Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Exciting News!

 I had a new recipe to post but I decided to submit it to a recipe contest a couple weeks ago, so I could not publish it. And...I'm a finalist!!! I will be traveling to Eugene and cooking in the 2012 Northwest Cooks Competition. I am so excited to do this and have been practicing my dish.

In other news, Z. and I returned from an amazing trip to San Francisco. I am writing about all the amazing things we did (and heard!) and the great food we tried. I think we have frugal adventuring down to an art and will share our frugal travel tips.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Cheapo Cheapens Challenge: Week 9

Week 9: June 10-16

I feel a slow transformation taking place. I am less anxious about this project and my budget. I am thinking more reflectively about how I spend money and where it is going.

I think there are several reasons for this more positive outlook. Before I started this challenge, I was living within my means and saving. I just want to be be able to do more with what I earn.

Secondly, the iXpenselt app on my iPhone has been incredibly helpful. I mentioned this app in past posts but I have started to more fully use its functions. I always have my phone with me, so it is not a big deal to enter an expense immediately after paying. I can quickly and easily create reports looking at overall spending or more specific areas. And, because it's on my iPhone there is a slight game-like quality to tracking my expenses.

Let's say I am looking at the report for my food expenditures, I can even look at a page that lists every transaction with that label. A very easy way to see how often you are eating out, an incredibly quick and easy way to spend lots of money.

Z. and I had a dinner last week that reminded me of the importance of finding meaningful ways to feel like you are indulging. My weakness is junk food and restaurant food. I know myself. Once I've been eating junk food or restaurant food, I start to crave it and our home-cooking doesn't sound as appealing. Last Saturday was spent indulging in Eugene at our favorite salad bar at Track Town Pizza. Monday night rolled around and we didn't feel like cooking. All our suggestions centered around going out. We both knew that wasn't the best idea so we decided to go pick up the groceries we needed anyway from the Market of Choice and hopefully have an idea of something to make at home while wandering around. It took us awhile but we finally settled on getting two amazing ciabatta rolls from the bakery and have Simple Sammies with the Tillamook cheddar waiting for us at home. We spent a little over $2 on a delicious meal that felt pretty luxurious, rather than the minimum $8 we were thinking of spending. It was tough but we made it through. It's these silly little accomplishments that add up.

And, in exciting non-frugal news, we are leaving for San Francisco on Thursday! We are going to see the symphony and the opera. And, drink lots of Blue Bottle americanos.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Recent Favorite Recipes

Z. and I have been making Pineapple-Coconut Smoothies for a few months now. We love the cold, fruity flavor at the end of the day, waiting for the cool ocean air to make its way to the valley and chill the air. Just keep in mind, the following recipe makes enough for 2 people.

Variation: Add 1/2 cup yogurt to the blender.Yum!

Pineapple-Coconut Smoothie

by Ace Nation
Keywords: blender pineapple coconut milk

Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 1 tray of ice cubes, about 2 cups
  • 1 cup pineapple juice, or 1 can Trader Joe's pineapple juice
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
Place all ingredients in a blender.
Process until smooth.
Serve immediately.
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A second recipe Z. and I have enjoyed recently is Marinated Cauliflower Salad with Chickpeas, which was inspired by our Pasta Salad. One of my favorites parts of this salad is the transformation of some of the vegetables, like cauliflower. With a little time marinating, the cauliflower becomes more tender.

Variation: Turn this side dish into a meal by combining 1 cup of salad with some bean thread noodles. Healthy and delicious!


Marinated Cauliflower Salad with Chickpeas

by Ace Nation
Keywords: raw gluten-free vegan beans/lentils cauliflower

  • 1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to marinate int he refrigerator for at least one hour.
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Cheapo Cheapens Weeks 6-8

Week 6: May 20-26
Week 7: May 27-June 2
Week 8: June 3-June 9

  • I became incredibly frustrated with myself by the end of Week 6. I was so frustrated I could not bring myself to share. I went over my budgets and I felt ridiculous that I kept putting off making decisions of what my budget would really look like. After many talks with Z. about this, he made me realize that all these separate budgets were not going to work. What would work best would be to set a budget that included groceries, trips to the farmer's market, and eating out. So, I am giving myself $100 for everything. June is here. My steady employment ends soon. I get my last paychecks at the end of the month. Regardless of my work situation, I will not get my next real paycheck until the beginning of October. There is absolutely no reason why I should be spending more than $100.
  • Part of my frustration with my previous grocery budget is that I did not know how I would manage those grocery trips where we stocked our pantry. This last week Fred Meyer had a sale on canned beans and tomatoes; we found a deal on canned corn, as well. So, between the two of us, Z. and I bought about 32 cans of beans and tomatoes and about 15 or so cans of corn.
  • While I have been using manufacturers coupons, I have been using coupons from restaurants and consumed four free smoothies or frappes. When fast food restaurants unveil a new product, look for coupons or deals where you can try the item for free.
  • I love my students. One of my programs came to an end and some students had presents for me, including gift cards for Starbucks and Coffee Culture! I am set for the summer.
  • I did spend a lot of money yesterday down in Eugene on summer clothes. I now own obnoxious blue pants and I love them.
  • I have been using iXpenselt consistently and entering everything I spend into the app. June is the second month I have been doing this. This has been a great aid in helping me become even more thoughtful about my purchases and where my money is going.
What Did I Learn
  •  Not to be too proud to admit your mistakes and keep moving forward. The reason some people are able to save their money is because they save, over and over. Wealth is not accumulated by making good choices for one month.
  • Changing habits takes time and persistence.
What Can I Improve
  •  I need to keep writing even when I feel like I have hit a wall. Here is an opportunity to see something through.