Dear Sisters,
If you see any good in me, I can promise you it is the work of the LORD Jesus Christ. Getting alone with Him on a daily basis has literally changed my life. How I thank Him. How I thank Him! And how I cling to Him. For I do not trust myself whatsoever. My trust is in Him - my glorious LORD and Strength. His Word is the light unto my daily path. I urge you, I urge you to get alone with Him on a regular basis, if you have not already done so. To drink deeply from His Well (The Word of Life) and to talk to Him in intimate prayer. Every day gets sweeter with Jesus my LORD.

Recently I wrote about keeping track of my food budget in my purse. My food budget is $65 a week, or $260 a month for a family of six: three men's appetites (my husband and two sons) and my two little ones and myself. I use to give us $10 a week per person, then my husband got a raise, so I gave us an extra $5 a week. ~Smile~ Some women have written to ask how I do this. So I thought I would share this week just how I do that.

It all starts with the Word of God. How this beautiful Book teaches me and teaches me His Truth for my job. The best place to find my job description concerning the buying of food is in Proverbs 31.

"She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar." Proverbs 31:14

What is a merchant ship? This wise woman is described as being like the merchant ships in bringing food from afar into her household, so we better take a closer look at exactly what are merchant ships.

"The ships of Tarshish were the carriers for your merchandise. And you were filled and were very glorious in the heart of the seas." Ezekiel 27:25

"Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house." Psalm 128:3

As I studied these passages, I realized how very important my job was in bringing food into this household. The wise woman was not likened to just one merchant ship, but rather to many merchant ships. She was filled and very glorious in the heart of her home, just as the merchant ships were in the heart of the sea. Merchant ships brought delights from far away places such as exotic spices, beautiful herbs, and the best of each country's exports. Merchant ships were loaded with good things at incredible prices. Merchant ships did not come in weekly, rather they were few and far apart. But they were loaded when they did come in! And they were practiced at getting the best possible price for their product. I learned a lot when I studied exactly what it meant to be a merchant ship. Then I began to imitate the Proverbs 31 woman (as I affectionately call her), and began to think "merchant ships" when I went food shopping.

How did this change my food shopping? Well, I stopped shopping so often. What a relief! I started shopping more in bulk. Since I don't shop as much as I use to, I really look forward to it when I do go shopping. I do some of my bulk buying at Costco and another store in town that sells bulk items. I also buy through a local co-op. Once every two or three months I take a 45 minute drive to some special stores in my area that have quality items at good prices. One of them is called Trader Joe's where I can buy quality tea for half the price of my local supermarket, so I will buy five or six boxes there at that time. The Merchant Ships Mentality.

How did this change my cooking? I buy only quality now at the best possible price. When the quality and price is right, I will buy a lot. And if at all possible, I will learn how to make it rather than buy it. The quality is higher that way, and the cost is much, much lower. Also, the less I need to buy, as most items are made with very basic and simple ingredients. So the more I keep increasing my cooking knowledge, the more savings on my food bill and the less items on my grocery list. More instead of very basic items bought in bulk every few months. The Merchant Ships Mentality.

For example, here are some items that I have learned to make at a fraction of the cost in my supermarket: mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, pudding, whipped cream, salad dressing, bread crumbs, cakes, cookies, pies, breads, pizza, crackers, english muffins, bagels, salsa, spaghetti sauce, refried beans, ice cream, granola, oh, I think you get the idea. The main ingredients in many of these items are simply eggs, flour, milk, cream, oil, vinegar, beans, butter, oats, tomatoes, oh, and I think you get the idea. I really only need basic ingredients to make a host of different recipes in my home. I will try to share with you many of these recipes as I go about making them "In My Home This Week."

You see, the more I learn in my kitchen, the more time and money I save in the supermarket. And the richer my family is for it. So I keep building on my former knowledge. (Remember I started out on the bottom here, so there was no way but up. ~Smile~) I try to use everything. Everything! I don't like to throw anything away, so I am consistently trying to make new recipes with left overs. For example, leftover rice: rice pudding or a stir fry, cold oatmeal: oatmeal muffins, fish head: fish soup, dry bread: bread crumbs or bread pudding, turkey bones: turkey soup, mashed potatoes: dumplings, oh, I think you get the idea. Many times my children love the recipe with the leftovers as much as the original dish. Every little bit of savings helps. Every little bit.

I use coupons, if it is feasible. I send in refunds, if it is feasible. I shop from store specials, if it is feasible. But most of my savings come from cooking as much as I can from scratch with the shopping I've done in bulk. Many recipes I will have to reject because the basic ingredients require a package of this or a can of that, which is not a simple, basic ingredient that I buy and tend to always have in my pantry. The simpler, the better.

For example, this past summer I made over 60 pints of apricot and peach jam from our trees. It cost very little to make, except for my time in the heat of the summer and a little sugar. But now I am reaping the benefits as my family enjoys jam all through the winter. I haven't bought jam since last July. This verse also comes to my mind when I am preparing or bringing food into my home like the merchant ships:

"Four things are small on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are not a strong folk, but they prepare their food in the summer." Proverbs 30: 24-25

"Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer, or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest." Proverbs 6:6-8

How often I thought of the above verse when I was making my jam in the heat of the summer. It moved me forward a few pints at a time. For the LORD showed me that the ant couldn't "carry" much at a time due to her small size, but it was her perseverance in the every day daily work that brought her much in the end.

And we can't learn everything in one day, just as the ant can't carry everything in one day. That is why I only write to you once a week. The LORD has shown me that if I wrote more, I wouldn't be able to practice what I write (too much typing and not enough homemaking ~Smile~ and it would be too much information for you to take in all at once.) We can enjoy learning and enjoy practicing what we learn a little bit at a time. Some things are to be saved and savored for later in our lives, perhaps when we don't have a nursing baby waking us up in the middle of the night. But it is the pleasure of learning and practicing new things that enriches our homemaking as the years go on.

The merchant ships mentality. Yes, that is definitely the wise way to bring the best of the best into your home to the delight of your family. It is using everything to its fullest extent for the good of your family's health and pocket book. The LORD is good. The LORD is good. No wonder He said over and over about the Promised Land: "A land flowing with milk and honey." And "I fed you with the finest wheat, honey, and oil." The best, simple, quality ingredients from the LORD used to bake and cook for the ones you love.


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