Category Archives: Finances

Articles concerning finances. This is the “budget” Epicurean after all.

Getting Serious About Setting My Future on FIRE

For those who don’t know, FIRE means Financial Independence and Retire Early.

It’s not a very popular concept, especially in America, the land of “bigger is better” and “more is better” as a way  of life. Most people I know in the 20-30s age range are buying big homes, going out to eat and to bars, concerts, festivals, traveling, and generally not thinking about money at all besides “hmmm should I check the contribute to 401k box or not?”

Thank goodness for the internet!

I’ve been a long-time reader and subscriber to some amazing personal finance blogs, like The Simple Dollar, Mr. Money Mustache, The Frugalwoods, and most recently Physician on FIRE and Mrs. Picky Pincher. And through their wise words I’ve become more and more inspired and determined.

The road to FIRE may seem like a long and arduous one, but it is one which leads to paradise. Yes, we will have to make a lot of life choices that aren’t popular or cool. No, we will not live in the biggest, fanciest house we can afford, drive flashy new cars, or party hearty every weekend.

A lot of people wonder, why would you do this? I mean, sure, not having to work sounds fun. But it seems like a lot of WORK and a lot of SACRIFICE.

It all boils down to one word: FREEDOM

Having “F-you money” is all about being free to do as you please with your life. Freedom to sleep in all day, or wake up for work at 7am. Freedom to pick up and move to Vietnam for a year, because you’ve always wanted to see a waterfall out your back door. Freedom to have a family, freedom to travel, to build your own business, to volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about, to train for a marathon, or lay around in your pajamas.

Let’s take a look at the most common budget-busting areas, to see what we are currently doing right, and where there’s room to trim.

Housing

Mortgage – this one we have under control, and in fact I do a little happy dance every time I see this charge in my bank account.

Think I’m crazy? Let me explain.

Through multitudes of apartments, and then rental houses, hubby & I had been inching our way up in lifestyle inflation and wrecking any chances of real savings through constant moving. We needed more space, we had dogs, we needed a yard… and of course we most recently were living in Connecticut, one of the most expensive parts of the country.

The rent there hurt… REALLY hurt.

Suffice it to say folks, that when we moved to NC & bought our first house, we were now paying basically HALF in mortgage what we once paid in rent! A small bit of it is going towards equity (don’t even talk to me about the interest burden early on during a loan), and some glorious day a few decades from now we can theoretically stop paying for housing forever!

(Yes, I know property taxes are a thing, forever. Don’t get me started on that either. And we may move, in which case, this house likely becomes a rental. If anyone knows of a place anywhere in the world where you can buy an island, with no property tax, pretty please email me! For serious.)

Food

I track all of our grocery spending, and have been for 2 years now. Every receipt gets entered into a Google spreadsheet, and though it sounds like a lot of work it only takes a few minutes while waiting for a video game to load or some such.

I’ve been noticing that we were holding to 200-300/month pretty well for a long time, then we had moving expenses and food costs exploded (restocking a new house, eating out, ordering pizza…) and we haven’t really recovered.

I can not justify $600 / month for just 2 people! Even with a food blog, that is quite frankly ridiculous. I mean, I don’t expect us to subsist solely on rice & beans (though it is delicious) but we have to get that under control. And I know I’m the one to blame.  >.<

I’m working on it, and will be publishing our weekly eating as a series now to help keep myself accountable and on track!

Transportation

We both own our vehicles, a 2004 Honda CRV and 2005 Honda Civic. We only have to pay yearly insurance, tag renewal, gas, and upkeep. Unfortunately, we are both very auto-averse, so we don’t garner the additional savings of things like doing our own oil changes or small repairs.

But I can check my oil level and top it up, fill my own tires with air, vacuum, wash it, refill fluids, and change wiper blades!

We could of course sell one car, since hubby is lucky enough to work from home, and just keep one for my commute. We have discussed the possibility of myself commuting at least in part by bicycle too. The numbers are being run, and this is an ongoing discussion.

Unfortunately, I work in one of the most expensive counties in the state for property, so the likelihood of being able to move to within walking/biking distance anytime soon is about nil. All affordable homes are ~20+ miles away, so I’m stuck with a 35 minute commute for the foreseeable future.   🙁

Entertainment

Our absolute ideal way to spend a weekend?

A potluck game night with friends. We make one main food item, a few other people bring more food, and then we just hang out enjoying each others’ company and playing board and card games. Super low-key, super frugal, and it is always a good time!

A close second?

Playing video games and watching Netflix together, eating whatever is in the house. And/or a nice long walk or hike. Maybe some household chores thrown in if we’re feeling frisky.

We both have pretty low-key hobbies: reading, writing, cooking & baking, games, playing music. The hubs’ big costs (re: guitars/amps) are already sunk, and there won’t be any more large costs added in the foreseeable future.

Some people would find that mind-numbingly boring, but those people are probably not going to retire by the time they’re 40, will they? And I have never been disappointed by spending time strengthening my marriage and friendships instead of spending money. So I’m pretty pleased with this aspect of our lives currently.

Pets

We do have 2 pups, who we adopted about 3 years ago now. We did make this choice knowing pet ownership comes with many costs attached. However, we do all their ‘pet maintenance’: bathing, grooming, nail trimming, flea and tick prevention.

We order their food in bulk from Amazon, and since they are both under 30 pounds, it costs us maybe $30 to feed them for 2 months. Besides required tags, checkups and vaccines, they are low-key, just like us.

But if anyone has tips for lowering the cost of pet-parenting, please feel free to share below!

Clothing / Misc.

I think I may have spent a total of $50 on clothing in all of 2016-2017 so far. The vast majority of my closet has been with me for years. I buy pieces that fit well and are well made, mostly second hand (you can find gems at Goodwill and thrift stores if you’re willing to look through a lot of… not-gems).

Then I wear the crap out of them, basically until they are stained or ripped and cannot be worn any further.

By choosing to not keep up with current ‘trends’, but instead dress in a ‘classic’ way that never goes out of style, I don’t need to constantly be adding pieces to my wardrobe. I have enough accessories and mix and match pieces that I can dress up or down at my pleasure.

I also do my darndest to keep in shape. I’m definitely not supermodel slim by any stretch of the imagination. But as long as I don’t gain or lose more than about 10 pounds, 99% of my wardrobe continues to fit me, season after season.

And the hubs?

He works from home, and considers khakis the dressiest thing he should ever have to own or wear. I have never seen him show any interest in or buy clothing other than new socks one time. If he has on pants at all, it’s probably track pants. He’s a born athlete, and yes I knew what I was getting when I married him  😉

We very rarely go anywhere ‘just to shop’.

I purposely avoid going to a store unless there’s a specific reason or a list. We mostly keep an ongoing Amazon list, and once it gets big enough we click ‘order’. We may pay slightly more for toilet paper, Draino or nyquil, but by avoiding big box stores in general we also avoid impulse purchases.

Oh, and makeup/beauty products spending is just not a thing for me.

Why do we care about these numbers?

To figure out your FIRE number, some people say you need enough saved to replace 85% of your working salary. But that is just not true.

When you no longer go to work, all expenses associated with work go away, like work clothing, office supplies, lunches out, the commute, convenience purchases because you forgot your coffee/lunch/ are too tired to make dinner…

Plus, you will be living off of investment income, which is taxed at a lower rate than working income.

Therefore, a better way to figure out what you need, is to track your monthly & yearly expenses. Let’s say you normally spend about $5,000 per month between mortgage, car, food, gas, etc. That’s $60,000 per year.

If you want to use the 4% withdrawal rate, you need to have saved 25 times that, or $1,500,000 before you can retire.

That’s a lotta moolah!

But, let’s say that you do some creative frugalizing of your life: downgrade your house, trade in your car and buy one used with cash, trim the grocery budget, drop the cable and home phone bill, et cetera, and now you spend $3000 per month, or 36,000 per year. Now your 25 multiplier requires only $900,000 saved!

Still a big number, but more manageable.

Now, imagine you develop some side income streams. You start a YouTube channel, launch a side business, freelance write some journal articles, build birdhouses, take up dog walking, whatever. Now you bring in an extra 1000 per month reliably, or 12,000 per year. You only need an extra 24,000 to make up the difference, so you can retire with $600,000!

By maxing out your 401K and getting a 10% match at work, plus some stock index investing on your own, you can easily reach that amount (assuming compound interest) in under 10 years.

And boom! You’re “financially independent” and ready to retire!

In Conclusion

Well, I don’t see how we could cut down our current lifestyle much more than we already have without some serious quality of life sacrifices. The good news is, we are extremely blessed, and already live on much less than we bring in, as a 2 full time paycheck household.

That means our “FIRE number”, or how much we need to have saved in order to “retire”, is lower than it would be if we spent twice as much per year.

So the point is, now we are looking into more ways to build side income, and saving as much as we possibly can in many ways and vehicles. If anyone has suggestions or recommendations, we would love to hear about it in the comments below!

This is a wild and wonderful journey, and we can’t wait to learn and grow, and hopefully achieve freedom sooner rather than later.

 

How about you, readers? Do you have retirement plans? Any wisdom to share from already-retirees or soon-to-be-retirees?

Weekly Eating 8/7/17

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Monday:

Breakfast – Cherry Vanilla Protein Smoothie. What you see is what went in the blender, except I used frozen already-pitted cherries. The fresh ones were for snacking all week.  🙂

Lunch – chili with edamame and grapes. Organic frozen edamame are my favorite, because I love them (covered in sea salt of course) and they count as a green vegetable with any meal!

Dinner – one pan rosemary chicken and potatoes with zucchini. I speared chunks of chicken onto the rosemary stems, and sprinkled the leaves all over about 4 cubed potatoes. 2 zucchini got diced into spears, and the whole thing covered in foil and popped in the oven at 400 for about 35 minutes. It was so delicious, and really easy cleanup!

Snack – banana pudding y’all! We made some from scratch, and it was gooooooooood! We used ginger snaps instead of vanilla wafers, and I had no idea pudding is actually so easy! Tasty, and dangerous…

Tuesday:

Breakfast – smoothie! The rest of yesterdays (I made a double batch, and put the rest in the refrigerator)

Lunch – Chili with edamame and grapes. Yes this week is pretty boring, but I had SO MUCH chili left over from last week. Rather than freeze it I decided that was just what I was eating this week. It’s easy, super healthy, and super cheap.

Dinner –  macaroni & cheese, not even healthified, just something that was quick and easy to throw together, plus we had several types of cheese in the refrigerator that needed using. I sprinkled it with paprika to look fancy.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – 2 hard boiled eggs & a homemade pretzel chocolate peanut butter granola bar

Lunch – chili mac n cheese, just leftover chili and leftover mac n cheese mixed together. But oh em gee it is SO GOOD.

Dinner – gyros! Hubs made this one, since his favorite food of all time is a burrito. He loves other cuisines’ takes on burritos too, like enchiladas, sushi burritos, or schwarma. Or gyros. Mmmmm.

Snack – handful of pretzels and M&Ms

Thursday 

Breakfast – a piece of blueberry pie left from last weekend’s party

Lunch – tasty pasta

Dinner – broiled chicken breast, potato salad & kale. I tried cooking the kale in lemon juice until soft, but I think I let it go too long. It got this dark olive green color, and was barely edible. Next time I think I’ll just stick with kale chips!

Friday

Breakfast – granola bar & 2 hard boiled egg whites. Yes sometimes I get boring and repeat meals, what of it?! Plus, boiling a dozen eggs at the start of the week and making large batches of things like granola bars gives us plenty of quick protein filled breakfast and snacking options. So necessary at 6:30 am.

Lunch – chili mac n cheese = finally finished both the chili and the mac n cheese! Yes!

Dinner – Chipotle! I had been hard core craving this for almost 2 weeks, and finally caved. C’est la vie, I don’t regret it. Plus, I get a burrito bowl, and they always pack that container full. I put part of it into my own tortilla when I get home, and that way I turn one bowl into 2-3 meals! That’s like $3 per meal. Aw yessss.

The Weekend

This weekend is pretty relaxed, just going to Saturday morning rooftop yoga, and the Durham Farmers Market. We planned to explore some towns near us perhaps, and do some organizing at home. Maybe some video games… by maybe I mean definitely.

Total: $89.35

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Lessons Learned

This was a good week, some things at our jobs were finally calming down and assorted outstanding items were done, so stress levels decreased overall. Always a nice feeling. Plus using up leftovers, even if it means repeat meals, is a top 10 frugal strategy.

On the flip side, I didn’t make a meal plan this week, so the meals were figured out the day of usually… and we also went out to eat twice, which is not our norm.  It is what nudged the week’s cost up, as groceries alone were only about $30. But it felt much more special exactly because it is a rare event!

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Weekly Eating – 7/31

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Excuse me while I have an existential crisis real quick…

{OMG WHAT ITS AUGUST!? It was January like 2 seconds ago, we just moved to a new state, started a new job, had no furniture but an air mattress and knew not a darn soul… now we’ve been here TEN WHOLE MONTHS and have, like, a real adult home?!? And friends?? WHOA. Pretty sure this is where I should insert “hashtag blessed” or something..}

Okay, thanks for hanging in there readers, on to the deets of this week’s noms!

I had made a big ol’ pot of crockpot chili on Sunday night, which is one of my favorite things to do. I take all the kinds of dried beans in the house, and soak them in water overnight. In the morning, I pour out the water, refill it, and add the extra tomato juice, veggies, meat, and spices. Then you just let it rock and roll all day.

It is insanely cheap, because dried beans. It is also insanely versatile, use up the ends and bits of whatever, lentils, bell peppers, onions, black beans. So it is a little different every time. This became lunches several days, kept the work-from-home hubs from starving, and also chili cheese dogs and chili baked potatoes! <3

Monday:

Breakfast – bagel with almond butter & apple. This has become one of my favorite to-go breakfasts, so fast and easy, yet healthy!

Lunch – stuffed poblano peppers from last week’s food swap

Dinner – eggplant parm & pasta. I have tried multiple times, I just cannot like eggplant! This saddens me, because it is so good for you, and people very often want to give it away. But I just cannot.

Snack – white bean rosemary hummus with raw veggies. Y’all, if you have not tried this yet you are missing out! Get out the blender, go read the recipe right now, and make it!

Tuesday:

Breakfast – 2 egg veggie omelet. Had some onions, peppers, and mushrooms so I stir fried them and wrapped them in eggs!

Lunch – tuna noodle casserole. This is giving it a bit more credit than I probably should. I just took some leftover cooked pasta salad that already had bits of peppers and onion and mayo, and added a can of tuna to it to give it protein. Then I called that lunch!

Dinner – baked blue cheese & spinach chicken rolls with oven-roasted potato wedges & garlic aioli. Sounds super fancy, I know, but honestly it is literally 3 ingredients! Just thin chicken breasts, a pinch of blue cheese and handful of spinach, roll up and secure with cooking twine or toothpicks and bake!

The garlic aioli is 1-2 garlic cloves diced small, 2 tbsp. lemon juice, and 1/2 cup mayonnaise, mixed well. This is an excellent dip for chicken and potato wedges. Feel free to pull out this recipe anytime you need to impress someone but have seriously 5 minutes to focus on making the food.

Oh, and I also got a little crafty this week! I had seen a YouTube video for a bathing suit wrap that’s almost no-sew, and just had to try it. Of course, I didn’t get to it in time for the beach last weekend, but that’s ok.

It really was so easy! Just cut it to the right width to wrap around you, cut arm holes, and braid 3 strips of fabric for the shoulder straps. The straps were the only sewing part, and it took like 10 minutes total! I can’t wait to go somewhere that I can use it!

Wednesday:

Breakfast – homemade pretzel PB choc chip granola bars using THIS RECIPE from Tiffany @ Don’t Waste the Crumbs

This recipe was so easy to follow, and I LOVE pretzels, so how could it possibly go wrong? Well, I think using JIF added more oil than it needed, what with the extra coconut oil, so it was pretty greasy… but the flavor was out of this world delish, so this recipe is a keeper! I will definitely tweak it and make these again.

Lunch – crock pot turkey chili, I brought in a big enough container that I could only finish half! Good thing we have work refrigerators

Dinner – slow cooker pulled beef sandwiches with steamed broccoli and pinto beans. I literally just stuck a pound of beef roast in the crock pot before work, came home and shredded it. Could not ask for a simpler, but seriously tasty, dinner!

Snack – white bean hummus with raw veggies

Thursday 

Breakfast – pepper & onion omelet for me, cherry vanilla smoothie for the man. I think we’ve found a new favorite! 1/2 cup frozen cherries, 1/2 cup cherry juice, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1 scoop vanilla protein powder. It is GOOD!

Lunch – the rest of the turkey chili & more white bean hummus! See how making big batches of things early in the week can mean less work the rest of the week?

Dinner – turkey burritos! Because burritos are the kings of food.

I also had a great batch-prep night because this is when I went grocery shopping for the weekend parties (see below). I cooked up like 6 pounds of ground turkey and beef and packed it in 1lb zip locks to freeze, got a great deal on marked-down overripe bananas that I froze to make smoothies and bread in the future, and washed and cut up and bagged grapes, cherries, and strawberries for snacks.

Friday

Breakfast – vanilla Greek yogurt with strawberries, chia seeds, & walnuts. I made a grave error at the store, and grabbed flavored Greek rather than plain. I do make my own yogurt, but haven’t mastered the making it thicker like Greek yogurt part. So I got some for the hubs to put on burritos… oops. Well, now we will have smoothies and yogurt for breakfasts.

Lunch – Beef & veggie leftover soup. I took my small crock pot to work, and used up the little bit of leftover pulled beef, beans, broccoli, and some kale. I added a bit of barley, and let it go on my desk all morning. The office smelled great, and I had a cheap hot lunch!

Dinner – One pan roasted chicken, potatoes, and cauliflower with a side salad. I know this dinner is so “white” i.e. not much color. And also, not stir fry. But the below mentioned cheap chickens were around, so I roasted one, and Kroger also had a 5lb bag of potatoes for 0.99, so…

Hence the side salad, for at least a little greenery in our diet.

Snack – granola bar nomnomnom

The Weekend

Saturday is a neighborhood potluck, for which I plan on making some potato salad and ham sandwiches. I also got whole chicken on sale this week for 0.79 / pound!! Can you even believe it! Yeah I stocked my freezer, as you’ll see below in the total…

And then Sunday we are hosting  a wine tasting by Unique Pairings! I’m super pumped because it means an excuse to eat all the cheese and sweets and try lots of wines! This also helped to inflate the food budget a little, but totally worth. I adore hosting parties.

Total: $177.86

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Lessons Learned

Uh, yeah, so we overshot by $100. BUT. As noted above, we are going to 2 different parties this weekend, and most of the extra food was for appetizers/foods to share. Also, as hosts, we will frequently wind up with tons of leftover food, which will likely feature in a lot of next week’s meals.

Plus, SEVENTY NINE CENTS A POUND for chicken!! Come on. Tell me you wouldn’t buy like ten if you had the freezer space for that. A lot of this was stocking up on good sales, so that in future weeks we won’t have to spend as much on meats/etc.

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

White Bean Rosemary Hummus

 

Hummus is a wonderful thing. It is delicious and versatile, you can add it to sandwiches and wraps, stir some into soups to thicken it and add flavor, or eat it alone or with chips or crudites.

But hummus is so expensive at the store! you say. I know, I don’t love paying $3 for 8oz either.

Ever tried making your own?

It’s super easy, I promise. Do I look like a girl who likes complicated? (Well, maybe sometimes. It is fun to get a little crazy and make a giant Ethiopian feast every now and then. But mostly I like plain and simple, the cheaper and faster the better.)

One of the reasons hummus can get so expensive is the tahini paste. Marketed as a key ingredient, it helps give hummus that earthy umami flavor and smooth texture. But what if I told you instead of a $10 ingredient, you could use a $1 ingredient, and it would taste essentially the same?

Think about it. What is tahini paste? It’s ground sesame seed. Which is kind of like a nut butter. And guess what tastes similar? Other actual nut butters! I’ve used peanut butter and almond butter before, I think Almond Butter is my favorite!

Oh, and what if you don’t like chickpeas? Or think those are too over-priced as well? Good news! You can make black bean hummus just as easily, or try this amazing white bean recipe below. Each creates a slightly different flavor and texture, try them all and make a big dip buffet!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can white (cannelini) beans, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Dash of salt to taste

Step 1: Drain beans, add to blender. Add in the garlic, lemon, oil, almond butter, and rosemary. Blend well for about 1 minute, until it is a thick paste. Add some more oil or a dash of warm water if you’d like it thinner.

This recipe makes about 2 cups prepared hummus. I pack it into small containers and take it to work with diced up fresh veggies as my afternoon snack most days! It is also great for parties and potlucks.

 

Disclaimer: This blog is a part of the Amazon Affiliate program. Some links will take you to an Amazon page to buy those items. This does not impact the price you pay, but the blog gets a teeny tiny commission that over time helps pay the bills. Thanks in advance if you participate! 

Weekly Eating – 7/24

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

Well, mommy dearest and I had a WONDERFUL time at the beach this past week! It is so good to get away and stick your toes in the sand. And I came home with a case of really delicious and unique wines from Unique Pairings! (Expense included in Travel budget, not food budget, thank goodness)

Monday:

Breakfast – corn tortilla (maseca + water) 1 scrambled egg +  tbsp black beans + shredded cheese

Lunch – boring turkey sandwich

Dinner – burgers from the freezer, plus pasta salad using some peppers from the food swap!

OH MY GOSH GUYS, so there’s this thing called the Bull City Food Swap in Durham. It’s all homemade, home grown, fermented, canned, baked, or foraged, no grocery store purchases. And it is all barter, no cash, checks or credit. You bring your goodies, and everyone else brings theirs. And then there is a sort of bidding system, where you offer your goods for others you want. Then you swap!

And holy cow was it fun! It was at a cool local bar, and I met some awesome folks who produce some delicious goods. I made about 2 dozen soft pretzels and some extra homemade yogurt for the occasion.

In return, I came home with banana pudding, pickles, 3 different types of jam and jelly, salsa, a half dozen eggs, homemade pasta, a bucket of tomatoes and 2 big brown bags FULL of peppers / eggplant / okra! This was so awesome, and gave me oodles of “free” stuff to plan my week’s meals.

Tuesday:

Breakfast – frugal fail oatmeal

Lunch – Caprese sandwich using a tomato from the food swap, mozzarella, and home grown basil!

Dinner – Jambalaya using frozen sausage and tomatoes, peppers, and okra from the food swap!

Wednesday:

Breakfast – yogurt with almonds & chocolate

Lunch – brought to us for a work meeting: Salmon salad

Dinner – stuffed cabbage casserole in the crock pot

Snack – grape tomatoes & cucumbers, Peach Basil Jam (from the food swap!) & crackers

Thursday 

Breakfast – smoothie with homemade yogurt, blueberries from ALDI and spinach

Lunch – stuffed poblanos from the Food Swap. I stuffed them with quinoa and black beans, cooked them in the rice cooker (yes for real, it is small so it fits 4 peppers perfectly!), and then split into 2 containers and added pepper jack cheese on top!

Dinner – Fajitas! I got a nice chuck roast at ALDI, and sliced it thinly. I fried up a bunch of strips of onion and bell pepper (from the swap of course) and added the steak. We ate it in wraps, with the hubs adding pinto beans and rice to make it a burrito of course 🙂

Friday

Breakfast – 2 scrambled eggs with spinach

Lunch – turkey wrap & berries

Dinner – stir friday! Steak & pepper stir fry

Snack – grape tomatoes & cucumbers with white bean hummus

Guys, this white bean hummus was SO STINKIN GOOD! I promise the recipe is coming soon!

Total:  $8+58.51 = 73.51

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

I spent a few dollars at the farmers market for a gorgeous cucumber and heirloom cherry tomatoes, and got a windfall of ‘free’ veggies from the Food Swap. I could calculate out the costs associated with making the pretzels and add that, but honestly I had all the ingredients in the house already. Let’s just say it was about $5, and took me roughly 1 hour of hands-on time to make them. In return, I got maybe 2 dozen pounds of produce (that I cannot grow, due to lack of sun in my yard) and several canned goods. That is a trade I’d make any day!

Lessons Learned

Being part of a community is a HUGE bonus in life, for so many reasons. The Food Swap was a really great experience, and I can’t wait for the next one! Benefits include:

  1. Cheap entertainment: this was only 10 minutes from my house, and for one $4 glass of beer, which was not even mandatory, I got to be entertained for almost 2 hours
  2. Networking: I met several people from the area who have similar lifestyles and hobbies. This is a great way to start making friends, or even business associates. Who knows when it will be beneficial to know someone with a backyard flock of chickens, or with canning knowledge, or a fermentation expert?
  3. Financial benefits: Being able to trade with like-minded people is a win for everyone. Society became civilized and we grow together when we all share our talents and passions. We cannot all be good at everything, but everyone is good at something. When we trade, we both get something of value that we cannot or do not want to do for ourselves. Plus no pesky Uncle Sam’s hands in our pockets…

Another lesson from this week is that adaptability is a big financial benefit! If a large amount of a specific type of food falls into your lap, whether from the garden, a generous neighbor or family member, or a really good sale, it helps to be able to make use of it! This is where flexible recipes like lasagna, pastas, soups, and casseroles come in handy. Or knowing how to preserve the bounty, like making salsas, sauerkraut, canning, freezing, or dehydrating. All these small steps help save you dollars.

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

That which doesn’t kill you…

 

You know the phrase, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I’ve always wondered where that came from, and why it was so popular.

I’m guessing it’s because no one knows what else to say.

When you’re upset, depressed, wallowing in the realization that something has gone terribly, horribly, and irrevocably wrong, all you can do is resort to clichés.

Someday you’ll laugh about this… Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans… The sun’ll come out tomorrow/tomorrow’s another day… (I kinda like this one, but that’s because Annie and Gone With the Wind are personal favorites…)

We all make mistakes, and we all have regrets. Some of us have tiny regrets, like that one time we had three too many margaritas and may or may not have made out with some stranger in a dark corner of the bar. We will never know, because no one remembers for sure, but just maybe…

For others, the regret is a bit more serious… maybe we shouldn’t have done that drug deal that landed us with a rap sheet. Or maybe we shouldn’t have trusted that business partner that fleeced you and nearly (or actually) bankrupted you.  Maybe you should have taken that risk, that year abroad, said “I love you“, dropped that finance class so it didn’t ruin your GPA.

For some of us in the FIRE community, we made smart choices from a young age. Many early retirees realized at their first job at 21 years old that they could live another way. They worked hard, lived lean, got promotions, and socked away 50-90% of their income. And retired before/by/around thirty.

And that’s amazing!!! <insert applause>

But, then, many of us have made mistakes. Mistakes that we admit to and regret now, but know that they happened and now our life is a certain way because of those choices.

For example, I have always lived pretty frugally. I chose apartments with roommates, or weird tiny spaces. I kid you not when I say I have lived in both a converted attic, which had zero insulation such that I put a fitted mattress cover over the door to keep the Ohio winter chill out, and a remodeled garage where there was no bathroom door, and it was so tiny you could literally pee, shave your leg, and flip a pancake all at the same time.

I have never not had a job, since I was allowed to work one, and most of the time I held down at least two. I worked in our campus library and as a waitress all throughout undergraduate and my masters degree, during which I also was a teaching assistant. Even though our stipend was a luxurious $10,000 per year… (I know, I know, the sciences are at least blessed enough that we get a stipend, unlike our sad humanities friends.)

I always drove a used car, purchased outright or from my dad with a set payback schedule (no interest! Thanks Bank of Dad!), never carried a credit card balance, and cooked at home. In fact, this blog began in 2008 as a record for posterity of my journey to learning to cook. I’ve come pretty far but still have much to learn.

Somehow I managed to emerge, after approximately 23 years of school (depends how soon you start counting…) with only $8K in loan debt, and no consumer debt at all. Halle-frickin-lujah!

On the flip side, I had a total of about $2K in savings… how did this happen?!?

Well, while saving and not spending money in my day to day life, I also developed a pretty fanatic love of cruises (which will never die, oh cruises how I love thee), travel in general, and moving.

So. much. moving.

By the time I was married last year, brace yourselves, I had lived in no fewer than 21 different dorm rooms, apartments, and houses, in three different states.

I had 3 month leases in the summer to avoid going home (boo, bad financial decision) so I could keep working my two jobs (yay, good financial decision!). Then I moved way the heck across the country to Colorado to pursue a PhD in neuroscience, which ended up not working out.

On the bright side, that was 4 of the best years of my life and I met my husband… so there’s that. #totallyworth

Hubby was lucky and had no school debt at all, but also nearly no savings. Luckily we both had pretty decent jobs, and together we lived very comfortably for a year or so. But then his job took us on yet another cross-country move to New England. Which was a grand experience, we loved the people and places and food and travel and nearby ocean… but hot damn is it expensive!

Between the cost of living and taxes, no way were we going to achieve our home ownership dreams anytime soon. So between that and the god-awful winter, we agreed the time had come to move yet again, to my fourth and (hopefully) final state, to the land of Dixie, and we said Howdy y’all to North Carolina.

Phew!

So, anyways, here we are, finally living the dream, knocking on the doors of 30. Think we can retire in the next 5 months, on 10 grand?

Go ahead, I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.

So, our dreams of retiring by 30 are dashed, thanks to a wanderlust and general lack of knowing FIRE was a thing until now. But. All that aside, now we know. We are armed with knowledge, and a fantastic array of like-minded peeps on the internet to share stories and lessons and encouragement.

Can we retire by 40?

Step 1: believe.
Step 2: create a budget, stick the heck to it, and save like mad.
Step 3: profits.

Our 20’s did not kill us, and in the end I think it did make us stronger.

We are determined to live life on our own terms, and not according to popular culture or what “Everyone” says is normal and right. We are strong in our marriage, committed to making and achieving our joint goals for our future. And we are set on a path to financial freedom, and all the other freedoms that come with it.

I can’t wait to see what this journey will teach us!

 

 

What about you, what’s your story? Did you dig yourself out of a small mountain of debt? Put a trust fund to good use? Are you just taking the first baby steps or about to cross the finish line? Any and all advice is welcome here!

Weekly Eating – 7/17

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

Monday:

Breakfast – yogurt bowl with fresh cherries, crushed almonds, and chia seeds. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite so delicious as fresh bing cherries in the summer! But boy are they a pain to cut up and remove the pits, plus my finger tips are red for hours… almost as bad as beets…

Lunch – can of Progresso soup in my desk drawer. This is why you should always have some “backup” lunches, in case you forget yours. This can I got on sale for $1 saved me $5-10 at the cafeteria.

Dinner – the world’s most amazing tomato soup & grilled cheese! You’ll just have to check BE’s Facebook for the recipe…

Snack – these delicious brownies, with a healthy secret!  😉

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Cinnamon raisin bagel thin with almond butter & cut up apples. Easy, filling breakfast on the go.

Lunch – whole wheat turkey cheddar wrap with homemade refrigerator pickles & mustard

Dinner – chicken enchiladas

Snack – hummus with raw veg, cottage cheese

Wednesday:

Breakfast – cinnamon raisin bagel with almond butter

Lunch – turkey wrap with cheddar & pickles

Dinner – Crock pot chili

This was a low-key and boring day, because I worked late (to make up extra hours) and it was our last night together. I wanted something stress free so we could maximize the few hours we had before early bedtime. I have to be up and out the door early because…

Thursday – The Weekend:

I will be at the beach, celebrating mommy dearest’s birthday!

We have been planning and looking forward to this for a long time, I’m super stoked it’s finally here. We will be staying at the home of a friend of hers too, so super double bonus savings!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave hubby to starve or blow tons of cash on takeout and pizza… keep reading below.

Total:  $70.44

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

This was a great week for not spending! I went to ALDI and stocked up on tons of staples and fresh produce and even cheese, all for about seventy bucks. I love that store so much. And much of it hasn’t even been used this week (due to me going out of town) so that homemade pizza with fresh mozzarella will have to wait until next week, hopefully bringing down next week’s total!

Lessons Learned

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead! Since I will be gone for a while, and don’t want hubby to starve to death, I made sure to have foods I know he likes to make and eat in the house. We have all the fixings for burritos, I made extra-large batches of dinners I know he will love for leftovers, plus a few freezer meals. Hopefully he remembers to feed both the dogs and himself while I’m gone  🙂

Double batch of enchiladas to survive the weekend

Also, it is a great idea to plan ahead for vacation foods! I intend to pack a small cooler full of travel snacks, like string cheese, homemade KIND bars, and raw fruit and vegetables. My breakfast will be ready to go along with a cold brew coffee, so I can just grab them on the way out the door, and not waste time and money on a drive through.

Anything I don’t eat on the way will be safe in the house we are staying at for snacking throughout the week. We will also probably go to a local grocery store as one of the first items of business to get some staples to have around the house. We don’t want to impose on our gracious hosts too much!

Finally, plan for vacations financially. I am fully expecting to eat several great meals out, and get some splurge items on the beach (pineapple drinks anyone??). Thus, I made sure to eat a little lighter this week, and will next week too in order to make up for the calorie splurge, and have a budget which I am not allowed to go over for food and drinks. That way, I can relax and not stress at all! I know that the money I’m spending is planned for and guilt free.

 

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

My Frugal Beauty Manifesto

 

Everyone likes to look good. Whether you are a top-paid model spending 80 hours per week on your looks or a mom of seven who has never owned a lipstick, we all want to look and feel our best.

And we pay dearly for the things we want.

The beauty industry is well versed in how to play on people’s dreams and fears in order to make a buck. An ad may ostensibly be about blush, but what they really hope to evoke is thoughts like: Am I pretty enough? What would my life be like if I looked like her? Can this product make me happy?

The entire beauty industry is worth an astounding $382 billion globally. And we are handing them our money as fast as we can in the hopes of looking like the hopelessly unrealistic, and in fact totally faked, models we see all over magazines, TV, and billboards.

Connecticut and New York actually tie for the most expense per person on makeup, with an average of $11 per day over a lady’s lifetime. ELEVEN DOLLARS PER DAY ON AVERAGE. The same study showed that the average woman in America puts on SIXTEEN products before leaving the house.

Think about that.

Sixteen different lotions, potions, and powders containing all kinds of chemicals and costing you an average of $8/day over your lifetime slathered all over your face. Every day.

Cleaner, soap, toner, foundation, bronzer, blush, highlighter, lotion, concealer, acne cream, eye shadow, eye liner, lip liner, lipstick, lip balm, moisturizer, mascara… And that’s just your face, don’t get me started on the rest of the body!

Enough already.

I have never been a big fan of makeup or beauty products in general, and the more I learn about them the more thankful I am.

These products are terrible for the environment with their aerosols and propellants and literal tons of waste generated per year.

They are terrible for your long-term skin and organ health and endocrine system, containing things like petroleum, mercury, pthalates, formaldehyde, paraphenylenediamine, and vague terms like “fragrance” which means who knows what.

Check the labels on your shampoo, lipstick, or lotion. You might be surprised by how many ingredients there are, and how many you can’t pronounce.

In better news, it is so awesome and wonderful and about. dang. time. that we are seeing things like the Body Image Movement, Dove’s Every body is Beautiful” campaign, and Jessamyn Stanley’s “Every Body Yoga” empowering people of all races and shapes to believe they are beautiful and capable.

It is a beautiful thing to see initiatives like L’Oreal’s commitment to reducing waste by 60% by 2020, the EU outlining Good Sustainability Practices for the cosmetics industry, and waste management and reduction and sustainability becoming more of a priority to the beauty industry as a whole.

You can do your part for the world, your health, and your wallet, by simply buying less stuff. By believing your natural beauty is all you need, you are taking a huge step towards reducing landfill waste, reducing the amount of toxins and chemicals in our water and air and your own body, and keeping dollars in your bank account rather than the industry’s pockets.

But, girl, c’mon we still wanna look good!

I know, I know, and honestly I do care a little. I don’t want to look like a neglected ragamuffin either.

My solution? Use the most natural products I can, the majority of the time and as sparingly as possible. To DIY as much as possible, to re-use or use smart packaging and storage to get the most out of my products. And to maintain a generally healthy diet and regular exercise, with tons of water daily, to nourish my skin and body’s natural glow as long as possible!

Below are my favorite beauty tips and tricks. Hopefully some will be useful to you too.

Natural Beauty Ideas

Makeup

If you MUST wear makeup…

  • Make mascara last longer by adding a few drops of saline into a dry tube
  • Vaseline is great at keeping eyebrows in check. Just a tiny dab is all you need, swipe it along your brow from the middle of your forehead to the ends. It is also a wonderful lip balm to keep chapped lips at bay.
  • Coconut oil is a great makeup remover. Just rub in a dollop, and wipe clean with a towel. You can use a q-tip for lips or eyes or small spaces. If you can’t handle the smell, try Vitamin E oil.
  • Rather than use oily lipstick full of chemicals and petroleum, try beet juice! Use it from an open can of beets, or fresh by roasting some beets in the oven and rubbing the root on your lips. Same goes for rosy red cheeks, just blend gently afterwards.
  • You can also give yourself a little color by rubbing or pinching your cheeks, or biting your lips a little bit. This gets the blood flowing to the surface, but is short lived. Useful for pictures or when you are about to meet someone for the first time.
  • Use toilet seat covers to absorb face oil. Why pay for packs of face blotters when you can snag a few for free??
  • Make your own totally natural, delicious smelling powdered foundation using ingredients from your kitchen!
  • Clean your brushes with a 2-ingredient DIY makeup brush cleaner

Hair

My favorite hair tip is to plan for a 2-day-‘do; this only works for medium-long hair. Shower as usual, and let your hair dry halfway. Then, braid into two French braids. Wear that style all day, and enjoy having your hair out of your face. Sleep in it too. The next day, undo the braids, and tussle. You can add a bit of mousse, hairspray, or gel if you need it. Then enjoy your second-day waves!

  • Use coconut oil as a treatment for dry scalp or excess frizz. Coconut oil is super hydrating. All you need to do is massage 1-2 tbsp into your hair from tips to top and let sit 5-10 minutes. Then shampoo & wash as normal.
  • Tame oily second-day-hair with baby powder or cornstarch. It works pretty much like dry shampoo, by soaking up excess oil near your scalp, leaving you looking fresh.
  • Sleep with your hair in a top knot/bun to give it more volume
  • Plain apple cider vinegar is a great rinse for your hair. It can help restore the pH balance of your scalp, and remove product buildup, perfect for after a big event like a prom or wedding, that requires a can of hair spray to keep your do in place. (Not that you should do that in the first place…) Use 1/4 cup cider to 2 cups water.
  • Herbal hair rinses claim a whole host of benefits. Just google it, you’ll see. Try making a nice cup of plain herbal tea, and rinsing your scalp with it, to see what works for you.

Nails

Do your own! Duh. Set aside an hour or two, and get to it. This will only cost you the total of: 1 top coat + 1 color you like

  1. Apply a bottom or clear coat.
  2. Apply 1 coat of your color. Wait patiently 15-20 minutes, read a book or watch some Netflix. If you touch it and it is not tacky and is fully dry, you’re ready for step 3.
  3. Apply a second coat if it is a thin color, or apply top coat.
  4. Optional if you did 2 coats, now apply top coat. Done.
  5. Enjoy your fabulous, frugal nails!

Some more frugal nail tips:

  • If you run out of nail polish, or just want to create a custom color, you can mix eye shadow crumbles with clear top coat! A great use for broken or almost-used-up palettes.
  • Don’t shake polish, that creates bubbles. Instead, roll it rapidly between your hands to mix it up.
  • Put vaseline around your cuticles before painting. Then you can just wipe off any paint outside the lines!
  • Use tape or a rubber band for perfect French tips. Just make sure the bottom coat is dry first.
  • Make your polish last longer: If your polish is dried out or too thick to use, add a few drops of polish remover and roll it around to loosen it up.
  • Use coconut oil or Vitamin E oil on cuticles for silky smooth hands

If you require professional nails, or don’t have the time/ patience / steady hand to do it yourself…

  • Look for a Groupon. Maybe there’s a new salon opening nearby that needs new customers and is offering half off. You can also try calling the place offering the Groupon, and asking if you can get the Groupon price in the store. They have to pay almost half in order for Groupon to run their special, so they may be more than happy to make you that deal and keep the whole profit! Win-win.
  • Try to barter. You never know when a nail salon employee would be happy to give you a mani/pedi in exchange for a massage, doing her taxes, helping move…
  • Ask a friend, or multiple friends! Have a spa day where you do each other’s nails, put on face masks* (see below) pop some corn and watch a girly film. Everyone will leave feeling pampered and loved and looking fine.

Grooming / Whole Body

  • Coconut oil is marvelous as a moisturizer and/or lotion
  • Make your own body scrubs! You can use a whole range of natural ingredients and scents to fit your fancy, like peppermint or vanilla or even coffee
  • Never buy shaving cream again! Any old conditioner works just fine, I promise. Buy an 89 cent bottle, or a bigger container of your normal conditioner (props for more savings by buying in bulk!) and rub a dollop on your wet leg. You can do the same thing with (you guessed it) all-purpose coconut oil.
  • *Create a hydrating face mask at home: mix 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 2 tbsp honey, and 1 small mashed banana. Smooth all over and leave on face for about 20 minutes, then rinse off. The honey is an antiseptic to help clear or prevent acne, the yogurt is a great hydrator, and the banana helps smooth and tighten your skin.
  • To make your razors last longer, shake them dry after each use and let them soak in some baby oil to keep them sharper longer
  • Witch hazel is a great natural skin toner / cleanser
  • Tweeze your own brows! It is so easy and takes only a few minutes every few weeks, there is no excuse not to. If you already have them done by a professional, it is even easier because you just have to maintain the shape they already have

 

If you are afraid to go totally “naked”, just try dropping or changing one product in your routine per week. Eventually, you may realize you never needed that second layer of cover-up, or hated the smell of toner or the cakey feel of eyeshadow anyway! Plus, as you wean yourself off of products, you may notice your skin is even healthier, as it has fewer things to smother it and fewer chemicals to absorb.

And don’t forget to drink WATER! Keep a reuseable bottle or cup at your desk, in your purse or backpack, in your car, in your refrigerator. Wherever you are going to remember to keep on drinking it all day long.

The best beauty weapon in your arsenal is your smile!

You. Are. Beautiful.

Look in the mirror, every day, and smile. We only get one body to live in, we should love and take care of it. Be kind to yourself, and to others, and let your naturally beauty shine, inside and out.

 

Do you guys have any great frugal beauty tips?

Weekly Eating #4 – 7/10

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

Monday:

Breakfast – yogurt parfait with frozen strawberries & cherries & a crushed up Nature Valley Oats & Honey bar

Lunch – leftover stirfry

Dinner – BBQ pork ribs & leftover mashed potatoes. I grab boneless ribs anytime I see them on clearance, and keep some in the freezer as a special treat, these are one of hubby’s absolute favorite things. I defrost them overnight, then boil in some chicken stock, then sear them in the pan. We then eat them slathered in BBQ sauce, and ended up so messy by the end that I didn’t get a photo.  🙂

Tuesday:

Breakfast – KIND bar

Lunch – leftover salmon summer salad from the weekend’s dinner party. This stuff is so darn good I swear I could eat it almost daily.

Dinner – Pork & White Bean Soup in the slow cooker using the broth from yesterday’s ribs. It was so simple, but so tasty! Served with biscuits from the freezer.

Wednesday:

Breakfast – chocolate PB oatmeal: funny story. This was actually a rescued “Frugal Fail” to borrow a term from Mrs. Picky Pincher. I meant to try a recipe for no-bake energy bites. It called for oats, and PB and honey. But I only had honey PB (twofer, awesome!) and steel cut oats (They’re the same thing, right? Wrong.)

So I happily measure and mix, convinced this is a perfect quick breakfast choice. Oh, by the way, this is at 7am, and I need to leave at 7:30… Well, first, it wouldn’t all stick together. I tried using more PB, and got it wet enough to stick. But it still won’t form a ball, it was like, wet sand. Steel cut oats are cut into teeny tiny pieces, and evidently, do not make no-bake balls well.

So I tried baking it. I know, that defeats the purpose of a “no-bake” recipe. But I figured, maybe I could at least turn them into bars and salvage this. Now it is 7:20… And I try to cut a bar… and it falls apart instantly. Okay, clearly, this is not working. Do I throw out a whole 8×8 pan of oats and peanut butter and flax?

No way!

I think… well… it’s still oatmeal. May as well throw it in a jar, and pour some milk over it. Still warm from the oven, the chocolate was melty and quickly turned it into chocolate milk, with a slight peanutty flavor. Turns out, this was pretty great! Hooray!

Frugal fail turned into something edible.

Ahhhh, the sweet taste of success.

Lunch – out with a work colleague, pesto chicken panini

Dinner – tortellini with pesto and frozen mixed veggies

Snacks – brown rice cakes

Thursday:

Breakfast – chocolate oatmeal creation

Lunch – black beans & rice with salsa

Snack –  These Amazing Date Cookies!

Picture courtesy of Hip Fit Foodie

Dinner – baked potato soup. I used some leftover mashed potatoes with frozen chicken stock and we stirred in a tbsp plain Greek yogurt to make it creamy, with bacon and cheddar cheese on top. We ate it on the front porch while watching a heck of a thunderstorm.

Friday:

Breakfast – 1 egg, colby jack cheese, Bagel Thin sandwich

Lunch – last of my salmon & couscous salad. I used a small salad container and a leftover ranch dipper to be all cute too!

Dinner – leftover buffet!

The Weekend:

My plans for the weekend include rooftop yoga followed by the Farmers Market, then a quick healthy lunch of some kind of salad, and figuring out what to make for dinner. I’m sure we will have loads of fresh produce by then, so I’m thinking a vegetable lasagna, summer veggie pasta, or kebabs are imminent.

Then I will start a new batch of homemade yogurt, and homemade kombucha. I also think I will try to make ahead some mason jar meals like yogurt parfaits, overnight oatmeal, and salads in a jar too. I’m going to the beach next week to celebrate my mom’s birthday (SO EXCITED!) so I want easy meals to give me more time to pack and plan, and then I need to plan ahead some freezer meals for the hubble bubble so he doesn’t starve.

Total:  $77.60

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

2 trips to the store (Kroger & Harris Teeter) plus the local farmers market. The weekend Farmer Market trip will be included in next week’s total.

Lessons Learned

I did a great job at the store this week! Nearly to my $75/week goal, and that included all our staples, plus a few last-second items I asked the mister to grab prior to our dinner party last week, plus the farmers market splurge on Wednesday. Aw yeah!

And I learned that sometimes, recipe experiments don’t turn out the best. But that’s okay, we all make mistakes sometimes. Luckily, it wasn’t so bad of a fail, I could still eat the oatmeal. It was just… less than pleasing in texture, shall we say?  😉

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Weekly Eating #3 – 7/2

 

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

Monday:

Breakfast – microwaved 2 scrambled eggs on top of an everything Bagel Thin and slice of cheddar cheese. Homemade “mocha latte” (coffee + hot cocoa mix + milk, blended)

Lunch – leftover stir fry

Dinner – BBQ pulled pork mac-n-chili (?) This was a weird idea I had to use up several leftovers. 1/2 lb cooked penne, 1 cup bbq pulled pork, 1 cup pinto beans, 1 whole shredded yellow squash, 1 cup shredded cheddar, 2 tbsp butter and a splash of milk. Luckily for us, it turned out really delicious!

Snack – fresh cherries, hummus + cucumber/carrots

Tuesday: Fourth of July!

Breakfast – kind of slept in and skipped this part, mostly just had coffee, and then early lunch

Lunch – chicken, broccoli, rice casserole: this is ridiculously simple, and came out amazingly delicious! Layer chopped broccoli, mushrooms, 1/2 cup rice, and shredded chicken. Add 1/2 cup stock and 1/2 cup milk, and cheddar cheese. Top with some more broccoli, cover in foil and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. Done!

Dinner – leftover buffet

The holiday was nice and relaxing, we got some laundry done, played some games and I finished a book. I did also bake up some red velvet cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frosting! I made way too many, so I took a few plates to our neighbors  🙂

Wednesday:

Breakfast – peach smoothie: 2 peaches, 2 bananas, 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup orange juice

Lunch – out with a work colleague; rosemary chicken panini

Dinner – chicken and dumplings with some of my homemade foccacia

Snacks – brown rice cakes

Thursday:

Breakfast – homemade yogurt with peaches and granola

Lunch – slow cooker “refrigerator soup”. Basically I chopped up all the veggies about to spoil, added some lentils & quinoa, salsa and homemade chicken stock in a small slow cooker on high all day in my cube. By noon, the whole office smells AMAZING and I get a nice hot, filling, super healthy and super frugal lunch.

Dinner – ravioli per hubby’s request

Friday:

Breakfast – parfait with fresh peaches, yogurt, and 1 smashed up Nature Valley Oats & Honey bar

Lunch – pasta salad

Dinner – stir friday: pork! You may wonder, why stir-Friday every week? Doesn’t that get boring? Well, no definitely not because there are so many options! And the reason is simple: it’s delicious and super frugal. It gives me the chance to use up whatever bits of veggies are in the fridge, so that I don’t throw them out.

The Weekend:

On Saturday we just hung out, cleaned inside and outside a bit, and then hosted a dinner party.

I made a recipe from my sister-in-law for a knock-your-socks-off delicious summer salad with arugula, cheese, macademia nuts (from a friend’s family farm in S America!), corn, craisins, and baked salmon. I’m drooling just thinking about it! I made some lime-ade for the drivers, and some tropical rum punch for whoever wanted it.  🙂

Total:  $116.91

My goal is to keep this number under $100 all the time, and eventually get down to $75/week for food.

Oops… This is why I’m not allowed to go to grocery stores by myself anymore…

In my defense, I did stock up on several staples I will not use this week alone, like pasta, lentils, pearled couscous, 3 loaves of multigrain bread for 0.99 that I will freeze, brown rice, sliced cheese. We also were running low on doggy teeth-cleaning treats for the pups, and that is included in the total.

Lessons Learned

I did a pretty good job of using up weird bits of leftovers and creating new meals, so that was a definite plus! But, I also let the grocery gremlin get me, and tell me that “these sales are way too good, you definitely need to stock up on 5 kinds of pasta, more salad than you can actually eat in one week, $10 of beer, and the pups are so cute they totally deserve $20 worth of treats!” All we can do is learn from it, and do better next week.

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?