I want to talk about food.

Food food foodAJ: Kirby asked me if I could do a deep dive on my meal planning for the month of January, so here goes! In this post (and in future posts just like it), we’re going to link to some of our favorite recipes, so you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home too!

First, I made January’s meal plan in November. December is always a month of heavier miscellaneous spending for us given all of the gift giving for family, friends and co-workers, and the charitable giving we do across November and December means that January is often a month where we try to catch up on increased savings contributions. Given that, January is always the month where I force myself to not buy proteins (I have a serious fear of going hungry that lends itself to having a 6 month supply of meat and seafood in our freezers at all time), to use the items I’ve already purchased and to be more diligent about not eating out. And not four days after I wrote this we modified the menu (as is so common for us)! I’ve tracked the changes below and have outlined the grocery list ramifications, too, so you can see what we often do to ourselves when we go off-plan. SO, here’s January:

1/1 Poached Eggs on Toast – a family favorite featuring my perfectly poached eggs on boiling, bubbly cheese.
1/2 Kirby’s company Christmas party.
1/3 We were supposed to have dinner with friends, but they had to reschedule, so we’re grilling steaks with creamed corn (even our back up meals are awesome).
1/4 Coconut Shrimp with broccoli – Kirby “wasn’t that hungry,” and I “didn’t feel like shrimp” after I already thawed them and we didn’t even have broccoli (add to my to-do list to come up with a better system for tracking foods I have in my freezers and pantry!), so we went to Taco Bell. I turned the thawed shrimp into shrimp tacos for lunch on 1/5. Don’t waste food just because you’re feeling flighty about what you planned!
1/5 Chicken pad thai with double sauce (because we like it saucy) – We weren’t hungry for dinner on Sunday, go figure. So we just moved the Pad Thai to Monday.
1/6 French toast with sausage links (we’re big breakfast for dinner people) – Chicken pad thai with double sauce
1/7 Pecan crusted chicken tenders with roasted brussels sprouts – We went out for Mexican and spent $29.31. Not earth shattering!
1/8 Chicken fried rice – I had a last minute work dinner pop up, so we got to indulge in a cost-free night out which is always a treat! Chicken fried rice will make an appearance later this month, though, it’s a crowd favorite!
1/9 Baked chicken parmesan
1/10 Grilled chicken with roasted sweet potatoes.
1/11 My parents’ anniversary dinner that we get to tag along for.
1/12 Crock pot chicken tortilla soup
1/13 Shrimp & veggie stir fry
1/14 Breakfast burritos with bacon
1/15 Taco turkey chili with cornbread
1/16 Broiled steak with corn and green beans
1/17 Shrimp & orzo with lemon beurre blanc sauce
1/18 Whole roasted chicken with roasted potatoes (that’s a lot of roasting)
1/19 Chicken and cheese enchiladas
1/20 Parmesan chicken with roasted broccoli (important to note that this is different than chicken parm from 1/9, as these are little chicken nuggets with parm on top, no marinara sauce)
1/21 Pierogi’s with beer cheese sauce
1/22 Chicken n dumplings
1/23 Thai red curry shrimp with brown rice
1/24 Chicken pot pie
1/25 I’m hosting a bridal shower for my soon-to-be sister-in-law so I’m banking on us being worn out. Papa John’s it is!
1/26 Cheesecake factory shrimp with angel hair
1/27 Chicken piccata with parmesan roasted potatoes
1/28 Cheese and avocado quesedillas
1/29 Hard shell tacos
1/30 Chicken “alfredo” (air quotes because it’s a cheese sauce I make that’s better than alfredo, but don’t tell him that)
1/31 Spaghetti with meat sauce

After I make my menu, I make my grocery list. This will seem ridiculously light, but given that I have already stocked up on the bulk of the items we need, here it is:

1/5 shopping list:

    - milk @ $2.29 (Tom Thumb Just for U sale, this would have been $0.70 more had I not pre-loaded the coupon to my card)
    - green onions @ $2 actual: $0.57
    - cilantro @ $0.40 – I realized that I still had cilantro in the fridge from last week that’s good, so I didn’t need it after all!
    - sweet potatoes $5 actual: $1.96
    - tortillas @ $1.57 (Tom Thumb Just for U sale) actual: $6.38, which is why YOU SHOULDN’T BUY THINGS THAT DON’T HAVE PRICE LABELS UNDER THEM! Damn the luck.
    - canned biscuits @ $3 (with a coupon for $0.40 off if I buy 3 cans which might just happen) actual: $2.20 with an unadvertised sale on the 5 biscuit cans for $1 each. I bought 3, so I could still use my $0.40 off coupon which they doubled because it was Sunday. I won’t lie, I didn’t even know this was a thing until today!

Plus all of the items I forgot we’d need and had to add when we didn’t eat the coconut shrimp, and I had to turn the shrimp into shrimp tacos:

    - red onion @ $0.65
    - cabbage @ $1.99
    - avocados @ $1.90 (This would have been $1.10 more had I not pre-loaded coupons to my card)

Total estimated for 1/5 shopping trip: $14.26

Actual total for 1/5 shopping trip: $21.23 which isn’t bad considering I spent $6+ on tortillas which is ridiculous. So, I spent $6.97 more than I had planned. All in tortillas :)

1/28 through 1/31:

    - avocados @ $4
    - taco shells @ $4
    - sour cream @ $4

Total estimated for the last few items of the month: $12

So, if we stick with this, we’re all-in on groceries for all of our dinner meals with leftovers for lunches at $26.26 for the month of January. Plus the $29.31 we spent on Mexican food out comes to $55.57.

Full disclosure, I’m budgeting $350 for all the food and beverage supplies I need for the bridal shower this month, so we’re estimating that we’ll spend $376.26 on all food expenses this month. Pending RSVPs to the shower invites I sent last week the overall food cost estimate might go down, but this is a worst case scenario which is how I prefer to do my planning. If we stick to this plan, we’ll wind up saving an extra $273.74 from our food budget for January which will help me sleep a little better at night.

I want to talk about food. is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

Financial fasting: January budget challenge

AJ: As a result of creating this blog, Kirby and I meet people from all walks of life. The “H” Family recently came into our sights as they declared January their month of financial fasting which we LOVE. We’ve asked the H Family to keep us posted on their journey over the next month and we wish them luck!

Guest: The “H” Family – January Challenge of Financial Fasting.

Mr. H and I have decided to practice financial fasting for the first month of the year (hopefully this will be an annual occurrence!). One reason being, we realize we spend too much and have way more than we need! We did a kitchen remodel last year and while we tried to go minimal for Christmas, our girls ended up being spoiled by their grandparents yet again. We feel the need to simplify our life and use the resources we already have. We also need to get a good handle on our budget. Mrs. H is planning on a career transition from full-time banking to part-time bookkeeping to be able to spend more time with our two young children. With fixed expenses of a mortgage, car loan, student loan, and a home loan…we need a true idea of the minimum expenses we should budget while Mrs. H’s new career is ramping up.

Our goals:

1) Lower grocery bill to necessities. Use up food in pantry and freezer. No eating out! (Unless a family event or something planned with friends…as family and friends are important to us. But be very mindful of spending).
2) Choose only activities that are free for the month.
3) Clean out drawers, attic, garage…use up things we already have, look for things to donate, throw away.
4) Review current bills and expenses, and find ways to lower expenses.
5) Be INTENTIONAL with our money. Make only planned or necessary expenses.

We have two young daughters and want to be a good example to them of our stewardship of resources, and we want to prioritize our expenses to be able to afford school and activities for them. We know this won’t be easy, as we do enjoy eating out and Mrs. H loves shopping on Amazon. Our hope is that this focus on being intentional with our spending and resources will carry over to the rest of the year. We will update you as to the results at the end of the month…Here’s to January!

AJ: Looking to plan your own “no-spend” month, use our resources and refer to our past posts on:

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Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

New year, new resolutions

Someecards I hope you're not too exhausted from your yearly visit to the gym on New Year's DayAJ: A new year always really inspires me. I’m a total “new year, new you” sucker, and I’m so stubborn that resolutions usually stick with me, so I like to really push myself (at least for a few months which I think is pretty good considering how the rest of the world treats resolutions!). Kirby and I have totally different approaches to setting goals. My approach is that I want to take on totally attainable things that I’m not currently doing but could and should be doing. Kirby takes on a more reach-for-the-stars mentality, pushing himself to super-human lengths that might not be physically possible (love you, babe!). Either way, goal setting is an important part of growing and improving!

Like many people, our goals span both our personal and professional lives where finances are an underlying focus of all that we do across the board.

AJ’s 2014 goals (drum roll, please!):
- Read 5 specific books. Kirby pointed out in our post from Monday that I read constantly, they’re just mostly mindless books. Mindless=happy. In 2014, though, I’m committing to read mentally stimulating, boring, professionally beneficial books that lack plot and character development. And I’m going to love it.
- Learn to knit. I failed at this in 2013 despite my sister-in-law’s best efforts, loads of knitting needles, a ball of yarn and the beginnings of a scarf already provided to me. Her knitting is too pretty, and I’m too scared I’ll screw it up! But in 2014 I plan to screw up a lot of knitting because I lack domestic skills of this nature and I like learning new things.
- Learn how to bake. Just suggesting this as a goal for myself caused me stress. Our family and friends will tell you that I’m actually a good cook but baking and I don’t get along. There are specific steps you have to follow, things have to be measured, it’s all too much. But my husband grew up with a mother who did things like make homemade bread and my sister-in-law works with yeast like it’s not even a thing, so in 2014 I’m committing to buying yeast for the first time, at the very least.
- Make money money, shake money money. Everyone I know has goals related to their salary, and I’m at a point where I hope to reach the goal I set for myself going into my career within this year. The hardest part about declaring this a goal is that the possible disappointment that will accompany this goal in 2015 if it doesn’t come into fruition will be rough, but I’m declaring this a goal on a leap of faith and banking on those boring professional books to get me there :) (and maybe some hard work and determination if I can fit it in with the knitting and baking).
- Just say no. For one week a month I’ll go totally alcohol free. No occasional glass of wine after work, no margaritas on the weekend. 7 solid days of living a healthier, more focused lifestyle.
- Bring in $100 more per month. I haven’t cracked the nut on this one which probably means I’ll struggle to accomplish it but creativity is where I shine so I’m determined to find a way.
- Maintain my ideal weight. This has to be discussed annually otherwise I’ll fall off the horse more times than I can count. I’d like to be my ideal weight for the entire year post-January (you have to allow yourself time to actually get to that weight before you can maintain it, I hear).
- Create and maintain a garden. I am the child of a master gardener and now have a beautiful yard that is begging for homegrown fruits and veggies, so this year my dad (the Bob) and I are going to build the garden beds, plant our bounty and then it will be up to me to keep the little buggers alive and edible. No pressure.

KJ’s 2014 goals:
- Read 5 books. So I do almost no leisure reading outside of articles, news, professional publications, etc., so I’ve got my sights set on some books I would like to read throughout the year. This is less than one book every two months…should be doable, right?
- Professional development. Continue to invest in my own “human capital” (i.e. unique earning potential from the ability and skills used to generate an income) by learning new technologies, keeping up-to-date with world-wide developments and continuing education (CE), and emphasizing both business development through prospecting as well as professional relationships.
- Maintain my ideal weight. Much like Angela’s comment, it’s best for me to keep this front of mind too. I come from a time where I used to work out constantly throughout HS, but I’m a bit of a lazy person these days when it comes to working out. Eat better and workout more, here we come!
- Double blog readership. So it seems strange to mention this to our readers, but….you all have helped build it thus far to what it is today (thank you!). So how can you be a part of our goal? You share our posts with just one other person…easy enough…plus it helps us all be just a little bit smarter with our finances when we work together and grow our knowledge together to make “financial independence” a reality we all can achieve!

Phew! Even though we’re quite open with this blog, it’s still hard to articulate our goals to the rest of the world. Maybe that will be the motivation needed to see that all of these are accomplished by this time next year? Hold us to it!

OUR combined 2014 goals (his, hers, ours concept – important to work together!):
- Work out twice per week. This seems lame and at certain points will be no big deal, however, there are certain weeks/months of our year where we get really, really busy and even committing to twice per week seems absurd. This means more super early mornings spent together on the floor of our work out room crying in pain and telling each other we hate each other. It’ll be fun, really!
- Increase our net worth by 35%. This is a calculated number and aligns with our overall future planning goals. It seems like a really big goal this year, but with the bulk of our planned expenses on updates to our home out of the way, new tires, brakes and batteries in both of our cars and curtailed spending on the horizon, we really feel like this is obtainable. We’re at a point in our lives where our savings potential is greater than any return our accounts could earn (and it seems that will be true for quite a long time!), but we’re hoping for that date some time where we can earn more than our incomes…might be a LONG ways off, but we’re working toward it!

    Do you have any recurring New Year’s resolutions?
    What are your new goals for this next year?
    We would enjoy hearing how you’re going to accomplish your goals.

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Starting fresh: learning to set achievable goals

Someecards Thank you for not laughing at my absurdly unattainable New Year's resolutionsKJ: It’s official, this is our last post of 2013…2014 *ding ding ding* here we come! As is almost always top of mind when heading into a new year, we’re going to talk about those good old New Year’s resolutions. You know, the answers to what are your goals and what do you hope the new year will bring? We all get that feeling of setting high aspirations for the start of the year only to find that a month later we (1) haven’t done anything to get on track, (2) realize the goal wasn’t so attainable, and (3) we may no longer even remember the goals we set. For this post, we hope to help outline some ways to not only set goals, but set BETTER, more attainable goals.

2013 wasn’t much of a different year for us from a goal setting standpoint. We had several goals we were on target for, some we didn’t address at all, and others we wish had been a larger focus. Just like with all aspects of our lives we set goals for where we hoped to take this blog and happily met many of them thanks to our loyal readers. We hope you share our blog with friends of yours that could use financial guidance.

AJ: 2013 was fairly remarkable for me with regards to upholding my New Year’s resolution. I mentioned previously that I gave up shopping and did far better than I think anyone would have guessed was possible. I fell short on some of my other goals, though, which is fueling my 2014 resolution fire fiercely. I love having specific goals, and this time of year always excites me.

AJ & KJ: For the goals we did accomplish, there were some clear distinctions that made them different than the rest:

Set goals that are finite
They didn’t have a day eons into the future or a target with no particular end. I.e. they weren’t simply “increase our net worth” or “read.” Instead, they had specific dollar, date, or resources outlined.

Break the goals into small chunks
While large goals may be harder to accomplish, they can be much more easily accomplished if you set periodic milestones along the way. Using a marker for every couple weeks or every month is often a good way to see that you’re on track. For our goals, we had a simple checklist that I looked over each month to see our progress.

Don’t create goals around something you cannot control
Setting goals for something you have little-to-no control of is futile. Don’t say, we need to increase our net worth by $X and just expect to get there. There could be an economic pullback that thwarts (partially or significantly) your efforts. Instead, set parameters about what you CAN control: your income and your expenses. Set regular monthly goals for each that can help you achieve your net worth goal, but understand there could be outside factors that cause you to achieve that goal quicker (or slower).

Create a mix of goals
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak. It’s helpful to have varied goals that span various disciplines: financial, tasks to learn, projects to complete, personal vs. professional, etc. If your goals are all just about getting healthier, and you set goals for working out, eating better, and changing some of those habits, slipping up on one will often cause a domino effect for your other goals, so tackling things one step at a time with less interrelated goals may help you accomplish them all just a little bit better.

Make a list of HOW you can achieve them
Putting pen to paper and creating a list of not just WHAT you need to do, but HOW you can actually achieve it will dramatically improve the chances of success of your goals. For our savings goals, we have targets for retirement, non-retirement, short-term vs. long-term goals, and we break it up into manageable chunks for each month. Not that every month will be exactly at, above, or below target, but the hope is to keep our eye on the prize and know how it is we can actually get to our goals. This process can also shed light on how realistic your goals are too. If you set a goal and then realize you don’t even know HOW to get there, then maybe it’s time to rethink how realistic or possible the goal is.

Set goals for yours, mine, and ours
Much like our post on his, hers, and ours where we discussed merging or separating finances, it’s important to look at setting both individual goals AND joint goals. Think about what you want to accomplish and how you can accomplish it, but also look at setting goals as a couple that you can work on together. Sometimes the joint goals are a little easier to accomplish since you have two people to help keep an eye on the progress to make sure you don’t slip up.

So, what goals have we set?
We each have set goals for:

  • read at least five books throughout the year (for Angela, it is a specific list of professional books since she reads 2+ relatively mindless books a week) – AJ: Mindless seems a little extreme! :),
  • savings goals month-by-month,
  • workout goals – somehow these always creep up in our effort to be more healthy (but the progress over the years ebbs and flows), and
  • create & maintain a garden in our new backyard (this should help with our related workout goal too!)

      What are your New Year’s resolutions?
      What is in store for you next year?
      Do you have tips on setting goals for you and your family?

    Starting fresh: learning to set achievable goals is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish. Card courtesy of www.someecards.com.

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    A year in review

    AJ: It’s been another incredible year for us. We’ve been abundantly blessed again and continue to be thankful for the lives we have. Here’s our 2013 in review!

    TECHNICALLY we got two kittens (do you remember seeing Swiffer cat?) in 2012, but in 2013 they destroyed a lot of stuff.

    Coffee Pot Broken By Cats

    And moved a lot of stuff (seriously, they have Herculean strength).

    Kitty Litter Box Moved by Cats

    Two of our best friends got engaged!

    Sally and Justin Proposal

    We celebrated our third wedding anniversary.

    Kirby and Angela Wedding Picture with White Wall as Backdrop

    We bought a new house and officially survived the Icepocalypse 2013.

    Kirby and Angela New Home Purchase

    We moved and sold our first home.

    Bella in a Packing Box Ready to Move

    We took the trip of a lifetime part two (see how we planned: Travel: part one, two and three) to Spain and Italy with AJ’s parents.

    Retiro Park Madrid Kirby and Angela Photo

    Kirby and Angela on the Amalfi Coast

    Kirby’s brother got engaged to this beautiful woman!

    Russell and Amie Wedding Proposal

    We went to Napa (boy, did we ever go to Napa)!

    Restaurant Table in Napa With Lots of Wine Glasses

    Kirby and Angela Photo in Napa

    And we had the most celebration-filled year of our lives.

    Angela, Kirby and Family in Fort Worth Sundance Square

    Angela Kirby and Mimi at a Restaurant

    Angela and Kirby and Family in Napa

    Thank you to each of you for adding to our incredible year. This little project of ours continues to enrich our lives and our relationship and we hope we pass some of that onto each of you!

    KJ: And all the while, we never stopped budgeting and planning! See…who said budgeting can’t lead to excess amounts of fun!? So pull out that budgeting software of choice, and get your budgeting engines revved!

      What did your 2013 entail?
      Did you take any trips?
      Share with us how your year was!

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