Monday, August 3, 2020

Menu plan Monday, plus other miscellany

Can't believe it's Monday already. The weekend went by, lightning fast. Here's what's on the menu this week, and yes, this is definitely uninspired. The frozen meal options are really low these days!

Sunday  - we had grilled burgers
Monday - baked chicken + salads
Tuesday - hot dogs
Wednesday - leftover grilled burgers
Thursday - tacos
Friday - any leftovers, or pizza if not

And, in the vein of helping others/kind deeds:

  • I wrote a letter to my parents, thanking them for their help this summer with the kids. Not only was it incredibly helpful to us during COVID & while we were remodeling the house, the investment they've made in having an incredible relationship with their grand kids is amazing. 
  • Wrote a letter to my godmother (a close friend of my deceased grandmother) who is quarantined at home, and quite lonely. I haven't seen her in a few years, so gave her some updates on our family.
  • Dropped off cleaning wipes to a neighbor who can't get out much & needed some

What about you? What's on the menu for the week? Any positive actions you'd like to share? 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

August goals

Getting ready, it's back to school month! I'm confident it will be an adventure, as we adjust to 8th grade & 9th grade online learning. Here are my goals for the month.

1) Financial
  • Stick to the budget
  • Pay down our mortgage to the next milestone
  • No clothing/shoes purchases for me
  • Make $500 in side hustle
  • Work through freezer/pantry clean out (10 random items out)
  • Call to set up will/guardianship appointment
2) Family
  • Find time to take the boys to one socially distanced activity per day (walking, tennis, etc)
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening (not counting reading)
  • Have a weekly half hour alone with M
  • Schedule a call with M's family
  • Two hours of practicing Spanish or Farsi
  • Finish kitchen remodel
  • Compliment M every day
  • Build a plan for the new school year

3) Fitness/health

  • Lose 2 lbs
  • Work out every day, minus travel day home. Do 2 daily doubles to offset.
  • Track calories & aim for 1440 calories/day
  • Complete 1400 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts
  • Meditate 20 times
  • Run 15 times

4) Personal/creative
  • Do something social at least 2x/month (virtually is okay)
  • Volunteer
  • Journal 25 times
  • Improve myself
    • Judge less
    • Listen more often (talking less)
    • Reduce/eliminate swearing
    • One kind deed/day
  • Read one non fiction book
  • Complete one project/day (taking advantage of WFH)

What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in August? Please share, so we can cheer you on. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

July goals recap

Another month is over! Can't believe how quickly July went by, despite COVID.

Here's how I did with my monthly goals.

1) Financial
  • Stick to the budget - well, with the remodel, not so much. But, much better progress on groceries. Dining out has been a bit hit or miss due to the remodel, but overall our food budget is significantly lower this month. Hurrah!
  • Pay down our mortgage to the next milestone - Yes!
  • No clothing/shoes purchases for me - Yes!
  • Make $500 in side hustle - Crushed this goal with $961.
  • Work through freezer/pantry clean out (10 random items out) - we've used up so many freezer items as part of our remodel! Less on the pantry side, but giving us a pass given huge freezer progress. 
  • Call to set up will/guardianship appointment - No, and I'm rolling this one forward
2) Family
  • Find time to take the boys to one socially distanced activity per day (walking, tennis, etc) - mostly, yes. 
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening (not counting reading) - I've lost some of the good habits I've made & need to get back to this. 
  • Have a weekly half hour alone with M - Yes
  • Schedule a call with M's family - No, and I need to make this happen
  • Two hours of practicing Spanish or Farsi - Yes!
  • Make finalized revised summer plans, taking into account home projects - yes, done!

3) Fitness/health

  • Lose 2 lbs - I gained a bit in June while at our vacation house, so lost that in July, for a maintenance month. I'll take it!
  • Work out every day, minus travel day home. Do 2 daily doubles to offset. - I got in 32 workouts!
  • Track calories & aim for 1440 calories/day - yikes, no. My calories are at 1627. I did track. 
  • Complete 1400 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts - 1160, 3 & 3, respectively. 
  • Meditate 20 times - this one fell way off my radar, and I meditated only 2x.
  • Run 15 times - I ran 13 times. 

4) Personal/creative
  • Do something social at least 2x/month (virtually is okay) - Yes
  • Volunteer - I'm volunteering in a few ways at work
  • Journal 25 times - every day, so 31 journal entries!
  • Improve myself
    • Judge less - always a work in progress
    • Listen more often (talking less) - slight improvement noticed
    • Reduce/eliminate swearing - eh, about the same
  • Read one non fiction book - I've been reading, but haven't finished my current non-fiction book
  • Compliment M every day - I think this has happened almost every day. I'm actively thinking about it/working on it. 
  • Build a plan for the new school year - we're waiting for schools to announce specifics, but have added in some supplemental activities for the kids. 
  • Complete one project/day (taking advantage of WFH) - yes

How about you? How did you do with your July goals? 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Frugal Friday

I feel like my COVID Frugal Fridays are much more boring than usual, but perhaps that's a good thing? Boring often means I'm out less/spending less/so less opportunities to save on purchases.

Saving on things we buy:

  • I refilled my Starbucks card for bonus stars, as I would have refilled anyway. I'll be picking up the kids on Saturday, and will likely make a stop at Starbucks. 
  • Updated our car insurance with a mileage form, to reflect our significantly lower mileage for the year. It will save us about $400 on our auto policy!

Earning money:

  • I went through my closet & took another look at my clothes. (I did this right as we transitioned to WFH). Now that I have a few months under my belt, as well as a much longer timeline of continuing to work remotely, I evaluated my clothes to see what I really need. I found a few things to donate, and a few items to list on eBay. One blazer I bought for international work trips (hahaha) has already sold. Excellent! 
  • Continued to list things we don't need on eBay.

Avoiding spending:

  • There was one takeout meal on Saturday evening, but otherwise, all meals made at home in our non kitchen. It's unglamorous, and meals are repetitive, but we're all getting fed & it's fine.
  • We've been using our garden produce in salads & meals, which has added some nice freshness with our mostly freezer based proteins. 

What about you? Any frugal wins to report?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Garden kindness

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm working on acts of kindness, as a way to contribute positively back into the world during these crazy days. Please do share what you are doing, as it can be both hard to think of COVID friendly ideas, and you are all just a creative bunch!

Yesterday, I looked in my garden & saw that my herbs were getting minimal use (mint, basil & parsley) & put out a call in my small neighborhood mailing list to see if anyone wanted anything. We don't have a kitchen right now, and fresh herbs are so lovely & sad to see wasted. In an hour, I had 15 people interested! I cut back all of our plants, bagged everything, & left them out on our porch for a contactless pickup for our neighbors.

I received so many positive emails & it was nice to connect with people who live nearby. I hope to also encourage others to share, as many neighbors put citrus fruit out with "free" signs.

I've loved reading what you are all doing, and will put my creative thinking hat on for ideas for today!

Thanks for all of the ideas, and please do keep sharing. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Kindness over the next few months

(Note: this is not a post about the election, so don't panic if you are trying to avoid political discussions.)

The presidential election in the US is in ~100 days, and many of us have noticed that it's hard not to get caught up in the endless back & forth, memes & heated debates about insert issue X here. This is not to say that vigorous political debate is a bad thing. But, right now, I need to feel that I'm making positive changes, rather than contributing to that back & forth. It's better for my mental health if I am contributing positively right now.

So, inspired by a friend (ironically, on Facebook), I'm going to instead focus on random acts of kindness. I'm not sure I can get up to 100 in the next few months, but it will be an inspirational goal.

For my first day, here's what I did:

  • My lovely neighbor was unable to walk her dog yesterday (she is elderly, and occasionally struggles with balance), so M & I were able to take her dog for a long walk in the evening. We all enjoyed ourselves.  
  • Reached out to a friend who is new to her role at work & has struggled in the past with some health issues in her family. She so appreciated the check in, and we had a great chat. 

I'll post as I remember about the random acts of kindness, but would love to be inspired by all of you. Please share anything you are doing on your side (regardless of motivation). I think we could all use more kindness in our lives.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Menu plan Monday

I'm hoping for an easy few weeks, until our kitchen remodel is complete. I'm running low on freezer meals, but in reality, I just need to be more creative. Although, not sure how the chicken broth will help. ;-)

Here's what's on the menu this week:
Friday - pizza
Saturday - socially distanced Thai takeout
Sunday - grilled sausages + salad
Monday - carnitas (planning to crisp in the toaster oven
Tuesday - chicken salad (made with leftover rotisserie chicken)
Wednesday - grilled chicken + some sort of salad to use up all of the garden tomatoes
Thursday - leftovers
Friday - TBD

What about you? Any easy tomato based side dishes to recommend? 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Frugal Friday

It's always hard to reconcile small frugal steps when you're in the middle of spending a lot (we're remodeling our kitchen & doing some necessary erosion work in our outdoor area). But, the every day frugality is what allows us to do all of those things. I keep reminding myself of that this month. :-)

Saving on things we buy

  • Both boys have outgrown their soccer cleats, and a modified practice (masks required, socially distanced, no scrimmages) is supposed to begin in a few weeks. Their previous cleats were almost new, as they got in minimal soccer before the lock down. I'll try & sell those, and purchased new ones on the last day of a sale at a local sporting good store. I ordered several, as shoes can be tricky without trying on & can return for free whatever doesn't work. I also went through Rakuten to get a tiny (1%) cash back on the purchase.
  • Used a coupon for a couple of watermelon we bought. Our contractors were working outside on a particularly warm day, so we sliced them up & left them out for them to enjoy. I'm always so impressed with people that can do exhausting work outside in the heat. I'm a wimp in that regard. Saved $1.50

Earning money

  • Continued to list & sell things on eBay. Had a few nice wins, including:
    • A dishwasher silverware holder that was tucked in the back of our cupboard & didn't match our dishwasher. Previous owner? Glad to get it in the hands of someone who will use it. 
    • Shin guard inserts (for soccer players). My son prefers to play without them (shin guards just tucked into socks).
    • A pitcher I brought back from our vacation house, that we never use. Apparently, it's now Crate & Barrel "vintage". ;-) 
  • Found a dime on the ground, big money style

Avoiding spending

  • The normal stuff, COVID style. Minimal driving & activities. We're also doing our best still to avoid takeout (minus last Saturday, where no water + no kitchen was my limit for attempts to put a meal together).
  • Minus Saturday (no water + no kitchen), all meals at home

What about you? Any frugal wins to share?

Sunday, July 19, 2020


Appreciate all of the comments from yesterday. If you "knew" me in real life, you'd know that conflict is one of my least favorite things, and the world has too much conflict right now. On to other topics!

The weekend is going by really quickly, and there is a long work week ahead. A few weeks ago, our company planned for no meetings week, to give people a chance to catch up on larger, thinking, strategic projects. The no meetings weeks were fantastic, but now that's over, my calendar is jammed full of meetings. I will try to prep most of dinner ahead of time, so once the meetings wrap, it will be a quick effort to get dinner on the table.

We did end up getting takeout twice yesterday (so, 19/21 meals eaten at home for the week). We had no water, in addition to no kitchen, which took the wind out of my sails a bit. For the dinner portion, we ordered Chinese food, with plenty of leftovers to see us through at least 1-2 additional meals this week. They will be much appreciated, given the no kitchen.

Here's what's on the agenda for today:

  • A run, before it gets too warm
  • Grocery shopping for the week ahead
  • Reconcile the remodel budget 
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • List an item on eBay
  • Journal
  • Call my parents
  • Laundry (I'm behind, after no water day yesterday)
  • Finish the menu plan for the week
  • Prune the zucchini plant

Here's what's on the menu for the week:
  • Friday - We had pizza & salad
  • Saturday - Chinese food takeout
  • Sunday - Chicken piccata (freezer) for the adults, tacos for the kids + caprese salad, using basil & tomatoes from the garden
  • Monday - Carnitas (freezer). Hopefully I can crisp them in the toaster oven
  • Tuesday - Meatballs & pasta (or, cauliflower rice)
  • Wednesday - Chicken (freezer)
  • Thursday - We'll have burgers (freezer)
The good news is that the freezer should be quite cleaned out after this! :-) What about you? What are you having for dinner this week?

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Some controversial thoughts

I wanted to reply to one of the comments about my privilege, and after doing some additional reading (which, maybe wasn't targeted at me, but sure felt like it), it sounded a lot like there was an income threshhold for financial blogging, and I was somehow over it & needed to go away.

I debated not writing this, but ... well, happy Saturday! :-)

People of all income levels & race are allowed to be frugal. And, IMO, should be frugal. We should all be frugal. Frugal means reducing waste, saving for a rainy day, HELPING OTHERS. It doesn't mean being cheap. It doesn't mean hoarding. It doesn't mean overlooking things that brought you to the place where you have the option of choosing to be frugal, vs a requirement of your life. I understand that many people are not choosing to be frugal. They are required to be frugal. I'm aware of the significance and the difference of that.

I feel really lucky that we're in the financial position we're in. I grew up lower middle class. I'm lucky that I have never received an inheritance, both because my amazing parents are still alive, and my grandparents all lived frugally & left a bit (think, under $10k) to my parents. I hope my parents spend as close to the bone as they possibly can before they pass, to maximize their own money. Spending our money & time on family is one of our top priorities as a couple. We love that we can do that & make it a priority. We save our money to spend it on things that matter most to us - time with each other, experiences with our kids, and time with our families.

My husband grew up around the same income class, but was a political asylum seeker at 16 in Canada. He didn't speak English. And, because somehow white privilege came up in this discussion, my husband isn't white & had nothing when he left his home. He's worked pretty dang hard to overcome systemic racism, so I surely hope it's clear that I understand what that means, and I'm working hard through my own time, money & energy to change the future. For my own kids, as well as those who don't have the same advantages that we do. I gave up talking about politics after racist comments directed at my kids after the 2016 election, so I don't cover that topic here. That doesn't mean I'm not a passionate advocate of change & equality.

Do I need to sell things on eBay? Nope. Do we spend a large portion of our money on charitable donations & helping others? Yes, we do. I don't talk about it, because... it's really not relevant.

Not all blogs are relevant for everyone. I'm fine with that. I love reading blogs about people in situation other than mine, because it gives me great ideas. Maybe it's not enjoyable to read a blog about finances from someone who has plenty but still tries to optimize.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Frugal Friday

Money continues to be spent crazily as part of the remodel, but we had a few frugal wins. I'm also going to track how many meals we make at home during this time, because ... it's a victory each & every meal.

Saving on things we buy

  • Used two coupons for popsicles. It was 90 this weekend, so we picked up a few packages, and saved $2.50. I forgot I had the coupons, but luckily, Nick was with me & reminded me. 

Earning money

  • Random things I've sold this week:
    • An old cooler that M has had since long before I've known him
    • 2 hanging file folder containers I've had for 20+ years. We purchased some office furniture for WFH, and it came with a filing cabinet that makes the containers obsolete
    • A dry fit polo shirt & an Adidas tshirt that Sam outgrew before he could really wear
    •  The "armor" from the inside of a motorcycle jacket. The jacket was ruined when I tried to clean it (it was destined for the garbage if it wasn't cleaned, but I had hopes). I decided to pull out the armor & see if anyone wanted it, to avoid it going to the landfill. Luckily, yes! It sold in a day. 
    • An old leather motorcycle jacket that was stored in the shed. It's now too big for M, but needed a lot of love to be usable again. It sold quickly when I posted it. 
  • Continued to list items as I find them. We had to pack our kitchen, and empty out our outdoor shed for the remodel, so that led to finding things we don't use much.

Avoiding spending

  • Used grocery store gift cards to stock up on a bunch of easy to heat breakfast & lunch items. Not things I'd normally have on hand, but good to keep things easy without a kitchen. 
  • Also used grocery store gift cards for a socially distanced meet up for Sam, so he & his friend (they met at a park) could each have their own drinks & snacks. 
  • All meals eaten at home. There have been some creative options, and we're paying more for convenience (more easily prepped items), but no meals out yet. It will happen, but each meal prepped at home is really an achievement.

That's it for us. What about you? Any frugal wins for the week? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Meals without a kitchen

We've been operating without a kitchen since Saturday, although yesterday we were able to get a stove top working.

We currently have the following cooking appliances, which we've been using:

  • Panini maker
  • Toaster oven (new, purchased for this situation)
  • Microwave
  • Stove top (recent addition, moved from actual kitchen to another location)
We don't have an oven or a dishwasher, a kitchen sink, a disposal, etc. The clean up has been at least as big of a challenge without a sink or dishwasher. We also don't have a regular bath tub, just a shower. Dishes are a real adventure. ;-)

Here's what we've had so far:


  • Breakfast sandwiches. I should have made & then frozen some, but fail. We picked some up at the grocery store, and have been heating them in the microwave. They are much more expensive than homemade, but also quite a bit less than feeding four people breakfast outside of our house. We serve with fruit. 
  • Toaster waffles (kids) & smoothies. I eliminated the smoothies, after trying to effectively clean up the blender in the shower. 

  • I've continued to have salads with protein from the freezer, which has worked well
  • Angus cheeseburgers (frozen) from Costco. Heated in the microwave
  • Chicken nuggets, pizza bites (kids)

  • Tacos, using prepped & frozen meat, reheated in the microwave
  • Taco salads
  • Kebabs & rice, also leftovers
  • Crockpot Thai chicken dish (tonight)

As you can see, it's been an real adventure, but we are getting through. I consider each & every meal an accomplishment, both frugally & health wise. I wish I could say we're eating as we  normally do, but like with the financial piece, I consider it more of a sliding scale. We're not eating quite as healthy as normal, but better than if we were surviving on takeout!

What about you? Have you ever been without a kitchen? Any tips or recipes to share?

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Lots of things

Our kitchen is half demolitioned, which means we have bits & pieces spread throughout our house. We are getting creative & trying to make meals "at home", even though that definition has changed quite a bit.

Menu plan:
Friday - M made kebabs & rice, as our final (for the next month or so) kitchen/bbq meal
Saturday - I prepped taco meat ahead on Friday, and reheated it in the microwave, so tacos it was
Sunday - some sort of crockpot chicken dish. Still TBD
Monday - leftover kebabs & rice
Tuesday - tacos
Wednesday - leftover crockpot dish
Thursday - any remaining leftovers
Friday - pizzas in the toaster oven

We're going to do our best to minimize meals out, both from an expenses perspective, as well as a health one. It's also hard to find meals that meat the various diner requirements.

Yesterday was spent inside, in a very loud house (workers on the roof, in the kitchen, and in the backyard - we have three projects going at one, which in hindsight, was a giant error when it's Coronavirus & there's no place to go outside of our house). I focused on being moderately productive: laundry, setting up the "new temporary kitchen", listing a bunch on eBay & reading my book.

I have a really busy work week ahead of me, and judging by my calendar, I can already tell it's going to be a struggle to fit things in.

All of that said, I read news about a "blogger friend" this morning, & I'm just so sad. I know we've never met, but I feel like I know you, have an insight into your life (or, the parts you chose to share)  & your family & have enjoyed your voice so much over the past years. Sending you all of my good wishes, thoughts & positive vibes during this difficult time. You mean a lot to many of us, even though we don't officially know each other. Big hugs.