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Meal Budgeting and Meal Planning

April 18th, 2016 at 03:05 pm

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

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

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

The meal plan for this week:

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

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

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

Low Spend Weekend (Soccer all Weekend)

February 23rd, 2016 at 10:37 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last night was baked potatoes and asian courgettes. Yum!

Sometimes Expenses Come Up

February 17th, 2016 at 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