Wednesday, January 30

Operation Grocery Budget: January 2019 Report

We have made it to the end of January, and here's the screen shot from our budget app! We wound up under budget by $21.08, although I suppose the day isn't quite over yet. Ha!

Biggest help to me this month was this question: "Do we need this NOW?" More often than not, I realized I was buying for future need rather than immediate. It saved lots of money. I'm also noticing that instead of a jam-packed freezer and pantry, we have room to move things around and use them much more easily. Excess creates problems more than solutions. This lesson is effecting the rest of our home as well. 

I did notice some other things - 

1. We could have said no even more often than we did this month, especially that Kroger purchase last night - but to be quite honest, I didn't want to get out in the polar vortex that will be the rest of this week! So I picked up things like cereal, and cans of pantry items that are super basic but will allow me to make some of our favorite quick meals without "needing" to get creative.

Wondering about that $1.55 purchase? I chose not to say no to that purchase at ALDI. Mama needs her half and half for the winter storms and multiple snow days in a row necessitate proper caffienation. 

2. I have to decide what to do with the "excess" budget money.

I kind of vote for rolling it over - so that if I want to make a bulk purchase I can, or for those months when we run out of all the non food essentials at once...or maybe that is just our house? 

3. I still have far to much food in the house. I guess in some ways this is a good thing, and in some ways it probably means I still need to buy less. 

In fact, this whole exercise is teaching me that I am amazingly blessed with abundance - that I can be more creative than I think, and that my defaults need to be reset - instead of buying more, I can ask myself if there is a creative alternative. 

Yesterday, for example, I pulled some turkey tenderloins out of the freezer, a bag of gluten free stuffing from the pantry, and some frozen brussels sprouts and home canned green beans. It felt like thanksgiving, especially since I'd made broth the day before in the instant pot that could easily be made into gravy, but I had no potatoes for mashed potatoes that (most) of my kids love. So instead of going and buying potatoes, I grabbed a bag of diced frozen potatoes and cooked them up and what do you know, they made fluffy mashed potatoes! I probably wouldn't have tried that before. We had a nice time as a family, thanking God for all that He has done.

Operation Budget Cuts is going great so far! We will keep going until it stops working for us! 

Tuesday, January 22

Operation Grocery Budget: 2019

This year, I’m determined. My grocery budget will help us instead of cripple us.

We are a family of 6; two adults, four kids - 12,10, 7 & 3. Two out of four kids regularly eat like full grown adults. 4/6 of us need to avoid eating gluten and I try to follow the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating. We live in Michigan. Today, milk prices are just over $1/gallon and eggs are around $1/dozen. Other things vary, but I feel like as a whole, our food costs are generally lower than the national average. Our grocery budget has been steadily climbing over the last several years, but I knew we were eating healthy so I justified the cost.

However, we are a one main income family with a couple of side hustles to make ends meet - and we have some big goals. We just hit the five year mark on owning our second fixer upper, and the project list has some urgent items looming. We want to try to save this year to pay cash (or mostly cash) for a new roof (and possibly framing in an addition) so I am extra motivated to get our grocery spending down to a minimal number.

I’m shooting for around $550/month which will include paper products, laundry supplies, and everything household related. I don’t know if we can do it but I’m hoping to journal this year here to keep a record.

We use the Every Dollar app to plan and track our spending in every category. If you haven’t ever done a budget or a spending plan, let me encourage you to go for it! Such an awesome way to really get a handle on what is going on with the money God has provided for you to steward. If you’re not a fan of big name financial personalities, that is just fine, you’re with me, but this app is very easy to use and synchs easily between devices so it works great for us. ANY plan is better than what we were doing before - the “just don’t spend money” plan. Ha!

As anticipated, January has been pretty easy - we started with a HUGE food supply in our pantry and freezer - I mean absolutely embarrassing. This means this whole project may get harder and harder as we go and run out of things. Here are some steps I’m planning:

- eat more meatless meals.
- buy meat on sale and divide and freeze to keep our freezer stocked.
- use grocery pickup services to keep impulse buys to a minimum
- shop from what we have first.
- meal plan (for me, continue)
- buy less pre packaged stuff and only allow packaged snacks for on the go eating.
- simplify our eating - we don’t need countless choices.

So far in January we are doing great. The fridge and freezer are in great shape, the pantry has plenty of staples to keep us going, and the adjustment is going pretty well. Stay tuned for the month-end report!

Friday, January 18

On the weightiness of parenting.

I wrote this a year ago, and found it in my drafts today. 

Something I’ve been pondering: when someone accepts Christ “against all odds” and turns her life around, we don’t credit the parents. But when a child grows up in a Christian family and chooses to go his own way as he becomes an adult, suddenly all eyes seem to be on the parents. Judgy, condemning, “What did you do wrong” eyes. 

People. No. Stop it. 

Parenting is the scariest thing I have ever done. This is why: the work is pretty well laid out, at least in the basic format, (love them, guide them, point them to Jesus) but the “results” are largely out of my control. In other words, there’s no formula that guarantees that my kids will turn out how I intended. There’s no formula to guarantee success. As with everything else a Christian is called to do, we are required to remain faithful, obey God, work hard, and leave the results in God’s hands. As with almost nothing else in life, the stakes are higher, the investment more intense, and the emotional toll is at an all time high. 

Any good result is a direct result of the Holy Spirit’s power and the grace of God. So why, why, why do we as humans take the credit for ourselves (or assign it to another set of parents) when their adult (or adultish) children “turn out right”? 

And why do we judge when another child decides to take a path that leads them away from God and everything they were ever taught?! 

I understand there are principles here, faithfulness, sowing and reaping, and all of that. And we absolutely are called to be faithful to God’s Word and parent our children well. And we should wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to the weighty and serious task. 

But God writes the story. God. Not me. And part of this excruciating parenting journey is looking into the beautiful, trusting eyes of my precious children and know that someday the love and bond we are building could be my undoing. It is so hard to give them to God. To surrender my need for control over to Him. My oldest is 11, and I tremble for the future possibilities, until...

I remember my God. 

“My thoughts are not your thoughts...”

“My word...shall not return to me empty...”

“I have come to SEEK and to save...”

The lost sheep

The lost coin

The prodigal son

The God who relentlessly pursued me. Who saved me despite my thinking I could do a pretty good job of it on my own. Oh my pride, my pride. And yet He loved me. 

The record of His faithfulness. 

The devotion to His own glory. 

And these lessons that He continues to bring me back to - Surrender. Humility. Submission. Relaxing in His plan - they apply to my parenting, too. And maybe someday it won’t be so scary, because I will have learned the lesson or set aside my pride or whatever it is I need to learn. But I kind of think that won’t be until I am with Him, to be honest. Because every day, I still fight for control. I still hold my breath in uncertainty.

I’m gradually learning that not only must I surrender my will and plans for my own life, but I must offer my plans and dreams for their lives too, and entrust them to a Good Father who is more than capable of writing their stories, His way. And I get a front row seat. 

There will be joy. There already has been. There will be pain, because of a broken world. Because in spite of our efforts, we can’t choose, or control, or will, or formulate our children. 

Let’s stop taking the credit, and let’s stop assigning blame. Celebrate faithfulness. Encourage young parents to stay the course. Give them tips, if they want them, or need them. Be teachable. Accept the wisdom of others. Walk with each other in the trenches, pray for each other and our kids. Beg God to calm our anxious hearts. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. And at the end of the day, trust in the faithfulness of God. Without Him, we can do nothing.