Batch Cooking – Part 1

Batch Cooking

Since starting my new job and transitioning into working at an office, for the first time in five years, there are definitely some efficiency issues. When I was working from home I could get groceries when I had downtime or start dinner prep before the end of the work day. Now when I get home, there are groceries to get, dinner to cook and then all the clean up, eating healthy is practically a part time job. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how we can save time during the week so we more freedom at night to focus on other things. Then the idea of batch cooking came up.  I read a few articles online to get a good idea of what this whole Batch cooking was all about. Most of the recipes or meal plans I found were not healthy or came out of a can. That was not the direction I wanted to go. I still wanted healthy food but to spend less time prepping and cooking each night.

So where to start? I used my meal planner to figure out the week in advance. I looked up recipes and tried to fine ones that were healthy but easy to reheat. Once I had my recipes I broke it down by day and started on my grocery list.

FRUGAL LIVING MEAL PLANNER (if you don’t already have it!)

In Part 1 of Batch Cooking I wanted to discuss the time investment.  As this is my first time trying this I don’t really have experience on how well it will all go!  So far so good though.

TIME INVESTMENT:

Meal Planning and Grocery List – 30 minutes

*To make this part simple, sit down and do it all at once.  I had my phone and laptop out, along with the meal planner.  I emailed myself the recipes after I had written down the items I needed to purchase for the week.  As you choose the recipes, pick the best day to have that item.  For example I made Bean Burritos and thought it would be best to eat those first so they didn’t get soggy.  In 4 easy steps you have a plan for the week, 1. Recipe 2. Grocery Items 3. Email It 4. Meal Planner

Grocery Shopping – 45 minutes

*I don’t think I could cut this down anymore if you think of driving there, shopping and getting back home.  Go in with a plan!  I write everything down in order I like to go through the grocery store.  If not I find I can run all over the place and my grocery shopping time is doubled.   For example, I write fruits and vegetable first, then canned goods, organics and dairy last.

Prep and Cooking – 2.5 hours

*I couldn’t believe I prepped and cooked everything for the week in 2.5 hours!  It was crazy. I tried to clean as I went and used the same prep bowls over and over.  There was a big clean up at the end, but it would be comparable to a regular dinner and you only have to do it once!  I didn’t really have a plan in terms of cooking, but after reviewing my recipes I could see the best order and I think making a plan before you start will make the process easier.

1) I started with the crock pot.  This meant the crock pot meal would be almost ready when I was finished with the batch cooking.

2) Look at the items you are cooking, are there recipes that use a similar oven temperature or perhaps one that is hotter?  Cook the regular one first and then bump up the temperature for the next recipe.

3) How can you best use your time?  I started with the crock pot meal, then had one in the oven as I was cooking on the stove top.  By looking at the cooking flow and having a couple items cooking at once it cut down on the overall time.

Clean Up – 20 minutes

A couple pots, cutting boards and knives.  Minimal clean up.  During the week most items will be able to go in the dishwasher, a simple rinse and 5 minutes later I am out of the kitchen.

I am sure I will have more thoughts on this after the first week, and in Part 2 I will focus on the Meal Planning and recipes I used, letting you know what worked well and what didn’t.

TOTAL TIME: 4 hours

My goal is to cut down on the cooking/prep time and next week my sous chef will hopefully have less to drink and be in better prep shape! Lol.

I have been thinking of time as money.  It is so valuable.  For ourselves, our lives, our relationships and our balance.  Small changes like batch cooking can really help to create space during the week to focus on things you are passionate about whether it’s DIY’s, painting, dancing, hiking, yoga, anything!

How to dress for success on a frugalista budget.

It’s time.  I don’t know if I am ready but a big girl job has presented itself and would really help my passion projects.  This will force me to be more organized and use my spare time wisely.  It also has me considering a working gal’s wardrobe.  Working from home the past four years hasn’t really helped my professional wardrobe and has simply expanded my comfy clothes pile.  Although I think my new position will allow me to dress somewhere inbetween professional and my own style, which is comforting.

Where to start?  Here are a few points to consider when creating a more professional wardrobe or perhaps expanding or changing up your present one on a frugalista budget.

BE SPECIFIC – So far I haven’t followed this rule, but it is something I will implement this week, I promise.  Being specific means not only thinking about the items you would like to purchase but what you currently have in your closet that could work for you.  Be specific about what you need in order to create a working gal’s wardrobe.  Keep in mind my wardrobe may be very different than yours and that’s perfectly fine.

MAKE A LIST – I love lists.  Nothing get’s me more excited than crossing off an item on a list!  By looking at your current closet you can assess what items you will need and what will enhance what you already have.  Plus a list will help you will stay on budget and only buy what you really need.  If you try your hardest to stick to the list and slip up, buying an item you don’t need, it’s ok.  There’s no point in being hard on yourself.  Simply find a way to integrate it into your professional wardrobe.

COLOR COORDINATE – By this I mean, make sure all of your items flow together.  Maybe your everyday items like skirts, pants and jackets are neutral in a grey or black but your blouses are bright and colorful.  I am not a fan of the entire neutral wardrobe, I need color.  It’s easy to change up the blouse or shirt for the season while keeping the everyday items the same.

 LOVE YOUR PIECES – There’s nothing I hate more than having a closet full of clothes I don’t want to wear.  When purchasing new professional pieces I thought about each item individually and together.  For example I would wear the bright yellow blouse with the stripped blazer and black skirt for work, but I could easily wear either piece on their own in my every day life and feel like myself.  Even though I am thrifting and going to consignment stores, these clothes are still an investment and I want to love the clothes I see in my closet.

BE TRUE TO YOU – Dressing for an office is not easy, but by being true to yourself and your style makes it more fun.  Sure you’re wearing a boring black dress but the amazing silver shoes and over-sized costume necklace, that still look professional, are your unique style.  I think by bringing a little bit of yourself to the outfit you wear all day creates more happiness for you and the office.

HOW MANY PIECES? – This is a great question and one I might not have the answer to yet.  I have been thinking about the professional wardrobe like a capsule wardrobe, items that can interchange, work together cohesively and change with the seasons.  I don’t want the professional wardrobe to take over my closet but I also don’t want to feel as though I am wearing the same item each day.  More on this later.

WHERE TO SHOP – I am choosing to search thrift and consignment stores for the key pieces I am on the hunt for currently.  These are more affordable options and I am able to acquire higher quality clothes at a much discounted price.  I could simply go to a bargain store but the quality would not be the same.  A few items I found this past week still had tags on them and were under $10 but the original price was over $150.  You can’t beat those savings.

Next week I will reveal the first installment of my professional gal wardrobe.  Wish me luck!  Hopefully I can keep to the list.

Automatic Bill Payments

Transferring Your Bills to Automatic Payments

Ok, now everyone might not agree with me on this one, but I think it is definitely worth considering.  With our busy schedules, moving into a new space, a few summer adventures and work, remembering to pay bills or review bills can be difficult.  When we moved recently I decided to change all of our bills to automatic payments.  This was easy as I was already changing our address so I simply updated the payment process at the same time.  Now there are definitely a few things to consider when switching to automated payments, let’s take a look!

POINTS TO CONSIDER:

  • BUDGETING – Just because you are switching to an automated payment plan does not mean you throw out your budget!  It is still really great to budget each month and know how much each service costs.  I currently have hydro, gas, phone and internet on auto payments, but I know my budget for each month as well.
  • BILL TRACKING – Similar to remembering to budget for your automated bills you will also want the bills sent to you via email so you can review them,  It is always a good idea to review bills, hydro can vary month to month and sometimes there are errors.  For example last month hydro had made a mistake on the charge and had I not reviewed the bill I would not have noticed.
  • SUFFICIENT FUNDS – Paying various bills automatically takes planning.  Perhaps the bills come out of your checking each month but you don’t have sufficient funds and are charged for an overdraft, it defeats the purpose of paying automatically.  I would suggest having a specific account for bills and at the first of each month transferring in the approximate amount required, obviously go over to ensure you have enough, or always leave a $100 buffer just in case.
  • CREDIT CARD/ACCOUNT/ADDRESS CHANGES – Here is where automated bills can be difficult.  Any account or card or address changes need to be updated or your bill will not be processed.  When reviewing your bill each month, if any changes were made be sure to check they are correct.  I had updated my new credit card information on all accounts but missed the address change on one and therefore was late for one payment.  Late fees and interest can add up.
ISSUES WHEN NOT USING AUTOMATED PAYMETS:
  • LATE PAYMENTS – If your bills arrive via mail or email and you pay them at that time, they can sometimes be missed, maybe you didn’t see the email or you are away on vacation and missed the bill in the mail.  Late payment fees and interest can add up on bills big or small.
  • CREDIT SCORE – If you are paying when each bill arrives but miss multiple bills in a year it can affect your credit score.  Although you may not be thinking of purchasing a home or a vehicle, your credit may be checked when renting an apartment or applying for a small loan.  Something to consider is paying your bills on time.

These are a few points to consider when thinking about adding automatic payments.  There is the possibility of adding automatic payments for a time to test it out.  It is a little more difficult to cancel then add but if you are unsure if it will work for you, try it first!

 

Driving vs Flying

Driving vs Flying

As I drove home yesterday from a week away I was thinking about the above title, driving vs flying.  When you consider more than the cost is it worth it?  Here are a few tips on how to decide if driving or flying is best for you!

1)  TIME – What is the total amount of time for each option?  Keep in  mind you should consider all factors, the flight may only be an hour, but you have to get the airport, you need to arrive early, etc.  For driving there may be traffic or construction to consider plus any pit stops along the way.

For example my total trip driving time door to door was 8.5 hours, long I know, but worth it!  The flight is only 1 hour but transit to the airport is 1 hour, I need to arrive at least 45 minutes to 1 hour in advance, then on the other side get baggage and drive to my destination, maybe another 45 minutes so flying actually works out to be 4 hours.

2)  COMFORT – Perhaps driving over 8 hours is not your idea of fun, which I totally understand, so you also have to consider your comfort.  If sitting for long periods is uncomfortable or stressful then the shorter option may be better!

For myself I need to make periodic stops to stretch when driving long distances, as this makes for a much nicer ride.

3) PLANS – What do you plan to do once you arrive at your destination?  Will you need access to a vehicle or will be transporting any goods?  A great thing to consider before planning your trip.

This last trip I knew I wanted to purchase some items so it made more sense to drive, previously I have taken an airplane as I only had a couple days and wanted to make the most of them, plus had a smaller amount of clothes so room for any extra items.

4) COST – This is a  big one.  By calculating the time, comfort and other possible plans into the mix this will help you figure out the overall cost.  Perhaps you are flying but need a vehicle on the other side, you’re expenses have already gone up.  If driving you may drive more once you arrive at your destination and need to take into account your extra gas.

For me I spent$120 roundtrip on gas, this included driving around while on my trip.  Flying would have cost $350 (flight roundtrip), $18 (transit roundtrip) and gas while using a vehicle that’s close to $400 for the same trip.

When considering your next trip, take a moment to plan it all out and see if there are any ways to save.  A few dollars here and there can go a long way!

Happy Roadtripping!

Freezer Packing

Freezer Packing

A couple weekends ago we were heading out of town for a few days but we had all these vegetables in the fridge.  It seemed a waste to chance they would last, so I decided to cut them up and create two stir fry freezer packs.  Freezing meat and vegetables is great way to not only save money but time because you always have items on hand for meals.

I buy bulk meat from Costco and freeze it.  I find it is cost effective and there is always enough for weekday meals.

The key is to get really good freezer bags or to invest in a vacuum packer, they start at around a $100 but they not only seal the bag but suck all the air out so the freezer items will last longer and not get freezer burnt.

This is one simple way to create less waste, simple freezer meals and save money.

Freezer Packing

7 Frugal Summer Adventures

Summer Adventures

I posted this list last year and wanted to bring it back to inspire you!

I was thinking about summer the other day and all the things I want to do, then realized how much all of my potential ideas might cost.  I am starting a list of FRUGAL SUMMER ADVENTURES.  If you have any to add to the list, comment below!!

I wanted to remind myself that having a great summer doesn’t mean heading out of town or spending a lot of money, there are a lot of fun things to do in the city or close by!

1) CAMPING! It’s easy, affordable and you can most likely find a spot to camp within an hours drive of the city.  I found a few spots that were quiet and only $15 per night.

* A great way to get started is to check out Craigslist, I found camping packages for $100 including tent, lantern, stove etc.  Not a huge investment and you are getting everything in one place.

* Another great place to try would be second-hand or resale outdoor stores.  They are selling items at a fraction of the cost and you know they are still in great shape.

* Research areas near your city, ask friends, I am sure there are gems to be found that are close and easy to access.

* Have fun!  Camping is not supposed to be stressful, it’s about getting out of the city and enjoying the great outdoors.  There might be bugs, your beer might be warm, you might forget something, it’s all part of the adventure.

2) DAY TRIPS!  The other weekend we decided to drive an hour out of the city, it was a lot of fun.  We ended up on a dirt road that took us to the most beautiful lake in the middle of nowhere.

* Be adventurous.  Look at the map and pick a spot! Could be a lake, river, local hike, or new attraction.

* Take recommendations from friends or family members.

* If you end up in a spot you didn’t plan on, enjoy it!

3) PICNICS! Such a simple thing, but can be so fun!

* This could be a date night or a potluck for a large group, both are fun!

* Bring some games to play, or plan the picnic at sunset, or bike to a secret spot!

* It doesn’t have to be fancy!  Picnics can be as simple as cheese and crackers, but there is something about sitting on a blanket that takes it to the next level.

4) FISHING! Ok I realize everyone might not be into this, but you can always catch and release if you don’t want to keep the fish.

* A license in BC is only $35 for the year!  That’s a steal!

* Find lakes and rivers close to the city, so it is an easy day trip.

* Fishing is all about being out in nature, not so much about catching fish, or at least that’s what I tell myself!

* Again you can find affordable starter rods on Craigslist or at a used outdoor store!

5) CHECK OUT FREE FESTIVALS IN THE CITY!  There are so many amazing festivals that happen in the city throughout the summer, make sure to check the calendar so you don’t miss them!

* It could be a trip to the farmers market, a city event like car free day or perhaps an outdoor music festival!

* There are so many events that happen throughout the summer, but you have to look for them sometimes!

* Try something new!  Maybe there’s a folk festival or a food fair, try something new!

6) FARM ADVENTURES!  I feel like ever city has farms and they usually have tours or you can at least visit them during certain times.

* Search farms in your area, and make a day of it!

* Here in Vancouver we have Circle Farm Tour where you can pick a map then do a driving tour!  There’s goat farms, cheese, honey, flowers, so many!

* Farms are fun!  Plus you can always get some locally grown produce or cheese or flowers!

7) BIKE RIDES I realize everyone might not have a bike but they are easy enough to rent for a few hours.

*It’s a great way to explore the city.

*During the summer months when it is hot by biking you can save money on gas and parking by using your bike as transportation.

*You can see an area from a whole different view.

*Easy way to spend a whole day exploring.

Ok those are a few ideas I had for summer adventures!  I hope you find some  great ideas and save some money by staying close to home!

7 Easy Mother’s Day Gifts

Happy Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is almost here and obviously we all want to take our moms to Hawaii but it’s not realistic or very frugal.  Although it would be absolutely amazing!  I was thinking of Mother’s Day and trying to come up with some DIY’s then I realized I don’t have time for that, I need something simple this year!  Frugal is not only about money, it’s also about time.  Some Mother’s Days there is time for homemade gifts and elaborate DIY’s, other years there simply is not.  This year give yourself a break, you can still show your mom how much you care in a simple way.

7 Easy Mother’s Day Gifts

  1. An Airplant – They are hip, look great, occasionally flower and only need a little container to flourish.  You can easily thrift a vessel or use something you already have, it’ll probably cost you less than $10 and your mom will be the hippest gal on the block.
  2. Brunch – And I don’t mean the $100 a plate Mother’s Day brunch at some fancy hotel, this is the one where you make her favorite breakfast at home with some mimosa’s and great conversation.  If you cook something like pancakes the cost is minimal but you can still make it really fancy!
  3. Flowers – Yes, yes, flowers are so cliché, but what if you were to go to the garden centre and grab some flowers to put into a pot that would last all year?  It’s frugal and a gift that won’t die after a week.  I found a thrifted pot last week for $3, grabbed some dirt and a few flowers, voila!  Less than $10 and I had an amazing “floral arrangement”.
  4. Get Outside – Sometimes we are so busy we don’t have time to catch up.  Why not go on a stroll through your neighborhood or on a local hike, pick something for both of your fitness levels, take time to connect with each other and nature.  It’s a win, win.
  5. Make A Card – Boring!  I know!  But it doesn’t have to be.  If you sat down for 20 minutes to create a lovely card with a  personal message inside, it can actual mean a lot.  It’s also easier to write down all your mushy feelings than say them outloud.
  6. Surprise Her – Maybe you show up and whisk her away on a Sunday adventure, where you can window shop or check out a local market or drive to a quaint community nearby and get her a small token to remember the day.
  7. Show Up – At the end of the day our moms just want to be with us.  If you can’t afford a gift or don’t have time to make a card or are too exhausted to host brunch, just show up.  Call your mom or drive over if you can, but make time to connect.  Let’s not get stressed about what we can’t do and focus on what is possible.

I won’t see my mom this Mother’s Day because she lives far away but I will be sure to call her and tell her I love her.  That’s what I can do.  And the next time I see her I am sure there will be a piece of homemade jewelry with her name on it.

 

 

7 Money Saving Tips For Small Home Projects

Home Is Where You Make It Yours

We all have Pinterest dreams of what we can do with our spaces!  I know I do, but sometimes it’s not in the budget.  I have a few projects I want to complete around the new house and in order to make it happen I am going to get creative!

Here are 7 Money Saving Tips for Small Home Projects. The idea here is that they are small projects or DIY’s you are able to complete yourself.  Time costs money so anywhere you can complete a project yourself will really help in the end.

RESTORE: It is a home décor and building supply store with items donated by individuals and local corporations.  Restore is part of Habitat for Humanity, so not only are you saving money but your money is also helping others.  They have everything from outdoor stones to garden items to full showers to lighting to home decor.  If you know what you are looking for Restore can be a great resource!

CRAIGSLIST: We all know and love Craigslist, or at least I do!  Craigslist is great for two reasons.  You are able to sell old items you no longer need and also purchase items you are looking for at a discounted price.  Before we moved I posted a lot of home décor and furniture pieces on Craigslist so we would have a little bit of money to help with new purchases.  I made around $1200 which really helped with a few new items/projects and covered a large portion of a new couch.

CLEARANCE SECTION: You know I always love a good sale.  Home improvement stores can have great sales depending on the items.  The other day while at Rona I was able to get mulch for the garden at $1 per bag instead of $8.50 because the bags were ripped and not perfect.  Small savings like that can add up.  Don’t be afraid to check out the clearance section.

FLOOR MODELS: I know this item has been on the floor, sat in or touched by numerous consumers, but now it’s a fraction of the cost.  A few years ago I bought a floor model couch from West Elem for $600, the regular price was $1400, it had one small stain which I easily cleaned and after owning the couch for over two years I sold it for $500.  The couch was in great condition and still being sold in stores for the original price.  Floor models are a great investment if you can find one in good condition.

DISCOUNT SITES:  There are a lot of great sites online that offer discounts on home décor and furniture items.  Depending on what you are looking for, you can definitely find some savings online and depending on how much you spend, free shipping!  A few of the sites I like are Overstock, Joss &Main, Wayfair

DREAM LIST: I am all about lists!  Lists help me to focus, be specific and really know what I want.  I think it is easy to be out shopping, not find what you are exactly looking for and in frustration purchase something that is not right for you.  Whether you are looking for something big or small having a list will keep you on track.

BE PATIENT:  Having the dream list means you probably won’t find everything you are looking for at once.  Being able to slowly find all the items you need and check them off your list is the best! Plus this way you are spending money over time, not all at once. Don’t be in a rush to find what you or looking for or settle for an item not on your dream list, be patient and wait for exactly what you want, it will be worth it!

I hope my 7 Money Saving Tips for Small Home Projects helped!  If you have any other tips, write them in the comments below!  I would love to hear other ways people are saving money while building their dream home.

 

 

The Coffee Challenge

Coffee Challenge

I have been thinking a lot about coffee lately.  Maybe it’s the Monday Blues that has me considering a second cup but it had me evaluating the price of a cup of coffee.

First off we are very lucky to have a Krups Espresseria Automatic Machine in our house.  It takes real coffee beans grinds them internally to make espresso or coffee.  It is great because we can use fresh coffee beans and there is minimal mess.  Now I will be honest this machine is around $1000 but I was very lucky to work on a campaign through work and scored a machine.

Let’s break it down!

3lbs Coffee Beans – $12 on sale at Costco

This bag will last about 9 weeks making approximately 3 coffees per day.  This works out to 6 cents per coffee.

Now we really liked Café Con Leche when we were in Spain so  we add some hot Almond Milk to the coffee.

3 pack of Almond Milk – $8.99 at Costco

A 2L carton lasts about 8 days.  Per carton the cost is $2.99.  It works out to 19 cents per drink.

Each day we are making homemade lattes for 25 cents!!!  This is no joke, I’ve done the math (see above).

Now here is the fun part, lets compare!

Frugalista – 1 Homemade Latte per day is 25 cents or $1.75 per week

Big Spender – 1 Grande Starbucks Latte per day is $3.95 or $27.65 per week

Frugalista is saving $25.90 per week by taking a few minutes at home or office to make a cup of java!  If we work that out over the course of the year it’s a difference of $1346.

An extra $1346 per year is a trip or a great investment or a new couch or the options are endless!

HERE IS THE CHALLENGE: For one full week every time you want to buy a coffee, make one at home or at the office instead.  Subtract 25 cents from what you would have spent at a coffee shop and put it in a jar.  At the end of the week count your savings!  **Note: Not all of us have cash on hand, you can always write down the amount on a piece of paper.

I can’t wait to see how much you save!  Post you savings next week in the comments below.

 

 

7 Frugalista Tips On How To Refresh Your Space

Room Revamp on a Budget

Spring is in the air and although I am busy packing I have been thinking a lot about decorating!  Spring is a great time to purge items you no longer need but I think it is also perfect for redecorating.  I always love moving items around in my home because when I do it refreshes the space and the item can somehow feel new again.

7 Frugalista Tips On How To Refresh Your Space

  1. New Fabric – Let’s be honest we all get bored with our throw pillows eventually!  Instead of going out and spending money on new pillows I am in favour of buying new material to cover your old pillows.  It will cost a fraction of the price and you will get to custom choose the design.
  2. Paint An Old Item – Painting an item to give it new life is easy and allows you to customize the color.  There are so many option with chalk paint and spray paint that it’s fairly simply to paint any object now!
  3. Move Décor Around – Small décor items are easy to move around.  By moving an item from one room to another can give it new life and spruce up a different room.  For example I have this great vintage fan that was sitting in my bedroom where no one could see it, by moving it out to the living room, it added a great piece of character and was finally featured where people could see it!
  4. Change Your Artwork – I am very fortunate to have acquired a few pieces of art over the years for very affordable prices.  An easy way to refresh a room is to change the artwork on your walls.  My idea for the new space is to have a black and white gallery wall!
  5. Sell An Item to Get An Item – I love Craigslist, you all know this!  I realized lately I love it because it allows me to change my décor sometimes without spending a dime.  A little while ago I wanted a new coffee table, so I sold our old one and searched for something new on Craigslist. I found a great industrial coffee table and spent the money I made from my old one!  Win win.
  6. Change A Light Fixture – It is amazing what changing a light fixture can do.  When I moved into the space I’m in now there was a huge, ugly light fixture that hung down in the dining room, I found an affordable chandelier to replace it and completely changed the look and feel of the room.
  7. Take Away An Item – Sometimes to revamp a room we don’t need to add anything but take something away.  I don’t think I realized this until recently when I took out the rug from our living room because we no longer need it for the new space.  By taking the rug away it opened up the space and made it feel bigger.

I hope one of these tips helps you with your spring revamp!  There are so many ways to redecorate your space without spending a fortune.  Best of luck all you frugalista’s!