Wednesday, 30 October 2013

how to make a meal plan and groceries list

I must admit to being a bit supprised when I found out that some people don't make meal plans. After all how do you know what to buy if you haven't planned what you're going to eat? Then I started to look at some of the tools that are out to help make a meal plan and I was amazed. With fancy fonts and charts they made the whole thing seem complicated, when it doesn't have to be.

1. On the top of a blank piece of paper write down the days of the week.

2. Look at your schedule for the next week and decide what you are going to eat for supper over the next 7 days. Be logical. Chose easy meals or leftovers for days where you won't have much time at home and leave more elaborate meals for leisurely evenings.

3. Write down what meals you have decided on.

4. Go down the list of meals and see what ingredients are needed for each meal. Check and see if you have each of these ingrdients. If you do not write them on the bottom of the piece of paper.

5. Take a tally of what you normally eat for breakfast, lunch and snacks and make sure that you have the makings. If you don't add them to the list. (In my house this is easy because breakfast is the same every day, lunch is the leftovers from the night before and snacks are almost always fruit.)

6. Make sure you have enough of your beverage of choice. (MILK!) Add to the list if needed.

7. Decide if you will be doing any special baking over the next 7 days and if yes make sure you have the ingredients, if not add them to the list.

TADA! You're done, no one died and with a bit of practice should be able to do this in 10 min or less. You no longer order take out or buy frozen or canned dinners. You don't end up throwing stuff out that never got used.

Essentially I've changed the way that you look at grocery shopping for the rest of your life.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Meet my new Friend

Hi everyone meet  the newest member of my household. She came to me via the humane society as I get lonely in the evenings being the only person in the house most days. Originally named Tweek I've renamed her Tia and she's a real darling. Turns out that the fall is a good time to go looking for a cat since the humane societies are over run with kitten and will often offer sales. Here is how the price for kitty has stacked up so far. 

Cat - $60
Collar - $4.51
Carrier - $45.19

Food (BIG Bag) - $58.75
Litter (BIG Bag) - $9.02
City License - $6.00

Total Cost to date - $183.47

Let's call it an investment in happiness shall we?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Food Waste and Fun Money

I have once again accomplished 0 food waste. Mainly by eating the same thing four times in the same week. It's a good thing that I don't mind leftovers or my Masters studies might just drive me nuts. That said I have half a head of lettuce that is still in good shape but needs to be eaten in the next week, or it will cease to be in such good shape. I also have a container of plain yogurt that I haven't even cracked the seal on. That too needs to be eaten this week. But I think that those are manageable tasks.

I'm returning to the fun money that I got back in March. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about I got a large sum of money earlier this year from Veterans Affairs in order to compensate me for the damage that was done to my knee while in the military. The first $44,000.00 went to sensible stuff like paying down my mortgage and funding my Masters degree. The last $788.20 was put aside for me to have fun with, anything I wanted any time I wanted. Eight months later and I haven't touched a dime of it. Guess there isn't much that I want.

There have been lots of things that I've thought about spending it on. Some things got rejected because I don't have the time at the moment to start a new project or hobby, and other ideas got nixed because I wanted to make sure I got the most bang for my buck when it came to happiness. After all I spend that money it's gone along with the anticipation of spending it. There was also a bit of an emotional tag attached to it. The money was given as a payoff for a bad thing happening, and as far as I'm concerned there is not amount of money for the loss of my dream career let alone living with chronic pain. So buying something trite like a new book would make it seem more like a payoff.

So it's sat there and sat there. The first $44,000.00 was so simple. Spending it on education and my house made sense and felt good because it increased my financial security and quality of life. The last bit not so much. That said a decision has finally been made on the fun money. I'm getting a cat.

Before you start thinking that I'm going out and buying a supper expensive cat; I'm not. In fact I'm planning on buying one on sale from the Humane Society. What the money will do is pay for the cat's expenses for the first year which will get me through most of my masters before my new best friend starts diverting funds from my cash flow. A cat will provide me company which is greatly needed when you live alone and away from family. So hang around and hopefully I'll be able to introduce you to the newest member of my house hold shortly.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

It's Cold . . . Again

The time has arrived once again. I moaned and dragged my feet, but come last Monday I had to give in. It hit 17 degrees Celsius, and I turned on my heat. Fear not my automatic thermostat is set and my car port is stocked with wood. This coming winter's goal: use less electricity than last year.

I'm hoping to accomplish that via a number of steps I've taken in the recent past.

-I went conservative with my temperature setting, 20 when I'm home and awake, 18 otherwise.
-Heat with wood on weekends. This is completely uncharted territory for me but $280 bought me a cord of wood and we'll see how long it lasts and how efficient the stove is.
-I turned down my water heater.
-I got carpets and slippers so that I'll feel warmer on my wood floors.
-Sweaters are my friend.

My last utilities bill (water, sewage and electricity) was $98 which is a record low for me just prior to the cold season and the slow yet inevitable climb upwards in cost.

It was a bit of a debate before I could come to a decision on my wood stove. It takes more effort to run than my furnace and it costs me an extra $80 a month in insurance so I wasn't sure if it was worth it. I've decided to give it a go for a number of reasons.

-My central heat isn't very effective in the basement which makes half my house less useable in the winter
-I think the ambiance might be cool
-It might save me money (never know until you try)
-It is a sustainable source of heat
-It won't go out of commission unless I let it. (Unlike electricity)

I do have a fond memory of my mom reheating canned soup over our wood stove during a power outage as a kid. In a country that can experience temperamental weather having a backup source of heat is certainly a good safety measure.

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Someday List

I have a bit of difficulty with the concept of patience. I need to be doing something towards my goals or I get antsy. The thing is that there are so many things that I want to see, do and learn and I have a limited amount of time and money. Of course I have the rest of my (hopefully) long life to complete all my goals. I'm trying (really hard) to concentrate on doing a few goals really well while the others bide their time. I don't want to lose track of all the wonderful things that get planned in my head so I've made a someday list that will reside on my blog and you will hopefully get to see some stuff crossed off. I debated really hard over putting financial goals on the list and ended up putting them separately. They are not goals for their own sake, but they will help me achieve my actual goals.

-Be a parent
-Write the books in my head (currently at 6)
-Sponsor an refugee
-Learn basic carpentry
-Learn basic pluming
-Learn basic welding
-Become the owner of a BIG piece of land with trees and water
-Build my own home
-Become proficient in the following languages:

  • Arabic (started)
  • Spanish
  • Russian
  • German
  • Hindi
  • Polish

-Backpack in countries that speak the above languages (plus French since I already speak it)
-Learn more about Astronomy and the universe
-Spend 6 months of the year on a Volunteer Abroad excursion like this:
-Earn my Masters
-Earn my PhD
-Explore history through the books, and then go visit the places
-Take a kayaking/camping excursion
-Climb a mountain with a via ferata
-Take a 12 month Kiva Fellow placement

-Pay my mortgage in 5 years
-Have the opportunity to retire early

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Yes, I realize it's actually the day after thanks giving but yesterday comprised of a leisurely brunch and some rather laid back house work accompanied by some of my favourite shows. So I sat back and enjoyed myself.

I did, however, do some reflecting on the things that I am thankful for. (The list is in no particular order.)

1. My family. I truly have the most amazing and supportive family any one could hope for. That includes my extended family. When ever we get together there's lots of reminiscing and creating of new good times. Any time somebody needs something the rest of the family pulls together to help them out. Sure, we're not perfect. But that would be a tad boring.

2. My health. While I do have a busted knee I'm a lot better off then a lot of the people in the world. I can still move about easily and take care of my self. My health is not gradually deteriorating. I have all of my sense and my mind is more or less together. (With a 95% confidence interval depending on how close to stats class I am.)

3. The chance to push my horizons. I'm working at a job that pushes me intellectually and I'm working on a Masters that will allow me to enter into the field of independent research. (And make really cool discoveries that will change the world!)

4. My job and financial savvy. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the world of personal finance as a teenager.  Add that to the fact that I was surrounded by people willing to point me in the right direction and you have the makings of a true personal finance nerd. :) I also managed to find a good job that pays well, is extremely flexible, and has introduced me to the field of research.

5. My Dreams. I'm so very glad that I'm a dreamer. It gives my life direction and passion. I'm not sure I'll ever understand how some one can exist without a dream that puts fire in their eyes.

So . . . That's what I'm thankful for. I hope that you have just as much to be glad about.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Food Waste - Eating the House Clean

No food waste this week! This is probably the first week since I started my Masters that I can announce that. This is partially due to the fact that I'm eating my house clean over this week and next.

What does that mean pray tell? It means that besides the bare minimums of fresh food (milk, a bag of apples and MAYBE some veggies) I concentrate on eating up what's already in the house. It allows me to get rid of every morsel of leftovers and see the bottom of my fruit and veggies drawer. It's a great way for curbing waste when it gets out of hand.

That said I wouldn't recommend this when you have other people in the house who wouldn't want to eat leftovers 3 days in a row or some really strange recipes to get of that odd ingredient that's been floating around.

Also when working on eating your house clean I would recommend that you do keep a good stock of protein (canned tuna and peanut butter for me), complex carbohydrates (whole wheat bread for me) and plant matter (apples for me). Which a) will not go bad quickly and b) will give you sufficient nutrients should you eat your house clean part way through the week and not have time to shop. (Mostly for nuts like me who work 80% a do a full time masters degree . . . because we like the challenge and as a result have no spare time.)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Mortgage Update

Well I'm one month away from my 1 year anniversary in my house so I thought that I'd take a quick look at where my mortgage stands.

Original Balance: $152,000.00
Current Balance: $125,223.25
Change: -26,776.75

Original Number of Months: 360 (30 years)
Current Number of Months: 235 (19.58 years)
Change: 125 (10.42 years)

Original Equity: $39,000 (20.42%)
Current Equity: $65,776.75 (34.44%)
Change: $26,776.75 (14.02%)

Not bad for the first 11 months of a 5 year stretch. I've stuck with it and paid the maximum amount allowed each and every month and paid down my 10% principal to boot. As a result I've paid down 17.62% of my mortgage balance. [($26,776.75/$152,000.00)*100]

You may be scratching your head saying well if she want's to pay it down in 5 years shouldn't she pay off 20% per year? Well in order to avoid penalties I have to play by the banks rules. One of these is that I can increase my monthly payment by 10% each year. So my payment which started off at $646.62 is currently $711.28 which doubles up to $1422.56. Come next November I'll be able to increase that to $782.40 which doubles up to $1,564.80. As a result I can pay down a larger amount each year. Thus the fact that I paid down 17.62% of my balance instead of 20% is ok, since in the last couple years I'll be able to pay more then 20% of the balance without penalty.

Looking forward not only will I be able to increase my payments to the aforementioned $1,564.80 per month, but I also have my next 10% principle payment ready and waiting to go for the 8th of November.

The anticipation is killing me. :)

Friday, 4 October 2013

Food Waste - Awful

Awful just about sums up my food waste at the moment. Unfortunately none got photographed for posterity. They just got dumped as I came across them. Thus far I've had to trash:

-The tail ends of a loaf of bread (I don't care what others say, the crusts do taste different!)
-One tortilla
-Some left over spaghetti
-The end of a cucumber

There's also half a bag of carrots that I'm going to try and save this weekend . . . we'll see if they can be used for baking.

Ever since starting my Masters (on top of my day job) fresh food in my house has been a high risk population. Mostly I have plans for it but end up not taking the time to make a fresh supper. Instead I just pull something out of the freezer or end up making a huge batch of a meal on the weekend and then eating it multiple times during the week.

On a brighter note even though bread and veggies have been having a rough go of late there is no danger of being a fruit in my house. I can polish off a large bag of apples every week so there's no danger of them going off.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Business Tips

I'm not a business person, and at this point in my life I really have no desire to be. So I thought that I'd give some tips on how best to get my business.

There are all the standard requirements, price your services well, do the job well, etc. But there is one aspect that I find varies a lot, accessibility. Some small companies do it well, some big companies do it well, in fact it's a bit of a crap shoot to see who in the local area will hit this mark.

Allow me to explain. I'm busy. I work 32 hours a week and I'm doing a Masters full time. I also try to maintain somewhat of a social life (variable success in that arena.) Most of the time when I'm trying to get in contact with trades persons or other service providers happens over my lunch break, or if I'm busy at the office as soon as I get home at 4:30, or if I get home late, the next day at lunch. The result can be an often frustrating game of phone tag trying to get things organized. It gets even more frustrating when the business has any of the following traits:

-No voicemail
-No e-mail
-Slow response time
-Don't return calls

Actually the last one pretty much guarantees that you will never ever get my business so long as there is another company in town. I have better things to do with my time then trying to chase people down. Use the technology that is available! You don't need to know much about the web to set up a basic website, you need even less to have an e-mail address.

And your harried customers will keep coming back.