Saturday, September 22, 2018

September Grocery Challenge: Total Spent to Date $255.35

One more week of the grocery challenge ... and I'm feeling okay about it. I am over my $200 budget but I'm okay with that. I've learned a few things this month that will help me going into next month. I am hoping my daughter-in-law will stick with me for another month of this challenge.  CANNED GOODS Last week, I pulled all my canned goods out of the cupboards and I left them on the counter. It helped a lot to have the cans there staring at me, looking for inspiration. There are now fewer cans remaining because I made a big slow cooker of chicken tortilla soup Monday morning. I dumped several cans of stewed tomatoes along with two cans of different beans (white beans and black beans). I added the half-bag of frozen chicken breasts left over from when our visitors were hear earlier in the month. A couple tablespoons of taco seasoning, chili powder, and cumin made for lovely lunches/dinners for us this week. It tasted extra good knowing I had used all things I already had on hand. I'm a vegetarian but my husband is not so it worked for both of us. I also used up one large can of pineapple by chopping up 2 slices to put in our morning oatmeal power bowls. The 2nd can of pineapple is opened and in a container which will get me thru the weekend of using up that huge container of 2% cottage cheese I bought two weeks ago. I'm almost done with it, thank goodness. I won't be buying that again.  STAR OF THE SHOW The things that made the angels sing this morning at the store were the Bartlett pears. I love this time of year for the change in produce. I'd truly rather have a pear than a candy bar. These lovelies were .40 each. Please don't tell me it costs more to eat well. I will prove you wrong. Grapes are a GREAT deal right now at $1.68/lb. I have them in my basket every week at this price. As much as I love grapes, I will not pay $2.98/lb. when the season passes. Can't do it. Which brings me to thee photo I snapped of the beautiful mangos at $1.48 each. I do love mangos but on a real budget they are not a reality for me. I have a bag of substandard frozen ones in the freezer that will have to do. I also spotted pomegranates but forgot to snap a photo. They are always priced outrageously and it brought back memories of childhood. Mom would buy us one pomegranate as a treat during the season. OMG, it truly was a treat. They are just not a good bargain, that's all.  POTATOES ARE MY JAM As I write this, I have oven fried potatoes in the oven. These are from a 5 lb. bag I bought last week. I've discovered we can get 3 breakfasts from that bag. Dude, that bag was $1.28! We're going to enjoy 2 eggs and salsa with these today.  PUMPKIN TIME! So, I asked my daughter-in-law to help me figure out what to do with the two cans of pumpkin I pulled out of the cupboard. She sent me a recipe that calls for almond nut butter and oats. Although it calls for very expensive almond butter, I'm going to replace that with the fresh ground peanut butter I bought today and also substitute the quinoa flakes with some flax seed. The hubs loves what I call power balls. Great way to use the pumpkin and these are also something I can give to the dogs for treats as well. WASTE NOT WANT NOT THIS WEEK I'm going to open up that can of kidney beans and add those to the top of my salads. I am not a fan of kidney beans but I want to use what I have and I'll get past my pickiness. Waste not want not. WANNA JOIN US? How are your budgeting skills? Can you give me any tips on how I can do this better? Leave me a comment. I love hearing from you. love, susan
 from the internet:
The expression waste not, want not means that if you do not use too much of something now you will have some left later when you need it.
...a nation that prides itself on its 'waste not, want not' thrift.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

10 Things I Would Do If I Didn't Blankity Blank Blank Work

Thank you for Mama's Losin' It for the prompt this week. This is a topic that is on my mind every single day of my work life and has been for awhile since I am now in the countdown phase to retirement. So much so that I've become obsessed and a bit irritable about it. Oh, Mama, you have unleashed me with this writing prompt.  Let me tell you what I'll do when I'm not blankity blank blank working, complete with photos!
PULL THE BLANKITY BLANK BLANK WEEDS  See these weeds? I walk past them every single day and think I should pull those weeds. But who got time for that when you are already behind and you're gonna have to break laws to get to work on time. "Officer, I had to pull weeds and it made me late."
WASH MY BLANKITY  BLANK BLANK CAR  My son gave me this beautiful car last year. He and his lovely wife drove it all the way from Michigan and it was sparkling clean inside and out. Full disclosure:  I have yet to take a vacuum to the inside since it arrive. I do give it a bath as often as time allows but if I wasn't working, no bug would lay dead on it for more than overnight. I'll even wash the inside windows. It will be spotless.
My poor dogs that I saved from a life in the shelter are barely better off at my house. I do play with them some on the weekends but I feel guilty on a regular basis for not having more time to spend with them. I am retiring in about 8 months and they will benefit from it greatly. They just need to hang in there a little longer. The two big ones are getting up there in age. That little one sitting next to me cannot be worn down so she may be a full time job without pay. I can hardly wait! Bonus: They'll get brushed on a regular basis.
I got this new phone a couple months ago and I can't tell you how many times I've taken selfies accidentally. I'm not a selfie kind of girl. There are so many apps people tell me about and I just want to spend a whole day exploring how to do things without the constraint of time.
How blankity blank blank hard can it be to heat up broth and throw noodles in with a few veggies? I love this popular dish and would like to make in the comfort of my own home. I'll Google it!
SIT IN A COFFEE SHOP FOR HOURS AND READ THE NEWSPAPER The few times I have been able to sit in my favorite local coffee spot, I am so blankity blank blank envious of the people who seem to have nothing else on their life agenda but to sit casually, sipping on their go juice and surfing the net or talking smack about some thing or another. I wanna sit in the nice cushy corner chair, sip my coffee and maybe ask for a refill and surf the internet on my barely used tablet. I want my barista to know my name. Oh, hey Susan, how ya doing?
TAKE A PICNIC TO THE PARK I want to take my hubs to the park with a picnic lunch to sit and watch squirrels play for however long it takes to get tired of it. No time limits. If I want to sit there all day and read a book, I'll do it.
COLOR ALL BLANKITY BLANK BLANK DAY IF I WANT TO I love my adult coloring book and dream of the days that I can color a whole page without the constant impending feeling that I can only do for 15 minutes before I move on the next "timed" event in my life. I am so tired of being on the clock. I have been working since I was a teenager and my time has never been my own. I have a feeling I have some adjusting to do. I have thought a lot about it in the last year. Bonus: I'll write more hand-written letters to friends!
WALK UP & DOWN THE BLANKITY BLANK  AISLES WITH WRECKLESS ABANDON When I'm not working, I want to take the time to look at everything at the grocery store. Right now, my goal is to get it and get out as quickly as possible. I hate shopping. It's something I have to squeeze in on the precious time I have off. I want to slow down and really see what's there. Someone at work told me about a product the other day that I've never seen at the store because I'm so focused on a quick escape.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sunday Drives: New Ideas

Yesterday was a Sunday drive kind of day. I started early with a photo walking friend at 7am.  She and I drove out to Hermiston and shot some images along the way. Then, the hubs and I drove back out to Hermiston, Oregon, which is a 35 mile drive, in late afternoon to do a little shopping at Goodwill and eat at our favorite Thai place. The weather is perfect for Sunday drives in September/October. You can expect more about those drives in the coming weeks. I feel a creative spurt coming on ... new ideas ... old ideas with a new twist ... you know ... change.
love, susan
This seemed to be the favorite pic from my series yesterday. The Snake River.
I loved this painting on the wall at Thai place.

You really should try tofu in your Thai dishes just once.

I love a good cup of hot, steaming green tea but
I especially love it when it comes in a cute cup. And,
I totally dig that tea pot!
Clementine has been the best thing that's happened to me since I sold my motorcycle.

Sunrise on the canal in Finley, Washington

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Food Budget Challenge: Mid Month Calculations Not Looking Good

If you are following my Food Budget Challenge, thank you! If not, I won't blame you if you just keep moving on by. This post may be the most boring material you've ever read. For me, it has been eye opening and created a lot of thought about what I'm buying for groceries. It has also forced me to get creative.
With today's trip to the store and my hubby's surprise trip yesterday (he didn't know I was doing this challenge), we are near going over budget this month and we're only halfway there. This doesn't mean I'm not going to keep trying to keep my spending down. It means I will be doing another round in October, armed with knowledge about myself and my spending habits.
POWER UP WITH PROTIEN: Today, I took photos of the nut butter choices at my local store. I wanted to compare the value of Almond Butter vs. Peanut Butter. You should know I chose to buy the peanut butter based solely on the cost. The fresh ground nut butter is something I've learned to really love in my morning oatmeal. I feel like after looking at the nutritional value of each nut butter, the peanut butter is a great buy! The amount I purchased for .53 cents will be enough breakfast protein to last our entire work week if I use it that way.
GOOD BUYS: Next, I decided to snap a pic of the bell pepper choices. I love me some colorful peppers but when I'm eating one a day, .30 cents difference is something I pay attention to, especially if I am on a budget. However, I also look at quality when I'm buying peppers. Sometimes the store schleps off old, wimpy peppers and I won't go for that. Today I found some nice red ones for the win. Additionally, I bought a 5 lb. bag of potatoes for $1.28.
WHAT KILLED IT: My hubs killed the budget this week. He bought two bricks of Tillamook cheese which I will admit is a very good buy at 5.98 each. We just didn't need two. We don't even need one. We're both better off medically if we keep cheese off our plate but I suspect he went to the store hungry. He also purchased a package of pork loin chops that he'll be eating by himself for $6.45. That's okay. The man has to eat and I'm not the vegetarian police.
THE BOTTOM LINE: So, I'm at $190.56 and it's only mid-month. EEEKS!
MY SCHPEEL:  We have a neighbor who often comes over and borrows $20 near the end of the month because he can't quite stretch his money/food stamps to the end of the month. In the summer, he doesn't borrow money because he mows our lawn in exchange for the $20 but in the winter it is always a perpetual borrow. He always pays it back at the beginning of the month when he gets his disability check. Really a sweet guy. 
When I was a young, newly married person, we lived paycheck to paycheck. I haven't had to live that way in a long time but a lot of people do. This challenge has really brought that home to me. It's not easy making a buck stretch. I don't feel the burn from it because I know I don't have to do this. I can't begin to imagine what it's like to squeeze blood out of a turnip for a lot of people who are on fixed incomes.
Well, there you have it.  Do you have a grocery budget? Do you think about what you are putting in your basket? What would happen if you spent all your budget and you had no money left for groceries ... would you have enough in your cupboards to make it to the end of the month? Leave me a comment. I'd love to hear from you!
love, susan

Monday, September 10, 2018

Currently: A Life List

Weather numbers this week are what most consider perfect: 80, 75, 74, 73, 73. I'm noticing the leaves changing when we are out driving along the highway. This is perhaps my favorite month of the year here in eastern Washington. Favorite Moments last week were many. We went to the Pooch Plunge yesterday and the photo here is one of many action shots I got. We didn't take any of our dogs and I'm glad for that. It was very chaotic but fun. We also went to a dance Saturday night. What's Right in the World I got my light box put up on my desk and fired it up this morning. A little journaling and a hand-written letter was accomplished today. I've suffered some break through depression all summer and decided to get that SAD light going early. What I'm Resisting Future tripping. What I'm Thinking I am feeling good about going into this week with my lunches already prepped and a good attitude about things. I just finished the audible I was listening to, Dopesick by Beth Macy, and will start listening to another one I bought recently. What the Future Holds I am going out to a fund raiser tonight that one of my dog friends headed up. It's for a little boy's family. I forget exactly why the fund raiser but really I just want to be outdoors for a bit tonight ... such nice weather. I don't think I have anything else on my calendar yet. If This is My Last Day on Earth please remember to feed my dogs and throw the ball a couple of times every day, will ya?  love, susan
I love summer at the park.

My work partner gifted me this pencil sharpener he got
when he was in England last month. It is my new
favorite "thing".

Sunday, September 9, 2018

September Grocery Challenge: $55.63

The entire month of September my daughter-in-law and I are completing a food budget challenge. I am trying to keep my grocery bill under $200 for the month. I believe I'll be able to accomplish this by being a smart shopper and being creative with what I already have in my cupboards. Some observations have been interesting to me. 
Last week, I went over budget as I had company for the weekend and I wanted to make sure to have plenty of fruit and a protein they would eat. This caused me to go over my $50 a week budget but I vowed to make up for the rest of this month.
Let's just say I was very frugal yesterday on my trip to the store. I bought exactly what we'd need to get through this week and with meal planning, we'll be fine. Last week, we had oatmeal every morning for breakfast with chopped up apples, banana, and the remainder of frozen blueberries. Full disclosure: sometimes I throw out the last of a bag of frozen fruit because I don't like the ice cycles that form but I used them instead. It felt good to not waste even a morsel last week. I also used up the scant 2 tablespoons of almond butter I had sitting on the counter that I had ignored.

Bottom line is that I feel like this challenge has made me really look at zero waste with a microscope. My dogs have benefited greatly. They'll eat anything so if something is a little questionable for my palate, I know they'll always help out.

A big aha moment yesterday was buying a large container of cottage cheese that was a great buy compared to the smaller containers I usually buy. I had to buy 2% instead of 4% to get the larger container but you know what? I need less fat on my plate.


We stopped at Grocery Outlet on Monday and picked up two 2-lb. bags of organic (off brand) coffee beans and a bag of brown rice. The coffee is a steal and I prefer to buy it that way but I am rarely near that store. This buy will keep me in coffee into mid-October.

Did you find any good buys at the store this week? Wanna join our challenge?

love, susan

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Currently: Back to Work Today

WEATHER numbers this week are 86, 88, 92, 90, 80. Perfect weather! READING ... I am back to reading Bright Line Eating once again. LISTENING to "Dopesick" on Audible. Fascinating accounting of the opioid epidemic in this country. I am glad I signed up for Audible, although I'm not sure how long I'll keep it. As long as I am listening to the books I buy, I feel it is a good expenditure. I've spent $14.95 in a lot worse ways. WATCHING a series called "The Client List" on Netflix and I am enjoying it very much.  GREAT MOMENTS last week included some straight talk with my step daughter and her cousin while on a hike. Playing fetch with my dogs rated in the Top 10 moments. And, capturing photos of friends with their newly adopted one month old baby. FUTURE plans include the first Thursday Art Walk in Kennewick this week. I love going this time of year as the weather cools down a bit. This area is really coming up in the art department. IF THIS WAS MY LAST DAY ON EARTH I'd die happy. Having the girls here for the weekend was a huge joy for us. They are both full of young energy. Life's difficult decisions don't seem to slow them down and they are much smarter about problem-solving than I was at their age. I caught myself smiling the entire weekend. FINAL THOUGHT I decided over the weekend I am going to try to get in the shower by 7:00am instead of waiting until the very last moment and then rushing out the door. So, I'm outa here.
love, susan

Saturday, September 1, 2018

First Shopping Trip on My September Food Budget Challenege: It Was Tough

We have company coming today so we'll be cooking dinner tonight, breakfast tomorrow and Monday. Dinner Sunday night is up in the air.
Needless to say, shopping for company dinner caused my grocery bill to increase a bit. I also had to buy dog food this week. And, sugar. I quit eating sugar about 16 months ago but felt like I should have sugar and creamer on hand for our guests' coffee. It's the right thing to do. It was only a small box but added to my overage.
I am only going to list the items that caused me to go over my $50 budget, items I would not have purchased normally:

Frozen chicken  5.98
Sugar 2.20
Almond Creamer 3.98
Orange Juice 1.98
Strawberries 1.78
Oranges 1.31
2 green peppers .76
Purple onion  .99
Sausage Patties 2.98
Tortilla chips 2.38
Cheddar Cheese 2.78
5# Potatoes  1.28
Canvas Bag  1.28
Total:  $29.68
Total Grocery Bill:  $87.79 YIKES!

I was thinking about it on the way home ... I always want my guests to feel welcomed and well-fed. I don't push my eating lifestyle on anyone else but I adjust pretty well. We're going to have shish kabobs tonight for dinner. I still have the frozen shrimp I bought last week in the freezer and I'll be putting those on the grill.
The real question is do I have enough food to get me through to next Saturday? I believe I have more than enough. I've been eyeing a couple of cans of pineapple I had stashed away when I started bright line eating. It was recommended that I keep them on hand for emergencies ... in case I ran out of fruit and couldn't get to the store. I am not a fan of canned fruit but will eat it in a pinch. A lot of people go without having a meal in this country every day ... you'll never hear me complain about canned pineapple. The other thing is that I have several containers of frozen rice & black beans already premeasured that I can pull out this week. I think I'll also have oatmeal for breakfast this week. And, OH! A friend gave me 18 fresh eggs from her chicken farm that we'll be chowing down.
In the end, I know I'm going to have to be an extra good shopper the rest of this month to stay on budget due to this week's bill. Can I do it?  Time will tell.
love, susan

Monday, August 27, 2018

So Long August: A Life List

WEATHER NUMBERS this are 78, 84, 88, 80, 79 and 82. Quite a cool down from the triple digits we've seen over the last 14 days. People are complaining of being cold. It's all relative.

MY FAVORITE MOMENT LAST WEEK had to be when the clock struck 5:00pm on Friday. My second favorite moments were at the dog park with Remi. Pure joy watching her run in the long field there. I vow to go more often than once a year.

WHAT'S RIGHT IN THE WORLD This is a hard one. John McCain died yesterday, the President has been asked to not attend the funeral, and it feels like all the good men are gone. I can't lie ... it has been a depressing week in the news and it's hard, even for a Pollyanna like me, to find a silver lining. I think I'm just tired. This too shall pass.

WHAT I'M RESISTING I got off track with my eating program while in Alaska and I've struggled to get back to it in its purest form. I haven't completely fell of the wagon, but feel like I fell off and I'm dragging along behind it with my foot stuck in the stirrup. This struggle has added 11 lbs. to my frame and I'm determined to stop the damage. It was far too easy to fall off, not so easy to get back on.

WHAT I'M THINKING  I think I need to get my light box out earlier than my usual October start date. I've been struggling (using that word a lot lately) with bouts of depression that kind of hit me unexpectedly. We've had some gray skies due to smoke and it has not been good for my mental health. I've also not been journaling on a regular basis so putting that light box on my desk and firing it up will be a 2 for 1 remedy.

WHAT'S THE FUTURE HOLD I don't have anything on my calendar yet this week. One thing for sure is that I'll be getting out at lunch time to enjoy slightly cooler weather. I love summer but I love fall almost as much, and it is in the air! It's much cooler in the mornings this last week.

A FINAL THOUGHT I've been listening to a lot of podcasts and audio books lately. I love the sound of other people's voices. So many things to listen to, so little time. That's all.

love, susan

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Budget Challenge: CHOPPED - The Devil is in the Details

It's still August but I am gearing up for my September food budget challenge with my daughter-in-law.
Yesterday, I knew my grocery bill was going to go over $50 (actual bill: $66.03)because I added some items to my cart that I don't buy on a regular basis. A bag of frozen shrimp and some fresh ground nut butters.
Feta cheese. This always feels like a splurge to me. I only buy it when I think of it. If you're into adding a little sumthin' sumthin' to your salads, you should give flavored feta cheese a try. This is the only one I've tried because I'm so in love with it that I think why would I try anything else? If I were to cut something from my grocery bill, this would be the first to go. Luxury item.
The other item that would be on the chop list is Triscuits. Crackers are a NMF (not my food) for me but I am allowed to eat Triscuits on my food plan. I tend to eat too many of them when I have them in the house and, frankly, I shouldn't have bought them today. This box will be gone before the weekend is over.  I also bought a container of cottage cheese but discovered when I got home that I still have a container and a half in the fridge already. It will all be consumed but I could have chopped this from my cart.
Last week, I bought this cilantro and never used it. I pulled it out of the fridge when I got home from the store and it is now mixed in with the spinach that I still had remaining. As you can see on the spinach expiration date, it is past its time. It still looked great enough to mix into a salad so I chopped it up and added the leftover coleslaw mix and sugar snap peas with the remaining cherry tomatoes and this all made 4 servings of salad that we'll eat in the next two days. Being on a budget means I don't let anything go to waste. When I'm in budget mode, I get busy thinking about how I'm going to use things up.
Speaking of which, there were still eggs in my fridge that I bought before I went to Alaska on July 5. Yeah. They also had an expired date on the carton. I've been feeding a raw egg to my dog every morning but still had 6 left. I decided to throw caution to the wind and scrambled up two of them for my breakfast this morning. They were perfectly fine, I am happy to report. Look at this wonderful bowl of expired eggs, a brand of guacamole that I am not really fond of but refuse to throw it out, on a bed of brown rice, topped with a little shredded cheese and salsa. It was gourmet.
IN MY CUPBOARDS I've been chipping away at the dry roasted edamame I bought a year ago in bulk. These little beauties are a super nice source of protein that I learned about from my Alaska friend who also turned me on to this eating program I am committed to following. These are wonderful sprinkled on a salad for crunch and added protein, I simply forget I have them. It may take me another year to finish them off. Another really great way to eat them is put them in a little container and sprinkle Mexican hot sauce on them (not Tabasco!).
Lastly, let me tell you that I opted to buy the more expensive peppers at $1.28 each vs. the red peppers which were .98 each. The red peppers were soft and I knew they wouldn't make it to the end of the week without deteriorating to a point where I won't eat them. I became willing to pay an extra .30 each for them.
Summing it up, I could have chopped these items and come in under budget:
  • Cottage Cheese  $1.68 (excess)
  • Nut butters $2.70  (didn't need it)
  • Shrimp  $7.48 (didn't need it)
  • Feta Cheese $1.98 (luxury item)
  • Peaches  $1.92 (excess)
  • Bulk Black Beans $2.37 (already have several lbs. in cupboard)

WHY BUDGET?  I get a kick out of challenging myself in certain areas of my life. It makes me think about things and get creative. I have a point to prove that's been on my mind for a very long time. Humor me here. When I hear people talk about cutting food stamps for families, or how families could do a better job with spending their food stamps, I think about my own food spending habits. I want to put my money where my mouth is. Can a person live on a food stamp budget? I don't even know how much people receive for food stamps. It's never really been any of my business. I don't know how it would be to feed children on a budget. If I had to live on food stamps, how well would I do? I ask myself this question constantly ... and then I try to be a better shopper.
Are you a bargain hunter? What food items do you buy no matter what it costs?
Have you ever had to live on a budget? Shouldn't we be teaching our kids how to cook from scratch and learn how to budget their money?
Wanna join me in tracking your food budget for a month? I'd love to hear from you!
love, susan

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Budget Challenge: Bean Me Up!

This post is part of a series of posts as I move toward a Food Budget Challenge 2018 in September.
Let's talk about my first love. Her name is Coffee.  I am an admitted coffee snob. The hubs is not. I don't like coffee that has been sitting more than 30 minutes in the pot. I refuse to drink it reheated in the microwave. And, don't even ask me to drink yesterday's coffee, I will hurt you.
Having said that, coffee is an expense I probably could curb if I had to. Most coffee drinkers like to change up their blend. This may surprise you but I buy Yuban sometimes. Folger's even tastes good when a change is needed. We keep a can of cheaper coffee on hand for those times when a) we run out of fresh beans, and b) when we need a change in flavor.
The blend I've been buying lately are the house beans at WinCo. I don't know where they come from but I've discovered two blends that are perfect for my palate. The one I love the most is an organic from Peru. If the blend is smooth enough, I can drink it straight up with no creamer. If it's a little bolder, I need half & half to cut the acidity. In the morning, I just need the caffeine, so if I'm out of creamer (like I am today), I enjoy the total flavor of this nectar of the gods.
When road traveling, I try to carry a big thermos of coffee. We'd go broke and never make it to our destination (for the many coffee stops) if we didn't carry bean juice with us. In the instance where we've hit the road on a whim, we usually stop at McDonald's for senior coffee (that's whole 'nother blog post) which is $1 a cup and admittedly a really great cup of joe.
Right now, I'm spending about $9 for a bag of beans that lasts us about 10 days. When we were in Fairbanks last month, my sister-in-law served us coffee she makes in a cold brew process. You add about 1/3 of cold brew to a cup of boiling water and it's as fresh as any cup I've ever made. She makes it this way for two reasons: expense and ease. Two very good reasons!
In a perfect world, I'd quit drinking coffee. Not because of the dollars spent on it, but I am a total slave to caffeine. I quit once for about 6 weeks. It hurt my head a lot. I'm not sure I'll ever try that again.
When my imagination is running wild, I dream of retirement days where I visit various coffee houses in search of the perfect cup of coffee. I know it's out there. I need help, I know.
Are you a coffee connoisseur?

love, susan

September Grocery Challenge: Total Spent to Date $255.35

One more week of the grocery challenge ... and I'm feeling okay about it. I am over my $200 budget but I'm okay with that. I'...