Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Twins for a Day

Salt and Pepper

Today I have my niece, N, here. I am loving it! She and Meres were born 2 days and 5 minutes apart. N is the third daughter of my older bro, who, incidentally, lives right across the street. Because N and Meres were born so close together, I haven't gotten to spend as much time with N as with her older sisters. Somehow between postpartum, then vacations, and school schedules, we just haven't gotten to connect as much. But, this week my younger bro was in town, plus I got to babysit N for a planned session on Thursday. And today I get her because my sil had a family emergency. It is a blast watching the two of them interact. They crawl around following each other. Meres takes N's toys and bottle, and I give them back. Meres is the younger of the two, but she is much bigger. Meres was born on her due date, and weighed in at over 10 pounds. N was born 3 weeks early, and weighed in at 5 pounds and change. They are actually at about the same stage now-doing a lot of the same things. N has more teeth, and more of a vocabulary. She started eating food sooner too. Meres is more hands on. Giving out hugs and "dutch rubs." I hope they will be as good of friends as the other kids are. I got to hold both of them together this morning. Meres was nursing and N was drinking her bottle. It was a precious moment. N also got to eat a second breakfast with Meres-oatmeal and applesauce and blueberry muffins. Now for a bit more playing, and then they will probably both go down for their naps.
Still quite the difference in their size
Not only do I get to take care of the twins for the day, but today is shopping day. Rest assured, I will NOT be attempting the shopping with both babies. I'm not that crazy. I will either wait until N goes home, or I will leave them with Mr. Hippie, who is hanging around for the day.
One of my FB friends posted something last week about how do you make grocery shopping artful? (she is an artist.=)) I replied that I get in, get out, and get done.=) No joke. I shop every other week, and try to make it as efficient as possible. It usually takes about 2 hours-front door to front door. Maximizing the "good kid" window.
Why do I shop only every other week? Well, it doesn't take much longer to shop for 2 weeks in one trip than it takes to shop for one week in one trip. Which means, if you go every week, you end up spending almost twice the time. And, I greatly dislike spending more time than needed on any chore. I can spend that extra time painting my nails, or reading a book, or sunning or doing any number of other things.=) Plus, I don't know about you, but every trip I make I buy more things than what I need. So if I am only making one trip, that means one trip worth of extras-not two or three trips worth of extra ingredients and extra money spent.=) And last but certainly not least, every trip I make, every stop, I have to get 4 kids in and out of the car. 4 kids 3 stores 1 time or 4 kids 3 stores 2 times? You do the math.
You may wonder, "How do you get food to last two weeks?" "Last" as in "not rot." Like produce and dairy? Here's a little secret-eat fresh first, and frozen and canned later. Also, some produce can be eaten right away, some needs time to ripen. Apples, oranges, and grapes are ready immediately. Kiwis, melons and mangos often need some time on the counter to ripen. Most vegetables-like carrots, celery, lettuce and peppers have a longer shelf life. I buy 6 heads of romaine lettuce every shopping trip. It stays crisp so long as I leave it sealed in the bag. This means that when I open the bag to use a head, I make sure I close the bag fairly airtight with the remaining heads. When I am shopping for produce I make sure it had no soft spots or blemishes. "Perfect" pieces tend to have a longer shelf life. Now is the time to not be equal opportunity. But I also don't consider pinching every piece of produce good form either. Look, and then feel, and be gentle.=) As for dairy, most milk is dated about 2 weeks out anyhow. In the summer it tends to turn a bit faster, but for the most part, it lasts long enough. With a lot of dairy, once you start using a container you have at least 1-2 weeks to finish it off. That would include cream, soy milk, sour cream and dips.
Shopping day is a pretty big deal. It starts with me checking out ads, then planning a menu based on what I have and what is on sale. I try to leave for the stores by early afternoon, to get back by 4:00. I think the most time consuming part of the process is hauling all the groceries in, and putting them away. I will often spend 30 plus minutes on just this part. I try to fill containers as I put things away. I also divide my meat and cheese before I freeze them for later.
Most two week cycles include a potluck at church, a dinner (summer brunch with the BFF), and company for dinner at least once or twice. I try to plan a mix of meals-some that take more time, some that take less. I also try to make meals that we will have leftovers from. In the winter I make a lot of stews and soups and curries and casseroles. In the summer I make more salads and sides that I just grill different meats with. I have certain staples that I keep on hand-like flour, sugars, mushrooms, beans, tortillas, pasta, tomato sauce and paste, cream soups, etc.. As I am making my list, I try to think of what I am cooking that cycle, what I have on hand, and what I need. In trying to stay on a budget, I may be out of something, but I may put it off a trip because I won't be using it that week. I also will start an unofficial list through the two week period of what I am low on, so I don't have to try to remember it all on shopping day.
I have 3 stores that I regularly patronize.=) Doesn't that sound hoity-toity?=) I shop at Aldi, Sam's Club and Meijer. Aldi is good for canned goods, staples, dairy and some produce. I rarely buy meat there. Sam's has bigger amounts of things, usually priced very well-if you can get through whatever you are buying before it goes bad. This hasn't been a problem for us Hippies.=) I have found that they have very nice meat at good prices-though often Meijer is cheaper for as good of quality. Their produce is extremely expensive. I get a lot of staples there, as well as Silk for my two lactose intolerant offspring. Meijer has everything, and often has sales. It is very clean and light and has quality name brands as well as quality store brands. I get most of my paper products, cleaning supplies and toiletries at Meijer.
Aldi advertises low prices. But I find that it is a good thing to comparison shop. Some weeks they are the cheapest bet, but often I can get a better price at Sam's or Meijer. As I am making my list, I will often put Sam's or Meijer's price of the item I want next to it. Then as I am shopping at each place, I can see who has it cheaper. I am not a coupon cutter. If you are, more power to ya! My sister is really good at coupon clipping. Occasionally I will come across a coupon for something I need, but I don't seek them out.
In the attempt to be efficient, it is helpful to know the layout of your stores, and organize you list accordingly. List all the baking ingredients, snacks, canned goods, and produce together. Aldi has a flow to it. I make my list in the same way. I know where I will hit chips, wine, baking ingredients, canned goods, produce and frozen, and my list is in the same order. I never buy more than 4-5 things at Sam's on any given trip, so I don't attempt to organize that list. I do organize my Meijer list though. Remember-if you forget something you need-something that you even had on your list-you have to make another trip. And another trip equals more time and more money.=)
I love her smile.=)
I try to stick to my list. The key word in that sentence is try.=) Often I will remember something that I forgot. But, I don't make many impulse purchases. I also try to go through my list before I leave and make a dollar estimate for each store. This keeps me on budget, and let's me know where I have leeway (if at all=)). The thing about an estimate is that it is better to over estimate than under estimate. Wishful thinking when it comes to a budget just leaves you discouraged and frustrated.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful, inspiring and encouraging. It is what works for me. How do you make your grocery shopping work? How often do you go? How do you manage with kids? Do you enjoy grocery shopping, abhor it, or are you ambivalent? 
Well, I'm off to make my list, and check it twice.