Monday, January 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday January 25th, 2009 (the Birthday Edition)

Tuesday is my little guy's birthday. Of course, it's dinner out night with the grandparents. Our week is shaping up like this, dinner out Tuesday, must-have pasta on Friday. I have a 13 mile run on Saturday and need my carbs. Usually Thursday is leftovers night, but because we are having dinner out on Tuesday, I'm not sure there will be enough left over to have left overs!


So here's the plan:

Monday: Pork Ribs (need to be used or frozen very quickly), veggie

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday at our favorite place for the Fuzz's Birthday

Wednesday: Potato Chip Chicken (found the recipe on, the boys love it, there's never leftovers)

Thursday: Left over Pork Ribs, possibly quesadillas if not enough.

Friday: Tortellini and veggies in my covered baker dish.

Saturday: Homemade Pizza

Sunday: BBQ (if weather cooperates)


For anyone who read the last post, I've created a new blog

I plan to keep up with this one better as well. As things start to become more organized, I can get more done in my life!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A New Blog from Me!

As if I don't have enough going on, I have decided to add one more thing to my plate. I've started an additional blog, with the focus of decluttering my house, and organizing it, and hopefully some of the trend will carry for miles to my parents house. They are in far worse shape than I am, and are in total denial that you can't keep everything you have ever owned since birth.

I have attempted to help them before. I think it was 6 or 7 years ago. My dad rented a dumpster and we cleaned out nearly the entire garage. Clean enough to park a car in there. But then they never got a new garage door (with an automatic door opener). Instead, they installed metal shelves down the middle of the garage, (think grocery story aisles). Fast forward a few years, and I can no longer see the back of the garage anymore, let alone walk through the garage. It is jam packed again. Sigh.

So, if anyone wants to see the new blog, and follow me on the decluttering journey, the address is

I have to say, a lot of the content is extraordinarily personal for me and I'd die a happy girl if all of my blog followers were total strangers. There is definitely an embarrassment factor of having a cluttered house, and in my case, of my parents having an almost unlivable house. My focus is to take care of my house, check in on my parents and push them to start the process this year. It will take time and I'm willing to help, but I'm not willing to go over there for 12 hours and clean out the fireplace when there is so much more to do! (Yes it happened, I allowed my mother to sidetrack me, ugh).

I joined The Clutter to give myseld a road map each week of what needs to be done. The message boards seem quite theraputic, but I think I'd like the anonymity of a blog where I can keep my posts like a journal. If readers would like to cheer me on, great, if not, I've still put my thoughts down which is part of the whole process.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How do I budget?

So this is a little off-topic since the title of the blog is Cooking While Commuting, but really they do go hand in hand. How can you serve seafood and prime rib meals when you only have enough money for Top Ramen for groceries? A bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.


In a nutshell, I use a problem called YNAB, which stands for You Need a Budget, and can be found at The program is different from Mint, Quicken, and Microsoft Money in that it budgets December's income to be used in January. This way, there is always enough cushion in the account so that you don't need today's paycheck to pay for tomorrow's groceries.


For groceries, I have a set amount I budget for my weekly shopping trip on Sundays. That amount is multiplied by 52 weeks, and then divided by 12 months. I have 1/3 budgeted but unspent each month, which rolls until there is a month with 5 Sundays, at which point it is spent.

I have been using YNAB for about 1 ½ years. Prior to YNAB I had been on Microsoft Money for ages, and before that was Quicken. I always used both of those programs for my check registers, but couldn't ever budget, it was just too difficult to figure out.


With 2010 creeping in, I will begin using YNAB more frequently. The task of having to enter each transaction and remember each purchase (big or small) is a gentle reminder to not go crazy with frivolous purchases. We don't have debt other than our house, car loan, and student loan. But we still make frivolous purchases that could be avoided. The money spent on those things could in turn go towards more fun stuff, like weekend activities and fun day trips. Or the Seafood and Prime Rib Budget J

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The One with the Update on the Random Wants (NOT Needs)

Remember way back when I posted my wants (which were totally not needs). Thought I'd update you on the list as there's been lots of changes. I will try to have a needs list each month, and maintain my random wants list (a girl can dream, can't she).

10 wants that I have which are not needs (for the most part)

1. I-phone. They are just so darn cool. I could do so many things with it. For instance, you can upload your coupons to it and then just show it to the cashier (it produces a bar code to scan). Unfortunately, my current phone does not do internet access, and my contract isn't up till next June, which is so far away. After watching my growing frustration with my phone dropping calls and the buttons on the front shorting out and not being able to unlock my screen because the OK button no longer worked, my parents made the Iphone my birthday present. Yes, my birthday isn't till tomorrow (Wednesday), but in order to buy the phone, it had to be activated. I'm now the proud owner of a pink swathed Iphone, and will have the termination fee with Verizon to deal with next month.


2. A very long massage. I took a big time digger last night on my run. Scuffed up both knees, my writing hand, which makes writing or signing anything difficult. But I think I screwed up my neck and back as well. I've had a major headache ALL Day. It pays to make this list right before my birthday. I put a "spa gift certificate" on my wish list, and hubby came through like a champ. He gave it to me early, so that I could use it prior to the marathon. I had the Hawaiian Holiday, complete with a mud masque, massage, facial and vichy shower (which was odd).


3. An Egg Separator. I don't have one. When I went to the grocery store, none there. Went to Target, none there. I'm going to a pampered chef party on Friday, and apparently I'm buying an egg separator. Now that I'm cooking more (I made waffles for the first time in my life), it has become a bit inconvenient to have to hand separate, and hope for the best. Bought it at the Pampered Chef party my friend had. Haven't used it too much, but it is there.


4. Garmin 405. Totally a want. I just want the latest garmin gps watch with all the bells and whistles. Mine decided to acquire a short not too long ago, so charging is always a questionable act now-a-days. But definitely not an immediate and necessary purchase.


5. The Pampered Chef Knives. Still don't have them, but I'm having my Pampered Chef Party on October 23rd, and if I have the magic sales level, I will get a $500 knife set for over 60% off. Crossing fingers.


6. The Pampered Chef Cookware set. Let's just say that my pots and pans set is lacking and extremely low quality.


7. A new running skirt. I love my running skirt from However, it's useful life is slowly ending. It would be nice to have another, as I love the way it fits and the fact that it has two pockets, one on each side. Hubby ordered this a month ago. Especially after my digger in which I had no cell phone since I had no pocket in my shorts. I should have a new running skirt in my birthday present package tomorrow.


8. A taxi for my kids. My boys have one wish, to be able to ride their bikes home. But the route from home to school doesn't yield the riding of bikes. Plus, they are at the age where there are after-school activities they'd like to do, but they need to have a ride to the day care afterwards in order to be able to do the activities, otherwise they are stuck at the school and I'd be getting a phone call. Last year Ross did Band, but they couldn't do Chess Club. Update: Still haven't found a taxi, darn.


9. A pair of running shoes in which my toes don't hurt. I'm not sure that this one is attainable. I've been running for 5 years now. My running shoes are fit at the store, and I've tried countless pairs. Past a certain amount of miles on each run, I get deep layer blisters at the tips of my toes and under my toenails. I lose toenails frequently and just popped two blisters under the nail bed this morning after the 12 mile run. Update: got new shoes but the same brand as before. Still have some toe issues and realized I had a purple toenail (blood blister under the nail) when I got a pedicure. Current Score: Toenails (6), Missing Toenails (4)


10. Pulled Pork. I've got a great recipe and lately I haven't been able to pick up a pork roast at the weekly trip to the store. But I am so craving Pulled Pork right now J
Update: We did 2 crocks of pulled pork when I had my in-laws over. But it just wasn't the same. They weren't thawed the night before, so they didn't cook as quickly. I will pick up a roast the next time I see one and have a do-over for sure!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The One with an Extra $98.50 found!

I just updated all my account balances. I have a running total that I keep of all asset accounts and debt accounts. This helps to motivate me to see how quickly items could be paid down. Currently we are working on paying down the HELOC, but also need to pay $1,500 towards the Orthodontist over the course of the next year. We have student loan with an interest rate of 1.625% and then the car loan at 4.9%. The house is at 6% and currently I am toying with the idea of refinancing into a 20 year mortgage. The monthly payment would go up about $150/month, but the house would be paid off 7 years earlier (we are 3 years into the 30 year fixed mortgage). Down side is we'd have to pay the fees associated with it, which works out to be about $10K.

Anyway, I logged into my student loan account, and to my surprise, the balance was $98.50 lower. And we aren't schedule to make the payment until the 28th.
The extra principal payment is made only once per quarter, and it is from the Upromise Rewards Card. So the payment applied 09/18/09 was for rewards collected through June 30th. It's like earning an extra $100!

The bummer part is that I still have to make the regular payment, so it doesn't solve the dilemma of all the birthdays I have to pay for in October, but still, it's pretty cool!

The One Where I’m Waiting for my $30 in Rebates

A while back, beginning of August to be exact, I participated in the Fuel for School Rebate and the Back to School Rebate. I should be receiving a $20 rebate and $10 Rebate.

The paperwork for the $20 Rebate I mailed in on August 10th, it should take 6-8 weeks.

The paperwork for the $10 rebate was delayed a bit because of not having stamps (I do everything online), and so it wasn't mailed until August 27th. Again, 6-8 weeks (sigh).

So I should be expecting surprises in my mailbox ($20) between now and October 5th.

And an additional surprise between October 8th-22nd.


This comes in handy as my son's birthday is Friday (09/25).

My birthday is the 30th. These birthday expenses are pretty much paid for.

But, then we have the numbers: 4, 14, 16, 23, 30. Which corresponds to the 5 birthdays of family members in less than 1 month!

Plus, the weekend of the 3rd we are going away as that is when I am running the marathon.

And two weeks later is a big celebration at our alma mater, which I have hosting duties and no doubt will be asked to support financially.


So in the big scheme of things, $30 is just a drop in the bucket compared to what I have to pay for in October, but at least it is coming.

On another note, I am going to start setting aside $50 each month specifically for family birthdays. This is ridiculous. I pull friend birthday expenses out of our miscellaneous money, but it's hard to do that for these birthdays, especially when there's an 11 year old who really wants a birthday party. We did the party on the low end scale, simple but fun. There was only 6 boys including him. We did pizza, a cookie pizza in lieu of cake (almost caught my kitchen on fire) and they swam and had a nerf gun war in the front yard. That said, there are still basic expenses that are just impossible to throw a party without spending one penny. Luckily, I'm super smart when it comes to Christmas. I put money each week into an ING account, and each January I bump it up by 3%. To adjust for inflation J

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

This is the start of Birthday Week and my birthday boy is actually leaving for astro camp on his birthday (Friday). So we've got to squeak in some birthday plans during the week.

Monday: (Soccer practice at 5:30)-Rigatoni with Ham
Crock Pot Tuesday: (TKD till 4:45, Soccer 6-7:30): Crock pot Dump Chicken. I have found about 12 dump chicken recipes all on one blog, so I'll choose one of these.
Wednesday: (Soccer practice 5:30): Bean, Rice and Cheese Burritos. Already made and froze a big crock of beans. I use the Pampered Chef rice cooker to make a huge batch of brown rice.
THursday: (TKD till 4:45, we are skipping soccer practive since this is faux-birthday)- Dinner Out for the 11 year old!!! I do need to make Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake though (for Friday morning)
Friday: Breakfast in Bed! Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake. Breakfast for Dinner with the non-camper, non-birthday boy, including leftover coffee cake.
We're also taking donuts to school as the birthday snack, since he's leaving that morning.
Saturday: With just the three of us, we'll do homemade pizza
Sunday: Leftovers.

It's a busy week. And next week is worse. My birthday is on Wednesday, and we leave on Friday for St. George for the marathon!