Sunday, November 11, 2018

A chilly Sunday

Our heat is broken, and despite being in California, it's still pretty chill here in the house - 56 right now. BRRR. When he had an air conditioning inspection last week, the repair tech remarked that he had trouble with one of the settings, and fiddled around to get everything to work. I'm guessing that's what the issue is, so we have a call into them. I'll try to focus on the positives - all of the savings we have by bundling vs running the heat! And, we'll be in Hawaii by the end of the week, so it's a short term problem at least.

I'm going to focus on staying positive today, and reducing negative news (Facebook, the news, etc) & negative discussions. I can see myself snapping more at home, as I get frustrated by things people say & do, and it's not healthy. We talk to our kids a lot about empathy & compassion, and I'm going to work on more consistently demonstrating that at home, particularly to my husband. We've both been really stressed with work, and we are just shorter with each other than I'd like. We are a great team, and love each other, and all of that great stuff, but I want to work on cutting down on the sarcasm and snarkier responses. Both for our own relationship, and because our kids are like sponges. Sam is by nature, much more sarcastic than Nick, and it's not great for a 12 year old.

So, with that, here's what I'm going to do today:

  1. Work out. Always makes me feel better. And, since the house is cold, it will warm me up!
  2. Meditate. 15 minutes at least
  3. Call my mom for her birthday
  4. Cook with the kids. Invite their help in the kitchen, and be patient.
  5. Make muffins for M. He loves these, and we can stock the freezer.
  6. Finalize our Thanksgiving plans. We may order a bunch of fresh food to be delivered the night before (we fly home at 10pm the day before Thanksgiving), so we can wake up & start cooking. I enjoy the meal prep.
  7. Clean the house. While not super fun, it makes me feel productive.
  8. Read for at least 30 minutes. 
  9. Help Nick clean his room. 
  10. Pick up a few last minute things for our trip.

What about you? How do you stay focused on the positives when things are negative around you? Would love any tips/tricks you can share. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Smoky Saturday + a menu plan

All outdoor activities are cancelled today due to the wildfires in our area. The smoke is incredibly thick, and even inside our house yesterday, at times it felt difficult to breathe. Good thoughts to all of those impacted by the two terrible fires.

Given our unexpected schedule flexibility, we went to Costco this morning & picked up groceries. This was not a normal Costco run, as we picked up a few things for the freezer that were on sale, as well as a 50 lb bag of rice. We leave for vacation on Thursday, so far fewer perishables than usual.

Here's what we bought:

  • 50 lbs of rice - $37.99
  • Butter - $10.99
  • Romaine lettuce - $3.79
  • Pears - $6.49
  • Lasagna (2 pack) -$9.99. We prefer homemade, but this is quite good in a pinch.
  • Cream cheese - $7.89
  • Almonds - $9.99 (we will take some of these on our vacation as an easy snack) 
  • Ciabatta buns - $5.99
  • 5 dozen eggs - $14.49
  • 2 packs of bagels - $5.99
  • Chicken - $11.89
  • Apples - $8.99
  • Frozen cheeseburgers (quick meal for Sam before his late practice) - $13.99
  • Crescent rolls (x2) - $3.99 
  • Bananas (x2) - $1.99 & $1.49 (organic & non-organic - we go buy ripeness)
Total spent = $158.93

And, here's our menu for the week:
  • Friday - we had tacos
  • Saturday - Nick is making hot dogs in crescent rolls
  • Sunday - chicken risotto
  • Monday - leftover tacos
  • Tuesday - leftover hot dogs in crescent rolls
  • Wednesday - eat up all leftovers. If none remain, we'll have lubia polo (Persian rice dish) from the freezer
  • Thursday - we'll be in Hawaii & will eat dinner out
  • Friday - Hawaiii
That's it from our side. What are you making this week? I need to get busy, put the rest of the groceries away, work out & make some pumpkin bread. Hope you all have a great weekend, & stay safe if you are in near the fires!

Friday, November 9, 2018

We did it!

After much debate as to what made the most sense for next steps, we paid off our vacation house mortgage! We'd been sitting on some of the profit from the sale of our Seattle house, and finally bit the bullet.

It's been my dream FOREVER to have a paid off house, and now I can check that box. Sadly, we have. . . um, quite a ways to go on our primary residence. The real estate market in the Bay Area vs the Oregon coast is not quite comparable. ;-)

Paying off the mortgage early will save us $88,000 in interest over the lifetime of the loan, and will free up additional cash each month. Most likely, we will divert the mortgage payment towards our primary residence, to work that down as well.

Tonight, we'll be having leftovers & champagne! The perfect frugal combination!

Frugal Friday

I'm so ready for Friday. Another long week, as we are deep into Q4 at work, and things are there usual crazy pace right now.

Here are some of the frugal things we did this week:

  • Had an offer for $5 off of a $30 purchase at our local grocery store, plus the purchase would generate a $5 off coupon. I don't shop at the grocery store often (we do most of our shopping at Costco & a local produce stand), but I needed a few things for Thanksgiving that neither of our primary stores carry. The store had recently remodeled, so they were also having a few great offers on specific items, so I made a list & bought quite a few things for $27 ($22, after subtracting the future reward.)
  • All meals made at home (or, free at work). No eating out
  • Sold an item I'd had listed on eBay for a while, earning $20. I love those kind of surprises. 
  • Started packing things we'll need for Hawaii. Portable snacks, coffee pods, laundry pods, etc. 
  • I revised my list of everything I can start listing on eBay in the next month or so, or more likely January when I'm not traveling.
  • Passed on an opportunity to go to Las Vegas for a long weekend (free room, free food), because with time off of work & flights, it would still be expensive, and we will just be coming back from Hawaii. Aside from the money, I don't enjoy two trips so close. I like to have time to really enjoy them, and find that doesn't happen when they are stacked on top of each other.
What about you? Any frugal wins this week?

Monday, November 5, 2018

Relaxing on a Sunday

Wrote this yesterday, but somehow it didn't post.

We've had a quite relaxing day so far. I thank that extra hour today, due to Daylight Savings. I went for a run, vacuumed, did some vacation planning for our trip to Hawaii. It's coming up so fast - I'm quite excited about it.

We actually changed our plans for Hawaii & will now be staying at a hotel versus a condo. Typically, staying at a hotel drives the food costs up quite a bit, so we've been trying to get creative on the savings. I have platinum status at this particular hotel chain, so we will get two breakfasts for free each day. I don't eat breakfast, & M is content to have a muffin & a banana. We'll bring his muffins from home (I make in big batches & freeze), & we're planning to stop at Costco after we land at the airport, so we'll pick up bananas.

That's breakfast sorted, but we'll do something similar for lunches. We'll get sandwich fixing for lunches (the room has a mini fridge). Nothing fancy, but enough to make sandwiches, with chips & fruit. We'll likely also have dinner leftovers, so we'll plan to mix it up with leftover lunch stuff as well. We are also planning to do at least 1-2 lunches out as well.

For dinners, we have a few plans. First, we will bring our own wine/champagne in our (free) checked bag. We bought special containers a few years ago that allow you to safely check wine into a checked bag (well, as safely as possible, I suppose). We'll enjoy a drink on our lanai before we go out to eat, and/or after we get back. And, we've scouted out restaurant options that offer happy hour (and, also doesn't require us to sit in a bar/lounge, as that rules out the boys). There appear to be quite a few options.

Our goal is to keep our food spending around $100/day. It will be close, but we will make a few tradeoffs on our travel days (grabbing food at the Costco food court, for example).

Feeling so lucky we have the opportunity to go on vacation, and we will be striving to be reasonably frugal, even with the travel costs! Any tips on keeping costs down while eating out & traveling? Please share!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Frugal Friday

This has been a really crazy week. If I get a vote, I'd prefer that Halloween not fall on a week day, because it leads to schedule madness, & tired kids.

Here are our frugal wins for the week:

  • Made burritos & muffins for the freezer over the weekend
  • Prepped lunch stuff on Sunday evening, for the majority of kid lunches. This was mostly a desire to clean out the freezer, but is also useful for food prep
  • Both kids wore repurposed Halloween costumes, costing us zero out of pocket
  • No meals out this week. We continue cooking on weekends, and eating leftovers during the work week
In non-frugal news, we changed our flights for the holidays to leave on Friday vs Sunday. I'd expected to be on call for work, but plans changed & M really wanted to have more days at our vacation house. It was $500 for the flight changes, although we did receive a $150 credit for future travel, as well as 20,000 miles credited back, which makes it more like a $150-200 adjustment. We're looking forward to additional time on the Oregon coast, and taking advantage of our home there.

 More to come shortly, as I work on our November goals, and we also start to align on our 2019 savings & spending priorities!

How about you? Any frugal wins to report?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

October goals recap

It's that time again, where I look back at the month & see how I did against my goals. As always, the months fly by, which is why I find the goal setting process so helpful. Without some intentionality, I find that I look back, and I'm disappointed I didn't accomplish more. That still can happen on plenty of months with goals, but I find it helps me stay on task.

My goals for October were as follows:


  • Stay on track with our food budget, including both eating out & groceries. - We had a more expensive month than usual. There was one additional grocery shopping day, which always pushes us over. We were $45 over on groceries, which is actually not terrible given the extra Saturday (our grocery purchasing day). We were also over by $189 on dining out, but I'm okay with that. I treated for a brunch after our half marathon, but used some money my parents had gifted me to cover. So, net wash on that, and I was able to pay for a brunch that otherwise my mom would have covered. 
  • Come up with one way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis - I don't think I had an new methods this month. I'm always keeping at it, looking for opportunities. 
  • Earn another $200 in sidehustle money. Split this between college money for the kids, & an extra payment on our vacation house mortgage. - Crushed this, and made $490 in side hustle. 
  • Continue working on our 2019 budget, 2019 vacation plans, & income projections - this is critical as I try to narrow down work options. Decide on 2019 remodeling plans (if any). We've made some big headway on our alignment & prioritization, and will continue. I'm hoping to have more updates to share on this in the next month or so. 
  • Determine if we it makes sense to max our HSA & a Mega backdoor Roth, with our tax liability - we maxed our HSA & I finally sorted the process to get this done. Woo! We haven't done the Roth & need further investigation before we decide what to do on that. 

  • Have one family evening together: cooking dinner, board games, etc - We did have a great night making dinner & baking a cake with the kids. 
  • Have a date night with my husband, & plan our anniversary - Unfortunately, our plans changed & we didn't really get this time together. We need to find something else. 
  • Continue financial help (knowledge, not money) with sister & friend - nothing came up this month. 
  • Take the kids to Great America before the passes expire. This is a maybe, based on soccer schedules & other commitments. - Sam ended up going, but not Nick. 
  • Plan our trip to Hawaii - Mostly done, with the last few things getting sorted over the next two weekends. 

  • Complete another full round of 21 Day Fix - I took some time off after ankle/knee pain after my half, and ended the  month with 14/21 days. My goal for November is to do a workout every day. 
  • Eat 5.5 servings a day of fruit & veggies - I finished with 4.5 servings/day, and need to increase this. 
  • Lose 3 pounds - I've lost about 1/2 pound
  • Run 8 times & finish a half marathon - half marathon done!
  • Avoid dairy, as part of my efforts to solve my stomach issues - mostly staying on track with this, but a few moments of indulgence.

  • Work from home 2 days - yes, done. 
  • Work on my my "homework" from my coach - I've done a few things. My homework is always super useful, but time intensive & requires a lot of thought & stepping back, evaluating myself, etc. 


  • Plan sabbatical! - I've made some progress, and will continue as a I finalize dates. 
  • Make one new recipe - Yep, I tried a new dinner recipe. It was moderately successful. I also made freezer burritos for Sam's lunches, and they were great. 
  • Spend time with a friend - Yes, I had a girls weekend before our half marathon, & had a fabulous time
  • Volunteer at least 1x - Yes, I volunteered at the school book fair
  • Finish homework books for Sam & keep working on our homework routine - I didn't finish reading all of the books, but we've been making good progress on the homework front. 

Stepping back, it was a pretty good month! I'm super excited about our trip to Hawaii coming up in a few weeks. Can't wait to relax & enjoy our time together. 

What about you? How was your October? How did you do with your goals? 

November goals

I'm really looking forward to November, and getting a bit of a break with our trip to Hawaii. That said, I still have goals to accomplish for the month. Here goes!


  • Stay on track with our food budget, including both eating out & groceries. Even on vacation! We have a special part of the travel budget for groceries, and groceries in Hawaii are $$, so we'll factor that in as well. 
  • Come up with one way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis
  • Earn another $600 in side hustle money. Split this between college money for the kids, & an extra payment on our vacation house mortgage.
  • Continue our 2019 budget prep, including our plans to try & lower our mortgages, and potentially paying off our vacation house. 
  • Start & finish my Christmas shopping


  • Have one family evening together: cooking dinner, board games, etc
  • Have a date night with my husband
  • Continue financial help (knowledge, not money) with sister & friend, as opportunities arise
  • Have a fabulous trip to Hawaii

  • Work out every day in November!
  • Complete another full round of 21 Day Fix
  • Eat 5.5 servings a day of fruit & veggies
  • Lose 2 pounds

  • Work from home 2 days
  • Work on my my "homework" from my coach


  • Plan sabbatical! Start sketching out dates on the calendar
  • Make one new recipe
  • Spend time with a friend
  • Volunteer at least 1x

What about you? What are your goals for November? Anything fun in the plans? 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Getting all of the things done

Well, I never really get everything done, but I have had a productive day so far.

Nick had a friend over, so I got up early & made waffles for breakfast for the hungry trio. After that, it was all of the chores. So. many. chores. But, I feel good with the progress today:

  • Cleaned both showers (this was Sam, as he's trying to earn money to buy himself a new jacket. . . since he's lost multiple jackets at school this year). :-(
  • Vacuumed
  • Mopped
  • Cleaned the kitchen
  • Washed all of the bedding (including bonus air mattress set), made all beds
  • 3 loads of other laundry
  • Ran the dishwasher three times, because I was busy in the kitchen
  • Made 3 dozen muffins
  • And, 3 dozen burritos for the freezer
  • I also made guacamole for dinner tonight
  • M & I finalized the menu plan for our Hawaii trip. You know, like the name of the blog. :-)
  • I sorted three different soccer carpools, our nanny schedule, and my work schedule for the week
And, now I'm resting. I need to work out, but I'm pretty tried after all of that fun. 

My big takeaway after trying to squeeze the burritos & muffins into the freezer is that. . . I really need to have an "eat down the freezer" challenge in November! The freezers are packed! What about you? How was your weekend? Any frugal wins on your side?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Menu plan, and a quiet Saturday

We have no kid activities this weekend, so I'm looking forward to being productive today. I did get a haircut this morning, and feel so much lighter! They cut six inches off of my hair, & I like the new length. It will be much faster & easier for me. M wasn't super excited (he prefers long hair), but since he's not the one who has to do all of the work, his vote was slightly discounted. ;-)

I'd like to make a few freezer items this week, particularly for the kids. We have a variety of tastes & preferences around the table, and they are making menu planning & dinner time a bit frustrating. I'll plan to have a few dinners everyone likes, a few healthier/more adult dinners, and then on nights where someone doesn't like the preferred dinner, they can grab something from the freezer (for example, homemade burritos, etc). That's the plan. I need to get ahead, so we can stock the freezer with options.

For the menu this week, I'm thinking of the following:
Friday - we had a sausage ravioli with red sauce, chicken & parmesan cheese, plus bread on the side
Saturday - calzones. Each person can customize based on taste/preference
Sunday - chicken fiesta rice
Monday - leftover ravioli
Tuesday - leftover calzones
Wednesday - leftover chicken fiesta rice
Thursday - tacos
Friday - I'm thinking of making chicken curry

In terms of being productive today, here's what I'm planning:

  1. Errands - Costco & produce stand
  2. Clean showers
  3. Clean bathrooms
  4. Clean kitchen
  5. Vacuum house
  6. Laundry
  7. Make the menu
  8. Work out
  9. Sweep the patio
  10. Clean my closet (bonus round, if time)
  11. Finish our Hawaii planning
  12. Find a freezer burrito recipe
  13. Call our insurance company for umbrella insurance
  14. Drop the car off to be serviced
  15. Get a hair cut
  16. Get cash for the nanny

That should get me all the way through the day, for sure. What about you? What's on your menu this week? Are you have a productive weekend, fun weekend, relaxing, crazy? What's happening? 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Frugal Friday

Nothing super exciting to report this week, but it always feels good to recap our standard stuff.

  1. Meal planned, and ate at home/packed for all meals. (Minus free work lunches.)
  2. Drove electric car for all of my commuting & charged for free at work.
  3. Still ripening a large bag of tomatoes on our window sill, in a bag with a banana. 
  4. Adjusted my bonus percentages for next year to max out my 401K before I leave, and also adjusted my HSA to do the max withdrawal while I'm working. 
  5. Made enough food for the week to have enough to freezer for future weeks.

I'm working on a revised food/menu plan based on the kid pickiness issue, so will have more to share after we try out our system this weekend. In other news, I'm getting a hair cut! Not frugal, but I'm going much shorter (six inches off), so I figure I should get some professional help. :-)

Happy Friday! What frugal things have you been up to?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

An anniversary cake

M & I celebrated our wedding anniversary last night (13 years!) & the kids really wanted to make us a cake. They were quite ambitious, and made the cake & frosting from scratch.

The cake had some structural issues ;-), but the flavor of the cake was incredible. The frosting didn't quite get there, and we had so many laughs last night.

I was trying to make a fun Persian dish, and M stepped in to help me, and it turned out incredibly well. We also had champagne, and just laughed in the kitchen, listening to music. Probably one of my favorite anniversaries ever.

In other news, I've been productive so far today, trying to get ahead of future meals & prep:

  • Set aside enough of the chicken rice pilaf for one dinner tomorrow, and froze the rest. It also made two lunches this week, so 3 dinners + 2 single serve lunches = 11-12 servings. Yum!
  • I shredded a brick of romano cheese, and froze in individual baggies. Cheaper & better than buying pre-shredded
  • I used the remaining ground beef from last night's recipe to prep taco meat. I ran out of taco seasoning, so improvised with my own recipe. All of that is now in the freezer for future meals.
  • I also set aside enough lubia polo (that's the Persian dish from last night) for at least 1-2 future dinners, and froze the rest.
  • I cleaned the freezer & tossed a few things that had seen better days
  • I also set out everything for dinner tonight, as timing will be tight & Sam & I will be cooking together. (That takes more time than when I'm on my own.) Pre-shredded cheese, etc. 
  • I went through the boys drawers & closets & found a bunch of stuff to donate
  • I arranged all of the carpools for the week, and managed my own work calendar to accommodate 

Feeling good about our progress today. Here's what's still left to do:
  • Mop
  • Some sort of strength training
  • Another load of laundry (after soccer)
  • Take Nick to soccer
  • Sweep the pool area
  • List a few things for sale on my neighborhood alias (stretch goal) 
  • Have the boys call my parents
  • Figure out how to do a video call with M's parents

Hope you are all having a great weekend!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Tales from the grocery store + a menu plan

I used to a do a semi-regular series on our grocery shopping, as well as our menu. I've been very frustrated by our menus lately (three of us are not too picky, one child is very picky, but everyone likes different things.) The overlapping circle of things we all like is. . . pretty much tacos & pizza. ;-)

Today's grocery receipt reflects a bit of that, as well as the fact that we are now running out of food earlier & earlier in the week. (I cook on Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays & then we eat leftovers during the work week.) In earlier days, we could make it until Thursday without resorting to freezer options, but some weeks we are out by Tuesday! This is more likely when I've been out of town. Note that we typically don't but much in the way of prepared food, but decided to stock up to give ourselves a bit more flexibility.

So, without further ado, here's what we bought at Costco:

  • 5 dozen eggs - $14.49
  • Pears - $6.59
  • Milk - $5.19
  • Potatoes - $9.99 (I don't remember potatoes being this expensive before?!)
  • Breaded chicken tenderloins - $6.99
  • Potstickers - $6.99
  • 4 pack of bacon - $11.49
  • Empanadas - $7.59
  • Grapes - $7.99
  • Sausage ravioli - $8.89
  • Clementines - $6.99
  • Ground beef - $18.30
  • Chicken breasts - $21.71
  • Bananas (had to get organic, as the non-organic were very ripe) - $1.99
  • Honeydew - $2.89
  • Cucumber (3 pack) - $4.99
  • Strawberries - $4.99
  • Pineapple - $2.99
  • Apples - $8.99
Total = $160.04 - about $35 more than I like for a weekly shop, but we were out of both chicken & ground beef, & the bacon was for a recipe.

Here's our menu plan for the week:
  • Saturday - I'm making a Persian dish - lubia polo (using ground beef. We have everything else at home)
  • Sunday - We're trying a new recipe - buffalo chicken bake. I'll report back if it's any good. (using bacon, chicken & potatoes)
  • Monday - Leftover chicken rice pilaf (made on Friday)
  • Tuesday - Leftover lubia polo
  • Wednesday - Leftover buffalo chicken bake
  • Thursday - If no leftovers remain, we'll be having the sausage ravioli
  • Friday - TBD. Haven't gotten that far yet, and I have a late meeting on Friday, so it might be something convenient

What about you? What are you cooking this week, and what is your average weekly shopping budget?