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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)

Chilaquiles 

Recipe link: https://old.reddit.com/r/EatCheapAndHealthy/comments/o0iweb/my_cheap_ass_chilaquiles_recipe/

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.

$1

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

Walmart:
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
Tomatoes
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: https://myheartbeets.com/instant-pot-green-moong-dal/ 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 (https://www.budgetbytes.com/cheesy-vegetarian-chili-mac/) 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.