Monday, September 23, 2019

Menu plan Monday

With the chaos of being back at work, and a hectic week ahead, menu planning helps me ensure we're ready to go & don't default to takeout or eating out.

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

  • Friday - M & I had carnitas salad with wine, after we dropped the boys off at an event. The boys had cheeseburgers.
  • Saturday - I made guacamole & pico de gallo to go with tacos. (Taco meat from the freezer)
  • Sunday - M is grilling a big batch of chicken. We will eat some tonight & freeze the rest.
  • Monday - leftover tacos/carnitas
  • Tuesday - leftover chicken & rice
  • Wednesday - I have a late night, so M will make spaghetti & meatballs (frozen)
  • Thursday - any remaining leftovers, or salmon
  • Friday - pizza (keto friendly for the adults)
  • Saturday - M is making my favorite - beef kebabs & rice. We'll have friends in town
  • Sunday - I'm heading to Tokyo, so the boys will likely eat leftovers, and I'll be eating at the airport
What about you? Anything new on the menu for the week?

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday happenings

I was out of the house for quite a bit yesterday (two soccer games & running errands), so today I'm focused on getting things done around the house. It was a winning weekend, with 2-1 wins for both games. We have house guests coming on Thursday, & I head to Tokyo on Sunday, so I need to maximize my time today to prep.

Yesterday I made delicious pico de gallo & guacamole, which we had with tacos (meat already prepped from the freezer). I love that I can pull out a prepped taco meat dinner, and then take my dinner prep time to make sides that take the dinner to the next level.

Here's what's on my to do list for today:

  1. Sheets
  2. Laundry
  3. Vacuum
  4. Clean the kitchen
  5. Make protein bars
  6. Carpool x3
  7. Work schedule
  8. Nanny schedule
  9. Family wipe board (this is how we track everything happening in a week)
  10. Menu planning
  11. Work out
  12. Start packing for Tokyo
  13. Clean bathrooms
  14. Have the boys call my parents
  15. Cancel hotel reservation for November
  16. Clean & prep the spare room for guests
What about you? What's on your to do list for today?

Friday, September 20, 2019

Frugal Friday

It was a really busy week, with me back to work. I also had multiple meetings with Asia, which means late nights. It wasn't the most enjoyable week, as I'm dealing with some conflict between team members. But, it's Friday! That's all I can say about it.

Here are a few frugal wins for the week.

Saving on things we buy

  • Used the $6 grocery store reward (that I had on another Frugal Friday, as the store didn't properly credit me when I redeemed it, and I had to track it down). Bought ingredients for Nick's cooking experiments. He's been making smoothies & pizza bread as part of his cooking class. I'm trying not to cringe at his recipes & instead let him experiment in the kitchen. I want him to enjoy baking/cooking as much as possible. 
  • Our refi is final approved! We signed on Tuesday. Saving on a "thing" we buy, just our house. ;-) 

Earning money

  • Continued to participate in consumer focus group. Not enough to cash out yet, but hopefully in the next few weeks
  • I discovered that the extra insurance I purchased for my stolen item was from eBay vs the post office (this is next to impossible to find out) & I happened upon a search that yielded the right help answer in eBay. They make it really difficult to find this. I received a $190 refund by filling out a quick form & already have the money back in Paypal. Now, keep in mind the item was lost & I made no money on the transaction, but now at least I will not have paid out of pocket when I refunded the buyer. Phew!
  • Found $.01 on the ground at work. I know, I know. We're going to be able to buy a coffee soon with all of this spare cash. ;-) 
  • Sold another item on eBay. 

Avoiding purchasing/spending

  • Bought a Starbucks gift card for $87 ($100 value) & will get a small discount via Rakuten. I use Starbucks while traveling & get reimbursed for work expenses. 
  • Made my own pesto, hummus & pico de gallo last weekend, vs store purchases
  • Planned ahead & figured out lunch options vs eating out between soccer games
  • Hosted at our house vs going out with M's cousins on Sunday

What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The refi is finished!

Yesterday morning, M & I signed all of our refinance papers on our mortgage before work. I'm so happy that all of the work is complete & I can mark it off of our list.

For the financial side, finishing the refi lowers our payment by $1657/month, giving us a significant amount of flexibility. We also dropped our interest rate by almost a full point, and paid zero costs or fees with the refinance.

We opted for a 7/1 ARM vs a traditional 30 year mortgage, and made quite a bit of progress of paying down the principal in the 2.5 years we've owned the house. As a result, we were able to get a loan for $217k less than the loan we had when we bought a few years ago. This also helped to lower the monthly payments.

In reality, the seven year time horizon on the arm is great for us, as Nick graduates from high school in seven years. Our plan is to have the house either paid off (optimistic, but stretch goal) or have firm plans in place to relocate to a less expensive house at that point. Either way, paying 1 point less on our currently large balance vs the balance we'll owe in seven years makes sense.

Our goal is to continue to make the same payments each month, regardless of the lower required payments. That will set us up for success in getting the house paid off or paid to a very low amount by the end of seven years. We're excited about the flexibility we have in the payments (should we need to pay less for a few months due to an emergency, we certainly can) & the ability to put more towards the principal in standard months.

Have you recently refinanced your house? Any good success stories?

Monday, September 16, 2019

Does it ever feel like Monday

Today, particularly, it feels so much like a Monday with my return to work & the office. We had M's cousins over last night, which was fantastic, but went later than normal on a "weekday". I also have a pile of dishes to attend to. 

We had a great time last night. M & I tag teamed on dinner (I made a caprese salad, green salad, & handled easy appetizers - bread, hummus & veggies). M made salmon & rice. Nick made the kids pasta, and made the pesto a few days before. Our guests brought an amazing chocolate cake. We had lots of laughs, and the kids play Magic together, which was super cute.

We ended up accomplishing everything on our to do list for the weekend, minus the hanging of the drape, so considering it a pretty big win. I'm off to hustle to get ready for work, and to get a mammogram this morning. Always a treat. ;-) 

Hope you all have a fantastic Monday!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A new recipe, and to do list updates

I was productive yesterday, and got quite a few things done. But, as always, plenty remains for today. ;-)

We are hosting M's cousin's family for dinner tonight, and there are quite a few food sensitivities. We opted to host vs eat out due to the food sensitivities, as well as cost. We are having two different entrees (salmon for the adults, & a pasta bar for the kids). Hosting 8 people isn't cheap, but will certainly be less than eating out. 

In the kitchen yesterday, I made: 
  • Hummus
  • Pesto (actually, Nick made a batch for us, and a batch to share with our sweet neighbor across the street)
  • Pico de gallo
  • Tortilla chips (from tortillas, baked in the oven). SO good.
  • Warm taco slaw - highly recommend this recipe. We loved it!
Soccer ended up with one tie and a loss, so fingers crossed for a win for the third game today. :-) 

Here's what's still on the to do list:

  • Workout - x2 - One to go, finished one yesterday.
  • Pack gym bag for next week - still need to do this. 
  • Put together nanny schedule - Done
  • Finalize 3 carpools  - I'm done with my part, but waiting for a couple of families to finish signing up
  • Prep carnitas - need to do this. M got back from Costco too late for me to handle this before leaving for soccer yesterday.
  • Make coleslaw mix & make taco slaw for dinner - done
  • Take Nick to a morning game, and then both boys to the afternoon game - done
  • Vacuum - opted to wait to clean, as I had a bunch of cooking to do
  • Clean the kitchen - opted to wait to clean, as I had a bunch of cooking to do
  • Dust - must happen today
  • Bathroom - must happen today
  • Review eBay listings & adjust as needed - done
  • Hang new drapes (this is a maybe, depending on M's availability) - maybe today
  • Costco, the grocery store, Trader Joes & the produce stand - done
  • Have the boys call my parents
  • Take Nick to soccer (about 30 minutes away). Will use warm up for my workout
  • M to take Sam to meet a friend for skating
  • Guests over for dinner

I think that will be everything! What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish today?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Menu plan and weekend things

I'm still getting back into the groove of life after spending Monday-Thursday in Boulder for work. Boulder was lovely, but it's hard to be away from the kids & routine. I always come back to a ton of chores & catch up, despite M's best effort.

We both have very busy weeks next week, as it's my first week in the office & I have three late APAC meetings. It's also perf season at work, so both of us have an amplified work load. The kids also have plenty of activities (cross country meet, two volleyball games & soccer practice), which requires lots of carpooling & schedule coordination.

I know next week will be particularly challenging for me (my first week of fully being in the office, commuting, etc), so by planning my menu ahead of time, hopefully I can at least answer the question of "what's for dinner tonight".

Menu for the week ahead:

Friday - I made spaghetti sauce out of a very discounted lb of Italian seasoned turkey. I combined it with onions & mini peppers, added a small container of homemade tomato sauce & then filled it out with a marinara sauce we had in the pantry. The adults had the sauce with zoodles. The kids had it with regular pasta.
Saturday - taco slaw (and, make ahead crockpot carnitas for the week)
Sunday - salmon, bread & caprese salad (adults). Kids will be having a pasta bar. We're having M's cousins/kids over for dinner.
Monday - carnitas
Tuesday - salmon & caprese salad
Wednesday - leftover taco slaw
Thursday - carnitas salad

What will you be up to this weekend? The kids have three soccer games (one for Sam, three for Nick, but they will attend Sam's together). We are also hosting M's family tomorrow night for dinner. It should be a nice weekend, but plenty to do.

Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish this weekend:

  • Workout - x2
  • Pack gym bag for next week
  • Put together nanny schedule 
  • Finalize 3 carpools 
  • Prep carnitas
  • Make coleslaw mix & make taco slaw for dinner
  • Take Nick to a morning game, and then both boys to the afternoon game
  • Vacuum
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Dust
  • Bathroom
  • Review eBay listings & adjust as needed
  • Hang new drapes (this is a maybe, depending on M's availability)
  • Costco, the grocery store, Trader Joes & the produce stand
What about you? Any good recipes on the menu this week? Anything you are trying to accomplish?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Frugal Friday

I was in Boulder for training for the week, so I didn't spend any personal money. Here are a few wins we had.

Saving on things we buy:

  • I went through Swagbucks & found the least expensive used book option for a book Nick needed

Earning money:

  • Earned another $15 for the focus group I'm in. 
  • Sold another item on eBay
  • Used cash back credit card for work trip & filled out prompt reimbursement. I'll get a small amount back for using my credit card. 

Avoiding purchasing/spending:

  • Avoided eating out last weekend, despite the kids begging for In & Out after soccer.
  • Made my own protein bars, vs buying something. 

What about you? Any frugal wins this week?

Monday, September 9, 2019

Weekly Spending

I don't do this regularly, but thought it might be interesting to share my weekly spending - both for you, and for me to be more aware of our spending. I won't track fixed bills (mortgage, utilities, etc) but food, travel, etc.


  • It was a 3 day weekend in the US, so the kids were out of school. Nick was asked to go bowling with a friend. They've paid a few times & accepted no money, so I sent him with $20 to buy treats to share for everyone. He also made them cookies. - $20


  • My parents are going to stay with us for a week in November. M & I are thinking of taking a long weekend, and the boys are out of school. I paid for their flights using frequent flier miles, and the tax was $22.40. -  $22.40
  • We have a cell phone holder for the car that allows you to see the navigation while driving. I have really liked it, and often take the kids to activities where I need navigation. It broke, & our repairs failed, so we ordered a new one. Amazon, - $18.99.

Wednesday - no spend day. We were all working, & the kids had after school activities to keep them busy.

Thursday - no spend day. We were all working, & the kids had after school activities to keep them busy.

Friday - no spend day. We carpooled for soccer practice, and then had dinner & a cocktail at home. M & I sat on the patio while the kids played together. It was a nice way to close out the work week.

Saturday -

  • $8.42 - ingredients for pico de gallo + 2 bunches of radishes, green onions & a large head of cauliflower at the produce stand.
  • Costco, groceries for the week - $84.36
  • Costco gas - $42.92
  • M & Nick got haircuts - $20
  • Medicine at Rite Aid - $.16 (I guess insurance covers the rest, which is fantastic)
  • A book for Nick's Spanish class (I used swagbucks + ordered a used copy) - $6.99

Sunday -
  • $4.35 - produce stand again, because I used too many tomatoes in the pico de gallo, & M also wanted more limes. 12 limes + 3 lbs of tomatoes.
  • Gave Nick $20, as a friend invited him to a rock climbing session. That was the fee + he had to buy a chalk bag? No idea. They were going to go out for lunch, but I convinced them to come home instead & I whipped together a quick lunch for him before soccer.
  • Trader Joes for yogurt for a chicken marinade - $3.99
Total spend for the week = $252.58. Overall, I feel good about the week. We had several no spend days, spent zero on eating out, and mostly stuck to essentials. How about you? Did you track your spending for the week? How did you do?

Friday, September 6, 2019

Frugal Friday (the time I got a paycheck, but it was for $0)

The back to work addition of Frugal Fridays. Here's how we did!

Saving on things we buy:

  • Found 3 lbs of marked down ground turkey for $.99/lb. I try to mix it in with a pound of ground beef when doubling recipes. 
  • Picked up a package of 10 KCups (try to avoid, but my parents like them when they visit) for free on the Friday Freebie at my grocery store. 

Earning money:

  • Sold three items on eBay, and went through my listings & made adjustments to try & get more sold
  • Continued completing tasks for the focus group I'm apart of. I'm close to another $15 payout
  • Tracked down $6 of missing rewards from my grocery account. I noticed that when I redeemed an award, it deducted $7 instead of $1. I debated on the energy of emailing customer service, but sucked it up & emailed them. They are crediting my account. 
  • Filed an appeal with USPS for my insurance claim. They paid me for 1/3 of the item's value, despite having proof of the value & showing all of the details about the claim. Sigh.
  • Contacted HR at work to get my HSA adjusted post leave to ensure I hit the yearly maximum. It doesn't allow me to do it in the tool, and doesn't automatically correct, so required some tracking to make it happen. Done!

Avoiding purchasing/spending:

  • Received a replacement Jansport backpack, when mine started to disintegrate. I was hopeful they could repair it, but since they couldn't, they mailed me a new one for free. It's a $45 backpack, & I hope to keep it forever!
  • I had a crazy day yesterday (gym before work, 9-5 meeting, back home to make dinner for everyone, M to pick up Nick at volleyball, then I left & picked up Sam's soccer carpool). It allowed very little time for anything, and I strongly considered picking up leftovers. Instead, I hustled home after my meeting, made a salad & prepped the leftovers, fed myself & then left again. It wasn't my favorite day, but if I'm back to work & earning money, I don't want to waste it on meals out due to scheduling.

In the spirit of sharing, we've had some food waste this week, which always makes me sad. The adjustment of being back to work for lunches has meant that I need to rejigger food portions of leftovers. Hopefully I can rectify this for next week & get back on track.

In "earning money" news, it was definitely hard to go back to work. I checked out my paycheck so I could at least use that as motivation. I did, in fact, get a paycheck, but it was for $0. I didn't know that they would "catch up" all of my contributions that were paused while I was out on leave, so the catch up of things like long term disability, after tax 401k contributions, plus my additional tax withholdings (I do  percentage + an additional flat amount in every paycheck for both state & federal), etc meant that my deductions sucked up my entire check. And, I think that even with a full paycheck next cycle, my paycheck will be pretty small. Ah, well. At least I added to my 401K & HSA this month, right? :-) 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

September Goals

September will be all about getting back into the swing of working (& work travel) again. I'm heading to Boulder next week, and then Tokyo at the end of the month. Here's what I'm hoping to get done in September.

1) Financial:

  • Stick to the budget
  • Come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis
  • Made $500 in side hustle
  • Sell ten items
  • Use up 10 freezer items
  • Use up 5 irregular pantry items
  • Go back to work, & into the swing of two full time working parents
  • Complete one business trip
  • Build plan for moving to part time role
  • Finish our refi & shift investments over to a better interest yielding account
2) Family - spend more time together as a family!
  • Do one fun activity/month with the kids
  • Off of the computer by 8:00 each evening
  • Have a date night with M
  • Continue with Sam's plan, meet with school. Meet with counselor.
  • Choose 2 deep cleaning house projects
  • Finish remaining projects at the beach house (fridge repair, fire pit volcanic rock, wood storage, Costco for fridge compensation)
  • Finalize house projects & budget/schedule for work. Drapes, second round of doors, budget & plan for trim.
3) Fitness/health - lose 4 lbs
  • Run 12 times
  • Stay on track with my calories & fitness while traveling
  • Track calories (1400/day) & eat 5 servings of fruit & veggies/day
  • Work out 30 times
  • Meditate 10 times
4) Personal/creative
  • Do two social things
  • Volunteer, or find an option that will fit with my schedule
  • Journal 15 times
  • Read one non-fiction book

That's it for me! What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in September?

Monday, September 2, 2019

August goals - how did I do?

It was a lovely month, but I definitely felt the "end of summer" pressure to get everything done, as my sabbatical was coming to a fast close. . . particularly because I cut a week off at the request of my manager.

1) Financial:

  • Stick to the budget - we did okay this month, although not great. We were under on child care (thanks to my sabbatical) & over on groceries. It was a pretty close month, however, with just $15 over. We were also over on dining out, but I covered half of a dinner out with a large group for my dad's birthday, and bought discounted gift cards that we will use for future dining out. When calculating all of the categories, we were over by $215. 
  • Come up with a new way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis - I don't think we did much for this one. 
  • Make $500 in side hustle - I made $670. It would have been over $1,000 if I hadn't had two expensive eBay snafus. Sigh 
  • Sell ten items - I sold 18 items, which is huge for me!
  • Use up 10 freezer items - I used up 11 items. 
  • Use up 5 irregular pantry items (you know, the things that linger & aren't a part of your normal menu) - I did this, although a few things were also just tossed, as they were expired, stale, etc. 
2) Family - spend more time together as a family:

  • Do one fun activity with the boys - I took Sam skating, & Nick rock climbing. 
  • Off the computer by 7:45 each evening - I did "okay" with this, but find when I don't have a great book to read, I'm more tempted to get back on the computer. (I rarely watch TV).
  • Have two dates with M - Yes! One at the house, and one out for a friend's birthday, followed by dinner.
  • Continue with Sam's plans (meet with the school, set up additional tutors)
    • Met with doctor
    • Researched insurance benefits
    • Had a call with the school counselor
    • Set up first therapy appointment
  • Deep clean the entire house - I actually still have a few things on my wish list. It's silly to do all of the deep cleaning before our doors are finished, as the door installation makes a huge mess. 
  • Finish remaining projects at the beach house (fire pit, contractor work) - the fire pit is done, the doors were installed this week, but the fridge repair was pushed out until next week. 
  • Finish house projects - drapes, second chandeliers, doors, trim - we finished the chandeliers, but 1/2 the doors are still on back order. We also need to order the drapes. Hopefully today!
3) Fitness/health - lose 4 lbs - sigh. I don't think so. 
  • Run 12 times - I ran 1x. It was super hot in August, so getting outside was challenging. 
  • Track calories (1400/day) & 5 servings of fruit & veggies/day - I was at 1630, which explains the lack of weight progress. 
  • Work out 35 times - I worked out 24 times. 
  • Meditate 10 times - I meditated 4 times. 
  • Complete relay at or below pace time - I finished, but struggled on my second leg as I wasn't feeling good. It was my personal worst for that particular relay leg, which is 8 miles. I did it at 3:00 am, which certainly didn't help. 
4) Personal/creative
  • Do four social things - had lunch with a friend, went to a brunch with another friend, and did two workouts with a friend. 
  • Look for a flexible volunteer option - tried to find a slot for volunteering at back to school day, but it didn't work with some driving I was already scheduled to do
  • Journal 18 times - I journaled 10 times. 
  • Read one non-fiction book - nope
  • Tackle six projects from my sabbatical list:
    • Family photo books complete - the rest are digital, and M has been working 80 hours weeks. I need him to access the digital photos. 
    • Wash all windows - done
    • Stain table - nope
    • Declutter the rest of the house - everything but the kitchen
    • Power wash the patio - nope
    • Continue yard work (front & back) - yes, although not done
    • Figure out what to do with fence posts - requires M, so not done
    • Get quote for fridge damage & submit to delivery company - decided to skip, as we are still waiting to have the fridge repaired.
    • Order glasses - yes
    • Get a hair cut - yes
    • Find geometry tutor for Sam - so far, we haven't needed this. 

While I would have liked to have seen a few more greens on the list, I did get a few other things done that were on my sabbatical list. I got in three more workouts at the studio I bought the monthly pass for, I got a massage, got all of the paperwork done for our refi, moved investments to qualify for the additional refi rate drop, etc. Let's hope I can get a lot done in September!

What about you? How did you do with your August goals?