When our family began discussing whether to participate in this strange venture, I started by asking my friend India how her family "did" Rice & Beans month. Did they ONLY eat rice and bean meals, meaning breakfast, lunch, AND dinner? Or what? She graciously took time to send me her own personal notes over the past several years' experience with this project.
I'm thankful for her input, because...being who I am...I probably could have easily become Pharisaical about this effort. I tend to be an "all or nothing" kind of person, and I like rules and guidelines that I can check off. That is NOT what R&B month is about, and I was grateful to see that the M family's experience varied greatly over the years.
I also read testimonials in the recipe/devotional book, A Common Meal: Reflections and Recipes for Rice & Beans Month. I checked out the web site and the Facebook page, scouring to find ideas and encouragement from past participants. I even began making some tentative meal plans.
And then we found out Ted was going TDY (temporary duty assignment) to Texas for 6 weeks, leaving March 1.
I decided I was NOT going to do this without him! So we talked it over and agreed that we would postpone our own R&B month until sometime after his return.
And somehow the time between April 14 (his arrival back in Italy) and Mother's Day just FLEW! As we looked at the calendar and saw summer and vacation plans looming, we realized that we had better get serious and just do this thing...or else give it up as a lost cause for 2013 and plan to participate next year.
Well, we had already begun discussions with the kids earlier in the year, so we felt accountable to follow through. And we felt strongly that God has some lessons for us to learn, no matter how this first fumbling attempt turns out.
So we began the day after Mother's Day. For us, R&B month looks like this:
- 4 weeks of 6 days each
- One "Celebration Day" each week, during which we are free to eat whatever the kids deem necessary for survival--they are taking turns planning meals!
- The Celebration Day also helps us allow for special outings/events.
Our "food rules" (which, frankly, are held pretty loosely) for the 6 days of R&B meals are as follows:
- No meat
- No junk (pre-processed foods)
- No snacks
- No desserts
- Limited dairy (I do have younger kiddos who still get their milk, and maybe once a week we will have a meal where I sparingly grate cheese over, say, a black bean burger patty or meatless chili.)
So do we NEVER get snacks? Well, no. I try to take into consideration what our activities are that day, plus whatever was served for lunch. If I ONLY serve lentil stew and rice...and I know two of the kids really do not like lentil stew...well, we have sliced apples and peanut butter for a snack.
And do I really not use ANY pre-processed foods? Well, no. I decided to use up whatever cereal we had in the pantry, for example, but encourage oatmeal, grits, or breakfast rice (rice heated with milk, honey, cinnamon, raisins, whatever) when possible. And I have not been able to find dried black beans that aren't in a soup mix at the commissary, so I've used canned black beans. All our other beans are dried, though, and I soak and cook them in bulk. I bake our own bread, which we use for PBJs since we are meat-free and doing very limited dairy. I've popped stovetop popcorn in bulk--we have it for our family movie night, and then I do a few ziplock bags full for having for picnics (or, yes, snacks!) the next week.
So this is how it has gone for us so far, and we are closing in on the end of week 2 already! I must confess that I feel like we could be a lot more stringent...I'm at least trying to be a BIT harder on myself than the kids (I don't always have snacks when they do, for example, even though I could probably easily justify it with the pregnancy...and I do that occasionally, too!). But considering this is our first attempt, and considering we aren't doing this in community with other R&Bers at the same time, I think we are doing all right!
Next R&B post: Some of the lessons we've been learning!