Sunday, September 27, 2009

Matthew 25:35 Challenge, Menu Plan

I wanted to post my menu plan for our first week trying to live on a Food Stamp Allotment. Since the challenge was to go the whole month of October on a food stamp budget, I went ahead and started this week, since there are few days of October this week. Before I share my menu plan, I just wanted to say that it's not too late to join me. I know I have talked to several of you readers in person or on facebook. If you decide that you will join our family this month, please leave a comment on this blog so I will know for sure! Thanks!

First of all, I have to say that this has been a real challenge for me already. I have a hard time trying to think of a good variety of recipes that would meet my family's varied dietary needs (my kids cannot have anything with any form of milk in it) as well as palates. I have found the web to be an invaluable resource as I planned this menu. However, I don't think that many people who are truly destitute have access to the internet whenever they wish. That's why I think it would be so wonderful to accumulate a bunch of very frugal, yet nourishing recipes to make into a cookbook of sorts that can be distributed at food banks and church food pantries. That said, if you encounter a great, cheap recipe that you would like to share for my "cookbook" project, please post it in the comments section.

And now to the menu:

I am going to need to make homemade bread and several quarts of homemade chicken stock (which will also leave me with a lot of shredded, cooked chicken) this weekend.

Monday: Carrot, lentil and rice soup with homemade bread (I may end up adding other veggies to the soup as well.)

Tuesday: Tuesdays are always rushed around dinner time, so something in the crockpot is always in order. We're going to have goulash.

Wednesday: 1/2 sandwiches with a veggie salad

Thursday: Chicken and rice casserole (with homemade cream of chicken soup)

Friday: Warm red potato salad and sandwiches

Saturday: Chicken and black bean enchiladas (I will be doubling the recipe so we can have a freezer meal for next week after my son has surgery.)

Sunday: Veggie omelets and shredded potatoes

For breakfasts, we'll be doing things like eggs, oatmeal and fruit.
For lunches, we'll have simple sandwiches, fruits, veggies and leftovers.

So, what is your family going to eat this week? Please remember to sign up if you wish to join me in the challenge, and also remember to post frugal, nourishing recipes--whether or not you will be joining me! Thanks!

Edit: I went grocery shopping and I think I did a good job. My goal was to spend only $104 to feed my family of 6 for one week. I ended up being a dollar over, which was my fault since I added one impulse buy to the cart (cider! Seriously, it's not fall unless you've had real apple cider!). I didn't buy anything processed--I stuck to whole foods, and I was able to get some good whole grains like brown rice and stone ground whole wheat flour for my bread. I bought lots of veggies and fruits--both fresh and frozen. And I was able to get 1 lb. of lean ground beef and 2 whole free range chickens, plus several other things. So, overall, it wasn't that bad. I usually try to buy a lot more organic and local things, and I wasn't able to do it on my budget, but I think I came out with a good amount of high quality food. Here's the receipt from my trip to Wal Mart (you should be able to click on it to make it bigger):

Okay, so there you have it. Week one's shopping trip was a success. Stay tuned for more throughout the week. And remember, you have a few days left to sign up to take part in this challenge with me. Would you consider joining my family in blessing needy people this month?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Matthew 25:35 Challenge

I have to admit it, I'm a sucker for helping the hurting. When I see a hurt or scared dog, I want to bring it home and feed it. I have even been known to cry when I saw a bird with a broken wing try to get off of a fence, with no success. (Just ask my husband about that incident!) But don't get me wrong...when it comes to helping the hurting people of this world, I am no sucker. Yes, when I see a person hurting for whatever reason, it does pull at my heartstrings. But it is far more than that since people are created in the image of God. It is a calling that I have on my life--a calling to comfort those who are hurting, a calling to feed the poor, a calling to bandage the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Guess what?! It's your calling, too, if you are a believer. We are supposed to all take care of the poor, the widows and the orphans. You don't need a special calling on your life to do it. Matthew 25:35 says that when we serve the poor, or take care of those who need help, we are actually serving Jesus with our labors. "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." So, while I believe that God does call certain people to serving the poor and needy, the widows, and the orphans at a different level (I think my husband and I have this calling on our lives), we don't need a special calling to help others out. As believers, it just comes out of our love for Jesus.

I was recently reading an article about people who live on food stamps. When I saw the chart that highlighted the allotments per family member, I was shocked. Basically, it comes down to somewhere around $15 per person per week. I had no idea it was that low! Now, I am not saying this to start a political argument about whether we should have welfare or anything like that. What I am saying is that there are some genuinely suffering, hungry people out there. They need help, and they need the love and compassion of Jesus shared with them.

Could your family live on a food stamp allotment? When I saw the maximum allotment for a family of 6 (my family's size), my first thought was "there's no kids have food allergies and we try to eat as little processed food as possible." But I'm always up for a good challenge.

So, here's my challenge! I am challenging myself and all of you readers to live on a food stamp budget for 1 month. Try to be as creative with your recipes as possible, and try to eat as healthy as possible. You could even blog about your journey. I will be blogging on this site regularly about our journey. And then, at the end of the month, consider donating the extra money from your grocery budget that you didn't use to a local food bank or church food pantry. While you're at it, consider printing up the recipes from the inexpensive but healthy meals you made, and give them to the food bank so they can pass them along to others. I think this would be a wonderful way to be able to empathize with the plight of the poor while still making a difference in others' lives.

So, would you consider joining me for a month (or longer as you feel led)? Would you join me for the month of October in spending only a food stamp allotment on groceries and then donating the rest of your grocery budget to feed the poor? I know it's a big decision, but if you wish to join me, please leave a comment on this post so I can know who is joining me!

I'm excited! To figure out your food stamp allotment for your family size, please click here. It will walk you through the instructions on finding how much money you would receive if you were on food stamps. If your income exceeds a certain amount, then you will find that you would actually get a negative number when figuring your allotment. So, our family used a fake income of $36,000 to figure it. So, we will be living in October with a grocery budget of $412. If you have questions about figuring your allotment, you can just leave a comment.

Keep checking back on this blog regularly, as I will post at least weekly on the progress my family is making, and I will also post some recipes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sam-e Keeps Me Smiling

Whenever I discover a product that really makes a true difference in my life, I'm eager to tell everyone about it. My newest "discovery" is a product called Sam-e. I have seen commercials around advertising for a certain brand of Sam-e for a while, and when I saw a video put out by Above Rubies that praised Sam-e, I thought it was time to look into what all the buzz was about.

Sam-e is a nickname of sorts for a naturally occurring molecule found in all living things called S-Adenosylmethionine. (It sure is easier to say Sam-e!) This molecule has been shown to be quite useful in helping to ease depression and joint pain. And it appears to be promising in some other areas of treatment as well. Basically, it is supposed to help lift your mood, and it has the added benefit of relieving aches and pains as well as Tylenol or Motrin. Since I'm not a doctor or biochemist, I have a link here to read more about Sam-e.

I have personally found Sam-e to be very useful in helping me with my mood. I am often very stressed out and worn down due to a variety of things such as children with special emotional needs and a very hectic schedule. I find that often it causes me to have a grumpy mood. I started using Sam-e to see if it would help to regulate my mood better. And I was very surprised to find that it, indeed, did work! My husband noticed my mood was better in the evenings, and he has even taken it a couple of times.

I have also taken Sam-e to regulate my mood when I have PMS. I am a complete emotional wreck the week before my cycle, and it really helps me out a lot. It even has the added benefit of pain relief, and it gets rid of my cramps as well. I also have pretty severe joint pain. I have multiple food allergies that went undiagnosed for quite some time, and the doctors think that the inflammation from the allergies is what has torn up my joints. When I am taking Sam-e, I feel so much better. The only thing I don't really like about it is that you have to take it on an empty stomach. I have a hard time remembering to take pills between meals, so it is hard to keep up with sometimes.

So, if you are looking for a natural option for pain relief or mood support, Sam-e could be worth it. I have to end with the disclaimer that I am not a physician, and obviously, you'll want to talk to your doctor before using it if you're on other meds or if you have medical conditions.

Tell me... have any of you used Sam-e, and if so, did it help you?

Making Memories

This past weekend my husband went out of town, so after the kids went to bed, I had some time for scrapping fun! I'm currently working on a special kind of scrapbook called a "Life Book," which documents the life of an adopted child. Since I have 4 adopted children, I have my work cut out for me! :) Here are a few of pages I made using My Memories Suite. Note: These pages are a little grainy because they were saved at a low resolution. The real pages are nice and crisp and easy to read! :)

Above: This is one of my favorite pages because I totally love my kids' facial expressions! I used elements from the "Magical Memories" pack by Ettes & Company to create this page.

These next few pages were made using the "My Little Monster" pack by Corina Nielsen. I think they are perfect for my kids! :)

Do you ever wish you could scrapbook but feel that you don't have enough creativity? Did you know that you can buy pre-made templates for your pages through My Memories Suite? They are professionally designed pages, and all you have to do is drag and drop your pictures onto the page, and voila! You'll have amazing pages in little time!! If you go to the My Memories Suite store, you can check out all the templates. Can I just say that I love, love love the new designs by Ettes and Company called "Wonderful World." It's probably my new all-time favorite! You can bet you'll be seeing me use some of their designs on here soon! :)

Also, just a reminder, through the end of September, you can get an additional 10% off the price of the software. If you click on the banner to the right on my blog, you can get the software for 25% off, and if you use the code B2S10OFF when you checkout, you'll get the extra 10% off as well. So if you are looking for a great Christmas gift, or if you've been secretly wanting to purchase My Memories Suite, you can now do it for 35% off! How fabulous!! :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Adventures in Soapmaking

I am so excited about my latest homemaking adventure!! As I've led my family's journey toward leading healthier lives and more self-sufficient living (by that I mean, not relying on commercially processed and mass produced items), I have become increasingly intrigued by the art of soap making. I say "intrigued" because it looks interesting and fun, but it has also been quite intimidating to me since it involves so much chemistry and math if you want to go above and beyond just a basic recipe.

Although I have been a bit intimidated by this craft, I decided that it would definitely be worth it for me to master this skill. So, I ordered my lye (you have to buy in bulk online since it is no longer available in stores. Thank you meth labs!) and bought the necessary oils. And this weekend, I finally ventured out into that great unknown world of soap making. I have to admit, I was quite nervous the whole time. I didn't pay enough attention in chem lab in college! :) The first batch actually didn't turn out well at all, but I was able to figure out how to rescue it. After "fixing" the problem, it turned out very well! It has dried enough to be cut into bars, and now they are sitting out to dry enough for hand milling. Here's the picture:

I am by no means any expert on soap making, but despite by anxiety concerning the math and science behind soap making, I really enjoyed the process! There's just something so special about getting to see and use the fruit of your hands. I have had several of you readers tell me that you are interested in starting soap making for your family as well. Here are the resources that I have found very useful:

  • This video series has been most helpful for me as I have begun my soapy journey. I basically just followed her step by step.
  • This website has some good recipes as well as ideas about colorings, scents, etc. should you want to venture past plain lye soap.
  • This is the website that I used for my recipe. I used the "Cocanolive II" recipe, since I already had those oils on hand.
  • Note: the kind of soap I made is called "Cold Process" soap. So you can search the web for a good cold process recipe. There are lots of great websites with recipes out there! And there are even some recipes that help you make your own recipe and calculate the right ratio of lye to fats.
So, I'd love to hear...Have any of you made your own soaps before? Do you have any good resources to share with this slightly intimidated newbie?! :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas

Last Christmas, when I first laid my hands on the My Memories Suite software (you know, the digital scrapbooking software that I totally love!), I immediately realized that with all the great designs and the easy-to-use program, I would be able to find a million uses for the software. Sure, I love digital scrapbooking! But I also love all the other fabulous things I can do with the program. The possibilities are really endless.

I've recently realized that there are a couple of big holidays are just right around the corner. I love giving and receiving truly thoughtful gifts, so I have really tried the past few years to make a lot of my gifts. If you are like me and like to make your own Christmas gifts, or if you just like to add a little bit of flair to your purchased gifts, the My Memories Suite software can really help with that! And I’d like to show you an idea that I’m going to use this Christmas.

I enjoy canning foods—you know, things like pickles, jams, pumpkin pie mix, cider, pie fillings, etc. This year, I’m going to be giving homemade canned treats to all the friends, teachers, neighbors, coworkers, well…you get the picture. We’ve all seen the jars of different mixes at Christmas that have the pretty fabric and the bow on top. While those are pretty, I was trying to think of a way that I can package my goodies and express my personality as well. Then I thought, What about making fun labels?!

I’ve made some jar labels to show you, and I’d have to say that making them was fun and incredibly fast. To make a jar label, simply create your design, print on regular printer paper, cut out, and glue to the jar. I used a glue stick, and that worked very well. (Hint: if you have an ink jet printer, consider spraying the paper with a light coating of clear spray paint to keep the ink from smearing with the glue.) In no time at all, the jars were transformed into cute gifts. And there’s really no need to measure anything, because you can cut it down to size. I printed my designs out as a 6x6” square, and they worked great for the quart sized jars.

Here are some jar labels I made. I used StoryRock’s “Twilight Fanpire” to create the pickle label, and I used Corina Nielson’s “Totally Eclectic” pack to create the marinade label.

I enjoyed my jar labels so much, I realized that making labels for jars doesn’t have to be limited to Christmas only. I got to thinking that a cute jar full of pumpkin pie mix or cider mix would make a great hostess gift at Thanksgiving or a fall party.

"Autumn Allure"

"Harvest Blessing" by StoryRock

So, there you have it….an easy and simple way to give your Christmas gifts some “oomph” and personality! It doesn’t have to end there, either. Think of all the other great things around your house that you can label with beautiful labels made with My Memories Suite! You could label not only jars, but gift boxes, kids’ toy containers, buckets, etc.

You know how much I love digital scrapbooking, and how much I want everyone to have the opportunity to try it for themselves. As I keep saying, it is soooo much more economical than traditional scrapbooking, and I think it's even more fun! To get everyone off to a great start with Christmas crafting, I've got a couple of great offers to share with you!

  • Go on over to the My Memories Suite blog (link on the right). There you will find this same blog post, but there will be a link to the free giveaway for the week.
  • If you click on the My Memories Suite banner to the right, you can get 25% off the software. It's truly a great deal, and you can only get the discount by going through that link. Here's a special bonus for you: Now through September 30th you can enter in the promo code B2S10OFF and receive an additional 10% off. So if you click on the MMS link from my blog you get 25% off and then by adding the code you get an additional 10%. How great is that?!

Happy labeling!