Fall Challenges

Crow at Yoga on the Rocks last year

Crow at Yoga on the Rocks last year

I am going to start 200 hour yoga teacher training on September 5! ¬†I have been thinking about this for a while and I shopped around for a program I like and that works with my work schedule, and the program at¬†Elan Yoga & Fitness came out on top. ¬†It is more affordable than other programs, I got an early bird discount for signing up in advance, I get a free membership during training, it’s focused on the two types of yoga I am interested in learning more about (vinyasa and hot yoga), and, most importantly, the studio is welcoming and dedicated to sharing yoga with everyone. ¬†I’m really looking forward to starting the program, but I thought I would give myself a few challenges to help me fully commit to this experience in all areas of my life. ¬†Training runs through mid-November, which will give me ample time to build some good habits.

No Spend September

This sounds really hard until I think about the fact that I’ll be busy every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. ¬†Then Limited Spending October and November will follow (no fun money for two months is not really realistic). ¬†I am trying to save up a six month emergency fund and this should help make a big dent!

Healthy Eating Challenge

I figure I should also focus on eating as healthy as possible during teacher training because I will be completely immersed in yoga and learning about the body.  I will eat whole, healthy foods.  With No Spend September, eating out and alcohol will already be cut because they are Wants, so it will be less of a challenge to focus on clean eating if I have multiple reasons.

Fitness Challenge

As part of the teacher training program I am supposed to take at least three yoga classes a week in addition to the lectures. ¬†I’ll also have 24 hour access to the fitness center and studio. ¬†I’m going to make a goal of doing two yoga classes that are more athletic (vinyasa, hot, anusara, etc.) and one yin class a week. ¬†I will also work in at least two days of either strength training or cardio.

Stay Sane 

On days that I don’t do a yoga class, I’ll meditate for ten minutes. ¬†I will also commit to getting at least seven¬†hours of sleep a night (I do this anyway…I am a zombie with any less than¬†seven¬†hours. ¬†If I could sleep ten every night I would).

Call Your Mom

I will remember to call my mom while I am busy.

 

I’ll do my best to document all of this, but you know how I am. ¬†If you want to play along with any part we can do it together! ¬†Let me know.

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Roasted Roma Tomatoes

I wrote this post last fall and for some reason never posted it.  Here you go:

In order to maximize our CSA share, I bought 30 lbs. box of roma tomatoes.  What does one do with 30 lbs. of roma tomatoes?

I suppose this was an option:

 

Instead, I opted for roasting them.  I think I made a wise decision.

This is in a box that holds a case of beer bottles. THAT'S A LOT OF TOMATOES.

This is in a box that holds a case of beer bottles. THAT’S A LOT OF TOMATOES.

By buying in bulk, I saved on the normal cost of tomatoes, plus these are locally grown and so flavorful and delicious.

I halved all the tomatoes and laid them out on cookie sheets covered with parchment. ¬†The parchment prevented the tomatoes sticking to the pan and allowed me to use the pan multiple times in a row. ¬†I drizzled them with some extra virgin olive oil and roasted them for 40 minutes at 375¬į and then increased the temperature to 400¬į for the last 20 minutes.

Roasting

Roasting

I had multiple batches so I seasoned them each differently. ¬†I sprinkled some with red pepper flakes, some with oregano and basil, some with rosemary (the rosemary tomatoes were my favorite), some with 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s, and left some unseasoned.

After they cooled, I put them into quart sized freezer bags, marked them with the date and the type of seasoning, and stacked them in the freezer.

These tomatoes were absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever made. ¬†I didn’t use canned tomatoes or marinara sauce until they were gone. ¬†I used up 30 lbs of tomatoes in probably less than two months–that’s how spectacularly good they were. ¬†This fall I’m going to do at least 60 lbs. because I want my freezer to have these FOREVER. ¬†I don’t think you’d get the same flavor using store bought tomatoes because fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes are so flavorful, but roasting helps bring out the flavors and caramelizes them slightly so that they are unreal delicious so it’s worth a shot if you can’t get your hands on farm-fresh tomatoes.

Saving on Food, Part 1: Groceries

The biggest chunk of my flexible spending each month is definitely food, whether that’s groceries or eating out. ¬†I love food, especially really great food, so it’s worth it to me to spend a little more sometimes. ¬†I want to make sure I’m getting the most bang for my buck though. ¬†Here are some ways I maximize my food dollars each month. ¬†This post has my grocery rules, and part 2 will have tips for eating out on a budget.

  • Buy whole foods. ¬†This is pretty simple. ¬†Buy things that only have one ingredient: the thing you are buying. ¬†My¬†list tends to include¬†produce, meat, tofu, eggs, grains, beans, etc. ¬†To do this, though, you have to…
  • Learn to cook. ¬†I feel very fortunate that my mom taught me how to cook when I was young so that I’m not dependent on frozen and boxed food now. ¬†Not only do we eat healthy because I’m cooking with whole foods, I can find ways to use up all the food I buy so that we’re not wasting anything. ¬†Cooking is also cheap therapy. ¬†I love cooking because I can zen out in the kitchen and not think about anything else, so it’s ends up being like a daily meditation time. ¬†I’ve learned that if I try to multitask while cooking I will probably burn the house down. ¬†About a month ago I put 18 eggs on to boil and then went to weed the yard for a few minutes. ¬†Two hours later, I had weeded most of the front yard, but then was reminded about the eggs by the smoke alarm and the most acrid smell¬†I’ve ever smelled. ¬†It took an entire scented candle and three sage smudgings to get the smell out of the house.
  • Leftovers.¬† I try to cook dinner most nights and then we eat leftovers for lunch. ¬†Buying lunch out is a huge expense. ¬†I know people who eat out every day and I honestly don’t know how they do it. ¬†Near CSU you’d pay roughly $8 a day for a meal on average for a fast-casual meal. ¬†That’s $40 a week, and $160 a month to eat. ¬†If you’re eating at a sit-down restaurant, the cost goes up to around $240 a month. ¬†For $160, I can buy groceries for two people for three meals a day for at least two weeks.
  • If you need to buy processed foods, look for better options.¬† We buy frozen burritos. ¬†A lot of them. ¬†I could make burritos and freeze them, but I generally don’t have time and they would all be consumed in two days. ¬†I know this from experience. ¬†But we used to buy the “fancy, healthy” burritos, until I realized that a) they were averaging $3/burrito, and b) they were filled with preservatives and junk. ¬†I can buy a package of La Favorita burritos for $7/pack of 6 and the ingredient list includes things like “tortilla,” “beans,” “eggs,” “green chiles,” etc. ¬†They are also a Colorado company so we’re supporting a local business, getting better food, and saving almost $2 per burrito!!!! ¬†There are quality convenience foods that will save you money if you shop around and are smart about what you buy.
  • Coupons.¬† I am not a crazy couponer. ¬†I don’t have time for it and people who coupon like it’s their job end up with processed garbage food like a pantry full of Hamburger Helper or 47 bottles of steak sauce. ¬†But I shop at King Soopers with our membership card so they track our purchases and send coupons for things we actually buy. ¬†My ¬†personalized coupons usually include things like mushrooms, spinach, avocados, Greek yogurt, chicken, fish, etc., and I get some in the mail almost every month. ¬†I have a little coupon file that I put them in and throw in my purse before I go grocery shopping. ¬†They usually send a couple of coupons for free things each time. ¬†We generally get free eggs or frozen vegetables, but this last time we got a free bag of whole wheat bagels (The Boy loves¬†bagels and it saved us 4 bucks). ¬†I also make sure to log on to our King Soopers online account and load any e-coupons that are available that I might buy. ¬†They will usually have something from the produce, dairy, and meat departments available. There are so many times when I’ll forget I loaded a coupon and it will magically save me money at checkout.
  • Shop generics and sales–always look at the price per unit!¬†¬†I do a lot of comparing costs while I’m shopping. ¬†For example, if I’m buying beans or oats or coconut milk,¬†there is usually a generic brand and a name brand and a lot of times they will be in different sizes. ¬†If you look at the cost per ounce, you’ll figure out how to get them most bang for your buck. ¬†Most of the times the cheapest per ounce is the generic, but not always, especially if the name brand is on sale. ¬†This is usually in tiny type on the shelf price tag. ¬†Sometimes the units are different so you may need to do math. ¬†Luckily for us, we all have calculators on our phones so it’s not so bad.
  • Bulk bins. ¬†There are some things I almost never buy at our King Soopers because the one closest to our house doesn’t have bulk bins. ¬†I will go to Sprouts for things like old fashioned oats, nuts, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, and spices because I can almost guarantee that the bulk price will be less than what I would pay for that item in a package. ¬†Curry powder in a small shaker can cost up to $8, but I can buy a sandwich bag full from a bulk bin for less than $2.
  • Rewards cards.¬† This means two things: membership card and rewards credit card. ¬†I use our King Soopers membership card to get sales and coupons and gas points (10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend on groceries…not a lot, but it helps). ¬†I also have an American Express Blue Cash Rewards card because it pays 6% cash back on up to $6000 of grocery purchases a year. ¬†That’s up to $360 back on things I’m already buying to live. ¬†It pays 1% on all other purchases and 3% on gas. ¬†There’s a $75 annual fee, but I typically earn that back in the first three months.
  • Get a CSA share. ¬†We purchase a CSA share every spring. ¬†It’s an investment up front, but will save you in the long run and support local agriculture. ¬†It’s also really nice to not have to pay for produce during the summer–it feels free, but we already paid for it. ¬†I’ve shared this before, but we have a market share through Native Hill and it is the greatest.
  • Freeze things.¬† We can get bulk boxes through our share for things like green beans and roma tomatoes. ¬†Last year I prepped green beans and tomatoes and froze them for use over the winter. ¬†An afternoon of effort means no shopping later on and you’re essentially locking in the best price. ¬†If I find something at a store for a really good price, like BOGO Red Bird chicken, I’ll buy as much as I can fit in my freezer. ¬†Last summer I purchased a 30¬†lb box of ¬†Hatch green chiles from Whole Foods when they were on sale for $14.99 a box and then Whole Foods roasted them for me for free. ¬†My mom helped me package them in individual freezer bags and¬†I am still making green chili with them. ¬†It definitely beats $3-5 a baggie at the farmer’s market or buying canned green chiles.
  • Stock up on pantry items when you find an unbeatable price. ¬†I buy Kroger whole grain pasta. ¬†It’s healthier than regular pasta, it tastes better to me than regular pasta,¬†and the only ingredient is whole wheat (some brands’ whole grain pastas are only 51% whole grain). ¬†It typically is priced at $1.00-$1.20 a box. ¬†Last month I found “closeout” prices for $.75-$.88 a box so I bought all the spaghetti and rotini they had. ¬†We’re going to buy it anyway so might as well stock up while I know the price is unbeatable. ¬†And I swear, Kroger, if you actually stop carrying whole wheat pasta, I will never forgive you.
  • Use it all up. ¬†When I chop vegetables, I save the odds and ends in a bag in our freezer for making stock. ¬†If I cook a whole chicken, I save the skin and bones for stock as well. ¬†It all goes into the crock pot together and I know that I REALLY got my money’s worth and I don’t have to spend $8 on the equivalent amounts of aseptic box broth later.
  • Eat your pantry/freezer.¬† I am often tempted to just pop over the the store to pick up new items for dinner. ¬†This adds up. ¬†My solution is to try to come up with meals entirely from what we have on hand. ¬†It’s fun, in a frugal weirdo sort of way, to try to go as many days as possible without buying something new. ¬†If you have a stocked up pantry and freezer, it’s easy. ¬†But when you’re getting down to the odds and ends you have to get a little creative. ¬†I have a can of salmon that I’m terrified to eat because the last one I opened had an entire spinal cord in it. ¬†I also have a bag of frozen figs that I really want to use and I don’t know what to do with. ¬†We’re probably eating fish spinal cord fig salad or something at some point.

While I could be saving more money on groceries, I know a lot of people “playing the grocery game” end up buying a lot of processed garbage or things they’ll never use, simply because they are free or dirt cheap. ¬†These methods save us money on healthy items we will actually use and don’t take up all our time.

Condiments and packaged garbage for years…

How do you make your grocery budget work?  What tips do you have to save a little extra but maintain your life?

Fort Collins Passport

Frugal in FoCo Pro Tip: BUY A FORT COLLINS PASSPORT 

Enjoying a Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita at The Laboratory last summer

Enjoying a Jalapeno Cilantro Margarita at The Laboratory last summer

Reasons why you need to do this immediately:

A. You get 2-for-1 drinks at 30 different places around Fort Collins.

B. There are other goodies in the passport. ¬†For example, last year’s included a free wheel of MouCo Cheese¬†and a free burrito at Illegal Pete’s. ¬†The Passport folks also do periodic parties for passport holders.

C. It’s good from Memorial Day to Labor Day, aka the greatest time to be in Fort Collins because it’s beautiful and most of the students are gone.

D. It’s on sale for only $15 until May 22, and then only $20 after that. ¬†If you think about what you get for the investment, it’s a screaming deal, especially if you were planning on doing some patio drinking anyway. ¬†You basically get 30 drinks for the cost of 3.

E. It’s like being in a secret society. ¬†When you get your passport out at a brewery or restaurant, everyone else with a passport is like, “Hey! Me too!” and then you can have discussions about your best passport adventures. ¬†You can plan special passport outings with your passport-holding friends and then you can all Instagram your drinks and passports together (see above).

The Passport is also available for other cities, so if you’re¬†in Boulder, Brooklyn, Colorado Springs, Denver, LA, Santa Barbara, DC, or Columbia, MO, you can drink on the cheap in style too.

Giving Tuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday, so I thought I’d share some worthy causes in Fort Collins.

Rams Against Hunger

Rams Against Hunger is a fund to help provide meals to food-insecure students at Colorado State University. ¬†More than 2800 students at CSU are food-insecure, meaning they aren’t able to afford food¬†or they don’t know where their next meal will come from. ¬†A gift of $130 could feed a student for a month. ¬†Even a small gift of $6.50 will provide an all-you-can-eat (and hopefully slyly take some for later) meal in one of the dining halls. ¬†That is less than a burrito at Chipotle. ¬†You can sacrifice one burrito to help someone who doesn’t even have the option of going to Chipotle.

I’ve mentioned them before, but the Murphy Center for Hope is doing amazing things to help the homeless population in Fort Collins. ¬†From their website (linked above):

Services available at the center include:

  • Employment resources
  • Housing assistance
  • Financial counseling
  • Transportation assistance
  • Job training and educational opportunities
  • Mental health and substance abuse counseling
  • Phone and computer access for employment contacts
  • Medical and dental health assistance
  • Washer/dryer, kitchen, showers, and storage facilities
  • Play areas for children

Your gift helps the Murphy Center provide these resources to help these people get out of the cycle of homelessness.

Animal House Rescue and Grooming is another cause near and dear to my heart because they rescued this weirdo from a high-kill shelter:

Banjo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Banjo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He was slated to be put down after being found as a stray when he was nine months old. ¬†Two women from Animal House drove to Kansas to rescue him the day before he was supposed to be put down. ¬†Because he is so cute (until he sticks his tongue in your mouth, which he will), they recognized him at Bark and Bluegrass and told me that story and how much they loved him. ¬†He was clearly well taken care of up and trained up until he ended up in the high-kill shelter, so we aren’t sure what happened, but I’m very grateful to Animal House for saving his life so he could drive me crazy and lick me to death later. ¬†You can donate through their ColoradoGives page. ¬†If you can’t donate, considering fostering so they can rescue more animals.

What are some other great causes in Fort Collins?  Share the love in the comments.

Lifestyle Creep

I’ve totally been doing The Creep…the Lifestyle Creep. ¬†A little over a year ago, I was making about a third less than what I currently make. ¬†And somehow I am saving WAY LESS than I did while at my previous job. ¬†Yes, we bought a house and took on higher bills and a little more going to the mortgage than rent at our previous place. ¬†But where is the rest of it going?! ¬†I will tell you, my friends. ¬†It’s going to me being an idiot about spending.

It’s so easy to find an excuse to reward yourself when you’ve gotten a raise or when you feel like you work really hard. ¬†Trying not to spend on non-necessities has shown me that I have a SERIOUS lifestyle creep problem. ¬†Instead of aiming to go out for a beer, now we’ll go out for a beer and dinner. ¬†I also used to primarily eat out for breakfast, and that has turned into dinner. ¬†That’s dumb because I LOVE BREAKFAST. ¬†I don’t even want to eat dinner (that’s a lie…I love all food all the time), but given the option, I pick breakfast any day. ¬†And you know what the best part about going out for breakfast is? ¬†It’s way less expensive than dinner. ¬†We also used to have people over for brunch or game nights. ¬†Now that Andy is working nights, that doesn’t happen and we end up meeting people out at restaurants or bars. ¬†And since when do I stop at Whole Foods more than once a month, let alone 3 times a week? ¬†Oh, since I started taking the bus that leaves from the Whole Foods parking lot. ¬†I don’t need coffee. ¬†I have coffee at home. ¬†I don’t need kombucha. ¬†I have kombucha at home and it’s expensive. ¬†I also don’t need a $4 breakfast burrito that isn’t really that good anyway.

WHY CAN’T I STAY AWAY?!?

Check out this article from LearnVest about lifestyle creep.

So I’m going to combat it. ¬†I’m going to go back to doing what I do best: hosting people and eating breakfast. ¬†Meaning, I’m putting an end to the lifestyle creep. ¬†The higher bills aren’t avoidable, but I can cut other places. ¬†I started by canceling my Audible membership before they could get me one more time for this month. ¬†I even resisted the $20 coupon they offered me to stay. ¬†Look at that willpower…

Have you experienced lifestyle creep? ¬†What’d you do about it? ¬†Or did you just keep Doing the Creep?

 

The Importance of the Emergency Fund

This is apparently my year of really excellent luck.  I have been MIA on the blog because I wrecked pretty hard on my bicycle last weekend and managed to fracture my ribs (most likely multiple).  The very quaint trolley tracks downtown that are for a trolley that no longer runs grabbed ahold of my tire and sent me ribs-first into the curb of the median.  It probably looked something like these pictures, minus my head spilling egg.

 

 

Thankfully, I wasn’t scratched up, but I did feel like I got hit by a bus. ¬†It was also like the second time EVER that I forgot to wear my helmet and I feel so fortunate that my head didn’t look like the egg head guy. ¬†WEAR YOUR HELMET!

So, besides the procurement of a new washing machine, the addition of unanticipated health related costs made me very thankful that I have an emergency fund in place.

Unanticipated costs as a result of my wreck:

  • Co-pay for doctor appointment where he told me what I already guessed and gave me a prescription that made everything worse
  • Prescription that made everything worse–I was SOOOOOO sick from the pain pills so I only took two before I stopped. ¬†This was a generic so it only set me back $9.
  • OTC painkillers in two varieties (Aleve is a godsend), capsaicin pain relief patches, heat and cool patches, and thermal heat patches to try to find some solution to allow me to sleep through the night
  • Take out and easily prepared (ie not things I normally buy) groceries because I couldn’t do anything for myself
  • Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements (tart cherry juice, turmeric, detox tea, kombucha, epsom salts for bath, etc.)
  • Acupuncture five days in a row
  • Most likely an additional chiropractic appointment

It could have been much, much worse and cost much, much more and this is why it’s important to have an emergency fund in place.

I am feeling like a normal person again and the pain has localized, so I no longer feel like I got hit by a bus…or like I hit the hard concrete of a curb followed by the hard bricks of Mountain Ave., but I still have costs rolling in trying to care for myself. ¬†On the bright side, I don’t have a yoga membership for two months and I’m not drinking because I’m taking pain relievers and I am trying to heal, so that balances out a bit of the unanticipated expenses.

I’ll have to get back to you on No Spend September posts because I was out of commission for a week.