Our Work & Play Weekend


It’s been at least 2 years since Todd and I have gone to the movies together, or so we figured out one night last week as we were considering what to do this weekend. Two years?! I mean, sure, we’ve been a bit distracted between getting married and buying the house. And the vast majority of movies that have come out lately have not been my cup of tea, so combine that with the crowds, the rising cost of movie tickets, and the comfort of watching what we want, when we want, from home in PJs and hello 2 years!

No, we didn’t go see Jurassic World–I still maintain my 2 week minimum wait before seeing a new release rule–but we did go see Tomorrowland, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I know some have criticized Clooney’s performance, but we didn’t have any issues with him. Laurie’s diatribe towards the end was more throught-provoking than I would have expected.


I’d actually hoped that we would be able to see it at our local theater, but it had already moved on (with only 7 screens, the turnover might be a bit higher than elsewhere), so we drove down to the AMC in Tallahassee. This turned out to be a good thing, since we also needed to make a Sam’s Club run to stock up the freezer again.

This is something I just started doing this year and I’m kinda kicking myself for not starting sooner. Ages ago we were gifted a hand-me-down chest freezer and while we used it to store leftovers and overflow from the regular freezer, we never really got into the habit of stocking-up that the appliance allows. And I’ve had a Sam’s Club membership for decades through work, but until this year I would usually go once a year to stock up on my OTC meds (almost a year’s supply for less than a month at the pharmacy for my allergy meds and vitamins).

Better late than never, I guess. In February I went to do my usual med run and decided to browse the frozen foods and meat cases to see if there were any deals to be had. Of course there were, and in April and June Todd and I have gone back to do the same. My favorite buys remain the 10# pork loins that yeild 2 pork roasts and 16 1/2″ pork loin chops for a total of $20 and the 4#+ packs of a beef stew meat that I divide into thirds and use for everything from stew to stir fry. They’ve also started carrying gluten-free flour by the 5# bag that’s about the same as what 2 small bags costs from Trader Joe’s but lasts much longer.

The portioned haul from our April trip: pork chops, chicken thighs, stew beef, and mixed seafood.

The portioned haul from our April trip: pork chops, chicken thighs, stew beef, and mixed seafood.

This trip we picked up a pork loin (6 meals), a package of 10 chicken breasts (we split each oversized breast and get 5 meals from), a package of stew beef (3 meals), and a 10# sleeve of 90/10 ground beef (10 meals). I’d prefer a slightly higher mix like 94/6, but that’s harder to find in bulk–this was the first time I’d even seen 90/10. This portion of our purchase came to $78, or .81 average cost per serving (we portion and cook for 4 servings a night and use the leftovers for lunches).

On average we get 25-30 meals worth of protein in each trip and that lasts us 2 months, give or take. But I wondered how that worked, since that’s only about a month’s worth of dinners, right? So here’s how it breaks down.

  • Say there are 60 days in 2 months, just to keep us working with easy numbers. The 24 meals worth of protein we purchased this weekend still leaves us with 36 night to cover.
  • It’s not unusual for us to do breakfast for dinner once a week, so there’s, say, 8 meals that don’t require a main-dish protein (though we’ll usually have bacon on sausage on those nights–not something we’ve been buying in bulk). And we often have a meatless meal a week, so there’s another 8. Last week Todd made cream of tomato soup (from scratch!) and grilled cheese sandwiches, for instance. So now we’re down to 20 holes to fill.
  • On average I’d say we go out to eat/pick up take-out twice a month. Sometimes it’s higher, but not always. So we’ll say 4 meals for this exercise, and we regularly have fish or seafood once a week, as well, so that’s another 8 taken care of. While we do usually buy our seafood frozen in case we move our meal planning around (prevents loss due to spoilage in that case), the bulk buys aren’t much different from the regular, so that’s an as-needed purchase. But, still, that’s another 12 days taken care of, meaning there’s only 8 meals that we have to buy meat for outside of these bulk purchases.

Not too shabby, right?

Of course, buying in bulk means you often have to repackage what you buy into portions that work for you. In our case, like I said above, we portion for 4 servings even though there’s only 2 of us, so that we don’t have to worry about lunches, saving time and money in the long run. While I do have a vacuum sealer, I tend to just use Ziplock freezer bags (which we also restocked during this most recent Sam’s run) for convenience. You could go old-school with freezer paper, masking tape and a wax pencil, if that’s your preference. Always make sure to label what it is and when you bought it, too. We still have some pork chops and chicken thighs in the freezer from the last run, and we want to make sure we use those before the new “stock”–this is First In/First Out or FIFO stock rotation and prevents waste.

To save time and mess)  I pre-label all my freezer bags before I start opening packages.

To save time and mess) I pre-label all my freezer bags before I start opening packages.

You’ll also need a good, strong knife and a cutting board for fabricating (aka breaking down, portioning, or cutting up). A sturdy board that’s not going to slip on you (though you can lay a damp towel underneath for stability–makeshift suction “cup”) with a channel around the edge to maintain any spills is highly recommended. And you want to do this pretty much as soon as you get home. You can certainly cut meat when it’s frozen or partially frozen–for some things it’s even easier, like super-thin cuts for stir fry or fajitas–but you want to avoid defrosting and refreezing as it can lead to freezer burn as well as damaging the cell structure of the meat, leading to texture issues when you go to cook it. Not to mention it’s a lot easier to cut yourself and not realize it when your fingers are numb from handling below 40° protein! (No, I didn’t do this, it was just a constant caution back in meat cutting class, which was held in the walk-in fridges back in school to prevent temperature control issues). Work quickly and get it put up pronto!

I haven’t graduated to full-on freezer meal prep yet, but I can see it coming somewhere down the line. For now I’ll just stick to stocking the freezer every couple of months and menu planning each week.

Wandering through a warehouse store for an hour or so might not sound like a great follow-up to an afternoon movie date, but it was nice to be out of the house together with a goal but not a timeline. We usually grocery shop alone, so these trips are sort of a novelty for us, and we end up talking about anything and everything in the process. For us, it was a great combination of work and play.

RBBiz Day 8: Kate Northrup

Creative Business

Kate’s talk on Wednesday was all about the money!


Having a money expert chime in during the Right Brainers in Business Summit is a regular part of the program and always interesting because Creatives, in general, seem to have a lot of anxiety and stress around discussing money, selling, budgeting, and the whole money numbers block that a lot of folks have. Even though I’m pretty good with numbers, I can safely say that I’ve had some other baggage around money matters in the past and I’m actively working to improve them.

If you recall, I wrote about how I redesigned the monthly budget worksheets for the Creative Days planner, this year, and one of the features I added was a more robust debt tracking system. It’s very cool to be able to put down arrows on more lines than up arrows, indicating the overall shift in my balances. Slow going, since I’m working off some spending born of impatience and whatnot, but it’s going in the right direction.

One of the lessons I try to remember each month as I fill out my budget and schedule all my bills to be paid (oh, thank goodness for online bill payment systems!), is to be grateful that I have the means to pay the bills. That while I might not always like the chore of paying bills, I’m able to do it (usually) without stress and that’s worth a lot. I think that one came from one of the first two years of the RBBiz Summit, but it’s stuck with me.


These posts are getting shorter as the second week goes by. Chances are no one really minds, judging by my stats, but I will say it has less to do with the Summit (the guests are awesome day after day) and more the fact that I’ve been sleeping horribly the last few nights and I’m not entirely sure why. Makes for a very sleepy Scraps and a sleepy Scraps is not a talkative (type-ative?) Scraps. Anyway, two more days of Summit to go and then we’ll be back to our usually scheduled food, house, and craft fun.

Also, Happy Birthday to Todd!!! He’s not actually big on having his birthday celebrated, so we keep things low-key by request, but I am incredibly grateful that he was born 🙂

With My Mind On My Money…

Everyday Adventures

Because I’m sure no one else has used that for a budget-related post, right? Right?!

Okay, yes, it’s cliche, BUT there’s also a nugget of truth in there in that monitoring our finances (just like making our own meals) means we’ll make better choices if we’re reminded of our financial status on the regular. It may not always be a pretty picture, but hopefully it makes us want to be better.

At least that’s how it’s working for me.

Used to be I’d just write down all my bills in whatever journal I was using that year and check them off as they got paid. What was left invariably went to gas and groceries and whatever else popped up for that month. When I designed my prototype planner last year, I created a budget page to include with each month and moved my money out of my journal.

Single Page Budget Worksheet

Single Page Budget Worksheet

This worked pretty well, but it left a bit to be desired. A lot of things had to be summarized (like a single line for gas and groceries, when those are multiple per month purchases), for instance, and so I tended not to use those lines and not track my spending as much.

While a lot of people make ‘get healthier’-style resolutions, I’m more interested in getting my finances in better shape, and that means delving deeper into my spending habits and actually budgeting for certain things as opposed to just using what was there (and, let’s be honest, maybe a bit more, dipping into savings or using credit cards).

Speaking of savings, it’s never been something I’ve been great at. There’s a lot of big thinking out there about money attitudes and how much you had or didn’t have growing up. The idea that windfalls must be spent now to avoid being frittered away is a common one, or just not being able to think beyond the immediate needs. I admit that I held a lot of those attitudes over the years and am actively trying to break them/make better money associations, but that early programming is tough, you know?

On the other side of not saving enough is spending too much, as in using credit that you don’t pay off each month. I have that. A fair amount, actually, and I realized that while I do look at more than just the minimum payment line on my statement, what I tend to focus on is not the balance of credit used but the balance of available credit. Two sides of the same coin, right? Yes and no. See, while I liked seeing the ‘available credit’ increase as I paid down the balance, it gave me a skewed perspective since the important number (the statement balance) was sort of an imaginary, ignored number. It stopped having meaning. Do you do the same thing? I doubt I’m alone in this.

All of those reasons and more were why I completely revamped the budget worksheet for the 2015 Creative Days Planner. It’s now two pages, has room for the budgeted vs actual expenses for those variable spending categories, and includes balance tracker, trend, and interest columns for the debt section so that I am sure to not just look at but copy over those amounts, meaning they become more “real” to me and keep me on track to start getting them paid off, not just down!

Two-Page Budget Worksheet from the 2015 Creative Days Weekly/Monthly Planner

Two-Page Budget Worksheet from the 2015 Creative Days Weekly/Monthly Planner

The budget worksheet is something I tackle the first weekend of each month and I schedule the payments through my bank’s Bill Payer at the same time, getting as much of it out of the way at one time as possible (certain bills don’t generate until later in the month, so there’s usually a second round around the 20th. While it’s sometimes approached with a tiny bit of dread, that’s another money attitude I’ve been working on changing. Instead I remind myself that I’m grateful to be able to pay all of my bills–even the credit cards!

Is your budget something you want to get more control over this year?

Is Price Matching the New Couponing?


Or is it merely an extension of the concept?

Ages ago I had a coworker who would complain, good-naturedly, about his wife’s habit of going to 4 different stores to do her grocery shopping. He’d even chosen the phrase “the tuna run” because they drove to a particular store simply because that store was having a fabulous sale on tuna fish.

It’s no surprise he wondered if the gas they used going from store to store cost more than what she saved with these obstacle course-like trips.

And that was back when gas was still under $2 a gallon!

Oh, for those days…

But I digress. The point was, she was willing to go that extra mile to save her pennies, and many people do far more these days.

Back when I was first exposed to the Extreme Couponing phenomenon my biggest complaint was and still is that coupons are frequently for highly-processed convenience foods. Sure, we could use the occasional household goods coupons, but it certainly wasn’t worth our while when the majority of what we buy is fresh or frozen produce (without the instant sauces), meats that have been no more processed that a trip through the butcher’s table, and basic staples.

Now, though, I’ve come across something that might just fill the gap.

On Pinterest (it’s not just for decorating ideas) I noticed a friends pin on price-matching.

For those who aren’t instantly familiar, some stores (of which Wal-Mart is a shining example) will match the price of another store. While they may loose a small amount of the mark-up represented in the shelf price, it’s far better than having you go to another store and them losing out on the sale completely.

Apparently, this extends to groceries, too. Including produce and meat.

And all it takes to take advantage of this tactic, is a little homework.

Many grocery chains have a weekly sales flyer. Most of them also have this flyer available online so you don’t even have to subscribe to a mailing list or swing by every Tuesday or so when the ads come out. And since Wal-Mart, at least, doesn’t require you to have the advertisement on you to claim the lower price, all you need is the knowledge.

I shop at Wal-Mart on my weeks of kitchen duty. It’s not my first choice, honestly, as I prefer to aesthetic quality of shopping at Publix, but the receipts bear witness to the fact that I spend less at Wal-Mart. So, unless I need a specialty ingredient or am just swinging-in on my way home from work, Wal-Mart it is.

Across town, however, we have a Save-a-Lot and a Harvey’s, both known for deep discounts and pretty good sales. I’m not about to trek down there on the weekends, though, so price matching through their online ads allows me the savings without having to go to more than one store. I didn’t even check Winn-Dixie, come to think of it.

Something else I learned by doing my homework was that a lot of these store-sites have a “shopping list” feature where you can click on the items in the ad or drag them over and it puts your choices on a printable list. Just because you don’t need the ad, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt to have the prices at your fingertips–and only the ones that you need.

So this week was my test, just to see if it was really as easy as it seemed.

Turned out, of my shopping list this week there was only 1 thing I needed that I could price match, but all I did was speak up as the cashier was about to scan it and they changed the price with no problem.

The girl behind me asked “That really works?”

Apparently it does.

I didn’t cut my food bill in half this week–truth be told I saved a whopping $2–but the point is that it IS possible, it’s a lot less cumbersome than coupons, and the homework is a far sight simpler than the other way.

Has anyone else tried this? What were your experiences with it?