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Archive for January, 2007

Successful new recipe tonight

January 26th, 2007 at 02:16 am

We happened to be watching America's Test Kitchen last weekend and saw a recipe we wanted to try ourselves - Pot Stickers. They made theirs with ground pork, which is out in our house since a) we're Jewish and don't eat pork and b) we're nearly vegetarians and hardly ever eat meat. So I took on trying out the recipe with a few modifications.

Thursday is my short day at work, so I stopped at the store and picked up supplies: shitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, scallions, won ton wrappers (wanted gyoza wrappers but couldn't find any - have to go to the Asian market next time).

Using the ATK recipe as a guide, I chopped, salted and drained the cabbage, chopped the scallions and mushrooms, added a couple of egg whites and, in place of the pork, mixed in vegetarian ground beef substitute. I assembled the pot stickers and froze about half the batch - it made lots! I held the rest aside for us to eat tonight. I also made the scallion dipping sauce that ATK had the recipe for.

While I was cooking the pot stickers, I also cooked up a pot of brown rice to eat on the side.

I was fully expecting my daughter not to like them. I even told her she could make Ellio's pizza as a back-up dinner if she didn't like them.

Well, there was no Ellio's eaten at our house tonite. My daughter ate 7 or 8 of the pot stickers, as did my wife and I. I even had to get up part-way through and cook another batch. One more recipe to add to the family dinner list. Plus, we have a ziploc bag full of frozen pot stickers that we can make next time. I have to figure out approximately what the whole batch cost to make, but I'm sure it wasn't a whole lot.

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time!!

January 20th, 2007 at 07:06 pm

We are the cookie family this year, meaning we are in charge of ordering, storing and distributing the cookies for our troop. We just got back from picking up our initial order - 200 CASES!! That's 2,400 boxes of Girl Scout cookies! Our living room is stacked 5 high with cases of cookies. We can't actually sell until Thursday (we can take orders, but no money), but if anyone is in the neighborhood and needs cookies, come on by.
disneysteve
disneysteve
disneysteve

Frugal victory with my daughter

January 19th, 2007 at 05:51 pm

My daughter is a victim of Madison Avenue. As hard as we've tried to fight it, she keeps thinking there is something inherently wrong with store brand products. We still buy a bunch of them, but there are certain things she insists on brand name.

A few weeks ago, we were at the supermarket and she needed waffles, which she has for breakfast most mornings. I showed her the price difference between the Eggos and the store brand. She agreed to try the store brand. I told her if she didn't like them, she didn't have to get them again.

Guess what. She thought they were just fine. We only bought the small box (10) that first time to try them. When we went back the other day, we bought the bulk pack of 48 which made the unit price even cheaper. I didn't figure out exactly what that is saving, but since she eats 3 waffles a day, I know it will add up pretty quickly.

So the next time I want her to try something generic, I'll just remind her about the waffles.

Update on wife's job

January 17th, 2007 at 01:40 pm

I explained in my last entry that my wife would be leaving her job of 2 years and returning to SAHM status. That's official now as she spoke to the administrator yesterday and will hand in written notice today (as required by company policy).

However, that might not be the end of the story. Her job has been as secretary of our synagogue. Monday nite, she spoke with the Rabbi and let him know she would be leaving. She works closely with him doing his appointment scheduling, typing his dictation, etc., so she wanted to let him know. He has been pushing to get someone to help him part-time, maybe a couple of evenings each week, to do organizational stuff, as he is not the most organized person in the world. He said he would speak with the board about coming up with the money to hire her part-time.

Yesterday, when she spoke to the administrator, she said the same thing. Maybe my wife could stay on on a PT basis. Since our daughter attends religious school there, my wife is already in the building 2 nites a week while our daughter is in class. If they can arrange to pay her to work during those hours, and maybe one or two other times during the week, that would be perfect. Perhaps 8-10 hours/week.

It needs to be proposed to the finance committee, which will happen tomorrow. We'll see what they say.

Big money changes at our house

January 15th, 2007 at 05:46 pm

My wife left her job in Dec. 1994 just before becoming pregnant with our daughter. She remained a SAHM for 10 years. We managed just fine on my income alone, even counting a short period of unemployment and a job change along the way (with a paycut).

Two years ago this month, she went back to work. It wasn't planned. She wasn't looking for a job, but an opportunity presented itself that she didn't want to pass up. She has never been entirely sure she wanted to work, so we tried our best not to become dependent on her income. I've put about 80% of her gross into savings each paycheck. She currently brings home $78 twice a month after the 403b contribution and taxes. We have increased spending a bit thanks to her income, and retirement planning sure got a big boost with an extra 15K/year going in, but overall we've been really good about managing that extra money.

She's finally gotten to the point where she just isn't happy at the job. When she first considered working, we agreed that if she wasn't happy, I didn't want her to feel she had to keep at it just for the money. So we talked over the weekend and she will probably be quitting in the near future.

We've talked about how we are going to have to tighten the belt a bit and go back to some more frugal habits that we have gotten away from the past couple of years. We've been eating out more, buying more convenience foods, food shopping with little regard to sales and coupons, taking nicer vacations, etc. We agree that her being happy is more important than having the extra money, so we're willing to work together to cut costs. Besides, a lot of the less frugal behavior has happened because she is working and we don't have time to do the frugal stuff, so I don't think it will be that tough to trim our spending. I'll definitely be rereading "The Tightwad Gazette" and paying closer attention to the weekly circulars and the threads onine about money-saving tips, so keep them coming.

Garage is a disaster zone - time for action

January 7th, 2007 at 01:14 am

Our garage used to be a total mess - barely room to walk through it to enter the house. A year or so ago, I finally buckled down and cleaned it out pretty well and it was great. Then my mom decided to sell her house (my childhood home). I still had a ton of stuff stored there. You guessed it. I helped clean out her house and all the stuff ended up in our garage. Back to just a narrow path from driveway to door.

It was a beautiful spring-like day today, 71 degrees in January. I took the opportunity to spend some time in the garage, though not as much as I had planned. I did manage to pack 4 carton boxes with stuff to go to Goodwill. I didn't get to drop it off today, but I'll get it over later this week. That barely made a dent in the appearance of the garage, but it got me motivated to keep at it. I'm not sure what we're up to tomorrow, but if nothing is going on, I will get back in there and do more cleaning and organizing.

ETA: My biggest problem is I always hold out hopes of selling the stuff we don't want. We've done a few yard sales in the past, and have done well with them, but the stuff piles up far faster than it sells, and last year we never managed to have a sale. At some point, I just get to the point where I'd rather have the space than the money. Decluttering is very therapeutic.

Diet pill for dogs - insanity

January 6th, 2007 at 09:50 pm

Just in case you had any doubts that the concept of personal responsibility no longer exists in this country, Pfizer just released a diet pill for dogs. Seeing as more than 2/3 of American adults are overweight or obese, I guess it should be no surprise that our pets are also getting fat. People overfeed themselves and overfeed their pets. And since people are sitting around all day rather than getting out and exercising, their pets are sitting around right with them.

There are lots of people who keep trying to come up with all kinds of excuses about why people are getting fatter (even though the answer is quite simple) but with dogs it isn't tough to understand. These are creatures that are 100% dependent on someone else for their nourishment. Feed them too much and they gain weight. If your dog is getting fat, stop feeding him so much and run around with him more. As a medical professional, I find the fact that any credible scientist even suggested producing this medication to be quite disturbing. I can only hope that one of these days people will wake up and start taking responsibility for both their own health and their pets' health.

Back on the treadmill for 2007

January 2nd, 2007 at 02:29 am

I'm not one for resolutions, but I did start back using our treadmill today. I go on and off the exercise wagon over time. I've been off it for a while. Though I haven't really gained any weight, I've definitely developed a little stomach that didn't used to be there. I'm hoping getting back on an exercise routine will help out - it has before. So I will shoot for at least 3 times a week doing 30 minutes on the treadmill.

Did another 30 minutes today: 1/3/07

Net worth 12/31/06

January 1st, 2007 at 08:09 pm

I knew we had a good year thanks to our savings and great market performance. But I was surprised how well the final numbers turned out.

The net worth I'm referring to is strictly financial assets minus debts. It doesn't include our home's value or any other personal belongings (cars, jewelry, collectibles, etc).

Our year-end net worth for 2006 is up 48.42% over 12/31/05.

During the year, we also boosted our stock/equity fund exposure from 67.3% to 71.9% of our portfolio.

Here's hoping 2007 brings similarly good performance for all of us.