I sometimes wonder what type of lifestyle takes more out of you, being a full time working mom with kids in daycare from a young age, or spending all day taking care of your four kids. Because to be quite frank, I'm wiped out. Exhausted. Mentally mostly, but physically as well. I honestly felt I had my hands somewhat full but manageable with 3 kids and then I was pregnant with my youngest, Rose, and I don't function very well when pregnant. I was hoping that after I gave birth and recovered postpartum, I'd be back to my previous lifestyle, pretty productive and creative, etc... And at first, the first few months of Rose's life, it seemed like that would happen, that I'd go back to normal.
But then I got to know Rose, and began to realize that my life will never be fully normal again.
I love her to pieces, but Rose is the definition of handful. We joke that Trouble is not her middle name... it's her first name. Super smart, very advanced developmentally, and using that genius to get up to all sorts of trouble. She seems to thrive on destruction and has limitless energy. I think I spend more energy looking after her and keeping up with her and fixing up after her and keeping her out of trouble than I did with my previous three kids combined. I kept on thinking "when she gets older, she'll be easier" but so far, as her skills have improved, she's used them to ramp up the level of destruction she gets up to. As I try to fix up one bit of trouble she caused, clean up one portion of the mess, and my back is turned, she is destroying another part of the house.
So I don't really have the mental or emotional energy to be doing more than absolutely necessary most of the time. Being creative in the kitchen, keeping up with housework, doing ultra frugal things? Honestly, it feels like much of that is simply beyond me at this point in time. At least if I want to keep my sanity.
On top of everything else, now that my family all did the Paleo reset challenge, I've discovered what foods my family does better avoiding (rice is ok in limited amounts, but not too much, and white sugar definitely affects them), and I also am still mostly Paleo, so that makes more work for me in the kitchen. To be honest, when I was doing the Paleo reset with my entire family, just the food prep was exhausting me, to the point that I wasn't up to going on trips, because the mental energy about what food to make beforehand, what to eat while out, and what to eat when we came home used up all my mental capacity that I couldn't even think of anything else at first. My entire life seemed to revolve around shopping for the food, preparing the food, cooking the food, eating the food, then cleaning up after cooking and eating the food. Rinse repeat. Its exhausting.
Now that I'm the only one eating Paleo in the house, it is less work, but still more work than previously. Especially since often I am making two different meals- one set of meals for my husband and kids, and another for myself.
I am therefore realizing that, much as I'd like to return to where I was at previously, I need to find my new normal, find the right balance between keeping my sanity and productivity and frugality.
Which means that if I need to spend more money on things to make my life easier, I will. I've said time and again that frugality isn't about never spending any money on things, its about saving where you don't mind saving to have extra money available for things that are more important to you.
And my sanity is important to me. My time is important to me, and if I can have some breaks and not feel like I'm always working hard, with the kids, especially Rose, with keeping up with the housework, with preparing food, then so be it. If it means extra money spent, then so be it. I'll still try to save money where I can, in ways that aren't as time consuming and mentally exhausting, but I won't be ashamed to use shortcuts. Even if they aren't ideal. Because I'm not living in an ideal world. I'm living in the real world, where I can only be pulled in so many different directions at once without feeling like I'm going to snap.
So, number one in my new normal-
I use disposables. Not all the time. I wouldn't even say most of the time. But I try to keep a stash of some basic things- bowls, plates, cups, and disposable baking pans. I'd love to have a dishwasher one day (and hopefully in our new house we will- we've left a space in the kitchen to put a dishwasher) but right now we have none, and I feel like I'm spending my entire life either washing dishes or watching the sink get filled up with dishes so much that I can't function in the kitchen... So when I'm already feeling overwhelmed, I grab the disposables, and don't feel guilty about it. I try to buy them as cheaply as I can, from super cheap grocery stores. And as for cloth diapers? Ha! Fully disposables here now. Rose doesn't even sit still long enough for me to close a cloth diaper on her. And I can't manage to keep up with the laundry I have, let alone cloth diapers.
I buy processed foods and ready to eat foods. Most of it is things I don't eat- like gluten free bread, hot dogs, cheese, rice cakes, etc... quick things I can give to my family when I am just too exhausted to think of what to make for them. (I even bought bagged frozen french fries for like the second time in my life recently, since I didn't have the energy to slice and fry them all.) I also buy eggs by the millions (ok, slight exaggeration- the most I bought was 240 at once) since they are healthy and super quick to cook, though fortunately they're healthy. The kids standard breakfast is cereal and milk- though rarely I do make them something else like muffins, waffles, pancakes, etc... At the same time, since these do get pricey, I try to stock up on these when they are on sale, or at cheap stores so I am not spending too much on them. I also try to look for the healthier brands of these so I'm not giving them total junk.
|Waffled grilled cheese. With store bought gluten free bread, cheese, and tomato paste. What my kids have been having as meals quite often lately, to be honest.|
The third thing-
I go shopping once or twice a week, but most of the time, only to the store that is closest to me. I don't run around town chasing the best bargains. I simply don't have the energy to do that. I try to buy what is on sale where I am going anyhow, and try to avoid the more expensive products, and I also try to do bigger shops so that I don't have to go back to the store so soon. This actually ends up saving me money, also on transportation to and from the stores, but also because each time you go to the store you end up spending more. Bulk buying is also my friend now, big time. So this is one way that my norm is actually saving me money.
Foodwise for myself I take shortcuts. I try to make foods that take minimal prep work and still taste decent, which means that I don't always only stick to the cheapest produce in the grocery store. I buy frozen veggies (unlike the US frozen veggies are much more expensive per pound here than fresh) because it means I can just dump them in a pan with some protein and have a meal in a few minutes, with almost no prep work. For myself I also buy proteins that may not be the absolute cheapest, if it means its simple to make. Like I keep chicken breast on hand, because cooking that up is super fast, as is fish fillets, and canned tuna and canned sardines. I do try to buy the cheapest ones I can find, but even if I can't find them super cheap, most of the time these quick meals are just for me, so food for one person, even if more expensive, doesn't end up being too pricey. Veggies that have become staples of my diet because they are super quick to prep and most are lower carb (since I am sticking to lower carb paleo at the moment)- zucchini, lettuce, swiss chard, cucumbers, frozen green beans, peas (even though they're not paleo, fortunately my body has no problems with them- I have yet to try other legumes though), mushrooms, bean sprouts. I'll buy them even if they're not very cheap, because they make my life easier. Other veggies that are staples of my diet- carrots, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash- though these feel like a bit more work.
|A simple meal I made for myself- avocado halves, tuna, cucumber slices, and mustard.|
Minimal waste is a big thing now. Because I simply don't have the energy to shop too often, or to cook too often, I try to make all my food count, and not have any end up in the trash. So I keep an eye on which veggies need to be used up, and use them. And any cooked food in the fridge- honestly, it usually doesn't get repurposed, but just is eaten again the next day. Saves me work. And this saves me money as well. I felt like as much as I was trying to minimize food waste beforehand, I wasn't doing it nearly enough, and now that I am, despite eating more expensive foods and convenience stuff, our grocery bill really hasn't gone up too much.
I cook simple. Like rarely do I do intricate things that require a lot of time and energy to prepare. Like for example, if a recipe calls for almond milk, I generally won't make it, because I don't want to buy the expensive and less healthy version, nor do I want to spend the time and energy to make homemade almond milk and clean it up. So I replace milk with water in recipes when I can, and when I can't, I just generally skip that recipe.
Which kind of stinks, because I really do enjoy doing things in the kitchen. But when I have to choose sanity or fun... sanity comes first. Which means relatively boring meals for now. But they don't taste too bad as long as you spice em up. So my boring meal will be zucchini and chicken breast topped with madras curry powder- total 10 minutes from when I began prepping till when the food is on the plate (or thereabouts- I don't actually time things most of the time), but because it has a yummy spice mix on it, I enjoy it.
I think those are the biggies.
I'd like to one day gain my sanity, and be able to simply live my life as I want to.
But I'm a mom of 4 very wonderful kids, the fourth of whom really keeps me on my toes. And exhausts me. At the same time as they make me really happy and enrich my life. So this is my life right now.
And I'm ok with that.
Slowly I'm discovering the balance, how to feed my family, feed myself, and be relatively frugal, without feeling like I'm falling apart.
And some days, all of a sudden I get a burst of energy, my creative juices get flowing, and I do something that makes me really proud of myself.
|Gluten free vegan bagels I made recently, with one of those spurts of energy that I had. Recipe to come soon.|
And those days, I really do enjoy.
Have you ever had a time in your life that you felt you needed to change your lifestyle, when you couldn't simply manage to do everything that you wanted to do? What was it that made you need to make this change?
What changes have you had to make for your life (or have you always done) to keep your sanity? How do you find the balance between sanity and frugality in your family?
P.S. If anyone is worried and thinks I have postpartum depression or something, not to worry. I'm just exhausted, but happy. Quite happy, thankfully. Happy for my wonderful family that exhausts me tremendously. Just tired.