Liking Christmas Ain’t Easy

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I’m trying to like Christmas and sort of succeeding.

Not because I’m scroogy or morally superior but because I’m struggling to find anything redeeming about the Holiday craziness.

Malls are insane with people trying to buy the right thing, showing they care the right amount. Money flying around like we all somehow won the lottery or that credit card companies don’t bill for December.Chidley Sean01

The grocery store feels like a barely contained mob ready to stampede if stock on cranberries or hams get dangerously low.

Even my mailbox can’t keep up with the ridiculous amount of flyers telling me all the amazing deals and how I could spend even more money while saving so much, (except trees, definitely not saving any trees).

I find myself drawn in, struggling to find the perfect present for my kids. One that captures our love and the joy of Christmas but that comes with a cheap price tag cause we’re still broke. I wander the aisles wondering if I’m causing permanent damage if I buy a singing purse for my daughter and Batman for my son. Or if our budget and the recognition that I’m being pretentious will just let me buy the damn things cause they’re on sale and the kids will like them.Chidley Sean05

So I can’t be smug and self righteous. I thought about it. I thought about only buying local or making all my gifts out of burlap and driftwood. About donating to charities instead of buying family presents and shopping at craft fairs.

But the truth is I can’t afford to only shop local (although I try with my groceries) and anything I make will be crap. No one can successfully craft at 10 pm with two small children and still make something that doesn’t look like burlap glued to a piece of driftwood. I’m just not ready for the charity idea and not every one wants a floral tea pot cosy, although they do make fun hats.Chidley Sean07

and now what… You can’t just whine they say…

I agree. So here’s what I am doing to try to make my holiday about something more and yet not something I can’t achieve.

If it comes with a should or a feeling of obligation I am saying screw it and not doing it. I’m not baking a mountain of cookies or making wreaths out of collected branches and I’m not finding some delightful craft my kids can do that will be cherished forever. If I have time I may make a few treats and I may draw some Christmasy pictures but not because I have to and only if I want to.

If it costs too much I’m not buying it. I have set a very limited budget for gifts and I’m not going over it. I will find ways to stick within that and I will not feel guilty if it means that my kids only get one gift this year from mom and dad. They have grandparents, they will survive.

I am not sending out Christmas cards. Maybe one day it will happen but at this point you all wouldn’t be getting them until the summer anyway.

I am not attempting to make the perfect Christmas with things.
 “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Why do we still think that if we buy the right thing or do Christmas right we will create the perfect memories? What if looking back on our life we realize too late what made Christmas and the holidays magic? I will be finding ways to create memories not piles of stuff. I will wake my kids up so they can play in the snow, I will share stories about little people making toys and I will sing songs about reindeers loudly and off key.Chidley Sean24

I am going to find joy in the time I have. I work all week so to have a few extra days off is a gift. I will spend it with my kids and husband, family and friends. laughing, drinking and eating. I will not waste it on cleaning or shopping or being away from the people I love.

I am going to have a clean house for one hour. I will however take immense pleasure in cleaning enough to have people over and loving the hour before it becomes a disaster again. I will gracefully allow it to return to it’s natural state and not worry if someone has to step over toys to come into my house.

I am going to make a fantastic dinner and feed the people I love. My husband and I started our own Christmas Eve tradition of making a meal inspired by another culture. It is a chance for me to treat my family to some delicious food, try some new cooking and just get together and stuff our faces. This year we’re going for a Greek theme and I am actually looking forward to the chance to share a post about that one! I am doing this instead of buying presents for the family and I can’t think of a gift I’d rather give.

I am going to let everyone else do Christmas however they need to. I will not put expectations on anyone else and I will not stress if our Christmases look different. If someone else can make burlap and driftwood into something beautiful I will ooh and aaah and if they send me a card I will be terribly impressed with their organization.Chidley Sean27

I hope you all find a way to make the holidays special and that you don’t need years of counselling to deal with the stress.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

As you can see we did decide to get Santa photos and I had to share. Apparently my daughter is not a fan yet:)

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I’m not writing about food today

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I’m not writing about food today, I can’t even think about it. My stomach is nauseous and as I contemplate the recipe for supper tonight I keep hitting an absolute wall of apathy.

It’s the sense of futility that’s floating around in my head. The feeling that I can try as hard as possible, that we can try as hard as possible and that it still may not go in the direction we need it to.

The sense of wonder at why I even bother, why write, why dream, why hope.

Life hasn’t been bad but it’s had its struggles and some days I just get plain old tired.

For most of my adult life I have had the odd notion that if we just put in enough effort and were good enough people that somehow the universe would recognize this and we would be rewarded with a good life. That the universal balance would be tipped in our favour and that we wouldn’t have to struggle quite so hard. I have remained the eternal optimist in the face of it all and truly believed that something better was coming.

But this time I’m really struggling to find the silver lining. I think I had dared to dream just a little too much.

I had started to imagine the possibility of the life I have always wanted. A bigger house where the dog isn’t always a tripping hazard. A yard where I could plant a garden and the kids could run around. A kitchen where I could actually have more then one person in there and people could hang out in the room I feel should be the most welcoming.

Most of all I had started to imagine the freedom that a little bit of extra money brings. The loosening of shoulders, the easier nights sleep and the ability to buy a coffee without second guessing yourself.

And all of that is once again just out of my reach. Purse strings are being re-tightened and for the first time I’ve lost a little hope it will get better.

I know we’ll make it through this. I know I’m okay and that my family is still blessed beyond belief but before there was wonderful hope and drive and a future to day dream a little about. Today is well shit.

So I apologize for wallowing for a moment and I imagine I’ll move on soon enough but I am going to sit here for a little bit and grieve the loss of my hopes at least for a little longer.

Maybe it’s the grey sky…

Doing the broke dance – a week of meals for $100

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We all have fears and things that create anxiety in our lives. For me it’s money or the lack thereof. I hate being broke more than anything and I can tend towards obsessiveness around finances. Not that I’m good at it. In fact I kind of suck and that really doesn’t help. It takes me a million hours to create a budget and make sure the bills are all paid.

Looking back my concerns probably started in university. I had next to nothing and there were times where the best meal plan I could create was rice with either hot sauce or soy sauce. Coffees were an absolute luxury and I snuck on the train to get to school. I hated it and everything I thought it said about me. Since then I’ve always squirrelled a little away or stockpiled toilet paper and pasta to get us through the little bumps that all families face. Continue Reading »

Walking in My Grocery Shoes

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I think there is no better way to understand someone then to walk a kilometre (I’m Canadian) in their shoes, so I’m going to share my grocery shopping routine.

Over the years my hubby and I have had our financial ups and downs. Being a student and typical life stuff have made us look at how we spend our money and I’ve been able to develop a grocery routine that works no matter how much income we have. An ability to stick to our budget and prepare for the worst has helped us ride out the more difficult times. Generally my monthly budget is $650.00 for a family of four and that includes toiletries and household supplies.  At this point in my life I have decided to make a few choices around food that raised my budget a bit. If you are on a more restrictive income or if your priorities are different then mine you can cut some of the costs for sure.

Once a month I stop at a local grocery store, Country Grocer in South Nanaimo, one of the few places I can find local meat at a price I can afford. Local purchasing is something that has become a priority for me but does increase my food costs.  Being the saavy, thrifty lady that I am I go through their meat department and buy everything I can that’s marked down. Most goes immediately into the deep freeze and it saves me between 30-50%. Sometimes this means that I get a random assortment of meats, I got a lot of ground bison one week, but I can work around this and just incorporate it into my meal plan.

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My sweet little helper

I shop weekly at Superstore for all of my pantry items, there is no where I’ve found with better prices regularly. They have a great selection of healthy options and insanely cute kids clothes (so super helpful for the budget). I also keep close watch on the shelves for items that I regularly use that are on sale. This week they had my favourite tomatillo salsa on sale. It’s something we go through consistently so I grabbed two even though I had one at home. I do the same when there’s a bargain deal on toilet paper, toothpaste or really anything. Now, I’m not one of those wackadoos with a bomb shelter filled with enough canned goods to last me a year, or a plague of locusts. My kitchen is tiny and I don’t even have a pantry so I only get what fits, but this has saved our ass a few times. These last few months are a great example. I’ve been on maternity leave and my hubby was taking time to be at home with us, so we were on a really tight budget. Not having to buy toiletries and having food to pull from meant we could ride out this tight time a little easier.

Produce is also a place where I have made a few personal choices. Where ever possible I try to buy local and at the very least Canadian. At the right time of the year this is easy and actually inexpensive. Off season this becomes a bit harder and I need to shift my menu or spend a little more. My favourite spot for buying produce is Russell Farms Market. It’s a lot of their own or local produce and their prices are great. Farm stands or farmers markets are a fabulous option for local, reasonably priced produce. This does add an extra stop on my grocery date but it’s become a fun stop where we often get ice cream and check out the nursery. If this extra stop doesn’t work, Superstore has a decent selection of produce that is reasonably priced.

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My other grocery pal

I also have a Costco membership and make a trip every few months for baby wipes, and a few items that I get a good deal on there.

It’s taken a bit of trial and error to find out what works for my family. We all go shopping together when my hubby’s in town and make it a fun family day. When he’s out of town I make a date with a friend and we use our shopping as a chance to hang out. Farmers markets can also be a weekend family adventure and a chance to check out local food culture.

Our budget has also stayed pretty constant. I don’t like going much below the budget we’ve set because of some of the food choices I’ve made for our family. This has meant I cut back in other areas instead. However, I get that a lot of people live on a lot less and if I used more generic or less organic/natural products my budget could almost be 100-200 dollars less a month.

I’d love to hear what your grocery routines are and if you’re interested in how I meal plan click HERE.