Food Budget/Meal Planning Update

Food Budget Update:  Thus far, we’ve been under $50 each week for groceries…success!  We’re at $50 for takeout this month; we bought our friend Cory’s dinner last night, which put us at $20.  I’m not planning takeout for the next week because my tummy has been upset today…I’m gun-shy now;).

Meal Planning Update:  This week wasn’t so good for the meal planning stuff.  I picked a couple of items that weren’t wins and then had a night or two where I didn’t feel like what I’d planned.  I think that flexibility is a good thing, but I don’t want to be too much into doing that, so I tried to make this week a little more exciting:

Meal Plan, 1/25-1/31

  • Monday:  Tofu stir-fry (served over eith brown rice or rice noodles)
  • Tuesday:  Roasted Root veggies and brussels sprouts (carrots, onions, potatoes)
  • Wednesday:  Scrounge Night
  • Thursday:  Spiralized Zuchinni with Marinara sauce
  • Friday:  Brown Rice Veggie Burgers
  • Saturday:  Cream of Broccoli Soup
  • Sunday:  Linguine with garlic cream sauce

Tomorrow night, I’m making sweet potato gnocchi.  I forgot to buy spaghetti last week and I have a bag of sweet potatoes just begging to be made into gnocchi for the playoffs!!


The Haze of Burning Sweet Potatoes

They smell freaking terrible:(.  I decided tonight that the Mexican Pizzas didn’t sound all that good and Joey observed that we were a little low on cheese anyway, so I decided that I just wanted some oven-roasted sweet potato chunks.  Joey agreed to make them while I was finishing up a reading assignment and I told him to roast them on about 475*.  I didn’t realize that he was going to dice them so small, so when I finished my book, I asked him if he thought they were ready, and they were tiny, black, charred nuggets:(.  There were a few salvageable ones, but I put them in the fridge and the narsty burnt-sweet potato smell turned me off on that dinner choice.  So…eh….I sent Joey to Taco Bell for a salad for me (Fiesta salad, no meat, guac added).  It came out to $7.  This brings us to $30 in takeout total in January.  I was disappointed in myself for wanting takeout, but when I looked at the total, we’re really right on schedule!

Monday night’s Corn Chowder was INCREDIBLE!!

Here’s the recipe.  I didn’t adjust too much; I did use cornstarch instead of flour as the thickening agent.  Unless you’re making a roux, I don’t know that just chucking flour into a pot of soup is a good idea, and I didn’t want to use butter and whatnot.  The cornstarch worked just fine!

Tuesday night was spicy baked potatoes (again) which Joey made, and last night, we hit the leftovers.  We also made it to the gym on Monday and Tuesday (we planned to go tonight, but it was monsooning outside and we just decided to stay in).

School is kicking my tail a little.  I read a novel on Tuesday and another one Wednesday.  We also had a half-day of corporate training today, about excellent customer service.  Good info, but a long time away from my desk, which left me in a panic the rest of the day trying to get caught up.

Knitting news:  I’m working on a bell-sleeved shrug.  I haven’t had time to knit on it since last weekend.  I want to be able to knit some more on it soon.  I’d like to be able to wear something that I make.

Weekly Menu Plan and Budget Update

On this beautiful MLK day, we finished our grocery shopping after a good, hard workout at the gym!  We came in just under the wire at $49.  I was a little worried that we weren’t going to make it, but we managed!  About $30 of the groceries were from Aldi with the other $19 being from Wally World.

Takeout confessions:  Saturday night, I had an incredible hankering for Taco Bell, and Joey went and got dinner for us.  It only ran us $8, so I don’t feel bad about that at all.  I got a salad with no meat.  They gave us cinnamon twists for free:).  Today, we had lunch at Chipotle, which ran us $14.68.  I wasn’t thrilled with the price, I’ll be honest.  Qdoba is much more affordable and has more options, so I’m not seeing a lot of Chipotle in our future, but we’d been wanting to try it and we like to do special things like meals out when I have a day off.

Here’s our Menu Plan for this week:

  • Monday:  Corn Chowder
  • Tuesday:  Spicy Baked Potatoes
  • Wednesday:  Leftovers/Scrounge night
  • Thursday:  Mini Mexican Pizzas
  • Friday:  Possibly Takeout…if not, I’ll improvise something
  • Saturday:  Tofu “lo mein” with the rice noodles we bought
  • Sunday:  Spaghetti with marinara sauce + breadsticks + salad

When I planneed the takeout night, we hadn’t gotten any takeout at all in January, so I may decide that we should do something here rather than get takeout, but, since we were so far under budget on our Taco Bell takeout, I won’t be really upset with myself if we do.

And, for your viewing pleasure, I give you Shelli in a snuggie/Vellux sandwich:

Last Week’s Menu Wrap-up and Menu Plan for the Week

My original menu plan for last week:

  • Sunday:  Falafel and Salad
  • Monday:  Veggie Fajitas
  • Tuesday:  Veggie “Fried” Rice
  • Wednesday:  Leftovers
  • Thursday:  Calzones (homemade dough)
  • Friday:  Japanese Soba Soup
  • Saturday:  Spicy Potatoes

Here’s what we ended up having:

  • Sunday:  Falafel/salad
  • Monday:  Fajitas
  • Tuesday:  leftovers/scrounge night
  • Wednesday:  Veggie “fried” rice
  • Thursday:  noodles and cheese
  • Friday:  Homemade pizza (with homemade whole-wheat crust)
  • Saturday:  Spicy baked potatoes/salad

So, not too bad…we stuck to the plan very well, and even when we didn’t, we used things that we had at the house and didn’t run out for takeout or to buy anything else at the store.

This week’s plan:

  • Sunday (today):  Brinner (eggs, pancakes, maybe homefries)
  • Monday:  Cabbage and Rice
  • Tuesday:  Falafel (by Joey request.  I’ll be tweaking the original recipe)
  • Wednesday:  Leftovers/scrounge
  • Thursday:  Spinach/mushroom macaroni bake
  • Friday:  Sweet potato gnocchi
  • Saturday:  Veggie Fajitas
  • Sunday:  Homemade pizzas, one white and one regular.

Today is grocery shopping day; I’ve got my list ready!

When Did Napping Become So Fun? And a Milestone in my Depression/Anxiety Journey

It goes without saying that Shelli thinks naps are awesome.  She’s a cat, so she spends somewhere between eighteen and twenty hours doing it.  And, since we keep it so cold in the house to save heating costs, she’s practically hibernating anyway.  But, to be honest, I’ve never been very big on naps.  I used to take them every now and then when I was in high school after I got home from school.  Until the past few years, though, Joey would be the napper and I’d stay up and watch tv or read or surf the web.  There’s so much going on these days, though, that I’m really starting to appreciate the joy of the nap…today, I slept for two hours and was so groggy when I woke up.  I hate being groggy in the afternoon, though.

I need to plan our menu for this week so we can go grocery shopping tomorrow.  While I didn’t stick totally to the plan for this week, we have had all of our meals at home and haven’t eaten out or strayed from the budget.  Our final grocery total for the week:  $49.00!  We were at $47, but we might have a guest for dinner tonight and needed to get him a potato.  I’ve done three new recipes this week also(Falafel, whole wheat pizza crust (with no yeast) and spicy baked potatoes).  Building your recipe repertoire is an excellent way to keep yourself from falling into the takeout trap.  Who needs to spend twenty bucks on dinner when you can whip up something pretty tasty in just a few minutes on your own?

Meal planning has also helped me to eat better this week, which will pay off for my weight loss goal.  Rather than hoping that the restaurant didn’t cook the food in tons of oil and knowing that they covered it in a greasy sauce, I know exactly what we put in the food.  And, I’m looking for ways to sneak veggies into everything I make.  My big success this week has been adding tomatoes to my omelets in the morning.  Sprinkle a little parm in there too and add hot sauce and it’s got a good buffalo flavor!

Yesterday was a pretty awesome milestone for me; a year and a half after I began treatment for my depression/anxiety disorder, I was finally able to go see my psychiatrist and tell him that I’m doing great and that I finally feel like I’m at a point where it’s manageable.  He was thrilled and really made me feel like I’d accomplished something huge, which I guess if I really think about it, I have.  So many people either never seek treatment or never follow through with it because it’s hard.  Depression/Anxiety is such a difficult thing to understand…you hate it and wonder why other people are able to cope with life, but it’s also what you are used to; it’s comfortable.  You desperately want to escape from the dwelling, fear, constant replaying of things in your mind, the repetitive negative and fearful thoughts, the hopelessness and worthlessness, but you also worry that, if you seek help, someone’s going to think you’re “crazy.”  You think that you may be blowing things up in your own mind and that everyone goes through this.  You’re afraid that, if you seek help and it starts to work, that it may stop and you can’t live with going back.

It took me years and years and years to finally admit that I probably had a problem that other people don’t have and that I needed to get help for it.  I had gotten to the point where I was asking him whether he thought I had cancer about every five minutes.  Because I work in life insurance, I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I know how much having tons of testing done can screw up your insurance rates (as though I was actually planning to apply any time soon).  I was paralyzed by the fear that every pain or little problem I was having surely must be terminal cancer…I had even gotten to the point that, when trying to make decisions, I would think to myself that it didn’t really matter because I wouldn’t be around to face whatever consequences there were.  And it wouldn’t stop.

The past year and a half have been a tough journey…the meds helped, and then the help would wane.  Once my anxiety was under control, my depression started to get a little out of hand.  But here I am, nineteen months later, at a point where I’m able to cope with the world.  Not only am I free of the constant fear that I have cancer, I also care enough to try to make changes to help prevent preventable illnesses.  I don’t leave a party or a night with friends thinking that I must have said something ridiculous and that they’ll never like me.  I don’t have days of diahrreah before I sing in front of lots of people.  I’m relaxed.  I care less about what people think of me.  I’m brave enough to do things that would have scared me before (firearms training and tattoos).  I finally feel like I’m relatively “normal.” 

I still cry and cry over cruelty to animals, over injustice to people.  I still worry about my parents (although not to a crippling level anymore).  I still get down over stupid things.  But it doesn’t control my life anymore.  So, if you read this and you’re struggling with depression or anxiety:  GET HELP.  NOW.  Don’t think it over.  Find a good psychiatrist.  If you’re a Christian and you’re afraid, don’t be.  My psychiatrist shares my religious beliefs and would never blame my faith for any problems.  Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of well-meaning “Church” people who tell you to pray about it or to trust Jesus more.  That’s a load of bull.  These problems don’t have to do with your faith.  They are PHYSICAL problems that have MENTAL/EMOTIONAL symptoms.  You’re not a bad Christian if you have to have medication to help with that.  And if someone tells you that, then they’re not being a very good Christian.

When I got to the point where I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of having to spend the next sixty years of my life feeling this way, I realized that it was time for action.  Don’t wait that long.  You’re worth more than that.

Ok, enough of that….time to get to the potatoes:).  Have a good night!!

Take-Out Addiction: A Frugal Battleground

Boy, do I love my Chinese food!  Hardly a week goes by where we don’t get Chinese takeout.  We’ve been in that habit for over a year, and for a long time, it was our only “splurge” meal, so I didn’t feel too guilty about it.

However, as with most things, we begin to give ourselves a little too much leeway over time and get comfortable with the ease of grabbing a quick takeout meal rather than cooking at home.  A couple of weeks ago, I printed off the last four months’ bank statements to further examine how much money we were spending on takeout and food.

If you’ll recall, my extreme-frugality goal was $100 per month in groceries and then the 1 Chinese meal per week, which would amount to about $60 total over the month.  What I found, though, was that we were averaging about $250 in takeout each month and $300 in groceries (including toiletries).  We’d been spending three times our budgeted amount in groceries ALONE!  And almost $200 more in takeout than we’d intended!

Why do we fall into this “takeout trap?”  Why do we overspend so much on food?  Well, laziness is the most honest answer, but there are others:

  • when I come home from work, I’m too exhausted to cook anything
  • we don’t plan our grocery purchases well, so when it’s time to get something together, “nothing sounds good”
  • we’ll make multiple trips to the grocery store during the week “just to pick up a few things” that ends up amounting to another week’s groceries

It’s funny…I always complained about not being able to buy organic and local food, but after looking at how much money we were just pissing away in mindless purchases and eating out, I don’t really have any grounds for that, do I?  We could literally double our grocery budget and still have plenty of money for other things!

Thus, the plan was hatched….we’re increasing our grocery budget to $50 per week (double our original amount), and we’re going to do our best to limit our takeout to about $60 per month (the amount of four events of Chinese takeout).  I’ve got to be honest, this seems a little daunting to someone who’s used to being lazy, but I also decided that planning our meals in advance would really help cut down on that problem, too. 

I sat down on Saturday and decided what I’d cook this week and I’ll make enough for leftovers to eat as lunch the next day.  Here’s what’s on the dockett:

  • Sunday (Yesterday):  Falafel and salad (success!!)
  • Monday:  Veggie fajitas
  • Tuesday:  Tofu/veggie stir-fry
  • Wednesday:  Clean out the Fridge/scrounging night
  • Thursday:  Calzones (homemade dough and fillings!)
  • Friday:  Japanese vegetable/tofu/rice noodle soup
  • Saturday:  I forgot
  • Sunday:  BRINNER!

I know, I forgot Saturday, but I do actually have all of this written down at home.  I made a list of things that we could get at Aldi and things that we’d have to get somewhere else (Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s).  Saturday morning, we hit up TJ’s to get the tofu, rice noodles, and some good mozarella cheese for the calzones.  Yesterday, we went to Aldi, and Joey’s hitting up the Wally World today.  So far (without Wally added in), we’re at about $30 bucks for the week.  Not bad!!  And part of that was probably two weeks’ worth of meat replacement, etc from TJ’s!

If you’re struggling with your budget, I encourage you to take a hard look at your bank statement; you may very well end up shocked and appalled at where you’re wasting money (like I was).  Eating out/Takeout is such an easy trap to fall into; however, a little forethought and planning can make cooking at home a breeze!

I’ll update again after the Wal-Mart tally comes in:).

The Blur That Was 2009

This year:

  1. I started graduate school and completed five classes, getting straight A’s in each.
  2. Joey and I went to the beach for a short weekend getaway.
  3. We spent every moment possible hanging out with James before he left for Iraq for the year.
  4. I made a lifelong friend in Shannon and we got to be a part of the Garzoni family.
  5. We camped in July and October, the latter in tents and with sleet.
  6. I sprained my ankle.
  7. We took James to Indy to report for duty and, for the first time, I had to say goodbye to a friend as he went off to war.
  8. I learned to knit cables.
  9. I finally got control over my depression and anxiety and found out that I’m stronger than I think I am.
  10. I made an almost-100% handmade Christmas.

I also started a food blog, started writing as a featured publisher for FoodBuzz, and I started writing for as Charlotte’s Frugal Living Examiner (yes, I’ve been super-slack this month).  And, one of the most important things that happened this year was that I became a vegetarian after we lost Lady in February.

Time always goes so much faster than you want it to.  I’ve noticed this already…last month, Joey and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary.  My ten-year high school reunion (which I couldn’t attend) was this past weekend.  Ten years.  I don’t feel that much older.  I don’t feel like my family is that much older.  It all went so fast.

However, this year, I think I’m ready for 2010.  While I am proud of what I was able to do in 2009, I also left a lot undone:

  1. I was not successful in my diet/exercise endeavors and, in fact, gained ten pounds this year.
  2. I continue to procrastinate at school, which makes me feel like I’m squandering a huge opportunity I’m being given.
  3. I let my frugality go for the sake of convenience…takeout, the grocery store near the house, etc.
  4. I did not declutter my house.

So, there are things that I want to tackle in 2010…a list will come later, but I know that I’m ready to let 2009 be the past and to jump headfirst into 2010.