lunch box favorites :: 1

lunchbox favorites

if i don’t plan ahead, i usually eat out for lunch. mostly, i tend to justify it because eating out gets me away from work as it’s hard not to get interrupted and taken away from my lunchtime if i stay onsite.

if i’m smart, i have my lunch packed and i eat it in the car. it doesn’t cost any extra and i can listen to npr, jot down notes or just relax in the slightly warmer than outside temperature of the car.

one of my favorite ways to cook is with a crockpot. over this past year, i feel i’ve found a bunch of really good crockpot recipes, either through pinterest or

when i saw this recipe for crockpot fried rice, i was really hankering for fried rice. it also had simple ingredients and i had everything on hand. i also liked that it called for leftover rice. the only thing holding me back was the photo. it didn’t look very appetizing. then somewhere i read said something like” trust me, it’s good, don’t judge it by the picture.”

they were right. it’s one of my favorites and i love making a big batch of it, so i have leftovers for work. i adapted the recipe a little bit based on what i normally used for chicken teriyaki.

crockpot fried rice
adapted from a year of slow cooking
(I usually double the recipe)

2 cups leftover rice (day old works best, or if you make rice in the morning, it should be good enough by mid day.  You want it really dry, no moisture)
2-3 T butter
2 T soy sauce
1 T worcestershire sauce (or 1 T fish sauce)
1 T rice wine vinegar
1/2 t black pepper (less, or none, if kids are going to be eating it)
1/4 t kosher salt (or 1/8 tsp iodized)
1/2 diced red onion
1 cup of frozen veggies. (I usually use a pea, corn, green bean, carrot mixture)
leftover meat (rotisserie chicken is awesome, frozen cooked shrimp is what i usually use, ham would be good too!)
1 egg
1. spray the crockpot with cooking spray
2. dump all ingredients in. (except if using cooked shrimp, leave it out)
3. stir and cook on high for 1.5 hours. if you can, wipe the moisture off the inside of the lid 3-5 times during the cooking time. (If using shrimp, throw it in the last half hour.)

enjoy! i would love to hear if anyone makes this!

what i would tell my 22 year old self

what i would tell

when i graduated college, i was 22. i didn’t have a ton of debt as compared to now ($40K vs. $290K), but as i mentioned before, if we had just followed the principles we are following now, my family and i would be in a MUCH different, and I know, better place than we are now.

i know i have some younger readers, so pay attention! i’m writing to you here at 31 and telling you things that would have made my life SO much better had I follow some, if not all of these.

this is what i would tell my 22 year old self:
– make a budget
– actually stick to the budget
– have savings goals (debt snowball, car fund, house fund, wedding fund, honeymoon fund)
– elope or have a super small wedding and have a honeymoon instead
– get a better paying job faster
– take more photos
– pay my student loan debt faster
– save 20% for a down payment, don’t borrow it
– have a capsule wardrobe
– learn to make recipes that you love to make and love to eat
– enjoy your time with your significant other, especially before having kids

what would you tell your 22 year old self? i’d love to hear!

our baby steps


since we are on the dave ramsey bandwagon, we are working through the 7 baby steps. you’ll see below, but we aren’t doing it exactly how he prescribes.

i think of the baby steps like benchmarks. i use benchmarks a lot at work and neil jokes that if and when i’m a stay-at-home mom, he’ll need to set benchmarks for me so i don’t get bored. he’s probably right and i get really excited for what my benchmarks might be….walking 10,000 steps, running, baking, going on guided tours with arya, no spend months, the list goes on and on.

a little information before i start. my husband and i both have full-time jobs with benefits. we made a great sacrifice moving FAR away from family, but we also get to enjoy beautiful weather and we do make enough that we can enjoy some of what we make. i get pretty upset with our debt decisions every time i make a payment. i always think,”if we would have just saved money for the past 6 years like we are doing now, we wouldn’t have all this debt and we’d be rich!!” but, it will come eventually and you got to start somewhere.

we started the baby steps in november 2014.

baby step #1: $1K starter er fund–completed november 2014, currently in an easily accessible savings account (not sure if that’s the best place for it)

baby step #2: debt snowball–total debt, not including our mortgage was $49,520.49. this includes a tsp loan, a personal loan and a home depot credit card. anticipated completion feb 2016 (bs#2 and bs#3 at the same time from may 2015-february 2016). we should call it debt pay down instead of a snowball, because we are tackling the highest tsp loan first, the other two have no interest and the money taken from the tsp was from our retirement savings, so the faster we get it back in there, the more it can earn for later.

baby step #3: 3-6 months er fund–we are going to add in an additional 3-4 months of mortgage payments in case we end up renting our condo and have trouble finding renters. goal: $15K-$20K. anticipated completion april 2016

baby step #3.5: save up for a car fund of at least $8,000.

baby step #4: save 15% of income for retirement. for the first 4 years of neil’s job, we put 20% of his paycheck into his TSP. since november 2014, we have been doing 5% with a company match of 3%. i also have a pension right now of about $700 that i can get once i hit retirement age. the longer i stay with the job, the higher that pension gets. neil also gets a retirement benefit from his work and we both have roth-ira’s. with a total of 5 retirement accounts and because of our pensions and our 8% into his TSP, we may be close to 15% already. when i figure that out, i’ll update ya.

baby step #5: save for college. when arya was born we opened a 529 plan and put in $2,000. we haven’t done anything to that since then.

baby step #6: pay off house early. if we stayed in san diego, doing what we’re doing, we’d have our condo paid off by 2020. if we move away, our goal is 15 years.  right now, we are paying the minimum on a 30 year mortgage.

baby step #7: build wealth and give

current monthly budget

i’m about to get really transparent!  i’m excited to share our budget, as i’m almost constantly thinking about it! once our debt is paid off, i wonder what i’m going to think about…i look forward to that time.

i know this isn’t perfect yet and it’s still pretty cushy.  soon, i think i’ll have a comparison of what could go to debt if we stripped the budget even further.

also, i should mention that we haven’t ever got this budget right so far and we’ve been doing this since november 2014…we’ve always overspent most of our categories, but i know we can fit within them, so we need to keep trying.

net income: $6599.17 with 4 paycheck total.

total expenses: $4614.41

anticipated debt paydown: $1983.76

expense breakdown:

mortgage, insurance & taxes: $1471.42

HOA: $250, this includes water, trash, recycle, outside maintenance, roof maintenance, pest control and landscaping.

gas/electric: $50. we live in southern california, no need for air conditioning or heat, except for about 4 weeks a year.  we just battle through those relatively hot or cold times.

phone: $25, neil has a prepaid phone for $25 a month and i use google voice for free.

internet: $47.99

gym:  $35, two memberships and childcare included. neil uses it often, i haven’t used it since december 2014, but the childcare is great for us both to get a break.

compassion international: $38

groceries: $400

gas: $200

fun money: $200, i mostly use this for eating out at lunch time and starbucks…this needs to change and i am getting better.

arya: $40, mostly for diapers, wipes, clothes and snacks/toys

hygiene: $30 for haircuts, waxing, barber shop, soap, etc

date night: $25, this is new

clothing: $50, this is newer

house: $200

misc: $100, this is new

christmas: $45

birthday/holiday: $35

car care: $300

car insurance: $50

car registration: $25

shutterfly: $10

amazon prime: $10

travel: $250

sports equipment: $20, neil wants a beach cruiser and kayaks

technology: $20, i want a color printer and neil wants a smartphone, i also think i want an iPad.

daycare: about $400

preschool: $288