Monday, June 3, 2013

Feeding four for under $300

So, my hubby works at a really big company. He's part of a union - which I'm forever grateful for. We have decent benefits, and he makes a living wage. For the first time since he started working there, the company and the union are in the middle of contract negotiations. We generally live paycheck to paycheck, and since the current contract is up July 1, we figured we had all month to prepare for a possible strike. We were wrong. We have until June 9, when they'll see the proposed contract for the first time and then vote on whether to strike or not.

***insert Rogue Artist completely freaking out here: If we have no income for the second half of June, we have no rent money for July, which means there is absolutely no grocery budget. And I have no stockpile to speak of. And the last strike lasted 6 weeks. Holy moly!***

When we lived in a house, I maintained a grocery stockpile that had about 1.5 months worth of food, and 6 months of non-food items. I never worried about feeding us. When we moved into our cramped 2 bedroom apartment, I could no longer have my stockpile - there just isn't room. We've had a bit of a stockpile in our deep freezer, but recent months have depleted it.

So, after being paralyzed with fear for two days, I decided that I'd come up with a menu for the month of June and shop for it while there's money to do so. And then I got distracted by many rabbit trails. How to feed a family for wicked cheap - here's my menu that has you eating the same thing for lunch and dinner 3 days in a row! How to make gnocchi from scratch. How to make meat stretch. Etc... And after spending another whole day stressing over my menu plan, I had an epiphany.

I don't do well with written out menu plans. I make them, I shop by them, and then I don't want to actually cook them. This is why I still have a can of "hearts of palm" in the cabinet. I'm one of those people who cooks by looking in the cabinet and weighing the ingredients on hand against how much time/energy I have, and then goes from there.

So with this in mind, I finally devised my shopping list. I didn't really do a full-blown kitchen inventory first; I just checked on if my memory of our canned goods was right.

Since dear friends requested it, here is a link where you can see what I bought, what we already had, and what I plan on feeding two teenagers and a DH who eats like a teenager. Oh, and what I plan on making from scratch to save money...

Like these lovely bagels that my son and I had for breakfast this morning with a smidge of butter and jam...

Or the tortillas that I can't make yet - because I didn't look at the recipe carefully, and I could have sworn I had 4 partially used cans of shortening, so I didn't buy any. (I've now remembered that I got rid of them because I never remembered them and bought more shortening every time I needed it - hence the 4 barely used cans). 

It's okay though - I still have $45 that I can spend on groceries before I hit that $300 mark for the month. And I'm pretty sure that shortening isn't that expensive...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A long journey

Shortly after I started this blog, we had a HUGE change in our household.

Just a few days after my laxt post, my 12 year old stepbrother moved in with us. Going from a single child home to a multi-child home in the blink of an eye is really hard. To compound it, he has a host of emotional baggage that he's working with.  Said emotional baggage generally manifests itself with anger issues, self esteem issues, and a history of problems in school - both with behavior and learning. He came to us primarily to try the school in our area, as a means to a fresh start with both his peers and with school admdinistration.

After learning how to navigate the special education system, and our local school working very closely with me, he was doing ok. Not great, not good, just ok. And then he started getting in enough trouble with his peers that his anger came out full force, and he started being in the office calming down more than he was in class.

So, three out of school suspensions later, I'd learned a lot. About the kid. About the school. About me. About how the system had spent years failing him, with no one noticing and everyone just passing him up to the next grade. Here was a 7th grader, crying in frustration over math (that I found during a week long suspension because the school didn't have assignments to send home). A 7th grader, who was supposed to take the state mandated STAAR test in April, where failure meant remedial classes, the further ridicule of classmates, and potentially being held back a grade. A 7th grader, who when dealt with in a one-on-one setting we discovered didn't understand multiplication.

Of course he's frustrated! Of course he's having trouble with more complicated concepts! He's missing key blocks in his foundation of knowledge!

So, in late March, we started homeschooling him. Now, Texas apparently has some of the least strict homeschooling laws in the country. I don't need a cover school, or to turn in a lesson plan. I just have to sign a letter saying that I am going to cover core subjects, like math, reading and citizenship.  So we've spent the last few months figuring out learning styles, experimenting with different homeschool methods and structures, and generally figuring out what works best for us. We're what's called "eclectic homeschoolers".

And so we're at the end of one journey,  and setting out on a new one.