Every morning when the kids are eating breakfast, I sit down to check my email and often get messages from people asking for advice or looking for encouragement. Some are new vegans, trying to find a way to make their new lifestyle work for their family. Some are stay-at-home mom’s, going a little crazy. Some are trying to start homeshcooling and are finding it difficult. Some are all three. I love getting these messages and making connections with you. It not only makes me feel good trying to help you and giving you advice, but it also helps me to have a look at our life and the way we do things.
One of the emails I got lately was from a mother asking me, “How do you do it all?” Homeschooling, home made food and clean house. That really got me thinking. To me, life doesn’t seem all that difficult. Of course it is not perfect and I do have times of doubt, times of questioning my lifestyle choices, fatigue and frustration, but I realized when I got that message and in responding to it, that I really enjoy my life together with my family just the way it is. I find great joy in cleaning, cooking and spending time with my kids. It makes me happy to put myself in the service of my family and to take care of us all. There is nothing else that I would rather be doing with my life at this moment than being a wife and a mother, nothing that I would change.
When I responded to this person’s email message this morning, I also thought that it would make a great blog post. Here is some advice that I thought I would share in response to the question, “How do you do it all?”
How do I do it all? Hmmmm…. well my house is not always clean, but I do try and clean up continually throughout the day so that there are not huge messes to deal with which can seem overwhelming. I wash dishes after every time we eat, sweep up any mess right away (many times a day) and generally keep things picked up and in their place. I think that a clean house feels best and so I make it pretty high priority. Still, of course the kids are constantly messing and it is hard sometimes to keep up. Thankfully, my oldest daughter Autumn (almost 9) does a lot of chores and even helps with food preparation too. She puts dishes away, chops some vegetables for meals, sets or clears the table and I make her and Kesa clean up their play messes after themselves, any craft messes or toys are mainly their responsibility.
Our homeschooling method is pretty relaxed. We don’t stress too much about having our kids learn everything all at once. That was why we made the decision to homeschool in the first place, because we wanted our kids to be able to be kids while they are young, up until age 7. I am a big fan of Rudolf Steiner and Waldorf education. A quote that I read in one of his books lately and agreed whole-heartedly with was this, “Waldorf education is not a pedagogical system, but an art to awaken what is actually there within the human being. Fundamentally, the Waldorf school pedagogy does not want to educate, but to awaken.” So, I would say that our schooling method is a bit Waldorf-inspired, although I am far from being a perfect teacher or human being. Another word that I might use to describe it is child-centred or unschooling, although I don’t believe that we fit under any one label.
Autumn does a little bit of math and writing work everyday and reads a lot because she loves to read! Probably because Craig and I do too. We want our kids to be able to be their individual selves and do what they love. We encourage creativity in our home. Autumn loves to write her own stories and draw her own pictures for them, so she does a lot of that. Kesa will be 5 this year and is really just starting to learn, mostly because she looks up to her big sister and wants to write books like her too! I find it so great when nothing is forced, but it unfolds naturally for them. There are many times when I worry that they won’t know enough, or that Kesa won’t ever want to learn to read, but then I step back, relax and realize that everything will happen in its time and when they are ready. Each time I let go and relax about something learning-related, I find that my kids surprise me with the desire from their own spirit to learn something or try something new. I love that!
As for food, eating vegan and eating naturally is also very important to Craig and I. For me, it is about eating in a way that is in line with my personal beliefs. An expression of love and compassion for animals, others and our planet. And I have found that by putting this love and compassion in action for the animals, I also naturally feel more inclined to be compassionate and loving towards my fellow man. Being vegan makes me more open and expansive. I am able to think clearer, have more energy and I believe my vegan diet helps me to be healthier spiritually as well. Fortunately for me, Craig feels the same way. He never liked eating meat growing up and even when he was older, he ate mostly vegetarian and a lot of healthy foods that even I used to think were pretty strange when we first got together like avocados, whole grains and raw nuts. (I loved my pizza, chicken and fries, candy, white bread, bakery treats and sugary cereals). Vegan wasn’t really on his mind because he didn’t want to have to make all of his own food. I was glad when nearly four years ago I made the decision to go vegan and he fully supported my choice and felt the same way. Now, he is grateful that I am always making us such wholesome food for us to eat that is also ethically sound.
I don’t feel like we spend that much on food because Craig is the only one that works, but I know a lot of people like to say that eating healthy costs more. I am not sure if that is exactly true. For example, if you make that stir-fry dish or a soup, the meal definitely doesn’t cost too much for mostly veggies. Lentils, beans and rice, are also super-cheap and very filling. I try to make a home-cooked meal, with enough leftovers to last for at least the next day. Soup always lasts us for at least two meals and is under $7! Home made bread is also very inexpensive and so delicious! I also believe that the quality of the food counts. If you pay more money for organic, vegan food which actually fills you and satisfies your body’s needs, you eat less than if you eat junk and have to eat more and more to try and fill your body with what it is really wanting. That is what I have found anyway. When I used to be over 200 lbs and eating all the time, I was never satisfied as I am now with the meals that we eat and I don’t need to eat nearly as much as I used too.
Lately we have admittedly done most of our grocery shopping at Superstore (a larger grocery chain), which has a good selection of natural organic foods. We spend about $250 every two weeks there because I stock up on everything when I shop, and also when we go shopping we go to some organic stores too to pick up a few things that I can’t find at the regular grocery stores. So we spend around $250-300 every two weeks on food altogether to feed our family of five and I keep my kitchen stocked with everything I need to make a meal. The only thing we ever really buy in our small town is produce if needed, because the prices out here are too high to do all of our grocery shopping.
One of the main things is that we save a lot of money through our other lifestyle choices, like using cloth diapers, breastfeeding, having only one vehicle (which we only use to go grocery shopping in the city every two weeks or to visit family). My husband walks to work everyday and I walk to town if I need to to go to the store or check the mail. We don’t really buy anything that we do not need or have many other expenses except the rent on the house and the bills. We don’t have T.V. channels or any cell phones, I don’t buy make-up, our clothes are second-hand…all those little extravagances can definitely add up.
I think ultimately everyone has to do what works best for them and their family. To find out what their personal beliefs and priorities are and if being home with your kids, homeschooling or being vegan/eating healthy is important, then you can definitely make it work. Meal planning and shopping for food that is on sale is also a great way to save money too. I mostly buy produce according to what is on sale. For example, the apples that are cheapest that week or if peppers are on sale, I know I am making a meal with peppers, perhaps a stir-fry or taco casserole. I am also pretty bad with daily meal planning, but I have a general idea of what meals I want to make in a week and have all the food I need on hand when I need it, depending what we feel like. For example, I always have vegetable broth in the cupboard if I ever feel like making a soup. Pasta for a simple meal of pasta, sautéed veggies and some diced tomatoes to make home made tomato sauce.You get to know what staples you need on hand at all times to create any meal, like onions, garlic, potatoes, diced tomatoes, beans, lentils, brown rice, vegetable broth and fresh veggies. We usually have carrots, celery, peppers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and romaine lettuce. From that selection of vegetables I can make stir-fry, soup, sautee veggies to have with pasta or rice or chop them up to eat raw as a snack, in a salad or in wraps with hummus.
We don’t always have a home cooked meal at every meal, but I do try and make at least one cooked meal that we eat together as a family, depending on my husbands shift, it is either lunch or dinner. Sometimes the girls and I just eat oatmeal, cereal or pancakes for lunch or dinner with fruit or we just make veggie wraps with hummus. These options are still healthy and so much more simple. I think mom’s have to go a bit easy on themselves sometimes and not try to have everything be so perfect, just like out of a T.V show or movie.
A simple vegan meal like a bowl of whole grain cereal with nuts or cranberries and almond milk or even cooked potatoes and raw veggies (which my kids love) is still a whole lot better than ordering a pizza! Even just cooking up some rice and steaming veggies is another thing we often do as a low-prep meal. Simplicity is beautiful!
(Kesa’s making funny claw hands)
Ultimately, I would like to encourage everyone that if there are some lifestyle changes that you want to make in your life, you can make them work if you really want them too. If this new lifestyle change makes you happy and brings your family peace than it will work. And if you can’t do everything perfectly or up to your standards, don’t let that make you feel down. Life is full of ups and downs. Some days you feel more enthusiastic or energetic and some days your motivation goes out the window and you are just too tired to care. Believe me, I know! That is just the ebb and flow of life. But if you stay true to your values and beliefs, then you will never give up on what you truly want. There have been days when I even question whether it would be easier to not be vegan anymore or to put my kids in school and be more “normal”, but I know that would never actually work for me/us or sit right with me. We have found what works for us for the time being anyways and are at peace with it. What works for you may not be the same as what works for us or others and that is OK too. I encourage everyone to find what it is that works for them and their family. We all live different lives and what works for one person, may not in fact be plausible for another. For example if you are a working mom, being vegan and cooking your own meals will be a challenge. That said, if there is something that you do really want for your life, I do not believe that it is entirely out of reach unless you believe that it is. I think that doing what really makes us happy and brings us peace and happiness, will never feel too overwhelming or like a chore.
I hope that this post helps somebody out there today! I would love to share more about budgeting and how much we spend in a future post after saving some receipts and really having a look at our spending. If you have any questions or comments, please share below. I would love to hear from you!
Have a great day!
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