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Our Most Frugal Recipes

March 19th, 2018 at 05:48 pm

Just a disclaimer: we don't eat beef or pork or lamb, but we do eat chicken, turkey and fish. A lot of our meals are vegetarian. Even when we are eating animal protein, we bulk it out with vegetables.

These are all on heavy rotation because they are inexpensive and really yummy:

Salmon cakes with leftover potato, a whole red pepper; made with canned salmon from Trader Joe's. Served with a big salad.

Frittata with spinach and cheese and onions

Crustless quiche - 10 eggs, 1 c milk, with cooked broccoli or other leftover vegetables, sundried tomatoes, leftover chicken or not, leftover potato or not, whatever we have on hand!

Mexican eggs - https://www.nigella.com/recipes/mexican-scrambled-eggs

Asian meatballs - https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/slow-cooker-asian-meatballs/79c76dca-ff5a-4992-8386-fb5d259bfaf3 with rice (crockpot recipe!)

Easy chili with tortillas - 1 lb ground turkey, 1 can kidney beans, 1/2 onion diced fine, 2 cans (or 1 lg. can) diced tomatoes, 26 oz can tomato sauce, package Trader Joe's roasted frozen corn, some chili seasoning (another crockpot!)

Posole - 2 lb bag posole (hominy?), 13 oz tub New Mexico green chile, turkey thighs, 1 onion chopped fine, 1 can Mexican tomatoes, some oregano, water to cover and soak up posole (also crockpot!)

Aloo Gobi - Indian potatoes and cauliflower in the crockpot!

Vegetable Pad Thai

Asian Cauliflower Stirfry with Rice - I use more than one cauliflower! - https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-spicy-roasted-cauliflower-stir-fry-224291

Tostadas - corn tortillas, refried beans, lettuce, salsa, sour cream

Enchiladas - with refried black beans and roasted corn and green onion

Baked Polenta with red sauce and mushrooms, and a vegetable on the side

Polenta and Black Bean Casserole - https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/black-bean-and-polenta-casserole-with-chile-butter - but double the recipe!

Bad Breath Pasta - with spinach, capers, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and kalamata olives

Pasta Carbonara with a big salad or vegetable - weirdly Gwyneth Paltrow's is the best - https://www.popsugar.com/food/Gwyneth-Paltrow-Carbonara-Recipe-41083033

Pasta with zucchini and goat cheese - https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/pasta-zucchini-goat-cheese

Frugal Things for Sunday

March 18th, 2018 at 03:02 pm

It is snowing outside which sort of wrecks our plan to play basketball today, but it's beautiful and we need the snow, so I'm happy! We did all of our grocery shopping this morning before it started snowing, and the house is 75% clean (still a couple of rooms to do).

I am sitting here with an extra pair of socks and a warm cat next to me. I was watching the latest episode of Timeless on nbc.com but decided to take a break.

So, frugal things:

1. Instead of going out to eat, we got salads from Trader Joe's; it's not making things from scratch, but it's not going out either. A compromise, but still a treat.

2. Watching Timeless on nbc. com (we don't have cable or a netflix subscription which saves a lot). We watch very little tv.

3. Found an old pair of fingerless gloves that I knitted a long time ago and gave them to F who loves them. They are super soft. Glad someone will get wear out of them!

4. Dinner tonight is what we call French Dinner! Olives, cheese, crackers and a vegetable (asparagus tonight). Frugal and yummy and reminds us of when we were in France.

Because we did not go anywhere for Spring Break...

March 16th, 2018 at 02:31 pm

Because we did not go anywhere for Spring Break...

1. We saved a lot of money! So...

2. We are able to go to Europe this summer! (OK, this obviously WHY we are not going anywhere for Spring Break, but I keep reminding all of us that we have a super-great trip planned for June).

3. F had a friend over who also stayed in town during the break, too, and I got to hang out with the mom for a little bit and get to know her better (this is harder when your child is in middle school; it was much easier in elementary). She is super nice! (As is her daughter).

4. I was able to splurge for a few things: took F out to lunch one day, another day bought her that overpriced "thinking putty" and today took her to Meow Wolf (hard to explain - you need to look it up).

5. I am making money teaching at the gym rather than scrambling for subs.

6. We are going to visit D at his office next week (he works a 40 min drive away); F has never seen his office, and D's coworkers REALLY want to meet her! We will visit the museum up there, too.

7. F is here for every soccer practice and game and the coaches are very appreciative because a lot of girls are out of town. We have to borrow girls for tomorrow because we only have 9 players!

8. We will have a fun Albuquerque day next week with Vietnamese food. I can buy F a few new things at Old Navy - she has grown so tall!

Five Frugal Things for Spring Break

March 12th, 2018 at 07:52 pm

F is off for two weeks (Spring Break!) and we are not going anywhere, so having fun at home...

Five Frugal things:

- F and I went to the gym to attend my friend L's class (she teaches the same class I do, but on Mondays). Because I teach there, I am free and my immediate family is free!

- F and I went to the library today and she got four books; we don't buy books. This should last through the week I hope. But if we need to go back, we can...

- Dinner tonight was tostadas, my most frugal dinner. A $1 package of corn tortillas, $1 can of refried beans, a little sour cream, a little salsa and some lettuce. D uses a little bit of grated cheese, too.

- F went to Karate this afternoon; we pay monthly, so the more she goes, the less expensive it is. She can go 3x/week.

- Tomorrow is D's birthday! We are having a nice dinner at home (because we're all getting home really late!) and flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream (yes, homemade! - way less expensive. F made him a card, and we got him a breakfast burrito from the best place in town for his breakfast. I hope it's a good day even though he has to work!

oh - and #6 - we are not going anywhere for Spring Break!

Thoughts on Personal Purchases

March 11th, 2018 at 04:11 pm

I am sitting here happily watching the snow fall outside... I know the East Coast is getting hammered, but we're very happy to have this snow. We've had a below-normal year here at the tail-end of the Rocky Mountains. So we don't need to water out trees today - hooray! Probably a savings of about $1, but still...

So, about 2 months into the year, and I've done well with my plan to minimize buying things for myself. I am not talking about experiences or consumables. The only thing I've bought this year is a new pair of trainers. My other pair were pretty broken down, and since I teach a fitness class, it's not good for my feet, legs, back... The money came out of the fitness budget, which I track separately, deducting from the money I make from the gym. I will keep the receipt for next year's taxes.

There are things I'd like to buy but haven't. First on that list is a new pillow. My pillow is great, but it's feather, and I have allergies. I do better with a foam pillow, but I like the feel of feathers. Maybe Mother's Day...

Other than that, there is nothing that I need and very little that I want very much.

So the personal spending is very low.

We spent the day yesterday at F's soccer game. We brought packed lunches for after the game. We ate brunch at home because F couldn't eat lunch before (game started at noon and they warm up at 11:15). This eliminated the cost of eating out afterward, and she was able to eat right away (she was so hungry! She is a left-winger and was not subbed the entire time!). Not sure if everyone thinks that watching U14 soccer is a great Saturday, but we do!

Today, F had her Karate belt test. She missed the class test yesterday because of soccer, so we had to do a private test (cost is $70). The private cost is for an hour, and the test only took 15 minutes, so she had a private lesson for the rest of the time which was great! She had fun, we had fun watching.

Spent the rest of today reading a book on my phone (free on Hoopla), drinking tea and going to the grocery store. We spent $121. My friend whose daughter plays soccer with F said that he never spends less than $200. It's all relative.

This week's menu is:
S - cauliflower stirfry (Vegetarian)
M - tostadas (Vegetarian)
T - baked penne with turkey (D's birthday dinner! It will be post-soccer practice so late, but he has a work thing until 6:45 anyway)
W - baked potato bar with chili, cheese, sour cream, green onions (Vegetarian) - friends coming over for dinner and he can't eat cheese, so we go with a baked potato bar approach and a side salad. I will make the chili without any turkey burger in it because we'll have had turkey the night before.
Th - salmon souvlaki with rice, cucumber, feta, greek olives and raita (I love raita! I got Greek yoghurt and F can have yoghurt with berries for breakfast one morning, too)
F - fennel salad and black bean taquitos (Vegetarian)

Building up Reserves

February 28th, 2018 at 08:18 am

End of February, so I am taking a look at YNAB to see how the spending went...

We are negative in the following categories:
- Pets: because our dog has arthritis and a thyroid condition - we bought her expensive arthritis chews (but they work, and she's worth it). Also she had her bloodwork redone so that we could adjust her thyroid meds. $34 over
- Doctors: because we paid the hospital (two separate bills) for F's ER visit in January (when she had hives). And my many visits to doctors, acupuncturist, naprapathist to get over pneumonia. I am almost well! $132 over
- Drugs: I had to get another inhaler which I am still using once a day in my recovery from pneumonia. $22 over.

But... we are also building up other categories.
- Now have $300 in house repairs.
- Leftover in Dining/Groceries is about $175!
- $750 in auto servicing; I need a service soon, so that's good
- $300 in karate
- $224 in dentist (not sure we will need this with our amazing dental plan but we're keeping it in case a filling or something needs to be replaced)
- lots of other categories with money building up for once a year expenses

We also have $1250 in Camp, but F is not really interested in camp this summer. She'll probably do one camp (soccer of course) and then we'll be gone for 3 weeks overseas. That's 4 weeks. And she can help me out in the office. And we'll go to the pool (there is enough money to pay for our pool membership accrued in that category already).

Doing Our Taxes, Part I

February 24th, 2018 at 01:11 pm

We are gathering up the info for our taxes.

D needs to get me the following:
- side income (schedule C)
- income and expenses from the Dublin house
- foreign taxes paid
- max. amount in our Irish savings and checking accounts (so we can do our FBAR)

Missing (not sent to us yet):
- W2 from the gym

Since the taxes are all different this year, I have no idea how this is all going to come out.

But I know these things for sure:
- we always use the standard deduction (not enough for itemized)
- we paid almost $7000 in estimated taxes for 2017; I am so hoping we get some of that back (we also paid payroll taxes on our income)
- my business had only a very small profit this year (so that should limit extra tax incurred)
- the big "wild card" is the income we make on our Dublin house; technically we pay tax on that in Ireland and then get a tax exclusion, but it never really works out that way because in Ireland that is our only income (lower tax bracket) and here it is added to our other income (higher tax bracket)

I will let you know how it works out!!

Also - if you file FBAR, just want to remind you that it is due April 15th just like the taxes (in the olden days - like a couple of years ago) it was due in June.

Spending - End of the Month

February 23rd, 2018 at 04:34 pm

I got paid by the gym today! It was my first day back teaching since I got pneumonia, and it went well... I used only the bar (no weights on it) which was probably a good idea. Bench press was the hardest because my ribs are still bruised. It is going to take a long time to get back to where I was, but it was really good to go through different motions to increase my flexibility. I am embarrassed to say that I didn't even open the envelope to see how much I made.

I went to the acupuncturist afterward, and that was really great. She gave me some tai chi lung exercises to do. My acupuncturist was actually recommended by my doctor; she is known for helping women through peri-menopause so I was already seeing her about every 6 weeks. When I asked me doctor if I should see her for my lungs she said absolutely yes. My doctor practices western medicine, by the way, but this is Santa Fe where alternative is not alternative. The cost of the acupuncturist might be a splurge, but right now especially I am ok spending money on my health. $45.

Tonight - party for F's soccer team. We are picking up a pizza to share, and so is everyone else. There is going to be a lot of pizza. $16.

So, the meal plan for the week (we will shop on Sunday):
- kimchi quesadillas (https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/kimchi-quesadilla-with-charred-scallion-aioli-korean-cabbage-slaw) - I found the recipe on the website, so this is not coming in a box!
- salmon cakes (already have a tin of salmon and some leftover mashed potato, also scallions - need to pick up a red pepper)
- asian meatballs (will use the rest of the scallions, need turkey burger)
- ottolenghi red rice and quinoa (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/feb/24/foodanddrink.recipes1) - we have the red rice and the quinoa, have apricots and pistachios and rocket... just need a white onion)
- roasted veggies and potatoes - red onion, beets, courgettes, brussels sprouts or whatever is on sale!
- artichoke pasta (D won't be happy - he isn't in love with this recipe, but it's so good! Lemon zest and artichoke puree... I will maybe try to jazz it up a little to convince him that artichokes are awesome).

So using up the things in the fridge - always frugal!

Trip to San Francisco - Fun and Expensive!

February 22nd, 2018 at 06:15 pm

The trip to San Francisco was so much fun, but, wow, that is an EXPENSIVE city.

We did not rent a car, but my brother has a two-door car with only two seatbelts in the backseat. So we ended up having to Uber more than we would have liked because we were in places not on public transport lines. I would have walked more, but still recovering from pneumonia. I actually did walk a lot anyway, and I think it was actually beneficial for my lungs (we live at 7000' elevation, and there was a lot more air down there!).

My brother is sort of fancy. We ate some amazing meals, but expensive. He bought the two most expensive meals which was nice of him, but then my brother picked this tea place and we reciprocated. And we saw a good friend of mine and took him out to breakfast because there were three of us and just one of him, and he is financially strapped at the moment. He gave us a copy of his book (it is beautiful!) and that was our only "souvenir."

That's all we bought - just food and transportation.

Well... we also bought tickets to Color Factory several months ago... that was a really fun experience! If you are going to SF, it is worth it, but you need to get tickets well in advance (you can't buy them there).

We walked a lot, saw a lot, went on the cable car. Went to the Golden Gate Bridge and did a free scavenger hunt I found online. Walked around Chinatown. Met an old high school friend and her husband and kids and walked all around Golden Gate Park (around the De Young and the pedalboat pond). She brought snacks which was nice!

Since we mostly did free things and my brother paid for the two most expensive meals, the cost of the trip wasn't as bad as it could have been. It was a weird hybrid between how we usually travel and how my brother does things. But I was so glad to see him!

And one of the meals was so good, I am still thinking about it... the restaurant is about to get a Michelin star apparently. It was a vegan sushi restaurant called Shizen. I've never eaten at a restaurant like that before. If you are wealthy, and especially if you are vegan, it is a once in a lifetime experience!

Going to San Francisco!

February 13th, 2018 at 10:09 am

I had a doctor's visit yesterday and was cleared to travel to San Francisco this weekend!

I am still not 100%, but that could take a month, so we are going to go and try to have a low-key trip. We have some things planned (a trip to ColorFactory, dinner with my brother, brunch with my good friend who is like my Chinese brother). We are staying near Chinatown and it's Chinese New Year's, so we want to walk (slowly!) through Chinatown. See the sea lions at Pier 39? Cable car (we are on a cable car line).

My doctor said it will feel like I have a ton of air because San Francisco is at sea level and we live at 7000'. I hope so!

We did not know if we were actually going until yesterday. F wrote me a note this morning: "Dear Mommy, I'm so excited to go to San Francisco! I just can't wait! I'm writing this letter because wanted to say how excited I am, and that I don't want you to feel bad because we have to go slow. We all (myself included) need a break sometimes. I'm so excited to go to Color Factory! And I can't WAIT to see Uncle D and N! Love, F."

I called the airline and I have a wheelchair to make our connection in case I need it (we have less than an hour to connect; I can't run).

The next thing to deal with is how to get from the airport to the hotel. Normally we'd take the BART, but it takes too long and too much walking up and down steps. Looked at shuttles but the reviews are atrocious. So we'll take a cab. But I need to be able to reject a cab if the driver is wearing cologne/perfume or if they've got an air freshener; I need an unscented cab.

Anyway, lots to think about, but very excited!

FBAR (reporting foreign bank accounts)

February 9th, 2018 at 04:11 pm

In addition to our taxes, we have to file FBAR each year (reporting of foreign bank accounts). This is in addition to showing any interest earned or money earned in Ireland on our taxes.

You have to do this if at any point during the previous year the total of your foreign accounts was over $10k. Not euro10k, but in dollars. We've had to do it the past five years or so.

The thing I don't like about it is that it it is under FinCen (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network). It's like the assumption is that your committing a crime by having a bank account in another country.

Since I married my husband, there have been a lot of judgements (why couldn't you meet someone in the US? why did you keep the Irish house? why didn't you cut your ties to Ireland/UK? is your marriage real since you're older and he's younger? don't you like American men?). These are real questions from real people. It just gets old. This feel like one more example: "why do you still have a foreign bank account when you live in the US now?"

We have nothing to hide. We have that account because we lived in that country and I am very glad we kept it. We earn rental income on our house there (yes, we pay Irish taxes on that income, and we declare it on our US taxes). The bank account is the easiest way to transfer money between countries (we use Transferwise) and when we travel there, we just use that account (taking money out at ATMs) rather than out of our US account.

Do any of you also file FBAR? Does it make you kind of annoyed each time you file also?

Grocery Delivery and Update on Meal Service

February 8th, 2018 at 01:07 pm

Here are the facts:
- I am recovering from pneumonia
- My husband called me from work yesterday to say he has a cold!
- He is in exile in the spare bedroom. I wiped down the entire house; he is not allowed out of the bedroom except to use the bathroom which is designated as his now.
- He was supposed to be taking over most of the housework, making meals, dishes, driving F around, etc, and now he can't do that.

So... I have more to do, but I am feeling better day by day, and I can do some of it.

Grocery Delivery:
But I did NOT want to go to the grocery store. So I ordered online! Sprouts now has online delivery here. It was $8.98. I hope they actually bring what I ordered. My mother is covering the cost of the groceries and delivery because she wanted to do something nice for me. That is so nice!

Meal Service:
I wrote about the meal service gifted to us by my almost-sister-in-law. We had the first meal last night. As someone mentioned - wow that is a lot of waste in the packaging! Yikes! The food was pretty good. My sister in law is vegan, so the meal service is vegan (we are not vegan, but mostly vegetarian). I subbed out the vegan yoghurt for yoghurt we had on hand. It was a lime coleslaw, pan fried hearts of palm and basmati rice. I added some of our own rice. I would make the meal again on my own, but not vegan. I don't have an issue with dairy. Tonight's dinner is a farro risotto. I can't eat farro (it's not gf), so I will sub our own rice. There is tofu "feta." I am using real feta. I don't eat tofu.

My thoughts on Purple Carrot:
- Like that it's vegetable based, but not that it's vegan.
- You have to cook the meals yourself of course; I think it might've been better to send something that we only needed to heat up, because right now it'd be great not to have to cook.
- But I am getting some new recipes. I would have never thought of hearts of palm as a main!
- I think I have too many dietary restrictions for this to make sense.
- I'm cooking anyway, so I'm not sure how this makes it easier. Just a lot more little plastic things to open.
- Would never order one of these meal services again... but it was fun to try it at no cost!

Purple Carrot

February 7th, 2018 at 10:35 am

My very sweet not-sister-in-law (but we're hoping that she is my actual sister-in-law one day) wanted to send us food since I've been sick. She decided to send one of those food box services like Hello Fresh, but not Hello Fresh because she and my brother are vegan.

Well, there's a vegan Hello Fresh. It's called Purple Carrot. The meals came today. Three meals, so over the next three days we are having:
- Baja Bowls (with hearts of palm)
- Tomato Farro Risotto
- Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

The meals sound good! We eat mostly vegetarian. But we are not vegan, so I am going to sub out their Veganaise for my own mayo, their vegan butter for my own regular butter, their vegan mozzarella and cream cheese for my own.

The meals are supposed to feed 2 people, and we are three, so I am going to try to bulk things up with stuff from my own pantry (I have polenta, basmati rice, risotto rice etc.). We bought a can of hearts of palm.

I would never use a meal service like this, because seriously - $72 for three dinners? But as I mentioned, I didn't pay for this, and it was very sweet of her to send it.

If we like the meals, they give you the list of ingredients and recipes, so we could make them again. Pretty certain I could make these meals for less than $24 a meal!!! I mean, polenta, black beans, green chile, cream cheese and spinach - that is like $5!

Have any of you done meal services like this? Did you like them? Did you do it save money or for convenience or ??

Update on Paying Ourselves Back

February 6th, 2018 at 11:33 am

I know there are going to be medical expenses associated with F's visit to the ER for hives and for my pneumonia (chest xray), but right now, this is where we stand:

Medical - balance is positive for both doctors and drugs, and this is after a lot of miscellaneous expenses (drugs, had to buy a humidifier)

Estimated Taxes - done; although we will probably have to start paying estimated taxes again after we do our taxes. Not sure; we did extra withholding out of D's paycheck. He no longer has Schedule C income.

General Savings - We still need to bolster this a little bit. I figure even if we put in $100 a month, that will be fine.

School Savings - We are putting $500/month into school savings, I hope. I need to create a new category. This will mean that we eventually have the tuition before it's due, and we can pay on their May/November plan which avoids the monthly installment charges. It also means that we are done paying for private school around when she starts 12th grade, and the remainder of the money can be there for her first year of college.

Speaking of college... we have several plans, and since F is only 12, who knows how this will go:
- UC system? D's employer has a relationship with the UC (university of california) system that means children of employees pay in-state fees (even though we live in a different state)
- UK or Ireland - their college fees are about what we pay for private high school; we own a house there, and would move over there with her.
- Canada - I have Canadian citizenship; I actually think F would love Canada, so this is on the list.
- Ivy League school that pays most of tuition - this is only for kids that can get into these schools, but currently F is top of her class at an academic private school (will be in Geometry Honors in 8th grade). She is a really amazing student, participates in some interesting sports... you never know. I'm sure her school will encourage her to apply to at least a couple of Ivy League schools.

Spent a Lot on Being Sick and My Opinion on Meal Planning

February 4th, 2018 at 09:46 am

So first... I have spent a ton of money on being sick. I have pneumonia (no comments please, I am getting better and I've heard it all from my friends). Bought a humidifier, loads of drugs, I'm sure the copays are going to be awful. Missed teaching my classes (so I won't get that income). It's frustrating now that I'm starting to feel better. But I AM feeling better, and that's all that matters.

Enough of that (believe me, I've had enough of it).

On to meal planning.

So one of the things about being home in bed/on sofa for over two weeks is that I've been on the internet A LOT. We don't have tv. I did watch a series (A House through Time) which I loved and a movie (Hidden Figures) which I loved. And for some reason my facebook feed is full of "Prep 5 Dinners in an Hour" which I don't love. There was a lunch version, too, which I watched because it was a cute little girl and since I've been sick F has been making her own lunch.

The Lunch One - not enough food!!! I was horrified! If I sent F with some veggies and dip, a piece of cheese and a muffin, she wouldn't make it through the day! She does do a lot of sports. But seriously!

My Lunch Planning:
- a main (deviled eggs, caprese sandwich, turkey wrap, burrito, dolmas, avocado/tomato wrap)
- a veggie (carrots/celery/cucumber/snap peas and dip, a salad)
- a fruit
- a starch (chips/salsa, popcorn, seaweed, japanese rice crackers)
- a dessert (yes, I give her a dessert - usually a small piece of chocolate)
- a snack for some other time during the day (nuts, string cheese, trail mix, hardboiled egg, dried mango or pineapple)

And the Five Dinners in an Hour - I've seen a bunch of these, and they are all based on CHICKEN and BEEF and PORK. Every night is meat-based. We are not vegetarian, but a lot of our meals are. Most of the Five Dinners had almost NO vegetables in them - ack!

My Meal Planning for six nights:
- Something with Fish (tuna melts with a salad, fish with a veg and rice, souvlaki bowl, teriyaki bowl with red peppers/bok choy, salmon cakes with red peppers)
- Something with Pasta (red sauce with zucchini, carbonara and a big salad, pad thai with lots of veggies, pasta with balsamic and spinach)
- Something with Eggs or Potatoes (crash potatoes/vegetable, frittata with spinach, Mexican eggs, baked potatoes/vegetable, aloo gobi in the crockpot)
- Something Bready/Cheesy (enchiladas with black beans, risotto with peas, quesadillas with guacamole, roasted veggies and rice, tostadas, polenta with beans or veggies)
- Something with Chicken (roasted chicken in the crockpot, baked penne, chicken queso casserole with the leftover crockpot chicken, posole in the crockpot, asian meatballs in the crockpot)
- Something from the Freezer (leftover from earlier meals!)

I know my meal plan doesn't get everything done ahead of time, but I organize my meals based on activities that evening. Some nights, it needs to be cooking away in the crockpot. Some nights the 13 minutes it takes to make pasta (I prep everything while the pasta is cooking so I can get dinner on the table in 15 mins) is ok. Some nights I can spend some time making dinner (enchiladas, pad thai, souvlaki bowls).

I am putting this out there in case it helps someone... or maybe gives you new dinner ideas. If you have an awesome (fast) dinner idea that is vegetable based esp. if it is made in the crockpot, I would love to hear it!!

Two New Recipes

January 5th, 2018 at 06:56 am

We're trying to eat more veggies and less chicken/turkey (we currently eat chicken/turkey about 2-3 x each week).

So I found three new recipes to try...

1. Spicy cauliflower stirfry - asian spices, cauliflower with rice. Cauliflower is often on sale at our supermarket (Sprouts).

2. Salmon souvlaki bowls - greek inspired - we love feta! Salmon is a once every other week treat, so this isn't really a super budget recipe, but sounds yummy!

3. Brown rice bowls with roasted veggies and lemon-soy dressing. I may have to make double the dressing!

Do you have any vegetarian (or fish) recipes that you really love?

End of 2017

December 30th, 2017 at 07:13 pm

It's been a year of highs and lows... some financial, some not as financial. Highs and lows, give and take.

1. We paid off the mortgage! This is 100% awesome... and it happened in 2017.

2. D got a new job! Also awesome! And at the end of 2017 he started getting every other Friday off... he's so happy! The salary increase and the health insurance were a big deal for our family. The only drawback is his work is 35 mins. away... spending more on gas and I am not only the primary parent on duty, but the only parent on duty.

3. F started 7th Grade (Middle School)l! This has been good (her grades are amazing, A+ in Latin, History and Algebra and A in everything else) and bad (a few 7th graders are boy-crazy and gossipy and it makes her crazy). And good (she loves the sports) and bad (a friend who has made some new friends who are more "exciting").

4. No Vacations - no, we didn't really have a vacation in 2017 (unless you count seeing my parents at Thanksgiving), but we have two trips planned for 2018! It seems like we're spending a lot and it's freaking me out, but we have the money budgeted. Spring: San Francisco. Summer: Ireland, Portugal.

5. Spent More on Food - Ugh. This makes me crazy and this month is particularly bad. D is making more money and I need to understand that he's making some sacrifices in order to bring these benefits to our family, so I need to budget more in 2018 for his weekly lunch out and his occasional coffees. This is something we didn't budget for before, and now that he's making more, I need to add that to the 2018 budget.

6. My Business Made a Profit - And I was able to put $2000 in my SEP.

7. Started Teaching at Another Gym - Which brings in about $100 a month extra! Sometimes it's hard when I have a lot going on at work but it's fun, and I'm feeling more connected to my students.

8. Now two of us can't eat gluten - Doctor's orders because of F's stomach issues, but it does add to our grocery budget. On the other hand - her stomach is great!

9. F started Karate - she's done so well and is now a green belt white stripe; they do karate and self defense. This is an added expense, but worth it.

So - some increase spending, but we're making more money, too, and on balance saving more.

End of the Year Business Money

December 28th, 2017 at 04:21 pm

So after paying for various things this year in order to make my profit less for 2017, I moved money from an online account to my regular checking account to cover those things. I chose to transfer the money today rather than tomorrow or the 29th or 30th or 31st...

A few minutes later I got an email that says: "Your request for an immediate transfer from your account to your external bank account has been received. You should expect to see the funds in your external account within 2-5 business days."

What? Two to five DAYS? I panicked and moved money from my business savings account, but I'll still be $656 short unless the transfer is more like 2 or 3 days rather than five. Five days? I'm pretty angry about that!

It should work out because my landlord usually takes a week or two to cash the rent check, but I am going to have to watch the account carefully and transfer from my personal account if I need to.

If you have a small business, do you "spend out" your business account at the end of the year? My business is an S-Corp (pass through). I am taxed on my profit, so I want to minimize that.

I did put $2000 into my SEP which is great - that means I had a profit this year, which was amazing because I didn't have any large projects, just a bunch of small stuff. Next year, fingers crossed, I'll get a larger project and things will be easier!

Paying Ourselves Back part III

December 26th, 2017 at 05:53 pm

A quick update on "paying ourselves back." Even though I finished Christmas shopping in November, in December we spent a lot on Christmas gifts for various people: coaches, teachers, F's three best friends, etc... We didn't spend a lot but it added up.

We were still able to make progress on paying ourselves back for various things:

Fence (this is for our dog): paid off as of 12/21!

Medical (unexpected): $19 left but this will go up because we have a $130 bill.

Estimated Taxes: paid off as of 12/22 AND we have $240 in there for the next estimated taxes due on 1/15/18. Not nearly enough to cover it, but we should be able to add some with D's next paycheck. I am really hoping that we don't need to pay as much in estimated now that D has his new job and we adjusted withholding.

Fully Fund IRAs: fully funded as of 12/4

Repay General Savings: still need to start work on this; we owe ourselves $1280.

We will have a new item to pay down in the new year. We are buying a painting from a friend of mine who is a famous artist and illustrator. He sells prints, but this will be an original painting. I was embarrassed to ask because his paintings go for thousands, but he said he could do a custom painting with our dog in it for $500 (and I know this is because he's a friend; I am so grateful). Did I mention that he's one of the nicest people I've ever known? Anyway, $500 for the painting we promised ourselves when we paid off the mortgage. We'll hang it so it can be seen from the front door.

That's it!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday (whatever you celebrate!) and that it didn't put you into debt...

I'm Still Here!

December 21st, 2017 at 04:07 pm

It's been a crazy winter break so far! I've had F home but have also had meetings and work to do. Have not been able to blog here, but I am here now!

So here are some financial and not-very-financial facts:
- I taught F to knit! This is keeping her brain and hands occupied!
- I went to two pre-proposal conferences for possible projects; I had to take F to one of them. There will be another right after the holidays, so three possible projects.
- Had my office Christmas lunch today. Since I am the only employee, and F is working for me during break, I took her!
- It's been unseasonably warm which is sad. No white Christmas.
- Once again I was in charge of gifts for the soccer coaches. We had contributions from the team members. Some pitched in $20 and some $25. We did $25. We had enough for $95 gift cards to our local movie theater (the one that serves food in the theater!). I made it $100 each. I am hoping two of the $20 people will add $5 each so I don't have to do $35.
- F had her annual well-check today; she is doing very well on a GF diet (digestively speaking - all problems gone!) and a side benefit is that her allergies are also better. So... no gluten. It's hard for a 12 year old. Not the food, but the attitude of other 7th graders.
- We went to F's conferences... A+ in Algebra, History and Latin. A in English and Science, PE and Acting. English teacher said it would be A+ but she can't give an A+ in English due to school policy. All of the teachers wanted to make sure she wasn't spending all her time doing homework. She has less than an hour a night, usually half an hour. She gets it done in school so she can go to her sports!
- I played basketball yesterday. Swimming tomorrow. F is keeping me busy.
- Dinner is all planned through next Friday. I bought almost everything. Just need to get fresh veggies tomorrow. I don't want to be in the stores on Saturday!
- Saturday is a mother-daughter get-together with F's three best friends hosted her closest friend who has to go be with her dad on the Navajo reservation for a week right after Christmas.
- Sunday we'll have frito pies because I can't make tamales anymore (too time-consuming!).
- I worked out my business income; I am waiting to invoice my clients on the first because the gross receipts tax is going up.

That's it for now... need to get dinner going soon!

How is your holiday season going?

Paying Ourselves Back part II

November 29th, 2017 at 08:25 am

We are still working hard at paying ourselves back for some long term costs...

Dog Fence - $591 left to pay off (but the fence is done and it's GREAT! We can let our dog out on her own now!)

Medical Expenses - $287

Estimated Taxes - $630 (and I would really love to get this paid off asap because our next estimated taxes are due in January. We should have it paid off in December some time).

Fully Fund IRAs for the year - $600 - This is budgeted and will be fully funded by Dec.! Yay!

After all of these are paid off, we will start bolstering our emergency fund/savings.

Thanksgiving Expenses

November 28th, 2017 at 08:22 am

Things are quiet around here... we just got back from a trip to my parents' for Thanksgiving.

Because my brother is vegan and would not attend if the food wasn't ALL vegan (so no turkey, no butter, no cheese), it was a pretty inexpensive Thanksgiving in terms of food. I told him that since his diet is very restrictive, he should probably do the cooking and he agreed. I just had to make a salad and salad dressing. He did tell me "No one eats salad dressing anymore" but I made it anyway. I like salad dressing. (In case you are wondering, what people do now is just drizzle a little bit of balsamic, but I have a really nice recipe with red wine vinegar. Everyone ate the salad, even with dressing on it). I am being sarcastic and snarky, but I don't care.

So, the expenses I did not need to pay for:
- Hotel room (we usually stay with my mom but she didn't want anyone staying there and got a couple of hotel rooms which were she paid for).
- Lunch on Wednesday (my mom had cleaned out her refrigerator for Thanksgiving and asked us to go out to eat when we arrived, but she wanted to reimburse us which was nice)
- Rental car, because my mom let us use her car which was really nice!
- Entertainment - Because we hung out with cousins, had the Friday family soccer game, walked on the Third Street Promenade with my brother and his girlfriend. It was fun!
- Shopping - the only thing we bought was a magazine for F (that is her usual treat when we visit my parents).

Expenses we did pay for (total about $325):
- Uber to and from the airport ($25 each way!) but my mom couldn't pick us up...
- Dinner out on Wednesday night (my mom did not want any un-needed cooking at her house); we had sushi!
- Sandwiches for me and F for lunch on Thursday before Thanksgiving; my mom went and got sandwiches for everyone but us because we have to eat Gluten Free and she didn't understand that she could ask for GF bread, so we walked down to the Whole Foods and had lunch together. Good mother-daughter time which we both loved because there were a lot of people around - like a mini-escape!)
- Petsitting - Wonderful woman and I left her extra because we've paid off the house and I hope she can use it for Christmas!
- Turkey Trot 5k for the three of us - F did really well! She came in 8th out of 133 for girls 14 and under.

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, too! Hope your food was better than ours, though. Snarky again.

Trip Planned

November 17th, 2017 at 10:35 am

We purchased the tickets for our trip back to Ireland... we will get the tickets to the UK later (I think we are flying into Bristol from Dublin to be close to D's dad in Gloucester).

We are going in late June and D is coming home about 4 days before F and I. We'll stay a couple of extra days with friends. We'll just hang out and I'll show her all of my favorite spots, since the last time she was there, she was nearly 5 but doesn't remember much. Also - she has an Irish name, and has never met anyone else with her name, so we are trying to arrange a party where our friends come and bring other girls with her name!

We'll go to the seaside (we have the Rio Grande, but that's the only body of water near us!). We'll go down to Mary and Henry Streets and to D's alma mater (Trinity). We'll go to the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin and up to the castle at Malahide. Maybe out to Powerscourt if we get a nice day! Howth or Dun Laoghaire. So looking forward to seeing our friends, too!

The tickets were paid for by saving money each month and credit card rewards. We have been saving for two years (since the last trip). We still have about $3400 in our vacation account even after buying the plane tickets!!

Update on our payback to ourselves:
Estimated Taxes - $635 to go
Medical - $387
Fence project - $777

The fence and gate are finished and it's such a relief. We can now let our dog out in a secure area. Where we live there are very few fences... no fences between properties. It's unusual, and sort of annoying. We had to get approval from the neighborhood association to build this fence.

Financing my own Debt

November 7th, 2017 at 10:35 am

I use YNAB, and I think a lot of you do as well, but I don't use it exactly as it's meant to be used. Sometimes I let a category go negative for a few months, and rather than moving money from other categories to cover it, I just pay down the negative over several months. I guess I could move money around, but for me this lets me keep track better.

It works because the other categories have plenty of money in them and we live on the previous month's income, so there is always enough money in our checking account.

So here are the things I'm self-financing right now:
- Current household project- fenced in area for our dog - this is at -$94
- Unexpected medical expenses -$257
- Estimated taxes from September - $635

I used extra money this month and set up a math problem so I was allocating it to each debt proportionally. I like math!

We should have all of these paid off before Christmas. Just in time for another estimated tax payment in January!


November 3rd, 2017 at 01:45 pm

It's been forever since I've written anything!

I am trying hard to keep spending under control, and there are a few things that are messing with my plan. I can't be too upset, though, since D is making more at his new job and there is money left over each month.

1. Karate - because of all of F's sports (schedule conflicts), we are having her do private lessons once a week. It's not cheap. But it is really worth it particularly in terms of her confidence.

2. Medical Costs - I have been going to a psychologist once a month to get strategies/techniques for F for her anxiety. It is well worth it, and the best part is that the woman I'm seeing doesn't require F to go. She offers this as an alternative for kids who already have a lot in their schedules or who feel like there's stigma to seeing a counselor. She has some GREAT techniques and comments. Middle school is hard, and even harder for a kid with anxiety!

3. Food Costs - Combination of out-of-town visitors and just higher prices. It's been hard to stay in budget. Also, I have to spend a lot on nuts and avocados and other good protein for F is constantly on the move.

So, what's been up?
- I had a birthday (but my birthdays are inexpensive because it's Halloween and mostly we just go trick-or-treating"
- F was asked to run varsity x-country next year
- We have new soccer coaches and they are AMAZING - two women which is great for girls this age. And they are young and enthusiastic and used to play professionally.
- F is on the basketball team, and she rode the bus down to Albuquerque for a game, which is a lot of progress!
- D's sister came to visit and wore so many oils (sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, and a bunch of other stuff) that we are still trying to get the smell out of D's car; I can't ride in it.
- My dad is in the hospital (had back surgery, went home, fell three times and was back in the hospital in less than a week). He'll now go to rehab which is where he should have gone in the first place.
- My brother is in Singapore (has been in Jakarta, Bali, Singapore and Vietnam in the past month) and will go to Japan before Thanksgiving.
- We had our big Turkey Fight of 2017, and we are not having turkey at Thanksgiving. We are not sure yet if it's going to be a vegan Thanksgiving (what my brother wants). I don't care anymore; although I love butter and cheese, I guess I can have them at home.
- Going for ice cream today!

3-Meal-a-Day Plan and Gluten Free/Sugar Free muffins

September 28th, 2017 at 03:45 pm

I've been so busy, so haven't written much lately. This is a good thing - it means I have work. And I found out about some projects coming up from my County clients who want me to apply for them.

What I really want to write about: have food costs gone up or WHAT? Maybe it's just us. F had to go gluten free because of stomach issues, and she's a lot better now. So that does cost a little bit more. I never bough GF tortillas or bagels before (I just didn't eat them) but for her, I would buy tortillas and bagels made of gold. She also eats two high protein snacks a day because of all the sports she does!

As a result of higher food costs I am meal-planning all of our meals (and snacks!).

I made a form for the meal planning and F helps me with it. I realized the missing piece was taking inventory first. The freezer is a bit full right now.

Tonight is lemon-crumbed fish and brussels sprouts.

Last night we made muffins because F was signed up to bring snack for her Advisory Group at school. F is gluten free, and there's another girl who is sugar-free. No honey, either. No stevia. We made these muffins https://www.joyfullymad.com/healthy-no-sugar-added-blueberry-muffins/ but used GF flour and instead of blueberries, we used raspberries. I also used half the cinnamon. The kids liked the muffins, and we spent very little to bring the snack. They are kind of like breakfast muffins, and we'll definitely make them again! And everyone could eat - this was very important to F!

Need to meal plan for next week...

Ebates, Meal Plan, Found a Starbucks Card

August 20th, 2017 at 07:14 pm

Lots going on in the "very small amounts of money" financial world.

Ebates - I got an email from Ebates that said they are sending me a check for $8.06.

Meal Plan - First week back at school and we planned carefully for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner!
Breakfasts - bagel/cream cheese, english muffin with slices of cheese, toast with marmite, homemade granola
Lunches - out to the little sandwich place by my office the day before school starts, mains: chimichurri rice with salad, turkey wrap, caprese "sandwich"
Snacks - string cheese, avocado, chocolate milk, cheese and crackers, nuts and fruit, hardboiled egg
- tuna melts with salad
- asian meatballs with rice, rocket salad
- frito pies (special request for the first day of school)
- bad breath pasta and a crostata for dessert
- baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese

Starbucks Card - I found this in my old wallet. No idea if it's expired or has any money on it. I think someone gave it to me as a gift, but I'm not a big starbucks fan. But F likes the cream frappacinos.

Gym Payment - Haven't gotten payment for July yet - grrrr!

New Gym - I am teaching an additional class at another gym in town now, starting next Thursday. Need to update CPR ($25). But they pay more per class, so that's good!

New Phone - No, I am not getting a new phone. TMobile has a deal where they pay you $300 for your trade-in and you get an iphone 7 on installment. My iphone 5 is worth pretty much nothing, so $300 would have been a good deal. But I decided not to do it. D says I should wait until the iphone 8 is out. I am not sure. I'm not good at making purchases and this makes me nervous. Plus I just got a new vacuum cleaner, so that's it for 2017.

A Day at the "Beach"!

August 19th, 2017 at 08:40 pm

I know - we don't live anywhere near the ocean. But we do have a beach about half an hour away... it's the beach at Cochiti Lake and it's really fun. It was a $5 parking fee, plus we got salads and sandwiches and cookies at Trader Joe's ($15.96 total).

F starts school next week, so this is our last real summer weekend.

I blew up my floating lounge chair thingy (it really is ridiculous, but so fun) and we set up our camping tent for shade. We hung out in the water, and it was great! It's not a fancy place, but lots of cute kids and nice families.

Right now F is at an end-of-summer pool party at a country club to celebrate her friends' bar and bat mitzvahs earlier in the summer (the did it in NYC where the grandparents are). We got them each a gift certificate to Amazon, but that was paid for with money in the "gifts for others" category. It is fully funded.

I want to figure out something fun (and frugal) for tomorrow, too. Maybe a hike.

OK, need to go pick F up from the party...

Mortgage Paid Off! Weird! And Good! But Weird!

August 13th, 2017 at 02:46 pm

It's been a bittersweet week for me - given all of the things that are going on in the country and the world right now I am really profoundly sad and also scared, but we also paid of the mortgage last Monday.

I haven't felt like writing about it, but this is a blog about money not current events or politics or anything like that, so I am determined to celebrate this huge milestone!

On Monday we went into the bank and paid off the remainder of our mortgage. This is the month that D has three paychecks (he is paid every other week rather than twice a month and we decided to live off two paychecks each month and use the two extra each year as a "bonus"). So we used that extra paycheck plus the amount the bank has in escrow (don't worry, we have saved our own "escrow" for taxes and insurance).

Our bank doesn't charge anything for a payoff statement, and they don't charge anything for payoff except the $30 to record the release of the lien at the County.

I checked into all of this ahead of time. All we owed was the remaining mortgage less the escrow plus $30.

It hasn't really sunk in yet... I guess it will when that mortgage payment DOESN'T come out of our account on the 2nd of next month.

I am now busy drawing up a new budget. According to the YNAB philosophy, "every dollar has a job" even if that job is savings. We have to fund a few categories before the budget is really set (I want to make sure we max our our IRAs before the year is over so that's an extra $600 per month... things like that).

Actually the first time it sort of hit me that this is real was in Trader Joe's today. I usually buy the $2.79 cage free/hormone free eggs, but then I saw the organic/free range eggs for $3.99, and I bought a dozen of those. It's $1.20 more, but I want to see if they are as good as the eggs we used to get in Ireland. And I could make a decision like that, whereas before I never would have.

On the other hand, I am going to get me hair cut next week at Great Clips with a coupon. I don't need to spend money for no reason!

PS - F rode her unicycle into the bank for a festive atmosphere when we went in to pay off our mortgage! It was funny! And we ran into our City Councilor from our district who told us congratulations.

PPS - The other things I did this week are called the insurance company to let them know that we'll now pay for the insurance ourselves. Also made sure that I turned off the mortgage auto-payment on the online banking site. And I still need to contact the County to make sure we get the bill for property taxes and not our bank.

Menu Planning - Pantry/Freezer Use

July 29th, 2017 at 03:12 pm

Our grocery spending was high this month. Ugh. And I still have to do one more shopping trip before the month is over (tomorrow).

The reason is partly that the dr. told us that F needs to try a gluten free diet for a month. I have celiac, and she just had the celiac blood test. I am hoping it's negative, but even if it is, we're supposed to try the gf diet. She loves tortillas (wraps and burritos instead of sandwiches), and the brown rice tortillas are pretty awful, so I splurged on the Rudi's brand. They are tiny... so I used two to make two mini burritos. I also bought her gf english muffins.

The menu plan for this week takes advantage of things that I already have in the freezer and pantry.

Risotto - we already have risotto rice and sundried tomatoes. Just need celery
Cockaleekie Pie - from the freezer; and we have lettuce for a side salad
Chili - we have that in the freezer, too. Just need an avocado.
Tuna melts with corn - can use the celery for the risotto and corn is inexpensive right now
Chipotle sweet potatoes with roasted veggies on the side - a couple of sweet potatoes is all we need to buy
Chicken piccata with rice and broccoli - just need one lemon and some broccoli
Quesadillas and guacamole - An avocado for the guacamole

So our grocery list:
- avocados
- celery
- sliced turkey for lunches
- sour cream
- cheddar for lunches
- sweet potatoes
- broccoli
- tomatoes for lunches
- head of lettuce
- corn on the cob
- one lemon

Hopefully less than $30.

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