My grocery bill needs to go on a diet

food_receipt_shutterstock_39006397Recently, we had a meeting with a financial advisor.  Although we are in very good shape, my husband, Nick, thinks we are “financially flabby”.

As the main shopper in the house, I feel this comes back to me.  As we were driving to the meeting, I said to Nick, “Why do I have the feeling I am going to be beat up here?” I justify my spending by saying we make good money, our kids don’t play hockey and we rarely eat out, or go anywhere for that matter.  I think we are doing all right.  You gotta live!

The first thing the advisor asks me when it comes to our spending habits is the grocery bill.

“Why are you spending $1300 a month on groceries?”

Whoa!  I suddenly feel that I am the subject of an intervention on that Debt Do Us Part show.  Is Gail Vaz-Oxlade going to strut out from around the corner with the camera crew? Do I really spend that much?  I never really took much notice.  I just  load up the cart and pay by Visa.  He asks a few more questions:

“Do you buy all organic?”

“No.”

“Do you shop at Whole Foods?”

“There isn’t a Whole Foods within 50 miles of our house.”

“Do you buy a lot of prepackaged foods?”

“Not really…”

And all of those answers are true.  I don’t buy all organic or shop at an expensive store.  And I stopped buying a lot of pre made foods last year in an attempt to prepare healthier meals for my family.

So why is my bill so high?

I retrace my steps…four days prior, I had to go grocery shopping.  I went to a discount chain, not an upscale one, and loaded up.  I needed a lot of basics as well as our usual weekly consumables such as bread, milk, OJ, fruit and veg.  My total was $167.00.

Three days later, I had to go back.  This is generally my weekly routine:  one big shop and one or two extra little shops.  We were out of our consumables.  I spent another $40 because, on top of the consumables, I realized we also needed ice cream, a frozen pizza and chips for the “kids”.

I also went out to buy meat from a local farm store.  Yes, it is more expensive, but I have a hard time buying no-name meat with a 30% off sticker on it from the discount place.  That rung me up $40.

So yeah, for my family of four I am spending about $250 – $300 a week, which is $1000 – $1300 a month.

But here is my justification;  we rarely eat out.  The food I buy suffices for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert most of the time.  My husband and I pack lunches for ourselves for work.  The kids bring a packed lunch to school.

I asked my friend last night what she spends a month on food.  She has a husband and one 12 year old daughter in her house.  She said on average, $400.  I almost fell off my chair.  How can our one extra body (a 9 year old boy, mind you) set us back an extra $600+ a month!  What am I doing wrong?

She asked me all of the same questions that the financial advisor did.  No, no, and no.

She also asked, “Do you price match?”

No, I don’t.  I am sorry but I don’t want to be that person who holds up the line by rummaging through her weekly flyers to show the 16 year old check out girl the cheaper price somewhere else. I go to the discount place, isn’t that enough?

She said that by using the Flipp app, she saves $30 – $40 a shop.

Maybe I will give it a try.  Maybe we just eat too much.   Maybe I have to buy the discounted meat.

Maybe everyone else is lying about what they spend?

I am curious to know what others typically spend in a month on groceries.  If you have any tips on saving money please share them!

At the end of the day, I just need to eliminate the wants and stick with the essentials.  Good bye cookie aisle; we are on a diet.

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Bonding over basketball…

baksetball moms

Many months ago, I wrote my first blog entry about my kids, and how they aren’t into sports and activities like other kids their age.

Since then, my son became interested in basketball.  He tried out for the U10 rep basketball team here in Orillia.  I am not sure who was more excited when he made this team: him or me!  Finally, I could fulfill my dream by cheering on my son from the bleachers with other like-minded, crazy moms!  And of course, he would learn a new sport and make new friends. That too.

That was five months ago.

In that short five month period, my son has gained important life-long skills, made great friends and got a much needed confidence boost.  As for me, I too made new friends that will surely last beyond basketball season.

During the first few games and practices we parents were all a bit shy.  We’d watch practices and games in our own little bubble; occasionally glancing with a smile or a quiet, “hi”.  Soon, our lone seats became small groups and eventually morphed into a large group semi-circle. We watched all of our boys dribble, shoot, score, miss, fall, cry and cheer.  Through them, we bonded.

We not only enjoyed conversation and a few laughs while on the bleachers; we pitched in to help one another.  Early in the season one of the coaches, who was also one of the moms, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  We grouped together and organized a “fill the freezer party” to help out the family during her many long days of treatments.  Someone suggested the boys wear pink shoelaces to the next game in support.  The laces stayed on all season long.  Mid season, my father in law passed away.  My husband called me to tell me of his passing on a Saturday afternoon during the 3rd quarter of a game.  A number of parents offered to help by caring for my son after the game so I could be with my husband.  We moms saw each other through family illnesses, surgeries and concerning report cards. We all kept an eye on the younger siblings who tagged along to each game and practice and played on the sidelines.  We supported one another when our son had a rough game, and we congratulated and high fived each other when he made a great play.  Each kid became everyone’s kid.

And yes, we partied in the hotel conference room.  We ate pizza, drank booze and took silly pictures.  We laughed the next day when the seemingly extra long buzzer at the game made the morning-after headache so much worse.

It was just as I always imagined it would be. In fact, it was better.  These ladies are strong, spirited, funny, honest, supportive, patient and humble.  And their spouses are pretty awesome too.

As for the boys; they had a blast!  And they even won a few games.

The boys learned and improved so much from the dedication of their amazing coaches.  And us parents, we loved every minute of watching them grow, succeed, fail and rebound. We loved every minute of getting up early, stopping for coffee, driving to gyms and cheering from the back-breaking bleachers.  We loved every minute of going to fast food restaurants and cheap hotels.  We loved every minute of spending time with this amazing group of boys, coaches and parents.

We are all sad to see the season come to an end, but in terms of friendships, for the boys and the parents, this is only the beginning.

A work in progress: Learning to love our bodies

body image pic

I have a pre-teen daughter.  She doesn’t think she is beautiful and it breaks my heart.

I feel responsible for her attitude toward her self-esteem because I haven’t been a very positive role model in that regard.  I have spent way too many years dieting, skipping meals and over exercising to change the parts of my body I didn’t like, such as my “athletic” legs and rounded shoulders.  For me it was a goal of distorted perfection.  I was setting myself up for failure.  I wanted a body that simply was not achievable for me.

I am learning that being unable to reach a certain number on the scale or a dress size does not make me a failure.  It makes me realistic.  Let’s face it, you would not expect a Chihuahua to resemble a Saint Bernard.  Those dogs, although both part of the canine family, have different genes which give them their specific characteristics.  As humans, we too all belong to the human race, but our heritage provides us with DNA that determines how we look.   I am from Italian and Eastern European descent.  Like my ancestors, I am quite tall with a large bone structure.  I form muscle easily, hence the athletic legs and shoulders that I have longed to change. Realistically, this change is impossible.

For many years, I was striving for an unachievable goals with my size.  I have met those goals twice in my life, but both times were short lived because such a low body weight was simply not sustainable for me.

What I didn’t realize was that all of these unachievable goals have sent a negative message to my beautiful daughter.  I unintentionally planted a seed of unattainable perfection in her innocent mind.

It isn’t all my fault.  Children are exposed to media’s interpretation of perfection from a very young age.  Although I don’t buy a lot of fashion magazines and I don’t watch gossip shows very often, she has seen these images of women.  Even the preteen shows she watches on major children’s networks send a message of perfection to young viewers.  The actors on these shows are always very thin with stylish clothes, flawless flowy hair and flawless skin.

I have decided that I have wasted too many years wishing my body looked different. This has been a lifelong problem for me, and I do not want to see my daughter go through negative body image and self esteem.  My mother and I took her to attend a seminar for mothers and daughters.  The workshop was two hours of talks, games and videos about loving ourselves and redefining our idea of beauty.

We all took away some valuable insight.  My athletic legs, for example, the ones that aren’t really suited for the skinny jeans trend (which by the way, has lasted way too long) have so much more value than just appearance.  They allow me to run swift and steadily when I compete in races, they allow me to kick hard in soccer and jump high in volleyball.  They help me keep up with my kids in a game of tag or hide and seek.  I need to be thankful for my strong legs, because I depend on them so much.  Nevermind the fact that it’s hard to find a pair of pants that fit.  I look good in skirts.

My daughter is learning to love her big feet and her curly hair and the freckles on her nose that make her unique, just as I am learning to love my legs and arms.

When I do get down on myself, it is my husband who brings me back to reality.  He tells me, “I wish you could see what I see, because what I see is beauty, both inside and out.”  It’s funny, because this is what I say to my daughter when she doubts herself.  I just hope it doesn’t take her close to 40 years to believe it.

Loving our bodies should not be a lifelong struggle.  We need to think about all the wonderful things our bodies do for us.  We need to celebrate individuality and find our own unique perfection to be our best selves.

I love my night owl family, but…

melefacent

It’s 9pm. My kids are more active than they have been all day and the “witching hour” is setting in for me. Have you seen Maleficent? If so, then you have seen the part when Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) seeks revenge on her lover who cut off her wings. She walks up the path to his castle with the look of pure evil on her face, and as she walks, her anger commands the stone walls beside her to crumble and fly off in to the distance. My husband (half jokingly) calls me Maleficent as I walk down the hall to my kids’ rooms when they are not in bed as they are supposed to be. He swears, the pictures on the walls sometimes vibrate.

A full hour ago I asked the kids, the same two kids who didn’t want to sit beside each other at the dinner table three hours prior, to get ready for bed. Now, they are laughing and playing with toys in my son’s room. It seems they become best buddies once the sun goes down. Or maybe they are just conspiring against me at bedtime…

How did this happen to me? How are my kids so different from me; the human in which they were nourished for nine long months?

All my life I have been a morning person. My parents joke I was the only kid that ever actually ASKED to go to bed. We’d be watching a show or playing a game and I would simply stand up and say, “I think I’m gonna go to bed now.” I also distinctly remember getting my own alarm clock in grade 4. I would set it and wake up all by myself on a school day. I used to have to wake up my mom to make my lunch for school. Ha, that’ll be the day around here!

My kids are the exact opposite (except, of course, on weekends when they CAN sleep in, they are up at the crack of dawn to watch cartoons – I guess even kids have priorities). Mornings are atrocious. My daughter makes awful dying animal sounds when I attempt to wake her up. My son frowns and pulls the covers over his head. When they finally do get out of bed (after often up to three wake up calls) and get dressed, they walk long-faced and heavy-footed to the kitchen and slump down in a chair. Well, good morning to you too! Me on the other hand, I have already finished my daily workout, made school lunches, walked the dogs, showered and packed up the kids’ school bags as well as my own. It’s practically lunch time for me.

I take a deep breath and gather up all of my patience. I ask them what they would like for breakfast, to which they sluggishly reply, “I don’t know.” Really? You don’t know? It’s not as if I give them a lot to choose from; it’s not as if the menu changes from day to day. We pretty much serve up the basics here: cereal, yogurt, toast, eggs…

I take another deep breath. I repeat the mantra, “I love my kids, I love my kids…” And I do. They are funny and caring and intelligent little humans, just not before 9 am.

At night it’s a similar dance. We get bedtime routines started at around 8 or 8:30, but they get silly. They dilly dally through brushing their teeth, washing up and story time. Many nights we are finally saying good night and turning off the lights at 9:30. I feel like a horrible parent. All of the other bedroom lights in the neighbourhood have been off for hours. How do the other parents do it? “Tomorrow,” I say to myself. “Tomorrow we will start bedtime way earlier.”

Then I walk off to bed too, sometimes straightening the photos on the wall along the way. My husband pops his head in to the room to say, “Love you, Maleficent.” And I hear him and the kids laughing as he walks down the hall.

I love my night owl family.

Children grieve too, often in different ways

Grandad

My father in law, John Osburn, passed away recently after a two-year battle with cancer. My kids watched him endure surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. They watched him go from a happy, energetic grandfather who visited often with his trusty guitar and lyric stand in tow (often he’d bring the tambourine for the kids) to a tired and pale grandfather who required a nap in one of their beds while visiting us.

My kids had two totally different reactions to the news of his passing. My son simply said, “oh” and looked out the window. Then he said he isn’t sad because he knows that Granddad is in a better place. Simple as that. My daughter, on the other hand, has been extremely emotional. She cried the moment I told her and has cried everyday, multiple times, for the past week. She is, from the deepest part of her heart, so incredibly sad.

So, what are parents to do when a loved one passes on? We’ve talked a lot. We’ve read articles on how to help children cope with death. We sat the kids down and asked them to write a letter to their Granddad. We started them off with prompts like: How are you feeling? What is a memory of Granddad that you have? What did you learn from him? How are you going to use what he taught you in your life? We let them stay home from school and spend time with us during the process of planning the events that would take place in the days to come. They came to the funeral home for both visitations and also attended the funeral and celebration afterwards. They shared stories with us at dinner.

All in all they handled themselves extremely well, and Granddad, a traditional “proper” British man, would be proud. But he wouldn’t just be proud of their good behaviour at the church; he would be proud of their two very different personalities and coping mechanisms. He would be proud of Ben’s strength, yet also proud of Lily’s pure emotion.

It has been a week since they lost their beloved Granddad and they are doing ok. Yesterday they went back to school. Today, they are each having a sleepover with a friend. We are all slowly getting back into a routine, and I think that’s what is best. Kids need normalcy. They like knowing what’s going to happen. Although we knew Granddad was sick and his death was expected, it was still a shock when it occurred. Now, one week later, things are somewhat back to normal. A new normal, without Granddad.

We will miss his honesty, compassion, grace, patience, wisdom, charm, vigour and love. Rest in peace Granddad. We love you.

My husband wants to cut the cable – How will I survive without The Bachelor?

We have a lot of screen time in our house. We have two computers, one laptop, one ipad, our daughter has an ipod and my husband and I each have an iphone. We also have three tvs, one Xbox and a PS3. On lazy weekends I have to remind my kids that there is more to do than just jump from screen to screen (Xbox game to computer game to tv show to an ipod game…you get the picture). With all of these sources of entertainment (did I mention we also have a Netflix account?) do we really need basic cable?

My husband argues no. He’s a techy guy who knows how to “download” and “stream” content from the internet to the tv. I am not there yet. I am a little old fashioned when it comes to tv. I LIKE waiting for my favourite weekly tv show to air. It’s kind of like Christmas – it’s the anticipation!

“But you know,” he says,” you can watch the show via the Internet on the TV.”

“At the same time as it airs on tv?” I ask.

“Well, no, but usually the next day for sure.”

Not the answer I wanted to hear. How can I possibly go to work on Tuesday if I didn’t watch The Bachelor on Monday night? The suspense will be ruined! I will already have heard who cried and who kissed and who needed to be taken to the hospital on the most dramatic season of The Bachelor ever!

But he has a point. The cable costs us over $50 a month. We rely on Netflix for most of the shows and movies that we watch, as do the kids. We really only use regular cable for that one show a week that I like to indulge in, or to watch the news or to check the weather report, both of which are readily available on line at any time of day I want to check it.

I have to admit we could use the extra $50 a month. I try to further justify this by arguing that instead of watching trashy tv I could be reading a book or playing with the kids or walking the dogs. So, I have to ask, is The Bachelor worth $50 a month?

We know what’s going to happen: there’s going to be a group of girls that all seem super sweet and beautiful and how the hell do they not have one dimple of cellulite? Then there is going to be the outcast who the Bachelor will like because no one can resist the thought of the badass girl who also has no cellulite nor does she have even one varicose vein. Not one. She also has an elaborate back tattoo that comes with an incredibly touching story that almost makes us feel sorry for badass girl. Then previous Bachelors will come on the show to give him advice, like they have been best buds since the third grade. Then in the end, he will come to his senses and send badass girl home leaving two incredibly awesome girls left (how do these girls not already have multiple boyfriends?) to choose from. He’ll pick a ring (that he doesn’t have to pay for) and a tux (that he also doesn’t have to pay for) and the girls will get all dolled up (in gowns that are given to them and with access to top makeup and hair designers that make them look like they just walked off the pages of a magazine while I am eating popcorn in my pyjamas on the couch). He will send one poor soul home and propose to the other who will say yes because they are standing on a cliff overlooking the Pacific and he’s holding a $100000 ring, but dump him once the cameras stop rolling…

Pass the phone, I’ll call the Cable company myself.

My kids aren’t what I expected them to be – and that’s ok…

I wanted to be her.

I always imagined myself cheering on my kids from the stands; sitting with other moms of kids with like interests. I thought I would be waking up at the crack of dawn to take my kid to a practice of some sort and picking up a warm and cozy coffee along the way. I pictured myself taking them on road trips with their team, staying in mediocre hotels and watching them swim with their friends and teammates in the over-chlorinated hotel pool. These are things I have never done.

My kids aren’t into sports. We’ve tried to get them involved in almost every kind of sport: swimming, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, gymnastics, basketball, ball hockey and baseball. None of these sports really stuck. Sure we’ve done house league teams where the kids barely get to know each other, nor do the parents. They play maybe 10 games in their short season coached by one of the parents who regretfully volunteered in fear that the league would fold if there weren’t enough coaches, get a cheap medal and a cheaper uniform and call it a day. Then they don’t want to sign up for it again. Ever.

There are days when I am disappointed – not in my kids, but in the way that this is not how I envisioned my life as a mom. I feel different than my other mom friends who talk on Monday about the big tournament on the weekend or the big game later that week or the bad ref and the awful parents on the other team who yelled at the bad ref instead of just talking about him behind his back like their team does.

And then they ask how my weekend was and I tell them that my son and his buddy discover diamonds in Minecraft (I don’t even know what this means) and my daughter played dance studio (even though she doesn’t actually take dance because she doesn’t want to be told how to dance) with a friend in the basement. And I think I have failed as a parent. Where did I go wrong? Why aren’t my kids like the other kids who like team sports and camaraderie and competition.

I bring this up to my in-laws: two Brits who immigrated to Canada in 1976 and didn’t know much about the Canadian team sports culture and thus, my husband never really grew up with team sports like I did in the GTA. They reminded me that our kids are unique and creative and kind-hearted. They don’t have a competitive bone in their body and that’s ok. They’re children, let them play. They have their whole lives to be competitive.

They are right. My kids aren’t what I envisioned them to be, but they are mine and they are a piece of me and my husband – perhaps the pieces of us that I didn’t expect. They are creative and funny and loving. They have talents that are not tangible. My daughter is the most compassionate person I have ever met. My mother calls her an “old soul”. She has an ability to feel other’s pain and joy in a way that is very mature and beyond her years. My son is funny. He has the best laugh ever – straight from the belly. He also has the most beautiful singing voice and he has an ability to drum a beat or hum a tune of a song he has only heard once. And they both are good; simply good kids. I have never had to use the “1-2-3 magic” parenting technique with them and I can count on one hand the times they have had to go to a time out. And when they have, they come out apologizing to each other before I even ask them to. I have seen them playing at the park with other kids and watched another kid fall and my son or daughter stop to see if they are ok while other kids just keep running.

They may not be star athletes, and I may need to get over my dream of sitting in cold hockey arenas with other hockey moms (why did I really ever want this?) and that’s ok. My kids are playing creative and imaginative games and learning life long skills like empathy, cooperation, adaptability, problem solving and time management. And they are going to be ok. And so am I.