Archive for June, 2013

Small Step

IMG_0408The other week I was looking at my CSA packing slip and I saw a section I had never noticed under “Special Items.”  “No plastic,” the checkbox said.

Huh, I thought. And I emailed my lovely CSA and said, can I request no plastic in my box? What’s the deal? And they said, of course.

So this box all my veggies came loose, with the tomatoes and peppers and green beans packed in paper sacks. Less plastic with the most minimal of efforts.

Related news: I have a loooooot of tomatoes. Is it worth the effort putting up just one jar of tomatoes? Probably I will just roast them and freeze them, but I do want to can some tomatoes this summer.

Monthly Challenge: Let’s (Not) Dine Out: Week Two

This week was such a cheat, as Jeff and I both traveled with family and I can hardly consider a week in which I ate at Torchy’s Tacos twice a reduced-consumption week. (I am very glad I don’t live anywhere near a Torchy’s Tacos as that queso is my new kryptonite. Anyway.) It reminded me of two things- my kids looooooove to eat in restaurants and, um, so do I. Which is why the end goal of this challenge is not to never eat in restaurants- just to make our restaurant dollars count.

I did find that the whining for cake pops and frozen yogurt and other treats was reduced once we got home- I am hoping that by making it less of a regular treat we’ll make it more meaningful and reduce the whining for it. We’ll see.  Also that I compensated for some of my own dine out treats (lattes and Sunday night tea) by giving myself a home pedicure and paying for those out of the “Hannah” category, not the “restaurant” category– so perhaps when the kids get allowances they will blow them all on cake pops and Yogurtland.

Regardless, here at the halfway mark in the month we have only used 25% of our restaurant budget. I am a pretty lame budgeting nerd because I am excited about the prospect of what to do if we don’t use it all by the end of the month– roll it over to next month? Have a family lunch adventure? Additional date night? Distribute it to other budget categories? A little restraint here has the potential to lead to more possibilities down the road. This is why I get excited about budgeting.

Reading Log, Monthly Challenge Tie-In edition

Turns out I’m just keeping up with the youths:

…millennials tend to spend their dining dollars sparingly and in a more calculated way.

“People have talked about health and food for a long time, but I think millennials are acting on that information in different ways,” Mr. Pace said. “They want healthy food, but it also has to be interesting food that tastes good.”

Monthly Challenge: Let’s (Not) Dine Out- Week One

I am pleased to report a smashing success in this challenge so far, although it has not been without its difficulties.

Jeff took the boys out to In-n-out last Saturday and texted me apologizing, promising to take his lunch to work twice the next week to make up for it. I was like, ha ha, I win, because I had factored in one weekend boys’ meal out when doing the budget (it was a planned out in the original challenge).

Of course, the next day I was not so smug because Jeff offered to take the boys for a haircut- which they Pavlovianly associate with a Yogurtland trip after. Fortunately for all of us there was a four hour long congregational meeting at church Sunday afternoon, making the tough call of saying no to Yogurtland unnecessary. (Never has anyone been so excited about four hours spent debating the merits of using the accrual vs. cash system of accounting! I still don’t know what either of those are but boy do people have opinions.)

The rest of the week turned out to be pretty smooth sailing. James ASKED to get a cake pop and the boys brought up the idea of supper in a restaurant quite a lot but I just smiled and said no. So far we are 6% in to our restaurant budget category with 3 weeks to go. Nice work!

(Next week is partly a big cheat- we are visiting family- but I am going to try to not get any airplane/airport snacks or treats, which I anticipate being even harder than saying no to the suggestion of Mulberry Street pizza for dinner.)

Using Up the CSA Haul: 5/30 Delivery

You know what is a particularly sad California problem to have? Too many avocados. In case you were wondering, six is too many for a family of 4. Life is hard sometimes.

Here was the last week’s box:

  • 1 honeydew melon
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 head leaf lettuce
  • 6 avocados
  • 1 eggplant
  • 6 gypsy peppers
  • new potatoes

The new potatoes were the easiest to use- I made home fries for Sunday’s breakfast-for-dinner. (I added two of the gypsy peppers, diced, along with the onion.) I made a black bean and roast gypsy pepper and avocado salad with the lettuce and one of the avocados, and then put some more of the avocado in sandwiches and on top of eggs on toast and everywhere I could think of.

The melon and strawberries we just ate as snacks, and the pattypan squash were amazing with chickpeas. I could have traded half the avocados for some more of the squash. (I also figured out that you can get perfectly cooked chickpeas with no fuss in the crock pot so I made a huge batch and now have a well-stocked freezer full of garbanzo.)

The last of the gypsy peppers were sliced and put into a cruet with some cider vinegar- pepper vinegar for the summer. (The cruet did involve a trip to HomeGoods which is pretty much the antithesis of this whole blog’s philosophy- a whole store full of crap you don’t need and probably wouldn’t buy if it wasn’t on “sale.” But even I will compromise my integrity for a pretty $3 cruet.)

Gypsy Pepper Vinegar

Gypsy Pepper Vinegar

I made an old favorite, Mark Bittman’s eggplant and scallions with miso rice with the eggplant. And, um, I still have some leftover avocado in the fridge. I think I will make this hummus.

Too much avocado is totally an annoying California-CSA problem, right? What produce have you gotten too much of lately?

Monthly Challenge: Let’s (Not) Dine Out

Let’s Dine Out on KVCR

Let’s Dine Out is not only one of our favorite local tv shows but also an unofficial family motto, I think. We don’t eat out every day but we definitely eat out more than once a week (especially if you count trips to Yogurtland or Menchie’s as dining out, which I do since they fall in the YNAB “Restaurant” budget category.)

It’s not that I want to never eat out- but I do want to be more mindful about where our restaurant money is going. I had started bribing James with a Starbucks cake pop far too often, for instance. The boys had been doing brunch out with Jeff on Saturdays *and* family brunch on Sundays. The bottom line is that we regularly overspend in our restaurant budget category despite the best of intentions. I’d rather have one quality/adventure family meal and one date night dinner each month, and while that *should* fit into the budget, the Yogurtland/Starbucks/etc. really eats into our restaurant budget. (“Eats into” it, ha ha ha.)

So this month my goal is simple: to stay under our restaurant budget for the month. I have a few strategies in place:

  • pack Jeff’s work lunch once a week
  • no yogurt/cake pop/other food treats during the week (I am leaving room in the budget for Jeff to take the boys out on Saturday mornings but am going to encourage them to do the park plus donuts vs. a full meal out.)
  • family swim on the weekends instead of family brunch out.

At the end of the month *if* we’re under budget we’ll plan a fun restaurant outing.

The main thing working in my favor is that we’re spending almost a whole week this month in Texas with my family. The main thing working against me is Jeff- it is hard to get him on board with these little projects of mine. I probably should have started with the grocery category (our other chronically overspent category and the one I have pretty much sole control over), but we’ll see.

How often do you eat out? Do you pay attention to where your restaurant money goes?