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Archive for September, 2014

Meal Planning Lunches

September 30th, 2014 at 12:02 am

I've always meal-planned our dinners. I have a very specific plan and this helps save us a lot of money!

I don't plan our lunches, though, because we often end up eating leftovers (including some leftovers from F's lunches) and I don't want a bunch of wasted food.

F, though, rarely eats leftovers, so I've decided to meal-plan her lunches. What I used to do was just have a bunch of things in the house I could put in her lunch. But I've just made an excel spreadsheet so I know exactly what she'll be eating, and exactly to buy at the beginning of the week. I'll add fruit for my lunch and D's to the shopping list.

The thing that sparked this: F is complaining that my lunches are good and D's are bad. And I noticed he put two starches (crisps and cheesy breadsticks) in her snack one day; no fruit or veg. I was disproportionately upset about it, but still...

We'll see if lunch planning saves money, too. I'll bet it does.

Eat out of the Pantry Shopping Trip

September 26th, 2014 at 07:52 pm

This past week we've had a soccer coach from the UK staying with us. It's so great, and fun, and it's an important cultural exchange for F. So I don't mind the slightly higher grocery bill.

But next week will be "eat out of the pantry" and my grocery trip will be for fresh fruit and veggies only.

I'm going to try to do this on the last shopping trip of every month. I'll report back on how this works.

Anyway, the meal plan:
- something from the freezer with a salad (need lettuce)
- tostadas (need lettuce, I may buy a thing of salsa - not sure we have enough and it will be eaten)
- potato pancakes with a veg (need eggs, 1 onion, veg)
- veggie sushi (need avocado and a cucumber, sushi rice since we only have a little bit - bulk bin)
- chicken thighs adobo with rice and a veg (need one onion and a veg)
- tuna melts with salad (need one can tuna)
- pasta with butter and parmesan and courgettes (need courgettes)

For lunches we need jack cheese and fruit and one tomato for F.

F's Room - Photos

September 25th, 2014 at 11:38 pm

I am finally getting around to posting photos of F's room... we redid it at the start of school, partly so that she could have a desk, and partly so she could have a more grown-up room. And partly for more storage!

We sold some furniture (bed and unused dresser) and got some new stuff (bed with storage underneath it, desk). The rug is the same, we didn't paint or anything. I painted an old bulletin board with silver glitter paint. I stole a chair from our other bedroom.







Our Anniversary Tomorrow - Going out to Lunch!

September 19th, 2014 at 01:30 am

I don't usually like to eat out. It's expensive, and I'm cheap! And I have a lot of dietary restrictions. It took us 2 days to figure out where to eat out on our anniversary. I wanted D to be able to eat somewhere he doesn't usually get to go (when we do eat out, it's not fancy) and D wanted me to be able to eat something besides a dinner salad.

We finally figured it out... F said "Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world!" and I mentioned a sushi place in California that we all love. Actually, I've never been to Japan, but I'd love to have sushi there!

Anyway, D also loves sushi, so we're going to go out for sushi. We usually save our sushi dining for that place in California when we visit my parents, so we're not sure where to go here. But I'm going to ask a friend of mine.

We're using the anniversary money that my parents gave us (thank you, Mom and Dad!). And it was a lot! There will still be money left over, and I want to use it to help buy the Playstation that F and D want for Christmas (so they can play their Fifa soccer game).

Shutterfly Order for Christmas

September 17th, 2014 at 10:13 pm

I am totally ahead of this Christmas thing! We decided a few weeks ago that we'd get photo calendars for my mom, D's mom and D's dad and a new mousepad for my dad. I saw the 40% off Calendar sale on Shutterfly. Plus there was a code for free shipping for orders over $39.

Our order came to $38.37! Grrr... I should have just put a 4x6 photo in my cart, but I called customer service and they gave me free shipping anyway because I was so close. That was nice! So total order with tax for four gifts: $42.90.

We have about $300 in our gift "bucket" so we're right on target. I've made a list of gifts for F, and she and D want a Playstation with the latest Fifa soccer game. I don't want anything, but D never listens to me about that, so I need to think of something that he can buy me that doesn't cost much, that I would like and that would make him feel like he's gotten me a present.

Vet Bill

September 17th, 2014 at 03:56 am

I drove on the school field trip yesterday. Oh my gosh did I get lucky - I had three girls in my car and they were all super polite, funny, fun to drive with.

The field trip was to the animal shelter (not the one in our town, but one about half an hour away) because that’s the fourth grade service project for the year: they volunteer helping the animals in the shelter on weekends, make dog biscuits to sell and then the money goes to the shelter.

Anyway, the woman who showed us around asked the kids about what responsibilities you take on when you have pets. They thought of everything except the one that was in my head: taking your pets to the vet. Someone (I think an adult) finally said it!

Anyway, it was in my mind because our dog has been itchy, and she's scratched and gnawed at herself for about a week now. Nothing has helped. So I took her to the vet today... She has allergies! I went home $120 poorer and with three medications for her (two for allergies and one for the bacterial infection she got from irritating her skin so much).

This is what the "pets" budget is for. For some reason I rarely see that in people's budgets. Do you have a budget for pet food, vet visits, regular medications like heartworm? (We also go to a local pet store once every two months or so and pay $16 to use their large metal tub to give her a bath - way less expensive than a groomer and we use their shampoo, towels, tub - our dog is kind of big! - so that's in the budget, too). If you have a pet budget, how much do you allocate per pet?

Little Invoices Add Up

September 15th, 2014 at 09:50 pm

It's a long story (and not that interesting), but I have a client which requires me to invoice the people I work with separately. I was dreading doing six little invoices; ugh. I figured it wouldn't add up to much either; it's just an hour or hour and a half for each.

After I dropped F off at school and before I went back up to drive on the class field trip, I decided to challenge myself to get all six of the invoices done and emailed out to people. It only took half an hour, and the invoices add up to $880. That's more than I thought, so I'm happy I just buckled down and got it done.

I don't know about the rest of you who are self-employed, but I don't love doing invoicing. I do it though, monthly, because that's the key to cash flow.

And, I've officially invoiced for almost $13k more than my annual goal. Very excited about this! The past few years have been difficult for architects, and this is definitely an improvement! I worked hard for every penny.

An Ode to my Old Appliances

September 14th, 2014 at 10:34 pm

After college, when I was living in my first real adult apartment (around 1990), my grandfather was experiencing a transition, too. He had Alzheimers, and couldn't live on his own anymore, so a caregiver moved in (she became part of our family, but that's another story).

He used to cook a lot, and my grandmother baked a lot (she passed away in 1981, when I was 14 and it was so hard and still is - but that's another story, too); between them they had all sorts of small appliances.

In 1990, my mother started to give me things like the old mixer and blender, a bundt pan. Later on, a meat grinder (hand crank) and my grandmother's rolling pin (this is, in my opinion, one of my true treasures). I have my grandmother's teapot; it's art deco and super cool; I think she got it by saving washing powder box tops. I have a set of primary color pyrex mixing bowls (much sought after by pyrex collectors).

I was just using my blender (grandma and grandpa's blender). I remember my grandma using it, and it's still going strong. It has that (now cool) early 70s look. Hard to believe it's about 40 years old!

I was thinking two things:
1. Isn't it cool that my grandma's blender isn't just a memory, and I don't have to wonder how it used to look. I use it all the time!
2. Isn't it super frugal to use things like this for a long, long time?

PS - I don't use the meat grinder, but I guess I should try it; it's got to be cheaper to make your own ground turkey, right?

Five Frugal Things

September 13th, 2014 at 08:44 pm

Five Frugal Things from the past few days:

- Did a pinecone survey; I now have 600 points (that's $6, and I like to cash out every $12)

- Came home after F's soccer game and soccer practice (we were out there for 3 hours! And they won! And F scored a goal!) and had lunch here instead of going out to eat. The key: having a plan about exactly what were were going to eat for lunch.

- Spent $70 on groceries at Albertson's yesterday; used coupons and their $1 sale. It should have been $100, so we saved $30. Now we're stocked up on lots of things.

- Made our meal plan for the week (aiming for a light shopping week because of the extra groceries from Albertson's; we mostly will be buying fresh produce):
asian meatballs with rice
grilled cheese and tomato soup
tilapia with curry and paprika and a vegetable
pasta with parmesan and courgettes
baked potatoes and broccoli
tostadas
something from the freezer with a salad

- Watching tv on hulu (free!). We haven't had cable for years; haven't missed it at all!

Can't Spend when I'm This Busy!

September 9th, 2014 at 08:15 pm

I've found the key to eliminating discretionary spending: when I am THIS busy, I can't barely find time to post anything here, much less spend any money!

(Actually, have I mentioned that posting here is a much better online activity than buying something online?)

Today I helped D with school photos. We did the preschoolers, pre-K, K and first grade. Also did some teachers and the First Grade class photo.

Then I turned some drawings in to the County. Talked with a contractor who is currently building one of my fire stations. Talked with an engineer. Came up with a price for a new project which I'll send tomorrow. Answered emails.

I even managed to eat lunch and feed the dog.

And now it's nearly time to pick F up from school. After school I'm meeting with the art teacher (F can hang out while I talk to her) about student designed tshirts that the Parents Association can sell.

Then we'll come back so F can do her homework and practice piano before we head down to the fields for soccer practice. This is the extra team that she had to try out for; she's excited to be on the team! But practice is from 5:30 to 7, so that makes dinner sort of difficult.

I've got white chicken chili cooking in the crockpot, so that's dinner sorted. I am thankful to whomever invented the crockpot!

And after dinner, I guess it's off to bed.

Side Income

September 9th, 2014 at 01:15 am

The side income isn't mine; it's D's. But I'm helping out. You see, D is doing the individual and class photos for F's school this year. We have no idea how much he'll make, but last year's photographer was so awful, the school begged D to do it!

He takes photos of kids and families as a side business, but hasn't done a lot of shoots lately (his big time of year is Christmas when families get together). His photos are beautiful (I'm biased, but really - they are!).

I'll be helping record which kids have been photographed (which is good because I know almost every child in the school) and writing down the image numbers so D can track them. I'm also Parent Association president this year, so I gathered up volunteers to get the kids from their classrooms, make sure they look the way they want to, etc.

The class photos are particularly difficult, but D has done this before at F's old preschool (and still does their photos for them).

Que Viva La Fiesta! (with photos)

September 7th, 2014 at 09:56 pm

Que Viva La Fiesta! (Que Viva!)

It's been non-stop since Friday... first the fair at F's school, then we walked in the parade the next morning with school. This morning we went on a hike (4 miles - F's longest) and then to the next parade (we just sat on the curb for this one and F collected candy).

Que viva la candy! (That's what F thinks, anyway - she got a lot! This will definitely last until Halloween).

We brought a packed lunch and each got a fresh lemonade from our favorite little cafe which has fresh, homemade lemonade. It was perfect to sip while we watched the parade. Low cost, super fun.

Because of where we live, there are people dressed as Conquistadores, and Spanish Princesas and the Caballeros de Vargas (who take care of the statue of Our Lady - also known as La Conquistadora - in the Cathedral); my friend's wife even makes some of her dresses; she dates back to about 1625.

I love Fiestas (who doesn't like a city-wide party?), and now that it's over it really feels like Fall. It's time to buy our green chile for the winter.

Tonight: soccer kick-around and then a simple, inexpensive dinner (tuna melts or quesadillas).






Spent More than I Wanted on Groceries

September 7th, 2014 at 12:04 am

Yes, I spent more than I wanted to on groceries by about $20. I'm sure we'll still in budget because I shop on Sat or Sun and there are only four weekends in this month.

I had a list of course and a menu plan, but I think I should have put more thought into it. I bought shrimp (it was on sale but still $7 for a little less than a pound) for pad thai.

Even though we're in budget, I am going to do an "eat out of the pantry" with the exception of fresh fruits and veggies for the end of the month shopping. I am very sure we have plenty of food.

Also, this week's groceries include a crockpot meal which will result in three future meals stored in the freezer. We're really going to need those because F's soccer season has started.

The other thing I overspent on: went to the grocery store hungry and bought myself lunch there (grrr! I had food at home, too!). F and D went to see a local high school play soccer, so they had lunch there (it was booster club day and they had hamburgers).

Tonight: roast chicken and potatoes for D who misses the weekend roast dinners that he had in England. I try to do this for him as often as possible, but sometimes we're too busy. The potatoes are parboiled, and then both chicken and potatoes are cooked in a marinade of lemon juice/olive oil/garlic/thyme/rosemary/tabasco/honey. It's one of my favorite recipes, and not hard at all.

What They're Doing in Fourth Grade

September 4th, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Fourth grade is the best at F's school - the teacher is amazing and they put a big emphasis on personal responsibility and organization. They actually teach the kids how to plan and organize rather than just expect them to figure it out. Each child gets a day planner and that's where they record and track their homework assignments (F is upstairs doing homework right now). Oh - and parents aren't supposed to help (if we do, our children need to make a note in their homework so that the teachers know there was some difficulty withe the problem).

And, there's the TeacherBank. Each child has a bank account at TeacherBank, and a checkbook. They had a homework assignment where they learned to write checks and keep a check register.

They are paid 100 TeacherBucks for the job that they do (these rotate monthly). And they have to "rent" their desks for 25 TeacherBucks a month.

They have to "buy" supplies with TeacherBucks, and they are fined if they blurt out or fail to push in their chairs.

At the end of the year, they all bring in toys and things they don't want anymore, and there is an auction so that they can use their leftover TeacherBucks to buy things.

Starting them young on the road to financial common sense!

The huge emphasis on responsibility is really great. In fact, F has been putting her lunch box an water bottle up on the wall, too. And they also have Kindergarten buddies (so they get to the be the older big buddies to smaller children). F adores her little buddy; he loves soccer just like she does, and his favorite food is "dessert!" She keeps saying "He's soooo cute!"

I am impressed on how the school has handled the transition from year to year, giving the kids more responsibility and also more freedom; it's all incremental so it feels totally natural. By 6th grade, they'll be leading the all-school meetings and bringing the hot lunches to the younger kids when it's snowing outside.

Why I'm Only Buying Horizontal Tissue and Other Stuff

September 3rd, 2014 at 10:02 pm

So I went down to Target today (it's kind of out of the way, so I save my Target trips for when I'm in that area anyway - I was on my way to a meeting in the south part of town and left a little early).

I bought Claritin for F (used $2 coupon and got another $3 coupon).

I also bought kleenex (well, not kleenex brand - I buy the Target brand). And I noticed something... The four-pack of vertical kleenex (which I prefer) has 80 sheets per box (so 4x80 = 320). The four-pack of horizontal kleenex is 160 sheets per box (4x160 = 640). But they cost exactly the same! So you get double the kleenex with the horizontal kleenex. I am never buying vertical kleenex again!

OK, so I also bought some sunscreen and toilet paper. As they scan everything, it's just too hard to see the screen (things go by so quickly) so I always check my receipt before I walk out the door.

Glad I did because they charged me for two kleenex four-packs instead of the one that I bought! Back to customer service where they corrected it quickly.

I have to take a trip back to Trader Joe's today, too. I bought potatoes on Sunday, which I put in a cool cupboard as usual; I was going to use them tomorrow night. Well, this morning, something smelled awful in the kitchen, and I couldn't figure out what it was (I thought it was maybe the dog's food). When I popped in for lunch (to let our dog out), it smelled worse, and I started to worry it was a dead mouse so I opened the cupboards. The potatoes were oozing all over the cabinet; yuck! I've had potatoes grow eyes but never ooze like that! So, need to go to TJ's for the refund (I already called them, and they said "don't bring the potatoes back in!").

We'll go after F finishes her homework; she said she'd go out with me. The thing is, it's not really on my way. I'm wondering if I should just go tomorrow morning, but that cuts into my work day.

Anyway - what weird shopping karma I have today! Have you had experiences like this, too?