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Viewing the 'Frugal Food' Category

Sometimes Expenses Come Up

February 17th, 2016 at 03:25 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 07:48 am

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 14th, 2015 at 07:07 pm

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 01:46 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 10:25 am

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 04:08 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 03:25 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 03:36 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 10:06 am

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 04:07 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 04:45 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 09:55 am

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 01:56 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 12:28 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 03:51 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 03:43 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 23rd, 2015 at 06:42 pm

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 04:47 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 02:17 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 4th, 2015 at 06:07 pm

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 30th, 2015 at 05:16 pm

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

February 28th, 2015 at 04:07 pm

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 02:54 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 17th, 2015 at 04:41 pm

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 09:29 am

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 25th, 2015 at 04:01 pm

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 03:32 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 08:44 am

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 20th, 2014 at 05:25 pm

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 02:51 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.

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