Global Food Disparity in Photos

Have you seen this before? Peter Menzel documented the imbalance between people's diets in various countries in his photography book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. It's amazing to see how much people spend on food. As I've mentioned before, A.P. and I are trying more and more to watch how much we spend on food. We're getting better and better about buying only what we need and will use. Looking at these photos makes you even more cognizant of why that's important.

The Ukitas, a family in Japan spend approximately $317.25 on food each week.

The Sobczynscys of Poland only spend $151.27. It's interesting to see the differences in produce and processed food.

The Revis family of the United States spends $341.98 each week. Love that they're holding two greasy pizzas as part of a WEEKLY food expenditure.

The Namgay family of Bhutan spends only $5.03 to feed a family of 11!!! Wouldn't it be interesting to see what an average nightly meal looks like?

The Melander family of Germany spends $500.07 a week! Seemingly on a mostly liquid diet. Lol.

The Manzo family of Sicily spends $260.11 a week. Look at all those lovely loaves of bread!

The Casales family of Mexico spends $189.09 a week. Look at all the fruit! But I love that you still see things like Corn Flakes pop up in the background.

The Ayme family of Ecuador spends $31.55 a week for a family of 9. Amazing. It's also so interesting to see where these families live.
The Ahmed family of Egypt only spends $68.53 a week! There are so many fresh things in this picture. It's kind of amazing. That and meat. Look at that big old plate the woman in the back is holding.

This is by far the most startling. The Aboukar family of Chad only spends $1.23 on food each week...for a family of 6.

This makes you grateful you can put food on the table at all.

(Photos by Peter Menzel via Daily Kos)


Marriage Mondays: Tapped

Lately, I feel tapped creatively. I have not been reading. I have not been blogging like I normally do and every post I do manage to get up feels void of any personality. I have not been taking any pictures or making anything. Instead, I want to catch up on sleep and watch TV and movies. I feel like my job is sucking everything out of me these days. And I don't know what to do about it. And frankly, it's not just me. A.P. has been feeling the same way lately.

This past Friday, we went and saw the movie Wanderlust. It was hilarious and struck a bit of a chord with both of us. But mostly, we were amazed we actually got to go see a movie! And on a Friday night! Isn't that sad? We used to do things, but lately we only seem to be capable of either doing nothing, doing what's required, or cleaning the house. And frankly, that's A.P. more than me. I can't be bothered cleaning most of the time.

I keep thinking that if it were spring, maybe I'd climb out of my funk, but honestly, I don't know if that's really going to do the trick. And I don't know what to do about any of it.

Unlike some people, I really try hard to make sure my time isn't just work and home. I pursue a lot of interests and try to do things that make me happy. I play guitar, I write this blog, I take a lot of photos. I read, I see movies, and watch TV shows I enjoy. I listen to music, hang out with friends. A.P. does many of these same things, with the exception of playing the guitar and blogging. The problem is many of those things aren't making me or him much happier. And I feel like I don't have as much time for my interests, so I feel like I'm failing in that part of my life.

I'm not depressed either. I'm annoyed a lot, but not sad. I'm just tapped. I feel like I need something to revitalize my life, but I have no idea what it is. A vacation? A new focus? Spirituality? A weekend alone? A night out on the town? I surely don't know what will do the trick.

After Milwaukee, we thought about taking mini-weekend trips, but they seem like so much work. Find someone to watch the animals. Book the trip. Pay for the trip. Go on the trip. Leave on time for the trip. Etc. etc. etc. Needless to say, we haven't gone on any trips since.

We feel like we need something. Some kind of change. But until we figure out what that is, we're just...tapped.

Have you and yours ever felt tapped? How do you get out of a funk?

(Photo via Favim)


More on Menu Planning (and Some of My Favorite New Recipes!)

I got asked some questions last week about how I menu plan, specifically how I plan the meals and make my shopping list and I was hoping to answer the lingering questions, as well share some of my favorite meals we've eaten so far. But first I really want to emphasize to those of you thinking about meal planning that I learned a lot of lessons over time and I still think I can get even better. I'd like to get to the point where my shopping becomes efficient and I use coupons and spend less than $100 a week. I anticipate it will still take me a few months to get really good at this, but I'm totally willing to share some of what I've learned along the way if it's helpful. I honestly love, love, love that we meal plan now. I love that it's saved us money, that we're not wasting food, that we're not eating out nearly as much, and that we're not running to the store to last minute shop. It's definitely a bit of work, but sooo worth it. I really can't emphasize that enough. Listen, if my mother could work a full time job, raise five children, and cook a homemade meal every damn night of her life (we rarely ate out growing up), I figure I can do the same with zero kids. Dammit. : )

When I first started meal planning, I just picked some recipes and made a list. After a couple of weeks, though, this got to be a bit of a pain in the ass. It was a lot of back and forth and a mishmash of a list that wasn't organized in any way. It made shopping annoying and inefficient, which, when you're going weekly, can be frustrating.

Finally, one week, I started to think about organizing my weekly meal plans with my grocery list. I looked around on the web and combined some things I saw and liked into my own Word document. Here's a screenshot of that document, as well as last week's menu/shopping list (you can click on the image to enlarge):

As you can see, I plan out what we'll eat for every meal of the day, including a Misc. category, which would be snacks and desserts, if any. Typically, though, I just plan out dinners, since that's what requires the most work. When he even eats lunch, A.P. eats out and I eat the same lunch almost daily: a Lean Cuisine, a piece of fruit, and a yogurt. So, that and breakfast (we just drink coffee/tea) are super easy to plan. For dinners, though, I research recipes or choose dinners I know how to make that we like. I typically only make 3 big meals a week, subbing in lighter fare on the weekends. Cooking on Fridays used to feel draining and terrible until I started planning light meals, like a grilled cheese sandwich and soup. Or last week, we had quesadillas and a grapefruit, mixed lettuces, goat cheese, and pepper salad (see recipe below!).

I then look at the recipe's ingredients and plug them into my shopping list. If I'm unsure if I have something on hand, I put it on the list, but put a question mark by it (like the Apple Cider Vinegar on this week's list). Then, before I head out, I check the pantry/fridge to see if I actually need to purchase those items. The benefit of planning this way is that my list is much more organized around things that would actually be near each other in the grocery store. I don't have to look through the whole list each time to make sure I catch all the fruits and vegetables that need to be purchased. This list makes it so that I can get in and out of a store in less than an hour. I still like to look for other items of interest, but for the most part I stick to the list.

The final step I take is to align my grocery list with what's on sale at my local grocery store. I go online and look through the weekly ad to see if any of the items I need are on sale. This takes a while, but it is so worthwhile. I also look for 2 for 1 deals so that I'll have things on hand in the pantry for future meals.

The thing I'd like to get good at is using coupons and balancing what to buy where (e.g. what to stock up on at Costco, what to buy weekly at the grocery store). That coupled with store sales and a shorter grocery list each week would really save us money. But that will come with time. This whole thing, as I said before, is really a learning process. The more I do it, the better I get at it. Listen, if crazy ass food hoarders can get groceries for pennies, this sane lady might as well partake, too.

I can't talk enough about the benefits of planning this way! It's been a huge game changer for us in terms of healthy eating, saving money, and, A.P.'s favorite, consistency. He says he's been loving this because he "consistently knows that there is food in the house." The secret is that there was always food in the house, he just had to cook it. But now, there's a list! And a menu! And to his relief, no surprises. : )

If you decide to start meal planning, check out some of these recipes! They have been favorites of A.P. and mine.

Slow Cooker White Bean and Kielbasa Stew (I subbed in chicken sausages for the kielbasa.)

Classic Pot Roast (So, so good!! The meat is incredibly tender!)

Crispy Rosemary Sriracha Chicken (This is spicy and delicious. I marinated the chicken overnight (which saves you time the next day!). Plus, you're eating thighs, not breasts, so you spend a little less on meat.)

Mixed Lettuces with Grapefruit, Goat Cheese, and Black Pepper (Such a quick, easy dish to pair with a sandwich for a laid back, but satisfying Friday night meal.)

Morrocan Chicken with Roasted Acorn Squash and Kale (I forgot to make the squash, but made the chicken and kale. DELICIOUS!! Plus, I used the leftover chicken to make a chicken salad with Greek yogurt, grapes, celery, and onion, plus the same spices as the chicken. Sooo yummy and you save money by reusing last night's dinner for tomorrow's lunch!)

Plus a quick and delicious dessert:

Raspberry Fool (Load up on the actual berries and use pure preserves that only have sugar and berries and you won't feel so guilty about downing this decadent dessert. I made this around Valentine's Day!)

Plus my favorite places to find recipes:

Pinterest (check out my Pinterest food board, My Bell Is Jolly)

(Photo via Apartment Therapy via NSW Government; Recipe Photo Credits linked above)


Nervous Knots

I have my review at work today. I have to meet with my boss this morning and my stomach is in nervous knots. I know I am good at my job, but I do not work in an industry where I hear that very often. People are barked at more than they are praised. Well, actually, I think it's safe to say that's most industries. Anyway, the review is almost a week-long process, with three separate meetings, the first being tomorrow. Sooooo scary!

Keep your fingers crossed that they go smoothly! It's all I can think about!


Spring on the Horizon

Believe it or not, planting season is almost here! I've been perusing websites, magazines, and of course, Pinterest for inspiration. This year, at my work garden, I'm hoping to build:

2 additional hoop houses
A potato bin
A compost pile

I'm also planning on expanding my compost program and expanding the garden to include a not for profit farmer's market. Spring being so close is freaking me out. A lot of work is piling up and my team is dwindling. I've had several team members leave for other opportunities. Lame, lame, lame, but understandable. It puts me in the lurch, though, and I'm trying like hell to re-build a team as great as last year's. It's hard when you realize how much work it's going to be. I'm scared I won't be able to get the job done with such a small team. Hopefully I'm just being cynical.

In the mean time, I'm trying just to get inspired for the upcoming growing season. Here are some things I'd like to do as side projects:

Have you started thinking about gardening yet? What projects are you eyeballing this year?

(Photo credits linked above)


Dancing the Whole Way Home

It's been a few weeks since I did a proper Friday dance and I apologize for that. The thing is, I have my guitar lessons on Fridays. 9 times out of 10, I come home exhausted from the long day and the last thing I want to do is blog. Then, Friday rolls around and I feel guilty. It's a never ending spiral of shame each week. If I were more on it these days, I'd at least start the post earlier in the week since often times I know the wedding that I want to feature. Oh well, instead I'm being a part-time blogger.

This week's wedding is very apropos to the way I've been feeling lately. I've become a full on homebody unless forced to leave. Luckily, I'm forced to leave the house pretty often, so I'm not a true homebody. But people, the desire is there. I'm primed for homebody-ness. Clearly, this lovely couple loves being homebodies, too. They got hitched...at home. That's right! Michelle and Ryan got married at home, with their family and close friends and dog. The intimacy of this couple's wedding is so evident in every beautiful photograph by Kristen Marie Tourtillotte, too! Seriously, how awesome, right? If only we had a home big enough, I would have done the same.

Don't you love that last photo where they are looking at each other while Michelle pets their dog? So sweet! They just look so in love (and relaxed)! Such a sweet, sweet wedding!

So, this weekend I have another 3 day weekend. Jealous? I know. I'm an ass like that. Sadly, my good friends lost their father unexpectedly this past Tuesday. So, I will be in good friend mode, helping out at work to cover their duties and then heading to the wake/funeral. After that, I'm working. But my hope is that by Saturday night, I'll be done with work and I'll be able to relax, relax, relax the rest of the weekend. This includes, but is not limited to, watching TV, watching movies, grabbing dinner with A.P. and being...a homebody. What are you doing this weekend? Something way more fun, I hope!

In the mean time, here are your dance moves for the week:

Button earrings...and not in the way you're thinking

My new obsession!

The face symmetry of celebrities, or how Salma Hayek looks hot no matter what

Ever read Cooking Comically? It cracks me up sometimes.

Good news for my lifelong diet

Beautiful hanging lamp made from...coffee filters!

Plus five Not the Marrying Kind posts you may have missed in the past month or so...

Do you include children in the wedding?

(Friday dance photo via here; Michelle and Ryan's home wedding photographed by Kristen Marie Tourtillotte via Miss Moss)


Meal Planning

I know I seem to be blogging about my list for 2012 a lot so far this year, but I hope that you all see that that just goes to show how diligent I've been about working on my goals. One of the big changes to both of our lives as a result of my list has been that I started meal planning. It for sure takes more time out of my week, but the results have been great for both of us!

First, I created a calendar that attaches to a grocery list and I'm able to plan out which meals I want to make on which days and what groceries need to be purchased. Each week, I peruse magazines, the web, and blogs to find different meals I want to make. Then, I plot and plan. In general and even before meal planning, I almost never make the same thing twice. A.P always jokes that when he likes something I've made, he can expect to have it again in a couple of years. I don't like repeating meals and I like a large, varied diet. We like to eat all types of cuisine, too. This means that planning the week's meals are not always super simple. I look through a ton of recipes before finally deciding on the week's meals.

Then, I peruse the grocery store's weekly ad. I align things from my list with what's on sale. I also add any additional things that we might want, but aren't reflected in the week's meals (e.g. coffee, tea, beverages, snacks, etc.). Then, I hit the stores!

Part of why I wanted to meal plan was that I was sick of having to think about what I was going to make for dinner each night. A lot of times, I wouldn't know what to make and we would end up eating out. Now, we eat rarely eat out or if we do, it's one day on the weekends (like a Friday when, if there aren't any leftovers, I almost always order out). And, we eat a lot more things like salads, which we love, but wouldn't always have the ingredients for on hand.

The other reason I wanted to meal plan was to save money. We budget $450 a month for food (that includes groceries and takeout/eating out), but we were often grossly exceeding our budget. Luckily, we live pretty frugally otherwise, so we weren't blowing tons of cash each month, but it seemed like if we could just lighten up on our food bills, we could save so much more money each month. Plus, I wouldn't have such a heavy heart each month when I threw away tons of things that didn't get eaten.

I'm happy to say that after meal planning for a month and a half, we've been LOVING it. All the extra time is totally worth it! Here are some of the benefits we've noticed:

- I'm not so damn lazy about cooking anymore. I love to cook and now that I know what I want to make (and how long it will take me and that I have all the ingredients on hand), I find myself less reticent to do so.

- We're eating much healthier. Eating all that takeout was weighing me down. I eat pretty healthy otherwise, but even one meal of eating out takes its toll. Now, I make a point to eat salads or some kind of light veggie side with every meal. I can plan on having the ingredients on hand. And now, whether A.P. likes it or not, we eat more veggies.

- We eat a large variety of foods. This ties into the one above, too. And I'm not just talking about cuisines. Before, I would reach for pantry staples a lot: pasta, canned beans and veggies, etc. That meant a lot more carbs and a lot less fresh stuff. Now, it's the opposite.

- We're cleaning out our pantry. When I make our grocery list each week, I check to see if we have things at home already. After the first couple of weeks, I started trying to use what we already have. The result? Our pantry and freezer have been emptying, giving us room for new, yummy things and using up things we've already spent money on...which leads to the last thing:

- We're saving money. At first, we weren't. We weren't at all. In fact, we blew our monthly budget in the first two weeks! But we were stocking up on pantry items that we won't replace for a while (e.g. olive oil), and we were not looking through the pantry to see what we could use that we already have on hand. Now our pantry is better stocked and we check to see what we have that we could use and get rid of. I also try to use ingredients two weeks in a row. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I needed fresh sage for a recipe. I didn't use a lot and had a ton leftover. So, for the next week, I searched for recipes that required fresh sage. The result is that each week the amount we spend has dropped. And I still stray from the list for snacks sometimes! The first two weeks we spent about $200, this week I spent $115! It goes down more and more each week, so I can't wait to see where it will be when we've been doing this for a while. I'm thinking under $100.

The point is, we are loving this and wondering why we didn't do it sooner. Part of me misses the randomness of my life before, though. Nights where I would eat half a loaf of good bread and goat cheese, with a side of olives. It felt representative of my years when I lived alone and was single, and I do think there is a sadness in giving that up, if that makes any sense at all. But now I'm healthy, happy, and saving money, so guess what? Predictability rules!

Do you meal plan? Do you like it?


Wedding Wednesday: Just Beachy

For various reasons, which I shall reveal at a later date, I have been perusing beach wedding inspiration. Though a beach wedding was never my choice, I can totally see why those who choose to have a beach wedding want it. It's so relaxed and chill. And I *am* a sucker for all things nautical. Here are some of my favorite finds and a bit of beach wedding inspiration for y'all!

(All photos via pinterest; Cake via here; Bouquet via here; Boutonniere via here; Shell hanging via here; Seashell cookies via here; Message in a Bottle Escort Cards via here; Short wedding dress via here;
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