Monday, September 30, 2013

My Lazy Mama's Guide to Couponing

My recipe binder, and where the week begins
Meal planning is one of those things that seems really overwhelming to a lot of people. For me, it's like a comfortable anchor in my week that I've come to look forward to. A few months ago I added some subtle couponing to the mix and have been really surprised at the difference it has made.

Once a week I put on my comfy pants, make a cup of coffee, and go to town. It makes the daily hustle a little less painful and avoids the 5 p.m. dance of screaming hungry children. (Note: it's less of a dance and more of an unbridled meltdown, just in the essence of full disclosure).

Here's my method.

1. First I go to this website and see what is on sale at Publix, our local grocery store, for that given week. We only shop at Publix and Costco. While I'd love (LOVE) to have a closer Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, it's just too difficult for me to get there right now. I base my list fully off of what's on sale that week. And here's the real shocker- I only do printable coupons. I don't get the newspaper and spend hours cutting and storing them. I print what I need for the week and that is it. This site makes it incredibly easy, and I always save at least $25.

2. After making a list of what's on sale that I'd like to buy, I take a look in my freezer/pantry and see what else we need to make meals for the week. I browse Pinterest, my cookbooks (favorites: 1,2,3,4), and a list I keep in my recipe binder of our favorite go-to meals. I try to cook really simple things with few ingredients and I always take our schedule into account. Wednesdays and Fridays are busy for us, so these days are always leftovers or a crock pot meal.

3. I try to buy the majority of our produce at the farmer's market either on Friday or Monday. I find the cost just slightly lower than at the store, but since we eat very few processed foods I like knowing the produce we consume isn't coated in waxes and nasty chemicals.

4. I also check these sites for coupons. One offers a good variety of natural and organic options and the other focuses on Amazon, which I love so much I would marry if given the chance.

5. I also check Costco's coupons. Our goal is to make one trip there a month and stock up on gluten-free granola, organic chicken, organic eggs, cheese, frozen organic berries, fish, and other dry goods (paper towels, Lara bars, stuff like that).

I then post our menu both in a weekly calendar on the fridge and in my planner.

For me, it's worth the hour of work in cost savings. But as you know, my time is incredibly important to me and if it took any more than that, I'd likely stop. I'm never going to be the person that can only spend $60 a week at the store. I have to growing children who both eat more than I do, and eating organic is extremely important to me. But, any little bit I can save is a win for us.

I am far from perfecting this process, but I've definitely found what works for us. We still eat out once a week, and there is always one night a month that gets too crazy and we wind up eating pizza, and that's ok. It's about Grace Not Perfection, ladies.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Thoughts on Children's Birthday Parties

I think it's time we address how completely out of control we've all gotten with children's birthday parties.

At what point did ordering pizza, having cake and celebrating with your immediate family become totally unacceptable? Here we are, us moms, complaining that we have too much on our plates, and all we do is continue to add to them.

I did not grow up having a big to do on my birthday, and thus, I am perfectly content with a very small acknowledgement and perhaps a solo trip to Target.

My husband on the other hand, comes from the land of big birthdays. His birthday is his personal equivalent to Hanukkah and requires a minimum of seven day of celebratory activities and fan fare.

For our kids, we've had moderately-sized, casual, and fairly easy birthday parties. Family and closest friends, some coordinated decor and fun food, and always, always cupcakes.

But the more I put it all together, the more it stresses me out. I want our kids to feel special on that day, but they don't need a big party feel that. I want them to know that there are a lot of people who love and pray for them, and that their birthday is as much for us to celebrate as parents as it is for them as growing kids. They certainly do not need a buffet of fancy food made from scratch and 50 presents to open. That is so not the message I want to send.

Yesterday, we celebrated our little miracle boy turning two. We had a small group of people to the house, ate hot dogs and fruit skewers, and the only thing I did to decorate was put out some pretty fall flowers and nice ribbon on the utensils and vases. When anyone asked them what to bring him I said nothing, and I meant it. I wanted everyone to celebrate him, and what a blessing he is to us. And honestly, it was the best birthday yet.

We spent a whopping $30 on decor, we ate easy, simple food, and we spent the afternoon talking and visiting and it was wonderful.

And you know what I was doing two hours before everyone arrived?


I wasn't prepping food, or hand stamping thank you cards. I was smelling his sweet breath and rubbing his soft little head while he napped. It was my favorite memory of the day. I was relaxed, and had I been a manic party planning mess, I would have missed it.

I think going forward, and as they get older, I'd like to let our kids pick an activity to do as a family on their big day, and get back to the special family meal and small celebration. In my quest to simplify every other area of my life, this seems like an easy next step.

Here are a few pictures from our day. This first one makes me melt into a puddle on the floor.

Clearly, he enjoyed himself :)

He had his eye on cupcakes. I don't blame him. 

The lazy mom's decor. Take that, Pinterest. 

No Davis, you may not play football. But please pick any other non-combative sport you'd wish. Preferably, golf of swimming. Love, your mommy.

Moms- let's give ourselves a break here. If you want to do the big party, if you enjoy it, then by all means please take joy in that. But if you find it stressful, borderline excessive, and if you spend the day running around like a crazy person, take a step back. I've seen the other side, and it is nice :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Defeat and Margin

Girls, I am having a week

And it's Tuesday.


The good news is, I'm not a stress eater. The bad news is, I am a stress drinker, and three nights in the past week my dinner consisted of wine and chocolate chips. 

So, there's that. 

I am just feeling plain overwhelmed. A feeling not foreign to working moms, or probably any moms for that matter. But honestly, I just feel like working moms get the worst of it. 

The constant juggling. Constant feeling like you aren't doing enough at home/at work/with your kids/for yourself/for your husband/etc etc etc. Constant cleaning yet still never feeling like the house is clean. Never having enough time for anything (or so it feels). It feels like trying to squeeze 48 hours of activity into a 24 hour day 

And this week, I broke. I hit my threshold. It's mostly my own fault, and I realize that, so I've decided to make some changes. I'm simplifying. My kids are going to be this little for like six seconds in the scheme of our life, and I absolutely refuse to be stressed and stretched anymore. 

I'm creating some margin and taking some of the pressure off of myself. As a self-professed control freak, type A perfectionist, you can understand this does not come easy. But when mama's happy, everyone's happy, right? RIGHT?!

  • For starters, I'm giving myself a break from this self-imposed pressure to cook fresh, healthy, balanced, instagram-worth meals every single night of the week. I'm sick of rushing to get dinner ready, doing dishes every night, all of it. So, the two days of the week I'm in the office I'm going to pick up a ready-to-heat meal from Whole Foods on my way home. I'm also going to commit to one crock pot meal a week. The rest, I'll deal with as it comes. And ya'll, I'm buying paper plates (as the hippie in me shudders with disdain). 
  • And two, I'm re-instating the monthly house cleaner and strongly considering asking them to come every two weeks. I put them on "hold" this month knowing we had some extra expenses in the hopper (don't we always) but spent a good part of our home time this past weekend cleaning, which meant I wasn't playing with the kids, reading to them, practicing soccer with Madelyn, hanging with Matt, you get the picture. I'm over it. 

If the worst thing my kids eat all week is an organic rotisserie chicken or Applegate nuggets, and I have to shell out more money so I can have more time with them, so be it. I can't be freakin Ina Garten in the 20 minutes I have to get dinner ready each day. I just can't. 

Everything comes with a price, or a compromise rather. I love to work, but it does affect my ability to be the "homemaker" and mother I see myself as. It just does. I love my job and I think the benefits to our family outweigh the negative aspects, but I also have to admit I can't do it all. None of us can. 

And with that, I'm off to pour myself another glass of stress wine. Cheers, ladies. Here's to a new day and a fresh perspective. And maybe even a little more time and a little less crazy. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Five on Friday

It's time for Five on Friday again, girls!! Here's what's been happening at the homestead this week.

1. I've been making a few updates around the house, include sprucing up my front door wreath for Fall. After gushing over expensive wreaths on Etsy I walked my cheap self up to Hobby Lobby and make one myself. Is it a little crooked? Yes. Did it cost less than $15? Yes. Am I dying to paint my hunter green door and shutters? Yes Yes Yes. 

2. I'm working on a big post about how I meal plan as well as about how I coupon. A quick teaser? I'm the laziest couponer ever and have still managed to save at least $30 every week at Publix. Stay tuned. 

3. I've searched for years (years) for the right chambray shirt. I wanted something that was medium weight, with a tiny bit of stretch, and long enough for my long torso. And where did I finally find The One? 


Duh. Why am I even surprised?

Don't be jealous of my wrinkles. Or my 1982 bathroom counter tops with BLUE veining. 
4. We made this for dinner last week and it was super delicious and healthy. I highly recommend.

5. And lastly, I painted my nails last Friday using an Essie color and Revlon's gel top coat and they are still chipless! This top coat is a dream. Don't tell me what wonder chemicals are in it, I don't want to know. 

Happy weekend, ya'll!! Bring on the wine and football!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

GameDay, Baby

In marriage, we all make compromises.

We compromise our tastes in food, decorating, vehicle preference, to better suit the one we're with. We go to Nascar races, camp in the woods, and watch the kids so our husbands can attend their fantasy draft party. 

I'm like to think I'm a pretty accommodating wife, but one area where I will not compromise is College Football.

Anyone who's known me for more than four minutes probably knows that I went to the University of Florida, that I am a true and true Gator fan, and that I fully intend to brainwash both of my children into sharing my love of this beautiful establishment.

But my husband, bless his heart, has been a Georgia fan since he was in utero. He grew up in Athens where the school is located, his grandfather worked at the dairy factory on campus, and he shames our family by barking at the TV every time they do that God-forsaken cheer. 

So what are two people who share a love of conference rivals to do? 

They choose a neutral ground, a safe place so to speak. For us, this place is Clemson.

I have cousins who went to Clemson, they are an ACC school, they have a beautiful campus, and we've been season ticket holders for the past five years along with a group of our friends who love this school the same way I love Florida. 

This past Saturday we left the kiddos with the grandparents and spent the entire day tailgating and watching the game with a big group of friends. It was an insanely long day, I am still (still) exhausted, but it was an great day. 

Here are a few pictures of our adventures. 

We hung out in front of the stadium to watch the players run in onto the field from the buses. This is a Clemson-specific tradition and one I'm glad I got to see/Matt and I at the tailgate (did I mention Clemson played Georgia? And they won? I was trying to contain myself but I was pretty excited)/Our group in front of GameDay

A few of us heard that there were nice (read: non porta potty) bathrooms at the baseball stadium and walked right into the press box which I'm confident was supposed to be locked. It felt very collegiate and sneaky and fun. Here are the boys calling directions down the dugout, naturally./ Matt and his brother Luke. Brothers can still dress alike when they're grown up. It's cool. 

It was a super fun day. Not one I'll be dying to replicate anytime soon seeing as how we didn't get home until 3 a.m. but fun nonetheless :)
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