Monthly Food Update #8

Wow, I have been so busy and preoccupied with life that I am way behind on my post.  There is nothing really notable about this past month’s food budget other than going out socially a few times so our dining out costs were slightly higher but our general food costs were in control and within our normal range.

One thing we have started doing a couple of months ago was making our own pizzas instead of ordering out.  I am not talking all the way from scratch as that is too much work but at least putting our own together.  No matter which route we go with this it is not cheap as I am gluten free but I have found it is slightly less expensive if we make our own and we have decided we actually prefer our homemade ones.  There happens to a company, Against The Grain, that makes AMAZING gluten free items.  When we are in the mood for a pizza night I usually buy the three cheese pizza (in the freezer section) and then we put on our own toppings.  Our recent favorite is adding chorizo, red peppers, and some kale or Swiss chard from our garden.  Amazingly yummy and making my mouth water as I type this.  Last time I made one I itemized out the costs just to see how much it was saving us. Continue reading “Monthly Food Update #8”

2016-05-16 20.05.45-2

Getting Your $hit Together

Have you ever looked around you and seen how messy the lives of people around you are?  There are many types of messes that I could refer to but I am specifically talking about money and general finance messes.  How years of poor money management, spending willy-nilly on every little thing you “need”, or completely ignoring the fact that in order to retire you need actual money to live can really create a huge mess for family down the road.  I have been seeing a lot of this around me recently and it makes me even more thankful that we have our own $hit together.

We haven’t done everything right, but we do have a goal and a plan and we are at the very least thinking about these things. Continue reading “Getting Your $hit Together”

2016-08-07 12.51.26

Hello Mr. Tax Man!

Normally receiving a letter from the tax man, either the feds or the state, is not a good thing.  Did we file our taxes incorrectly?  Do we owe them money?  The list of questions as I opened that envelope were endless.  But as I read the letter from the state tax man it had great news: our property taxes were going down!  Woot, woot!  I know, I almost couldn’t contain my excitement!

Our little state has a homestead exemption where they offer tax relief for households making lower incomes.  When Mr. SFF was fully employed we didn’t qualify but part of the way through 2014 he was laid off and started working for himself making less money (but still plenty for our frugal household).  2015 was the first full year of his self-employment and so our total adjusted gross income was much less so low and behold, we now qualify!  We file the form every year and I usually don’t even think twice about it so when I received the letter from the state department of taxes I was pleasantly surprised.  We are certainly going to enjoy the $1,244 tax savings this year and likely just put this money towards our goals.

But with this came the bigger revelation, our income will be even lower when we reach FIRE and are only working part-time meaning this credit should be even larger.  This is huge news! Continue reading “Hello Mr. Tax Man!”

2016-07-25 19.25.33

Monthly Food Update – #7

I will admit that I have been slacking on my food logs recently, hence the delay in this post.  This past month as a little out of the norm.  We had a super relaxing vacation but then spent the following week changing over two apartments.  As a result I fell behind on logging receipts until there was a huge pile and often forgot to take photos of our meals.  Alas, that is life.

Costs this month are not quite as accurate as usual as we spent a week on vacation in Rhode Island.  We share a house with my mother in law, an uncle and all of our meals are generally cooked so thankfully dining out costs end up being fairly low.   Usually I am the one in charge of tallying the share of costs at the end of the week but since we left a day early this year my mother in law was the one in charge.  She never asked us to give her any additional money so the grocery store runs we made likely covered the cost of all of our food for the week.  For the purposes of this blog post I am just going to assume we spent an even $100 for the two of us for the entire week and broke it out between breakfast, lunch and dinner costs.  This could be off but is probably close enough.

Per the suggestion of one reader I added another page to my site with some of our favorite recipes.  These may not be the most cost effective recipes but they are some of our favorites in regular rotation.  I will try to add more as the seasons change and as different types of meals get added to our regular schedule.  When possible I might also try to add the average cost of those meals but I haven’t gotten there yet. Continue reading “Monthly Food Update – #7”

2016-07-31 20.25.04

Apartment Changeover Madness

We went from spending a blissful relaxing week on vacation at the beach in Rhode Island with family right into a regular workweek and two apartment changeovers.  Last week was brutal.  Talk about killing the vacation relaxation vibe in an instant!

The tenants in our owner occ duplex actually moved out while we were still out of town.  We were not worried about being there when they moved as they were very responsible and had kept the apartment in such great shape.  A quick walk through when we got home late Sunday afternoon verified this.  This particular unit is in really good condition as we did some some maintenance last year between tenants but did need a coat of paint in a couple of the rooms to help freshen things up.  We have owned the building for almost 5 years now and we haven’t painted the walls since we purchased it so it was over due.  I had meant to get paint before heading on vacation but life got in the way so after work on Monday the first task was to buy a gallon of paint to match.  Once we had the paint in hand we got to work. Continue reading “Apartment Changeover Madness”

2016-07-15 07.38.17

Guest Room Dresser Project

Our guest room is small and is kind of a Hodgepodge of a room.  It serves as our guest room, storage for all of my crafts and other random stuff like suitcases, my periodic exercise room, and also our linen closet.  One of the huge downsides of owning a home built in the late 1800’s is that there is little to no storage so this room kind of does/holds it all.

Since the room is multi-use we decided a bed was a complete waste of space since it was only used as a guest room a couple of weeks per year and left no usable floor space.  We had a futon in there for a couple of years but it was dreadfully uncomfortable.  So last year we build a Murphy bed and purchased a nice memory foam mattress for our guests. Continue reading “Guest Room Dresser Project”

2016-06-29 20.31.44

Mid-Year Savings Update

The SFF household has been busy so this post is slightly delayed but we finally had a chance to sit down and review our total income/expense numbers for the first half of the year.  I have been anxiously awaiting this info as we keep our individual income and expense money separate so I was a little in the dark as to how we were doing as a couple.  But I am happy to report that we have increased our savings rate from last year!

In 2015 we saved 28% of our joint net income.  This was a little lower than I had wanted but we have both made an effort to decrease our spending even more and Mr. SFF has been transferring money to our joint accounts more consistently resulting in a higher savings rate.  Based on my calculations we have saved approximately 46% of our net income so far this year.  Woohoo!  I am pretty psyched about this as it is a drastic increase from last year and we both still have buffers of extra money in our individual accounts which is not included in this number. Continue reading “Mid-Year Savings Update”

Monthly Food Update – #6

I know, another food update.  I promise I am working on some other topics but I just gotten distracted lately.  So this past month was a little brutal.  Our grocery store food costs were actually OK but a long weekend to CT completely blew our food budget with four meals eaten out.  We spent more money dining out in just those four days than we have probably spent all year.  Ouch!  Did we have a great time visiting friends?  Yes without a doubt.  But it certainly hurt the wallet.  The funny thing is that we used to dine out all the time but now it is just painful when I look at the numbers.

On a positive note, this past month I made a mini chalkboard to list our weekly meals.  I keep our weekly meal plan on a google spreadsheet but now we have a nice little visual right in the kitchen.  I already had the supplies to make the chalkboard, including the chalkboard paint, so this little project didn’t cost anything.  It’s not perfect but it seems to work pretty well.

2016-07-08 07.37.39 copy
Last weeks menu as set on Sunday.

Continue reading “Monthly Food Update – #6”

2016-06-21 07.26.12

My 2016 Clothing Ban

No, I am not banning wearing clothes, I am banning buying clothes for the entire year, and possibly longer.  Well, I already purchased a skirt on super sale in January costing a bank account breaking $3.49, but other than that, I decided months ago that I am not going to buy a single piece of clothing for the entire year.

Why am I doing this?  Because sometimes I can get the urge to buy something for myself and although I have been pretty good since starting this journey towards FI I know myself well enough that having the actual goal, shared publicly here, would make it even more powerful and keep me accountable. Continue reading “My 2016 Clothing Ban”

2016-05-20 20.29.10

Monthly Food Costs – Update #5

I am trying to decide if it is time to stop these monthly food updates.  I mean tracking it has been certainly helpful to me but I am torn as to if I should continue to share this info.  But alas, here is the last months update.

The month of May was brutal to my regular budget.  All sort of extra things were thrown in (Mother’s Day, Mr. SFF’s 40th b-day, and pre-paying for some travel costs) and I was only able to save the $400 per month that I automatically transfer over to our saving.  This was thoroughly depressing but thankfully even with this dismal amount, my average savings rate for the year is still at 42%.  Before starting this post I was pretty sure that our monthly food costs would also be high but I was pleasantly surprised as I entered the last of our receipts into my spreadsheet that we were actually close to our monthly food spending goal (which is pretty flexible/variable) of $500 per month even though I did buy some more organic food.

We had a couple of dining out costs, two which were lunches due to some issues with meal planning and one birthday dinner that went over our gift certificate.  But on the other hand we also had a few “free” meals over the past month.  My mother in law took us out for a birthday dinner celebration, we got a couple of free dinners through Mr. SFF’s work, and we also went out to celebrate 15 years together but this was fully covered by a gift certificate from a friend  so those nights probably helped a little with our monthly costs.

May 8 – June 7
Category Totals Purpose
Food $474.30 Breakfast $50.88
Groceries $71.18 Lunch $90.67
Alcohol $51.88 Dinner $202.24
Snacks $70.18
Ingredients $37.86
Entertaining $0.00
General household $3.19
Cleaning $12.99
Personal care $55.00
Rental Properties $0.00
Alcohol $51.88
Beverages $22.47

Lunches out: $19.58
Dinner out: $65.56

What my meal planning blunder really shows me is how much meal planning really does help.  The two lunches that Mr. SFF bought when I messed up planning were certainly not cheap, even though they were nothing fancy.  With an average of $9.79 per lunch, if he were to do this twice per week for 50 weeks out of the year that’s a total of $979 per year.  I think he used to buy lunch out pretty often but if I can prepare our lunch reliably with only the occasional schedule mess-up, even if the prepared lunches cost $2 each this should save $579 per year.  It’s amazing how fast the little things really do add up!

Two weeks ago I planted our little vegetable garden and although it will be a couple of months before we have anything to harvest, I am excited to see how this might affect our food costs.  I am going to try to keep track of the food that we harvest to see if it is possible to estimate our savings but I am just hoping that it will be evident when we look at the numbers.

Here are some of our meals over the past 31 days, including one lunch and breakfast this time.

2016-05-09 13.25.37 2016-05-12 19.13.54 2016-05-13 18.11.57 2016-05-15 19.04.28 2016-05-16 18.58.38 2016-05-17 19.52.07 2016-05-19 18.40.00 2016-05-20 18.37.44 2016-05-21 19.07.05 2016-05-24 18.46.07 2016-05-25 07.08.32 2016-05-25 18.55.14 2016-06-02 18.44.15 2016-06-06 18.33.15

5/9: (lunch) salad with grilled chicken, avocado, beets and sliced almonds
5/12: almond flour chicken, carrots and sweet potato fries
5/13: glazed salmon, green beans, rice
5/15: balsamic chicken, carrots, roasted cauliflower
5/16: pork tenderloin, carrots, wild rice
5/17: tofu stir fry with carrots, broccoli and snap peas over rice noodles
5/19: ham with pineapple glaze, broccoli, rice and GF roll
5/20: burger with avocado and goat cheese with salad
5/21: pork, wilted kale, potatoes
5/24: one pot chicken taco (GF) pasta dish
5/25: (breakfast) local eggs, GF toast and avocado – this was a break from the norm
5/25: glazed salmon, wilted kale with prosciutto
6/2: almond chicken, green beans and sweet potato fries (one of my new favorites but the almond flour is expensive)
6/6: grilled pork, wilted kale and beets