Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fancy Food

I was processing some big revelations this past week. One, of course, involves food.
Food is such a big part of life, when you're the buyer and maker of food for you family of 5 it takes up quite a bit of my brain space.

I'm still working on finding my food groove here in our new home. I wanted so badly to like our local Trader Joe's as much as my old one, but I don't.  The products may be the same but the vibe is not at all.  Every time I went in it made me miss my Oak Park store so much.  Time to revamp.

I LOVE our local co-op and the brand new Kowalsi's in Exclesior, pretty much equally.  The people are so friendly and the food is amazing, plus the co-op is 2 miles away and the Kowalski's is a perfect jaunt from Felix's preschool (and they have tiny carts!).
Trouble is these places are both a bit more expensive than the Trader Joe's prices. Though! It is possible not to spend an arm and a leg and I love a good food budget challenge.

This week I really buckled down.  Rather than fight the fact that we love take out most weekends and last minute shopping to grab what we crave I decided to split the weekly budget in half. Half for weekday groceries and essentials, half for weekend indulgences.  So far so good!

I find sticking to my plan is key, as is shopping the sales.  There are always sales in produce at both of my new favorite stores, and deli meat sales at Kowalskis (my kids can eat over 2 pounds of lunch meat a week if I let them.  Sales are important!)  I also REALLY try to not buy anything I could make for less (except bread!)  I get one bag of chips a week for Ian and the kids, and a box of crackers and dried fruit for the kids for snacks. They usually prefer fresh fruit anyways. I always have a full baking pantry for cookies or bars or muffins etc. as we want them.  It can be really hard to not overindulge in baked goods though. So delicious.
I also love the bulk bins at our co-op. The oatmeal is dirt cheap, as are most grains.  I love that if I'm really trying to stretch the budget I can buy just what I need for a meal. A cup of lentils, 2 cups of rice.   Bulk bins are my friends.

This week I spent $72 at Kowalski's for the weekday stock up.  Free range eggs, grassfed beef bologna, teriyaki sliced chicken, locally smoked salmon, lots of fruits and veggies, good dairy, sparkling water (always!).
I then spent $10 on two delicious loaves of bead at Great Harvest (I will forever miss my $2.20 loaves at Oak Park Bakery, but Light Wheat and Spinach and Feta loaves from GH are an acceptable substitute)

This week for weeknight dinners we're eating...

GH bread and leftover frozen chili from the co-op
Indian Daal with Naan (recipe from Family Cooks, refrigerator lentils spruced up Indian style with enough lentils left over for another meal next week)
Chicken Adobo with rice and cole slaw
Chicken Tacos
Crepes with smoked salmon and creamed spinach

Granted a lot of the food we are eating I already had either in the pantry or freezer, but I'm banking on willpower to stay on track this weekend to give me a bit more for next week to restock on meat and pantry items (or, thinking about going to back to one big Costco run a month to stock up, the costco situation is like the trader joe's situation though...once you've shopped at a brand new mostly empty pristine friendly Costco it's hard to go back)

This weekend I'm hoping the weather holds for grilling, pizza is always fun too. I like having some freedom and $ to exert that food freedom.

Yay food!!!

Almost Summer

One thing that marked our lives in Oak Park, or my life with my little children at home, were many many rain walks.  It didn't always feel easy for me to get out with them. I didn't feel comfortable letting them out alone to play and especially during those long rainy spells it got hard. So we'd find boots and jackets and half working umbrellas and make our way out.  Sometimes it was enough just to walk around the block. Up that cul de sac and back.  We nearly always went down the alley at least once (the best puddles were there!)
It's funny the things I find I'm missing. Simple city walk rain walks are one of them.

On one particular walk we ran into a neighbor gardening.  It was nearly pouring and there she was, humming away planting annuals in her small front flower bed.  The girls were fascinated, me too. I would never think to garden in the rain.  "Aren't you getting wet?" The girls asked.  "Aren't you cold?" "Isn't the mud so slimy?"  "Why yes!" She replied. "And it's absolutely my favorite thing to do".

We're on our third day of rain here.  Three days of rain AFTER two days of all family stomach flu.  It's felt like a very long indoor haul for me.  Today finally everyone will be back at school and I can get out on my own.  I so treasure this little bit of time in a day to move at my own pace.  I'm looking forward to it.

Right now my gears are turning big time.  School ends soon and there is much to be done.  I am desperate to get my vegetable garden set up.  I calm a bit when I realize I can save some of the seeds I'd hoped to plant earlier and buy some starts instead.  It's just our first year here with this. There is time!

I am also so antsy for making and settling further into our house.  Bit by bit spaces are feeling more finished and more systems are in place.  Our Oak Park home may have been small but it was so efficient.  I miss knowing where every single thing is and having everything have it's place.

I'm diving back into sewing, making that seasonal switch from knitting.  I am loving it.  I received a new children's sewing book from my mom for my birthday and pretty much want to make everything in it. The girls have each picked a new dress and I've ordered new fabric for those and new shorts for Felix (green Octopi!). Now Ainsley has fallen in love with every dress in this new favorite book so it looks like lots of kids sewing on the docket. I love it. I'll sew for them as long as they want me to! (And after one motivated post sickness afternoon I made them each something new already so it at least feels possible!)

I've also ordered fabric for dining room valences and that new quilt for Ian and I modeled loosely (I hope!) after this Anthropologie quilt I fell in love with.  I'm going with a navy/blue and white theme and crossing my fingers I chose fabrics right.  I can't wait for that bundle to arrive!

Now that my own making is feeling a bit more underway I'm looking ahead to summer with my girls and Felix home all day and how that will look too.  Last weekend (before the evil stomach bug on Mother's Day) we had a delightful Saturday highlighted for me by a morning at the Arboretum and Lake Minnetonka picnic lunch with Ian's parents and an afternoon at Ainsley's new camp open house.

I didn't go to camp growing up but in looking at summer activities for her this jumped out at us and she's pleased as punch.  The camp looks straight out of the Haley Mills Parent Trap.  She'll be going for two weeks at the end of June, full days, one overnight each week. They'll swim and craft and do sports and archery and other classic campy things. I am so excited for my girl and so happy it's full steam ahead.

So! for three weeks in June it will just be Louise and Felix and I (as Ainsley is also doing a church drama camp for one week!) and I'm really excited for time with those two. Ainsley's camp is right over by the arboretum so that will be fun to explore, and I'm hoping to find our perfect beach too. There are so many on the lake here and I've forgotten so much since childhood I'm realizing. I'm hoping for active mornings and calm afternoons at home, gardening, playing in the yard, cooking, crafting.

Just a few short weeks until summer break. I can't wait!