Your Hosts


    Follow mightymaggie on Twitter


    12 posts categorized "Feeding The Cheungs"

    January 06, 2014

    All the bits of random bouncing around my head

    I haven't seen Downton Abbey yet. Don't tell me about it. SHHHH! I was going to watch it tonight, but then Phillip decided to go to the APPLE STORE of all places, at 8:45 at night, with our friend who I will rename Apple Store Enabler. And Downton Abbey is a show we watch toGETHER so... harrumph. 

    Friday night Phillip went to get a massage. (I got him a membership at Massage Envy for Christmas. Do you think that's weird? My family thought that was weird. Phillip was elated, which is what counts.) Saturday he hung out with friends and watched some dumb movie about robots and the world ending. SUNDAY he spent the whole afternoon watching the Hobbit and eating burgers with my brother-in-law. And now he's out again? Phillip has had entirely too much social interaction lately. Unfair. 

    I am going out tomorrow night. I meant to cancel my hair appointment and then it got too late to cancel my hair appointment and now I am going to my hair appointment tomorrow night. To get it colored. Which I have never done before. I was definitely going to dye it blond until the girl at the salon was all, "Yeah, you'll spend $300 to have blond hair for a week." That just made a lot of SENSE, you know? But I'd already sold myself on having New Hair so I made an appointment to do SOMETHING and now I just feel SILLY. And self-indulgent and spoiled and NERVOUS. As soon as I publish this I'm going to spend the rest of the night on Pinterest pinning short-haired brunette celebrities.

    Tomorrow Katie and I are going to make a bunch of Valentine baked goods and take pictures of them with Phillip's new camera that I have absolutely no idea how to use. Because we're going to be legal by Valentine's Day. RIGHT, WASHINGTON STATE?

    I went to Whole Foods today to buy one of the hippie supplements my hippie doctor wants me on and a protein powder thingie, but then I ended up buying blueberries (Emma wanted blueberries!) and some fancy yogurt and cookies (obvs) and bacon from Applegate Farms. That took ALL of my money. Jeez, Whole Foods. And I am having a HECK of a time figuring out whether the meat I am purchasing was happy before it ended up in the store. Do you know what I mean? The "cage free" label was simple enough for eggs, but at my regular store there are no helpful labels on beef and pork and I've recently discovered that the humane raised label on the chicken I buy may or may not actually mean humane raised. I know for sure that Applegate Farms is a-ok when it comes to this stuff (as if I couldn't tell by the price) but I have seriously considered vegetarianism a time or two in the last couple months. It would be EASIER. Except for the part where my FAMILY likes to eat meat. I don't know. I'm doing my best. I've also decreed the bakery will be getting its ingredients from happy and preferably local animals. 

    I went for half a walk around the lake today with Emma and my FitBit was all, "FINALLY."

    I feel like I haven't seen my friends in eons. I'm turning into a huge grump with nothing to say on her website. THIS IS TERRIBLE.


    June 19, 2013

    An update on how much I hate making dinner. (Still hate it, with improvements)

    I thought I'd let you know how dinner is going since I wrote that WOE IS ME dinner post a while back. I took a lot of your advice to heart and the biggest thing was: stop caring so much. Making dinner IS hard. Eggs and toast is a perfectly acceptable busy weeknight meal. Some moms are great cooks, some moms are good at crafts, other moms have super clean houses. Everyone has their gifts! Mine is... well, let's think about that, shall we? Maybe we can come up with something by the end of this post. 

    Basically I decided my goal was to simplify dinner as much as possible. I still make a weekly menu, but now it ALWAYS includes "Leftovers" and something like "Breakfast" or "Frozen Pizza" or something completely thoughtless and ridiculously easy. The kids like it, Phillip doesn't care, and I don't stress. 

    A big part of simplifying dinner (and I am still working on this) is simplifying what I buy. For years now I've had a goal where I try not to spend more than $100 on the weekly grocery trip. I don't do the coupon thing or go to nine different stores, but I buy store brands and hardly anything that's already prepared, like sauces or pre-cut veggies. I plan things out, I look at the store specials, I try to use what's in my cupboards. 

    The thing is we ALWAYS go over the grocery budget. ALWAYS. No matter if I do four weeks of $99 trips, a bunch of extra trips get snuck in somewhere, or we have a dinner party, or Phillip wanted stuff for lunches that I didn't know about, or SOMETHING. Also, we're both trying to stick to a low carb diet again, and low carbing it is expensive. It's just the way it is. And right now, even though my children will never have braces or go to college because we bought a deck instead, I am not freaking out about the grocery budget. My old one was unrealistic anyway. (FOR US. Some of you are budget ninjas. This is also not my gift.) 

    So now I'm buying things that make it easy for me to make dinner. SCREW YOU, MULTIPLE HEADS OF FRESH BROCCOLI. Hello giant bag of pre-cut Coscto broccoli! I love you! Hello random bags of frozen side dishy things! Hello frozen dinners for those nights when I cannot do one more thing! 

    I gave some serious thought to making and freezing meals ahead of time. I decided that wasn't going to work for us for a number of reasons. My freezer can only hold so many of those, for one thing. Then the thought of making a dinner and then putting it in the freezer did not give me any feeling of accomplishment, and I need that feeling. I didn't want to devote a whole weekend afternoon or whatever to MAKING the dinners. I couldn't think of enough low-carb freezer-appropriate dinners. AND thinking about it was giving me what I like to call Breast Milk Storage Syndrome. I would get competitive with myself, when I was doing that. Pump pump pump, stock up the bags, open the freezer nine times a day to gaze at my hard work. AND THEN I HATED USING THEM. Like, each time I had to take a bag out and use it, my pile got smaller, I had to work harder, it just KILLED ME. Is this logical? No! (Being illogical = my gift?) 

    ANYWAY. What I decided DOES work is prepping and freezing MEAT. Since I wrote that post I've bought a giant pork loin, a family pack of chicken breasts, and a Costco heap of ground meat. I divided it all up, cut it all up, labeled the bags, froze it, and now when it's time for dinner I just thaw a bag of meat.* I don't know why I don't have Breast Milk Storage Syndrome with this. Maybe because I have SO MUCH and I don't use it that fast? Anyway, knowing that I don't have to thaw and cut up a bunch of meat each night has probably been the most helpful thing. I freeze it so the bags are flat and they thaw super quick. And then I make a stirfry, or tonight I'm making a chicken and [pre-cut!] broccoli casserole - ooh, that's another thing. This recipe required cooking everything ahead of time before baking it all together, but I tried it where I just cooked the chicken and put all the veggies in raw. WE LIKED IT BETTER. 

    One thing I want to try that I haven't quite started yet is buying things we aren't necessarily going to eat that week. Which is totally against my previous philosophy on how to stick to our budget. BUT. When I want to give up one night and just make chili (for which I have a package of meat all prepped for me in the freezer) I won't have beans or tomatoes. Because it wasn't on the menu. Stuff like that I'd like to actually stock up on, so that I HAVE it for those nights. The budget wasn't working for us anyway, right? 

    I don't think this is The System To Replace All Systems, but these little changes are making life easier for me NOW. And really, when has Going Easier On Oneself + Spending A Little More Money ever made anyone's life NOT easier? 

    I would really really really like to try new things and manage to get everything on a set table by a particular time, but at this point, with two picky big kids, a starving baby, a husband who fights traffic, and my less than stellar cooking track record, I'm not going to knock myself out. 

    P.S. I made the root beer pulled pork in the slow cooker for the potluck dinner last night and everyone liked it (although they are college kids and not hard to impress food-wise.) But it WORKED and it was ENOUGH and EASY and I was VERY PROUD OF MYSELF. 

    (My gift? Did I come up with one? Um, how about... WRITING about my lack of housewifely skills?)


    *As for all the MEAT... I am married to the sort of man who doesn't feel like he ATE unless he ate MEAT. Do you know the type? Eggplant and tofu are occasional acceptable substitutes, but I could never get away with a week of vegetarian pastas and salads and quinoa and rice dishes. Ever. (Or, and this is much more likely, a week of cereal or cheese pizza.) Where I could easily go weeks and months without missing meat, Phillip might shrivel up and die. So. There you go. Also: low-carb. Sigh. 

    June 02, 2013

    The farce that was dinner the next night

    You guys left so many helpful suggestions on my dinner post last week. I was so grateful. Really. I had thought of a lot of the things you mentioned, but in no organized way, or in a framework where I actually felt I could pull off a freezer full of main meals or prepping in the mornings. But after reading through everything you said AND (this is key) lowering my standards, I feel like I have some workable options. Or at least things to TRY in this current season of Dinner Despair. 

    I know it's funny to say that I had to think about lowering my standards when I was ALREADY feeding my children mac and cheese three times a week, but it's more of mattering the standards in my HEAD instead of the ACTUAL standards. You know? Like to just PLAN to have breakfast for dinner one night a week instead of having breakfast for dinner one night a week and feeling like I bombed the menu planning that week. Also, I LIKE breakfast for dinner. DOESN'T EVERYONE?

    But I have to tell you about dinner the night after I wrote that post. For it is indicative of, well, everything. 

    SO. Lovely Lisa recommended sticking some pork chops in the slow cooker with a packet of dry onion soup mix. I COULD DO THAT. And I had thawed pork chops in my refrigerator already. AND dry onion soup mix in my pantry. Obvs that's what we were having for dinner that night. In the morning before school drop offs I dumped everything into the crock pot, turned it on low, and congratulated myself for not having to wonder about dinner at 4pm. 

    For a while things were great. My house started smelling SO GOOD. I knew I had precut broccoli in the fridge and we like it roasted, which is pretty much the easiest way to make broccoli. I had noodles for the kids. So around 4:30 I started making a salad (because it's easy to make a salad when everything else is pretty much already finished!) and cooked the noodles for the kids. And I just planned to feed everyone at 5 (because my kids are always starving at 5 lately) and Phillip could eat whenever he got home. And my mom was here and I was very much looking forward to putting out a Healthy Balanced Dinner at an actual dinner time, with plates and napkins and everything. 

    But oh, Internet. Even though I had been sneaking peeks at the pork chops all day (and I know you're not supposed to do that) and 5pm they were dried up, hardened on the edges, the onion soup mix a black congealing mess. It was... oh, it was SO DEMORALIZING. I mean, for the first time in a long while I was EXCITED ABOUT DINNER. I was LOOKING FORWARD TO DINNER. And I felt like an IDIOT! I realized that all the fat I'd cut off those pork chops (but not all of it! I thought there was enough!) had probably made a big difference. And my mom was so nice. "It looks fine! We can eat it! I'LL eat it!" (No. We could not eat it. UGH.)

    Whatever. Pork chops are not my favorite anyway. I had the noodles done and the broccoli going in the toaster oven. I'd just throw some hot dogs on a sheet pan in the oven and the kids could eat those. So I did that, set the table, and ignored my leathery pork chops. 

    Of course Emma can't be starving at 5 like everyone else, she has to be starving at 4:30. So she was already in the high chair eating noodles and whatever other scraps I threw at her, and when the broccoli timer went off I went to add that to her plate. Except the broccoli was nowhere near done. It was still raw. I had put the broccoli in a toaster oven whose timer worked even if it wasn't plugged in. AND IT WASN'T PLUGGED IN. 

    Eventually I slammed down noodles, hot dogs, hockey puck pork chops, and barely cooked broccoli (because it was taking too long, on account of NOT COOKING THEM THE FIRST TIME) on the table and spent the dinner hour banging my head against the table. My mom was nice about it, but I'm sure if she had her own blog she would have had a nice write up. And Phillip was super late of course, so even if I'd managed to make a decent dinner he would have missed the whole thing anyway. 

    And this, Internet, THIS is me in the kitchen. There is no natural talent, not even any common sense. It seems like when I make something that everyone likes or something that actually took some work, it's the exception, not the norm. I think I might actually be getting WORSE. Where I am confident and easygoing and happy about baking, I am beginning to wonder if I might ever have friends over for dinner again. 

    There are about 7 or 8 meals I make reasonably well (when I remember to plug things in.) About half of those can go in the freezer. The other half I can at least do a lot of the prep in the mornings. I'm just not going to care that we're eating the same things all the time, at least not right now. Trying harder is not working, so it's clear I have to try SMARTER with the things that already work. 

    I was too busy for grocery shopping this weekend so I'm going tomorrow. Also Phillip and I are trying hard to low carb it for a while

    • Monday -  big make-yourself salads with Costco rotisserie chicken. Kids will eat chicken and fruit and whatever else I find in the fridge. During naptime/any free time cut up/prep package of chicken breasts for dinners later this week and next. Take out pork chops from freezer in the morning, marinate in the evening.
    • Tuesday - Honey mustard pork chops, asparagus, rice or noodles for kids
    • Wednesday - chili, make in the afternoon, simmer until dinnertime (I have a meeting at 7, so this is a super low maintenance dinner night)
    • Thursday - chicken curry casserole with chicken prepped on Monday (maybe the whole THING is made on Monday and I just have to take it out of the freezer? I CAN DREAM!)
    • Friday - leftovers or scrambled eggs and bacon

    I like the IDEA of spending a day prepping everything for the week ahead, but it's never quite worked out for me. Am terribly lazy. But I think I can do at least a package of chicken breasts all at once, especially because I HATE having to deal with frozen chicken that isn't ready for anything. Motivation! All right! Go team!

    ETA: WAIT! I forgot Phillip is going to the Star Trek movie Tuesday night. CEREAL FOR DINNER! WAHOO!

    May 29, 2013

    In which I seem to have a Mental Block against Dinner

    All right, Therapist Twitter, we need to help me figure out what I'm going to do about something and that something is DINNER. 

    Dinner is, and I am not REALLY exaggerating here, the BANE of my existence. Every single week I make a menu, every single week I buy the things I need to cook what's on that menu, and every single week I maybe make two of those dinners. MAYBE.

    There are some genuine rough days where the kids get frozen pizza and I am face down on the couch when Phillip gets home. But it's more like yesterday, when I just didn't FEEL like figuring out what to do with those pork chops I defrosted and made scrambled eggs and bacon instead. And tonight, when AGAIN I didn't feel like dealing with pork chops and decided to make Costco frozen potstickers and rice for the kids and texted Phillip to bring home teriyaki. NEITHER of these days have been bad ones. I JUST DON'T FEEL LIKE MAKING DINNER. (PRACTICALLY EVER!)

    I'm trying to figure out if this is, you know, some sort of Major Failing that I need to work hard to overcome, or just one of the things I'm not so great at, which is okay because I have this big list of other things I excel at to balance it out. HMMM?

    The problem is, me never wanting to make dinner means everyone else suffers. Well... actually the kids love it when I decide to give them frozen whatever for dinner because it's always something they like better than Mysterious Cooked Meat and A Green Vegetable. And I honestly would be perfectly happy eating cereal four or five times a week. It's my poor husband, who works hard all day and loooooves fooooood who suffers. THAT POOR MAN. Every dinner I sucessfully put on the table is out of love for my husband. Seriously. 

    (I suppose the kids and I suffer poor nutrition, but I didn't eat ANY vegetables until the ripe old age of thirty and I think I turned out okay.)

    And my distaste of dinnermaking is becoming a THING. Like I am embarrassed to invite people for dinner, because I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE ANYTHING GOOD. I also happen to be friends with people who DO cook! Gak. When my sister was telling a friend of hers about a party I was hosting, but someone else was doing all the food, the friend said, "Sounds like Maggie!" And FOR SHAME, people! I am a grown up, I have three children, I don't have to LOVE cooking, but I certainly shouldn't be defeated by it every single evening! 

    Part of it, I think, is the fact that three times a day every day I have to think of what to feed people. And I don't care what anyone else says, that's a hard job. A million times I've thought about how easy my job would be if I just didn't have to FEED these kids. My family is in a stage of life where we don't all eat the same things or want to eat at the same time. I often get the kids fed by 5 or 5:30 and have nothing for Phillip and me when he gets home. I feel absolutely thwarted when I've tried to figure out a new recipe and my kids won't eat it (ESPECIALLY when it looks like something they would totally eat.) So yeah, part of it is just the sameness and drudgery and lack of imagination. 

    I do like cookbooks. I love cooking magazines. I like food shows! I don't necessarily love FOOD (dessert is in a category by itself) but I do LIKE food and there have been plenty of times when I've been excited to try something new at home. But on a regular basis? No. And when you and your husband are trying to only eat certain things and none of other things? No. When you've spent your day cleaning up after kids and folding laundry and wiping faces and doing breakfast and lunch dishes? No. I would like to lay on the couch with a bowl of popcorn now please. 

    How do you manage this? I know some of you are super into making meals, but some of you have to NOT be, right? And we still have to do it. So what do you DOOOOOO? I'm wondering if I just need to stock up on some Trader Joe's stuff for a while until my dinner mojo returns. There WAS a point this year where I was making lots of new things, or at least making a real dinner more often than not. Maybe my menus are too ambitious. Maybe scrambled eggs and bacon needs to be an Actual Dinner rather than a Cop Out Dinner. Maybe I need to make things well ahead of time instead of waiting until 4 to stare unhappily at whatever raw meat thing I've decided I'm making that night. Maybe I should seriously investigate the crockpot. I DON'T KNOW. I just... I NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB THAN THIS. GAH.

    August 05, 2012

    Some thoughts on groceries

    I had ALL THESE THINGS to write about, sort of an Indeterminate Number of Quick-ish Takes, but they have all gone poof! Alas! We spent most of this 95 degree day at my parents' house where Phillip and I did all sorts of alone and grown up things like go to the movies and browse in Costco (which is different from SHOPPING at Costco, an occasional necessary evil with children.) By the time I got to my computer, the brain was malfunctioning. 

    So I marinated meat instead. And thought about groceries. Between my regularl weekly shopping trip on Saturday and our Costco trip today, I thought I would discuss Feeding The Cheungs: Version 2012.

    Sooooo, is it me, or did groceries get more expensive? I SWEAR I am buying the SAME OLD STUFF and my bill is $20 to $30 higher in the last several months. I even joined that stupid Safeway program even though I keep telling myself I WILL NOT SHOP AT SAFEWAY because their produce is TERRIBLE, but I spend even MORE money at other stores. I am BAFFLED!

    Here are some new things you should know. The first one is that I am trying VERY VERY HARD to do a lot of my dinner prep work on weekends, or right after one of my shopping trips when I am feeling all foodie-like. So cutting up chicken and vegetables, marinating meat, that sort of thing, and shoving it all (neatly labeled, obvs) in the freezer. This makes me feel SO AWESOME. Maybe it's the fact that it's not eaten right away? And sits obedidently in my freezer, waiting for its Moment? And nobody says, "I don't like this one, Mommy." 

    I'm still doing a meal plan for the week and shopping that list, but now I'm trying to put a lot of the pieces together ahead of time. When it works, it's awesome. When it doesn't work, eh! No biggie. 

    But here is a New Thing, as of, like, yesterday, that throws a big kink into the works. Phillip is going low carb! This shouldn't be a problem, as low carb is basically How I Eat Now and I don't make a lot of dinners that I won't eat myself HOWEVER! I am, as you know, not really into eating (unless it is cake, cookies, brownies, ice cream, etc.) and content to eat scrambled eggs for dinner and I will skip lunch entirely in favor of snacking on cheese and, well, Phillip is not that sort of person. Also, if you take away his potato chips, he will require MORE meat. 

    SO! While I am a proud supporter of this endeavor, it's going to be EXPENSIVE. Hence the Costco trip today where we loaded up on frozen thingies Phillip can eat at work if he doesn't bring a lunch, lots of fresh veggies (to cut up and freeze). But I don't normally SHOP at Costco. I might go once a month to buy a giant box of fruit snacks or those Costco hot dogs that everyone in my house loves and the giant tub of cherry tomatoes, but I don't SHOP SHOP there. I feel like the months I shop at Costco I always go over budget. 

    While we were IN Costco Phillip and I were talking about how we have ROOM to be Costco shoppers now. The old owners left TONS of food (and paper towels and toilet paper, almost a year's supply, SERIOUSLY) in a closet downstairs, so that is obviously the Costco storage closet. We COULD buy everything in sight and never go to the grocery store until October. 

    This month is an experiment, I guess. We came up with more ideas than just a week's worth of dinners. I have a ton of stuff in the fridge and freezer and next week I'll just be buying things to supplement dinner, not MAKE dinner. I'll still go to the store next week, but my load will be smaller - hopefully it will be smaller all month. 

    I would love to shop at Trader Joe's, but I don't know what you buy there that isn't a snack or some sort of gourmet frozen dinner. (Which means, obvs, that in a perfect world I would love to shop ONLY at Trader Joe's.) 

    I want to shop at Central Market, but it's more money and I don't really buy organic (*HIDES*).

    Sometimes I meet my friends at Whole Foods for coffee and a bakery treat, and if I'm early I go walk around the produce section and shock myself. 

    When I get really mad at Safeway I go to the grocery store with the playroom which is more expensive and farther away, but has way better produce. 

    Poor my family, huh?

    One of my friends has a similar grocery budget, but she makes AMAZING DINNERS and buys organic milk. I am not entirely sure how she does it. She says it's because she only buys what's on sale, BUT I DO THAT TOO. So yes, there are a few low carby things I require that aren't always cheap or on sale, but the fact that I do not buy organic milk should make up for that, right? So I don't get it. 

    Oh, she also goes to three or four different stores. I... do not do that. I COULD. I SUPPOSE. But honestly, just one shopping trip a week is enough for me, and I LIKE grocery shopping! I think she must go after work without kids? I don't know. I don't do in and out of car seats for a mid-week grocery shopping trip, not if I can help it. 

    In the meantime, I am constantly going overbudget and not entirely sure why. Except now I'll be able to say, "Phillip can only eat meat! Must buy lots of meat!" 


    Oh! One note about the plastic bag ban - I am in favor. I mean, I was always supportive IN THEORY, but I was a little nervous about HAVING bags, not FORGETTING my bags, making sure I had ENOUGH bags... turns out the only bad thing about the bag ban is the mass of teenage baggers who try to cram everything you bought into your smallest and crappiest bags. Seriously, the giant sturdy Target bags are RIGHT THERE. Don't use my flimsy thank-you-for-attending-our-event college department reusable bag. THAT IS A BACK UP BAG! 

    But I like not having the extra mess of cleaning up plastic bags, and it's easier carrying 4 or 5 heavy cloth bags up my stairs to the kitchen rather than nine thousand half empty plastic bags. Am a fan. My greenification is increasing. And I always remember to take my bags to the grocery store and I always forget to take them to the mall. Blargh. 

    March 18, 2012

    Another string in my Cooking Bow*

    I had friends over for dinner tonight and GUESS WHAT! I MADE GOOD FOOD!

    All the props go to A'Dell, who quick-as-a-flash answered my OMG WHAT DO I FEED THESE PEOPLE email with "Enchiladas, DUH."

    See, I LOVE having people over and I LOVE doing stupid stuff like setting the table and setting out the good wine glasses (don't you have GOOD wine glasses?) but I am paralyzed by the cooking. I mean, I have improved over the married years and I now have a [short] repertoire of tasty-ish things I can make without totally screwing up. I think the fact that I don't particluarly ENJOY cooking makes me feel like my dinners aren't very good. I think I could devote an entire blog post to that theory, but I won't bore you (TODAY, anyway! HEH!) SO ANYWAY. The point is: I made food and people liked it! And I feel so proud of me!

    A'Dell recommended green enchiladas, a version of which I make every so often myself, so that was no biggie. But then she gave me this recipe for enchiladas with red sauce and this recipe for fajitas AND I MADE THOSE THINGS TOO. I KNOW. 

    So I didn't eat the red sauce one because 1) I am low carbing it and 2) I am not a fan of Red Sauce With Things In It. Because I am four. I know. Shameful! And I didn't even put onions in it because one of our guests is allergic to onions! While I just don't LIKE onions! But then he didn't even come! So! But everyone told me those were yummy so YAY. The green enchiladas I made with low carb tortillas and those were yummier than the ones I usually make. And the fajitas, which I ate tortilla-less, were REALLY yummy. That marinade is awesome. And there weren't any leftovers! I KNOW! 

    Is this blog post totally obnoxious? It just occurs to me that I sound super obnoxious. But PEOPLE. THIS IS HOW INSECURE I AM ABOUT MY COOKING!!!

    Also, people didn't leave till, like, NINE, so we are pretty much screwed for waking up in time for preschool tomorrow. Which isn't to say I was upset about people staying late. Oh no. I love it! People staying late is a sign that you have delivered a good time... oh, I am just adding to the obnoxiousness. 

    Okay, all I really wanted to do is give you those recipes. AS YOU WERE. 

    *Did anyone ever read those books with the dog named Zero? WHAT ARE THEY CALLED? I have to look it up. Just a second. THE BAGTHORPES!!! (Oh, that was a LOT of behind-the-scenes Googling, people. Yeesh.) I don't really remember anything about those books (besides the dog named Zero) except for where the kids are constantly adding "strings" to their "bows" and I use that expression ALL THE TIME. And only now does it occur to me that maybe other people do NOT use that expression. Hmm. 

    February 23, 2011

    Babies, but also online grocery delivery. WHAT.

    Thanks you guys. You are all so awesome. Kisses for everyone. Although my favorite Blog Pregnancy Announcement Anecdote comes courtesy of Phillip, who told me he got an email from an old coworker today. Said coworker was talking with someone whose wife blogs, and he remembered someone else's wife who blogs (ME) and then looked me up and then was all, "DUDE! Must send random yet congratulatory email!" And of course all I really wanted to know from this story was who the other blogger is! (No one felt this was important information, alas.)

    I put up another "announcement" at Parenting. If you like that sort of thing. 

    I should tell you that I've felt SO much better the last two days, which would be worrisome if I weren't firmly against acknowledging worrisome things at this stage. I've had 24/7 nausea and I fall asleep while a kid is shouting at me to pour another drink of water, but the worst part is the anxiety. My happily happy pill-controlled mental instability shot through the roof about a week ago and I'm back in that Experimentation With Fixing It stage. Which sucks, if you must know. It's super super clear to me that it's hormones, but that doesn't make me feel less crazy, just more resolved to do something about it. I don't know how much I talked about this or if you remember or whatever, but I was BAT@*%& CRAZY when I was pregnant with Molly and I promised all and sundry I would not do that to us again. So I'm working on it, I am, but it will take some time and the waiting game sucks. Also well meaning and blameless medical personnel who generalize your eight or nine years of expert investigation into The Crazy into "everyone's a little anxious when they find out they're pregnant!" Gah. I think I need to get over that.

    ANYWAY. La la la!

    I have a million new blog topics (obvs) but I don't particularly feel like getting into all that right now. I don't want to be INTROSPECTIVE. I don't want THOUGHTFULNESS. I want to talk about Amazon Fresh. 

    That's right! I don't do the review thing! I'm bad at writing about Stuff! But I must spread the Groceries Via Internet Gospel!

    It now occurs to me that Amazon Fresh is just a local thing. Hmm. WHATEVS. It all started when I really really really needed to go grocery shopping but could not BEAR the idea of actually putting on clothes and getting in the car and going to the store, let alone hauling all the groceries from my car into the house. (This would also be the day I begged my inlaws to come over so I could sleep away the entire afternoon. Oh yes.) 

    But! Before I fell asleep I logged onto Amazon and ordered my groceries. I'd tried this before. I compared my shopping list with Amazon Fresh and Safeway online delivery and ended up choosing Safeway - SO much cheaper. (I'm too lazy to find the link.) I haven't done it since because I'm picky and I LIKE shopping and after your first time, Safeway delivery costs $15. 

    But this time I just didn't care. I didn't CARE if I could only order fancy, name-brand, organic, cage-free, produce that slept in bassinets food from Amazon: it would show up at my house without me having to LEAVE my house. That itself was worth all the extra money. 

    However! I think a few things have changed because I didn't spend any more on my Amazon order than I usually do. AND I ordered meat. AND a lot of fresh produce. AND it only took me ten minutes. THEN I went to sleep. HUZZAH!

    Delivery was free (I think it's free over $75, I forget) and I scheduled it to arrive on my doorstep before 6am. It was all there, as promised, packed somewhat inefficiently in six or seven giant plastic bins that I have the pleasure of storing until my next order. They probably could have packed my order in three, maybe four bins, but I have to say, hauling the bins inside and opening them up was possibly the best part. For the kids anyway. CHRISTMAS! With BANANAS! And GROUND BEEF!

    The produce was seriously so good. The grapes were crisp and juicy. The bananas were brown spot-free. I AM SO DOING THIS AGAIN. And that from a committed grocery store lover. Phillip happened to run into (another!) old coworker today and found out she's working at Amazon... packing Amazon Fresh orders. Even she said the produce was awesome. 

    Anyway. SOLD. I love shopping, but I rarely get to go by myself AND have help carrying it to the house and up the stairs. POOR ME. Now that I'm In A Condition AND ordering from Amazon costs me as much as the grocery store with the free playroom, why not? HMMM?


    Now I have to clean up my kitchen and stick my kids in their pajamas. Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to order anything off the internet to do THAT. 

    And thanks again. It's really warm-fuzzy amazing having friends in the computer. 

    February 11, 2010

    Responding to comments

    Going back to the grocery posts...

    Christiana said: "And I thought we were the only ones! But you didn't mention eating out a gazillion times a week instead of cooking, so maybe that was just us..." Oh, we ate out all the time. I can't believe I forgot to say that. I can't really remember where or how often, but I know we did. And neither of us ever made the effort to bring lunch to work. I can't even imagine how much money we spent on lunch when we were DINKs. 

    Raven said: "If you like eggs so much have you thought about trying quiche or a frittata just to change it up a bit?" YES. But then I went on this whole Weight Watchers kick where Eggs Are Two Points Each, OMG. And all the "light" recipes want you to use egg substitute, which: YUCK. I have been kicking around an entirely new post about "diet-friendly" food... I think that's one of those posts where I'd need a degree first. Anyway. When my family used to go to Spain all the time (and I'm sorry, I know how that sounds, BUT WE DID) we ate tortillas, which were basically giant omelettes with potatoes and MMM, I think I better google that.

    Jen said: "I am not yet into the circular. I always buy off brand stuff anyway, so I rarely find coupons for anything we actually use." Oh but JEN! My grocery store circular has coupons FOR the off brand stuff! And sometimes they have, like, coupons for Breakfast, where eggs and bacon and milk and all these other things I buy all the time are another dollar off. 

    Lenadeeanne said: "When I get home from work and the Three Munchketeers are waiting with their beaks open..." There's nothing to really say about that except "beaks open" made me laugh out loud. 

    Blogless Kathleen said: "Although I think my husband finds me weird that I get excited to show him my receipt and say, "Look, I saved $23.02!" It makes me feel like I won an award though." Kathleen, I do this EVERY SINGLE WEEK. And every week I wonder where my medal is. Or at least my free doughnut.

    Sarah said: "Bread, dairy, produce, look for sales in processed foods, get out!" Yep, that's pretty much how I attack Costco too, although substitute "Freezer Section" for bread. And do not pass the 72 oz bag of chocolate chips, go directly to checkout.

    Elizabeth said: "It's physically impossible for me to shop with a cart and only spend $100. I might have to stalk you and figure out how you do it." Oh, Elizabeth-san, it's because I am a Grocery Store Ninja. Come visit me and I will teach you my ways.

    A different Jen said: "I totally appreciate you "going there" because I always want to know what other people's budgets are like and how mine compares!" I am here to serve. You are welcome. On the next post the same Jen said: "Do you have a WinCo in Seattle? It's my favorite grocery store." No, I do not have a WinCo in Seattle. (Or do I? Locals?) But there is a WinCo near my in-laws and I went there once and just the LIGHTING in that store was enough to make me sob with depression. It was a very dismal despondent sort of store and I've never been back. The problem with where I live is that even the average grocery store is swankier than the ones in the suburbs. (This I base on visiting Safeways in my parents' town vs. Safeways in a 5 mile radius of my house. We Seattleites are store snobs.)

    Marie said: "Do you have a Trader Joe's?" I DO have a Trader Joe's. Off the top of my head I can think of about three of them within easy driving distance. BUT (and I realize I may be breaking some sort of Unwritten Internet Law here) I don't quite get the TJ fascination. It was even something people were talking about when we were planning the Blathering last year - "oooh! They have TJs in Sacramento!" I mean, I like TJs, but I don't buy frozen prepared meals that often and their Treat Aisle is the death of me. Everything else I can get at my other store for a decent prize and less hassle. SORRY, INTERNET!

    The lovely Maureen said: "But on the bread front, can I suggest you buy "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day"?" and to that I say: why do you want me to weigh nine hundred pounds, Maureen? WHY?

    Jessica said: "I live in Iowa, am the daughter of a farmer, and the wife of a commodities (corn/soybean) broker. You should get my family started on organics!" This reminded me of my stint working amongst Local Crotchety Fishermen Types and how we could get them going on farmed fish and government regulations and oh, those were some fun times.

    My real life friend Janey said: "What I think my grandparents got right was that home cooking is usually healthier than eating processed foods and eating a wide variety of foods is good, too." This is part of what I'd write about in my as-yet-unwritten diet food post, which probably originated the moment I found that Weight Watchers is Anti-Cheese. 

    Lindsay said: "I think organic food does taste better in a lot of cases. there are lots of reasons well explained in the comments and by you as to why to not buy organic, but certainly there are some non yuppy, non pretentious reasons to buy organic too." Yes. Agreed. I want to be better informed about what I'm buying and why I'm buying it instead of something else. I fully cop to the fact that I have been Ignorant On Purpose - I'd like to work on that.

    Gosh that was a lot. I hope you weren't bored to death. I really appreciated EVERYONE'S thoughts on this subject and you would not believe how many real life conversations your comments spawned! I'm also so grateful for the utter lack of anything even remotely mean or snide or snarky. You guys are just the best, and super funny to boot. I've been in a funk for a few weeks now (maybe you've noticed!) and I'm just so thankful to have this place for hammering it all out, even if I'm just nattering on about GROCERY STORES. 

    Have a nice weekend. Oh, and for those of you who wanted to come eat hot pot - just let me know when you're in town!

    February 04, 2010

    Feeding The Cheungs: Guilt, the Final Chapter

    Okay, all those other posts I wrote pretty much all in one sitting and I've only edited them here and there before posting them. But this one is harder. I've started it nineteen times and it's still not coming out right. I HATE THAT.

    Part of what's trying to escape my brain is: when you become a mom, food becomes this... this thing. Phillip and I ate pretty much whatever we wanted before we had kids, but now I put a lot more thought into it. All the parenting magazines like to splash it across their covers: You are your child's nutritionist! Think about what you are putting into his system! It better be organic and local and made from animals who slept on rainbows and pooped sunshine!

    And then you meet all these other moms, at the playground or in moms groups or in church or whatever and you notice what they feed their kids. What kinds of snacks, what kinds of lunches. If you are like me, you don't compare the kids, you compare yourself to the moms. And whenever I compared myself on the food front I quickly determined that I was FAILING MISERABLY. 

    For one thing, I rarely buy anything organic. I used to buy organic milk, but then someone told me that it doesn't really matter if milk is organic and I stopped buying it. I have no idea if that's TRUE, but have you seen the price of organic milk? Perhaps I was looking for any excuse. I buy plain old Kraft mac and cheese, though Annie's is also nice. I don't buy organic produce, I don't buy organic dairy products, I don't buy organic kid snacks - it's just too expensive. 

    But it's not just buying organic, it's BEING AWARE! There are a million trillion things to BE AWARE OF and I will probably be the last person in the world to read In Defense Of Food. I feel bad about it, because I LIKE to be aware, but I also feel like I'm doing the best I can with what I've got. I've got one kid who eats nothing but preservatives and one kid who subsists on yogurt and Laughing Cow cheese wedges and a husband who will never be a vegetarian EVER and those are the people I am responsible for feeding every single day. Top it off with trying to feed them HEALTHY things and I have my work cut out for me. 

    This is only as guilt-inducing as I allow it to be, of course. When Jack was teeny and we were meeting with three different moms groups, it seemed like everyone was drinking the neurotic new mom kool aid. It seemed like we were competing to be the first to bring up The Next New Thing To Freak Out About, thereby establishing our cred on that subject. BPA in plastics, organics, who knew how to make the best and most creative baby food, keeping chickens in your backyard, vegan skincare products - OH THE DRAMA. It was so stressful, and I'm willing to concede that it was entirely my issue, I AM. But I had to escape and escape I did. 

    Now I'm a few years into this kid thing, I've got two of them now and I'm EXPONENTIALLY more laid back. You have no idea how proud I am of this fact. I might not come off very laid back on this website and probably not in real life, but I know the difference between my inner monologues during Jack's first six months and Molly's first six months and it is significant. I am a much better and easier going mom this time around. Mostly I am easier on myself. 

    But I still have guilt around food. I tell myself that if I loved my family more I would spend less money on clothes or going out to eat or seeing movies with my husband and buy organic produce. Or even just buy food at the nicer stores. I know the bread I buy isn't very good - hello, I lived in EUROPE, I know good bread! - but I'm too lazy and cheap to go to the stores with the good bread, or make a special trip to a bakery. I feel like I put so much effort into feeding my family - not spending a lot of money, making sure I cook dinner most nights, finding things the kids will eat - but it's still not healthy enough. 

    And it's not just wanting to do what everyone else is doing, or following what's in fashion or whatever- I really WOULD like to buy local and pay more attention to the kind of meat I buy. I think this food stuff is real and important and I would like to do my part. I'm just... BUSY! And not willing to spend what it costs.

    That's what started this whole, uh, MANIFESTO on grocery shopping in the first place. Sitting down to make my menu and my shopping list, and realizing that the good food was at that store, but I knew what my bill would be if I went to that store. 

    And all of this is just to say: feeding your family is a tough job. THE END!

    February 02, 2010

    Feeding The Cheungs: How Much I Spend At The Store

    Budget smudget. We've been attempting budgets in some form or another for years now, and we've yet to land on The Perfect System. (Pretty sure The Perfect System would involve lots of extra money, probably this is why we haven't found it yet.) I took over The Finances when Jack was born and revamped our entire spreadsheet (multiple fonts were involved) and while we have a budget and I keep track of everything via Mint and my pretty spreadsheet, we ALWAYS go over. At this point in our lives, with one income and grad school, it's just sort of The Way Things Are. 

    But we try, because we really want to, and now that I am in charge of The Finances, I am a Food Budget Dictator. The food budget (which is only groceries, not eating out or other items you occasionally pick up at the grocery store, just FOOD) is pretty much the only line item I am able to keep track of each month. By which I mean, I am AWARE of how much I've spent and how much I have left over at any point in the month. I don't always stay within my budget, but at least I know the minute I go over.

    Anything remotely out of the ordinary trips me over budget. If we have a party, the food budget is blown. If we have friends for dinner and make an extra grocery trip: budget is blown. If PHILLIP goes shopping: budget is BLOWN. To stay on budget I have to 1) not feed other people besides ourselves and 2) do all the shopping and planning myself. Number one is lame, because I like having people over to my house and you should ALWAYS feed your visitors and that's when I start telling myself that maybe I am not staying within budget, but I am being a good steward of my money by FEEDING THE HUNGRY. As for number two, Phillip knows better than to offer to do my grocery shopping for me. Harrumph.

    (At this point you may be wondering why we don't move some money around and increase the grocery budget, or just do away with it all together, but I need it, at the very least, as a guideline. And we don't ALWAYS have friends for dinner. And we don't ALWAYS throw parties. Sometimes the budget is well within reach!)

    Basically, I make weekly shopping trips, and I try to spend $100 or less on each of these trips. (Perhaps it's not done to go around telling people what you spend on groceries, but since that is what this post is ABOUT and I have clearly GONE THERE, I might as well go all the way. Right? The end.) The official budget is $450, with that $50 trying to account for extras, but har har har we rarely stick to $450. See above: multiple ways to fail and/or choosing to go over. Sticking to the grocery budget in December is a joke. But January? ROCKED IT.

    Staying within budget amounts to four trips to the grocery store a month. Other months I have opportunities, or I make a point, to visit Costco. In theory my weekly trips add up to less because I bought in bulk at Costco for the month, but Costco is the Target of food stores and I almost always go over budget during Costco months. Woe. I really need to stop going there which means Phillip really needs to stop always wanting to hang out in the TV section.

    Anyway. After I make up my menu I inspect the fridge and the pantry for missing items. There are TONS of missing items, but I only write down what we need for that week. That includes dinner ingredients, but also whatever the kids and I eat for breakfast and lunch. So we always need milk and yogurt and bread and cheese. (What? Your kids aren't dariy-tarians?)

    And then, when I go to the store, I ONLY BUY WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN ON THAT LIST. Well, maybe a handful of extra things (chocolate chips are on sale! Ooh, wine!) but I am actually pretty good at this part. I hardly ever spend more than $100 in one weekly  shopping trip. (It's the extra "Let's invite so and so tonight!" and "Party on Saturday!" trips that do me in.)

    Also, since I am The Family Shopper and have been so for nearly three years now, I know what I'm doing. I know what we're going to end up throwing away, I buy store brands unless I know we prefer something else (store brand Cheerios? BLEAH.), and I know how much we'll eat of a particular thing in a given week. I collect coupons from the circular and sometimes the newspaper; they never save me very much but they make me feel nice and pious. I organize my list by section, I prefer not to bring the kids but I can if I must, and I go to the same store every week so I am a MACHINE, people. The sad part is how much I like doing it. The amount of joy I find in increasing my grocery store efficiency is an amount to which no sane person would actually admit.

    It's kind of a competition I have with myself. How much I spent that week, how many dinners my husband seemed to really like. Yes, I know, MY WORLD IS SMALL. 

    But I still try to figure out how to save more when I go to the grocery store. It's a time consuming process just going to the store, and also rife with Moral Dilemma! Tomorrow: But WHICH grocery store!