Saturday, March 30, 2024

Grocery receipt & other Saturday stuff

 I got up this morning & went to my workout class, and came home & am making lunch for the teens. I have a bunch of stuff to do today, so M went to Costco while I was working out. 

Here's what we spent this week/what we bought:

  • Milk - $6.19
  • Grapes - $7.99
  • Tomatoes - $7.99
  • Pineapple - $3.99
  • Bagels - $7.99
  • Cauliflower - $6.49
  • Bananas - $2.49
  • Pears - $5.99
  • Steak - $44.42 (Easter splurge dinner)
  • Edamame - $5.39
  • Broccoli - $4.99
  • Apples - $5.99
  • Strawberries - $4.99
  • Cucumber - $5.99
  • Ground beef - $31.59
Total = $152.57 - Slightly less than last week, but we needed fewer staples, and bought more expensive meat for Easter.

Remainder of the day:
  • Run to the store for tortillas
  • Make tacos (dinner)
  • Pickle ball lessons with M (although, it's supposed to be rainy this afternoon, so we'll see)
  • Vacuum
  • Help boys with scholarship essays
  • List a few things on eBay
  • Arrange additional tutoring sessions
  • Trim our hedge
  • Create new Buy Nothing listing
  • Sort out our phone plan
What about you? What are you up to today? Any fun dinner plans for tomorrow?

Friday, March 29, 2024

Frugal Friday

 Can't believe we're almost to April! Here are a few wins for the week, frugal & otherwise.  

Saving on things we buy

  • I combined a Safeway coupon for grapes with a $1 off produce coupon, and bought 2+ lbs of grapes for $2, which was a reasonable deal. I used a gift card for that + on sale pretzels (snack of the week), spending $0 out of pocket. However, my Safeway gift card is down to $.93, so almost out!
  • I converted some spare change that was rattling around in my bags to a $9 Starbucks voucher. Given I've been doing coffee meet ups & networking, happy to have the extra coffee money on hand. 
  • Redeemed the last $20 of my grocery store rewards to pick up 5 cases of sparkling water (it was on sale) + a few other things we needed. All told, I spent $9.60 after my reward.

Earning money

  • M & I received our annual bonuses. I tucked most of the money into a couple of CDs, each ear marked for the boys college expenses. Because we need the money over a short time horizon, investments don't make sense. Luckily, CDs are paying very good rates at the moment. We also maxed out our 401Ks, which is great news for me, as I was able to secure the full company 2024 match ahead of my layoff. 
  • Sold a heart rate monitor on eBay, and made $20, and also sold a poster I received in Japan, earning $16.

Avoiding spending

  • One of my neighbors had free tangerines from their tree out & available for taking, so I picked up four.

Eating what we have

  • Met a coworker for lunch, and she bought me lunch as a "goodbye". There were enough leftovers that I also had a large salad for dinner. 
  • Had a "use it up" smorgasbord lunch on Saturday, mixing several small portions of leftovers for myself, and the boys. It was nice to empty the fridge of lots of little options.
  • Made the boys the last of the corn dogs! One more item checked off of my freezer/pantry clean out.
  • Picked fresh thyme, rosemary & oregano for M's grilled chicken recipe. 
  • Our very lovely neighbor brought over a gift for us, as a thank you to M for all of his work on her car. Totally unnecessary, but she always wants to make sure she thanks us. She purchased a Hickory Farms pack. I've put aside some of the shelf stable meat & cheese, and will take it to Sedona for my hiking trip with my mom. It will make a nice treat to have in the room. 
  • On Monday, I saw we had leftover rice from Sunday's dinner, so I changed up our plan a bit. I took out the Korean beef (freezer) & we had that over rice. For M, I sauteed cabbage & onions in sesame oil, and he had his beef over that.
  • I made Nick pizza rolls for a quick meal before a tennis match, and now am down to just one bag of pizza rolls. Hurrah. 
  • Met another friend for lunch, and took half of my sandwich home. Sam ate that as a quick bite ahead of leaving for a school event.
  • And, I used the last two cans of green beans! This have been on my pantry target list forever. 
  • Had the remainder of the Korean beef over salad greens for lunch one day.

For others

  • Put grocery carts back, picked up trash at the school tennis match, & started on my volunteer project for Nick's soccer club
What about you? Any wins to share? 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

New routine

It's been four weeks since I've been "funemployed", and I've been trying out a new routine. I'm a big fan of structure & I knew that the sudden change from an overly structured day (way too much to do) to my new normal would be a big adjustment. I've had a list of things I want to do daily, some of which I've been doing for a long time, others I added in during COVID WFH, and still others that I've always wanted to consistently practice, but have come & gone based on my schedule.

My current daily routine is as follows:

  • Coffee + catching up on blogs, bills, etc
  • Journaling + 3 things I'm grateful for
  • Farsi lesson (I use an app for this)
  • Meditation
  • Working out (I prefer a class, as it's at a set time & a harder workout than I'd normally do on my own.) 
  • At least one house "chore"
  • Yard work, if it's not raining
  • Career type stuff (working on resume or LinkedIn, sending follow up notes to people who have reached out, researching potential future jobs)
  • Meal prep
Aside from that, other days have other tasks (decluttering, listing things on eBay, etc). 

I find that the journaling is helpful for two reasons. 1) it helps me remember how I felt at any given point. My journal from the first few weeks of COVID lock downs is fascinating! 2) it's a reminder to write down three things I'm grateful for, every day. I'm pretty consistent with it, and feel like it's a good time to remember that there are always things to be happy about, even when things are not going how you'd hoped or anticipated. 

I'm taking Farsi lessons so I can better communicate with M's family. It was really hard to find a good app for learning (many of the more common apps don't offer it as an option), but now that I've found one, I'm in a good groove and feel like I really am picking up more words, which is rewarding. M does still chuckle at my pronunciation. ;-) 

As for the meditation, I attended a class way back through work (maybe 7 years ago) & they shared a lot of the benefits of meditation. I gave it a try & it does help me manage stress. I've been pretty sporadic with it until recently. I've also been taking a free online class via Yale (The Science of Well Being), which I highly recommend, and the class talks about how helpful meditation is, both in the moment, and in the longer term. I've added it consistently back to my routine. I'm currently doing a five minute guided meditation via Headspace (an app), because it's such a low barrier to entry. But, I do want to do longer meditations, as you get additional benefits for a slightly longer time period. But, five minutes is still great, and I'm trying to build the habit. There is plenty of research out there about what happens to your brain when you meditate, but for me personally, it gives me more patience, and helps me live more in the moment. Both of which are things I'm working on. 

Working out has been a sanity saver for me at many points in my life, but particularly now. It really helps me manage my stress level, and I also really like the structure & the routine of a class schedule, a commitment, & getting out to see other people. It's good for your health, of course, but for me, it's really good for my mental health. As with everything, people have to experiment to see what works for them (physically), and what they enjoy the most, because sticking with a workout routine isn't going to happen unless you like the activity. 

I both love & hate yard work. Our yard has many, many types of plants from the former owners. Because there are so many varieties, it's a never ending task of weeding, picking up leaves, trimming, etc. It's much more high maintenance than I would ever choose in a million years. But, I do enjoy being outside & getting into the flow, so to speak. M & I have discussed many times, and we could each spend an hour outside working in the yard every day, and it would never be "done". Always too much to do!

Hope that was helpful, and I'd love to hear more about your daily habits!

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Planning an inexpensive bucket list trip

I'm working on planning a bucket list trip to Costa Rica for me + M (our anniversary, this fall), while trying to keep it as inexpensive as possible. 

We have a lot of "assets/perks" available in 2024 that will be expiring, so we want to maximize the travel perks before they disappear or expire in 2025. 

Here's what we're thinking so far:
  • Flights for 2 to Costa Rica - use travel credits (no out of pocket)
  • Use Hyatt points for a week at an all inclusive, adult only hotel, and use a guaranteed suite upgrade - no out of pocket. Given hotel status & the upgrade, we would get a bunch of other perks included. 
  • We will need to pay for transportation to/from the hotel & the airport locally, as well as any activities not included in the all inclusive. 
  • We will fly my parents in to take care of (just!) Nick, as we typically do
  • We will also leave cash for my parents for the week, when they are at our house
All told, we'd love to do the trip for $1500 or so, which seems quite realistic given our options. If I can pull this out, it would be a big frugal win! We need to wait to see where Sam will be going to college before we can book, as many colleges have parents weekend around our anniversary, and will need to adjust the timing accordingly.

What about you? Any bucket list trips you've done/are planning, and tips for how you kept the cost down? Any major travel wins scored with points, miles, perks, etc? Please share! 

As for today, I finally made progress on my resume, & handed it off to the resume service. Hurrah for progress!

Here's what else I'm up to today:
  • Workout class (this one is a running only class, which will gives my arms a bit of a break, after a lot of strength training)
  • Stretching
  • Lunch catch up with a friend
  • Start on my volunteer project for the soccer club
  • Attend Nick's tennis match
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Farsi lesson
  • Find 5 items to declutter
  • List 2 items on eBay
  • Spot clean one area of the house

Monday, March 25, 2024

Menu Plan Monday

I'm working on building at longer range meal plans, that take into account what's in our freezer & needs to be used up. So far, it's helping me remember to mix in freezer prepped meals with other dinners, so let's hope I can keep it up. The (f)s are something from the freezer

Here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Friday - appetizer style meal, including the Trader Joes appetizer purchased for the Super Bowl (f). Likely with chicken wings (f)
  • Saturday - Philly cheese steaks (f)
  • Sunday - grilled chicken & rice
  • Monday - pulled pork (f) on buns
  • Tuesday - spaghetti & meatballs (f) + garlic bread (f)
  • Wednesday - leftover chicken & rice
  • Thursday - leftover spaghetti & meatballs + garlic bread (f)
  • Friday - breaded shrimp (f) + salad

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

Sunday, March 24, 2024

A grocery stop & Sunday happenings

I've been keeping a close eye on our grocery spending lately. M prefers doing the Costco run, & I go to every other store we might need (typically one of either the store down the block, or Trader Joes, occasionally Safeway on my way back from the gym). 

We are well under our grocery budget for the year, which makes me happy. I thought I'd share what we bought on a recent Costco trip & their prices, as I always enjoy a peek into what others purchase:

  • Milk - $6.19
  • Sparkling water - $8.99 + $1.20 state tax (this is a splurge for sure)
  • Garbanzo beans (canned) for hummus - $8.79
  • Salmon - $15.88
  • Chicken wings - $15.99
  • 3 pack of cucumber - $5.99
  • Plums - $5.99
  • Bananas - $2.49
  • Two bags of salad - $8.99
  • Cauliflower - $6.49
  • Strawberries - $4.99
  • Feta - $5.99
  • 4 lbs of apples - $5.99
  • Pears - $5.99
  • Butter - $13.99
  • Olive oil - $14.49
  • 3 lbs of limes - $6.99
  • Shishito peppers - $5.99
  • Peanuts - $7.99
Total = $159.40

We have a few things that will last for longer than a week (garbanzo beans, butter, wings, olive oil, peanuts & limes) but the rest will be largely eaten in a week. Our grocery stops are typically like this: majority of items we will consume in a week, but always a few things that will last much longer. As you can see, we buy a lot of produce. We don't keep treats in the house, and the teens eat a bowl of fruit every evening after dinner. We also have a salad with dinner, and I tend to have a salad for lunch. The chicken wings will make several Friday "appetizer style" dinners. M loves salmon, and will likely have that for 3+ dinners. On a week when he buys salmon, I tend to serve more carb focused meals, which the teens enjoy, but M can't eat. 

What else am I up to today? M is in charge of dinner again (woohoo!), grilled chicken & rice. Hopefully it stops raining. 
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Work on my resume
  • Farsi lesson
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Workout class
  • Stretch
  • Pay calculus tutor
  • Help Sam with essay
  • Corral teens into their bathroom chores
  • Package & mail eBay sale
  • Make schedule for next week
What about you? What are you up to today? 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Saturday Happenings

I was up bright & early this morning, and got a few things done before I went to my gym class (Farsi practice, journal, meditation), worked a bit on my resume, & also kicked started a toiletry clean out project. Yikes. There's stuff all over the counters! I guess I've been collecting things on all of my travels, and definitely don't need it all. Time to get organized & pass things on to folks who will use them, and declutter what I have.

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

  • Attend Nick's first soccer game
  • Wash Nick's soccer uniform
  • Declutter/organize toiletries
  • Clean out bathroom cabinet
  • Work on resume (drat. I have such writer's block on this at the moment)
  • Create a big Buy Nothing listing
  • Pickle ball lessons (assuming it stops raining)
That's pretty much it on my side. M is making Philly Cheese steaks for dinner tonight. Yum! What are you up to today?

Friday, March 22, 2024

Frugal Friday

 It's been another good week for making smart money decisions, reducing waste & generally trying to be good stewards of our resources. Having more time to think about these things certainly helps. 

Saving on things we buy

  • As I mentioned in my travel post, I'm working hard to plan a few trips, and keep costs down as much as possible. I have a few nice wins, using miles/points/credits/etc, which also aligns well with my 2024 goal of spending down all of these credits, and not letting things go to waste. Here's how we saved on travel planning:
    • Used three free hotel nights for the Sedona hiking trip with my mom, saving $977
    • Used a gift card for my very cheap flight - saving $118
    • Used Southwest points to book my mom's flight, saving $359
    • Used points to book a two night stay for M's birthday, saving $1500. I also redeemed a free room upgrade, resulting in a suite. We wouldn't pay out of pocket for that cost, but that room runs closer to $1850 for two nights (nuts!)
  • Used grocery store rewards to pick up things we need for dinners this week, as well as a few birthday treats for Nick. 

Earning money

  • Listed a couple of items on eBay. One of my items sold, yielding $8. 
  • My coworker mentioned that our work reimbursement site still works (there was conflicting guidance on this) until our employment actually ends. It happens that I have three items for reimbursement (we have a small stipend for personal development). I've submitted two of them, and will add receipts once the classes are over (a requirement). I'll earn ~$100 or so after taxes, thanks to this. 

Avoiding spending

  • Picked up a couple of dinner items at Safeway, and used my gift card, spending $0 out of pocket.
  • I'm doing a lot of networking/casual meet ups with people, and I always offer coffee or a walk for our meet up option. About half choose the walk, which I always prefer, which definitely keeps the cost down. Coffee is an inexpensive option compared to lunch or dinner, however. 

Eating what we have

  • Packed a sandwich & fruit to eat at Nick's soccer game, on a very busy Saturday. 
  • *Finally* used a package of Top Ramen that has been in the pantry for almost forever, in chicken yakisoba
  • Made homemade hummus out of the two lonely cans of chickpeas that had been in the pantry forever, and the just expired jar of tahini sauce. It's always a hit in our family, so I need to make it more often. 
  • Used the second half of a box of lasagna noodles (left over from whenever my parents were last visiting) to make guessed it, lasagna for dinner. Bonus, I served it with garlic bread, and the baguette for that came from the freezer. 
  • Made progress on the shrimp scampi that was in the freezer, by adding it to the cheater pad thai dish we picked up at Costco. It was a delicious add on, and bulked out the meal quite a bit more. 

For others

  • Picked up trash on the soccer field, on my way to & from Nick's game (and, found a dime next to the trash)
  • Our neighbor had somehow gotten her car wedged against the wall of her garage (damaging the side panel of her car.) She came and asked M to help her get it out with the least amount of additional damage. I assisted, but he did most of the work & did an amazing job getting it out with no additional scrapes. He also spent a few hours on Sunday buffing the car out, getting basically all of the paint transfer off. He saved her at least $1500 of body work, and I worked in the yard & we chatted while he was working. I admire his patience, because it was very, very tedious work. 
  • Found myself volunteering for yet another senior night event - this one for club soccer's senior night. My friend promises me that this one is much less work. We shall see ;-) 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Thursday, March 21, 2024

How do you menu plan?

 I menu plan weekly, and have tried a variety of options. I'm considering building out more of a monthly view, so I can plug in prepped dinners (from the freezer - leftovers I've frozen) & other "need to use them up" items. I'm hoping it also helps give me a better view of weeks where we need easier options (e.g. returning from travel), or weeks where we will be gone (spring break, etc). Do you do anything like this? If so, please share tips & your planning process!

In the next couple of months, we have a few things going on: 1) final college tour + bonus visit to see my family (they are close by) 2) spring break road trip 3) Sedona with my mom. Looking forward to all three, and it's nice not to worry about taking time off, catching up with work after time off, working on a coverage plan, and catching up on "life" when I get back. Discounting our race weekend in Napa, this will be the first time I've ever traveled without worrying about all of those things, & I'm looking forward to it.

Things that I'm up to today:

  • Going to a workout class
  • Meeting up with a friend of a friend who is a professor, and chatting with her about what that's like
  • Helping both boys with scholarship applications
  • Work on Nick's college application work back schedule
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • Work on my resume
  • Add a few things to the calendar
  • We receive our annual bonuses tomorrow, & I now know how much they will be exactly for, so doing some financial planning
  • Watch Nick's tennis match
  • Leftovers for dinner
Things that I try to do every day:
  • Journal
  • Farsi lessons
  • Meditate
  • 20 minutes of yard work (or, more). Usually more
Would love to hear more about how you meal plan & what works for you. Or, what you're up to today!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024


Tess asked a question in my last post about how I declutter. I thought it might be helpful to share the process I used, and would love to hear from anyone else how they approach this.

I don't have a formal "process", but here's how I generally approach it.

How to find things to get rid of:

1) For "hot" areas of the house, I go through them regularly. An example of this would be a three tiered tray where we keep paperwork, checks, to do items, etc. Because that tray is constantly in flux, it needs a regular review, where I pull out things that I've dealt with, reminds me of any tasks that still need to be handled, and I shred/recycle everything else.

2) I go through my closet after a season. If I didn't wear something after the appropriate season, I ask myself why I'm hanging on to the item. Sometimes there's a reasonable answer, but most of the time, it means I can let the item go. I try to stick to a one in one out rule, if I'm replacing something. But, I also have more than enough, so try to go beyond that as well.

3) The boys stuff is trickier. They are growing, so their clothes needs a different approach. I "force" them to sit with me every six months or so, they try on any items that they aren't wearing regularly, and we cull what doesn't fit. Similarly, they have hobbies that they don't participate in, or old mementos, and I do pull things aside & talk to them about whether they still want/need the items. But, this is their choice, of course. I don't get rid of stuff without their permission, but try to help them along.

4) I also look for areas of the house that aren't frequently touched (ski bags get reviewed at the end of each season - do we have enough ski socks? Is anything missing? Can anything be removed?) Same with closets, drawers, etc. 

5) I try to go through every area of the house, but in phases. Some things need infrequent intervention (the kitchen doesn't change much, for example), but the hall closet... that place just collects random things & I feel like every time I look in there, it's ready for another decluttering & organizing session.

Now, moving on to what I do with all of the items I find:

1) If it's new, worth more than $15 or so, I try to sell it. I prefer Facebook Marketplace, as there are no fees, and it's just generally easier.

2) I use eBay if Facebook Marketplace isn't an option (too niche, light weight/easy to ship, more valuable) & I need a broader group of buyers.

3) 90% of things that are used, I give away, unless they are very niche. I choose to try & sell niche items, because they are much more likely to get purchased vs the smaller group of BN people I have available to review my items. My first place I offer things is Buy Nothing. I probably post 10 items per week, & have great success giving things away. I have a good sense of what people are interested in. Teen clothes are very, very popular, as are kitchen items, anything ski/winter related, etc. 

4) If the item doesn't move on BN, I move on to a more traditional donation - Goodwill. I try to start with BN, because it's much more likely the item won't be tossed if it goes to someone who intentionally sought it out. But, Goodwill works in a pinch. I try to really ask myself if the item still holds value. If it does, great, I will donate it.

5) For paper work or anything that can be recycled, I do that. We have a local sports store that recycles old sneakers, so I always have a collection of those going as well, waiting to be dropped off.

6) Finally, there are some things that need to be tossed. I try to keep this to the smallest amount possible, as putting things in the landfill makes me sad and is the opposite of my goal to reduce, reuse, pass things on, etc. 

Hope that was helpful! I love decluttering, and am happy to share other thoughts, if you have questions! What about you? How do you declutter your house?

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Mid month goal check in

 March is whizzing by! It's been a very different month for me, as I'm not working. I have been spending quite a bit of time "browsing" jobs, having meetings with various folks, doing some networking, etc. But, still lots of time for productivity and goals. 


  • Set new goals & come up with revised budget, post layoff - I've made good progress on this, and have decided to buy CDs for the remaining college expenses, so the money is tucked away. 
  • Max Nick's 529 - haven't received our bonuses yet
  • Max our 401Ks - haven't received our bonuses yet
  • Put aside money for taxes - same as above, waiting on bonuses
  • Save any remaining bonus money for Sam's college expenses - ditto above
  • Earn $300 in side hustle - made $75.50
  • Pantry/freezer challenge (green beans, coconut milk, shrimp scampi, corn dogs, fish sticks). - I've made progress on some of this (used up 4 more corn dogs & 1/2 a bag of shrimp scampi), but I've also used up a lot of other items: a very old bag of cauliflower rice, the end of a bag of corn, a bag of frozen pureed bananas, gave away a can of peaches, tossed pantry expired food, made yakisoba out of an ancient package of Top Ramen, made hummus out of soon to expire garbanzo beans/tahini, & made lasagna out of a package of noodles that had been in the pantry forever. So, feeling really good about progress on this one. 
  • Help Sam finalize college decisions - final college tour in April
  • Get Nick started on the college process - a little progress, but SATs are scheduled
  • Optimize points, perks, miles - lots of progress here:
    • Used points to cover two nights at a fancy hotel in Napa
    • Used Southwest miles to cover my mom's flight to Sedona
    • Used Hyatt free night awards to cover 3 of 4 nights in Sedona
    • My Sedona flight was very inexpensive ($118), but used a gift card to cover that
    • Used Hyatt points to cover two nights at a hotel in Carmel for M's birthday. Bonus, used a suite upgrade award to upgrade the room for free. 
    • Found an old Safeway gift card, and have been picking up meal planning items with that.
    • Used a CVS gift card to buy Easter items
  • Plan one fun activity with the boys - we are planning a spring break trip
  • Run a half marathon - done!
  • 8 stretching workouts - 5/10 so far
  • Lose 3 lbs - yes, I've lost 3 lbs!
  • 10 strength training workouts - 9/10 so far
  • Follow the No S diet - really doing well with this. My new schedule works so that I fast in the morning, and I have much fewer snack temptations at home. Bonus that I'm not stressed out about work & mindlessly stress eating. 
  • Get together with friends. - I suddenly have much more free time. Met a friend for a workout + coffee, another friend for a wine + chat, and had the long weekend with my mom & sister in Napa. Also, met two coworkers for a walk, one friend for an early morning hike, and another coworker for a lunch. 
  • Practice Farsi 10 times - 11/10 so far
  • Declutter 50 items from the house - 54/50
  • Start pickle ball lessons with M - yes, we started last weekend & we had a great time!
What about you? How are you doing with your March goals?

Monday, March 18, 2024

Menu Plan Monday

 I'm working hard on cleaning out lingering pantry & freezer items, and I'll try & make better notes on my menu of when I'm using things up. It's helpful for myself & maybe it will inspire others. :-) 

  • Friday - an appetizer style meal: coconut shrimp, gyozas, edamame
  • Saturday - lasagna & garlic bread (using up lasagna noodles from my parents last visit + tomato paste that has been sitting around forever + baguette from the freezer)
  • Sunday - pizza
  • Monday - grilled burgers & oven baked fries (using up a very old bag of fries)
  • Tuesday - chicken yakisoba (using up an old package of Top Ramen noodles, from the pantry)
  • Wednesday - lasagna 
  • Thursday - yakisoba
  • Friday - probably another appetizer style meal. 
What about you? What's on your menu for the week?

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Sunday Things

It's another busy day, but I find that I don't mind busy weekends now that I have the rest of the week to catch up, and I'm not trying to use weekends to prep for the work week ahead. I still try to be productive, but the pressure is off.

Yesterday was Nick's first spring club soccer game. Knowing the end is in sight, and how quickly it goes, I try to make it to as many matches as possible. The keeper went out with a head injury (he's okay, but they are very cautious with head injuries in soccer, as they should be), so Nick went in as goalie. He hasn't played that position in five or so years, and had one play where he dove to save a shot & slid across the turf on his face. He missed the shot as well. It don't think it was his favorite game, but was a good teammate & filled in. I'm glad I was there to support him, and also bring him water, because... despite being 17, sometimes you forget your water bottle. ;-)

M & I had pickle ball lessons, which were so much fun. I love learning something new together. We came home & I made chicken yakisoba for the two of us, while the teens were out with friends.

As for today, it should be a fun day. Here's what we're up to:

  • Workout class this morning
  • Nick has calculus tutoring
  • I'm meeting up with a friend for a walk
  • We're having takeout birthday pizza for dinner
  • Washing the sheets
  • Drying all of the rugs I washed
  • Gift opening
  • I'd like to make hummus
  • Scroll through LinkedIn & see if there's anything interesting
  • Read my book in the sunshine by the pool 
That's it for us. What about you? 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Saturday Happenings

It appears that I now can comment on my own blog again, but my comments need approval. From myself. 😂 Anyway, I'll give that a try, & also test out comments on a few other blogs. 

Here's what I'm up to today:

  • Workout class this morning
  • From there, I head straight to Nick's soccer game
  • As soon as I get back from soccer, I'll head home to grab lunch & then go to my first pickle ball lesson with M. It's been on our list to sign up for pickle ball lessons since we tried it in October on vacation. Glad we finally made it happen!
  • Making chicken yakisoba for dinner
  • Yard work
  • Laundry
  • Stop by the store
  • Work on our spring break plans
That's it! I also have a new laptop, and need to get everything transferred over, which is always a real treat.

What about you? What are you up to today? 

Friday, March 15, 2024

Frugal Friday

This week is really about using things up (rewards, gift cards, travel credits, food, etc), so that will be the theme of today's post. ;-) Having more time to work through all of these things is definitely useful, so I'll count that as a win.

Saving on things we buy:

  • Used two $20 grocery store rewards. On the first trip, I picked up items I needed for dinners this week, plus a few sale items ($.99 sourdough bakery bread, grapes, & cheese). I was on my way home when Sam (home sick with the flu) asked for a variety of drink options (Gatorade, ginger ale, etc). I used another $20 grocery store reward, and combined my purchase with the drinks I needed to pick up for Nick's soccer event, to use up another $20 reward. 
  • Went through all of my Fetch gift cards, and verified the balances, marked the used ones so they would no longer appear, and found two gift cards that were still available, with a combined $35 balance. One is for Safeway, which I'll use once I'm done with the current gift card, and the other is for Nike, which I'll use the next time I need to order Nick new tennis shoes. 

Earning money:

  • In a real frugal fail, I was reviewing an offer from a buyer on eBay who was driving me crazy offering way under listing, then when I'd counter, he'd raise his offer by $.50 at a time. I kept declining, but eventually was at the store, and hit accept on his last offer. I failed to review my own listing, which apparently included free shipping. I was already selling it way under my original price, so I made a grand total of $.50. Don't be like me. 
  • A coworker sent me a small bonus ($75) for a project I'd finished just before the layoffs. 

Avoiding spending:

  • It's one of our 2024 goals to reduce travel costs by using points, miles, credits, etc. We are going to Portland in June for Sam's graduation party, plus a 70th birthday biking event for my uncle. Flights for four are super pricey! I was able to book my flights + M's flight using miles (saving $872), and used a flight credit for the boys flights, saving $565. Our out of pocket was $307, vs the standard $1744, so a big win. 
  • Used a gift card to make a purchase at Safeway. I've been keeping a closer eye on the ads, and picked up cheese, Goldfish crackers (I swap through a variety of snacks, as we try to keep only 1 available at any time. These made the rotation for the month, given price!), & apples. Used $23 of a gift card, and spent $0 out of pocket. 
  • When Safeway swapped their ads, I went another day to pick up couple of other items I need for meals next week, including cabbage at $.37/lb. I used my gift card again, so no out of pocket spent. There is a Safeway in the parking lot of my gym, so it's now super convenient to stop & pick things up when I'm done working out. 
  • Disputed a charge for something Amazon couldn't explain, didn't know what it was, and I didn't order, saving $16.

Eating what we have:

  • Turned the $.99 sourdough bread into grilled cheese sandwiches for the teens. Minus a huge chunk someone tore off the bread before I could rescue it. 
  • Used up extra cilantro, avocado & sour cream in chicken fajitas. They were leftover from the cauliflower taco rice. I remembered to plan another dish that would use up the leftovers, which was a win!
  • Ate lots of leftovers for lunches this week, and used up all of the Mexican themed sides (cilantro, avocado & sour cream) for various dishes.
  • Used lots of fresh mint (from the garden) in M's salads, per his request. He loves fresh mint. 
  • Planned meals for next week around what we have in the pantry & need to use up.
  • Made corn dogs for Nick one night, when he missed dinner (again) due to a late tennis match. The corn dogs have been on my "use it up" list for a while. 

For others:

  • This is silly, but there was a cart blocking not one but two parking spots at the grocery store near my house. It has a small lot to start with. I parked my car pretty far out, and then stopped & picked up the cart on my way, freeing up the spots for others.
  • Shared some resources with my coworker, who was also laid off. 
What about you? Any wins to share?

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Some travel planning

It's strange to not be worrying about vacation day/time off requests right now! 

M & I are planning a last minute spring break trip with the kids, and have largely aligned on a road trip to Redwoods National Park, with a one day detour to Lassen National Park. I have free Hyatt nights I'd hoped to use, as they are expiring soon, but unfortunately, there are no Hyatts near either national park. Instead, we opted for inexpensive lodging nearby. I've set a target budget for the trip, to include gas, lodging & food. Let's see how we do. This will be the last spring break where both boys are available (college & high school spring breaks don't overlap), so we wanted to take advantage. 

As for the free Hyatt nights, I've been wanting to do a hiking trip to Sedona, so I'm in the process of seeing if I can book a few nights there at the end of April. My mom will likely join, as we travel well together, and she's retired. ;-) I have two free nights, and the hotel is reasonable for the other three nights. I have flight credits for myself & to cover my mom, so that just leaves us with three nights at the hotel, plus food. Our activities will largely be hiking, and relaxing at the hotel. Similar to the above, I've set a target budget for the trip, and am hoping to keep things in check.

And finally, I have one free Hyatt night for a much higher end property, so I've reached out to see if I can book Carmel Valley Ranch (so nice!) at the end of June, for M's birthday. I would use the free night voucher, plus points for a second night. CVR is in driving distance to our house, so it would just be food for that trip. 

I'm happy I finally went through & came up with some options to use our free nights. Originally, we were planning to use all of our hotel perks/status/points for our Turkey trip. With that canceled, and our benefits expiring before that trip will happen, we need to find creative options. But, we need to do that with budget in mind. 

What, if any, travel is top of mind for you at the moment? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Ongoing blogger problems & other things

First off, apologies that I cannot comment on your blogs. In fact, I can't even reply to comments on my own blog. Something is really not working & I need to figure out why I can log in to publish posts, but am then logged out to comment. So irritating. Please know that I do read & appreciate each of your comments, even if I can't reply right now.

For SAM, here are the kind of kebabs my husband makes. He uses his dad's recipe, but this is the general idea. We serve our with tadiq (Persian rice), grilled tomatoes, & maast o khiar (yogurt dipping sauce). 

In no particular order, random thoughts for the day:

  • I've been up since 4:45. I was having work anxiety dreams, so I figured it was better just to get up.
  • For my birthday, M bought me a total indulgence milk frother. It has upleveled my coffee so much. Every morning when I drink my one latte, I get a kick out of it. I tried it at a friend's house, wrote it off as a huge indulgence after pricing it, and was so pleased when M got it for me. 
  • I've made enough progress cleaning out the freezer that I could wipe part of the interior this weekend. Woohoo!
  • I've lost 2.5 lbs in the last couple of weeks. A few things that have helped: 
    • lots of exercise & consistency
    • no work snacks/meals (my meals are probably better calorie controlled)
    • my workout classes are later than I normally go, & I don't like to eat ahead of such a hard workout. Therefore, no breakfast & I fast until after my workout class
    • stress, which I don't recommend ;-) 
  • Still trying to figure out a spring break option with the teens. They are very, very different people, so finding a mutually agreeable option has been a challenge! We're leaning towards a road trip to Redwoods National Park, which none of us have ever been to. 
  • I have a couple of work calls today. The first one is with my boss's boss's boss, and I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to say. I hope it's not awkward. I appreciate him wanting to check in post-layoff, but again... has the potential to be awkward. The second call is with an internal recruiter. Not only are there no jobs open, but I'd really have to be excited about a role at this point to consider it. But, my laid off coworker found the call helpful, so I figure it's a small time investment.
  • I'm taking the free Coursera course "The Science of Well Being", and love it! Many of the things I already do, but it's super useful to here the "why" behind each of those, and I'm learning new things along the way. 
Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, March 11, 2024

Menu Plan Monday

I'm experimenting with what works best for us menu & food prep wise, while I'm in this new phase of life. I'll likely continue to do leftovers, but add in another "new" recipe during the week, which I wouldn't have tried before, given my schedule. 

Here's what's on our menu this week:

  • Friday - garlic shrimp
  • Saturday - chicken fajitas
  • Sunday - kebabs & rice
  • Monday - leftover fajitas
  • Tuesday - leftover kebabs & rice
  • Wednesday - beef and cauliflower taco skillet
  • Thursday - any remaining leftovers
  • Friday - gyozos & wings
What about you? Any new recipes to share? I tried the peanut chicken noodle recipe, and we loved it! We doubled it, and have enough for two dinners. We served ours with the chopped peanuts, and squeezed some fresh lime on top, and added a bit of sriracha on top for a bit more spice. 

Sunday, March 10, 2024

March goals check in

 March has been quite a ride so far! I was supposed to be leaving for Tokyo this morning, made even more "fun" by daylight savings. I'm grateful to not be on that flight.


  • Set new goals & come up with revised budget, post layoff - I've made good progress on this
  • Max Nick's 529 - haven't received our bonuses yet
  • Max our 401Ks- haven't received our bonuses yet
  • Put aside money for taxes- haven't received our bonuses yet
  • Save any remaining bonus money for Sam's college expenses- haven't received our bonuses yet
  • Earn $300 in side hustle - no progress on this
  • Pantry/freezer challenge: use up:. I made progress, but mostly not on these items (used 1/2 a bag of the shrimp scampi.) I did use up a very old bag of cauliflower rice & the end of a bag of corn, made muffins out of a bag of pureed bananas, gave away a can of peaches & tossed some expired food. So, overall good progress, just not much on these items. 
    • 2 cans of green beans
    • 2 cans of coconut milk
    • one bag of shrimp scampi
    • the rest of the corn dogs
    • almost full bag of fish sticks
  • Help Sam finalize his decisions - final college tour in April
  • Get Nick started on the college process - minimal progress
  • Optimize points, perks, miles. - Used points to cover two nights at a very fancy hotel in Napa
  • Plan one fun activity with the boys - planning a spring break trip for April

  • Run a half marathon - done!
  • 8 stretching workouts - 3/10 so far
  • Lose 3 lbs - 1.5 lbs lost
  • 10 strength training workouts - 3/10 so far
  • Follow the No S diet - yes, my new schedule works well with this, and much fewer snack temptations at home
  • Get together with friends. - I suddenly have more free time. Met a friend for a workout + coffee, another friend for wine + chat, and had the long weekend with my mom & sister in Napa. 
  • Practice Farsi 10 times - 5/10
  • Declutter 50 items from the house - 12/50
  • Start pickle ball lessons - they start next weekend!
What about you? How are you doing with your March goals?

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Saturday Happenings

I'm finding "the weekend" to be a strange concept, when I'm not working. I'm so used to rushing, & trying to carve out a small window of relaxation among the need to be productive on weekends. It's very different to feel like it's a regular day, where I can get things done, but not be stressed. 

Sam had the flu yesterday, and it was also strange to be able to run around & pick up drinks for him, check on him every hour, clean up vomit & not be worried about work. Having the flexibility to take care of him felt like a real luxury. I'm so, so lucky in that I think he's missed a total of 3 days of school since we moved to California, so staying home sick isn't something he's done much of. 

As for today, here's what I'm currently planning to do today:

  • Workout class
  • Make muffins
  • Farsi lesson
  • Journal
  • Yard work
  • Clean out the freezer, and reorganize a few things
  • Organize pantry
  • List a few things on Buy Nothing
  • Wrap Nick's birthday gifts
What are you up to today? Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend!

Friday, March 8, 2024

Frugal Friday

It wasn't much of a frugal week, as I was out of town Friday-Tuesday on a girls trip for the half marathon. Here are a few wins we had.

Saving on things we buy:

  • I noticed that I was charged for a one night destination fee (supposed to be included in the rate) & called to have it waived ($23.05 back) 
  • Used a Fetch gift card to pick up Easter treats at CVS. There was a couple of dollars left on the gift card, so they gave me that back as cash. 

Earning money

  • I managed to submit a gym reimbursement on Wednesday, not knowing I'd be laid off that evening. I just saw that it popped up as approved, so I supposed I earned $35 or whatever by filling out the form. 

Avoiding spending

  • Used the last of the Amex gift card to pick up some lunch fixings to keep on hand (I've been eating for free at work for the last 10 years). 
  • I was also able to use Hyatt points to cover two nights of our hotel. I have status at the Hyatt, so we got a very fancy free breakfast every morning, and then skipped lunch. The food was fabulous. 
  • I was going to pick up inexpensive gloves at Target for the race (I didn't pack mine, and realized how cold it would be once we got there), but they were handing out gloves at packet pickup. 
  • Cancelled our Alaska Airlines credit card, as I'm not a fan of their change policies. You get a companion fare to use yearly, which largely offsets the cost of the card. However, if you change a flight booked with the companion fare, you lose the discount entirely. The last few years, we've needed to change our flights, resulting in a loss of the discount. I also have better travel credit cards, and am looking to streamline. Saved $95 by cancelling. 
  • Paused Nick's gym membership, as he's currently playing two sports
  • Picked up some freebie snacks at the half marathon, and brought those home for the boys

Eating what we have

  • Used naan bread from the freezer to make gyros for Sam, and grilled cheese sandwiches for Nick
  • Dug buns out of the freezer to make chicken patty sandwiches, for a quick dinner between events
  • Used two cans of coconut milk (one of my targets for the pantry cleanup) to make a chicken peanut dish. 

For others

  • Thanked all of the volunteers at the race last weekend (it was super cold & chilly)
  • Extended a lot of patience when things went wrong at various points. Went above & beyond to thank the people involved, assume best intent, etc.
  • Helped a couple of teens at the race.
  • Continue to provide support to special needs aunt on her finances, including negotiating bills, setting up autopay, tracking down a missed payment, etc. 
What about you? Any wins to share? 

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Sitting with my feelings

First up, we finished our half marathon! It was a super rainy & cold day, but we did it. My mom absolutely crushed it, and placed very high in her age group. She's amazing. I felt great until mile 11, and then felt...less great! :-) We had such a lovely time together, and it was really nice to spend time with my family, coming off the news of the layoff. We moved to a "fancy" hotel (booked with points) on Sunday & Monday & it was gorgeous. Our room faced a winery, & looked like something in a movie. So lovely & relaxing. 

How am I feeling right now? I am a person who really likes progress, decisions, a clear plan, etc. Post layoff, I'm finding it so hard to sit with my feelings, the unknown & just be comfortable in this space. It's hard, but I'm working on it.

It sucked to end a long career without a chance to have a proper goodbye, particularly given I managed a very global & remote team, & I hired the entire team myself. I've known multiple folks for more than ten years. I'm also frustrated & disappointed by how some of the process is being managed, but I assume that's standard. There's no "good" way to handle layoffs.

I'm trying to give myself space to process all of these feelings. I've also had so very many lovely colleagues reach out to wish me well, thank me for our time together, share fun memories, offer to extend their network, etc. I've worked with a really awesome group of folks & feel so lucky about that. 

I'm trying to focus on some daily activities, to give structure to my now completely unstructured days. Here's what I've come up with so far:
  • Journal
  • Farsi lesson
  • Meditate
  • Work out
I have a ton of house projects, yard clean up, financial stuff, projects to help my aunt, and other life "back log" items to catch up on, so I'll also be weaving those in on a daily basis, and choosing a few things from the longer list.

As for today, it's been a reasonably productive day. So far, I've:
  • Gone to a gym class
  • Meditated
  • Taken my Farsi lesson
  • Journaled
  • Stopped by the bank
  • Picked up a few things at the grocery store. Then, discovered the meat I bought was rotten, so went back & got a refund.
  • Attempted to book my parents travel for Sam's graduation. Couldn't use their discount code. Called Alaska & got that all sorted & travel is now booked.
  • Dealt with another bill for special needs aunt.
  • Canceled two credit cards that aren't doing much for us. One has a yearly fee, so that will save a bit.
  • Cleaned the house
  • Did two loads of laundry
I'm actually making dinner mid-week! This is a new development for us, as we are typically very busy, and we just do leftovers during the week. I never got to the peanut noodles with chicken recipe, so I'll be making that tonight. 

Hope you are all having a great week! Also, blogger doesn't want to let me post comments on other blogs, so I need to get that fixed, but apologies in advance. 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

March Goals

March is the month of the half marathon, combined with an international work trip, and whatever comes my way with work more generally I got laid off, but i guess I also get to skip an international work trip. We also get our annual bonuses in March, so you'll see us trying to knock out some of our yearly financial goals.

Here are my goals for the month:


  • Set new goals & come up with a revised budget, post my layoff
  • Max Nick's 529
  • Max our 401Ks (standard for both of us, + M's catch up contribution)
  • Put aside money for taxes
  • Save the remainder of any bonus money for Sam's college expenses
  • Earn $300 in side hustle
  • Pantry/freezer challenge: use up
    • 2 cans of green beans
    • 2 cans of coconut milk
    • one bag of shrimp scampi
    • the rest of the corn dogs
    • an almost full bag of fish sticks
  • Help Sam finalize his decisions (one more tour coming up in April)
  • Get Nick started on the college application process + SATs & AP test prep
  • Optimize points, perks, miles. In March specifically, I'll be using miles to cover two nights at a hotel
  • Plan one fun activity per month with the boys
  • Run a half marathon
  • 8 stretching workouts
  • Lose 3 lbs
  • 10 strength training workouts
  • Follow the No S diet

  • Get together with friends
  • Practice Farsi 10 times
  • Declutter 50 items from the house
  • Start pickle ball lessons

What about you? What are your goals for March?

Friday, March 1, 2024

Frugal Friday

 It's been a week, and more frugality is required in the future. I got laid off this week, which is likely for the best, but still hit hard after a very long career. I'm trying to spend the next few weeks processing & not really stressing out, but after that, I'll turn to the inevitable question of "what comes next" and trying to think in the longer term. Lots more on that ahead. 

Saving on things we buy

  • I picked up a few gift cards we will use & earned $45 of grocery store rewards
  • I thought of ordering dessert for a school banquet, as I have a really crazy work week, but planned ahead, picked up $5 worth of ingredients at the store, and made brownies over the weekend. The recipe says it freezes great, so fingers crossed. 

Earning money

  • M & I each received $80 as a settlement we were part of

Avoiding spending

  • Sam & I are doing one last college tour, and I used travel credits (from a cancelled flight) to cover the cost

Eating what we have

  • Used provolone cheese (leftover from Philly cheese steak sandwiches) to top grilled burgers over the weekend
  • Nick didn't like the dinner I made one night, so made himself a bagel & wrapped up his dinner. I had his leftovers for lunch one day.
  • Got home super late from a school meeting, so threw together a "cheater" chicken pad Thai kit we bought at Costco for just such an occasion. 

For others

  • Helped out with set up and clean up of the soccer banquet
What about you? Any frugal wins to share?