Feb 12, 2020

How I Did on #NoShop19

Inspired by Meg Hall, I participated in #NoShop19 last year. I wish I could say I learned a lot about myself in the process, but I didn't. I know, it's pretty disappointing. These things are more fun when there's some deep personal revelation, so I get why you might want to stop reading. It was still a valuable exercise, though, and it provoked a lot of thinking about how and why I shop - and how and why I don't. Read on for musings about late stage capitalism, standard sizing, and how I really feel about the phrase "mom uniform..."

Feb 2, 2020

How I Manage: Meal-Planning Directed Grocery Shopping

Continuing my series on meal planning, though I want to preface this post by acknowledging my privilege in not have to worry about being able to afford fresh, healthy, high-quality food.

When I meal plan for the week ahead, I start by checking out what we have in our freezer, fridge, and pantry and try to base our dinners around that to limit what I have to purchase fresh each week. Best case scenario when I do my weekly shop is that my cart is almost entirely full of produce and dairy - things that don't keep for long. It's actually rare that I buy meat or seafood the week we're going to eat it; we stock up on ground beef, chicken breast tenders, and filets of fish when we go to Costco that we then portion out and freeze. That said, I will buy meat or seafood when grocery shopping that isn't on the week's plan but that is on sale to put in the freezer to have in the future.

We're lucky to have tons of options for grocery shopping. We live a 10-minute walk from a Walmart, one mile from a Safeway, and are equidistant between two Whole Foods stores each 1.5 miles away, and Jon and I both work just a few blocks from a Trader Joe's. From April through November, we also have a farmers market around the corner from our house.

I do most of the grocery shopping - I actually really enjoy it, even when I have Robbie with me, and I like being in control of what we buy. (Hey, the first step is recognizing you have a problem, right?) I will do a big shop on Sundays and then either Jon or I will stop somewhere on the way home from work on Wednesday or Thursday evenings. Jon really misses being able to walk to grocery shop, largely for the freedom and spontaneity it allows, so his go-to is Walmart when he wants to grab something. I am guilty of going to Whole Foods more often than I should, and limiting that should help keep us responsible to our weekly budget.

Speaking of our budget: my goal is to average $125/week on groceries for the three of us, not counting our big bimonthly Costco trip (which usually adds up between $200-300). I'm delighted to report that I did stick to that in January! Meal planning helps keep our grocery budget reasonable - and helps us avoid wasting food. For the most part, we only buy items we know we're going to use in the next week and we (generally) only buy things that aren't in the plan when they can be frozen or otherwise saved for the near future. I honestly don't think we can do better on either front at the moment, so I'm pretty proud of us!

Does this look like how you grocery plan or meal shop? I'm fascinated to know what the planning and process is like for people who don't live in more rural areas, or who live the most urban lives without a car! (Before we had a car and when our apartment was in a less residential area than our house is, we walked to the Safeway 10 minutes from our house and went frequently because we couldn't carry more than a few bags back at a time. I don't miss those days but Jon does!) I'd love to hear how it works for you and your family!

Jan 26, 2020

Why I'm Grateful for My Bubble

Two of the best things about the social media, I think, fulfill completely opposite purposes.

On the one hand, it connects people with shared experiences and, especially in times of hardship, makes us feel less alone in our struggles. We are so lucky to be able to find communities in which we can help each other through challenges at just the stroke of a key or two.

On the other, it opens our eyes to worlds we don't inhabit; to experiences and lives and stories we can never imagine as our own. It broadens our perspective and, hopefully, makes us more empathetic to others along the way.

I think about these two consequences of sharing ourselves on the internet a lot, particularly in regard to having and raising children. I'm grateful to have "met" women online who I can learn from, and I am, without a doubt, a better mother because of my virtual connection to them. That said, the Mommy Wars are real and their casualties are incalculable, an equal number of wounds inflicted across Instagram as in person.

How and when and why we parent involves such personal decisions that any choices contrary to the ones we make can easily be taken as judgement or criticism even when they have nothing to do with us. Often we have no idea what we're doing, and our insecurity forces us to go on the offensive. Language can be weaponized by the reader despite the writer's best intentions; for instance, I admit to bristling at the phrase "natural birth" when use to describe a vaginal and unmedicated birth no matter the writer's actual thoughts on my epidural-assisted labor. The fact that she's probably not even considering my experience is equally irrelevant to me as I proactively prepare my defense.

That's why, in regards to parenting, social media has made me aware of how grateful I am for my bubble.

Jan 11, 2020

2019 Gratitude

I started off 2019 with the goal of keeping a daily gratitude journal via Instagram stories, and I stuck with it consistently for just over half the year. (Changing jobs and then trips away over the summer threw off this part of my routine!) Before I deleted the highlight where I'd saved the clips, I watched them all and was stuck by the constancy of the themes that recurred throughout:

my family
my friends
my career
my health/care

As I noted in my 2019 top nine Instagram post, last year was about growing in place. There weren't any huge changes other than my new job, which felt like a natural next step for me and so wasn't disruptive despite being a welcome challenge, and I'm grateful to have had the space to become more comfortable and more confident in who I am in all of my varied roles without needing to adjust to any kind of major upheaval. We really needed a year like that after the one prior: a week before 2018 began, Jon and I became parents; three months later we bought a house and, a month after that, Jon made a professional pivot that took some getting used to for both of us at the same time that my work situation went through a complicated spell.

2019 wasn't without rough patches, of course, and that last item is "health/care" because I'm grateful to be in a position - both emotionally, for lack of a better word, and financially - to take control of my physical and mental health and seek out help where and when it's needed. (I wish I hadn't waited so long to see an orthopedist, get x-rays and an MRI, and be diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, but I'll blame 2018 for that.) It's also been a trip to experience Robbie's exploration into toddlerhood.

My hope is that 2020 is another year of deepening roots and... reaching towards the sky, blossoming through both sun and rain? There's no way to write these sorts of posts without at least one horrible metaphor, sorry, but you know what I mean. Anyway, here's to the next one! May it be another of learning and growing.

Dec 1, 2019

How I Meal Plan (Every Week!)

printable from PTPaperPrintables on Etsy
(I think I want to start keeping track of this outside of Instagram so might move to paper!)

Well, dear readers, the single post I planned to write on meal planning seems to be turning into a series! As I was drafting that first post, I asked on Instagram if there was anything in particular you wanted me to address - and most of the questions you submitted on Instagram were about how I grocery shop and what my go-to recipes are. In the end, Why I Meal Plan (Every Week) ended up being more philosophical, but I definitely still do want to satisfy your curiosity.

Because we just went to Costco last weekend and are going away for eight days over Christmas, our main goal for December meals is to empty the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Hopefully, we'll come back from England to an empty house, food-wise, so we'll be starting fresh at the beginning of the New Year. I'm going to track my grocery shopping through January and log it all here at the end of that month so you can get a full picture of my strategy. When I can get my act together, I'll also publish a post with favorite winter recipes.

(Side note: we're all voyeurs on social media. No shame or judgement here on that front!)

In the meantime, let's continue with a walk through my meal planning process...