Archive for ‘project money smart’

April 25, 2011

thai and books

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend! Over here we celebrated Easter at church, and the rest of the weekend was very relaxing. It was nice to not have set plans this weekend especially since past weekends have been jam packed.

For lunch yesterday we had Thai food! It really hit the spot because we both haven’t had Thai food in a loooong while.

We ordered some Thai Iced Teas…

Pad See Ew:

and Green Curry with Chicken:

We did come to a conclusion after this weekend ended though. WE NEED TO STOP EATING OUT! Why is it so easy to eat out? Just this past weekend we ate at this Thai restaurant, Dickey’s BBQ, and a burger place called Jack’s Prime. One meal out can easily total to $30, which can really add up.

So our conclusion? To really, really, really make an effort to eat out only ONCE a week. Let’s see if we can do it!

Last night I stayed up waaaay too late reading this:

This is one of my favorite books, EVER. I read this first when I was in Middle School and after that many MANY times. But then I ended up giving this book away, along with ALL of my favorite childhood books, which is one of the biggest regrets of my life (melodramatic much?). I have this habit of throwing/giving away anything I don’t need. I HATE clutter, and hated it even as a kid.

So of course, as I became a foolish teenager, I thought, “I don’t need these books anymore! I’ve waaay outgrown them now!” and I gave my whole collection away. Foolish, foolish, foolish.

But slowly, slowly I am trying to build up my childhood collection again. I recently repurchased a couple other childhood favorites:

Probably another ALL-TIME favorite.

And another favorite classic. Ahhh, memories. I’m hoping to get the whole collection again.

I love the idea of Kindles and iPads (and totally want one for myself), but for childhood books (and cookbooks), I’m all about the real deal. I mean, I hope my own kids will one day read these same classics and I wouldn’t want them to read it from a Kindle or iPad! So repurchasing these books is totally an investment. =) (I’m trying to make myself feel better after giving away tons and tons of childhood classics. SIGH.)

What were your favorite books growing up? How many times do you usually eat our per week?

April 15, 2011

a new contender

Like many, Trader Joe’s is the main grocery store I go to. I love it because it’s generally cheap, has unique products, and is super close to where I live (a 5 minute drive).

Some of the other grocery stores I like going to but don’t go to that often include,

Whole Foods: Of course I always have a blast walking around Whole Foods, but it’s a 15 minute drive away instead of a 5 minute drive which makes a big difference in terms of convenience. But maybe this is a good thing because they’re $$$.

Costco: I only buy a few things from here mainly because I don’t have a huge # of people to feed so most of their products are too much for me. Plus, they’re a 15 minute drive away instead of a 5 minute drive so I just don’t find myself going here too often.

Safeway: I usually go here for things I can’t find at Trader Joe’s, such as dried milk. Or when I’m having a random hankering for Haagen-Dazs at midnight (because they’re open 24 hours)

Asian Supermarkets: I love Asian supermarkets because often they can be cheaper, and they sell things I can’t get at other supermarkets. For example, king oyster mushrooms, a certain sweet potato, and zucchini squash that is not as skinny as the ones they sell at other supermarkets.

But watch out, because there’s a new grocery store in town and I think I’m in love!

Up here in Northern California, Fresh & Easy Markets are just starting to pop up here and there. I was incredibly happy to find out that one was opening up really close to my house, even closer than Trader Joe’s! I’ve been to Fresh & Easy once in LA, but it was in a rush so, not really.

Anyway, I think the biggest thing is that there is another option for me to buy my groceries. Some of their products are cheaper than Trader Joe’s and some of Trader Joe’s are cheaper than Fresh & Easy’s. I guess that’s what it means to be a competitor! :) Fresh & Easy does seem to sell more things in general than Trader Joe’s though.

Here’s what I bought on my first trip there! (I’ll be comparing prices with Trader Joe’s in parenthesis)

I’m still on a quest to find the best soymilk, so I immediately picked up their vanilla soymilk (Trader Joe’s is a little bit cheaper). It was good, but still not quite what I’m looking for. And of course, butter (Fresh & Easy’s is a little bit cheaper).

2 for $3! (Fresh & Easy is a little bit cheaper, but then the bag is a little bit smaller too)

I got suuper excited when I saw this. This whole bunch of cilantro for 98 cents! Trader Joe’s cilantro bunch is tiiiny and I think it’s also a few bucks. Trader Joe’s is organic, but I’m okay with my cilantro not being organic. I’m obsessed with cilantro. I can have a salad made entirely out of cilantro, and I would if it weren’t so expensive!

When I was in Southern California one time, I went to a Subway where they had CILANTRO as an option for a topping. They also had Tapatio sauce. BEST. SUBWAY. SANDWICH. EVER. I’m topping all my sandwiches with this cilantro. Heck, I’m topping everything with this cilantro!

KEY LIMES! for 98 cents too! Awesome. I bought 2 of these bad bunches. :)

Because we love it.

Because we love it. AND Fresh & Easy’s Blue Moon 6-pack is the cheapest I’ve found (not including sales) – $6.99! Even Trader Joe’s sells it for $7.99.

I’ve been to Fresh & Easy a grand total of 3 times in 2 days. Fine, one time was to get oranges for the Blue Moons and the other time was an equally important trip (you’ll see on my next post), but in Jeff’s words, “you’ve betrayed Trader Joe’s.”

Don’t worry Trader Joe’s, I’ll be back!

What’s your #1 grocery store?

April 14, 2011

you say salmon, i say salmon

I’ll be honest, I say salmon incorrectly. I pronounce the “l” and for that, Jeff is ashamed of me. Ah well, now I say it just to annoy him!

Yesterday, I went to Trader Joe’s.

-organic baby spinach

-organic baby carrots

-frozen brown rice (ugh why does this have to be so convenient?!)

-chicken sausage

-2 buck chuck

-and salmon, the reason for the Trader Joe’s trip!

Everything for $22.67 –

This particular grocery trip happened after I asked Jeff if he felt like having salmon for dinner. And after he said oh yes please!

We LOVE fresh salmon. I like to prepare fresh salmon in the simplest way possible – just seared for a few minutes on each side on a fry pan. The absolute worst thing to me is 100% fully cooked salmon – it just tastes so dry and blah. I like it to be slightly undercooked in the middle. And no salt or pepper is needed because the salmon is just so delicious on it’s own!

I have a question though. Is farm-raised salmon really not good for you? I think I’ve heard from places here and there that Wild Alaskan salmon is a much healthier choice. I’ve never tried Wild Alaskan salmon, but I kind of sort of have a huge feeling that it is not as delicious as farm-raised salmon. I’d love your input if you have any idea!

Anyway, our dinner last night (and tonight!) was 1/2 of one salmon fillet each, brown rice, and sauteed spinach with garlic.

That pile of spinach is 1/2 the bag of the spinach. It’s my most favorite way to eat spinach! After the salmon is seared in the pan, there is the perfect amount of the fish’s oil left in the pan. Then to the pan, I add a bunch (6 cloves, but that might be a little excessive) of minced garlic, and then the whole bag of spinach. then I season with a little salt and pepper. So simple and so good!

For a while, I really wanted to love having spinach in my smoothies so that I could get more spinach in my diet. And to be honest, it’s not that bad, BUT I really prefer my smoothies to be purely fruit based, like this. And THEN when I made this sauteed spinach, any desire to have spinach smoothies flew out the window. It’s so easy and delicious to get spinach into my diet this way and I don’t have to sacrifice my smoothies for it! In fact, I need to save my spinach so I could eat it like this more often!

Plus, supposedly you get more of spinach’s nutrients when the spinach is cooked!

This is one of Jeff and my favorite meals. Usually, we douse all our meals with crazy loads of spicy sriracha sauce, but this is one meal we don’t put on any. The flavors are so simple and delicious, we just want to taste that!

For dessert, we had this:

An equally perfect ending.

April 6, 2011

to the market

On Monday, Jeff and I took a little trip to get some groceries. One of my favorite things to do!

In all aspects of my grocery shopping, I like to use an app on my iPhone called Springpad. It’s a free “notes” app that syncs your phone to the computer. In other words, you can access your notes from your phone or your computer. This app and the Evernote app are the only apps I’ve found to do that! I just like Springpad’s “look” more. =)

I don’t only use the  app for my groceries, but also to keep a list of my recipes (never know when you’re going to need to cook something!), my “to-do” list, and other random useful information I’d like to have on hand whenever I want!

Here’s a snapshot of the app:

After I take a grocery trip, I update my notebook titled “Groceries” (the blue one!).


So on Monday, here are the things we bought:

Organic zucchini, organic baby carrots, portabella mushrooms, and broccoli florets

Fresh mozzarella, unsalted butter, Smoked Andouille chicken sausage


Gummy Tummies and organic popcorn kernels (cheaper than Walmart!)


The total came out to $26.01 –


So when I get back from grocery shopping, I open up the app and put in a checklist of all the things I bought, like this:


And when we’ve used up and eaten all of something, I check it off. Here’s an example of a grocery trip from back in early March:

So when we finished the pita chips, I checked it off. And so on with the garlic, camembert, and kale.

And when it’s checked off because it’s all gone, that’s when I add it to my “shopping list” notebook (the orange one) if I want to buy it again at my next grocery trip. So I’m always just adding to the list little by little throughout the week in anticipation for my next grocery trip.

Here’s a snapshot of my shopping list before Monday’s trip:

I checked off the items that I bought at that trip. I don’t always follow the list to a T. For example, I didn’t buy spinach because it just seemed we had enough veggies for the time being. I don’t mind being flexible when I get to the store! (Obviously because the Gummy Tummies for sure weren’t on the shopping list…)


And here’s a snapshot of all the grocery trips I’ve made (I started in February):


I like to do this for a few reasons.

1. I absolutely hate hate hate throwing away food because they’ve rotted and become unedible because I neglected them! So having a list of all the things I have in the kitchen helps me know what I’ve used up and what I should be using up. So typically I’ll look in the oldest list (in my case February 7) and see if anything in there is unchecked and try to use that up!

2. It helps me to plan meals. Yes, I could just go and walk over to the fridge and see what I could make with what I have, but sometimes when I have down time at work I think about what I should make for dinner and having the list on hand helps a lot!

3. Sometimes when I ask Jeff what he wants to eat and he responds with, “I don’t know, what do we have?” I whip out the list and bark out each item to him. Usually, he still doesn’t know what he wants, but I like to think it helps with the process.

4. I don’t know…I find it fun?


Most times, my grocery trips are based around when I need more butter.

I know it may all seem meticulous but this method really helps me to buy only what I need (OK…I guess we didn’t really need the Gummy Tummies!) and not waste it! It’s super fun to check things off too. =)

Or maybe I’m just weird. Do you have any method to your madness? Or I mean madness to your method?