Friday, November 30, 2018

Frugal Friday

It was so nice to have the long weekend after Thanksgiving! Here are a few frugal things we did over the past week or so:

  1. Made chicken broth from bones, & used that (plus leftover chicken) for soup
  2. Found incredibly cheap turkey, stuffing & gravy on clearance at Costco ($30 marked down to $9). Made that for additional meal options
  3. Used Ebates for holiday shopping to earn cash back. If you haven't signed up for Ebates, it's a quick & easy way to earn a bit of cash back on purchases made online. (This is a referral link), in case you want to try it out, although I'm assuming all frugal blog readers are already members!
  4. Found ski pants at Costco. I avoided buying these all last year, and couldn't button my ski pants (these are pre-kiddo ski pants, and were a slim fit at the time). The cheapest I found these at a ski shop was $65 last year, and Costco had them for $22.) Goodness, I love Costco. 
  5. Bought discounted gift cards for things we'll use (Uber, flights, etc).
  6. Called Costco Travel about an issue with our rental car, and they will be sending us a $35 cash card for the trouble. 
  7. Price matched our sheet set, and will get a $19 rebate.
  8. Remembered a gift card that I had for $27 and would be expiring in December. Used it to buy a Christmas gift. Gift was more expensive at the location where I had the gift card, but was still a better deal considering the $27 in credit. 
  9. Paid for a summer camp, earning a 10% discount by booking early.

However, in completely non-frugal news, part of the gift card value I earned was put on a local grocery store gift card. 90% sure the cashier never gave it to me, although I may have dropped it while putting it in my purse. So, $40 of store value, gone. I'm pretty sad about that, but if I did drop it, I hope it went to someone who could really use the groceries.

Lots of frugal things this week, as well as our standard, "eat from the freezer", carpool, etc, stuff.

Quick update on my freezer challenge for the week:

  1. Lasagna. Pan 1 of 2. This will sub in for a couple of dinners this week. - We've eaten 2/3 of this. Will eat last 1/3 tonight. 
  2. Edamame. We have a bag of shelled edamame that will go well with dinner this week, so I'll add it in
  3. Chicken chowder. I'll defrost a bowl & eat it for my lunch on Friday. - Meeting M for lunch, so this will get bumped to tomorrow's lunch. 
  4. Pot stickers. I'll serve them with dinner this week, although this will certainly not empty the bag. - I was wrong, it did empty the bag. Gone!
  5. Wontons. Same as the pot stickers. This will maybe take care of 1/2 the bag. 
  6. Rotisserie chicken. Use one bag for risotto. - planning to make tomorrow night
  7. Chicken broth. Ditto the rotisserie chicken. I'll have to get creative in finding recipes that will move more than one ingredient at a time! - planning to make tomorrow night

Monday, November 26, 2018

Comments, ads & freezer challenge, week 1

A few housekeeping notes - I adjusted the comment setting to hopefully allow more users to comment without creating a separate account. If the spam gets unmanageable, I'll shut if off again. I also turned on ads. I haven't had them on in years, but supposedly things have gotten better with the Blogger ad system. We'll see. I'll keep my eye on it, and take them off if they become a problem.

Inspired by The Frugal Girl & the crazy full state of my own freezer, I decided to do a freezer challenge each week. I like the idea of trying to tackle a few items each week, vs an overly optimistic "eat everything in the freezer" plan.

Here's what I have on my list for this week:

  1. Lasagna. Pan 1 of 2. This will sub in for a couple of dinners this week.
  2. Edamame. We have a bag of shelled edamame that will go well with dinner this week, so I'll add it in
  3. Chicken chowder. I'll defrost a bowl & eat it for my lunch on Friday.
  4. Pot stickers. I'll serve them with dinner this week, although this will certainly not empty the bag.
  5. Wontons. Same as the pot stickers. This will maybe take care of 1/2 the bag. 
  6. Rotisserie chicken. Use one bag for risotto. 
  7. Chicken broth. Ditto the rotisserie chicken. I'll have to get creative in finding recipes that will move more than one ingredient at a time!

That's it for my Freezer Challenge, Week 1. I'll report back in a week, and also set targets for Week 2. Anyone want to join along, or want support for a similar challenge? 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thinking of goals for 2019

As I do every year, I'm setting a variety of goals that I'll reflect on & tackle over the course of the year. These are a work in progress, but reflect what I'm currently thinking about for my 2019 goals. 

I like the five buckets I use, as they keep me reasonably in balance. As with everything in life, there are seasons where I spend more time on one bucket vs the other.

1) Financial:
  • Stick to the budget
  • Come up with a "pay off our house" model
  • Every month, come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis.
  • Model out a 3, 5 & 10 year financial plan

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
  • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. 
  • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. 
  • Have two dates with M per month

    3) Fitness/health - Lose 15 pounds, bringing my weight to 142ish 
    • Make running a consistent part of my life. Build & follow a training plan, & run a half marathon in under 2:25. 
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Work out every day in 2019. (Realistically, this will be completing 365 workouts, vs hitting every day. I want a bit of flexibility for days I'm sick, traveling, etc.) 
    • Get back to more actively tracking my calories
    • Complete 10,000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 100 strength workouts.
    • Complete 75 stretching workouts.

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress (until I leave)
    • Take a sabbatical
    • Decide on returning to work part time

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • Cut my own hair!
      • Make time for my friends. Do something social at least once per month.
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month
      • Write/journal. Time, goal, etc still TBD

      What about you? Are you working on your goals for 2019?

      Saturday, November 24, 2018

      Black Friday Recap

      Nick & I went out in the morning yesterday & got a few deals:

      • We used a $5 off a $15 coupon at the local grocery store. I stocked up on some baking supplies we needed, plus risotto rice. We also picked up the Friday Freebie of Gatorade. Nick was very pleased about that, as he's not allowed Gatorade unless he has soccer & it's 90+. :-)
      • We bought a few discounted gift cards (Uber, Gap, etc). I then used the Gap gift card to order a Christmas gift that my mom asked me to pick up. Additionally, I ordered through eBates to get cash back.
      • I ordered the boys soccer shinguards & new soccer shoes for Sam. His have a hole in them. The shinguards will be part of their Christmas gifts. I ordered from Dick's & used eBates as well for the extra cash back.
      • We went to Costco to pick up our weekly groceries, and found turkey breasts marked down from $30 to $9. They were huge breasts, already seasoned, complete with stuffing & gravy. I couldn't pass that up, so into the fridge it went. I almost bought two, but M wouldn't let me. ;-)
      What are we up to today? I couldn't sleep, so I've been up since 3:45. Yikes. I'll definitely regret that this evening. 

      1. I'm on call for work (today & tomorrow), so fingers crossed nothing comes up.
      2. I'm planning to work out
      3. I've turned the remains of the chicken from Thursday into broth, so that's currently cooking away on the stove
      4. I have the turkey in the oven
      5. I'm going to turn the chicken meat leftovers (+ broth) into a turkey/chicken chowder for the freezer & a few meals.
      6. M is painting. We had the house painted when we moved in, but then had to make some adjustments (adding air conditioning panels, etc), so we've been in need of a touch up for a while now.
      7. Laundry
      8. Sheets/bedding
      9. Finalize our 2019 travel plans
      10. Work on my 2019 goals
      11. And, our 2019 budget
      12. Get the boys fitted for skis, so we can look for used options for their Christmas gifts
      13. Clean the house (may get punted to tomorrow)
      14. Clean the fridge
      How will you be spending your day today? Any good turkey recipes? I made the Thanksgiving Leftovers in a Crescent Roll recipe yesterday & we all loved it! Definitely worth making. 

      Friday, November 23, 2018

      Menu Plan

      We had such a wonderful time together yesterday, just the four of us. We all pitched in with the cooking (Nick made the pie on his own & made himself hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls), M made the drinks, potatoes & a squash salad. I made a roasted chicken (not enough time to defrost a turkey), stuffing, beans & whipping cream. Everything turned out great, and I was also able to get our bags unpacked & all of the laundry done.

      Nick & I ran a few errands today (discounted Black Friday gift cards) & used a $5 off/$15 purchase promotional offer at our local grocery store. I picked up the ingredients needed for the bread I bake for the holidays, as well as stocked up on risotto rice, which we're out of.

      The fridge is full, and I'm planning the menu for the week ahead. Here's what we're planning on having:

      I need to drum up some energy to get in a workout, make a grocery list, and get a few extra chores done. What about you? What's on your menu for the week? Any good recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers?

      Thursday, November 22, 2018

      Frugal Thursday, the vacation edition

      Even though we've been on vacation, we did have some frugal wins. Caveat, Hawaii is by no means frugal, and we certainly did a balance of splurge vs not, but wanted to share some of our more frugal choices:

      Non-vacation stuff:

      • I used a lingering gift card & combined with great sales to buy two items on my Christmas list. I'll also be receiving around another $4.62 back from eBates, lowering my total out of pocket spending for the two gifts to $8. (Retail price of $60). 
      • All pre-vacation meals made at home (or, for free at work)
      • M fixed the garage door vs calling a repair man. We did have to buy $100 worth of parts, but used an Amazon gift card for that.

      Frugal(ish) vacation options:

      • Packed snacks & lunch for the flight, and ate breakfast before we left. 
      • Brought our own water bottles/flasks for the airport, and used them on the trip to avoid buying bottles of water
      • Where possible, brought things from home vs buying there. This includes snorkeling sets for the kids (on their third vacation), coffee pods, paper plates, laundry tabs (leftover from our last trip, as we use liquid at home), ziplock baggies for storing food, etc.
      • I used my Marriott benefits to get two free continental breakfasts/day. I don't eat breakfast, and M filled in with things we'd bought at Costco + leftovers
      • We bought groceries at Costco, even though our hotel room didn't have a kitchen. We made things work by bringing our panini maker from home, and requesting a microwave. The panini maker ended up being a huge win, as we were able to grill bagels for breakfast, make sandwiches to go, and grill up chicken patties that we bought.
      • We ate most lunches in the room, used the continental breakfast benefits, and then ate dinners out. 
      • We looked for happy hour dinner options, and brought wine from home
      All in all, the vacation was still expensive, but I'm very happy with our tradeoffs. We had one expensive dinner out (M & Sam had sushi at a nice restaurant watching the sun set over the ocean), and had a fabulous trip. More details to come. I need to go sort out Thanksgiving now! :-)

      Happy Thanksgiving, all!

      Sunday, November 11, 2018

      A chilly Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

      Saturday, November 10, 2018

      Smoky Saturday + a menu plan

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

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

      Here's what we bought:

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

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

      Friday, November 9, 2018

      We did it!

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

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

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

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

      Frugal Friday

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

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

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

      Monday, November 5, 2018

      Relaxing on a Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Friday, November 2, 2018

      Frugal Friday

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

      Here are our frugal wins for the week:

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

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

      How about you? Any frugal wins to report?

      Thursday, November 1, 2018

      October goals recap

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

      My goals for October were as follows:


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

      November goals

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


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


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

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

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


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

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