Saturday, March 28, 2009

How to shop with 2 small boys

Boys are busy. Pre-school boys are even busier. So how do you grocery shop and stay sane? Be prepared. I always leave for shopping about a half-hour to an hour after Jeremy's nap. That way I know he's not tired and not cranky from just having woken up. I also make sure that before we leave the house Elijah has gone to the washroom and Jeremy has a clean diaper on. There's nothing worse than hearing 'Mom I have to go pee' half-way through the shop.
I also make sure my 'mom bag' is stocked. I pack 2 snacks for each of them plus a portable cup for each. As soon as we get to the store, they both go in the cart (Elijah usually gets out halfway through to be my helper half-way through, but I like them contained for the beginning at least). It's also why I like the Superstore, they have carts made for 2 kids to sit in.
We then swing by the snack area to pick up some strawberry milk (which goes in the go-cups I've packed). They are happy with the treat and I don't hear, 'Mom, can I get a treat?' the rest of the shop. The snacks I've packed don't come out right away either, they don't come out until I can see they are restless or they ask for them. Sometimes we never get to them. Especially on days when the sample ladies are in the store.
Letting Elijah be my helper is good too. It keeps him busy and involved and gives me an opportunity to talk about the kinds of foods we get. I also let them get some choice in what we are buying. For example, they really like the yogurt drinks so I will ask do they want strawberry or banana this week? Or they will be allowed to choose which kind of applesauce cups they want to get this week.
I think it's important to talk about food choice with your kids. Yesterday, Elijah asked why we don't buy the canned pasta. He's pretty accepting when I told him that first Jeremy was allergic to it (soy oil content) and that it has too much salt which isn't good for your body. I figure they have to come along anyways they may as well learn from it.
It's also a great oppourtunity for other kinds of learning. If I'm buying tuna I will ask Elijah to get 3 cans so he is getting some counting practice. Or we will talk about some of the words we see as we go buy (literacy practice).
I'm not saying it always goes smoothly. Probably 90% of the time it's smooth and the other 10% I wish I could have gone alone, or with just one of them. But I can usually see where I went wrong in those cases. Like I picked a time when one was tired. Or I didn't pack a snack. Or I knew they were already getting on each others nerves before we left.
Being a regular at the store helps too. I know who the fast cashiers are that like kids and which ones are as slow as molasses. The end of the shop is the most likely time for a melt-down, they can get store weary, just like the rest of us. It's also where they place the candy, which is frustrating too. But you deal with it and then you're home again, home again jiggety-jig :o)

Menu Planning

We shop for groceries once every 2 weeks. That's it, that's all we need and that's how we save money and still have great food. Sounds a little rediculous at first I know. I didn't think we could do it. But we had been finding that we kept running back to the store for this and that which made our grocery budget explode. We also had taken to eating out more and more, also not good for the budget. We also have 2 small boys so grocery shopping can be a chaotic time if we aren't ready for it. What I have learned to do is to plan and plan well. I have a set time for groceries. I know that I will be at the store every Friday afternoon that I get paid (I get paid bi-weekly). I do my planning on Thursday night. The first thing I do is check the fridge, freezer and cupboards. Is there anything left in there that I can plan into my menus? Are there any staples that we are out of. (Usually I keep track on a white board on my fridge of things we need as we run out of them). Then I start to plan.
I start with 2 blank note papers. The first is for menus, the second is for a grocery list.
The menu paper I fill in like this:


I then start filling in. Wednesdays we always have pizzas, Jonathan works Wednesday nights and takes one to work and I pop one in the oven for me & the boys. Thursday nights are almost always leftover nights, I find that that is a good day to eat up whatever is remaining from the previous week.
I also note in things that are going on so I don't plan something complicated for a night we won't have time, and to remind me of potlucks and nights Jonathan will be out etc.
As I fill in my week I note on the grocery paper items I will need for recipes that I don't have on hand.
I also like to take this time to flip through my favortie cook books for inspiration. What looks interesting for this week? (It's also a good time to ask Jonathan if he's been craving anything too).

By then end of it my list looks something like this:

F - (boys getting pictures done) eat at store
S - fettucini
S - quesedillas
M - (Elijah swimming lessons) - Beef Stew with dumplings
T - Spanikopita
W - Pizza
Th - chicken and fries

F - Fish with veggies and home fries
S - (Potluck) - bring dessert
S - roast beef, cheesy potato casserole and veg
M - (Elijah swimming lessons) - fish and chips
T - chili & biscuits (make chili night before after swimming)
W - pizza
Th - leftovers

I don't cook big every night. At least twice a week I have something quick and easy (pizza, chicken and fries, fish and chips) and I try to keep something in the house for a just in case meal that I can heat up (like extra spagetti sauce from another meal that I had frozen) because you never know what could come up during the week.

I also plan for lunches. I like to take soup for lunch that I make on the weekend and divide up into plastic containers for the week.
The boys eat lunch at daycare on Monday and Tuesday, but Weds. to Thurs. Jonathan is home with them. So I make note of those days too. Usually mini pizzas, some sort of sandwiches and macaroni fits in there.
As well I fill in things like yogurt, applesauce, fruit etc. for snacks. And breakfast foods. I eat oatmeal every weekday, but the boys like cold cereal.

And that's it.

Everything I need for the next 2 weeks I know I have in the house. I also know that my grocery money is spent so I am not looking for money that isn't there later on. We've been doing groceries this way for the past 6 months or so and it's working really well. We used to do it every week, which worked too, but we find this saves us even more money (and less hassle shopping with the boys).

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Look

Yay! I found a wonderful blog template site that has so many pretty blog templates. It is Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates. I added their link on here if you are interested in finding something new for your blog too :o)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blog Surfing

I've had a great time during the past few days to go blog sufing looking for other Foodies out there. I am so inspired by all of the blogs I've seen and have added quite a few to my bloglist. I now see ways that I can improve this blog to make it prettier. One thing I definately need to do is to start taking and posting pictures of the recipes I post. I'm also looking for new colours and wallpaper to make this less generic and a little more me. Look for changes over the next month or so. Cheers!

Roasted Eggplant Salad

I was introduced to this dish while in Romania a few years back. It is absolutely delicious. In Romania we ate it spread on fresh French Bread. You can also use it as a dip for pita or veggies.

1 large eggplant
1/2 to 1 bulb of garlic (depending on your taste)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 Cup of Light Mayonnaise
Dash of Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice Eggplant into 1/2 inch thick slices.
Separate garlic bulb into cloves and remove skins.
Place sliced eggplant and garlic into a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover and bake for about an hour (eggplant will be soft).
Place roasted eggplant and garlic into a bowl or food processor. Add light mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Blend together with hand blender or in the food proccessor. Let cool.

Giving Dues

I have to give credit where credit is due. Those who know me know that I have struggled with my weight over the past 10 years. I did very well to lose a lot of weight around the time I got married (7 years ago) but slowly have put that back on and more since having my boys. This past fall I was introduced to an online community that is everything health, nutrition and fitness called Spark People. It truly is everything I have been looking for to help me lose weight in a healthy way, while still enjoying good food. They key is to find a balance to create a healthy lifestyle. In the fall I lost close to 15 pounds with them. I was very excited, but when Christmas came I over indulged and got off track (gaining 10 of those pounds back). I got back on track earlier this month. As of today I am down 10.5 pounds (making me down 15 total). I haven't been hungry. I haven't felt deprived. I feel good. I'm still enjoying my food, but I'm not obsessing about it. I'm really excited and wanted to share. If this sounds like something you are looking for too, come on over and join me in the journey! Get a Free Online Diet

Dessert without a name

This is the easiest dessert designed to impress your friends and co-workers that I have ever encountered. It was first introduced to me by a kindergarten teacher named Lorie a few years ago and I've been making it for pot-lucks ever since.


Saltine Crackers (unsalted tops)
Instant Vanilla Pudding (serving 6 size)
Light Cool Whip
Chocolate Sundae Syrup (I use Smuckers in a squeeze bottle)

In a 8x10 pan layer tile out your crackers to make one layer. Spread Vanilla pudding over top. Layer with crackers. Spread out Cool Whip. Cover and refrigerate over-night. Drizzle with Sundae Syrup just before serving. The sugar from the pudding and cool whip turns the crackers into a pastry. Delicious!

Cookie Pizza

Last night I was procrastinating. Today is potluck day at one of my schools. I usually sign up for dessert as I travel between schools and the lag time in the mini-commute is just long enough for some of the staff to be about ready for dessert by the time I arrive. Last night I got caught up in blog surfing. And I didn't really pay much attention to the time. I knew I had to make something fast. So here is what I came up with.

Roll out one tube of Pillsburry Cookie Dough (I had Chocolate chunk in the fridge) onto a pizza pan. Take the time to press it out and thin (but leave room on the edges for it to rise and spread out. Bake at 350* for 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile melt a half cup of chocolate chips mixed with 1/8 cup canned evaporated milk in the microwave for 2 minutes. Mix well when chocolate is melted. (My mixture had more canned milk so turned out thin, so this is my guestamate to make it a thicker consistancy - you won't use all of it anyways).
When large cookie is done, spread the chocolate 'sauce' onto the cookie. Decorate with whatever cookie goodies you have around. I used rainbow sprinkles and toffee chunks, but smarties, white chocolate chips, marshmallows, anything sweet would work.
Let cool, cut and enjoy :o)