Monday, June 26, 2017

Prepping for the Week Ahead

I have only Monday and Friday in the office and a very early flight tomorrow morning. I need to pack tonight and make sure everything on the home front is organized and ready for the week. I'm planning to make a chicken stir fry for supper tonight and while that cooks, a tuna hot dish and a ground turkey meatloaf. DD2 can heat those up for their supper tomorrow and Wednesday. There should be plenty from all three dinners for leftovers for Thursday. Last night I made sure all laundry was done and clean for the week.

DH does a fair share of household duties, but laundry beyond towels or his athletic stuff is not his forte. Neither is cooking other than pasta and frozen pizza. DD2 needs to get better and more comfortable in the kitchen, so it will be good for her to be in charge of the meals even if I give her a head start. There are frozen vegetables for steaming and I have a packet of instant mashed potatoes. We're stocked to the gills with easy lunch items. I'll probably grab a light dinner before getting on the plane Thursday and maybe some fruit for on route. Friday we'll just cobble together any odds and ends for supper and I'll do a minimal shop Saturday morning or even Friday night for the long 4th of July weekend, first looking through our cupboards and freezer to see what needs using up. We'll be up at the lake Sunday morning through Wednesday night.I mentioned in a comment on yesterdays post we need to stretch the budget until July 5th pay day. Challenge accepted.

I'm really only gone two nights since my plane leaves early morning and the conference doesn't start until early afternoon. I hope I have enough time to drop of my suit case and just walk the few blocks to the hotel where the conference is with just a single tote bag rather than lug the suitcase. We have a convoluted travel arrangement situation at work and for the second year in a row, our travel coordinator booked my hotel too late to get in at the main hotel. I don't really mind though, as it gives me a bit more away time after the meetings and such are done. I have a mix of clothes as I'm not completely sure how far we will be walking to dinner at night in the Dallas heat, but then both the conference rooms and the restaurants could be over air conditioned. I'll also bring work out wear and walking shoes-can't lose momentum. 

I've gotten out of practice traveling for work. Three years ago it was a regular occurrence. Now, I feel like I'm doing a load of planning to pull it off. Today will be a busy day at work, making sure nothing is left for chance while I'm out, and I know I'll be on e-mails each night I am away, just as I was last week. If I can't squeeze in a blog post or two, this might be it for a few days. Have a great week.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Frugal? Thrifty? What Are These Words?

I may have forgotten what either the term, frugal or thrifty, means. I'm not anticipating putting a lot into our savings account in June, and in initial looks at the check book, I am a bit frustrated as to why.

To remind myself, Merriam Webster says this:

Definition of frugal: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources
Definition of thrifty: given to or marked by economy and good management

In reminding myself of the definition, I feel better about our use of resources, and where we have economized as a family. There have been a few indulgences, but nothing gregarious or out of character. Some of  the cash flow impact has to do with large out of pocket medical expenses, but not yet reimbursed through my flex account at work. I need to get on that. It is unlikely we'll see this yet in June, and that is a whopping $1300 out of pocket but  will be made up in July. 

I am currently sitting at total grocery and household spending for June at $575, that is $225 above my stretch goal, and $175 over my realistic target and may still need before the end of the month.This is huge, but to consider, included in this is the money spent on strawberries and more sugar for jams, more seals, and pectin. Some jam will be gifts. I've made 13 jars so far, plus a container of each strawberry-rhubarb, and straight up strawberry, for our immediate eating, not in jars. DD2 is home for lunch everyday and I'm not spending on school lunches. We are stocked up for the rest of summer in laundry soap and for July with toilet paper and personal items, plus earned $10 in gift cards from Target. July should be better. We're also stocked up with  higher quality frozen pizza, keeping us from ordering take out. I believe I am using good management in the grocery and household stuff area. Is there room for improvement? Of course, but with the stress I've had from work, the fact that I didn't just blow the budget on restaurants and take out is a mark of good economy. 

Here are a few of our extra costs:
  • New sheets from Kohls, but good quality at 70% off plus and additional 15% off
  • Starbucks gift card for DD2's friend as a thank you for playing a duet with DD2 on violin at a special church service for DH's father. (this is a whole story in itself)
  • Gift card for family friends who passed a barely worn  formal black orchestra dress on to DD2
  • Pianist honorarium for DD2's recital and treats for the reception
  • Funds spent on Graduation presents 
  • Funds spent for funerals/condolences
  • Slew of birthday presents that normally wouldn't be part of our spending  
  • Concert tickets for Journey
Things really add up quickly with $20 here and $50 there. However, when I think hard, we had some good efforts at economizing as well. Food waste has been so much better in June. Items left at the cabin memorial day weekend were used again on Fathers Day (stuff for guacamole still good!) I made a refrigerator vegetable noodle soup using all the odd vegetables. Leftover plain yogurt and bananas that turned faster than we ate them went into seven small and one large loaves of bread, perfect for 4th of July when we will have a cabin full eating breakfast and for snacking. DD1 found a second hand perfect little black dress that will get oodles of wear, plus the formal black dress for orchestra passed on to her that even with the gift card as a thank you, it is 1/4 f what it would have cost to order her one in the fall. We brought back two items to Walmart that were bought for school projects for DD2 but then not needed. 

I don't know if canning is cost effective, still costing about $1.75 a jar, but little jars of homemade jam are very much appreciated by family and friends. If I could source pectin (or do without), and lower cost lids, bands, and jars, I could get the cost lower. I found 13 jars in my laundry room but will need to buy more to make more, which will up the cost. If you have ideas,let me know. they are never in garage sales.

If you are like me and get down on yourself for not saving enough, or not thinking you are doing enough to move your family forward, take heart. You may be doing more than you think. Plus, life can't all be about squeezing every grain of copper from those pennies, but enough to have a good balance of spending now and saving for later that aligns with your values.  

A few pictures from my jam making.

Stirring the bubbling fruit.

Two batches:. 6 Strawberry-Rhubarb, 7 Strawberry.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

One More Week of June

While everyone knows the summer solstice is June 20th, the first full day of summer being June 21st, I, like many, count the seasons in months rather than dates. June, July, and August are summer. Fall starts in September and ends in November, and so on in three month increments. With that non fact disclosed, I am realizing that summer will be 1/3 over in a weeks time. Time for me to do a quick check and then calibrate my summer plans, making sure I don't let this too brief season pass me by.

On May 31 I posted my Summer Adventures  which was supposed to be more than a wish list but rather a plan of action.  Here's the abbreviated version
1. Play hooky from work
2. Pick strawberries and have a girls night feasting on the rewards (including champagne)
3. Sleep in and go to drive in movie theater
4. Box Score a Twins game
5. Kayak before dawn

What's checked off? Not a one. Yesterday and this morning though, I made a start. Strawberry picking season launched yesterday. Here is my bounty, picked, ready for cleaning and ready to be made into jam, and a few reserved for some champagne. I will freeze a few full berries as lord knows when I will get around to the girls night! This lot was just a touch over 10 pounds. I paid a couple bucks for the box so it came to a rounded $24. $2.29 per pound was the picking price, so certainly not a bargain price wise, but being able to pick the berries I wanted, and knowing these came from a farm a mile down the road from me was worth the added pennies per pound. 

I wish I had a recipe for jam that didn't include the pectin that still sets up well and will can for future enjoyment in the winter. I just use the recipe on the Ball or Sure-Jell boxes. If you have a source let me know. Besides jam, some pure strawberry and some strawberry rhubarb, I'll make a pie and save some berries (and rhubarb) for DD2's favorite dump cake, probably for the 4th of July. A friend saw my Facebook post on berry picking and offered me rhubarb-all I need, so that's how I'll source that. This farm has rows and rows and yesterday was the first day of public picking. From the looks of the size and condition, there should be another two good weeks of picking and I might get out there again. If I had help, I would have picked two boxes yesterday, but hard to carry more than one back to the car, and my knees will only take so long before being a burden. It took about 40 minutes to pick this lot. Who else picks their own? If so, what are your plans for what you pick?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Feeling Good Friday-Milestone Edition

I'm going to jump right in and say officially hooray! I hit a mental milestone where the weight loss dipped, not much but dipped below a certain number that was agonizing me for years. Actually, I had ping ponged below this weight off an on for the last two weeks, but I'm using my Friday weigh in as the official tracking from week to week so the minor daily variables aren't factored in. I'm disappointed that it was only a .8 pound loss, yet even little movement is better. My total weight loss is now 12.6 pounds. I was lamenting with DD1 about how I am frustrated that the scale isn't responding more to my careful eating and increased walking. She's my cheerleader though, reminding me that plateaus will happen and then boosts in weight loss will occur. V reminded me on our walk the other night that building muscle will help spark my metabolism. I hope both are right. My over confidence in easily losing 20 pounds by July 28th has taken a turn to doubt. 7.4 pounds to go in four weeks seemed doable  three weeks ago, but averaging 1.85 pounds per week seems like a mountain right now. Still, let's crack on with other things that are helping me feel well.
  1. My mental disposition is still not terrific, but "faking it" last week sure helped me not slide further into wallowing. I just have a lot in my head space right now and the mental fatigue manifests into physical fatigue. Yet, I didn't hibernate this week and last weekend as I would have liked. DH and I went out, sort of, last Friday night. We went to the lake Sunday, I had my work trip, and V and I got our walk in after having had a week and 1/2 of cancellations. I'm meeting up with one of my birth friends for coffee today.
  2. I took actual pictures this week for a blog post. Granted, they were just with my phone at the hotel grounds where my work meetings were held, but being that taking more pictures for my blog is a goal for this space, I liked posting a few on Tuesday morning.  
  3. I walked my longest walk with V on Wednesday night so far, 3.64 miles total. Her tracker showed  we burned over 500 calories. 
  4. Unfortunately, I know I over did the walking, as by the time we were back, my left knee was sore and starting to throb. I had to spend the bulk of yesterday with a heating pad and elevation, but I'm happy to say today it is more normal. There's always a bit of pain, but I've just become accustomed to it. I still managed a short walk with pup last night and some toning exercises. 
  5. The slightly cooler weather prompted me to clean out the fridge with all the loose and odd vegetables and make a big crock pot of vegetable noodle soup. I used the whole wheat pasta, just two cups dried, with a huge vat of soup so the simple carb ratio is quite low per serving, but loaded with vegetables. Besides feeling like the soup was practically free since I used all odds and ends of veg that was about to go off, we'll get two meals+ out of it, leaving me time to devote to things other than cooking meals.
I think I need to spend some time today in my little notebooks, making some lists, scratching out a few plans for exercise and mindfulness. If you are trying to lose weight, please share any words of encouragement you are finding helpful. Is anyone else fighting  mental gray matter? Grab a cup of coffee and let's talk!