A frugal weekend

We are finally getting some sun here in Connecticut after a cold, rainy spring. This weekend, I had a lot to do. Now that tax season and the spring semester are over and my summer class is running, I’ve got some time to get some things done around the house.

Homemade pastaFriday and Saturday, I did some cooking and prep for the week. I made a double batch of enchiladas. We had some for dinner on Friday night and I’ve got another pan for dinner tonight or tomorrow night. I also made some spaghetti, with my KitchenAid Mixer and pasta attachment. This pasta is half whole wheat. My husband is not a fan of whole wheat pasta but when I make pasta with whole wheat flour in it, he will eat it. I also made fresh tomato sauce, which I’ve found my husband will eat pretty much anything if I cover it in tomato sauce. salad

I also had a ton of lettuce in the fridge so I decided to make a big salad for the week. If I have salad in the fridge, I’ll eat it for lunch and with dinner but if I don’t prep it, my lettuce will go bad before I find time to eat it. I add shredded carrot and celery to the salad plus I cut up a red pepper so I can have salad very quickly. Salad makes me happy. I even made Russian dressing. Making the salad and pasta took about 2 hours on Saturday. I made the pasta first and while it was drying, I made the salad, the tomato sauce and cleaned up the kitchen a bit.

Saturday, I also planted my garden. I plant a tomato sauce garden (I’m a bit focused on Italian food). We planted four types of tomatoes, two types of peppers, four types of herbs and cucumbers. I promised my husband that I would not put cucumbers in the sauce. The cucumbers are for my salads which make me feel better about all the Italian food we eat. garden

I’m not the greatest gardener in the world but I do okay. We should have enough tomatoes to make sauce that will last about a year. We paid $24 for the plants which should save us a few hundred dollars that we would have spent on produce and sauce. With the rising price of groceries, I think it’s a decent investment and it gives me something to do outside in the summer to get me away from the computer.

helicopters

Speaking of outside, am I the only one who goes insane when the helicopter seeds start falling from the trees? They are everywhere! On the ground, on the deck, the lawn and all over my floors in the house. Sunday, I decided I should probably vacuum the hundreds of helicopters that have infiltrated my house.

I HATE cleaning. It is probably my least favorite thing in the entire world. To keep myself going, I decided to see if Pandora had some music to keep me distracted. I found an awesome channel called 80’s Cardio in the workout section. That channel got me through four hours of cleaning and laundry. FOUR HOURS! I don’t know that I’ve ever spent four hours cleaning in a single day. I must say that cleaning is much more fun dancing out to Young MC.

My husband let me know that while I was jamming out with my headphones on, two of our neighbors were talking to him in the driveway and heard me singing Bon Jovi while dancing like a crazy crazy. Hey, at least I was productive even if the neighbors do think I’m nuts.

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I did so much laundry yesterday that I had to make more laundry detergent. Yeah, I make that, too. I told you it was a frugal weekend. I love how the soap curls when you shred it. Hey, after cleaning for four hours, soap curls would amuse you too!

By Sunday night, I was sore from all the dancing, gardening and cleaning. I was pretty pleased with all the progress I had made. The house was relatively clean, a lot of the laundry was done, food was prepped for the week and I even had a few dinners in the fridge for the week. I went to bed feeling very pleased.

I woke up this morning and the first thing I saw when I entered the kitchen: more helicopters.

more vacuuming in my future!

I see a lot more vacuuming in my future!

Did you do anything frugal this weekend? Do you listen to music when you clean? What keeps you going when working on a task you hate?

A meal plan experiment: Cook twice, eat all week

As I mentioned a number of times on the blog, Jeff and I have crazy schedules. Trying to put together a meal plan has been somewhat difficult do to all of our meetings and obligations. Making sure we always have leftovers to bring to work for lunch has also been hard.

This week, I decided to try something different. Sunday night, I made a good-sized lasagna; Monday night, I made stew. Since I had meetings Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I wasn’t home to make dinner but Jeff and I were able to eat leftovers all week long. We were also able to take these leftovers to work for lunch. Having two of our favorite dishes made it easier not to get bored with the food. We even had stew tonight for dinner rather than making something.

This may not be something I do every week but for those weeks that are especially busy, this was a great option for us. I even made braided cheese bread which was beautiful and delicious. It’s probably the best bread I ever made. It looks complicated but it’s actually very easy. We ate that with the stew and was good even tonight. I took my slice and put it in the toaster for a few moments on low. It was wonderful.

Sometimes making a few large recipes for the week is a great way to go when you know you are going to be super busy. I think after all the take-out we ate the week before, home-cooking was a welcomed change.

Why do you eat out?

The bane of our budget the last few months has been eating out. It breaks my budget every month. Luckily, there is usually slack in my grocery budget and it all evens out, but I’d love to be able to take some of that cash and add it to my debt snowball. In order to get that budget under control, I started to look at why we were eating out.

Most of the time we were eating out because we were running errands and didn’t eat before we left the house. We’d stop for fast food or something inexpensive somewhere while running errands. Am I the only one who thinks that fast food is getting ridiculously expensive? Seven bucks for a value meal? Really? But I digress… so we were spending a lot of money because we were not prepared. Since I’ve identified this problem, we’ve either eaten before we go out or I’ll plan something quick to make when we get home.

Other times I just don’t feel like cooking something. That doesn’t happen often but it does happen. I’ve now got stuff on hand to make a ton of quick meals that either my husband or I can make. Having a meal plan helps but having back up plans, like grilled cheese or an awesome salad is a budget lifesaver. Hell, even keeping a couple boxes of mac and cheese is a cheap way to fill your tummy without breaking the bank (note to self: we are out of mac and cheese).

A few times, not very often anymore, there were foods that I just loved that I didn’t make at home.  Pizza was one of those things, until I found Kristen’s recipe. I found this about two or three months ago and I think we’ve only had takeout pizza once since then. I make it every week to cut out my husband’s pizza cravings. I’ve also remembered to mix in recipes Jeff really loves, like my chicken marsala (recipe can be found on the recipe page of this site). I made it this weekend and it was a huge hit. Figuring out how to make our favorite foods has really helped us save a lot of cash. Have you tried to go out for chicken parm or chicken marsala recently? Wow, that’ll cost you. The chicken marsala I made this weekend cost us… are you ready for this? Less than $3. Not per serving but $3 total (Chicken $2.00, can of mushrooms $.25, clove of garlic $.10, half a box of pasta $.33, Marsala wine $.30, flour and seasonings were all on hand = 2.98). That’s a $40 dinner if we went out.

So if you think you are eating out too much, think about why you do it. Plan a strategy for eating out less and watch those savings pile up.