Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Hi All!
Just letting you know that The Lunchbox is moving to a new address:
Find us at
See you soon!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

G is for Grateful and Gracious

I feel like I am constantly reminding my children about being grateful for what they have and  gracious to those who are around them. They have so much to be thankful for and are both always open to helping other people who need help or who have less than they do, but it doesn't seem to stop the gimmies
I am curious to know what other parents do to manage this.
I don't give in to the behaviour, and they are not used to getting everything they want, the minute they want it.  They know about working for things and waiting for birthdays and whatnot.  Typically I am not trampled by temper tantrums, but rather it is the act of constantly having to repeat myself and wondering if they will ever get it...  And when I whine about it to my parents, they just say, "All kids are the same.  You were like that too once upon a time..." Gotta wonder what exactly they mean by that?

Monday, April 9, 2012

F is for Figure Skating

Figure skating seems to take up most of my "free" time and money these days!  She is 8 years old and she is on the ice four days a week.  About a month ago, we had a serious "mother to daughter" skating talk...  How much do you want this?  And it wasn't about quitting, but rather: "... if you only want to do this for fun, that is okay, but it means that you only skate 2 days a week, no extra ice, no extra private ice time for extra lessons.  You only do two competitions a year, and none of those are off the Island, and you only do one test session a year (not three!), and no summer skating..."
Her response?  "No no no Mummy! I want to skate, I want to go competitive, and I want the extra ice times, and extra lessons."
Okay: but that means, no nagging from me about getting up at 6am, no whining when I say it is a skating day and therefore no play date.
And she has kept up her end of the bargain. 
So here we are a month later, getting ready for another skating competition, less than a week away.  And the mother is so nervous.  But I don't share that with her.  She doesn't get nervous, or doesn't appear to.  She worries about what I will think, so I have told her that it isn't about what I think.  She likes to win, but she doesn't worry about what the other kids do.  And I told her, what she does on the ice is between her and her coach.  It is what goes on off the ice that I am in charge of and she needs to remember that I am the "off ice partner"... The one who looks after what she eats, what she does and who she does it with.  I make sure the homework gets done, the chores get done, and that the off ice activity happens: a little bit of running, a little bit of bike riding, some stretching, some dance and some off ice practice (jumping, core work and the off ice solo practice).  I mostly let the "off ice" bike riding and running come from being a kid, and so far she is good at that. 
That is where it gets tricky...  As a parent, you want them to stay little as long as possible, but they want to compete.  So, the rule in our house has become, as long as it is fun and you are enjoying the "work" part of it, then we continue.  But if it becomes a chore, then we re examine.  And start again!

E is for Everybody helps with Supper

That is what I say when it comes to getting supper on the table!  It is an Everybody affair.  The table needs to be set, the salad needs to be made, and of course there is the main course.  Usually that is the parent responsibility.  But the kids are getting there very quickly!  They have learned to cut up veggies like nobody's business, and are a big help when it comes to making things like soup or spaghetti sauce.  As parents we don't realise it, but it pays off in the end if you let that helpful 3 year old help get things ready for supper (or lunch).  They can wash  veggies, set the table (with help), and help clear.  While you may have to put in an extra 15 minutes on the prep end and then another 15 minutes on the clean up end for a few years, it will pay off in the long run.  Now, my two are 8 and 10 and they are reasonably helpful at supper time, and quite capable of managing their own lunches in the morning (because they have helped to put away the leftovers after supper!).  Of course  I still have to nag (I am a parent not a magician and my children are FAR from perfect!).  But they know what to do, and do a reasonable job of getting on with helping get on with supper. 
Make a list of jobs and let them choose a few each week.  Then rotate each week so that they aren't stuck with the same chores all the time.
Assign one parent or older child to manage the main dish. 
Chop all your veggies for the week at one time and store in the refrigerator.
Create a weekly menu that everyone can see (ie on the fridge!), so that on your late nights you are not responsible for getting everyone fed as well!  Take input from family members when making menus, that way you aren't feeling the "brain drain" when it comes to making the menu.

Happy Packing!

D is for Dining room table

I so wish that I could just get myself together and get my hands on a new dining room table.  My husband insists there is nothing wrong with the table that we have.  And in some ways, he is right: it has a top, and it doesn't fall over.  It seats 6, maybe 7 if we squeeze and the kids are small.  But every night we are only takes Grandma and Grandpa coming for dinner to make us 8, and that is too tight.  And the kids are getting bigger.  And well, the table isn't!
And I already know what table I want, and have wanted for five years.  But the money gets saved, or almost, and then something comes up, and the money goes to THAT instead.  A new washer and dryer was the last thing.  Or a tax audit, or new tires for the van.  Oh well, no table yet.  Maybe next year...

C is for Coaching

I once looked into the profession of "Life coach"...but the "Training" cost was ridiculously outrageous.  But I have often wondered if someone would pay me to be their "Kitchen Coach"?
We could work on things like Marathon cookie baking and Soup challenges.  Not to mention the Pantry countdown, and how to get the most bang for your food buck...

B is for Butcher

Do you have a local butcher?  We are very fortunate to have such a good local butcher right here in town: Pipers Meat Cleaver.  Whenever possible, the meat they carry is local as well as hormone-free and non medicated.  They make their own hams, their own sausage, and the two master butchers are the owners and right there to talk to just about any time you want.  You can get bones for soup from them and they will discuss recipes, cooking tips and meat information with you. 
You can request how you want your meat to take home packaged, so you can avoid the Styrofoam packaging going into the garbage at home.  Most of the meat in their freezer section is packaged in plastic bags, double wrapped, but if you prefer your meat packaged in freezer paper instead, they will do that for you.  As well, if you put in a meat order, you can request that it all be packaged in freezer paper. 
Price wise: our butcher is sometimes a little bit more expensive than the grocery store, but they have weekly specials and typically those prices are close if not the same as the local grocery store sale prices.  Usually once a month, the bigger roasting chickens are on special for $2.69/lb.  Around the holidays, the turkeys are local and must be ordered ahead of time, but they are worth it.  Free range, organic and non medicated.  And they taste delicious. 
Your best bet for local fair on any day of the week at Pipers is the Pork, from the Alberni Valley, just north of us on the Island.  Delicious pork tenderloin, beautiful pork chops, and of course pork loin roasts. The bacon is from there, and all the sausage meat (the pork that is used) is also from there.   Hams: they carry both pre smoked, from the Alberni valley as well as their own, which are reasonably priced and your best bet for making ham sandwiches for lunches. And you can order pork bones for making a tonic from the bones which is very common in Ancient Chinese medicine.

So, if you haven't already, check out your phone book for a local butcher, and go in and talk meat with him or her.  They are all ready to share their knowledge with you and help you keep the pink slime out of your diet! 
Happy Packing!

A is for Apology

I have a big list of posts for the A to Z Blogger challenge...but I have to change the first one: A is now for Apology. 
When it comes to running a house, being self employed, kids activities and being on the Board in too many places, sometimes you drop a ball.  It is hopeful that the ball one drops isn't a crucial one.  In this case, I chose to drop the Blogging ball.  I appreciate all the folks who commented both here and on FB that they were missing me.  I am back!  Thanks for staying!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Move it on Monday: Project 52 update (just a little late!)

...and better late than never, right?
I survived Competition Weekend!  (that really should have been on the list as well).  Now, there should be room in my days for a few of the regular things that have fallen off to the side in the past two weeks.

So where are we at with the list of 52...
1. I have been looking for a new novel to read...Tine lent me "The Help", and since the competition is over, I can find some time to start it.
3. January 2011 had 457 page views and13 entries.  This is entry number 14 for January 2012, so I didn't double this month's posts, but January 2012 did have 1502 page views, which is encouraging!
6. And I have sold 1 pair of the skates from the crawlspace.  So only three more to go.
29. The February Calendar is ready to go up...that is 2/12!  Yay me!
35. I put together one page for Kate's scrapbook, just need to finish it this weekend.
42. I signed up for the A to Z challenge for April 2012.  Now to start planning!
49. We had a birthday supper for everyone before our girls left for their home countries.

Still plugging along!  How is everyone else doing?

Happy Packing!


A couple of other Project 52's to check out:
A Peek At Karen's World
Jennee Thompson

Monday, January 23, 2012

Move it on Monday : Project 52 Update

Wow, volunteer work sure does get in the way of things!  But who am I kidding?  I do it because I love it!
However, it doesn't fit on the list anywhere. (why didn't I put it on there?  Because I never have a hard time doing it or saying yes, when sometimes I should be saying no!)..
#16. I did find a non fiction book to read this week and I even started reading it.
#17. And I had breakfast with Tine this month!  That is 1/12 in Month number one.
The non fiction book is called "Stepping Up" by John Izzo.  Heard him interviewed by Sheila McKay on CBC Radio 1 on Saturday morning, and I made Tine wait in the parking lot until I had heard the name of the book, because I wanted to read it.

Short and sweet, but I must cook!  More later!

Happy Packing!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

A little Time on the Ice...

First Comp age 4
Occasionally, I do spend time thinking about something other than food!  One thing that keeps me busy is driving to and from the ice rink or arena.  As some of you already know, my now 8 year old skates a few days a week...  Actually, last week, it was 6!  But that was an anomaly, normally it is 3 or 4 days a week.   Currently, we are preparing for the upcoming Lynn Hetherington Memorial competition, which is also now the Vancouver Island Championships, and just a week away!  It has been exciting to watch the noticeable changes in her skating since Christmas break.  At the last competition, in October, it was her first time in Pre Preliminary...The first time that not everyone in the group gets recognition for their performance.  Top 6 only (and there are usually 10-12 in a group).  We came 9th out of 10.  After her skate, I knew she wouldn't place very high.  While she had a wonderful performance (if there is one thing she can always do its put on a show), she missed the three key elements for pre preliminary: Her lutz jump, her flip jump and her camel-sit spin.  Other skaters in her group, while they weren't as fast nor were they as bright and sparkly or light on their feet, had all completed the jumps and managed 3 rotations of each position in their combination spins.  Yes, she had the highest spiral, and the biggest smile, but Pre Preliminary is about the elements first, the show second.
Age 8

As a former skater, (and an active member of our club's executive), I have a bit of knowledge that allows me to sit there and think, "Oh dear."  but then you are prepared to deal with the child's disappointment later, when the results are posted.  It reminded me of her first competition, where I don't think she knew there were going to be medals until the actual moment they were given out.  And she whispered to me "Mummy, maybe I came first!"  I said, "Maybe you came 5th!"  in an excited voice, but she shook her head and said, "no I think I came first"...This was at four and a half.  She came 5th, but  was more disappointed that her friend (who came 6th) had a purple ribbon while hers was green.  Interestingly enough, she spent the next two years coming 2nd or 3rd (no, never first), and was always very pleased with herself.  She developed such poise.  And given that she was always in the youngest group (in her category), we logged more than our share of early morning starts, which can mean being privy to some technical difficulties.  One time, she had to start her solo four times, because of music problems.  Each time she went out with a huge grin on her face and a big "ta da!  Here I am!"  only to be returned to her coach on the boards to wait.  She came 2nd that time.  Another time, someone blew  a fuse in the arena and it was the one for the music system.  She (and all the kids in her group...cannot say girls, because there were two boys as well) had to skate to their music played on a portable CD player!  She came 3rd that time.
Age 7

So, in the past few weeks, I can see a marked change in her skating, and preparation. This is in part, I am sure, to growth both physically and emotionally.  It has me excited to see how (in a group of 12) she will be in competition next week.  I would never share this much with her, however.  That is not her style, so I keep my comments to recognition of hard work and great jumps and when I notice improvement.  I let her coach funnel the psychology part..
Her focus this weekend though is on the televised Canadian championships.  Last year, Nationals were held here on the Island, in Victoria, and I spent a week down there volunteering.  She was able to be there with me for a portion of it (at 7 she was not old enough to volunteer), and she got to watch the Senior pairs practices.  What a treat to meet the likes of Dylan and Kristen, and Rudy and Paige, Megan and Eric,  and they were so silly all the time (that is what made the biggest mark on her), and yet they worked so hard.  She found this amazing, and much more fun than watching the ladies practice (it's so quiet Mum!).  This year, Nationals are in New Brunswick, so we are watching them on TV (and the internet!  Thank you, Skate buzz!).  And they are providing so much inspiration for this skating household!

Happy Packing!
First Comp as Pre Preliminary

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bedtime Snacks

I had a parent ask me this week about bedtime snacks.  Did my children have bedtime snacks?  What did we have for bedtime snacks?  Could I recommend good bedtime snacks?
So I did a little bit of web-research, as well as checking out my copy of Better Food for Kids.

Some tips for planning bedtime snacks into your routine : You want to ensure that you are planning for complex carbs and staying away from proteins and sugar.  Protein takes a lot of work for your body to digest and can make it difficult to settle down and fall asleep.  A little bit of protein is fine (for example, peanut butter on toast) and dairy contains triptophain (like what you find in turkey!) and aids naturally in falling asleep.
Bedtime snacks that are factored into your young child's diet can also give you an extra opportunity to ensure that you are meeting their daily dietary needs (although for many children the better options for bedtime snacks like dairy and carbs, are not what is lacking in their diet, lol)

When our children were little, we would often have bedtime snacks, but we also had a reasonably early dinner and didn't have a multitude of extra curricular activities to work around.  For a while though, we had to stop having those evening snacks, because my son was not eating his dinner and instead waiting for bedtime snacks.  We introduced the rule (and still have it) that if you didn't eat your dinner, you didn't have anything until breakfast.  You could eat all your dinner, and have dessert and then have a bedtime snack if you needed to.

So, if your little one (or not so little one!) is not a good eater, you might want to try and keep your bedtime snacks as "uneventful" as possible, like plain toast or warm milk, so that there isn't the intriguing option of having cookies or yogurt or banana later. 

We occasionally have bedtime snacks around here, but mostly they are post activity snacks, eaten as a supplement to an early dinner , or on the way home from soccer practice.

I asked my kids what their favourite bedtime snack was...   Cookies and milk (warm milk), was my son's suggestion, while my daughter's was yogurt and banana.

Other great ideas for bedtime snacks?  homemade peanut butter oatmeal cookies, plain yogurt and dried fruit or cereal, toast and cheese.

Happy Packing!


Here are some great links with more information on bedtime snacks.

 Healthy snack blog

Healthy Kids 

Sunday Food for thought

Another week, another week of meals, so here comes a menu!  Complete with three meals at less than $10.00 (for 4-6).
  • Sunday: Definitely NOT our meal for under $10.00, but a real treat instead!  (that is why we need to have those under $10.00 ones later on).  Bouillabaisse from Cooking with Cory.  (got to be one of my favourite go-to cookbooks for making something special)...Lots of fresh seafood in a rich steaming broth, plus homemade bread and a delicious winter salad: Spinach salad with beets and feta and pecans (and a maple mustard vinaigrette).
  • Monday: Slow cooker Pot Roast with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies (broccoli and carrots)
  • Tuesday: We are going out to dinner with our teenagers who are leaving us soon (one this week, one next), so it is "Unbirthday Dinner" and a trip to the chinese restaurant (but little do they know that it is not the buffet but rather something special instead).
  • Wednesday: good old fashioned Pea soup (which always makes my daughter sad, because she loves it but cannot bring any for her school lunch), for another hit at less than $10.00 for 6 people.
  • Thursday: Potato soup with kale.  A good $10.00 meal that everyone likes.
  • Friday: With all that cooking, I suspect there will be at least a few leftovers for Friday supper...   However, I noticed at school last week, that this Friday is movie night, which means there is pizza from the concession.  Our school's movie nights start at 5:30, so that means supper comes from the concession.  Have to find out if the troops actually want to go to movie night first tho'!
  • Saturday: chicken pot pie.  This recipe makes a very large portion and therefore serves 10, and costs $12.00.   
Lunches for packing...
  • Monday: Left over spinach salad and bread for the Man of the house; the kids will be taking Spanikopita, and veggies with Raita for dipping.
  • Tuesday: the plan is for there to be enough leftover pot roast for all the lunches.
  • Wednesday: Ham and cheese sandwiches, with veggies and dip
  • Thursday: tuna and cream cheese roll ups, ginger cookies and fruit salad
  • Friday: Peanut butter and banana roll ups, or peanut butter and apple roll ups (which ever one we have left by Friday).
Lunches for little people...
  • Monday: "Hamburger" soup
  • Tuesday: crustless spinach quiche with toast
  • Wednesday: Ham and cheese sandwiches and vegetable soup
  • Thursday: whole wheat pasta and meat sauce
  • Friday: cheese pizza

Happy Packing!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

I love bread.

And really, who doesn't?  All warm and fresh fromthe oven, sometimes even still warm enough to melt the butter you put on it.  Yum...
I found recipe for Whole Wheat Challah over at Simply Life a few weeks ao and I quite like it. Especially the whole "no kneading needed", for it! Not that I don't like kneading bread, because I do like that part of bread making.  Except for the cleaning up afterwards part.  The recipe called for vital wheat gluten, which I had never used before, but when I began to investigate what exactly it was, I decided that it was something that would enhance our diet, and began adding it to most of the bread I make (especially since it enhances whole grain baking).  One thing I often do (a trick I learned from the mother of my best friend, and also the master of the one bread recipe my children adore!  I just tell them that I used Grandma Ann's recipe and it is all good....just no one tell them that Grandma Ann doesn't use a recipe for her bread!), is adding rolled oats to the mixture.  Sometimes it is quinoa flakes even,
they don't notice!
So this recipe quickly  morphed into something quite different from what I started from.

Helping you get your protein fix Bread

Makes 2 loaves.

 1 cup All purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 cup Kamut flour

1/2 cup quinoa flakes

1/8 cup vital wheat gluten

3/4 tsp traditional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup skim milk - lukewarm
1/8 cup canola oil or grape seed oil
1/4 honey
2 eggs
1/8 cup milk or cream + 1 egg yolk, mix at the time you preheat the oven.  

At least 15 minutes before you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Combine dry ingredients and mix with a fork.
Add wet ingredients and mix (without kneading), with a wooden spoon.  Set aside for 3 hours (or overnight if your house is cool like ours).
Add 1/2 cup flour to mixture and stir a few strokes, it will be a sticky dough.  Turn out onto floured surface and divide into two balls.  (you can keep up to three days in the fridge if you don't want to make two loaves at once).  Roll each ball and then cut into three portions.  Roll into three long pieces for braiding.  Braid each loaf on the parchment paper.  Let loaves rest up to 40 minutes.
Brush each loaf with mik and egg mixture.  Place loaves in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Allow to cool before slicing.
A great accompaniment to soup for supper.

Happy Packing!


Monday, January 9, 2012

Move it on Monday: Project 52 Update week in and where are we at?

2. The De-clutter calendar: I successfully screwed up the wireless printer when I tried to print this calendar...I am thinking that this isn't going to happen.  We still can't get the computers to talk to the printer and we have been trying for a week.

 3. Double the number of blog entries this year over last year... Only one week in and my page views for January are already ahead of January 2011 for the whole month.  Plus the new blog routine means more blog posts.
13. A new blog routine?  Done and posted on January 7th...yay, me!  Now, let's do it.
14. Two weeks in a row, the menus are posted, and in a reasonably timely fashion
29. New calendar was up before the kids went back to school (and everything else) on Tuesday, so I am one for twelve so far...
45. The new calendar and the new daytimer are here and hard at work.

I have also made a point of going around and visiting some of the other blogs participating in Project 52, and added myself as a follower...I am hoping others will follow suit.  My #53 on the list of Project 52 is to increase my followers to 100 this year...

Wow, let's see how we do this week.  Our skating club is hosting a skating competition the end of the month and somehow I am on the Local organizing committee.  this means the next two and a half weeks will be soooo busy!  (good thing the menu and the calendar are posted!).  Plus, our international daughters will be heading for their home countries in just a few weeks as well. Hopefully, the success of this week will give me the energy to plug away at some more of the list...
I am really looking forward to February...nothing but birthdays and Valentines to make...  Hahaha!  Who am I kidding, really?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chewy Oatmeal-Spelt Chocolate Chip Bars

Here they are...oh so yummy!  I spied the recipe in my binder a few days ago and I realised that I hadn't made it in a while (butter, sugar and white flour, I wonder why).  When I say "awhile" I mean like probably not in the past two years.  So, I pulled it out and set it aside, with the thought that I would "fix" it when I had time.

Yesterday, my 10 year old pointed out, "Hey Mum, you haven't made chocolate chip cookies in a really long time."  Never mind that he enjoyed a whole lot of his grandmother's chocolate chip cookies over the holidays, which I pointed out.  "Yeah, but those have walnuts in them.  I really don't like the walnuts."
The mention of chocolate chips brought me back to the recipe I was going to fix.  I dug it out and decided that tomorrow (so today!) I would give it a try.

First off, all white flour.  Well, I was pretty sure that something with 3/4 cup of butter in it could handle some whole wheat or even spelt.  I decided on 1 cup of whole spelt flour to 1 1/8 cup of all purpose.  Next I increased the egg from 1 egg + 1 egg yolk to 2 eggs.  The final change, I added 1 cup of quick cooking rolled oats.  Now to give it a try.
Oh my goodness!  These are wonderful!  (there is whole grain flour in here?  Really?).  I also know that a little bit of the sugar can go next time we make them.  Kids liked them too ("A keeper, Mum")

Chewy Oatmeal Spelt Chocolate Chip Bars

Preheat oven to 325F.  Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil (enough so that the foil creeps over the edges by about 1 inch to enable you to lift them out easily).  Spray foil lined pan.

1 cup whole spelt flour (or other whole grain flour)
1 1/8 cup all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats (quick cooking)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled some
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs (or one egg and two egg whites)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened, dried cranberries (optional)

Sift flour, salt, baking soda and rolled oats in medium bowl and set aside.  Combine butter and sugars in large bowl and whisk until well combined.  Add eggs and vanilla, mix well.  Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula fold dry into wet, being careful not to over mix (think like you would for making muffins).  Add chocolate chips and fold into mixture until just combined.  Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread out evenly.

Bake for 25 minutes until beginning to brown on top, and just starting to pull away from sides.
Cool in pan on rack until room temperature.  Then using foil to lift out of the pan, tranfer to cutting board and cool for another 5 minutes.  Cut into 2 inch squares and serve (with ice cream!).  Very much like a chocolate chip blondie/brownie type square.

I am thinking these will be great in lunch boxes this week...If there are any left of course!
Happy Packing!


Adapted from "Back Packing Snacks" (source unavailable) recipe for Chewy chocolate chip squares.

Sunday Food For Thought

Another week is beginning...Or ending depending on your schedule. 
Here is another week of menus that just might inspire you along the way:

  • Sunday: Roast Pork loin with roasted potatoes, steamed veggies (broccoli and carrots) and spinach salad.
  • Meatless Monday (and also Dad's night in the kitchen): Tortellini with vegetable sauce and leftover spinach salad.
  • Tuesday (sometimes Turkey Tuesday but not today): Ginger Pork stir fry with baby bok choy and peppers, and brown rice.
  • Wednesday: Sausage and Peppers with whole wheat spaghetti
  • Thursday: Sheperd's pie and salad
  • Friday: Homemade pizza (with stuffed crust!)
  • Saturday: Baked pasta with Green salad, and garlic toast
  • Monday: Pork and Spinach roll ups
  • Tuesday: Tortellini or turkey sandwiches with tomato soup
  • Wednesday: Fried rice
  • Thursday: "Meatball" subs (made with italian sausage and mozzarella cheese)
  • Friday: Peanut butter bagels with bananas
Happy Packing!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Some changes

    A new year of blogging has begun...And I am in the middle of making some changes.  Mostly to the types of posts...and trying to organize them into categories like monthly themes, recipe days...and a round up of great links of lunch time help...
 One of the things that was missing for me this past year as I was writing, was a place where I could write about what came to mind, beyond the general activity in and around the kitchen and the fridge or the table.  So, my hope is that this year I might find room in my week of posts for the occasional trip outside the lunch box...and maybe even attempt a few notes from the backpack.
   Let me share with you the projected weekly plan...(that would loosely follow the theme of the Month).
  • Sunday: Food for thought: A weekly menu including suppers and lunches, including a recipe or two, and a link to Savoury sunday at the Sweet Details
  • Monday: Project 52 updates: How I am making out with my list of 52 projects/goals for 2012
  • Tuesday: Recipe day and connection to Tasty Tuesdays Blog Hop at 33 Shades of Green
  • Thursday: Being Thrifty in the Kitchen: as a way to continue the work in January to keep the budget in mind in the kitchen throughout the year.
  • Friday: Notes from the Backpack (non food related post day).
  • Saturday: Recipe of the Day.
As for the monthly themes, I have gotten as far as March...So feel free to make a suggestion for the other months of the year.
  • January: Budget minded kitchen 
  • February: Love from the Kitchen
  • March: Nutrition Month
  • April...
Now, if I can keep up with 6 posts a week, then making my goal of doubling my blog entries from last year will be a simple task to complete.

Wish me luck!  Hope you'll be along for the ride!  And that you will be there to help!

Happy Packing!


Meat is expensive...

   After my last post, a few people commented on how hard it can be to keep a budget and be picky about the meat that you cook and eat, including my friend, Geoff, who took the time to comment on the last blog entry.  And this is true.  However, there are ways around this, it just takes a little planning. 
    For the most part, I run our family menu around a Sunday (or Monday if it is a holiday) meal.  This means that when I look at the budget for the entire week, often that big meal takes a big chunk out of the "meat portion" of the budget.  A big chicken, or lean pork loin roast, or flank steak can give you meat for at least two meals (and sometimes three, depending on the size of piece and the number of people you are feeding).  I usually plan for it to be for two meals.  So, on sale ('cause I only buy what is on sale) at the butcher this week are pork loin roasts :$3.90/lb for local pork loin from right here on the Island.   A larger roast can feed us for two meals for certain (and usually at least one lunch).  The first meal would be a regular roast with sides and a salad.  The next meal to plan for would be a stir fry meal, where you can happily stretch a much smaller portion of meat, even between 6 people, when you add lots of veggies and some brown rice or udon noodles.  Now a large roast means about $16.00 (so about 4lbs). 

A little bit of Math to get us through the day:
    First, how many people do you feed? (me = 6)...cost of food per week (taken from Montreal diet dispensary "Eating well on a small budget") $290.00.  I try and keep meat costs (for suppers) to $3.00 a person/per day, so $12.00 a day, which takes us to $84.00 a week.  Now, take into account that fish for one meal will likely cost more $20.00, but a meal without meat (so beans or lentils or eggs), will cost less, about $5.00 (the cost of a dozen eggs + a few extras)...Other meat or poultry bought on sale (or in larger quantities: the MDD estimates the cost of ground beef at a little bit over $8.00/kilogram, but if I wait until the butcher has it for $2.69 a pound, or $5.90/kg, and then buy a few packages to keep in the freezer...and I am buying local beef...If we get ours directly from Mr. McCallum, we will pay about $8.00/kg for the ground beef).  Local poultry however, is quite a bit more expensive, but I am not paying for the extra saline solution the grocery store product comes with (and therefore my chicken legs are a little bit smaller than they might be). 

   As with everything, a little bit of planning goes a long way.  And by budgeting for meat and fish on a weekly basis, it allows you to enjoy the more expensive treats once in a while (like mussels one night, or a nice roast beef) without blowing your grocery finances for the entire month.  Plus lowering your meat costs on a daily basis, means that you are eating more of the healthier foods (like vegetables and fruits and whole grains).

As the month goes on, please share your tips for keeping the grocery budget intact or even cutting from it here and there. 

Happy Packing!


What does a serving a meat look like?
from Healthy Living - Eating Well  
This chart is from the website of Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the details are from the Canada food guide.  What is important to remember is that normal activity only requires one serving of meat & alternatives each day.  Often what happens with children is they eat less than they need, while adults eat more than they need.  Small amounts of protein are found in whole grains and dairy products, but not enough to consider them as servings of protein.

Cost estimates and approximate amounts to feed people of a variety of ages taken from Montreal Diet Dispensary Eating well on a small budget, PDF September 2011

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January is Budget Month

Each month this year, I am going to try and keep to a bit of a theme...(good luck, I know!).  The theme for January is Budget.  When it comes to eating (and cooking) in our house, during the month of January, I tend to lean towards the budget side of things.  The biggest reason being my hope that I can develop a few budgeting habits that might stay with me throughout the year.  Typically, I am quite good for the month, but then when February hits and we have a birthday every week (and I mean that seriously), the whole budget thing goes out the window. 
The first budget friendly recipe I am sharing for this month is Lentil Soup.  This recipe is officially 10 years old in our house this month.  I had always liked lentil soup but before then I had never made it.  The first time I made it was from a recipe in a Better homes and Gardens magazine I had borrowed from the Library (see, it is really a budget recipe!  I didn't even buy the magazine!).  It was an acceptable one, but nothing like what I recalled Lentil soup tasting like.  So, I began experimenting.

The first thing that was missing: tomatoes.  The other thing was something to make it feel a little more hearty.  Some root vegetables.  The two things I kept from the original recipe?  Lentils and a fennel bulb (or anise).

Lentil soup (vegetarian, or not)
makes approximately 12 servings
2 cups lentils (rinsed, picked over for stones) left to soak while you prepare the vegetables
2 generous tablespoons of grapeseed oil or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and (large)diced
1 smaller sized fennel bulb, washed, and diced, only the white/light green parts (you can save the feathery fronds for garnish if using)
1 large (28 oz/798 ml) can diced tomatoes (I use unsalted ones)
1 tablespoon salt flakes (I use maldon) or 1-2 tsps regular table salt
8 cups of water
1 cup diced ham or sliced smoked turkey sausage (or other smoked sausage of your choice) ~optional

Heat oil over medium-low heat, until it starts to shimmer.  Add onions and cook until soft, 3-5 minutes, add garlic and cook additional 1 minute.  Add carrots and fennel and continue cooking another 7-8 minutes.  When all veggies are soft, add small amount of water (less than half a cup) and stir into veggies, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pot.  When water has become cloudy, and begun to taste like the veggies, add salt, and tomatoes and cook over medium heat until reaching a low boil.  Drain lentils and add to tomato mixture.  Stir well, and add remaining water to the pot.  Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for at least 20 minutes.  While soup is simmering, gently brown sausage or ham (if using), in a small saucepan.  When soup has cooked for 20 minutes, add sausage/ham and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with crusty bread.

The total cost for this recipe (which makes 12 servings): $8.35 (plus $2.00 for the loaf of crusty bread I bought at the bakery to go with it).  Comes to less than $1.00 a serving.  By far the tastiest low budget recipe I have in my repertoire.  The only problem with this recipe is that I have to plan for it, as I don't always have a fennel bulb in the vegetable crisper.  You can use either red lentils or puy lentils or just plain green lentils.  I have used all.  My favourite way to make is with 1 cup of red lentils and 1 cup of green lentils.  The reason being that the red ones disappear into the soup and create a lovely rich and earthy body to the soup, while the green ones stay whole and remind you that you really are eating lentil soup.  Puy lentils are French and are a smaller, more delicate green lentil.  They tend to disappear into the soup eventually. You don't have to limit the veggies you put in, however, having done this from time to time, I find I am left feeling like I didn't actually have lentil soup.
And...even my picky ten year old usually cleans up his soup bowl when we have this.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Project 52

When I found Karen's blog about a week ago...and I wish I could remember which one it was (it was someone from the A to Z Blogging Challenge...  perhaps it was Arlee Bird over at Tossing it Out or  Alex J. Cavanaugh who has a  book coming out in February (check it out at his blog))...Regardless, but that is how I found out about Project 52.  Essentially, you make a list of 52 Projects for the year to come, and then on Mondays, you blog about your projects or your progress (or lack there of!).  Project 52 is hosted by Jenee Thompson   and Karen over at A Peek at Karen's World .

Last year, I only made one resolution and that was to keep a blog.  Well, today is my one year anniversary of blogging.  I thought this list was a great way to kick off a new year.

So, here is my list...It was easy to get to about 26, but then it got more difficult to come up with realistic projects and goals that were focused on me, or that I could have some control over.  I could come up with things I wanted to happen (or make happen) during the year, but sometimes they weren't really about me.  I could come up with things I wanted to get the kids to do, or that I wanted to have happen around the house, but since this was my list, I was hoping to try and keep within where I had most of the control.

  1. Read 12 novels/books of short stories.
  2. Follow the De-clutter Calendar successfully.
  3. Double the number of blog entries 2012 over 2011.
  4. Develop 5 ways to attract meal/menu planning clients.
  5. Attract and maintain 12 meal/menu planning clients.
  6. Sell all four pairs of figure skates in the crawlspace.
  7. Take the full month of August off.
  8. Go kayaking with K, at least once.
  9. Pursue one copy-work contract each month.
  10. Take the kids up to Mt Washington once more this winter.
  11. Finish saving photos to flash drive from computer before February 28th, 2012
  12. Call Meredith more than once this year.
  13. Create a New Weekly Blog Routine. (07/01/2012)
  14. Post the week's menu both on the fridge and on the blog, every week! 2/52
  15. Floss regularly.
  16. Read 12 non fiction books.
  17. Have breakfast/coffee with Tine once a month, without children in tow.
  18. Get a new kitten.
  19. Make a photo book for Dad and Agnes.
  20. Make a photo book for Mum (and she reads this, so now she will know I am hoping to make her one, so she will ask me until its done).
  21. Get a puppy.  We promised the kids last year, that there would hopefully be a puppy this year.
  22. Bike around Gabriola Island with the kids.
  23. Develop one new recipe each month.
  24. Buy that new dining room table...
  25. Patch and paint the chips in Kate's bedroom wall.
  26. Hang all the current pictures that are sitting around the house waiting to be hung.
  27. Clear out the junk from D's bedroom.
  28. Organize K's bedroom.
  29. Post the new calendar for each month on the fridge at the beginning of each month. 1/12
  30. Host one card class each month for 10 months.
  31. Book one workshop for each of the months: February, March, April and May.
  32. Sign up for one fitness class.
  33. Attend and complete said fitness class.
  34. Review three cookbooks for Andrew's website.
  35. Complete three pages for each of the kids's scrapbooks.
  36. Get Kate started on a scrapbook.
  37. Get Duncan started on a journal.
  38. Re-cover the wing chair in the living room.
  39. Order new blinds for the big playroom.
  40. Write to Hollie.
  41. Send out the rest of the Christmas
  42. Complete another A to Z blogging challenge.
  43. Finish setting up Lunch box website.
  44. Create a mini Project 52 list for the beginning of each month.
  45. Order new wall calendar and new daytimer.
  46. Have one date night this year that doesn't involve our birthdays/valentine's day or our a total of three...
  47. Take Kate's Tinkerbell poster to Costco to get it laminated.
  48. Make enlargements of the kids pictures at Pipers.
  49. Have birthday supper for everyone before it is time for the girls to head home.
  50. Make cake pops for Valentine's Day.
  51. Dig small vegetable garden for Summer 2012.
  52. Ask for what I want.  Kind of vague, but something I am not always good at doing, but when I decide to do it, I usually do it well.

There!  Quite the list, and I don't think I will get through all of, but then I will roll it over into the list for 2013, that is all!
What do you think?  Are you making a list for 2012?  Are you making any resolutions?

Stay tuned for this week's lunch menu a la kids...

Happy Packing!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday Food for Thought...Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  Well, it would seem that we have all survived the Holidays, and my jeans still fit!  And we seem to have come through without anyone succumbing to any sort of gastro bug or to see how long it lasts...
I am bringing some changes to the blog in the coming weeks that I am excited about, but that is for tomorrow.  For today, I thought I would get you going with a bit of a meal plan for this week.  Our kids go back to school and activities this week (I realise that some of you out there still have another week off, so enjoy!  Take advantage of every minute.), so it is time to get back to routine, and that means groceries, meal plans, lunches...

  • Sunday: Leftovers...We had friends in to ring in 2012 and say good bye to 2011, so there is leftover chili, hot dogs and  even some delicious Moroccan Chickpea Stew.  And of course, buns and bagels and veggies and dip
  • Monday: since it is still a day off, Monday is filling in for Sunday this week...Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, spinach salad and roasted veggies.
  • Tuesday: Back to work, back to school and back to the rink means homemade chicken vegetable soup with leftover spinach salad, and a little homemade bread.
  • Wednesday: Pork stir fry with black bean sauce and brown rice. I like to use a couple of boneless pork loin chops for this.  Cut into strips and cook in skillet with a little bit of grapeseed oil and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Stir fry sliced red onion, a couple of bell peppers cut into strips, in a couple of tablespoons of oil, when peppers are bright add the pork back to the pan and add 1/4 cup of black bean sauce.  Cook for 4-5 more minutes.  Serve with brown rice.
  • Thursday: Sausage and Peppers with linguine and salad.
  • Friday: First week back?  I am really hoping for take out tonight...Maybe even from Saigon kitchen...salad rolls, pho, and some of their curry chicken.
  • Saturday: Recipe test day...It's a surprise...come back and see what we make!
The kids are going to make the lunch menu tomorrow, since school goes back on Tuesday.  Don't worry, we won't forget to share...

Happy New Year!