7 Ways to Manage Budget on Food

When I was living with my parents, my mom and I were in charge of groceries. Going from Costco to Wal-Mart, FoodMaxx to Asian supermarkets, the grocery bills easily came out to be more than $200 (sometimes each store) for a 6-person household in around every 2 weeks. A lot of those food go to waste, and I have seen it in Ivan's house as well. Once I moved out from my parents' house, I was able to be in charge of what to buy and I vowed to myself to never waste food. Here are 7 tips I find helpful in keeping a budget on grocery bills:

Plan Ahead

Maybe I'm one of the last people on this planet who still use a pen and paper to write down shopping lists, but it is really helpful and I actually remember which items I need. Go through the fridge and dry food storage to see which items need to restocked; plan which meals will be cooked and buy ingredients accordingly. I write down the stores we will be going to, and specific items I would need to grab from that store. This makes our grocery trips a lot more efficient. 

Buy House Brands

Every store has their own house brands, and they usually costs a few cents, if not a few dollars, cheaper than the mainstream brands. Go ahead and grab those instead because they are really the same things. 

Less Meat

I have been a vegetarian for more than 5 years. I have only recently started to eat meat again, which I decided at the end of 2017. I guess you can call it my 2018 New Year Resolution. Before that, I always made sure to include meat in our dinner for Ivan because he loves chicken breast and I got to make sure he has more protein in his diet. Overall, meat can come out to be costly but that's if you buy a lot of beef and seafood. So I got lucky with this one. Since we don't have a freezer, we also need to finish the meat a lot quicker. 

Staple Foods

I was able to score a 20-pound rice for the price $5.99 from Food 4 Less. That has lasted us for more than 2 months and we are only half way through the rice. Always have these items in stock (for that awkward time period between needing to go grocery shopping but not yet): rice, beans, pasta & pasta sauce, eggs. On days when I don't have the energy to cook time-consuming dinner, I would whip up something quick and delicious like pasta or fried rice. 

Buy Foods with Longer Shelf Life

I have found vegetables with leaves tend to go bad a lot faster than root vegetables like carrots and squash. So when I buy a cart full of greens, I make sure to finish the leafy greens within the next few days. Stock up on pasta and rice because they don't go bad for quite some time. 

Drink at Home

We have a knack for anything fruity so we quite enjoy hard ciders and sweet wines; however, a cocktail can easily be priced at $15. How many do you need to drink until it hits that sweet spot of being tipsy but not obnoxious drunk? Before you know it, the bartender is waving the check at you for $60 plus. Another good thing about drinking at home is that it's a safe environment where you can actually converse instead of yelling at each other over ear thumping music. We live within earshot to a bar, unfortunately, we know how annoying bar-goers can get at 2 o'clock in the morning.

Reward Card/Gift Card

Any local supermarkets should have their own loyalty or reward program where the prices are marketed to their loyal customers. Definitely sign up for those because those deals are just sitting there and waiting for you. I have their apps downloaded to check out the weekly ads and coupons here and there. I have also been using this app called ShopKick where I can earn points by going into stores and/or scanning items. I have accumulated enough and was able to use those gift cards on grocery for a couple times. Literal free money. WalMart's app has a feature called Savings Catcher where you simply upload your receipt and it will search competitors' market prices. If they find that other stores' are selling items for lower prices, they will refund you that difference. (These are not ads, btw, just what I have found useful.) Also check for manufacturer coupons: when I buy the Beyond Meat, I always use the coupon from their own website, and the stores will always take it.

 

8 Relationship Milestones We Have Celebrated So Far

The first year we were together, we would do a little something each month to celebrate. Namely, 4th month, I cooked us the most delicious dinner ever (even Ivan's dad approved) - pineapple fried rice in a pineapple. (Feeling tropical yet?) There are so many firsts throughout life, but those firsts are worth to commemorate if it happens with a special someone. Here are what we have celebrated so far.

First Date

Ivan and I had met in college. In the last quarter before we graduate, we had 2 drawing classes together. In the first week of that quarter, we had both agreed to go visit the Pace Art & Technology exhibition in Menlo Park. I remember driving across the toll bridge that Saturday, thinking to myself in excitement, "I'm going on a daaaaate!" Of course, he dressed down (in soccer sweats -_-) because apparently he didn't want to give me the impression of being on a date; while I was wearing a purple dress with a peacoat (***fabulous). After we had finished visiting the gallery, we stood in the parking lot and chatted up for a long time because neither of us wanted to leave, really. So we finally decided we should get dinner and headed over to Crepevine in Palo Alto (we revisited a few times). It was that day when he first told me he'd like to start his own clothing brand, and I was flooded with admiration of his ambition and passion. At the time, it was just us hanging out, as friends, outside of school. But later, we both agreed it was in fact a date. 

First Tattoo Together

Relax, we didn't get a matching tattoo. We went to get tattoos together. It was his first tattoo ever, and he wanted his name's meaning (gracious gift from God) written in Arabic, on his right forearm. I had wanted mine to say "la dolce vita" on my left upper thigh. It was my 7th tattoo. With a high pain tolerance, I sat through the session with ease. When it was his turn, he seemed nervous. So I offered to hold his sweaty palm, maybe that made him even more nervous. After the tattoo session, we went to have lunch at a Thai restaurant. It was his first time having Thai food, and he loved it. It was definitely a fun experience. 

First Hand Holding

We went to a soccer game in the Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. It was one of the matches for Copa America in 2016 between Uruguay and Jamaica. By the time the game had started, the sun had set and we were both freezing. The "I'm cold" move worked like a charm, ladies and gentlemen. I know, I know, I held his hand when he got his first tattoo. But this was the first time where our 10 fingers were intertwined. 

First Kiss

Day after we confirmed we were boyfriend and girlfriend, he went to EDC in Las Vegas with his siblings and friends. That one week of separation certainly wasn't ideal in the beginning of dating, but I was never anxious about his whereabouts. The trust came naturally. When he returned, we went to Alameda County Fair (we returned one year later to walk down the memory lane). We walked around and just had endless talks. We stopped in front of a drink stand, looked at each other, and both knew it was the right moment. 

The day we had our first kiss at Alameda County Fair.

The day we had our first kiss at Alameda County Fair.

First "I Love You"

Within the first month of dating, there were several times when "I love you" were at the tip of our tongues. But both of us hesitated to say it out loud yet because we were still so fresh in our relationship. It was July 4th, and we had gone to the Disney Family Museum in the morning. I had always wanted to watch fireworks with that special someone. So we were at the Fisherman's Wharf to catch the fireworks. As we were waiting in the car for the crowd to leave, we got tired of avoiding to say "I love you," so Ivan said it. I said it again immediately after. And we say it to each other every day ever since.

First Trip 

We had 3 choices for our very first trip together: New York, Maui, and Chicago. Ivan has been to New York before with his best friend. I went to Hawaii with my family. But we still couldn't decide which one of the three to pick, so like always, we like to just go with it. We wrote down 3 places and picked randomly. Whenever we can't decide on something, we like to just toss a coin. Chicago ended up being our choice; it was perfect because it was a place neither of us have went before. We got a CityPass and visited all the major museums, which we both loved. There were also free admittance to zoo and conservatory. We went to a super cool underground bar where they made us feel like we were spies or special agents. The weather was really nice when we went at the end of August. We survived our first trip and many more will come. 

First Apartment

In our mid and late 20s, we got tired of living with our parents even though it's acceptable to do so being millennials. We packed everything, rented a truck, and moved to the City of Angels. Granted, it's a small studio with minimum space. But so far, we have worked to make it our little nest. (Utilize vertical space, everyone!) We live in the small 6-block Thai Town, and coincidentally we love Thai food. Well, we love food, period. So it's not too shabby, our first apartment. 

First Big Purchase

When we were in the process of moving, we broke the bed frame by disassembling and re-assembling. Every night when we turn around in bed, the bed would creak. When we pull out the drawers, the whole frame was barely holding it together. We finally had enough and went shopping for a new bigger bed. Luckily, we have pretty much the same taste in almost everything. Deciding which one to buy was easy. 

There are still so many things we are looking forward to and so many firsts waiting for us to celebrate. Cheers to all the firsts!

 

Living with A Dude

They say moving in together is a big step in a relationship; indeed, it is. We talked back and forth whether we were ready for it or not, and the answer was always unanimously “yes” because we wanted the same things. We were a little shy of one year and a half when we moved in together. But given that we survived our first trip (Chicago, yay!) together, we figured there was nothing we couldn’t get through. 

We have always been on the same page since day 1. Believe it or not, we have discussed all the big adult stuff when our relationship was just a little sprout. Heck, we said “I love you” to each other after only one month! When it comes to relationships, finding the right person is above all else. 

There was never a big shocking reveal where one of us has some nasty habits. We are on par with cleanliness and personal hygiene. I like to keep the kitchen clean; he likes to keep the table clean. We set up schedules of when to do laundry, take out the trash, and clean the bathroom and living room. In the end, sharing chores is what makes living together better so there is no resentment toward one another.

Naturally, I take over the cooking when it comes to dinner because, ahem, Ivan only knows how to make breakfast (and I can’t be eating pancakes every night.) As exhausting as our days can get, dinner is always made with love. I never really even cooked dinner when I was living with parents. But as long as you know basic ingredients and seasoning, your cooking instincts should kick in. In the beginning it was a little hard to get the right serving size because it was just the two of us and a big pot (from Ikea that I LOVE because it comes with a draining lid). So we always ended up tons of leftover. 

Working out together is another good couples bonding (apparently, says Ivan). I’ve always enjoyed working out on my own because no one needs to witness this sweaty mess. With Ivan’s insistance (annoyingly), we would often manage to squeeze in some work out sessions after our long days, sometimes while I’m cooking. As much as I hate to admit it, the endorphins from exercising do feel great.

Besides him nagging about me leaving my small stuff, hair in the drain, and clothes everywhere, so far it’s been great living with a dude who burps a lot. If anything, he is the one who needs to put up with me. There is literally hair everywhere that even I think “uh, how did it get there?” Ivan often jokes that I shed as much as a dog does. We love to annoy each other and we can be just as annoying and obnoxious to each other. But let’s be real, it’s all about being yourself when you are with someone you love. 

Our First Apartment

We had done some real good homework in apartment hunting, but of course realities are always far from expectations. Take it with a grain of salt when apartment hunting because as everyone knows photos never reflect how the rooms really look. We have bumped some uglies arriving in dirty neighborhoods and sketchy buildings. 

When we first moved into our small studio of 300 square feet,  “disappointment” wouldn’t be the right choice of word. We came to a quick acceptance of the small place because in reality where else can you find a place that includes all utilities (except WiFi, sigh)? It’s a great deal! We just needed figure out how to deal with the small space, so we slowly fixed up our place to our style as we unpacked. A couple trips to the biggest IKEA in the country, finally made our tiny studio feel like home. Trying to figure out how to fit our new white table top into our car at the IKEA parking lot for 40 minutes will be one of my fondest memories. 

Following numerous interior design Instagram/blogs and reading BuzzFeed Nifty articles had taught me to utilize vertical space. This had come in so handy especially when we don't even have a real kitchen. We have what it's called a kitchenette, where it has 2 stove tops, sink, and a small fridge. Some things we had to adjust to were we can’t buy frozen foods because there isn’t a freezer. Also there isn’t an oven to bake or broil, but we can easily get a smaller toaster oven. It has very limited space to work with, but we had to be creative. We are able to put away most of our groceries in the sturdy utility cart, especially when I stock up on pasta (There are never too much pasta, right?). In fact, with everything within arms' length reach (If you cook, you know), the hanging utensils are much easier to work with.

Our little kitchenette. 

Our little kitchenette. 

We added wall shelves above our table and toilet for more storage space. Also can’t forget the fake plants where you don’t need to water at all but suffice to make the place look lively. Extension cords turned out to be a must since there aren't many wall outlets. We are definitely considering the wireless charger so we can eliminate the many cords lying around. The furniture mega-giant, aka IKEA, really is the adult version of the happiest place on Earth. All of our big-piece furnitures are black and white, so they perfectly match with the monochromatic gray walls. Putting up artworks definitely brightens up the place and makes the whole place more personable. We are slowly working on it, but for our first ever apartment, it isn't too shabby. 

Moving to La La Land

I had been searching for a set of couple mugs (that read "Stud Muffin" and "Cutie Pie") I saw months earlier at Ross. For the price of $5.99, I regret not buying them (thinking that we hadn't live together yet, what is the point?) so I had been on a look out for them ever since. We were shopping at T.J. Maxx one day, and I bought this set of couple mugs (that now reads "Hey There Handsome" and "Good Morning Gorgeous".) I innocently said to Ivan, "we'll use these one day when we live together," figured I was just going to put them away under my bed, soon to be covered in dust. 

The date to move came as a surprise to us, just as it did to everyone in our families. Everything happened so quickly. We had driven down to LA in September for the first time, just to check out some apartments and neighborhoods. After some disappointing studios and dirty neighborhoods, not to mention the horrible AirBnB we stayed at, we were able to score our very first apartment right in Hollywood! Much to our delight, we celebrated our first real step to adulthood, with much needed delicious Strong Bow cider. 

And so, as the move in date got closer, we got to packing. It meant a major cleanse to my room and all of my things. I was able to fill a couple bags of clothes to donate, as I do whenever I clean out my closet. The boyfriend emphasized over and over again, “Sophia, we are not coming back, so pack e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.” So I did (with a little eye roll, of course), minus some fragile art pieces I left behind. Luckily, we had no big pieces of furniture to move around. We did struggle with bed. Ivan suggested to move the bed as is, but there was no humanly possible way I was able to lift and move the bed frame. So I insisted on taking it apart. 

With everything loaded onto the Budget truck, we woke up at 3am and started driving at 4am to beat the traffic. We had finally arrived at the apartment around 11am, and it took us endless back-and-forth trips from the truck to the apartment to unload every last box. With last bits of our strength late on our first night, we had to assemble the bed. It took a good two struggling hours to finally put the bed back together. 

Having lived here for 2 months, I can say for the both of us, that we very much love living in Los Angeles. Moving from the Bay Area, we are quickly adapting to the crazy traffic because the traffic in the Bay Area is getting just as bad now. We are loving the diverse people, food, and culture, as well as the convenience to shopping, museums, and major theme parks. There are just so much to do that we will never get bored.