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Two New Recipes

January 5th, 2018 at 02:56 pm

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?

I'm Still Here!

December 22nd, 2017 at 12:07 am

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?

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

September 28th, 2017 at 10:45 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...

Meal Plan and Folk Art Market

July 9th, 2017 at 07:34 pm

I bought too many groceries. We will eat it all, so I'm not worried about it, but sometimes I just buy more than my meal plan calls for. We do have to have food for lunches, etc. I also bought pasta which will last us a long time; we have pasta once a week.

Here is the meal plan:

last night - Bad Breath pasta
tonight - Pad Thai with shrimp
M - tostadas
T - lemon-crumbed fish with broccoli and potatoes
W - Music on the Hill (we will stop and each get a premade salad at Trader Joe's (that's our night out)
T - pasta carbonara with asparagus
F - food at Folk Art Market

We got two FREE tickets to each event at Folk Art Market as a thank you for my volunteer work. The opening night party is an amazing event (I've worked it before, but never attended). There's a lot of food, so we'll eat for free. We have to wait until F's basketball practice is over, then we'll bring her to her friend's house which is right near the party. Then pick her up at 9 or so. We never go out, so this is exciting.

F and I will go to the Early Bird Market the next morning. Early bird opens and 7:30 am, and we're going to try to get there when it opens; that way it will be less crowded and still cool.

I am giving her $20 and she can buy something if she wants or keep the $20 for later. I, on the other hand, don't want to buy anything at all! I am contemplating a garage sale... need to talk to my neighbor to see if she wants to join in...

Huge Grocery Bill- what happened?

May 28th, 2017 at 01:09 am

Not sure why our grocery bill was so big this week! I didn't buy much last week, so that's part of it, but still.

Other anomaly this week was that we had friends over this evening... so I bought things I wouldn't normally buy like sparking lemonade, an artichoke dip, sour cream for dip, etc. How much do you usually budget for get-togethers like this? According to receipts I spent about $28 and D got beer and wine last night which was $14.

Also - I'm making chicken queso casserole this week which will feed us for a couple of days.

And it's memorial day so I wanted to bbq something - I bought chicken and veggies to do kebabs.

We buy a lot of veggies and fruit; do you follow the 5 a day plan?
I think we are more than 5 a day.

Looking at the receipt, I also had to stock up on a couple of staples: res wine vinegar ($2), almond butter for D ($7!) and vanilla (also $7 but lasts 6 months).

A lot of this will take us into next week, so that's good, and there was leftover food from the party.

The rest of the meal plan:
Sunday - pasta with peas and turkey bacon
Monday - bbq chicken/courgettes/red onion/red pepper kebabs, corn on the cob
Tuesday - bad breath pasta (spinach, olives, capers, balsamic)
Wednesday - chicken queso casserole with kale chips on the side
Thursday - tostadas with refried beans, lettuce, salsa, sour cream and roasted broccoli
Friday - graduation dinner out!
Saturday - party and we don't have to bring anything!

Update on All Sorts of Stuff

May 5th, 2017 at 10:48 pm

Our Coach: left today to stay with another family. I think this is the last coach we're hosting. I am sending the sheets through the wash twice (they smell like perfume!) and airing out the duvet. F didn't connect with this coach (she was kind of negative) and the smell-thing is just too hard for me. Even though we explained weeks before she arrived that she couldn't use perfume or scented products, she did anyway, and probably thought I wouldn't notice. I felt really ill one evening, and it's just not worth it.

Dinner Tonight: General Tso's chicken, rice, Chinese cabbage - a Chinese Fakeaway!

D's New Job: will start on June 5. In the meantime he gets to talk with HR about benefits. I've never worked for a big organization like this myself, so the idea of HR is pretty exciting to me. We will be putting aside an extra $140/month for gasoline, but I know he can carpool at least once a week.

Mortgage Principal: Got $65 for a craigslist sale yesterday and $64 from the gym today. We now owe $8722. Someone said "Oh, you should just pay it off now." That is a super weird thing to say - if we had an extra $8722 we would definitely put it toward mortgage principal!

Dog Fence: We need to fence in a small area for our dog. That is one of the things we'll do when D starts getting paychecks from the new job. But for right now it'll have to wait. Priorities. But I will submit the fence plan to our homeowner's association next week so that we can start when we're ready.

Soccer Tournament: A game at 9 and the next one at 2. What do you do for 3 hours between games? We may go to Albuquerque and get spring rolls. And then Sunday: game at 9, and maybe game at 2 (they'll need to win one of the other three games to earn a fourth game). There's no time to shop for food this weekend. Or clean. So I just vacuumed half the house and cleaned the birdcage, and put in a load of laundry. I'll clean the bathroom tonight.

Meal Plan for this Week:
- Chinese dinner
- tostadas
- ​lemon crumbed fish, rice, veg
- mexican eggs
- chicken in crockpot
- sausage pasta
- freezer with salad (basketball night)
- grilled cheese, tomato soup

Menu Plan with our Coach

April 30th, 2017 at 12:29 am

Had to slightly tailor our menu plan to fit our coaches likes/dislikes. She definitely doesn't like fish or seafood, so I had to adjust the meal plan slightly.

I have to be gluten free, and none of us eats beef or pork. Since she doesn't eat fish, that leaves only vegetarian, chicken or turkey for our mains.

I tried to alternate between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Last night we had chicken queso casserole which is one of our favorites, but not sure if the queso and green chiles are completely normal to an English girl from the north! Oh well, we'll expose her to new things.

Tonight, though, is a dinner you can find in any English house... baked potatoes with green beans or maybe a salad.

S - asian meatballs with veg of some type
M - risotto with peas and sundried tomatoes
T - turkey burger for her and fish burgers for us with fries and rocket salad
W - pasta with red sauce and courgettes
T - quesadillas with guacamole, sour cream and salsa
F - She may be having dinner with us and maybe not... I'll make general tso's chicken and asian cabbage with rice
S - just us: lemon crumbed fish, rice, veg (back to fish!)

It's been kind of a challenge to my meal planning, but I think I've managed to balance everyone's food preferences with the budget!

Coach Coming to Stay

April 26th, 2017 at 12:08 am

Another Spring, another British soccer coach coming to stay with us!

This time it's about 10 days... no reimbursement from the Club (ugh; sometimes they really frustrate me - even $25 would help with food costs). It's a girl, and we're very excited because I met her and she loves both soccer and Harry Potter (so F's twin!).

She'll be here tomorrow, so tonight we're eating a very frugal dinner of polenta and salad. Tomorrow - chili with cornbread.

I need to get the sheets on her bed and quickly clean the bathroom (which is already clean, but you know...).

Tomorrow is a soccer practice night which is why the crockpot dinner. F's team is scrimmaging the boys' team.

In other news - her coach told me last night that his wife has basically gone AWOL (alcohol). They have a two year old, who he is now taking care of by himself. His parents are in town, and he has the two older kids to help (his daughter is on the team, too). I offered to help however I can - how could I not? I think some dinners over here would help. And I can watch the kids.

OK - need to go make a salad now, and start dumping things in the crockpot for tomorrow's chili (I put the crockpot in the fridge until morning; couldn't do it all in the morning - too crazy).

Lunch Planning: Like Meal Planning but Lunchier

March 26th, 2017 at 11:54 pm

​I have probably told you that I have to be gluten free. This is not a choice (celiac genes, digestive issues, microscopic colitis) and I know a lot of other people have to be on a gf diet, too or choose to be so that they don't have symptoms (there are a lot of diverse symptoms).

This is my Lunch Planning (and includes my daughter's lunch plan, too). My husband is on his own, because he makes his own lunch, but I can tell you what he eats, too.

My husband:
- leftovers or a turkey sandwich (or tuna sandwich on Thursdays when I make two can's worth of tuna)
- apple
- tortilla chips
Yes, that's what he eats every day. I would get so bored.

My daughter:
she gets veggies and dip, a piece of fruit, some chips/crisps and a cookie, and then a main, following this basic schedule:
- Monday - hot lunch (this is something pre-made from the store like Trader Joe's chicken strips or potstickers in her thermos and is in lieu of the very expensive and disgusting school hot lunches)
- Tuesday - turkey and cheese wrap (in a tortilla)
- Wednesday - bean and cheese burrito
- Thursday - tuna wrap with avocado
- Friday - mac and cheese or a quesadilla with a salad (instead of veggies and dip)

My lunch plan:
I also toss in a piece of fruit and chips/crisps, sometimes carrots, too. Her lunch coordinates with mine (so if she's having refried beans in a burrito, I have them on a corn tortilla)
- Monday - one egg (hardboiled or fried), string cheese or goat cheese with chips
- Tuesday - turkey sandwich with cheese rolled in lettuce
- Wednesday - Beans and cheese between corn tortillas
- Thursday - tuna with avocado
- Friday - Salad

This meal plan limits what I need to buy each week: one cucumber, some radishes, lettuce, tortillas (corn and flour) but only once every two weeks, some cheese, one packet of turkey, one can of refried beans, two cans of tuna, an avocado, a couple of types of chips (usually tortilla chips and one other type), a couple of types of fruit. I always have eggs on hand. Oh! and something for F's "hot lunch."

Do you have to eat gluten free? Do you use Lunch Planning like meal planning?

"Back in Time" Series

March 21st, 2017 at 09:16 pm

One of my absolute favorite tv series is Back in Time... where they send a family "back in time" to cook and eat and live like another era. The first series had them going back to the 40s and then moving forward to the 90s with each day being a year. They even transformed their house!

It's a great show to watch with kids, too - entertaining but also educational. F wondered at how I survived the 70s (which I thought was the perfect time to be a kid!)

I can't believe we missed Farther Back in Time! Need to catch up fast since the final episode expires in 12 days.

Frugality (or lack of frugality which in this case often means convenience) is a major theme, or at least an undercurrent.

Speaking of that, tonight's dinner: roast potatoes and a big salad (big salad, as opposed to our regular dinner salad, has whatever is on hand, but tonight will have grated carrot, cucumbers, cut up turkey, sunflower seeds, radishes, homemade dressing).

I Whined a Little Today + Meal Plan

January 22nd, 2017 at 10:32 pm

First - here is my stupid whine: wah, wah, everyone I know has a better car than I do! Wah, wah, all I want is heated seats. And a USB socket so I can plug my phone in and listen to the music on my car's stereo. Wah! I wish I had an SUV; not a big SUV, just a small SUV.

The reality - My car is fine. It's got a good safety rating. It runs fine. Oh - and it's paid for! When I was whining, I realized that a lot of the nice cars that I see up at school are probably leased, or still have loans on them. So I'm happy with my car again.

Here's the other thing - I don't have a lot of food budget left for this month. This is partly my fault - Sprouts was having a gf sale, so I stocked up. This was a smart move, I think, since these are products I use and they were much less expensive. They're not fancy things, just basics: tortillas, bread, pizza bases and flour.

I have to be careful about the budget, though.

Here's the meal plan for the next little while to accomplish that:

S - soup and cheddar bay biscuits
(this is a soccer practice night, and we don't get home until 8! - need something easy; I will mix up the dough for the biscuits before we leave)

M - fish with aioli and broccoli
I already have the broccoli; need to use it before it goes off. Dinner is about $9 for the three of us; one of our more expensive dinners.

T - pasta carbonara with salad
Basketball game night; easy and inexpensive dinner (turkey bacon $3, pasta, 4 eggs and some parmesan - about $6 total)

W - chili with cornbread
Soccer practice night. Will have this bubbling away in the crockpot, and make the cornbread when we get home (it's an easy recipe! Since I have turkey burger, I'll use that, but last time I made it veggie; I may bulk this out with some carrots and corn). This will create two dinners: one for the freezer.

T - crustless quiche with salad
This is a basketball practice night, but if I do the prep ahead of time, D can transfer this from fridge to oven as we're leaving the practice. I chop up olives (already had a can in the pantry), cheese (I have some herbed goat cheese on hand), sundried tomatoes (those are in the pantry, too) and lots of eggs - makes enough for dinner and lunch the next day. And vegetarian.

F - lettuce wraps
I got bamboo shoots and water chestnuts on sale the other day. Add to that shitake mushrooms and a little bit of chicken (with soy sauce and other stuff I already have on hand). We all love lettuce wraps.

S - Tostadas
One of our least expensive dinners - corn tortillas, refried beans, a little sour cream, a little salsa, a little lettuce. Vegetarian.

S - cauliflower cheese
Already have cauliflower, need an extra cheese, maybe broccoli. This is a soccer practice night, and we'll need to eat lat. I can make the cheese sauce and have this oven ready to go when we get home (oven timer!). Another vegetarian dinner. Will probably serve with toast and butter.

M - mahi mahi burgers with chips
We usually make the burgers on the bbq; hope it doesn't snow!

T - asian meatballs
This is a basketball game night, and this can all be made in the crockpot and rice cooker. We already have turkey in the freezer and some jasmine rice (I mix it with plain white rice). Also have green onions on hand.

W - french dinner
This dinner is basically cheese, crackers, olives and a small salad. We splurge on boursin cheese. Perfect for another basketball game night, and another vegetarian dinner.

T - roasted veggies and brown rice
We already have cauliflower and red onion. I can buy a few assorted veggies. I can pop the veggies into the oven with the timer and time to rice in the rice cooker, since this is also a basketball game night. Vegetarian meal.

F - posole from the freezer and peas
This will carry us through to the next shopping day...

New Recipe

July 26th, 2016 at 01:35 am

We made this for dinner tonight:
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Stirfry (with Rice)


The goal is less fish/chicken/turkey and more veggie meals. We eat veggie about 3-4 days a week. I want to eat one fish night, one turkey or chicken night and the rest vegetarian.

Tomorrow night is chili in the crockpot with cornbread. We put turkey in that but it could easily be vegetarian with more beans. Or Quorn.

Our other vegetarian standby recipes:
- tostadas
- grilled cheese with tomato soup
- frito pies
- baked potatoes and a veg
- crustless quiche with various veggies, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes
- frittata with spinach and cheese
- roasted veggies and rice
- tortilla espanola
- stirfry with carrots, snow peas, ginger, broccoli, cilantro and mint over rice
- mexican eggs
- crash potatoes and a veg
- potatoes dauphinoise and a green salad
- bean and cheese enchiladas
- socca
- soup (butternut squash or hungarian mushroom) with bread
- olives, cheese and crackers for dinner
- risotto
- quesadillas with guacamole
- polenta with red sauce and a salad
- pasta with zucchini and goat cheese
- pasta with red sauce
- bad breath pasta (capers, spinach, kalamata olives, balsamic)
- noodles jefferson with courgettes

Notice there are no eggplant recipes on there. Blech. No one in my family seems to like eggplant. And I would eat artichokes for dinner every night, but D doesn't think they're worth the trouble (!!!!). And F isn't fond of mushrooms.

Do you have any other veggie recipes that you use a lot?

Meal Planning (and Lunch Meal Plan!)

July 16th, 2016 at 03:18 pm

When we got back from our holiday, the refrigerator was empty. There were a few things in the pantry. I did a quick shopping trip to restock and get items for Wednesday through Saturday. Tomorrow is the regular shopping for the coming week.

I am going to try a new recipe that I saw on Eat Well for Less (this is one of our favorite tv shows). http://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/puy-lentil-bolognese-with-pasta

We don't eat red meat (pork, lamb, beef), but we do eat chicken, turkey and fish. I am trying to cut down, though, and eat more vegetarian meals. It's partly for health and partly for savings. So that recipe replaces the turkey burger we'd use with lentils. Have you tried using lentils in place of mince?

Here is the menu plan for this week:

S - baked potatoes, salad
S - fish, rice, broccoli with lemon/garlic/mayo sauce
M - mexican eggs with salsa, sour cream, green onion
T - spagbol with lentils
W - something from the freezer (I think it's chili) with salad
T - roasted vegetables (red onion, courgettes, cauliflower) and rice
F - tuna melts with corn on the cob
S - out with friends (pizza?)

Lunches are:
- goat cheese on chips, carrots, fruit
- turkey sandwich, fruit, tortilla chips
- avocado toast with radishes, fruit
- fried egg, veggies with dip, piece of cheese
- corkscrew hot dog with fries (at the pool!)

I don't really plan lunches, but I like to have a list of things I can make so that we don't have to think about it too much. It also helps when I'm buying groceries.

A New Recipe and Things on My Mind

May 4th, 2016 at 02:00 am

Just made this:

Best new recipe I've made in a long time, and inexpensive (half a packet of turkey bacon = $2, pasta = $1, three eggs = 60c, some parmesan = 40c).

I had tried another pasta carbonara recipe and this was a lot better.

It was good that I made this comfort food tonight. D's dad fell about a month ago in his apartment, was in hospital, and is now in a rehab facility. Social services decided he could go back to his apartment, even though D's family thought he'd be going into residential care. His dad can't walk, and often can't get out of bed. They were looking at all sorts of places near D's sister. But it seems like the residential care places are mostly full of people with dementia, and D's dad is 87 but no dementia at all! He'd be miserable there. D was super upset; it's hard being so far away (we are in the US, but D's family is in the UK). Anyway, social services is going to have someone come out three times a day to help him out of bed, help him bathe, get him back in bed. And he'll get meals. I think D is now ok with the idea.

The only thing I said is that the apartment he's in now isn't suitable. He needs to be on the first floor not second since he has mobility issues, and he needs to be in the same town as D's sister not 2 hours away.

We have a hotel room booked where he lives now and another booked where D's sister lives. So we'll see what happens...

Other news: F is on a school camping trip (the first since her anxiety last fall). She was really excited about the trip, and I am really excited for her! I hope she's having a ton of fun! She spied the graham crackers in the teacher's truck, and she and her friends were excited for s'mores, too! I spent the evening cleaning weird parts of the house that don't get cleaned as often (top of pantry shelves, etc) and spackling things and tightening hinges.

My parents come to visit on Thursday afternoon... do you do those "handyman" things before your family comes to visit?

Meal Budgeting and Meal Planning

April 18th, 2016 at 10:05 pm

We went out to dinner on Friday night, and it was expensive because we brought the coach who was staying with us... We have $76 left in our dining out budget, though, and I really don't feel like I need to eat out for the rest of the month.

The groceries for this week came to $97.68 which seems pretty good since prices seem to have gone up.

We are so fully stocked it's a little bit ridiculous. I need to inventory the freezer and pantry. And we have three coca colas. I never drink soda, and neither does the rest of my family, but I was warned that our coach likes coke, so I bought an 8-pack on our last Target run. I think he'll be staying with us again, so I'm going to remove it from the fridge, put it in the pantry and save it until he comes back. [Update on the coke: my husband opened one and had three sips. So I can't put that in the pantry now. Do I need to buy more coke for the coach when he returns?]

The meal plan for this week:

S - turkey burgers, fries, peas
M - king ranch casserole - this version http://www.thirtyhandmadedays.com/2014/05/southwest-chicken-bake/
T - very sweet salmon, brown rice, broccoli
W - something from the freezer, salad
T - grilled cheese and tomato soup
F - potatoes dauphinoise with salad
S - we have so much food, I'm sure we can whip something together!

We try to eat meatless at least three nights a week. But it's soccer season, and F needs protein!

Do you have any innovative ways to plan your meals to save money?

Low Spend Weekend (Soccer all Weekend)

February 23rd, 2016 at 06:37 pm

It's been a while since I posted anything... there isn't a lot to report.

We were very good about bringing food and snacks to the weekend soccer tournament so that we didn't have to buy the junk there or go out to eat somewhere gross (fast food or whatever). We brought fruit and veggies and sandwiches, etc. Only one other family did the same! Weird!

Anyway, as a treat (and because F's team won the tournament in their age bracket!!!!) we went out to dinner on Sunday night. We ended up with enough leftovers for lunch on Monday, so that was good.

Soccer was canceled last night (F was sad even though she was probably exhausted after two days of soccer). We spent a quiet evening at home, and she got a bunch of school work done. (Ongoing projects as well as her nightly homework).

We leave on Friday for Phoenix, and F misses a day of school, so she's turning a few things in early.

I have the food worked out until then:
- Lemon crumbed fish, brown rice, broccoli
- White chicken chile
- Enchiladas (black bean and cheese)

Last night was baked potatoes and asian courgettes. Yum!

Sometimes Expenses Come Up

February 17th, 2016 at 11:25 pm

I haven't posted in a really long time! I guess there just isn't much to report...

We've had the usual monthly expenses, plus a few others (ugh):
- vet bill $351 plus another $19 for thyroid meds for our dog (but she is definitely worth it!)
- book for F for school $6
- new glasses for D $341
- $61 for x-c skiing (including gear rental for D; F and I have our own gear)
- hair trim for me $30 (but that is budgeted for)

We are now negative in the entertainment category (but I can make up for that with low grocery and dining spending) and medical category (ugh, but I committed to taking some money as distributions for medical each month since I couldn't set up an HSA).

Also $171 over in the Pets category. Next month we'll put in $80 but the follow up thyroid test is $80 so there goes that money. I need to figure this out.

That's it, I guess. Some months are like that.

To make myself feel better, I'm going to post our frugal and yummy meal plan for the rest of the week:

tonight - tuna melts and salad
Thursday - tostadas
Friday - red pasta and courgettes (Art Night at school and F is in charge of one of the 5 tables!!!)
Saturday - risotto with peas and sundried tomatoes and goat cheese - D makes this! Yay!

This Week's Menu

January 25th, 2016 at 03:48 pm

This week's menu plan was designed to accommodate three days of late nights (soccer and basketball).

S - tuna melts and leftover brussels sprouts and peas
M - chicken piccata with broccoli and rice
T - baked potatoes and roasted carrots
W - fagiole stew and cornbread
T - salad and chicken/rice soup
F - goat cheese and spinach and beet tart
S - pasta with red sauce with a salad

Next week will be "eat out of the pantry" week since it's the 5th grocery shopping weekend of the month. There is still $166 left in groceries, but it'd be nice to take some of that and use if for something else.

This morning was a little hectic, so I ran out of the house without breakfast. It's so tempting on those days to get a muffin or something, but instead I had an emergency noodle bowl here in the office, added hot water and that was breakfast instead! I am very proud, and it's actually a good breakfast.

Now I need to stock the office with another emergency noodle bowl!

Mortgage Accounting for 2015

December 15th, 2015 at 03:07 am

I just paid our last mortgage principal payment for 2015... it consisted of $100 gym payment and $20 Craigslist sales.

The totals for the year:
- House value about $600k
- I wanted to pay down $8k in additional principal in 2015
- Actually paid down $10,127
- Our mortgage was $64,601 at the beginning of 2015
- It's now $43,327 (so that is $21,274 of principal from our regular payments)
- If we don't pay down another dime and just make regular payments, we'll pay off the house in July 2019...

... but you know we're not going to do that!

I know that there are good arguments for putting the money into IRA's instead, but these are our reasons for paying off the mortgage:
1. We will need the money to pay for F's school
2. It has trained us to live on less (we might just have spent the money without this goal)
3. When the mortgage is paid off, whatever does not go to the school will go to savings now that we're trained not to spend our excess

And... It's snowing, and I made this chocolate cake for dessert tonight! We'll be eating it for days!

One Big Expense and another Big Expense and a Meal Plan

October 25th, 2015 at 08:46 pm

Last weekend, in addition to buying our tickets back to the UK, I also had to buy a new computer. Luckily, the old computer was fully backed up. It is very, very broken, but I decided to pay $55 to get it diagnosed; I am going to find out if the cost to repair it is less or more than what it's actually worth. Then I can make a decision.

But meanwhile, I'm typing this on my new computer. Since it's my business computer, my business paid for it. I have a business budget item for a new computer every four years or so.

And then came another large expense... definitely not planned. It looks like we're going to Phoenix in December. I will let you know why in a few days when the plans are firmed up, but it's a good thing, a sort of early Christmas present to ourselves.

We have the money for the plane tickets, and we'll need a rental car and a hotel. Ugh. But all of us are fine with using our Christmas money this way. It's my birthday this Saturday, and I have an envelope from my parents which I think has a check in it; I'll use my birthday money for this trip as well.

I'm trying to be frugal with the grocery shopping since we are spending all this money and because there are five weekends in this month. Meal plan:

Sunday - chickpea flour pizzas and roasted veggies
Monday - soup and garlic bread
Tuesday - very sweet salmon with rice and edamame salad with wasabi dressing (because I have salmon in the freezer)
Wednesday - tostadas
Thursday - big salad with turkey, cucumber, carrots, radishes
Friday - chipotle chicken stew from the freezer and a salad

This Week's Menu Plan and New Recipes

October 11th, 2015 at 05:25 pm

This week the soccer coach will come to stay with us again. He comes on Tuesday...

Sunday - neighborhood potluck in J's giant garage - we are bringing rosemary roast potatoes

Monday - grilled cheese and tomato soup

Tuesday - lasagna with courgettes

Wednesday - chipotle chicken stew

Thursday - potatoes dauphinoise with a salad

Friday - fish with homemade aioli and broccoli and rice

Saturday - no idea!!

So I have a lot of wealthy friends (you'd think it'd rub off!) and they have been raving about Hello Fresh. It's a box that gets delivered to your house with the exact amount of ingredients for the meals you order. You then cook it yourself. Of course, it is not a frugal option for dinner. I think it's $10 per person. Our dinners average $5 for all of us.

But, I was curious about what the meals were (new ideas?), so I went to the Hello Fresh website to check it out. It turns out they have recipes online for their past meals. Since they have both regular boxes and veggie boxes, there are a lot of vegetarian recipes.

I downloaded a couple that I want to try:
- brussels sprouts crumble (with mushrooms and parmesan, served over rice)
- one pot mexican quinoa (with corn, avocado and feta)

Those aren't really expensive dinners, and they tell you exactly how much your need of everything for 2 or 4 people.

Anyway, it seems like a good source for new (and not that difficult) recipes.

Frugal Thoughts for Today, Plus this Week's Meal Plan

September 15th, 2015 at 11:08 pm

D is doing student photos for F's school again this year. He doesn't charge the school, but he makes money when parents order photos. Not sure how much he'll make, but he is going to take part of it to buy a new smartphone since his is now pretty old (isn't it weird what counts as old now?). The rest will go into savings which I need to shore up since we "borrowed" a little to redo our stucco and pay for D's allergy shots.

I helped out with the school photos today, so I didn't get much work done, but that's fine - I finished my deadline on Monday and this week is pretty quiet. Just a couple of meetings and misc. work.

Because of the busy day, I didn't have time to spend any money!

And I returned a lunch container which said it was 5x5 (perfect sandwich size) but turned out to be 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 (not perfect at all!).

Lunch was a very frugal: slice of turkey, a few chips, pluot, home-made muffin.

Dinner is: Spaghetti Gambino Crime Family (not the real name). It's actually this Jamie Oliver recipe (a really nice combination of shrimp, lemon, garlic, rocket, white wine and sundried tomatoes):

The rest of the week's meal planning (including the past few days) looks like this:
S - quesadillas with guacamole
S - chicken piccata and broccoli and rice
M - posole
T - gambino crime family pasta
W - grilled cheese with salad
T - crash potatoes from freezer and roasted broccoli
F - big salad with radishes, carrots and cucumber

Now I am super hungry, so I'm going to make dinner... what are you having tonight?

Watching "Eat Well for Less"

September 14th, 2015 at 10:25 pm

It's just after 4:15 pm and I still need to:
- finish emptying the dishwasher
- bring up the bins from the street
- make sure F gets her soccer stuff together

We are leaving at 5 for soccer practice.

I wanted to quickly post about Eat Well for Less (on the BBC iplayer if you live in the UK). We watched the first season of this show, and we all think this season is a little better.

It's sort of like rubbernecking to watch what these families buy at the grocery store. But there are also really good ideas. We want to try the tuna burgers from episode 1, and the beetroot chocolate cake from episode 2 sounds interesting... it's a no-egg cake (and I always seem to have food allergy friends of various types so it'd be a good recipe to have on hand).

Here's the beetroot chocolate cake:

And here's the tuna burgers:

Bear in mind that I haven't tried either of these yet.

I also want to try the homemade veggie crisps.

The show is making me think about what's on our shopping list. We seem to buy a lot of snack foods (some tortilla chips, crisps, etc) and I think too much readymade food (not ready meals, but things like D's scones; this week I made muffins instead, but D still wanted his scones).

Have you seen the show, and is it making you think about your shopping?

Embarrassed About my Food Inventory

September 5th, 2015 at 10:36 pm

How on earth can I have accumulated SO MUCH food. I meal plan every week, but I've never done a food inventory until now. I am embarrassed and awed and shocked.

Our fridge isn't bad, but I was going to buy a ton of fruit this week and realized we already have 4 pluots, 3 apples, 3 nectarines, most of a cantaloupe and half of a watermelon.

The freezer is insane: two portions of freezer meals which I had in my head and shrimp I bought last week on sale to use later, but everything else was sort of crazy... I have a ton of things I can bring to the office for lunch (lunch sized portions) that I just forget about. Also two turkey burgers that were left over when I made turkey burgers the last time. And 16 (16?!) hot dog buns plus a package of 4 hot dogs (left over from the coach party). Looks like we need to eat some sausages and hot dogs in the near future.

Also tons of dinner ingredients in the pantry. And a lot of chips and crisps. I like to have variety, but sheesh!

With careful meal planning, it looks like we can whittle this down a little bit, and have a pretty low grocery bill for the next couple of weeks.

Eat from the Pantry

August 15th, 2015 at 05:06 pm

Our coach left this morning - oh, F is so, so sad! I think he was the best one so far... like the perfect big brother for F.

I've been spending the morning washing sheets etc. But I don't care - we invited him to come back asap for our city's Fiestas! There is another coach that is here not only part of the summer but also Fall and Spring, and he'll be here for Fiestas, too, and they're friends.

Tonight we are going to our friends' house for a summer afternoon potluck. I am bringing a flourless chocolate cake because I always have the ingredients for flourless chocolate cake on hand!

I need to go to the store tomorrow, but we've got a lot of food still in the fridge, so it's an eat-from-the-pantry meal plan.

What I have: celery, a cucumber, half a watermelon, half a cantaloupe, frozen chicken, some eggs, half of a head of lettuce, whole head of cauliflower, rice, four cans of soup, a few sausages and hot dogs in the freezer, enough turkey burger in the freezer for turkey burgers (plus we have buns in the freezer!), french fries in the freezer, three meals worth of white chicken chile in the freezer... wow, it's a lot!

We need a couple of staples: olive oil, butter. Also some fruit - peaches are on sale and so are cucumbers and mini tomatoes.

Here are the meals I can think of for the next week and a half or so:
- tortilla espanola (I have eggs and potatoes, so I think we're set)
- mexican eggs with salad (need to buy more corn tortillas and green onions and eggs, a couple of courgettes would be nice to have alongside)
- white chicken chile from the freezer with a salad (need a head of lettuce)
- big salad and toast (using the rest of that head of lettuce, probably should buy some more carrots)
- soup with garlic bread
- general tso chicken with rice and cabbage (can use the other half of the green onions I buy for Mexican eggs and a cabbage would be nice since it's not expensive)
- roasted cauliflower with sausages/buns
- turkey burgers with french fries

Spent a Ton

August 11th, 2015 at 11:07 pm

I don't even want to think about it. I spent like $100 today.

A lot of it was household supplies. It seems like I run out of everything all at once, but some things I didn't need to buy quite yet. The thing is, I was down at Target, and I don't want to go down there again in a week. That was about $70. (Anti-eye wrinkle stuff, toilet paper, paper towels, tinfoil, paper plates, napkins, new underwear for F, face soap for me).

I also bought about $30 in extra groceries for the BBQ we're having at our house tonight for the four coaches who are running the soccer program F is in this week. I offered to host at our house, which is totally great! I love having people over. Three of us are hosting coaches, so the other two families will bring things, too. But I got hot dogs, buns, french fries, cookies, paper plates and lemonade for the kids (probably the bulk of what we need to feed everyone). I think K is bringing watermelon and a salad... T is bringing beer/wine/ice.

Whatever they don't eat, we'll eat in the next few weeks... I made sure that I got things that we like. The hot dogs and buns can go in the freezer if we don't eat them all.

I am hoping that the grocery budget is just fresh fruits and veggies for the next few weeks - that's a challenge to myself! Eat from the pantry!!

The Soccer Coaches are Coming!

August 7th, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Soccer camp starts next week, which means that we get to meet the coach we are hosting on Sunday evening. Except I just got a call from the organizer, and we may be hosting TWO coaches! This is great and a little terrifying.

One can stay in our spare room of course, and the other can either put a futon in there or take F's room (she said "I hope he's an Arsenal fan" - there are Arsenal posters and memorabilia all over the room!). F always sleeps in our room anyway. It'll make things a little more complicated in terms of having to move things around (she'll need access to her clothes and she'll want to move certain toys down to our room, too.

Also means making three lunches in the morning. And extra food at night, so I need to make a careful meal plan.

I was thinking:
- white chicken chile
- tostadas
- tortilla espanola with a salad
- pasta with bacon and peas and goat cheese
- maybe risotto? maybe lemon crumbed fish?

One night we're having a barbeque with all four of the coaches at our house, but it'll be potluck. I'll get hot dogs and buns and fun toppings (chile, cheese, relish, etc). Maybe with french fries...

How Some Kids Eat and Other Thoughts

July 26th, 2015 at 04:55 pm

F's sleepover was a success! We had dinner at the pool. The two friends who slept over are extremely picky eaters. I know they eat mac and cheese, but I told them that we were having turkey burgers and that chicken hot dogs were an option; they still chose mac and cheese. So I put the other package of turkey burger in the freezer for another week. We also had roasted mini peppers; I only made half of the bag because I just knew they wouldn't eat very many. One girl had one, the other had a tiny nibble. We also had cherries and strawberries. One girl had three strawberries, the other girl doesn't like fruit (!!?). We had ice cream sundaes with sprinkles and chocolate sauce. They both ate that!

I am blessed with a child that eats everything (except mushrooms). I realize I am very fortunate, and not all children are like this. I was a picky eater when I was little. But the girl who doesn't eat vegetables or fruit is a VEGETARIAN! So she also doesn't eat chicken or fish or beef. She ONLY eats past and pbj's. And ice cream. Oh - and she was very proud that she tried something new and liked it recently (baked beans). If you guessed that she's overweight, you're correct. I've known her since she was 6, and now she's ten. Her parents have always thought she'd grow out of it.

They make a special dinner for her, which I refuse to do. Anyway, it's not my child, and she is a really sweet, wonderful girl (I just worry about her, and it seems like the parents think her eating quirks are funny!).

All the girls were GREAT! They had fun, they giggled, and were asleep by 10. Phew!

Right now F is doing her Khan Academy math work; all the kids going into 5th have to complete 4th grade math as a review. She's 85% complete and wants to get to 90% today. She decided to do 5% a day so she can be finished by Tuesday.

Oh - and her tooth just fell out. The tooth fairy is not currently prepared. I need to slip out for a few minutes.

Otherwise, today will be low-key as it should be after a sleepover. Adult v. kids soccer kickaround at 5 pm.

Little Spending and Lots of Work

July 20th, 2015 at 08:56 pm

I made on purchase today:
a New Mexico Trader Joe's bag for my friend who used to live here and moved away about 10 years ago. I called her to say "hi" and tell her about the bag, and as I suspected she was totally excited. I'll probably pay more for postage than the 99c that I paid for the bag! I miss my friend a lot; she's in California now.

I spent most of the day working on answering contractor questions for a fire station that I designed that is out for bid. There were some seriously stupid questions. "Where is the Project located?" (Um - it's called the Glorieta Fire Station; do you think it might be in GLORIETA?!! Also there's a vicinity map on the Cover Sheet!!!). "What size is the lot?" (In the drawings, on the Survey, where you would expect to find it). "Which way does the drainage run?" (You are kidding, right? We included a Grading and Drainage plan in the plans and it's a little more complicated than just answering a question! Look at the PLANS!!!!). "Is there a benchmark?" (YES! That is why it is labeled benchmark on the survey, which is where surveyors put benchmarks they've set. READ the PLANS!!!).

Can you tell I'm frustrated?

At least I'm paid to answer idiotic questions. (Not enough, though).

These kinds of days make me want to eat chocolate, but we are having a healthy dinner of fish with homemade aoili and roasted cauliflower. That'll probably make me feel better than chocolate anyway.

This Week's Meal Plan and Already Musing about Thanksgiving

July 19th, 2015 at 07:28 pm

I always do a weekly meal plan, but I don't always post it.

Here it is for this week:

fish with roasted cauliflower (fishy)
taquitos (chickeny)
baked potatoes and broccoli (potato-ish)
grilled cheese and tomato soup (bready/cheesy)
freezer with salad (something from the freezer)
pasta with red sauce (pasta thing)

That is three vegetarian meals, one fish and two fowl. We don't eat beef/pork/mammals, but I am also trying to eat less chicken/turkey.

Plus we may (or may not) be eating out tonight. I'm waiting for our friends to return from an overnight backpacking trip; if they're up to it, we're all going out for pizza. We have $130 in our dining out budget. If we do go out I want green chile and feta on my pizza; not everyone's favorite, but believe me: it's awesome!

Which reminds me... we are beginning our Thanksgiving discussions/negotiations/arguments. My brother wants an all-vegetarian meal. My mother wants turkey. We are having 24 people with varying diets. I don't care what we have as long as I can eat at least something (I don't eat gluten and I eat very little dairy). I'd like to make mashed potatoes with red chile sauce. My brother wants to make some other type of potatoes. So far we're only having potatoes. Oh - I wouldn't mind doing at least one dessert because I love dessert and it's pretty much off-limits if I don't make it.

Right now I have a crostata (Italian rustic tart) in the oven, and that would be a good candidate. (No, we are not Italian). I could also make a Tunis Cake (no, we are not Tunisian). My mother wants to buy dessert because she thinks store-bought desserts are nicer/fancier than home-made ones. And baking makes her ovens "too hot." (I am not kidding).

My brother has this idea that everyone (all 24 of us) should be able to eat everything.

I live 1000 miles from my parents' house, and because my mother doesn't cook I'll need to bring my own pans, etc. My brother bought baking trays last year to leave at her house, and she's still upset about it. She wants to give them away, but I reminded her that he might want to use them for his potatoes this year.

Did I mention that when my brother cooks he never makes enough? He says that there are lots of other things to eat, so he only needs to make enough for about 6 people. I am a terrible over-feeder. I will make mashed potatoes for 24 as if everyone is ONLY eating mashed potatoes.

I like cranberry sauce. Other people like cranberry relish (blech). My mother likes the cranberry sauce in the can, but she will stoop to my level and eat my home-made stuff (but she always mentions that she prefers the can).

I always want to have a salad. No one else wants salad. It's just not "Thanksgiving."

My mother likes that spinach stuff with a can of cream of mushroom soup in frozen spinach. She is surprised every year that I can't eat the mushroom soup since it's thickened with flour.

This could go on and on, so I am going to go eat that crostata now... I truly hope you haven't started planning Thanksgiving yet, but if your family is as neurotic as mine, please comment so I know I'm not alone.

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