Monday, January 6, 2014

Living Changes in 2014

We rang in the New Year, like many families, at home watching the ball drop at Times Square. We sat in the living room, eating junk food and drinking soda and were entertained. We hollered and whooped and there were hugs and kisses all around. My husband turned to me at midnight and said, “Well, we made it through another one.”

I’ve been thinking about that comment for a few days now and I have to admit that while I agreed with him, I’ve decided that I am troubled. With our current economy, the news focused on terrorism, unemployment rates at an all time high, high snowfall and cold weather and more, a person has to feel great frustration in the day to day routine. I’m sure there are many of us thinking the same as my husband. But, “Making it through another one” just doesn’t do it for me. I want to do more than just survive. Don’t you?

In spite of our tribulations, we have countless opportunities available to us. This is a great time to look at our goals, lifestyles, pastimes and be able to make changes. Not resolutions to change but change itself. Change, while sometimes frightening, can be a good thing!

While the cost of living seems to keep rising, our family budget has decreased.  My husband took a significant cut in pay this past year to keep his job. Mealtime planning has become very interesting. I now make a weekly “menu” before I leave for the grocery store. How do I decide on the meals? I’ve got a list of family favorites and I’ve been experimenting by checking out cookbooks and cooking magazines from the library. Some of my favorites are The Frugal Gourmet by Jeff Smith, Once A Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and The Freezer Cooking Manual: From 30 Day Gourmet: A Month of Meals Made Easy by Tara Wohlenhaus. I look for ways that I can save and still provide a healthy, nutritious diet for the family.

From that menu, I only add to the grocery list those things that we absolutely need. By using a grocery list, I find that I don’t spend extra by impulse shopping. Clipping coupons and checking store circulars while I am working on my menu for the week also help me in keeping the costs down. I buy what is on sale and use that in my menu options. And, if it is possible, I may buy extras of those items that are on sale to use in a future week’s menu cycle.

This past weekend, I took our youngest son with me on the menu planning and weekly shopping trip. He has started to make some of our meals and help in meal preparation so I thought this was a good idea. Since he can be a picky eater, it was helpful to have him with me to support the menu/food changes that we are making.

It also gave us some great quality time to spend together. While he wasn’t ‘feeling the love’ for some of the items that we bought, he understands that change is important. I was surprised to note him checking the prices on some of our old “staples” like name brand cereals and breakfast items. He quickly checked coupons and then decided on ‘store brand’ if coupons weren’t available.

We’re living changes—not making resolutions to change. And, it is due to our family’s economy. This is a great opportunity! The dietary changes are healthier for us. We are spending less, experimenting in the kitchen together and having fun creating new meals.

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