The Bean was born two days after school got out for the summer, so I learned all about the crunchy lifestyle during those 3 months of staying at home. I soaked my grains, made refried beans from scratch, and nursed my little Bean on demand all day long.
Then September came.
Soon I found myself rushing to the local chain grocery store–at the last minute–so we would have dinner that night. Forget about being frugal or organic; this was about survival. I dutifully brought my pump to work, and was barely successful with it. Luckily, the Bean (who actually spat out formula, the one time we tried supplementing!) learned to reverse cycle, so at least she ate well that year (and the next year, but that’s another story…)!
Now, my fourth year into it, I’ve developed a rhythm of sorts. I’m not perfect at it by any means. If I fall behind, I’ll find myself rushing out to the grocery store again. And the holidays are something I’m really working to perfect! But here is how I make it work:
–I start out by making a menu plan for two weeks. I begin by using two weeks of menus from this website, modifying them to fit our budget and preferences. Doing two weeks at a time cuts down a shopping trips, and seems to help the budget. I tried once-a-month cooking, but I was not too pleased with the quality of the food, near the end of the month.
–As I write the menus, I make a grocery list, with the estimated costs of each item. I aim for $100 for two weeks, on average. I will cut things out if it is going too far over this.
–Every other Saturday, the Bean and I hit the road for a mother-daughter grocery shopping trip! This is excellent bonding time for us as well, especially since we don’t see each other enough during the week, when I’m working. To keep her happy, I have a number of tricks. Sometimes, I will buy her a healthy treat, or a drink box of milk. They know us at all the stores, so they don’t mind if she consumes it in the store. I vary how she travels: sometimes she walks, sometimes she rides in the cart, and sometimes she rides on my back in a carrier. The carrier is best for larger stores, which are more of a challenge. I have her help me. If we’re returning bottles, I’ll hand her the box of them, and she’ll hand them to me, one at a time. Or I’ll give her items to put in the cart. It also helps that we go to small stores, where everyone fusses over her and can’t wait to hear her latest words! I keep track of my list and budget. If something is under budget, then I have extra money to spend. If something is over budget, then I must cut (or get a bargain!) somewhere else.
–I stay two days ahead with the food. On Monday, I will begin soaking Wednesday’s grains and beans. I will add sourdough starter to Tuesdays foods that have been soaking (using the starter on a regular basis keeps it well fed and healthy!), then I will add the same amount of water and flour that I took out of the starter, and I will prepare Monday’s foods. The thinking ahead keeps us from not having food on a particular evening. I use half gallon Ball jars to soak foods.
–If we run out of staples, such as milk, butter, or seltzer (we have given up soda pop, but we still drink lots of seltzer!), that makes for a quick, fun mother-daughter outing!
–Here is how my schedule works. I get home from work around 4:00. I drink coffee and talk to Rob about the day, then I take the Bean to her swing. When she’s done, I start dinner and food preparation for the next 2 days. I clean up right after dinner, then the Bean and I do an activity while Rob unwinds. Then she plays by herself and I enjoy my hobbies (such as blogging!). Bath time starts at 8:00.
–On days when I have meetings, Rob does the swinging and activities. I also have a back-up plan, such as nitrate-free hotdogs in the freezer or Annie’s Mac and Cheese, for nights when dinner isn’t going to happen on time otherwise.
–If things run later than planned, we use the back-up plan and enjoy the intended dinner the next day.
–If you work out of the home, your husband should be helping around the home, whether he works outside of the home or not! I can do all of the cooking and food preparation, because Rob does all of the laundry. This was especially helpful when the Bean wore cloth diapers! The cleaning is done by whoever has the time and opportunity (even though I clean the kitchen!). And he does most of the vacuuming.
–Having less stuff also helps. Since the Bean doesn’t have a lot of toys cluttering her room, it’s easy for us to teach her how to clean up. If a room always gets messy, that tells me that there is too much stuff in it.
Hope that helps! You can be crunchy and work out of the home!