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 […]
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 […]
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 weekend or so with a relatively tight budget. Our cheapest trip was probably the first one we took with our oldest and our two dachshunds (Oscoey’s namesakes) to Cannon Beach where we stayed for two nights for under $300.00. Our budget was very tight for so long that when we finally started having a little bit extra real travel was so far out of our minds we just continued to take the same trips until we had to take a break.
Our younger kids also really enjoy a pretty set routine and traveling threw them way off so we decided to take a break until they were old enough to communicate better with us. It is much easier to find out what is bothering a three year old versus a one year old and waiting cut down on traveling with crying children which is not very fun.
We love the Oregon Coast and Portland. They are some of our favorite places to go and it is pretty easy to find pet friendly accommodations. We have not taken George yet but Zoey loves the beach and is like a puppy again running around in the sand. If you go slightly north or south of Cannon Beach and book kind of last minute you can usually find a decent Airbnb with a kitchen for a reasonable price. We are super frugal and cook our own meals when we are on these short weekend trips and that drastically cuts down on the cost. We basically spend in food for our trip exactly what we would have spent at home for groceries plus maybe $20 extra for special treats such as chips, a small amount of candy and maybe ice cream one night as a treat. You don’t have to spend a lot on food to make a trip special. Just buy something you wouldn’t normally buy and that makes it special in your kid’s eye. Hint: Pringles are never present in our house but I always buy a can before a beach trip and the kids love it!
Our first big trip as a family (sadly without our oldest) was to San Francisco in February. We had been talking about going for a long time and then when we heard that Paine Field was opening up and that tickets were ridiculously cheap we decided to take the plunge. I was super nervous since it was the kids’ first plane ride but we ended up having an awesome time! Look for a future post on our not so frugal trip to San Francisco! The most important part about San Francisco was that it proved that we could finally start broadening our reach when it comes to travel. Our kids did great and although we were all exhausted the last day we came back with so many memories and it expanded our kids’ world so much I would do it again in a heartbeat. The shared experience of the trip was a huge bonding moment for our family and brought us out of the winter funk that we were in with the endless cycle of school, work and weekends filled with housework and birthday parties. None of those things are done alone as a whole family and spending several days alone together was priceless.
This spring we took a short trip to Eastern Washington which is something we have wanted to do for several years but it never “worked out”. This year with my new determination to actually take some of the trips we have been talking about I decided we were just going to do it and see if it worked. The drive was about five hours for us which is the longest our kids have ever been in a car and I fully admit my expectations for the amount of crying we would endure were pretty dismal. Luckily our kids did pretty well. Our son was a little bit cranky for the last bit on the way home but otherwise he was able to sit still (with breaks) for the whole trip with minimal fussing which was a huge relief!
One of our stops was the Petrified Forest on the Columbia River. I was really excited to go hiking and explore but the weather ended up being really yucky and cold which we were not prepared for so we ended up walking around the visitor center for a little bit and then heading home. Our kids were tired from swimming that morning and not impressed with rocks that used to be trees but driving out there again would make an excellent day trip so we plan on going back at some point. We haven’t done a lot of exploring around our state with the younger two kids but several trips are definitely on our radar.
We also made it out to the tulip fields this spring. We hadn’t been in a couple of years and I put it on our calendar so that we would remember. Usually we go to Roozengaarde but this year we ventured to Tulip Town since the owners are retiring and it may be the last year. Going to the tulip fields this year inspired me to start thinking about Holland as a travel option. We are a few years away from International travel (besides Canada) and I know it will take a while to plan so I am starting to gather ideas.
Overall our Declaration of More Travel has gone well. We are headed to Victoria, B.C. this summer and most likely will do our traditional beach trip at the end of the summer. I am already looking ahead towards Thanksgiving and Christmas break. At some point this summer I want to sit down as a family and make a list of where we want to go in the next year. Bringing the kids in as part of the process makes it fun for them and I might even start talking about how to create a travel budget as part of our goal to have financially literate children and because our 5yo really, really wants to go to Hawaii and that is going to be a very expensive trip for sure!
I wish we hadn’t hesitated so much about taking our kids places but in reality the timing has worked out perfectly and I am really glad we are now becoming a family that travels, even if it is mostly free local day trips. Building memories doesn’t have to be expensive!
How are you getting your family out more and exploring your world?
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 […]
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 […]
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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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!
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.
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).
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
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 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 […]
I have been taking a break from the blog the past week or so and just been interacting a little bit on Twitter. I thought I would stop in and talk a little bit about end of life planning. One of my close relatives is […]
We have come to the end of our Uber Frugal Month Challenge and we were pretty successful! We kept to our super low grocery budget, were mindful about our purchases and had some great discussions about where we want our life to head and what we need to do to get us there. Even though we had an expensive month with a hot water heater replacement and unexpected car repairs we were still within budget on the expenses we were focusing on.
One of our main focuses this month was our food. I am sure that if you have been following my posts on Instagram and Twitter displaying some of the meals we have eaten that we tend to eat the same thing over and over again. That is one of the ways we save money. We bought a huge chunk of pork from Costco and my husband broke it down and made several things out of it including breakfast sausage, garlic meatballs, and what we call basic cooked pork which is pork cooked in a pan with salt and pepper. Basic cooked pork is very versatile and you can add it to all sorts of dishes such as salads, burritos, over rice, in sandwiches and anything else you could think of. We also ate much healthier this month with many vegetables and more vegetarian meals which I am proud that our meat-loving family was able to do with very little fuss. Our goal was to spend $500 on groceries for January and we ended up spending $430.36! We did this without creating a large deficit in our pantry either and made sure to stock up on our basics as we ran out of them. Too many people fall into the trap of cutting way back on groceries one month and then over spending the next because they run out of basics. We will probably need to buy a few such as rice, flour and more vegetables next month but we are not out of “everything” so we should still be able to keep within our budget. Yay!
One of the things we also did to be Uber Frugal was to cut back on our outings from the house that cost money. This was pretty easy for us since our kids spent most of the first half of January miserable with colds but it did lead to some mischief making due to antsy children. We did purchase a membership to the Pacific Science Center which we will be using regularly and will give us a discount on summer camps but for us the $140.00 over the course of a year was well spent. Sundays there is free parking and we always pack a lunch so the cost per visit if we go only 6 times this year will be less than $25 for our family of four (oldest will have to use free guest passes when she is in town) which comes out to a little over $5 per person which isn’t bad at all. The more we go the better the deal too!
When we were doing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge we noticed that we spent quite a bit of money on clothes last year so part of our focus this month was to reduce that. We were able to score some brand new thick leggings for our daughter and a bunch of clothes for our son in the next size up from our local Buy Nothing group. We also passed on some clothes that our kids have outgrown and other household items that we no longer needed. I am a huge fan of the Buy Nothing Project! We have both given and received some awesome items from the group. Our group has bonded quite a bit and there was even a meetup this month for group members that we missed but I am super excited to make the next one.
Another frugal activity I participated in was walking this month. I have a friend that I walk with pretty regularly but we had gotten out of the groove with the holidays and sick kids. We made an extra effort this month and were able to meet almost weekly for our 2+ mile walk through a nicer neighborhood with plenty of gorgeous views. Fitness is a huge part of being frugal because when you are unhealthy it will cost you more in health expenses. Walking is a great free activity and it also gets you out getting to know your neighborhood.
My biggest takeaway from this month’s challenge was how creative being Uber Frugal made us. We ate some interesting meals and had great fun thinking outside our box with taking the kids for a walk in the rain, reducing our clothing spending and figuring out how to reach our financial goals on paper. We were previously stuck in a spending rut and this month’s challenge was an awesome way for us to get out of it. I am excited for all of our frugalness next month and to see how it will change our spending over the long term.
How did the Uber Frugal Month change your habits?
We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]