Spending Money to Save

Two weeks ago, beloved daughter got a new bike for her birthday (and Christmas present.) A friend of hers had nick-named her old bike “the death trap.” Maybe because only the front brakes worked, or maybe because the chain had a tendency to get caught and just stop in mid-ride, or maybe it was the huge wobble in the front wheel. She is quite pleased with the new bike.

Youngest son has outgrown the BMX style bike that fit him in 2nd grade, and he like beloved daughter, rides his bike to school daily.

I took “the death trap” to the local bike shop and had them replace the chain and the brake cables, work on the wobble and give the thing a general tune-up. For $97 youngest son now has a bike that fits him for now. When he is done growing, I will buy him a nice bike like his older siblings.

More Trouble Than That

A week ago youngest son and I were out shopping for shoes for his now 11.5 sized feet. It was about 8:30pm and there was another mom and son in the shoe department. That boy was a little younger, about four or five, and he was clearly tired and not wanting to be there. He was getting into things and not listening to his exasperated mom. The little boy was loud and whiney and annoying. It went on and on. After about ten minutes, youngest son said to me, ” I was worse than that, wasn’t I?”

“Yes. You were.”

The shoe salesman bust out laughing. “That’s telling it blunt,” he said.

Youngest son and I know that it was a gentle understatement. And I am impressed with his self-awareness about his previous behavior. My baby is growing up.

Top Ten Reasons I LikeTeenagers

My youngest child turns thirteen today, which means I am living with three teenagers. I tell people this with a smile and they express sympathy for my situation, but they don’t need to. I am delighted. We have fun almost every day. Teenagers get a bad rap. Here are my favorite things about them.

1)  They are incredibly creative. They are not as burdened as adults are with “….but we’ve always done it this way.”

2)  They have a sharp nose for hypocrisy. If your actions are not consistent with your spoken values, your teenager is the person most likely to point it out to you. Not your mom, not your spouse, not your best friend. This can be annoying. But if you are on a self-improvement path, it is essentially free counseling.

3)  They do their own laundry.

4)  They are involved in all sorts of stuff that I would never have thought to get involved with on my own. I get drug along for the ride and sometimes, I like it better than the kids. Like Tae Kwon Do. Or getting asked to be in one of the movies film club made. Or helping the Latin Club Olympics.

5)  They mow my grass. I don’t even have to ask. I only have to pay them.

6)  They have rational opinions about current events and ethics and the origins of the universe and they will discuss it with you (and each other when you aren’t even there.)  Much better than the earlier discussions, “Is to.” “Is not.” “Is to.”

7)  I don’t have to mop the floor after every meal.

8)  They introduce me to new music. Though sometimes they are just trying to reintroduce me to a band I haven’t listened to in a while. “Mom-have you ever heard of a band called Foreigner?”

9)  They eat the leftovers.

10)  They have amazing energy, and hope, and despite the world not being a perfect place, optimism.

Deep Breath

Last week I was at the grocery store and noticed a young mom and her three children. Her daughter appeared to be about two years old and sat in the grocery cart. Her two sons were walking next to the cart and son Jack who appeared to be about four or five was “helping.”

“Yes, Jack, we need the cheese. Go ahead and put that in the cart.”

“No, Jack, we are not going to get chocolate milk today. Please put it back. Please put the chocolate milk back, Jack.” “No, Jack we are not getting chocolate milk today. Put it back.” And so it went up and down three or four aisles until the moment that all of us in the store could hear coming.

“Jack!” “Come here.” It was said sharply. She grabbed his hand.

Memories of my own “Jack moments” flooded back. One in particular. We were in church and my youngest, would not behave. He was poking his sister, kicking the seat in front of us. Anything to be a distraction. I had taken him outside for disciplining and promises of bribes twice already. In my fatigue and despair, I started crying. Sobbing actually. Big wet tears running down my face and my shoulders bumping up and down with my ragged breaths.

Then the lady who sat behind us every week, and had watched our ongoing church struggles month after month, put her hand on my shoulder and left it there for the rest of the service. It was one of the kindest things another mother has done for me.

My attention is back in the grocery store and Jack’s mom is squatting down in front of him and I think he is going to catch it now.

“Jack,” she says, “Look at me. Look at me.

“Calm down. Take a deep breath with me.”  They suck in air noisily through pursed lips and clenched teeth.

“OK. Take another breath.”  Another noisy breath.  “Are you calm now?” Jack nods his head. “Can we finish shopping now?” Jack nods his head.

I remember the woman who put her hand on my shoulder in church. I turn to Jack’s mom.

“Mam.” She looks and me and Jack starts to get distracted by the spaghetti noodles. “I think that is great that you are teaching him calming breaths. I wish I knew about that when my kids were little.”

“It’s not working.”

“You are doing great.”

“Jack, put the spaghetti back.”


Day Seven: Final Day of the Food Stamp Challenge

Many of the bloggers who accepted this challenge have discussed how difficult this week has been. I know there are regional differences in food costs, but this week has not been so difficult for us. But we have been eating this way for years, and I have a system that incorporates menu planning, very little food waste, primary shopping done at a low-cost store, filling in specialty items and organics from a couple other stores, using mostly fresh ingredients with some frozen and some prepared, and eating meat/poultry/fish just 2-4 times per week.

Adding to the previous total of $117.94 the oil that went into the birthday cake $0.36 and then the oil used today to sauté the garlic $0.20, our weekly total is $118.50 or $4.23 per person per day of the challenge.

Here’s what we ate today:

My breakfast

2 eggs over easy, toast w/ last of the butter, no cream for my coffee-used the last of it yesterday

Daughter: Greek yogurt, spoonful of peanut butter ,water

Middle son: banana, yogurt, spoonful of peanut butter, orange juice

Youngest son: cereal

Lunch was hard-boiled eggs and potato soup. Here is the soup ingredients

potato soup before

potato soup ready to eat

There were just a few leaves of lettuce left, so I had my hard-boiled egg on top of that with some dressing.

About mid afternoon, I got hungry and I ate two bowls of cereal

Dinner was vegetable soup made with the rest of the beef stock, the rest of the tomatoes, 3 potatoes, the rest of the carrots sticks: diced and the green beans leftover from dinner two nights ago. I added minced, sautéed garlic and pepper and basil and one more of the bullion cubes for flavor.

vegetable soup ingredients


The final photo is what’s left of the food we started with

not in photo: flour, sugar and spices

Day Six Food Stamp Challenge

OK. Not a normal day.

Kids are off school due to a teacher in-service. And I found out a beloved friend had a 1/2 inch Melanoma removed from her thigh. DAMN!

Food:…… LIKE I CARE…..

Breakfast, me:

The usual

Lunch for me:

fish sandwich

sandwich, apple, water

Kids report the following:

Birthday girl–breakfast: Piece of birthday cake

lunch– big “honkin” spoonful of peanut butter and a strawberry Greek yogurt

Middle son–breakfast: piece of birthday cake

lunch–PB&J, apple, granola bar

Youngest son–piece of birthday cake (seeing a theme here?) and bowl of cereal

lunch–peanut butter and piece of birthday cake

plus middle son grabbed the last piece of cake after cross-country practice.

dinner ingredients

sautéed organic hamburger

2 T butter, 4 T flour, 2 cups beef stock

Mixed w/ egg noodles and plain greek yogurt

Steamed brocoli and beef stroganoff

Day Five Food Stamp Challenge


coffee, banana, yogurt, oatmeal


saltines & peanut butter, apple, Cliff Bar, bottle of water

Birthday Girl Dinner at 5:05pm

dinner ingredients

The green beans and corn were steamed in the microwave. The Tilapia was placed in 2 greased with butter baking dishes, sprinkled with crushed saltines and chili powder and baked for 25 minutes at 325 degrees F. When they were done, the juice of half the lime was squeezed over the top. There were nine fillets in all. We ate eight for dinner and I saved one for lunch tomorrow.

Dinner is served

The birthday cake:

Yellow cake with white icing

Darling daughter turns seventeen tomorrow. She asked “What do the three candles on the cake represent? That seventeen is a prime number, like three?”

I replied, “They represent the number of candles that I had in the house when I realized that I did not have seventeen candles.”

Day Four Food Stamp Challenge

OK, a lot of breakfast got eaten while I was in the shower–so no photos of the kid’s breakfast. But as reported to me after I got dried off:

Daughter: Big spoonful of peanut butter, yogurt, water

Middle son: sugary cereal, glass of orange juice

Youngest son: Sugary cereal


2 eggs over easy, toast w/ butter, coffee w/ cream

Lunch for middle son:

PB&J, yogurt, carrots, Snickerdoodles

My lunch: a burrito made of the leftovers: ham, 1/2 the remaining lentils, remaining chopped tomatoes, some lettuce–

burritos components

and a banana and bottled water

For dinner, the kids were at their dad’s, so I ate leftovers.

lettuce,tomato salad w/ rest of leftover lentils, mashed potatoes, brocoli

and the peanut butter that I scraped from the “empty jar”

jar not empty yet!

Then I went grocery shopping for a few things

Skim milk is organic, yogurt and peanut butter is not, Cliff bar was impulse purchase. Spent $8.70.

Grocery totals so far $117.94.

Food Stamp Challenge Day Three

We are in the groove now. My kids are even tolerating me photographing their meals. Breakfast:

middle son--cereal

youngest son--cereal

daughter–yogurt and spoonful of peanut butter (no photo, eaten while I was in the shower)

breakfast and lunch for me

breakfast: oatmeal, yogurt, banana, coffee and cream. Lunch: leftover Shepard’s pie and an apple.

Lunch for middle son:

PB & J, Snickerdoodles, carrots and yogurt

the other two ate school lunches.

Dinner at 5:15pm


Dinner at 5:50pm: ham, mashed potatoes and steamed brocoli



After dinner last night, I took youngest son shoe shopping (size 11.5, age 13, YIKES!) and we bought ice cream on the way home–$3.73 for 1.75 liters. We ate 1/2 last night and the rest after dinner tonight.

Pantry and grocery totals $102.43 + Shnickerdoodle ingredients $2.78+oil for quesidillas $0.15 + ice cream $3.73 = $109.09 total so far for the week. We are good.

Food Stamp Challenge Day Two


me: coffee w/ cream, oatmeal, banana, yogurt

Coffee for home and abroad

breakfast and lunch together

middle son: yogurt and peanut butter

high protein breakfast

daughter had yogurt and spoonful of peanut butter, but ate it while I was in the shower, so no photo.

youngest son: sugary breakfast cereal

rainbow rice cereal

lunch for me: in photo above-tossed salad, small container of dressing and leftover Shepard’s Pie

lunch for middle son: PB & J, yogurt, carrot sticks, Snickerdoodles

and he gave the cookies away to a kid who forgot to bring lunch

the other two had school lunches.

Dinner: vegetarian tacos

The “meat” is made with 1 cup lentils, (I still prefer the red/pink ones as they are sweeter and cook faster, but the store was out) 2 cups water and 1 package taco seasoning. Boil on medium heat for 25 minutes or until water is absorbed stirring frequently.

lentil ingredients

serve with tortillas, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes.

Dinner is served!