Look Ma, No Fail! (Week #1 Recap)

22 May

I am happy to report that I had a successful first week, and I must say that while it took a lot of work, it was also possible with a little help from my friends.  🙂

On Friday, I went to some friends’ house (who are really more like family) for a nice dinner. Grilled tenderloin, vegetable kabobs, baked sweet potatoes, salad and dessert.  After a week of beef roast for supper this meal was unbelievable!  But much more of the pleasure from that night was from the company than from the food.  Because I had focused so much on economizing, streamlining and scheduling during the week, being able to let go of all of that in the company of loved ones was wonderful.  Thank you Maureen, Moira and Kiera!

On Sunday, I ate my one and only restaurant meal, and I was actually excited about it!  I always look forward to seeing my forever friend Heather, but most of the time I feel blase at best over the prospect of going to a restaurant.  This time, I looked that menu over like you wouldn’t believe, and it wasn’t because nothing looked good.  (Er, everything did!)  When I got the check, I made a joke about going to Barnes & Noble and wasting the remainder on magazines, but Heather suggested I take the extra money and tally it up at the end of the 30 days.  She said I could then spend it on something special for myself.  I instantly threw her idea to the ground and told her to quit trying to run my life, but after I thought about it for a second I realized it was a brilliant idea and would try to pass it off as my own.  My next thought was that she was a faithful reader of this blog, so I should probably not try to take credit.  Sooooo, I am going to do Heather’s idea.

But I would be remiss if I did not mention the internal struggle that was my Saturday.  I like to have at least half of one day each weekend during which I do nothing.  (I can hear all the naysayers now, moaning their, “It must be nice”s and “You must be kidding”s and to you all I say one thing:  be quiet.)  I am a solitary person, and I truly thrive on alone time spent thinking, reading, writing or doing other things that are not typically considered “productive” although they are crucial to my well-being.  Having said all that, I had a busy weekend and I had to sacrifice most of that nothing time in order to prepare for the coming week–meal planning, shopping, cooking for the week, etc. takes time, and I had a bad attitude about it when I woke up Saturday morning and basically it was my pride alone that would not allow me to fail at this new endeavor so quickly.  After I got started it was not so bad, and I do have plans to get some of these things done in advance in the weeks to come, but I wanted to be clear that this week was not all raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Very truly yours,

Sarah E.

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Day #4–Breakfast Is the Most Boring Meal of the Day

18 May

I am not a big breakfast eater because I am not the type to be hungry when I first wake up.  In fact, it usually takes me a couple of hours before I want to eat anything, but during the week I am already hard at work at my desk by that point.  It is impractical for me to eat then, and besides I am afraid to eat in the middle of the morning because I don’t want to be accused of eating at my desk all day long.  🙂

If I try to wait until lunch, I end up eating WAY too much, and I know it is really unhealthy to go half a day with no food.

And so, I have decided I will eat first thing in the morning whether I am hungry or not.  This weekend I boiled ten eggs, peeled them, and put them in a container in the fridge.  Each morning I have taken two out, put them in a Ziploc bag, sprinkled salt and pepper in the bag, and eaten the eggs on the way to work.  This is a perfectly acceptable breakfast for me this week because I really don’t care about this meal since I am not hungry for it anyway, but I know from past experience if I eat eggs consistently I begin to hate them and the mere thought of them makes me feel like I am going to vomit. In an effort to avoid this eventuality, I have decided to try this breakfast recipe this weekend.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

I already have most of the ingredients, and it utilizes my all-time favorite kitchen appliance, the slow cooker.  I hope it turns out well so I don’t have to come up with anything else for breakfast.  As a back up, I will likely do something super easy from this list:  9 Fast, Healthy Breakfast Ideas.

I would really appreciate any super-easy, make-ahead breakfast ideas from anyone, so please let me know!

Very truly yours,

Sarah E.

Day #3–We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Starbucks

17 May

Soooo, I love coffee, and I drink it year-round regardless of how hot it gets outside.

I can make a good cup of hot coffee, and have several contraptions in my home to accomplish this and which require either zero skill or a little skill.  From easiest to hardest I have:

1.  Keurig coffee maker–pop in a coffee pod, pour in some water . . . the end.

2.  Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker–the blissful guesswork begins. . . how much coffee, how much water. . . the end.

3.  La Cafetiere french presses (8 oz and 32 oz sizes)–the plot thickens. . how much coffee, how much water, how long do I let it sit there until I push that little plunger down . . . the end.

4.  Vietnamese style phin filter brewer–and I have now entered into pure coffee insanity because not only do I have to worry about water, coffee and filter time, I have to factor in how tightly to screw down the metal filter to insure the water doesn’t flow through too quickly, but I can’t screw it down too tightly or the coffee will take an hour and a half to brew like it did last time and then I will have to get my needle-nosed pliers back out OR JUST FORGET ABOUT IT AND THROW THE WHOLE THING AWAY. . . the end.

But despite all of the ways I can make coffee, what I really like to do is drive up to a window or saunter lazily into a coffee shop and pay for what I should be making at home for a fraction of the cost.  And today I did just that.  As I perused the website Small Notebook last night (thanks, SBC!), I came across a simple iced coffee recipe that was incredible and quite simple.  It was better than any other iced coffee I had tried to make before, and I love that it was cold-brewed.  A link to the recipe follows.  Happy brewing!

The Easiest Iced Coffee Ever!

Very truly yours,

Sarah E.

Day #2–Awkward is the New Cool

16 May

Today I resisted a lunch invitation, which is hard enough on its own, but this one was more difficult for two reasons:  it was from a new friend who I am really enjoying getting to know, and the total cost would have been about $5.00 each!

Luckily, my friend knew about my new budget and blog, so I didn’t have to worry about any hard feelings or about seeming weird over splitting hairs over a measly five bucks.  And she ended up going home and fixing herself a lunch that she said was delicious, so it saved us both some cash.

Up until this week, I usually spend my lunch hour one of two ways.

The first, and much more pleasant way, is to meet a friend at a restaurant (a favorite is Sue’s Kitchen), but it is not very fun to constantly watch the clock or to get the bill and feel bad for spending money on a meal that should have cost a fraction of what I pay.

The second, and much more frequent way, is for me to get into my car, and drive around aimlessly deciding where I want to eat.  Going home isn’t really an option, as I hardly have time to get across town and back during my lunch hour, much less eat anything.  After I decide where to eat, I end up spending anywhere between $7.00 and $10.00 for food that I don’t even want which I then scarf down in my car and later makes me feel like I need an afternoon nap.

Both of these options, on a regular basis, are really dumb.  So I can either move across town so I can go home for lunch every day, or I can continue to take my lunch to work.  (And since going home for lunch will start a terrible pattern of midday napping aside from the fact that moving is terribly inconvenient, I believe I will stick to my current plan.)

BUT this does bring up something I have noticed about lunching at work.

I feel awkward about it.

The truth is that while I am very, very thankful for the great break room (and future blog post topic) at my job, I feel weird sitting in there eating.  People walk in to get coffee and such, and are extremely nice, and I realize we are all using the break room for its intended purpose, but I just feel stupid sitting in there with my lunch box and whatever else it is that I drag in there with me.  (Kindle, notepad, purse, what have you).  I am sure I will get used to it, but still. . . .

Maybe after I do this for awhile I will sit in there and count all the money I am saving by brown bagging it.

Very truly yours,

Sarah E.

Day #1–Schleppin’ Ain’t Easy

15 May

So, yesterday I made my grocery list, went to the store with it, and stayed well below my budget for the week.  This tells me that I actually have no idea how much money I should set aside for groceries.  Oh well, I will worry about that another time.

What I did notice is that I had to practically slap myself to keep from putting things in my basket that were not on my list.  It was terrible–I was really surprised to see how impulsively I would have shopped had I not had a list.  Thank goodness I went to Bill’s Fresh Market so I could avoid the entire Health & Beauty section at Wal-Mart.  That is my downfall right there.  Like I really need any more of THAT stuff.  One time I took all of the lip glosses out of my purse and counted them in front of a friend of mine in an absurd confessional display and there were 18 of them.  If I never bought another eyeshadow quad I would have enough for me and all of my female friends until our deaths, so obviously I am aware that impulsive spending is a problem for me in Health & Beauty–I just didn’t know it extended into the frozen foods as well.

After I made it home, I began cooking.  I made a roast, an easy and delicious standby that I know will last for an entire week of suppers.  I got standard breakfast, lunch and snack foods, and in an effort to stick to my promise to make it easy on myself, I packed all of my lunches and snacks for the entire week and took them to work this morning.

Now, for those of you who know me, you know I carry a huge purse and a tote bag with me every day.  I remember when I started a new job and walked in one day, a coworker asked me if I had gone shopping before work, and I am sure it is because I was carrying so much junk with me.

Well, this morning even I was embarrassed.  I was carrying my big purse and tote.  This tote is so large that I can carry my friend’s five-year-old daughter in it, and today the tote was FULL.  I had my gym clothes, five lunches and five snacks, along with various and sundry daily necessities  in this thing, and it was so heavy that by the time I got to my desk on the third floor, my right arm had gone blue from lack of circulation.

I rushed into the office building, stashed my lunches and snacks in the fridge, and patted myself on the back because to quote my favorite British nanny, “Well begun is half done!” (but actually I think Aristotle said it first, and he was probably quoting a proverb, but I heard it from Mary Poppins first!)

Very truly yours,

Sarah E.

Ten Rules for Cheaper Eats

13 May

1.  I will have one restaurant meal per week, which will will cost no more than $20.00.  (Two $10.00 meals are not allowed, or any other similar combination.)

2.  I will have a beverage budget of $10.00 per week.  (This is for coffee with friends, Sonic drinks, etc.)

3.  I will have a weekly grocery budget of $70.00 per week.  (This will also include items for my loving pet Megan, personal hygiene, and household maintenance.)

4.  I will use cash to track my restaurant, beverage and grocery budgets to make sure I stay on track!

5.  I will devote part of every Sunday to preparing for the next week.  (This will include any cooking, shopping, budgeting, etc. as needed.)

6.  I will try one new recipe per week. (I invite any and all suggestions here!)

7. I will severely limit processed foods at the grocery.  (There is no sense in replacing unhealthy things at a restaurant with unhealthy things in my pantry!)

8.  I will spend my lunch hour doing something either productive or enjoyable.  (Sometimes maybe both!)

9.  I will set myself up for success every day by planning what I will eat and bringing it to work with me!

10.  I will post a weekly Facebook status for the next thirty days to help with personal accountability.

Very truly yours,

Sarah E.

But Why?

13 May

I have needed to get serious about budgeting for some time now, but with the commencement of my student loan payments looming ever closer, I have decided it’s now or never.  After taking a long look at my spending habits using a wonderful online tool suggested by a friend of mine, I can see that I spend WAY too much money at restaurants.  I am hoping that by starting a blog and telling my Facebook friends about it, I will feel a certain amount of accountability toward reshaping my budget.

For starters, I will post my Ten Rules of Cheaper Eats along with periodic updates on how I am doing.  I hope to post a weekly status update on Facebook to invite people to read my blog and comment.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. The online budgeting tool is https://www.mint.com/

Very truly yours,

Sarah E.