Monday, January 31, 2022

Menu Plan Monday

Dealing with food allergies & picky eaters can be..time consuming, so I've opted for a menu this week that has two core meals Nick likes (tacos & spaghetti) & can easily be customized for M. While Sam & I enjoying trying out various cuisines, sometimes you just need a week where you can guarantee everyone will eat what you make. ;-)  

Here's what's on the menu:

  • Friday - we went out, after an evening soccer game
  • Saturday - tacos
  • Sunday - chicken curry & rice
  • Monday - spaghetti & meatballs
  • Tuesday - tacos
  • Wednesday - chicken curry
  • Thursday - spaghetti & meatballs
  • Friday - pizza
What are you making this week?

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Sunday things

The weekend is whizzing by, and I can't believe January is almost complete! Time to look ahead to February & new goals for the month.

I was obsessed with a book yesterday, so spent more time than usual reading, and it was lovely. I also got the majority of my chores done, so all wasn't lost! Nick got invited to join a bonus tennis lesson (he loves tennis) & was also offered a summer very part-time job helping his tennis instructor. He's thrilled. We are very happy for him, and that little bit of extra spending money will be a big win all around. 

Sam met up with friends at the park, and was able to bike back & forth on his own. He could be getting his license in a few weeks, but has so far shown zero motivation to do so. I want him to be comfortable ahead of getting his license (a nervous driver is no good), but could definitely use the help on the driving side, even if it's just driving to practice a few days/week. We shall see.

I also went on a 9 mile hike with a friend, chatting & catching up, which was absolutely lovely. It's rare that I meet friends for meals or coffee, but meeting for a workout is always a winner. Luckily, most of my friends feel the same.

Here's what's on the agenda today:

  • Schedule for the week, adjust as needed. (Workouts, family, work)
  • Go to the produce stand. And, Trader Joes, to fulfill a "want" from one of the teens. He branched out & tried a new variety of mac & cheese, and loves it. This may sound silly, but if you have a truly picky eater, you'll know that often they are not just picky on food types, but brands as well. 
  • Meet a friend for a walk
  • Make chicken curry
  • Make lemon curd muffins
  • Make coleslaw. Everything is largely prepped (dressing from the last batch), but I may need to shred more cabbage
  • Laundry
  • Ensure lazy teens get things done
  • Nick has tennis lesson
  • Call for a haircut
That's it from my side. What about you? What are you up to today?

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Saturday Happenings, soccer fouls, and high school drama

M & I went to the boys soccer game last night, and it was an eventful game. One of their fellow players lost their mom to COVID & their dad is sending them away to a boarding school out of state. He is not a typical player, but got some playing time as a last hurrah. It breaks my heart, and I wish I would have known it was his last game - I would have brought treats as a goodbye. I can't imagine how difficult the past few months have been for him. 

We've played this school before in sports many times, and there are always some pretty egregious trash talkers on the field. One kid eventually got ejected from heckling the refs & other players. He got numerous warnings, but couldn't get it together. Nick was guarding him for part of the game, and after so much name calling & grabbing on Nick when the ref couldn't see, Nick took him to the ground. I have to admit, my sympathy was limited for the other player. The ref shook his head at Nick & looked away, because he knew what had happened. No foul called. Sam & Nick are very different people on the field, and Nick is a risk taker, but also plays with a lot of intensity, which coaches typically love. Sam is perhaps a better technical player, but less aggressive. Always an adventure with the boys.

We went out to eat afterward, as the boys wanted to try a new restaurant that was just a few blocks away. It was good, but the wait was quite long & we were all tired. At least we didn't have Monday's mishap. ;-) 

It's very much the time of life where Sam is feeling the pressure of being in 10th grade. He's being asked to decide on his future career at school, which seems nuts. I understand the goal (align your class selection to your college interests, which could theoretically need to align with your career goals.) He's 15, and finds it all very stressful. He's been moody & struggling. We've encouraged him to pursue classes that he finds interesting, and let the rest go, but we haven't been super successful. Throw in a bit of sibling drama, and ...ah, the teenage years. Our school emphasizes how important junior year is for kids, which is accurate, but schools in our area are also incredibly competitive. One of our only "cons" for living in this area was knowing the boys would go to high school in such a competitive atmosphere. And, here we are. Right in the middle of it.

Aside from the above, what else am I up to today?

  • Help both boys with their class selections for next year
  • Meet a friend for an early hike
  • Make a shopping list
  • Costco (M)
  • Produce stand
  • Laundry
  • Mail a return
  • Finish Sam's birthday gifts
  • Make taco meat & spaghetti sauce - enough for several meals & the freezer
  • Clean the fridge
That's it from me. What are you all up to? 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Frugal Friday

 We're back to Friday! Here we go with a list of frugal activities for the week. 

Saving on things we buy

  • It's unclear if this will save me any money, but filled out the Old Navy settlement info, as I qualified. If it works, I'll get a $5 voucher to spend. 
  • Used a grocery store gift card to pick up a few things I needed, plus the Red Baron freebie pizza via iBotta. While I was there, I returned a few carts, and noticed two of them had receipts in them. I took them home, scanned them on Fetch, and one had a $2.50 offer for the receipt. That never happens! Another put me within $4 of a "spend $15, get $5 back", so I'll go in & pick up one of the $4 items on the list of qualified products, and get $5 back. Winner, winner.  
  • Used United credit from some long cancelled COVID trip to cover most of a one way flight to Hawaii. I will be coming back :-), but am booking the return flight on another airline, due to weird flight times & needing to align with my mom & sister. I used Alaska money, available from yet another cancelled trip to book the return flight. 
  • My mom & sister will be flying out of the same airport, so I'm using a companion fare for their flights, which saves almost $500. I get the companion fare from our credit card. For the remainder of the cost, I bought an Alaska gift card via Costco, which is 10% off, and I earn another 3% in rewards, and then purchased the flights. Every bit helps!

Earning money

  • No side hustle money was earned this week. I did list another item on eBay, but things have been really slow going. 
  • I did, however, find a penny on the ground at the soccer game, so I'm very much raking it in!
  • Had enough to cash $25.99 out on iBotta
  • Earned a very unexpected bonus at work, which I will use for a girls weekend this spring
Avoiding spending

  • Sam asked for mechanical pencils for his birthday. I ordered some, and used an Amazon gift card I had (from cashing in change), which covered the cost. 
  • Picked up a can of soup that was a Friday freebie at the store
  • Redeemed Starbucks rewards that were expiring, and got a breakfast sandwich & a tea

Eating what we have

  • It was a "use it up" type of a week, given I didn't cook over the weekend while we were out of town. As a result, there's more bits & bobs than usual. That's fine - it all has to get eaten up!
  • I'd picked up a package of teriyaki soba noodles at Costco a few weeks back, but had no real plans for it. Served it with 1/2 a bag of coconut shrimp that I also had no plans for as dinner one night. We thought the soba was just "okay". Sam loves Asian food, so this was primarily purchased for him, but we all thought it was pretty bland. It was very inexpensive, and made quite a bit, so at least there's that. I've had it for a few lunches, and it's fine.
  • Made a smoothie for lunch, to use up a banana, frozen mango, & protein powder.
  • Ate meatball soup for two lunches, and had leftover holiday crackers with my soup
  • We used up the last of some rice for dinner, with fesenjan. I had one serving in the fridge, and defrosted a bit more from the freezer to round things out for two dinner portions.
  • Reheated leftover wings to go with dinner for M, and served it with yet another freezer meal - egg roll in a bowl. Neither were enough on their own, but were great together. 
  • Nick had a chicken patty sandwich on a bagel, taking advantage of leftover bagels from our trip. 
  • We finished off a bag of panko crusted chicken for dinner one night. It was fine, but we prefer other types of chicken, so we won't buy it again. Good to have it out of the freezer. Nick had his with yet another leftover ski breakfast bagel. 
  • A few weeks ago, a neighbor on Buy Nothing was giving away M's favorite cauliflower rice, and Costco no longer carries it. I was thrilled to get it, but she had a few other items that "went with" the rice. I used the chicken broth right away, and had two boxes of Trader Joes white cheddar mac & cheese. Nick can be picky about his mac & cheese, but I opted to make lunch for the boys & they ate both boxes. I also made them smoothies for lunch, which used up the last two bananas, frozen fruit & some apple juice. I still have a few boxed items from the Buy Nothing pick up, so I'll work those into the rotation as well.
  • Made The Frugal girl recipe for granola bars, which are easy & always a hit. 
  • Similar to the mac & cheese above, made a box of brownies, using a boxed mix from the same Buy Nothing pickup. 

For others

  • I noticed a car trying to park at the grocery store, but there was a cart blocking the spot. I was on my way in, so I grabbed the cart & waved them in, so they could park their car. The gentleman was very friendly, which is always so nice. 
  • Covering travel for a few upcoming trips, which is one of my favorite things to do - giving experiences vs gifts! 
  • Volunteering at a food pantry
  • Had a call with recently resettled Afghani mentee, as well as with work mentee
  • Regular check ins as part of non-profit role
That's it from my side. What about you? Any wins to share?

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Frugal fail, & leftover takeout

Frugal fails are easy to forget about, but I assure you, they happen in my life! 

Monday was a wild day, with an away soccer game, lots of schedule glitches, & a generally late evening. I had dinner planned, but the boys were desperate to get takeout & wore me down, thanks to the craziness of the day. I really wanted to get home. I had the genius idea to do delivery, and it could be delivered right as we were arriving home, and remembered I had an Uber gift card that we could use (you can use Uber gift cards for UberEats as well). 

Nick loves all things tech, so offered to place the order & allow me to start driving home. Order placed. I asked him to check on the arrival time, and he paused & says, "Oops." He placed the order to be delivered at the location we were at (the high school where the soccer match occurred), vs our house. I pulled over, and got it sorted out, with some effort. A few problems:

  • The order originates from a specific restaurant location, and there's no way to change that part. So, I had to pay extra (and, it was already so over priced, due to fees), as the driver had to go even further. Understood. It was a big mileage difference.
  • The food was...not warm, by the time it arrived.
  • It also was 30 minutes later than expected. I could have EASILY thrown together another meal in that time.
Laziness for the ..... non-win. ;-) 

In positive news, I was able to re-heat the leftovers yesterday, and the boys ate that for another dinner. I had leftover salad for lunch & dinner, with about 1/2 a salad left for today's lunch. The portions were generous, I'll give them that. So, not all was lost. But, it was a good reminder that "saving time" or choosing the "relaxing" option, is not always as it appears. 

Ah, well. Life goes on. I'll try to remember that next time they ask for takeout, and instead throw a frozen pizza or the like in the oven instead. Or, better yet, plan ahead with M to get dinner started while we're gone, reducing all temptation.

What about you? Any frugal fails lately?

Monday, January 24, 2022

Menu Plan Monday

I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, with meal planning & working through our (extensive) freezer supplies. Here's what's on the menu for the week. Apparently, it's a very Mexican themed week on our side.

  • Friday - baked chicken with ravioli
  • Saturday - barbecued chicken & coleslaw, with the last of the ski weekend bagels for the hungry teens
  • Sunday - chicken fajitas (seasoned meat from my freezer batch cooking), with all of the fixings (sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, tortilla chips, guac)
  • Monday - homemade taquitos (freezer)
  • Tuesday -  barbecued chicken + stuffed potatoes
  • Wednesday - fajitas, take 2
  • Thursday - meatball soup & bread 
  • Friday - wings & gyozas
I'm hoping to ask Nick to make French bread on Wednesday evening, to accompany our Thursday dinner. If that doesn't pan out, I'll figure out something else to go with the soup.

I'm happy to report that we've made a lot of freezer progress, and have had some creative lunches as well. That always feels good. What about you? What's on your menu this week?

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Long live the espresso machine

M was able to fix the espresso machine, hurrah! I don't know how long this fix will last, but he said that he learned a lot about the inner workings & thinks he'll be able to repair it again in the future, should it need it. Fingers crossed. I drink about 3/4 of one espresso a day, but M drinks at least 3 in the mornings. I only need the one, but am not very functional without it. :-) 

Yesterday was a nice day, filled with a two hour hike with my neighbor, a trip to the produce stand, granola bar making, dropping off a return at the UPS store, and I also made coleslaw. Otherwise, it was just the basics of laundry, driving Nick around, & a small grocery store run.

We were able to keep our weekly grocery shop just at $100, which is pretty remarkable for us. I'm thrilled. We didn't need much, so part of the $100 was a piece of sockeye salmon for M. He eats it on nights when we're having a dinner with more carbs. Feeding the boys + someone who can't eat carbs means there's a lot of creativity on any given day, and I love flexible meal options. 

I picked up a few things using a grocery store gift card, and they also generated iBotta points, as well as Fetch rewards, so that's a nice win. I was able to cash out $25 of iBotta awards, which I apply to the grocery budget. I set a goal of earning $200 in iBotta/Fetch this year, so we'll see how that goes. 

As for today, here's what's on the agenda:

  • Work out
  • Laundry
  • Make chicken fajitas (chicken is prepped & marinated, so just needs the peppers & to be baked + the side prep). We serve ours on tortillas (or, cauliflower rice), with sour cream, cheese & diced tomatoes. 
  • Nick has tennis 
  • More laundry will be done (of course!)
  • The boys will get packed for tomorrow's soccer game
  • Review work/workout/family schedule for the week. Juggle conflicts as needed.
  • List one item on FB marketplace
  • M & I are going to a wine tasting (hurrah)
  • Sam will need a ride home from an outdoor friend meet up
And, that's it. All in all, it's a pretty easy weekend day. What about you? What are you up to today? 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Saturday Happenings

The boys had a school soccer game yesterday, which ended in a tie. They both played quite a bit, and for much of the game were both playing defense. They were fun to watch, and I got a few photos, which is always a treat. (Teen boys are not so much for allowing mom to take their pictures. :-))

After the game, I dropped Nick off at tennis lessons, and came home to make dinner & a salad. M had torn apart the espresso machine, in an attempt to fix it. The espresso machine is 16 years old, and according to the tracker on it, it has made 20k+ cups of espresso. It's been on its last leg for over a year, and M ordered a few parts & is attempting to fix it himself, with help from YouTube videos. Parts were all over the kitchen, and the espresso has so many colored wires, it looked like a bomb. Let's see how the repairs go. A replacement is several thousand dollars, so it's definitely worth attempting to repair, not to mention keeping the old one out of a landfill. A repair is not for the faint of heart!

We had an easy dinner of ravioli (which, Sam had as an appetizer, because he couldn't wait for Nick to return from tennis) & baked panko chicken. The chicken had been in the freezer for a while, so I was happy to get it out of there & free up some space. 

The boys wrapped up the evening with cookies (dough balls in the freezer, for just such an occasion). They have voracious appetites most days! 

It's shaping up to be a pretty mellow weekend, which I'm grateful for. Here's what's on the agenda:

  • Meet a neighbor for a walk. She lives right behind me, and we've chatted a few times, and have tried to get together on & off for over a year. It's never worked out, so I'm happy I'll have a chance to get to know her a bit better.
  • Produce stand. I need just a few items for the week ahead (broccoli, cauliflower, peppers & cabbage)
  • Shopping list. This is mostly complete
  • Costco. M will brave the crowds, as he has more patience for this task than I do.
  • Make coleslaw to go with dinner
  • Grill chicken (M). He's making barbecued chicken, at my request.
  • Make granola bars. Sam ate all of the delicious no bake peanut butter chocolate bars, so I'll make another snack to have on hand.
  • Laundry (always)
  • Pick up the house
  • Take Nick to/from a friend's house. It might be bikeable, so perhaps he can bike there, & I can pick him up in the evening. 
  • I'm also hoping to book flights for my mom's 70th birthday. My sister & I are taking her to Hawaii this summer. I bought gift cards for the flights on Costco (they are 10% off, and I get a 3% rebate), so just waiting for the gift card numbers to come through, so I can complete the purchase. 
What are you up to this weekend? Hope you are all staying healthy & having a relaxing & productive weekend!

Friday, January 21, 2022

Frugal Friday

The grocery store deals have been few & far between lately, so like many of you, it's been a good time to evaluate what we have on hand, and make the most of our fridge, freezer & pantry inventory. Here are a few frugal wins from our side. 

Saving on things we buy

  • Used a grocery store gift card to buy a few items we needed. Noticed pasta was $1/lb (my stock up price) & the store had a points multiplier on that brand, so bought a few packages. Made sure to sign up for the double rewards ahead of the purchase
  • Uploaded receipts to iBotta & Fetch. Used iBotta's $.10 any item for the store. 
  • Picked up a very inexpensive cut of ham, that was on "manager's special". M doesn't like ham, but Sam & I enjoy it, so I've been looking for a small amount at a reasonable amount. I'll use some for a ham soup, and the rest for a ham, potato & green bean dinner. 
  • Picked up Costco pizza on the drive to Tahoe (we stopped for gas, as it's always the cheapest) & paired that with a salad for a very cheap & easy dinner on our arrival. 

Earning money

  • Cashed in $30+ worth of change at a machine, and got an Amazon voucher. I usually have between $10-20, so this was a nice unexpected amount. 

Avoiding spending

  • Made peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to take for ski lunches. Sam had his as a "snack", and then had a hot item. I had it as my main lunch, along with a fruit bar I'd packed. We also brought Gatorade that we purchased at Costco. We did buy a few things at the resort, but were able to be really selective, given we brought snacks, sandwiches & drinks from home.

Eating what we have

  • I continue to make creative lunches (e.g. fruit smoothies - using lots of freezer items, cheese & crackers, soup, etc) to reduce what we have on hand & ensure we have no waste. The smoothies had the advantage this week of using up freezer bananas (we have so many, & they take up quite a bit of space) & the last of a bag of frozen mango
  • Used up a bag of gyozas a friend gave us
  • We're not big sandwich people, but I picked up a loaf of bread for PB&Js, and had leftovers. I made the boys grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch on Saturday, before we left home. 
  • Finished off the last of the coconut shrimp for dinner one night
  • The boys used cream cheese (leftover from the chicken tacos & taquitos) on bagels this weekend
  • Nick finished off the last of the Costco pizza for dinner, on a night when he didn't prefer the dinner I'd made. 

For others

  • Continued my volunteer & mentoring role
  • Gave away things on Buy Nothing
  • Made a financial donation
  • Gave a soccer player a ride home (twice), when I saw he didn't have a ride & it was super dark & he was planning to bike. 
That's it from my side. What about you? Any wins to share?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Menu Plan Tuesday

We had a great weekend skiing, so now it's time to get back to the reality of life - menu planning, school, work..the usual! It's been two years since I've skied, so I'm guessing I'll be a little sore after all of the fun. The teens are now the ones pushing M to go down the hardest runs at the mountain. My, how things change. :-) 

  • Saturday - we picked up a Costco pizza on the drive, & had that with salad
  • Sunday - spaghetti & meatballs, with garlic bread & salad
  • Monday - we opted not to do lunch on the mountain, so we had a very late lunch out before heading home
  • Tuesday - I pulled out fesenjan from the freezer, and M will make rice. 
  • Wednesday - chicken & ravioli
  • Thursday - chicken tikka masala (freezer) with the rest of the rice
  • Friday - yakisoba, and some sort of protein
That's what's happening at our house. What about you? What are you making this week? This is a week where I'm grateful for our freezer meals!

Friday, January 14, 2022

Frugal Friday

It's been a long work week, so I'm excited it's drawing to a close. Also excited that it's a three day weekend! Woohoo. Here are a few frugal wins for the week:

Saving on things we buy

  • I was able to redeem $300 worth of hotel points (that I had no idea I had - must have been from a long ago work trip) for a family wedding we're attending in May
  • Redeemed $20 in grocery store rewards to pick up a few items the boys needed for a ski trip, & another $20 grocery store reward to stock up ahead of my soup making weekend
  • Uploaded my receipts to Fetch & iBotta. Earned $.60 buying almond milk & $.50 on a box of tea
  • Had shoes re-heeled, which is much cheaper than buying new shoes
  • I'll preface this by saying that ski lift tickets are *never* inexpensive, but I used a work discount to save 30% off lift tickets for the weekend. That turned out to be a very nice chunk of change. 
  • We considered upgrading to a ski in/ski out type of place, after M & the boys reported a lot of traffic on the route last weekend. If it were a small increase, we would have considered it, but the price was way above what we'd planned to pay. Instead, we'll get up earlier & avoid as much of the traffic as we can. 

Earning money

  • Listed a few things on eBay, and sold one pair of jeans.
  • I did get my annual bonus this week, which will go towards: our 401ks, the 2nd installment of our property taxes, and the rest towards tax on the sale of our vacation home. 

Avoiding spending

  • Sam asked for (and received) a Soda Stream for Christmas, as he loves fizzy water, but doesn't get it often (it's expensive, and I don't like the waste of the cans. We recycle, of course.) A neighbor was giving away 5 packages of Bubly water flavoring (our favorite) & I won the drawing on Buy Nothing. It's pretty rare I see something I need/want on Buy Nothing, so it was a double win. Sam will be thrilled with all of his sparkling water. 
  • Picked up SAT prep books off of Buy Nothing
  • We are packing the majority of our food for the ski weekend, and driving after lunch to avoid meals out on the road. There are inevitably a few things purchased, but we hope to limit it as much as possible. 

Eating what we have

  • I continue to be creative with my lunches. One (delicious) lunch recently was a small amount of chicken shawarma, two pieces of bacon, tomato, all on top of a piece of naan bread & drizzled with tzatziki sauce. The bacon was a great addition.
  • I also prepped some future meals. One of my freezer wins was making meatball soup, which used up a package of meatballs & tomato sauce from the freezer. Both have been on my "get them out/use them up" list for a while, so I'm excited to turn them into quick & easy future lunches. I was also able to use up the last of a jar of marinara sauce, the container of chicken broth I got from a neighbor, a couple of open boxes of pasta, and other bits & bobs.
  • Made banana muffins out of the overly ripe bananas on the counter, plus one freezer banana
  • I had a huge cooking weekend & stocked the freezer with prepped food & two types of marinated chicken ready to go into dinners. 
  • I salvaged my large batch of chicken taco meat (where I discovered I'd used cayenne pepper in place of taco seasoning!!). 
  • Made homemade taquitos for the freezer
  • Used the remainder of stale cereal in place of graham crackers in this no bake peanut butter bar recipe. Which is, for the record, fantastic. 

For others

  • Gave away a bunch on Buy Nothing. It's fun to get to know some of the "regulars"!
  • Volunteered at non-profit job
  • Continued mentorship
  • Helped a neighbor figure out how to use Nextdoor to post some for sale items
  • Donated books to the library
  • Gave away outgrown hiking boots to a friend, who happened to need that exact size for her son. Win/win. 
That's it for me. What about you? Any wins to share? 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Menu Plan Monday

In case you're wondering about the overload of soup, my husband was out of town & is not a fan of soup. I took the opportunity to make several soup options (YUM!) & froze the rest for quick lunches.  

Here's what we're eating this week

Friday - meatball soup + sourdough bread

Saturday - white chicken chili + sourdough bread

Sunday - chicken and dumplings

Monday - tacos

Tuesday - oven baked chicken taquitos with guacamole, sour cream & salsa

Wednesday - slow cooker chicken tikka masala with rice

Thursday - taquitos, round 2

Friday - wings & gyozos

We are likely going skiing over the weekend, so I need to think of an easily packed/prepared couple of dinners for that.

What's on your menu this week? Two of the recipes (taquitos & tikka masala) are new to me, so I'll report back on how we liked them. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Too spicy, & productive weekend

 I had a really productive day yesterday (hurrah), getting almost all of my chores done. I came home from Costco with more chicken than intended. I think I had a bit of "pandemic shortage" mindset, & doubled my planned purchase. That meant I ended up with a Costco sized pack of chicken breasts & tenderloins. Just one could have sufficed. 

Here's what I got up to:

  • Cleaned out my eBay closet. Removed a bunch of listings, listed them on Buy Nothing. The closet is now pretty clean
  • Cleaned out my 3 tiered tray. Recycled a bunch, found a penny & a couple of gift cards. Kept the top tray for just things that need my attention/action.
  • Picked up a rotisserie chicken from Costco (yes, in addition to the two packs of raw chicken) & took the meat off the bones, & then made a large batch of broth, which I needed for a soup recipe.
  • Made white chicken chili
  • Dropped off & picked up shoes at the cobbler. He was able to fix them!
  • Donated two large bags of books to the library
  • Went to Costco
  • Went to the grocery store
  • Picked up a bag of SAT prep books from a neighbor
  • Worked out
  • Made taco meat in the crockpot
  • Took three pounds of chicken tenderloins & turned them into chicken fajita mix. Added the spice mix & olive oil, & now have everything in the freezer, ready for a quick dinner.
  • Washed the boys sheets.
On to the "too spicy" portion of the post. I was looking for an easy, keto friendly recipe I could make in the crockpot with some of the chicken. I found a simple chicken taco recipe. Cook chicken for a few hours in the crockpot. Pull out, mix with taco seasoning, cream cheese, & salsa. I used a mild salsa, and I'm unafraid of a bit of spice, but the chicken is close to inedibly spicy. Not sure if I have the proportions wrong, or something else. I have the container in the fridge today (I was so tired after all of the above items, that I took the entire crockpot container & just plopped it into the fridge for solving today). ;-) Anyway, I think I'll add more chicken (I have no shortage of this), more cream cheese, and taste it again. I'd hate to have to rinse some of it, but that will be my backup plan, if adding more chicken doesn't help dial back the spiciness.

On to today's list of things:
  • Go through calendar (work & personal) for the week
  • Make up a ski menu & packing list, in the event we go skiing next weekend
  • Make chicken & dumplings for the freezer
  • Give away more on Buy Nothing
  • List a few items on Nextdoor. Traffic is low there, but I have a few items that  I'll cross post from FB
  • Work out
  • Laundry
  • Pick up the house
  • Shred/freeze a brick of parmesan
  • Book the boys booster shots
  • Email the store about a promo that didn't work
  • Make taquitos
  • Stretch
  • Come up with a plan for the rest of the chicken. Wish me luck ;-) 
  • Pick the ripe lemons
What about you? What are you up to today? Any ideas for the overly spicy chicken? 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Saturday Happenings

The boys are skiing today, so I'm going to make the most of my free afternoon & knock a few things off of the to do list. I managed to get quite a bit done yesterday after work as well - I made a meatball soup (using up lots of freezer/fridge/pantry items), banana muffins (using overly ripe bananas from the counter & freezer), & made chocolate brownie cookies for the freezer. 

All of it went into the freezer (save for a little bit of soup I'll have for lunch today, and I had a bit for dinner last night). I like soup for lunches, and I don't appear to be returning to the office anytime soon. I ate through my previous freezer stash of soup, so time to restock! The muffins went straight to the freezer, and the brownie cookies did as well. The boys enjoying baking up a few at a time, for an evening treat.

Funny thing about the muffins. M eats almost entirely Keto, due to food allergies. He's allowed a small amount of carbs, and spends almost all of it, daily, on 1/2 a muffin. He's been having a muffin with his coffee since I met him (20+ years ago). When we got married, I promised to make him muffins for his coffee, and other than a few odd times when he forgot to tell me we were running low... he's never run out. I keep the freezer stocked with muffins. Sam also loves a muffin, but only eats then as I first make them. Given the cadence with which I make them, it's not infrequent for him to wander through the kitchen & find a fresh batch of muffins. Maybe I'll do a post on my favorite muffin recipes.

Okay, so for today, here's what I'm planning to do. Some of this may spill over to tomorrow, but I'd like to be as productive as possible today as well. 

  • Work out (likely a combo of elliptical, and a walk outside)
  • Stretch
  • Go to Costco 
  • Make chicken taquitos for the freezer
  • Make white chicken chili for the freezer (and, dinner tonight)
  • I'm hoping to find someone who can repair my 20 year old shoes, so drop the shoes off to see if they can be re-heeled.
  • Drop off books for a library donation
  • Organize my eBay area
  • Organize my 3 tiered tray, where I keep paperwork
  • Wipe down the bathrooms
That's more than enough for today. What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish today?

Friday, January 7, 2022

Frugal Friday - a few weeks combined

It was a crazy few weeks, as we adjusted to numerous changes of plans, I had to adjust flights to account for M not being with us, which resulted in unexpected baggage fees (had to get the kids skis to them, etc). We made it, and we had a few frugal wins (this is a combo list from the past few weeks.) 

Saving on things we buy

  • Found 3 lb packages of ground beef for $3/each, & bought two.
  • Used Rite Aid rewards to pick up a box of tea for free. I now have Rite Aid gold status, which saved $.80, and then earned a $.50 iBotta reward. 
  • Picked up the Friday Freebie (yogurt) at the store
  • Uploaded receipts to Fetch & iBotta
  • I went through & inventoried all of our gift cards, so I know what we have. I always hope to use the gift cards before out of pocket spending, so being organized is the first step. 

Earning money

  • I sold a few things, here & there:
    • Outgrown ski boots
    • A set of new candles (from the beach house - one of the final items left from the house)
    • A new fleece
    • A cheeseboard I received as a gift
  • I helped Nick sell his old bike for $260. He owed me the money for his new bike, so I suppose I'm paying myself ;-) 
  • Cashed out another $10 in Fetch rewards

Avoiding spending

  • Charged our electric car for free, on the day I went to the office
  • Cancelled our car rental for our holiday trip, as it didn't make sense without M joining, also dropped one night from our vacation rental, saving a bit there
  • Also cancelled M's flights, but the "savings" was largely offset by additional baggage fees
  • I was upgraded to first class on the flight home (I have carry over status from international work travel), & enjoyed a couple of (free) cocktails
  • M was able to pick us up at the airport from the flight home, saving on an Uber or airport parking.
  • Returned a few Christmas gifts that didn't work out
  • Used Starbucks rewards for lunch one day, while I was out running errands
  • M  & I try to have two dates/month. We're in a run of dinners or lunch out, but we used our bonus vacation day (Monday) to go for a two hour hike in the morning, after the kids left for school. We checked off our workout, got a chance to chat, and it was free. 
  • A neighbor gave us cauliflower rice she didn't want. I've been looking all over it for it lately (it's a staple for M), so I was thrilled to have it. She included a few other random items in the box, so I've already made up the blueberry muffins, and have the chicken broth on the target list as well. My pantry has enough clutter on its own! :-) 
  • I was able to cancel an order for ski mittens, as I discovered the lost mate in a pocket of Sam's ski bag. 

Eating what we have

  • We had a bolognese sauce (freezer) for dinner one night (over noodles/soy noodles) & I added extra meatballs to stretch it a bit
  • I defrosted chicken & dumplings to have for a quick lunch on a busy day (x2) 
  • I also had barley & beef stew (freezer) for a quick lunch (x2)
  • I didn't have all of the ingredients for the meatloaf recipe, but made a few substitutions, and it turned out great. I crushed up some crackers leftover from the holidays (in place of bread crumbs) & used a bunch of shredded parmesan in place of the shredded jack cheese. I used the last of some hoisin sauce with soy sauce, in place of worcestire sauce. I also subbed dry spices for fresh, but that's a typical substitute at our house. We do grow lots of fresh herbs, but we are out of fresh parsley for the moment. 
  • Had a few other creative lunches, using leftover cheese from NYE, egg sandwiches, and just generally using what we have

For others

  • The boys & I volunteered again at a soccer tournament (fundraiser for the school)
  • I kept in touch with my mentee, who is relocating to her university soon. I'm very excited for her
  • I gave a fancy gingerbread house-making set to my neighbors, as they have younger kids, & I knew they would appreciate it more than the teens ;-) 
  • Gave away outgrown ski gear
  • Loaned some kitchen tools to a neighbor
  • I had such excellent service on my return flight from Portland that I dug around on United's website to find how to provide feedback & wrote a note about the service (with time, date, flight #, & cabin), so that the crew member can be recognized by her team. It took just a bit of time, but she deserved it! I'm sure the majority of feedback (particularly with COVID, holiday travel, cancelled flights), they receive is negative, so I thought I'd add a bit of balance. 
  • I've been giving away a bunch via Buy Nothing, which always feels great. I have a huge stack of items to list this weekend. Kids clothing always goes fast, so looking forward to giving that away.
It goes without saying that I would have MUCH rather had M join than save a bit here & there on travel. It was a hard holiday & we did what we could to make the best of it.

What about you? Any wins to share? 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Freebies & side hustle goals for 2022

It's been a week of getting back into the groove of work, life & school. I always have mixed feelings about the beginning of the year. As a goal setter, I love the fresh start and ability to see progress. As someone who enjoys the time off & a more relaxed schedule, it's always tricky to get back into the routine. But, here we are! Variety is the spice of life & all. :-) 

Inspired by SAM's goal of tracking her side hustle & freebies, I think I'll do the same for the year. I've previously applied all of my side hustle to our mortgage, but found myself a bit aimless towards the end of the year. I have plenty of goals to achieve, so I'll get back to it in 2022.

Side hustle - Earn $1500 through selling things, or via unexpected rebates or Microsoft rewards. Use all side hustle income to apply towards my mom's 70th birthday trip. 

Fetch/iBotta - I apply these directly to our grocery bill, particularly as iBotta requires cash out of pocket before you get the reward. I'll set a goal of earning $200 through these two channels.

Gift cards/credits - I just did a big gift card & credit inventory, & have plenty sitting around. My goals here are 1) use gift cards before cash, whenever possible. 2) Cut our gift card balances to 1/4 of our current amount. (They are abnormally high due to travel credits that expire and need to be used.) 

What about you? Do you have any goals for your side hustle or other small pots of money? 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

January Goals

 It's a shiny new year, and the perfect time to set new goals. Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish in January! I'm guessing it will be better than December, no matter what happens! :-) 

  • Research work financial planning benefits
  • Review & revise categories & 2022 budget
  • Determine 2022 travel plans & budget
  • Research a Donor Advised Fund for charitable contributions
  • Stick to the budget/experiment with new budget template & tweak as needed
  • Plan one fun activity/month with the kids
  • Re-institute family electronic rules (this one always needs a reboot after holidays/vacations)
  • Get into a good homework system/rhythm with both kids
  • Have two dates with M
  • A call or videos for M's family
  • Stretch every day
  • Lose 2 lbs
  • Track calories
  • Close my fitness rings every day
  • Meditate & fast 20 times (I fast from after dinner to lunch the next day)
  • Make appointment with the dermatologist
  • Do something social with friends
  • Invest time in volunteer roles
  • Read an article on happiness & the relationship between helping others 
  • Complete one exploratory exercise on my next phase (post current career)
  • Research coaching class
  • Journal 10x

What about you? Have you set any goals for January? Link them up, so we can cheer you on!


Monday, January 3, 2022

Menu Plan Monday

It's a new week, & I'm attempting to get back on the wagon again with the meal planning. We spent less on groceries in 2021 than 2020, so that's a victory, but spent more on eating out. Womp, womp. Some of that was to be expected, as I didn't properly record vacation meals under "vacation" consistently, but we can still do better. Meal planning helps avoid the impromptu meals out. I don't mind the planned for, special occasion meals, but we can improve the last minute scramble meals.

Here's what's on the menu this week: 

  • Friday (NYE) - we had steak, potatoes & salad + champagne (for the adults)
  • Saturday (New Year's Day) - chicken curry & rice
  • Sunday - Bell pepper meat loaf
  • Monday - chicken shawarma
  • Tuesday - leftover meatloaf
  • Wednesday - leftover shawarma
  • Thursday - tacos
  • Friday - we have a busy late afternoon/evening, so this may be sandwiches
That's what's happening in our kitchen. What about you? What's on your menu this week? 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

December Goals Recap - how did we do?

December whizzed by, with plenty of twists & turns. It was not the best month, across a variety of fronts, but we're happy to see the month in the rear view mirror, and for everyone to be healthy. Due to the "excitement", shall we say, it also wasn't a good month for accomplishing goals. Our plans changed numerous times, as we adjusted for various curve balls, finishing with M getting COVID & being unable to join for our family holidays. Ah, December 2021 was one for the books. 

Here's how we did with our goals


  • Research work financial planning benefits - no, carry over to January
  • Review & revised categories & 2022 budget - no, carry over to January
  • Make $100 in side hustle - I made $191, mostly from selling a couple of outgrown ski items
  • Use up three "hard to use" items - to tell you the truth, I can't remember. I did make good progress eating items out of the freezer, so I'll consider that a partial win
  • Finalize ski trip budget/plans - ha, this one went through many evolutions, but the December trip happened, in a slightly different form than expected. 
  • Determine 2022 travel plans & budget - no, carry over to January

  •  Plan one family activity - we had a fun dinner out, and then the boys & I had a great time with family over the holidays
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening - mostly
  • Have two dates with M - yes!
  • Schedule a call with M's family - no, but we filled in with pictures & videos
  • Lose 2 lbs - ha, no. 
  • Run 20 miles - it wasn't a running month. The weather wasn't great, and I got my workouts in around work & found other creative alternatives in the snow. 
  • Track calories - yes, minus the week of Christmas
  • Complete 2,000 minutes of cardio - yes, I finished with 2,395 minutes
  • Fast until lunch 15 times - I fasted 12 times
  • Meditate 10 times - only 2x, and there are days I definitely could have used it!
  • Max out my volunteer hours at work - I came so close & got in lots of volunteer hours in December!
  • Practice Spanish 4x - nope
  • Do something social with friends, x2 - yes, a hike & a walk in the snow
  • Journal 6x - 2x, but I have 36 pages of things that are top of mind, and daily gratitudes, which are so lovely to look back on
  • Find 20 items to give away or toss - I didn't do a good job keeping track, but I came close if not hitting this exactly, so I'll give it a pass

Phew! Glad that one is over. How about you? How was your December? How did you do with your goals?

Saturday, January 1, 2022

2021 goal recap - how did I do?

2021 was really something, wasn't it? We had huge high points (paying off our mortgage, taking my parents to Hawaii for their 50th anniversary/my Dad's 70th birthday & a few other big moments). We also sold our vacation house unexpectedly, continued to work from home, & the kids went back to in person school (hurrah)! It certainly wasn't my favorite year, but it had its moments. We closed out the year with M getting COVID (asymptomatic, but quarantined at home, and missed the holidays). We are grateful that he's well, & had access to get vaccinated & boosted months ago. 

Here's how we did with our goals for the year:


  • Stick to our budget - oh my, no. We didn't stick to our budget, and had some post mortgage payoff splurges. Our biggest overages were travel (planning for future trips), paying for work on our vacation house when we were selling it, and the "kids" bucket. Teenagers are expensive! Nick currently has a (part-time) job, and Sam will be able to ref as well, so that will help a bit in the future. We did still keep to all of our saving & investment goals, but we have work to do to ensure we stay on track.
  • Pay down our mortgage to the half way point - We PAID IT OFF! So excited about this. If I had to choose one goal that makes me thrilled this year, it would be this one!
  • Spend $250 or less on clothing for myself (not including running shoes) - I did well, until September, when I thought I was going back to work in the office. I bought myself a new pair of jeans & a few tops. I spent less than $500, but still double my original goal. 
  • Take my parents to Maui for my dad's belated 70th birthday, & in lieu of a 50th wedding anniversary party for my parents. Save appropriately & spend wisely on the trip. - We both saved appropriately & spent in a way that reflected the trip we wanted. We had plenty of splurges, but also had a fabulous trip & made tradeoffs for the top priorities. No regrets of any kind. 
  • Consider remodeling our bedroom area. - We considered this, and ruled it out. Instead, we sold our vacation house, and decided to wait a bit longer on the potential remodel. 
  • Increase charitable giving by adding a "$1k kind deeds fund". We have the majority of our charitable deductions handled automatically via payroll, but I a flexible budget to spend through the year on fun/kind deeds for others. - Yes, and this has been very fun to spend! Lots of donations when friends/neighbors/families are fund raising, splurges for others, etc. 
  • Plan one fun activity/month with the kids - we had a lot of fun activities this year with the kids. Family trips & outings, and a few dinners out & family tennis/game nights, etc. 
  • Off the computer (minus reading) by 7:30 each evening - I did okay with this. I got into Netflix for a while there (I rarely watch TV), but am now watching it pretty much exclusively in the morning when I work out. 
  • Have two dates per month with M - On average, yes! We had a few wonderful trips together as well
  • Schedule quarterly calls with M's family, or send monthly videos & photos - We had a few calls, & sent videos & photos. Time zones make calls challenging, but we are definitely more in touch. 

  • Lose 10 lbs - I managed to lose 9 lbs during the year, but only kept off five pounds. But, trending in the right direction!
  • Run 100 times - I ran 80 times
  • Track calories, eat a balanced diet - I had a couple of week stretches where this was super dicey, but generally had a good year for my calories & diet
  • Complete 15,000 minutes of cardio, 100 strength workouts & 50 stretching workouts - I absolutely destroyed all previous cardio goals/records, thanks to a combination of a big walking challenge in October, a lot of overall consistency/working from home, and a watch that tracks my fitness & provides more visibility. I had 19,830 minutes of cardio, 60 stretch workouts & 29 stretching workouts. Stretching definitely needs to be a priority in 2022. 
  • Meditate 100 times - I meditated 103 times 
  • Deal with food allergy/stomach issues - Yes! I've done a food allergy test, experimented with fasting, & what I eat, & had some tests done. It's not perfect, but much improved. 

  • Practice Farsi or Spanish - I did great on this in the first half of the year, and fell apart in the second half. I need to get back into the routine. 
  • Do something social with friends at least once/month - Yes, and it was almost always working out/hiking. 
  • Invest time in my volunteer job - Yes, and I picked up a mentoring role that I'm really enjoying. 
  • Write & journal regularly - I journaled pretty regularly, but minimal writing. 
  • Improve myself (judge less, listen more, stop swearing) - As always, I'm a work in progress! But, I continue to focus on these areas. 
  • Get crafty - ha, no. I tried, I really did. I loomed a few hats, but I'm really not very crafty. 
  • Make kind deeds a regular part of my life - I so enjoyed jotting these down for my Frugal Friday posts, and remembering to make time for this. I love it, & will continue!

Overall, it was a really good year, & I'm proud of the progress we made as a family. There's always more to do, and new goals to achieve! How about you? How did you do with your 2021 goals?

And, Happy New Year's! May 2022 be filled with peace, happiness & prosperity for you all.