Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Budget Report: Compromises

You'll probably be surprised -- I sure have been -- by some of the food compromises I've already ended up making as we've tried to downshift into a new budget. Compounding that struggle, I have one daughter who is just getting more and more difficult to feed. Every day it seems like there's a new food that she really won't eat, and the list is long enough now (despite my effective non-blaming food policies, and her general love of raw vegetables) that there are multiple meals where she just skips and goes hungry, but then secretly binges on peanuts and Craisins on the couch later. S. and I are seeing it reflected in her physique, too. I'm trying not to stress about it, but if I ask her what she would eat and then prepare it for her, she often only eats it once and then doesn't touch it again the next time I make it.

So, I'm trying to compromise both with the budget and with a kid who somehow knew processed cheese slices existed and held out for them despite never having been served them. Wha?

OK. Things I've bought or done that I haven't in a long time, or ever:

Chicken legs. Since I've previously been avoiding conventional meat, it didn't occur to me that I was getting the benefit of what I'll call the 'convenience demographic' along with the organic feed; it's been a long time since I've had to slog through a family-sized package of slimy legs, trying to find that knuckle to cut between drumstick and thigh and then peel off the skin. Though I didn't think of myself as a white-meat convenience chick, even the packs of thighs I've been mostly buying have been boneless-skinless and I had forgotten how much work and grossness it takes to use those lovely 89-cents-a-pound legs.

Processed cheese slices. Yuck!! But this year our warehouse club has stopped stocking big blocks of jack cheese, which we loved; and apparently my Lucy-bear doesn't eat cheddar cheese any more. She literally leaves it on her plate. What the heck? Occasionally there will be a sale at a local supermarket where I can stock up on some other cheese varieties for the same per-pound price as the big bulk block, but it's not common enough to rely on. So, I bought a bulk package of white processed cheese slices instead, and she loves loves it. Well, it doesn't make her (or me) criminal, but I still have to shake my head. At least they're not individually wrapped, I think that would be where I draw the line... I'm really praying that she'll outgrow this eventually, like I remember my sister did. I'm still committed to not making food and mealtime about blame and guilt and negative emotions, so I'm trying to cheerfully act like 'processed American' doesn't sound like a bad word to me, and I think we'll come out all right in the end. After all, she's still eating it on bread that came from freshly home-ground wheat.

Pancake mix. We recently bought it for the first time and have used it on a number of occasions already, but I definitely hate the stuff. The pancakes are fluffier and prettier than our homemade ones, but they're tough and bland to me, and require huge amounts of butter and syrup to make them edible. Still, they're cheap and very quick, and my Lucy had that same joyous reaction to them, as if she had been waiting for them her whole life. -Sigh- I know we won't die from eating them, but this one is particularly hard for me because, unlike the cheese, I can't just grab a plate of homemade on the side for myself; we're in it together. (And man, I have to say, that bag of mix is going sooooo slowly, we've barely made a dent even though we've made 4 or 5 batches.)

Homemade Greek yogurt. This has come up in previous posts, but this year I've bought a few appropriate plastic containers and we're not going to rely on Gogurts for lunches anymore, I'm going to actually send yogurt from home and ask them to bring back the containers. We can use frozen blueberries or strawberries, canned crushed pineapple, or vanilla or lemon extracts, so they shouldn't mind the flavors. So far, so good -- after the first day of school, at least. No one said they were embarrassed or bothered by it, and they appreciated being more in control of their own portions. My one son who doesn't have a lunchbox and can't go back to his locker after lunch just stuck the Tupperware in his pocket for the rest of the day, though; that's a problem.

Skimping at the end of the month. When it all 'averaged out', so to speak, I felt free to take advantage of a sale or plan a menu without really thinking about what date it was. But July and August I've been trying to actually stick to the monthly budget, and I've noticed I start to feel it right around the 20th or 21st, which surprised me a little. I've started to stretch out my shopping trips and leave plenty of things on the shelf because I knew we wouldn't be out of that item by month's end, even if it was a tempting price. It's been good for me, I think, to get out of that subconscious 'might as well' attitude. We'll see how it goes long-term!

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