Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm Hungry

My little toddler is growing up! For the first time he came into the kitchen and said "Mommy, I'm hungry." I realize that is a pretty simple sentiment, although lately it seems to be one that expresses a feeling he has all. the. time. I can only imagine how much he'll want to eat when he is a teenager!

But why the excitement about the sentence? He really has only started using me and I in the last couple of weeks. He has used his name for a long time now, but everything was referred to as "Little Guy hungry" or "Little Guy trains." Then recently the word I showed up. And then it was "I hungry." But the other evening, totally unprompted he came over and said "I'm hungry."

Recently he has started pointing at himself and saying (in a very excited and exuberant voice) "ME!" which he follows up with his whole name. Of course, he often then points and me and says "ME" followed up by "Mommy, Heather." Yes, we've been working on 'whole names' so he knows his and his sister's which led also trying to work on Mommy and Daddy's as well. There is nothing cuter than a 2 year old saying his first, middle and last name and then his sister's as well. Now, how to teach him that I am not 'me'. At least not to him, only to me. It gets a bit confusing to explain!

I find it so interesting to watch how his language develops. First it was signing, then words and signs, then just words. Recently signs have shown up again as we prepare to start showing Peanut them as well. And when he gets really mad or really wants something he'll totally bust out the 'more' sign! And he has never totally lost the please and thank you signs either.

After words came a few words together, then more complex thoughts in simple sentences. He figured out possession really quickly thereafter. I think "Grandma purse" was the first one and from then on every item had the owner's name attached! Now is the I and me time and putting together really coherent sentences. I find it adorable to watch him say something and then go back and say it again, but more grammatically correct. Language is an amazing thing to watch develop!

Of course, he is still often difficult to understand. He uses 'no' an awful lot of times when I would rather he didn't. He was rather late to that party though, which I am very grateful for! And he still doesn't say "MINE" when his sister grabs his trains. Unfortunately I have no doubt that it is coming. He has a long way to go before he is a great orator, but watching him get there is so fascinating!

Happy Speaking!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Isn't Included

As you might guess there are a few things that might not be included in our grocery budget. And in the interest of full disclosure in case anyone is comparing or competing (which you SHOULD NOT be doing) I thought I'd list those items out. And really because I am keeping records and want to have a good comparison from year to year this will help me in future years.

What is NOT in the grocery budget 2010

*toiletries or paper goods
*canning supplies
*seeds or tomato plants
*Cola soda used for late night trips home from gigs (but any other soda, including root beer is)
*Chocolate stash (but baking chocolate, chips, etc are)
*Gift baskets of food for Great-Grandparents

To explain a few of these...

We visited my grandparents over Christmas this year. I'm so fortunate that I still have all four grandparents and they are all pretty healthy, still living in their own homes! My oldest grandfather just turned 90 and my youngest grandmother is 83. They are hard to buy for as they have what they want and do not like a lot of clutter. I decided to fill a big grocery bag of baking items for them for Christmas. I bought things like chocolate chips, flour, sugar, and spent about $30 total on both families by watching sales and getting good deals. I included that in our gift giving budget, not in our grocery budget. Other food gifts like the truffles I made the neighbors and granola I gave to friends were made with food from our regular groceries.

We have a serious chocolate problem in this house. We love it to much. So after Christmas I stock up big time on 50% or 75% off name brand candy that I won't buy otherwise. I think I spent about $50 or so last year...yikes. But it lasted all yearn, made my husband happy and is not included in our grocery budget.

Once a month Mike plays a gig that lasts late into the night and then he has to drive over an hour to get home. He does this on Friday and then Saturday night on the weekend he plays. In order to stay awake he drinks 1-3 cans of cola on the way home each of the two nights. As we never drink this otherwise I consider it a business cost, not a grocery budget cost. We rarely drink soda other than an occasional root beer but any other soda bought is put into the grocery budget.

And as for the rest...our budget is just for food. If I buy something else at the grocery store it gets subtracted out and put into a different category. Canning supplies and plants/seeds maybe should be counted, but I never have before so for now I'm going to keep going how I've done it. If we get to a point where we are raising a very large percentage of our own food then I'll probably start including them, but not for now!

Happy Budgeting!

Monday, January 24, 2011

When We Have the Room

Right now we are in a home that has a tiny city lot. I try and garden as much as possible wherever the trees do not totally obscure the ground below. This means that the room for playing is primarily under the huge tree that is tucked between our home and our garage. So far we've got a turtle sandbox, a couple of free and new to us cars/tractors/things, and a toddler swing in the branches of the tree.

Growing up we had a huge swing set that my dad built for us. It had a big sandbox as the base and two or three swings, a rope swing and room for more things to be added. I think the idea was that there would be a slide, a teeter totter and a few other things, but they just never happened.

My hope is that someday we'll have a great big swing set for our kids to play on. It might come from this store or maybe we can get my dad to come and make one :) Kind of doubt that second one!

I've just peeked around a bit, but is one of the stores that is part of the CSN group of stores. I've ordered from CSN once before and had a good experience. The ice cream maker that I gave the family for Christmas is a big hit! In fact we'll be finishing up a batch of cake batter ice cream that I made in it once Mike gets home from a neighbor's house.

Happy Shopping!


Yes, we are that excited! We are not the world's biggest fans or anything and we most definitely did NOT spend $9000 per ticket to go to the game, but we were cheering like crazy yesterday as our Packers won the NFC championship. We were really sweating for a long time, but in the end it came out like we had hoped!

And now we only have to beat a team that has won every Superbowl they've been in except for the first time they were there. With a QB that has won two of them and a coach that has won one of them. --yikes--

But we are favored to win? Huh?

We are just hoping and yes, even our priest is praying that the Packers are the next Superbowl CHAMPS!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Canning Recap

This is for my own notes than anything else. I need to get my recipes down somewhere so I hope to link back to them. For now it is a list to help me remember what got done this year!

What I canned in 2010

Diced tomatoes
Tomato Salsa
Green Salsa/Enchilada Sauce
Diced Pears
Chicken Stock
Beef Stock
Zucchini Relish
Dill Pickles
Dilly Beans
Tomato soup
Split Pea soup
Lentil soup

What I froze

Green Beans
Swiss Chard
Roasted Eggplant
Green Peppers
Freecycle Fruit

Storage Vegetables
25 pounds small Yukon Gold Potatoes
50 pounds medium White Russet Potatoes
1 bushel Butternut, Spaghetti, and other squash
19 Acorn Squash
3 Cabbage
10 pounds of Empire Apples

Things to change next year:

More Cabbage for Sauerkraut and for eating fresh
Second bushel of squash (mostly Butternut)
Freeze many more quarts of Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Zucchini and Carrots
May need to can jam again (check stores--did in 2009)
May need to freeze corn again (check freezer--did in 2009)
Second 50 bag of potatoes with plan to freeze mashed and hash browns as they sprout
At least 10 cups of pesto in freezer

Happy Preserving!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grocery Budget 2010 Wrap Up

Grocery Budgets...they are the fodder for many a blog post and even entire blogs, aren't they? They cause much angst and competition and are all as different as the families they feed.

I'm not posting ours in order to compete or to compare. I'm posting ours so I have a record and to encourage others who might be transitioning to a more local, seasonal, organic way of eating. We have been and are continuing to do so in baby steps!

In 2008 and 2009 my husband and I spent approximately $1300/year on groceries. I do not have the exact figures (where the heck did they go?) but it was within a few dollars of that each year. I had budgeted $100/month and there always seemed to be one or two months that added on to make it a 13 month year! I realize this number is very low for most families. This only fed 2 adults and I did almost all of our cooking from scratch. I make most of our bread products and use almost no prepackaged snacks or meals. I bought (and still buy) loss leaders at the grocery store and during those years really stocked up on meat when I found an amazing sale or marked down packages. I know I bought chicken for $.29/lb and often bought hamburger for about $.90/lb.

In 2009 we made the decision to change the way we ate. We had always eaten fairly well...lots of veggies and fruit, I grew what I could on our little city lot, I made things from scratch and (other than our chocolate obsession) we didn't eat much that most would consider junk food. However, we did eat conventional meat and didn't make a big deal about which veggies or fruit we were eating. I watched "Food, Inc" and read the book. I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and "Eating Animals" and many other books. I got disgusted about the state of food in our nation. And decided things had to change in our house if we wanted things to change in the industry.

So in late 2009 and all of 2010 I made a much more conscious effort to buy local produce and eat it in season. I shopped our farmer's market like crazy and canned and froze as much as I could of what I could get cheaply in season. I threw a whole lot of tomato plants in the ground before Peanut was born (even among the evergreen shrubs in front of the house) and put some potatoes in a garbage can and put lettuce and basil and cilantro seeds in every pot and space I could. I canned many quarts of tomatoes from those plants and the seconds I bought at the farmer's market. We ate a lot of salads from all those tiny lettuce seeds. We are still loving the pesto that I froze from our basil plants. And I'll be planting even more this year since Mike turned out to be a BIG fan of pesto.

We were able to pick apples, pears, and glean a finished garden (including 19 acorn squash) from friends that live about 2 hours away. It was a busy, fun, beautiful fall day of collecting and visiting with good friends. And the week that followed was a busy time of canning and freezing! As the farmer's market wound down I bought a bushel of squash, 75 pounds of potatoes and 4 heads of cabbage to help tide us over the winter with local produce.

I stopped buying meat from the grocery store and started getting a few things from the one meat vendor at the farmer's market. Her prices shot up a lot this summer and while I know it is fair I was blanching even at the much lower prices that I paid back in April. We ate a lot less meat through the spring and summer. We never ate huge amounts, but we ate a lot, lot less. I finally found a chicken product I was okay with in Smart Chicken. I know it is still not pastured and it is not eating everything a chicken should eat. However it is air chilled and that makes me very happy. After I read how poultry is processed in 'water' it made me seriously reaffirm my desire to buy food that I trusted not just what was cheapest. I bought a couple of local, pastured chickens at Outpost when they had their truckload sale and I wish I had bought even more, but we just didn't have the freezer space to spare. I am now paying $2 or more for chicken on average. I only buy whole chickens and I break them down myself or I get legs if they are cheaper. I have found marked down Smart Chicken at Woodman's occasionally and that makes me a very happy girl indeed. The markdowns often come down to $1 a pound or so!

We bought a 1/4 of a grass fed, no added anything cow from Miller Brothers. It was ready in November and we have been loving it! We were never big beef eaters before, but this meat is wonderful and I know the animal was raised right and was treated right until the very end. The farmer makes a living, the small family owned butcher shop makes a living and we got a superior product. Our beef came out to about $4/pound when you figure out the weight of what we actually brought home. They also saved me the fat and I've rendered it out. An interesting new thing that I tried and a fat source for cooking that I feel better about than most conventional products.

We are looking into getting 1/2 pig from Miller Brothers when they have them available. That would be ideal as the pig would be totally pastured, no antibiotics, etc. If it doesn't work out fairly soon then we'll be getting one from a different local farm. We did stock up on bacon at the little processor in my grandparent's hometown in South Dakota. It is Mike's favorite bacon and the meat was local to the processor. I'm guessing it was confinement, but I've seen the farms in the area and know that it wasn't a CAFO for sure.

So what was the grand total after all this? We spent $2212.16 on groceries in 2010.

It was a BIG increase (almost $1000 more) but it was worth it to feed our family of 2 adults, one 2 year old and a baby who is a month into solids. We have almost an entire 1/4 of meat in the freezer, bacon for a year, and still have many, many jars of canned goods. Overall we have a lot more food in this house right now than we did last January. We have eaten almost all the frozen vegetables, but are going to have a second chest freezer for me to fill next summer so I'll have enough for more months. I also will have more room because I will not have the two big boxes of milk that I pumped and saved for Peanut. That milk took precedence as I can buy groceries and I can't buy her my milk!

All in all I feel good about what we are doing and where we are headed. We have a long way to go, but we like the changes we've made! Next step is probably getting a grain mill and starting to grind our own grains. I'm excited, but does anyone have any idea where I can buy non-GMO wheat here in Milwaukee for a good price? And I'd like to make all our eggs free range and our milk local and and and doesn't really end, does it? :)

Happy Eating!

New Post?!?!

Does that button even work anymore? Hi there blog, I'm Heather. It is nice to see you here in a whole new year! We've had a great Halloween, Thanksgiving, birthday, Christmas, New Years. Thank goodness I'm stopping back by before it is Valentine's Day!

Okay, really I do plan to start blogging more again. I know I've said that before, but as long as Peanut starts sleeping better again it will be true! We moved her out of the co-sleeper into the crib and it seems to be helping. Instead of being right next to me she is now just outside our bedroom, maybe 10 feet away. The change is good because she was waking up with every movement I made and I was waking up with ever movement she made. It meant we were both awake a lot and if she was awake she wanted to nurse. Or sometimes she didn't really want to nurse, she wanted to sleep, but because she was awake and so was I she'd try and nurse. Then she'd get upset and be awake longer and then I'd be a cranky, tired mom. This has not been fun. Especially since she was a terrific sleeper from such an early age. I'm excited that we are back on track!

We are off to toddler story time at the big library today. We went there a few weeks ago when my mom was in town and Little Guy enjoyed it. We were at the preschool story time and only stayed for one story. I figured he did well and we wanted to excuse ourselves before things turned south! He did get to play with the train table, lego table, climb the light house and just have a blast in the library. Central library has the best children's wing I have ever seen. We love our neighborhood library a whole lot, but it is a fun treat to visit central!

I am looking forward to posting about how our year of grocery change has wrapped up. The budget was much bigger as expected, but still okay. I also want to update my canning inventory for last summer and how it is holding up. I am hoping to record some of my favorite recipes and even start posting pictures again! And (of course) there will be kids stuff because it is what happens around here on a daily basis. Will there be an opportunity to start scrapbooking again? It is amazing what a few more hours of sleep (all in a row) can do to a girl!