Saturday, February 24, 2018

Feeling Good Friday-on Saturday

I was swamped yesterday with getting caught up after not being in the office for over a week, so no blogging time. February has not been the health focused month I was hoping for, but my mega cooking spree on Monday when i had the day off was sure put to good use for using leftovers or batched cooking for meals. I still have a jar of soup for supper for DH and me. We are expecting a mega snow storm some time after 5:00 or so. DD2 is supposed to be hanging with friends mid afternoon, but we gave her strict rules that she needs to leave when the snow starts or plan to stay put overnight. We were supposed to have friends over, but with the snow, they want to be homebodies and I don't blame them.

Did I do anything healthy for my physical and mental health this week? Not really, but as 2018 is my year for looking for the positive and trying to keep forward momentum, I'll dug down deep again.

1. The scale is at least honestly telling me I'm not improving my eating. I have not gained anything, but no progress towards my weight loss goals.  I have to be honest with myself and sneaking a candy bar, just because it is a boring seminar mid afternoon, is not conducive.
2. Seeing note above and the candy snacks I was having at the supervisor training, on Friday I planned for a healthy snack and ate an orange at 3:30-despite wanting to raid a coworkers candy basket.
3. DD2 got her application in for National Honor Society. We splurged on a new, but basic printer. I finally just decided not having this essential home office tool was adding too much frustration on too many evenings. It sure helped her and by proxy me, being able to print her final application at home, knowing it was ready to have final signatures and be returned with plenty of time before the deadline. Being frugal is one thing. Being a martyr is something else.
4. Despite the additional crap weather-rainy snow and ice on Monday to Tuesday, snow Thursday night, and more snow today, I'm being intentional about thinking the end is in site. I binge watched some videos on YouTube on a few places I want to go, and gave myself a mini mind vacation.
5. I am utterly enjoying the Olympics this winter. Yes, Minnesotans are rocking the medals and representing our country proud, but I love it all. I liked the Canadians and Germans both winning gold in bob sled. The beauty and artistry of the two Russian figure skaters, but both with sweet smiles and hugs for each other-priceless. I shed a tear for the Canadian skater who wept that she let her family and country down with a less than stellar performance. Let me tell you young lady, you let no one down! No one is perfect and unfortunately, your less than perfect was at one of the biggest stages in the world-no one can say they are not proud of you.

I've been staying up too late watching, so despite enjoying the Olympics, I will be happy to get to bed at a normal hour again. Last night I had the most bizarre dream that I was at some venue with a jazz band and I was asked to sing with them. Apparently in this alternate universe, I sing wonderfully and everyone knows it. I woke up before I heard myself sing! Let e tell you, that would be a nightmare. I hope you all have a great weekend and make the most of this final weekend in February.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thinking a Lot About Ethics

I've been a lot of training in the last month, much of it very repetitive of past training. Many sessions are something for my current position to just check a box that it was completed. The ethics training the other day, now that one, while duplicative of other training I''ve had, has had me thinking. I've been thinking about  a lot of gray matter in society today, and quite frankly, in my own day to day way I function and see others functioning in the world. Courses like this are good for that. I believe we all need to regularly examine our own code of conduct, look at our conflict of interest, and look at our actions from the perspective of an observer.. Of course in the work place, violating codes of ethics, as defined by the company, is more than just our own code to live by, violating them cause for discipline or even losing a job. Yet, even there could be what is seen as gray matter-is it right or wrong, or is that answer in the eye of the beholder? An action might, not technically breaking a rule or violating policy, but might raise some eyebrows.I can justify my actions with the best of them, which is why self examiniation is valuable to me personally.

In a training video, they kept referring to the newspaper test. How would the action be perceived if it was printed and on the front cover of a newspaper? Would it still seem innocent? With ethics, it is important to realize different situations may also create just a perception of being a conflict of interest, and that too needs to be considered and disclosed. My job carries a lot of this, both internally and externally because of the nature of my work and where I work. I've always felt held to a higher standard than the general public, but the training reinforced that. I don't think anyone is immune from looking backwards at your own behaviors or behaviors by others and relooking at how ethical behavior was or was not in play. For me, the training reiterated that the unethical practises I regularly witnessed at my old company and lack of the highest leadership discontinuing even when pointed out, were indeed, ample reason for me to leave. Furthermore, each day I stayed, made me complicit because my job was interwoven in some of the practises.

Not all decisions of ethics are life changing, demanding a public stand or leaving the work place, relationship ending, or triggering media attention. Still, there are masses of situations that might sniff of being unethical, yet might seem trivial. Just for fun, here's a few of said situations I've encountered, either directly, o r learned aboutbefore or after the fact, that may or may not have been handled ethically. No real names are being used. I'd love your take on any, so play along in the comments. 

1. Jan is charged with ordering lunch for an upcoming meeting that 40 people will be attending. Leftovers are brought back to the division for staff to enjoy, one of the few food related perks because of the tight budgets. She contemplates increasing the head count, with the rationalization that some meeting attendees might not have responded. 

2. Brian and his neighbor are putting up a side green border together and made an agreement to purchase the same type of shrubs. Brian finds a sale of three shrubs for the price of two. Together they need 18, but only end up having to pay for twelve because of the sale. Brian is contemplating giving his neighbor the cost of nine, figuring that since he was the one that to found the sale and went and made the purchase, the savings could just flow to him as the neighbor was expecting to pay for nine anyway.

3. Leah joins her friends out for a spring book club happy hour. She's not a drinker, so just orders water. She was going to be eating supper with her family later and decided she didn't want to spend the money on food at the bar. Her friends appetizers come, and she is invited to help herself, and ends up with nice assortment of nibbles. She decides she has no obligation to put any money towards the bill when it comes since she didn't order anything, and was just sharing  a little offered food that would have probably gone uneaten anyway. (Note-this is a somewhat regular habit of Leah.) 

4. Bob's son needs to have two signatures documenting his participation on an activity. The group leader is not available. Bob signs,as he was a parent volunteer, but makes note of the actual leaders name on the form. His son;s friend asks if he will also sign for that child. Bob is not aware if the child did or did not participate because he was not in his son;s group. He knows the kid and doesn't want him to miss out on the credit so considers signing for him as well. 

5. Jennifer's daughter is applying for a scholarship. There is an essay portion but her daughter is running out of time. Jennifer quick writes up a sample essay including various activities her daughter has done that contribute to the topic. Later, her daughter does a quick review and slight edits, but copies and pastes for the most part, what Jennifer wrote. Jennifer figures every parent helps their child with homework from time to time and this was just a little bit of help since her daughter had to review and edit anyway. 

Dilemmas, dilemmas! Ethics, an interesting topic to me and not just because I'm a political wonk. To live in a civil society, there needs to be agreed upon definitions of what is and is not ethical. Easier said than done when there are so many different belief systems. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Recipe Calculations

I'm a numbers geek. I like doing math equations and figuring out proportions, calculating interest, those types of things. I like to cost, at least roughly, the ingredients in recipes and compare to the equivalent restaurant or ready meal. It's a boring slight obsession I have, but with the cost of groceries going higher and higher, I'm starting to feel like it is a necessity to ensure I don't mindlessly toss money out the window overspending on our groceries. For those that think I should get a life and are completely bored with this sort of thing, hopefully you'll join me on my next post. For those of you equally numbers geek inclined or those that might be curious if you are getting value for your meal planning, thanks for sticking around. 

I love long weekends. I feel like I can get a jump start on meals for the week, on my house, and actually have some down time. With soups, stews, meats,and breads made ahead, we have leftovers and prep done for the busy nights ahead. Here's three of the meals I made for the weekend and week ahead. Nothing is very glamorous, but hearty and wholesome and will fill us up. Man, have prices gone up on some of my staples. It might be the time of year, but I'm finding pennies more on basic items and smaller packages as well. I now just a year or two ago I could make these meals for even less. For the most part, these are standard priced groceries, some a bit on sale, others purchased at Adi's or the cheapest store brand. I'd say pretty typical prices that at least in my part of the US are easily replicated. The ingredient cost is my estimate for the amount used based on my grocery receipts. 

Pasta, Vegetable Fagiole
 I should point out I was trying to use up spinach salad that I let get past prime. I don't normally throw it in the soup, and doing so added  $.67 tot he cost, but it also upped the nutritional value, so a win. I might also vary the extra vegetables. I had a zucchini so it went in the soup. 

$ 0.56        5 carrots 
$0.33         4 celery stalks
$.28           1 large onion
$0.25         2 potatoes
$0.80         8 stock cubes
$0.45         2 9dry) cups pasta
$0.69         1 15 oz. diced tomatoes
$0.69         1 15 oz chili beans in sauce
$o.67         1/3 bag Spinach
$0.42          1 zucchini
$5.14 for 14 cups, at 12 ounce portions, this soup comes to $0.55 per serving. DH bought Healthy Choice prepared soups for $0.89 for 12 ounce can, making mine $0.34 per serving cheaper. 

Chicken and dumplings (though mine were biscuits as I made for crock pot)
$2.40        3/4 pound chicken breast
$0.50         4 potatoes
$0.56         4 Carrots
$0.17         2 celery stalks
$0.14         1/2 onion
$0.10         1 stock cube
$0.06         1/4 cup milk
$$0.17        1/4 c yogurt
flour-negligible for thickening
$0.13         1 c four
$0.17         1/4 c vegetable oil
$0.06         1/4 c milk
$0.25          salt, soda, baking powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning
$4.71 for four generous servings at $1.18 each. I didn't buy any, but I noticed the Dinty Moore microwave meals are $1.89 at Target. No comparison to taste. 

Banana Chocolate Chip and Oat Bread
I just started throwing together things I had on hand as DD2 and I were craving something sweet and decadent. this checked those boxes. 
 $0.16        1 c sugar
$0.12         1 egg
$0.25         1 banana
$0.34         1/2 cup vegetable oil
$0.25         1/2 C yogurt
$0.12         1/2 c milk
$0.19          1 1/2 c flour
$0.43          1 c quick oats
$0.98          1 c chocolate chips
$0.15           salt, soda, baking powder

$2.99 for four mini loaves, with each 1/2 loaf about the size of a bakery muffin, or $0.38 per serving.I had just made without the chocolate chips, but I had them on hand already opened, the cost per muffin equivalent would have been only $0.26. Our Cub Foods has muffins on sale in the bakery 4 for $3.99, or $1.00 a muffin. 

So there you have it. Three basic meals/snacks from my kitchen, compared to  equivalent or near equivalent pre-made. Hands down, my stuff wins for flavor. Learning basic kitchen skills is one of the best ways to keep your grocery budget down. I know  I have the luxury of a fully stocked kitchen, oven and stove top, so am not relying on foods that need to just be heated up. Convenience food and ready made meals are still important staples for many folks without adequate time or space to prepare foods. For this reason, I consider myself blessed being able to cook from scratch to provide for my family. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Low Hanging Savings Fruit of Late

DD2 had bought me coffee from Costa Rica last March. DH had a customer that imports coffee beans for local Twin Cities coffee shops and gifted a two pound bag of beans. Eight O'clock brand coffee was on sale earlier in the week for insanely cheap. I am stocked up for months with coffee, which makes that an easy area to save other than the occasional coffee meeting I have for work. My thermal mugs will suit me just fine.

I have three days of training this week, but one day lunch is provided by my new union representatives. With my promotion, I'm in a different union now. Another day, lunch is provided by our HR and Exec team for a new agency Change Champions group. I was selected to represent my peers on the committee. I'll have leftover soup that I can place in a thermos along with some veggies and hummus and fruit for the one day of training left instead of the expensive cafe in the training center. I spent nearly $25 on lunch last month at three days of training-crazy when I am trying to save funds for more important priorities. My soup will be pennies since I''m getting  huge 12 cup batch for under $4.00. 

I've gone back and reread some blogs I followed in my early thrift blogging days. There are not tons of ways to save big, but dozens each week to shave pennies and dollars that cumulatively add up. I like my approach theses days. I'm not feeling like I am missing out. Though, I will say the other day someone ordered Thai food through our daily Foodsby delivery and I had a little bit of envy, until I remembered her lunch came in at over $12. Anna over at My Random Thoughts has been indulging me with Thai recipes. I love the Skint Dad UK site. Ricky and Naomi have loads of ideas for fake away, but really good recipes, when you want to taste of take out, but want to control the budget, but also, the ingredients. Meals out, groceries and household items can kill budgets if approached with mindlessness. I'm not a die hard bargain shopper, hate cutting coupons, and often forget to have them with even when I do. But, making choices to eat leftovers for lunch and a second night of dinner help me keep our costs down without doing without. 

Tonight, supper will be a sit down dinner with a bottle of wine from our wine club. We made a decion to cancell. We just were not getting to the meet-ups enough to warrant the monthly cost. However, we have a sizeable stock pile and indulge our wine habit for many months to come. I  feel like we learned a lot and understand when shopping for wine on our own as to what is a good value for our money. Educating oneself is a thrift measure. Even if I buy three $10 bottles of wine a month, the same number we got with our wine club membership, I'll be saving $30 a month. I can put together some basic appetizer and invite a couple or two over and have out own once a month tasting at a time that actually works with DH's work schedule.This is our plan for next Saturday night, and we'll open bottles from the stockpile. 

Plans today are to get caught up with laundry, carefully caring for my our nicer clothes with delicate cycle washes and line or hanger drying. Not replacing basic clothing too frequently is part of my strategy. I want to do another closet purge though, slowly weeding out all but the clothes I really wear, and donating the usable to Goodwill or another group. Basically, I'm focused, not on being miserly, but on not spending money where it doesn't need to be spent. Taking advanatage of little perks when they come like a free lunch every now and then is a free indulgence. Let's get back to money savings basics. how are you saving money every day, helping your bottom line, whie still enjoying a good quality of life?