Thursday, January 19, 2017

Recipe Savers: Breakfast Burritos

Over the past 6 months we have dramatically reduced our grocery budget by shopping at Aldi... so much so, i'm going to share my secrets and tips in a new feature called Recipe Savers.

This recipe is actually my own concoction and is quickly becoming our breakfast go-to and morning time saver. I proudly present, Break Burritos!

Do you know, these FREEZE amazingly well... So much so that I make a batch of 30 at one time so I can freeze them and not worry about breakfast before work for 2 weeks!!!

So how much does it cost to make 30 breakfast burritos?
$19.47 at Aldi... that's $0.65 each

  • Eggs: $2.37 (Need three dozen, sold at $0.79 each) 
  • Sausage links: $2.85 (Need 3 packages of the frozen sausage links at $.095 each) 
  • Yellow Onions: $0.90 (I got 4 small ones for $.90) 
  • Cheese: $5.58 (Two, 1 lb blocks of colby jack, each $2.79)
  • Burrito Sized Tortillas: $4.47 (Three packages, each $1.49) 
  • Frozen hash browns: $3.30 (Need 2 packages, $1.65 each) 
  • Salt/Pepper: Too cheap to Count
This process does take some time, so I normally do these on a Saturday afternoon when the toddler takes a nap and is insanely easier since we have a food processor (It's worth its weight in gold). 
  1. Leave your tortillas out on the counter so they get room temp (less likely to tear this way) and start to cook the hash browns in batches while you prep other ingredients. Salt and place in a good sized bowl.* 
  2. Shred both blocks of cheese, set off to the side. (Food processor is your friend here. Just drop those chunks in with a shredder blade and bam... We end up with a little leftover cheese when all is said and done so cheese to your preference).
  3. Microwave sausage packets, then stick the links in the food processor to chop up. These should be put in a LARGE bowl (you will add the cooked eggs and the onion here too, so plan ahead and save on dishes).
  4. Once the sausage is out of the food processor, put the raw onion in and chop it up. Simmer onion on stove until just translucent. I use a little cooking spray and stir it around for a few minutes so they soften up. Then DRAIN the onion liquid. This is key to not have soggy burritos. Just take a couple paper towels and let the onion cool on them and pad them down before your dump them in with the sausage. 
  5. Grab your three dozen eggs and scramble them in batches, then mix with the onions and sausage. (Don't forget to keep swapping out the hash browns when you are waiting on the eggs). Since the hash browns take the longest, once I have the egg mixture done, i'll start stuffing the burritos while the last batch of the hash browns cook. 
  6. You should have three bowls now, Potatoes, Onion/Sausage/Egg, and cheese.
  7. Take tortilla, Put in a few spoonfuls of potatoes, few spoonfuls of Onion/Sausage/Egg, and sprinkle cheese... Then tuck and roll.
Notice the "narrow" end on the fold... By folding it with the wider side to you and a narrow closure on the side farthest from you,  it helps keep the insides, inside and prevents taring! Also, let your tortillas sit at room temp while cooking... makes them easier to fold and prevents rips.  

After we roll them, I wrap them in full sized parchment paper and freeze 6 to a gallon sized bag.

When you want to eat one, pull from freezer, unwrap and microwave 2 minute on high with a paper towel underneath... let cool a minute or so, then eat. We like to drop a little hot sauce on ours as we eat (that way they are plain for the toddler).

We actually re-use most of the parchment paper for the next batch too. We just have a little clip in our kitchen and we hang them there so the frozen/water crystals from the freezer can dry off... same goes with the zip locks. When they are empty, I dry them off and then tuck the parchment paper in there when its dry.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Retirement Contributions

Now that we have taken a look at the balances on our retirement accounts, it's time to talk numbers and percentages.

It used to be said if you put 10% away, you'd be fine in retirement... but now that traditional pensions are gone, people are living longer, and expenses seem to jump through the roof in old age, it's hard to really hone in on a number. Some experts say 15% others 20%... some count employer matches in the totals, others don't.

Since we are still trying to save money to move, we aren't 100% focused on retirement right now in all honesty, so our goal right now is to not leave free money on the table and aim for 10% if we cans swing it. Better something than nothing, right?

Averaged 7.8% of his salary pre-match; 10.8% with the match and was at 17% if you count in his social security contributions.

I'm rocking around 9.99% of my salary with my 457 and pension contributions... add in an employer match, and i'm at 11.79%... if I factor in my employer contributions to my pension plan it's 31.43% of my base salary... but I don't feel right adding in their almost $10k "contribution" because those funds don't go into my "cash out pot" ... but at the same time, that $10k helps fund my pension, so maybe I should?


Friday, January 13, 2017

Retirement Update

It's been a while since we have logged in to our retirement savings and taken an honest look at the numbers.

We have been contributing on autopilot through our work accounts and to my pension, but now that January is here, we can look at some real numbers and figures for a snap shot.

Hubs 401k - 2016 Beginning Balance - $6,002.60 | Ending Balance $10,568.39
  • Contributions: $2,773.47
  • Employer Match: $1,065.16
  • Fees: $-7.07
  • Change in Market Value: +$734.22 | 8% Rate of Return
Hubs Roth IRA:

  • Balance: $6,481.20 | Rate of Return 8.85%

My 457 - 2016 Beginning Balance - $1,887.68 | Ending Balance $2,991.66
  • Contributions: $960.00
  • Fees: -$0.37
  • Change in market value: +$144.35 | 6.7% Rate of Return
My 401a - 2016 Beginning Balance - $1,447.76 | Ending Balance: $2,482.16
  • Employer Match: $900.00
  • Change in Market Value: +$134.40 | 8% Rate of Return
My Roth IRA: 
  • Balance: $47,477.71 | Rate of Return 8.73%
Total: $70,001.12

Pension: Cash out Balance: $49,361.05

  • Formula 2.75% @ 55 years / 12.516 years of service
  • Annual Pension if I quit today: $17,704.58 a year 
  • Annual Pension if I quit at 55 and don't receive a pay raise ever (so using today's dollars): $45,480.00 - $51,276.00 depending on which option I choose.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Recipe Savers: Double Crust Chicken Pot Pie

Over the past 6 months we have dramatically reduced our grocery budget by shopping at Aldi... so much so, i'm going to share my secrets and tips in a new feature called Recipe Savers.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite blogs, 100 Day of Real Food and it's for homemade chicken pot pie. We add a bit more filling to the mix because I use a deep pan, and I also use 2 crusts because lets be honest, that's the best part... so in our home we refer to this as double crust chicken pot pie! 

Full cooking directions and original recipe can be found here: Homemade Chicken Pot Pie.

So how much does it cost to make? 

$8.30 at Aldi

  • Pie Crust: (2 per package): $1.99
  • Chicken Breasts: $3.25  (3 large pieces, roughly 1/3 the family package)
  • Carrots: $0.25 (Sold in a 2lb package for $0.96)
  • Celery: $0.25 ($0.69 for the hole thing)
  • Minced Garlic: $0.40 (whole jar is $2.19)
  • Yellow onion: $0.25 (bought 4 for $0.90)
  • Parsley: $0.50 (Whole container of dried parsley is $1.19)
  • Peas: $0.50 (Whole bag is $0.96)
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter: $0.34
  • Chicken Broth: $0.25 
  • 1 Cup of Milk: $0.32
  • Salt/Pepper: too cheap to count.

I rounded up a lot on these prices just to make things easier. Technically the broth was free because I saved the bones from a whole chicken I had roasted in my crock pot last week and followed this recipe with what I had on hand to make my own broth/stock so I'm estimating it was about a $0.25 for the carrots, onion, celery and parsley I chucked in there with the bones. 

I also cheat and use a store bought crust because to make it from scratch costs me $0.94 for each crust and since I need two to double crust this tasty meal, i'd rather spend $0.12 to save the dishes and the prep time. I do, after all, have a toddler. :) I also skipped the egg wash, but you could add that in there for $.08 since Eggs are typically $0.89 a dozen.

This recipe yields us at least 2 dinners and about 2 or 3 lunches depending on how hungry the toddler is. Generally we will pair this with it a simple salad or just eat it by itself if its a crazy night.  Aldi carries bag Cesar salads with dressing, croutons and fresh Parmesan for $1.59 so even if you just grab a bag salad for a side, that's a full and complete dinner with leftovers for less than $10!

Now, if you are purchasing all the ingredients for the first time and need to initially buy each individual item (assuming you start with a bare kitchen), it will cost more. I buy my chicken in the family large packs to save some money and just freeze the leftover chicken and use it for a meal the following week, if that's not your style, you can simply buy a smaller package. You'll pay a bit more per lb, but not outrageously so because this is Aldi. Leftover Celery and Carrots can be toddler treats with ranch or peanut butter or used to flavor stock for future recipes; and who can't use a small jar of minced garlic? I know I could, lol. But in all reality, if I used the full purchase price and not just the amounts I used, we're looking at $22 and that includes a whole gallon of milk, brick of butter, and around 4 lbs of chicken. 

But the key to less waste and money savings is to properly store items to use in later meals, or plan your meals for the week to use the other ingredients while still fresh. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

An interesting way to start the new year

While we enjoyed poppers and noise makers to ring in the new year early around 8:30 pm with little man (Netflix countdowns are awesome)... hubs and I then put on a movie, assembled legos  and colored till 11 when we decided to call it a night and get some sleep.

We thought we'd start the year off on the right foot and everything was going really well until the end of church. We ended up in urgent care with our little man.

No need for tons of details here. It was an accident and there was tons of giggles and smiles before the accident, but let's just say there was some horse play between hubs and little dude at the very end of nursery while I was cleaning up the toys and the little man ended up getting nursemaid elbow.


But thankfully the doctor was able to fix it and almost immediately he started using his arm again... But there were lots of tears from me while little dude sat in the doctors office watching Paw Patrol... I felt like a horrible parent even though I had nothing to do with what happened, and Lord knows my husband felt like a broken individual. I'm pretty sure a little part of both of us died in that waiting room....

Afterwards we talked to a couple friends and family members who confirmed it was pretty common and while it made me feel better about the whole situation, I don't know how i'm going to survive 50-70 years of bumps and bruises with this kid. It just melts my heart all wrong.

I thought about whether or not to post this, but if there's another mother out there who can benefit from hearing "accidents happen" well, then its worth it to console another.

In addition to our Urgent Care visit, our entire internet went down unexpectedly. We had to spend a good chunk of time on the phone with Cox to get it restored (including calling a friend of mine who works for Cox because the first person said our modem was too old to be connected anymore, which couldn't be the case since we had the correct lights illuminated). All in all, the next day later we had it fixed, but what a hassle.

So that makes 2 bad things... I really hope 3 isn't around the corner...

I also found out at the tail end of last year that I came in second for the job promotion, so it looks like i'll be getting a new boss in a couple weeks. I did exceptionally well in the interview process, and had it not been for my lack of experience in the tennis field and the absolute need for day 1 tennis experience, the job would have been mine. But the new boss is apparently only looking to put in 3-5 years before he retires, so who knows what will happen. I do know that i'm on an eligibility list, but we'll see. I've learned not to hold management to much lately and just wait it out. We've already started my transfer to the new facility and so far i'm enjoying my new responsibilities and excited to learn more about the facility operations, but I still haven't been released from my prior work load, so i'm still managing things for a location i'm no longer working at (including special events)... But i'm told by the end of the week things should be resolved so here's to hoping!

They tried to pull me back to my old job already because another full time staff member put in notice, but since we changed our daycare to 5 days a week with the switch of positions (i'm Monday-Friday now), I can't do the early morning opening shifts they need covered because SCB is picking up regular overtime so we can afford the 5th day of daycare so i'm drop off and pick up now. Luckily the gal cuts us a deal for 5 full days a week so the extra day costs us only $25 and not $50 a week and the extra we are paying each week is really saving our marriage. Having Saturdays as a family has already reduced our stress levels and has allowed us to feel "married" again and not just 2 ships passing in and around daycare drop off and pick up schedules. So that's not something i'm going to give up without a fight.

I'm also feeling less stress with my new role which means I've gotten more energy to spend time engaged with my family, pursuing hobbies I enjoy (like blogging) and i'm even getting up at 5 am and getting a quick 30 minute workout in to start the day most mornings (Read, when the toddler sleeps normally) It feels like i'm attacking 2017 with some good vibes.

What about you, how's your new years been this first week?

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Year End Spending

It's hard to believe another year has gone by and my little man is now a toddler, but New years eve is just around the corner and I can't wait to see what that little guy is going to do with a party popper!

2016 was definitely a year to remember. 

We finally got to go on a vacation out to Utah to visit my husbands family and little due meet his cousins in person... we got to introduce little man to his hero Mickey Mouse (affectionately refereed to as me me mouse) when we went to Disneyland... and we got to experience toddler tantrums which, if we are being honest, last a grand total of 5 minutes with this kid because he prefers smiles, giggles, and distraction to being upset. Mind you we have had our melt downs over a string cheese that he saw mom unwrap, the "orange peel" incident, where he insisted that he peel his own little cutie (which meant he ate half the peel), and the banana that broke in half which caused a full lay down on the kitchen floor and refuse to get up because his hopes and dreams were shattered... but I wouldn't trade a moment. I love this little man :) 

We also discovered Aldi, and a year end summary wouldn't be complete without an honorable mention to the store we have exclusively shopped from for the last 6 months. I will forever be happy to drive the 20 miles to shop their each week, but what will make 2017 even better its that a closer location will be coming to us soon!

I'm also glad to say our pup Roxy is less neglected now then when we first had little dude. It was rough balancing a new baby with both our jobs and figuring out parenthood. Needless to say she is enjoying more regular walks and puppy treats again and I feel like we actually play with her and show her love and attention.

Sure we have had our share of sad moments at daycare where he's called his sitter mom instead of Mrs. E (it doesn't help that her kids are there and call her mom too, but shes been trying to correct him and have him call her Mrs. E since he's starting to learn peoples names)... But we've also had those "melt your heart moments" where he's upset when I leave or he insists on hugging his momma before I go. I've also heard a mumbled "luv ooo" and i adore his drool kisses!

All in all a pretty good balance and with that I give you our annual spending report for the year. We may have missed an item or two, but this is fairly accurate "snap shot" for us for the year!
$4,912.79 (Monthly Average: $409 a month). 
Since switching to Aldi in July, average $335 a month

Eating Out / Date Nights:
$1,003.58 (Monthly Average 83.63)

Gasoline and Toll Fees: $2,825.72 (Monthly Average: $235.41)
Insurance: $1,514.53
Car Repairs: $6,040.38

Baby/Little Dude
Diapers, wipes, food pouches, books, clothes:$1,635
Daycare: $10,607.00 
Almost as much as we paid for our mortgage for a year and that we were trying to pay down!. ... This is our largest expense and definitely more than 10% of our income!!! 

Clothing (Me) / (Hubs)
Me: $445.09 / Hubs: $376.96

Gifts (Birthday, Christmas, Baby showers, co-worker)

$563.06 (Utah)

Tithe/Church giving

Doctors / Dentists/ Medical Co-pays / Prescriptions

Roxy / Dog

Mortage (property tax, p&I, additional principal payments): $13,651.85
HOA: $4,150
Repairs/Maint: $581.60
Homeowners INS:$330
Earthquake INS: $153



Cell Phones (2): 


Fun Money:
$840 Total ($420 each)


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Mortgage Update

2017 Principle paid down: $8,757.86
Interest: $3,417.54
Loan Balance: $86,780.44

The pay-off date is now April 2033. June 2031.

Continuing to pay an extra $313 a month is really helping us move closer to our goal of moving in June of 2020 (our original 5 year deadline)

In order to move, we are hoping to have at least $150,000 of equity to use as our down payment to allow us to keep a smaller mortgage despite our high cost of living area.

If we sold our place today, we'd walk away with $138,819.89... (assuming our place is worth $240K and we pay 6% closing costs). 

Getting the Keys...

It took me $7,057.08 to get the keys to my condo and then I spent another $17,672.29 to remodel and repair it... In short, I was -$24,729.37 in the hole on day one...
  • In 2009 I got the First Time Home buyer's Credit giving me $8,000.00. I also got to write off some of the property tax I paid in addition to taking the standard deduction. This gave me an extra $90.10... but then I had to pay an Electrician $95.00 to fix an outlet... I also got a refund from my botched tile job that gave us another $1,265.00.
  • In 2010 I saved $1,087.00 on my federal taxes and $461.00 on my State taxes from itemizing my homeowners expenses. (This is what I received ABOVE what I would have gotten back with just the standard deduction).
  • In 2011 I spent $12.97 at home depot and $72.29 on a kitchen door. When we subtract those costs from what we saved by living in our condo instead of renting, we came out ahead $494.04 (See Mortgage Update + Condo Costs December '11 for that break down.) We also received a small $70 refund check from over paid closing costs. We didn't Itemize our taxes in 2011.
  • In 2012 we finished our Kitchen/Laundry door which cost us $103.24.. We also replaced both our glass slider doors which cost us $2,957.00... and repaired our dryer for $81.42....It ended up being $3,383.47 cheaper to OWN our condo than to rent an apartment on a monthly basis, (See Housing Costs 2012 for the break down) so even after we subtract the windows and other minor repairs, we still came out ahead $241.81 by owning our condo instead of renting...
  • In 2013 we got $52.53 back from challenging my property taxes in 2012. I also refinanced our condo, costing us $447.00 up front for our home appraisal... but we got a check back at closing for $747.20 and a check from my old escrow account for $489.74... We also got to skip a mortgage payment too! In addition, they automatically lowered my property tax value, giving us a check for $86.77.. and we saved $5,191.81 by NOT renting a place (see Housing Comps 2013)!! Additionally we ITEMIZED our taxes in 2013, saving $702.45 on a federal taxes and $503.74 on our State Taxes. (Again, this is difference we saved by itemizing our taxes, instead of taking the standard deduction -- which we could only do because we owned our condo).
  • In 2014 we did a few home repairs totaling $976.00... but even with those factored in, we still saved $3,119.04 living here instead of renting an apartment (See Housing Costs 2014 ) For 2014 we spent $14,172.96 to live in our condo, instead of $17,292 to live in an apartment. We also saved an additional $377 by itemizing and writing off our property taxes and interests.
  • In 2015 we started to aggressively pay down our mortgage again. We also spent $359.26 to fix a few things around the house. Even with the additional mortgage payments, we still saved $1,045.74 by staying in our condo instead of renting (See Housing Costs 2015, which shows an apartment would have been $20,856 a year!)
We haven't done our taxes for the year yet, and since I didn't look up housing costs for 2016 with our little guy on the way, we will just use last years numbers and assume a good 2 year lease locked us in for that price.

2016 Housing Costs: $18,869.45, Saving us $1,986.55!
  • Earthquake Insurance: $153.00
  • Homeowners Insurance: $333.00
  • HOA: $4,150.00
  • Mortgage / Property Tax / Additional Principle: $13,651.85
  • House repairs/Fixes/New Front door lock: $581.60
All of that "math" leaves us $2,325.69 in the green before we even talk about equity a mere 7.25 years later! Like the wise always say, if your going to be in the same place for 5-7 years, buying makes since!