Saturday, April 18, 2015

Just Another Night in Frugalville



Yep, just another way a chicken can stretch your frugal dollar.  The bird yielded fat, skin,  breast meat and bits from other parts.

The potatoes are crisping up with the skin and fat.

Tonight's dinner was rice with potatoes, beans, chicken, frozen green peppers and onions, plus frozen spinach.  I spiced it with curry, turmeric, Adobo salt, paprika and saffron plus liquid ranchero sauce -- the dregs which I rinsed out of the bottle using chicken broth (from a box purchased at a dollar store because I had none of my own thawed).

On the side, shredded cheese (from a block), light sour cream and chopped bagged salad with cabbage, carrots and tomatoes.  Just another night of stretching our food dollars to make a yummy meal!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Seize the Deal

I popped into Tops on my way home knowing I wanted to buy a jar of sauce.   The quick trip set me back $27 because I did my regular breeze through in order to spy sale items or bargains.

The chicken was a "Use Today" special at $1 per pound.  I don't ever like to spend more than .99 cents per pound but that isn't all too common these days.  This one had gibbies too so that is what the pup is having for breakfast tomorrow. 

The bird set me back around six bucks.  A 5 pound bag of white potatoes was three bucks. We had the brussies from last week.  Tomorrow I will start stock.

I also picked up $1 bags of seafood portions.  These are small bags of scallops, salmon and flounder that are normally over priced at $2.90 a piece.  These are excellent convenience items and I can cram them into the freezer.  They are also ideal for camp.  For one dollar, I can buy a healthy protein for the same amount (even a little less) than a value item at a fast food restaurant.  Four ounces of flounder is a lot healthier than that amount of fatty ground beef and a cheap bun.  I don't really plan meals around these portions, but I do keep them on hand to pull out in an emergency (like last night).  I can always make up a frozen veggie and a pot of rice to go with.

Aside from food, we had a good evening.  It was sunny after work so I took the pup for a swim and we also took a walk.  There was ice in the river which comes from the lake this time of year and that makes the water and the breeze cool.  She does not mind.  I just like being out in the sun.  TBG had physical therapy.  It was his last session.  Well, he might go once a week right after he goes back to work (next week), but mostly he is done.  He is the only bi-lateral knee replacement his therapist has worked with that went back to work.  Most of her clients are retired.

Things will start to get crazy next week when he is no longer at home.  My posting may become sparse -- life keeps me busy!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just Cook!

I believe if more people cooked their own meals, there would be less of a "retirement crisis" looming.

TBG and I met downtown at the club where he teaches Spinning.  He dropped me at the train this morning and brought my bag downtown with him.  I swam while he did the "bike that goes nowhere" thing.  The club is a ten to 15 minute walk from my office and it would have taken less time, but I missed the trolley that would have given me a ride half the way there.

We were starving afterwards but had nothing on deck for dinner.  Having a long weekend away is nice but it tosses most plans out the window.

The idea was to get a rotisserie chicken at the super market but when we got there, they were out.  So I bought a pound of ground beef and mushrooms.  Once at home, I realized we did not have a jar of sauce.  I made it "from scratch" using canned tomatoes and it turned out fine.  I baked the meat balls in the oven and dumped them in at the end.

This was cheaper and a bit healthier than take-out.  I figure the best way to keep your finances in line is too cook dinner and brown bag lunch.  Bringing home a pizza would have set us back about $15 and that is still about seven dollars more than I spent on this meal.  There's a good amount of meatballs and sauce left to be used for another meal.

This took me about 40 minutes to pull together and it was work, but ordering a pie or Chinese and going out to get it would have taken about the same amount of time.  Of course this isn't the kind of meal a girl gets skinny on -- but it tasted really good and we accomplished another meal at home.  Now, it is time for bed!

Monday, April 13, 2015

It's Patio Season Again!

We put out patio furniture yesterday and had our first fire -- although the flames are hard to see in this picture.  The first attempt at a fire is always wet and smokey.  I overheard folks in our neighborhood commenting on how good it smelled. 

We still need to wash the furniture down but the main thing was to get it out of the garage.  I might wait a little bit to buy more pieces because we found that we owe $1500 on our Federal tax return.  If we are careful, we won't have to dip into savings to pay for it.  Being careful means not making a big purchase this month.  We put hospital bills on our card last month and will pay that bill on the very last day it is due.  Now that is something I'd have liked to burn!
Teddy is enjoying her patio time again too.  So much of our clean up had to do with her!  The layers of poop that had accumulated during the deep freeze and through multiple storms was unbelievable.  I was the one who had to pick it up.  TBG has washed down the patio and gotten the slate clean.  He also picked up a lot of leaves today.  Light yard work is not a problem for him, which is a relief.  He managed light housework, laundry and the yard plus tosses in a field for the dog.  He had PT tonight and is clearing up the dinner dishes.  This is his last week off of work.  He will have taken only 8 weeks of disability for a double knee replacement.

There are many people who would try to enjoy the summer and stretch out their absence.  It's not just a case that the lack of pay would hurt -- because it's not been that much of a hardship and in fact, we've tackled some big bills on less pay with some careful spending.  My guy wants to make sure his staff is not overworked in his absence and in the heating/cooling business, summer is just about the busiest time.

The dog is going to have to get used to being on her own during the day.   She got a swim and a long walk with me after work today so I am looking forward to outdoor weather with her.  I estimate TBG will be back on his bike shortly too and we plan to open camp this weekend.  I'll do the de-winterizing and we'll leave the heavy old television at home for now.   But we are both looking forward to an active and relaxing summer.  It makes it all the more real to have the patio set up.  And unlike many folks, we don't have a yard full of mud which made our conversion to an all patio backyard something to be grateful for.  Come on over for drinks!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

We're Back!

We were away for the weekend on account of our niece getting married.  TBG's sister and her family stayed with us Thursday night on their way home from their Easter with in-laws.  We all drove out on Friday and then stayed at his sister's house.  The wedding was Friday night.

Maybe an hour or so into the ride, Tommy realized he left our garment bags behind.  Well, I can blame myself as I was principally loading the car fussing over not wanting him to do much lifting.  It would have taken too much time to turn around so we got off at the Geneva exit and went to the factory outlet mall there, dropping about $150 on outfits to wear.

My choice was the purple lace-patterned dress and a gold metallic faux leather lightweight jacket to wear over it.  Luckily, I had my shoes and stockings but bought a foundation like camisole to smooth things out which was a good idea since my "dress" bra was with my dress in the bag at home.  I spent about $90  bucks.  TBG got a way with a little less.  We sent him in search of khakis, a shirt and tie.  We had hoped to find a reasonable blazer but the only store that had anything in his size was Brook's Brothers and $399 for a blazer was too much.  The sales lady was nice and found him the shirt and tie which were on sale.  He spent about $65 bucks on all of his stuff.  I think he looked swell.

The wedding was a blast -- not easy for old timers like us to say.  But the music was good, the food was great, the bar was open.  Tommy and our brother-in-law Rich had to go out to the bar for the inn and start sampling Scotch.  I actually enjoyed a glass myself.  My trouble making adult nephew and I had a nice time pulling an outrageous and tasteless prank on his mother (and mother of the bride) so I really felt as if I was a good Aunt.

We now have a wonderful new nephew and a couple of "step" nephews along with two new canine family members (and Doug is now Teddy's godfather).  I also got to spend quality time one on one with my favorite new canine niece who is a Springer Spaniel named Sally Joe.  Along with the wedding, we had a big family dinner on Saturday night.  Once everyone had cleared out we all settled in to couches and watched the Adam Sandler movie 51 First Dates.

We don't do a whole lot of family stuff on a regular basis since we live 5 hours away from everyone.  That means we generally just get together for big events and every other holiday or so.  It is always a whirlwind and we always end up tired once we're back home, but it's nice to be able to do it.  I don't have a close relationship with my own family so I am very fortunate to have married into a swell one.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Plastic Problems...

I don't have a credit card problem per se, but the flexible spending account I signed up for has been driving me crazy.  The money comes out of my pay check and into the flex account but the card they initially issued me always rejects at the point of sale saying there is a $0 balance.  I've tried to use it three times and each time the clerk tells me they've never seen that error before.

I've called to get help and the phone system for the issuer doesn't recognize my account. HR tells me the money is definitely going in and the provider tells me my account is active and has a balance.  They finally resorted to sending me a new card today.  I had a hard time activating it because the phone system still doesn't recognize my member or account number.  I am very skeptical that this card is going to work.

It really is a hassle to have to scan receipts and file them on line.  That may sound like it's not a quality problem, but when you are busy it really is.  One thing I was able to confirm is that my last on-line filing went through and a check is in the mail.  That's good because I've been paying for my transit out of pocket and having the deductions withheld so it is like a double hit each month.

Apparently not a lot of people use this kind of account although we are all offered it.  I get that it is a pain -- obviously it's been a big hassle for me.  I am allowed to deduct $80 per month pre-tax so I do $40 per pay period.  By my calculation, that saves me $14 in taxes each month, which is seven days of train rides.  Towards the end of the year, I will have extra accumulated because the passes I buy are $75.  While the money usually carries over, I'm going to just set my elections down to 0 at the end of October.

If I paid for parking, the full deduction wouldn't cover it all.  I would also  not be exposed to ill-mannered city school children and crazy adults. This morning I was certainly on the "Crazy Train."  A woman got on two stops after me and started talking to me but she had only three teeth in her upper jaw and I could not understand a single word.  She was very worked up about something and continued blabbing at me  until I got downtown -- six stops later.  A co-worker was on the train from the stop ahead of me and I had been sitting with him, but the lady just kept on talking at us so we couldn't converse.  Then when I was disembarking, a big gruff guy with long dreadlocks pushed passed me and started ranting.  As the train pulled away, he was walking back and forth down the aisle and still going at it.  Luckily for my buddy John, he was off at the next stop.

I do not live the cushy life.  No luxury car for me, no commute with a Starbucks in hand and no front row reserved parking spot.  Just a rail pass and a bunch of crazy people.  All aboard!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mixing...

One of my frugal "secrets" (let's face it, I am a blabber-mouth blogger and have no real secrets), is to mix things together.  I don't have a lot of brand loyalty -- except for pasta and canned tomatoes (Colavita and Cento).   I'm always mixing a jar of supermarket spaghetti sauce with a can of low salt tomatoes, mixing yellow rice mix from a box with plain white and using home-made stock, cutting salad dressing with plain yogurt, and adding my own pureed chick peas, oil and tahini to store-bought hummus.  By doing this, I not only stretch my dollar, I can help minimize some of the ingredients that are often overly concentrated in a single preparation.  I cut down on salt, sugar, fat and calories that way for sure.

Tonight I mixed up shampoo for my gym bag.  I used half a bottle of Ultra-Swim anti-chlorine shampoo and half a bottle of the Salon Selects shampoo I got as a deal at Dollar Tree.  The pool I swim in now is chlorine-free but there are other chemicals in it.  I also have an ample supply of pool shampoo on hand.  The "regular" shampoo is in the mix to help keep my color from fading.

If I had gobs of cash, I would splurge on higher quality brands of health and beauty aids.  I used to love using Redkin hair products but now can't rationalize the cost (I used that stuff when I was creating debt).  It would probably be healthier for me to eat all organic -- but that is just too pricey for our current budget.  I'll buy some organic items but not everything -- I used to do that, about ten years ago.  That meant dropping about $160 every ten days (in 2005 dollars).  Those were also the days when we ate out around three times per week.

Being sensible about what I buy and not being afraid to mix items together means I can save a lot of money and end up with products/food I like.  It takes a little more time than just popping something open and using it, but what I spend in time, I save in money.