Monday, April 24, 2017

A Message for New Moms: You've Got This

You have brought home your tiny baby.  You may have had a smooth delivery, or you may have had a tense, anxiety filled experience - but either way - you survived and now days, weeks, maybe months later you are at home with this sweet little bundle.  It is the middle of the night - or wait - is it early in the morning?  You're not really sure anymore because all the hours and days seem to be melting together.  You are scrolling through social media and seeing dozens of pictures of people you know, and some you don't, looking perfect.  Smiling.  Happy.  Beautiful.  Holding their well-dressed babies full of joy.  Suddenly, you feel more than tired - you feel.....inadequate.  Your house isn't clean enough.  Your baby isn't sleeping "enough".  You are not cooking enough.  You love your baby but you are not happy enough.  You have't lost enough weight.  You don't know what you are doing - well-intentioned but unsolicited parenting advice is making you feel like you are not good enough.  Listen to me sisters: You've got this.

When the baby won't stop crying and all you can do is tell him you love him give him a snuggle - you've got this.

When you shed a tear because you are overwhelmed by the awesome task you have been given - you've got this.

When you decide to order a pizza because you just didn't get a chance to cook the dinner you wanted tonight - you've got this.

When the laundry is piling up because your baby needed you more than housework - you've got this.

When you feel like you will have a handful of squishy skin around your waistline forever (you won't) - you've got this.

Parenting is so hard.  It is the hardest thing you will ever do.  People will tell you "this goes by so fast", "this too shall pass", "this is a phase" - and it will not make you feel any better (even if they are telling you the truth - and they are).  Remind yourself: Today is one day.  I will love myself and my baby today.  I will not be ashamed to ask for help if I need it.  Tomorrow will be a new day.  

You've got this.

There is no perfect mom.  We are all making mistakes and learning as we go.  No author of any book or theory has ever raised (or met for that matter) your child.  You will find your way and it will not be anyone else's way, and that is OK.  

A Message for New Moms:  Your baby loves you.  Your baby needs you now and forever.  You are strong.  You are a warrior.  

You've got this.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Recipe: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls

I tried to think of something more glamourous to call these - but all the names just started Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls it is.

Kraft Canada recently released a new product - Natural Peanut Butter with Sea Salt.  I picked some up on sale at No Frills for $2.88 a few weeks ago and it is, as one would expect, delicious.  There is a pretty well-known no bake peanut butter ball recipe on the back of most Kraft Peanut butter jars - and I have adapted it slightly to come up with this recipe.

The peanut butter balls I made and ate as a kid were essentially peanut butter, butter, and icing sugar.  They were very delicious, super rich and.....contained lots of sugar.  This recipe is healthier, but still packs a punch.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Balls
1 cup of Kraft Natural Peanut Butter with Sea Salt
1/4 cup of honey
1 cup of oatmeal (I used Quaker quick oats)
1 cup of chopped pecans
2/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips OR chopped bittersweet chocolate
Coconut - optional

Combine the peanut butter and honey in a bowl.  Add remaining ingredients, except coconut, and stir.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (I like to leave it overnight).  Form mixture into balls (a tbsp scoop makes this super easy).  If desired, roll balls in coconut.  Enjoy!

Refrigerate when not eating.  This mixture will stay good in the fridge for up to one week.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: March Recap

This month seemed to drag on forever.  I have lots to say so lets get to it.

This month we spent $390.00 on groceries.  This is less than the average household monthly expenditure on food (it is $719.00), but still more than I wanted to spend.  Further in this post I will be discussing how we got here.  First, let's break it down....

What did we spend our money on?

Ranked from highest to lowest....

Produce = $122.96  We spent a lot of money on produce this month.  One of the main things driving up our produce spending is my son.  Yes, I will blame this on him - but it is alright.  First, he rarely eats vegetables - but he loves green smoothies - in particular this Going Green Smoothie recipe from Vitamix.  If making this smoothie gets my son eating, er drinking, spinach then so be it.  (I also really like this smoothie recipe).  The main ingredients in this smoothie are grapes (not cheap!!!  I have been trying to get them on sale every week but I think I am spending about $7-10.00 a week on grapes), pineapple (also not cheap - but is often on sale thankfully), bananas (cheap!!) and spinach (cheap!!).  The other "produce development" if you will is that my son is currently enjoying eating pears and apples - with the peel on!  He is not quite 3 1/2 years old so this is huge for me that he can just walk into the kitchen and grab a piece of fruit and chomp away.  I do not want to discourage this habit (it probably won't last) so I have been keeping a steady supply of pears and apples in our kitchen.  So there, I am blaming everything on my son.  But it's not a bad thing.  I will spend some extra money on produce if it means that my son is actually willing to eat healthy foods with no prompting whatsoever.

Dairy = $105.45  A few programming notes here.  My dairy includes eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, etc.  I bought lots of cheese this month because of pizza making with our recently acquired Vitamix.  I also spent $8.00 on a specialty cheese (Smoked yes!!!).  We love cheese in our house.  We moved to Toronto from Europe (although we are Canadian) and we were very spoiled by the low price of specialty cheeses in Europe.  This was a treat for me an I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite of it.
This month I was also reminded of the importance of regularly checking and comparing prices.  Typically butter in Canada retails for about $5.99 a pound (I realize that must seem exorbitant to American readers, but this is the case).  If you watch, you can usually find it on sale ever six to eight weeks for $2.99 or $3.49 a pound, however Costco used to sell it for $2.95 a pound.  I always stocked up with butter at Costco.  Recently I noticed that the Costco where I shop increased their price of butter to $3.95 a pound and so now I will be waiting for butter to (hopefully) go on sale before Easter for $2.88 or $2.99 a pound.  I will be stocking up on butter in April.  I also decided this month that I will likely stop purchasing Liberté yogurt at Costco (but other brands of yogurt are still a very good deal there).  At Costco, you can purchase Liberté Yogurt in packs of 14 for a decent price, but the flavours are predetermined and it is a low fat yogurt.  Because my son loves yogurt (but mainly just vanilla and not low fat), and because my husband and I are particular about the flavours we like, I am now going to purchase my Liberté yogurt at regular retails where I can typically get it in pack of 4 for between $3-4.00.  This allows me to get only the flavours that we all like and will eliminate any unnecessary wasted yogurt.  It will not cost us any more, and in some cases will cost less.

Pantry = $43.48

Meat = $28.78  This amount should have been less because someone (no husbands mentioned here) forgot to take out a turkey to thaw, so at the last minute I bought chicken.  The chicken was reduced for quick sale, but it didn't really feel like a deal.  Nonetheless, it tasted fabulous.

Frozen = $21.23

Bread = $18.97  I did make bread once this month, but we also ate a lot of toast.  That's alright though.  One thing I tried this month was a visit to the Stonemill Bakery factory outlet.  It is in Markham which is not too far from where we live.  Let me just save you the trip and tell you that this is not worth the trip (unless you live very close to the factory and do not have a Costco membership).  At the factory you can get 4 loaves of bread for $10.00 which is about the same price that you can get it for at Costco (3 loves for $6.99 or $7.99 depending on the type) and they only take cash.  Oh well, it was worth checking out if only to know that it is not worth the return trip.

Beverage = $14.74  This is much better than the ridiculous amount I spent on beverages last month.  It is slightly over the $10.00 limit I was thinking of, but I am comfortable with this spend.

Prepared Food = $11.28

Baby Products = $8.37

Where did we spend our money?

Costco = $83.12

Metro = $57.20

Michael Angelo's = $12.29

No Frills = $183.88  I made a conscious effort to shop more at No Frills this month because they have really good prices and I find if I go there first thing in the morning (especially on a Saturday) the produce selection is quite good.  Because of this, I also decided to get a new PC Points card and to try and use it more often.  I had one when the loyalty program first started, but never really started using it.  I am going to try and use it regularly now and I will keep you posted on how I find this loyalty program.

Village Grocer = $11.49

Walmart = $27.00

What did we do to save money this month?

I used some of the coupons that I got last month from Shoppers Drug Mart ($30.00 worth) to purchase various needed items.

I ordered Easter gifts for my son and nephews through Ebates.  We keep it very simple - I ordered them through Chapters Indigo.  Each boy gets a sports ball (yes, you can get these things from Indigo) and a book relating to the ball.  For example, my son is getting a neon mini football and a Charlie Brown book about football.  I picked up some very small chocolate items from Walmart to hide for him for his hunt.

My son had a growth spurt and needed new clothes.  I literally had not been shopping (in person) since August, so one day I drove to the outlet mall in Cookstown where I visited The Gap and Crabtree and Evelyn.  I was able to get some excellent end of season clearouts on pants for my son and some sweatshirts for next season also at an excellent price.  I also got $50.00 in Gap dollars, but I will only use them if it serves a purpose when they are valid - otherwise I will give them to a friend.  In addition, I was able to pick up the final items for Mother's Day gifts.  I purchased two beautiful gift sets from Crabtree and Evelyn at 50% off.  They were 50% off because they were in Christmas tins, but the packages themselves were not festive.  This is perfect.  I will remove them from the tins to make the spa gifts I have in mind for my mother and mother-in-law and keep the tins to either use at Christmas time or as storage for my kids craft/art supplies.

One thing I have been trying to do is really, really make sure I want to buy something before I spend money on it.  I normally do this anyway but this month even more so.  I keep asking myself - do I need this?  Do I need this right now?  Is there something else I can get that is the same quality but costs less?

Frugal Fail:
This month I ate at fast food restaurants on several occasions.  We never (like ever!) eat out.  I would not mind if these meals had been planned, but most of them weren't and so I am disappointed about these expenses.  I really let myself down here.  This will not happen again.

Looking forward...
I have good feelings about April and I am very happy to close the door on March.  We have lots of meat for this month (the frozen turkey that did not get thawed last month, some chicken I cooked today, and some pork I picked up yesterday on sale for $1.77 a pound).  We still have lots of pantry supplies and lots of fruit in our freezer which I am going to start pounding through at a faster rate as summer approaches.

A couple of experiences this month were very humbling for me.  My friend's daughter is doing some missionary work in Guatemala and she posted a picture of a family that she brought a bed to.  Their house was literally built into rocks with sheet metal for the roof.  They have five children and a daughter who was terribly ill and also blind and unable to swallow.  My heart broke when I saw this picture.  We are so truly blessed (not the trendy hashtag blessed), we take so much for granted.

Another friend of mine is a missionary in Kentucky.  He posted on Facebook about a visit to an orphanage where he met a young man whose brain never developed properly because for the firth three years of his life he was only fed water and KoolAid.  I read about this with a very heavy heart.  There are so many children who do not get the love and care they need.  These stories always drive home to me the importance of taking care of my own family and those around me, and how fortunate I am that I have the means to do so.  We are truly, truly blessed.

On another note, spring has arrived and I am looking forward to celebrating Easter with family this month as well.....

Spring, glorious spring!