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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.

New Recipes

May 19th, 2015 at 10:51 pm

Since we watched the BBC show "Back in Time for Dinner" I've been thinking about how eating has changed over the past several decades. We eat 95% of our meals at home, and they're prepared from scratch. We do use some processed/convenience foods (bread, tortilla chips, canned beans, etc.) which I'm fine with.

I have a system for planning our weekly dinners that I've described here before: eggy/potato night (spanish omelette, mexican eggs, baked potatoes and brocoli), cheese/bread night (grilled cheese, tuna melts, quesadillas), chicken night, something from the freezer (that was made in our crockpot and stashed for soccer nights usually) with a salad, pasta night, fish night and one night out.

Although many of our meals are vegetarian, they aren't always full of good vegetables. We usually have a salad or broccoli as side dishes.

I am trying to incorporate more and more varied vegetables, so I went on a hunt last night for recipes.

Here's one that's basically veggie meatballs (and I LOVE fennel):

This one is basically a beet salad to eat with bread and it doesn't have a ton of ingredients:

I would make this curry recipe with carrots/broccoli/bamboo shoots:

Maybe something like this curry:

So we'll be trying out some new recipes in the next few weeks...

There are a few that we already make regularly that are full of vegetables:
- crustless quiche with broccoli, sundried tomatoes
- a stirfry with courgettes, broccoli, carrots, ginger, cilantro, jalapeño and mint (and a little soy sauce)
- socca (which is like a courgette/zucchini pancake) with red onion
- frittata with onions and lots of spinach
- red onion, red peppers and courgettes with a really great sauce that we make in the oven and usually eat with chicken, but would be great with some crusty bread

Do you have any veggie-full recipes that you love?

Food, Food, Food

May 17th, 2015 at 10:43 pm

Not spending much, except on food!

We took our coach out for dinner on Friday night; we were supposed to go out after practice, but practice was canceled due to (abundant) rain.

Yesterday's game wasn't canceled, though. The weather from 9 am to 10 am (game time!) was beautiful! And just as we turned around to walk back to our cars (it's about half a mile walk to field 5) there was a hailstorm! Blizzard like winds, icy hail hitting out heads and faces! I couldn't look up, but I had one arm around F (partly to keep track of her, and partly to keep my camping chair over her head to protect her). F was screaming "Ow! Ow!" and "Are we going to die?" I could hear other kids screaming. We all made our way to the tunnel where there was at least some protection. Some people just fell to the ground and stayed there huddled under blankets! We finally made it to the tunnel where about a hundred stunned people were stuffed together looking bewildered. There were inside-out umbrellas and shivering children. Our car later said it was 33 degrees F! And the hail continued.

After having my head down for so long, I felt kind of sick when I finally straightened up in the tunnel. We stayed and waited for the hail to stop, but it kept coming. So we finally made a run for the car (on the other side of the tunnel). The parking lot was chaos, and we just turned on the engine so that F could warm up her hands and feet, then waited for cars to leave so we could get out. Our clothes were soaking wet, so I had F take hers off and put on some dry things we had in the car.

When we finally got home, there was snow all over the ground. It finally stopped snowing and hailing, the coach who is staying with us showed up (he was also in the hailstorm) and we had pasta for lunch.

We decided to just get a pre-cooked chicken for dinner. Not on the meal plan, but much easier.

I did the grocery shopping today and we're having a goodbye dinner for our coach who leaves tonight. Frown

We're having baked cod with aioli and roast potatoes (D makes the best!) and the cod was $10 but who cares! It's a special dinner. Oh, and peas. An English "Sunday dinner."

But first.... Sunday afternoon soccer kickaround (now that the weather is ok again!).

How to Waste Food

April 24th, 2015 at 01:42 am

Here's how to waste food:
- put chicken in the oven with a really nice sauce
- check it to make sure it's done and determine that it needs an extra 5 minutes
- give it an extra 5 minutes and check again
- repeat until the chicken is like one of those joke rubber chickens
- serve it anyway
- watch your family spit pieces out onto their plates
- spit your own chicken out onto your plate
- feed the rubber chicken to the dog


I am not a naturally good cook (my mother never cooked, and therefore never taught me, so I learned how to cook around when I got married at age 36 - seriously), but I've learned to make some nice things. I need to stick to those things, and baked chicken is not one of those things.

I don't really need to say more, do I?

An Expensive Day

April 18th, 2015 at 11:47 pm

We woke up at 6:30 this morning to find that it had snowed overnight - beautiful! But... F was supposed to play in two soccer games. We checked email and at 7 they emailed to say that the games were still on, then drove all the way out there. The games started at 9, and we arrived at 8:35 (coaches need to be early and D is a coach)... at 8:36 we received an email canceling the games. Ugh.

The fields were COVERED with snow, so it wasn't a surprise. We ended up playing in the snow with another family that showed up, too. We made snowmen, played snow soccer, made a huge snowball...

That mom was supposed to bring snack that day, and she gave D and F homemade strawberry bread, and here is where things went wrong... I can't eat gluten so I was jealous, and we stopped at a bakery on the way home. $8.

We went home and watched the football match (soccer), did our spazzy workout since F was stir crazy. Then lunch at home.

I called a few of F's friends to see if they could come play, but no one could, so we decided to go ice skating. On the way we stopped at Target to get Claritin for F. We used a coupon and got 70 pills, so this was an expense we were expecting anyway. $25.

Ice skating was $22 for the three of us.

Then frozen yogurt afterward. $10.

We did combine our errands, and we stopped by the grocery store on the way home, doing a big loop around town. It was supposed to be a relatively inexpensive shopping trip, so I was freaking out until I realized that we also bought a big bag of dogfood (this is from the "pets" budget category). $58 groceries for the week plus $20 dogfood for the month, which is good for us, so this was a spending highlight. It's a good meal plan, too with pad thai, pasta with courgettes, baked potatoes, risotto, mexican eggs, apricot chicken/rice/salad and something from the freezer (also with a salad).

We all have good days and bad days, and I'm not counting the Claritin, groceries or dogfood since those are expected expenses. All in all, $40 I didn't need to spend, but we all had a wonderful day and F wasn't too sad about missing soccer.

Frugal Fun in Santa Fe, New Mexico

April 17th, 2015 at 09:17 pm

Since I live in a place where tourists love to visit, and PNW Mom asked about things to do here, I thought I'd do a post about some of the wonderful things to do here. I've included some locals-only tips, and if you're coming to visit, you should tell me!

Sorry - this is super long!

My favorite is the Musuem of International Folk Art; it's free on Sundays! The most incredible collection of folk art I've ever seen - bright and colorful!
The Spanish Colonial Museum is also on Museum Hill and is housed in a house designed by John Gaw Meem (a famous New Mexican architect who is partly responsible for reviving Spanish Colonial style).

Taos Pueblo tour - this is about an hour and a half away; they have tours.
Feast Days - If you are coming in the summer, check to see if there's a feast day at one of the nearby Indian Pueblos...

We have lots going on all year.
Summer -
Music on the Hill (bring a picnic dinner and listen to music while you picnic outside) http://www.sjc.edu/programs-and-events/santa-fe/music-hill-2015/ June-July (free! great with kids)
Santa Fe Bandstand (July-August) https://santafebandstand.org/ concerts on the Plaza (also great with kids)
Indian Market (free), Spanish Market (free), Folk Art Market (July 10-12 this year - Community Celebration with the Artists is Wednesday evening and is free! Tickets to Market vary and the lowest is $10 if purchased in advance)
Rodeo de Santa Fe - end of June
The Burning of Zozobra - We burned Zozobra long before there was burning man...
Santa Fuego Baseball - small-town baseball - we bring food and a blanket and you get to see the game up-close; end of May through July - tickets are $6
Winter -
Winter Indian Market and Winter Spanish Market
Farolitos (paper bag lanterns on Canyon Road) on Christmas Eve

- Audobon Trail is a short, easy loop but can be made longer if you make a turn and go up the Bear Canyon trail to make it longer (free); Randall Davey's house was donated to the Audobon center - it's open every Friday at 2 pm for a docent-led tour ($5). They have bird walks led by local experts every Saturday at 8 am (free!).

- Waterfall Hike - As you head up to the ski area there is a ranger
station to the right about halfway up (just past one of the campgrounds in Hyde Park). In back is the old log lodge where they hold a lot of weddings. There is a 1 mile hike to a waterfall - really nice and beautiful... kind of snowy and cold in the winter. Day use parking fee is $5.

-Bandelier - totally worth doing! (about 45 mins from Santa Fe). You can enter the caves and see the blackened ceilings (from the cooking fires made 800 years ago!). At the farthest point of the Main Loop Trail (1.2 mi roundtrip) you have a choice to continue to Alcove House, which is 140 feet above the canyon floor and only accessed by a series of ladders. It's another 1 mile roundtrip and the view from the top is amazing. $12 per car fee.

- Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks (about 20 minutes away toward Albuquerque) - really cool cone-shaped rock formations! About 20 min. south of Santa Fe.

-Tsankawi - On the way to Bandelier about 30 minutes from Santa Fe; petroglyphs and an amazing trail worn into the stone by people 600 years ago, beautiful vistas (ladders are a required part of the trail and the trails are very narrow). $12 per car fee.

- end of June is our rodeo down at the rodeo grounds - Rodeo de Santa Fe
- Folk Art Market - July 11, 12, 13 - http://www.folkartmarket.org/ - I would definitely come for the Thursday procession in Railyard Park (free with a free African concert - everyone dances, it’s a blast!!!). There is a volunteer button on the homepage - if you volunteer you get a free ticket (special times excluded) - volunteer as a Line Host!

We have some really amazing food here.
- The Tea House - stroll up Canyon Road, see the art (Friday night there are a ton of art gallery openings with wine/food), then stop in at The Tea House for tea and a scone or other dessert (they have a lot of gluten free choices, too).

- Ecco - stop in for gelato (on Marcy St) - it's homemade and wonderful

- Bumblebees - Mexican (not New Mexican) food, inexpensive

- Tune Up - GREAT locals place - really great New Mexican food

- Pascual's - great breakfast! This is not cheap, though.

- Vinaigrette - salads made with locally grown produce (grown up in
Nambe) - really wonderful, can eat outside beautiful patio (but also pretty expensive - this is for a treat!)

- Cowgirl - a fun outside patio, good to stop in and have a margarita
and listen to live music on the patio

- Kakawa - try an unusual hot chocolate - not cheap, but really different!

- Roque's Carnitas - a little lunch truck on the Plaza has been here for years and years. Super yummy and very messy! Get extra napkins!

- The Pantry - for a great New Mexico locals-style breakfast - it's down Cerrillos a few miles. You'll be the only tourist there! Be sure to get the potatoes.

- Chocolate Maven - you can sit down for breakfast here or just pick up a breakfast burrito to go. These are the best breakfast burritos in town!

- If you want Indian jewelry, shop under the portal of the Palace of the
Governors - you have to be certified/vetted to sell there,
so you know what you're getting is real - if you buy from any other
places/tables scattered around the plaza, the authenticity is not guaranteed

- Doodlet’s - fun/crazy souvenirs (this is just off the plaza)

- Madrid - a small town south on Highway 14 about 30 minutes - fun for a day trip and some funky art/crafts for gifts.

- Farmer's Market (Saturday and Tuesday mornings - check dates for summer v. winter) and Artist's Market across the street in the Railyard on Saturday mornings. You can get a yummy breakfast burrito in the Farmer's Market building.

- Todos Santos - chocolate shop hidden away in the beautiful Sena Plaza downtown; it's beautiful but I never buy anything here. It is worth seeing, though, and I'd probably buy something as a special gift for someone.

- Señor Murphy Candymaker - I do buy piñon caramel turtles here! And my favorite thing is the marshmallow dipped in caramel and then chocolate! Yum!

It's soooo much better and more fun to be near downtown, but it is more expensive. The biggest bargain is the Santa Fe Sage Inn which is a short walk from downtown. I hear that the Old Santa Fe Inn (even closer) is also not too expensive depending on the season.

Visit from Grandma with Meal Plan

April 5th, 2015 at 01:07 am

David's mum arrives in two days... I feel pretty ready! I've done the grocery shopping, have a meal plan. I washed the linens and D put them on the spare bedroom bed. Tonight I'm cleaning the bathroom, and we'll move F's stuff down to our bathroom so that she can have it to herself.

Our house is generally tidy, but I also vacuumed out my car since she'll be riding in it a lot, and I worked on our yard a little bit. I am building a little enclosure to hide our barbeque, and that should be done by tomorrow evening.

Here is our meal plan:
Cheesy cornbread with sundried tomatoes and a side salad (before she arrives)
Pad thai (before she arrives)
Turkey burgers with french fries and salad
Chicken piccata with rice and broccoli
Frittata with salad
Pasta with turkey bacon, peas and goat cheese
Barbequed chicken with veggies and a yummy sauce (friends over; they'll bring something, too)
Eat out one night

Our grocery bill was about 20% more than normal, but we usually don't eat that much animal protein (but D is pretty adamant that he wants to treat his mum to nice meals, and the concession is that we aren't eating out a bunch; fair enough!). We also bought sausages for easter breakfast tomorrow and an extra thing of eggs to dye for hard-boiled eggs (lunch!). I expected that, and I think I can make most of it up with an "eat out of the pantry" shopping trip later in the month.

When you have a guest, does your grocery shopping spending rise?

Meal Plan and Accidentally Bought Lunch

March 31st, 2015 at 12:16 am

The meal plan for the week was based on not having things that we want to have when D's mum arrives next Monday.

- tuna melts and salad
- crash potatoes and asparagus (on sale!)
- chinese night! general tso's chicken, spicy cabbage and rice
- cornbread and salad
- mexican eggs with toast
- zucchini socca
- matzo ball soup and deviled eggs and broccoli

Friday night is Passover and Sunday is Easter... we celebrate both in our house so this is a big weekend. I found gluten free matzo meal and decided to have matzo ball soup. It was a splurge, but I haven't had matzo ball soup in forever!

Today I brought a seriously stupid lunch (leftover soup but not enough to really be a meal, strawberries, berries that turned out to be moldy and dried apricots) so the office bought me a little tray of sushi. I didn't pay for it (well, at least not directly). I hate when that happens. I need to plan better tomorrow.

Meal Plan for Next Week

March 1st, 2015 at 12:07 am

I watched a show on Channel 4 called Junk Food Kids and it seriously freaked me out. We don't eat like that, but I do like sweets! I made pumpkin muffins this morning... yum! But those are home-made, so I control the sugar.

Anyway, I made our meal plan and then went out (a break in the snow! and the roads had been plowed!) to get this week's groceries.

This week's meal plan:
- sausage pasta with lemon and white wine
- chicken and rice soup with garlic bread
- white chicken chile (this will made enough for 3 more meals!)
- mexican eggs and salad
- tostadas (vegetarian)
- tuna melts with veg
- french dinner (a salad, some nice olives, cheese and crackers)
- quick chili

I realize that's eight meals instead of seven... I got over-excited about meal planning! This will take us through next Saturday night, and then I can shop on Sunday.

We're also trying a new recipe for chicken taquitos for lunch tomorrow.

Back to junk food kids... I put a cookie in F's lunch every day. I may try to do more baking instead of putting in a store-bought cookie. I love to bake and I think it's less expensive and healthier.

School Recipe Book

February 18th, 2015 at 10:54 pm

We're putting together a recipe book for our school (something we've never done before which surprises me).

We've asked for healthy, easy recipes...

I looked through my recipes and these are some candidates:
pad thai
white chicken chili
chipotle chicken stew
lemon crumbed fish
chicken piccata
bad breath pasta
zucchini socca
tunis cake
pumpkin corn muffins
summer pasta with bacon (we use turkey bacon)

In the meantime, I am really wanting some new recipes, and I can't wait for the cookbook...

Here is what we'll be trying in the next few weeks:
Corn Bread with cheese and sundried tomatoes (having this tomorrow night with a salad)

Chicken with cauliflower and olives (not that frugal, but a one-dish meal)

Baked chicken taquitos (these look so good!)

Potato farls with carrot/coconut soup (haven't had potato farls since I lived in Ireland!)


Happy Pancake Day!

February 18th, 2015 at 12:41 am

I had to have an endoscopy today, but the dr. said everything looks good! So that was great news! (And $442 but I have the money in a sinking fund called "Medical Unforeseen").

I'm having a little bit of discomfort though, so dinner isn't sounding that great tonight. It's baked potatoes and broccoli. Pretty mild.

And for dessert - pancakes (crepes here in the US) of course! It's Pancake Day! Shrove Tuesday!

I know there are some UK people on here, and people who have lived in the UK, that know this as Pancake Day. Are you having pancakes, too? Savory or sweet? (We do sugar and lemon).

YNAB, My New Jacket and Plan to Eat

January 31st, 2015 at 05:29 pm

1. I've been using YNAB for a month now, and it's awesome! It works the way I was already tracking our budget (month-ahead, tracking everything). That in itself was appealing. But it also allows me to track our accounts and make sure everything matches up. And I've been working very hard to make sure we don't have carry-over balances into next month, so we've spent less this month.

2. I bought a total of five jackets and returned four. The one I kept is great, and it was on sale. And it was the single most expensive clothing item I've ever bought. But totally worth it. It doesn't get extremely cold here (lowest is probably zero, and it's usually in the 30s in the winter). This jacket is perfect for our weather. It's the LL Bean 850 jacket (no hood - hoods make me crazy). I settled on black because it won't go out of style as quickly, and I plan on having this jacket for a thousand years.

3. I just heard about this meal planning program called Plan to Eat. I do pretty well on my own (and have for about 12 years!), and I don't need a program. But I'm curious, and there's a 30 day trial. Have any of you used it?

PS - it continues to snow here, and it's beautiful! Hope your weather is what you hoped for, too!

Mini Getaway, No Overnight, No Hotel

January 26th, 2015 at 12:01 am

Yesterday we spent a lot of money on a cross country skiing day trip to Enchanted Forest in Red River, but it was planned. Here is a list of all the way we saved but still got a really great weekend break:

- F and I own our own gear (my skis and boots are about 20 years old but are still great!) so no rental fees for us. Only D rented, total price: $16
- the ski area is the biggest x-c ski area in our state (33 km of trails), but it's still a cool little family-owned business. For trail passes for three of us it was $45. That's a lot less than downhill! (We don't downhill, by the way).
- We did not stay overnight, so no hotel. And our neighbor popped in to let our dog out since it was a long day (no petsitter).
- We packed a lunch, so we didn't pay for lunch (and we didn't need to take out any ski time to go eat).
- Used half a tank of gas to get there and back which is pretty good, and gas prices are low right now. $8 in gas.
- We went with another family, and had so much fun!
- We all stopped for dinner at our favorite place in Española on the way home. The last time we ate out was three weeks ago since we knew we were going out after the ski trip.

And, here's a big one: everyone was so satisfied with the trip (and exhausted) that we just stayed home today and didn't feel the need to go out today. F mentioned ice cream, but then I got two apples at the store, so we're having an apple/blueberry crumble instead.

I did the meal planning, and spent $80 for the week's groceries (and that includes ingredients for a salad for the potluck lunch the Parent Association is making for teachers/staff on Tuesday.

Meal Plan and an Unplanned Purchase

January 4th, 2015 at 11:32 pm

I did really well on groceries this week. I had to check the receipts to make sure, but we were under $100 which is good for us.

This week's meal plan:
S - pasta with courgettes (and some goat cheese)
M - v. sweet salmon and green beans
T - mexican eggs with garlic bread
W - crockpot meal from the freezer with salad
T - chicken tikka in crockpot with rice
F - baked potato and broccoli
S - quesadillas and guacamole

Unfortunately I accidentally bought a bag of cat food we didn't need. I thought we were out, and didn't realize that we had a bag waiting. Oh well, it will get used eventually and it was on sale. Also had a deal from American Express (spend $25 at Petsmart, get $5 back). I looked, but there aren't any other deals I need right now.

Now I'll tell you about the unplanned purchase I made today. I've been thinking about it for a while because I'm so cold all the time and I spend a lot of time in unheated job trailers or on jobsites. I bought an on-sale down jacket from Lands End (I also used a coupon code for an extra 15% off). Actually, the office bought it for me because it's my new site visit jacket. Now hopefully I won't shiver noticeably at outdoor meetings. It probably won't come in time, but I have to meet at a job site on Tuesday that is basically a big dirt hole up in the mountains (brrrrrrrr).

Happy Holidays and Lightbulbs and the Gym!

December 24th, 2014 at 04:44 pm

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you at SA! This community has been a source of comfort and advice and has helped me keep on track throughout the year! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Lightbulbs: D is in the kitchen right now changing out the spots to LED. That is 8 watts/bulb instead of 45! Wow! Those bulbs are our Christmas gift to ourselves this year.

Gym: I am teaching weightlifting at noon today. In a way I'd like to just stay home, but actually it's good to get out of the house and exercise! I couldn't run yesterday because it was just too cold and the sidewalks were icy.

Mince Pies: How could I forget mince pies? I had some filling left over from last year in the freezer, and I'm making dough today. We need to leave a mince pie for Father Christmas! And D needs his mince pies. So tonight is traditional New Mexico tamales, salad and mince pies! Then out to see the farolitos with the rest of the city! We're going early so it's not too crowded!

Christmas Week Menu

December 21st, 2014 at 01:25 am

Our menu this week:

Breakfasts and lunches - the usual, except Christmas morning.

Sunday - chicken, roasted cauliflower, rice (using the cauliflower up, and the chicken is from the freezer)
Monday - cod with broccoli and potatoes and aioli (need to use up the potatoes)
Tuesday - penne with butter and pecorino romano with stirfried courgettes
Wednesday - tamales (it's Christmas Eve!) and a salad
Thursday breakfast - sausage (it's in the freezer) and french toast souffle (this is made the night before and popped in the oven in the morning)
Thursday Christmas dinner - I am making cranberry sauce, potatoes dauphinoise (sounds fancier than it is!), turkey, gravy, tarte tatin; my friend is making a sweet potato dish, brussels sprouts with maple and a chocolate dessert.
Friday - Rachael Ray's turkey croquettes with leftover turkey! Going to try baking rather than frying.

It's pretty frugal (and luckily Christmas dinner is a shared effort!). Now we can afford some red wine and the adults can relax while the girls play!

Holiday Decorating and Raspberry Tart

December 6th, 2014 at 10:51 pm

I'm in a much better mood today!

For one thing, I resolved things with my mother (life's too short).

And I got a ton done today around the house since F is playing at a friend's house; that way tomorrow is freed up to do fun stuff with her and not vacuuming!

Last night we went to the Recycled Fashion Show (kids and adults made awesome dresses from TRASH!) - it was amazing! Also very festive. They have booths, too, but I didn't buy anything.

Today we put up our tree; haven't decorated it yet. We'll do that tonight or tomorrow morning. I did put green christmas ornaments in the tree in front of our house. It doesn't have any leaves since it's winter, so the green baubles are not only festive but add some green!

Tomorrow - Winter Festival at our Indian Arts museum. There'll be dancing and storytelling and ornament-making. It's free with our state drivers licenses. Also we have to bake dog biscuits to raise money for the animal shelter (it's F's class service project). And we're going to our neighbor's house for dinner. I'm bringing dessert: a raspberry tart with a cream and mascarpone filling. Gluten free, of course! Big baking day tomorrow. Total cost of tart will be about $8 for all of the ingredients (raspberries were on sale). Not inexpensive, but our neighbor is providing dinner for three of us, so I wanted to do a nice dessert.

Careful Meal Planning (Soccer Tournament!)

November 2nd, 2014 at 03:32 pm

When my routine is altered, it's a lot harder to stick to the food budget!

So... F has a soccer tournament next weekend, which not only means traveling about an hour each way on Saturday and Sunday, it also means three practices during the week. They'll be earlier because it's dark earlier, but it still means I need to plan more carefully.

So here's the plan:
- bring snacks in the car on Tue, Wed and Fri (days of the practices) so that there is enough time after school to eat a snack, do homework and get to the fields by 4:30 (before Daylight Savings it was 5:30)
- figure out a plan for food during the tournament and bring a cooler (sandwiches, cheese, nuts, fruit, something sweet)
- make sure that the meal plan has easy meals on Tue, Wed and Fri since we always get home late from practice.

Here's the dinner plan:
S - pasta with zucchini and goat cheese (that's tonight!)
M - tostadas with beans, lettuce, sour cream (I have a couple of ripe avocados, too)
T - posole with salad (posole is a New Mexican dish with green chile, hominy, chicken, oregano, some stewed tomatoes - I make it in the crockpot)
W - asian meatballs (made in the crockpot)
T - v sweet salmon, brown rice, broccoli
F - grilled cheese, tomato soup
S - something from the freezer (made last week in the crockpot!) with peas or salad

Mortgage Principal and Pinecone Cash-Out

October 2nd, 2014 at 12:03 am

I got paid by the gym today (for August! ugh!).... but that's $55 toward the mortgage. Along with $6 I got from a Target rebate and my usual $150 from our budget, I paid down the mortgage principal by $211.

We've paid down an extra $3359 this year so far; the house will be paid off in July 2020 if we don't pay any more down on principal. With my usual $150 per month, it'll be October 2019.

I also cashed out Pinecone today; I should be getting a check for $18 soon (mortgage principal of course!).

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.

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).

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.

Making Brunch for Six Instead of Going Out

August 15th, 2014 at 11:53 pm

We have good friends who used to live here who are visiting this week. The suggestion was made to go to brunch together, and I can't wait to see them. But instead of eating brunch out, I opted to have them over.

Yes, I'll be cooking and paying for food for six, but it works out way less expensive than going out and getting meals for the three of us.

We're going to have french toast souffle (super yummy; and I will make it tonight and heat tomorrow so all the goop soaks into the bread), muffin cup frittatas and strawberries. And I bought some juice and D will make coffee. Total cost was less than $18.

We would have probably spent about $40 if we went out. Maybe more, because what always seems to happen is the people we eat with get more/sides/coffee/juice/etc. (when we go out we get water and just one meal each), but we split the bill anyway. I never say anything about it; you're all going to say that I should, but I hate doing that. It's just not an option for me.

Inviting people over is not only cheaper, but we'll get to hang out, and the girls can play together outside or in F's room while we chat.

I'm going to take that $17-whatever it came to out of our dining budget, though, rather than groceries budget!

Big Grocery Spending - but there's a reason

June 20th, 2014 at 02:57 pm

The grocery spending this week was about $80 more than normal - yikes! But there's a reason... we have a British coach from F's soccer camp staying with us. He's 22, and he eats a lot!

But... we get a check for $80 from the camp at some point as a "thank you" - really it's to cover extra food costs. Characteristically, I am not worrying that they'll forget to send it to us.

F is so sad that the coach is leaving this evening. I'm sad, too. We'll miss him!

Just got a notice that the coaches (Brazilian this time) from next week's camp need somewhere to stay. I'd do it, but D thinks it's a bit much to do it two weeks in a row. Next year...

Food Frugality (A little too frugal?)

May 9th, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I am sitting her eating a small bowl of what is left at the bottom of the chip bag. I eat it with a spoon (the bits are too small). My husband and daughter leave those little shards, but I'm not too proud to eat them. I get one more serving of chips or crisps that way!

I also eat the stuff that comes back in F's lunch. I try to ask her first if anything fell on the floor or if she spit anything out. She has a habit of just biting off the very tip of strawberries; there's a lot of strawberry left! So even though she's bitten it, I'll totally eat it.

I like the core of fruit (like pineapple and mango). Sometimes I'll serve fruit to F and D, and I take the core for myself. But this is different, because I actually like the core. And otherwise, it'd be wasted!

I've been known to eat the remainder of F's oatmeal as my breakfast (I'm sure I'm not the only mom who does this). And the only juice I ever drink is what she doesn't finish in the morning. But as a result, we only buy one thing of juice a week (and F and D water it down - I've trained them well!).

I don't know if some of this is just ridiculous, but I was thinking about it (you know - because I was eating those chip shards), so thought I'd post.

Do you have any weird, frugal food habits like this?

Line Drying, Library for Movie Rentals, New Recipe, Political Giving

March 30th, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Some things on my mind:

1. I can no longer hang D's clothes outside on the line to dry because of his allergies (which cause the vertigo). I only very rarely use our dryer, so I have to hang them in the laundry room instead (they take longer to dry there, but that's not a very big deal - we do live in the land of zero humidity, so it's only 2 days instead of 2 hours). Our sheets are another story. I am not supposed to hang those outside in the Spring either, so the plan is to hang them in the laundry room across several hangers and then get the last of the dampness out with 10 mins. in the dryer. Not using the dryer is not only a financial issue for me, but also an environmental one. But my husband's health comes first, obviously!

2. I rented the Last Exotic Marigold Hotel from the library. Cost: $0. We've wanted to watch it for a while. Since I can easily wait to see movies, the library is a really good option.

3. Trying a new recipe tonight, a penne and sausage bake that I saw here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/penne_and_sausage_pasta_3094. It's not my most frugal ($8 for the three of us for dinner, not sure if it'll create any leftovers), but good for a "meat" night. I'm using chicken sausage since we don't eat pork.

4. We went to a house party today for one of our gubernatorial candidates. I really loved what he had to say, and he was smart and eloquent. His wife is an architect (how could I not like him, right?). But I didn't give any money for two reasons: I do a lot of public work, and I have to declare campaign contributions on my proposals. I won't give money because you never know when my political preferences might alienate potential clients. And secondly, when I give money, I like to give it to charitable organizations. On the other hand, if he gets the nomination, I will gladly give my time as a volunteer to help him get elected.

Snowflake and My Yummy Lunch

March 25th, 2014 at 07:17 pm

I got paid by the gym yesterday: $60. So that's another snowflake to the mortgage. And I'm happy to see that my gym pay has gone up $10 each month for the past few months. I used to get about $25 or $30.

This means I'll have $210 to put toward mortgage principal at the beginning of next month.

I'm home from the office right now; I came home from lunch, and to start dinner (it's in the crockpot). So I was able to make a hot lunch (which is nearly done cooking). I'm having an artichoke. I love artichokes, and have since I was a kid; so glad they're coming back in season and are on sale right now! I'll have it with a piece of cinnamon raisin toast and some fruit. This is much nicer than the lunches I bring to work!

A Frugal Grocery Week

March 23rd, 2014 at 08:44 pm

Thankfully it's a frugal grocery week.

We're having:
- tuna melts
- mexican eggs and spinach
- pasta with courgettes and goat cheese
- asian meatballs over rice
- italian soup with ground turkey (crockpot) - this will make about 4 meals (we'll put three in the freezer)
- tamales out of the freezer and salad
- and tonight we're going to F's friend's house for kids and adult party (two of her friends have birthdays - both boys - that are just a few days apart, so they often have a celebration together)

Now I just have to work out what we're having on which nights. Soccer has started again, which means that on soccer nights we need to having something easy. (That is the mexican eggs, crockpot things, something from the freezer).
Monday - piano (we get back at about 5:45)
Wednesday - soccer practice (we get back late - like 7:30)
Friday - soccer practice (7:30 again!)

It's a juggling act, isn't it? But it is absolutely a requirement for me to have a nice meal as a family.

The grocery shopping came to $88.41
- dinner ingredients $35
- lunch ingredients $20
- fruit $6
- staples $11
- breakfast staples $13
- dessert items $3

OK, need to go wrap birthday gifts and play a game with F.

Meal Plan and No Spend Days Last Week

March 8th, 2014 at 09:05 pm

Our meal plan for the week is intended to use up some food that's already in the fridge, since we are leaving next Saturday to visit my parents in California. (Yay! It's going to be about 80 deg. and since it snowed here today, we're pretty excited!).

Potato pancakes and salad
Tilapia with paprika and curry powder and asparagus
Something out of the freezer (probably chicken black bean corn salsa stew)
Grilled cheese with tomato soup
Chicken tacos and guacamole
Pasta with butter and parmesan with peas

We need to have a little food left for D for the following week since he returns on Monday (F and I are staying longer and returning on the train the following Friday). I will be sure to update you on that!

No Spend Days
So this past week I not only kept track of our No Spend Days (discretionary spending), but also kept track of the triggers that caused spending (and the situations where I didn't spend).

Sunday - NSD
what I did to avoid spending: stayed at home in the morning “hanging out” with the family and doing chores, met friends for tennis in the afternoon (free!)

Monday - NSD
what I did to avoid spending: worked hard, brought a Luna bar to avoid sweets craving (peanut cookie flavor - yuck!)

Tuesday - went to the rolfer (I have an appt. every other month)
what I did to avoid discretionary spending: didn’t enter any shops, brought a Luna bar again (this time coconut with chocolate - yuck, again)

Wednesday - gelato $7
spending trigger - promise to F that we'd get a treat. I wasn't going to get a gelato, too, but they had my favorite flavor (honey) - grrr!

Thursday - NSD
what I did to avoid spending - F has an afterschool class, so there was no time to go to a store

Friday - bought lunch at a local supermarket for me and F (goes into grocery budget, but just should have made something at home)
spending trigger - hunger! not having enough time to eat lunch before F’s friend arrived! store is on the way home! Basically I wouldn't have stopped if it was just me, but wanted the treat for F.

Saturday - NSD (just groceries)
what I did to avoid spending - went to the grocery store after eating, so not hungry for "extras" - went to the library to get books for F, stopped by the office, went home to clean house. Too busy for discretionary spending!

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