I used to avoid reading Proverbs 31 because I thought there's no way I can live up to that standard. Seriously, did the woman ever sleep? Did she ever have a bad day? I've told Brian, forget having my children rise up and call me blessed, most days I'm just trying to get them to rise up. I finally decided to quit avoiding Proverbs 31 and dig in and see what I could learn. After reading it over and over, there's a couple of things that I've gleaned. First of all, if Lemuel is a king, then most likely he's an adult. That means his mother has years of experience under her belt. Second, if she has years under her belt, then Lemuel is looking back and giving us a summary of his mother's life. Third, if this is a summary, then all these things didn't happen everyday. For me the most important thing I've gleaned from Proverbs 31 is that this wife and mother had a servant's heart for her family. That doesn't mean that she was their maid and cook. Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." He wasn't any one's doormat, He gave us the example of how to love sacrificially. I'm sure Lemuel's mother had bad days. She had to have those days where it seemed like she couldn't finish anything, where the children were driving her crazy, days where she may have wanted to wave the white flag and surrender. She probably also had days that gave her glimpses of the fruit of her labor concerning her family, those days where you know all the work is worth it. I imagine she also had other women around her that mentored and encouraged her. Over the course of her life as a mother she made clothing, was a business woman, provided food, took care of the poor, took care of herself, took care of her family, among other things. I realized that my goal is not to be more like this woman, though she was a great woman, because like me, she was human. I want to be more like Christ each day. Matthew 6:33 tells us, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Hopefully, as I'm seeking God the bad parts of me fade and the good parts of the Lord shine through. Seeking God will make me want to be a better wife, mother, and woman. The Lord will use other women to help us on this journey, but my main focus has to be on Him. There have been many women in my life that have mentored me and helped me. Sometimes it's spiritual matters, other times it's just practical advice. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the things we do as a family. I've had several people ask me about how we eat as family. I've spoken a couple of times at our church on this subject, so I thought I would share my notes. Keep in mind that all families are different. Therefore, what works for my family, may not work for yours. Think of this like a buffet. If there's something you like, go ahead and take it. If you don't like it, keep going because you may find something that you do like.
1.Menu Planning- I don't like to go grocery shopping, so I make one big trip at the beginning of the month and then fill in with small trips as needed. I start by making a menu plan for the month. If a month seems like too much, try just a week. You can start by making a list of the meals your family currently eats and then separate them by meats or types of meals. Ask your family what their favorite meals are and what meals they would like to have. Watch cooking shows or look through cookbooks for ideas. You might be surprised at how many meals you come up with. When making a menu, keep in mind events that are happening during that time. If you have somewhere to be on a particular night, you don't want to plan a meal that requires a lot of prep and cooking time. If your family will eat leftovers, make them a part of your menu. If they won't eat leftovers, try to figure out a way to reinvent your leftovers. For example, when I make a beef roast, I know that we will have some meat leftover. I turn the leftover meat into beef stroganoff, beef and vegetable soup, steak and cheese sandwiches, or beef enchiladas and so on.
2.Make your grocery list- Before I make my list, I do a freezer/pantry inventory. I want to make sure I know what I already have on hand before I go shopping. That way I don't buy what I already have. Use your menu to start your shopping list and then fill in with the other items that you need. You can also keep a list on your refrigerator to jot down items as you run out so you remember to add them to your list. It's easy to overspend on groceries, especially when you make lots of trips to the store. We've set a budget for our family and at the beginning of the month(our payday), I take out that amount in cash and that's what I use to buy all of the food for the month. I make less impulse buys when I look in my wallet and see my cash dwindling. Use coupons and sale papers to make your money stretch. I'm not a big fan of Extreme Couponing, but I do use coupons with sales to get the best deals. I think anything taken to the extreme can be consuming, even under the category of saving money. Definitely use coupons, just don't let them use you. Check with your local stores for their coupon policies. Some stores will let you stack coupons, take competitors coupons, or match sale prices. It can be cheaper to buy some things in bulk, but you need to know your prices to be sure. www.southernsavers.com, www.faithfulprovisions.com, and www.afullcup.com and some websites that you might find helpful.
3.Make mealtime a family time- We all sit together to eat dinner and the TV is off. This is a great time of the day to spend with your family going over each other's day. We all eat the same dinner. I tell my children that this isn't Burger King and you can't have it your way. I'm not a short order cook and I don't have the time to cater to the tastes of 5 different children. If I know I'm making something that they don't like, I only put a small portion on their plate. Tastes can change, so I still give them a small amount. For example, Tori hated brussel sprouts but Brian loved them. We wouldn't have them very often, but when we did all the children had to eat was 2. One day as I was making the plates Tori asked me if she could have more. In response to the shocked look on my face she said, "I used to hate them but now I like them." If you have picky eaters, let them be a part of preparing a meal. Being invested in the meal will make the more likely to try something. I also realized that my children's likes and dislikes were very similar to mine. They looked at my reaction to something to see if they would like it. I realized that I too needed to expand my food choices past my favorites and to not push my tastes on others. Like my friend told me once, "Don't yuck someone else's yum."
4.Eating Healthy- Because of Timothy's severe food allergies, we are on the extreme end of healthy eating compared to most families. If you want to start eating healthier, I'll give you some things to try. The first thing to remember is to start slow. If you go into your kitchen and throw out all the junk, you may just get booted out of your family. Pick a couple of things to do and when those are no longer a big deal, add another. We started by avoiding high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. I've seen the commercials out there saying that there's no difference between high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, or natural sugars. It's made from corn, so no big deal right? Well ethanol is made from corn too but you wouldn't belly up to the gas tank. Research if for yourself, just steer clear of the advice of people who are profiting from what they tell you. Dr. Oz is a great source of information and he doesn't endorse any products. Therefore he's not profiting of what he tells you to eat. You may want to start eating organic but don't know where to start. I found a list of foods to buy organic and those that weren't as important. The top 12 foods to buy organic were-grapes, cherries, nectarines, strawberries, potatoes, spinach, blueberries, peaches, kale/collard greens, sweet bell peppers, apples, and celery. A good place to start buying organic would be with an item on this list that your family consumes the most. It also helps to eat seasonally to help cut down on the cost. The top 12 most pesticide free produce- onions, pineapples, asparagus, eggplant, avocados, mango, kiwi, cantaloupe, frozen sweet corn, frozen sweet peas, cabbage, and watermelon. My general rule is if I have to peel it to eat it, I don't buy organic. Stores are getting larger selections of natural and organic food. Look for Farmer's Markets next summer to find organically grown local produce at a great price.