Saturday, November 18, 2017

Menu Plan + Saturday Stuff

I'm thrilled it's Saturday. I have a couple of weeks left until my next work trip, so I'm trying to get as much holiday & "life" stuff prepped as possible before I head out. Not only will I be gone for a week, when I come back, I'm usually a zombie for a few days as well.

Here's what's on the menu for the week:

  • Friday - hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls + roasted potatoes (kids choice!) :-)
  • Saturday - lubia polo (a Persian beef, rice & green bean dish)
  • Sunday - White chicken chili (new recipe) with homemade rolls
  • Monday - leftover lubia polo
  • Tuesday - calzones (made with Crescent rolls)
  • Wednesday - leftover chili 
  • Thurdsay - Thanksgiving! 
  • Friday - leftovers from Thanksgiving
I shouldn't need to buy much (two cans of beans for the chicken chili), and I need to make sure I have green beans in the pantry as well. Fresh would be better, but I'm trying to do a pantry clean out. :-) 

Other than that, here's what's on the agenda for today:

  • Go to the grocery store
  • And produce stand + Trader Joes for bananas
  • Soccer game for Sam
  • Soccer game - in the city :-(( - for Nick
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • Laundry
  • Register the kids for winter soccer
  • Make lubia polo
  • Take Sam to his ortho appt
  • Go for a run
That's a nice full, but not crazy day. What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Frugal Friday

This is definitely my crazy time at work, but I keep trying to stick with the good habits we've developed all year long. Here are the small things we've been doing this week to save money.
  • Brought food & drinks to soccer tournament this weekend. The boys each got a bagel at the planned "brunch" with the team, but they ate lunch that I packed, and M & I ordered nothing. Got out of there for $5, which is a huge win. 
  • Have been doing a great job of going through my pantry stores & using things up. 
  • Filled out a $50 rebate for our thermostat. We bought this a while ago, but I discovered the rebate while I was on the power site for other purposes.   (Turned out we didn't qualify, as we bought it a few weeks outside of the rebate window. Bummer, but happy I tried. Only took 5 minutes!)
  • Bought a flight for my trip to the beach with my mom & sister (my mom's birthday & Mother's Day gifts) & was able to use both a credit from a flight snafu + a price matching credit to get the flight for free. I also shopped earlier, and the flight was 1/2 of the normal price, which is how I was able to get it under the overall credit total. 
  • Realized I had a few points expiring on a hotel chain I never used. Not enough for an airline transfer or anything else. Was able to cash it in for a $10 Starbucks gift card. I'll take it!
  • I have orange juice on my Thanksgiving shopping list (cranberry sauce) & discovered a small bottle that Nick got at soccer practice & didn't drink. Tucked it away for next week, and marked one item off of the list. 
  • Made lots of pesto over the weekend with our basil. 
  • Ate every dinner at home!

How about you? Any frugal wins to report?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Maximizing travel rewards & hacks

As a special request from a reader, I thought I'd share my top tips on maximizing travel rewards. There are actually a ton of resources & detailed blogs about this online, and I'm definitely not an expert, so take this as my own experience based on our travel needs.

Here's some background:

  • I travel for work. All international travel. My preferred airline (well, not really, but based on flight schedules) is United. I have status on United, and typically take 6-8 international trips/year. I'll end this year with Platinum status, but normally just have Gold. Singapore really pushed me over the edge given distance. :-) 
  • United doesn't fly my normal personal travel route. (San Jose to Portland). This makes a big difference in how I use my United points.
  • We travel a lot for personal trips, mostly to see my family. Flights to Portland range from about $150 (bought way in advance, and at non-peak pricing, flexible days) to $400. 
As a fun exercise, I went through & added up all of our personal travel for 2017 (including flights we bought for others). Here's how it nets out:

  • Trip to Hawaii - x2 tickets
  • Parents visit in August - x2 tickets
  • Aunt's wedding  - x4 tickets
  • Relay trip  - x1 ticket
  • Our family trip to the coast over the 4th of July - x4 tickets
  • Dropping the kids off at my parents house in June - x1 ticket (the kids tickets are factored into the 4th of July trip)
  • Parents visit in April - x2 tickets
  • Sister's trip to visit - x1 ticket
  • Trip to Las Vegas - x2 tickets

Grand total of 19 round trip flights purchased. All but the Las Vegas flights were purchased via our preferred personal airline (Alaska Air). 

Here's how we've maximized mileage & overall airline rewards:
  • Getting creative with my United miles. Unfortunately, United is not a partner with Alaska, nor will they allow me to transfer my miles to Alaska. I've had to go the roundabout way. Transfer from United -> Marriott -> Alaska. Not great from an overall point conversion rate, but it works & allows me to use miles for personal travel.
  • Price matching. Alaska has an amazing policy that allows you to price match at any time. Say you book a flight for $250, and the flight later drops to $225. All you need to do is verify your confirmation number on Alaska's flight, and they will automatically check to see if you have the current lowest rate. If not, they will deposit the difference in your "Alaska wallet", which you can then apply to a future flight. I tend to run all of my existing confirmation codes through the price matcher about once a week (Tuesdays or Thursdays have the lowest average price). Over the past year, I've earned $603.05 back in price matching funds. Some credits have been as low as $3, with the highest being $78.20! It's a lot of money, when you run the numbers.
  • Call when something goes wrong. For the most part, Alaska is amazing & I rarely have a reason to call them. However, when something changes in your schedule (more than 2 hour time switch, extensive delays, etc), they normally give you a customer care credit. When you book far in advance like I typically do, major flight schedule changes are most common. I always call & request a credit for this. The credit is multiplied by the number of guests in your party. So, if it's a $50 credit and you have 4 people, you get a total of $200 in credit for future travel.
  • Get the kids signed up for a frequent flier program. Both of our boys have their own accounts, and are most of the way to a free flight. Given we fly really short legs, this has taken nearly four years. But, it's better than nothing! M has his own account, of course. 
  • Consider your preferred airline credit card. Alaska has a Visa card, and when Costco got rid of their Amex alliance, we moved all of our primary spend to the Alaska card. Benefits: mileage for every dollar, a companion fare, and free checked bags. We utilize all of the benefits, and accrue mileage faster through our regular spend. 

In terms of non-flight related savings, we don't book a lot of hotels. But, if I did, I would use some of my many hotel points accrued through work trips to offset the costs. As it turns out, this year our only hotel booking was in Hawaii, and we found a great deal at Costco. Given we have no hotel plans for 2018 either, I will likely transfer as many points as possible to Alaska to convert to mileage, and have redeemed the rest for gift cards for the holidays. I've redeemed points for $730 worth of gift cards so far. Woohoo!

Our 2018 travel budget is $7,000, and I'd like to offset as much of the flight expenses as possible. Currently, we have 269K miles available, plus one companion fare. Given where we our right now, my goal is to get to 390K miles in 2018. 

Happy to answer questions if you want more details about anything. Please share any tips you have about travel hacks as well. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Can I cut 10% off our 2016 food spending?

One area where I've really tried to focus in 2017 is our overall food spending. For us, this is the combination of dining out & groceries. We have pretty generous budgets across both categories, & I'm excited to report that, with the end pretty well in sight for 2017, I believe we can close 2017 with a 10% cut in food spending over 2016. This would be huge for us! I finally feel like all of my efforts are coming together.

Here's how the numbers stack up:

2016 Food Spending:
$4,590 - dining out
$8,160 - groceries
$12,750 - total 2016 food spending

2017 food spending to date:
$3,314 - dining out
$6,962 - groceries
$10,276 - total to date

I will still have food spending in 2017, and both Thanksgiving & Christmas will be bundled in there, which tends to be quite expensive. If I can get the remainder November spend down to $375, and keep December at $800, I can do it! I will have shaved $1300 (or, 10.2%) off our food budget from last year.

I feel particularly happy that we've been able to reduce dining out by so much, while still keeping the grocery numbers in check. The dining out for 2017 also includes $191 of a work expense that I had to cover (coworker picked the restaurant, did the wrong currency conversion, and we were WAY over cap.) This made me especially sad, as I would have never selected anywhere that expensive, and while it was fun & an adventure, I'm uninterested in spending $191 on a work meal. The 2017 dining out also includes a $100 Starbucks gift card I bought, and I still have $60 left. For the $40, I bought my relay team breakfast one day, which was the majority of the spend.

Here's how our 2017 food spend it looks from a monthly perspective:

  • January - $21 dining out, $706 groceries. - nothing major. Did a great job on dining out, and stocked up on groceries after being out of town at the end of December.
  • February - $232 dining out, $553 groceries - two birthdays
  • March - $445 dining out, $568 groceries - moving + a birthday
  • April - $504 dining out, $666 groceries - family in town
  • May - $450 dining out, $650 groceries - for whatever reason, just not a month where we did a good job keeping the dining out in check. No special occasions.  
  • June - $608 dining out, $831 groceries - we celebrated M's 50th birthday, & a promotion, hence the large chunk of dining out. For groceries, my parents were in town for almost two weeks. 
  • July - $220 dining out, $838 groceries - we had house guests for several weeks, including a week with four additional diners
  • August - $315 dining out, $637 groceries - family in town
  • September - $232 dining out, $627 groceries
  • October - $53 dining out, $437 in groceries
  • November - $228 dining out, $444 in groceries (to date). The dining out includes the $191 work dinner, as noted above. (Sad face)

How did we do it?
We cut slightly more off of our dining out budget vs our grocery budget, but the reductions are pretty even. Here's what we did differently this year.

  • We treated eating out as truly a special occasion, not something to do when we're out & about, and planned ahead for super busy week nights.
  • I packed meals whenever I though the impulse or need for a meal might strike. This particularly helped for soccer tournaments & weekends. 
  • We ate more of what we bought. Common sense, but I did a better job looking ahead & menu planning.
  • I also planned ahead when traveling, stocking up on easy things for M to make with the kids. 
  • I continue to make the most of our pantry & freezer. Paying attention to what we have &  planning meals accordingly.

What about you? Have you made any changes to your expenses in 2017? Have you started to evaluate how you're doing against your yearly goals? Any big wins?

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Thanksgiving menu

It's back to work today, after a long weekend (I took Friday off). I always feel so much more refreshed with that bonus day.

I sat down with the kids & M this weekend, & we debated our Thanksgiving menu. As context, it will just be the four of us, and neither of the kids like the traditional menu items much. Also, I have one super picky eater. Here's what we've decided:

Pomegranate martinis
Sparkling cider

Goat cheese crostini

Kale salad with toasted nuts, feta cheese, & pomegranate seeds
Mashed potatoes
Homemade cranberry sauce
A turkey breast (I've never made one, so wish me luck :-))
Mini pigs in a blanket (ha, yes, so traditional)

Pumpkin pie with ice cream

We'll get up in the morning and do a 5K together (our local high school puts one on as a fundraiser), & then I'll get to work in the kitchen. It's usually a relaxing, fun day. Looking forward to spending time with my favorite people.

What about you? Have you made your menu yet? What will you be making or serving on Thanksgiving? Any non-traditional items? :-)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Menu plan + Sunday happenings

I got up this morning & went on a 6.5 mile hike with a friend. It was an absolutely gorgeous fall day. So happy I got outside! It was a winning combination of fitness + social activity, and best of all, free. :-)

I just wrapped up making pesto, and ended up with 6 small jam jars full. I'll keep one in the fridge, and the others in the freezer. I also clipped back most of the remaining basil, and will bring it to a friend at work. Waste not, want not. I also used the last of a jar of walnut oil in place of some of the olive oil, as I have had it lingering in the pantry for quite a while.

I was hoping to make fresh cranberry muffins as a special surprise for M (they are his absolute favorites), but realized I was out of flour. How did this happen?! I'm usually pretty organized. Upon taking a closer look at the pantry, I discovered we were also low on: salt, garlic & bouillon cubes, and are out of peanut butter. I've been making my own almond & cashew butter, to reduce pantry supplies. M picked up our supplies as part of another errand, so we're now stocked again!

I spent part of the day organizing our schedule for the week: making a menu, reviewing my work schedule against the kids activity calendar, coordinating the various carpools, and building a schedule for our nanny. A moderate investment of time on weekends saves me a bunch of pain the following week.

Here's what's on the menu for the week ahead:
Sunday - M is grilling kebabs & making Persian rice + a yogurt sauce
Monday - we'll have leftover chicken rice pilaf
Tuesday - Tacos with guacamole & chips
Wednesday - leftover kebabs & rice
Thursday - Eat anything left in the fridge :-) If that fails, we'll resort to some frozen soup & rolls
Friday - the boys have been asking for hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls (they like to help make the dinner), so we'll have that, plus roasted potatoes.

I don't list it, but we have a salad EVERY night for dinner. M is a bit of a salad fiend.

And with that, I'm off to finish my muffins, and work through the rest of my chores for today. What about you? How are you spending your Sunday? Any new recipes to try out? 

I made these granola bars & they were amazing. I must confess that I used the recipe as more of a base. I had no peanut butter, so I used cashew butter. I ran out of honey, so I used a bit of agave. I had no coconut oil, so I used olive oil. No chocolate chips, so used white chocolate chips, bought for $.10 on clearance way back. Subbed the dregs of a bag of trail mix for the peanuts. And, no pretzels, but I did have some stale remnants of a bag of pita chips from our Hawaii trip, so used these instead. Again, bears little resemblance to the original recipe, but I like that it's flexible. Also, I continue to eat down the pantry. Woohoo!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pantry challenge update + soccer Saturday

I was up at 4:45 & out of the house by 6:00 in order to get to a soccer tournament on time. It was either that, or staying overnight at a local hotel. I'm not opposed to the expense of a hotel (even though, $160 is crazy), but no one in my family sleeps particularly well all in one room, in two beds. So, from a sleeping perspective, it's just better to get up early. And the money savings is a nice bonus!

I managed to pack lunch, snacks & beverages last night & this morning, saving us everything but a small amount for "brunch" for the kids between games. Under $5. M & I ate sandwiches in the parking lot. We're very glam. ;-)

I also packed my running stuff, and went for a quick run during warm ups for the first game, and went for a walk during warm ups for the second game.

It was super foggy at the first game, as you can see. . .  We played the top team in our 64 team bracket this morning (lost, 1-4) & then beat a mid-range team this afternoon in a 2-0 shut out. Ahh, the joys of youth soccer.

I also wanted to post an update on my pantry challenge, as I've made a bit of progress. 

  • 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 all of it! In pilaf, plus almond 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. - haven't used it up, but perhaps for Thanksgiving? 
  • 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. 

I'm going on a hike with a friend tomorrow, and then plan to spend the rest of the day "getting things done." Making meals, prepping food, cleaning the fridge, etc. I have been using my freezer stash extensively since my last business trip, so I need to build things up before my next one.

What about you? How do you plan to spend your Sunday? Any fun plans?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Frugal Friday

It didn't feel like the most productive week, with some leftover jet lag, & M being out of town. But, we managed a few frugal wins:

  • No eating out. This is a pretty big win, as I normally would take the kids out to eat at least once when I'm on my own & we have crazy schedules. This week, I really worked hard to prep as much as possible, and it paid off.
  • Eating random leftovers for dinner. This also worked well. I didn't make any main meals this week (traveling Saturday, too tired on Sunday), so we made do with what we had on hand, vs using fresh ingredients. This helps to eat down our freezer stash, and makes sure nothing goes to waste.
  • Drove the electric car for all commuting & errands (including multiple carpools) & charged for free at work. 
  • Realized I was not managing my investments as well as I should be, and made a small tweak. Basically, one of my investments (a California muni, tax advantaged) charges a flat fee for every purchase. I didn't notice the first few times, and was just turning over my monthly stock equity sales into this, generating a fee each time. Now, instead I'll bundle & make the purchases less frequently. The double benefit is I've moved the waiting investments over to a high yield savings account in the interim. 
  • Worked on keeping the power low around the house, and we all bundled up with blankets & I drank hot tea to keep warm.  
  • Cashed in points & miles from my last trip for gift cards for Christmas. Given the length of the trip, it was a lot of points. The best option is always a direct use of the points/miles on the hotel or airline providing them. However, I have a few that don't line up with my personal travel options & are hard to convert, so I went the gift card route. I ended up with $380 in gift cards!
That's it for us. We're off to a soccer tournament tomorrow, so I'll pack food (there is a planned brunch out for the kids, but the adults will have packed food, and the kids will also have packed lunches & snacks for after). We wanted to take the electric car, but it's pushing it a bit with the mileage, and the area we're going to doesn't have as many charges as we'd like to be comfortable. We'll check it out & determine if it's possible for next time, as we have plenty of games there. 

What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Planning for 2018

As one of my November goals, I'm working on our 2018 budget & travel plans. I haven't quite gotten my head around the travel plans, as so much of that will be dependent on my work schedule. Currently, our travel looks as follows (and, doesn't take into account any work trips for M).

Travel planning for 2018:

  • January - I have a work trip to Tokyo. (Last one? Unclear, work plans TBD)
  • February - we're taking the kids skiing at Tahoe for a few days over ski week
  • March - nothing planned. If I have to squeeze in a final London trip, I'll do it in March
  • April - tentatively have a girls trip planned to Las Vegas. We have a free room booked at the Encore (my favorite), so assuming we can find cheap flights, this is a go.
  • May - potentially a girls trip to the beach (my mom + my sister) for Mother's Day. We've been discussing this for a year, but are open on dates. It's my mom's Mother's Day & birthday gifts for a few years, and her top request for any gift is time with her daughters. :-)
  • June - TBD. Will likely head to the Oregon coast for family time, near the 4th.
  • July - 4th of July at the beach, and potentially a girls trip tacked onto that.
  • August - Portland to Coast relay
  • September - nothing planned
  • October - nothing planned
  • November - nothing planned
  • December - Christmas with my family + the Oregon coast

As usual, things get a little jammed for the first half, and settle down a bit the last few months of the year. We'll see if that holds.

Financial planning for 2018:
As for the financial planning, there are plenty of unknowns. The major one is my job, and when I plan to quit. Dates I'm currently considering are 3/25 & 6/25, but anything is possible. I'm waiting for equity details from my recent performance review, and a large equity grant could keep me there a bit longer. We also are working through house plans (updates) & any big budget items may require a slightly longer time horizon, depending on how we choose to fund. M & I plan to have a few "budget/planning" days over the upcoming months to lock in these plans & ensure we're aligned.

The electric car purchase:
I didn't make much mention of it, but we bought an electric car. I'm pretty excited about it. There is great infrastructure where we live to support this, and I get free charging at work, as does M. The car will be my primary car for everything, and we will sell our 2005 sedan to cover the base price of the electric car. We're leasing it (buying an electric car gives me pause, as batteries and such are unknown from a life time perspective, and the technology is changing so much in this space). We'll make some other minor budget changes to accommodate the $120/month leasing fee. Our reduction in gas will hopefully cover the majority of this. It's our first month with the electric car, so I'll report back once I have a better sense of overall cost/benefit.

Other financial changes in 2018:
  • We're cutting out our cleaning service. The boys can continue to increase their chores on weekends, and if I'm not working and/or traveling less, this is definitely something we can (perhaps uncomfortably while I'm working) make happen. It's a pricey expense, so one I'm motivated to end. 
  • Healthcare coverage. Depending on when I leave my job, M will add us all to his insurance, and that increase will need to be factored in.
  • Gym membership (after I leave my job). I'm on the fence with this one. I live in California, so outdoor workouts can happen pretty much throughout the year. Especially as I'm a Seattle girl who isn't afraid of rain. ;-) But, once I quit my job, I feel like I might need the social connection & structure, and the local YMCA has a bunch of classes for not that much money. TBD.
  • I'll review all of our 2017 budget categories & adjust based on actual spend. Sometimes, actual spend doesn't quite align with planned spend. ;-) Who knew? 

We're also spending quite a bit of time thinking about the kids out of the house future, which for us, is about 7.5 years away. It helps to break our planning into a few chunks:
  1. Kids in the house
  2. Kids out of the house - in college
  3. Kids out of college - on their own
  4. M hits 65
  5. I hit 65
All of these milestones factor into our financial & lifestyle planning. Once the kids go to college, we can sell our current house & move somewhere much more affordable. We're in the research phase for that, but want to stay west coast. Current options we're considering are:
  • San Louis Obispo
  • Bend, Oregon
  • Vancouver, Washington (also known as where my sister lives!)
  • Hawaii is on the potential list, but travel costs make this hard, as is general COL. We'd likely do this part time, while retaining our Oregon house. 

Ahhh, so much to think about & plan for! I love the planning & thinking that goes into life. It's one of my favorite things to ponder. What about you? What changes are you considering for 2018? 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November Goals

I'm looking forward to a few days off to spend with the family over Thanksgiving. I am on call for most of the month, but fingers crossed that it's nice and quiet at work. Here's my list of goals for November!

1) Financial - 
  • Meet with a financial planner
  • Finalize our 2018 budget. Really!
  • Finalize our 2018 travel plans (2nd half of the year)
  • 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.
  • Finalize our long term financial working doc, and share with M. Take a day off & have a financial review meeting, align, adjust the plan, etc. 
  • Get our gas bill down to $60 for the month. We have one trip that we're unsure if we can make with the electric car (soccer tournament), but other than that, we should be able to stick to just the electric car for the majority of our commuting. 

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
  • Plan our Thanksgiving menu, and have the kids help with the planning, shopping, prep & cooking. 
  • Have a family game night. 
  • Finish Christmas shopping & planning
  • 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 November
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 6 strength workouts.
    • Complete 6 stretching workouts
    • Register for & complete a Turkey Trot
    • Run 20 miles in November. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress 
    • Work from home 2x this month.
    • Plan a spa day. I have a gift card from work that I received over a year ago. Find a day I can make this happen, & take the day off, & relax!
    • 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.
    • Spend no gas on my work commute. Electric car only! 

      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.
      • Write at least 6 blog posts. (Including one on mileage maximizing strategies, per request :-)).

      I think that's it from my side - what about you? How is your November looking? Any big goals? I'm excited to do the Turkey Trot, and looking forward to our family time at Thanksgiving. What about you? Anything you're particularly looking forward to? 

      Monday, November 6, 2017

      October Goal Review

      October was a very mixed month, with a fabulous vacation & then a business trip with some seriously long travel. As a result, we didn't accomplish as much as I'd like.

      1) Financial - 
      • Meet with a financial planner - Nope. This got pushed off. 
      • Finalize our 2018 budget - We're in pretty good shape. Now the question remains about my timing for leaving my job, which has us a bit up in the air. I need to finalize this in November. 
      • Finalize our 2018 travel plans - I have the first half of the year sorted, but need to finalize the second half. 
      • 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) - Nope. This got pushed off. 
      • Find one alternative cost cutting option - Well, we are selling our car & bought an electric car. We should be just a smidge under the monthly price, all things considered. We paid $5K up front for a lease, and expect to get almost exactly that back on the sale of the other car. The cost of gas negates the $120 monthly lease fee. We can charge for free at work. I'm optimistic that this could be a cost savings for us, as we will try & get our gas bill down to the bare minimum. 
      • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. If nothing sells, donate & get rid of the clutter. - I sold $85 worth of stuff, so at least some progress!
      • Stay on budget for our Hawaii trip - yes!

      2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
      • Cook one meal with each kid, so they can start helping with the cooking. - This definitely didn't happen in October. 
      • Have a family game night. - Yes, we had an Uno party. :-) 
      • Start our planning for Christmas - Yes, I kicked off the process. 
      • 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) - This hasn't happened yet. 

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 2 pounds in October
        • Stay on track on our vacation & my business trip - I worked out a ton on my vacation, and twice on my work trip. The jet lag made anything else challenging. 
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - eh, not while on my business trip. 
        • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - yes! I completed 1075 minutes. 
        • Complete 6 strength workouts. - Yes! I completed 9 strength workouts. 
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts - And, 9 stretching workouts!
        • Register for a Turkey Trot - I found one, but haven't registered. Will take care of this in November. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress - Eh, I did get promoted, but any time I travel for work, I realize how very hard it is for me. 
        • Work from home 2x this month. - I managed only once, but I was on vacation for a couple of the days. 
        • 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. - I made no progress on this one. 
        • No driving to/from work - use only carpool options - I was over 75%, but we had a few days where I had childcare responsibilities, so had to drive. 

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Try a new recipe using my new crockpot - Yes! I made a yummy potato soup. 
          • Do something social at least once per month. - Yes! I went on a hike with a friend. 
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - They no longer need volunteers for the one school event that worked with my schedule, so I need to find another alternative. 

          The colors nicely reflected what happened in October - a mixed month. Our vacation was absolutely fabulous, so no regrets there at all!

          What about you? How did you do with your October goals? Any big wins to celebrate? 

          Sunday, November 5, 2017

          All the jet lag + a menu plan

          I flew back from Singapore yesterday, and oh my, was it ever a long adventure. I had a 6 am flight from Singapore to Tokyo, then a three hour layover in Tokyo, followed by a flight from Tokyo to San Francisco. It was about a 30 hour travel day. I actually took a nap yesterday. I take a nap maybe once a year or so, so this was a big deal. I also managed to sleep around 11 hours last night.

          I hate jet lag, and that groggy no energy feeling. It makes it hard to feel engaged with life. But, I'm back & have things to do, so . . . suck it up buttercup.

          I'm working through my list of chores, including making a menu plan for the week ahead. Michael is traveling this week, so we'll be eating more freezer based meals than normal.

          • Sunday - I defrosted a chicken pasta casserole, as I'm not up to prepping an entire dinner tonight. That's what freezer meals are for!
          • Monday - we'll have leftover lasagna
          • Tuesday - If there are any other leftovers, we will have that. Otherwise, I'll make breakfast for dinner (pancakes, etc)
          • Wednesday - Soup & bread (both from freezer). There are a few soup options in the freezer, but I'm thinking potato soup is at the top of the list.
          • Thursday - baked chicken & pasta 
          • Friday - M arrives home. I'm taking the day off, as the kids have no school. I'll likely make risotto.
          • Saturday - we'll be at a soccer tournament all day, so something easy. Maybe naan bread pizzas. 
          • Sunday - I'm hoping M will make kebabs & rice.
          That's it for the menu plan. I also sold three things on eBay (woohoo!), so need to get those mailed tomorrow. Everything is now wrapped & ready to go. I'll print off the labels tomorrow, and get them off in time. 

          What about you? Any quick & easy (kid friendly) meals to recommend this week? 

          Friday, October 27, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          I normally do a better job of tracking these things during the week, but it's been another crazy week. Post-vacation, pre-business trip. I leave for Singapore on Sunday, and am not ready at all! But, there are a few frugal wins to be had:

          1. Cancelled the cleaning lady this week. My mom was here, and always leaves the house immaculate when she leaves. Such a gift!
          2. I found inexpensive options for the boys Halloween costumes.
          3. Packed lunch for myself on Sunday, as I knew I wouldn't have time to eat between activities. It was nothing I really wanted, but ate it anyway (leftovers). Bonus points. ;-)
          4. Updated our benefits at work, and found a few new options that seem like they will save a bit in 2018.
          5. Got a promotion & a raise. :-) My salary is about 1/2 of my overall compensation, so I won't know the bonus & stock increase for a few more months. The raise is a few hundred dollars/month more, which I'll use to increase our savings. 
          6. Made dinner at home every night this week. Even though the boys were jonesing for a meal out. I know they will eat out when I'm in Singapore (as will I), so for all of our health & our wallet, it's better to wait.
          7. Listed three items on eBay. I'm not a huge eBay fan, and find it a hassle, but discovered a pair of new black dress pants (that don't fit) when I was packing, so it was the kick start I needed to list those & a couple of other items. 

          In other news, the school district had trouble processing our move paperwork, so I spent about half of my day on Monday straightening that out, leaving the work to pile up for the remainder of the week. That's now sorted, and I'm slowly working through my work before I head out. We also have a soccer tournament this weekend, which should add to the chaos. ;-) 

          What about you? Anything fun on the agenda this weekend? Any big (or little) frugal wins?

          Monday, October 23, 2017

          Menu plan Monday

          I'm trying to get organized before my next trip, so here's what we've been eating so far, and what's on the menu for the next few weeks.

          • Friday - bits & bobs from the freezer. Too tired post-vacation & work to do much of anything. Used up a cheese pizza base (freezer) & doctored it with thinly sliced meatballs & fresh tomatoes. 
          • Saturday - M is grilling chicken & potatoes. My parents will be with us for one final dinner before they head back home
          • Sunday - I made butternut squash soup, and served that with goat cheese crostini + salad
          • Monday - Potato soup (freezer) + rolls
          • Tuesday - Pesto pasta with chicken (leftover from Saturday)
          • Wednesday - Leftover soup + any final rolls
          • Thursday - Leftovers, or spaghetti & meatballs
          • Friday - Orange chicken + rice
          • Saturday - one skillet chicken fiesta rice
          • Sunday - Kebabs & rice
          • Monday - I fly to Singapore. The kids & M will eat leftover kebabs & rice
          • Tuesday - Singapore. The kids & M will eat leftover chicken fiesta rice
          • Wednesday - Singapore. The kids & M will eat any leftovers. If none, spaghetti & meatballs
          • Thursday - Singapore. The kids & M will eat tacos (freezer)
          • Friday - Singapore. The kids & M will most likely go out. 
          I'm back form Singapore on Saturday. Hurrah!!

          What about you? Anything fun on the menu this week? 

          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).

                  Soccer Saturday + a Menu Plan

                  Soccer season is back in full swing! We have the early game today (8:00 am, 7:30 field arrival!), as well as an 11 am game. Ahh, well, at least we'll be all wrapped up by lunch time. Bright side!

                  I need to get in a couple of runs this weekend, and perhaps yoga, time permitting. M & I also need to talk about the house projects & come up with our wish list & a minimum viable list. Adulting is often hard. :-)

                  Here's what's on the menu for the week:

                  • Friday (yesterday) - oven baked chicken risotto, with homemade chicken broth, M's grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes from the garden. Yum. 
                  • Saturday - M will grill either burgers or kebabs, with potatoes. 
                  • Sunday - we have a Groupon for a local Italian place that is close to expiring, so we will go there for dinner. 
                  • Monday - leftover risotto
                  • Tuesday - leftover burgers/kebabs
                  • Wednesday - is it too much to hope that the meal out will yield leftovers? If so, I have a lasagna in the freezer
                  • Thursday - ground beef tacos, or taco bowls. 

                  What about you? How are you doing with your menu plan? Are you adding fall recipes back into the mix? 

                  I'd also love to prep some lentil soup for the freezer. LOVE lentil soup! So easy & healthy. 

                  Friday, September 15, 2017

                  Frugal Friday

                  Yet another crazy week of work & activities! We mostly stayed on course with our menu & kept the shopping to an absolute minimum. Overall, it was a pretty inexpensive week!

                  Here's the list of frugal wins for the week:

                  • Called about our Christmas flights. They were moved three hours later, and there are no better options to rebook. Accepted the rebook, but asked about compensation. Received 2500 miles (x4, for all of us) that we will use towards our mileage challenge in 2018!
                  • Received $1.97 in credit card rewards thanks to noticing a Subway cashback deal. I'd enrolled right before leaving for my relay, and bought lunch there during the event. Every dollar counts, in this case. ;-) 
                  • Made dinner ever night this week, despite a lot of chaos with M traveling for work
                  • Didn't go to Costco this week, as we normally do. M is obsessed with having a full fridge. I took advantage of our stockpile in the fridge, and bought a few thing at the grocery store for $13. Total savings of ~$100. Woohoo! :-) 

                  And, here's what we ate this week, as compared to the menu plan. We ate 3 of 4 planned meals, with tomato soup subbing for fried rice. We also mixed up the ordering, which is typical for us. 
                  • Monday - Plan was Spaghetti & meatballs.  We really ate another quick freezer meal, as M was out of town. We had the rest of the panko chicken, mini tacos, pizza bites & to health it up a bit. . . cucumbers & tomatoes from the garden. Plus fruit salad.
                  • Tuesday - Plan was beef tacos with build your own toppings: cheese, tomatoes, salsa, onion & this is what we ate
                  • Wednesday - Plan was eating down our "pool party" stash. Likely pizza rolls, mini tacos & some sort of protein. (Chicken, most likely). Instead we had tomato soup & grilled cheese sandwiches for two of us, with Nick eating a leftover taco. 
                  • Thursday - Plan was fried rice, using any leftovers, + edamame. Instead, we ate the spaghetti & meatballs with fresh tomatoes from the garden & Parmesan cheese. 
                  • Friday - Chicken risotto - still the plan
                  • Saturday - Grilled burgers & potatoes - still the plan
                  • Sunday - Kale & chicken salad + caprese - still the plan. I have a package of mozzarella cheese that I really need to use up. 

                  What about you? Any big frugal wins for the week?