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Tag: finances

Three Year Blogiversary and Reflections on the Past Year

Three Year Blogiversary and Reflections on the Past Year

Oscoey’s three year anniversary passed in March and as much as I wanted to write a post about it we were dealing with Covid-19 and still adjusting to working from home, teaching our kids and being home together all the time. Oscoey was something I […]

How “Sleeping in” Until 5:30 Costs us $300 a Month

How “Sleeping in” Until 5:30 Costs us $300 a Month

I really love the idea of small changes over time adding up to huge improvements later on in life. When we first started our journey towards better financial health way back during the 2008 financial crisis we made many small changes that reduced our spending, raised […]

Our Not-So-Frugal San Francisco Trip February 2019

Our Not-So-Frugal San Francisco Trip February 2019

Mr. Oscoey and I have always loved San Francisco. We went there once many years ago by ourselves for a whirlwind 18 hour trip and had always wanted to go back but never found the time or money. Last fall (while I was laid off mind you) we heard about a screaming deal on plane tickets out of the newly opening Paine Field in our area. Our little kids had never been on a plane before and we figured that leaving from a smaller, much less crowded airport would be a good introduction and test of air travel. Our kids get overwhelmed in crowds and with all of the new experiences they would have with flying we thought taking off from a small airport with less people would help them get used to the idea. Unfortunately the government shut down at the beginning of 2019 and some of the airport permits did not go through in time so we ended up flying in and out of the much busier Sea-Tac and it ended up working out. Our kids were very excited and even though security lines were so long we almost missed our outbound flight, there were no dreaded airport meltdowns and our first plane rides were a success!

 

Sea Lions on the Pier.

We stay fairly close to the waterfront and were able to walk to a lot of destinations. Since we were close to everything the hotel was a little bit pricey but we continued our tradition of finding a place to stay with a kitchen and after stopping at Trader Joe’s we had some pretty inexpensive meals ready to go. Our kids get up at 5:00 in the morning and not many places are open at that time so we bought some milk and cereal for them to eat before we left in the morning. We also bought snacks and some bacon and spent about $30 total for 6 days worth of breakfast and snacks.

 

Bay Bridge San Francisco

The plane ride and following shuttle went smoothly but I was pretty disappointed that the kids were not more interested in watching the plane take off. They were too busy watching Octonauts…which I am grateful kept them busy during the flight. The first place we stopped was the Ferry Building where we ate the most delicious gluten-free pastries ever and walked around seeing the sites. We walked out onto a pier and got a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge. The kids were very excited and walking around got most of their wiggles out. One of the ways we saved money was by buying a Citi-Pass. With that we got into the California Academy of Science, bus/cable-car rides, a cruise of the San Francisco bay, into the Aquarium of the Bay, and into the Exploratorium. Our son is three and he was free at most of those places so we only needed three Citi-Passes for all four of us and it ended up being a good deal.

 

Aquarium Fish
Aquarium at the California Academy of Science

The second day we spent most of our time at the California Academy of Science. We loved the aquarium on the lower floor. It was so big we had to stop mid-way for lunch! Our kids love fish and the way the aquarium was organized it was easy for even my three year old to understand that they came from different places around the globe. We learned a lot about our oceans on this trip for sure!

 

Amazon Rainforest Exhibit

My absolute favorite area was the underwater Amazon Rainforest area. You can’t tell from this picture but these fish are seriously 8 feet long and it was amazing to watch them swim around overhead. I had no idea that freshwater fish could get that big!

 

Rainforest Exhibit

Part of the gigantic Rainforest Exhibit was a sphere similar to the Amazon Spheres we visited last fall only with way more plants and animals. It was much cooler and we got to see so many things with great displays that taught my kids about how coffee grows, where in the canopy different animals live and how we can protect the rainforests for the future. I am a plant person so I loved looking at the plants and got some ideas for how to lay out a garden.

 

The roof of the California Academy of Sciences.

We spent most of the day and explored a large chunk of the California Academy of Sciences, including the amazing roof but we still did not see the whole thing. We definitely want to go back next time we are in San Francisco!

 

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

Our second full day we took a boat tour of the bay. This was something that was out of my comfort zone and honestly if we hadn’t bought the Citi-Pass we never would have gone on it. I get really seasick and boats are something I usually avoid but the water ended up being pretty calm and besides being a little bit cold we ended up having a great time. Our kids loved looking out at everything and seeing where we had been from the water. We went under the Golden Gate bridge and it was eye opening to see how big it actually is up close. We also went past Alcatraz and got some great views.

 

Aquarium of the Bay

After the boat tour we went to Aquarium of the Bay which was right next door to the boat dock. Although it is a little bit small (you can do it in about an hour) it was jam packed with fun and we ended up going through the entire Aquarium twice because we loved it so much. Our favorite part was these two long tunnels that went under different types of fish. The coolest one was the shark tank! You can see sharks up close and they are swimming all around you which the kids loved. They also had a great area where you could feed rays and our daughter got to feed one which was super cool. We would definitely go back here next time we are in San Francisco!

 

Ghirardelli
Ghirardelli Square

We made a stop in the evening at Ghirardelli for some ice cream. The kids loved it! They got to eat sugary treats and we picked up some chocolate as gifts. There were shops to explore and most importantly a fountain to jump around.

 

Exploratorium

Our last full day we had coffee with a friend, went to the Exploratorium and rode the cable car. The Exploratorium is basically a gigantic warehouse with tons of science experiments. It was a lot to take in and we let the kids wander and look at what they were interested in. There was no way we would be able to do the entire thing in one day. It seemed to be geared towards a little bit older children. Our 5yo had a great time but there was a ton of reading to do to be able to do the experiments and although our 3yo had a great time I think he would have gotten more out of it if he had been a couple years older. Our favorite part was the outside exhibits where the kids could run around. The inside was pretty crowded and echoey which my kids had a hard time with. There also wasn’t a lot of room to run around since it was packed with experiments. We would definitely go back but probably not until the kids are older. ‘

That evening we rode the cable car and it was fun but we were super tired from a long week and we ended up cutting it short and heading back to the hotel to sleep. We packed a lot into our trip and even though we took naps every day we were pretty exhausted by the end of our trip.

Golden Gate Bridge
A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the beach.

Our last day we had some time in the morning so we went to the beach and hung out for a while before driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. Our kids are early risers so we were able to get there early enough that we had the beach to ourselves.  We walked around, looked at the bridge from another angle and then drove over and looked at the city from across the bay. It was a nice way to end our trip reflecting on where we had been and what we had seen.

Hanging out on the beach.

 

We had a great time in San Francisco and I am really glad we decided to rip the bandaid of air travel off with our kids. We are excited for more plane rides in the future and we are already talking about going back to San Francisco possibly next year. It is definitely one of our favorite places to go!

 

I don’t have any affiliations with the places listed below but here are links if you are curious:

 

San Francisco Citi-Pass

California Academy of Science

Aquarium of the Bay

Exploratorium

 

A Declaration of More Family Travel

A Declaration of More Family Travel

Travelling has always been something that we have wanted to do as a family but we have never actually done much of. Before we had the youngest we took 2-4 small trips a year spread between Oregon, the Washington Coast and Vancouver, BC for a […]

A not so Brief Hiatus…Part 2

A not so Brief Hiatus…Part 2

A few months back I wrote my first post after going back to work (A not so Brief Hiatus) about the gap in blogging while I went back to work. I didn’t blog for eight months last time which was almost the entire length of […]

The Dreaded Lay-off…

The Dreaded Lay-off…

A little bit ago I was laid off from the job I started last spring. It was very sudden and shocking to me but the job was not going that great and if I had not had the most dreadfully awful week I probably would not have been so upset initially but that is how it worked out. Now that I have had some time to think and have gained some perspective I am eternally grateful that I was laid off. I am now able to find a new (better) job without the pressure of of working at the same time and this is largely due to the support, advice and great financial advice I have received over the past 18 or so months from the personal finance community.

 

salmon and salad
Frugal healthy meals for the win!

You see, if I had not found the Financial Freedom movement and Mr. Money Mustache and then taken a deep dive into the personal finance community two summers ago we would have handled my new found influx of cash much more differently. We would have found all sorts of things to spend our money on and I would be in much more of a panic about suddenly having a major source of income cut off two months before Christmas. But since I have been focusing on saving and we have been living more frugally I know for a fact that we will be ok for a few months even though we are still having to pay for day care during that time. Day care spots are difficult to come by and I need to be available for job interviews so we made the decision to continue to pay for care to keep our spot.

 

I don’t miss my 60-90 minute each way commute!

Since I was laid off we have cut back on our grocery spending, reduced our savings contribution, and cut way back on any sort of extra curricular spending. Christmas will be smaller this year, although not by much for the little kids since I bought most of their presents in August and September and we have put our travel plans on hold until I find another job but honestly I am eternally grateful that we did not rely on my income to make ends meet. I was putting a large percent of my income towards debt/savings and although it is really frustrating to not be able to put more in the bank I am so happy that we were smart about how we spent the money in the first place.

 

spider web tree
Spider webs on our morning walk.

I have been taking my new found free-time to connect with friends, focus on my fitness, spend quality time with my family, and catching up on household projects. I have started swimming laps again and I absolutely love it!  I have also applied for a few jobs with companies that seem like a good fit and I hope to start interviewing in the next couple of weeks. Now that the dust has settled and I have been inspired to write again I will be posting more on the blog and I am super excited about it! I hope you are working on reducing your expenses and building your emergency fund as well!

 

How would you handle an unexpected lay off?

 

A Not So Brief Hiatus

A Not So Brief Hiatus

About eight months ago I took a break from blogging. There were many reasons, the most pressing being a complete utter lack of time while trying to maintain balance with both Mr. Oscoey and I working full-time with small kids. To say it was difficult […]

Happy Blogiversary!

Happy Blogiversary!

One Year of Blogging Done!   Last weekend was the one year anniversary of Oscoey. I can’t believe how quickly the last year has gone! I have learned a lot about blogging over the past year and gotten to know many fabulous bloggers as well. […]

An Overview of Meal Planning

An Overview of Meal Planning

Meal Planning to Save Time and Money

 

I have heard of the wonderful idea called meal planning many times over the past few years and every time I read a post about it I love the idea of having all of our meals planned out at the start of the month but quickly come to the realization that we are not that great at planning out our meals. We are very last minute dinner makers and our only “planning” is to decide what meat and vegetables we want during our weekly Costco trip and then cobble together a meal based on what else we have lying around. And let me tell you, that is after years of making a serious effort at not just going to the store the day of to buy whatever we want for dinner. I will confess that we used to go to Costco multiple times during the week, sometimes daily, to pick up one or two items (at least we were good at only getting what we needed right?) and make dinner that night.  There was no planning involved. It was all very haphazard and as you can guess we ended up throwing out a bunch of food because we would forget what we actually had at home.

 

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bread
A car full of bread!

 

I went back to work a couple of weeks ago so I thought we would try a little bit of meal planning to reduce the stress of trying to figure dinner out every night. I got a full-time job which I am really excited about but I have not worked full-time since my oldest daughter was a preteen so needless to say it will be a huge adjustment for our family. I worked very part-time before and after our 4 year old was born and quit when she was about a year to stay home and I am really appreciative of my time as a stay at home mom but it is time for me to go back to work. I did not have my act together enough to have all of the meal planning ready for all of April but we are going to try it out for a couple of weeks and see how it goes.

 

Planning Out Grocery Trips

We have made a genuine effort to cut back on our Costco trips and most of the time we are really good at going once a week now. I am still going to the store more than I would like but we have discovered that certain items are cheapest at a particular store and many of the dairy-free items we buy are not at the same store so it leads to multiple outings. Generally throughout the month I go to Target, Whole Foods, and Fred Meyer once or twice each depending on how much dairy-free milk and cheese we go through. Target has the cheapest price on the milk our kids like, Whole Foods has the best price on their yogurt and cheese and Fred Meyer has the best price on soy milk for the adults, the dairy-free yogurt I like and on Luna bars which have become a great source of protein and calcium for our kids and sometimes the only thing I eat for breakfast. The morning rush out the door for us is no joke and many times I do not have time to eat so I always keep a couple of Luna bars in the car to munch on during my morning drive.  They are also great for those morning when the kids sleep in and are too tired to eat before we leave. Hands down the family’s favorite flavor is the Chocolate Peppermint flavor. They go super fast in our house!

 

dachshund bread
So much bread our dog used it as a pillow!

 

Once every few months I make a trip to our local Franz Bakery outlet to purchase massive quantities of bread. This particular run netted me so much bread I had to do quite a bit of rearranging to fit everything in the freezer and it only cost us $19.98. It would have been $10.00 but I bought two loaves of gluten-free raisin bread for my peanut butter toast in the morning and they are sadly $5.00 each but they are way more in the regular grocery store and I was able to get an extra pack of hot dog buns out of it so it saved us an extra couple of dollars that way too. Most of it goes in the freezer as soon as we get home and we slowly work through it over a couple of months.  My kids love bagels and sandwiches on hot dog buns and at 4 for $5.00 and a free loaf of bread for every $10.00 you spend it is a bargain you can’t beat.  Having a freezer full of bread is also a great way to always have a meal on hand. You just need a few extras stored away and you are set for a week even if you have a week where grocery shopping is not in your budget. For this reason we always have peanut butter, sun butter, jam, frozen hamburger patties and some sort of meat for sandwiches on hand. Bagels can also be made easily into breakfast sandwiches with an egg and a little mayo or of course with cream cheese (we buy this brand for our dairy-free people in the house). Since I have a freezer full of bread I also have no qualms about gifting it when requests for food due to financial stress come up in our Buy Nothing group. Sadly this has become a frequent occurrence in our group and 95% of the cases are a genuine need from families that have come upon rough times with no emergency funds.

 

Meal Planning Motivation

After participating in the Uber Frugal Month Challenge this past January I was amazed at how we were cooking way too much food on a weekly basis. We still have not adjusted to having one less adult in the house and having our daughter home for an extended Christmas break threw off our cooking schedule.  In January we also ate less meat and for some reason we just didn’t need to cook more. Our fridge was emptier but we still had plenty to eat.  We only had to cook every few days and we still had extras for lunch.

 

healthy eating
Meatballs, hummus, and salad.

 

Then came February and we hit a few bumps in the reducing our food waste bandwagon. We hosted a large group of people, threw a birthday party, attended several friend’s birthdays (free lunch!), had major illness in the family and our oldest daughter was in and out for a couple of weekends and we ended up buying a lot of food we didn’t end up needing (I am looking at you lettuce I found in the back of the fridge).  I am not even sure if we made our grocery budget because I have not had a chance to look at it. Needless to say we need to make some changes and make more of an effort to reduce our food waste and stay on track with our budget. Cleaning out the fridge this week and finding tons of little containers with a mouthful of food or two was a huge motivator to be more conscious of the food we are buying.

 

Meal Planning How-to

The basic idea of meal planning is to sit down at the start of the week or month and write out a plan of what you want to eat every day. Some people get very involved and write out breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks so that they know exactly what they will eat for every meal.  There are a bunch of different ways to write out your meals and you should probably use which ever one makes the most sense to you. Some people make a spreadsheet, use a printed calendar, use a digital calendar, us a planner or even just write it out on a piece of paper and tape it to the fridge. The important thing is to look ahead and see exactly how much food you need to buy without wasting any. A lot of people do this by buying one item that can be used many different ways. For instance, we buy chicken in bulk from Costco and that is our meat for the week. One day we might have fried chicken, another teriyaki chicken, another “basic chicken” and then we would use leftovers on a salad, in soup or even as chicken salad so that the one jumbo pack of chicken lasts the whole week (or even two if you incorporate vegetarian meals as well).

 

ham
Gigantic ham for $7.50!

 

This past month we did this with a ham we bought. My husband found it at Safeway with a 50% off sign and the entire 20lb ham ended up costing us about $7.50. It was a steal! Mr. Oscoey heated it up with the sous vide so it would not dry out and then sliced a large chunk of it. We then ate it over rice with steamed vegetables, in sandwiches and also cold straight from the bag (our kids’ favorite method of consumption). He also made a delicious ham broth out of the bone and used that to make a lentil soup that also used up some carrots in our fridge. We still have a lot left that we sliced and put into the freezer.

 

Getting Started with Meal Planning

 

We are going to start our mini-meal plan adventure next week. This week we have a wonky schedule due to the flu going through our house and nobody is eating their normal meals.  Next week is Spring Break but neither my husband or I can take any time off since we were home so much with the kids this past week. On Friday I am going to sit down and finalize a plan for just our dinners for the week. We have sandwich stuff for lunches and I will just need to buy some fresh fruit this weekend and breakfast is usually toast, oatmeal or cereal with eggs. Baby steps are the key to making any change in our household!

 

Our plan will be something like:

Sunday: chicken, rice, roasted Brussels sprouts

Monday: leftover chicken, steamed peas/salad, rice

Tuesday: Leftovers?

Wednesday: chicken nuggets, steamed green beans, carb (Dance Night so we have to eat quickly and early)

Thursday: chicken cooked a new way, Beans, salad/corn

Friday: My husband usually comes home early enough on Fridays to cook dinner so I will have to see what he is thinking but I have a feeling we will be having more chicken

Saturday:  Grocery shopping day! We will see what new meat we buy for the week and go from there!

 

 

It will be interesting to see how the week plays out and how well we stick to our plan! Have you tried meal planning with any success?

 

 

Going back to work after being a Stay at Home Mom

Going back to work after being a Stay at Home Mom

Going Back to Work   Three weeks ago on a Monday marked a new day in the Oscoey household. For the first time in over three years I am no longer a stay at home mom. I went back to work and the next few […]