Meghan Tells It

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I’m declining your invitation. September 28, 2015

Filed under: Personal Growth — Meghan Hamilton @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , ,

She can’t afford that berry, but she’s buying it anyway.

Periodically I receive invitations to sales parties. In my area, Pampered Chef, 31, and (until recently) Lia Sophia have a substantial presence. If these don’t ring a bell, perhaps you’ve heard of Tupperware, Silpata, or Party Lite. A local sales rep ropes you into convinces you to host a party for them. You beg ask all of your friends, family, neighbors, random people from the street and coworkers to come. A few people show up. The rep tells you how awesome the products are. You feel guilty and order a few items on the spot. For every dollar a guest spends, the hostess receives a discount on her own order and the rep gets a commission. The rep also strongarms insists you host your own party because it will be fun and you get a discount on the order at your party. If she’s really good, she gets you to sign up to be a rep also.

As much as I am poking fun at the business model, I will say that most of these companies do sell quality products. I would love to have more Pampered Chef items in my kitchen or 31 bags to fill with junk. I also enjoy the social aspect of these parties.

I do not enjoy my lack of self control when it comes to shopping. Long ago I became aware of my inner magpie. I WANT ALL OF THE SHINY THINGS!!!!! My rational mind shuts down and I just want to have the cool thing that is in front of my face. At a gathering where you know your friends are buying things, where you know that the friend who invited you is hoping this whole thing is worth her while, you feel a tremendous pressure to buy something. So I start down that slippery slope of justification.

I can’t buy nothing. I’ll stick to my budget of $20.00. Is there even anything in this catalog for that price? Ok. Maybe this $25.00 item. But that’s it! Oh. Well, I can also get this other thing. $50.00 isn’t bad. I see Martha over there spending over $100.00. I’m only spending a little bit.

And so it goes. Then a week or so later, that check hits my bank account. I don’t have $50.00 in it. I only have $25.00. So my bank charges me $36.00 for being too silly to turn down another pizza stone. Now my $50.00 check has turned into an $85.00 check and I won’t have any money to deposit for another week. So now bring on the fees for the account being overdrawn each day. You get the picture.

So what’s a magpie with limited monetary resources to do? She is going to decline your invitation to your party an stay in her own nest where there are plenty of shiny things that she has already collected.


Why I Chose to Homeschool September 21, 2015

Filed under: Homeschooling — Meghan Hamilton @ 5:44 pm

Learning about 19th century schooling at Old Sturbridge Village in MA.

Many people have many different reasons for homeschooling. Some people aren’t impressed with their local public school but can’t afford private schools in their area. Some people want to bring more of their religious faith into the school day. Others find that their children don’t thrive in the public school environment and just need a quiet space to learn the material. There is a growing movement of unschoolers who eschew traditional curricula and guide their children in making their own path on their educational journey. Living near a military base, I meet families who have chosen homeschooling as a way to keep their kids’ educations consistent as there can be very different programs from school to school. For these families, choosing a home with school quality in mind is simply out of the question.

My primary reason for homeschooling is that I can tailor my son’s education to his needs and incorporate more of the things he likes into learning. For example, he excels at math, so he doesn’t need to wait for the rest of a class of 20 or more kids to learn a concept before he moves on. As to reading, he is at the slow end of average and he absolutely hates to read books. At home, we can move quickly through math, take our time with reading, and choose books or other reading material that will be more interesting to him than when a teacher has to choose books that will be acceptable across the broad range of interests in a full class. Choice of curriculum is great too. As daunting as it is to choose a starting point, it’s been great having the freedom to change when something doesn’t work. The 1st grade science book I got was not his style. He hated it. I wasn’t stuck with it though. I have a different book this year that he loves. Both publications teach the same material, but they have vastly different approaches to accommodate different learning styles.

Additionally, we have more time for fun. When you don’t have 20 or 30 kids to line up and keep track of to move from room to room, you move more efficiently. We can be done with our school work in a couple of hours and he can have lots of free time to play. We can go on more field trips because our schedule is our own. Logistically, a family can get out on the road more easily than 100 kids from a grade.

On the social end of things, my son is spending time with people of all ages as opposed to kids who are just his age. I’m also more available to advise him when he runs into arguments with his friends. He started in public school and the teachers/staff were unconcerned about helping kids through social difficulties. They had an anti-bullying assembly and left it at that. People aren’t born with good communication and problem solving skills. They need to be taught.

It’s not always easy. He argues a lot because what he loves to do more than anything in the world is to switch back and forth between YouTube videos about Minecraft and actually playing Minecraft. As the adult, I need to make sure he’s learning about other things as well. But since he can get his school work done pretty quickly most days, he has more time to do the things he loves than he would if he spent most of his day at a public school then still had to come home and do homework.

Do you homeschool? What was your motivation? Do you send your children to a traditional school? Why? I’d love to hear from you. Different education models work for different people, so I thank you for keeping your comments polite when comparing your choices to other options available.


Meal Plan Review September 15, 2015

Filed under: Cooking — Meghan Hamilton @ 7:28 pm
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My glorious freezer with about 3 weeks' worth of dinners.

My glorious freezer with about 3 weeks’ worth of dinners.

I’ve often read that meal planning saves a lot of money and headaches. I’ve made stabs at it before. When I try to start from scratch with my own ideas for meals, I get overwhelmed and give up before I even start. When I look into using published meal plans I run into costs I can’t justify or meals that are too complicated. We have allergies to wheat and dairy here, adding another level of cost and complication to following other people’s meal plans. So, I’ve been just making dinner plans at the last minute and not wanting to make it at all most nights.

Then about a month ago, I saw the link to 31 Days of Crockpot Freezer Meals floating around on social media. I was skeptical, but since I wasn’t making dinner, I had time to look it over. What was this??? Meals that didn’t rely on large quantities of bread and cheese! Recipes that fall in line with my family’s tastes! Recipes that have short lists of ingredients that are also readily available in my local grocery store! I must try this!!!

So on Sunday, I downloaded the recipes and convenient grocery list. I made note of the few substitutions that I would need to make and decided to omit one recipe altogether. That made 30 usable recipes. That means 30 dinners (and some lunches that I can get from leftovers) that I won’t have to worry about once I’ve assembled it all.

I spent over an hour at the store. I spent approximately $400. My total bill was $450 and change, but I needed things that were not on the dinner list. Assuming I do this again, I may spend a little less. I was out of a lot of seasonings and needed to restock. I won’t need to buy these again for several months. However, that savings may be offset by my desire to take some shortcuts. A lot of the recipes call for chopped carrots. When prepping 30 meals, peeling and chopping take a long time. If you can afford it, buy your carrots and onions already cut. My grocery store has them with the frozen vegetables. I did manage to buy onions this way as I knew that I wouldn’t survive chopping 7 pounds of onions. Next time I’ll do the frozen carrots too. Your grocery price could also be less as I live in an area known for high prices on everything. I could save a lot of money by driving an hour or so to another store, but I the potential savings is not worth the time for me.

That works out to 155 servings of dinner as most nutritionists would count a serving. I know that we often eat more than that. But as a family of three, each meal should be plenty as far as main dishes go. That works out to $2.58 per serving. Add in the cost of a few additional sides like rice, bread, salads, etc… The cost is quite reasonable. It’s well under $5 per person per meal. The cost goes up to $4.44 per person per meal if the three of us eat the entire thing each sitting. Some of these are meant to feed six people though, so in reality, our costs will be somewhere between those two numbers.

A few cautions when implementing this plan:

  1. Make sure you actually have the freezer space. I don’t. I’ll be putting both of my slow cookers to use to cook up what didn’t fit into my freezer so that it lasts longer in the fridge. As we don’t mind leftovers around here, this won’t be a problem. But next month, I’ll do this in two-week batches as opposed to one month all at once.
  2. Another thing is that this takes a large chunk of time up front. I spent about eight hours on meal prep. I broke it down over two days. So plan accordingly. (This is where shortcuts like pre-cut veggies may be worth a few extra dollars.) Again, two week’s worth will make more sense to my life. I will also see how long this lasts us. I anticipate that we will still want to eat out a few times or will have enough leftovers to last through the next day.
  3. Lastly, if you don’t like leftovers or have more than four people you are feeding, look over the recipes and make adjustments to the amounts/grocery list. Some of the dishes are meant to feed four people and some are meant for six or eight people. This works for us, but not for everyone.

To summarize:

  1. Time Savers: Buy pre-cut onions, carrots, peppers; Buy chicken in 1 pound packages rather than bulk packages.
  2. Money Savers: Buy veggies in bulk and chop them yourself; Buy chicken in bulk (depending on your store’s pricing policies – check the prices); Buy chicken thighs instead of breasts.
  3. Recipes are allergy friendly, low sodium, and low cholesterol.

***Edit*** I want to make sure everyone knows this is the link to the original site I found the meal plan: