Friday, January 31, 2014

7QT: Staying Frugal with Food

By Mary C. Tillotson

I was trying to come up with some fun wordplay for the title but after getting stuck between "Frood" and "Food-gal," I decided that wasn't a good idea. Being frugal with food, whether from necessity or disciplined stewardship, is a good idea. Here are some things I've learned:


Cook real dinners. If you don't know how to cook, get a book (or the internet!) and learn. It takes practice and you might have some evenings where you spent a lot of time on something that you end up throwing away, but you'll get better at it and it's the cheapest way to eat. If you take what Luke and I spend on groceries for a month (which includes things like shampoo and batteries, so this is really an overestimate), we eat (both of us) on just over $10 a day. That's the cost of, what, three Big Macs, sans fries? Fast food is cheap, but cooking is cheaper. (For more on this, read this helpful essay Cooking isn't fun, but you should do it anyway.)


Eat your leftovers. Any food that goes bad before you get around to eating it is money wasted. If you have enough leftovers for dinner, have leftovers for dinner. If you don't, have leftovers for lunch -- it'll make your bread and sandwich meat stretch a little longer. Tip: As you're eating your leftovers, note which foods taste good left over. I think pasta tastes better leftover, but mashed potatoes are no good the next day, for example. Adjust your cooking and eating habits with your preferences in mind.


On that note, plan your cooking around what you have lying around in the fridge (even if you have to buy more groceries to make the dish work). It's hard to buy the exact amount of ingredients for each recipe, so after you've cooked something, see what miscellany you have left. Do you have half a green pepper left over after the Spanish chicken skillet? Make something that involves green pepper -- put ham on your grocery list and make my mom's Impossible Pie. Does that leave you with extra ham, but no more green pepper? Maybe do some kind of ham and potato dish. And so on. We've found this is one of the best ways to keep food from going bad.


Be wary of scrimping on your grocery budget. Store-brand foods are cheaper, but might not be any better for your budget. We buy most things generic, but I finally realized I just didn't like the store-brand ham. I would put it on a sandwich, choke it down, then not put it on another sandwich until it went bad -- and then I'd throw it out, wasting the money we'd spent on it. Finally I realized it was actually cheaper to buy more expensive ham. I'd actually eat it. Stock your kitchen so you aren't tempted to say "Blah, there's nothing good here... let's go out." (See #7.)


Buy meat in bulk, near the expiration date, and freeze. We buy a package of somewhere between a half and a whole dozen chicken breasts, then wrap them individually in plastic wrap, put them all in a large freezer bag, and stick the whole thing in the freezer. (I learned in college that even with my handsome and very strong then-boyfriend's help, it's almost impossible to separate frozen chicken breasts without thawing them all, and I hear you're not supposed to re-freeze meat unless you cook it. So separate them before you freeze them, but they don't need individual freezer bags.) If you freeze the meat right away, the expiration date doesn't really matter, and meat is usually super cheap the day or two before it "expires." You can do this with any kind of meat and some other foods -- just break it down into meal-sized portions, put it in a freezer bag, and freeze.


Buy spices in bulk at a health food store. At health food stores, "bulk" doesn't mean enormous amounts; it means they buy enormous amounts and scoop out just the amount you want into a little plastic baggie. It usually costs something like $100 a pound but think about how much dried basil -- which sticks to things with static -- it would take to make a pound. (Probably several garbage cans full.) I usually spend about a dollar to fill up our little jar twice. (Fair point, spices don't cost that much to begin with. But they're important: they're what make your food not taste all the same. Plus, health food store spices are probably organic and better-tasting than the store-brand you're tempted to buy.)


Avoid dinners out (and when you do go, order off the lunch menu). For dates or hanging out with friends, go out for coffee, ice cream, or dessert. I heard someone on the radio suggesting feeding the kids frozen chicken nuggets at 6, then sending them to their bedrooms to be quiet afterward -- then, cooking a nice, elaborate, grown-up meal (where the meat and vegetables actually touch, the radio woman said). Hosting friends for a pizza and game night is cheaper than going out -- and a nicer frozen pizza tastes just as good (and is more convenient, and cheaper) than delivery.

That's all for today! What ideas and tips do you have?

Join Jen with us!

Image by Tax Credits.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Anonymous Us: Some Thoughts on Third-Party Reproduction

By Mary C. Tillotson
Photo via Wikimedia

Some things don’t get talked about very often – maybe because they’re too complex for our world of sound bites and pigeon-holing, maybe because they’re uncomfortable topics. Alana Newman knew this and founded Anonymous Us for this reason: to talk about what it’s like to be conceived by a third-party donor.

Anonymous Us is a website for donor-conceived children, sperm and egg donors, surrogates, fertility-industry professionals, and others whose lives have been affected by the fertility industry to share their stories anonymously. Founded in January 2011, the site boasts almost 200 stories that run the gamut of emotions.

“The reason I started my site is people are just too ashamed to come forward,” she said.

Alana and I chatted on the phone about a month ago, and it’s taken about that long for my life to calm down enough so I could write anything about our conversation. As you’ll see from her website, not every story is like hers, but many are.

I was especially interested in Alana’s thoughts on two issues: on a personal level, the complicated emotions involved in third-party reproduction, and on a societal level, the family breakdown that third-party reproduction contributes to. She has experience and knowledge in areas I don’t, so I’ll let her take it from here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Vote for The Mirror!

The Mirror Magazine was nominated for two Sheenazing awards over at A Knotted Life!

While you're there, be sure to check out the other great blogs she's linked to -- including Julie's Corner With a View, which was also nominated!

Go vote for us! Twice: you'll find us under "Best Under-Appreciated Blog" and "Smartest Blog."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mission: Get Our Toddlers Married

by Joy Pullmann

Our three children are all under four years old, but I'm already worried about whether they can find a good spouse. Since I have, I've realized it may be the best thing in life to marry a good man (and I presume the converse is true for men). There are lots of reasons marriage means a good life, not least of which is more and better sex: A longer life, better health, greater long-term happiness, less loneliness, and more.

I want my kids to have what I know will make them absurdly happy. But I'm worried, because I already know quite a few twenty-somethings who would be a great catch but haven't been able to find anyone to marry, and are rather discouraged.

I know I can't control whether my kids find a husband or wife, but there are some practical things I can do to make it more likely. Matthew Cothran makes a brilliant comparison between how American  parents prepare their kids for college versus how we (don't) prepare them for marriage:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Abortion Kills 47% of Black Babies

by Joy Pullmann

Appropriate for a week that holds both Martin Luther King day and the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a statistic I heard Saturday at our town's March for Life: thanks to abortion, 47% of African-American babies never take a breath.

The main speaker of our local event (which drew easily 500 people), Angela Minter, told her dramatic life story: Her mother had tried to have Angela aborted in the 1960s and failed. Later, Angela and her then-boyfriend chose two abortions and were about to commission a third, when Angela's father called.

"Don't kill that baby," he told her. She didn't. Later, the son that lived came to her. He and his girlfriend were pregnant, and planned to have an abortion. Eventually, his girlfriend refused the abortion, and now Angela has a beautiful two-year-old grandson.

Angela doesn't mince words when she talks.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Paper Bags and Lipstick

By Rebekah Randolph
A Mad Tea Party

Are human bodies good or bad? Glorious or shameful? Nobody knows anymore, and our culture's confusion leaks into Christian attitudes towards modesty, including how it relates (or doesn't) to a woman's beauty.

Modesty is a thorny topic and believe me, I don't intend to define it; for some useful opinions, you might want to read Simcha and Challies. I am more concerned with the extremes to which we go as we pursue virtue.

On one end you have the prevailing message we know so well. A body is meant to display, to manipulate others with. Work it, girl. One the other end you have paper bags; if we assume that godly people should aspire to the world's exact opposite, we all end up in shapeless sacks. Yet that is not godly either! The Lord loves beauty. I wrote something on that way back when, but you don't have to take my word for it. Just read the dang Bible. Beauty's goodness—even feminine physical beauty, forsooth—pops up everywhere.

I am pretty passionate about this because when I was younger, I somehow came up with the idea that beauty equaled blatant sexuality, so to glorify God with your appearance, you probably shouldn't try to make your body beautiful. That might be an exaggeration (it is) but more or less, that summed up my attitude towards physical attractiveness. Though nobody actually told me that I should look askance at beauty, I inferred it from what I did hear about modesty.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Budgeting Away the Tightwad

Opened this today. Are you serious, Dove?
By Mary C. Tillotson

The perfect combination of having money saved up and no imminent moving plans fell into place, and my husband and I decided to replace the four-inch piece of foam (taken from a hide-a-bed couch his brother was throwing away) we'd been sleeping on for a year and a half with a real mattress.

It was like graduation or marriage or buying a house -- one of those things that makes you officially an adult, and for real this time. We went to the mattress store and found that the most comfortable one was, happily, toward the low end of our price range. We paid for it and felt very proud of ourselves. On Friday, we brought it home.

I haven't slept well since. Last night, for example, I spent the hours until sometime after 2 a.m. designing (in my head because screens only promote insomnia) a powerpoint that would explain everything a reporter would need to know about education reform. Not because I needed to, but because I like sharing what I know and haven't used powerpoint in ages. And I was bored.

This is why I hate spending money. Because sometimes, through no fault of your own but through what definitely feels like your fault, you end up working lots of hours to pay for expensive things that are actually kind of a waste.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Waiting for the Morning

By Joy Pullmann

I wanted to post this during Advent, when I was thinking it constantly, but I couldn't. During Advent, I was holding a newborn all day and night, and wishing desperately for some sleep. Any sleep. (I would still like more, but six hours a night broken by nursing is better than four broken by hours of fussing.)

Our second son was born December 5, and quickly revealed he would have the same tummy troubles as his two older siblings. This meant hours and hours a day of fussy sleep, where baby sleeps for five minutes in between squirms while mom and dad can't because he's squirming every five minutes. So I spent hours staring bleary-eyed out our bedroom window, holding a wiggly baby and waiting for dawn. I'd repeatedly check the time not to see how long baby had slept but to see how long it was until it was finally day and I didn't have to pretend I might get some sleep any more.

Advent, like Lent before Easter, is a time of sober reflection and preparation. New year resolutions and post-holiday housecleaning faintly resemble these two religious seasons. They are supposed to remind Christians that our eternal home is not this world, and that we await Christ's final return, when suffering will, at last, end.

Boy, did I feel that in my sleep-bereft state. A severe lack of sleep has always made me very melancholy. In college I used to cry every Friday night simply because I was so exhausted by the end of the week. This seems like a good setup for sober reflection, but it was hard to reflect on anything except how much I wanted to lie down.

This rotten experience did, however, reveal to me more about the reality of what it means to wait for a perfect eternity. I typically like this world. I have a good life. We're not poor, hungry, persecuted, or isolated. So why would I look forward to the end of it? Why bother with change when the present isn't that bad?

But when your newborn child is suffering, and so are you, this world gets a lot less attractive. It made me yearn, once again, for suffering to end. Some day, it will.

Image by Jan de Graaf, with no changes.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Don't Forget About The Dads

By Ashley McGuire
Institute for Family Studies

Image by David Goehring
During the Christmas season, much attention is given to the mother and child relationship. Christmas cards depict a thousand variations of Mary holding the baby Jesus, hymns tell of virgin and babe, and crèche spotlights in towns across America shine brightly on a woman cradling a baby. It’s a rare few weeks where motherhood is glorified and praised.

But what about Joseph? How does dad fit into the picture?

That ancient question is as relevant as ever, as a government-sponsored study released last week reveals that the role of fathers continues to evolve.

Just as we don’t hear much about the role of Joseph in the Christmas story, these days we don’t hear a lot about what dads have to offer. We hear constantly about motherhood. The mommy wars, the work-motherhood balancing act, the rise of single motherhood. But it’s foolish to try to resolve the struggles moms face without analyzing the role of fathers. Dads are as important in the life of a child as moms, and moms will struggle to flourish without good dads at their sides.

Thankfully, Friday’s study has good news: Fathers are increasingly involved at home and in the lives of their children.

The AP called the study “myth-busting” with regards to the notion that dads don’t pitch in at home, and studied how much time men say they spend doing things like changing diapers and giving baths, reading books and helping with homework, or feeding meals to their children. The study found that father have become increasingly hands-on in the past ten years, and it confirms other studies that find active fatherhood to be on the rise across demographics.

One stand-out detail: Fathers living with their children are far more involved in the daily lives of their children than their non-cohabitating counterparts. And involved fatherhood directly correlates with fewer behavioral problems, better physical health, and better academic performance in children. This all seems somewhat obvious, yet the study found that even as paternal involvement between cohabitating fathers and children is on the rise, father-child cohabitation is on the decline.

So women should take note: If you want an involved father, stay married to him. If you want a better chance for your children, marry their father. And if you want a partner helping to shoulder the burden at home, get married and stay married. Considering that the overwhelming majority of divorces among college-educated couples are initiated by women, it’s worth making this point.

So while it’s sometimes easy to forget about Joseph, this Christmas is a good opportunity to thank and encourage a dad. Men aren’t perfect, and many of them could probably do more at home. But women aren’t perfect either, and sometimes we are prone to overlooking men’s domestic contributions or undermining them when they try to help.

But it’s good for humanity if hands-on fatherhood is “in.” We can all do our part to keep encouraging a trend that helps men, women, and children live happier and healthier lives.

This article was originally published at Institute for Family Studies and is reprinted with permission.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Invading the Man Cave

By Joy Pullmann

My dad is in the basement as I write, grinding something that reverberates throughout the house. He and my husband are taking a week to finish as much of our ugly basement as possible. The plans are glorious: a guest room and second bathroom. But the process has so far been pretty messy. 

Having my dad around for a week is unusual, as he and my mom live eight hours away, so the differences in our house are pronounced enough for me to observe them. One is the voracity with which he and my husband can and do talk football. I'm treated to stacks of football talk when my brother-in-law visits every few weeks, too, and again the difference in conversation in our household is jarring. I never knew there could be so many details and statistics to pore over in such a basic-looking game. I mean, it's a bunch of fat guys smashing into each other repeatedly. But not to my men. It's psychological, social, tactical, physical, and more. I suppose I get this detailed and loquacious when you get me talking about literary criticism or education theory, but not about many "girl things" like cooking or crafts, both of which I enjoy. Perhaps I just don't know comparatively many detailed things about sewing or baking.

It's not just football, though. My husband and some of his man friends also like to intricately discuss theology, which also is a signal for me to leave the room before I pass out from boredom. I don't think theology is necessarily a manly topic like football quite evidently is, but at least in our seminary town, more men get into it than women.

There's been some talk on the Internets lately about "the male friendship crisis," or that men's relationships have deteriorated over the past several decades. Some people say it's because men just need to become more like women: more apt to discuss people and feelings rather than objects and ideas. Others say it's because there's nowhere men can go be men together and let down their guard without the unnerving presence of women. I'm sure there are many combined reasons, but if we're picking between two I lean towards the latter.

Here's Bill McMorris in The Federalist:
The erosion of “male space,” as psychologist Helen Smith convincingly argued in her otherwise problematic book, “Men on Strike,” has played a key role in the social isolation of men. “Our culture has steadily made it almost obscene for men to congregate on their own together,” Smith writes. “Men are discouraged and actively made fun of or denied the ability to be in all-male groups by the law and by the disapproval of certain segments of the culture.” 
One thing that never occurs to Wade is that women have an easier time forming intimate relationships because men aren’t trying to elbow their way into their heart-to-heart sessions. Men do not enjoy this luxury in the days of public shaming against the likes of (formerly) all-male Augusta National. 
I have a friend—a close one in fact, but we’d never say that aloud—who no longer goes to bars because he can’t enjoy a drink with Rihanna playing in the background. 
I used to be one of those women who disdained "man time." In college, my then-fiance was really into the idea, partly because he was in a men's music fraternity (dry house and an actual reason for getting together, so quite different from the typical frat scene). I was an equal opportunity disdainer, because I've never been much for "girl time," either. "Why do people who happen to have the same body parts have to feel a unique connection?" I thought. Plus, it was offensive to be excluded based on my body parts. I felt like the guys were essentially holding a secret club I couldn't join. So I tried a few times, but was either so thoroughly bored or disgusted I gave up that idea. Man time, like football and theology to me, really isn't that fetching.

Besides, being a man is, in its essence, membership in a club women can't, by definition, join. It's the same for being a woman. No man can understand what it's like to birth a child or have a period. Women will never as a class have high upper-body strength or facial hair (thank goodness). So maybe it's time to just let the men be men together.

Image by Tal Atlas.