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Thoughts on dieting and the grocery budget

July 18th, 2024 at 06:02 pm


In the last 6 weeks or so I have been trying to lose some weight after noticing I was up 5-6 lbs this year to a new high. Although health comes first either way, I was interested to see how this would impact my grocery budget. I’m already vegetarian and only drink water/coffee/tea at home, so to lose weight sustainably my plan is to limit portions of more calorie dense foods like pasta and lean heavily on unlimited low-calorie vegetables.


I have been buying slightly more raw and frozen vegetables. Examples of vegetables include frozen broccoli, cabbage, in season tomatoes, carrots, and salad. I have also been eating more watermelon since it is in season- this is a much better deal when I buy whole watermelons and cut them up myself. These are relatively low cost and a lot of wonderful things are in season right now, so I have not really noticed a significant bump in my grocery budget.


 Other changes include being more aggressive about packing low calorie foods for work to avoid buying snacks there, drinking lots of water, more brothy soups to fill me up, switching to a lower sugar, lower calorie oat-based coffee creamer, and avoiding buying things like ice cream. Low calorie work snacks are things like green olives (bought in bulk from Costco), cut up fruit, and cut up vegetables.


I have added in some foods I don’t usually buy, including Special K cereal and milk, which help fill me up without piling on the calories. Eggs are always a major protein source for me and have stayed about the same.


One thing I have noticed is that a lot of the food I already have is not compatible with my calorie goals right now (flavored rice mixes, curry mixes that use coconut milk, refried beans, frozen naan, canned soup, etc), so in that way I am buying more foods weekly instead of using my pantry store. I plan to slowly add my usual favorites back into my diet once I hit my goal and don’t need to maintain such a large calorie deficit, so these things will get used eventually).


Overall I find that my diet has kept my food budget the same or slightly lower.  I don’t care to eat out much anyway bc I enjoy custom homemade foods, but it’s down to only social occasions during the diet phase bc even the healthiest thing on a menu is a calorie bomb compared to what I could make.


So far I’m down 4-5 lbs and already feeling better physically. I will note that this is just what works for my lifestyle and not advice. I am not following a specific commercial diet plan and do not have a lot of other dietary restrictions or health problems- I don’t need to be low carb, low salt, paleo, low FOODMAP, etc etc. I get a fair amount of aerobic exercise but don’t need excessive amounts of protein like people who are aggressively weight lifting. I am sure certain specific diets would be much more expensive if they required buying special meal replacement shakes/bars or were heavy in meat or specific expensive foods like avocado.


Is anyone else trying to lose some weight through diet changes? How has it impacted your budget?

Pantry challenge refocus

February 21st, 2024 at 02:38 pm

The pantry clean-out challenge I started in January has slowed down recently due to having guests and other life events. While there has definitely been noticeable improvement in my freezer and cabinets being less packed, it was definitely not done, so I am recommitting now. I stopped at the grocery store yesterday and did a $35 stock up that was mostly vegetables, which I was out of, and I plan to make these into meals by using up the other things in my pantry

Shopping haul:

2 small green cabbages

1 4-lb bag frozen broccoli

1 smaller bag frozen cauliflower

1 smaller bag frozen corn

1 sleeve of 5 garlic bulbs

Tomatoes on the vine (on sale for 1.99/lb)

1 6 pack ramen noodles (keep these on hand for the occasional quick comfort food craving)

1 dozen eggs

Large coffee creamer


Last night I made shredded sauteed cabbage with noodles from the pantry for dinner. For a bedtime snack I had some chocolate covered pretzels left over from Christmas.


I don’t eat traditional breakfast foods most of the time and tend to cook regular meals for the AM, so this morning before work I made garlic noodles using the last very expired serving of udon noodles from the pantry with broccoli, tomato, and an egg.


Other possible meals from food on hand include potato/cauliflower curry over rice, broccoli sesame stir fry, okonomiyaki (Japanese style cabbage pancake, ), fried rice, eating the last chick’n patty in the freezer, potato wedges with whatever dipping sauces are open in the fridge, quesadillas with tomato/corn filling, Japanese curry with vegetables, cheesy grits, pantry tortellini with some kind of jarred sauce, cereal with milk, and toasting a couple leftover bagels with butter


Writing this all out makes me realize I should DEFINITELY be able to get through a week (or more) without grocery shopping again! The only exception will be replacing coffee creamer and eggs as needed- coffee is definitely necessary to maintain my sunny disposition…


I don’t track my grocery spending closely, but I looked back over the month so far and I have spent $230 in February, which includes getting some chocolates for the BF, some nicer snacks/items when I hosted relatives, and some treats for students I was teaching at work.  

Car replacement success, pantry challenge less successful

February 21st, 2024 at 02:13 pm

Just a quick check in – the month is flying by! I bought a car 12 years ago with 100,000 miles on it and drove it for another 100,000 miles, so really can’t complain! Because that car lasted so much longer than I expected,  I have had many years to save up for a new car to buy it in cash, so technically it’s not monthly spending since it came from the expected earmarked car savings. The old car has been needing increasingly expensive and more frequent repairs, and it finally developed an issue that would probably have required significant engine disassembly ($$$) costing way more than the total car value. There will be an increase in my car insurance, but that should go back down after a couple years as this car gets older.


The pantry clean-out challenge took a step backwards when I had some relatives visiting. I did stock up on various food options to have on hand in case of different food preferences and some dietary restrictions. Now that everyone left, I am back on the wagon and working my way through some leftovers. I also brought leftover cookies in to work, because I don’t need to be eating a whole tin of cookies solo!

Freezer Inventory

January 29th, 2024 at 07:04 pm

Fell off the wagon with the pantry challenge a little bit this last week due to an busy work stretch. I picked up some groceries (will try to find the receipts to add up for the challenge). This includes some extra jars of Indian simmer sauce that were on a great sale. I debated on that because I still have a ways to go in the pantry, but I haven’t seen a good sale like this in a couple years.


Today I did a partial freezer inventory (the stuff in the door and top compartment, without fully emptying it out):

1 bag riced herbed cauliflower

2 half bags of frozen cauliflower (oops!) plus another full bag unopened

Package of shrimp

Container frozen pesto

Loaf of frozen bread

Tupperware of frozen split pea soup

1.5 packages cream cheese

Small package plant-based fake crab cakes

Serving of butter pecan ice cream I transferred into a small container to save room

2 plant based chicken patties

Bag of shredded cheese

Package of ravioli with plant based sausage


The two open bags of frozen cauliflower will probably go into a casserole tonight. The frozen bread will be either French toast or a French toast style breakfast casserole. Will use the chick’n patties for random lunches at home. I am thinking of making pink sauce with the cream cheese to serve over the ravioli ( ). The shrimp I am not planning to use up now- it’s pretty new and I have company coming in February, so I will keep it on hand for that time.

Pantry Challenge Update

January 20th, 2024 at 12:43 am

General pantry challenge wins, since I’m not posting in detail every day:

-Made mushroom stroganoff from a cup of leftover sour cream from the fridge

-Ate most of a noodle meal packet I was gifted months ago, although the seasoning was quite odd

-Took some vegetable stir fry that past me froze in Tupperware at some undetermined date to work for lunch

- Finished 5 plant-based chicken nuggets and a small microwave bag of pre-sauced vegetables from the depths of the freezer

-Working my way through a large frozen tomato sauce tub that didn’t turn out very well. I have been incorporating this into other strongly flavored dishes such as curry, etc to improve the taste

- On the last box of old cereal, though this one is very sugary and so I am going through it slowly in small portions


And I have used up various other odds and ends. My fridge is emptier and the freezer is starting to have more space in it. I have made a couple stops to pick up groceries here and there on different days, which I will summarize here:


Frozen broccoli: 3.49

Stroganoff sauce mix packet: 2.19

Mushrooms (for stroganoff): 3.35

Giant total: 9.03


Grocery Outlet

Two cans of baby corn at 1.29 each: 2.58

Egg noodles: 1.39

Rice noodles: 1.59

GO total: 5.56

I kind of fell off the pantry challenge wagon on that one; I wasn’t out of canned vegetables or rice noodles yet, but was getting a little tired of making myself eat down less favorite items from the kitchen and decided to splurge and make a nice plate of pesto noodles after a long work day

Back to Grocery Outlet today

Tortilla chips (for nachos) 2 for one deal: 4.98

Broccoli crowns (fresh) 1.8 lbs for 3.66

Tomatoes, 1.15 lbs for 3.44

Block of cheese: 3.49

2 bags of shredded cheese at 0.78 each: 1.58

Coffee creamer: 3.49

GO total: 20.64

I am going to freeze that shredded cheese because that was an insanely good deal and I will use it. I’m on my last bag of pantry shredded cheese from the freezer now. 

Total grocery spending for the challenge: 35.23 listed above plus 34.55 previously = 69.78 so far, day 23 of the pantry clean out challenge.

I’m not counting coffee, snacks I buy at work, or eating out (rare). That’s not bad for one person and sometimes a second person joining me for meals (boyfriend, he also takes turns cooking for both of us on days we spend together). The real goal for the pantry challenge is to make sure I use up what I have to minimize food waste from things going bad, and this had definitely made me more mindful about checking what I have first before shopping. I plan to continue working on this

Pantry eating continued

January 8th, 2024 at 05:30 pm

Looks like the site lost my last update post- oh well. I continue the pantry challenge but did get some groceries Friday ahead of winter weather.


1 dozen eggs – 5.18

12-pack of microwave popcorn – 4.82

8  packets of ramen noodles – 2.40

1 box chocolate pudding mix  1.57

1 quart of milk – 5.32

2 bags of frozen broccoli cuts at 0.88/each – 1.76

Pack of 5 garlic bulbs – 2.50

Total this trip: 23.55

+ $11 from last trip = 34.55 so far.



The eggs, frozen broccoli, and popcorn are core staples of my diet. The jello mix and milk are for a  dessert recipe to use things up, and the milk will also go with the cereal.



Friday I had udon noodles from the cabinet with some sesame oil, frozen peas from the freezer, and sauteed cabbage with an egg late morning. At work I had tea, a banana from home, and  an ice cream sandwich (I caved!). For dinner, I found about a cup of what looks like sushi rice in a little jar that I inherited when a friend moved a couple years ago, so I made this into fried rice with some odds and ends of older vegetables from the fridge. It actually made enough for two meals.


Over the weekend I hung out with friends for some meals, but managed to use up from the pantry: a can of sauce, a box of dough mix, a can of soup past the best buy date, a can of olives, and half a box of crackers. For dinner last night I made udon noodles (pantry) with frozen broccoli and some sesame oil (pantry) and an egg, then later had some microwave popcorn as a snack.


Today I didn’t feel well in the morning and am working from home, so I didn’t try to eat until lunchtime. I thawed some frozen pasta sauce from the freezer and had that with some gnocchi, also from the freezer.  This batch of sauce was not great when I made and froze it over the summer, but it's perfectly edible. One thing I have definitely noticed from this challenge is that some things hang around in my pantry because I didn't love them on the first try, but this is a good reminder to make the effort to try to fix them (different seasonings, etc) instead of wasting food.


Eat from the Pantry Challenge and grocery store stop

January 2nd, 2024 at 07:06 am

I’m sure I won’t do a post every day, but will add updates as life allows!


Today I ate pasta with an egg, Greek dressing, and some bamboo shoots from a can in the pantry before running out the door. Had some unexpected issues pop up so I didn’t have time to pack a lunch for my shift and ended up getting a foot long Subway sandwich, which lasted for both dinner/second dinner, along with a banana I had on my desk. I also finished the last bite of hummus from a container in the fridge after work. Drank homemade coffee and tea, as usual.


I think I will track the groceries I do buy during this challenge, just for interest/comparison purposes. So far I made one stop to get a replacement canister of coffee and a large creamer to keep at work plus 4 bananas for healthy snacks. With the donation round  up at the register, this came to $11 and the coffee supplies will last quite a while.

Eat from the Pantry Challenge – Days 2, 3

December 30th, 2023 at 07:08 pm

Yesterday breakfast was cereal with milk. Lunch was green peas (freezer) and an egg with some curry spices and cayenne for heat. I brought some pasta with broccoli, green peas, and an egg mixed in from items I had with me for dinner. It was a late shift, so around 1 am I was hungry again and ate some ramen and a mini bag of ritz crackers with peanut butter from my work stash. Brought my own tea and coffee as usual.



Today I started with a small bowl of cereal and milk. Around lunch I ate leftovers from Christmas (these are almost finished). Had the disappointing coffee with the last of a vanilla creamer from the fridge and a splash of half and half left in the fridge from holiday baking. Working late tonight (past midnight) and I usually get pretty hungry running around all evening. I made a pasta and cabbage dish to bring in and found a few leftover mini cocktail samosas in the freezer to bring as a snack. Also found a bag of borderline stale tortilla chips in the kitchen, so I will top some with shredded cheese and capers (from the fridge) for a homemade nacho snack also. I can easily do 8-10,000 steps/shift, so I definitely want to eat again after work regardless of time. If I don’t plan for that, I will be tempted towards chips or candy because that’s what’s available there after hours.


I still have about a quarter of a red cabbage and a large green cabbage in the fridge, and I think I saw a few loose carrots rattling around in the back. Need to do a more thorough inventory of my fridge/freezer/cabinets  at some point, but this week is crazy at work, so it will have to wait. Focusing on stuff from the fridge early in the challenge makes sense anyway, since those things generally don’t stay good as long.

I will need to stop at the grocery store soon because the instant coffee and creamer I keep at work is almost gone. I can deal with the grosser coffee at home until it's used up, but I am getting more good store brand for work. I save a ton of money by keeping my own coffee and creamer at work instead of buying it. I don't mind instant coffee. There's also a kuerig there I could use, but I just get hot water from it because the amount of plastic waste it creates makes me crazy. 

Eat from the Pantry Challenge Day 1

December 29th, 2023 at 03:29 pm

Yesterday I started by finding two forgotten boxes of cereal on the top of the refrigerator, so I had some wheat flakes with dehydrated berry pieces from 2021 with milk for breakfast. Not bad. Clearly the top of the refrigerator should store kitchen equipment in the future.



Lunch was leftovers from family Christmas feasting.


Dinner was pasta (pantry) with green peas (from the freezer), Greek dressing (from fridge), and an egg for protein.


Drinks were tea from the tea stash at home, coffee from home (using the coffee I bought on a trip over the summer that I don’t like as much as my usual store brand).

Eat from the Pantry Challenge

December 27th, 2023 at 08:56 pm

I tend to keep a lot of food on hand from picking things up on sale and so that it’s never urgent to go to the grocery store on a particular day if life happens. Even fairly shelf stable food doesn’t last forever, so I think it’s time to use up some of the older stash to make sure nothing gets wasted. I am planning to make this a January challenge (though may start now), if anyone wants to join me. The rules will be:


I can buy coffee creamer, eggs, and vegetables and replace anything I run out of that I am going to keep using (pasta, coffee, a particular spice, etc). I can also replace snacks for my desk stash of food, because I am not trying to get hangry at work on long days. I usually bring in a tupperware mid shift meal and the challenge rules will apply to that.


I can buy grocery items to make a recipe/meal that uses up ingredients that I already have (such as if a recipe to use up a bag of beans I have calls for a certain type of cheese)


Eating out socially is okay, this challenge applies to eating at home, which is 95% of my food intake. I mostly use eating out as part of maintaining social relationships and don’t see a need to upset those kinds of plans for this challenge, especially because I have several family birthdays in January.

Today I am eating some leftovers from the holidays and will be having dinner out with some visiting relatives.

Costco trip #2 savings

December 3rd, 2023 at 03:16 pm

Costco update- trip # 2 (November)


This entry is a little delayed, but better late than never! I went to Costco once in November, mostly to get easy snacks to donate to a community event, although I did pick up a couple items for myself that were good deals. I was very pleasantly surprised by their pesto, it is EXCELLENT and comparing it to the store brand as a I do here is probably incorrect. To get a similar quality you would probably need a premium brand. Prices here are for my go-to local grocery store chain, store brand when available, unless specified. Let’s look at the savings:


Large 22 oz basil pesto: 9.49 (3.99 for 8 oz at store, so 10.97 for equivalent amount, saving of 1.48)

Cliff Bars 26 count 12.97 (16.99 for 12 count at the store, so 36.81 for equivalent amount, saving of 23.84)

Easy mac large 6 count 10.49 (17 for an 8 pack at Walmart, so 12.75, saving of 2.26)

Large black olives, 6 cans, on sale for 7.99 (1.89 each, 11.34 for same quantity so 3.35 savings)

Shin black microwave ramen, 12 count, For 12.69 (7.98 for 4 pack at Walmart, 23.94 for 11.25 savings)

30 frozen spinach frittatas for 12.99 (6 for 5.98 at Walmart, 29.90 for 30, savings of 16.91)

Basmati rice, 50 lbs for 19.69 (18.97 for 20 lbs at Walmart, or 47.42 for 50 lbs, savings of 27.73)


Total savings this trip: 86.82  Year to date: 162.96


As you can see, the largest savings are from buying premade and individually packaged processed foods, which I rarely eat myself but occasionally buy for certain family or community events. If I only compared the costs of my own personal use groceries, the cost savings would be much less dramatic. It’s also fair to question if I would have actually paid the sticker price and bought the same goodies for these events at the regular store, and the answer in some cases is probably no, or I would have bought less of them. That said, I really did get the value of being able to contribute more to these events for the same price, so I think this is a fair way to calculate the value to the Costco shopper.

I still haven’t gotten gas at Costco yet, because the first trip I didn’t need it and this time I went with a friend who also wanted to go and they drove, but I will definitely include this if I can time a future trip with a fill up! I don’t use that much gas in general as I drive a small car and live near work and the grocery store.

There has not been much food waste so far, which is one issue I am specifically trying to avoid as a single person. Will also say that one downside of Costco is that there seems to be a lot of packaging and plastic on everything compared to the regular local grocery store chain. 

Pantry cleanout challenge update

April 24th, 2022 at 08:31 pm

Pantry challenge update so far:

-Used up some odds and ends of leftover sauces by making homemade fries from a potato and having a dipping sauce buffet for them

-Rescued a cup of leftover disappointing crepe batter from the fridge, jazzed it up with various seasonings, had a nice savory pancake

-Mixed in the noodle pack from another weird instant noodle flavor with my own seasonings, egg, and some vegetables and a packet of leftover soy sauce from old takeout


I love trying new spice mixes on sale, but not all spice blends are created equal, so I am also going to try to use up my more disappointing seasonings, and replace them with better ones next time. So far on the list I have a surprisingly lackluster harissa, a blandish creole seasoning, and some very corriander-heavy curry powder that came in a large bag forever ago. These are still useable, it just takes more effort to blend them in with other flavors. I have started a list in my personal recipe binder of preferred brands of certain spices where I have found it matters. The expensive ones are not always the winner!

Checking in, Food waste challenge

April 21st, 2022 at 07:48 pm

Hello everyone! I am still around and reading the blogs, though it has been a while since I posted.


Financially, I have switched my focus from student loan payoff to retirement savings catchup.


My kitchen (er, whole apartment) has been in serious need of some spring cleaning, which I finally got around to starting this week, and I realized that I have a lot of food items that I have been kind of ignoring. Some were pandemic buys, some I was gifted, some were purchased to try a particular recipe, a few things were inherited when my cousin moved away because they would otherwise have gone in the trash. In the spirit of reducing food waste, especially with food prices so high, I will be trying to use some of this up over the next couple weeks. I started this AM by using an old, gross-flavored microwave noodle packet, discarding the seasoning, and mixing the plain cooked noodles with some tomato and scrambled egg for breakfast. Delicious!


Now you could certainly argue, why plan to use up your pantry staples when food costs are high and the world is still uncertain? One is that I don’t find that even shelf-stable or frozen foods really stay good forever, so if you hold onto things too long they tend to get wasted more for various reasons. Likewise seasonings go stale or tasteless over time, etc.  I would rather things it up and intentionally restock every so often, because I feel like it’s less wasteful. I also have limited storage and freezer space, so using up older or random less-favorite items will make space to stock up on other things when they go on sale.


I stopped at the grocery store today for a quick bare bones trip, and I might pick up a little more supplemental produce sometime this weekend at the farmer’s market to help round this out. I bought:


Package of 16 fluffy white dinner rolls – 2.99

18 count cage-free eggs – 4.89

2 sleeves of garlic bulbs at 2/$5 – 5.00

With tax it came to $13.00 even


The rolls were a weird impulse purchase because I rarely eat bread, but I am thinking I will use them for mini slider sandwiches, snacks just with butter, and maybe mini French toast. Garlic and eggs are serious staples in my cooking. I probably won’t try to post every meal, because I eat a LOT of stirfry with random different seasonings and you will all be bored, but I will try to check in with the highlights.


If anyone else wants to join me and share their best creative use-it-up triumps, let me know!

Spending and grocery snapshot

June 26th, 2021 at 11:25 pm

While I figure out my new longer-term budget and goals, thought I would do some spending snapshot posts, since I am always curious about other people’s day-to-day spending.

 Today I spent about $4.50 at the cafeteria at work for eggs and hash browns for breakfast and a banana I saved for lunch. Brought coffee.


On the way home I stopped for groceries:

1 dozen pasture-raised eggs- 4.99

Sharpie markers- 2.89

Earl grey tea bags (50)- 7.09 (This is my fancy splurge tea!)

18 dishwasher pods- 2.79

6 pack of ramen noodles- 1.59

2 noodle packs- 1.29 x 2

Salsa- 3.52

1.5 lbs loose mushrooms- 5.95

5 garlic bulbs-2.50

1.2 lbs ginger root-3.50

0.15 lbs small hot peppers- 0.60

1.85 lbs tomatoes on the vine- 3.68


Total: 42.03

 Except for the sharpies, these are all regular staples that I will definitely use up. I ususally grocery shop once every 1.5-2 weeks or so. This is a lighter haul to push me to be creative in using up things I have.

Planned meals (groceries combined with things on hand)

Vegetable pie with Indian spiced sauce

Vegetable stir-fry with egg (default weeknight meal)


Recipe link:

Possibly potato pancakes with a side of mini oranges

May try to make a bean-based "meatloaf" with things from the pantry on a day off

Loan update

May 30th, 2021 at 02:30 am

Current student loan balance:

Current balance: $12,867.40

Current interest: $32.77

Total: $12,900.17


I am looking seriously at potentially paying this off in the coming month. My usual payment is about $2300 and I already planned to pay another $5,000. Which would bring me down to under 5K. I am tempted to pay this off from savings. The market is really high now anyway to invest and it would be a big psychological milestone to finish paying off this debt!


Otherwise work has been pretty busy, which means less time for spendy projects/hobbies at least! Today I spent about $45 total for groceries at the farmer’s market and grocery store and saved 10 cents/gallon on gas with a grocery points reward card.

March spending snapshot

March 28th, 2021 at 06:40 pm

I’m not a big online shopper and with no in-person social events, most work meetings moved to zoom, and only my BF ever coming into my apartment, I have put off a lot of routine purchases. Since this is a personal finance site, I figured I’d post a few spending snapshots now that they world is slowing reopening with vaccination.  These don’t include regular budget categories, just variable expenses. I’m not a spender by nature and have stopped budgeting discretionary categories strictly as my income has gone up. Occasional spot checks show it averages out to about what I would have budgeted. The time spent to track it closely honestly just hit diminishing returns, and I think that time would be better spent figuring out how to reduce recurring fixed expenses or invest better, etc.



March spending snapshot:


Grocery spending- 210.73 (does not include occasional takeout)

190.73 – grocery stores

 20? - farmers market. Not sure exactly because they take cash


121.29 – Replacing a flat tire


38.99 – baby shower gift from friend’s online registry


55.80 – clothing category. $25 to have a winter coat I like repaired by a local clothing shop (torn in 2 places) and $30.80 for a work-appropriate spring/summer dress and a nice shirt I can wear with dress pants or a skirt.


I think I am going to try to buy most of my clothing second hand. It seems better for the environment to reuse things that have already been manufactured, and since I donate my unwanted/ill fitting clothing, it seems logical to support the same system by buying from those sources. Secondhand clothing in my area also supports local-owned shops and individuals making a couple extra bucks on ebay. I also like that there’s more variety available that way, especially during seasons where the fashion of the moment is unflattering or unappealing. It is a mental adjustment to pay secondhand store prices for used clothing rather than yardsale or Goodwill prices though, even though I know it’s still a huge savings compared to buying it new and the difference is necessary to support the overhead of the business.

Pantry Challenge, Loan Update, Interest

March 4th, 2021 at 07:37 pm

The pantry challenge did make me use up some stuff that has been hanging around the cabinets a while! It wasn’t all successful- I ended up throwing out ¼ bag of dal that was contaminated and one of the old muffin mixes I made had gone bad somehow and was inedible, but better to find that out and clear out the space.  I did stock up pretty well the other day when it ended- I realized I like having plenty of staples so it is never urgent to grocery shop if work runs late, weather is bad, etc.


March payments posted to my debt.

Student loan update: 

Principal: 27,533.85

Interest: 0

Total due: 27,533.85

Interest rate: 3.21 %

Daily interest: 2.42


I am waiting to hear how much I might owe for taxes, but if my withholdings are closer to the mark this year and I don’t get a big tax bill I will probably throw some cash I am holding for that at this loan.


Some of you may remember I refinanced my federal loans last January to lower the interest rate from 6.8% to 3.21%. According to my tax documents this year I paid $2,532 in loan interest in 2020. This is a savings of $2832 compared to continuing to pay the old rate.

Pantry challenge progress

February 13th, 2021 at 11:56 pm

So far I have been using up the casserole I mentioned from my last post, a couple slices of leftover pizza from the fridge, a loose packet of instant oatmeal, and a fancy Asian ramen package from the back of the cabinet. Tonight I made a curry with potatoes, cauliflower, and rice. The potatoes are definitely approaching their use-by time so I see more potatoes in the future. The curry will make a meal for tomorrow too. I also found a box of chocolate popsicles crammed in the freezer for the occasional random chocolate cravings.

Fast, comforting pantry dinner

October 7th, 2020 at 10:58 pm

Today on the way home from work I was tired and tempted to get takeout, but it seemed daunting to order online ahead of time from my phone and I didn't really want to wait around a bunch of people.

Came home instead and ended up making a quick, comforting (and frugal!) grilled cheese with veggies inside and a cheesy French toast to use up a leftover slice of slightly stale bread.

This is why I usually save takeout for specific cravings or social occasions...can usually make something just as satisfying in half the time in the comfort of home.

Grocery Challenge Wrap Up

August 28th, 2020 at 05:45 pm

I went grocery shopping - was out of eggs and low on fresh produce. I spent $44.75 on the following items:
1 loaf of Italian bread
1 dozen free range eggs
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 2L diet coke
1 packet instant mushroom gravy
6 pack ramen noodles
1.29 lbs loose potatoes
1 head of cauliflower
2 cans of black olives
3 lb bag of mandarin oranges
1.67 lbs loose mushrooms
1 sleeve of garlic (5 bulbs)
2 lbs tomatoes
0.5 lb ginger root
Microwave popcorn (6 bags)

I also spent $10 earlier in the month, I think on some kind of produce.

This brings my monthly total to 207.29. Should not need anything else before Sept 1.

In the interest of transparency, I did have some food spending from my entertainment budget- a medium pizza ($9) and some fancy groceries for a special birthday dinner for the boyfriend.

I still have a bunch of food leftover from this month’s shopping, but I prefer to keep things on hand, especially during the pandemic. I am okay with this level of grocery spending, although as you can see there are things that could be cut further in a pinch.


August 5th, 2020 at 09:18 pm

So far the grocery challenge is going pretty well. I did spend $1 for a box of frozen broccoli cheese bites at the dollar store today to get up to the card minimum. They were a good deal and will get eaten eventually.

Based on how things are going so far, will definitely need to pick up more vegetables this month. The challenge is making me more aware of food waste. Today I found three potatoes had rotted on the bottom half.

Grocery Challenge

July 30th, 2020 at 07:23 pm

This is inspired by East Coast Saver’s August grocery challenge, but will be modifying it a little. My goal isn’t a certain number, it is just to track things closely to get an accurate picture of my actual grocery food spending. It’s hard to tell because I do a lot of socializing with food (less since Covid, and only in an outdoor distanced manner) and also tend to pick up small gifts at the grocery store, like doughnuts for the office or pet treats, that skew my tracking. I don’t grocery shop on a set schedule either, so that makes it even harder to tell what my actual spending is. It feels like groceries have gotten more expensive during the pandemic, but without hard numbers, may just be perception.

My goals this month: track all spending on food for me (household of 1). Will not include gifts, cards, household cleaning products, etc and will not include any takeout if I get some. Eat almost exclusively at home, pescovegetarian. Do splurge on pricier animal products, like free range eggs.

I did a huge stockup today because I needed to do some other errands near/in a few stores anyway and have been putting off grocery shopping for a while. Hoping I will just need a small fill in trip here and there. Some of the cost is a little misleading because it will last longer than a month. I got:

Asian market:
Jumbo family pack rice noodles
Rice sticks x 3
Frozen wonton wrappers
Large sliced water chestnuts x 3
Bamboo shoots x 6
Mixed vegetables can x2
Total: 38.34

Jumbo coffee creamer x2
Mushroom gravy mix x2
Annie’s boxed mac and cheese x2
2 lbs butter
Garlic salt x 2
Cayenne pepper
Instant mashed potatoes x2
Large bottle olive oil
Assorted pastas x 6 (on sale)
Jar garlic alfredo pasta sauce x2
Total: 34.47

Regular grocery store:
Bag of shredded cheese x 2
Block of cheddar (small, on sale)
2 dozen eggs
Frozen cauliflower x3
Frozen broccoli
Frozen french fries
$1 veggie frozen pizza
6-pack ramen noodles
Bottled dipping sauce
5lbs jasmine rice
Earl grey tea (50 ct)
Louisana tea (100 ct)
Instant coffee
1 zucchini
Ginger root
Green cabbage
Whole fresh cauliflower
Hot peppers
2 lbs whole mushrooms
Total: 76.83

Total stock up: 151.54

The teas, rice, noodles, and cheese will definitely last more than a month.

I won’t be posting detailed meal plans, but will try to post updates that include what my diet is like with this shopping. Today was coffee with creamer, unsweeted iced tea, rice noodles with vegetables and egg, and a little leftover frozen breaded cauliflower. Have not been super hungry with the heat, but may have grilled cheese or egg on toast for dinner to use up some bread.

Stay at home finances

April 1st, 2020 at 09:15 pm

The state is under a stay-at-home order, so apart from going to work (considered an essential industry) and infrequently to the grocery store, I’m at home. Have worked a couple extra shifts and there will probably be more overtime as people get sick/quarantined and need to be replaced.

Financially, I don’t spend a lot on going out anyway, but of course that is down to zero. I have been avoiding the cafeteria at work as part of social distancing (that’s one way to cut out unnecessary coffee spending!) Also cancelled a trip to see friends and would have otherwise spent money on date activities, but being in a long-distance relationship means no travel = no dates.

Areas I’m spending more:
Groceries! Picking up extra things to leave on the porch for my parents when I do shop to minimize how often they have to go out. Also bought a few extra things that I usually wouldn’t due to shortages of my usual products or to avoid making a second trip to another store to get something more cheaply.
Gifts: Sent some gifts or gift cards (ordered online) to friends and relatives who are furloughed right now or on fixed incomes
Donations: Pretty worried about the food banks and animal shelters, both due to not having their regular fundraising activities and the increased demand they will probably see in this tough economic situation.

Working on using up things in the pantry, to minimize food waste AND shopping trips. Today I focused on a big bag of dal that’s been languishing in the cupboard for a couple years. Made something similar to this recipe, but added half a cup of rice as well: The bag is still about 1/3 full, but it’s a start! It wasn’t amazing, but it was certainly edible and filling! May freeze part of it for later.

Anyone up for a use-up-the-pantry challenge?

Loan snapshot:
Student loan balance (3.21%):
Principle: $114, 229.67
Interest: $60.24
Total: $114,289.91
Daily interest: $10.04

Lunches, rambling

January 4th, 2020 at 03:54 pm

Happy New Year!

Still here, same goal for 2020- pay down the student loans! Will post updated totals when the current pending payment finishes processing.

Recently realized that my 401K match vests 100% at 3 years, which is a bummer. I’ve been there 1.5 years so far and don’t currently have any plans to leave, but life is unpredictable.

Today I made a batch of lunches for the freezer using things I already had on hand. I used this recipe ( but swapped out some types of beans and fusilli for the elbow macaroni. Didn’t have tomato sauce but had a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, so I added that and tossed in a teaspoon of taco seasoning and two packets of leftover taco bell sauce that were lurking in a drawer. It used up the last bit of a bag of shredded cheddar that has been lingering in the freezer.

February spending

February 25th, 2019 at 06:02 am

This has been a pretty spendy month so far, with variable spending at $778.25. This doesn’t include regular bills, charitable donations, extra debt repayment, or work-related expenses, some of which will eventually be reimbursed, but it does include discretionary budget categories like groceries.

Unusual extra spending: $75 for a nice used desk chair to replace an old one that broke. $30 for a filing cabinet for my home office area. $70 for a nice Valentine’s dinner and drinks, with tip. This is more than a typical date for us, but every once in a while it’s fun to dress up and splurge on trying something new. (We roughly take turns paying for things.) $65 for some new bras and a dress to replace worn-out items.

Grocery spending was around $200, which isn’t too bad, although it could probably be lower for one vegetarian who doesn’t buy imitation meat and cooks at home a lot. Buying coffee and cafeteria snacks remains an area for improvement, even though I do keep some snacks at my desk and avoid pricey Starbucks coffee. Even the cheap stuff adds up!

Other spending included things like gas, forever stamps, mailing packages with Valentine’s candy for friends, liquor for a social gathering, a copay for dental work, and Hulu and Washington Post online subscriptions (don’t count these in the regular bills category because they’re definitely discretionary entertainment expenses) .

Retirement Progress

January 14th, 2018 at 04:43 pm

Contributed $200 leftover in other budget categories to the IRA, bringing 2017 contributions to $2140. I have a $150 check in hand to deposit and send in as well, so after that the I’ll need $710 to meet my goal of $3000 for the year. My employer still owes me an additional $150 for overtime, they’re just slow to pay since it comes from a separate cost center. Still need $560 after that. Would love to get this done this month so I can file my taxes at the end of January. That will make it easier to reapply for IBR in February. Really looking forward to knocking the retirement goal out so I can go back to chipping away at my student loans. As a side note, my IRA balance reached $1,000/year of age for the first time ever with how high the market has been lately. It will probably dip down again, but kind of a neat milestone.

Today should be a low spend day. Currently making food to bring with me to work this afternoon. I plan to stop on the way in and get a replacement travel mug (mine disappeared, probably because a lot of us had the same style which caused confusion). This should also help cut down on splurging for coffee on long days, or at least get me the refill rate.

Back to the usual routine

December 27th, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Merry belated Christmas! I've been away visiting relatives this season, but now it's back to work and back to more ordinary financial matters after an expensive time of year!

Although there were increased holiday expenses (gifts, uber to holiday parties that had alcohol, extra gas for travel, etc), there was also some financial good luck. In December I was able to pick up some overtime that should be about $150 after taxes and received a couple of gift cards. I also talked to a salesman with some questions about one of the bigger, more practical presents for a family member, and he gave me a $75 discount that I didn't even request!

I'm hoping to keep the rest of the month as frugal as possible by continuing the battle against high utility bills; using my efficient space heater, lots of blankets, and dressing in layers to minimize turning on the central heat. I'll also be weatherstripping this week.

Today I slept too late to make lunch, but managed to grab coffee from home on the way out the door and just spent $1.10 on a snack in the cafeteria to hold me over until I got home to cook dinner. I cooked from the freezer and pantry since I just got back into town and may try to put off grocery shopping for a few more days.

Budget maintenance and some spending

July 27th, 2017 at 11:20 pm

Did some calling around and decreased my phone bill by about $8 by removing insurance I don’t need on my 5 year old phone (I buy these in cash when they need to be replaced since I found out the “free” phone on most plans is just billed to you in monthly installments). I also bought a router/modem for $100 that will remove a $10/month modem rental fee from Comcast- wish I’d done this years ago, it would already have been so cost effective!

Disputed a fraudulent $99 charge I noticed this week successfully- it pays to read your statements!

Today I got out of work early and actually paid $10 to get my eyebrows done (I usually do this myself, but when I neglect it for too long it is hard to shape them correctly, so it was worth it. Plus sometimes it’s nice to get a little self-confidence boost from looking your best). Picked up milk, yogurt, and noodles at the grocery store, where I resisted the spray-on olive oil because I know those cans are terrible for the environment. Luckily the dollar store next door had a spray bottle I’m going to try using instead, plus ear buds, two packs of pens, and a USB/phone charger cord (can’t beat this place for electronic accessories, and the quality is the same!).

On the earnings side, a raise became effective this July and will net about $148/month. Also completed a side job that should pay around $200 before tax- will have to wait to see the final amount when the check arrives, but it’s going to be thrown at debt.

The current high interest loan balance is $1156. I am sending in $130 left over from the June parking category and $55 from the July loan difference category, so it should go under the $1000 mark!

Midmonth check-in, meal planning

July 26th, 2016 at 06:52 pm

Just a quick mid-month update. My last paycheck contained $290 from overtime, which went to the Roth IRA. This brings total contributions for the year to 1320/5500.

Trying to minimize spending for the rest of the month to stay on-budget, but I did need to get some groceries today. I know I’ve said this before, but ethnic groceries are AMAZING for value in the city. I stock up there about twice a month. Today I spent $31 and got:
8 kiwis (on sale!)
1 large cabbage ( 4.7 lbs)
8 oz mushrooms
3 small tomatoes (89 cents/lb)
2 sleeves of garlic bulbs
1 lb fresh ginger
2 bunches fresh cilantro
4 16 oz bags of rice noodles
1 16 oz package of regular noodles
4 10-oz cans of vegetables
2 small cans of water chestnuts
1 dozen eggs
1 bottle seasoned salt

I looked for chickpea flour to experiment with socca, but didn’t see any. Plans include lots of stirfry with egg for protein, grilled cheese with tomato, egg fried rice with veggies, cabbage with noodles, pesto pasta, spicy lentils with garlic, potato, and green peas, and delicious kiwi for snacks. Will need to pick up more yogurt and a few other odds and ends.

I watched The Big Short on Netflix, which was pretty interesting. It's about a few investors on Wall Street who caught on early to all the mortgage fraud that led to the 2007-2008 housing collapse and bet against the big firms like Goldman and Lehman Brothers. Based on a true story. I had kind of forgotten how ridiculous lending used to be- no money down, bad credit? Mortgage approved! It just goes to show you that if you don't think you can afford something, don't let anybody talk you into going against that instinct.

Meal Planning

April 26th, 2016 at 11:52 pm

Doing some meal planning and freezer cooking tonight- I've been a little lax on bringing enough food to work, and haven't done a major grocery run in a month. Tonight I walked to the small local grocery store and spent $26 stocking up on noodles, rice, and vegetables (fresh and canned for quick meals). I picked up eggs yesterday. These are all kitchen staples for me. I buy broken rice- much less expensive, and it tastes the same.

From the current groceries I have/ can make:

1 serving yogurt (breakfast)
1 serving fish sticks
Popcorn, naan bread, ice cream for snacks
4 frozen veggie burger patties
1 package frozen soup
1 frozen personal pizza
Fried rice with carrot, egg, and cilantro- multiple meals
Noodle/vegetable stirfry, can add eggs for protein- multiple meals
Cauliflower/potato Indian curry over rice- makes two meals
Microwave spicy noodle bowl to bring to work
Seasoned potato pancakes
Haluski (cabbage dish)
Mexican beans and rice

I have the window open and a load of laundry drying on the drying rack because the weather's nice. I'm having company this weekend, so I'll need to do some deep cleaning on Friday!

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