Monday, July 21, 2008

Cleaning out the fridge...and traveling

Actually, the cleaning lady I just hired scrubbed out the fridge (I'm in LOVE!!) Perhaps not frugal, but it definitely simplifies my life and I finally have a clean house.

Anyway, we are heading out soon on a vacation. So, I am trying to eat up what is in our fridge and freezer, and not buy anything new. So, the meals of late have been a mishmash.
I made pasta salad with broccoli, green beans, zucchini, onion, and tomatoes from the CSA. It also had olives, sundried tomato, and some homemade pesto (made from basil from the CSA).

I also made a stir-fried pineapple quinoa with cashews loosely based on a recipe from "Veganomicon". I say loosely based, because I absolutely substituted whatever veggies I had (meaning, peas were the only thing that matched), and I used canned pineapple instead of fresh (the horrors!) and I ran out of quinoa so it was half quinoa and half bulgur. Still, a pretty good dish and we're finishing the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Traveling - We are heading out by plane soon, and you know how that goes...they don't feed you anymore, our layover is short. So, I am packing for the trip. The food will be in my backpack: turkey sandwiches, carrot sticks, apple slices, and a few cookies. Plus our (empty) water bottles. I will also carry some entertainment - a few toddler books and maybe a toy or two.
My husband will be carrying the DVD player with the Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs. We are parents who did not let our son watch TV until age two. We try to only let him watch 20-30 min per day now. But for a cross country flight? Yeah, we'll let it slide.
Of course my son's small backpack will serve as the diaper bag/spare clothing.
We will have three checked bags (one per person, so as not to have to pay for them). One is the carseat. The others - we are planning on doing laundry, and are only taking 4 changes of clothing. We will also pack some emergency supplies, mainly tea bags and instant oatmeal (because you just never know).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fighting the Urge to Spend

Why is it so hard? Because spending is normal. From that soda, candy bar, lunch out, the new entertainment center, new pair of can be very hard to say NO.

I think it's just because of the culture of consumerism. It's NORMAL to buy stuff. And nice stuff.

For example:
Bike - my husband and I have started riding our bikes to work 2x per week, saving gas. This means that one of our cars stays home. We work in the same town, but work intentionally different hours (I am part time). Now, our bikes are old. Mine 10, his 15, and they've gotten a lot of use. Particularly his, back when we had only one car.

Now that we are riding, my husband wants a new bike. He thinks that one solid day of work would probably get his existing one in better condition, but what with other projects to do around the house, it's not on the top of his list. So we talked about buying a new one.

This came up in conversation at work. Some friends just said "oh, just buy a new one, but good luck getting one for less than $500". Now, I'd just come from the local bike store, and there were new road bikes for $329 or so (I was getting my gears fixed, soon to be replaced, for $45.) I didn't go into the fact that we will probably check out the used market first. But I said "no, you can get a perfectly good bike for $329."

Then I'm told "but that's not a REAL road bike. If you ever ride with people with REAL road bikes, they'll leave you in the dust." Huh? Seriously, we are commuters. We ride our bikes to or from work. We are never going to be out cycling with serious cyclers. And...who cares?

But there's that idea, that you might as well buy "the best" or "the best that you can afford" or "the biggest".

Entertainment Center:
When my son got to be mobile, we considered getting a new entertainment center. Well, really, we didn't have an old one, the equipment (VCR, DVD player) was just on the floor. We needed a door with a glass front. Found a beautiful dark wood one at Pottery Barn...for $1300. Instead, one night my husband drove to Target (30 miles) and got a cheap little stand in an ugly blond wood (glass doors!) for about $70.

We just recently saw one similar to the Pottery Barn one at Costco for $379. We discussed it and realized...(1) it's not going to match anything in our house. We already have 8 different types of wood, this makes it 9. (2) the existing one works perfectly well. The newer one would be great for a plasma TV (which we don't have). But again, same friends "you should get it." Well, why? Because I SHOULD and because the old one is ugly (I'm thinking of spray painting it black some weekend). But just because I like it, I should buy it?

Which brings us to the TV...two years ago, I was going to get my husband a flat screen LCD TV for father's day, $2400. Didn't (why? I was asked many times...the car died. The new car was $18,000. There went the TV idea.) Now the same TV is $800. But you know, our little 27-inch TV, 13 years old, works just fine. So we're keeping it. And not trading up.

Sigh, it can be so buy buy. Buy new, buy nice, I guess that's the crowd I run with. Which makes going home to visit my family really nice. We're garage sale people.

Leftover Magic

We are heading on vacation soon. I am eating up the dregs in our fridge and freezer.

Last night, I heated up the last of the pre-made "Simple Meals" - fish stew, it was yucky. Nick liked it, I had two bites and tossed the rest. I am starting to see why they went out of business.

For the veggie, I mixed:
a bag of spaghetti squash frozen from the winter
leftover spaghetti sauce
sauteed onion and garlic
cooked green shelling beans (basically, when green beans get past their prime, you shell them and cook them like pintos, but only take about 30 min)

Maybe I can take a pic later, but this was really really good.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Organization and Pilers and Filers.

Today, our anniversary - instead of being a relaxing day became our "organization day".

You see, we are engineers. And we are pilers. We are pilers who endeavor to be filers. This just means that we generally let our piles get completely out of control. I guess it's normal for engineers to be pilers...we like visuals.

Now we have a toddler. He is a piler too. Here's an example of how he likes to pile up his toys.

Why is today special? Well, I finally hired a cleaning lady. After two years of thinking about it, and living with a dirty house, I did it. You see, with two jobs, we have time to get partially organized, or partially clean. It's annoying. Since our cleaning person is coming tomorrow for the first time, we decided to get organized a bit so she could actually dust.

How to get organized for a piler? Here are a couple of examples on what not to do: First, don't have a bunch of crap on your desk. Second: the wall holders are a great idea for pilers, but don't let them get so full that you can't see what's in them.

Here's an example or two of what we did today...shelves are organized. I moved my thread into a drawered container. We have baskets on the shelves with different purposes (electronics, crocheting). And I moved items into photo boxes: photos, patterns, and greeting cards.

Now it doesn't seem very frugal to go out and buy containers to store more stuff, but...we have three people in this small house. And it took us until pretty recently to come to terms with this. We were kind of avoiding dealing with the issue. If it were just the two of us, it wouldn't be a problem. The truth is that we have a limited amount of space, and we'll always have to be on top of things.

On a plus note, I freecycled some maternity wear, baby toys, and books today. Still have a few items not taken yet. But that's necessary "being on top of things". Something comes into the house...something has to go out of the house.

Weekly Grocery and CSA roundup, 7/5-7/11/08

This one's ugly. Really. Didn't bother trying this week...or last week. We didn't host a lot of people this week, but we did make 2 trays of lasagna...(veg) for a friend who had a baby.

Grocery: $87.72

7/5 Ralph's: $9.22

Mayo: 2.50
Salsa: 2.89
2 pkg ramen: 0.40
jarred ginger: 1.99
1 head garlic: 0.50
6 bagels: 1.29 (from markdown)

7/5 TJ's: $11.83
Gal milk: 3.49
Joe's O's: 2.29
Feta: 2.29
3 apples: 1.47
Tortilla chips: 2.29

7/6 TJ's: $10.94
2 apples: 0.98
Cornbread mix: 2.49
Gal milk: 3.49
2 loaves bread: 3.98

7/7 TJ's: $12.66
cereal bars: 1.69
Chicken teriyako: 4.99
6 frozen egg rolls: 2.99
Spicy sushi rolls: 2.99

7/10 Scolari's: $18.12
2.65 lb onions: 1.83
head garlic: 0.35
2 cans spaghetti sauce: 3.38
2 lb mozzarella: 5.99
1 lb sliced mushrooms: 4.58
1 lb lasagna: 1.99

7/10 Lazy Acres: 6.98
2 pkgs pectin: 6.98 (making jam)

7/11 TJ's: 11.24
1 lb frozen chopped spinach: 1.29
whole grain fancy loaf bread: 2.99
32 oz cottage cheese: 3.99
1 lb raisins: 1.99
2 apples: 0.98

7/11 Mesa Produce: 6.73
1 pt strawberries: 2.99
zucchini: 1.24
2 red bell peppers: 2.50

CSA: $20
1 bu basil
1 basket strawberries
1 lb shelling beans
1 bu dandelion greens
1/2 lb carrots
2 lb peaches
2 onions
2 lb plums (very ripe, we made jam)
1 lb tomatoes
2 lb potatoes

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dandelion Greens

This was a new one...sauteed them with onions, made it into quesadillas.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mac and Cheese

1 lb pasta: 0.75
2 links sausage: 1.60
3/4 lb cheddar cheese: 2.25
can diced tomato: 0.65
1/2 onion: 0.20
peas and corn (3/4 cup?): 0.35
3 cups milk: 0.65

Total: $6.45 for 8 servings (main-dish sized), or $0.81/serving. It's lasting us longer because we are eating it as a side dish on some days.

Mac and Cheese

This recipe is kinda-sorta based on a Rachael Ray recipe, but adjusted so's got sausage, pureed peas and corn, tomatoes, onions, cheese sauce (you know, milk, cheese), pasta...

I made it over the weekend, and we have a LOT of leftovers still. Probably another two meals at least, and we've eaten it three times already.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I had plans for a Ramen stir-fry tonight (there were recipes in the paper this weekend). I guess I was craving Asian, because on the way home I stopped at TJ's to get teriyaki chicken, sushi, and egg rolls to "round out" the ramen. Not very frugal. But the ramen is:

Ramen stir-fry:
2 pkg ramen, flavor packets discarded - 0.40
1/2 an onion, thinly sliced - 0.15
2 small carrots, julienned - 0.15
1/2 lb summer squash, julienned - 0.40
2 T soy sauce - 0.18
1 T canola oil - 0.04
1 T rice vinegar - 0.08
1/2 T sesame oil - 0.10
1 clove garlic, pressed - 0.05
1/2 tsp ginger, minced - 0.05
2 T chopped cilantro -0.10

Total: $1.70 for 4 servings, or 0.43/serving

Of course, the egg rolls were 0.40 each, the chicken was $1 per serving, and the sushi was $1.50 each (we split a package of 8 slices). All told, $3.33 per person, not too terribly bad for scratching my itch for Asian food.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

July 4 fires fires

Well, the Gap fire in Goleta is burning away. It answered the question with our best friends (who live there) - are we having dinner at your house or ours?

I served
guacamole (stretched with peas, only had one ripe avocado, it was quite good).
green beans stir-fried with salt, pepper
southwestern barley salad
chipotle-lime shrimp
soy-garlic marinated chicken drumsticks

Now, we don't have a grill, so everything was done on the stovetop or in the oven.

Chicken marinade: soy sauce, honey, orange juice, garlic, canola oil, a little powdered ginger (out of fresh). Chicken baked for 1 hour at 375. 20 min covered, 40 min uncovered, flip when you take off the cover.

Southwestern barley salad: $3.32, for 7 cups - 0.23 to 0.46 per serving, depending on whether it's a main dish or side dish
1 c dried black beans, rinsed, soaked, and cooked (makes 2 c): 0.32
1 c. dry pearl barley, cooked (makes 3 c cooked): 0.41
1/2 can corn: 0.25
1/2 small red onion: 0.30
1/3 bunch cilantro: 0.33
1 small tomato, diced: 0.50
1 small cucumber, diced: 0.50
2 T olive oil: 0.22
3 T white wine vinegar: 0.30
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
salt, pepper, cumin to taste.

Chipotle-lime shrimp: $8.04 for 6 servings (from America's Test Kitchen Family Favorites), $1.34 each
1.87 lb shrimp: 7.46 (31 to 40 ct)
1 small ice cube chipotle in adobo: 0.10
1 lime: 0.18
2 T canola oil: 0.05
2 T chopped cilantro: 0.20
4 tsp brown sugar: 0.04

This is pretty spicy. You saute the uncooked shrimp (peeled, deveined) in canola oil in batches until cooked, return all the shrimp to the pan, and mix in the sauce. (The sauce is: juice of 1 lime, chipotle, cilantro, brown sugar).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I have to say that I have done an amazing job this week in using up our veggies. I am about to make some pesto with the basil. Other than that, we only have one cucumber and 1/2 bunch of cilantro left. Well, unless you count the leftovers...I am eating leftover carrots for lunch tomorrow and we are having leftover burritos for dinner.

One reason for this is because I re-started weight watchers. I am on maintenance, but I started creeping up by about 4 lbs. Boy, 18 pts a day is hard, even with 5 AP's and 5 flex pts per day. But it means I am eating a LOT of veggies. And even if I can't stick to 18 pts a day, I will still lose weight, just more slowly.

The burritos are stuffed with canned vegetarian refried beans, salsa, cheddar, sour cream, and sauteed onion and summer squash. Broccoli on the side.

For anyone interested in my daily WW menu:

Breakfast: ww english muffin (2), light margarine (1), light cheese (2): 5 pts
Snack: small banana (1), 11 almonds (2): 3 pts
Lunch: 2 small slices veggie pizza (5.5), 3 cups salad with oil/vinegar and cheese (2): 7.5 pts
Snack: 1 cup cantaloupe (1), 1/2 cup cottage cheese (2): 3 pts
Dinner: 1 tortilla (2), 1/3 cup refried beans (1.5), salsa (0), 1 T light sour cream (0.5), 1/2 oz cheddar (1.5), 3/4 cup cooked broccoli (0), 1 tsp olive oil (1), squash and onion (0), white wine (1.5): 8 pts
Total: 26.5

Weekly CSA and grocery roundup: 6/27/08 - 7/4/08

Grocery total: $118.83

6/27 Vons: $9.86
Ground sirloin (1.99/lb): 5.24
chicken drumsticks (19): 4.62

6/28 TJ's: $22.27
Cornbread mix: 2.49
whole grain loaf: 2.99
limes, 1 lb: 1.29
apples, 4: 1.96
bananas, 3: 0.57
3 frozen pizzas: 12.97

6/29 Ralph's: $17.21
10 lb whole wheat flour: 6.38
1 lb light tub margarine: 3.29
2 lb CA brown rice: 1.59
1 lb lentils: 1.19
mini donuts: 0.99 (discount rack)
6 pk whole wheat english muffins: 0.89 (discount rack)
1 lb whole wheat bread: 1.29 (discount rack)
1 cantaloupe: 1.59

6/30 Trader Joe's $11.45
bagel chips: 2.29
gallon milk: 3.49
dozen eggs: 1.49
veggie burger: 2.49
12 flour tortillas: 1.69

7/3 Lazy Acres: $35.21
Italian sausage: 5.65
2 bars Dagoba chocolate: 3.98
Cheese: 2.74
Cookies: 2.84

7/4 Albertson's: $22.83
Whole grain bread: 2.59
Hot dog buns: 3.29
tortilla chips: 2.50
Reese's: 0.50
2 lb shrimp: 7.30
4 oz smoked salmon: 3.99
1.8 lb grapes: 1.41
1 avocado: 1.25

I had some pretty good weeks, followed by a couple of not-so-great ones these last two, as far as sticking to my $50 budget. I guess the weeks when my husband goes out of town on business are a little tough. Plus this week we entertained three or four times, which accounts for the frozen pizzas (I didn't say we were fancy entertainers), the chicken legs, shrimp, sausage, and the ground sirloin.