Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christmas is Coming Soon!

Okay, I'll be honest. I've been thinking of Christmas for a while. I don't usually start thinking about it before the end of November, but this year, we'll be adding little Evan to our clan and I wanted to do most our Christmas shopping/planning before then. And, I've gotten a lot done so far.

One thing I'm really excited about as well is sending out our Christmas card. I know it seems a little silly, but we'll be getting our first family portraits made (as a family of four) and I can't wait to share them with our family and friends.

The last few years, we've used Shutterfly to design our own photo Christmas cards. Photo cards, contrary to popular belief, are often cheaper than the ones you buy in the store. They are so much more exciting too! Who doesn't love to receive a photo card to put on their fridge during Christmas? Shutterfly is a great website for designing your card, and they always come out so cute, and I've been checking out their selection for this year. They have traditional, folded Christmas cards that are really nice! Many of them are less than $1 a piece, which is much less expensive than ordering through a professional photographer.

They have 3 different types of photo Christmas cards, but my favorites are the flat photo cards, which also happen to be the cheapest. They start at about .30 a piece! And, many of them allow you to select multiple photos for your card. This is the card we've used in the past for Christmas and for Owen's birthday invitations.

If you are looking to go really glitzy this Christmas, try creating holiday address labels. These are really nice too! You can even coordinate your label with your card, if you are really anal.

(sample Shutterfly card)

I know this post is a little out of the ordinary for me, but I'm just so dang excited I just can't stand it! I'm probably more excited about family Christmas photos than anything else. I can't wait to show off my hotty husband and two adorable boys. :) Of course, I'll still be like 2 weeks postpartum when we get them done, so I'll be hiding in the back. ;)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Value of Food

"Eating healthy is expensive!" I've heard many people say. I've even said it myself. And, sometimes, this is true. Produce can be expensive, as can meat and cheese and milk, especially if you buy organic, grass-fed, and hormone-free. But, it's expensive compared to what? To hamburger helper? Potato chips? A box of Easy Mac? No, healthy food is not as expensive as most people think.

What is expensive are "health food products" - food products are marketed to be healthy. Usually, these are highly processed foods. For example, "fat-free yogurt", where the second ingredient is sugar, followed by a list of about 10 other ingredients, is quite a bit more expensive than plain, whole milk yogurt. Soy "milk" is more expensive than regular whole milk. Energy/protein bars are a lot more expensive than just eating a couple eggs ($1 a bar versus .30 for two free range eggs). Most of these "health food products" aren't really better for you than the junk food they try to replace. They are still filled with sugar or artificial sweeteners, they are highly processed with a lot of chemicals and msg added, they still contain trans fats, and most of their nutritional value is added back in after processing.

Aside from the lies of the "health food industry", we've been taught from childhood (via commercials usually) how we should value food. How do you value food? What is a good deal? What is a good price? And, when we go to the grocery store and see that apples are $1.69 a lb (about .75 an apple) and a bag of chips is $3 (the equivalent of 4 apples), and we realize we can feed like 8 people with the chips and only 4 with the apples, we say that the chips are more valuable.

But, we have it all backwards. Instead of looking at quantity of calories, we need to look at quantity and quality of nutrition. Those apples are packed with fiber and vitamins. They are filling and sweet and leave you much more satisfied than the bag of chips. You'll eat less over all. If you value food based on its nutritional value, foods that seem expensive will seem much less so, and foods that seem cheap will seem outlandishly expensive. That $4 box of butter will seem much more valuable than the $1 box of margarine. The gallon of whole milk is so much richer in nutrients than the 2 2-liters coke you could get for the same price. A dozen eggs goes a lot further towards your health than the box of cereal.

For the family on a budget (like us!), real food is less expensive. When I'm being really good about eating all real food, my grocery bill actually goes down. Buying produce at a local produce stand is often cheaper than Walmart (apples at Redmond Boys in Seneca are only $1 a lb, versus $1.29 at Walmart). Eating cheesy scrambled eggs for breakfast is a lot cheaper than cereal and milk. Making your own bread costs pennies.

Real food is not always as convenient, and it does take some time in the kitchen. But, I actually read a study the other day that said people who make their dinners from scratch and people who use "box mixes" (like Hamburger Helper) actually spend pretty close to the same amount of time cooking dinner, and the family who makes dinner together from scratch, is often happier in general, and their kids eat healthier.

Looking for tips on how to cook healthy for cheap? Check out this awesome blog: Well Fed Family