2.28.2014

february wrap-up





$99.40 is the total I spent on groceries for the month of February.  I'm happy with that.  My goal is to spend no more than $100 a month and so I just made it.  What is so strange to me is that even though I'm spending less than half of what I normally would, I have more food in the house and we are eating better than ever before.  I have to hand it to the blog for this because of the accountability factor.  Another thing I've noticed this month is that things are getting easier, or maybe I should say things are falling into a groove. Before if I was missing an ingredient for a dish, I'd run to the market and get it.  I'm just not doing that these days.  I improvise or just wait.  I would always run into a store for one thing and come out with 3 or 4 or more even.  That added substantially to my grocery bill and oftentimes led to waste.  Another thing is that I feel we are eating a lot healthier.  Eating fresh food prepared at home just can't be beat.  At times even the best restaurants disappoint.  So again, win win.  I haven't been tempted to buy much of anything either. I hope that continues.  Our overall goal is to pay off the mortgage in 5 years so we are now 3 months closer to that.  I know it seems like an eternity away and lots of things can go wrong that would derail us but staying the course is the only way this is going to happen.  I have to stay focused and that's where the blog is helping the most.  Lots of you have sent me your grocery receipts and say you are motivated too for lots of different reasons, that in turn inspires me to keep going.  

During the month of March I'd like to continue the grocery shopping accountability but I will be posting the receipts at the end of the week.  That way if we were to be out of town I won't be announcing it to the world beforehand.  You know what I mean?  Also, during March my goal/hope is to do a series on organizing the house.  A lot of you have asked for that and I will do my best to deliver.    

So have a decent weekend and see you soon.

2.26.2014

some things we ate this month


here we go, here we go...



Whole wheat pasta with asparagus.  Cook pasta and when almost finished drop in asparagus for a few minutes.  Drain, stir in Earth Balance margarine, red pepper flakes and pepper.  Top with bread crumbs.





Tofurky Peppered slices with chips.





Grapefruit, blackberries and blueberry soy yogurt.





Lettuces with thinly sliced radish, onion in vegan buttermilk dressing.





Vegan Buttermilk dressing - 1/2 cup plain soymilk, 2 T white vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 t season salt
Put in covered jar and shake.




Chocolate soymilk, 1 cup spinach, 1 banana, ice.  Blend then drink. :)





Yukon gold potatoes, bell peppers, onion sauteed and served in whole wheat tortilla.




Another sandwich...more chips.





Mixed salad greens tomatoes with buttermilk dressing





Thin spaghetti with thin asparagus. Prepared same way as first pasta dish up there.





Veggie Chili in tortilla bowl.




This is either a freshly squeezed glass of grapefruit juice or a greyhound.  win win.



Baked potato topped with chili in wrap.





Chocolate chip tea cake

In a bowl...

1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt

mix in...

3/4 c chocolate milk
1/2 c salad oil
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla extract

1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Pour in loaf pan and bake at 350 1 hr





Chickenless strips with yukon gold mashed potatoes and asparagus



Tofu *Egg* Salad - via An Urban Cottage

1/2 block firm tofu drained and pressed
1 celery stalk
2 Tablespoons chopped onion
1/4 cup vegenaise
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

combine all ingredients and chill.



French Toast with Blackberries

Slice bread and dip into mixture of 1 cup soy or almond milk, cinnamon and 2 T orange zest.
Brown on skillet.



Chopped salad with peanuts and spicy asian slaw dressing




My grocery receipt for this week. $23.83

So I'd say 90% of my groceries were purchased at the .99 store this month and we ate very well.
Another successful month!

How are things going for you?  Any big changes or set backs you'd care to share?


2.24.2014

socializing with friends while on a budget



The slack pack


When you are on a tight budget socializing with your friends can be a problem....if you let it.  I've been up front with my friends about wanting to pay off our mortgage early and they respect that. But still you don't want to suddenly be the "cheapskate" or "scrooge" when it comes to having fun.  I've figured out a few ways to have fun and still stay on budget.

First I have to say that I have a few very close friends and getting together with them is very important to me. I love my friends so much and they mean the world to me.  So dropping out of my social circle is just out of the question. I've found that catching up over a cup of coffee or tea is an excellent way to stay in touch and not break anyone's budget. Inviting my friends over for lunch or even afternoon tea and long walks are super budget friendly too.  But I gotta get out and let my hair down every now and again!  Here are some of my not so secret ways I've been able to swing it. We usually pick a restaurant that we all like and one that has some sort of happy hour.  Drinks and food are reduced in price during these hours and the atmosphere is usually quite lively, which is fun.

I spent this past weekend at Melinda's condo in Palm Springs.  It was an all girls weekend that included dining out, long walks, tours through gorgeous neighborhoods, window shopping and late night gossip in our pj's.  It was totally relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time and cost next to nothing. Melinda knows the best places to eat here (Cheekys) and for margarita's and dancing (Las Casuelas)  We had fun on the cheap and it was a blast. Here's a little of what went on...



Dream relocating.  As much as I love my little home I dream of living on this cul de sac.  The neighborhood is a small cluster of mid century modern homes built in 1962.  Each one is white but every one has a different brightly colored painted front door.



I'll take this yellow one.





Or maybe this orange one?




This bougainvillea stopped us all in our tracks.






Window Shopping - I think I'll steal this succulent and sea shell planted fountain idea for my own garden.





Have you ever?  Gorgeous pair of antique ginger jars.  $450.  So a snap will do. :)





Scoping out gorgeous little boutique hotels like this one.  Alcazar.

Anyway, I do think it is possible to still have fun while living on a tight budget.  I mean it does help if your friend has a home in Palm Springs but really we could have done all this and just not spent the night.  Even exploring your own neighborhood with your friends is great fun.  The idea is that you are out and enjoying your friendships, not staying locked in feeling sorry for yourself.

So do you have any tricks you'd like to share with us all?  Please share - we could all benefit.  Thanks!


2.21.2014

rule #1, nothing goes to waste






A few of you or maybe a lot of you, have posed the question...how do we survive on so little food? That strikes me as sort of funny because after every meal we both say we are stuffed.  It's a good stuffed though, not the kind where you ate too many rich foods.  Anyway rule #1 in running any successful kitchen is that there is no waste.  If you are throwing food out then you may as well be throwing dollar bills into the trash too.  I really do hate to waste anything but especially food. Think about all the time, planning and energy that actually got that food into your house and then to trash it? Nope.  Your trashcan should not be full of food!  I urge you to take a few minutes and do a good clean out at the end of each week and see what can be saved. Every successful restaurant does this and so should you.


I gather up everything that is fresh, even if it's a little past prime time, the spinach, carrots, celery, onions, asparagus, whatever is left, and put it all in a big bowl and wash it really well.  Then it all goes into a pot of water with about 2 T of whatever seasoning I feel like using.  I don't heavily salt it.  It takes a little while to get used to soup that is not heavily salted.  But once you do get used to it, wow it's so good.




About an hour later it's done and I puree it in the blender for bowls and cups of super nutritious soup.  Now for every lunch I make for the next few weeks I can add a cup of soup that is packed with nutrients.  And it cost pennies because there was nothing wasted.  So take charge and be the boss of your kitchen, run it like the pro I know you are.

In other news...it's Friday.




2.19.2014

the garden this morning








For the last 2 weeks I've been going a little crazy in the garden.  Photographic proof of that follows.  One of my new year resolutions was to grow a vegetable garden but I've somewhat abandoned that idea and instead decided to whip the garden I do have into shape.  My first thoughts when walking the property and making lists was to hire someone to come in and do a big general clean up.  That way I could start fresh and keep things maintained.  But then I abandoned that idea and put my boots and gloves on and just went at it.  Just like paying down my mortgage, I had another elephant to eat. As most of you know this garden is over 120 years old and has many invasive plants in it.  The photos really don't show just how much work is involved.  I "think" I'm about 1/2 way done.  Who am I kidding? Things are growing out of control right now as I type.




I thinned the ferns in the front bed.  This is quite a job that I've been putting off.  Hopefully come spring, it'll look better than this.




Hard pruned those rose trees along the fences.  I've never done those before so who knows when the last time that was done.  My guess would be 20+ years ago.  While trimming the roses along that front fence I fell off the ladder into a lovely combination of roses and holly.  Could old Henry and Gertrude have planted more sharp plants?  I had 5 thorns stuck in my arm pit for 2 days.





While digging the ferns up I found this Camelia that my friend M gave me when we moved in.  It's been buried in those ferns for at least 5 years.




The geraniums all got a general clean up which was super easy.





Ok this is what I call my yoga garden.  As you can see there is no lawn here.  When we first moved in and attacked this area we planted grass but it was the wrong kind.  So no lawn, no yoga.  After about 4 days in here getting rid of bamboo, trimming ivy, segos and removing all kinds of natural debris, I'm ready to put some drought tolerant grass seeds down.





Bamboo bamboo bamboo bambooschmoo.



Pretty geranium just because.



Believe it or not this is the after snap of the laundry garden.  It was bad.  A giant rando yucca plant had gone crazy and I tore it out.  The grass here needs some help too.  In case you are wondering...that is a 150 year old pepper tree.




I gave up filling the trash cans and resorted to this. Week 1 photo.





Week 2 photo.




Pretty orchids hanging out doing their thang.







Rose garden.  All involved are pruned, fresh wells dug and fed.

So today dear friends I'm resting my back.  My bread is in the oven baking and later I'm taking a soak in a hot tub with epsom salts and lavender.  I may sit in the garden and admire but I am not picking up a single garden tool.  I'm not, I'm not, I'm not.




2.17.2014

pasta with mushrooms in white wine shallot sauce + grocery shopping





Kinda fancy.  Seriously easy.

Ingredients

1 package thin spaghetti
1 package mushrooms sliced
1 teaspoon flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup white wine
2 shallots sliced thin (if you don't have shallots then you can use onion and some fresh garlic)
1 Tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and Pepper

Get your pasta started and then start sauteing the mushrooms and shallots in a little bit of olive oil. Season with thyme, salt and pepper and when they are nicely browned, sprinkle with flour then add the broth and wine.  Let that reduce to half and by that time your pasta should be done.  Drain it well and then add it directly into the saute pan, keep cooking while the pasta begins to absorb the broth and wine. When it is absorbed it is finished.
Serve with a nice green salad, fresh baguette and if you want to really fancy it up, this chocolate cake for dessert.





My total for the week, $22.71

I have things in the pantry and freezer that I really want to use up by the end of the month so I'm keeping the shopping light.  I suppose that is why my pantry looks so bare all the time.  I only like to buy what I will use fairly quickly.  If I run out of anything I'll let you know.  I also bought 3 random items...a spray nozzle for the hose, a 3 pronged weeder and a eye shadow compact to test out.  I swear there isn't anything that store doesn't carry.

So that's it.  Make nice today.




2.14.2014

quieting my wants








Hello and happy St. Valentine's day to you all.  I suppose posting thoughts on not shopping on this day of gift giving isn't the best timing on my part but my timing has never been great. It is estimated that Americans will spend over $17 billion dollars today to celebrate our love for each other. We do love our fancy holidays.  As a couple we usually exchange cards and have a nice dinner in...so exciting.  But anyway we are only a few weeks into the new year and if you are finding yourself getting weak and wanting to give in to the merchandising machine, then I thought I'd share a trick I use that stops me from shopping.  It isn't guaranteed to work but I can honestly say that it works a lot of the time for me.  I started using it years ago when at the time it seemed as if we were so poor but now looking back...we were so rich.  We were young, healthy and in love.  Starting to ramble, sorry.

Ok, so this trick I use may or may not work for you but in the off chance it will, I want to share it.
I get the above 2 catalogs regularly in my mailbox, and I don't mind getting them.  I also subscribe online to 1 shopping website and instead of fueling my desire for more I use them against themselves.  I play a little game with myself as I flip through them.  For instance, when looking through the Pottery Barn catalog and something catches my eye, say a beautiful bedroom with gorgeous bedding, I tell myself...wow, I already own a comfortable bed and nice bedding. Next page, pretty lamps, same thing.  I take a look around and look at the lamps I already own and that I think are pretty.  I'm not struck with the feeling that I have to buy, but rather I get the feeling of how lucky I am that I already own what they are trying to sell me.  Oftentimes I own the real thing that Pottery Barn is copying.  That's always nice.

I do the same with the J. Crew catalog.  I'll even tear out a page or 2 of outfits I like and realize I have something close to it and actually use it for inspiration to expand my own wardrobe.  Both catalogs help me to see what I already have and yet they can inspire me to look at things in a fresh way.

Maybe not getting catalogs or even not caring what is "in" or "out" this season works for you and should be something that I should aspire to, but I do like fashion and home decorating so I enjoy seeing how experts in design bring back looks or re-style things.  I really don't get caught up in having to have the latest or greatest but it is fun to look and yet not get sucked in.  So that's my little trick.  Lame?  Maybe but it really has worked for me.  If you have any tricks, please do share.  And really...have a happy day. x

2.11.2014

navy bean soup & groceries





Good eating at low cost.  That's the name of the recipe on the back of the navy bean package.  And they are right about that.

1 12 oz bag of navy beans
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 medium onion
1 bay leaf
1 teasponn liquid smoke
salt and pepper

Make sure to wash and sort the beans first and then soak overnight.  After soaking, rinse and put in a good soup pot or dutch oven and fill with a quart of water and the chopped carrots, celery, onion, liquid smoke and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 hours or until beans are soft.  I then add the salt and pepper and carefully blend 1/2 the mixture in my blender or you could use a stick blender.
Adjust the seasonings and you are done.  Totally stick to your ribs kinda soup that cost pennies per serving.




My receipts from Saturday, total spent, $21.50.

I'm planning to make pasta with a white wine, shallot and mushroom sauce.  Vegetarian chili and I'm not sure yet what I'm doing with the asparagus.  I hang my head in shame over the not one but two bags of chips purchased.  I was almost to the checkout stand and there was a display for Earth Balance Chips.  One plain with sea salt and the other with vegan cheddar cheese.  What can I say?  I can attest to the beauty of the cheddar cheese chips, they were delicious.  Also, last week I purchased some frozen spring rolls, not a fan, but maybe it's just me.  Anyway that's it. Hope your Tuesday isn't terrible.

2.10.2014

minimal flowers in my house




Jane has asked us once again to show the flowers we have in our house.  This orchid still amazes me that it continues to bloom each year.  I don't do anything really special to it.  When I think about it, I pour a cup of diluted tea or coffee on it and water it every 10 days or so.  It sits in the rose garden all year long, through freezing and then unbearably hot temps.  I only bring it in when it is ready to bloom.  It truly is a garden workhorse.









Nothing else is blooming in the garden except for a few geraniums and thank goodness for them because otherwise it'd be really dreary out there.  On a side note, I'm still having trouble commenting on my blog and other blogs too.  I hope you are not having that same problem.  Oh well...

Linking to Small but Charming.