Tag Archives: food

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The Solo Chef: $4 Dinner for One – Chicken Pappardelle

After spending $2500 on food last month with Mr. HECC I’m on a mission to cut my food budget in half. I’ll be documenting recipes I make for myself since Mr. HECC follows a specific diet and has his meals delivered, leaving me to be cooking for one. Cooking solo is tough because it’s so easy to waste food. I’m seeking out simple, easy meals that allow you to buy the right serving size for a meal fresh so that nothing goes wasted.

My goals:

Breakfast: $1.50 / meal (~250 calories)
Lunch: $3.00 / meal (~350 calories)
Dinner: $4.50 / meal (~600 calories)

Tonight’s $5 Dinner is Chicken Pappardelle Continue reading

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How Much Should I Spend on Food Per Month?

Food is by far our biggest expense. We spent $2500 on food (inclusive of alcohol and cleaning supplies, so probably $2200 on food) in August alone. Clearly, that is way too much for a couple to spend on food each month. People tend to share that they feed families of 4+ on under $600 a month, as part of conversations on how they’re trying to cut down on spending.

But how much should a DINK couple (planning to have kids in the next few years) be spending on food? Here is the advice I found:  Continue reading

Weight and Finances, Keeping Both on Track

As I head towards what will likely be my actual marriage year (2017), I’m fully aware that both poofy white dresses and slim, sleek white dresses accentuate one’s curves – for better or worse. I’m on a mission to actually lose weight and keep it off this time. Yes, I know I’ve said that virtually every year since 1983. Ok, maybe not 1983 because when I was a baby I did not say that. But you get the point.

The last time I was at a healthy weight I was extremely depressed and quite frankly not eating enough calories paired with riding a bike 5 miles a day in hilly terrain to commute to and from work. I didn’t notice the pounds just melting away over a three month period, but melt they did. Somehow my then-typically 155b body slimmed down to 120lbs. I wasn’t toned or anything so I still felt heavy, and to put this into context for those of you who understand women’s clothing my 120lbs was an adult size 8, not like a 2. I’m rather petite, so 120lbs – next time with some muscle and a little less fat – is my ultimate goal for W-day.

Unfortunately, since 2006 and my massive weight loss, I put all the weight back on and then some in the form of further depression and my binge eating habit. It was easy to not eat a lot when I was feeling anti-social and had no car, and no place to really hide my food, living with roommates and not wanting to leave the house other than to go to work and come home. Then I got a car and started to drive to and from work, a work with a vending machine and a crappy cafeteria which I ate at for lunch, often eating unhealthy food. I’d drive to taco bell for a treat and have two tacos and a pepsi. Needless to say, my body is very sensitive to caloric intake and I blew up like a blimp just as fast as I lost the weight.

When I stepped on the scale at a recent doctor’s visit and weighed 180lbs, I knew something I had to change. I only saw that number once before and that was two years ago, when I started to get my act together, and got down to 155lbs, only to drop back into a depression and eat myself back up to 180. It’s really frustrating, because it takes so long to lose weight and it seems it’s so easy to just pack it all back on and then some. And every year one gets older metabolism can slow so that makes weight loss even harder.

I also want to lose weight because I know if/when I have kids, I want to be able to have the energy to run around with them. I definitely can feel myself – my body – getting older. I’m not treating it right. I have to hyper focus on my health as I have on my finances throughout these last 10 years. Perhaps my 20s were really my financial fitness years, my 30s will be my personal fitness ones.

What’s most challenging for me is that I’ve never been the athletic type, but I love to move. I have so much energy in me and sitting at my desk all day just numbs me. I’d love to go to an adult dance class but my social anxiety typically keeps me from it. Or I’m just too busy traveling and it’s a waste of money. I know, excuses, excuses. Mostly I just am too caught up in my depression to get myself to do much of anything. At least I’ve been walking some to and from work – I try to get in 1 to 4 miles of walking a day during the week, and now that it’s spring a longer hike on the weekends with the beau. I also have a gym membership through work which is awesome and I really need to use it more. I just spend so much time commuting that my energy is shot by the time I even think about going to the gym.

I know more than anything being healthy takes long-term dedication. Being healthy is different from being in top shape, and before one can even consider becoming fitness-model worthy, she must spend a heck of a lot of time just getting to basic health. So that’s my first goal. I want to lose 1lb a week and not get off track this time. According to my scale, which I think is too low, I’m at 173lbs now. I’ll be tracking there as by the end of May I want to be at 167lbs. I still can’t believe how I got myself to 155 two years ago and completely messed up the downward trend, but it is what it is. At least my boyfriend hasn’t proposed to me yet. I think he will on our nine year anniversary, which is next month. So that gives me some time to get myself presentable for a wedding. One he officially proposes to me, and once I’m down about 20lbs back to 155, I may splurge on the personal trainer to help with the last 30.

Splurge of the Month: Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker

Instead of buying lots of little crappy items I don’t need, I want to focus on buying one nice item that I do need (or that would make my life seriously better.) I’m going to try to hold off until later in most months to make this purchase, but I couldn’t resist buying more cooking tools on 2013: the year I get domestic.

Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker: Slow Cooker, Brown/Saute, Steamer

SPLURGE OF THE MONTH: $149 (org. $299) Cuisinart Slow Cooker / Steamer / Brown/Sauter.

Continue reading

March Spending Wrap: Food & Lasers

Despite thinking I had succeed at a frugal March, it turns out I spent ~$6300 over the course of the month. This means April is going to be fiscally conservative, and I need to stick to a carefully planned budget (to be defined in my next post.)

In the meantime, here is a breakdown of what cost me so much this month…

Personal Care $4,348.10 (laser hair removal)
Food & Dining $646.10 (eeks!)
Home $632.50 (rent)
Shopping $292.16
Bills & Utilities $280.12
Health & Fitness $192.43
Auto & Transport $164.89
Uncategorized $50.00
Fees & Charges $14.25
Entertainment $9.81
TOTAL $6630.36

April is going to be a month of discipline. At least this month the majority of my spending was on the one-time fee for unlimited laser hair removal ($4300.) But the amount I spent on dining was ridiculous. And it’s not like I went out often or had extravagant dining experiences.

This is how my restaurant spending ($440) broke down…

Mar 29 Neiman Marcus Restaurants –$56.18 high tea with friends
Mar 29 Tokyo Go Go Restaurants –$84.74 shared sushi with aunt, cousin. water.
Mar 29 Little Chihuahua Restaurants –$12.50 breakfast with friend
Mar 28 Benissimo Italian Pizz Restaurants –$47.73 dinner with aunt, entree, shared bottle of wine
Mar 25 Max Restaurants –$24.64 dinner for bf, appetizer for me, water
Mar 22 Bangkok Bay Restaurants –$49.76 thai dinner for boyfriend and I
Mar 11 BJ’s Restaurant Restaurants –$64.58 bf’s birthday dinner & his drinks. I didn’t eat.
Mar 7 Cha-am Thai Restaurant Restaurants –$36.06 dinner in city with friend
Mar 1 Morocco Restaurant Restaurant Restaurants –$70.63 nice date dinner with boyfriend

At least my rent cost is still low compared to my income, so I can get away with months like this. Sure, I spent more than I made, but I make it up on other months (as long as you keep me away from the mall!!!) I’m worried about moving, and spending more money on rent this summer. Ok, time to figure out my April budget… coming up next…

5 Free Food Offers in the Bad Economy

My sister apparently got detention with 3/4ths of her senior class for coming to school late today to get free pancakes at iHop. While that deal’s offer, you can still take advantage of the free food deals popping up at restaurants and fast food joints across the country.

Some are country wide offers and others are local, here are 10 free food offers across the US to take advantage of during this nasty recession.

1. Free Sub — USA

Get a free sub from Quiznos; all you have do to is sign up for their mailing list and print a coupon.

See: Quiznos(R) to Give Away One Million Subs on MillionSubs.com

2. Lunch for Layoffs — Alabama

Recently got laid off? Hungry? All you have to do to qualify is bring with you proof that you were recently laid off and you’ll be provided with a free lunch at Dothan restaurant in Alabama. Nick Nitkowski, owner of D’Monico’s said, “We are going to make sure they get a good hot meal, something to drink, bread and pats on the back and to let them know things will be better in the near future.” Domonico’s serves lunch from 11 am until 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

3. Economic Stimulus Package – California, Iowa, and Other Locales

Salt Creek Grille – Dana Point’s premiere dining destination – has created the Salt Creek Grille Economic Stimulus Package – a bailout plan that offers a random free meal to unsuspecting customers, a reduced-price award-winning Sunday brunch and special discounts during the week. In Iowa, Islamorada Fish Co.’s restaurant owner has a similar “surprise free meal” plan to lure in customers.

4. Free Buffet – New York

Union Restaurant and Bar Latino in Haverstraw, New York, will open their doors to serve complimentary buffet meals from Monday to Wednesday. Owners of Union Restaurant and Bar Latino, David Martinez and Paulo Feteira, said they decided to hold the event to welcome those who can’t afford to dine in a nice restaurant because of the current financial crisis.

5. Free Spaghetti USA

Fazoli’s, known for fast, fresh Italian food, kicks off its 20th anniversary celebration today with a feast of special offers, including a continuation of its popular free spaghetti promotion and nearly a dozen delectable new menu items, all of which are now baked fresh to order.


Just Threw a $300 Dinner Party

When I exclaimed to my roommates “let’s have a dinner party!”… I certainly wasn’t thinking about cost. Last night, we had about 15 people over (including us) who we fed and entertained for the evening. It was a really lovely gathering, a holiday event dubbed the J-Food Dinner party were we served a mix of Jewish food and Japanese food (don’t ask.)

But the bill came out to be way more than I expected. Not that I thought that through when I decided to have a dinner party, or when my roommate and I invited enough people to have to feed a small country.

Problem with throwing dinner parties is that you’re never sure how many people are really going to make it. You need to invite a few extras just to make sure you’re not sitting alone with all the food you make.

So between all the dishes we made, it cost about $300. I ended up buying $50 worth of frozen blintz at the last minute because I ran out of time to cook, and sadly bought the ingredients to actually cook them fresh as well – but that was only a few extra eggs and a lot of creme cheese, like $10 worth.

My boyfriend also decided to cook up this mushroom tart that we learned how to cook at my work’s holiday party the day before. It was a Whole Foods cooking party, which was awesome, but of course they used expensive ingredients and in order to recreate our delicious tart he had to buy all these things… pastry shells, wild mushrooms, Camembert cheese, sherry… all of that added up.

And then there was the hummus and baba ganosh for an appetizer and bread, and the two bottles of wine (not to mention the other two bottles we already had) that got served. And a few bottles of martenelli’s cider for the non alcohol drinkers. And all the latke ingredients, which my roommate bought, that I owe her for… about $60 worth (that’s included in the $300 total).

Ultimately $300 for a party of 15 people isn’t that bad, I guess. But it’s still… $300. The same $300 I’m not making this month because my uncle’s marketing firm had to cut back on its freelance budget. Yea, exactly $300.

Well, at least I’ve made $75 thus far in my posts for that tech blog I’m writing for about twice a week. I’m going to have to really turn up the posting on that so I can make up for lost costs. My next paycheck is going to rent, paying my boyfriend back (I owe him about $900 now including the cost of food for this party, he charged it since my credit card is missing), bills, taxes, and that’s about it. I hope people don’t mind that this Christmas I’m going to be a bit short on gifts. At least I bought my one really good friend a dishwasher for her birthday earlier this year (split with my boyfriend as a gift for her new kitchen) but still – she can’t complain that i’m not getting her a gift. I should get my roommates something but… that might have to come with the next paycheck.

My “stable” job is still on the rocks. It’s looking ok… but I’m not sure. They’re letting go all the contractors besides me, which is really sad for those contractors and rather uncomfortable for me. My contract isn’t up until the end of Jan, so at that point they’ll have to decide how valuable I am to the team. I think I’ve proven my dedication – I’ve been there for over a year now, but in this economic climate anything is possible. And I’m a little worried. I’m hoping for a full time job with health benefits (!!!) but expecting the worst. And the worst case scenerio is that I can write up to 5 posts for this tech blog a week, making about $500 a month, which covers a large chunk of rent. Then I seek out other freelance positions… since the full time job market seems non-existent in my field at this point.

Probably not the best time to throw a $300 dinner party, huh?

March Groceries — $169.90, now on my new Chase Freedom card

My Chase Freedom and American Express Blue Cash cards both arrived in the mail today. While I’m terrified of credit cards, I’ve decided it’s about time to really start building my credit score. I have a bunch of open credit cards and according to a recent credit check I’m in the 730 range, but I still want to up that credit score so one day when I want to buy a house (or condo) I can get a good mortgage rate.

Anyway, I finally gave in and got these two credit cards. I don’t know if they’ll help or hurt my credit score, but I’m going to start spending on them each month and paying off my balances at the end of the month. I’ll only buy what I can afford. Period.

So I went food shopping today. At the “cheaper” (aka non-organic, non fancy) supermarket in town. Safeway. I spent $169.99. I supposedly saved $41.34 on buying things one sale w/ my “club card.” I did spend extra time picking out things on sale.

I went a little overboard on buying spices this month, but I don’t really have any spices and if I’m going to start cooking more, I need some more spices. I tried to buy ones that were on sale! Thank goodness for credit cards.

Without further ado, here’s what I got for that $169.99

$1.39 – Jumbo Taco Shells
$1.11 – Canned Corn
$3.89 – Cooking Spray (non brand Pam)
$3.69 – Paprika (spice)
$3.29 – Bread Cracker Stuff
$3.27 – Spice Island Mustard (spice)
$3.75 – Thyme (spice)
$3.99 – spinach tortellini
$3.99 – three cheese tortellini
$3.73 – garlic powder (spice)
$2.71 – basil (spice)
$3.00 – butternut squash soup
$5.00 – 4 Tuna Salad Lunch
$.99 – plastic spoons
$1.66 – steamed vegetables (frozen)
$5.29 – kashi lime shrimp frozen dinner
$4.99 – liquid egg whites
$2.50 – shredded cheddar cheese
$2.69 – fat free milk
$4.49 – cottage cheese
$2.49 – lowfat yogurt
$5.49 – frozen strawberries
$4.50 – frozen blueberries
$3.49 – frozen quesadillas
$3.00 – frozen veggie bites
$9.00 – three boxes of morningstar frozen meatless buffalo wings
$1.39 – banquet fish stick meal
$6.76 – four cheese and beans burritos (frozen)
$5.00 – two cheese quesadillas (frozen)
$3.99 – a fitness magazine. To inspire me to workout.
$3.39 – bread
$4.00 – frozen fried fish
$2.50 – frozen fish
$2.50 – frozen fish
$5.99 – stuffed salmon frozen
$6.23 – Rockfish Fillet (not frozen)
$3.45 – five kiwis
$2.45 – three sweet potatoes
$2.00 – raisin boxes
$2.00 – two bags of baby carrots
$2.99 – bag of four avocados
$2.99 – veggie turkey slices
$7.98 – two boxes of veggie buffalo wings (non frozen)
$3.00 – blueberries (non frozen)
$3.99 – vegetable mix
$3.50 – cheese whole wheat tortellini

Don’t Let Me in a Grocery Store Again, Ever.

Aisles upon aisles of tantalizing packaging torment me until I can’t help but spend on edibles that I may or may not need.

How is it that I go into a grocery store planning on picking up eggs, milk, perhaps a few apples and a sweet potato, and leave with a $70 bill?

I’ll tell you how…

$2.69: Milk, 1/2 gallon
$4.79: Flaxseed Meal (to try putting in a shake. Or to bake with. If i ever learn how to bake.)
$2.13: two red garnet yams (yum)
$5.99: String cheese (a good snack. i ran out of string cheese a while back. i needed more)
$2.99: bath salts (yea, I know, I don’t need these, but… they smell so pretty, and they were only 2.99!)
$14.99: vanilla whey protein powder (i’m experimenting with protein powders. i got a small sample of this brand the other day and liked it. so i decided to buy more.)
$2.91: two pink lady apples (who can resist a pink lady?)
$3.99: figs (they were on sale. They have fiber. They called to me.)
$1.19: one sweet potato (well, my third one, counting the red garnet yams)
$19.99: a strainer. (I needed a new one since I keep burning myself trying to pour hot water when I cook pasta. This one is special. You can boil things in it.)
$2.69: yeast… in case I ever want to use the bread tin I bought the other day.
$2.99: frozen peaches (for a shake?)
$2.89: liquid egg
$2.24: four kiwis (i say a kiwi a day keeps the doctor away.)

________

$72.47
+ CA sales tax of $3.13

Grand Total: $75.60

Gah! I’ve spent so much money on groceries this month. I’m trying to be good and not go out to lunch and dinner always, but I think I’m actually spending more now that I’m going to the grocery store on a weekly basis. Even though I am eating healthier…

In other quasi food-related news…
I bought three shares of McDonald’s stock today. My gold ETF is up and my small cap risk is way down. I decided to put $3000 in my Roth IRA for 2008, so when I’m ready for retirement, at least I can say that I tried to be smart and I put in $7000 before I turned 25. I’ll see if I can get the other $2000 in sometime over the year. More on that later.

Who Needs $90 Wine?

Apparently the price of wine heavily influences how much people enjoy it. A team of researchers at Stanford and CalTech set out to prove this, and gave testers two glasses of wine to try. One was a “$90” glass of wine, and the other a “$10” glass of wine. What the subjects didn’t know was that these two glasses of wine were actually identical.

“Specifically, the researchers found that with the higher priced wines, more blood and oxygen is sent to a part of the brain called the medial orbitofrontal cortex, whose activity reflects pleasure,” reports CNET.