Friday, May 6, 2011

Food budgeting

I love food, and I love to cook. Both have gotten me into trouble with my waistline and my budget. Before I became very conscious about spending and budgeting, I was able to spend upwards of 800 or 900 dollars per month on food at the grocery store. That didn't even count money spent eating out. It was just too much.

Just this month, I've spent $211 on groceries. My previous budget was $600 per month for groceries. My plan was to get this down to $500 now that I'm not working. I was hoping to do this through a combination of cooking more from scratch and watching sales and using coupons. I'm still hopeful that I can do this. I've purchased enough turkey and chicken meat to last the month. That means that I have almost $100 per work to cover everything else for the rest of the month.

As I've been thinking about food and budgeting, I'm trying to come to terms with what I can cover in my budget for food realistically. One of my favorite Jane Austen novels is Sense and Sensibility. In the film version, the family, reduced to penury after the father's death and transfer of his estate to the eldest son of his first wife, finds that they can no longer afford such things as sugar or beef. The eldest daughter says, "we must learn to economize". I haven't yet cut sugar out of my budget. But beef is eaten only rarely now in my house. Part of the reason is the health and environmental costs of beef, the other is the price. The cuts of beef that are comparable in price to chicken are far from desirable.

What else will find that it no longer has a place in my shopping cart? I think it would be beneficial to reduce the amount of dairy that we eat. We go through a gallon or two of milk per week, butter is used liberally, and we always have a block of cheddar around. There aren't cheaper substitutes so it would be a matter of cutting these out of our diet or at least reducing how much we use. I'm working on cutting down the number of prepared foods that we eat such as snack foods. I'm also considering baking my own bread. I already bake muffins, cookies and other baked goods.

I'll have to revisit this at the end of the month to see how I do with my grocery budget. If I'm not able to keep it in check, I may have to consider some more drastic cuts to help keep my spending in check.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Finding your groove: From work to staying at home

It's almost been a full week at home now. I've learned a few things being home that might be helpful for others who are planning to make a transition.

Expect a transition. Even if you've been dreaming about staying home for years or finally just quit your job out of frustration. There will be a transition time to staying at home. Being with your kids 24 hours a day is a lot different than spending 8 hours in an air-condition office each day. It isn't all good and it isn't all bad, but it is very different. So don't expect to go from professional career woman to expert stay at home mom immediately.

You may not have as much time as you think you will. I naively thought that once I was home all day that there would be plenty of time to get everything done in the house plus have lots of fun, quality time with the kids. Wrong! There are only so many hours in the day. I now have a lot more choice and flexibility in how I spend those hours, but they are still limited. I still haven't gotten the laundry under control, but I've also made the conscious decision to focus a lot of my energy and attention on providing meaningful experiences for my daughters.

Being at home may mean that you can't wait to get away from it. Now more than ever I need some alone time to recharge my batteries. Spending a full day with a 2 year-old is always exhausting no matter what.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Staying at home is exhausting

I've decided two days in that staying at home full-time is exhausting. I feel like I've never worked so hard. In my working days, I used to think nothing of forgoing washing the dishes in order to veg out on the couch for an hour in the evening. Now, I don't understand how it is that there are still dirty dishes in the sink. Didn't I just do them an hour ago. There is a never-ending need for cleaning, cooking, cleaning up after cooking, responding to this or that request from the little or not-so-little one. I may already need a vacation. I'm hoping things will settle into a routine soon, and soon I'll have caught up on all the housework I'd put off my last few weeks. At least I hope that is the case. For now, my kids are relatively healthy and happy. My oldest is playing with mud in the backyard with a couple of friends, the youngest is taking a much needed TV break (needed for mommy), white bean and spinach soup is simmering on the stove. I can appreciate in this moment what is good and leave for tomorrow what is yet undone.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My first official day home

Today is Monday. A day when I'd normally rush through a morning routine, rush one or more both kids to school or daycare, commute 1/2 an hour to work, and spend eight hours at a desk, and then repeat the routine in reverse. It is noon. Today, I've walked my oldest daughter to school, cleaned the girls' room and the living room, played with water in the backyard with my youngest, ate lunch outside with her, read her three stories, and tucked her in for a nap.

I'll admit that my convictions about staying home wavered a bit this weekend as it all started to sink in. Am I doing the right thing? Will I really enjoy it as much as I think I will? Is this good for the kids, for my husband, for me? I don't know the answers to those questions yet. I do know that I enjoyed my Sunday evening for the first time in a long time without the Sunday evening dread coming on. Life is like an unpainted canvas for me right now. I get to fill it. I just need to decide what the painting is going to be.

All in all, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. It is something that I never thought I'd be able to do. I hope that I can be worthy of the gift.