Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sunday plans, & February challenges

I'll be recapping my goals soon & setting new goals for February, but wanted to start thinking about some sort of food/pantry goal in February. 

I received two very discounted offers for food delivery services (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh) for the month, & have decided to try them & see what we can do to fill in around them. We spent zero dollars on dining out in January, so I'll roll that money forward into February dining out. We also have a couple of birthday in February, and we will be doing takeout (selected by the birthday person) & the delivery service meals will certainly mix up our norm. For Hello Fresh, we opt for the 2 person serving, and Blue Apron will be a 3 person serving. We'll plan to fill in around the gaps with one additional planned meal a week, and then frozen leftovers.

M & I are also fasting two days/week, which will reduce food needs a bit further (total of four skipped meals, x2 people, per week). 

Here's what I'm thinking for the menu this week (Blue Apron starts the following week)

  • Friday - Baked chicken & green beans (I had the last of the sesame beef)
  • Saturday - Nick was supposed to cook, but finally got an open tennis court with Sam, so I handled dinner & changed plans at the last minute. The kids getting any outdoor time together is a big win. I made pad thai with gluten free noodles (details coming) that was awesome. I served it with shrimp (M) & chicken (the rest of us). 
  • Sunday - Nick is making chicken mango tacos. I'll make chicken yakisoba, for myself & leftovers for the week. The Hello Fresh tacos tend to serve 3, so if we can make it stretch, the yakisoba will just roll forward to another day. I like to have food for the week prepped ahead of time, regardless.
  • Monday - I have a late meeting, so Nick will make taquitos. M can't eat taquitos, so he'll have salmon.
  • Tuesday - yakisoba, or if we need another option, dragon noodles & turkey meatballs for protein.
  • Wednesday - taco slaw (freezer), with additional cabbage
  • Thursday - leftover dragon noodles & meatballs (salmon for M)
  • Friday - either the new Hello Fresh meal, or leftovers
Factoring in the cost of the delivery services, I think I can cut $250-275 off of our spend from January. It's not sustainable to do this with delivery services, as these are special one time offers, and they will be cancelled after the promotion period. It would be great to get our February food spending so low, so that's my challenge for the month.

On to what's happening today:
  • Run
  • Vacuum
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Take Nick to volleyball
  • Go to Target. Pick up a couple of freebies.
  • Work on another hat for the homeless
  • Start my new strength challenge (the January one only had 30 days, and the February one also comes with 30 days, as they are month agnostic)
  • Plan my schedule for the week: work, workout, & fasting days
  • Mail/package up an eBay sale
  • Set February goals
For those of you who are gluten free, or looking for low carb options, I wanted to recommend these "Healthy Noodles" that we bought at Costco. We used them to make pad thai (the recipe is on the back) & they were delicious & had very few calories (30 calories/serving). This is not a sponsored link - I just really liked the noodles & know there are quite a few low carb/Keto people out there. Enjoy!

What about you? Are you doing any fun February grocery challenges?

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Good things

Good things feel few & far between in COVID times, but here are two things I'm celebrating on this Saturday.

  • Long time readers may remember that Sam was hit by a car while biking to school last year. It's taken ~18 months & lots of calls & emails, but both asks that I made to the county/city/freeway people were finally approved & implemented! You can no longer make a free right on red, in the midst of an incredibly busy intersection featuring many bikers & pedestrians. And, the people exiting the freeway on a short exit ramp are now warned about entering a heavy bike/pedestrian area. The only reason the required work could be done was kids are currently biking/walking to school due to COVID, so I'll take my blessings where I can. Sidenote: still can't talk/write about the accident without crying, was an incredibly close call. We are so blessed to have a healthy (almost) 15 year old.
  • I've been experimenting with intermittent fasting, and have realized how important it is to distract yourself during periods of intense hunger. Combine that with my parents (both 65+) being unable to locate a COVID vaccine in their very rural community. In an attempt to distract myself from feeling hungry, I started researching. And, several hours later, I found an appointment for both of my parents! They will need to drive 3 hours each way, wait for an hour between appointments, but they are so incredibly excited to get an appointment. My dad's biking buddy is in their "bubble", and they were able to get him an appointment at the same time, so they will all get a vaccine next Friday. I can't describe how happy & grateful I am to know that my parents will be able to get a vaccine. Woohoo! Yeah for being hungry & needing a distraction. Also, what a milestone. One step closer to normalcy. My parents have been spending hours each day attempting to locate a vaccine appointment, so this is such an exciting step for them.
And with that, it's Saturday! Here's my list that I'd like to accomplish today:
  • Make ham salad. I've never had or made ham salad, but I have a package of ham that needs to be used up, and it looks intriguing.
  • Use up lemons/limes that neighbor dropped off
  • Package & mail eBay sale
  • Work out
  • Get refi papers sorted. We're a week or so away, and have the final items to complete
  • Pick up a few things at the store
  • Clean the house
  • Laundry (always)
It's a pretty short list & I'm feeling good about it. What about you? Tell me one good thing that's happened lately. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Frugal Friday

Hello, frugal friends. I'm continuing to focus on our grocery budget, while also looking for other wins. I've added a new category around food, to try & motivate myself to use up things that are otherwise just lingering in the freezer & pantry. I organized my freezer & garage pantry & can say that the time investment has already paid off, making it easier for me to find things & remember what we have on hand. 

Buckle up, there's a lot to share this week! :-) 

Saving on things we buy

  • M found two of the vitamins my doctor requested I take, on sale at Costco for a great price, saving $5/each off of a normally inexpensive Costco price. Double win. 
  • I contacted Rite Aid about an order that was over a month late, and damaged. They credited me back $32 (full order price), which was awesome, as some of the items were still savable. I then used the credits (they didn't refund my credit card, but instead gave me Bonus rewards) to take advantage of the spend $50/earn a $15 offer this week. I bought $95 worth of toiletries and other things we need (plus, things to donate to the local high school) for $60, and earned another $35 in bonus rewards. I was able to get a year's supply of dental flossers, two large packs of toilet paper & paper towels, etc, so it was quite a deal. I did mess up on one of the deodorants, and missed out on another $4 off, but I don't due these drug store hauls often, so didn't expect total success. I'm no Sluggy ;-) 
  • I went back to Rite Aid with my $35 in bonus rewards & bought a bunch of grocery items for free, and earned another $22 in rewards. I noticed on my way out that I was $1 away from another $3 reward, so bought a box of cereal to donate for $2 & made $1 off of that deal. 
  • Uploaded all of my receipts to Fetch

Earning money

  • I've continued to list & sell things on eBay. 
  • Sold this week:
    • A race workout shirt
    • An outgrown hoodie
    • A necklace charm
    • Two books I picked up in a freebie pile
  • This one is for Nick to earn money, but I picked up two bikes for him from our neighborhood group. He is practicing his bike mechanic skills, and will fix them up & sell them. 

Avoiding spending

  • Spent a lot of time (2+ hours) with Amazon on two incorrect charges that were appearing on my credit card, but not tied to my account. Eventually received credit for the $14.99 + $9.99, and turned off the erroneous services. These were subscription services, so the time effort will pay off indefinitely.
  • I used a Target gift card to get $50 worth of groceries & Valentine's Day treats for $0, as well as a large bottle of ibuprofen. I also used $.59 of Target rewards to drop the price a little bit more.
  • Through a planned combination of using Target gift cards on groceries, and keeping our shopping list to the minimum, we had one of our least expensive weekly Costco shopping trips in a long time - $81. Yay!
Food savings/eating everything we have (trying this out as a new category)
  • I went through & itemized our freezers. (We have two fridges, both with lower freezer areas.) I made a list of frozen meals, as they are building up & I want to incorporate them into our menus. Things that came out of the freezer as a result:
    • Ham & bean soup 
    • Chicken & dumplings 
    • Carnitas (on top of lunch salads)
  • I made roasted potatoes to stretch a dinner on Friday, which had the double benefit of using up potatoes that were getting past their prime. I then used leftovers of the roasted potatoes in three breakfasts.
  • Used the last of slivered almonds (Thanksgiving) & dried mango (lingering in pantry) + pureed pumpkin (freezer) to make a batch of granola.
  • Using my lemon curd in plain yogurt (which, I don't prefer, but is healthier & happens to be in the fridge) with the granola
  • Used overly ripe bananas to make chocolate chip banana bread
  • Organized my garage food storage area, to make it easier to see what we have. 

For others

  • Continued working at my volunteer job
  • Requested a match for volunteer hours worked in January (my company makes a cash donation)
  • Gave away books on our local Buy Nothing. Kids books are hard to find right now, with libraries closed, so I'm happy to give some of our books away for others to enjoy
  • Gave away extra lemons I couldn't use up, when people picked up the Buy Nothing group (I asked if they were interested first)
  • Used some of my Rite Aid rewards to stock up on food bank donations
  • Shared banana bread with our neighbor
  • Reached out to a friend who was the original inspiration for this activity. She was thrilled to hear that she'd motivated me. 
  • Gave away an "aspirational" craft I was never going to use
What about you? Share some frugal wins or things for others this week. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Big plans ahead

Since I took my sabbatical & returned to work, I've largely been focused on seeing how things evolved, and not setting a particular end date. This has been helped tremendously by no international travel in 2020, and unlikely travel in 2021. Removing this from my plate has brought so much balance back to my life (despite all of the other noticeable COVID tradeoffs.) Once it is safe to do so, I will be required to travel internationally again (6-8 weeks/year), as my job is global. 

One of our big financial goals for 2020 (and, carried over to February, 2021 as we're in the middle of a refi) is paying off our mortgage to the half way point. This is my disclaimer to add that, even at the half way point, it's a huge mortgage. We have plenty of equity in the house (more than 60% currently), but there's a big mental milestone involved in getting below the half way point of the mortgage we originally took on in 2017. Paying half of it off in four years would be awesome. 

I'm now ready to set our next big milestone, and I'm really, really excited about it. My plan is for us to have the full mortgage paid off in early 2023, and for me to leave my job. M would keep working, and could easily cover our non-mortgage expenses, with plenty to save. I won't need to work a big "career" job once the house is paid off. That means we'll pay off the same amount (half the mortgage) in half the time as we paid it off last time, which is why this is quite an aggressive goal. But, I think we can do it. A few things are working in our favor:

  • We paid off our vacation house
  • We sold our Seattle house
  • Because we're at the half way point of the mortgage, each payment goes a little further towards the principal & we're about to close on a very favorable refi rate
  • I'm making more, as is M
  • When we bought the house, we used all of our available money to pay for the house. I mean, all available money. Because of that, it took us a while to get a large emergency fund going again (I like a huge emergency fund, given our expenses, so 6-12 months worth). We're not starting in a hole this time, which will be tremendously helpful.

Assuming we can hit the goal of 2023 for paying off the house, I'll likely plan to quit in early 2023. I get my bonus in January, so I'd definitely stay until then & stay flexible, but am eyeing February, 2023 for a potential exit. I can flex as needed, if we're a little short on the mortgage. Right now, the math adds up to having everything but $180k paid off (special shout out that this is a bay area mortgage, so this is, unfortunately, a small amount of the total), but I'm hoping with some dedication & creativity, we can hit an early 2023 payoff date.

What will I do once the house is paid off? While I will probably "work" in some form, it's more likely to be flexible: volunteering, consulting, etc. I'm not interested in switching to another big "career" job, unless something drastic changes in my life. 

What big goals are you setting right now?

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Weekly Wednesday - Week 3

I'm trying something new this year, and will be checking in weekly on my goals (or, that's the hope), with an eye towards paying attention more regularly to my progress.  


  • We're close to being able to achieve our mortgage 1/2 way point goal. We'll wait until our refinance closes to complete this, but I keep making small payments with all of my side hustle. I paid an extra $280 this week, through extra budget money & side hustles. 
  • I achieved my monthly side hustle goal of $200, and have made $210 so far for the month. Woohoo!
  • No clothing purchases for myself

  • In lieu of traditional date nights (made challenging by COVID), M & I picked up our wine again (we were behind in December, we normally don't go 2x in a month), sat by the pool & had wine together, and another day played cards & had cocktails
  • I'm largely off the computer (minus reading) by 7:30 each evening
  • I'm working on plans for both February break & Spring break for the kids. Options are really limited. I don't want them at home, playing games all day, or on electronics much at all. Everything is closed near us, so I've been researching options that might be available. Most our weather dependent, but fingers crossed there is both good weather, and a few fun options for each break. 

  • I haven't lost any more (1 lb so far this month) & I've run a total of 5 times. 
  • I had one not great day, but otherwise I'm doing really well at tracking my calories & have been working out each day. The not great day was the result of having a lot of blood drawn (I was very overdue for a variety of lab work) & having to ingest a drink for a test that made me nauseated. I came home & didn't move much & certainly didn't work out. Also, I ate all of the carbs & nothing super healthy. The rest of the days have been much better. 
  • I'm making progress with my food allergy/stomach issue. I've had a doctor's appointment, completed about 1/2 of my lab work (too much for one appointment), & have a follow up with my doctor to discuss the results. 

  • I'm practicing Spanish most day
  • I've been consistently: volunteering, doing a virtual girls happy hour, & journaling
  • I've been pretty spotty on the crafty stuff, still
  • I'm always a work in progress on the improve myself bucket (judge less, listen more) but have made really good strides on the "stop swearing". I've added it to my daily checklist (I mark off days when I haven't sworn & I'm 18/21. Considering one of those days was the Capitol Riot, I'm feeling pretty good about my progress. 
  • I'm continuing to think of things I can do for others. 

What about you? How are you doing on your monthly or yearly goals? Any progress you'd like to share, so we can cheer you on? Or, challenges you're having, so we can crowd source ideas? 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Checklists, templates & getting more organized

I do well with tracking & reporting on my monthly goals, but as we all know, it's the steps we take each day that lead us to those goals. 

Borrowing an idea from Laura at The Occasional Nomads, I've been experimenting with a weekly checklist. The checklist is a simple grid, with days of the week as columns (one week at a time), and a daily set of tasks as the rows. I check off each daily task when complete. 

I've been getting a lot of mileage out of the grid, and taking some input from my sister, I'm going to uplevel my tracking & record how many of the items I complete on a weekly basis. There are 15/day, and 7 days/week, for a total possible of 105. It will be interesting to see how I trend over time. My sister recommended creating incentives for specific targets (e.g. weeks where I am over 100, or whatever), but for now, I'll start by just tracking. Last week, I completed 77. I do really well during the week days, and less well on weekends, when I tend to get sucked into other chores around the house.

I also have a daily non standard check list. This includes my meetings for the day, any boys activities I'm trying to keep track of, calls I need to make that day, etc. 

And, for those who are curious, or looking for their own inspiration, here's what I have on my daily checklist:

  1. Journal
  2. List something for sale (eBay, FB marketplace, etc)
  3. Complete a non standard chore (no laundry, dishes, etc, as I do those anyway). This is my motivation to organize, declutter, clean a fan, etc. Tackle those projects I don't get to on a regular basis.
  4. Complete one lesson in Duolingo
  5. Get 12k steps. I've noticed this is much harder for me during the winter.
  6. Do three rounds of my posture exercises
  7. Meditate
  8. Work out
  9. Make salad. There's a story behind this, but basically, I find the salad making process (this is for M, for dinner, every day) irritating during dinner. If I get it done earlier in the day, it's no sweat & takes just a few minutes. If I save it for dinner time, while I'm in the midst of trying to get the rest of the food on the table, I do not find it enjoyable.
  10. Complete a daily strength challenge
  11. Task for Sam. I help him review his homework. This is specific to online learning tools. 
  12. Task for Sam. I help him review upcoming assignments
  13. Track & complete my calories for the day
  14. Check in on my volunteer role/do a kind deed
  15. No cursing

That's it from my side. What about you? How do you organize & plan your day?

Monday, January 25, 2021

A weekend recap

Wow, it's Monday already. Yesterday went by very quickly, somehow!

I was quite productive, actually. I went to Rite Aid to use my $35 of rewards, spent those on food (some for us, some for the food bank). The kids were very excited to see cereal come into the house. We don't keep it on hand, but I sometimes buy it as a snack. I now have $22 in rewards in future weeks. 

I made a one bowl chocolate chip banana bread to use up some overly ripe bananas, which was quick & easy. I kept 2/3 for the hungry teens & gave the rest to our lovely neighbor. 

I helped Nick make another loaf of the Frugal Girl's French bread, which is a new staple at our house. I worked out. I cleaned the house. We dropped off the basketball hoop (which, was pretty difficult to manage, down a hill) to our neighbors. I listed a few items on eBay & FB market place. I reached out to a friend, chatted with my parents, updated Nick's high school registration, made a somewhat disappointing dinner recipe (not enough flavor) & watched a movie with the kids. 

As for the rest of the lemons, I gave some away with my Buy Nothing pickups (people were thrilled for the bonus), juiced & zested some for the freezer, & had to toss one that got squished in the bowl. They are finally off of my counter/out of the fridge!

And with that, I'm off to work out & get ready for the work week. Hope you all have a lovely Monday!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Before the rain

I'm hoping to get outside today before it starts raining, hence the title. We're expecting rain every day for the next ten days, minus Monday. I suppose it's a good thing I have some indoor exercise options (DVDs & an elliptical).

I was reasonably productive yesterday, and made a trip to Rite Aid to spend some rewards & take advantage of their $15/50 offer. I now have $35 of new rewards & plan to go back today to pick up a few things.

Nick made this creamy garlic parmesan chicken (Keto friendly) recipe yesterday & it was delicious. It took him a while to complete all of the steps, but luckily, he had made a loaf of bread earlier in the day, so he & Sam polished that off while dinner was in motion.

As for today, here's what's on the to do list:

  • Make granola
  • Finish off the lemons
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Vacuum
  • Work out
  • Track down Nick's high school registration, which seems to have gone missing
  • Rite Aid
  • Figure out my work/work out schedule for the week
  • Print my weekly template for tomorrow
  • I'm making dinner - a sesame beef crockpot recipe
What about you? What are you up to today?

Saturday, January 23, 2021

All the tests, and Saturday happenings

I'm thankful it's Saturday. I need a day without work. It's not supposed to rain today or Monday, but the forecast calls for rain all of the other days. As much as it makes being outside harder, I know we need it, so I'll be grateful for the rain. 

I need to deal with all of the rest of the lemons today. Sparkling water included for size reference. Also, you can see my tomatoes ripening on the window sill. :-) 

On Wednesday, I had some tests done for an ongoing stomach/food allergy problem. When I went for my labs, I forgot that I was supposed to have blood work done to check on my lupus. Because of COVID, I'd put that off & forgotten all about it. As a result, it was a ton of blood work, plus a stomach test. I didn't feel great all day on Wednesday (a combination of being anemic & having lots of blood drawn, plus drinking a nasty tasting drink so they cold measure the impact on my digestive system.) I've received most of the labs back, and the good news is that my lupus remains under control. I do continue to have the same issues as normal: anemia, low vitamin D, low iron, and low vitamin B12. I've added in some additional supplements, at my doctor's request. As always, I feel lucky that my lupus is well managed, without medication. That's a rarity. The low vitamin D explains why I've felt a bit more run down lately, so hopefully the supplement will help.

Other things for today:
  • Package and mail 2 eBay sales (a shirt & a hoodie)
  • Go for a run
  • Dinner will be this new (Keto) chicken dish
  • Take Nick to outdoor/masked/socially distanced volleyball training. It's actually not volleyball (they can't share balls), so just general fitness training
  • Perhaps a trip to Target while Nick is at volleyball
  • Check in on my dad, who hasn't been feeling well
  • Deal with the lemons
  • Finish up my limoncello
  • Talk to our neighbors about trimming a tree
I think that's mostly it. I do still need to organize my eBay closet today, but I'm not sure if I'm up for it. We'll see. What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Frugal Friday

Another reasonably frugal week under our belts. Here's what we've been up to this week. 

Saving on things we buy

  • As I mentioned in the gift card post, I used Target gift cards to buy some fill in grocery items this week (snacks, & items we needed for meals) that they don't carry at Costco. All told, I bought $58 worth of groceries for $3.72 (I only brought a few gift cards along). I also was able to use $.27 in Target Circle earnings, which I didn't know I had. The boys were thrilled to see an influx of new snacks. I try not to buy too much, and just have a few options at any given time. With two teen boys, if I had an endless amount, they would definitely eat it!

Earning money

  • Continued to list & sell things on eBay & FB market place
  • Sold:
    • a pair of soccer cleats that were outgrown during COVID
    • an oven element that we never used (we had stacked ovens, and only one worked). We replaced both during the remodel. 
    • A fold up/carrying picnic table 
    • A Star Wars hoodie (a gift)
    • A really old vintage JCrew beach bag

Avoiding spending

  • Picked up the Friday Freebie at our grocery store (1.25 liters of sparkling water)
  • Used the oranges from the yard in cranberry orange muffins. Juiced the extra (I needed zest from two, but juice from only one) & then juiced the remaining zested orange. Added that to an open container of apple juice the boys use for smoothies
  • A neighbor was giving away 200 lemons from her tree. We picked some up & made a double batch of lemon curd & have a batch of limoncello going as well. Yum!
  • Another neighbor had a huge box of mandarins out (as you can tell, citrus fruit grows really well here), with a big free sign. I picked up four, and will make more muffins with them. 

For others

  • Made lemon curd from the lemons a neighbor gave us. Dropped off lemon curd to the neighbors who picked up our mail while we were gone (unexpectedly) & to our other neighbor across the street. Share the wealth!
  • Used the Box Top app to scan my receipts & earn a little back for Nick's school
  • Worked at my volunteer role
  • Donated money to the local middle school 
  • Offered our basketball hoop to our neighbor. Our boys rarely play & are ready to give it up. Her boys are the perfect age for it. 
What about you? Any frugal wins, or things for other to report?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Weekly Wednesdays - Week 1 & 2

I'm going to try a new system where I post weekly updates on my goals. I've seen this work on a few other blogs, and I'm hoping it will keep me motivated. 

I'm going to uplevel my goals into the categories, to keep things easier. 

Here's how I've done with these buckets for the past two weeks (week 1 & week 2 of 2021).


  • We're close to being able to achieve our mortgage 1/2 way point goal. We'll wait until our refinance closes to complete this, but I keep making small payments with all of my side hustle.
  • I've made $157 in side hustle income, and chased down a refund due to us, and filed a dispute with our credit card on a service we never received.
  • No clothing purchases for myself
  • M & I picked up our wine club wine & ran errands one day. We have also gone for a walk 2x to chat, and both times the kids magically wanted to come. When a teen wants to spend time with you, you don't say no.
  • I'm largely off the computer (minus reading) by 7:30 each evening
  • I've made a video for M's family, which they loved
  • I lost 1 lb in the first two weeks, and ran 3 times.
  • I'm doing really well at tracking my calories & have been working out each day.
  • I'm making progress with my food allergy/stomach issue. I've had a doctor's appointment & have lab work scheduled. 
  • I'm practicing Spanish most day
  • I've been consistently: volunteering, doing a virtual girls happy hour, & journaling
  • I've been pretty spotty on the crafty stuff
  • I'm always a work in progress on the improve myself bucket (judge less, listen more) but have made really good strides on the "stop swearing". I've added it to my daily checklist (I mark off days when I haven't sworn & I'm 11/14. Considering one of those days was the Capitol Riot, I'm feeling pretty good about my progress. 
  • I'm continuing to think of things I can do for others. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Bonus Monday

 We had a lovely day yesterday, with another day of beautiful weather. It's certainly not normal to have a 75+ day in January, but we enjoyed it when it happened.

I got a ton of stuff done yesterday, but we also enjoyed our day off. M & I picked up our wine delivery, and sat outside for a bit (at our own house, the winery is closed except for contactless trunk pick up), drinking a glass of wine together. A neighbor posted that she had 200 (!) lemons & we were welcome to as many as we wanted. We took a couple of small bags & now have Meyer lemons galore at the house. I'm excited & have plans for them today. 

M also cut both kids hair, & they are looking decidedly less shaggy. Nick made dinner (Warm Taco Slaw) & I made muffins for the freezer. 

We've been watching Cobra Kai in the evenings, & Sam in particular has enjoyed it. 

What am I planning to do today, on this bonus Monday?

  • I'm making a sesame orange chicken dish for dinner
  • I also want to pickle the last of the jalapenos
  • And, make lemon curd & possibly limoncello
  • I need to make more vanilla
  • And, work out
  • I have to package & mail an eBay sale
  • I didn't get to deep cleaning the kitchen yesterday, and figured I should wait until I was done with all of my cooking today. 
  • We will also talk at dinner tonight about the significance of this day, as it unfortunately has much applicability in our current life 
If time permits, we may go somewhere for the kids to ride bikes, while M & I walk. 

I hope you all have a lovely day. Share what you're up to.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Tiny babies

M somehow found a photo of the boys I've never seen before. For whatever reason, lately we've been talking about how challenging those first few years were, with a one year old, & a brand new (surprise) baby. M traveled a lot back in those days, I was working full time, and we were both exhausted! One of the things we both remember was the phase where the boys "discovered" each other. The first times they played near/with each other, and spoke to each other & responded.

So, a throwback to a time long ago... If I showed you pictures of how M & I looked those days, we both looked crazy young & exhausted beyond words. :-) 

The boys are turning 14 & 15 in a few short weeks, and my how the time has flown by. Parenting teenagers has its own challenges, but at least we are not sleep deprived!

Here's what I'm up to today. And, the beauty of a three day weekend is that some of these items can slide into the other two days, as needed:
  • Pick up a few grocery items
  • Costco
  • Work out
  • Take Nick to outdoor volleyball training
  • Pick & juice oranges
  • Juice lemons
  • Make muffins
  • Organize my eBay closet a bit
  • Package & mail eBay sale
  • Dinner - warm taco slaw
I'm sure I'll come up with a few other tasks, and I definitely want to get out & enjoy the gorgeous weather we're expecting to get this weekend. What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Friday, January 15, 2021

Frugal Friday

I've been working at trying to get our grocery spending more under control, by looking out for good prices on the most expensive items we buy (largely meat). 

The largest part of our frugality this week comes from our annual bonuses (paid today). We have a plan for the money & will divert it to our priorities. M & I both use our bonuses to max our 401ks. We will then transfer the money to savings until our refi clears, and we can use it to pay down our mortgage. By having a plan for the money, we ensure it doesn't get frittered away on wants. I may buy another piece of exercise equipment with a tiny portion of my bonus, but if so, it will be planned & budgeted.

On to the rest of the frugal wins. 

Saving on things we buy

  • Used $11 in grocery store rewards to get a few items for our menu this week
  • Used the remainder of my grocery store rewards, plus a downloaded coupon to get 15 lbs of ground beef for $1.50/lb. I divided it all up into individual portions, & froze it for future use. 

Earning money

  • I sold a game from our vacation house on eBay. Apparently, it's no longer made, so it was worth selling. Made $15.
  • I also sold two scarves, a pair of earrings & a book
  • This is more "getting my own money back", but filed a claim for reimbursement for Sam's prescription, received the money from my HSA, & then applied it directly to our mortgage
  • In a similar vein, contacted GM financing (there was a mix up with our bill, and they required us to pay twice or would report us as "late" for the turn in fee for our electric car. Turns out, it just took the post office six weeks to deliver the check.?!). Anyway, we now received the refund for the double payment. 

Avoiding spending

  • Nick made three loaves of bread this week, which we used in place of store bought. It accompanied ham & bean soup for two meals, was enjoyed for grilled cheese sandwiches, and of course, eaten sliced right out of the oven. 
  • I clicked through to a couple of shops this week, and was nearly tempted to buy things at places where I had gift cards. But, reminded myself there's nothing  I "need", and clicked out. I can save those gift cards for needs vs wants, which will help  our budget. 

For others

  • Gave away a few items on my local Buy Nothing
  • Had meetings & did some work for my volunteer role
  • Dropped off hats we made for the homeless
What about you? Please share your frugal wins or things for others? Inspire us! :)

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Gift Card Inventory

 As a normal part of our financial review, I try to stay on top of our available gift card balances quarterly. COVID changed everything, because we stopped traveling, and had vacations purchased, and now have stored credit. I'm not very excited about the amount of travel credit we have (well, pre-paid travel is great, but even better if this was just in our savings account.) I'm trying hard to stay on top of it, particularly because it's such a high amount in 2021.

Here are the various gift cards we have:

  • Climbing wall gym (Christmas gifts to the boys last year, that they've been unable to use due to COVID) - $200
  • Chick Fil A - $15
  • Marriott - $400
  • Gap - $58.62
  • Starbucks - $262.12
  • Subway - $10
  • Alaska Airlines - $3,385
  • Target - $559.94
  • Panera - $46
  • Delta Airlines - $1,141
  • Chipotle - $25
  • TJ Maxx - $11.77
  • Uber - $215.16
  • A soccer store - $114.17
  • United Airlines - $1114.60
Total in gift cards/credits - $7,342.56

I'm not worried about being able to use the Alaska credit, as that's our preferred airline & represents how much we'd spend in about 18 months (including covering travel for my parents). Delta will be more challenging, as that was purchased for an Italy trip (cancelled 15th anniversary) & we don't regularly fly Delta. When travel opens back up again, I may try to sell this credit. As for United, we don't typically fly United, other than going to Canada, so we'll have to get creative about our plans in 2021+ (realistically, 2022+). We're staying at a Marriott in Hawaii (assuming we are able to go in June), so we will definitely use those gift cards.

My plan for the Starbucks credit is to use it to offset breakfasts in Hawaii (there's a Starbucks near our hotel, and is where we picked up breakfast sandwiches in the mornings, given don't have much in the way of a kitchen). For Target, I'm wondering if I can get creative & start using that money to offset some of our grocery budget, by planning a monthly trip to stock up. I'm always looking for creative ways to reduce our grocery budget!

The Uber credit was used in previous times for trips to and from the airport for international work trips (I then get reimbursed). I may instead plan to use this for birthday dinners (Uber Eats) for the three of us (Nick, Sam & I all have birthdays within one month). To be honest, Nick would most likely prefer Chick Fil A over any other restaurant, so maybe I'll do that instead. 

For other gift cards with a lot of value, that just leaves the soccer shop. So far, there's been minimal soccer playing due to COVID, so I'll just hold on to this gift card, and cross my fingers they don't go out of business. And, the climbing wall gym. Fingers crossed that one day they can safely re-open.

What about you? Do you inventory your gift cards regularly? Do you have travel credits due to COVID & cancelled plans?

Monday, January 11, 2021

January - 1/3 of the way there, goal check in

January is whizzing by. For my own sake, I thought I should check in on how I'm doing towards my January goals, with 1/3 of the month gone. 


  • Stick to the budget (including revised grocery target) - we are tracking at 60% of our grocery budget, with just 1/3 of the month lapsed. So, that's not great. But, the house was empty when we returned from the holidays, so I'll cheer myself up by saying we can (hopefully) come reasonably close now that we're well stocked. 
  • Make $200 in side hustle - I'm at $157, which is well on track
  • No clothing purchases for myself - on track
  • Research lodging for (COVID tentative) Maui trip - researched & booked!
  • Complete house project - gutters - done!
  • Plan one fun activity with the kids. This is pretty hard during COVID, so may be something like a game night - not yet
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening - the news consumed me a bit for a few nights last week, but I'm back on track
  • One "date" with M per month. Unclear how we will make this happen during our current lock down - we ran errands & picked up our wine at our wine club (contactless trunk pickup). It was nice to chat, despite it being quick & not terribly date like.
  • Make a video for M's parents - done! 
  • Lose 2 lbs - I've lost 1/2 a lb so far
  • Run 8 times - 2x
  • Track calories, eat a balanced diet - doing well on this 
  • Complete 1,100 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 4 stretching workouts. Complete daily January strength challenge - 325 minutes of cardio, but completing a daily strength & stretching workout
  • Meditate 15 times - 2x so far. Need to increase this.
  • Set up appointment for stomach issue - set up, had the appointment, and doing my labs at the end of the week!
  • Practice Farsi &/or Spanish, at least 20 days - 5 days so far
  • Do something social with friends at least once/month - one girls (virtual) happy hour
  • Continue daily checkins & support of volunteer job - yes, on track
  • Write & journal regularly. Try fiction writing for at least 15 minutes. - I'm on track with the journal writing, but haven't tried the fiction writing yet.  
  • Shoot for no swearing for the month. This includes in text messages! - I had two days where I swore (1x/each). I blame the news & the events in Washington DC.
  • Crafty - Make two more hats for the homeless. Watch a couple of crocheting videos, to understand where I'm going wrong. - no progress here.
  • Continue looking for opportunities to help others daily - I've been giving things away on Buy Nothing, loaned a neighbor a tool, volunteering, donated to a cause, etc. 

What about you? How are you doing with your January goals?

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sunday things

 Yesterday was a reasonably productive day, & the weather was gorgeous. I got out for two walks (one with the entire family) & used the elliptical machine.

Nick made dinner, and I'd recommend both recipes. He made this ham & bean soup from Budget Bytes, which was fantastic. And, tried his hand at bread making for the first time, and this Frugal Girl French bread recipe is easy, delicious & cheap. He's already made a second loaf today. :-) 

I also made this Budget Bytes recipe for peanut butter brownie baked oatmeal to have on hand for quick breakfasts this week, and it's also really good. 

I really needed a positive to look forward to, with all of the chaos right now. I have been keeping my eye out for a good hotel/condo option for our (COVID tentative) trip to Hawaii in June with my parents. I think I found a great option, and Costco had the rooms at a large discount. I booked, and it's so nice to begin the travel planning process. *fingers crossed for 2021*

As for today, here's what I need to do:

  • Vacuum
  • Clean the kitchen (always an adventure after the boys have cooked)
  • Build my workout schedule for the week/review my work schedule
  • Package & mail 2 eBay sales
  • List the boys basketball hoop
  • Make dinner (egg roll in a bowl)
With that, I'm off to be productive. Hope you all have a fabulous day!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Saturday, weekly spending & other fun

 It's shaping up to be a sunny day, so I'm hoping to get outside this morning for a run or walk. I'm sore from my workouts earlier in the week (clearly, not enough working out in December), so we'll see how things shape up in the next hour or so.

On the to do list for today:

  • I have a call for my volunteer job
  • House cleaning
  • Laundry (always)
  • I need to return a few things at the UPS store
  • Nick is making dinner tonight (rolls & soup), so I'll be available to provide guidance, should he need it
  • Costco (likely M)
  • Working out
  • List a bunch of stuff on eBay, clean out another area of the house
I used to track our weekly spending here with some regularity, but it's been a while. I thought I'd try the first week of January, to see how we did:

  • Utilities - $441.03. All of our monthly & quarterly utilities were due. 
  • Groceries - $226. This is both pretty high for a week, yet largely on track with where we've been in 2020. Still working on this one. We came home to a largely empty fridge after our trip, so we needed quite a bit.
  • Alcohol - $102.58. Costco had M's favorite whiskey, so he picked up two bottles. This should last for multiple months. 
  • Tennis lessons - $75. For Nick, this is 3 lessons. 
  • Donation - $50. I made an impromptu donation to a food bank, as part of a work event. 
  • Amazon - $48.17. Parts for our toilet, which M was able to successfully repair on his own. 

  • Total spent for the week = $942.78.  

    What about you? Do you track your weekly/month spending? Any special challenges going in January, as it relates to your spending? How are you doing? 

    Friday, January 8, 2021

    Frugal Friday

    It's been a really rough week, with the situation in Washington DC, and the pandemic.  I have lots of thoughts & feelings, but focusing on the things I can directly control today. Working on my own positive outlook will continue to be a challenge in 2021. 

    Here are our frugal wins for the week:

    Saving on things we buy

    • I uploaded our receipts (plus, the one I found in my cart) to Fetch, for points
    • I used a Rite Aid reward to offset the cost of some needed toiletries
    • I emailed Rite Aid about an online order placed on December 5th, that still hasn't arrived. They credited me $10 in rewards for the trouble. 
    • I used some of the $10 rewards (noted above) to buy two packages (3 in a pack) of Planters nuts, at 75% off. Six cans of nuts were $6.48, but $0 out of pocket. (I used the $3.50+ leftover to offset a prescription I picked up later in the week.)
    • Used $11 in grocery store rewards to cut the price down on a fill in purchase we needed to make for some recipes. 

    Earning money

    • Had some sales on FB marketplace & Nextdoor. Sold a cargo mat, crystal cake stand & ski boots for a total of $95. Junk out, money in. It's definitely unusual to have three sales in a week, and these items had been listed for well over a month. 
    • I had a few eBay sales: a book, two makeup products, & an art print I got in Hawaii (free giveaway) from a hotel we stayed at. 
    • Relisted most of my paused eBay sales from ahead of the holidays, and listed a few new items. 

    Avoiding spending

    • Returned a few Christmas gifts that didn't work out. 
    • Remembered we had potatoes in the back of the pantry, & used those in a chicken curry dish. I was so close to buying more, because I didn't properly look in the pantry.
    • Used coconut milk that I made & froze back in September for the chicken curry
    • Used up a bunch of veggies nearing their prime (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green onion) in the curry dish & salads. The veggies were either part off our Christmas veggie tray, or from a shop a few weeks back & really needed to be used up. 
    • Finished the rest of the Christmas veggie tray items in a salad this week. The fridge looks much cleaner without all of the ends & odds hanging around. 
    • M cut my hair, & it looks quite good. He cut off about four inches, and it's now my preferred length. I haven't had my hair cut in ~18 months or so, so I was long over due. 
    • I had a breakfast burrito recipe on the menu this week (for Sam to make for quick breakfasts on school mornings). I made a list of things I needed, and then reminded myself that I could sub Greek yogurt for sour cream, and while I was in the store deciding between two different types of breakfast sausage, I remembered we had a package in the freezer I'd been trying to remember to use up. Avoiding spending & eliminating a random freezer item? Double win.
    • One of my running shoes developed a hole on the interior liner after just a few runs. I checked my Amazon order & they were still eligible for a return. I explained the situation & was able to return them for full money back. 
    For others
    • Gave away multiple items on my local Buy Nothing group. Love to see items we don't want or need make their way into the hands of people who are excited to have them!
    • Loaned a tool to a neighbor
    • Volunteered at my non-profit job
    What about you? Did you have any frugal or for other wins for the week?

    Monday, January 4, 2021

    The first Monday of the new year, food plans, & other miscellany

     Monday always feels like the beginning of the new year for some reason. I'm really lucky as I have today off, and start back at work officially tomorrow. I'll review my calendar today & make sure everything is ready for tomorrow, but otherwise, will enjoy my final day at home. The kids start school today (Sam is *thrilled* to have another semester of art class ;-)), so we'll also make sure that they get back in the swing of things.

    While I have a few plans for today, my biggest goal is around kitchen optimization & prep. We spend $300/month more on groceries in 2020 vs 2019. I'm not surprised by this (no free meals for me + M, kids are growing as teens do, the cost of groceries rose, & our buying habits changed due to COVID). We don't want to reduce the quality of what we're eating, and we have some eating requirements to keep in mind (M eats a Keto diet due a food allergy). I do think we have plenty of room for improvement, however.

    I started a monthly menu plan yesterday, and am hoping this will help. I also spend hours sorting through all of my recipes (ideas, favorites, etc). I went from 15 pages of links to 2 pages of organized recipes, noting our favorites with suggested changes. I also grouped everything by meal type (Keto friendly, non Keto, desserts, sides, etc). It feels like it will be much easier to come up with menu plans from here on out. I also color coded the monthly menu, so I can see how much we're using from the freezer vs making fresh, how many meals are Keto friendly, etc. Fingers crossed this is an effective strategy. 

    We had great luck with Nick trying a meal service (Hello Fresh) in 2020, as he learned to cook. It's quite pricey & not great for the environment (lots of small packages), so in 2021, part of his allowance accounts for him cooking one meal a week using a recipe. Last night he made 30 Minute Beef Stir Fry & Noodles. It was fantastic & easy to prep. I do recommend doubling the recipe, as we prefer all of our meals to serve us for a minimum of 2 meals. I'd also add quite a bit more veggies, to bulk it out a bit. 

    Here's what else I'm hoping to accomplish today:

    • Work out
    • Check off the items on my daily template
    • Make muffins
    • Make freezer breakfast burritos
    • Pickle jalapenos
    • Make an online doctor's appt for the stomach issues that have been plaguing me (and getting worse)
    • Juice oranges
    • Make dinner (bell pepper meatloaves)
    • Prep/review calendar for the work week
    • Send paperwork back to Sam's doctor
    • Use up the remaining 1/2 a lb of ground beef from last night's recipe. I'll likely prep extra taco meat, for tomorrow's dinner. 
    This cracked me up, so I thought I'd share. We made a charcuterie tray for Christmas (photo below) & Nick was in charge of putting together something similar over the weekend. You can see his efforts as well. ;-) I love the lonely chicken nugget, in place of the meat. 

    How are you approaching your food budget in 2021? Any changes or suggestions? 

    Sunday, January 3, 2021

    Monthly menu plans

    Happy Sunday to everyone. I hope you're having a productive & relaxing (it's the perfect combo) day today. 

    Does anyone try a monthly menu plan (vs say a weekly plan)? What are the advantages & which do you prefer? I find I get bored with a weekly menu plan & forget other options. I'm hoping that a monthly menu plan may give me a more holistic look at the recipes we like, balanced meals & allow me to plan more freezer/pantry usage.

    What else did we get up to today?

    • Nick is attempting to make a non meal delivery service recipe. We're trying to move him into "real" recipes, so he gets comfortable with those. He's making a 30 minute beef stir fry recipe. If it's tasty, I'll share the link.
    • I tracked down Sam's missing prescription, and it *should* be in by Tuesday.
    • We set up Sam's new laptop - school starts tomorrow, so fingers crossed this works well. Technology has been a real adventure during COVID.
    • M & I had a "date". He drove me to the store & a few places & we chatted between stops. Then we went to the winery to pick up our wine shipment. It's completely contactless (you call when you arrive, they put it into your trunk) & had a great chat on the way home about house projects, kids allowances, & changes we want to make in 2021. Every year we try to evaluate our parenting & determine where we can add more responsibility for each kid. 
    • I went for a lovely walk
    • I picked oranges, green tomatoes (hope to ripen in the window) & the last of the jalapenos
    • We put away the straggler few Christmas decorations that were still around.
    • M cut my hair! I really like it. He cut off about 4-5 inches, & it's now my preferred length. While it's not perfect (my hair has a bit of a wave/frizz that makes it hard to cut), I far prefer it over the scraggly look it had earlier. 
    • I filled out some paperwork, deposited checks, & put away all of the items we need to return to the vacation house on our next trip (the random socks that always seem to make their way home with us, and the towels we used to clean on our way out.)
    That's it from my side. If you have experience with a monthly menu plan, I'd love to hear it!

    Saturday, January 2, 2021

    January Goals

     It's time to set some goals for January! My 2021 goals can be found here. I usually do pretty well with my goals in January, with the start of the year & all. 

    Here's what I have in mind for the month.


    • Stick to the budget (including revised grocery target)
    • Make $200 in side hustle
    • No clothing purchases for myself
    • Research lodging for (COVID tentative) Maui trip
    • Complete house project - gutters
    • Plan one fun activity with the kids. This is pretty hard during COVID, so may be something like a game night
    • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening
    • One "date" with M per month. Unclear how we will make this happen during our current lock down
    • Make a video for M's parents
    • Lose 2 lbs
    • Run 8 times
    • Track calories, eat a balanced diet
    • Complete 1,100 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 4 stretching workouts. Complete daily January strength challenge
    • Meditate 15 times
    • Set up appointment for stomach issue
    • Practice Farsi &/or Spanish, at least 20 days
    • Do something social with friends at least once/month
    • Continue daily checkins & support of volunteer job
    • Write & journal regularly. Try fiction writing for at least 15 minutes. 
    • Shoot for no swearing for the month. This includes in text messages!
    • Crafty - Make two more hats for the homeless. Watch a couple of crocheting videos, to understand where I'm going wrong. 
    • Continue looking for opportunities to help others daily
    What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in January?

    Friday, January 1, 2021

    Menu planning & other Friday fun

    We had a really easy drive (or, as easy as a 12.5 hour drive can be) yesterday, and got home in time to have dinner together & toast the end of 2020. M & I were in bed before 9 (of course, we got up at 4 am for the drive), so we were quite the party animals. 

    I have a list of activities & chores for today that should take me most of the day:

    • Menu plan
    • Grocery list
    • Work out, kicking off 2021 right
    • Unpack (I only took care of the perishables last night)
    • Pay bills & deal with the mail
    • Pick up a freebie porch item
    • Sell ski boots & cargo mat (contactless pickup)
    • Laundry (always)
    As for the menu plan, here's what I'm thinking:
    • Friday - beef tacos (meat from the freezer) with pico de gallo & homemade chips
    • Saturday - Chicken curry & rice (use homemade coconut milk from the freezer)
    • Sunday - Spaghetti & meatballs (both from freezer)
    • Monday - leftover tacos
    • Tuesday - leftover curry
    • Wednesday - leftover spaghetti & meatballs
    • Thursday - keto chili
    • Friday - TBD
    What about you? How will you ring in the new year today? Hope you all had a safe & wonderful New Year's Eve!

    Frugal Friday

    Happy 2021! I hope this year brings much more optimism & progress than 2020. We drove back from the beach yesterday, and made good time.

    Saving on things we buy

    • Picked up a couple of birthday gifts for the boys at 50% off. 
    • We had to purchase a new dryer for our vacation house. There was a package that included a few extra parts required for installation, or a package without. M noticed that the parts included a huge markup. He bought them himself, saving $70, from the same store where we got the dryer. I suppose most people don't check to see how much they actually cost, and just check the box to include the package? 
    • Limited road trip stops again, and spend just under $10 on food. (We also used a gift card for lunch.) 

    Earning money

    • I didn't sell anything over the past week or so, but have two potential sales lined up this afternoon. Fingers crossed. 

    Avoiding spending

    • I perused a few online stores the day after Christmas, and I was tempted to make purchases, but reminded myself of my goal not to buy anything for clothing for myself & moved on. 
    • We were able to plan the menu for the week without a trip to Costco, and just filled in with a couple of items at the local store. We did this by leveraging our many, many leftovers from the holidays & had almost no food waste. We sent a few fun items for New Year's Eve (charcuterie leftovers) to my parents. We used prime rib as a second dinner, in lunch sliders, and finally a bit diced into a large egg brunch dish we made. There was a lot of creative food usage, to avoid waste!
    • Used a gift card won at a Christmas party game for lunch at Subway on our road trip. 
    • I purchased road trip snacks a few weeks ago, and divided the snacks into two separate bags. I put out one bag of snacks for the first leg of the trip, and got out the second bag for our return trip. With two teenage snackers, we could have easily run out of snacks on the first drive & need to buy more for the return trip. It was healthier & cheaper to limit snacks for the drive. 

    For others

    • Made more hats for the homeless on the drive home 
    What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?