Monday, November 30, 2009

You Have To Keep Looking

Earlier this month I did a much needed clothes shop. I did a purge of my closet of the clothes that don't fit. Some went to Goodwill, some went to the consignment shop, others went into the trash. I had not been having much luck at my 2 local consignment shops, pickings had been slim, hence the mad shop at the Mall.

Over the weekend I did stop by and low and behold, I found two tops in the colors I wanted and both in very good shape. I paid a whopping $6 for two tops that are much needed in my clothes rotation. One top looked almost brand new. The key to consigment/thrift store shopping is to keep going back. The inventory can and does change. I was pretty darned happy to find the two tops and I still have $25 left over for my clothes budget for the remainder of the year. Even better, I avoided going to the Mall and dealing with all the Holiday shoppers!.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Frienemy Update

My volunteer project with my frienemy comes to an end today! I am very happy about that. And I'm happy that I won't have to interact with them on any sort of a regular basis until maybe sometime next spring, if that. I'll just be fussier about my next volunteer project.
Part of me feels bad that our friendship is over, in a manner of speaking, but a bigger part of me is relived not have to deal with the BS anymore. Maybe my BS tolerance has dropped; maybe I'm finally growing up? Who knows?
There is a part of me that still can't get over the fact that I seemed to crave this person’s attention and recognition. I guess we truly never leave high school do we?

I think one issue I had getting rid of the frienemies and toxic people is that I've become pickier as to whom I'll let in my life. At least with the old set, I knew their issues and could deal with them. The new ones, well, I just kind of wonder at times if I have the energy to deal with new friends.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Contest Winners!


The winners are

Shevy for Starbucks Card and LJ for the Target Card

LJ, if you don't have a Target near you I will happily send you a Starbucks card

Look for my e-mail to you so I can get a mailing address.

I won't be running a contest in December, but will do one in January.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Loving ALDI

I did my food and holiday shopping over the weekend and I have to repeat again for the 100th time, that I'm really like the local ALDI. I have to remember to shop there more often. Iwalked out of ALDI the other day with three big bags of grocery items for less than $30. I walked out of the grocery store with two small bags and $37 poorer.

They have a bunch of seasonal specials ( or at least they do in my store), brie cheese at 1/3 the cost of the local chain grocery store, the basic dairy items are at least 1/2 less expensive than the local grocery store. I've been pretty impressed with the quality of the pantry staples. I've been having to shop for two kitchens, my own and the one at the weekend job. I have kitchen privileges at my weekend job, no one seems to take the food from my assigned shelf, so I've been slowly bringing things like pasta, beans, spices, canned soups, etc. I had fallen into the habit of going into town for lunch on a more than regular basis, instead of an occasional treat, it was becoming the norm and it was getting expensive. I don't mind going into town for a coffee, but eating all my meals out, was getting pricey. So back to bringing leftovers and keeping some basics at the farm. Plus I now set aside one night to cook a "real meal", shamelessly watch cable TV while eating my dinner and then I take the leftovers home for lunch.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Frienemies, we all have them.  They are those people in your life that you still hang out with that are a bit toxic or are bad for you Karma. 

I have a couple freinds that have made the transition from friend to frienemy.  I'm a glutton for punishment as I can't seem to get them out of my life or completely let them go.  This is something I need to work on because it has caused me a ton of aggrivation this past month dealing with a "friend".  I've been interacting with them for a volunteer project and this recent spell of 'togehterness' has firmly reminded me the reason why we drifted apart. Yet I keep finding myself responding to invitiations for drinks or coffee out.    This particular person is very good at giving out compliments covered in poo.  IE- We are working on this volunteer project, I know I did my part really well, yet the compliment that I got was Oh lovely, but .........

Yikes, let me tell you, I will be very happy when this project is done and dusted.

Cooking at Home Can Be Expensive, Here's How to Avoid the Expense

A while back someone had commented in my blog that she had a whopping failure cooking soup at home and my response was to direct them to another web site. Not cool of me. It was a flip answer in hindsight.

For people who are having to forgo eating out and eating in, they may not have the skills to cook at home. Like many things, cooking is a skill learned. Most people are not born being great chefs or cooks. Plus, unless you are used to cooking at home, it can be expensive to start out. The key to making low cost meals is not to use the cheapest ingredients, but to make sure you have a stocked kitchen with the items that you need to make your meals.

I strongly suggest that if you are trying to give up eating out, buying take out or ready made meals that you don't go all Martha Stewart and try to cook fabulous complicated meals unless you are a practiced cook. Start with the basics.

When my ex BF and broke up, I moved into my own apartment and spent a small freaking fortune on stocking up my kitchen. Butter, flour, pasta, cooking oils, vinegars, spices, canned beans, dried beans, mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, sugar, honey, etc. You get the picture. I had to start from scratch. I knew what items I used on a regular basis so I wrote out my list and did my shopping. I will admit, it did take two or three shops to stock up the cupboard. I'd forget that I needed soy sauce and tamari sauce for when I'd do a stir fry. That I really did need curry powder for my homemade curries and that having a couple boxed of Kraft Mac and Cheese is really a good thing.

To ease yourself into cooking at home, you need to do the following things:

1) Get a couple basic cookbooks- I highly recommend the Joy of Cooking, it is my bible for anything and everything kitchen related. It has answers for almost all your cooking questions.

2) Find a good food blog: I highly recommend A Year Of Crockpotting. Yes, it's all about the crock pot, but there is an amazing variety of recipes and lets face it, the crock pot does the cooking! I use my crock pot a least once a week in the winter. I've never had a bad recipe from AYOC.

3) Think about the foods you and your family like to eat, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Meat and Potatoes, etc. Learn to cook some of those foods.

4) Become proficient at a couple basic items. A roast chicken is one of my favorite meals. I roast the chicken and have that with a couple sides for dinner. I use the leftover meat for sandwiches and I save the carcass and make stock with it. The stock gets frozen and stored in my freezer and use the stock as a base for soups. I make a lot of basic soups. That $7-$9 chicken makes at least 4 meals for one.

I happen to like rice and beans and I frequently make black beans and rice. My recipe for that comes straight off of the can of Goya black beans. Over the years, I've modified the recipe a bit to suit my tastes. I also use this recipe for any kind of beans and rice.

Since I'm not a huge fan of eating the same food day in and day out, if I go overboard and make too much of the black beans and rice, I'll take the leftovers and make burritos, or mash up the beans with some stock and make black bean soup. if I go overboard on the lentil soup, I'll add in pasta or wild rice or some cut up sausages to change it up a bit.

I make a pretty decent tomato sauce (gravy if you are from the NYC area). I eat a lot of pasta. I keep a variety of pasta shapes in my cupboard, spaghetti, ziti, fettuccine, shells, rotini. Sometimes I add in olives, hot pepper flakes capers to my basic red tomato sauce for a little extra zing, that sauce is known as Puttanesca sauce (less the anchovies). I learned how to make pesto and usually make a couple jars to freeze each summer.

I was lucky, I grew up around people who liked to eat and liked to cook. Cooking was a pleasure, not a chore. This is not to say that I have not had some spectacular failures. I've made things that are just plain horrible and a few items that ended up being inedible. It's part of the learning process. I've been making soup since I was 12. I wanted to learn how to make soup and I did.

Again, start small, start with the easy stuff and work your way up. There is no shame in using pre- prepared items. I don't cook beans well, so I use a lot of canned beans. My freezer is small, and if I run out of room or don't have any stock, I pick up a container of stock at the grocery store. I've tried a couple brands and found the ones that I like and when they are on sale, I pick up a couple containers to keep in the cupboard. Trader Joe's makes a dammed fine Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup. For $1.89 a quart it's cheaper and easier for me to buy that than to make the soup if I feel like a treat. I use frozen veg as well as fresh. I have on more than one occasion, made Rice A Roni as a side dish. I've even used the ramen noodles from cup o noodles as a base for a noodle and veg stir fry (I omitted the tasteless broth).

I pick up almost all my herbs and spices from the local health food store. They have a bulk section and I am an avid collector of jars. This has several advantages, 1) I can pick and choose the spices I want in the quantities I want. 2) Bulk spices tend to be so much less expensive than the jars you get at the grocery store. I tend to use a lot of specific spices and I buy larger quantities of those and the spices I use infrequently, I keep in the smaller jars. Baby food jars are great, I reuse old spice jars, I use old mustard and jelly jars. My spice shell is an eclectic mix of herbs and spices in jars. None of it matches and I really don't care! I paid $1.10 for a bunch of dried rosemary at the health food store. One of those small spice jars at the grocery store would have run me almost $5. The other advantage to getting my spices at the health food store is at least once a year I just dump them all. Dried herbs and spices have a finite shelf life. I paid around $12 to restock my spice collection two weeks ago. $12 would have gotten me, what two, maybe three jars at the grocery store? I keep a selection of various condiments in the fridge, curry pastes, Chinese sauces, etc for when the mood strikes that I might want a curry or a fancier stir fry.

Maybe you don't have the time or the skill to make your own home made pizza dough, but you can pick up a pre-made shell, a jar of tomato sauce and some cheese, and I know some stores carry fresh dough in the dairy section. I've even picked up a basic frozen cheese pizza and added my own toppings. Still less expensive than take out and not as labor intensive as making the sauce, dough, slice and dice the cheese and other stuff.

Getting out of the habit of eating out or getting take out takes time. I also suggest that you plan a couple meals a week that are quick and easy to make. Use the weekends to fiddle in the kitchen. Don't get too upset if the first few times the dish does not turn out well. This is cooking, not brain surgery. When I started to make meatloaf, each loaf tasted horrible. I used a friends recipe, watched her make the meatloaf and the first few I made were awful. All of sudden, I got the knack for making a decent meat loaf. The same with scalloped potatoes. I used the wrong type of potatoes, I under cooked or over cooked the potatoes, now I "get" how to make the perfect blend of potatoes, milk, onions and flour. I make really good scalloped potatoes. It took time!

I now have a list of dishes I can make and make well, I keep my pantry stocked with items for those dishes, I shop the specials to stick up on those pantry staples and I'm not afraid to branch out (I've been doing a lot of Indian cooking this year). Mistakes happen, food burns or is undercooked (Invest in a good kitchen timer!).

Hopefully, these few tips are of good use for you! As Jacque Pepin would say Happy cooking!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Few Updates

Sorry for going MIA, but I was having a problem logging into the free wireless at home and too flat out busy at work to even post from there. Things are settling down.

So a few updates.


My e-fund is almost at rock bottom. Why? This time is was a for legit reason. My two poochies that dislike each other had a little altercation to the tune of a $600 vet bill. Between the stitches and vet visits to patch them up, it was just shy $600 ($595). One of my friends accidently let the two girls out together and they had a bit of a bite fest. Better that the two girls bit each other than someone. It was a lot of sutures and one dog has to stay at the Vets all day on a IV drip because of the fear of infection. Needless to say I was not happy, my friend beside himself, but that is one reason I have an E-fund. Now back to building it up.

Weekend Job:

I go back to working my "old schedule" starting the first week in December. What that means is from then until sometime in May, I'll be working 6.5 days a week. I'm still on reduced hours at my "full time" job, and given my back slide in the PF department this fall, I'll just deal with it. The co-worker who is supposed to have surgery put it off 3 weeks so she could work extra hours. At this point, I just really needed to know when she was going to have her surgery so I could adjust my schedule. It's been busy at the barn and I just need to know how to plan my personal schedule.

My Lovely Neighbor

My lovely neighbor is having all sorts of issues, personal, financial, kids. I'm watching a train wreck and it's very sad. I had a long weekend of out of area work for my part time job and she watched the dogs. I told her I'd pay her (I had my boss give me extra$$$ for that purpose) and she would not take the money. It's not money out of my pay check, I negotiated the money as part of this trip out of area to help. Yet, she turned it down. I did the only other thing I could think of which was to buy a bunch of gift cards and I'll slip them to her over the next few monts. I'll update more on her situation later.

My "Full Time Job"

I've been working like a fiend on a project at work that I think will make a bit of difference to our business. It also entails a work blog (yet another blog!). I think my boss has finally gotten around to understanding the difference between a blog, twitter, facebook, et al. I think. So I've been working on this project almost non stop, getting feedback form staff and clients. If it all comes to fruitition, I'll be really happy. I think it will and now that things are slowly going back to normal, I'll be back to trolling facebook and blogger at work.

Me Personally

Honestly, I've had a bit of a backslide with the finances and my personal life. I'll put up a whinging post later this week, but I still feel like I make 2 steps forward and then 3 steps back. Again, and I have no idea how to stop this freaking cycle, I start to make some decent forward progress and then wham, I hit a wall, get stuck in a mud pile, something that really drags me down. Ugh..... I feel like no matter what I do, I keep making the same dumb mistakes and I'm putting myself in the insane aslyum trying to figure out how to break the cycle.

Ah well......More soon

I am not totally gone.

Yes, I've been absent, things have been oddly crazy and I've been neglecting this blog. 

I have a post scheduled for tomorrow for the winnners of the gift card give away, so look for it.

Thank you for your understanding.!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Weekend in Review

I had a good weekend. I managed to spend a ton of money, but on things like my electric bill, my phone bill, and a huge food shopping (I'm really liking this one big shop a month thing), some much needed new clothes and of course, I picked up two of the gift cards I'm giving away.

I got paid from both jobs on Friday, paid the bills that needed to be paid and then gave myself permission to hit the mall for clothes, within reason. I set both a budget and a numerical limit on clothes (no more than 4 pairs of pants and 3 tops). I ended up at Macy's for two reasons, well three. I had a coupon for an additional 20% off, they were having a great sale, and I know that I can swing in and hit a couple departments for clothes with the least amount of fuss and bother.

I have been pretty good about going to the consignment shops to look for clothes this past year, but the pickings have been very slim. I managed to pick up 4 pairs of pants, suitable for work and two tops. I need 1-2 more winter tops, some winter socks and if my budget permits, one pair of dress boots. My office is on the casual side, but even my casual clothes are looking a bit worn and tired. The last time I did a major clothes shop was just over 2 years ago when I hit the outlet malls and got a bunch of clothes for work. I had picked up two pairs of new pants over the winter, but I managed to destroy one pair. I think I'm pretty well set for brand new clothes. The sale at Macy's was amazing and I just happened to luck out in finding clothes I like that fit well and were in my price range.

I have decided that doing one major food shop a month seems to work well for me. I pick up the pantry staples, meat product (chicken, beef or pork) and freeze most of it, my frozen veg and I do a bit of menu planning so I only have to stop at the grocery store for my fresh dairy items and to replenish the fruits and fresh veg. Since I am a reluctant grocery shopper, this works for me. I find I'm not aimlessly wandering the isles looking for food or dinner inspiraton or buying un needed food items. My initial outlay of cash is a bit high, but then I spend very little the remainder of the month. That is what happened in October and I anticipate that happening for November.

There has been the usual drama at the part time job, the drama with the neighbor and her kids, the frustration with a new project at work-all which do have a PF angle. Look for those posts in the upcoming week!


As I posted on Friday, I'm doing a give-away for the month of November

You can win either a $10 Target Gift Card or a $10 Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts Gift Card

Simply send me an e-mail or leave your information in the comment section.

Winnners will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

Update: Fixed!