Friday, October 20, 2017

Back from paradise, & Frugal Friday

We got back from Hawaii late on Wednesday, and I was clearly not prepared to go back to work on Thursday morning. It was a really rough adjustment back to life! :-)

Hawaii was amazing. We stayed at a hotel that had free activities & fitness classes, and I did 2-3/day most days. I went to 10 yoga classes! What a fun treat. We also went to Haleakala & hiked, swam with turtles, and went canoeing. But mostly, M & I just spent time together. Laughing, talking, riding in the car with no one else interrupting . . the simple pleasures. It was fabulous & I'm so happy we went!

Here are a few frugal highlights for the week:

  • We stayed on track with our vacation budget. In fact, we only spent $25 at the hotel (minus the room cost, which we booked through Costco). Two poolside drinks on our last day, and a scoop of ice cream. YUM!
  • We brought our own wine in our (free) checked bag, and had that on the lanai every night. 
  • Stuck to happy hour for most dinners, and had one more elaborate meal out to celebrate our anniversary
  • Ate breakfast in the room (protein bars, muffins, & bananas), as well as lunch almost every day. We stopped by Costco & picked up a few groceries. Our hotel room didn't have a kitchen, but it did have a mini fridge, so we kept our groceries there & got creative. 
  • Took advantage of all the free workouts & a few activities as well - making the most of our resort fee that's included in the hotel.
  • Free carpool to/from work both yesterday & today
What about you? Any big frugal wins to report? 

With that, I'm off to put together a meal plan, so the rest of the week ahead won't be so scrambled! 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Pantry Challenge Update & Saturday Happenings

I got up this morning, and whipped up some cashew butter, and then went for a two hour hike with a friend. When I got home, I took Nick to soccer, and then went to Costco, the produce stand, and the grocery store. We are all sorted for supplies for the week, as well as for our trip to Hawaii.

I wanted to give an update on where I stand with my pantry challenge. Some definite progress, although more work to do! My dad will be visiting next week (while we're in Hawaii!), so hopefully he'll eat some of the cashews. ;-)

  • An enormous (25 oz) jar of green olives. Side note: what was I thinking?
  • 1/3 or so of a package of chocolate breakfast cereal. This is nothing we would allow the boys for breakfast, but I'm open to using it in something a little more snack like. One of our house guests brought this. - used, in a batch of granola bars!
  • The end of a bag of pretzel chips. Used these for these delicious granola bars. 
  • Two 1/2 used boxes of lasagna noodles - Used one 1/2 box, so down to the other half
  • A 1/2 bag of pine nuts. -  Used some for homemade pesto, but only had enough basil to use a bit. 
  • Most of a container of almonds - used about half for almond butter, when I ran out of peanut butter
  • Most of a container of cashews . . . ditto the almond butter. Used about half for cashew butter, to replace peanut butter. 
  • A few bits & bobs of trail mix - used, in a batch of granola bars!
  • Most of a large bag of sourdough stuffing. 
  • The last of a bottle of green chile sauce (from the fridge) - used up in chicken fiesta rice!
  • An unopened jar of Nutella - turns out this was expired (& had a funky taste), so unfortunately, it was tossed. I have no idea why M bought this way back in the day, but it will never make it on another grocery list, so I feel like we can avoid this type of waste moving forward. 

Other than that, I need to do the laundry (Nick's uniform - as he has a game tomorrow), finish packing, wrap up my granola bars, and potentially sit by the pool with a book & a glass of wine. I'm making this yummy pilaf for dinner. I'll sub almonds for the hazelnuts, and add chicken.

What about you? What are you up to this Saturday? Any lingering pantry items you want to use up? :-) 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Frugal Friday

We're in the home stretch ahead of our vacation. SO excited! Here are the frugal wins for the week:

  • No eating out. Made creative use of leftovers. I can highly recommend this new recipe (one pan chicken fajita rice. YUM!) 
  • Took free carpool (work thing for October) to & from work every day. Also, walked to work on Wednesday! (7 miles) Combining commute time + my workout is a win! I don't have time to make it a regular thing, but it was great.
  • Ordered the boys yearbooks before the deadline passed
  • Received an offer for three free nights + $400 at my favorite Las Vegas hotel. I've been trying to find a way to do an affordable girls trip to Las Vegas in July, and this popped up. We will swap the dates (Las Vegas in April, the beach in July) & this will save a significant amount of money. 
  • Started my list of packing items for our Hawaii trip. We will plan to: pack granola bars & muffins, so we can have breakfasts in our room/on the lanai. We'll pick up fruit at Costco as well, to supplement. 
  • Working on creative options for Thanksgiving break, so we can avoid sending the boys to camp. Savings of ~$600
  • Transferred earnings from recent business trip straight to my personal mileage account, soI can use the miles to offset our travel budget.
  • Came in $2.57 over our grocery budget. Honestly, this is a huge win, as I did a big stockup of clearanced items for $20 earlier in the month, and that will save us in the long term.  Also, sticking to our grocery budget has been a huge challenge, so this is good progress. My goal for October is to *actually* be at my budget. ;-) 

That's it for me! What about you? Any big frugal wins for the week?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Setting October's goals

And with that, October is here. I love fall & am excited about the changing weather. We also have a vacation planned in October, which makes this an amazing month. I'll close out the month with a work trip to Singapore. Less excited about that - such a LONG flight!:-(

1) Financial - 
  • Meet with a financial planner
  • Finalize our 2018 budget
  • Finalize our 2018 travel plans
  • Make progress on list of house projects (i.e. prioritize a couple that are not dependent on other projects, and work on budget & timeline for those)
  • Find one alternative cost cutting option
  • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. If nothing sells, donate & get rid of the clutter.
  • Stay on budget for our Hawaii trip

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
  • Cook one meal with each kid, so they can start helping with the cooking.
  • Have a family game night. 
  • Start our planning for Christmas
  • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys)

    Fitness/health - Lose 2 pounds in October
    • Stay on track on our vacation & my business trip
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 6 strength workouts.
    • Complete 6 stretching workouts
    • Register for a Turkey Trot

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress 
    • Work from home 2x this month.
    • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc.
    • No driving to/from work - use only carpool options

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • Try a new recipe using my new crockpot
      • Do something social at least once per month.
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

      Lots of similar goals for October, with a few new ones to keep things interesting! What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish this month? 

      Monday, October 2, 2017

      September Goals Review

      And just like that, another month is gone. Here's how I did with my goals in September. Overall, I did okay. It was a busy month, but I managed a few wins. Looking forward to October! Also, I tried a new recipe & it was amazing! I highly recommend this one pan chicken fajita rice. We served it with: sour cream, diced tomatoes, guacamole, & chips. Sam used the chips to create nachos (excellent!) & I think we'll serve the leftovers with tortillas, so people can make their own burritos. Loved this recipe, and both M & Sam also loved it. Winner, winner!

      1) Financial - 
      • Meet with a financial planner - I ended up having a work conflict, so I had to push this out. 
      • Finalize investments & budget from post rental house sale - Yes! I may shift things around, but so far, so good. 
      • Plan our 2018 budget - I think this is mostly done. 
      • Plan our 2018 travel plans - Mostly. I need to sort my two girls trip still. But, overall priorities & budgeting is done. 
      • Finalize list of house projects for our "new" house - we're on the fence about how much work we can/want to do. So far, we've identified two "must do" projects. Otherwise, many of the others are dependent upon each other, which is a challenge. 
      • Find one alternative cost cutting option - Not really. I continue to look for ways to reduce & reuse where possible. 
      • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. If nothing sells, donate & get rid of the clutter. - Sold nothing. 

      2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
      • Cook one meal with each kid, so they can start helping with the cooking. - the boys have been helping with fruit & veggie prep, but haven't yet started making their own meals. 
      • Have a family game night. - Sam, M & I had a Monopoly battle when Nick was out of town. 
      • Get the kids involved in prioritizing our 2018 travel. - Yes, the kids helped to prioritize and decided on skiing in Tahoe vs Hawaii. 
      • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys) - We haven't made much progress here. Definitely more to do. 

        Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in September - I lost 3 pounds! Woohoo!
        • Stay on track on my business trip to London (complete at least 3 workouts) - I did two workouts, and more walking than usual. 
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - I was on track, but failed on my trip with this. It's harder when traveling. I averaged 4/day.
        • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - September was my lowest month of the year - 595 minutes. Normally I have at least one two hour workout, to balance out the shorter ones. Not this month. :-( 
        • Complete 6 strength workouts. - I had 7 strength workouts!
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts - but only 2 stretching workouts.
        • Find another event to train for, now that my relay is over - I'm looking at a half marathon with my sister & friend. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress - international travel is a great reminder that I cannot/do not want to do this anymore. 
        • Work from home 2x this month. - achieved. 
        • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc. - Haven't started this yet. 

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Try a new recipe using my new crockpot - yes! I tried a potato soup recipe. I didn't love it, but I did try the crockpot out for the first time. 
          • Do something social at least once per month. - Yes, I went to a painting/wine party that I won at the school auction. 
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - they've changed the volunteering event I primarily did (at the school, & have used technology to replace the parents). I need to find another volunteering event that fits with my schedule. 

          What about you? How did you do with your goals in September? Any big wins, or goals you need to carryover to another month?

          Sunday, October 1, 2017

          Menu plan & other weekend updates

          I ran a bunch of errands yesterday, and took the boys to soccer games. That, plus my normal house work left me exhausted by 7:30 pm. I was pretty proud I made it that far, given the jet lag.

          I made dinner rolls, two ingredient cookies, & whipped up the casserole we had for dinner. Today I'm making a triple batch of banana muffins (freezer), trying out my crockpot for the first time with potato soup, and making the chicken fajita rice. I'll report in on any winners

          We also have: a school fundraiser, one soccer game, and two birthday parties. I was up by 5:00, so I've already gotten the soup in the crockpot, and have the last round of muffins in the oven.

          In frugal news, I pushed on with making dinner, even though I really, really didn't want to cook after the last soccer game. 

          And, with that, I'm off to plan the day, make our schedule for the week, and figure out how to squeeze in a workout! What about you? Trying any new recipes this week?

          Saturday, September 30, 2017

          All of the Jet Lag, & Belated Frugal Friday

          I was traveling for work this week, & had zero out of pocket expenses. But, I did bring home all of the jet lag. Took a red eye on the way to London, and flew economy. I've flown business a few times, and absolutely cannot sleep in economy. Had two meetings with San Francisco while I was there, which meant staying up until 1:00 in the morning. I slept for hours last night, but it cannot touch the jet lag. So very tired! Here's hoping I'm feeling better by tomorrow. Here's what I accomplished:

          • Pre-prepped a bunch of food before I left, so they can avoid eating out the majority of the time
          • Avoided buying any food at the soccer tournament. I think we were the only parents to do this. Considering we were there for 6+ hours for two days in a row, it was a huge savings to pack our own food. (We had to eat it in the car).
          • Provided feedback on a product that we buy (cheese from our favorite semi-local dairy) that had issues. The wrapper hadn't properly sealed, and the cheese had significant molding months in advance of the "use by" date. Sent email & pictures & received a coupon for the full replacement, plus another coupon for a slightly smaller size as well. 
          • Filled out all of the last paperwork for the Audi recall (diesel engine fiasco), & received the $1500 final settlement.
          • Called & sorted out our trash service. When we moved, I changed our service address. The company has struggled so terribly with the billing since then. I magically have one account (as expected) when I log in to pay my bill. It shows our correct address. And, a huge credit balance. However, I keep getting late notices & threats to shut off our service. It took 45 minutes of effort yesterday, but did finally get them to sort, merge, & apply all of my payments to the correct address. Hurrah. 
          • I made homemade rolls that were a huge hit. Kids loved them. Will try for more this week.
          • Didn't get any souvenirs for the kids on my trip. (I usually just pick up a local treat of some sort). One of my employees bought a few bags of chocolate as a thank you for covering a late night meeting for her. 

          And, I obviously have a ton to get done now that I'm back. Here's what I need to accomplish:
          • Two soccer games
          • Plan schedule for tomorrow
          • Pick up bibs for 5K race
          • Make a menu plan & Costco list
          • Go to Costco
          • And the produce stand
          • Make muffins
          • And homemade rolls
          • Get some exercise
          • Return my library books
          • Use the cheese coupons (above) to earn free grocery reward points, before the end of the month
          • Sort the budget & bills
          I'll also make it my goal to stay up until 8 pm tonight. ;-) What about you? Any big frugal wins?

          Sunday, September 24, 2017

          Busy, busy

          I took the boys to four games yesterday (they won all of them, so that's a sign there will likely be two each this afternoon), as well as tried to get a few things done before I leave for my trip.

          I managed to squeeze in a yoga workout, made lentil soup, homemade rolls & chocolate chip cookies. And, shredded & froze all of the parmesan cheese so M can quickly assemble dinners. I then walked to an evening event (a painting party) & enjoyed chatting & painting - while drinking wine, of course ;-)

          I was up early this morning to wash the *very* fragrant soccer uniforms from yesterday. Here's what else is on my list:

          • Pack lunches for the field. I'm not a fan of this "park". They charge admissions & don't allow any food. Which means they want you to buy their unhealthy & ridiculously expensive concessions. We'll "tailgate" instead. 
          • Sort dinner for this evening. I won't be here, but have defrosted a lasagna for M & the kids.
          • Finish my last minute packing
          • Take both boys to their first games of the day. There is a 15 minute gap between them, so should work out well, logistics wise.
          • If either of the boys make it to the finals, I'll need to call M to head to the field so I can leave, get home, & take an Uber to the airport. 
          • I'm also going to try & eat something before I head to the airport, because, as we all know, airplane food is tragic.
          That's it for me. I'm not a fan of the Sunday evening flights, but . . . what can you do? Let's hope it's on time & a painless flight.

          What is one thing you will accomplish today that will save you time during the week? It won't save me time, but by prepping food for M, it will ensure that he & the boys can eat quickly, & hopefully limit eating out. ;-) 

          Saturday, September 23, 2017

          Tournament time

          Nick's had a soccer tournament scheduled for this weekend for several months. It wasn't looking too hectic, as Sam's calendar was free of games. Until earlier this week when he was invited to play with a team one division up. So, now both boys have a full tournament schedule this weekend. They are guaranteed three games each (two today, one tomorrow), and if either team does well, there will be a fourth game on Sunday. 

          I like watching both boys play soccer, but this is a lot, even for me. ;-) I'm leaving for London tomorrow evening, so here's what else needs to happen this weekend:

          • Soccer. Lots & lots of soccer
          • I'm attending a girls painting/wine party this evening. It's something I won at the school auction, and is led by one of my friends. Looking forward to this, as I hardly ever get a chance to see her. 
          • Work out, x2. I'm on a bit of a roll & want to keep up the positive momentum before my trip
          • Pack
          • Make a Costco list
          • Go to Costco
          • And the produce stand
          • Return library books
          • Shred parmesan cheese for the freezer
          • M is going to try to fix our car. One of the windows won't roll all the way up. 
          • Finish all of the laundry before I head out
          • Time permitting, make an extra batch of muffins for the freezer
          I also just found out from our team manager that the tournament facility has an entry fee. Not impressed. All of the fields around here are free, and with that many games, and our schedule, it looks like we'll be paying a minimum of $20+ for entry fees. Not frugal at all!

          What about you? What's on your weekend agenda? 

          Friday, September 22, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          Here's what we've been up to this week:

          • Used up some broccoli that was about to go bad in Broccoli & Cheese soup over the weekend. Yum!
          • Ran out of time to make homemade rolls on Sunday, but dug out some bread from the freezer rather than buying anything
          • Noted that I hadn't received my mileage credit (compensation for a flight changes over the holidays) & called Alaska Airlines again. Received $150 (both) for the adults, & finally got the 5,000 miles (both) for the kids. 
          • Submitted an HSA expense for my parking at my doctor's appt ($12).
          • Finally noticed that an old HSA (M's employer from about 5 years ago) has been charging $1.50/month for paper statements, and is charging $4.99/month now that they are not sponsored by the employer. Fixed the $1.50/month paper statement. Will add the HSA rollover to our current accounts to my to do list, because there are multiple forms required. M's current HSA will also give you a $25 bonus for moving funds from another account, so that will be a huge win.
          • Went through my standard weekly exercise of entering our flight information & price matching, & ended up with a $52 credit for future travel! Woohoo!
          • Used up a Groupon for an Italian restaurant that was about to expire. Even with the Groupon, still too expensive, so won't buy it again. Did use leftovers for additional meals this week.
          What about you? Any big wins this week? 

          Tuesday, September 19, 2017

          Gift card inventory

          I try to take inventory of our gift cards throughout the year, to ensure we're treating them like cash. I also have received several gift cards to non-restaurants as gifts, and winnings in the school auction.

          Here's what we have available:


          • $40 Groupon to a local Italian restaurant. Expiring soon. Need to use this week.
          • $25 Subway gift card
          • $51.60 Sweet Tomatoes gift card
          • $60.62 Starbucks card
          • $15 at a local spa. Leftover from a massage M got me for my birthday when we first moved here, 3+ years ago. I'd like to use it, but that will require an investment of additional money. Maybe could give it away? Or, alternatively, book a birthday massage & use this to defray a small amount of the cost.
          • $500 at another local spa. Work gift. I have no idea why I haven't booked something yet, but I will! :-)

          • 2 movie passes
          • 12 paint ball tickets, won at the school auction.
          • 1 month of free art class, won at the school auction.

          • $50 Visa gift card. Can be used as cash. Will apply to my Christmas funds.
          • $100 Target gift card. Will apply to my Christmas funds.

          Inventorying the gift cards will ensure we use them up before the expire, and turn to the cards before using our own funds. What about you? Do you track gift cards like cash? Any gift cards you are hoping to use up?

          Sunday, September 17, 2017

          Soccer & Soup - Sunday

          Two more soccer games complete today (Nick's team won again, and Sam's team had another loss, although much closer than yesterday). I was on the soccer field & then out & about for the majority of the day. But, I did manage to get in a quick run in the morning, do all of the laundry, talk to my parents, & help the boys organize their closets.

          I also made soup for dinner, to use up some questionable looking broccoli. I made this broccoli & cheese soup (similar to Panera's soup), and the only change was that I pureed the entire batch in my Vitamix before adding the cheese. It was delicious! I served it with bread & salad, to round out the meal.

          The weather has cooled off perfectly here, and I'm enjoying the peace & quiet while Michael has the boys out of the house. :-)

          If you like broccoli & cheese soup, give it a try!

          Saturday, September 16, 2017

          Grocery store score

          After a very early soccer morning (3-1 victory for Nick), & a less victorious game (1-7) for Sam (and Nick, who was subbing), I took the boys & a bonus friend to lunch at In & Out. Nick was in at goalie against the best team in our league (a year up for him) & did an amazing job staying focused, even though the other team put up so many amazing shots. He had some great blocks, and stayed positive despite the challenging game.

          As a special treat, I took the boys & their friend to lunch, where they each proceeded to eat two cheeseburgers, fries & a milkshake. We started with one burger each, and they were all still quite hungry & polished off a second burger each in no time. Luckily, it only came to $30. Oh, how I wish I could still eat two burgers, fries & a milkshake. ;-)

          Once soccer was done for the day, I dropped Nick & bonus friend off for a sleepover, and went into the local grocery store for hamburger buns. Hamburgers are actually on the menu for tonight (although, I doubt anyone will be in the mood, and we will likely swap things around), and while Michael & I prefer them without a bun, the boys both enjoy them with a slice of cheese on a bun. I always walk through the clearance aisle, and the clerk was just stocking the shelves. Huge scores!

          Here's what we got (and, I should have been reviewing the register as things were rung up, as you can see, but was distracted by the bagger, who dropped a bunch of stuff on the floor & we were trying to pick it up).

          • Organic pizza sauce - this actually rang up incorrectly & was supposed to be $.57. It rang up at $3.59 & will need to go back for a price correction
          • Shredded parmesan cheese with garlic - $.57
          • Pesto - rang up correctly, but charged me for 3 & I got 2. But, $.57/each! I'll get a price adjustment next time I'm there.
          • Natural jam sweetened with honey (vs sugar) - $.57 x3
          • Mac & cheese (the Star Wars edition) - $.27 x10!
          • 32 oz jars of organic pasta sauce - $.57 x3
          • Organic pasta sauce (smaller size) - $.57x4
          • Power Ade (not part of the clearance, but for my soccer player who gets migraines. I let him bring Power Ade if he's playing two games in a day). - $.59 (a steal) + $.10 bottle deposit x3
          • Cookies (a splurge for soccer game treats tomorrow). I've divided up the package, so each kid will get to share 1/2 with friends after the game - $.57
          • Cheez Its (a rare snack for Sam to bring in his lunch) - $.57
          • And, hamburger buns ;-) - $1.75

          Total spent = $19.23. And, after the credits I'll receive, it' will really be around $16! Super excited to stock the pantry for that price.

          Woohoo! Any big grocery store wins on your end? I closed out the afternoon with a trip to the produce stand for corn (3 ears for $1), radishes ($.59/bunch), mini cucumbers (Nick's favorite - expensive & just under my max price at $1.99/lb), and wheat lavosh bread ($2.99).