Frugal Idea #49: Yummly

I was recently invited to dinner at my friends’ spot. They are recently married and they are both passionate of their crock pot. So far, I have only discovered their homemade turkey chili. However, I am anxiously waiting to try the salsa verde chicken! It was really great to see a couple take time to make home made meals versus eating out for dinner.

After numerous days of eating out during the work day lunch, I realized I needed to stay focused on home made meals and watching that budget. I could not believe I was paying up to $20 for lunch. Ridiculous! As much as I enjoy eating out with the staff and co-workers, eating out will not assist with my financial goals. Having a crazy work schedule and commute, I needed to make quick and easy meals that are easy to pack. Here is how I have quickly adjusted my eating habits to save money:

  1. Invest in Tupperware you enjoy using – I used to buy random Tupperware from Safeway that did not last long (Glad or generic versions). They stained from red pasta sauce, they lost their shape, and sometimes leaked. I decided to invest in quality Tupperware such as glassware. I bought enough sizes to store leftovers, small items like a half used onion, or snacks. I love it!
  2. Organize your Tupperware – One thing that drove me crazy was having Tupperware, but never being able to find the lid that fits. I finally, pulled all Tupperware out of the pantry and threw away any plastic Tupperware that was missing a lid. I decided to buy one of those multi sized packages that comes with 20 Tupperware pieces. If you are more organized, you will be more likely to use the Tupperware and cooking will be a breeze. I now store the lids all together and stack the bottom pieces for easy grabbing and packing.
  3. Get some help – Sometimes I just don’t have time to think about what to cook! I also get sick of cooking the same old meal. I decided to run a Google search on best mobile cooking apps. I decided to download Yummly! It is pretty amazing. You list your favorite cuisines, list any allergies or foods you don’t enjoy (I listed Banana Leaves and sticky rice… just not my cup of tea!), and the app will send you a feed of endless recipes. You can also filter the feed based on the type of ingredients you want to use and how you want to cook it. Tonight, I chose Slow Cooking/Crock Pot and Chicken Breasts. The other great thing is that, you can have all of the ingredients sent to a grocery list for easy shopping! I really look forward to dinner, thanks Yummly!

I hope this helps you out with meal planning and enjoying your time in the kitchen! Let me know what you make.


Frugal Idea #16

BBQ sauce a day, keeps the wallet stored away!

I was obsessed for a hot minute. I wanted BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken, & BBQ Brisket all the time. Let us not forget to order the side of collard greens, baked beans, & honey sweet cornbread. I found myself Yelping for local BBQ spots in San Francisco & the goal was to try them all. I went to Pete’s BBQ in the Mission, Hyde Away BBQ in the Tenderloin, Memphis Minnie’s Bar-B-Que in the Haight, and even found myself stopping by Magnificent BBQ in Vacaville on the way to Sacramento when visiting family! There was something about the smell of BBQ, the meat falling off the slabs, and then wiping your fingers and mouth with the complimentary wet wipe. I found my waistline increasing and my funds decreasing. Something had to change.

In my journey of financial freedom, I have learned that discipline is a major part of saving money. I do love BBQ. It reminds me of those hot summer Sacramento evenings where I grew up with the grill out and the smoke seeping into our windows. We ate while we laughed and bonded as a family. I remember the days when Dad would buy BBQ and I would tag along. We seemed to always walk a little faster home so we can enjoy the hot morsels. It made sense. BBQ is tied into my memories. To discipline myself, I wanted to avoid eating out at expensive restaurants for a meal. I decided to only eat at a BBQ joint when an invite came from a friend or for a special occasion. I took control and decided to take care of my cravings at home.

I learned to keep a readily available bottle of BBQ at home. I decided to try different bottles at the local grocery store and buy only when on sale. I discovered Safeway coupons for BBQ sauce as low as $0.99! I stuck with tastes that I enjoyed – a little bold, with a lot of kick. Whenever, I craved BBQ, I walked quickly past the local joint (did I ever tell you there is a BBQ restaurant next door to my apartment – the agony), and used my bottle of BBQ. I have recently made home made BBQ burgers and BBQ chicken. I have even watched YouTube videos on how to make homemade collard greens to get the ultimate home chow down.

You can do this with all of your “must have” cravings. If you love pizza, learn to make pizza at home buying ready made dough. If you love Japanese food, maybe have Teriyaki sauce available. I have learned that you can still have what you want without spending a lot. It may just come in a different form.

I am also happy to say that my waistline seems to be in more control. The wallet has gotten fatter, but my jeans don’t seem to mind.

Frugal Idea #15

Time to Post It!

Every Sunday, I like to do a weekly purge of the apartment fridge. Out goes the brown lettuce, the leftover meat I never really got to, hardened steamed rice, and the infamous last sip of milk in a carton you just can’t seem to drink. As the purged items hit the trash, I started to notice my lack of eating and organizational skills have led to wasted foods, wasted drinks, and extra usage of garbage bags. Bottom line: What a waste of money!

My defining moment was about a week ago when I opened the fridge on a work day in an awoken slumber. I peered in the open door & stared at a hard boiled egg next to a ketchup bottle and a box of soy milk. In a panic, I could not remember when I boiled that egg and I read the box of soy milk “Use within 7-10 days”. I did not remember when I opened the soy milk. There goes my breakfast. No way was I going to risk a day of sales calls and visits to clients & the porcelain throne (toilet).

I decided to take action. I needed to figure out a way to make sure I ate what I bought and use it within the time of expiration. I decided to use Post It Notes to write when the product was opened and when the product is expected to expire. I will track my actions, but I am sure that I will waste less and save money when it comes to groceries & consumption (along with saving an extra garbage bag).

This morning I was able to enjoy a nice fresh cup of soy milked coffee, a couple of fresh cage-free eggs, and sausage that was within it’s 3 day shelf life. A full stomach and an episode of Fox’s Gang Related. What a great Sunday.

Soy Milk with Post It Note (Opened & Expired)

Soy Milk with Post It Note (Opened & Expired)

Frugal Idea #11

Got Pot? A Crock Pot that is. 

It is quite amazing what sun can do for someone. Daylight Savings/Spring Forward has arrived. As I scrolled thru my Facebook News Feed, I couldn’t help but notice the comments and #hashtags on sun & light. A miracle has happened!

“The sun is still out on my way home from work! #Blessed

“I am taking advantage of the sun #SunglassesOn

“The sun feels so good on my skin #FlipFlopsAndTanks

It went on and on. For those with a long commute (raises hand) and only hope that you get home before 6pm (again, raises hand) to see the sun, a Crock Pot is a must have. Living in Uptown Tenderloin, I am surrounded by scrumptious & affordable cheap eats. To my right, we have Little Saigon, where I can have Pho or even better, Bun Rieu. Or how about Lee’s Bun Mees. To my left, I can get a piping hot Indian plate of Saag Paneer & Lamb Curry from Lahore Karahi; and just at the bottom of my stairwell, I am forever tempted by Lil’ May’s Gumbo, Lobster Mac & Cheese, & Ribs served at her infamous and award winning Hyde Away BBQ. I remember when I fist moved here, I was dropping money literally at every corner (for food). Not very FrugalNev is you ask me.

To understand where your money is dispersed, you must pay attention to your spending habits. I was typically exhausted from work and the last thing I wanted to do was pull out a pot & pan to cook. Take out dinners became the norm. I had to change my habits. I became obsessed with the idea of the Crock Pot. I watched YouTube videos, searched recipes, inquired ideas from co-workers, and after I jotted down a few ideas, I purchased my Crock Pot at Target for $29.99. Believe it or not, that was 50% of what I spent in one take out dinner! I guess you can say my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

To master the Crock Pot, I needed to be realistic of what I would eat as leftovers and what veggies I would really want to eat stewed vs. steamed (my preference). Explore and practice. Find out what works for you. So far, my favorite has been buying a whole chicken on sale (I got one for $5 recently). I seasoned it well and turned on the Crock Pot before bed. In the morning as I brewed my homemade coffee, I pulled the chicken out and placed into tupperware. I now had lunch AND dinner ready. I am a dark meat kind of guy, so the white meat (which can be a bit dry) became soup in the next two days.

Of course, as a self-proclaimed Foodie, I still enjoy trying food outside of my home. However, I am focusing on limiting eating out for time with friends, birthdays, and family time. With all of the money saved, you can be rest assured that your meal at Gary Danko or any other Michelin rated restaurant is something you truly can afford …. and enjoy. While you are at it, go ahead and ask for that dessert menu. Who is with me? (raises hand).

Picture: Crock Pot cooking beef stew, potatoes, and carrotsImage