Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Coupon + Cooking Class!

I've recently discovered a site called Groupon. It reminds me of, but with different activities at discounts every day, in various cities across the country. My Mom mentioned it to me, after hearing about it on Good Morning America or some other morning news show. Last week, I decided to check it out!

On the day I went to the site, they had a 49% discount for a cooking class in my city! A friend of mine got the same deal, so for $25 each we are going to a 2.5-hour class. Unfortunately, this is not a hands-on class, but one where we get to watch a chef create a 4-course meal. However, we do get appetizers and get to eat the food at the end, plus ask questions/make comments/take notes, etc. I am SO excited and will definitely blog about it after! I think it's a great deal... basically, the same price as going out to a decent meal with friends. :)

(And no, this was not a paid post.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Rice Cooker

I recently purchased a rice cooker! I had been wanting one for a while, since I cook a lot of rice: it's cheap, filling, and goes great with a lot of meals. My parents have a rice cooker, my brother in college has one and one of my best friends has one - and they all swear by it! So, I took the plunge and added another kitchen gadget to my collection. (I already have a food processor and a crock pot.)

I did a bit of research and decided to go with the Rival 6-cup Rice Cooker from Target for $16.99 plus tax. It's absolutely adorable and really small, so it fits easily into a cupboard and barely takes up any counter space! With this specific rice cooker, it's very important to follow the instruction booklet it comes with: you need to use the included "rice scoop" and fill it up to the same "water line" as how many scoops you put in, i.e., 1 scoop = "1" on the water line. (Never try to cook the maximum 3 cups uncooked rice in it because, based on the reviews, it's too much for the little guy to handle and will make a mess on your counter!)

I have used it 3x since I bought it: 2x using only 1 scoop of rice and 1x using 2 scoops. The rice has been perfect each time! I think brown rice might take a bit longer to cook, but I've only used white basmati rice so far. It's perfect for a single person or a couple, because it makes enough to eat plus some leftovers.

It also comes with a vegetable steamer on top (not pictured). I have used it to steam peas, edamame and green beans - all frozen and thrown in the veggie steamer about 5-10 minutes after I started cooking the rice. Next I'll try steaming some potstickers.

It's so easy and I'm very happy with my purchase! :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Proud to Call Myself...

One of my very first posts when I started this blog was about cooking. (Food is a passion of mine, though I don't think I write about it enough!) Over the years, I have turned into a foodie but had never really been much of a cook, as I stated. Now that it's been a year since I really took a stab at cooking, I can happily say that I have improved! I have acquired a few cookbooks and tried a lot of recipes. And I'm also the proud owner of various kitchen gadgets, including a crock pot, food processor and my newly acquired rice cooker! :)

Some recipes have been flops, but others have made it into my rotation. These three are my favorite because are awesome as leftovers:

There are also a few from my recipe books that I mix and match. For instance, earlier this week I used my rice cooker for the first time to make plain basmati rice. It comes with a veggie steamer on top, so I added some frozen green beans while the rice cooked. Then I quickly made some tilapia fillets in a pan and a really easy red curry sauce. The result was absolutely delicious! (And, as I love, gave me leftovers.)

Recently, I've been on a fish kick - maybe because it's summer, it's not really expensive and it's healthy! I buy mine individually frozen, which just makes life easier: tilapia, mahi mahi or salmon. It cooks in minutes, I can drown them in spices and fry them slightly with some flour to make all sorts of aromatic and yummy combinations!

However, I know I still have far to go. I always have to follow a recipe unless it's one of my staple meals or something easy that I'm just tossing together. Need to be more adventurous! Also, I have cooked for my roommates and ex-boyfriends, but I have never thrown a big dinner party with appetizers, entrees and desserts. (I am definitely not a baker.) Hmm... maybe that's something I should strive towards! :)

One of the best things about cooking? In pf terms, it can be very cheap! As a single person, my monthly grocery bill rarely tops $125. Good for myself and my budget!

Leave your own recipes and thoughts in the comments - or feel free to e-mail me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Frugal vs Poor

My younger brother has been going through some financial issues with his best friend. His best friend, J, is frugal. Now, we all know there is nothing wrong with that! However, he is not completely open and honest about it. (Is that a guy thing, since it has to do with money?)

When they go out with friends, J only drinks water unless someone buys him a drink. He never reciprocates on other nights. At the apartment, J drinks the beer that my brother buys... and never purchases any himself. When my brother makes dinner, J will eat it. If he's not offered any, he eats oatmeal. When my brother says it's J's turn to make dinner, he says he will just make oatmeal or macaroni and cheese. He hardly buys any groceries and is constantly living off of my brother. Ironically, it is J that currently has a paid summer job while my brother is doing an unpaid internship. (Luckily my parents are okay with that and are supporting him - plus they are living rent-free in an apartment that my parents have!)

As I'm typing this, I'm realizing that J isn't just frugal... he is poor. Yet he goes to a private university. Apparently he had an RA job last year (free lodging and food) but we don't seem to know why he doesn't have that job anymore - especially if it seems like he can't afford anything, wouldn't you want to stay in a position like that just for incredible benefits?

I also wonder, where does the money from his paid summer job go? Is he saving it to pay for tuition? Why can't he admit that he can't afford even ONE drink out, let along groceries - which are a necessity? My brother just doesn't know what to do, as this is his best friend. He's tried talking to him, but J refuses to discuss it.

What a sad predicament to be in! Have you ever had any friends like this? What do you suggest?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Unemployed Friends

Well, it was bound to happen. Today I found out that two of my close friends have been laid off from their respective companies. One of them is my best friend, but he's lucky in that his parents can support him. (He's going to grad school in the spring anyway.) The other moved home after graduation last year, so I know she's alright for the moment, too. I still feel bad for them - finding a job in this economy is difficult.

But it's still scary and unpredictable out there! I'm so thankful that my company has still not done any layoffs. (Yet.)


I had a great weekend! On Friday night I went out with one of my roommates and a friend. I drove, so I didn't buy any drinks but still had a blast with them. On Saturday, one of my college roommates/best friends came down to visit. We went to lunch, window-shopped at the mall, got frozen yogurt, went to a used bookstore and cooked dinner at home. I really enjoy girl time with her and am so glad we can stay connected and see each other every once in a while! :) On Sunday I went to brunch with the roommates, ran some errands and went to yoga - my brain and hormones were out-of-whack so I didn't get in any studying.


$7.38, Lunch
$3.50, Book
$3.31, Frozen Yogurt

$10, Brunch
$9.54, Groceries
$18.37, Rice cooker

Total: $52.10

Friday, August 7, 2009


Studying has taken over most of my time! I go to the library 3x a week and Starbucks about 2x. Surprisingly, I'm enjoying it. I really like the challenge and it's keeping my mind in great shape :) (Don't worry - I won't stop blogging, it just might be more infrequent!)

This weekend I have a girlfriend visiting me from Saturday to Sunday! We're planning on going out for an easy hike, grabbing some dinner and she might join me at yoga on Sunday morning. :)

My spending is going well. Nothing excessive so far! I did spend all my clothing budget last month on this jacket (hooray for the price adjustment!) and it arrived earlier this week - I am in love!! :) Last weekend I spent around $100, all on groceries and some supplies for the apartment. I do a lot of batch cooking and bought all the things I needed to make a lot of simple meals for the month - it'll help me while I'm studying so I don't have to think/worry about dinner!

I woke up this morning not feeling well, so I'm taking my first sick day of the year. I'm feeling a little better after getting more sleep, but I don't have the energy to get ready and go to work. Luckily I don't have any deadlines, plus 90% of the department (including both my boss and team leader) is out today anyway so it would have been a very slow day.

And really, I need to fix/update my blog. I tried last weekend and failed. Here goes round two this weekend! :)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

E-Fund Update

If you haven't noticed, I updated my sidebars. The most changed item was my E-fund! I moved some money around from my B&M savings account, which has basically been sitting there as a "backup" in case I needed it... but realized that it had too much money sitting there earning almost no interest! So, I funneled most of it (about $2,500) into my E-fund! Since, technically, that's what it's for, anyway.

Since it's actually in my E-fund now, I adjusted my E-fund goal from $8K all the way up to $12K. This will be an on-going goal, not just for this year!

Welcome August: Networth, Goals & July Review

My networth increase by 6% this month, mostly thanks to the markets! I, however, did a lot of spending. My largest over expenditure, by far, was food. Groceries and dining out came to a combined $283! My January-June average was $172, so this was over $100 more than normal! I had $75 leftover from my monthly budget, of which I put $50 in my Roth IRA and $25 into my E-fund.

July Goals
1. Continue CFA studying.
I am really getting into my studying now, and actually enjoying it! (Is that sad?) It's overwhelming, but it keeps me busy.
2. Figure out rent situation for August.
Pass! We decided to stay in our current place for another 9 months. Moving is a hassle!
3. Review/adjust annual goals.
Pass! I did this recently and I am doing surprisingly well!
4. Book flight/finalize trip to NYC in September.
Pass! My Dad offered to fly me there on airline points, and I will be going from September 12-19. I can't wait, since I haven't taken any vacation since April!

August Goals
1. CFA studying. Specifically: the FRA topic section.
2. Read one book for fun. I have this one on hold at the library!
3. Try to make one new friend. Somehow!
4. Go to gym 2x per week.
5. Buy a rice cooker!

A Splurge + Price Adjustment!

I mentioned that I splurged on a new jacket/blazer recently. Well, a few days ago I happened upon the same exact jacket... on the clearance portion of the website I ordered it from! I checked out the "help" section of the company's website and found out that I could possibly get a price adjustment if the item was marked down within 14 days of my order.

I was a little unsure, as I had place the order on July 9th but it didn't ship until July 28th, as it was backordered originally. I e-mailed customer service two days ago and this morning received a confirmation that I would receive a $70.10 price adjustment, credited directly onto the card I purchased it with!

I could not be more excited. The jacket started at $120, plus tax and shipping (which was outrageous), came to $146.81. With the price adjustment, I would only be paying $76.71 total! (It was on clearance for $50. Technically, I should probably receive an additional credit since the shipping would be less...) All I did was send an e-mail, ask for a price adjustment and it was granted! A little inquisitiveness and luck can go far sometimes.

Now that's customer service! :)

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