thesmilinlife

Thoughts of a 20-something


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Pre-Baby Freezer Meals

With a my due date looming, it’s time to really start preparing for the post-baby stress and lack of time that I know is coming. I’ve been reading tons about freezer meals and prepping them (and I did a batch of crockpot freezer meals not too long ago which turned out great.), so I’m putting together my list of what I’m making including my shopping list here. Recipes will be linked for references. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, something that I never skip out on. For lunch, I usually like to have a salad or some leftovers. Dinner I like to be adventurous, and for right now I need to concentrate on time-saving!

Breakfast

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread – Hubby doesn’t like Pumpkin, so even though I’m going to double this recipe, I’ll be making sure to freeze it sliced so that I don’t have to pull out the whole loaf at once.

Breakfast Burritos – This is more for Hubby, but something quick and easy that we can both appreciate.

Spinach and Cheese Strata – This looks so fabulous, and would be a perfect weekend meal for hubby and me.

Dinner

Italian bake – Recipe is linked for a gluten free version, but just trade out for regular rotini pasta and it works just the same. I used vegetable pasta, and doubled the recipe to make 2. Just something that my mom has thrown together. But I will bake it into a tin pan so that it’s easy cleanup and can go straight from freezer to oven.

French Dip Sandwiches – This looks so simple and easy. Just need hoagie rolls fresh and probably some cheese. SO easy!

Pineapple BBQ Chicken – I love things that are so few ingredients. Not only cost efficient, but easy for me or hubby to get together.

Mexican Stuffed Shells – This looks so fabulous. I love Mexican food and to put it in such an easy and portable shell will be super convenient.

Chicken Tortilla Soup – This is something that I’ve made before and I know how delicious it is. Never put it in a freezer meal before, but I can imagine it’ll freeze super well.

 

shopping list : this includes the basic pantry staples that you likely have, such as salt and some basic spices.

Normally I like to do about 15 of these at once… but when I’m 9 months pregnant, I get much more tired, much more quickly. I think starting with these recipes will make for a busy afternoon, give me some starting food, and leave me with enough energy to still get some other stuff done during the day…. hopefully.

Update at the end of the day… I made 5 of these 7 recipes before my feet and back screamed at me to stop. I’ll finish the last two tomorrow, and update with more info in general.

Total shopping cost: $140. Total time in kitchen today: 2 hours. Yield: 2 Italian bakes, the strata, the BBQ chicken, chicken tortilla soup, Mexican stuffed shells and french dip.

 

Update the next day after everything is done:

This was great. I think grand total I spent 3 active hours in the kitchen. My freezer is pretty well stocked, and I’m really happy with everything. Here’s my schedule of how I went through these recipes:

First thing, I did the dump-recipes… you know, the ones that you thaw, throw in the crock pot and then leave all day. This includes the french dip, the chicken tortilla soup, and the bbq chicken. Then I tackled the italian bakes and the strata. The italian bake is an easy recipe to double, so I made two of them, and the strata was nice and easy as well. It did involve some sauteing, but this went quick. I put these 3 things in a tin pan and covered with foil to freeze. Finally, I got to work on the stuffing for the mexican stuffed shells. I decided to freeze the stuffing on its own, knowing that I can thaw this to stuff the shells anytime.

Today, I tackled the parts that I knew were going to take awhile. I started the pumpkin bread first and ended up baking it in a bundt pan. This is still cooling on the stove, but I cannot wait to try it! I also did the breakfast burritos. I knew that wrapping and freezing individually would take me awhile, and wanted to get everything done at once. They didn’t take as long as I had expected, although the recipe did not yield as many burritos as the recipe had said. (I got 9 and it claims to give 16…. These are mostly for hubby so maybe I stuffed them a little more than I should have?)

For all of these recipes, we’ll get several meals from them (the half-pans should each yield at least 5 servings, and the stuffed shells looks like it’ll be a huge amount of food), which makes me think we’ll be fairly set for food for a couple of weeks! not including any generosity from family and friends. I’m super pleased with everything, including the cost! Hubby even said good job 😉

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YNAB

As a follow up to me being a bad millennial, I wanted to share my experience with You Need a Budget. I feel so strongly about this app that I think it’s important to have yet anther positive review out there for it.

When Travis and I realized that we wanted to get our finances in order, we looked at multiple options to help us budget. The biggest factor that pushed us toward YNAB was my cousin telling us about how much she liked it. We signed up for the free trial the next day, and I started attending the classes as soon as I could with my schedule.

The first thing that I noticed was that there’s a learning curve.

While any budgeting app will be helpful to keep your purchases fresh in your mind, The more frequently/often that you use YNAB, the better it will be long term. Saving up your purchases and logging them in bulk at the end of the month won’t be as helpful as logging them daily or weekly. Once you realize the benefits of logging your purchases regularly, you really start to see the benefits.

Which brings me to the next thing that I realized, budgeting with two people is hard.

When Travis and I first started budgeting we had different ideas about what would constitute a “Long-Term Goal” and what would be an “everyday expense”. Coming to an agreement took a bit of time and some compromise from both of us. The good thing was that we were both able to agree on our major savings goals and what our priorities were as far as paying off debts. Once we agreed on categories, there’s the issue of making sure that the register is updated regularly. No matter what, that has to come down to both people involved. This is an ongoing thing that needs to be done. I recommend logging purchases as you make them, or at the VERY least, weekly when you update the budget.

Realization number 3: A budget needs to be flexible and worked on regularly.

I mentioned in my last post that we have an unexpected amount that we owe to taxes (think thousands, not hundreds ugh). But aside from the initial panic of owing money, we know that we’ll be okay and can redistribute our finances and budget as needed. When we had some emergency pet or car troubles, we know that we’ll be fine and that everything will be okay. But it takes work and discussion and a certain amount of flexibility. I’m not always good with the flexibility (have I mentioned I’m a control freak?), but I’m getting better at it and know that it’s better to be flexible than to go in to debt for an emergency situation.

 

Bottom line, YNAB has changed our life. Our relationship has improved, we no longer fight about money, and we have a certain level of security. We’ve increased our net worth by 5x in a year, and we know that emergency situations happen and are preparing for them. I would spend hundreds on YNAB, and I highly recommend everyone else try it. Give it a full month before deciding for or against it.


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I’m a bad millennial…

Sometimes I worry that I’m young-adulting wrong.

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I always feel like I’m adulting wrong to begin with. Like, shouldn’t I still be in high school and worrying about dating idiots, not worrying about bills and how to make ends meet? People say that high school years are the best years of your life, and while I disliked high school, I miss being worry-free. Now, with bills, family obligations, work stress… I’m more stressed out and crazy than I’ve ever been before.

But then I read stories about everyone who lives paycheck to paycheck and who has thousands of dollars in credit card debt. I feel like I’m doing it wrong.

I mean, I have zero credit card debt. In fact, the only debt I have is my car and my student loans. My husband had credit card debt that we paid off within months thanks to some hardcore budgeting. We managed to put away all of my income from summer school last year, and have a nice little pocket of savings money thanks to that. We pay our bills each month and have some extra play money left over. Are we rich? Hell no. Are we comfortable? yes.

We go without for some things. Or, rather, we wait for them and save our money when we can. We have a baby on the way and I have 6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Are we nervous? Yes, but I know that we’ll be okay.

I hear horror stories from my friends about maxed out credit cards and not being able to buy groceries because they’ve spent all their paycheck before it even comes in. That terrifies me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m such a control freak or what, but I can’t even fathom this.

It’s tax time and my husband and I have a huge surprise amount that we have to pay to both federal and state taxes. And while this is definitely not fun or something we were counting on, we have the money. We were counting on it for other purposes, but we can redistribute our plans and make sure that we will manage.

Do we still live paycheck to paycheck? well, yes. We plan out each dollar that we make and we budget(although sometimes hubby doesn’t stick to this as strictly as he should). We prioritize and we discuss money often. Occasionally this leads to arguments, but in general our fights about money have lessened.

I’m attribute a lot of our success to You Need A Budget. If you’ve never heard of it, try it out. It’s a strict budgeting app that seriously has made a huge difference for us. We’re slightly addicted, and recognize that without it we would not have been able to increase our net worth more than 5x in the past year. Nor would we realize exactly how much we spend on things like groceries, clothes, or dates. It’s truly amazing.

But when I compare myself to others in my age group, I worry that I’m not living life to the fullest. I don’t go on crazy vacations regularly that put me in to debt. I don’t buy ridiculously expensive handbags or jewelry unless I have that money set aside. And I don’t stress about emergency financial hiccups that come up…. which brings up the question, am I young-adulting wrong? Or are they?

Financial security is not something that I have achieved yet. But it is something that I’m working hard toward. And isn’t that part of what we are all supposed to be heading toward? The ability to buy a house, or a car and not have to worry (much). Or have kids and a steady job. Or be able to go on a vacation and not panic about making rent. So here’s to the ones who feel like they don’t young-adult properly. Believe me, you’re doing it right.

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