It was Payday week

Before I go getting all excited for payday week – I realize that I’m still in the midst of paying off debt. Which means that we don’t celebrate the payday by going out to dinner and the movies this Friday night. Nope, we stay at home and invite people over…for frozen pizza (but even frozen pizza tastes better when shared with friends right?).

We are looking once again at our menu for the next week and trying to keep it as cheap week 2. So here we go with our menu for the week. I also don’t talk about lunch much – because I usually take leftovers and she takes a simple sandwich, chips, fruit lunch.

Sunday – It is Colorado and we are in winter which means that you never know when it will be cold out and a soup will be perfect. Tonight we will have chicken and dumplings. I got a giant box of bisquick at Costco for around $3 and we almost always have chicken in the freezer. This week (since it was payday week – we got another bag of chicken tenders). We also put in carrots and celery to make it a little healthier. We also used bullion for the chicken stock (rather than buy chicken stock – because we already had it at home).

Monday – My friend had so graciously given us a couple really big filets of Halibut a couple weeks back. I still have one in the freezer. This is the perfect week to add the Halibut to the menu again. We like to coat it with some crunched up chips (since we usually have those on hand because of lunches). We will have fried fish filets, french fries (got these on sale for just 99 cents for the bag of sweet potatoes), and garlic/olive oil roasted tomanotes (we had some small tomatoes left from last week). While this meal was REALLY cheap for us because we already had the fish. Fish is not all that expensive – so still a cheap meal.

Tuesday – I know that Dave Ramsey says don’t go to restaurants. But Taco Tuesday is a cheap way for us to have dinner. Tacos at Del Taco are just $1.29 for three of them. We order six and have water (soda costs more). So we have a meal for my daughter and myself for just $2.60. (Less than it would cost us just to buy the taco shells). And tonight is also a night that we have some stuff after school and work – making the quick grab dinner ideal. I order two of the tacos soft shell so I can warm them up for lunch the next day.

Wednesday – Tater tot Casserole. Tater tots are having their moment. (At least so all the cool kids are telling me). This was probably the most expensive meal of the week. We browned 1 lb ground beef ($3); added a can of cream of mushroom soup (79c – cause we use the store brand); added a can of green beans (60c); salt and pepper. Put that in the bottom of a pan. Put a bag of tater tots ($2) on top of that and sprinkled with cheese (we already had cheese – but maybe $2 for the block – we like cheese and used a lot). We put that in over at 350 for 35 minutes. Total meal was $8.39 (but lots of leftovers)

Thursday – Chicken and waffle sandwiches. We used frozen waffles and chicken nuggets. We toasted the waffles and then loaded the chicken nuggets on top (already cooked) then drizzled maple syrup over the whole thing. Delicious and easy. Plus CHEAP. The waffles were made using part of the bisquick box (the same one I used for the dumplings on Sunday) – I happen to have a waffle maker. We also opted for the chicken nuggets but if we wanted to be a bit (ever so slightly) healthier – we could have used the chicken tenders that I said we already have in our freezer.  Because we already had this stuff in our freezer it won’t cost us anything. BUT if you are buying waffles they will be around $2 for a box of 8 and $4 for a bag of chicken nuggets (that you can use again for lunches at another time).

Friday – In the round and round that is the weather in Colorado. I hear we are supposed to have more snow on Friday. That is why Friday will be soup day. Safeway has progresso soups on sale for just 77c a can. If my daughter and I can agree on one soup we will have that and share it tonight. If we can’t agree. Well we may just go crazy and open two cans and each choose our own. For under $2 for a full meal.

Sometimes I feel like I really just want to go out to dinner – but I am really finding the cheap meal challenge sort of fun too. Making sure that we are using things that we already have/stock in our freezer as well as staying well under our budget number for food. When we stay under that number – it just means I can spend more paying down my debt.

This is Cheap Week

I am mananging my finances fairly tight right now. I am a follwer of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace. I find myself in baby step two  – that is getting out of all sorts of debt except the house. Baby step 1 is to save $1000 (and that is tucked away).

This week we had our house payment due (which is more than Mr. Ramsey suggests but I’m in a house I love, in an area I love, in the school district where my daughter will graduate in just a few months – so I’m staying here at least for the short term). Which puts us on what I’ll call Cheap Week.

This is the week of the month that we stay inside and play board games and devise dance party nights – as a solution to any kind of entertainment. We also live in Colorado – so there are a ton of beautiful hikes nearby that will cost NOTHING.

The most difficult part of this week is my teenage daugher who is having a hard time understanding my “no” to her asking if we can take a walk to the store for chocolate. Which apparently she’s got a craving for. The most difficult thing so far is her no’s. I guess easy to tell myself no – harder to say it out loud to someone else. I really see why if I was in a position to do this with a partner, we would really need to be on the same page and say no to each other.

Here’s what our cheap week dinner menu looks like this week:

Chicken Bowls – I got a giant bag of potatoes at the store (5 lbs) for just $1. We will make some mashed potatoes, put some chicken nuggets on top, canned corn, and a bit of gravy or cheese (or maybe both).

Dressed up Ramen – Thank goodness that ramen is making a come-back! (Was it ever really here)? But we picked out a spicy chicken ramen, we will add a bag of mixed vegetables (we got a bag on sale for just 50 c), I have some chicken still in my freezer so we will take a sizeable breast – cut it into smaller pieces and add to the ramen. My daughter also likes to add a cut up medium boiled egg. Voila! Fancy Ramen. All those restaurants can eat their hearts out.

Frozen Pizza – Wednesday is lacrosse night anyway – so a quick and easy meal is perfect that night. I got a frozen pizza from Safeway using one of their coupons for just $2! (and not the Totinos kind!). I sort of miss the mark of vegetables with this meal but we COULD add veggies on the side like carrots or add something to the pizza!

Sausage and potatoes – Yes, using more of that bag of potatoes, we will roast them and put them with sausage that I got on sale at the store a while back. Does potatoes count as a vegetable?

Spaghetti – Yes, this does make it to our meal plan quite a bit. We can usually get spaghetti for around $1 (and when we’re really feeling it we make fresh spaghetti – which is really just flour, egg and water) and a can of spaghetti sauce for about $1 add some of our own spices (we like more garlic please). Full Meal is about $2. Sometimes I serve with a salad.

Orange Chicken – One of our favorite meals is Orange Chicken from Trader Joe’s for just $5 a bag plus some rice. I usually serve with some broccoli, it is a complete meal for us for about $6!

I do look for sales. I usually don’t have the money to “stock up” and keep things for a long time or have a hoarders kind of kitchen cabinet. I do however, grab things if I think it is a great deal and we will use them in the next couple weeks. Then I make a plan to do so. Especially knowing that the weeks early in the month are hard because of the house payment.

Do you have some great cheap dinner ideas that you’d like to share? We’re happy to try them.

My Relationship With Money

Have you ever thought about why you do the things you do with money? Do you value it different than your friends? Where do your money attitudes come from anyway?

I grew up in a middle American household. There were weeks when the money was tight and there were weeks when the money flowed a little more freely. I wonder how many times my mom would take me to the mall to shop for clothes and we would bee-line it to the sale rack. “You can fall in love with something on sale” was a typical statement. Or “wait a few weeks and if you still want it and it’s still here…” (meaning it will likely go on sale and if I still like it then it would be a good (not impulsive) purchase.

I divorced several years ago now. My ex was horrible with money. We had gotten ourselves in so much debt we were living in his parent’s basement. We didn’t have the money to pay our bills. We were in DEEP. After divorcing and being completely in charge of my own money – my attitude started to change. I got excited to see my savings account add up. I got excited about paying OFF my bills completely (I was following the Dave Ramsey plan – if you don’t know it. You should!) But I sort of became obsessed with it. I was working 4 jobs at one point (just so I get throw extra money at my debts), I had a precarious balance in my life between my kids and jobs. There really wasn’t time for anything else. I think that is the point. If I had not gotten myself in so much trouble with money in the first place – I would not have to spend this time now trying so hard to get out of it.

Having a bit more money (and no debt except house) has not made me a happier person (I was pretty happy all along). But I will say the less stress has made me a more fun person to be around. I have learned there is a lot you can do without a bunch of money.

On this journey I’ve learned that money is important but is not everything. Your relationship doesn’t have to make it be everything. If you are vigilant and pay attention to your money (hello budget) – you will have the time to pay attention to what really matters – family and friends. If you learned how to act with your money (from your parents, spouse or something else) you can unlearn that thought process too.