Friday, November 26, 2021

A relaxing Friday

Thanksgiving was so nice yesterday. We are all a bit under the weather (no COVID, luckily, as we have tests from work we can use that allow us to make sure), but otherwise, it was a great day. 

We ran a 5k in the morning (Sam, with an 18:50 finish, to make the rest of us look bad). I beat my goal, which was still reasonably slow, but all I felt up to with a runny nose & all. We bumped into friends at the race, and enjoyed the sunshine.

After the run, we started cooking, and prepped our dinner. I ran to Rite Aid to pick up a few Black Friday offers (they were sold out of most things already) & then Sam met up with friends for a game in the park. We all had dinner, chatted about what we were thankful for, and then went to bed early. Sam & I were in bed at 8, thanks to our colds. 

I slept in a bit today, we made muffins, & then I took the kids to a climbing gym to use up a gift card. I went to a yoga class in the same gym, which was a great way to kill two birds with one stone. It's not cheap, but was a great way for everyone to get in some active time, & I was afraid this place would go out of business during COVID. It's great to see that they made it. 

We picked up lunch at Subway (free, with a gift card) & then tried to find Sam a referee uniform at the local soccer store. No such luck. They only have size Men's XXL, and Sam is, at best, a Men's Small. I prefer to shop at the local stores when possible, but it will have to be Amazon for this purchase. 

We also put up our tree & decorations (not the outdoor lights yet, though), so it was a very full day. 

I came home & washed all of the sheets & we will all have fresh beds for tonight. I love that feeling! 

I'll heat up leftover lasagna, and make some garlic bread out of leftover hamburger buns. It should be all good. I hope everyone had a relaxing & productive day today!


Frugal Friday

 I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving (if you are in the US) & got to spend time with family. As always, I'm so thankful for my friends & family & feel truly lucky. Thanksgiving is a small holiday for us (just the four of us), but no less special due to size. 

Saving on things we buy

  • I've been saving my grocery store points for November, knowing our Thanksgiving feast would push us a bit over our standard spending. I used $27 of grocery store rewards to offset a purchase
  • I also picked up the Friday Freebie (cookie dough) at the store, and uploaded my receipts to Fetch & iBotta. No major savings, but a bit here & there. I haven't been buying anything on iBotta lately, but I did take advantage of a couple of small "any item" receipt offers. 
  • Earned a free package of Klondike bars via Fetch
  • Took advantage of $20 of Fetch gift card rewards
  • On the same Fetch transaction, earned a $10 Target gift card on a double dip. I was unaware that Target had their own promotion on the gift cards, so I was doubly excited. ;-) 
  • I made a few gift card purchases at Rite Aid, and three of them failed. The manager was super nice, and called their customer service & patiently dealt with an extremely long hold time, in order to get my rewards credited to my account. 
  • Took advantage of a few Rite Aid Black Friday deals to pick up snacks & frozen pizza & the like. I used the Rite Aid rewards from the gift card transactions (above), to pay $5 for $55 worth of items. (Food & toiletries for donations)

Earning money

  • I haven't been listing things on eBay, but have driven Nick to reffing games, so he can earn money. That's my current "side hustle", so to speak. ;-) 
  • I also sold one older item, earning $40 or so (have to ship it out)
  • Redeemed Fetch rewards (above) for a $25 Amazon gift card. I'm close to having another $10, which is great for the holidays. 

Avoiding spending

  • I've been trying to get creative with meal planning, to ensure we're using what we have & minimizing our grocery spending. That seems like a really good idea, with the current costs!

Eating what we have

  • I've been working my way through the single serving freezer items for lunch, & had a chicken fiesta rice dish with a bit of guacamole for lunch one day. Delicious, easy, & one more item out of the freezer. 
  • Nick finished off the last of a bag of pizza rolls, which had been in the freezer for quite some time
  • Defrosted a Costco lasagna, and had that for dinner one night.
  • I continue to bring in our tomatoes to ripen, and I'm still picking a few strawberries per week. We use them in smoothies. We are also still getting a few green peppers, and lots of jalapenos. 
  • The boys finished off the leftover takeout pizza, but that was no hardship for them ;-) 
  • I had a beef stew for lunch one day (from the freezer) along with a leftover piece of garlic bread. 

For others

  • Uploaded my receipts to Box Top, as I was picking up cereal & stuffing, both of which were eligible for Box Tops. There was also a Thanksgiving promo that increased the donation by another $1. 
  • Donated ski clothes via Buy Nothing, as well as some jeans that M & Sam didn't need. Also gave away a few shirts. 
  • Had a couple of calls for my non-profit, & with my mentee
  • Made a donation to the boys school athletic department, to help with new uniforms. Submitted all of my recent donations for company matches. 
  • Entered my time volunteering, and my company will match my time with a cash donation
  • Helped a friend sponsor a family for the holidays
  • Picked up a bunch of inexpensive toiletries & cleaning products for donation to the local shelter
What about you? Any wins to share?

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving!

For all of you in the US, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with family & fun. We are planning to run a 5k together, & then will relax & enjoy the day. There will be some cooking, some movie watching, & hopefully a lovely day. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Menu Plan Monday

 

I'm excited for a quieter week (no meetings this week, ahead of Thanksgiving), and all of the fun of Thanksgiving food prep! Oh, and leftovers! Leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving. :-) 

  • Friday - takeout
  • Saturday - burgers & roasted potatoes
  • Sunday - lasagna
  • Monday - burgers & caprese salad
  • Tuesday - lasagna
  • Wednesday - pizza or something easy ahead of Thanksgiving
  • Thursday - Thanksgiving! We will be having steak, stuffing, green beans, squash/kale salad, & Basque cheesecake for dessert. There will also be pomegranate martinis + goat cheese crostini for appetizers!
  • Friday - chicken + Thanksgiving leftovers
And, a caprese salad from last week, made from tomatoes & basil from the garden.



What are you making this week?

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Sunday Happenings

Yesterday was a full day of Nick's soccer game, and reffing two other games. M went to Costco (it was wild ahead of Thanksgiving). I wrapped all of the Christmas gifts that will go under our tree here (vs getting packed to bring to my parents.) M made burgers, I did an endless amount of laundry. 

I also had the boys try on their ski gear, M got Sam's feet measured for new ski boots (his current pair are too small). The ski gear is almost all too small, & I'm giving it away on Buy Nothing this morning. Glad to make other people happy, save them money & keep clothes out of the landfill. The ski bib that Sam has outgrown was originally a hand me down from my nephew, so I'm thrilled it's still in circulation. Ski clothes are  not cheap.

Here's what we are up to today:

  • Take Nick to his last game this year. 
  • Run during Nick's warm ups
  • Drop Nick off at his ref game, with his bike (he'll bike home)
  • M & I are going to a winery, to pick up our wine shipment & have a wine tasting
  • Bag & put out the Buy Nothing items
  • Decide on dinner: lasagna, or pigs in a blanket
  • Laundry :-) 
  • Call my parents
Hope you all have a fabulous day!

Friday, November 19, 2021

Back on the field together + all the laundry

Last summer, Sam made the decision to switch soccer clubs, so he & Nick are playing on different teams, & I no longer get to see them play together. This has also increased logistics, but both are happy with their decisions. (Mom sometimes has a different view, but these are the types of choices that teens are allowed to make - whether they be right or wrong, they are opportunities to learn.) :-) 

Both boys made the school JV soccer team. Tryouts lasted 14 days, & they whittled the roster from 100+ kids to 20 something, so we are thrilled that both kids will get a chance to play for their school, & play together again. There have already been hilarious dramas on the field & I'm very excited to see them together on a team.

What does this have to do with laundry? Oh, well, M & I both work out at least one time per day. I often get in a second workout, time permitting (walking at soccer practice, & the like). I wish I was one of those people who just "glowed" vs sweat, but alas, I am not. Neither is M, or either of our kids. If you know anything about teenage boys, you'll know that they really do need showers & constant fresh laundry. At this stage, we've got the end of club soccer (with, uniforms), school soccer, P.E. uniforms, "regular" clothes (non soccer uniforms), Nick is reffing games on weekends (which has an entirely different uniform), M & I each have our daily workout clothes, & our "regular" clothes. Plus dinner napkins, towels, sheets, etc. It's an absolutely insane amount of laundry. No matter how on top of it I am, it builds. Laundry is my constant companion in these teenage years. Whenever I get irritated by the non-stop washing, line drying, folding, etc, I remind myself that I'm so incredibly lucky to have an active family, kids who push themselves & get away from screen time for healthy workouts, & that M & I are healthy enough to work out daily. It often gets me past the "what in the world am I doing folding laundry again" moments. :-) 

SO much laundry, but I'm very excited to see the boys play together again. It's been awhile, so I will do the laundry, make smoothies for soccer pickups, spend a non insignificant amount of time awaiting the arrival of the boys after practice, remind people to pack their cleats, & just enjoy this phase of life. It's so fleeting, and I feel really blessed. #allthelaundry

Throwback photo of Nick, back in his goalie phase (note the gloves)





Frugal Friday

This week absolutely flew by, thanks to a very busy work schedule, & a completely full weekend, as club soccer games all have to be wrapped up by this weekend. Lots of reffing, school soccer & club soccer! We used our freezer meals more than ever, & they were much appreciated this week.  


Saving on things we buy

  • Used a coupon for free chips & queso at Chipotle
  • We are planning a trip to Park City in February, for Sam's birthday. The best flight option is Southwest, so I started with Rakuten, clicked through to Raise, used a promotional offer, & bought the largest Southwest card available. I've learned that you can only use a limited number of gift cards per transaction on Southwest, which has previously left me with a number of smaller value gift cards that are harder to use. Since I was purchasing tickets for four people, the entire gift card was used up. The Raise promo offer was $20 off, plus the standard Raise discount. We saved 8% there, and then Rakuten offers another 1% off the total Raise purchase price. 
  • For our trip to Park City, I shopped around for a place that was conveniently located, but also had a washer & dryer, & kitchen, which will save us money on food & allow us to not have to pack as much ski gear (we can wash between days.) 

Earning money

  • I still haven't been listing anything on eBay, so no money there.
  • Nick, however, has been reffing a lot of soccer games, which is awesome for him. Club soccer is trying to wrap up all of their games before the season ends, so this is the perfect time to get in a lot of reffing. 

Avoiding spending

  • We are still growing our own tomatoes, even in November. It's so nice not to have to buy them at the store, for now. 
  • My sister is joining me for a few days in London, and we will take advantage of my work hotel. I was able to use a credit for her flight, so both the hotel & flight will be free for her/our weekend. Woohoo! I still have a bit of credit, but United extended the expiration date until end of 2022. It was previously April, so the change was super helpful.

Eating what we have

  • I made a taco quesadilla for Nick & Sam for dinner one night, using up the last of the taco meat that wasn't quite enough for a traditional taco. 
  • Made a caprese salad for dinner one night, using up garden tomatoes & basil, & the last of fresh mozzarella before it went bad. Served it with the balsamic chicken (frozen) that we didn't enjoy as much on the first round. It was much better served over pasta, and with the caprese to really bring out all of the flavor. In bonus points, I was also able to use up some pasta from the fridge. It truly was a "use it up" meal.
  • Had beef stew (freezer, and happily easy to find, due to my freezer inventory) for lunch one day. 
  • We ate multiple pomegranates from the garden.
  • Ate the last of the chicken curry for lunch this week. 
  • I found a package of bacon wrapped chicken in the way back of the freezer, and pulled that out for a quick dinner. I also found some ice cream cones & one lingering breakfast sandwich, & moved those to the front. They will disappear quickly. ;-) 

For others

  • Picked up trash at the soccer field, two times while walking. I can't bring myself to pick up the many discarded masks, but I do pick up all of the water bottles, and put them in the recycling bins.
  • Stayed late at two games to help put away field equipment
  • Volunteered with my non-profit
  • Helped with an ESL event at our school
  • Treated my sister to a trip to London (in February). She's never been to Europe, & she's thrilled!

That's it from our side. How about you? Any wins for the week?

Monday, November 15, 2021

Menu Plan Monday

Another week is complete. Can't believe it's Monday already! Here's what we will be eating this week:


  • Friday - steak & salad
  • Saturday - Sam & I had a late lunch after soccer, Nick had a taco quesadilla, & Michael had salmon
  • Sunday - chicken curry & rice
  • Monday -  balsamic chicken over pasta
  • Tuesday - chicken curry
  • Wednesday - balsamic chicken over pasta
  • Thursday -  maybe spaghetti & meatballs
  • Friday - samosas & chicken
That's it at our house. I'm hoping to work down some of our freezer items. The curry I made yesterday was the best I've made. Wish I could figure out what I did differently - I followed the same recipe, but it was more delicious than usual!

What about you? What's on the menu this week?

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Saturday Happenings

The boys had both Thursday & Friday off of school, so things have been pretty loud around here. ;-) Working with them around is...not without its challenges. 

Garden things:

I picked a couple of carrots from the garden yesterday, & they were so delicious. I also picked a few more pomegranate & they are amazing. I'm sad they are seasonal, because they are my favorite treat.

Holiday prep:

I've been doing the majority of my Christmas shopping, I tried on a few things I need to fill in wardrobe gaps, & now know exactly what I'd like to order during the Black Friday sales. I picked up a few gift cards at a discount, for the store that has the clothing items. Now I just need some good prices as it gets closer to Christmas.

Travel plans:

We booked a ski trip for February. It will be Sam's 16th birthday, which is very difficult to believe! We are planning to go to Park City, Utah. M has been, but the rest of us haven't. I was able to find a nice condo that is ski in/out, and has a kitchen. 

I'm also planning work travel. So much work travel. I'm trying to add some personal travel around it, which helps make the work travel much more palatable. If things work out, I'll be in London in February, and my sister will join me over my birthday. M was hoping to go, but my parents aren't able to watch the kids at that time, so my sister will happily step in. I'll have a free hotel room (work), and pick up her ticket with miles. It should be lovely, if it works out. Despite having been to London at least ten times, I've never seen a single sight, or spent even a day doing tourist stuff. All of my trips have needed to be rush in/out, and consist of: the airport, the hotel, the office, the airport. Not the most fun. I'm trying this new approach to work travel, and hope it reminds me of the great opportunity to get to see part of the world.

What else am I up to today?

  • I need to pull out the zucchini plants
  • Take Nick to his reffing game
  • Take Sam to two soccer games
  • Make balsamic chicken
  • Laundry
  • Make the menu
  • Produce stand
  • Grocery store
  • Work on my Christmas spreadsheet
  • Track our recent expenses
  • Work out
That will do it. What about you? What are you up to today? 


Friday, November 12, 2021

Frugal Friday

 


Saving on things we buy

  • We purchased our preferred local airline gift cards at 10% off, for upcoming travel
  • Used grocery store rewards to save a bit on a few things we needed
  • Uploaded receipts to iBotta & Fetch to save a little here & there

Earning money
  • I sold a very expensive item on eBay, they paid, & then requested a refund without explanation. I refunded them, because those kind of buyers create problems, even if you require them to honor their transaction. It looks like eBay charged me $12? I'm unimpressed. 

Avoiding spending
  • Picked up a free soup (Panera rewards) while I was getting lunch. M had that for his lunch, avoiding the need for another meal
  • Used a Starbucks reward to treat a few teens to breakfast after a soccer game
  • Picked up two freebies at the grocery store: a yogurt & cookies

Eating what we have
  • Inventoried our freezer, so I could see what we had available, & make it easier to find prepped meals. 
  • Had tacos (from the freezer) this week
  • Ate (dinner out leftovers) for lunch

For others
  • One of the boys friends was really sad about a soccer interaction, so I invited him to an impromptu brunch with us. I was already driving Sam & another player home, and he was glad to be included, & cheered up
  • Helped another parent with a ride, x2
  • I assisted an elderly woman with her shopping, & she was so appreciative & friendly. It really put a smile on my face. 
  • Got a chance to chat with my new mentee, which was exciting
That's it from my side. What about you? Any wins to share? 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Freezer inventory & organization

 We have two freezers (both combos with fridges). I try to keep one freezer for: muffins, prepped meals, & muffin ingredients (applesauce, bananas, zucchinis) & the like. The other freezer is for meat & things like gyozas, samosas, spring rolls, etc. 

I went through one of the freezers & inventoried everything, separated a few random items that were in the wrong spot, & had to toss a few things that were freezer burned. Or, in the case of the oat milk bars, just so unappealing that I don't even want.

Here's what I had in the freezer:

  • Bagels - 1.5 packages (tossed, as they were freezer burned)

  • Bananas - 11

  • ½ package of cranberries

  • Ziplock of jalapenos

  • 1 ½ bags of frozen fruit

  • 1 bag of spinach

  • ½ bag of corn

  • 1 Costco sized bag of pepperoni

  • 5 bags of muffins

  • Unopened container of goat cheese

  • ½ a bag of pizza rolls

  • Butter

  • A few small containers of wing sauce

  • 5 containers (maybe 15 cups) of shredded zucchini

  • 1 small container of enchilada sauce

  • 1.5 cups of tomato sauce

  • ½ a box of samosas

  • 1 dinner sized container of bolognese sauce

  • Large container of pumpkin puree

  • 1 large & 2 small container of applesauce

  • Dinner sized container of taco meat

  • 2.5 containers of taquitos

  • 3 oat milk ice cream bars (tossed)

  • 4 Klondike bars

  • ¾ full chicken patties (moved to the “meat” freezer)

  • 6 chicken breasts (moved to the “meat” freezer)

  • ½ bag of chicken nuggets

  • ½ bag of baked chicken

  • 6 single servings of beef stew

  • 1 container of pot roast

  • 1 dinner sized container of taco cauliflower rice

  • 1 dinner sized container of balsamic chicken

  • 1.5 lunch sizes of eggroll in a bowl

  • 2 individual servings of chicken fiesta rice

  • 3 servings of chicken & dumplings

  • 1 package of chicken meatballs

  • Small package of kebabs

  • 2 cheeseburgers


I've now re-organized everything, & have the items grouped together:
  • Prepped meals - all grouped & labeled, organized so I can quickly find what we have. There was a lot more in the freezer than expected, which is awesome
  • Muffins & muffin ingredients. Likewise, all grouped together. I thought I was done with the pumpkin puree & cranberries, so will need to use these up soon.
  • The rest of the items on the other size of the freezer, but with the harder to use items at the top, to serve as a reminder.
I still have to inventory the meat freezer, but the one I cleaned was the freezer inside the kitchen, & our primary go to. It feels really nice to have it all organized!

And, a picture of the progress (only captures about 1/2 of the items - couldn't get the rest into the picture).



What about you? Have you inventoried your freezer lately? Do you have any "use it up" items?

Monday, November 8, 2021

Menu Plan Monday

 It's a bit of a strange week, with two work dinners for me. But, we will plan for the meals & ensure everyone gets fed!


  • Friday - chicken wings & gyozas
  • Saturday - Out, after a late soccer game
  • Sunday - tacos
  • Monday - steak & roasted butternut squash
  • Tuesday - I have a work dinner, M & the boys will have leftover tacos
  • Wednesday - I again have a work dinner (I've had none since January of 2020, but now two in a week), & M will make pizza with the kids
  • Thursday - balsamic chicken over pasta
  • Friday - TBD, but perhaps samosas & chicken? We typically keep things very easy on Fridays
What about you? What's on your menu for the week?

Sunday, November 7, 2021

The "Fun Mom" Weekend

While I spend lots of time with the kids, and drive them/their friends around often, it's unusual for us to have a day where we 1) eat out and 2) treat others to meals out, because of #1. Yesterday was such a randomly fun day. I'll have to remember this. 

We started off by taking the boys to an early morning soccer game. M took Nick, & I took Sam. Nick's game was very close, but ended in a 1-2 loss. Sam's game was a tie. There was almost a fight on the sidelines between parents. I truly don't understand people. This was what I would describe your typical, run of the mill, Saturday morning soccer game. Your normal amount of fouls, your normal amount of missed calls, just a regular game. 

After the game, I decided to invite one of Sam & Nick's shared friend to go to Starbucks with us. This friend had a rough day on Friday & was feeling pretty bummed, so I thought he could use the time out with friends. I was already taking another bonus kid home (helping out their parents). The boys were all teasing each other, talking about school & soccer tryouts. By the end of our stop, everyone was laughing. I used Starbucks rewards, so it was even a frugal stop, although not the intention. 

We all had lunch, and then I sent M away (unexpectedly) for some surprise friend time. He was so, so very excited. I feel lucky that we are at a point in our lives that extra kid time is fun, vs a lot of juggling and effort. Weekends when the kids were babies were really challenging. It sounds like M is having a fabulous time, so I'm really glad it worked out.

We headed to another soccer game for Sam in the late afternoon. Sam & a buddy made a huge play in the final 30 seconds of the game, and tied it up right before the whistle. It was a very enjoyable game to watch. It was, however, freezing outside! I had tossed my emergency car blanket into the trunk, and Nick, ignoring my suggestion that he wear pants, was grateful for it. ;-) The game didn't end until 7 pm, so we hustled to a restaurant that a friend recommended. I was helping out a different friend, & also had her son, who used to be Sam's BFF, but they've grown apart since elementary school & have rarely spent time together.

The dinner out was one of the most enjoyable I've had in SO long. It was a combination of things. Very happy & animated teenagers. No one even interested in checking their phones. So much laughing. Great food, lots of storytelling, & giggling boys. You have to just embrace these moments, because they are so very rare. The food was delicious, & teenage boys can truly consume *all* of the food. What a wonderful way to close out the evening.

As for today, I'll be taking Nick to another game, and tennis lessons, & then making tacos. Other things on the list:

  • Laundry
  • Wash sheets
  • Make beds
  • Plan the menu for the week
  • Prep for the week ahead
  • Have the boys work on homework/soccer ref scheduling/drivers tests
Hope everyone has a fabulous day!