It isn't a big secret that I like to save money. Sometimes I'm not very good at melding my desire to eat better food and still save money, but I'm working on it. Since I make our meals from scratch and cook three full meals and at least one or two snacks each day, it is safe to say that I spend A LOT of time in the kitchen (or near it).
Over the past several years, our income has dropped about $10,000 over what it once was. While we're in no way impoverished, time are tougher and the budget is tighter. That generally means that when something breaks, I seriously debate about whether to replace the item or not. In terms of kitchen appliances, the decision is usually made not to replace something. In the past two years, I've lost my bread maker, hand mixer, toaster, hand blender/food chopper and various other fluffy items that aren't necessities, but are nice to have. Luckily Hubby's parents gave me a stand mixer for Christmas last year and that has been wonderful to have. But, there are still other wants...
Back in the summer (week 26 to be exact) Hubby and I decided that we would purchase used if possible to save money and be "greener." To keep in the spirit of that "baby step," I've been periodically checking out Freecycle and Craigslist to see if anything fabulous popped up. Unfortunately most of the appliances that were listed weren't really things that I thought we needed and/or they were still pretty expensive. No big deal, I'd been getting along just fine without them anyway.
In the past month or so, I've been in a funk. I've sort of lost the energy to stick with some of the changes I've made. I still have the desire, but there has been a definite lack of follow through on some things, like meal planning, staying under budget, eating out--hanging head in shame. :(
After a lot of thought on why this was, I came to a conclusion. With Hubby working a second job for the past three months, there just isn't the support there at night. Not that he's not supportive, but there's alot to be said for adding a second set of hands to help with homework, run errands, keep Little Man busy, etc. while I'm in the kitchen. No extra hands mean I'm doing it all and I run out of steam long before my next day's meal prep gets done and there is no time for blogging or searching for new recipes during nap time because I'm doing laundry, sweeping floors, or trying to get dinner prep done before the kids come home from school needing help with homework, etc.
OK, so now I identified the problem, but what could I do to solve it? I decided that adding a couple quality kitchen appliances to speed the prep process along would be money well spent. Coincidentally, I came across the Kohl's Black Friday ad and saw that they had a Cuisinart Food Processor at a crazy markdown. That, coupled with $50 that I had received as an early Christmas gift and a 15% off card, I paid a little less than $5 out of pocket for an awesome food processor. I've had it 5 days and I've already used every feature on it. I've used it to make biscuits (within 10 minutes of arriving home with it! LOL), waffles, shredded veggies on a salad and this morning I used it for cinnamon roll dough-delish!
Hopefully, this new addition to my kitchen will save me time and help me be more efficient. I'm feeling a little less funk-ish. We've tried several new recipes in the past couple weeks, all of which the family thought were yummy. That's a plus. I'm back to planning and using cash, so hopefully that will keep the budget in check. I've made a few concessions though for my sanity. I have purchased a few convenience items (bag of fries and popcorn chicken and a couple take and bake pizzas). I know that these are certainly not healthy choices, but if I'm hitting McDonald's on a crazy night, it is certainly no healthier. We'll save these things for those on the go nights and save money by not eating out. One day, I hope to have all of this mastered with several homemade options in the freezer to just pop in the oven. But, until that day comes, I'm doing what I can.
My second, and notably the biggest, concession is that I've allowed the girls to eat school lunch. This was a huge hurdle for me to overcome, but when lunches came home day after day uneaten, I decided to give this one up. The girls liked the food I sent and most often ate it every day as soon as they got home from school (or occasionally on the way home), but they got teased at school because their food was different so they would eat only the food they thought would be acceptable to their peers and leave the rest inside their lunchboxes so no one would see it. :(
On the higher side, our school is working hard to make the lunches healthier. Salad bar is offered every day with a variety of fresh fruits and veggies. They make much of their bread items from scratch-adding whole wheat (not solely, but some is better than none). They serve bone-in chicken instead of processed patties. I appreciate the effort being made and if I could get them to ditch the canned goods, I'd probably be completely ok with it (but beggars can't be choosers it seems!). Now, the downside... I've heard that they might ditch some of the healthy measures they've taken because the general population of kids won't eat the healthier foods. Ugh! We'll see how that goes!
I've rambled enough for now. Hopefully I can get a minute to post my menu plan for this week and include links for some of our new dishes. Have a great day!