Sunday, October 26, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

As always, check out Org Junkie's website for more menu plans this week!

Monday: We didn't make it this week, so Fried Rice with tofu for me and chicken for Matt.

Tuesday: Stir fry with left over veggies and brown rice.

Wednesday (class night): Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday (class night): Leftovers, and I'll be making Pumpkin Pie Brownies for the Halloween potluck at work.

Friday: Broccoli, Cheese, and Walnut surprise

Saturday: Frozen ravioli with steamed veggies

Sunday: Falafel, and something with couscous to go with it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Project 8: Decluttering Financial Paperwork - An Update

It's been a while since I originally wrote about my shred-happy day of organizing my financial paperwork. So far my significantly down-sized accordian folder has been serving me well - not that I've totally stayed on top of the filing, but the piles of important papers have been significantly reduced in size and number.

I wanted to share a step in the paperwork decluttering process that I completed this past weekend that I feel will be of immense benefit to my personal finances and sanity. This past Saturday, I cancelled all of my store-specific credit cards. There are 4 reasons that I did this: 1. Once I'd bought the things I needed from each one using the enrollment bonuses, the rewards really weren't that great for each card; 2. They encouraged even more spending at stores I frequented too often anyway; 3. getting 4 statements a month (plus updates to card plans and all that) is a LOT of paper; 4. God help me if I ever lost my purse (or worse yet, it got stolen) and I had to call all 4 and go through the cancellation process AGAIN (seriously folks, this took me well over an hour's worth of phone calls, and I wasn't even trying to request new cards).

Instead, I've opened up a new credit card that I can use anywhere with a pretty nice credit limit that far eclipses the 4 former cards' limits combined (hooray credit scores). This card will give me perks outside of coupons at stores that I've already bought the things I need from - namely, free airline tickets. YES. It's one card with one statement, which means one bill to pay instead of 4. Basically, I'm much more likely to pay the bill on time, much less likely to keep contributing to my habit of frivolous spending spawned by $10 off coupons that I got for rewards from the individual store cards, and I'm much more likely to get something beneficial out of it (if I can get even one free flight anywhere, that's worth it to me).

I know this won't work for everyone, but I've already seen a noticable improvement in the amount of paper I have to hold on to. My purse is lighter, my spending habits aren't killing as many trees, and Linens-N-Things is going out of business and won't honor their credit card coupons anyway. Plus, all that shredding is kind of theraputic. :D

Monday, October 20, 2008

A new 5 weeks begins...

So, I don't know if anyone else just realized this, but in 5 weeks, the craziness that is the week of Thanksgiving begins. I have two words to describe how I feel about this: HOLY CRAP. How did this happen? Where did fall go? How the heck am I ever going to be ready??

This whole blog started as a 5 week project to get my apartment organized before I went back to school. And lets face it, I kinda failed. So now, with 5 weeks left before Thanksgiving crunch time, it's time to get back to business.

This 5 week session has one goal - to get my apartment ready for a holiday party after Thanksgiving. This means it has to be organized, I have to decorate for the holidays at least a little, and I have to get my stuff together enough to figure out party details. The conditions of this are simple - 1. I can't get behind on school work, and 2. I can't use this as an excuse to not work out or go to the gym.

This is totally do-able.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Can't believe it's already Monday again! This week's menu isn't too ambitious, but I'm excited for the acorn squash recipe below (I've never had acorn squash before). It's the best part of getting my produce delivered - we get new things that I never would have picked up myself, and thus find delicious new veggies and recipes all the time.

Monday: We never ended up having spaghetti last week, so spaghetti and steamed veggies tonight!

Tuesday: I received an acorn squash in my box of produce last week, so we'll be trying out this Moroccan stuffed acorn squash recipe.

Wednesday (school night): Canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday (school night): Left-overs!

Friday: My fondue pot has been collecting dust lately, so I think we'll have some cheese fondue (using this recipe) with bread, carrots, celery, and apples (and maybe some chocolate fondue with strawberries and pound cake if I'm feeling ambitious).

Saturday: Dinner out before seeing Phantom of the Opera!

Sunday: I liked the Fried Rice recipe from last week so much, that I'll make this again with baked tofu for me and whatever kind of meat Matt wants.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Project 10: The Budget (Part 1)

Earlier this month I posted about keeping track of my spending this month with the help of this spreadsheet. I know this sounds terrible, but this is my first real tracking experience - other than making sure I have more money in my account than I'm spending at the moment, which isn't a great kind of budget scheme to have (obviously).

Let me preface that before starting this, I went through my receipt accordion folder that I have to kind of gage my monthly spending habits, figuring out how much my receipts totaled and then averaging them. This is problematic for 2 reasons: 1. I only had 10 receipts total for the months of January and February, which clearly is NOT all of the money that I spent those two months, and 2. somehow I determined that I should only keep receipts showing sales tax (???? - like I'm spending enough to be able to claim that tax on my returns in January!) so I have a few months where that was the standard of receipt saving. The highest month I had was May, with $988.47 - this makes sense because I'd just moved and bought a ton of stuff for the new apartment. The average of my monthly receipts was $527.11, which isn't too bad (in my opinion) since it includes groceries and travel costs.

So today, after filling out half of my budgeting spreadsheet, I totaled everything up to see where I am for the month so far. It looks like my expenditures are currently at a whopping $419. I KNOW, right? What the heck? There are 2 reasons I think this number is higher than normal (yes, these are excuses) - 1. my little brother turned 18 last week and Matt's birthday was yesterday, so OBVIOUSLY celebratory costs were high for both of those occasions, and 2. all of the numbers are rounded up. BUT, in reality my spending was higher than this because I counted the $85 refund I got on 2 textbooks I returned as a credit, and subtracted it from the overall spending (which means I actually spent $504, good lord).

Obviously this is my first crack at the whole budgeting thing, and this will improve as I set firm dollar-amount guidelines for myself. It is very interesting to see where all the money goes, though.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Budget Grocery Shopping

So, I finally did it. I menu-planned based mostly on what I had on hand, I made a conservative list of items to buy for the rest of the week, and I checked out the grocery ads online before hitting the store. What I came away with is probably the most productive grocery trip ever, which also happens to have been the cheapest (for what I got, that is).

The spoils of my trip, minus the wine.

I got 4 cans of beans (3 for chili, one for salads), two cans of diced tomatoes, green salsa (thanks for the recommendation Rachel!), peanut butter, 6 eggs, a 1/2 gallon of milk, two kinds of cheese, frozen green beans and frozen peas, whole wheat bread, and english muffins - for eating. I also bought 6 bottles of wine that were super on sale, and then cheaper with my reusable wine bag.

Grand total? $42.13. Mommy blogs, you've got me convinced. Coupons/ad-checking/menu-planning is the way to go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Better Late Than Never, Right?

I know, I know, it's Tuesday. Oh well, better late than never, right? I'm getting a box of veggies and fruit from Fresh Abundance tonight, so we'll have to alter the menu depending on what actually arrives in that. As always, check out Org Junkie's website for more menu plans.

Monday: Fried Rice and Asparagus Parmesan

Tuesday: Ravioli from the freezer and steamed veggies

Wednesday (school night): Slow Cooker Beef Stew, with veggie broth and tofu instead of the beef

Thursday: Matt's birthday! Probably dinner out somewhere.

Friday: Spaghetti with jarred sauce, steamed veggies, and garlic bread

Saturday: Vegetarian Chili in the Slow Cooker

Sunday: Canned soup and grilled cheese.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I've been doing some thinking...

...and I need a weekly schedule. And by schedule, I mean of chores and stuff around the apartment so that I'm not leaving everything for Sunday and getting totally bogged down for an entire day of my weekend with all this stuff I've left the entire week to do at the end. I'm really good at procrastinating, and then getting super frustrated when everything takes so long because I'm trying to do it all at once. I've talked to a couple of people recently who've mentioned either their personal household's schedule or someone else's schedule they're familiar with, and it seems to be pretty successful. I guess we'll give this one a go this coming week and see how I fare...

Sunday: General straightening/vacuuming

Monday: Bathroom

Tuesday: Kitchen

Wednesday: Class (night off)

Thursday: Class (but trash and recycling anyway)

Friday: Bills/mail/paper work for the week

Saturday: Laundry

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I can't believe it's October already! Wow, time really flies. This week's going to be a little different because not only do I have school, but I'm running a half-marathon on Sunday! Anyway, here's the plan for the week, and of course, there are tons of other fantastic menus for the week over at Org Junkie's wonderful website!

Monday: Tomato and Cheese Maccaroni (recipe to come)

Tuesday: Curry with random left over veggies and tofu, served over brown rice

Wednesday (School Night): Pulled Chicken (instead of pork) for Matt, mixed veggies and tofu for me, served with packaged "South-Western Style Mashed Potatoes" (I'm skeptical...)

Thursday (Schoon Night): Left-overs

Friday: Dinner out!

Saturday: Broccoli and Cheese Bake (I'll be using half broccoli and half cauliflower), and brown rice for pre-race carbo-loading. I don't remember who posted this a couple of weeks ago, but thanks to the other menu planner that found this and shared it!

Sunday: Left-overs - cuz I'll be really tired after my race!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Selling Back Books

One of my classes for this quarter had a pretty hefty list of books for a leadership seminar. We're talking 4 books, priced together at around $200 (which included me scouring the bookstore for 2 used copies of books... so yeah). So imagine my surprise when, on the first night of class, my leadership seminar somehow magically transforms into a climate change policy class! Not that I'm complaining, because the topic is definitely more interesting, but this means that half of the $200 worth of books must go back to the school bookstore, and Thomas Friedman's latest book Hot, Flat, and Crowded must be purchased and read immediately (which the school bookstore defnitely DID NOT have).

But hey! Hadn't I been meaning to try selling some books back to Auntie's Bookstore to get in store credit for more books? I had! So today, I came to work armed with 2 plastic bags full of books to trade in for credit, with which I could buy Thomas Friedman's latest. The only negative about the exchange was that Auntie's wouldn't take half of the books I brought in. BUT, here's the awesome part: for the 6 books (1 hardcover, 5 paperbacks) that they DID take, they gave me a whopping $18.00 credit!!! Isn't that fantastic?? I was totally expecting like, 50 cents per book, tops.

So, my $28 hardcover new book required for class, minus the $18 credit, and with 20% taken off because it's a current New York Times bestseller, came to $6.25. YES.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tracking Things

I've been tracking what I eat for the last 2 weeks - not for any dietary purpose, more just to see how many meals I eat out and what kinds of stuff I eat on a regular basis. And it's actually been really helpful! I'm spending less on food at work because of it, and I'm spending less on groceries because I'm buying things that I eat often instead of things I want at the time.

So, for this month, I'm going to try tracking all of the money I spend in a kind of similar way. I have a print out of this spreadsheet (thanks Rachel!) that I'll be carrying around to track things on. I think it'll serve two purposes - reduce spending on random crap, and also make me more aware of exactly where my money is going. I think it's already working, too, because I didn't spend anything at all yesterday! Hooray!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Project 9: The Bathroom Junk Drawer

I guess this title is deceptive, as it's not really a drawer; it's more like a plastic tub that's been accumulating STUFF since I was a teenager. Unfortunately, it's been overflowing for quite some time now, and the things that didn't fit in the tub were starting to appear permanently as clutter in bathroom drawers and on the bathroom counter.

The overflowing drawer/tub.

I didn't even know what the heck was in this thing when I started. And MAN, you should've seen some of the expiration dates on this stuff.

A bird's eye view of everything from the tub spread out on my bed.

The finished product was a much smaller selection of nailpolish and a much emptier tub - which resulted in a cleaner bathroom counter and less-full drawers! And it only took half an hour. :D