Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hey Retirement! Don't take OUR Date Night Away!!

"Wait! Did we budget for Date Night??"


Wednesday night is Date Night at our house. It's been that way for a LONG time! And we didn't want retirement to do away with our weekly fun. So today, I'm going to cover some good ways to keep that fun coming and be able to pay for it with slightly reduced funds.

  1. Put some money in the budget. Analyze what you can afford and how many times you will be going out during the month. If you get paid twice a month, budget for two date nights. If you get paid weekly, you only need to budget it in for the week. For us, we are getting paid once a month so we will budget for 4 to 5 nights out. We set aside about $20 to $25 per week for date night
  2. Remember, it's about spending time together not how fancy the dining is. You can make a picnic one week and then spend double the following week at a nice place. You can make dinner at home and go to see a play or movie. In our case we could go to the beach with some hot dogs, potato chips and soda and make a nice bonfire
  3. Use gift cards to supplement. We get them for different occasions and kind of "hoard" them until needed. If there is a Birthday or Anniversary, we actually tell our kids that we would like gift cards. In this way we have been able to go to eat and the movies for free that week. You can also buy discounted gift cards online at Giftcard Zen, or use part of your budget to buy cards when the stores offer deals such as buy 4 cards and get 1 for free
  4. Use coupons that have been mailed to your house. Many of them will have reduced prices on certain meals, two for one combo prices or free desserts or appetizers
  5. Go to dinner on nights or to places that offer Senior Citizen discounts, Veterans discounts, AARP discounts, etc. 
  6. Pay for just the meal and ask for water rather than a fountain or alcoholic drink
  7. Use the receipts to file surveys online and get a discount on your next food purchase
  8. Have a meal out and come home for the entertainment. Rent a move online or at Redbox. Watch something on Hulu or Netflix or a movie you haven't seen for a while that's in your collection. 
  9. Dine out during "early bird" dining times and save money
  10. Eat meals off the 55 and over menu. These meals can be slightly smaller and a lot more economical
  11. Use online sources such as Groupon.com to buy two for one price deals
  12. Make a special meal at home complete with fine china, candle light and restaurant style food. Soft music in the background. You may think you are actually dining out!
We've done dates watching our local baseball team with dogs and cokes, biked for a picnic style dinner to local parks and had some really nice meals out. Date night is about the relationship not the money. It's about making special time to be together and nurture your relationship. I'd love to hear all the ways you go about making Date Night special. Leave a comment and give us some good ideas!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How Buying Bulk Saves Us Money




We are great fans of Costco and have been for years. We have 4 children and cooked at home most meals so we got used to buying bulk. But as newly retired people, we had to ask ourselves if buying bulk was still the most money saving way to buy. And simple answer is yes!

The thing to know about bulk shopping is to only get those things you are use frequently. Most of the canned and frozen foods have a shelf life of about a year. And if you bulk shop, you really need to get used to finding that date. Our favorite list of canned items include: olives, diced tomatoes, corn, beans, refried beans, tomato sauce, the canned chicken, beef and tuna. I noticed that Costco doesn't break down their food prices so you can see how much per can, but that is NOT difficult to do. You take the total price for the bulk pack, divide it by the number of cans and that is your per can price. Why do you need to know that? So you can compare prices with what the similar item costs in your local grocery store. When the price drops below what Costco offers per can, you can stock up at your local grocery store instead. This is where a price book comes in handy... but that is for another blog post. Now the reason we get the "pure" item instead of let's say, canned chili or a pasta in sauce is so that we can make a variety of meals using the item rather than just the one type of meal. We also buy olive oil, spaghetti sauce, pasta, paper products, cleaning supplies and just recently had our printer ink refilled.  Below is an example of the Costco product sign. 12 cans of green beans for $7.79 total. That would be .65 per can using the formula above. 


In addition, we usually pick up some frozen chicken breast, thighs, drumsticks, ground beef, stew meat, etc. About two years ago, we decided to purchase a freezer so we could "stock up" when things went on sale, and for us, it's mostly meat in our freezer. Again, we like to have the ability to make several different meals from what we buy rather than the breaded chicken breast, meat in sauce or with pasta, etc. 

Here are just a few examples of things we have gotten at a deep discount. Shortly after Christmas and Easter, we visited our local bulk store, Smart & Final, and found spiral sliced hams more than half off! We brought them home, cut the meat off the bone, packaged it into 1 lb. vacuum sealed packages and restocked our freezer for at least 6 months to a year of ham! You can do the same around Thanksgiving when you buy a turkey and get a turkey. Either keep it frozen for the next holiday, or go ahead and cook it up, take the pieces off the bones and make bags of cooked meat and turkey broth. Earlier this year, we also bought 50 lbs. of carrots and 50 lbs. of potatoes and canned them in our pressure canner. Because it is just my husband and I now, we used pint jars and have an entire years supply of both canned potatoes and carrots for under $20. Canning is NOT difficult. Most cities offer classes at the county extension offices and supplies can be picked up at thrift shops, garage sales and from friends who no longer want to do it. Jars can also be picked up for cheap or free off Craigslist. I would highly recommend learning this skill. It can save you BIG time!


We also buy rice and beans in the giant bags and store them in heavy duty food grade pails. Some of the beans get processed in pint jars in the pressure cooker so we can have them on hand for weeknight meals and the rest will get us through an entire year at a time. Again, these are the 25 to 50 lb. bags of rice and beans. And since we make our own bread and baked items, we will buy the flour, sugar, spices, bread flour, yeast, butter, chocolate chips and nuts in bulk. You can usually find really good prices on baking items around the Holidays if you don't want to get a membership to a "club" store like Costco and still want to buy bulk.

Now how do we budget for bulk shopping? The easiest way is to make it part of your monthly food budget that you set aside rather than spend. We do our big shopping maybe 3 to 4 times a year and it seldom goes over $300. So we put away $75 to $100 a month towards the big trips. Another good way to save up is to wait for a tax return or work bonus and use that money.

You can drop a lot of cash at a store like Costco so you really have to watch out and think before you buy and do some research. And for us, we never, EVER charge anything we buy there. It's too easy to buy with a credit card thinking you will pay the food off as you eat it.  But most of the time, that never happens, and I'm speaking from past experience,
So BE CAREFUL. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

The High Cost of Eating Out



Do you guys make a budget every month? We started doing it a couple of years ago knowing that our retirement would be coming soon and we would have to know how to live within a budget. 

We use the Quicken for Mac program and is it ever insightful!! You set your budget and tailer it to meet your own personal needs. As you spend money and assign the money into your categories, the program keeps track of how you are doing within that budget. You can select monthly and by the entire year. One of these days I'll have to make a video explaining how it works for us. Anyway, for us, food kept coming up on our budget overages, meaning, we set the budget for a certain amount and each month, we were going over. Now in the "olden days" we had really gotten used to dining out at night, having several lunches out a week and those luscious coffee creations 4 out of 7 mornings!! No wonder it wasn't balancing. But we had the money then and we didn't even LOOK at what we were doing. Now that we have a reduced income, we are "revisiting" that food topic all over again. 

First I will say there are only two of us on this budget of ours. Then I will say that we were spending more on food than on our house payment! Terrible to admit but true! And I will also admit that both of us could stand to loose a few pounds! 

One of my favorite things to do is find a way to make home cooked food taste as good as dining out. There are tons of recipes all over the internet that can help with that. But lately, my husband has been telling me that he likes my food better than any of the places we have been eating out!! SCORE!! And as I "practice" more and more, I am getting better and better. I've made some things for the freezer that we can whip out on those nights when we just don't feel like cooking. I also will intentionally buy a few simple frozen things TO EAT AT HOME instead of going out. Yes, we probably pay more for those convenience than making it from scratch, but it will be far less than going out. 

I hope you like the video and while you are over there on YouTube, please subscribe to our channel, like our subject matter and set up notifications so you don't miss anything. We have LOTS of ideas on how to save money and live within your means and still feel like your are having a happy, fulfilled life. 

https://youtu.be/C0v8yCTUXog




Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Leftovers - POTATO CORN CHOWDER

A great way to minimize your grocery budget is to have leftovers. I know, I KNOW... that doesn't sound very appetizing... but it CAN be!

Last night we had "Breakfast For Dinner" which was corn on the cob, bacon, hash browns and an omelet made with eggs, roasted asparagus, spring onions and cheddar cheese. It was great last night and too much for two people to eat in one night. I've been working my way through my Friday CSA box and decided to work the asparagus and spring onions into the meal. Even while I was making this meal, I was thinking, "How can I use leftovers for this meal to make something totally yummy, inexpensive and make it seem like it WASN'T leftovers. You guys have that problem too? "We don't want to eat that AGAIN...!"



Our Friday CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) Box From Rutiz Farm

Now it's Tuesday and I'll let you in on what I came up with from last nights dinner. We ate up the omelet and gave the few bits of those leftovers back to our hens. I put the leftover hashbrowns, corn OFF the cob, leftover cooked bacon and the remaining two spring onions chopped up into a container. Potato Corn Chowder! I started the crockpot around 12 PM on low setting with a quart of chicken broth. (Dollar Tree has it for $1!!) In went the dinner leftovers along with a can of corn and two quarts of my home canned russet potatoes. That cooked most of the day on low and towards 5:30, I added in about 3/4 cup of cream, a little garlic powder and dried chives and a little mixture in a bowl to thicken.

This was an AWESOME dinner, making so much I know we will be having it again this week paired with a sandwich for lunch. We topped ours with bacon bits and grated cheddar cheese.
BAM!  







POTATO CORN CHOWDER

Into the crockpot put the leftover hash brown potatoes, corn OFF the 2 cobs, 8 pieces of bacon, crumbled, can of corn, 2 quarts of canned potatoes (of fresh peeled and cubed about 4 to 5) 2 scallions chopped and container of chicken broth. Cook on low for 5 hours. Turn to high and cook for another 1/2 hour. Add heavy whipping cream, herbs and spices and thickening mixture and cook another 1/2 hour on high. 

Ladle into bowls and top with a heaping spoon full of grated cheddar cheese and some bacon bits. ENJOY!

In case you were wondering, this Crockpot is my FAVORITE!


LEFTOVERS

2 Cups hash brown potatoes

2 Cobs corn
8 pcs Bacon (About half of a package)

COMMUNITY GARDEN / FARM CSA / FARMERS MKT.


1- 15.5 oz can Canned Corn (bought at Costco in bulk, could be bought and Canned in season)
2- QTS Potatoes (We bought 50 lbs and canned them in quarts. You could use fresh peeled and cubed and add at beginning of cook time)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Chives, dehydrated, fresh
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Garlic, dehydrated and powdered, or garlic powder

ON THE CHEAP

1 Qt. Chicken Broth (Dollar Tree for $1)
Cheddar Cheese (Bulk, Broken down and vacuum sealed)
Flour (Bought Bulk)

FROM STORE, UNLESS YOU HAVE A COW (wink, wink)

3/4 C. Heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

SUGGESTED HERBS   

1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp dried chives


THICKENER

2 TBSP AP Flour

2 TBSP Unsalted Butter

Mix together in a separate bowl until almost powdery appearance. Add a ladle to a ladle and a half of hot soup and mix until thickened. Add this mixture back into the crockpot.

*COULD ALSO MAKE UP MAGIC MIX AND USE THAT TO THICKEN SOUP*





Sunday, April 2, 2017

Thankful Sunday





What are you thankful for this week? Oh my GOSH, there are so many things to be thankful for I hope you at least can find a hand full!

We are having the BEST weather here on the beach, lots of sunshine and gentle sea breezes. We made it over to our community garden to take out the old and put in the new. Out came the winter kale, collards, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and spinach. We replaced it with 2 kinds of baby potatoes, tomatoes, shelling peas, scallions, radishes, carrots, strawberries and leeks. We have a few empty spaces that will be planted over the next couple of weeks.


And everything is in bloom! Lilacs, Lavender, Wisteria, our berries, Daylilies, fruit trees and more!








One of the most interesting things that happened this week was a "magical" call from my  oral surgeon Dr. Janette in San Luis Obispo that I HIGHLY recommend if you are looking for someone. I had a tooth removed last October and it was going to be replaced with an implant. Only thing was, he didn't want to see me for 6 months after the extraction to allow the gum and bone to heal. That would end up being the middle of April, after our official retirement date of April 1, 2017. We tried to talk him into it sooner telling him our insurance was going to run out but he said we didn't want to rush this and indeed, that is true. For the best outcome we decided to do what he said and come back on our appointment date. Meanwhile, I had another appointment with my regular dentist in February and he said he thought everything was healed fine and I should call the oral surgeon and set something up earlier. Again I decided to do as I were told. With our dental insurance changing April 1, we would be having to pay more of the deductible amounts making this "fix" pretty expensive. Then my oral surgeons office called out of the blue on March 28th asking if I could make a consult appointment on the 29th. Of course! I'm thinking maybe, just maybe he could get this part completed while we are still on our old, and good insurance! So he said my gum was ready and he could squeeze me in on Friday the 31st! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!!! I sat in that chair more thankful than you can ever imagine!  I paid that day for my portion of the work and the implant was completed perfectly on March 31. I can only believe that things happen for a reason in God's perfect timing.


 No, its not a painting, its the view out his patient waiting room!! Gorgeous and relaxing huh?




My Birthday is April 1st. Yes, I could have the implant or I could eat a big dinner out followed by cake and the works. It was worth it to me to just wait on the Birthday part a bit longer. I am thankful he got me in before the new insurance and whether that was really accidental or not, I don't care! Today I'm sporting a pretty good bruise on my cheek and one on my arm from the general anesthesia and I don't care about that either. I am one thankful girl!! I feel like I got the biggest Birthday present EVER by being able to save so much money.

For my Birthday this year I didn't request a bunch of "stuff". I wanted a sweet little bedroom put back together again in my home. This little bedroom has been in storage now for maybe 5 or 6 years. We move the furniture so my daughter and her little family could come home for a while and when they moved, we just took our darn sweet time to get everything back over here. Now that we are retired, we have more time and less money so we're hoping to downsize the storage shed enough to get a smaller one or maybe eventually, none at all. This little bedroom was the start. So bright and early on Saturday morning, my kids and their spouses came over to haul things to and from our storage shed and brought over all the pieces so we could put the room back together once again. I am overjoyed!! That little room made me so happy! I'll be sharing some pictures when I get it just right.

I think I'm even thankful for being able to eat all things cold and soft like yogurt, popsicles, smoothies and fruit. My family is taking good care of me and allowing me to rest and recover and it won't be long before I'm able to eat like normal. Then I'm really going to celebrate!! 

Sunday is a good day to reflect on your week, looking for those times you were blessed. Saying thank you to our Creator for all that is going on in our lives, both good and even the things we think are bad. Be thankful everyday!!






Saturday, March 25, 2017

What's For Dinner This Week... March 17-23

Friday  3/17
Winner, Winner Taco Dinner




This is a good little meal for two. The quantity of taco meat will actually make several meals for us. I had 1 taco and Wes had 3 tonight so 4 tacos total. We like coming up with meals that we will be able to make in the future with our own garden produce. Grow what you eat!! Tonight, 2 tomatoes and 1 head of lettuce was $1.35. And we have enough left over to do a nice salad in the upcoming week. The chicken came from Costco in 2 breast packages which is perfect for the two of us. The taco shells were a pack of 10! Very economical and tasty! 


You will need:


  • 1/2 Cup  Shredded Mild Cheddar cheese
  • 1 Cup      Shredded Lettuce
  • 1             Roma Tomato Cut up
  • 4             Stand & Stuff Taco Shells (Old El Paso)
  • Chicken Taco Filling (recipe follows)
  • Other ideas for toppings: sliced avocado, sour cream, hot sauce or ranch dressing, olives, rice, beans, corn, the sky's the limit!


Chicken Taco Filling


2 chicken breasts

1 jar (15.5 oz) Tostitos Mild Chunky Salsa
1/2 packet of McCormick Original Taco Seasoning
Pour Salsa in to bottom of small crockpot. Add 1/2 packet of Original Taco Seasoning from McCormick and stir together with salsa. Put the raw chicken breasts on top of salsa mixture and use a spoon to spoon a bit of the sauce over the breasts while they are cooking to keep them moist. Cook on High for 3 hours, low for 6. Shred with a couple of forks. We like to have our chicken a little chunky rather than totally shredded.

Saturday 3/18


Using our leftovers in a NEW way.... Chicken Taco Salad





What it includes... our chicken taco meat from yesterday, sliced black olives, cilantro lime rice, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, hominy and shredded cheese and just a few salty chips. YUM! You could also add guacamole, sour cream and salsa if you wanted.





Sunday 3/19


St. Patty's Two Days Late

You will need: 


  • 3-5 lb. corned beef brisket (flat cut if they have it)
  • 1 head cabbage, cut in wedges
  • 2 cups baby carrots
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (12 oz) bottle dark beer
  • 1 stick butter, cut in slices
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 3 lbs baby red potatoes, BOILED
  • (please visit site below to see how it is made)


We wanted to devote some time to making the corned beef since it is the first time making it on the Traeger Grill. The recipe is HERE, and if you want to see the video, it is HERE and YES, ours turned out just like that!! So good you guys. Remember if you make it this way, the red potatoes need to be boiled BEFORE you put them in with the brisket.





We LOVE making sandwiches with the leftovers and even breakfast hash if there is enough. Yum, Yum!

MONDAY 3/20


We went out for a quick dinner with our daughter tonight. I had the soup of the day, Pasta Fagioli and an iced tea. (I like soup but this one missed the mark quite a bit. Way too much broth and not nearly enough "stuff" in it. It had little bits of Italian sausage, carrots, onion, garlic, macaroni noodles, a LOT of broth and I think that was it. Price? $4.39 for that little bowl! I'm feeling bad now because I could have literally made enough for 6 to 8 people with that money. Live and learn people, live and learn.....






TUESDAY 3/21


Leftover Corned Beef. This will be the last meal of this. Today its being sliced sliver thin for sandwiches for the week. I made a few new carrots and we had leftover boiled potatoes, corned beef and a toasted Dill Rye bread with butter. 


WEDNESDAY 3/22

Wednesday is our "Date Night" for the week, usually involving dinner of some kind and entertainment. But tonight, we are going to our grandsons school choir presentation. After the presentation, he was asked where he wanted to go for dinner. "Red Lobster!" His parents reined him in because Red Lobster is 1/2 away. So we got to eat at his 2nd favorite restaurant.... McDonalds! Oh Gosh, I'm not one to rock the boat especially when he was the start of the evening but wow, it was difficult finding something on the menu that I really wanted. So I just followed my husbands lead and got a #1... Big Mac with fries and a drink. 




Appetizing OUI? NO! I'm not a big fan of McDonalds even though I think they have made more changes to their menu to keep it healthy than most of the fast food chains. I didn't finish my food and we didn't do date night.

THURSDAY

We decided to see Beauty and The Beast for Date Night this week,(So GOOD you guys!!) so on Thursday night, I just whipped up a quickie smoked sausage on a bagel and macaroni and cheese. We had homemade vegetable beef soup for lunch with a TON of veggies so I didn't feel bad leaving out the veggies for dinner. Plus, Popcorn is a veggie right??!! (wink, wink)




That was our week. Thanks for joining us on this first ever, "What We Ate For Dinner This Week." 


We are getting our YouTube channel up and running so you might want to hop over there and subscribe so you won't miss any of our fun ideas. 

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoz-hWPUztXybFxf_PhutkQ

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Something For Nothing






This past weekend, our local Master Gardeners put on a clinic all about propagating plants and how best to grow tomatoes. For us, that's fun!

Propagation sounds like a big word, but I bet most of you have done something along the lines without even knowing it. If you've ever taken a fallen leaf off an African violet and put it in dirt and watched it grow into a brand new plant, that's propagation! It can be done in different ways for different plants and with different words; grafting, cuttings, layerings, plant division and others.



 We have several fruit trees, some grapes, 4 types of berries and lavender on our property and to be able to make more plants FROM them without any added expense is perfect when you are watching your budget.



Yesterday we went over to my daughter's house and took 8 cuttings off her Meyer lemon tree and I'm hoping they take. She is going to be moving soon and the lemons off this tree are DIVINE!! And you know.... it only takes 5 years until the cuttings produce fruit of their own. We are willing to wait!

Growing some or all of the fruit and vegetables you want to eat after you retire is thrifty and healthy. Fresh fruit and vegetables are probably one of the most expensive parts of a grocery trip and it doesn't matter where you live, you can grow something. Whether its in a pot by the front door, your patio, actual raised beds in your backyard, mixed in among your flowers or even on your windowsill indoors, growing food or herbs will save you money. Additionally, you can duplicate house plants, succulents and many bedding flowers FOR FREE!

We decided last year that it was worth it to pay a small fee to have a space in our local Community Garden two blocks away. In California, you can literally grow year round if you choose what you grow by its hardiness. Right now we have shelling peas, garlic, beets, spinach, brussels sprouts, kale, cilantro, carrots, turnips, potatoes, radishes and scallions there. And that is on a space about 15 ft by 30 ft. We lovingly call it our little Produce Stand. We are passionate about eating healthy food and we know how our food is grown.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your spending on groceries, give vegetable and fruit gardening a try. Your local community extension offices probably have Master Gardeners and programs too that can help you with anything from pests, to soil testing to what to grow in your area. And most of what you will learn is completely free.  I made a little VIDEO about our trip so you can see just how many people of all ages came to our propagation clinic.

Here are also some books if you are interested in getting started with propagating your own plants.

   

 



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