The Great Oatmeal Challenge – Complete!

Well, I did it. Yesterday, I completed my Great Oatmeal Challenge. It took me over 6 weeks and approximately 32 oatmeal breakfasts to finish. Talk about a feat!

Thanks to all of you who sent recipes and ideas to keep me from getting bored! Since I make my breakfast at work, it was a little hard to try all of them. I did manage to try a few, but mainly I stuck to oatmeal, flax-seed, cinnamon, and either berries or half a banana. You should see the cabinet where I keep all this stuff in my office. It looks like I knocked over the Harris Teeter.

The fruit was a great addition, and it helped the oatmeal be a more filling. I really need a stick to your ribs breakfast. Otherwise, I become ravenous in the afternoon, and I’m entirely inconsolable until I eat a bag of swedish fish. It’s a bad, bad situation.

My challenge did help me stay off the fish (mostly), and it also allowed me to save a BUNCH of money. By my calculations, each bowl of oatmeal cost a whopping $0.08. Not too shabby! The fruit cost extra, but even adding in the cost of fruit, the meal is still well under $1. Compare that to a $3 oatmeal from Starbucks, and I think you’ll see who the clear winner is…

ME.

Bringing It, Potluck-style

I was invited to a potluck dinner party last weekend, and my job was to bring the appetizer. I was desperately trying to figure out what to bring when I remembered a recent post on fromage fort from one of my favorite cooking sites, Smitten Kitchen.

Fromage fort is the perfect contribution for the budget conscious guest. It basically takes left over cheese, mixes it together with wine and herbs, and makes it into a soft cheese pate. Depending on which cheese you use, it could taste slightly different each time. But, trust me, it is always yummy.

I used leftover brie, emmentaler, and parrano that I found floating around in the back of my fridge. This is what  it looked like in the beginning.

shreddedcheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my way home from work, I stopped at my favorite local shop, Stachowski’s to get some fresh herbs. The owner didn’t have any out, but when I asked, he nicely gave me some from the back. FOR FREE. God, I love that place. I swear if they served coffee on weekend mornings, I would be there all the time.

Anyway, I used the grater attachment in my cuisinart to grate the hard cheese, and then cubed the soft cheese and added it in. I dumped in some fresh Stachowski’s thyme and minced garlic, hit pulse, and drizzled white wine through the feed tube until it meshed together into a consistency I liked.

I stuck it in the fridge overnight to let the flavor develop, and it was ready to go before my dinner on Saturday. I served it with pita chips, but it would be good with crusty bread or any other type of cracker. This is what the Smitten Kitchen version looks like (we ate mine before I could get a good picture!)

Here’s the recipe (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

1 pound mix leftover cheese, harder cheeses grated, softer ones cut into chunks
1 Tbsp soft butter
1 small clove garlic, minced, or more to taste
1/2 to 1 cup leftover white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary or chives
1 to 2 Tbsp. dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend cheese, butter, and garlic in food processor until combined. Add the wine through the feed tube with the motor running until you get a smooth consistency, but it’s not too liquid. Add herbs and sherry and pulse until just combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Not only was the final result delicious and inexpensive, but it looked fancy and made a lot. I gave half to my mom for a dinner party she went to on Sunday night, and we both had leftovers!

 

 

Reconnecting with an Old Friend – The D.C. Public Library

Courtesy of the original Discountess (i.e. my mom), I am the proud owner of a new Kindle Paperwhite.  I got it for Christmas, but had to finish out my regular paper books before I could really embrace it. Thankfully, my recent flight to California took care of my last actual book, so I could really start enjoying my Kindle.

Mom gave me a book on the kindle to get me started which I have been mowing through on my daily bus ride. Naturally, I was concerned about what to do when I finish. Much to my horror, the cost to buy a book on kindle is about the same as buying an actual book. WHAT? There are no printing costs! Clearly, the Discountess can not throw away all her shopping money fleshing out her e-library. Someone told me that the library will actually let you borrow e-books for your Kindle, so I decided that was the best course of action and went about figuring out how to do it this week.

This is the Georgetown library. It’s where I went when I was 4 or 5 to get my very first library card. I thought I’d have to go in to get a card, but a little online research revealed that I could sign up for my card online.  I haven’t had a library card since I was a kid! I was slightly worried about the sign up process because I checked out a book for a middle school science paper, lost it in my house, and then found it when I moved home after college. I returned it , of course, but was worried that the system had me flagged and I would have to pay $1,000 worth of late fees. Lucky for me, the process went off without a hitch – no late fee payment required. Phew!

They sent me an email immediately with a customer login and pin code, so I could start searching right away. The book download process was pretty convoluted, so it took a good old-fashioned phone call to the branch librarian to figure out how to do it.

He told me that they get 30% of the best seller titles in an e-version. Not the best selection, but better than buying all those books from Amazon. He also said that if I don’t finish my book in the 3 weeks I’m allotted, I can renew it online. Pretty cool! I downloaded the Tiger’s Wife, which I’ve heard good things about, and saved myself the $11.99 that it would have cost me to purchase it from the Kindle store. I feel like a literary champion.

Now all I need is some new book recommendations. Any ideas?

Checking In On the Great Oatmeal Challenge

I’m about halfway through my tub of Oatmeal, which means I’m about a month in to my challenge. I’m not bored with my combos yet, but it’s dangerously close. I’ve mainly been doing one of two things to take my breakfast up a notch  – adding berries OR adding half a banana and a dash of nutmeg. The latter version tastes a bit like banana bread. Delish!

I did give the pumpkin “pie” oatmeal that my friend Kate recommended in my last post, but I have to say that it wasn’t my favorite. I could never get the sweetness to vegetable ratio right, so it just tasted starchy. Plus, it made my breakfast an unsettling neon orange color.

Any other thoughts for me as I start month 2?  I’m desperate for a new option!

Splurge vs. Save – Workout Gear

After I made my decision to quit the WSC in favor of Barre 3, I realized that I needed to update my workout wardrobe a bit, Discountess-style.

I have long been curious about Lululemon workout gear (the virtual uniform of the ladies of Barre3). And while I’ve been into the store several times, I have never been able to pull the trigger on buying anything. Something about the idea of paying $82 for pants that you sweat profusely in doesn’t make sense to me. For me, if I’m spending $82 on pants, I’d rather not sweat in them at all. Am I weird?

Anyway, as I thought about my wardrobe update, something occurred to me. People might notice when you’re wearing a Lululemon outfit, but nobody really thinks about it when you’re not. No one has ever looked at someone else at the gym and thought – man, she would be a lot better at this workout if she was wearing Lululemon pants. Am I right or am I right?

So this past weekend, instead of paying a mint for a pair of pants at Lululemon, I went to Old Navy for some cute, Discountess-appropriate workout gear. If you haven’t checked out their selection, I highly recommend it. They even have those kind of pants that are part workout tights and part girdle (if you don’t know about these, then you are missing out. They are super comfy, and they improve the look of your assets ten-fold. No. Joke.)

Here’s what I got.

 

(Note: I got a similar one to this that was on sale, but I can’t find it on the site.)

 

 

All of this for $10 less than what it would have cost to buy these.

 

And, there is still money leftover in the shopping budget for some fun stuff too! A win-win if you ask me.

Any one else have suggestions for cute and inexpensive workout gear? Let me know!

January Budget Breakdown – Progress!

Rabbit, rabbit folks! It’s the first of the month, which means it’s budget breakdown time. These rabbits are high-fiving in celebration of my successful January budgeting. Ladies and gentlemen, I done good.

So as you remember from my post at the beginning of the month, I set a monthly goal for myself, which I’m very proud to say that I met. My credit card stayed firmly in its holster all month, and my debit card got the workout. Woo hoo! It was a zero interest January. And for the record, in all of my shopping excursions I did not purchase any lip gloss, black shirts, or purses. I’m virtually a new woman!

As for my progress in January, here are the details.

I’m over in the following categories:

Auto/Transportation – 9% over (I’m calling this a wash)
Cash/ATM – 105% over (Eegad – you know it’s bad when your percentages hit triple digits!)
Gym – 120% over (this is for my gym membership and my favorite Barre3 classes. I’m going to need to figure out how to prioritize this next month –  I really can’t go on with both memberships.)
Personal Care  – 174% over (Someone should buy stock in CVS. They’re having a good month too, obvi.)
Shopping – 178% over (Perhaps the eBay splurge was a bad idea…)

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Bills/Utilities (includes rent, gym, etc) – 41% used
Business/Office – 48% used
Entertainment – 32% used
Food/Drink – 79% used
Dry Cleaning – 51% used
Gifts – 0% used (January was a selfish month, I guess.)
Groceries – 88% used (This is an ALL OUT miracle.)

Despite some aggressive spending in the shopping department, I was able to save on some of my other big monthly expenditures – namely groceries, food and drink, and bills. My savings, thankfully, outweighed my spending, which meant that I was able to save 60% more than my target savings amount for the month! Yessssss.

Moving on to my February goals. February is typically my “no booze” month (well technically it’s no booze between my two favorite February holidays – the Superbowl and the Oscars. It’s a solid 3.5 weeks. It counts.). I’m doing that again this year, with one minor hiccup. I’m headed to California on Presidents day for a bachelorette party. I refuse to be the no booze girl at the wine tasting, especially since I LOVE wine. So I will do no booze from Superbowl to the Oscars with the exception of Presidents Day weekend.  I think that’s good enough. Don’t you?

Did any one else stick to their January financial goals? Let me know! We can get together and look down our noses at all of the gratuitous spenders we know.

Call Wells Fargo, Another Warehouse Sale to Hit Your Debit Card This Weekend

 

OH. NO. Another warehouse sale this weekend, and this one is 3.5 hours CLOSER to home! Sadly, I think the old bank account cannot take another hit, but far be it from me to stand in your way from finding an awesome bargain or two.

I’ve been to several of these before, and it was nothing short of fabulous. Very good deals to be had. I’ve walked away with items from Tory Burch, DVF, Bettye Muller, Three Dots (love them for staples), and a $20, three strand pearl necklace from the 2009 sale that I wear all the time. Incidentally, my friend Laura found that necklace, turned it down, gave to me to buy, and she has regretted it ever since!

Some of the participating  boutiques include Hysteria, The Shoe Hive (where I got my Bettye Muller green patent leather peep toe flats in 2010), Periwinkle, and Current Boutique.   Here is the full list of participants. There are far more home and consignment stores this year than in the past, so it should have something for everyone.

Anyone planning to attend? Let me know what great bargains you come home with!

The Great Oatmeal Challenge

Today is the start of the great oatmeal challenge. The Safeway currently has a special on Quaker Quick Oats for Just 4 U members–a whopping 42 oz. for $2.50. That’s a lot of oatmeal for not a lot of money, no? My goal is to see exactly how many breakfasts I can get out of that $2.50 canister.

Note: This is the part where my mom, who I might add fed us oatmeal for breakfast for YEARS on end, turns up her nose and starts talking about how gross it is. She’s lucky we didn’t feel the same way.

So,  starting today, I will eat oatmeal every morning (work week morning, that is, since I keep the canister at work) until my supply runs out.  Straight oatmeal for days on end might be a tall order, so I am planning on supplementing it with something to spice it up. Typically, I do a teaspoon of flax-seed (which gives it a nutty flavor) or some cinnamon with a splash of agave to sweeten it up. Today, I’m trying flax, strawberries, and agave. There is a whole list of ideas on the Quaker website. The PB&J recipe is a bit much (see below), but I’m sure there are others that I can tap into. Got any recipe ideas for me?

PBJOats

Wish me luck! I wonder how long this is going to take. Anyone care to wager a bet?

 

 

Weekend J. Crew-sing in Virginia

It’s a big weekend for the preppy population of the mid-Atlantic region. It’s the semi-annual J. Crew Warehouse clearance sale in Lynchburg!

Jcrewclearancesale

 

You might think I’m crazy to drive 3.5 hours from D.C. to attend this fine event, but I assure you I’m not. This kind of sale is my JAM. We’re talking boxes of clothes and accessories to rummage through and shoes, lots and lots of shoes. The last time my friend Liz went she left with 6 new pairs of shoes for $30 a piece. I can’t wait to see what J. Crew treasures I’m going to come home with.

Wish me luck! I will report out on my finds next week. Anyone else going to be there with me?

Fringe Benefits

For the past several weeks, I’ve been in desperate need of a haircut. DESPERATE. I hadn’t had a cut since my Aveda Institute experience in October, so clearly it was time. Though I made it out of the Aveda Institute unscathed, I decided to try a slightly pricier, but still discount option.

Fringe Hair Studio is a wonky little salon within walking distance from my Georgetown pied-da-terre. I started going there after I became outraged at the unmemorable $90 haircut that my old salon gave me. Essam and his team are great. The place is understated, but the stylists know what they’re doing (unlike my friend from the Aveda Institute). And they are reasonably priced to boot!

I went to see Abbie last week to fix my sad situation. The Aveda cut ended up being a great one, but it had grown out too much. Abbie took the cut to the next level by adding more layers, so it has a bit more shape. Results are below (apologies for the sad photo – I’m terrible at self portraits).

haircut

Hair Cut: $55

Tip for shampoo: $5 (the man had magic fingers. MAGIC.)

Tip for the cut: $10

Total cost: $70

(Price differential between Aveda Institute is $56 – STEEP. But probably worth it for peace of mind, no?)

What do you think? Too expensive for what I got or is this the bargain of the century? I’m not above going to some other place that’s a better deal. Got an idea? Send it my way!