Remember how I said last week that I needed to step up my lunch packing game? Well, let’s just say that definitely didn’t happen. Lunches this week involved canned soup, apples and peanut butter, and oatmeal with an overripe banana that would have otherwise gone bad. Not terribly unhealthy or expensive, but not overly exciting either except for the blueberries and sugar snap peas from the garden to supplement the meals – those were delicious).

While there isn’t anything particularly wrong with the kinds of lunches I’ve been eating during the week over the past month or so, they definitely aren’t exciting. Some people are really great at eating the same meals over and over again without getting bored, but I’m not one of those people. If I don’t start planning to spice up my options, I’m going to get really tempted to buy better options instead, and I have no intention of starting that habit up again. One lunch out now and again won’t break our grocery budget; lunch out four and five days a week will. So I guess this is to say I’m putting this out there for the accountability of bringing better meals to work.

During the colder months when we eat a lot of soups and stews, it’s easy just to make enough to bring to work as leftovers. This time of year though, our dinners seem to be simpler (usually grilled and salads), so they don’t readily make leftovers in the same way. Not a great excuse though, so it’s time to start prepping meals separately. If anyone has any quick and easy meal suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them.

Homegrown sugar snap peas and blueberries for lunches

Friday’s Frugal Five

1. One quirky thing about me is how much I hate to fill up my gas tank. I know it’s not a huge deal, but it annoys me to have to make a separate stop just to fuel my car. It’s not the act of refueling though, because it was just as annoying to me when I lived in Oregon and someone else pumped my gas for me. At the point I ever buy a new car, it will be electric. Yes for the environmental reasons, but also because one of the most amazing things I can think of is never visiting a gas station again (or not having a car altogether for day to day use).

All of this backstory is to say that my mom borrowed my car for a short while last weekend and brought it back with a full tank of gas. Such a little thing in the grand scheme of life, but one I so appreciate. It’s been most of a week now and I still catch myself smiling when I turn on my car and notice the full gas gauge. Goes to show that sometimes even a little gesture can mean a lot.

2. One of my very best friends celebrated her thirtieth birthday Saturday night, and for the third year in a row, she hosted a paint and sip night with a group of friends at her house. We brought drinks, another friend brought a cake, we had lots of snacks, and otherwise the only money spent was on (cheap) canvases and paints. And honestly, the ability to stop the YouTube instruction video to take a break to chat makes the DIY version of this kind of night exponentially better than attending a class at a paint studio.

I’ll later be taking her out to dinner just the two of us, and we’ll get more enjoyment – and more time together – for a lower cost than one night out could have been. I’m so lucky my close friends just naturally gravitate to this sort of thing, because there’s no tension about how much money is being spent and instead the focus is on quality time spent together.

Finished product

3. I booked our flights for another trip to Hawaii for early next year using the Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned from opening two Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards (one in each of our names). We’re taking my grandmother and my mother in law along, and the five round trip tickets only cost 125,000 Ultimate Rewards points and $56.00, which is pretty freaking incredible if you ask me. We used the “sweet spot” of booking Alaska Airlines flights through British Airways, which reduced the number of total points we needed, got us on direct flights and we still get to fly on Alaska Airlines, which is the very best airline in my personal opinion.

It was way more confusing to book the tickets than everything I read made it seem (maybe I just have to get more practice at the hoops you have to jump through with travel hacking), but I felt so powerful and successful once those tickets showed up in my email.

Travel hacking seriously all it’s cracked up to be in my opinion. Of course, this ONLY applies if you pay your credit card off IN FULL every month AND you don’t spend more than you would without the card; otherwise, you’re losing money, no matter how great the rewards seem. If you decide you want to dip your toe into the travel hacking waters, here is my affiliate link for the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which really appears to be the very easiest/best card to start with.

Pololù Valley lookout – November 2017

4. I’m closing in on seventeen months of a full clothes buying ban, and now I’m hoping to make it a full two years. I have to say though, I’m getting to the point where I wouldn’t mind a little more variety in my day to day options, but not enough to where I’ve been willing to buy new clothes to do it. For one, I still have a full closet, and for two, I’m really enjoying spending zero dollars on that part of my budget. And three, I will want to buy either thrifted clothes or ones that are sustainably sourced, both of which will take more time than I want to devote right now (and I refuse to support brands that have these kind of practices).

I totally lucked out though, as my mom has recently been decluttering her closet and passed along a bag of clothes for me to try. While I won’t be keeping everything (I still want to eventually minimize the number of clothes I have in my closet altogether), I kept – and have already worn – a couple of pieces that she was getting rid of. It’s amazing how exciting a bag of gently used clothes is when you haven’t bought yourself anything new in so long. Hedonic adaptation is certainly a real thing, and it clearly extends to clothes buying.

5. Our childcare situation was a little different this past Wednesday, and we found ourselves with a two hour gap first thing in the morning where we didn’t have someone to watch our son. While I do work less than full time, I do have set hours at work and so it would really be best if we could find someone for those two hours. I reached out to my neighbor, and she readily agreed to have him join them for breakfast in the morning and play for a little while.

We may not live in the biggest house or in the newest, fanciest neighborhood, but I would challenge you to find a better set of neighbors than we have. Raising a family takes a village, and we’ve certainly found one here.

Hanging with one of the neighbor kids

Running Update

Thanks to the change in our normal routine on Wednesday, I didn’t get to run to work that morning. I knew that was going to happen though, so I made sure to go for a good run on both Monday and Tuesday as well as a serious weight lifting workout on Monday after the run. I apparently need to find time to lift more regularly, because I was sore through Thursday, which is ridiculous.

What sort of workouts do you like to do? Are you a cardio or strength training kind of person? I love both, but when I have to choose based on time restrains, I (obviously) choose to run.

33 thoughts on “Friday’s Frugal Five (2018 – Week 29)

  1. I find your Friday Frugal Five so inspiring! Thank you! FWIW, our family of 4 (2 kids in carseats!) made the switch to an electric car (2015 Nissan Leaf, picked up for $11k with 21k miles on it) last November and absolutely LOVE it. No regrets at all. Avoiding the gas station was amazingly freeing, although it took a little while to grow out of the urge to pull into one whenever the range meter began ticking down below 50 miles. Amazingly strong habit!

    1. That’s awesome!! I have a paid off 2008 Camry Hybrid with less than 90k miles on it though, so I’m not going to be looking for a new car any time soon I don’t think… though sometimes I consider it anyway. But one thing I hate more than gas stations is car dealerships, so… 😂

    1. Exactly! But makes lunches harder in the summer for sure. And thank you! Now to decide where and if I will hang it up at home 😉

  2. that used to seem crazy to me buying gas in oregon. were you near the willamette valley? they finally got rid of that ridiculous law i believe. i like chicken salad and stuff like that from leftover grill items. chop a little celery and add some mayo and voila! you really gotta ramp up slowly on those weights. my running is down with the stupid level heat here this summer. a run with some push-ups at the end will get you a little strength training without adding a lot of time. i like that painting party. mrs. smidlap just went to a painting meetup last week and had a couple of glasses of wine in the great outdoors with friends. i don’t know why people feel a need to pay for something that is close to free.

    1. Yep, Willamette University, so Salem 🙂 And I think paying for something that’s close to free like a painting party is for the convenience of not having to gather items etc. That and if you are on the hook to buy all the paint colors yourself (and just use them the one time), the cost savings isn’t as good.

  3. That travel hacking deal is impressive! We want to make a trip to Hawaii in the next few years ourselves.

    I like to lift but usually choose to run – because it’s simple and also because of time constraints. We have an amazing weight lifting class at our work gym on Fridays that I’ve been trying to hit up a couple times a month. I am always sore for like 3 days afterwards though!

    1. Thank you!! It seriously felt so freaking amazing to actually make the points work like that. And I hear you on running being the easier one to do if you just have a few minutes (and you don’t have weights nearby).

  4. Travel hacking is amazing, that’s an awesome price! I’ve decided to give travel hacking a try, but I’m having bad luck with Chase. Despite a stellar credit score and a respectable household income I got the dreaded “you’ll hear from is by mail within 30 days” response:(

    1. How frustrating. Have you given them a call to see what’s up? I’ve also heard from others that they’ll get that notice and then just have to wait a week or two and then get approved.

      1. I called only to get super frustrated with their customer service. I hate it when you you get passed around to several people and each person gives you the opposite answer to the same question. Fingers crossed because I have a couple upcoming expenses that will get me to the minimum spend to get the miles.

  5. I eat a lot of bowls for lunch in the summer when I’m eating things for dinner that don’t work well for leftovers: grain bowls, deconstructed sushi bowls, etc. It’s convenient because then I can eat lunch all week independently of what I’m having for dinner.

    Ahhhh I’m so jealous/excited you’re going back to Hawaii. Take me with you on the third trip? 😉

    1. Yeah I should probably start doing something like that. It just means I actually have to plan my lunches ahead 😉 And yes – join us next time!!

  6. I love that you travel hacked your next trip to Hawaii. My wife was just saying the other day that she wanted to go back to Hawaii. Our last trip tipped the scale at $8000, with condo and airfare. When we go again I am going to follow your lead and try my hand at some travel hacking. I will use your Chase Saffire link to open those two cards. Thanks Angela.

    1. Use your own referral link when you open the second card in your household! I mean, I won’t refuse the referral points, but it’s any easy way to get an extra 10k between the two of you! Our last trip cost just north of $400 a person, and I don’t feel like we missed out on anything.

  7. Taking our lunch to work instead of eating out 3-4 times per week has made a HUGE difference in our savings rate! It’s pretty incredible how powerful that small change was: https://decadetofreedom.com/the-cost-of-food/. I get how lack of culinary diversity could be a hangup, too. I actually took the Frugalwoods’ rice and beans for lunch almost daily for 4 months. It was good at the time, but I needed a break!

    We still take mainly leftovers with a salad. Even in the summer most of our dinners are one pot or casserole-type meals that are easy to scale up.

    1. 4 months of the same food sounds like torture to me haha. I wouldn’t say lunches out make a huge impact on our bottom line by themselves, but it’s that habit coupled with a bunch of other ones that do it.

  8. Ugh, I hate getting gas. Such a bother. My daughter and I are going to harvest our first cherry tomato when I get home from work and I’m so excited haha. But if she spits it out and says it’s gross I’ll be so ticked for her wasting it after we’ve waited so patiently 🙂

    1. Haha I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds filling gas so annoying! And my son was so excited to eat a cherry tomato this year. Until he tasted it. Lol

  9. The lunch concept that works for me is to prepare five days worth at once and pack it up into grab and go portions. In summer, a big grain, lentil or bean salad with herbs, veggies and dressing works well. A very modest amount of work to chop herbs and veg, and cook a grain like farro or quinoa, add some seasoning and oil and vinegar, and you are good for the week. My husband likes the same black bean salad every week: beans, bell peppers, cilantro, green onions, tomatoes, dressed with lime juice, honey mustard and olive oil. I play the field with all sorts of grains and pulses, but you get the idea.

    1. I really should do something like this for my lunches, but I am the WORST meal prepper. Maybe this is something I should work on this summer 🙂

  10. I stink at coming up with good ideas for lunch/dinner. I end up with the same thing over and over :/ I need to come up with better/more ideas!

    Jealous of your neighbor situation! We’ve been slow to try to meet our neighbors since we moved in almost 2 years ago…it’s just awkward if you don’t see them outside!

    I’ve been slow to get back to exercise, but I do like running (just been walking for now) but want to get some strength training and yoga back in as well.

    1. That’s the best part of a front yard vegetable garden – it was an awesome way to get to know our neighbors 🙂

  11. Yeah – I’m strange in that I probably eat similar in winter and summer, and don’t mind the same things for lunch for days on end! It certainly makes life easier for me.

    I hate filling my car up too – but I think I’d hate charging an electric car even more. A few charging points are springing up in supermarket car parks, but they need to seriously scale before it becomes a reasonable proposition.

    1. I guess my thought about an electric car is that I would have a charger just at home and that would cover 99% of the charging needs, so really just plug in when I get home and unplug when I leave.

  12. I love grilling extra veg and protein to use in wraps, include fresh herbs and some fancy schmancy dressing (like tahini or tsatski) and in Golden all summer long—bowls are another way to jazz it up. I agree, winter lunches are so much easier to repeat for some reason.
    Travel hacking with cc is a non starter for us cause we use our cash back to go into retirement fund. At some point I think we will give it a go but not till retirement is funded.

    1. Cash back into retirement is definitely not a bad way to go! We travel enough that we’ve used all our miles from standard credit card spending and then some, so travel hacking is really starting to make sense for us.

  13. I am so so SO impressed by the travel hacking! I swear… Next big expense, I’m gonna do it. I am. (I’m just scared. LOL.) How exciting that you get to take your extended family with you!

    The produce out of your garden looks absolutely delicious.

    1. There’s no way we’d be able to afford to bring extra family members with us otherwise, so it is absolutely worth it for us!

      And the produce is definitely delicious 😉

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