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Is it cooking?

October 13th, 2017 at 04:22 pm

Here's an interesting thought and one I hadn't considered in a bit. Is it cooking if you buy premade foods ie from Costco, walmart, etc? I mean the already made lasanga you heat, or stuffed bell peppers, etc? You know what I mean and you make it and feed your family. It's certainly NOT cheap. But at the same time it is substantially cheaper than going out to eat or even take out. I also think it might be healthier but I could be wrong because it does taste pretty good.

Personally I keep a lot of these sort of things on hand because while we don't want to go out, we don't necessarily want to cook from scratch. This week alone it's been all premade meals. We had tomato soup from the box and baked potato soup from a can for 2 nights. Last night I bought from costco the ravioli lasagna and my kids liked it. I might have to do it again and we ate half so we the second half for dinner tonight. I mean I steam some broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini steamed as sides and we have bought bread. But I found it easier, cheaper, and faster than going out to dinner or grabbing takeout.

But I realize it's not cooking. And I can cook. I've made sauce from scratch and made pasta and bread from scratch. So it's not lack of ability. Rather I admit it's lack of desire.

I tend to keep frozen pizza, frozen dumplings, packages of noodles and pasta, cans/boxes of soup, and stuff on hand for super fast and easy meals. This methodology has kept our eating out budget way down to stuff we really want to eat.

But is it cooking? A friend asked me because she realized she cooks only trader joe's packaged meals and stuff from costco. My answer was yes. I said it'd likely be worse if you kept on buying takeout or eating out all the time.

On the weekends we're good we tend to cook sunday for the week. But on weeks we're bad we tend to do what we did this week and cobble dinners together. Sometimes I get my act together and make a slow cooker meal or pull a frozen lasagna I've made. Two weeks ago we made tacos, teriyaki skewers, stuffed bell peppers and spaghetti and meatballs because we bought costco ground beef. This week we did eat braised short ribs sunday and monday actually from scratch.

But I don't think it's wrong to use tools to help eating at home. I think people spend a lot more when they don't have these easy tools. For my family of four a meal at McD can easily hit $30. And going out for cheap noodles of the asian variety is likely $30-$35 with my oldest starting to eat like an adult! Take out chinese, thai, etc is more like $50-60. Not to mention eating somewhere even "family friendly" red robin (tradition now for us to go for birthdays, my kids love the singing) is $50 for dinner (2 adult, 2 kid meals and a beer for DH).

So yes a semi-prepared meal might be $10-20 but it often can bear leftovers. I guess my point to my friend was it still was very reasonable in the grand scheme and easier. It would be great to learn to cook from scratch. But maybe the first step would be to stop eating out so much?

How did you curb eating out? Do you ever cheat and use semi-prepared meals?

moratorium on eating out

May 22nd, 2016 at 02:29 am

So I'm almost done with my second kickstarter and 1st month in a transformer. I'm meeting the transformer goal and it's iffy for the kickstarter although I think I'll make it. Anyway I have to say one of my biggest weaknesses in losing weight has always been eating out.

Even before kids I when we were DINKS I limited my eating out lunches because my shorts wouldn't fit otherwise. So bad for pocketbook, bad for figure.

But I noticed this time it is a lot easier to lose the weight because we've been on a moratorium on eating out. Since we've moved and been "retired early" or on sabbatical we've curbed a lot of our spending. We are living pretty frugally and probably closer to $2k/month, excepting the dog costs (chemo is expensive).

Our biggest budget change we control is definitely eating out. I mean yes we spend about $100/month on gas for cars versus $300/month. And our utility bill was $90 this month versus $500-600/month previously. But that we couldn't really control.

But eating out? Well we used to spend if I had to guess because while mint.com does a good job, it's not perfect and there are cash eating out. We spent around $400/month. Our grocery bills averaged $500-600/month, and now they are a solid $750/month. But we eat out under $50/month and the kids are eating more as they get bigger.

I'm not sure if this moratorium will last after DH gets a job. But it's been eye-opening on how much we ate out. It's also been good for us to get back into the habit of cooking more.

When we ate out before it was always the weekends. Compared to most of our friends we cooked "a lot" because most people we knew ate out during the week and weekends. Even now many people we know eat out during the week and weekends.

Do you know how much you eat out? Do you do it because you enjoy it or for convenience? Most would say convenience and I have to agree. It's a lot of work to cook, do dishes, clean up, etc.

But I admit I did miss experimenting with cooking. Last night I made Rolo Cupcakes. And this week we had tacos, burgers, ma po tofu.

On the agenda for next week? Shrimp tempura, fish and chips, and other stuff from the pantry.

But first I have to win my kickstarter.

I won my diet bet

March 31st, 2016 at 05:13 am

I won $41 on my kickstarter diet bet. I did lose around 5% instead of just the 4% needed. I'm very happy to have lost the weight more than the money. The money helped but losing weight and getting healthier was a bigger motivation. Anyway I'm debating signing on to do the long term weight loss. This is going to take awhile I think to lose all the weight i want.

Grocery Spending and Deep Freezer

March 24th, 2016 at 11:53 pm

Something interesting I found about our in general spending habits. We do often times spend money daily. But we really don't shop and buy stuff other than groceries. We do have many days of running out to the store for a sale or fresh fruit or veggies. I've found that it's almost every other day. But at the same time since we've moved and had no income we've really curbed eating out. Before I would say we ate out 3-4x/week. Usually one night during the week, Saturday lunch/dinner and Sunday Lunch or Friday dinner. So our eating out was running $200-300/month if not more and not counting special occasions.

Now looking at our spending, yes we do spend between $650-750/month on groceries. But our eating out is less than $100/month. This month we've eaten out $10 so far and haven't any plans to eat out the rest of the month though it might happen. Plus our grocery bill is weirdly under $500 to date and we are trying to clear the freezer and pantry so I predict we'll be under $600 for with 7 days to go. We've already bought the rib roast for Sunday which will a few days of leftovers.

So we talking with friends who have a deep freezer because they hunt. DH and I meet quite a few people now who hunt and I grew up eating a lot of hunted meat (smoked) and fresh fish. I miss it but DH doesn't hunt and we've not really had the opportunity to fish. But now we're in a place where it might be possible. We also live in a house with a garage. So buying a deep freezer after we buy a house is something we're discussing.

Even if we don't hunt (i'm interested in Elk), I just got elk burgers from friends and deer tenderloin from other friends, I was thinking maybe we could go an buy a quarter cow. It might be cheaper and something worth finally investing in.

What are people's thoughts about deep freezers? Do you have one and what do you use it for? Do you hunt?

Dieting the struggle

March 8th, 2016 at 07:28 am

So what is the struggle with dieting? Well the truth is it's hard to waste food. Before this "change" in lifestyle I would usually eat my kids leftovers. But then now I have to throw it away. I can keep some stuff, but today we went out to eat Froyo during "happy hour" and you get a cup for $2. So I got a cup for each kid and neither child finished. Since we were out I previously might have finished the leftovers but now I have to avoid all leftovers.

Some food when at home I can save. But otherwise it's not so easy. I find it difficult now because I'm eating very planned calories. So even at home it's hard. It's so easy to justify finishing off the leftovers instead of wasting them. But now I just can't.

Perhaps one day but something people never tell you is how not "wasting" food and being "frugal" can cause you to gain instead of losing weight.

The Diet Bet

March 5th, 2016 at 05:43 pm

I forgot to mention that I'm doing the diet bet. I needed a kick in the butt to get back on track with eating right and exercise. UGH. I started on monday. Personally I've always struggled with eating right over exercising. I actually find it relaxing to carve out time to exercise. Even with kids I used to pay $80/month and go to the YMCA daily to work out with free childcare.

Right now I'm doing insanity at home but I don't find it as motivating as doing classes for a hour at the gym. I also find it harder to work out with the kids around though I do get up at 6 am before everyone and work out. I sort of like the routine of a gym and class so I'm thinking about joining a gym again. My DH is pushing yes because actually I'm one of those people who even use it on the weekend. I find I need the destressor.

Now to win this diet bet however I can't just workout and lose 10 lbs. I have to lose the weight and keep it off. I have all my baby weight I never loss from baby #1 (whose 6 now OMG!) I didn't gain with baby #2 but those 25 lbs well they are still around. Time to get serious about losing weight.

I started on Monday. Anyone else doing diet bet? Do you continually do kickstarter or do you move onto the transformer? Anyone win a maintainer?

Also I'm considering the 24hr fitness pass from costco for $649 for 24 months. Unfortunately it's a super sport club next to me so I have to buy the $649. If we lived elsewhere it would be $399 for 2 years and a much better price. But at $27/month I am thinking I might buy it because it works out to 1 class a week for $9 which is what people pay to work out at Barre, hot yoga, or pilates. But the childcare is $24.99/month 1 child and $19.99/month 2 kids. That would bring up the cost for 1 child to around $50/month or $6 a drop off. I'm debating whether it's worth the investment. What do you think?

Eating out way of life

February 3rd, 2016 at 12:46 am

My bad habit is easily going out to eat. It's a vice I'm sure I share with many others around the world. Something I enjoy and find convenient. But is it a way of life even for people in debt? Is it something that people just do even if they can't afford?

Next week my DH starts his program and we were joking today about lunches, dinners, and eating out. Since we've meet he's pretty much always brown bagged it. I can honestly say probably 95% of the time both of us have always packed a lunch. When we've gone out to eat for lunch it's usually a planned meal with friends or some weird like a smashed glass container in lunch bag or accidental forgotten lunch bag (both things happened to my DH). So I can honestly say for 15 years and as he's made more money he hasn't changed his spending habits. What was necessity at 23 at 35 wasn't at all required.

Also for the most part until we had kids we enjoyed cooking dinner together at night and would turn on the TV and cook leisurely. We sometimes would sit in front of the tv and prep meals and just enjoy wine or beer. It was very pleasurable to eat out at hole in the wall places or nicer restaurants. But then we had kids and our meals became less cool (fancy meals from cookbooks) and more boring and standard and efficient.

So I ask if he's planning on packing a lunch and if so what. He said absolutely he's planning on brown bagging it, but he mentioned that on the group board for the program everyone discussing their favorite delivery programs and restaurants they want to order from. I suggest perhaps he may have to eat out to network dinners or lunches. He said he'll see.

But both of us are curious about the dynamics next week. This is a 13 week intensive program you can't hold down a job and do. Either the other 19 people are on sabbatical from work or not working. It's like that most have partners that are working and supporting them, but I imagine going down to one income and spending $16k on a course, then suddenly eating out lunch and dinner every day would still strain most budgets. Or maybe it was just a way of life.

I can easily imagine it costing us $35/week for lunches and $60/week for lunches. In 13 weeks that will cost us around $1300 which in the grand scheme of no income and $16k tuition a drop in the bucket. But as we are living off savings and it's half a month's rent. I wonder though will most be frugal and try to pack a lunch?

My DH said so I'm assuming $7/lunch how much is it for him to bring a lunch? I said $1 maybe. Am I wrong to throw together a sandwich? Or leftovers?

Have you calculated what lunches or packed dinners cost? I know if we spend say $800/month for groceries and my kids milk cost me $80/month at $175/week for groceries. A meal assuming 21 meals for 3 people (2 adults and 2 kids = 1 adult) = $2.77 a meal not discounting snacks or fruits. So by brown bagging it my DH is saving at least $5/meal if not more.

Do you think people who eating out every meal is a way of live have ever calculated it? Is it worth it?

Blue Apron

November 1st, 2015 at 08:25 pm

Has anyone tried it? It's a company that sends you all the ingredients for a set number of meals and directions to teach you how to cook.

I know my neighbors have and they greatly enjoyed it. However it's not cheap in the grand scheme of things. It definitely broaden their horizons for cooking and eating. It also increased their cooking abilities. But they didn't necessarily start making those same dishes after they got it.

It is $59/week for 3 meals for 2 people or $9.99/serving. Or $69.99 for 2 meals for a family of 4 or $8.74/serving. The question is that this seems high compared to what you can make yourself.

But you are able to learn how to cook different dishes. It seems like a cost efficient way to test out new recipes without investing in buying lots of groceries. It also is a cheaper way to eat than eating out all the time and probably healthier.

Perhaps one day we'll try it but for now I think we'll have to pass as we're trying to stick to a much tighter grocery budget right now.

I forgot to add my meal plan for the week. Tonight Baked Ziti with leftovers for tomorrow. I also have extra sauce I am making for spaghetti next week. I am also roasting a butternut squash for a side for the next few days. Plus I have a kabocha pumpkin and sweet potatoes to cook for sides for a few days. Along with a bag of spinach and kale. I bought ground beef on friday and other meals for the week are teriyaki meatballs and an indian potato beef curry. I have to buy some potatoes so on the agenda is baked potato soup.

October Budget Roundup and other stuff

November 1st, 2015 at 07:50 pm

So October we came in under budget. On the CC we spent $3255 to be paid November 1st, though its not due until November 22nd. That included about $1000 in vet bills for the dog's chemotherapy. So we were way below budget for us as a family but in our "budget" now we are trying hard to run lean because of unexpected dog costs.

We spent $203 on gas fuel, $74 on alcohol (we bought some rum and vodka restocking), $608 on groceries, and $199 on restaurants/eating out. The eating out included $50 I spent on groupons for future restaurant visits. All in all, I think we got a pretty good handle on food now. The $608 included all my groceries for the week except some milk and maybe some veggies. Of course November is probably going to be expensive with Thanksgiving and potentially my in-laws visiting.

An interesting thing we use a lot of data at home. We don't have cable but have high speed data for $50/month. So we used 11 GB in August (5 days), 130 GB for September, and 173 GB in October. It was suggested on the forum that we could cut internet and use only the cell phones. At those usage rate we'd blow over the normal cell phone limits. Guess we're stuck with paying for internet for a long time.

I'm still pondering college and retirement and overall savings goals.

Upping the food budget

March 29th, 2015 at 11:52 am

Moving means upping the food budget. Why? Because right now we are in mode of eating what we have but at the same time not stockpiling sales. Instead we are trying to create meals with stuff both in the freezer and pantry that need to be used up since it's not worth moving. Plus since we are moving at the end of June, the idea of buying in bulk meat or making food and freezing food seems wasteful.

I think I freaked out my DH a lot because this week we finished off a bunch of food in the freezer and it's starting to look empty. I can definitely say that we have one shelf clear. Our fridge we are eating the permanent residents and not replacing them, ie hoison, bbq sauce, etc.

Usually I buy meat and portion out the meals and freeze them. I also usually cook in bulk and we eat half and freeze for lunches the leftovers like curries, stew, chili, etc. But I've decided to stop doing it though we have three months and instead focus on cooking stuff we have and keeping the freezer lean. Before I might have bought 2 bags of fish, 2-3 meats, but now I'll keep only 1 bag of fish and 1 bag of fish.

No more stockpiling toilet paper or paper towels. I'm done with cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. Before I usually buy a backup when i'm on the last of something but now I'm running everything out and not looking for sales.

You can see the difference in the amount of stuff in the house. And while I haven't seen the difference yet in my grocery or shopping bills I bet it'll increase the amount I'm spending. Plus just eating out more for convenience of painting and packing.

My cleanse

November 9th, 2014 at 07:46 pm

So I am doing the 21 day ultimate reset by beachbody. It's to cleanse and reset my eating habits. I don't know how it's going to go but I'm on Day 5 surprisingly and not hungry. It's supposed to teach me to eat no sugar, no caffeine, and eat whole foods mostly fruits and veggies.

What's the first week been like? Giving up red meat, all meat, dairy, sugar, and junk food. I didn't think I was a terrible eater but apparently I was. The hardest part so far has been giving up caffeine. I drank 1-2 cans of diet soda/regular soda/day. Now I usually get it on the deal of $2.50/12 pack but still it adds up calorie wise.

This new cleanse is making me feel very fiberous. I feel healthier I'll admit without the sugar, caffeine, and meat. But at the same time I feel stuffed from eating so much food because I'm eating a ton of veggies. The recipes and portions are large because they are such minimal food.

I have a bet going with my mom that I will see her at Christmas having lost 15 lbs (I wanted to say 20 lbs) but felt that was too ambitious. I'm not sure yet what I've lost but I feel like this is a big lifestyle change.

Will it stick? I hope so but I'm not sure. I can guarantee once off it I'll probably go back to eating dairy and some meat. But I might try to get off the carbs. I might also try to stop caffeine and sugar as suggested until 2015 since I'm supposed to wait a month until after the 21 day reset.

Right now the reset ends on 25th of November. My BIL is coming to visit on the 24th so we'll be probably eating out but I'm going to stick on my packing food and eating differently. I will try to post more about this journey.

My next challenge will be following the blog 100 days of real food.

Financial mish mash

October 25th, 2014 at 02:38 am

I am a pretty boring investor. We just buy and hold. We don't actively invest, and I rarely look at the accounts and total them up because it'd probably give me white hairs if I did. Anyway though I guess I'll give some interesting updates.

In January we had $439k in retirement savings, as of today we have $500,444. However when I checked in mid-September (19th) we had $515,884. So it's going up but also come down.

Taxable accounts we started with $195k and are at $228k. Good savings, but more importantly it's not up as high because we've paid off a lot of debt. Starting debt was $27,800 in January 2014. Of which $11,800 was car loans 0.9%, $8k was 0% Credit Cards, and $8k in student loans at 1.9%. So as of today we owe $4900 on one car and $2330 on one 0% CC. We've paid off $20,500 of debt. It was just getting to us so we decided to start minimizing payments even though it didn't make financial sense. Accordingly our NW went up from $839k to $959k. I am hoping the year ends with our retirement solidly above $500k, taxable above $230k, and debt below $5k.

This month I also decided to start a spread sheet on tracking in depth my groceries and eating out. What I found is that I spent a lot more on eating out this month which caused my cooking budget to be super low. Our groceries currently with a week to go is at $282.05. Our eating out $282.28, which I usually don't break $300 (usually closer to $200) and our groceries have been running around $600 a month. And we are eating out at least 1 more meal for sure if not 2 this next week. Yikes!

I guess it's just that we ate out with friends more than usual. We ate out 7 times with friends so far this month and are planning on meeting up on Tuesday again. Socializing is tough on the pocket book.

I can't complain about this year. I think I may keep a running tally of my groceries and eating out which is easier in excel than mint. I also now stand in self-checkout lines at costco and bjs and track what is home stuff and what is groceries.

posting pictures trial run

June 24th, 2014 at 01:19 am

So I am getting the hang of this blog site, while debating going back to my own. I still own my domain and it's up for renewal. I'll work on it next week.

Yeah this is all homemade and this is why eating out is great but so is eating at home.

Stir fried sticky rice


wrapped sticky rice


Romaine with feta, bell peppers, pecans, cranberries, strawberries, and greek dressing.


Rice, fish, bok choy - what my kids eat


I freeze the wrapped sticky rice for DH's lunches and I froze some of the stir fried rice as well.

Next up wasabi mayo salmon, japanese sushi rice, and perhaps an indian curry dish. We'll see about next week.

Health Insurance Follow up

June 23rd, 2014 at 05:27 pm

So Nika got me curious and I am trying to figure out our savings rate and time to FI. According to our w2 DH's employer pays $20,348.82 last year for our medical premiums We paid $2526 or 11% of the premiums. I had no idea our benefits were so expensive.

Some food photos. I need to get better at this.

Ribs and Strawberries we picked.

Angel food cake with our picked strawberries

Romaine with feta, strawberries, pecans, bell peppers, and greek dressing.

food pictures work in progress...

June 11th, 2014 at 02:11 am

I gotta get better at this food photo thing. I'm so jealous of Nika food photos (they are amazing). I only do it with a phone and I'm a terrible photographer to boot.

But anyway this weekend it was smoked pork ribs and quinoa with corn and broccoli.

I'm also making homemade marinara sauce and baked ziti. I'll see if I can take a better photo.

Seriously I know I can take better photos of food.