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Recently I’ve been reading more about clean foods, our nation’s crazy food supply, agribusiness, and balancing family budgets with the goal of eating healthy foods. I don’t think that I’m alone in the sense of desperation when it comes to wanting to feed my family healthy, wholesome foods. Not only must I look at the grocery budget, but I’m also faced with the external pressures of media and marketing that make it seem so much easier to just pick up packaged foods. (99cts a box taquitos and frozen pizzas at $3.50, anyone?) At school our daughter eats limited foods because she doesn’t want to be made fun of—even what I consider to be foods that are somewhat mainstream now compared to when I was a child, like sushi and hummus, she won’t eat if I send them for fear of ridicule. Peer pressure abounds, no matter what age. Then, there are the demands of daily life to balance. Almost nine months pregnant now, I’m more fatigued at the end of the day when I would normally be preparing meals for our family. I have a flexible work schedule, which is the saving grace on most days that allows me time to squeeze in a little meal prep and shopping here and there. Then there are all of the labels. We can’t trust the word “natural” on a product to mean something from nature. GMOs are creeping into most of the foods that aren’t organic. The basics are no longer basics—sour cream might have 5 or 6 ingredients and fillers in it. Food fraud is becoming a hot topic with companies using other ingredients to keep their costs down—olive oil might also contain canola oil, pomegranate juice might be mostly grape.
Just when I found myself ready to rip out my hair and run screaming for the hills, I came across this quote by Voltaire, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I consider myself to be a fairly well read person, but I had never come across this quote before now. It was the splash of cold water in my face that brought me back to reality and calmed my nerves. Yes, all those problems I mentioned above exist. Yes, we live in an age where it is more difficult than ever to feed our family wholesome foods. However, if I strive for good instead of perfection, it takes away a lot of pressure.
So what does “the good” look like? I think that it is a work in progress. It involves incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diet so that we eat less junk. It involves choosing local and organic whenever possible to make our foods cleaner. It involves doubling recipes and freezing extras so that we don’t rely on packaged foods. For a girl who likes to go “all in”, it involves finding some peace of mind in seeking balance instead of perfection.
What about you? One of the main complaints I hear from couponers is that the packaged and less healthy options are such bargains that they find themselves eating differently than they once did. What do you do to keep healthier choices on the dinner table?
As many of you know, we are expecting our second child in early March. We were thrilled when we learned that we were pregnant, and of course as things usually go, it was right after we had given away, sold, and consigned almost all of the baby and maternity gear that we had from our first daughter. I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch, though. I had learned a great deal from our first pregnancy on what to buy and how to save money on purchases:
1. Buy discriminately. The first tip is to not rush out and buy a bunch of maternity clothes in your first trimester. When you do decide to make purchases, think about clothes that will mix and match well, are basic colors that can be easily accessorized, and will work for the seasons of the year when you will be later in your pregnancy. This might seem surprising, but I have only bought the following new—1 pair black dress pants, 1 pair gray dress pants, 1 pair dark navy jeans, 2 maternity shirts. I had been given a gift card by my dad and have only spent about $20 out of pocket on maternity clothes for this pregnancy.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask. My birthday fell right after we told people about the pregnancy. When people would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, I wasn’t too shy to tell them that a gift card or some maternity clothes would be greatly appreciated. I was given a few more maternity shirts, a pair of blue jeans, and a belly band. The belly band is a handy-dandy little strip of fabric that looks a little like a big belt. It helps to extend the wear of your non-maternity shirts by covering your lower belly. They sell at Target for a little less than $20 and are well worth the expense. I’ve heard that some people wear them post birth to hide a muffin top or to keep from showing their tushie when bending down and wearing low cut jeans.
3. Don’t be too good for hand-me-downs. We love hand-me-downs in our family. Our daughter gets more of a kick out of wearing something that her super cool older cousins or friends from church gave her than something brand new. Like her, I really appreciated friends and family who shared their maternity clothes with me. While some sizes didn’t work and some were a different season, the pieces that I was able to add to my wardrobe really helped to expand it. If someone offers, accept graciously, and then do the same for someone else after you give birth.
4. Consider what you already have. Use little tricks to make your existing wardrobe work for you while pregnant. Dress jackets, cardigans, and button up shirts look great when paired with a stretchy t-shirt that fits over your belly. Stretchy waistbands on skirts and pants you already have may work for you for the duration of your pregnancy. Don’t forget that belly band I mentioned earlier—it helps to make your non-maternity tops work throughout your pregnancy. Wear longer shirts—my friend Honor always looked so elegant in long Indian style tunics that a friend had given to her. They weren’t maternity, but they looked good over her growing belly with a pair of leggings, jeans, or slacks. Don’t forget to accessorize to make the same clothes look a little different week after week. Use a rubber band to help you extend the wear on your regular pants and skirts.
5. Plus sizes and pulling from your partner’s wardrobe. During my first pregnancy, I found that there were a few plus sized options at Target that had options of extending the waistbands. These worked better for me than many of the traditional maternity clothes because I could expand them as I needed and they sort of grew with me. When I need something to work outside in the yard, I have pulled from Hubby’s pile of work clothes instead of risking ruining my maternity clothes with stains or grime.
6. Shop garage sales, thrift stores and consignment sales. Probably the most cost effective option will be to shop garage sales and thrift stores. Watch for the words “maternity clothes” in advertisements or shop bigger group sales that might be at churches. Don’t shy away from consignment shops and sales, though. Bargains can be had, especially on the 50% off days.
7. Use coupons and shop sales wisely. There have been some great Target coupons for maternity clothes lately, and if you pair them with sales, you can snag a deal. At the same time, I warn you not to be solely driven by price. If it is an item you might only be able to wear for a few more weeks before the weather shifts into a new season, it isn’t worth making the purchase. Also, if it doesn’t look great on you and it doesn’t make you feel good, DON’T buy it! Many pregnant women, myself included, feel a little self conscious about their girth. If you are wearing something that makes you look more like you are wearing a tent than wearing clothing or if the color doesn’t work with your complexion or if the pattern is something you wouldn’t dare wear if not pregnant, don’t waste your money.
8. Treat stains quickly. I’m a clumsy person; I always have been. I tend to spill things on myself when eating, but now that I have a large belly bumping up against things, I am even more prone to making messes. The worst thing about this tendency is realizing that I might have ruined one of the few pieces of clothing that fits on my body right now. Play both defense and offense when it comes to stains. Use an apron when cooking and wear the apron when eating if you are just with your family. Always put a napkin in your lap. Don’t eat in the car. Use splatter guards and lids when making messy sauces. Then, if you do spill something on yourself, treat it as quickly as possible.
9. Shoes. I so enjoy a beautiful high heel. There is something that feels elegant about a nice dress shoe, something so feminine about a gorgeous pair of heels. While there are plenty of women who are able to wear swanky shoes while pregnant, I am not one of them. I found myself coming home early in the second trimester after a day of being in heels almost cringing as I took each step. If you are anything like me, switch to a basic pair or two of flats that match most of your wardrobe at least mid-way through your pregnancy. I invested in a pair of black ballet flats that were so comfortable and matched everything that I very literally wore them out. If you are pregnant in the summer months, this should be fairly easy for you since sandals, low sling-backs, and flip flops are in season.
10. Underclothes. Watch in the lingerie aisles for bra extenders that will help to lengthen the amount of time you can wear your pre-pregnancy bras. Later in pregnancy, many women switch over to wearing nursing bras without an underwire. Yes, they make plenty of nursing bras with good support that do not have underwire so if you have a bigger bust size speak with someone at a maternity shop about fitting you. While maternity underwear are fine to have, they aren’t necessary. If you have bikinis or brief undies, you will probably find that you can wear them during most of your pregnancy. I wouldn’t, however, recommend thongs—maybe there are some folks who can pull that off, but…well, I’ll not comment further.
I hope that you find these tips helpful when shopping for maternity clothes. As always, if you have any additional tips or tricks under this category, please include them in the comments section so that all might benefit.