Grocery Shopping on a Budget

M and I are not rich by any means so we have to really think through our grocery shopping strategy. This is a challenge for a number of reasons, but our primary reasons are money restraints and love of food. We are adventurous eaters and Arlie is shaping up to be the same, so our grocery bill can sometimes get outrageous. We have a strategy in place now that works most months and allows for some splurges.

I love to cook. It’s really one of my passions and that makes it one of my priorities. This actually ends up helping us most months because it means we rarely eat out. I try to plan a week of meals out and we go shopping on Saturdays or Sundays. We tried doing months worth of shopping but we always ended up throwing away expired food and I would often forget what we had planned. So for now, we do once a week shopping.

Our local grocery store has a number of discount sections that include nearly expired food. This means that we can pick up good cuts of meat and dairy products for about half the regular price. This is awesome because we often find really nice cuts of meat for really cheap and because we are usually planning to eat whatever we buy fairly soon, it doesn’t matter that it is about to expire. The other awesome thing about this store is that they have a rewards program. I can load coupons onto my card online and the discounts come off automatically when I check out. I also earn points which turn into discounts at the gas station.

We also shop at a grocery outlet store. This is hit and miss as far as available products so I usually have to be flexible in our meal plan. We tend to get boxed items like cereal and breakfast foods here as well as cleaning supplies, lunch box items, and occasionally we find dairy items that work with our meal plan. We can usually get two bags of groceries here for around $30.00.

I try to keep some items on hand that are cheap and quick to make for the nights I don’t feel like doing a lot of cooking. This is stuff like polenta or boxed Mac and cheese. This helps us avoid ordering food because I have a hard time justifying a meal out if we have easy food at home. We do tend to splurge on two items, milk and our Sunday donuts. I buy only one brand of milk from a local dairy. It is definitely more expensive, but it also tastes amazing and I feel good about feeding it to Arlie. The donuts are our weekly treat and it is our fun family outing on Sunday mornings.

I would guesstimate that we spend between $250.00 to $350.00 on groceries per month. We try to be as economical as possible without feeling bored by what we eat. It’s hard balancing nutrition and money, but we are lucky to live in a town with a lot of grocery stores and therefore a lot of options for us.

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House Hunting

Ugh, we are just beginning our house hunt.  We got pre-approved the week before last and got connected with a real estate agent and so far we’ve looked at about 10 houses.  I am being really picky and M is being less picky so this is causing some weird moments.  We decided going into it that the amount we were pre-approved for is more than we would like to spend so we are trying to keep that in mind as we look.  I have some very specific wants that I am not really willing to compromise on:

Three bedrooms, at least 2 bathrooms (even if the second bathroom is just a half bath), a garage, an open workable kitchen and a laundry room or area that isn’t a closet.  M would like vaulted ceilings (I reeeally don’t care about this at all) and curb appeal.  Our list together is proving to make this a difficult process and that sucks.  It basically feels right now like we won’t ever find a house that works for both of us and I feel really weird about settling for a house that doesn’t tick all my boxes.  I guess when you are making a purchase this big and that has such an impact on your life, it becomes a little more difficult to accomplish.

The other aspect of this that is wearing on me is that I feel really sad about having to move out of our current home.  It really isn’t feasible for us to continue our lease to own at this point because the amount we were approved for is less than the value of this house.  Plus, there is an HOA fee on top of the mortgage payment and that would put us in a really hard spot financially.  But this house has so many memories for us.  We got married here (in our backyard) and we had both our children here.  M and I really started our life here and we both really love this house.  Plus, in moving we will probably have to move to the town next to ours because house prices are so much lower there.  All around it is a really sad situation and I wish that we had the option to stay here.  The house isn’t perfect, but it works for us and there are some small improvements that we could do that would make it really work well for us.  We like our neighbors and this is the first house I have lived in where I feel safe all the time.  I really truly love it.

We are committed to looking until we find something that is right for us but it seems like it is going to take forever.  I wish every day that we weren’t still paying off student loans because that is really making our usable housing income stretched.  It is disheartening that we both got educations and those degrees are not really helping us, but that is another issue alltogether.  Hopefully the perfect house pops up and we can get into it relatively quickly and without too much pain involved.

Arlie 19 Months/ Tate 2 Months

I made it to two months with Tate and I am here to report that it is getting better…  More on that later.

Arlie:  Arlie turned 19 months last week and she is changing every second of every day.  I seriously can’t even believe how much is happening with her on a daily basis.  She is most definitely NOT a baby at all anymore and is embracing her toddlerhood with full force.  She came in at 25 lbs 10 ounces and 34 1/4 inches long at her appointment on Friday.  That put her into the 91st percentile for height and 81st percentile for weight.

She is talking sooo much.  She could say a bunch of words last month, but now she is using words to correctly identify things and she is asking us for stuff.  Specifically, she asks us to walk, to pick her up, to get her milk or water, to change her diaper, to go places, etc.  It is crazy.  Almost daily I tell Matt when he gets home that she said something new that blew my mind.  She is just a little sponge and she is so smart.  It makes me all warm inside to see her growing up like this.  A little sad too.

She is running and climbing everything still.  She can now put her shoes on and mostly dress herself.  Basically she can pull pants or shorts on and she can get a shirt about 3/4 of the way on.  She has also started picking out some of her own clothes.  This is kind of fun for me because she is showing preferences for certain styles and colors.  She has also started having some fear of heights and of the stairs.  I am not sure where this is coming from but I welcome it because it is helping her be a little more cautious.

She is eating just about everything.  She really loves peanut butter and applesauce.  Yesterday she ate an entire apple on her own.  She likes meat, but not really chicken.  She loves cheese probably more than any other food and will eat any kind I offer to her.  She’s still drinking whole milk and lots and lots of water.  Sometimes she gets some gatorade mixed with a lot of water and she thinks she is getting a treat.  I don’t drink soda, but I drink flavored unsweetened sparkling water and she loves that too.  She isn’t very fond of sweets, but has a love affair with nutter butters.  Probably just because of the peanut butter.

She is IN LOVE with Tate.  She wants to hold him all the time.  She gives him lots of kisses and hugs.  She makes sure anyone around us knows that she has a brother by pointing at him and talking until they notice him.  She does get jealous occasionally when she wants to be held and we are holding him instead.  There have been a few instances of her hitting him or trying to shove him out of her way, but these are few and far between.  She is just so happy to have him here.  I’m actually slightly concerned with what they are going to be like when they are older.

Tate:  Tate is two months old.  I wrote a while ago about him being colicky.  Well, it just never really got better.  He would have good days and that would always convince me that he was ok and didn’t need to go to the doctor.  I finally talked to the ped about it at his appointment on Friday and based on all his symptoms, he has officially been diagnosed with silent reflux.  He started zantac on Friday night and for the first time in 6 weeks, he actually slept for more than 45 minutes.  In fact, he slept for 4 hours straight, nursed, and then slept for two hours, nursed, and slept for another two hours.  I cried in the morning because it had been so long since I had slept that much.  I was averaging around 3-4 hours per night and none of that was in a long stretch.  He was constantly writhing around and gurgling and choking and that basically meant that he was sleeping in 15-45 minutes stretches all night.  Which meant that I was also sleeping in 15-45 minutes stretches, if I could fall asleep at all in between.  I was losing my mind and I don’t think I was being a very good parent.

He is a much happier baby now.  I am really hoping that this lasts.  I finally got smiles out of him starting about two weeks ago.  In the last few days he has been content to sit in my lap propped up on my knees chatting with me.  I can get him to grin and smile and even do what sounds like a little laugh.  It is really awesome to have positive interactions with him rather than the stressful and kind of negative interactions we were experiencing before.  There was no doubt before that I loved him before, but I really like being around him now.

He weighed in at 12 lbs 3.5 ounces and 23.5 inches long.  Oddly enough, these are almost the exact same stats as Arlie at her two month appointment.  They really are twinners.

I am actually looking forward to life right now.  I don’t feel so hopeless and sad all the time and I know that this is a direct affect of getting more sleep.  These kids are a handful, but I love them fiercely and I am so glad that I was given such great gifts.

The Difference Between Mom and Dad

I’ve been thinking about writing this post or something like this for a long time.  Let me preface this by saying that I love my husband and I will be in love with him forever.  He is my best friend and the best person I know.  But some days I want to kill him and some days he wants to kill me.

Having a baby is hard.  Having a second baby is hard.  The differences between myself and my husband are very evident during this difficult stage in our lives.  It surprised me the first time and for some reason surprised me even more this time, maybe because I was expecting it to be different.

  1. The Things I Think Are Urgent Are Not The Things He Thinks Are Urgent.

This is driving me crazy all the time.  I do not let Arlie or Tate sit in a dirty diaper if I can help it.  Granted, there are some times where it can’t be avoided, but for the most part there is always an extra two minutes to change a dirty diaper.  M does not feel the same way.  I often will be tending to Tate, cleaning, cooking, etc and Arlie will have a wet or dirty diaper.  I will ask M to change her.  Ten minutes later, Arlie is still in a wet or dirty diaper and I am seething.  I am not sure why there is a difference here.  I automatically think “lazy” but there must be something else going on that I don’t understand.  For M, he thinks that it is urgent to make sure his garden is watered, but for me I just don’t care at all.  I’m sure that annoys him.

2. A Crying Baby or Toddler Does Not Merit The Same Reaction

This one kills me.  I hate hate hate hearing either of them cry.  Granted, there are times that Arlie is crying for no reason, or I have to finish something up before I can go to a crying Tate.  But for the most part, I do my best to make sure that if one of them are crying, they get held or at least talked to so they feel better.  M does not feel the same way.  I’ve talked with a bunch of my mommy friends and they all pretty much say the same thing.  I think there is probably a biological aspect at play here because they sound and pitch of Tate’s cries are not something I can ignore.  It makes my shoulders tense up and I feel awful until the sound stops.  M can ignore the crying almost all the time and it absolutely drives me crazy.  Sometimes I sit and give him a death glare hoping he will see it and respond to one of the kids but apparently that doesn’t work.

3. Food Choices Are Definitely Not The Same

This one goes back and forth between us almost daily.  One of us is always questioning the healthy or lack of healthy options we are providing Arlie.  She eats well and it growing well, but there are some days when M thinks she should eat better and there are some days when I think she should eat better.  Usually we can balance each other out and make sure that Arlie is eating healthy foods, but not always.  M is not as confident as I am with food choices for her so he often consults me which is a source of frustration for me, but only because I wish he would just take care of it on his own.  Lucky for us, this is not a point of contention that causes bad feelings between us.  It’s just a weird thing that pops up frequently.

4. The Sleep Deprivation

Ok Dads, this is one you should really pay attention to.  Unless you are getting up EVERY SINGLE TIME your wife is to tend to baby and/or toddler, you are not as tired as she is.  I don’t care if you are going to work everyday.  Your wife is dealing with two kids all day by herself on less that five hours of sleep.  FOR MONTHS.  This is a big issue between M and I right now.  I get up with both kids all night and Tate is still quite colicky so he sleeps poorly most nights.  Arlie has started peeing in mass quantities overnight so I usually have to at least change her diaper if not her whole outfit, in the middle of the night ate least three nights per week.  M’s defense of his tiredness was always that he was waking up too, but I shut that down with the fact that even though he may be waking up each time, he is quickly going back to sleep while I am up for half hour to multiple hour periods every time.  Yes, he had to get up and go to work, but I am back at work no so that excuse literally has no merit whatsoever.

5. The Hurts

I absolutely hate it when Arlie gets hurt, physically or emotionally.  It kills me a little every time.  I think that most of the time M is not affected by this.  Again, I think that this is a biological mommy thing and not a choice so there is a huge difference just from that.  I can’t explain to M why I feel this way and why I can almost feel Arlie’s pain myself when she gets hurt.  M does a good job of not reacting to the smaller boo-boos that Arlie gets and I suck at this.  The emotional hurt for Arlie is really hard on me.  I hate to see her sad or hurt because she is confused.  I expect that this will get worse as she gets older and deals with bigger emotional issues.

6. Planning Ahead

I like to have plans in place for pretty much everything.  M is more of a laid back go with the flow person.  It drives me crazy!  I hate not having rules and it is even harder for me during this newborn stage because everything is always in such chaos.  I hate chaos.  This extends to meals, weekend plans, daily timelines, etc.

7. Priorities

For me, the kids are absolutely my priority.  I generally make sure that they have everything they need before I worry about what I need.  M does not do this.  It is probably a two fold thing.  One is that I take care of what the kids need so much and so often that he doesn’t even have to think about it and therefore doesn’t think about it.  Two is that he has totally different priorities.  His are more focused on what he needs and his work and that is just how he is programmed.  Yes, it bugs me.  Yes, we’ve talked about it.  Hopefully it is something that will change as we evolve and as the kids get older.  Right now they are very dependent on me because they are both so little.  But as they get older and more of the tasks can be done by either of us, I think that he will shift his priorities slightly.

For the most part, we parent very similarly but the things above are the most obvious differences between us right now.  I am really looking forward to the non-newborn stage because I think that we will slowly start to shift into our new normal.  I know once we get there, these differences will start to change and life will get easier.  This new baby things is hard and we’re doing the best we can.

Postpartum Me

I gave birth to Tate about two months ago and I am getting to the point where my body feels more like my own again.  Except for the boobs, which are not mine at all anymore, but more on that later.

I gained about 31 lbs during pregnancy and I have lost all of it so far.  I am still wanting to lose about 10-20 pounds to get to a weight that I feel comfortable.  Over the last 4 years, I gained some weight between the two successful pregnancies and the miscarriage.  I used to hover around 135-140 and I have a goal now of getting to somewhere around 150ish.  I would honestly be happy at 160, but I would feel healthier at 150.  Right now I am still mostly following the diabetes diet I was on during the pregnancy and that seems to help a lot.  Once it gets a little cooler outside I can do more of my walking and exercising.  I am not at all interested in working out or following any sort of hard core exercising program.  I have never been that kind of a person.  I love walking though and since I am about 10 lbs from my reasonable weight goal, I think I can accomplish this with walking and continuing to eat better.  I am not about to give up our Sunday morning doughnut runs, but I am happy to not eat crap all the time.  Plus, since I was denied fruit for the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, I want it all the time and that is not something I felt before.  I have signed up for a couple of 5 k’s during the fall and I am slowly working my way into that.  I will be walking, not running, and I plan on either having just Tate with me or both of the kids as an added bonus.

In other parts of the postpartum, I am struggling with the idea of being done having children.  The mental and emotional toll of being pregnant is not something that I think I can do again.  But I always pictured having three kids, and I am not sure how I feel about letting go of that dream.  M says he is done, but we both have decided to wait a couple of years and then make a final decision.  Basically I want to wait until I am 34 and decide if this is our ideal family.  I don’t really want to jump into having another kid after 35 so that puts a three year timeline on our decision.  It sucks because I don’t think I would do well being pregnant again, I would likely have gestational diabetes again, and if I had another baby with colic I would probably lose my mind.  But I am already sad at the thought of not experiencing the little baby stage again.  My heart and my head are saying completely opposite things and that is messing with me.  I am happy with our family right now and I know that if we choose not to have another, I am fine with that.  I also have to weigh the possibility of another miscarriage or even stillbirth etc to my decision.  I am just not sure if I could handle that.  I guess for now I am sitting in the “if something happens (I get pregnant again) I would be happy but I am not going to actively try and I am going to do my best to avoid it” camp.

I find it extremely hard to move out of the trying to get pregnant / being pregnant phase to the being done phase.  I still get a little jealous when someone close to me announces their pregnancy and that is a super weird thing to deal with.  As I move further and further away from my miscarriage, I am having a hard time with my feelings about it.  I still have some weird trigger days that shake me but I don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone other than M about it.  I feel like even my loss friends would judge me because I have two healthy kids and I am happy if I brought it up with them.  In some of our conversations I feel like an outsider because I only experienced a miscarriage and they all experienced stillbirths or live births with death afterwards.  Its hard because this is more intense for me right now with all the hormones I am dealing with.  I suspect in the coming months, this will start to fade again and I will think of it less often.

The one other thing I want to hit on is how I feel as a mom.  I am oftentimes judging myself because my patience is thin with both of the babies.  I am exhausted and this obviously adds to my lack of patience, but I also just find myself wanting space more than I used to.  I think this is because someone is always touching me.  I never am free from the kids unless I am out grocery shopping alone, which has happened exactly once since Tate was born.  I decided to go back to work early and this was a good decision.  I don’t really want to be away from the kids because I don’t want to miss anything, but these few hours I have at work are so nice and freeing.  I feel like the small breaks where I am actually using my brain and being productive are really helpful to me.

I guess there are no rules about how to do this mom of two game and I am trying my hardest to get it right.  I am looking forward to seeing them both grow up and I am excited for the coming months, but I am also wondering if I really am done.