Category Archives: Finance

I Can’t Call It Baby Weight Anymore

I had my daughter in 2012 and dropped all of the pregnancy weight pretty fast thanks to breastfeeding.  It was effortless and the weight just melted off of my body.  Fast forward FOUR years and I have surpassed my pregnancy weight and I’m not pregnant all thanks to: not moving, eating late at night, not watching what I ate and just plain not caring.

I’m no stranger to weight loss either.  A bout a year and a half ago I got into a weight loss bet with some women on the internet and even posted about it here.  But a week into it everyone stopped participating including me.  What I learned is that money does not motivate me and that I get discouraged fast.

I’ve kidded myself long enough.  I’ve made enough excuses (and I’ve got some good one’s) for far too long! I’ve tearfully watched the scale creep up and up and up for 4 years now only to excuse the numbers away out of existence.  I talk about it all the time with my husband and I have even talked about it with my good girlfriends and still not taken action.  I’ve gained OVER 30 pounds in 4 years, but the time has come!

First off a list of my infamous excuses and my attempt at some counter-excuses:

  1. I have No time – well I really don’t but if so many other bloggers can get up at 4:30 in the morning than by golly so can I!
  2. I have nothing to wear- this is actually true.  I don’t even have a sports bra or sneakers to work out with so it is going to be expensive to get started, but we are just going to have to put some clothing expenses in the budget.
  3. I need music- another thing I am lacking is work out music or an I pod.  I used to have a Nano, but that thing was a piece of crap and quit working long ago.  I think I can work out for a little while with out one, but eventually it is going to have to happen.  Maybe I will buy a used I pod or something.  Suggestions are welcome.
  4. I have no place to work out- I can not do some exercise videos at my house especially when it is going to be like 5 AM in the morning; I live in an old creaky house and I don’t want to wake everybody.  Also, I don’t have the discipline to work out at home to videos.  I need a place that can motivate me; it doesn’t have to be the fanciest place on the planet, but I need something that is going to motivate me to get up at 4:30 AM and go work out.  It must also be in a safe neighborhood again, I will be going under a cloak of darkness.  I kind of want an all female gym as well.  I also want something that has classes because I do well in that sort of environment. It isn’t going to be cheap that is for sure another thing that we will have to add to the budget.
  5. I don’t know how to work out- Can someone tell me what the hell a Burpee is, please?  I haven’t a clue in this department.  Form has never been my thing and I know that if you don’t have proper form you might as well have not worked out. So I need some help in this department…enter classes with instructors.
  6. I have no idea how to eat right- Not really true, since I read a lot of blogs on eating right and living a healthy lifestyle.  I will admit I have no portion control anymore and that is my problem.  And the first step in any recovery is admittance, right?  Baby steps?
  7. I have no desire to run- this is very true.  I attempted to run recently and it was pathetic.  I’m getting older and need to take better care of myself for me and my family.  But I have never liked to run.  I need to find classes like Body Pump and things I like to do. 
  8. I’ll start tomorrow or after _______<–insert holiday or special occasion.  I don’t think I am the only one here who uses this gem.  It is always so big even that allows me to justify not eating well and not exercising.  The big one right now is Mardi Gras, I mean they don’t call it Fat Tuesday for nothing right?  And I did not move back to Louisiana not to eat like 7 King Cakes this season right?  No, I seriously have had 7 cakes since Carnival Season began.  They were delicious!   All of them!

I have more excuses, but these are the Krispy dela Kreme  of the dilemmas!

Then there are the clothes that  I  “can still wear” and the clothes I “used to wear”.  In my head, I can still wear that backless red shirt with the green butterflies on it so I won’t throw it away, but in reality I can’t even pull it over my fat roll, let alone let my back hang out. So why am I hanging on to it?Instead of wearing the red backless shirt, I put on the biggest frumpiest black flowiest shirt I have (and even that is getting snug on me now).

And don’t even get me started on the 3 pairs of pants I can still  wear. I am now regimented to 3 pairs of pants and I am praying no one has noticed.   Also, my pants no longer sit at my waist anymore, they roll down in the front even if I wear a belt.

I thought about posting my starting weight and all of my measurements to really hold myself accountable, maybe when I’m done. I am just to ashamed of where I’m at and how I have gotten here.  In my head I am still skinny.  I think of myself as a young thin girl and then I pass a mirror and I’m like “Who is that? And How did she get in my house?”  Seriously, I am in shock that this has happened to me.

So I start my weight loss journey today with nothing except sheer will to start a new chapter in my life.  To put into practice all of these healthy living habits I have learned by finally eating right, not eating after eight o’clock and to cut back on carbs that I so over indulge in. To begin as soon as financially  possible working out at a gym.  To buy some cute work-out clothes that can help motivate me.  To use MyFitnessPal to track my calories and exercise each day, though I admit this will be extremely difficult for me to keep up because I typically run from meal to meal without even realizing I just put food in my mouth let alone the calories I just dumped into my body.

Above all, I am calling today the line in the sand and I refuse to not be motivated any longer. Starting today I am going to move my body, wake up early, watch and track what I eat and take a few baby steps forward in my journey because I just can’t call it baby weight anymore, I just can’t.

 

God Works In Mysterious Ways

You would not believe how much life can change in 7 months!!!  I ended up going back to work a few days after I posted my last post and pretty much hated my job; It was very stressful, demanding and the pay was crap!

In my work life I was miserable, but it was a good thing for my daughter because we found a great Montessori school for her in Austin and she loved being there.  It was good for me too, but like I said the job was crap.  I went back to work because money was so tight and it was amazing that I went back to work when I did because a week after I went to back to work we found out our house had termites.  My entire first paycheck went to taking care of those terrible beast.

My second paycheck went towards another life event: my husbands car broke down, well, it died.  It was overdue for a lot of maintenance and it finally went kaputt!  We attempted for him to ride the bus for a week or so, but that was ludicrous because it took him almost 2 hours to get to work and 2 hours to get home.  Our family quality time was basically in the toilet.  So we broke down and bought a used car for my husband.

Even though the money I made did not go towards advancing our tough economic situation, at least we did not go further into the ditch.  So there you go.

I wasn’t happy, but I stayed at my job, hoping for an opportunity to come my way.   And then one did.

I wont go into all the details, but an opportunity to move back to Louisiana presented itself to me in the form of a job opportunity. Something we had prayed or for years, to move back to Bayou Country, just fell into my lap, just like that.

After carefully discussing it with my husband, we decided to jump at the chance.  We threw some caution to the wind and hoped and prayed a lot, and I got the job!

I had to move first because my job was effective immediately and I had to geaux.  On October 14th, 2016 I moved back solo to Louisiana.  I left my husband and daughter behind to figure the logistics out, one of the most painful things I have ever had to do.

While I moved in with a good friend of mine in Lafayette, he stayed behind in Austin to sell the house, pack the house and quit his job.  A monumental task to face all by himself.

God really was on our side though.   I would go back to visit every other weekend and we got a really good realtor.  Our  house sold without ever putting it on the market.  First offer!  A little under two months after I moved to Louisiana my husband and daughter moved here as well and we have been together ever since.

We are renting a house now, but are looking to buy maybe in a year or so.  My job is temporary and does have an end date; however, I feel God led us here and he has been helping us every step of the way.

How To Do A 7 Day Meal Plan

menu planning

 

Meal Planning: nobody likes these two words.  It isn’t always fun and it isn’t always pretty, but if your on a budget like we are, it is essential to do  menu planning.  Whether you eat filet mignon or beans and rice, you telling your grocery list what to buy every week is as important as doing a budget every month.  I wish I could afford something like emeals, but it isn’t in the budget for us right now and since I am a stay at home mom then it falls on me to create a nutritious and delicious menu each week.  But this task comes at a cost.

The cost is about two hours of my time per week that I work on the menu.  Why so much time?  It’s a lot of work! In order for me to accommodate my restrictions (I’m on a diet), the toddler (who is very picky) and my husband (perhaps even more picky than the toddler) it takes a while.  I also plan 3 meals per day not just lunch and dinner.  Plus I have to figure out what ingredients we already have and develop a shopping list around what is on the menu vs. what we need.  And it all has to be bought for around $100 per week.  We try very hard to keep it at $100, but sometimes you need a few extra things.

Balancing this list of restrictions and constraints vs. budget takes time. Some people can do this in a much shorter period of time, but it takes me longer because of all the brainstorming, digging, surveying the pantry and freezer and organizing I do, not to mention I’m a mom and get interrupted every five minutes.  I also take things into account like what we have going on that week and if we are planning to have guests.  If we have things going on during the week then 40 min meals are a better fit for that day and having a guest means planning for a bigger meal to accommodate a guest and have more for leftovers.  Leftovers are almost always lunch the next day.

MY PARAMATERS to Menu Planning:

  • Come up with 7 to 8 dinners per week.  That is a new meal per day and one of the meals needs to make enough to freeze.
  • Every dinner needs to make enough for lunch the next day or a substitution has to be figured out for the next day’s lunch
  • Buy “breakfast-y” (spell check says this isn’t a real word, but everyone knows it is) stuff, but just wing it.  But I make sure I have enough breakfast-y stuff for the whole week.
  • Every meal has to have something that Eva will eat or I have to cook something else for her.   Right now she won’t eat food that touches or is mixed together.  Everything must be separate.
  • My husband won’t eat the same thing more than twice in a row.  Nor will he eat rice or pasta too many times in a row.
  • Every meal must have protein, carbs and a fruit or veggie in it.  That is the extent of my nutrition insight.  After that I am clueless.
  • I’m on a diet so I’m trying for less calories and overall more healthy wholesome foods.
  • I’m on a diet but my family is not and my husband isn’t crazy about diet health food, so I have to trick him.
  • Buy as little as possible and use any and all coupons that I have especially those about to expire.
  • Must have a main dish and a side or a main dish with vegetables in it
  • Must not exceed $100.

 

Let’s start at the very beginning of how I meal plan: planning time.  First of all, I pick a day and a time to do my meal planning and this is my chore for the day.  Just like I always vacuum the house on Monday, I always plan my meals on Friday.  I set a specific day and time to do this task.  I also do not shop the same day I meal plan because it makes me feel too rushed to actually sit down and do the planning.  If I meal plan the same day as I shop, I want to run out and buy the groceries not sit down and take the time to properly meal plan.  Consequently,  the menu is crap if I do it the same day and I don’t buy the right ingredients or worse I bought too much stuff.

The next thing I do is what takes me the longest and that is brainstorming.  I try think about what I am going to cook all week long and jot ideas down on a notepad. So, when it comes time to meal planning I have at least a starting point with a few ideas.

I get my ideas for meals from a variety of places.  I read a lot of blogs and I  have a large board on Pinterest dedicated to just food and recipes.  In addition to Pinterest I keep a folder on my computer for recipes and meals that spark my interest around the web if they cannot be pinned.  I also have a collection of favorite recipes that we lovingly refer to as “The Book”.

Additionally, we have a large library of cookbooks and cooking magazines that I can pour through for ideas.  Finally, if nothing strikes my fancy, I have a list of everything I like to cook and where I can find the recipe.  This list took me a long time to compile and I would only recommend making one for yourself if you are constantly hitting the wall when it comes to picking menu ideas each week.  I keep my list in a separate notebook that I created with different categories such as: chicken, seafood, vegetarian, side dishes, breakfast etc.  I created this list after I had kept all my weekly menus for a long time.

Digging is also imperative to do here when it comes to coming up with ideas of stuff to cook.  I dig through the pantry and the refrigerator to see what ingredients we have on hand, what ingredients do we have a surplus of and things that need to be used before they go bad.  I also dig through the freezer to see if anything in there peeks my interest or is getting really old and I add those things to my brainstorming menu.

After I have at least 7 ideas (hopefully more) I start listing them in pencil on a piece paper with all the days of the week with blank meals listed below that. Sometimes I have to move things around a bit to get them just right to conform to the parameters and requirements listed above, but once I have my list of 7 meals its generally all downhill from there.

menu planning 2

 

Here is this week’s menu:

Saturday (shopping day and we have a guest)

Breakfast: Bagels from the Bagel shop and bacon from the freezer- this was the only meal we ate out for and only because we had not been to the store yet.  The bagels cost $3.75

Lunch:  Chicken Salads (the chicken is from Eva’s chicken nuggets that I keep on hand in the freezer)

Dinner: GUMBO with rice and potato salad (not diet, but you have to live a little)  This makes several freezer meals

 

Sunday (I work that morning so Craig has to “cook” lunch)

Breakfast:  Eggs and Toast

Lunch: Leftover gumbo with rice and potato salad

Dinner: Red beans and rice (no rice for me) with sweet potatoes –  The red beans makes 1 freezer meal

 

Monday

Breakfast: English muffin with peanut butter and fresh fruit

Lunch: Leftover red beans

Dinner:  Tacos (no shells for me) with Spanish rice and black beans

 

Tuesday

Breakfast: English muffins with peanut butter and fresh fruit

Lunch: Leftover tacos with Spanish rice and black beans

Dinner: Skillet pasta with turkey sausage (turkey sausage from freezer)

 

Wednesday

Breakfast: Oatmeal and fresh fruit

Lunch: Leftover tacos with Spanish rice and black beans

Dinner: Cheeseburger Casserole with salad

 

Thursday

Breakfast: Waffles and fresh fruit

Lunch: Leftover Cheeseburger Casserole with salad

Dinner: Herb –Crusted Chicken and Parsley Orzo with Garlicky Green Beans  (chicken from freezer).  This recipe is from a Cooking Light magazine.

 

Friday

Breakfast: Eggs and an English Muffin

Lunch: Leftover Chicken and Orzo with green beans

Dinner: Tortellini with Vegetable Soup with a grilled cheese sandwich

 

Since we shop on Saturday the food has to be good all week which is why toward the end of the week I try to gravitate towards things from the freezer and  more vegetarian meals.  This is also the end of the month and since supplies around the house are running low, I’m pulling as much as I can from the freezer.

After the menu is all laid out I then formulate a grocery list.  I do this by going through each recipe with a fine tooth comb to see  if we have every thing, including spices for each dish, that we need.  This is where I have to start thinking about cost.  If the menu is too meat heavy then we will easily go over the $100 mark.  That is when sometimes I have to re-work things or rethink some of my meal choices for the week which can send me back to square one and having to come up with alternative meals.  This is also why I write the menu in pencil.

After that its time to go to the grocery store.  We love HEB (A Texas chain) and shop there almost exclusively.  Once or twice a month we go to COSCO for “supplies” such as dish tabs and paper towels, but the majority of our food comes from good ol’ HEB.  Here is this week’s grocery haul:

 

Grocery Haul

 

Unfortunately, a few things got overlooked on the first trip and a subsequent second trip to HEB was required, so, not pictured are the bread, tortellini, sweet potatoes and vegetable stock. The first trip to HEB was $96.37, but the second trip’s receipt was misplaced. My educated guess was about $10 more. So we did go over budget by a few dollars, but not too shabby overall!  Better luck next week.

 

Question of the Day?

Do you have any tips or tricks to menu planning or grocery shopping?

 

DISCLAIMER:  I am by no means a nutritional expert or Registered Dietitian.  These are meals my family likes and we try to keep it healthy, but Cajun staples find their way frequently into our diet, which are by no means healthy.   This menu is a work in progress and I try to hit nutritional guidelines such as adding fruits and vegetables into our lives, but they are not always balanced.  If you are looking for more nutritional meals, please consult an expert.

Sweet Berry Farms

This weekend we made a run for  hill country and headed to Sweet Berry Farms in Marble Falls. We actually got out of the house for 9:40AM, a house record (HR)! The drive was gorgeous and entertaining and took a little over an hour.  I enjoyed the conversation we had on the way up to the farm.  The Artist is my favorite person to talk to.

We got there around 11AM and were shocked to see the parking lot nearly full.  After being directed to a parking spot, we got out the car and walked up to the front of Sweet Berry Farms.  Everything is a la cart at Sweet Berry Farms, so whatever you want to do you pay for it separately. They use a cash or check only system so the place has a family friendly financial feeling too it, makes it more nostalgic.  Since Be Be is still young we opted to just do a few things like the corn maze, feeding the goats, and the berry jump.

Of course there were lots of photo opportunities.  I will apologize now that this post is a bit heavy on the photos, but look at the cuteness!

Eva Pumpkins 2015

Sweet Berry Farms 2015 Eva Pumpkins II

When we first got there we ate lunch at the picnic tables.  I showed enormous foresight and packed up some sandwiches, chips and snacks for the occasion.  I even remembered water for everyone, but forgot paper towels.   This was Be Be’s first time eating a sandwich (peanut butter and jelly) she ate about half of it so, I will call that a win.  Then we walked around and took some more photos of cuteness.  The grounds are really set up for photos and stand up cut out photo opportunities are everywhere.

Sweet Berry Farms 2015 Eva Cut Out

Daddy had to hold her up

Eva Pumpkin 2015Sweet Berry Farms 2015 Me n cut out

Cutest pumpkin ever

The Artist wanted to do the corn maze and kids 3 and under are free so we did that at $2.50 per person plus tax.  It was the children’s maze that we went through.  Apparently, there is also an adult maze that takes 45 min or longer to complete, it is called, the Texas maze.  But like I said  we went with the kids maze and it was quite challenging.  The kids maze was perfect for Be Be and she loved running around in the corn field telling us which way to go.

Sweet Berry Farms 2015 Eva Corn Maze

I know! shorts in Mid October.  Ah the Life!

After that Be Be wanted to do the Berry Bounce.  It is some sort of aired up trampoline that the kids bounce on.  It is pretty cool.  Be Be didn’t really jump, she sat down and got bounced and she loved it.

Sweet Berry Farms 2015 Eva Berry Bounce

When the worker called “Times up”  all of the children got off of the Berry Bounce…except mine.  She refused to come off and was out there all by herself where I called and called to her from the sidelines.  Finally, I realized I would have to go and get her so I made my way towards her.  As I started to walk across the Berry Bounce, she took off running and I had to chase her all over both Berry Bounces.  When I finally caught her, she was laughing so hard she was snorting.  It was hysterical!

On our way out of Sweet Berry Farms, we stopped off to feed the goats.  She loved having the goats lick her hands.  And I got to say, these were some very tame goats.

Sweet Berry Farms 2015 Eva Goats

On the way back to the car, Be Be fell in the dirt and skinned her elbow.  It made me sad to see her cry and be in pain.  We then headed home and talked in the car about making this a new fall family adventure.  It definitely was worth the drive out there.

Sweet Berry Farms 2015 Family Photo

Family Photo!

Sweet Berry Farms 2015 Eva Passed Out

Mission Accomplished!

Totals for the day:

Gas $10

Berry Bounce $2.50

Corn Maze $5.00

Goat Food $.25

Picnic Food $10

Total for the day $27.75

How about you?  Do you have any Fall Family traditions?  Ever been to a pumpkin patch? 

The Waco Zoo

On a lark, we decided to head out of town this morning…early, tossing caution and grocery shopping to the wind.  Errands BE DAMNED!!!!!By early I mean about 10:30; you know it is hard to get toddlers moving in the morning.  We headed North on I35 to the Waco Zoo with Be Be and some snacks.  It took about and hour and a half to drive from Austin to Waco.  There was construction half of the way which really sucked to drive through.

This past Mardi Gras, we took Be Be to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, at the time, she was about 2 years and 4 months old.  I am pretty sure that she remembers nothing of it save maybe the beautiful pink flamingos we saw at the entrance.  And that is only because we remind her about it, so I’m not really sure she she actually remembers it or we are just forcing the memory.

We listened to the audiobook : The Millionaire Next Door on the way up to Waco.  I’ll have to do a whole review on that one at another time. but the jest of it is that the richest percentage of American millionaires live frugally  (well below their means).   They never buy new cars, and a lot of them are entrepreneurs. More to come on this audiobook review later.  Anyway, then we stopped and had Chipotle for lunch which was a treat for us frugal people, but ended up not being worth it.  Our bowls were small, not how we had remembered Chipotle to be.  Boo!

When we got to the zoo it was $10 per person kids 3 and under free which is not what their web site said admission was.  The web site said $9 per person, child free.

 

Waco Zoo Entrance

Source

 

We walked through the gates and found the first two exhibits to be seemingly  empty or at least we could not locate the animals.  Going into it, my expectations for the Waco Zoo were not that high.  Then we turned a corner in the zoo and I saw some bald eagles.  I thought to myself “I don’t think I have ever seen a bald eagle before, our nation’s bird.” and right then and there I was impressed with the zoo.

After that we were put on a path that meandered around and around through a maze of animal habitats and exhibits.  Some of the highlights for me were:  of course the bald eagles, an anaconda, the giraffes, and a rhino.  I was really blown away by the size and the lay out of the zoo plus they had a large variety of animals.  The grounds were gorgeous and all of the exhibits were well thought out and had a natural flow.  For instance, the reptile exhibits was immersive.   You went into what felt to me were like caves and each habitat flowed into the next.  Each snake had its own little room.  There were also several bird aviaries and large spaces for the big cats to sun bathe in.

Waco Zoo Me and Eva

Watching Be Be was the best part of the zoo! Be Be loved the zoo!! She is about to turn 3 so it was right up her ally.  She ran from exhibit to exhibit saying “I want to see more animals!”   I thought she would be blown away by the size of the elephants, but she wasn’t.  When asked at the end of the day what was her favorite part of the zoo was?  She says “The monkey”.  And indeed he was impressive! He blew me away as well.  He laid in the glass window with his eyes facing out to the crowd, right at Be Be’s eye level.  His eyes were so telling and sad.  He looked so human and so frail in that moment.  Be Be said it was because he needed a friend.  Her words touched my heart.

primate-460871_640

It was so wonderful to get out of town and enjoy some family time on such a beautiful day.  It was even more wonderful to create some family memories.

 

Waco Zoo the Artist and Eva

Totals for the day: $56.01

Gas $10

Admission $20

Lunch $22.00

Coffee way back (essential)$4.01