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Archive for September, 2017

50 meals goal wrap-up

October 1st, 2017 at 12:39 am

I thought I'd put all the new meals I've tried this year in one list! Maybe I'll come back and add more if I do them this year.

1. Tofu Swiss Steaks
2. Peanut noodles with vegetarian chicken, cucumber and green onion
3. Korean BBQ mock chicken with peapods and coconut rice
4. Pizza bowl
5. Roasted & toasted things
6. BBQ jackfruit and pickled onions
7. Grilled cheese, sun-dried tomato and spinach sandwiches
8. Breakfast ramen bowl
9. Honey sesame tofu
10. Black bean, spinach and quinoa bowl
11. Taco crescent ring
12. Biscuits and gravy
13. Ham and beans
14. Vegan crab cakes, purple coleslaw and rice pilaf
15. Pizza-style grilled cheese sandwiches
16. Lentil-a-roni
17. Curried lentils
18. Thai-style tofu wraps with potato-corn-chili-cilantro-lime patties
19. Loaded fries
20. Breakfast wrap
21. Mushroom Swiss burger melts
22. Korean beef bowl
23. Tostadas
24. Grilled cheese rollups
25. Roasted asparagus, chickpeas and shallots with soy-lemon dressing
26. Garlic toss pasta with spinach and broccoli
27. Big salad w/napa cabbage, Romaine, snap peas, cilantro, avocado, mango, tomato, chikn strips, pumpkin seeds & soy-lemon dressing
28. BBQ black bean tempeh and drop biscuits
29. Big salad w/krautsalat, pickled beets, Mediterranean rice salad, veggies & toasted nuts
30. Summer squash noodles w/tomato sauce and fresh basil
31. Beet burgers
32. Homemade pizza pockets w/crescent dough
33. Pasta with roasted veggies and vegan brats
34. Spicy Thai carrot soup
35. Vegetable soup
36. Black eyed peas with rice, vinegar-sugar cucumbers, pickled beets, pickled jalapenos, red cabbage slaw, and buttery green beans
37. Spaghetti w/tomato sauce and breaded eggplant rounds
38. Breaded eggplant and coriander chutney sandwich
39. TVP taco salad
40. TVP burgers
41. Eggplant parmesan sandwiches with spaghetti aglio olio
42. Sweet and savory grits and oatmeal bar
43. Raw corn, heirloom tomato, red bell pepper, red onion salad with balsamic dressing; veggie buffalo wings and dipping sauce
44. Honey lemon chicken and broccoli with rice
45. Taco grilled cheese sandwiches
46. Tofu fajitas
47. Baingan bharta
48. Tofu in garlic sauce with bok choi and rice
49. Seitan with 12-spice rub, mashed potatoes and roasted veggies
50. Kale and spinach salad with shredded beets, kohlrabi and carrots, toasted pumpkin seeds, baked tofu cubes and grapefruit dressing
51. Spaghetti squash burrito bowl
52. Pasta with red pepper romesco sauce, side of broccoli, spinach and chard
53. Tofurky sausages with braised red kuri squash and dirty rice
54. Tofu-cabbage-pepper stir fry with rice

Hit two goals! Plus good progress on some others

September 30th, 2017 at 09:02 pm

Today I tried a new salad for lunch, which takes us to 50 new meals tried in 2017 -- I hit the goal!

It was a kale and spinach salad with shredded beets, kohlrabi and carrots, with toasted pumpkin seeds, baked tofu cubes and a grapefruit dressing. It was awesome! I have a ton of leftover veggies which I'll either eat as salads or cook as side dishes this week.

Also today, I did our net worth and retirement calculations and saw that we surpassed my goal of $350,000 in retirement assets by the end of the year. We're now at $358,790, which I feel gives us a good cushion so hopefully we don't dip below that for the rest of the year.

Actually I feel I may have hit another goal -- to get my weight under 130 -- but that's one that I don't want to call a win until the end of the year, because it takes work to maintain. I've weighed in under 130 for the past three days, though, so I'm hopeful I can keep it up.

As for other goals, it's clear we'll hit the debt below $450K in November, and we're only $1,429 away from hitting a million in assets, so we just need the markets to stay flat in order to get there with our contributions in the next month or so.

I know I won't hit every goal this year, but I'm glad a few of them are looking more possible!

September 2017 retirement goal progress

September 30th, 2017 at 08:36 pm

Goal: $494,743 by 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $68,291, so $204,873; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2016 was $51,785, so $103,570)

Current balance: $358,790

August 2017 balance: $345,182

Progress: $13,608

Holy wow! Quite the month. We made over 10 times the gains of last month. We blew past the 2017 mini-goal of $350K. Yay! This puts us more on track to reach our goals.

To reach the bigger interim goal by the end of our birthday month (March) in 2019, that's 18 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $135,953 -- $7,553 per month -- to reach it.

Still a stretch, but seems more doable!

September 2017 net worth update

September 30th, 2017 at 08:01 pm

Assets:
NT's UK pensions:
AV: 17,967 pounds ($22,459)
SW: 20,398 pounds ($25,497)
FL: 6,462 pounds ($8,078)
NT's 401(k): $57,675
NT's Roth IRA: $23,021
AS's trad. IRA: $18,211
AS's Roth IRA: $42,588
AS's SEP IRA: $18,828
CJ's 401(k): $115,601
CJ's Roth IRA: $26,832
NT's flat: $212,500 (200,000 pounds value x1.25 -15%)
CJ/NT/AS house: $427,281 ($454,554 value -6%)
---
TOTAL ASSETS: $998,571

Debts:
US Mortgage $393,968
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,116
UK Mortgage 2 $7,191
UK Mortgage 3 $7,574
---
TOTAL DEBT $451,849

Current Estimated Net Worth: $546,722

August 2017 estimate: $532,149

Change in net worth: +$14,573

Summary: Holy cow, what a month! Last month I felt there was no way we'd get to the million-dollar mark on assets, but now it's definitely possible to do it in three more months. Since I know we're not getting to $600K in net worth, it's nice to think we might hit one more of our other goals!

Notes on the numbers above: House value estimates are approximate. (I do have my eye on a comparable listing for the UK flat, but it's been on the market a long time.) UK pension values updated about once a year. UK asset values and debt amounts are calculated figuring $1.25 for every British pound.

Money updates and ramblings

September 29th, 2017 at 06:51 pm

I've managed to reduce the deficit today by applying part ($125) of a small AS freelance payment and some other bits of money:
CapOne CC reward $13.05
Amex CC reward $25.00
9/23 grocery surplus $55.23
9/30 grocery surplus $33.01
Oct utilities budget surplus $36.80

AS had to get a Lyft Wednesday night and I ordered 2 more sets of swim lessons for the kids, so about $100 of progress was lost. Still, the deficit went from $3441 to $3138.

AS should receive a larger payment tomorrow from one of her teaching gigs, and I expect to put $688 toward the deficit, so we should be under the $3K mark soon!

I do have my WI trip coming up, with car rental, hotel and food adding to the shared spending deficit. But I'm really hoping I don't take us over $3K again.

I felt confident enough to make AS's third-quarter IRA contribution of about $1300. I usually do the third quarter on 8/31 but had kept the money in checking to make sure there was a big enough cushion to float the shared-spending deficit. Now I feel a bit better about it. I'm still holding off on depositing about $700 of reno savings; I'll keep that in checking until the deficit comes down even more.

When AS's teaching payment does come, I'll also be able to put enough away in reno savings to get our total savings (EF and reno) over the $20K mark! That'll be awesome, even though the reno savings are of course temporary.

We only managed to stay $33 under budget on groceries this week because we had to stock up on some pricier items: big bottle of olive oil, big bag of cat food, big thing of laundry detergent. Those items alone were over $30. Other grocery spending came to about $100, which is still really good and really low for us.

My work's pedometer challenge is starting Sunday, and I think I'm in really good shape to be competitive this year! Every October they have a four-week challenge to get as many steps as possible. The high stepper in each division of the company gets a gift card every week. No one person can win two weeks, so this means the biggest competitors win first and leave an opportunity for slightly less athletic people. But I've never won a weekly prize. You do also get a gift card at the end for at least getting 6K steps per day the first week, 8K the second and 10K the final two weeks, so I've always gotten that at least. But I really want one of the weekly gift cards this year!

I've been walking about 3 miles from home to work and usually try to walk a bit after work as well. I'll amp up my efforts even more starting Oct. 1. Fingers crossed! I think it's just a $50 gift card, but still, would help offset the price of a date night, which we haven't had for a very long time.

AS finished up a bunch of projects this month and invoiced, so I'm hoping October is a good money month that really gets the deficit down. We have some Halloween and other expenses coming up, but I think overall the balance is going to get a lot better over the next month, barring unforeseen expenses of course.

Three more new meals tried!

September 25th, 2017 at 05:18 am

Wow, I didn't expect this goal to go so quickly and easily, whereas some of the others I thought would be good fits with my life have sort of languished. Not like I can't make progress on them before the end of the year, but I thought I'd be farther along. But the new meals one has gone really well

Last week we got another eggplant from the CSA. I'm so not a fan of eggplant. But there is one eggplant dish I like in an Indian ready-meal pouch called baingan bharta. So I tried to make my own. I had to roast the eggplant on an open burner flame on my stove, no pan or foil or anything, just eggplant over flame.

It was a mixed result. The eggplant didn't fully cook through and get mushy (it was really big, and after a point the skin was just burning off, so I had to stop roasting it). And I was disappointed at the level of smoky flavor, which is a big part of baingan bharta. With the lovely smoky smell that was going through the house while I was roasting, I thought I'd nailed it, but I don't really taste the smokiness.

On the other hand, the spiciness and flavor are great. I've been eating it with rice, and this crunchy snack NT brought back from England that's probably best described as Indian Chex mix. It helps me get over that texture thing of the undercooked eggplant.

Then, last night I tried tofu in garlic sauce with a side of bok choi and rice. The tofu was baked on parchment paper until chewy (no fat on it, which I was amazed by) and the sauce made on the stove, then I tossed the tofu in it. I'd probably add more flavor next time (some crushed chilis and a bit more sugar) but overall it was great. Baking the tofu was awesome; I've never really done that and thanks to the new meals challenge, this is the second time (slightly different techniques and results) and they've both turned out really well. Definitely going to look into baking my tofu vs. frying it occasionally from now on!

Then tonight I put together a 12-spice kind of BBQ rub from a recipe a friend sent to me. I made a batch of my homemade seitan (wheat meat, mock duck, goes by several names) and coated it in the rub before frying in a cast iron skillet. It was really tasty! Which is good, because I have a lot of spice rub left over. I served it with mashed potatoes and oven roasted cauliflower and carrots.

So that is, unbelievably, 49 meals down and just 1 to go in order to reach my goal! I can't believe it!!

More money in than out!

September 21st, 2017 at 04:21 pm

I'm cautiously optimistic that we have some concrete progress on reducing the shared spending deficit. Good money news this week:

- NT brought back 800 pounds in gift money from his family. He exchanged it for $927 and I put half toward the deficit and half into kitchen reno savings.

- AS got paid for 2 weeks of remote teaching ($200 net) and I applied that plus October budget surplus of $314 to the deficit (minus a third which I sent to kitchen reno savings).

- I had smaller budget surpluses that I applied to the deficit (grocery $70, cellphone $6, electric bill $9) plus $15 in CC rewards.

We did have some expenses hit the deficit: a business subscription for AS $39, our monthly ACLU donation $30, a field trip for SL $20, bus pass $30, NT's taxi home from his UK trip $43, and some Lyft rides for AS to and from her night class $20.

And of course we have some known upcoming expenses not accounted for.

But overall our deficit has been reduced from $3993 to $3258 this week. Not bad!

And I haven't applied eBay sales yet. You may recall I found a bag of videogames and DVDs on the curb; I've managed to sell 5 of them so far, with prices ranging from $5 to $28, and there are still 3 games and 3 DVDs listed for a couple bucks each. For some reason that reminded me we have two no-longer-used iPods hanging around, so I listed those plus a novelty hat NT had. One iPod has already sold for $25 and the other has three watchers. In total, we look to clear over $80 so far, maybe more if the rest of these items sell. I'm waiting to deposit the money because I was unable to test the games (different system than we have), so I want to make sure no one needs to return one.

Oh, and NT got a $922 profit sharing bonus at work; it went straight to the 401(k) so it doesn't help us with our spending deficit, but it will give us a nice little net worth bump!

AS has booked even more work; she had a bit of a slump earlier in the year due to giving up my company for their slow payment, but the last quarter is going to be huge. There's a good chance she'll top $50K in earnings again this year, which was looking doubtful before.

In terms of actual payments September has been a low month, but the next three months should be much bigger in terms of checks coming in. Plus, there's still over a week left in September and I think three more payments have a good chance of coming in, making September a moderate vs. low income month.

Various money goings-on the past couple days

September 17th, 2017 at 04:39 am

Let's see, there's been a lot of little money-in, money-out activity since my last post.

I took a sick day on Tuesday simply because I hadn't gotten much sleep for a few days and it was messing me up. I have plenty of sick PTO (I rarely take even half of it) and I could see my work projects could all wait a day without burdening any co-workers, so I did it.

Felt much recovered after sleeping in most of the morning. In the afternoon AS and I went for a longish walk and ended up by a cafe she had a free beer coupon for, so we stopped in. I bought myself a glass of wine for $8. I was feeling a tad sheepish about that spending because I was already planning to go out that night and have a couple drinks with friends. But it was nice to have a leisurely drink with AS.

I got on the bus for my happy hour in plenty of time, but the bus ended up in standstill traffic, turning a 35-minute ride into 1 hour 20 minutes! And I happened to get the bus that doesn't cross the bridge to where I needed to go, so I walked across (another 10 minutes). Ended up being nearly an hour late to the happy hour. Luckily my two college alumni friends were unfazed, and we had a fabulous time. I was going to only order 1 drink but after my ordeal I had 2 drinks plus an appetizer. When I pulled my wallet out at the end, one friend stopped me; he hadn't seen either of us in about a year and wanted to pay our tabs! Phew, he saved me going about $45 more in the hole on my spending money!

Later in the week I started planning my and AS's Wisconsin trip to see my fave band. I bought tickets for both shows; I put my and AS's on shared spending since this is my 2nd solo trip (we each got 2 this year), but I also bought a friend's ticket who is joining us for one of the shows and put that on my own spending (which put me back in the hole).

Less than an hour after I booked those tickets, the band finally announced a Minneapolis show in November! I'd given up on them playing here anytime soon, which is why I wanted the WI trip. Well, I'm not going to pass up seeing them at First Avenue, the legendary Minneapolis club I saw them at last November, so I bought 3 tickets (me and NT and AS) and added that to my personal spending deficit (they're just humoring me by coming Big Grin). I'm now quite a bit in the hole again, but I'll make it up gradually!

I also got me and AS a hotel for the first night of Wisconsin ($72). I was going back and forth with my friend who works in the hotel industry and is going to join us for the second night from Chicago. I tried to find a VRBO or AirBNB place but couldn't find anything that worked. He checked his corporate discount with a chain that must be affiliated with his group of hotels, and they gave him a double room for only $59! And it's much nicer than the $72 room AS and I will be in the night before! Without his discount the cheapest I was finding was about $140 for a modest hotel, whereas this will be a nicer place for less than half the cost. Definitely worth splitting a room!

We haven't worked out whether he will pay for it or not. I've bought his show ticket, but he bought me and AS drinks the last time we saw him, so we owed him at least that. Maybe we'll buy him dinner and drinks to cover the hotel.

I did have to rent a car because my friend that was thinking about going couldn't get the time off work. So that will be about $175 for 3 days, plus gas.

That and the hotel don't get charged to the credit card until we use them, so there is about $250 not showing up in the shared spending deficit. The tickets did come out immediately.

AS got paid nearly $300 for 2 weeks of teaching at one of her college gigs, and I factored in our October budget surplus of about $300 plus about $15 in CapOne rewards. I set aside $175 for renovations but the rest went to the budget deficit. We also kept grocery spending about $70 under budget and applied that budget surplus to the deficit.

So, as it stands, the deficit is at about $3600, much better than the $3900+ we were at. Of course we have the $250 in trip costs that would technically make it $3850, but we'll hopefully get more income before those costs come due.

Meanwhile, NT is still in England. I'd withdrawn 1,000 pounds from the EF for him to use for spending money while he was there. He emailed me to check in; he felt he'd stayed under that, and his mom and grandma had each given him 500 pounds to put toward home renovations!

I checked the UK account and he'd only used about 400 of the 1,000, and had deposited 1,000 from his family, so he was technically 1,600 ahead of the game! I emailed him back that he may as well take the 1,000 back out and we could put it toward the renovation fund in the U.S. But even if he doesn't get a chance to do that, it'll be a nice boost to our EF, so I'm happy either way.

AS pointed out that we could put some of the money to the deficit! It hadn't even occurred to me since the relatives earmarked it for our renovations. But I suppose one reason the deficit is still there is because I have continued to put one-third of AS's net pay into renovation savings. So it seems fair to put part of the relatives' gift toward the deficit. We'll see how much we end up with when NT comes home (which is Monday!! Yay!).

Another interesting money thing that happened just today: Someone had left a bag of DVDs, video games and books out on the curb marked "Free." I grabbed it on the way home from the grocery store. I passed a Little Free Library and put a few books in that, then brought the rest home. I checked eBay for whichg items might sell for more than a couple bucks, and listed about 10 of them. Most for a couple bucks each, but one of the more expensive ones, a video game, has already sold for $24! So I feel like my effort already paid off enough to be worth it. If none of the others sell, I'll sock them away for the neighborhood garage sale in the spring. We already have a ton of clothes and a few toys, but it'd be nice to have some other things besides.

I was daydreaming about getting a promotion and raise today, but it hasn't happened. However, I'm still feeling good about the possibility if I keep selling my supervisor on the idea. I was thinking I'd raise NT's retirement a little and keep the rest for renovations, travel and general spending. But we'll see. If Roth IRA limits get raised next year, I'd definitely target that first. It's all speculation, anyway, at this point.

That's it on the money front, I think. NT gets home Monday afternoon; AS and I and the kids have done pretty well but I'll be happy to get the family unit back together!

More spending, another new meal (revisited)

September 12th, 2017 at 02:36 am

Hah, just realized today's entry could have the same as yesterday's! Smile

I realized aNOTHER expense I'd forgotten about, when I sleepily dropped my phone onto the sidewalk this morning. Luckily NT had put a screen protector on it, so only a small corner shattered that shouldn't affect anything. But it did remind me to order a case for the damn thing! (I did order one when I first got the screen fixed, but it was the wrong size and I returned it. Then I was on vacation for a week and just kind of forgot.)

Anyway, I quickly ordered a case from Amazon. $16.16 more to the deficit. Deficit is just over $3900. Would love to see it go down significantly soon!!

I figured out the October budget and do have a small surplus there. I might use it to book part of my Wisconsin trip (at least the tickets to the show; I'm paranoid one or both will sell out if I wait too long!) ...

Oh well. I did try another new meal tonight: tofu fajitas. Usually I use fake chicken or just veggies, but tonight I cut tofu into strips and baked it until slightly browned and chewy, while I sauteed bell peppers, onions and garlic in the cast iron. Then I threw the baked tofu into the pan and sprinkled it with Mexican seasonings. It was pretty good! On its own the tofu would've been bland, but with the veggies, and salsa, cheese and refried beans, it was a really good meal. I've got leftovers for tomorrow which is nice. I believe that's 46 down, 4 to go.

More spending, another new meal

September 11th, 2017 at 02:17 am

A couple posts ago I laid out all the upcoming shared-spending expenses I could think of for the rest of the year, but I'd forgotten that AS and I would need clothes, and that NT would probably want a refreshment at the U.S. airport before he left for England, and that the kids would want new Halloween costumes. Well today, I realized I forgot about prescriptions. AS should be good for a while, but I needed to refill three medications. And we were running low on spray sunblock as well. So, another $36 added to the deficit.

But we're still at less than $3900. AS is going to check with the one university I thought was going to pay her weekly, because we still haven't seen the payment I expected Friday. It's not a huge amount but it would be nice to know when I can expect those payments to hit.

We tried another new meal from damndelicious.com today. This was called "cheeseburger grilled cheese sandwiches," but I would call it "taco grilled cheese sandwiches" because it uses taco seasoning. Regardless of what you call it, it was fantastic. Ground beef (in our case a vegetarian version) browned, with taco seasoning added, then shredded cheese and diced tomato were added to the mix. That was the filling of the grilled sandwiches instead of just cheese. So good! I drizzled hot sauce on almost every bite. The kids were "meh" about it, but I think NT will love to try it when he gets back. Maybe I'll offer to make them regular grilled cheese next time. So that's 45 down and 5 to go on the new meals goal!

August retirement goal progress (a bit late)

September 10th, 2017 at 06:34 am

I realized I didn't do retirement goal progress on the last day of the month like I usually do. I guess because it was the last day before a holiday weekend it just slipped my mind! (Or maybe it didn't occur to me because the numbers for August were so underwhelming.) Anyway, these numbers are based on 8/31 totals, so they don't include the contributions and gains since then.

Goal: $494,743 by 2019

As a reminder, this is just an incremental goal along the way to 8x income by retirement. This mini-goal aims to get us to a milestone by the time I turn 45 and AS turns 40.

The milestone (which changes whenever our salaries change) is to get me to 3x my current salary, which is now $68,291, so $204,873; NT to 3x his, which is now $62,100, so $186,300; and AS to 2x hers, which in 2016 was $51,785, so $103,570)

Current balance: $345,182

July 2017 balance: $344,108

Progress: $1,074

We contributed more than that in August, so it was a loss overall. (At least it does still seem likely that we'll pass our 2017 mini-mini-goal of $350K before the end of the year.)

To reach the goal by our birthdays in 2019, that's 18 months, so we'd need to contribute (or have assets appreciate) $149,561 -- $8,309 per month -- to reach it.

New meals tried; couple shared spending expenses

September 10th, 2017 at 06:21 am

Friday night we tried a new salad recipe which was basically raw corn cut from the cob, heirloom tomato, red bell pepper and tamed red onion (soaked in ice water then drained), with a balsamic dressing. We had it with veggie buffalo wings and dipping sauces for the "wings." The salad was good! Nice and simple but refreshing and flavorful.

Tonight we tried another recipe from damndelicious.com, which MonkeyMama turned me on to. It's a meat heavy site so I usually use tofu or a veggie meat in its place. This time it was honey lemon chicken & broccoli with rice. I used Morningstar chicken strips. AS and I really liked it; the kids managed to get their obligatory bites in.

So that's 44 meals down and only 6 to go! At least I'll hit one of my annual goals; I've kind of fallen down on some of the others.

We had some expenses this weekend that added to the shared spending deficit, but at least we're not back up to $4K. NT left for his 9-day UK trip Friday and had snacks and drinks at the airport before his flight. All other expenses will be on the UK debit card and will come out of the UK account, but since he was still in the U.S., this one was on our Capital One card. Just $20.

AS and I tried to put together our fall/winter capsule wardrobes from clothes we already had since we're so far in the hole on spending money, but there were a few things we were missing. We went to Savers; we promised the kids they could each get a toy if they were good, which was only about $4 apiece. But they spotted the Halloween section and wanted to shop for their costumes. I realized I hadn't figured that expense in but it was something we would have gone to Savers in October for it anyway, so we let them pick out costumes.

AS and I spent about $30 each, and the girls spent about $35 each on costume + costume accessories + toy. $130.38 total. Not terrible considering AS and I typically spend a few hundred each on our wardrobes every 6 months; I should be good for the most part, and even if AS needs a couple more items, this is way cheaper for 6 months of clothes than we have been used to.

Shared spending deficit is back up close to $3900. A couple of expected freelance payments didn't come in or else it would be less. Hopefully those payments hit next week and we can see that balance go down!

New meals goal progress over the past month

September 8th, 2017 at 09:29 pm

Wow, I realized I didn't record any progress on this goal since August 3, when I cooked my 36th new meal! It's been a hectic month, but I did manage to try some new recipes, so I'm going through my revision history on my menu Google sheet to remember them all.

Meal #37: spaghetti with tomato sauce and breaded, fried eggplant. We got some of those long, skinny eggplants from our CSA. None of us are huge fans of eggplant so I always try to transform/disguise it. This time I sliced them thin and rolled in soy buttermilk and panko breadcrumbs, and we had them with pasta and red sauce. It was pretty good, considering it was eggplant! Smile

Meal #38: coriander chutney & eggplant sandwich. I had some cilantro from the CSA and hot peppers in our garden, so I made a chutney. Then I ate it in a sandwich for lunch with the rest of the breaded eggplant from dinner. I really liked this, actually!

Meal #39: TVP taco salad. In our attempts to use up the pantry to avoid waste & save money, I played with a bag of TVP (textured vegetable protein). I made taco salad where I usually buy a $4 bag of vegetarian burger crumbles, but instead I spiced up the TVP with fake-beef buillion & Mexican seasonings. I thought the kids would hate so I only gave them about a tablespoon each and put the rest in the grownups' bowls. AA requested more and was disappointed that I didn't have any. I may do this again and make sure there's enough for seconds, now that I know she likes it!

Meal #40: TVP burgers w/frozen corn on the cob. I made another recipe using the rest of the TVP. It also had minced veggies and some vital wheat gluten, as well as Worcestershire sauce & other spices. The flavor was great but I was disappointed they didn't hold together better. We had the burgers with potato salad and corn on the cob. I'd accidentally bought frozen corn on the cob from Instacart a few weeks back, so this was my first attempt using it. Yuck! I couldn't eat more than a couple bites; it was a soggy mess. We have several more packs of it in the freezer, unfortunately. I'm not sure what to do with it. maybe cut it off the cob and puree for a chowder? Any ideas?

Meal #41: Eggplant parmesan sandwiches. We got a large eggplant from the CSA, so I sliced it thin, salted to remove the bitterness, dipped in vegan buttermilk and panko breadcrumbs with Italian seasonings, and pan-fried until the coating was lightly brown and crispy. Then placed the slices on a baking sheet, topped with Italian cheeses (vegan for me), and served on a bun with fresh tomato, sauteed onion and spaghetti sauce. I put it on burger buns because we had a lot to use up. We also had a side of spaghetti aglio olio, which is essentially olive oil, sauteed sliced garlic and red pepper flakes. Our neighbors and their friend had dinner with us; no one at the table was a fan of eggplant, but we all finished the sandwich no problem. A pretty good way to use an unpleasant vegetable and not let it go to waste!

Meal #42: Grits & oatmeal bar. One thing I found while eating through the pantry was a container of grits we'd only cooked from once. So it was mostly full. Our downstairs neighbor had once done an oatmeal bar where you could add whatever sweet or savory ingredients to your oatmeal, so I tried that. I cooked a big pot of plain grits, and AS a pot of slightly sweetened oatmeal. Then I put out lots of plates and bottles: sauteed onions, sauteed peppers, chopped-up vegetarian sausage patties, vegetarian bacon, shredded cheese, hot sauce, maple syrup, brown sugar, margarine, chocolate syrup. I ended up eating two big bowls of grits with all the savory ingredients; it was delicious but I was stuffed! I loved it but the kids really didn't, so I don't know if I'd go out of my way to do it again.

That's it for now, but I've put three new dishes on this coming week's menu, so I'll make some good progress again soon! But for now it's 42 new meals tried, 8 to go!

Money updates

September 8th, 2017 at 07:21 pm

Well, I managed to scrape up some money to put toward the deficit -- $200 from an AS freelance payment, $50-$90 here and there from various line items such as keeping grocery spending and carshare rental down and skipping haircuts for a month. We managed to hold onto about $400 of those gains and the deficit is now $3700.

AS has some more small freelance checks expected this month and a TON of work booked that should get paid in the next few months. But I also see some expenses coming up in September-October that will add to the shared spending deficit:

- Swim lessons. I just booked our last paid-for lesson for this Saturday, so I'll need to buy some more.

- Lyft rides. AS has started teaching her class Wednesday nights; she buses there and takes a Lyft home. The first couple Lyfts are covered by our transportation budget but the rest will come out of shared spending. At least she can claim on her taxes, I think!

- Theater tickets. I promised the kids I would take them to a play, and there's one coming up in October that they should like. AS is going to look for a Groupon for the theater company to try and offset that cost.

- My trip to Wisconsin. I'm feeling more comfortable with the thought of spending on this and have booked the time off work, but haven't spent any money on it yet. Ideas for keeping costs down: Having my friend drive her car and just paying for half of gas; getting an AirBNB or possibly a deal on a hotel room because of a friend who works for one; packing some food to avoid eating out every meal. The tickets themselves aren't too bad; $12 for one show and $20 for the other, and I'd have to get AS tickets too, so $64 total. I may also have a bit of personal spending money by then that I can put toward the trip expenses--I've almost made up my personal spending deficit (that's also been in the red for the past couple months).

- Wedding gift for my niece. I feel bad I can't go, so I want to get her something kind of nice. Thinking $200 or so. She gets married in October and of course I have a year to get her a gift after that, so I don't have to pull the trigger right away on this expense, but I would like to get it to her in October if possible. She and her mom drove 4 hours each way on the same day to come see me and the kids during our trip to Va. in August!

- AS's mom's November visit. She's coming for a week or so around Thanksgiving, so I'm sure food costs will go up. (She's a meat eater so won't want to eat our vegan/vegetarian meals all the time.) However, this is her visit to sort of get a sense what it would be like to live in Minneapolis, so I don't think we'll go out of our way to give her a costly touristy experience. More a taste of what our everyday mundane life is like. (Yes, she is considering moving here again, which some of you may remember from a panicky post years ago. More on this later, but at least we're in a much better place mentally and financially and I'm not feeling as panicky about the thought of her coming!)

Money in, money out

September 4th, 2017 at 01:21 am

I've been working hard to lower our shared-spending deficit, but like magic, something comes up every time I manage to reduce the balance a little bit, so we're still at about $4K despite finding hundreds of dollars in the budget to put toward it.

However, I'm feeling more optimistic after this week. AS has booked a bunch more work. Some of it is up in the air as to the exact amount, but I do feel like at some point, the money will start rolling in and our deficit should go down pretty quickly. Fingers crossed some of that happens in the next couple weeks, so I can feel confident enough booking our 2-night trip to Wisconsin. We'll see! We have a friend possibly interested in coming with us, which would help diffuse transportation and lodging costs because she has a car.

We went to the State Fair 2 days in a row and spent nearly $500 total! Luckily I'd set that aside in our annual budget so the only thing that added to our deficit was ordering food delivery when we got home on the second day.

I spent some time today turning over the kids' wardrobes from summer to fall/winter. In the process I always transfer AA's outgrown/unwanted clothes to storage for when SL grows into them, and we ended up with about 75 articles of clothing that SL had outgrown or wouldn't need. I took the advice that a few of you posted on MyEnglishCastle's blog and listed some lots of kids clothes on FB garage sale. $15 for a batch of size 4 clothes and $20 for a batch of 5/6 clothes. I have no idea if they'll sell but I figure it doesn't hurt to hold onto them for a couple days and then donate them if no one is interested. We got most of the clothes for free in the first place, via hand-me-downs and grandparent gifts, so it's no loss if they don't sell.

Raise/promotion talks have gone nowhere at work since they switched my reporting structure around and my direct supervisor has been insanely swamped. But we have a check-in this coming week, and I've been getting rave reviews from important people over the past month, so hopefully she has time for our touch-base and I can ask her where we should go from here now that the guy we were going to talk to isn't in charge of us anymore.

AS recently got an offer of a LOT of work from a guy I used to work with who now works elsewhere; I put AS in touch with him when she went freelance and she's done several projects for him. She suggested maybe there was so much work that he'd need even more freelance help, so I asked her to mention me to him. If I could squeeze in some freelance work while I'm slowly trying to nudge my work into giving me more money, that would be a great boost in the meantime. I know he pays really well!

I transferred 1,000 pounds from UK savings to UK checking in preparation for NT's trip. He's hoping that will suffice for his remaining trip expenses. He leaves Friday for 10 days. He's staying with family and friends and taking public transport when not being driven around. So other than a few bus/train tickets and food and drink (and stuff he wants to bring back like HP sauce and PG Tips teabags), it shouldn't be an over-the-top vacation in terms of spending. I'm hoping people cook for him and/or buy him meals once in a while! Big Grin

Anyway, that brings our EF down to $6,000. But if he can manage not to take any more out, and the flat doesn't require any repairs in the next few months, we should be at our $10K goal by about May 2018.

But, I'm braced for curveballs that throw us off course, because it's been that kind of year! I'm hopeful but realize things may not go the way I want.

September 2017 debt payments

September 3rd, 2017 at 10:10 pm

All our mortgage payments hit:
US mortgage: $703 to principal
UK mortgage #1: $183
UK #2: $39
UK #3: $40

All told, that's $965 toward principal

New debt balances:
US Mortgage $393,968
Loan from friends (duplex) $9,000
UK Mortgage 1 $34,116
UK Mortgage 2 $7,191
UK Mortgage 3 $7,574

TOTAL DEBT $451,849