Category Archives: Finances

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

Weekly Eating – 3/19/18

 

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!

 

So, remember how we had five 20-year-olds at our house for St. Patrick’s Day? Turns out they are just as much old people as we are! They got in around 8pm, we played some games, and then everyone headed for bed around ten. They are welcome back anytime! 🙂

st. patricks day preparation

I made a big green breakfast spread for them, and they hit the road early so as to get home, presumably to sleep for 16 or so hours. What is it about sitting in a car for hours that just exhausts you?

st. patricks day green breakfast

Then on Sunday, I realized Monday was the next Bull City Food Swap! I had some pierogi in the freezer so I took those out, but I wanted another item too (you can never have too much to trade), and I had found a recipe for sweet potato biscuits I really wanted to try out. So I whipped up a batch and OH MAH LAWD Y’ALL…

sweet potato biscuits

Biscuits. Are. So. Good.

Fresh and hot out the oven, drizzled with butter and honey… swoon

fresh sweet potato biscuits from the oven with butter and honey

So I packed up a few packages of biscuits to trade too, but kept a good batch for us to nom all week. I also prepped some overnight oats, since the steel cut kind is not my favorite to microwave.

refrigerator full of overnight oats

Monday:

Breakfast – Tried the overnight oats, with golden raisins, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. I added what I thought was a “pinch” of salt but whoa boy, it was too much for even me, the die-hard salt lover. Good thing my office drawer still had a jar of my favorite breakfast. I split it in half and mixed in some non-salted oats and all was well.

Lunch – I made a much more successful batch of black beans over the weekend, and brought in a big container of beans & rice.

black beans and rice with hot sauce

Snack – I was an unstoppable snacking machine today. I had some grapes and strawberries just before lunch.

strawberries and grapes

Then a handful of pistachios in the afternoon.

handful of pistachios

And finally a granola bar on the drive home so I didn’t gnaw my arm off. What the heck?

granola bar in the car

Dinner – I tossed a bunch of cans into a slow cooker, and came home to Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup. Deeeeeeelish and soooooo easy.

slow cooker tortilla soup

The Bull City Food Swap was fun, even with me showing up almost an hour late! I got my times mixed up, thinking it started at 8 when really it was at 7. So I rush in at 7:45, just as the swapping part is wrapping up…

cutting fresh bacon

But, since I had high-value trades, I still made out like a bandit with 3 types of energy bars, granola, gingersnap cookies, chicken sausage, and homemade carrot cake. People went nuts over the pierogi… maybe 3 hours for a few dozen really is worth it?

bull city food swap trades

Tuesday:

Breakfast – More overnight oats, which does not make for exciting pictures, so I spared you 🙂

Lunch – Leftover refrigerator soup

refrigerator soup

Snack – A mixed berry pecan energy bar from the swap. They are sort of Larabar like, made mostly from dried fruit, nuts, and dates. And hot damn are they delicious…

berry pecan energy bar

Dinner – Since it was the first official day of spring, I made my Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi! With cut up chicken sausage added, because seriously, if I could put a scratch-and-sniff on this screen for you, I totally would. IT SMELLS SO GOOD.

spring green creamy gnocchi with chicken sausage

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey, & fresh pineapple. I love that pineapples have been on sale a lot lately.

sweet potato biscuits with honey and pineapple

Oh, and we woke up to a dusting of snow… happy Spring?

second day of spring snow

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the rest of the beans and rice. For once I actually felt really full after lunch 🙂

spring green gnocchi beans and rice and salsa

Snack – I didn’t even want to snack until almost 4pm, when I cut up some mini cucumbers and had it with turmeric hummus.

cucumbers and turmeric hummus

Dinner – One pan salmon, asaparagus, and potato wedges. We gettin all fancy up in here. (By fancy, I mean lazy).

one pan salmon, asparagus, and potato wedges

Dessert – We don’t often have dessert, unless popcorn and/or wine counts. But since we had high-quality carrot cake in the house, we split a piece, and totally inhaled it. Addictive, for sure. This is why I don’t keep it around!

homemade carrot cake

Thursday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits and honey, and a protein shake

sweet potato biscuits with honey

Lunch – Last of the tortilla soup

leftover tortilla soup

Snack – Berry/nut energy bar. These things are seriously so good. On my list of things to figure out how to make now.

Dinner – Split pea soup!

split pea soup ingredients

Super easy, nice and warm on a cold day, and totally delicious with some multigrain bread.

split pea soup

Friday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey. I almost forgot to take a picture I inhaled it so fast! And a bag of honeydew & pineapple.

sweet potato biscuits

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the tiny bit of leftover salmon and potato wedges. Waste not, want not!

gnocchi and leftover salmon

Dinner – I looked at my fridge and realized I had a batch of slow cooker pinto beans that needed used ASAP, and had a half a cabbage. Turns out there aren’t a ton of recipes using those two ingredients, but one with pasta sounded interesting, so I did an experiment.

cabbage pinto bean and carrot pasta dish

It turned out decently too. I steamed the carrots and cabbage for about 20 minutes until soft, then added in the beans, about 1/3 lb of spaghetti noodles and 1 cup water, and simmered for 10 more minutes. Then I sprinkled on some garlic salt and cayenne, and it was actually pretty tasty! And super cheap.

 

The Weekend

This weekend I’ve a baby shower to attend, so I’ll spend a little bit on a gift for that. I think I’ve come up with the best way to contribute to the food at a low cost to me.

baby shower cake pops

I have a white cake left over from my “3/3” party (I made Tres Leches cake, but the mix made enough for 2 so I froze one). I thawed it, and made my own cream cheese icing, to create cake pops! Then I decorated them with sprinkles, and they are totally adorable, and basically free (given I already had all ingredients paid for).

And I also have a girls’ night planned, which will include dinner at a local Thai place (SO EXCITED!) and probably a drink or two afterwards. I think it is so important to have friend groups to just hang out and relax with. Whatever the expenditure ends up being I consider worth it, and an investment in my health and happiness!

 

Food Total: $27.66

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

This week’s food total is something I am quite proud of! I based my meal plan havily around pantry staples, and with making my own bread products plus the trades from the Swap we ate like kings on very little cash. I needed to balance out last week’s spendiness.

Staples $7.49 Fruit/Veg $18.45
Vanilla frozen yogurt quart 3 Asparagus 1 lb 1.09
peppermint extract 4.49 Green grapes 1.5lb 3.04
Bananas 7 1.85
Kiwi 4 1
Cabbage 2.6lb 0.77
Avocado 4 1.94
Russet potato 8lb 2.79
Frozen peas & onion 1.98
Honeydew 3.99

And this is even with factoring in the “splurges” to make Shamrock Shakes (frozen yogurt, peppermint extract) and green breakfast (honeydew, kiwi, grapes) on St. Patty’s Day.

shamrock shakes

Lessons Learned

I really need to incorporate more soups in the meal plans! It is unfortunate the boy is not a big fan, but I’m slowly bringing him around. The split pea soup was something I was nervous about (he HATES peas) but he actually said it was pretty good! Soups made with pantry staples and legumes are soooooooo cheap y’all. I’m going to shoot for a similarly low bill next week too.

It can also never be said enough, but eating leftovers is so important to saving money and being frugal! I ate tons of leftovers this week, which is basically like free meals. You’ve already paid for the ingredients, and cooked the meal, so re-eating it is free. Whereas if you don’t eat leftovers and trash them, you are contributing to food waste and throwing away dollar dollar bills. Just suck it up and eat the leftovers! The world and your wallet will thank you.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

How to Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding for $10,000: Part 2

This is the second part of my recounting of our wedding week in a 10-bedroom cabin holding 22 people, with a total of 45 guests on the Big Day, and how we kept the total costs to $10,000.

Go back and read Part 1 for the deets on The Dress, how we found the right place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and why we decided to do it our way rather than the standard Wedding Industrial Complex  “Big White Wedding”.

 

Food & Booze (& Cake)

My parents stepped in again and were total heroes here.

My mom bought all the food, cooked it, and served it. I know, she should be sainted someday. My aunt and other family members also chipped in and made this dream a reality!

To be fair, I did offer to find and order catering. Honestly, we were price shopping Chipotle at this point. But my mom LOVES cooking, especially for a crowd, and insisted she wanted to. I think she may have regretted that in the end…

For drinks, we had only wine and beer, local moonshine (because let’s be real, we were in the Tennessee mountains!), and anything else the guests wanted to bring to share.

This kept the costs for wining and dining 45 people pretty low, which totaled about $1000.

Before you’re all “whoa I can feed 45 people for way less than that!” keep in mind this total includes the breakfasts, lunches, drinks, and snacks for the 22 of us who stayed in the main cabin for all 5 days leading up the wedding as well.

wedding burrito buffet
We had a burrito buffet! Beef, chicken, and 2 types of beans plus cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

For the wedding dinner, we had a burrito bar!

Yes we are very cool, I’d be happy to be your friend 🙂 Burritos are their own food group to the boy, he could pretty much live off them forever. I also love me a good burrito, so I was totally in.

Mom and a few others cooked for hours in the days leading up to the wedding, to make huge batches of grilled steak and chicken, black beans and pinto beans, and grilled peppers and onions.

We had chips and tortillas, cheese, salsas, and lettuce, and let everyone build their own. It was awesome!

About the cake…

Neither of us are super crazy about cake, or really sweets in general.

Lots of family members thought we were totally nuts, but be honest folks, how many weddings have you been to where more than half the cake is still left at the end of the night and you’re begged to take a few pieces home?

Plus the thought of eating a frozen cake a year from now was not at all appetizing to us.

So we opted for cupcakes, in our colors, and found these amazing cake toppers on Etsy. This might be my favorite little detail of the whole day!

However, on the day of, I had a lovely surprise in store for me.

A family friend from way back, who is so well known in my home town it’s unreal, had baked us 2 cakes special, and my mom had driven them down from Ohio to make it a part of our day.

It was very sweet and very special.

She also had found the cake topper my grandmother and grandfather had used at their wedding in my grandmother’s basement, and had it retouched to use for our cake.

My family is pretty much the best.

grandparents wedding cake topper

Flowers / Decorations

Here again my mom was a total superhero.

She decorated basically the whole cabin herself. We had colored tulle swags on the banisters outside and all down the stairs, fabric flowers and bows draped all around the cabin, and a light-up decorated white metal arch they had bought online.

I’m not including the arch or flowers in the total, because they have used it several times since for other events back home. And because if they hadn’t bought it, I wouldn’t have used it!

It was a really nice addition to the day though, and made the photos much cuter. If you factor in the decorations, that adds only another $200 or so to the total.

I love flowers, but hate spending money on flowers that will die within days. Originally I was adamantly against flowers at all, I wanted to get a fake bouquet for me and that’s it.

But in the end, I did end up caving and buying flowers for me and my girls, along with matching boutonnieres for the guys and wrist corsages for the moms.

I searched online for all the flower shops in the area, and created a spreadsheet. The first thing I did was contact each place, and made sure to NOT mention the word “wedding”!

That instantly doubles or triples your quotes, honest.

I simply requested “five bouquets in purples and blues with silver accents”, and waited to see what they suggested. I also requested ranges for other possible add-ons, like centerpieces or corsages.

Once I had all the quotes in writing, I checked out their website and portfolio and reviews, if they had any. Then I got back to my top two to ask if that was their best offer.

The one with free delivery had the best quote as well, so that is who we went with.

They showed up to deliver the flowers on the morning of the wedding, which was awesome because we certainly didn’t have room in the refrigerator to store them overnight!

The total for 1 bridal bouquet, 4 smaller bouquets, 5 boutonnieres , and 2 corsages came to $268.89.

I think they did a fantastic job with the colors and flower types for the money spent. I really love hydrangeas, and the blue ones were absolutely beautiful.

We ended up putting the bouquets into glass vases immediately following the ceremony to use as the centerpieces on the tables during dinner too.

Music

We are blessed to have a very talented pianist in the family, his grandmother is a professional level player. She very kindly offered to play the ceremony music for us. My sister in law brought her digital keyboard, and we set it up just inside the door on the porch we used for the ceremony.

She played a beautiful classical mix as the parents and wedding party processed in.

The song for when I walked in was not Pachelbel’s Cannon in D, or “Here Comes the Bride”. It was a song we chose together that has special meaning to us, and still makes me tear up a little bit when I hear it to this day.

Then because we were having the ceremony and reception in the same place, and that place was a cabin in the mountains with limited space, we knew we would not have a dance floor and did not want or need a band, live or otherwise.

Good news for the boy, as he is very adamantly against dancing, especially in front of people.

Did I want a father-daughter dance where I was trying not to step on my dad’s toes, and towering over him in heels?

(Let’s be real, those were off the second I said “I do” and bedazzled flip flops took their place).

Did I want to torture my 6-foot-6 hubby with paralyzing anxiety about being the center of attention?

Nope.

And so during the post-ceremony-reception, we had someone’s phone playing the radio softly, but it didn’t matter because it’s not like anyone could hear it! We had 45 people packed throughout a four-story cabin and out on the decks, everyone was talking and laughing and playing games, so music was not a priority.

This was a personal choice for us, because no one in either of our families is big on dancing. We did have tons of games scattered throughout the cabin, from Jenga to cards to cornhole to pool to board games.

And so our cost for music was $0, and no one was forced to dance awkwardly in front of all our friends and family! Though as the night wore on and the drinks stacked up, there was some dancing going on here and there…

Photos/Video

So it is probably no surprise by now, but we skipped the formal ‘engagement photos’. We just dressed up while on vacation and took some sort of posed shots. A family friend had a really nice camera, so we took some serious and some goofy pics and used those in our Save the Dates.

For the wedding, I searched online for days. I compared prices and websites, and used a couple bidding sites as well to get quotes. The person we eventually used actually came through my mom, who was also looking online for deals for us.

She bid $400 for 4 hours; before, during and after the ceremony.

We had a phone meeting to ‘get to know each other’, and I had a good feeling about it. She didn’t even require a pre-payment or down payment. We discussed how the ceremony was going down, our plans afterwards, and what type of “feel” I was going for with our photos.

We talked over email a few times, and I sent her a list of the shots that I really wanted. She also had a few great suggestions.

On the day of, she got shots of me getting dressed and primping, all throughout the ceremony, and then afterwards she did formal posed family shots, as well as casual shots for a few hours afterwards. She got all the artsy shots of the shoes, rings, flowers, etc.

artsy shot of bride wedding bouquetartsy shot of bride wedding bouquet

She also got a free dinnner for her and her daughter from the deal!

It did take about 3 months to get the final batch of edited photos back, but overall I was quite pleased with how they turned out.

We also had people all around us taking photos, which they shared with us via a free app & website, and had 2 more receptions “back home” in OH & TX months later (which our parents paid for, respectively) for those who couldn’t make the actual wedding.

For video, hubs is super into Virtual Reality, and we had a Ricoh Theta set up on a stand to record the whole thing.

Once it is all set up, all you do is press the “go” button, and it records everything as it happens, in 360 degrees.

That way, family members and friends who couldn’t be there could watch the video and feel as if they were actually present. And we have it to enjoy over and over again forever!

We probably saved thousands by doing this ourselves instead of hiring someone.

Favors / Transportation

We did not do general wedding favors, but we did get gifts for those in the wedding party and our parents.

The groomsmen all got matching blue or purple shimmery ties, purchased online weeks in advance. The girls got a nice Bath & Body Works gift set with the fragrance “A Perfect Day”. These were purchased months in advance while a huge sale was going on, to the tune of about $12 for 4 girls.

For the moms we got engraved silver cuff bracelets which said “Thank you for raising the man/woman of my dreams” with the date, and to the dads we gifted engraved “Father of the Bride/Groom” glass beer steins!

We chose not to do official favors, but we did have a bucket of bubbles which everyone used at the end to do a “we are officially married” tunnel for us to walk through.

Also, once the honeymoon was done and we settled into married life a bit, I made necklaces for my girls as a thank you. I saved some petals from each bouquet, pressed and dried them, and put them into a bevel and cast them in resin. Then I wrote a personal note and mailed one to each lady.

dried flowers and empty bevel to make a necklace

The ceremony & reception were in the same place, so no one had to worry about driving between two locations. They just had to get to the cabin and hang out for a few hours! This saved everyone the cost of a cab, Uber, etc. and the headache of logistics. It also meant that there were no double-charges for space rental.

The entire wedding party and the parents of the bride & groom were all staying in the same place together, so no one there had to worry about housing/hotels either.

A few people had driven in from neighboring states, while a few others who rented vehicles at the airport and were kind enough to ferry those without cars to and from their flights.

The Numbers

Okay, if you’re still with me by now, you probably really want me to get to the good part!

For those of you who are hard-core financial voyeurs, here is the total breakdown of all the wedding related expenses.

This does not take into account the flights and honeymoon, and thank goodness because that was a gift to us and probably was at least as much if not more than the actual wedding!

Flights $560.00
Location $7,338.56
Officiant $0.00
Rings/license $63.75
Music $0.00
Flowers $268.89
Food & Drink $955.50
Housing $0.00
Transportation $0.00
Paper $123.00
Apparel $135.45
Beautifying $39.00
Photo/Video $400.00
Favors/Gifts $120.00
TOTAL $10,004.15

And there you have it! This is how we hosted a week-long party and got married in the Tennessee mountains for under 10 grand!

If you are sure of your priorities and willing to compromise on everything else, you can absolutely have the wedding of your dreams without mortgaging your future to do so.

Please, for the love of all that is good, DO NOT ever get a Wedding Day Loan! Just wait and save up more. Or ask your folks for help. Or say no to the giant swan ice sculptures.

Let’s hear all your thoughts in the comments!

Did you do something unique at your wedding? Are you planning to do something creative? Just head to the nearest Justice Of the Peace? Did you go whole hog on a big white wedding and black tie reception?

How to Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding For $10,000: Part 1

 

This is my personal story and lessons I learned from planning a simple yet meaningful destination wedding for <50 people. If you are dating, recently engaged, or even just dreaming of a fabulous wedding that doesn’t leave your bank account empty, pour yourself a warm beverage, get comfy, and prepare yourself to fill an “idea board” on Pinterest.

The Story

Boy meets girl*. They become friends. Really good friends.

Girl realizes she likes boy, and tells him so.

Boy realizes he likes girl too, and asks her on a first date: laser tag.

Over the next 3 years, they move in together, move across the country, change careers a few times, and adopt a pair of puppies. They both realize that this is a match made in heaven, and the real deal, and The One, Mr. and Mrs. Right, and whatever other saying you want to use.

This is forever.

Boy and Girl then realize:

  • we are super poor right now
  • we don’t want to be poor forever
  • we want to get married
  • we don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on one day
  • our families live in at least 7 states, 1000s of miles apart
  • eloping is not the route we want to go
  • we want to have an epic week long party
  • did I mention not wanting to be poor forever?

Sooooooo what do we do?

Do we get married in his home town, and piss off all her relatives who have to travel? Do we get married in her hometown and piss off all his relatives who have to travel? Do a city hall ceremony in CT, with 2 seperate parties later?

Nah man, let’s just have our whole immediate family and best of friends all go on vacation together.

And then also, get hitched!

Destination Weddings

When you think of a destination wedding, you probably think of a white sand beach, with the bride in flip flops or bare feet. A tropical location with hibiscus flowers and drinks poured in coconuts and pineapples. An all-inclusive resort.

And a five-digit bill at the end of the weekend.

It doesn’t have to be that way!

A destination wedding at its simplest is just that: A wedding, at a destination. Typically, a destination which is neither of the couple’s hometown.

When you are considering a destination wedding, make sure you take into account all the different factors.

Have an honest conversation about your priorities, including: your budget, whether any family members will be contributing to the cost, who you want to invite, what you want your day to look and feel like, and if there are any meaningful places to you.

Even though some people still think “Talking about money is tacky,” (LOLOLOL), you need to get right the hell over that.

There is literally nothing more important than talking about your money, because no one cares about your money and your financial future like you do. And if you don’t trust your chosen life partner enough to talk this over, y’all are in deep doo-doo from the get-go.

So put on the big girl panties, and start throwing out real numbers. Realistic numbers.

 

Our Priorities: location in the mountains, housing for the wedding party, relaxed vacation-like vibe, keeping it frugal
Our budget: $10,000

 

Now, I won’t be mean and wait until the very end of the article to tell you (spoilers!) we basically hit our budget. Yes, we hosted a 6-day, 5-night wedding weekend in the mountains of Tennessee for $10K.

Summary

  • Total cost: $10,004.15
  • Location: Pigeon Forge, TN
  • Venue: 10 bedroom log cabin
  • Season: Spring (May) of 2016
  • Wedding party: 8 + 4 parents + wedding couple = 14
  • Guests total: 45 (including the wedding party)

 

Below I’m going to break down each area of a typical wedding celebration, and walk you through how we went about finding the right balance. We wanted an experience that stayed true to who we are as a couple, and I highly recommend you do the same.

It is a wonderful day and age we live in now, where you don’t have to stand on tradition if it isn’t something that fits with your values and desires.

Just because someone in your family did a first dance, but you are terrified of dancing in public, don’t feel like you have to do one.

And so what if your best friend had a ten tier, 6 flavor cake that cost more than your car. If you hate cake and way prefer pie, definitely go for the pie, girl!

The point of a  wedding, at the end of the day, is to celeberate the joining of two people’s lives. You are agreeing to be there to love and support one another, no matter what crazy things life throws at you. That is a unique and beautiful thing.

It is definitely NOT a carte blanche to become Bridezilla about every little detail, but yes, the day should be about you as individuals and as a couple, and to hell with anyone else’s expectations.

Location

We started the search for the right place by deciding that we were not location bound, but that we wanted to stay within the US.

Since our families were scattered all over Texas, Ohio, Arizona, Tennessee, Iowa, and Chicago, and we were currently living in Connecticut, all we knew was that there was no right or wrong answer!

People were going to be traveling regardless, and we knew we weren’t attached to CT (and their silly high prices for everything).

We both love the ocean and the mountains. As our time in Colorado showed us, the mountains are pretty much our favorite place, and guaranteed to be gorgeous no matter the weather. So we wanted to go somewhere in the mountains. That narrows down a few states.

We also knew we wanted a spring wedding, so we needed a place that would be tolerably warm in May, so likely the lower states.

Look at that perfection. Seriously. The Smoky Mountains are breathtaking.

Honest to God, we started with AirBnB and VRBO. We wanted to be able to provide a location large enough that the wedding party did not need housing. This would save everyone in the party the cost of a hotel room for the week/weekend.

We simply searched for places that could accomodate a minimum of ten, no maximum, and went from there. Options included lavish mansions in Las Vegas, oceanfront mansions in California and all along New England, a castle or two, beautiful antebellum homes throughout the South, and log cabins in several different states.

From there we narrowed by price, starting with a pretty wide band and then winnowing down into our more comfortable range. We also wanted a long celebration, not just one day, so the cost was considerably higher for nearly a full week. If you do only one day or one weekend, you can probably knock off another grand or two.

Honestly, the huge place for a whole week makes up almost 75% of the money we spent.

You could quite easily get that down to 1-2K for a shorter duration or a smaller place. But rolling the ceremony, reception, and whole weekend into one space is what we wanted, and we were willing to pay for it.

Given the price-to-value ratio of how many people a place could sleep, what level of luxury it offered, and the prices, a large log cabin in the Tennessee/Kentucky/Virginia area hit all our requirements.

After weeks of looking and pros and cons, we narrowed it to two cabins. My parents so generously offered to cover this part of the weekend. My mom was really the major factor here, basically stepping in as my de facto wedding planner.

She called them each and asked what kind of deal they would give us. One place let us adjust the dates, added one extra free night for just us to stay after everyone else left, and threw in a pre-holiday discount (it was right around Memorial weekend), so we went with a 10 bedroom cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Guest list

This one might merit some input from family, if they are very invested in your celebration. We just knew that we wanted to keep it on the short side.

We agreed to “immediate family” only. What hubby didn’t know at the time, is that my admittedly very small family is still nonetheless very close, so essentially my whole family is my immediate family.

When we drew up the list, it was pretty clear who was on the “must invite” list, we were lucky that way. We ended up with about 50 people, of whom roughly 45 showed up. This was on the higher end of comfortable for us and the size cabin we had.

Paper: Save the Date, Invitations, RSVPs

We chose our date a little less than a year in advance, because we knew that people were going to have to travel. People need time to plan, book flights, arrange cars/hotels, etc. Therefore it made sense to send “Save the Date” cards.

I knew I wanted to try my hand at making all our own paper goods, because 1) I enjoy crafting 2) I hate spending money and 3) We had a small enough list of those we were inviting that it wasn’t totally overwhelming.

I would not recommend DIY with a guest list over 50!

The invitations were all hand-made, with the help of one of my indefatiguable friends. I looked through ideas online and settled on a simple design with a ribbon tying two small rings together, in our colors of purple and blue.

A good friend at work was kind enough to volunteer some of her crafting supplies (a paper cutter, hole punch, scissors, etc) and her time to help me put them all together. We cut, glued, and tied for hours.

DIY wedding invitations and RSVP

All told, the paper, glue, ribbon, envelopes, and rings cost about $100 for about 50 invitations, save the dates, and RSVP cards. Stamps were another $20 or so; I was lucky to also already have a stash from before.

Depending on the number of guests, your costs might be more or less. Many people nowadays are also opting to go paperless, for money-saving and/or environmental reasons.

Wedding events

My mom really loves me and wanted to throw an engagement party/wedding shower, but I turned it down.

The reasons were multiple: the same people who would come would also come to the wedding and after-wedding-reception, I don’t like the idea of multiple large gifts being expected of people, it was in February in Ohio and she wanted us to drive there, I just don’t like those kinds of events, and we had been living together for a few years already at this point, there wasn’t much left for a “household” that we needed.

So no engagement party or wedding shower.

For pre-wedding events, I did end up having 2 bachelorette parties. As mentioned we were living in CT at the time. We had only been there a little over a year, so I didn’t know too many people outside of work friends.

But these work friends were amazing people, and decided I needed a party. We planned a great day of winery-hopping (there were three relatively close together) followed by a downtown New Haven bar crawl. I didn’t pay for a thing, and I’m told it was a lot of fun! 😉

Then we also had a smaller, quieter party in TN with the wonderful ladies of the bridal party: my sister, my cousin, my best friend from grad school, and my sister in law. We are all such laid back women that we opted to just hang out at the cabin and drink wine and play games!

The guys went out in downtown Pigeon Forge at the same time to do their thing, then we all met back at the cabin for general merriment.

I wore dresses I had already owned, no special clothing, shoes, or accessories were purchased by me for these events. Some of my friends did go all out and got me a “Bachelorette” tiara and light up sash, which was quite fun to wear.

bachelorette party swag

2 days prior to the Big Day, the boy and I went downtown together to get the marriage license, which was $41. This was the easiest part of getting married! And our officiant very kindly took care of signing and mailing it afterwards to complete the ‘make it official’ part.

The rehearsal was quick since we were holding the ceremony at the cabin, and it was to be very short and simple. We all just lined up in order of who we were walking in with, and practiced processing in, standing, and then walking out 2-3 times.

The rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding was covered by my wonderful in-laws, and was held at a restaurant downtown.

We had a great time sitting and talking, our two sides of the family and closest friends getting to know each other better and make memories. A few toasts and speeches were made, but there was nothing “official” about it and no pressure. It is also much easier to sit everyone at one long table and actually hear each other talk when there are about 20 of you.

Apparel & Beautifying

Everyone knows the big white dress is an important part of the day.

But honestly even that is up for discussion now. I toyed with the idea of a non-white dress, like a pale peach or champagne. I tried on dozens of dresses in all different styles, at every boutique within driving distance.

And while I loved the look of the mermaid, the A line, the curve hugging slinky kinds, the puffy ones with huge trains… they just weren’t me. I felt uncomfortable, like I couldn’t walk or dance or sit.

Then I tried on a shorter ‘tea length’ dress, and (I’m told) my face and eyes lit up and I couldn’t stop smiling. Clearly, 3/4 length dresses are my thing. The swirliness of the skirt and lightness overall felt so right; I knew I would have a short wedding dress.

Tea length bridal gown
My face hurt from smiling so big all day! This exactly captures my love of this style of dress.

But, as I only planned to wear it for a few hours, and probably not pass it on to anyone, I didn’t see a point in paying several hundreds of dollars. Those boutique dresses were just to try different styles, no way was I walking out with a 4-digit charge on my credit card.

The Dress was purchased at the end of season, online, and was the last one they had, in my size. The total was just over $100. Turns out it fit like it was made for me, so no altering was required!

My shoes were purchased on sale from Payless, with a coupon, and the jewelry was borrowed from my sister. I got a crinoline online to make the skirt poofier, for less than $10. And there was no veil; I just didn’t like how they look on me, and didn’t want to do the whole ‘guy uncovers your face’ thing.

So once I was clothed, we had to figure out the rest of the party.

We decided to let the guys wear a suit they already had (black, with a white dress shirt to keep it super simple) and the girls could wear any dress they chose as long as it was approximately knee-length, and a shade of grey to go with our colors.

This way everyone gets to wear something they love and look and feel good in, and almost all of them didn’t even have to buy anything new for the event.

**It will always be appreciated if you take others’ budgets into consideration!!**

I’m so glad the mismatched-but-same-color-palette thing is a trend, because it looked amazing on my girls! They even magically chose half silky and half lace (2 each) so it looked almost planned anyways.

We like it and wanna put a ring on it!

Let it be known, that you do not HAVE to have wedding bands, or engagement rings either. This is a personal decision for each person and each couple. No judgment here. A piece of jewelry cannot summarize your feelings for your person. Obviously, not having wedding bands will save you this expense completely.

But, we did want that outer symbol of our commitment to each other. I also wanted a simple band I could still wear when I didn’t want to wear my larger bling and tempt fate. Our wedding bands were bought online, in tungsten, because it is so durable.

I simply did a few minutes’ of research on different metal types and price compared across a few companies. The boy picked his favorite, and we clicked “order”.  We even sprung for the extra few dollars to engrave the wedding date inside the matching bands.

engraved wedding bands

Mine was a super slim 2 mm and hubs had a larger size with rounded edges. We both love how comfortable they are to wear, except when playing video games for long periods of time.  😉

Though I was of the opinion that we could do our own hair and makeup thank you very much, on the day of the wedding, the girls did all go to the salon together to get our hair done in matching styles, and I even got upgraded to makeup as well.

Which is probably for the best, as I don’t use makeup and would likely not have worn any otherwise!

The salon we used did a fantastic job, I loved the curls and braids! And the makeup was enough without making me look like a whole different person. It was also extremely reasonably priced (the girls were sweet and chipped in to cover my cost).

Officiant

The cost for this was $0 because hubs’ cousin is a pastor!

He has done TONS of weddings, so he was not at all nervous, and was very well prepared. His words were beautiful and heartfelt, and he brought a special perspective to the ceremony since he had such close lifelong knowledge of the groom.

If that sounds like a nice idea, but no one in the family currently is “of the cloth”, you can have a family member or close friend become ordained quite easily online.

For example, my brother, who recently got engaged, has two close male friends. He wanted to involve them both, but wanted only one best man. One of them is very religious already, so it was an easy choice to ask that he become ordained and perform the service, while the other stood as best man.

This way, both are integral to the process and close to my brother on his special day. And he doesn’t need to pay a pastor either!

Ceremony

We kept the ceremony short and sweet, since neither of us is particularly religious. If you have a faith you grew up in or live in now, there may be traditions you keep.

There was no rental fee, because we had the ceremony in the cabin we had already rented. If you choose to use a church or other venue, there may be a location fee.

We had our sisters do a short reading on love, and we did have a “unity” thing, because “you have to make it at least symbolic of joining your lives”. This did seem like a legitimate suggestion, so we thought long and hard about what we could do that would be actually meaningful to us.

There are all kinds of ideas out there on the interwebs if you just search. We debated a few different ideas including candles, building things, breaking things, planting things, and then the idea of a sand sculpture made something click.

But instead of sand, we wanted to use spices!

(Because I’m the Budget Epicurean, duh)

So we created a mixture of garlic powder and salt, to “spice up our lives together”.  🙂

 

 

 

*Intermission*

In the interest of pausing this novel and giving you all a chance to catch your breath, I’ll cut this article off and continue in Part 2.

Be sure to come back and catch How To Have a Gorgeous Destination Wedding for $10,000: Part 2. It has all the goodies on food, drinks, gifts, and the all-important final reveal of the numbers!

 

*Disclaimer: This story is in no way meant to alienate readers who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender, transexual, or polyamorous. This is also not meant to imply or insinuate that any- or every-one should enter into a legally binding marriage. I am also not saying that a wedding celebration/party is required to have a meaningful and lasting marriage.

 

Let’s hear all your thoughts in the comments!

Did you do something unique at your wedding? Are you planning to do something creative? Just head to the nearest Justice Of the Peace? Did you go whole hog on a big white wedding and black tie reception?

Weekly Eating – 3/5/18

 

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, we picked a great weekend for a dinner party! Harris Teeter was having a 10% off all wine sale, and I also got a coupon for $20 off an order of $100 or more. Without the booze for the party, I would not have hit that $100. Yes, I know, it is justifying spending I didn’t necessarily have to make. But between the sale and the coupon, the alcohol was basically half price!

the Budget Epicurean weekly eating

The party was on March 3rd, so I had a “3” theme. I made three dips: buffalo chicken, beet hummus, and vegan spinach artichoke dip, along with a nice antipasto platter. I had homemade pickles, bacon jam, olives, nuts, figs, dates, and prunes.

antipasto platter

Then I had three different types of pasta (one of which was tri-color) and three sauces: marinara, pesto, and alfredo. That way people could mix and match with whatever they wanted; alfredo plus pesto was a popular combo.

three types of pasta

And for dessert, triple chocolate brownies with chunks of dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate sauce drizzle, and a Tres Leches cake! It was totally awesome and delicious. We had a great time chatting, and playing games late into the night.

tres leches cake

I paid for it on Sunday though! Good thing it’s supposed to be a day of rest, because I didn’t leave bed all day.

Monday:

Breakfast – Oatmeal with golden raisins & craisins. I don’t know if this is a different type of oatmeal, but the individual oats keep their shape and don’t stick together well. Even after multiple rounds of microwaving. I like my oatmeal to be more mashed-together like, so I was pretty unhappy with it. But I ate it anyways. I’ll have to try it as overnight oats and see if that goes better.

raisin oatmeal

Lunch – Leftover pasta, made new by adding some veggies and shrimp from the freezer, with a lemon garlic sauce.

veggie pasta with lemon butter

Dinner – Spinach Artichoke Melts + Tomato Soup. I had a ton of spinach artichoke dip left from the weekend, and read that one way to use it is to put it into a grilled cheese… well, hell yeah!

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

It turns out whoever wrote that is a flipping genius, and these sammies were hands down AHmazing. Not sure I can have a “plain” grilled cheese ever again…

spinach artichoke grilled cheese

Snack – a chocolate peanut butter granola bar in the car on the way home. Good thing I put one in the pocket of every coat…

choc peanut butter granola bar

*Soaked beans overnight in the crock pot for tomorrow’s chili

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Uh, so, I’m usually pretty behind the times with food trends. I’ve heard of “sweet potato toast” for years, where you thinly slice a sweet potato and just toast it like in a toaster. So I decided to try that. One of the slices ended up kind of charred on the end, and the other was evidently so thick that even putting it through the toaster four times, it was still crunchy… so I microwaved it for 2 minutes and that did the trick.

sweet potato "toast"

Once softened, it was pretty dang tasty. I spread a smashed avocado with lemon on one for the bougie-est toast ever, and then I had some more cooked white beans, so I figured, what the hell why not. DUDE. Why did no one ever tell me that white beans and sweet potato is a DELICIOUS combo?? With a squirt of lemon, sprinkle of salt, I was in heaven. New favorite.

sweet potato "toast"

Lunch – I had bits of random veggies all over the fridge, and a batch of cooked rice, so naturally I whipped up a super quick stir fry. The boy was funny, he goes “awww I got all excited because it smelled really good, but then I look and it’s just vegetables”  😛

veggie stir fry

Dinner – Slow Cooker 5 Bean Chili. We stirred in a few spoonfuls of spinach artichoke dip too, just for funzies, and it was pretty ok. Not a thing I’d be sad about not having, but it used up more dip, so, win.

5 bean chili with spin artichoke dip

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Pineapple Kiwi Green Smoothie! with a pear tossed in because it was bordering on spoiled.

kiwi pineapple smoothie

Lunch – Leftover white bean soup and a big salad. I also used the lemon tahini yogurt dip from last week’s Turkish koftes as dressing

white bean soup and salad

Snack – Beet hummus with cut veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Bowtie pasta with meatballs, of course. We had a LOT of pasta in the fridge…

bowties and turkey meatballs

Evening snack – herbal tea and a Stroopwaffel!

Thursday:

Breakfast – Peaches & Cream Smoothie

peaches and cream smoothie

Lunch – Pasta with meatballs, a salad, with roasted sweet and hot Brussels sprouts

pasta and brussels sprouts

Dinner – Roasted beet & sweet potato veggie burgers. I used cooked brown rice and breadcrumbs as the binders, and tossed in the little bit of cooked white beans left along with the roasted beets and sweet potato. These were softer than the last batch but I liked the flavor better. Still working on the exact right blend.

beet veggie burgers

Friday:

Breakfast – Banana walnut bread

banana bread

Lunch – Vurgers on rice cakes w hot sauce and lettuce

beet veggie burgers on rice cakes

Snack – Beet hummus & veggies

beet hummus n veg

Dinner – Pizzas! Pork and pineapple for the boy and a veggie for me using the last of the artichoke dip and some peppers and olives

spinach artichoke pizza and hawaiian pizza

The Weekend

Saturday is a lazy day for me, but the poor boy has to work the weekend. A big project launched this week, and he is ”on call” for fixing all the things. So I’ll be cleaning the house, lots of grocery shopping, and prepping for Sunday.

Sunday I’m having a tea party!! If you know me on Twitter you’re probably already aware, I am simply bursting with excitement! I adore parties, and tea, and tiny sweet and savory snacks. I’m super pumped to have a half dozen lovely ladies over in our Sunday best to sip oodles of tea, use terrible fake British accents, and talk about life. Hopefully it will be an absolute blast and become a regular thing.

mountain of tea
Uh, yea, that is all actually tea or tea related items. Bags, loose leaf, herbal, matcha… a French press, honey of different flavors, cups with built in spoons, and more…

And guys, I realized, I have a serious tea problem… I’ve always loved tea and everyone knows it, so between being unable to stop myself around new flavors and gifts from family and friends, I have amassed a formidable collection. The newest addition, of which I am most proud, is this gorgeous porcelain cup and saucer:

yellow gold rose tea cup

I was at the thrift store, and sifting through the housewares section (honestly, in search of a tiered serving tray for this party, which I sadly did not find). The cup jumped out at me with its’ royal pattern and those big yellow roses just immediately made me think of Beauty and the Beast. I had to have it.

I carried the cup around the store another 2 aisles, hoping to find a saucer that looked at least okay with it, but it was coming home with me regardless.

And then, when I was about ready to give up and leave with my few gems, I saw on a lower shelf THE MATCHING SAUCER! It was clearly meant to be. The universe wanted me to have this set. And for only $1.48 total, how could I say no?!?

yellow gold rose tea cup

Food Total: $75.52

Man I’m excited about this week, pretty much nailed it! Even with the impulse purchases and tons of produce we came in at our $75 goal. I’ve also decided that alcohol gets its own category now, so the booze we got for our dinner party was not included here.

Dairy $21.72 Staples $28.38 Fruit/Veg $22.63
Greek yogurts 10 8 Pretzel crisps 2 bags 5 Fresh beets 3 2.99
2lb sharp cheddar cheese 7.99 Canned tomatoes 12 5.64 Bag spinach 2.49
Dozen lg eggs 0.77 Canned garbanzo beans 2 1.54 Fresh stir fry veggies 1.5
Cream cheese 2 2.38 Brownie mix 1.69 Stir fry veggies frozen 1.98
Evaporated milk 0.59 Yellow cake mix 1.49 3lb clementines 2.99
Sweet condensed milk 1.99 Crackers 2 kinds 5 Bananas 8 2.12
Northern beans 2 cans 1.54 Frozen spinach big bag 2.99
Stroopwaffel 8 3.49 Bag spring mix 1.99
Pasta sauce 2 2.5 Cucumber 0.59
3color bowtie pasta 0.49 Basil plant 2.99

Lessons Learned

I did totally give in to temptation at the store when I saw a whole shelf full of Stroopwaffles! I held a box in my hand, then put it back, almost walked away… picked it back up… and then put it in the cart. At least I checked the “per unit” prices, and though the bag full of tiny waffles was close, the not-individually-packaged box of 8 was the best deal, so that is the one I chose.

shelf full of stroopwaffels

Part of me wants to add breakfasts into the meal plan. But then the other part of me knows it is currently the least predictable part of my day. Some mornings a smoothie sounds amazing, other mornings toast is the only acceptable answer. And more and more frequently lately nothing at all sounds good, so I just open the fridge and force something in my face because I can’t in good conscience not eat breakfast at all… c’est la vie, we all go through seasons of eating.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 2/26/18

 

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!

 

This was the best week for meal planning yet! I put together a complete plan, compared the ads for all three of my favorite grocery stores (Kroger, Harris Teeter, and ALDI, in case you wondered) and discovered that neither of my two closest had good enough sales or coupons this week to justify them. So ALDI it was, even though it is (sadly) the most out of my way. It is 90% of the time the cheapest overall option, though, so I wasn’t too torn up about it.

storefront of ALDI in Durham NC

I mentioned it was recently remodeled right? Good lord do I wish I lived closer, I would be here almost daily. Okay, maybe I don’t wish I lived closer… But, it is gorgeous inside, and I found all the things I needed and then some. They had hemp hearts! And some cool rice and quinoa blends. And lentils and split peas on sale. I am 99% sure you could live off this week’s groceries for at least a few weeks.

Oh and remember how much we liked the Raleigh Beer Garden last week, even though it was rainy & gloomy? We went back again and it was sunny and 70s and perfect! Yeah we spent 2 weekends in a row here, what of it? Tell me you aren’t jealous.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I also finally made chana saag (spinach & chickpeas), which I had been jonesing for ever since my trip to Sitar. It wasn’t quite on par with theirs, but I’ll work on it. I just love the flavor combo here, it’s like the Indian version of red beans & rice.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh, and I made a new batch of my favorite granola bars! Sure they have processed pretzels in them, but when they satisfy the same craving as a Snickers bar with far less fat and ingredients I control, I’m okay with it. Balance, people. This batch came out quite oily, which is disappointing. But it won’t stop me from nomming them all.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh, AND, one more thing, it’s the last weekend update I swear. I made pizza dough, which was fine. It was the toppings I was particularly proud of. My family visited a few months ago, and one thing they bought was a jar of BACON JAM for the boy.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Yup, you read that right. And it’s been sitting in my cupboard, because I’m at a loss as to what to do with it (for some reason I got a weird look when  I suggested he eat it with a spoon…) BUT. Turns out, it makes a really great pizza topping!

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

With some shredded Brussels sprouts and goat cheese, OHMAHLAWD y’all. To. Die. For. Pizza.

Monday:

Breakfast – the last of the Cracklin Oat Bran! I’m sad to finish this box off, it made fast mornings so easy… but, alas. I cannot allow myself to get into a $5 per box habit.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Chana Saag and brown rice. Deeeeeeeeeelish.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Oh and I saw this ad in the hallway! Super exciting, and since we don’t eat many eggs anymore, I only buy about a dozen every other week. I think this is do-able, and will be a great step towards eating as locally as possible.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Hummus & cut veggies. Isn’t it so pretty?! Carrots, celery, and cucumbers.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza <3<3<3

Tuesday:

Breakfast – A Rainbow Smoothie! Not a Rainbow Of Smoothies, that’s an ongoing series. It was one smoothie, with a s*#t-ton of different fruits and veg! This is what happens when you have a LOT of fruit in the house.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Bagel & pear. I forgot I even had these bagels, and needed to eat them before they went bad, as well as the pear. So it made for a great snack time.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – White bean soup. This one was sans ham, but I added some wheat bran to thicken it up more. It’s even better overnight.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato, lentils, & spinach. This is one more step on top of one of my favorite simple hot breakfasts. Just simmer sweet potatoes and lentils together in water for 25-30 minutes while you get dressed and pack lunch. Toss in some spinach at the end and boom breakfast is served.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – The rest of the Chana Saag, with some quick tzatziki

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Fruit & nut goji trail mix. I’m slowly working on the last of this travel mix. I think I got my money’s worth for how long it’s taking me to finish this.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Then I got hungry again near quittin time, good thing I also had a Nature Valley bar and some blueberries.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – I decided to try a new recipe, and used this one for Turkish Koftes. It’s basically wheat and red lentils and onions, formed into patties and wrapped in lettuce leaves.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I whipped up a quick lemon tahini yogurt dressing to go with, and I thought they were pretty great. They were a bit too watery (my fault, I just didn’t want the lentils to burn…) so I baked them at 400 for 15 minutes and that helped solidify them.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Ohhhhhhh and fresh chocolate chip cookies for dessert! We rarely have dessert here in the BE household, because neither of us is crazy about sweets (I know, I know, what kind of monsters are we… the kind that thrive on salt, apparently). But I’d had these in the freezer for a while, from the Dec Food Swap, and decided it was time.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Boy, am I glad I did! Straight from freezer to oven, they came out slightly brown outside but ooey-gooey-chewy on the inside. Be still, my beating heart. I want more. Like now.

Thursday:

Breakfast – Corn grits with spinach, white beans, and an egg. I don’t know where I come up with these things either. I had some grits left from the weekend, and I think the internet told me that savory grits go with spinach well, so I pulled that from the freezer.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I decided it needed more protein, so I threw in a handful of white beans (I had a huge batch I made in the slow cooker over the weekend) and a fried egg on top. It was surprisingly tasty!

Lunch – Big salad with goat cheese, beets, and pepitas, and some leftover white bean soup. I love canned beets, they are so easy (no roasting or peeling required) and are awesome on salads.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Snack – Nature Valley bar. I meant to throw one of my granola bars in my lunch bag but I forgot… luckily I had one of these hidden in my desk so I didn’t have to gnaw my arm off before driving home.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I also found out that there is a food drive happening at work! This is great news, because it makes it super convenient to donate the food I’ve been buying at each grocery trip.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – Was not feeling black eyed peas (nor had I soaked them overnight) so we had leftover buffet, which translated into tacos for the boy and leftover lentils and sweet potato with rice for me. This is why I consider the meal plan more of a guide than a written in stone requirement every week.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

I had a bunch of bananas that were turning waaaaaaaay brown, so of course that is just begging for banana bread! I whipped up a banana walnut loaf, and holy cow, fresh and hot out the oven with some butter, mmmmmmmm mmmmmm! I must say, this might be my best one ever.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Friday:

Breakfast – Banana bread, and a green smoothie

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Lunch – Last of the Brussels Bacon Goat Cheese Pizza. For the boy, to whom one large pizza is basically one meal, at best two, this is utterly confusing and disturbing that I can turn my one pizza into 4 different meals.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Also it was not quite enough to satisfy me, so good thing I planned for that and brought a few of the leftover koftes!

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

Dinner – It was Stir Friday of course! I made my sweet & spicy Asian beef with a giant batch of stir fried veggies and brown rice.

Budget Epicurean Weekly Eating

The Weekend

We are hosting the first dinner party we’ve had in months, and I’m so excited! I absolutely loooooooooove having people over and feeding them, and winter has dragged on for all of time. It’s on 3/3 so I’m planning a meal of 3s, 3 appetizer dips, 3 different pastas, 3 sauces, etc. I don’t think anyone will have met each other prior to this besides myself, so it should be interesting! I love bringing together people of all different personalities, and hope this sparks some great conversation and deeper friendships.

 

Food Total: $59.69

I totally killed it this week with meal planning. Mostly because I made a meal plan relying heavily on dried legumes and pantry items, and stuck to my list. This might be the first time I only had 2 impulse purchases (the hemp seeds and fabric softener).

Dairy $8.07 Staples $24.50 Fruit/Veg $16.39 Extras $9.46
Plain Greek yogurt 3.49 Diced tomatoes 2.48 Romaine heads 3 1.99 Fabric softener sheets 1.89
Blueberry Kefir 4.58 Chickpeas canned 2.2 Kiwi 6 1.29 Vanilla extract * 6.98
Pesto 1.99 Pineapple 2 whole 3.5 Seltzer 0.59
 white beans 32oz 1.99 Bananas 5 0.74
Split peas & lentils 2.38 Garlic 3 head 0.79
Hemp seeds 4.99 Cucumber 0.85
Rice blend 16 oz 2.99 3 Bell peppers 1.99
Quinoa 16 oz 3.49 avocados 3 1.17
20 flour tortillas 1.99 onions 2lb 1.09
Spinach 12oz 2 2.98

Lessons Learned

Practice what you preach, babe! I go on and on about how meal planning and lists save you money on groceries, but even I, with years of practice on my iron will, capitulate to the siren song of BOGO deals, markdowns, and impulse buys. But the closer to plant-based we eat, and the closer I follow my plan and list, the more we save!

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 2/19/18

 

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!

 

Over the weekend we got to explore Raleigh a little, even though it was rainy and gloomy, and we LOVED the Raleigh Beer Garden. Yet one more reason I need spring/summer to hurry up already, so I can sit up on the top deck and leisurely sip a stout in the afternoon sun.

Raleigh Beer Garden rooftop deck

I didn’t get a whole lot of meal prepping done, though I did make a meal plan. Who knows, we often change our minds anyhow! I did attempt a rice pudding with some leftover rice from stir Friday. It was just ‘okay’ unfortunately… I will not be adding shredded coconut anymore, I just hate its texture so much.

coconut rice pudding

Oh, and I also finally got around to a post I’ve been wanting to create for a long time. Spoilers: it involves lots of fruits and colors!

lots of fruits!

Monday:

Breakfast – Cracklin’ Oat Bran with Almond Milk.

cracklin oat bran

This is a cereal hubs actually grew up on (I’m eternally grateful to mom in law for making healthy eating seem normal his whole life!) and I’d never tried it. So I finally hunted it down in Kroger, and decided now is the time. Turns out, it really is pretty great. It doesn’t taste like cardboard at all, more like really solid cinnamon cookies. If only I could figure out a way to easily make it at home…

Lunch – leftover Best Black Bean Soup and a big salad

black bean soup and salad

Dinner – Shepherd’s Pie with leftover mashed potatoes from pierogi making. Technically it was a Cottage Pie, because it was ground beef and not ground lamb.

baked cottage pie

Snack – raw veggies with hummus, and a coco loco. Yes it says expires Feb 11 and I ate it on the 20th, but guess what? Yogurt is literally full of bacteria. I’m not concerned, nor did I get sick.

hummus and veggiesalmond coco loco

Tuesday:

Breakfast – mixed berry smoothie. This had some blueberries and blackberries plus a handful of spinach, and came out quite tasty

mixed berry smoothie

Lunch – veggies + hummus + pretzels. I had this as a snack late in the morning, and it actually filled me up pretty well.

hummus with veggies and pretzels

Snack – Peanut butter bar and Pumpkin Latte. I got the “RXBar” for free as a sample, and the Starbucks Via as a gift for my birthday, so this was free. And delicious. The PSL was just okay, but what do you expect from instant? And the RXBAR was… weird. Very… thick and chewy. But they say that there are only 4 ingredients, so who knows.

pumpkin spice latte and peanut butter date bar

Dinner –Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup. I used up the last little bit of leftover mashed potatoes, which thickened the soup considerably. I usually add chopped up potato, so it worked well. Some diced carrot, celery, and onion, a can of tomatoes, leftover slow cooker pinto beans, frozen green beans, and some broth. Set to cook on high for 6 hours, and a fresh hot meal awaits you! God bless slow cookers.

slow cooker minestrone soup

Wednesday:

Breakfast – green smoothie, with a new recipe that I am really loving! Coming soon…

green smoothie in the car

Lunch – leftover pea soup, cranberry green beans, and salad

leftovers lunch

Snack – I brought an Almond Coco Loco and blueberries

almond coco loco and blueberries snack

But then a coworker brought Cherry Pie for someone else’s birthday… so you know what I had instead!

cherry pie

Dinner – Enchiladas with roasted asparagus & Brussels sprouts.

green sauce enchiladas

Ground beef & cheese for the boy, black bean for me.

enchiladas and roasted veggies

Thursday:

Breakfast – Cracklin Oat Bran with cashew milk

cracklin oat bran with cashew milk

Snack – Peaches & Cream Smoothie; recipe coming soon!

peaches and cream smoothie

Lunch – Leftover black bean enchilada, rice, roasted veggies

leftover enchilada and roasted veggies

Dinner – BBQ pulled pork sandwiches from the freezer for the boy, leftover minestrone soup for me

slow cooker minestrone soup

Friday:

Breakfast –Cracklin Oat Bran, with coconut milk. There was a 2/$5 sale on plant milks last week, can you tell? 🙂 I like the cashew the best so far, it just has the richest flavor. Maybe bc it’s “vanilla”…

cracklin oat bran with coconut milk

Lunch –leftover Minestrone soup, a big salad, and turmeric mango smoothie. I bragged about this one on Twitter.

soup, salad, and smoothie

Snack –hummus & veggies

hummus and carrots and celery

Dinner –I had a ridiculously stressful day, so cooking is not a thing I wanted to do when I got home… luckily my very sweet boy handed me a glass of wine and told me to sit down while he took over. 🙂 We had a simple dinner of salad and pasta, but sometimes a big bowl of carbs and a supportive spouse is all you need to feel better.

bowl full o carbs

The Weekend

Pretty sure the only thing that stands out on this weekend’s calendar is the One Year Anniversary party at Starpoint Brewery in Durham! From 10am – midnight, $4 pints all day of all of their signature brews?? Count us in!

Food Total: $106.28

Just over $100 this week, dang it. I will still count this as a win though, especially as I restocked on ground beef and turkey since our freezer supply was depleted, and lots of yogurts (we go through about 10 a week at least).

I took mercy on him and the boy got some special meat-based meals this week, like a huge 3-cheese ham and turkey sub w buffalo sauce, shepherd’s pie, and beef and cheese enchiladas.

Oh, and $75 of that $100 was produce! $46 of it was just spent on bags of frozen fruit. More spoilers about that upcoming post series… So without taking that into account, we really spent more like $60 this week.

 

Lessons Learned

One amusing thing I noticed is that even though he requested the Cracklin Oat Bran, I’m the one eating it! I’m glad he introduced me to it though, it really is good. And it’s one of the healthiest cereals I’ve seen. When my creative mojo is not quite awake, but I’m not feeling a smoothie, it’s my new go-to breakfast.

Another thing that stood out, it’s a lesson I learn over and over again, is that leftovers are SO good! Having containers just ready to grab and go is soooo convenient. If I have to put too much effort into food prep in the morning, I’m more likely to say forget it and spend the $7-$15 on lunch somewhere at work. No bueno.

But, the catch is that it is always a balancing act. I don’t want TOO MANY leftovers either, or we can’t eat them fast enough. Even with a six-plus-foot-male appetite in the house. And especially if it is a thing he isn’t super crazy about, and I’m left to my own devices to finish off two types of soup, a stir fry, and a couple enchiladas? That’s a recipe for disaster. So more meals that we know we both love and can and will eat over and over, along with the constant experiments.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 2/12/18

 

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!

 

Over the weekend I cooked up a big batch of black beans in the slow cooker, which became some meal prep black beans and rice lunches, my best black bean soup, and a little left over for burritos or whatever is needed later.

black beans and rice lunch meal prep

I also finally got up the ambition to make a butt-load of pierogi! If you have had pierogi, you know how damn delicious these carb-on-carb dumplings are. If you have not, you are missing out on some serious buttery deliciousness.

mashed potato pierogi

Not going to lie, there is almost zero redeeming nutritional qualities to pierogi, but they are amazing, even more so when homemade, and I intend to take them to the next Bull City Food Swap. These will be a very high-ticket trade item, so I’m hoping to get some good swag in return!

mashed potato pierogi ready to freeze

Monday:

Breakfast – Cherry Waffles! The boy’s favorite fruit is cherry, cherry everything and anything. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this week, I picked up a can of cherry pie filling with the intent to make some sort of delicious things with it. And I did.

cherry pie filling waffles

They came out very soft vs. crunchy, but I actually preferred them that way. And I turned more of the cherries into a berry sauce by boiling it down with some cherry juice added.

cherry pie filling waffles

Snack – So there were some muffins left over at work from last week, and we all know I can’t say no. So I had a second breakfast of a banana nut muffin. No regrets.

banana nut muffin

Lunch – there was a grilled cheese & soup potluck today! It was amaaaazing, and so perfect on a chilly, rainy day. I stuffed myself silly on jalapeno popper grilled cheese and southern Pimento grilled cheese, chili, tomato soup, and I brought my best black bean soup.

grilled cheese

Snack 2 – I was feeling a little guilty about the carb-licious day, so I snagged a cupful of fresh raw veggies from the veggie tray someone brought to snack on at my desk all afternoon.

veggie tray

Dinner – I’ve been jonesing to try a spicy Thai carrot and sweet potato soup ever since I traded for some at December’s Food Swap. I roasted some carrots and sweet potatoes, and whizzed it up in a blender with ingredients including cayenne, garlic, ginger and tahini.

spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Topped with some cashews and golden raisins, it was absolutely perfect! I’m in love. Just in time for V Day. (Even if the boy said it looked and tasted like baby food…)

spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I found this recipe at my friend Stephanie’s blog, and for once was excited for a smoothie with turmeric! It has a pretty strong flavor, even for a die-hard exotic spice lover like myself. This turned out great though, the yogurt makes it smooth and the mango was the major flavor that stood out.

mango and turmeric smoothie

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa, steamed broccoli, and leftover lentil veggie burgers

beans and rice with veggie burgers

Dinner – Tuna noodle casserole, a childhood classic 🙂

tuna noodle casserole

Tonight was also spa night! The puppers needed a trim badly, I cut off almost a whole dog’s worth of fur. Yes, I did it myself, and yes I used scissors. He is an amazing animal and calmly stood still the whole time. That face though, right?!?

puppies after a fur trim

And mama also got a haircut finally! I’ve been complaining about it for months, but my frugal heart won’t allow me to spend money on going to get it cut at a salon. So usually I ignore it, and go 2-3 years between cuts. But I figured, hey, the dog doesn’t look completely insane, may as well try myself next! (Yes, I used different scissors).

giving myself a hair cut

And you know what? It came out ok! I took off almost 6 inches, and there was still so much left that not a single person commented on it all week. LOL.

Wednesday <3:

Breakfast – For breakfast on Valentine’s Day, not only did hubs get his usual coffee in bed, but I also used the remainder of the cherry pie filling to make cherry heart shaped pancakes! With some cherry sauce and a little melted chocolate, oh my, it was heaven.

cherry pancakes with chocolate sauce

And then proceeded to make Twitter jealous, ha, not my intent…

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa, and leftover turmeric mango smoothie

black beans and rice with turmeric smoothie

Snack – our admin gave us cute valentines with a KitKat, and a coworker brought in special white chocolate dipped cookies!

Valentines

Dinner – I cook 364 days per year, but this day is the boy’s day to cook 🙂 He did a fantastic job, with bouquets of flowers inside the door and on the table.

Valentines day bouquet

We opened a bottle of the “good wine” (yeah an actual bottle, not a box!), and he impressed me with a salad to start, followed by fresh baked bread, and mozzarella stuffed shells. He even got a bunch of parsley and diced it to put on top you guys! It was soooo tasty, omg.

Valentines day table set with wine and flowers

Didn’t even get a picture, because a) we scarfed it down too fast and b) no tech allowed tonight. He got a cute handmade card from me, and a chocolate bar that said “you’re one in a billion”  🙂

Thursday:

Breakfast – Mixed berry smoothie

mixed berry smoothie

Lunch – the rest of the carrot-sweet potato soup & blueberries

spicy carrot sweet potato soup and blueberries

Snack – handful of peanut M&Ms on my way back from a meeting

handful of peanut mms

Dinner –I made the split pea soup recipe from Plant Powered For Life, and it was damn delicious. I can’t believe I’d never had split pea soup before now! And I had some green beans that were going to go bad soon, plus a half bag of cranberries, so I simmered them together with a little lemon zest for a tasty tart side dish.

split pea soup and cranberry green beans

Friday:

Breakfast –Loaded baked sweet potato with black beans, sauerkraut, salsa, and avocado. It’s a pretty weird flavor combination, but I’m finding out more and more that that’s what I’m all about! I love the sweet potato sweetness, plus the creamy avocado, and the red cabbage sauerkraut is just the right salty tang.

loaded baked sweet potato

Lunch –black beans & rice & salsa! I may be boring but it is always guaranteed to be delicious. And super cheap.

black beans and rice and salsa

Snack – blender hummus and bell peppers/cauliflower

blender hummus with raw veggies

Dinner –Stir Friday! It has been a while since a stir Friday has happened, so I was excited about this one. Basmati rice in the rice cooker, and I found a stir fry mix on sale $1.69. It was so green and totally vegan, and the boy said “for what it is, it didn’t suck, good job”

green veggie stir fry

The Weekend

This weekend we are taking the leap and finally doing TSA precheck! We have some serious travel coming up between a back-to-CT trip for work, a long overdue vacation, and at least two family weddings this year, so it made sense to finally get it. Hopefully it will make traveling slightly faster and less stressful.

We are also ripping off the band-aid and doing our taxes! Who knows if we will owe or if Uncle Sam will owe us, but I will feel 1000 times better having this particular chore off the to-do list.

Food Total: $80.12

Well, I overshot my $75 stretch goal but I’m under my $100 goal, so I’ll call this week a win! It also included a trip to both Harris Teeter and Kroger, to take advantage of sales and coupons unique to each place. I am lucky that I live about a mile from both stores.

$25.77 coupon $8.56
Dairy $10.99 Staples $0.00 Fruit/Veg $11.15 Extras $3.63
Chobani 4pk x2 7 Stir fry veggies 14oz 1.69 Vday choc bars 2.97
HT brand yogurts 5 2 Stir fry broccoli 12oz 1.69
Sliced provolone 8oz 1.99 Bananas 11 3.14
Asparagus 1lb 1.84 Tax 0.66
5lb Potatoes 2.79
$54.35 coupon $19.10
Dairy $0.00 Staples $17.61 Fruit/Veg $14.11 Extras $22.63
Sargento sliced cheddar 0 Garlic bread loaf x2 3.58 Frozen pep/onion mix 1.5 Foil 200 sqft 6.99
Sesame bread loaf 1.49 Sweet potatoes 99/lb 2.65 Cracklin’ Oat Bran 4.99
Bagels- plain 6 0.89 Avocado 0.99 ZZZquil 5.99
Canned tuna x3 1.5 2lb green beans 2.99 Toothpast 3 4.66
Pasta x5 2.5 Bell peppers 2 1.98
extra wide noodles 1.99 Pint blueberries 2 4
pasta sauce can 0.89
Pancake/waffle mix 1.79
Grits 1.29
Pancake syrup 1.69

I do find it slightly amusing that aluminum foil is more expensive than any grocery item I buy… but 200 sq ft should last quite a while. And it makes me feel pretty great to have no spending at all in the “Meats” column this week.

Lessons Learned

We have been going pretty hard on the carbs lately, and I’m not sure why. Other than they are constantly on sale. I’ve gotten super cheap pasta, rice, bagels, and bread lately. It’s unfortunate that our food system encourages the consumption of pretty nutritionally void foods while making things like “salad mix” cost $6 or more… but also, during the winter and rainy season I really am not feeling salads. Winter is for comfort food. So long as I keep fitting in my jeans, I won’t panic yet. I know spring is right around the corner, and with it the abundance of produce I’m beginning to crave.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

My most expensive vice

There are many things that we all just know are a bad idea, and take a lot of money to obtain and/or upkeep. Most addictions fall into this category. Y’all might have read the title of this article and thought, oh wow, is she going to talk about cigarettes? Alcohol? Gasp, maybe a drug problem??

Nothing quite so intense. My most expensive vice?

Procrastination.

While you may be scratching your head, or nodding it in agreement, let me tell you a few stories.

First, the story of my steering wheel cover.

So, I have an old 2005 Honda Civic. It has a slim, faux-leather steering wheel that originally came with the car. It is beginning to crack around the edges from years of holding, turning, and sliding hands and gloves. It gets finger-freezingly cold in the winter, and near-1st-degree-burn level hot in the summer sun.

Therefore, I decided I should get a cheap steering wheel cover to solve all the problems.

As is my default these days, I turned to Amazon. I browsed different colors, prints, faux leather versus fuzzy zebra print. Just a simple, classic black cover is all I needed, preferably as cheap as possible. I found one for $11 that seemed to fit the bill, added it to my cart, and clicked order.

I then forgot all about it, until 2 days later, when it arrived. After excitedly opening the box, I again forgot all about it for a few more days, as it sat in my den on a pile of other boxes. Finally, one day it was super hot, and I took it out to the car to try to install it.

Guess what I didn’t do before ordering it?

Yeah. Measure the diameter of my wheel.

I pulled and stretched and tried with all my might, but a 17 inch cover won’t fit on a 19 inch wheel. Shaking my head at myself, I tossed it in the back seat, to be dealt with and returned later.

Later has still not come.

That cover is still sitting in the back seat of my car. Several months later. That $11 is still Amazon’s. I’m not proud of that.

Okay, so what, that’s just a few bucks, you may say.

Time for story number two.

My poor little Civic is sorely neglected by me the majority of the year. Like most major and minor appliances, and joints, I only really think about it when it has problems or doesn’t do what I want it to.

One day, I started it up, and it did a crazy shaking thing with some accompanying weird noises. Definitely cause for concern. I tried to back out and go about my day anyhow, hoping it would magically fix itself. The car couldn’t make it above 20 mph down my road, and continued shaking.

Weirdly, it didn’t just magically fix itself.

I parked it back in the driveway, and thanked my lucky stars that I have a work-from-home husband, who has a second vehicle I could use. This would otherwise have been an even more expensive and frustrating story had I not had a backup transportation option. I was able to get to work just fine, leaving my car in the driveway to be dealt with later.

And a month later, I was still driving his car, and mine hadn’t moved.

(Are you seeing a pattern here?)

I did in fact google the problems, and talked it over with my father, who is a much more car-adept human. We diagnosed it as a spark plug issue, which is easily fixable. I stop at a car parts store and pick up some extra plugs, and doodads to change them, totaling about $40. Hubs is pretty confident that with some assistance from YouTube, he can handle it.

Turns out, there are even more tools, and extenders, and what-have-yous that we would need, which would add on another $100 or so in one-use items. For a job that is only necessary every 100 thousand miles or so, it seems like it costs more to DIY than it’s truly worth, and we decide to take it in to someone after all.

After several weekends go by where we keep saying “we will take it to the shop today, I swear”, and we still haven’t taken it to the shop, I finally got fed up. I just wanted the dang car fixed and off my to-do list. So I google all the mechanics open, and there aren’t many on a Sunday in the South.

I picked one that had decent reviews and was nearby, and off we went, me in my shaky loud Civic, with hubs loyally trailing behind to take me home while it gets fixed.

This guy, is an interesting character. He has “good old boy” values, I can tell by the way he talks to me like I don’t know a damn thing about cars (I don’t, but that’s not really the point) and calls me “little darling” (eye-rolling and groans are appropriate here).

I keep my annoyance and rage in check, because I just want him to make the car work. I even brought the brand new spark plugs, that I had bought, so all he has to do is the work to change them. I hand over the keys and we drive off.

He calls back with an estimate that seems pretty silly high to me.

I call my dad and talk it over. He agrees to talk to the guy before we authorize anything. When he calls me back, I get the whole story of how hard it is to make a living, and we’re paying for the time and expertise really, yada yada yada. Whatever dude, fine, just fix the car.

We are both pretty annoyed by now, but finally he calls and my car is all ready to roll. We head back, pick up the car, and pay the outrageous $115 and change.

If the story ended there, I would just chalk it up to a good life lesson, and find myself a mechanic I liked and trusted more. But.

About a month later, my car starts doing the exact same thing. It’s shaking, making weird noises, having trouble turning over and starting up. The check engine light is on yet again. I’m so over this I can’t even.

So I’m driving hubs’ car for another few weeks… bless his heart.

There is no way in hell we’re going back to Patronizing McJerkFace, so I google more options. Turns out, Jiffy Lube can do spark plug changes, and there’s one super close to my house. Excellent.

We go there on a Saturday, and the people are super nice. They listened to my whole saga, and let me watch while they took the engine apart. They explained where all the things go and what they do. And then when they took out the plugs, they tell me, “there’s no possible way these were changed recently. This guy basically took your brand new plugs and charged you for not doing this job.”

By now I’m so mad I’m seeing red and shaking.

“I SHOULD SUE! I should drag his name through the mud, what’s the number to the Better Business Bureau!?”

Hubs is being very sweet and talking me down. After much discussion and debate, we decide that it really isn’t worth the time and energy (and money of going to court) to wreak justice upon this predatory asshole. Karma will get him what he deserves someday.

At least by this point, my car HAS actually had its spark plugs changed, I saw it happen with my own eyes. This second change cost another 35 for plugs, and ~85 for labor. It has now taken me a total of about $275 and nearly 4 months, to change my damn spark plugs.

Least you think my procrastination is only of the automotive variety, let me leave you with one more story. This one having to do with a different type of modern vice: the internet.

So we all know that buying your own modem and/or router is the WAY cheaper and better route to go than renting one and paying every month, except in certain cases. Since we bought our home from 1000 miles away, we started our internet service by renting a router from our new amoral bloodsucker internet provider.

This router came at a cost of $11/month.

We unpacked all the things, began organizing our new home, and realized by the end of the second month that we had an old router which would work! Rejoice! The boy set it up, got it working, and we put the rented router back in its box, to be sent back to its home.

package brown box

And there it sat, in a box, on a shelf. For months.

First, we needed to contact the company and get the shipping label printed. We put that off for several weeks. Then we needed to actually package it and get it to a USPS or FedEx… which seemed to keep getting pushed further and further down the to-do list. Life happened, we had vacations, dinner parties, weddings to attend, exploring our new home city, and holidays.

Before we knew it, we had lived here a whole year!

And that damn router was still on the shelf.

We finally got our act together, after giving the ISP an extra $143 or so, and sent it back.

Y’all. This is a problem.

With tax season upon us, this is a problem with really big implications this time around. I’ve never actually been late filing taxes, but there have been some close calls. So this year, we took a weekend to go around the house and internet, collecting all the paperwork and proof and such that we need into one big envelope.

Of course, that envelope is currently sitting on the filing cabinet…

I’ve given us a deadline of March 1st, to at the very least run a practice filing through TurboTax, or make an appointment with our “tax guy” (last year was ridiculous with the wedding/name change, filing in 2 states, and buying a house, so yeah we had someone help).

I’ve set an alarm and everything, each day leading up to it, to hopefully annoy us into finishing the task.

 

 

Do you procrastinate, or are you a “do it now” kinda person? Have you already filed taxes, or are you waiting? Do you want to file ours for us (for free)? 😉

Hand-Dipped Chocolate Covered Strawberries

With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow, you may be one of those people who is desperately searching the internet for the perfect “last-minute” ideas. Maybe you are almost ready to run to the store and shell out way too many dollars for over-priced and sub-par drug store candy.

Or perhaps you are celebrating solo, or with your friends, and just want a little treat for yourself or your girls, to make the day extra special. But you don’t have all day to slave over a hot stove.

Here’s your answer!

Chocolate dipped strawberries. They are universally loved, as who could resist a sweet, juicy fruit dipped in chocolate? And they are marvelously easy to make, taking mere minutes plus a little bit of chill time. But, you could make them as fancy as you wish, by mixing dark, regular, and white chocolate, sprinkles, coconut, crushed nuts, or any other whim of your imagination.

coconut oil and chocolate with a strawberry

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips (whatever kind you like)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Berries

20170213_195254

Step 1: Put a smaller pan over a large pan of water, and bring the water to a boil. This helps to melt to the chocolate, but keep it from burning or getting scorched on the bottom. The coconut oil also helps to make the melted chocolate smooth and glossy.

very last minute valentines day dessert idea

 

Step 2: Once melted, dip your strawberries in! Hold them by the green parts and the top, and drag through the melted chocolate.

Dipping a strawberry in chocolate

Mmmm look at that melty goodness! You could use any kind of berry or fruit for this honestly, bananas or pineapple would also be great.

20170213_195415

Step 3: Lay your chocolate covered berry on wax paper, on a plate or cookie tray that can fit in your refrigerator or freezer.

Chocolate dipped strawberries

Step 4: Put the berries in the fridge or freezer, to harden, at least 10 minutes. If using the freezer, don’t forget about them! You don’t want strawberry ice cubes. They are best fresh!

20170213_200815

The fun part about making your own chocolate-dipped treats is that sometimes you have extra melted chocolate. And you can go as crazy as you want! I had some almonds and peanuts, so I made nut clusters with mine, and sprinkled it with sea salt. The same idea applies, just let them chill for 10 minutes to an hour in the fridge before enjoying.

 

Do you have any Valentine’s Day plans tomorrow? If you want to avoid the crowds and overpriced “prixe-fixe” food, I’d suggest a simple yet impressive meal at home; everyone loves to be cooked for 😉 <3

Weekly Eating – 2/5/18

 

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!

 

So remember that sweet deal on a waffle maker I got last weekend? Well, this past weekend I decided to go big, and made a huge batch of sweet potato waffles! The recipe made 14 big, fluffy waffles, which we happily ate 4 of and then I packaged the rest into Ziplocks for the week’s breakfasts.

sweet potato waffles with syrup

For lunch, we decided to explore a bit, and ended up at a pizza place in Chapel Hill called Magone. I got a “small” bacon ranch pizza, and this thing was ‘UGE! And delicious. And filling. The boy couldn’t even manage more than 3 slices of his Hawaiian. I ate 2 slices, and took the rest home, so there was a ton of pizza left over.

chicken bacon ranch pizza

Monday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato waffles! I’d tried reheating in the microwave, and it made them kinda soft and mushy. So I heated them in the toaster, and that came out perfect! New fave breakfast for sure.

sweet potato waffles in the toaster

Lunch – Veggie chili; I made a big ol batch in the Crock Pot with dry beans I’d soaked overnight. We had plenty for dinner, and I packed up the leftovers into several containers.

vegetarian chili

Snack –cuties & more coffee

cuties

Dinner –Black bean & corn California burritoes, with some purple cabbage for color and baked in the oven for crunch.

black bean and corn burritos

I thought I did a pretty good job wrapping, though one ripped a bit, but I’m not nearly as expert as Cheesy Finance 🙂

black bean and corn burritos

All day Monday I had a dull ache in my abdomen, thinking it was just hunger or a stomach ache. It turned into roaring cramps by the end of the day, and I was unprepared. On a suggestion from a friend, I wanted to use a heating pad, but we don’t have one. So google said, make one from putting rice in a sock!

sock rice

I’m here to say that it actually does work. I used a funnel, and filled up hubby’s sock with rice. Microwaved for 1 minute at a time, 2 or 3 times, it holds heat for quite a while. However, microwaved sock rice smells very weird. And hubby refuses to eat it after I’m done with it… so that’s a waste of 2 cups of rice! Haha (Would you eat sock rice?)

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I slept poorly and my body was still confused, so I didn’t know what to do about food. You know how some days, every thing you think of your stomach is like “Nah, I don’t want that”. I almost made toast, almost made eggs, almost had waffles. I made some sauteed greens because for some reason it sounded good, but that wasn’t enough. So I added it as a topping on the leftover pizza.

pizza with greens

Lunch –Can of chicken noodle soup. Nothing exciting, just needed to have some calories and still wasn’t hungry.

Snack –bag of sunflower seeds

sunflower seeds

Dinner –Tomato soup & grilled cheese with leftover tomato juice from the chili and some freezer pesto. Pesto is one of my favorite secrets to delicious and layered flavors in a simple tomato soup.

grilled cheese and tomato pesto soup

Wednesday:

Breakfast –Tropical smoothie; and this finally used up the rest of the frozen fruit mix I don’t like!

tropical smoothie

Lunch –Chili! With some mixed steamed vegetables on the side.

vegetarian chili with steamed vegetables

Dinner –I met up with a new friend after work at Starpoint Brewery/ Beer Study in Durham, and had a Chocolate Stout that was seriously amazing. It tasted sort of like a chilled hot cocoa, but with beer in it. It was worth every penny of the $8 for a 16 oz glass. When I finally got home, I didn’t feel like cooking, so I had more leftover pizza; at least I added some greens on top.

chicken bacon ranch pizza

Snack –Pineapple & cucumber. Cucumber isn’t the best alone, I should have made some hummus to dip it in. They were also close to going bad, so the other container I decided to quick pickle for later.

pineapple and cucumber

Thursday:

Breakfast –Tofu scramble with greens. I used up the last container of tofu, and the rest of the sauteed greens I’d made. I also added some cayenne and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. But honestly, it was pretty not great. Word to the wise: scrambled tofu tastes 0% like eggs. I won’t be making this again.

tofu scramble with greens

Lunch –leftover black beans & corn taco filling with brown basmati rice, salsa, and avocado (basically, a burrito bowl)

burrito bowl

Snack- Ghiradelli sea salt caramel & a tiny Snickers

candy

Dinner –Burgers: bison and lentil. I had some bison meat in the freezer that I bought on sale a while ago, and made burgers from that to make the boy happy.

bison burgers

Then I also tried a new recipe for lentil veggie burgers. I’m trying to find the perfect recipe to balance taste and texture and health. I used the ends of a loaf of bread in this instead of bread crumbs, rather than throw them out.

lentil burgers

These were good, but a bit too dry. Maybe I need to tone down the amount of bread, or add more liquid to the mix before baking.

burgers with potatoes and edamame

Friday:

Breakfast – the last of the sweet potato wafffles w blueberry sauce. I’m loving this quick sauce option: I microwave 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries with 1 packet of splenda and some lime juice, then mush the berries with a fork. It’s so simple and sweet and perfect.

sweet potato waffles with blueberry sauce

Snack – I had a busy morning, and knew lunch would be later than normal, so I had half a protein bar around 11

protein bar omega 3

Lunch –leftover lentil burgers with Green Goddess dressing, salad, and edamame

lentil burgers with green goddess dressing and salad

Snack 2 – We had a meeting at which they gave out muffins. I can’t say no to a moist and tasty lemon poppyseed muffin! But now I know I shouldn’t take any drug tests for a few days.

lemon poppyseed muffin

Dinner – My stomach was confused again, so I was hungry but nothing sounded good. Eventually around 6:30 pm I had a bowl of homemade yogurt with the remaining blueberry sauce from waffles and some tropical granola.

homemade yogurt with blueberry sauce

Then I was informed by Twitter that it was National Pizza Day, so naturally I can’t not celebrate a food related holiday. I was going to try this taco pizza recipe I read in a magazine later this week, but now it seemed like a good time to try it out.

taco pizza recipe

And it turned out pretty good. I liked the corn crust, but I need to cook it longer or roll it thinner next time, it was still soft and chewy in the middle and stuck to the foil a bit. The cauliflower, onion, and pepper toppings I used were tasty, and it used up the last bit of pasta sauce from the vegan meatballs last week. So that was a win.

masa harina corn pizza crust

The Weekend

This weekend is predicted to be rainy both days, which is kind of a bummer. It means it’s perfect “start spring cleaning” weather, but also that I bet there’s a 98% chance we will lack motivation to do so. I do need to return a library book, and maybe will browse and pick up some new ones while there. We also need to “adult up” and get our tax paperwork together… #adultingishardthoughyaknow

yoga and beer in durham

Oh, but I might have a friend who is interested in attending Beer and Yoga on Sunday with me! Two of my favorite things. We shall see.

Food Total: $26.21

I was very pleased that we got through this week without spending any more money at the grocery store! And not going out to eat either, besides one beer. Last week I was a bit of a spendy pants

The only groceries this week were obtained while Erin from ReachingForFI was in town, and we needed some wine for our hangout and chat time 🙂 And then avocados were on sale 2/$1, so naturally we both had to get a least a half dozen! She had a hilarious way of carrying her bounty home too.

Fruit/Veg $8.39 Extras $18.32
Avocado 6 3 wine 4L 16.89
Bananas 6 1.4
Mandarins 3lb 3.99 tax 1.43

This week, I’m trying to learn from my previous mistake of not taking a list, and going grocery shopping while hungry. This week I have a plan, read the ads, scoped out my current stash of coupons, and am making a meal plan after checking the freezer and pantry first. In other words, I’m taking my own advice 😉

Lessons Learned

Well, I’d say there were a few lessons this week. For one, using up leftover odds and ends isn’t nearly as hard as some people think it is, if you’re willing to be creative and eat potentially strange food combinations. There are also so many different way to re-purpose bits of this and that into different recipes.

For another, you need to plan to change your mind occasionally. I had taken the pesto out of the freezer with the intent of making pasta with pesto, which was actually my second choice when shrimp linguine began to not sound great. Then I didn’t feel like pesto pasta, so I decided it would be better used by adding it to the tomato soup. I think we changed up the meal plan every single night this week.

And finally, cooking is an experiment! Don’t be afraid to try new and different recipes. The absolute worst that can happen is it is inedible and you throw it out. People waste about 40% of their food, but if you can find new recipes your family will love, it may cut down on waste over time. Several things I tried this week didn’t work out, but that’s okay. We will keep trying and keep learning!

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?