Monday, July 23, 2007

Live Well On Less: Breakfast

Living well on less begins before you ever clip a coupon.
The scene: a typical breakfast counter (mine!), with spilled cereal, a jug of milk, and all the extras on the table.

It took me less than two minutes to add beauty to our morning, using containers I already have.

The food is the same...but the meal is not. An attractive table is time well spent.

  • Removing the wrappers from the table is a simple way to introduce generic brands to your family.
  • Using your own containers lets you take advantage of bulk packaging and its cheaper price-per-ounce.
  • Or, take your budget to the next level by making your own yogurt, powdered milk, and jam.

  • No serving pieces? Improvise!

    Substitute a pretty saucer for a butter dish, a tiny cup for jam. Yard sales are a great way to find odd serving pieces. The creamer (which I use for syrup) cost a quarter; mismatched butter knives and jelly spoons cost a quarter or less.

    New to Like Merchant Ships? Here are all the lessons in our Live Well On Less week of study!


    Charity Grace said...

    I love this!!!

    Melissa said...

    This is going to be an awesome series!

    Apostle to Suburbia said...

    I have often noticed the same thing. I have a set of four silver children's napkin rings and cloth napkins. When I use these and set the table for breakfast, as opposed to just laying things out on the counter for the children to graze through as they wish, they feel more satisfied (they've had a real breakfast rather than a few bites of food), they of course sit down and eat properly (making less mess all over the house) and they remember to clear their place, rather than forgetting wrappers or cups on assorted end tables.

    All this requires though a few minutes lead time for Mom to get things in order, but it's well worth it.

    Trina said...

    I look forward to hearing more on this series. Love the ideas so far.

    Amy said...

    This is a great idea, Meredith. We do the same thing in our house. We use our cloth napkins and I always dress our table like we are having company.

    When we have people over they always say, "You didn't have to go to all of this trouble!" My husband laughs and tells them that we eat like that all of the time and it really is true.

    I have two creamers that I use for syrup and pretty platters that I find when I do my thrifting.

    Anonymous said...

    Your ideas are wonderful. I have done many of these things for many years. I have been married 35 years and I have enjoyed so much making our home a beautiful place to be. A haven for my husband and sons to come into.
    One of the other things I do is use pretty little plates and tiny 'berry' bowls as soap dishes in my bathrooms. Also to hold a spoon or spatula when I cook. I almost never use paper plates etc. I like to set the table well. I like to use fabric napkins. I like to make things as nice as possible for my family. Thanks for all you do with your blog. Roxie

    Tracey said...

    Quick question about the milk in the pitcher. I've always thought it was a very attractive way to serve milk, but wondered, does it causes the milk to spoil more quickly?

    We are not huge milk drinkers, and I worry that having it in an open container may cause it to go bad more quickly than in a closed container.

    BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

    I found you via Music City Bloggers...I actually took the time recently to take our sweetener out of the box and put it in a pretty crystal pitcher we had received for our wedding (10 years ago!) that was just in the cabinet collecting dust.

    I'm going to read around and get some more ideas from your lovely blog!

    MamaBirdEmma said...

    It is amazing what a difference putting things into nice containers makes!

    My mom and dad used to have a rule that there was to be no commercial packaging on the table... I think they got the rule from Miss Manners:)

    I can't wait for tomorrow's posts!

    Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

    Great ideas as usual!

    I keep my Splenda packets in a vintage teacup that I liked too much to put it in a closet.

    I started collecting pretty teaspoons (those that look Victorian) a few years ago. Now I'm looking for forks. Did it have anything to do with children who used them outside or husbands who left them at work? Hmmmm...

    Shannon said...

    Meredith - This may be my favorite week so far! I am loving all the courses - this is so much fun and so inspirational:)

    These are wonderful ideas and I'm so encouraged not to "put off" the nice things until the kids are bigger.

    Day by Day said...

    This is so precious. Serving your family as you would unto the Lord.
    Thank you for the encouragement.

    Sherry said...

    Lovely series, really enjoying it.

    Tammy said...

    Just...WOW! is all I have to say! You did a great job showing how little things mean a world of difference!

    DonnaB said...

    Our families are worth the effort. Why do we go to so much effort for company and not for our nearest and dearest? I'm preaching to myself here!

    Mary in MN said...

    Hi Meredith,

    Still love your name (and I may borrow it if we have a girl!!) and am enjoying your blog!

    Speaking of making jam, there's nothing better!! We also freeze a ton of sliced berries, too. They are such a perfect treat in winter. I like to make a ton of tiny jars of jam to give away as little gifts (hostess gifts, Christmas, etc.) throughout the year. Inexpensive and always very much appreciated.

    Thanks and have a great day!

    Mary from Vocation of Motherhood

    Monica Wilkinson said...

    I love putting our cereal in a pretty jar and serving milk in a pitcher. It is amazing how far those little things can go!

    Anonymous said...

    Oh, Meredith, I think this advice needs to be used with caution. I'll give a good bad example ... and I'll stay anonymous:

    My mother-in-law loves the 'grace notes', fancy touches, what-have-you. But she makes herself awfully unpleasant while insisting on them.

    So, if you are the kind of person to rant and rave because a child used THE WRONG PITCHER for the milk... Or the kind to stress the family because company's coming ... and the silver still shows tarnish, then please forgo the finer touches.

    I once heard my mil complain for nearly 20 minutes because my child chose the wrong size ziplock. She sees these kids maybe 7 days a year, and she's making gritchy-grouchy-perfectionist memories, not warm and loving ones.

    So, if grace notes are freely given, they're fine. If they become a point of family stress, I say, "back off."

    Anonymous said...

    Another thought: If you find YOURSELF gritching and grouching, then the grace notes are becoming a point of resentment and stress.

    For example, your mind is saying, "Why is everyone else goofing off, and I'm in here folding dishtowels?" Or "Why am I the ONLY one who does this job?"

    Now, there are ways to gently train family members, but take their preferences into account.

    Mary Ann said...

    I'm already really enjoying the series this week. I do many of these things already but find myself getting slack on little things like commercial packaging at the table- why would I want to wash an extra bowl? I love putting bread in a basket or arranged on a nice plate instead of flopping it on the table in a bread bag. :-)I also hate buying "tub butter" just because I hate how it looks on the table and I'm often too lazy to put some in a pretty bowl.:-)Thanks for the encouragement to continue taking the time. It really is the little things that make our home life so much richer.

    Meredith said...

    Tracey, I would not leave milk in an open pitcher in the refrigerator. Use a small container, and pour only what your family will drink at one meal. I would save milk from meal to meal, but would not pour the whole jug in.

    You can find old-fashioned milk bottle reproductions with tops, too.

    Meredith said...

    Anonymous, I think your cautions would apply to just about any homekeeping task.

    Grace is in the attitude.

    My blog is about the practice of cheerful frugality, and all the ideas I share come from that perspective.

    I suspect that people who complain and criticize about little things also complain and criticize about everything, frugal or not.

    Anonymous said...

    Such a great idea- thanks for sharing how to make the table pretty. I also you note on dishtowels. I love going to my towel drawer and having a beautiful, neat stack to choose from.

    Take Care,


    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for answering, Meredith. And I suspect that you maintain patience and humor when dealing with family foibles. (Elise painting, for example.)

    I have seen people 'wrapped around the axle' about little things that don't matter in the grand scheme of things, when the tension produces a bitter, complaining attitude.

    So, attitude always HAS to come first.

    I think the 'small beauties' post just struck a raw nerve ... prolly because we'll be visiting mil before school starts up again.

    And all the neat towels and elegant silver just don't make up for the 'ziplock tirades.' My kids are afraid to be kids in her perfect house.

    Wish you or your readers could offer some suggestions for visiting people like that. I TRIED the hotel route -- and the in-laws got highly insulted that we wanted to stay somewhere other than their house.

    anonymous again

    Sadie said...

    I discovered your blog yesterday, and I just love this post! It was a great reminder about how simple it can be to make the day more beautiful. Thanks for the ideas!

    Anonymous said...

    I have to add this: Caught up in garage-sale fever, I once bought an ugly, overdecorated set of silverplated candleabras.

    But ...

    now that the girls and their friends are at the teen/tween age, they are ever so much more civilized when we have dinner with candles in those ugly candleabras.

    I think it adds an air of elegance to their imaginations.

    Anonymous said...

    I like your suggestions, Meredith, and wait for the day when I have a table again to use more of them. We're in a small apartment and don't have the room right now for a dining table (well, we maybe could - it would just be too much furniture, though) so we do TV trays.

    To anonymous with the in-law problems - I greatly empathize with you! My in-laws can be the same way in so many ways - very particular. My SIL's boyfriend (now her husband) was once "reprimanded" for adjusting the showerhead! For the most part, they've been pretty good/patient about my son (2 1/2 now) visiting, but it frustrates me when they're unwilling to do some of the little things to child-proof when he's around (outlet covers, temporary drawer locks, etc). A lot, you just have to grin and bear it, unfortunately.

    :o) Rachel said...

    You are amazing!! This is an area I am totally weak. I love pretty things, but can't seem to produce them in my home. I am going to start with breakfast! Thank you and God bless you for sharing your gift with us!
    :o0 Rachel

    TracyMichele said...

    I just had to jump on and leave a comment. I am loving this series you are doing. Last night we had homemade mac-n-cheese, salad and bread. Nothing earth shattering, for sure! But I took your tips, poured the salad dressing into a pretty creamer to spoon out and served the butter for our bread in a matching sugar bowl instead of the tub. The pieces belonged to my grandmother and are very antique looking. Hubs noticed IMMEDIATELY and loved the subtle changes. Thanks for the tips!! Keep 'em coming!

    Anonymous said...

    These lessons have been really great so far!

    I just wanted to add something humorous to the thought that not using packaging on the table can ease a family into generics. I buy almost all my groceries at Aldi, and all my family and friends are well aware of how I sing its praises.

    One day my husband and I were in a 'regular' grocery store, and he began to notice that the 'brands' we had at home were conspicuously missing. He asked where all the Friendly Farms dairy and Fit 'N Active snacks were.... I couldn't help but to laugh a little.

    Grace in Nashville

    Someone Beautiful said...

    I really enjoyed this post Meredith! I feel wasteful sometimes when I use pretty bowls instead of the packages (regularly). It might be because I live in a house with all men (and grew up with all brothers). They are so practical, but you have reminded me to remember the excitement when I regularly make things pretty. That isn't a waste of space to have a few favorite pretty things to serve in. :) P.S. I used to post as might remember the flowers by my name. :) I don't write notes much these days, but I am reading you!

    Alice Gunther said...

    You are so right! Thank you for this great series!

    Anonymous said...

    You are right. It looks nice. I need to be less lazy! :) But I'm often just feeding me so I have a hard time bothering.

    Anonymous said...

    I love all of your ideas and I look forward to your website every day! However, I work alot of hours at our area Humane Society. It's a physically demanding position and I come home from work totally exhausted every night. I am 47, with arthritis, and don't feel as "young" as I used to be! I wish I had time for all of the special things you do for your family. So I just wallow in your that what you meant by "website envy"? LOL! Oh well....I can dream, can't I?

    Nicole said...

    Yay. I found silver (plated) napkin rings, with our Initial engraved on them. I am going to surprise everyone with them.