I got a package of rectangle paper doilies at the dollar store. We will decorate with gel pens, butterfly stickers, and ribbons, then fold accordian style and I will glue a flower on. Here's my prototype, which was another item I'd been procrastinating!

I even made buttercream frosting for the first time earlier this week, and just needed to use it. It turned out well. I hate to even begin to imagine how many calories it contains, as I used 1 cup of Crisco and 2 sticks of butter! I even bought clear vanilla extract and brand name shortening, even though I had generic in my cupboard, so you can see I am really trying! It came out a beautiful white.

I also made a cake from scratch. Although Miss E is having a butterfly teaparty, she really, really wanted a Princess Cake. You know, the ones with the doll and the dress. I bought a decorating kit by Wilton for $6 and promised to try my best. I think it turned out well.

The true challenge of a procrastinator? Last year, we had planned a little tea party for Miss E. We cancelled 3 different times due to sickness in the family. When the baby got RSV, I pretty much gave up and promised her a party for birthay #6. I had found a set of 8 cups and a matching creamer at the thrift store, and I got some coordinating saucers as well.

I finally got around to pulling the price tags off of the tea cups I bought. A year later. After moving them across the country, with the price tags and grease pencil still on them. Thank goodness for GooGone! I also polished up the two silver platters I got at the same time while I was at it.

I'll let you know how it turns out tomorrow!

Whew! I can't believe I got that much done and still managed to make a real dinner (okay, it was pork chops and cornbread. Stick it in the oven, turn it on, and forget about it.)
Husband dear was so kind to take care of loading the dishwasher and he even washed the pans! (usually he lets them sit in nasty cold water for a couple of days soak.

I still have some things to do, though. I'm going to take down our Christmas tree... yes, I know it's been a month since Christmas! I told you, I'm a procrastinator of epic proportions. To be fair, we celebrate the Epiphany and I don't take down the Christmas decorations until 8 days later (the Octave). So I'm actually only about a week and a half behind on that. I refuse to have it up for Miss E's party though!

I also need to make the raisin bread, clear off our side table (that's a major hot spot), and do a general clean up. I'm going to try to tackle the Montessori shelves (since, you know, you can see them from the front door). The "kid" portion looks good - we put it in order everyday - but the Mommy section where I keep my books, binders, plans, and extra supplies is a little messy. Somehow a ton of husband dears tools, valves, fittings, and guitar pieces have been scattered about the top as well. The top of the Montessori shelves are another major hotspot - the kids can't reach up there and I can see them from the living room, kitchen/dining room, and computer for security purposes. I want to get to vacuuming out the couch cushions as well. I may make some cupcakes as well... the tea party is for little girls only, but Miss E's actual birthday is Sunday, so we are having a family celebration then, and I'd like to take it to church.

I'll do most of the heavy cleaning tomorrow - it won't do any good to do it today with the family home all afternoon. Husband dear is taking the children tomorrow so that's when I'll bleach the toilet, mop the hallway, and so on. I've been keeping up pretty well, and clean the bathroom (counters, mirror, wipe down toilet, and sweep) everyday - necessary with 3 small boys using it - so I think the actual cleaning part will be easy! I'm so glad I won't have to do a 6 hour marathon! A HUGE factor to this is assigning the children rooms - they switch weekly. So one child straightens the living room and vacuums everyday, one takes care of the Montessori room, and one is in charge of wiping off the chairs and sweeping the kitchen everyday. They do it right before Daddy gets home and dinner time and it has made a big difference to me - the rooms are tidied every day and it saves on my bending down, which always gives me contractions for some reason.

Here's the breakdown of the party costs for my frugal friends who might be interested.

Cake - I don't know how much it cost. I made it myself. It has butter, eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla... the usual suspects. It's just a basic yellow cake, I estimate maybe .50?
Frosting - 2 sticks of real butter, $1.00 1 c. Crisco (the whole can cost $3, so maybe .10?) 2 lbs. powdered sugar, $1.32. Clear vanilla extract, $2 (only used 2 tsp. though, so I'll generous allot .40)
Cake decorating kit $5.96 (included food coloring); I'll be able to use the tips and coloring for many other projects, but I'll include the whole cost here.
Barbie doll $1
Candles .70
Cake: $10.98 (although, the cake decorating kit is reuseable and accounts for 60% of the cost).

Favor bags for 8 girls, craft, and decorations:
White lunch bags - free. I have had this package for over a year, and only use it for things like this, or making puppets.
Ribbon - bought a huge spool at the dollar store, with 4 different colors. $1 (for all projects, and then some).
Butterfly stickers $2 - put some in favor bags, will use some for craft.
Rectangle paper doilies $1 (to make fans)
4 stems fake flowers, $4
4 pack glitter gel pens $1
Crepe paper $1 for 2 rolls of pink, I have some green leftover from a party long, long ago.
Tablecloth -purple plastic, butterfly happy birthday plates, butterfly napkins $3
Invitations with glitter stickers $2 (No postage, we gave them out at school and church)
Prizes for games - pretty journal with blank pages for drawing, teapot shaped tinket box, porcelain mini tea set, butterfly stamp $2 total.
Foam butterflies for game $1
Butterfly erasers, for favor bags $1
Tea cups, creamer, saucers, $2.50 total (again, reuseable. I've actually been using the creamer for months as part of our Montessori pouring exercises).
Sprinkles for 'fairy bread', blue and yellow $1.50
Candy for favor bags $1.50 (actually, this is from the stash of candy I already have on hand for potty treats and such so I only actually bought the candy necklaces at the dollar store.)
Ice Cream $2.50 (half gallon)
(Most of the food will be made from things I have on hand already and usually stock. I'll be making the breads in the breadmaker)

Total for party: $28.00 plus cake - $39.00 total

Can you see why I love the Dollar store?

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/26/2007 07:19:00 AM | Permalink | |
Thoughtful Thursday: Parenting in Public
Thursday, January 25, 2007
This week, a story hit the news about a three year old having a temper tantrum and being removed from a flight. The parents wanted time to hold her and calm her down, or to be allowed for the mother to hold the child during takeoff. Airline rules require that children over age two be secured in an FAA approved car seat during takeoffs and landings. After several minutes of toddler tears, the family was escorted off the flight; they were given free roundtrip tickets anywhere in the US as well as refunded the cost of their tickets. The family flew home the next day, vowing to never use that particular airline again.

And then the media and armchair experts pounced.

Obviously, public opinion holds, the parents were horrible, lousy, and too permissive. How could they lose control of a three year old?

I have a different perspective. I've been there, and done that. My child, later diagnosed with a neurological disorder, could have been that little girl.

I wasn't there, so I don't know exactly what went on, or what the parents were doing about it. It's clear that the child was overwhelmed - whether because she was used to getting her way all the time and suddenly was expected to obey, or because she lost it from all of the disruptions, strange foods, odd smells and sounds, and general chaos and differentness of a vacation.

I'm inclined to give the parents the benefit of the doubt. I try to do that, if I can. I might mention to my husband what bad parenting I saw at the grocery store, but not because a child is crying. I only judge when I see the parent say "no" 5 times, then put the Cocoa Puffs in the cart anyway; barely mutter a vague warning at their monkey child who is climbing the banana display, but not take any action or bother to look up from their cell phone conversation; or tell their child to "shut the $&@* (heck) up before I kick your *%$ (punish) you". I think this is also why I love watching Nanny 911 - it's rubbernecking for moms. It's such a disaster you can't look away.

I've been in that desperate spot, when your kid has a mind of his own and is acting like he's possessed. I always wanted to scream at the onlookers, who were tsk-tsking at him - You're making it worse! My other kids are normal! I'm not a bad mommy!

A worse phenomenon are people who interfere as though they are child's advocate, insinuating you are the worst child abuser they've ever seen. I've met up with my share of those, too.

Once, at McDonald's, my two year old decided to pitch a fit. She wanted a drink of my soda, not her own milk, and I uttered the Big N word (no). She thrashed, wailed, threw her drink and food. I got her out of her chair, put her on the floor (rubber mat and padded, in the Playland) and told her I'd talk to her when she was done whining and screaming. Then I went back to talking to my sister-in-law. (You know, the whole ignore a fit thing. Plus I wasn't planning to spank her in the company of 20 strangers and their kids.) Another mother, experienced in pop psychology via talk shows, approached me to provide therapy.

Here's a snippet of that conversation:
OprahMom: She feels abandoned by you because you got up to get more ice and didn't include her.
Me: No, she's two and throwing a fit because she didn't get her way.
OprahMom: You can't let her just lay on the floor like that. It's not safe or clean.
Me: It's probably cleaner than the Playland equipment. They do mop the floor occasionally.
OprahMom: Now she feels like you don't care about her at all. You have to meet her needs.
Me: She'll get over it.
OprahMom: But...
Me: Look, when I start parenting by popular opinion at McDonald's, you'll be the first to know.

I think I scandalized my new sister-in-law when I ended the conversation by turning my back on the woman and starting to eat. By this time, daughter dear got bored with the fit and decided she would like her milk in her own cup after all. As OprahMom was leaving, I noticed that her 5 year old had a mohawk and an earring.

Now, back to the little girl who lost it on the airplane. As I said before, I don't know the circumstances contributing to her fit. Maybe it was bad parenting. Maybe she ate too many french fries in the terminal. Maybe she's a brat. Maybe she's got a mood disorder.

If I were the parents, though, I would not have insisted that the entire plane continue to wait on her while she stabilized her emotions. Teaching a child that the world must stop simply because you have a problem doesn't teach anything but a whiny, martyrdom attitude. Frankly, I'd have jumped at the chance to deboard and catch another flight without penalties. Getting free roundtrip tickets in the bargain as well? That'd tempt me to pinch the baby to make her cry!

That's where I feel the need to point out their error. They are the reason this has become national news (you don't think the airline advertised this situation, do you?). They are the ones so firmly entrenched in the culture of me that they can't have compassion or empathy for the flight crew, the other passengers, or even the other flights scheduled to leave and arrive.

The parents' big complaint seems to be that they were not allowed to hold her or calm her down. I think that's wrong -but that's exactly what the airline offered. A chance to go to a calm, neutral environment, where they could take their time without pressure (and without the strange noises, smells, and glares of angry adults who don't remember what it was like to be three years old). No, the parent's real complaint is that they didn't get exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it, how they wanted it.

Perhaps if any parenting is obviously to blame, it's the little girl's grandparents, who did not teach their children, the girl's parents, to think JOY (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last) but raised spectacular examples of the "me" generation.

Your thoughts on the matter? Have you ever been approached and taken to task by a clueless stranger because you were being too strict, or too permissive? How do you handle children whose parents let them do whatever they want and don't discipline them?
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/25/2007 09:36:00 AM | Permalink | |
WFMW: Getting kids out of bed
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
My son is hard to get up. His doctors have an official name for it: Sleep Inertia. Yeah, he's inert all right! :)

My other children get up all right. I wake them, they get dressed, eat, catch the bus. We lay all of our clothes out the night before, find all of the shoes, put the backpacks by the front door, and find the hairbrush and that helps tremendously, especially when my daughter thinks she's going to wear her sweat pants with holes. Their clothes are approved and ready to go.

My oldest, age 8 now, is something else. We would struggle with me pulling him from bed, putting ice on him, and physically putting the clothes on him, while he slept or kicked and fought me so he could sleep. Not a pretty sight. I'm not a morning person to begin with, and if you throw in a 45 minute knock down- drag out fight to put shoes on a kindergartner (including interludes of pulling child from under bed, out of closet, and from behind couch), and my whole day was ruined.

So, now he sleeps in his clothes. I know it sounds weird, but the little guy had some sensory issues before we changed his diet, and would often put his clothes on over his pajamas and wear the jammies all day anyway. This basically cuts out the extra laundry, and he doesn't have to worry about putting clothes on in the morning. He changes at night, sleeps in his school clothes, and in the morning, all he has to do is put his shoes on. He might look a little rumpled (although, honestly, he's a first grader. Most of his clothes are wash and wear and don't look any worse for the wear). Plus, it's easier for me to make sure he changes his underwear and socks everyday. Our mornings went from stressful yelling to fairly peaceful. The baby often sleeps right through the prep now.

The other helpful tip - the hair. His hair is kept very short, so he doesn't need to brush it. Plus, we save money because we can cut it ourselves with electric clippers.
Works for me!

Here are some links about sleep inertia. Basically, it is the grogginess everyone has for a few minutes after waking up. In some people, though, it is extreme to the point you cannot get them up or it persists for a long time.

The Morning Battleground
- from the Bipolar Child
Mood Disorders and Sleep - from

Labels: , , ,

posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/24/2007 07:00:00 AM | Permalink | |
Montessori Monday: Education for Life
Monday, January 22, 2007
There are many misconceptions about a Montessori education. Most people are only familiar with Montessori preschools, and think that the method only applies to early childhood, as a preparation for "real school". Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Maria Montessori was an advocate of education for life. She defined several "sensitive periods", when a child was the most open to a particular concept or idea. She also did not see the child as an entity separate from the world, a blank slate to be molded by parents or teachers. Her view was more that the child was like a flower, containing everything he needed to become a man; the role of the adults in his life were to facilitate and lead - more shepherds than sculptors; after all, the child had already been formed by God himself. This is the reason Montessori schools have Directresses (or Directors), not teachers.

From "The Absorbent Mind": (Although Dr. Montessori died in 1952, these premises are still applicable today)
The education of our day is rich in methods, aims and social ends, but one must still say that it takes no account of life itself.

Education, as today conceived, is something separated both from biological and social life. All who enter the educational world tend to be cut off from society.

The world of education is like an island where people, cut off from the world, are prepared for life by exclusion from it... There are graduates so nervous that when they pass out into the world, they are useless to themselves, and a burden to family and friends.

A growing problem today are college graduates who aren't leaving the nest. Twenty-somethings who behave more like teenagers, who have a scholastic degree, but no degree of independence or self motivation. After being chewed up by the school machine, taking tests, putting in their time, they are spit out into the world without a clue as to how to be in the world. So they get a job, hopefully in their field of study, and pass the years as "kidults", spending their paychecks on nights out with friends, X-boxes, and buying things like nice cars it took their parents years to earn. We all know someone who suffers from "Peter Pan syndrome", refusing to grow up.

I am 28 years old, and I very often can't believe the shallowness and immaturity of some other people my age. I have a very difficult problem relating to a 25 year old who is pouting because her dad won't pay for her car insurance, or who quits his job (and why shouldn't he, since he still lives at home) because his boss doesn't understand that every single guy has a right to have at least one Friday night off a month and why does the Boss get to make the schedule, anyway, couldn't it be a group project? (Never mind that he is at his liberty on Saturday night, and has Mondays off.)

Montessori promoted an education from birth, with an aim not to
turn out a person with a diploma, but to prepare a child to become a man (or woman) who would be a

...bright new hope for mankind. Not reconstruction, but help for the constructive work that the human soul is called upon to do, and to bring to fruition.
The means which she promoted to attain this lofty goal was treating the child as a dignified individual; not an inconvenience, but as a person. She advocated a prepared environment, in which the child was able to do for himself - furniture in his size, tools he could get his small fingers around, and an orderly place to work. A child's play is his work, and so his toys should be good quality, not faddish, cheap, or broken and also should be treated with respect (by the child and by others).

Children were not meant to simply memorize the facts their teachers wanted them to know, but to discover and apply knowledge. They are not mindless dolls, learning the tricks to keep their masters happy; they are meant to become a fully formed and realized creation of God, capable of doing the work He sets out for them. They need training, yes, but not to be a mindless robot; they need training in order to become a mindful adult.

Look around your home. Do you want your 6 year old to help you sweep the floor, but your broom is 5 feet long (and he's only 40 inches tall)? Do you want him to merely sweep the floor at your request, or to spontaneously see that it needs to be done and take the initiative to do it himself? (Yeah. Still working on that one at Mama's house.) Do you want her to learn to solve her own problems, and be resourceful, but you insist on doing everything for her so that it's done 'right' or quickly? Have you looked carefully at what you do with and for your children, with a view that looks past the now and into 10, 15, 20 years from now? As you go through your week, notice the traits you are encouraging in your children. Are you educating them for life, or just for this minute's convenience?

Feel free to answer this question in the comments: What does education for life mean for you and your family?

PS - here's a great tip from Barbara Curtis at Mommylife:
Teaching a child to sweep
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/22/2007 09:06:00 AM | Permalink | |
Friday Fun: Grammar Police
Friday, January 19, 2007

It seems everyone has a blog these days.

It also seems that not everyone passed High School English.

So, like any good Mama, I've got some grammar advice, all wrapped up in pithy bullet points suitable for any cross-stitched sampler:

1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat.)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
8. Be more or less specific.
9. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should never generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice.
23. Kill all exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Profanity is for asses.
26. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth Earthshaking ideas.
27. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
28. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
29. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it effectively.
30. Puns are for children, not for groan readers.
31. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
32. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
33. Who needs rhetorical questions?
34. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
And finally. . .
35. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

If you find this amusing, check out The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.

Also, don't forget to vote for me in the Apron Contest! Click the button for details.

Tags: Friday Fun, Mama Says
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/19/2007 07:07:00 AM | Permalink | |
TT: Why Talk to Doorstep Theologians?
Thursday, January 18, 2007

Last week's meeting with the Mormons went well, I think. They are coming back today - they asked if they could come back - so I guess that's a good sign that I didn't bludgeon them with angry heated words and treat them like dirt!

When I meet people who want to share Jesus with me, I always say "sure". My thoughts are this:
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15-16
God tells us to always be ready to defend and explain the hope of the Gospel that is within us.

These "missionaries", or Jehovah's Witnesses, or others may have never been exposed to actual Christian teaching. They may only have heard their church's take on what Christians believe, without actually asking a Christian. This gives me the chance to stand up, speak out, and expose them to some Truth.

Often, a persecution complex is drilled into them. Christians hate them, will stop at nothing to prevent them from telling the Truth; Christians are hypocrites, Christians don't love us. They may have never been greeted warmly, shown hospitality, or had true Christian charity demonstrated. I may be planting a little seed - the next time an elder in their church starts spouting off how evil Christians are because we walk in darkness, a little voice may speak up in the back of these visitor's head: "Well, that one lady with the cookies didn't seem evil. She wasn't mean". A tiny seed of doubt, to be sure, but it's all about baby steps!

Someone, somewhere has to sow, so there can be a harvest later. And in the tradition of Mamas everywhere, not to mention the Little Red Hen, I'll undertake the thankless, no glory, all sweat and tears work.

Also, this is one way I can "love my neighbor" in our world of strangers living next to each other.
If the Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, etc. is spending time with me, they are not evangelizing anyone else with a false gospel. I am taking their resources, and every handout they give me is one less they have to give someone else. I always take Watchtower tracts and magazines wherever I find them - doctor's office, restaurant newspaper stands - to protect those without discernment. (I'm just like that I guess - I turn the Cosmo magazines and such over at the grocery store lines too so they are not exposed.)

We are having a few difficulties, and I think maybe next time we'll have to agree on some definitions. For example, we obviously don't agree on what "prophet" means. They seem to think that all of the Patriarchs are prophets (and the prophets too, and also, strangely, some of the Protestant reformers), including Adam. I would define prophet as a man called by God to call His people to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah - and often granted knowledge of the Messiah and future events which they had to pass on.
Another definition? "Only begotten". They define "First Born" and "Only Begotten" interchangeably - I just don't understand that, I think the meaning is pretty clear. So we'll need to work out exactly what one means when using certain words.

When I initially spoke to them, they encouraged me to go to their church's website, which is heavy on quick platitudes and short on in depth philosophy. It's what Rick Warren would write, if he was a Mormon. I think I blindsided them a bit when I mentioned that I had been to their website and had a few questions. I actually printed out materials from their website, underlining things and writing my questions and relevant scriptures in the margin. However, the main Mormon wasn't too interested - he just wanted to get into his speech.

Where to start? The prolife issue, of course! I don't think these guys have ever discussed their church's stand on abortion - or even thought of it. They didn't know if their church had decided that life begins at conception or birth, or quickening, or viability. Most people don't know, but Mormons are not sold out pro-lifers. They do the whole "rape, medical reasons, emotional trauma" exception. Actually, their stand seems to be, according to the missionaries, abortion is wrong, but if it's rape, etc., we won't tell the mother it's wrong or subject her to Church discipline. What the Heavenly Father does at judgement is between him, and her. Which leads then to the result that LDS church discipline is separate and independent from God... a topic I may bring up next week.

To me, the issue is clear. Either the baby is a human being, with life and all of the God-given rights, or it's not, it's just a blob of tissue until it hits the other side of the birth canal. If it is a human being from conception, than the circumstances of conception (rape, etc.) will not change that fact. It is not "less of a person" because the mother may experience a difficult pregnancy, or is ill. So you can't kill it, being an innocent bystander and all. Apparently, prolife apologetics are neglected in their training, because clearly, we were on ground they had not been given a sales speech thinking about.

I've found the most fruitful discussions with Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, et. al., come from diverting them away from their canned speeches into subjects where they don't have a quick, memorized response that trips off the tongue.

So, I also asked them their opinion of the Great Flood (whole world, or whole world known to Noah? What about dolphins and other air breathing but sea dwelling animals?) not because it is a critical matter of faith and morals, but to get them into Bible territory that they may not have ever thought of before. Also because I have joined a "Read the Bible in 90 days" Bible study group and that's the chapter I was on the day they showed up, so I had everything fresh in my mind. When the discussion devolved into the topic of spiritual lettuce existing before it grows in the ground (they believe all souls have been created, and spirit babies are waiting to become people)... we called it a night.

The meeting was not as bizarre as the one I had with a sect I had never heard of, whose adherents in the Denver area come mainly from the Korean immigrant community, and whose main belief is that if you are not keeping the feasts set down in the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), you are going straight to hell. I'd never seen a Korean to English KJV Bible before! But I hope these meetings will be more fruitful.

Tags: Thoughtful Thursday, Catholic, Prolife
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/18/2007 07:56:00 AM | Permalink | |
How to Save on Food
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Without Losing Your Mind

Couponing. Price Books. Menus. You've heard it all before. You know you should. You wish you could. But somehow, you just can't make it work.

Here is my system. I've used it for 6 years, so I'd say it works! At least for me!

Buy a plastic 4"x6" index card box. Buy some index cards while you are at it. Get the big one, not the 3"x5" - it's not big enough to use as a coupon organizer. Go ahead and buy it new, retail - you WILL save by shopping! Plus, you need it to be functional, not a cracked or bent hand-me-down. I say plastic because it tends to stay closed better, is durable, and cheaper, but if you like wood, knock yourself out. Get a hair tie (lasts longer than a rubberband) to hold it shut. We're not too proud at Mama's house to flaunt our frugal use of Goody products.

Now, you will be using this to file your coupons, help plan menus, keep track of prices, and prevent disastrous stocking up on bad things.

First, we'll make some divider cards. Get several cards and label them CLEARLY in the upper left hand corner with your coupon categories. For examply, my categories start with Baby (diapers, shampoo, etc. go here). Batteries and Lightbulbs. Car (oil change, tire coupons). Candy (oops... how'd that category get in there?) Just brainstorm what you can. If you need to add something later, you can simply make a new card and insert it - you don't have to worry you'll mess up the pattern.
I file alphabetically, since I shop at many different stores. If you always shop at the same one, you might try filing them aisle by aisle. It's your box, do what works for you.

When you clip coupons, you will place them behind the divider cards. You may find that you have a billion coupons for one type of product. For example, I started with "Hygiene" but had to add cards for Soap, Shampoo, and Shaving as well.

Behind the coupon cards, make some Meat dividers as well (or your staple you base a meal around, for vegans). My box has "Chicken", "Boneless Chicken Breast", Ground Beef, Ground Turkey, Steak (Round, Chuck, etc.) and so on. I also have a "Leftover Bird" card.
Recipes you love, or want to try and clipped out of a magazine, go filed here, behind the appropriate card.

On the front of your meat card, list the meals you cook most often using those ingredients. My "Ground Turkey" card, for example, has Taco Salad, Meaty Beans and Rice (light beans), Spaghetti Sauce, Lasagna, and so on written on it; my Leftover Bird card has "Divan (cheese, rice, broccoli)" "Soup" , "Tacos", "Enchiladas (corn tortillas, sour cream), "Creamed Chicken (egg noodles)... you know what you cook. The things in parenthesis are special ingredients that are needed. Do this so that when you are at the store and they have a killer markdown on hamburger, you know what you will make with it, and you will buy all of the ingredients right then and there. This way, you don't come home with 10 lbs. of chuck steak and only a vague idea of how you will be consuming it someday.

The index cards also serves as my price book. A price book is a notebook or other system where you can keep track of how much things cost. That way, if you see a sale for Cheerios, $1.99 a 16 oz. box (12.4 cents/oz) you can look at your card and see that you only pay 10 cents/oz. for the Malt-O-Meal version at your regular store. No need to stock up on cereal that's actually more expensive. This can really help the impulse buying. Grocery stores know that if they put a product on an endcap and mark it 2/$4, they will sell more of the product than if it's on a regular shelf for $1.99. This helps you outwit them.

For example, I might have a card labelled "Canned Tomatoes". On the front of the card, I would put the store, price, and unit price of my "best finds". Example:
Canned Tomatoes
WalMart (Great Value) 28 oz. .96 .08 per oz.
Kroger (DelMonte) 28 oz. 1.19 .0425 per oz.
Best sale 2/99 cents = .0177 per oz. 11/19/06
Now, notice I list more than one store - if the cheapest store is sold out, but you MUST have the ingredient tonight, you know where to go next. Often, the regular grocery stores will run fantastic sales - usually before Thanksgiving, Easter, and July 4; often their other sales are on a 6 week cycle. This is so you can be aware of when an item might hit the sale rack next time, and let you know if you should buy 3 cans or 10 cans until that happens. For the newbies, just get in the habit of tracking how much stuff costs you. Then when you spot DelMonte on sale at Big Lots, you'll know whether it's actually a good price or not.

An extra bonus of using these together are stores that double coupon. I've gotten Ragu for free very often, because our Kroger store runs a "Buy one Get one Free sale" every 8 weeks or so. Ragu in a jar costs $1.99 there. So I stockpile my .50 /off Ragu coupons; I buy one, get one free. Usually, you can use one coupon per jar. I give the clerk two .50/off coupons; they double to $2.00 but I only owe the store $1.99. Walgreens often will actually give you the penny back, it's a quirk in their computer system, I think.

Behind the card are my coupons for canned tomatoes. On the back of the card, I would write notes about the product, or what I make most often with it. Example: "Spaghetti sauce - 2 big cans crushed, 1 medium diced.
Pizza sauce - 1 can paste, 1/2 can sauce
and so on.

I also make notes for other things - like on the back of my laundry card - "Husband allergic to Tide." "Cheer smells weird"
Or my 'hygiene card' - "Curad plastic bandaids don't stick. Fabric ones are fine"
Or on the back of the cereal card "Uncle Sam cereal tastes like bird seed"
That way I don't stock up on a sale item that won't work for my family.

Now that you are all organized and ready to be thrifty, let me give you the biggest secret to saving money on food:

Cook from scratch with a menu. And a list.

Aaarrgggghhh.... I just heard the sound of a thousand teeth grinding! It's not that bad, I promise! Use these three steps to plan your week, and start slowly with the scratch cooking. Don't jump in whole hog and decide you will bake your own bread, make your own chicken broth, make noodles from scratch, and only use herbs from your garden (yet to be planted). Learning to cook takes time - do one thing. Start chopping your own vegetables, instead of buying prechopped frozen onions or sliced potatoes in a can. Learn to make a good stock from chicken bones (okay, that ones easy. The most basic is add water. Boil, (Big loud bubbles in the water), then turn down the heat to simmer (small bubbles). Go wild. Add an onion, celery, herbs.
Then master gravy making. Next, stop making mashed potatoes from a box. One thing at a time, Grasshopper, one thing.

You know I have links for you to get you started!
Cook's Thesaurus - anything you wanted to know about food, and substitutions, too.

Robbie's Kitchen - lots of reference, recipes, and cookery stuff; home remedies too!

Saving Dinner Basics - how to cook (a book to buy)

Price Book 101 - in depth article from MommySavers

Okay, back to the menu:
1) Get the grocery ads. I look them up online, actually, most stores post them on the web. Otherwise, mine come in the mail; the Wednesday paper usually has them too, in most towns. Notice what meat is on sale. This is what you will be eating (until you get a good stock going in your freezer. Then you can just eat whatever you want from the freezer, and use the sales to replenish the supply). Also note the loss leaders (when stores sell stuff like milk really cheap to get you in the door) and any produce sales.

Here is a handy tip - SuperWalMart will match any price if you bring in the current grocery ad (must be same brand and size package). So if Bird's Eye is on sale for .99 cents at PigglyWiggly, and Country Crock is on sale for .50 at Safeway, and Walmart toilet paper is the cheapest in the land, just bring your Pig and Safeway ads to Walmart and make one trip!

2) Number a piece of paper from 1-7, or 1-14 if you shop every two weeks. I do this instead of listing the days of the week, because it's faster and plans change sometimes - and it turns out Tuesday wasn't a great night for spaghetti, or it rained all day Saturday making it a good roast day. Gives me some flexibility.

Now, if chicken legs are on sale all over town for 29 cents a pound, then go to your box and look at your chicken card. Oh, you could make baked legs, barbecue legs, crockpot garlic and lime legs, chicken and dumplings, fried chicken...
You have a list of recipes that you know how to make and your family likes. Pick a couple and write them down.

Also pick at least one meal that can be thrown together in 30 min. or less for those days you are feeling sick, running behind, or forgot to take the meat out of the freezer.
Many people also include a leftover night; I don't because my husband dear likes to take leftovers for lunch, and I eat any other leftovers with the kids for my lunches.

Think about sides too. We keep it simple - a vegetable (usually frozen, sometimes canned); a salad (or just 2 different veggies), a starch (rice, noodles, potato). We do brown rice, but it takes forever to cook, not friendly when you are trying to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less! So I make the whole bag in a big pot for one meal, put the rest into gallon ziplocks, and freeze it. It takes just as long to make 3 pounds as 1 pound (well, maybe 5 minutes longer)

Don't forget to plan snacks and lunches. We usually eat leftovers, with peanut butter sandwiches rounding it out. At least write down a couple of ideas - so you have a plan when the morning slipped away from you and all of the sudden it's noon and you haven't a clue! You can plan specific snacks for specific days, or I just make a list of snack ideas. It might be helpful to have a list of breakfast ideas, too.

3) Take your grocery ads and menu and make your list. Your cards will tell you if you need something specific to make a recipe. If your feeling creative, peek at the recipes you clipped from Good Housekeeping (neatly filed and accessible now) and plan to make one of those.

Still too hard? Try the book, Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. It contains weekly menus, with recipes, and she does the grocery list for you. Also, she is a dietician, and they are healthy; all but the crockpot meals cook up in about 30 minutes, the menus are arranged by season (so you can eat fresh, seasonal veggies). You will not be 'shopping the sales' with this book, but you will still save money because you will buy food that you have a plan to eat.

You just need a couple of more things and you are DONE!

Put these in your box as well:
A card labeled "Gifts" - for when you see the perfect thing for husband or daughter, but their birthday is 6 months away. Some people write down clothing sizes, etc., too.

A small calculator (fill in your price book while you are at the store. You don't have to actually buy the food to note the price!)

A pair of kid sized scissors (get the pointy kind. Now you will always have scissors for your coupon clipping.)

A pen. Maybe two if you are like me and can't ever keep one. (Cross off your list as you go, make note of new products, write your prices down)

Store cards You know, the ones that you sign up for to get discounts. Everybody but the Big Blue W has one. Yes, I know they make keychain ones, but sometimes I am shopping without my keys (with someone else, drove husband's car, or whatever). Besides, my purse has enough stuff floating around in it, what with the matchbox cars, crayon stumps, and wadded up Kleenex - no need to add a pile of plastic too.

A small notebook (for your grocery list and menu plan, of course!) or just use the index cards. Don't forget to put it on your fridge or in your household notebook when you are done - don't toss your menu!

Now, take the money you've saved and send it to
Mama Says
PO Box 123

Or, keep it for yourself.

Happy shopping!

Tags: Nutrition, Works for Me Wednesday, Crafts and Cookery

Labels: , ,

posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/17/2007 08:26:00 AM | Permalink | |