Meals this week

I’m mostly settled into my new apartment and the time has once again come to get serious about meal prep. The first week or two in the new place, my options were somewhat limited as I was still lacking some crucial items that didn’t come with me where I used to live (and I was doing enough physical labor that I often allowed myself to indulge in a big burger after a hard day of lifting boxes). But with another trip to Japan on the horizon this autumn, I figured it was a good idea to start saving money again.

My shopping trip at the beginning of the week ran me about $80; mostly on staples that would last a few weeks, like bread, eggs, and a few different types of meat. I took a look at the reduced-for-quick-sale shelf in the produce section and picked up a pound of green beans and broccoli, a bag of plantains, and a bag of poblano peppers for about a dollar each. I also decided, last-minute, to pick up a rotisserie chicken. I usually don’t find the price to be quite as good as people make it out to be, and in most cases would rather prep my own chicken. However, this time I got a pretty good deal and the convenience was enough to push me over the edge.

One of my big plans from the beginning was to make Kapuśniak; a cabbage, bacon, and keilbasa soup that gets a lot of its flavor from sauerkraut. It takes no time to throw together and only gets better in the fridge. I made this on Sunday and ate it throughout the week.

I sauteed the poblano peppers with onions to make a fajita mix, and baked the plantains with some Creole seasoning for a nice mealy bite to mix into burritos (with the rotisserie chicken and black beans). At the end of the week, I finished off the mixture by making a quesadilla — always fun to be able to combine the same ingredients into a new format to keep things fresh. I also ate beef burgers for a few of my meals on days when I was working out particularly hard.

Blanched green beans and broccoli were a quick addition to just about any meal, and I would sometimes just eat them out of the fridge if I was in the mood for a quick bite.

While $80 is definitely higher than I want to be spending every week, this coming week should be much cheaper (I can almost make the meals I want without any additional ingredients). Hoping I can keep up the momentum.

Fitness progress

Another mixed week. I did hit most of my exercise days, with only one day per workout type missed.

In an effort to get some bonus gains I switched to goblet squats, using a 20lb weight. This might have been a bad idea. It took a few days to kick in but my knees are pretty sore. I’ll be giving squats a pass this week.

I did a fair amount of pushups, though not following a program this time. I tried focusing on explosive motion instead of rapid-fire motion. I also focused on curls and tricep extensions, the latter of which has recently become possible with my 20lb weights (though not as fast or high-rep as with my lower weights).

Meals this week

Most of this week was covered by the cooking I did last week with leftover and gifted ingredients. I did a small shopping trip at the beginning of the week to get eggs and brown sugar ($2.19, which will probably work out to something like $0.05 per bowl of oatmeal) along with a few fresh vegetables here and there. I took a second trip at the end of the week to get a couple of things for a family dinner. The total for both trips came to just over $60; still under my max of $70 per week but higher than I would prefer.

I ate oatmeal each morning; greek yogurt with apples and brown sugar, chicken sausage with cotija and arugula.

My parents visited during the middle of the week, which meant for a couple of free meals this time around as well. So far the best money-saving trick I’ve found is to have other people pay for your food. On the other hand, I also went out for dinner with some friends on Tuesday and spent basically the same amount on that one meal as I did on both of my shopping trips combined. I enjoy eating out but it’s definitely not something I can do on a regular basis. Maybe next time I can have people over to cook instead.

I had a nice realization this week that will translate into savings in the future — brewed with the right technique, I actually get more enjoyable results from supermarket coffee (Eight o’clock, $10/lb) than I do from the specialty coffee I’ve been buying for a little while now (Philz, $20/lb + $10 shipping). It generally takes me about three weeks to go through a bag of coffee beans so this is a considerable reduction in my regular spending.

Fitness progress

This past week was a bit of a wash. I didn’t hit all my workout days and I didn’t end up doing my exhaustion tests on Saturday. This coming week I’ll be using the results from last week to set the same goals again. Hoping to bounce back soon.

Meals this week

Very little shopping this time around. I spent the weekend with my parents and was sent home with a bunch of food which ended up being the basis for most of what I ate.

Before I get into what I did eat though, a quick mention of what I didn’t eat — or more specifically, what I bought that went to waste. Last week I picked up a couple of greenhouse tomatoes ($4.96) with the idea of eating them in sandwiches as a special treat. The first one was disappointingly mealy and I ended up neglecting the other one, and by the time I noticed it in the middle of the week it had molded. It feels bad to waste money on ingredients this close to the beginning of the program, especially when they’re comparatively expensive. Going forward I’ll try to be more careful of the perishable goods I buy; both in making good selections and also being proactive about using them up, even if it’s for a purpose that I didn’t originally intend.

The first of my two big meal preps this week was a hearty soup I made with a roast ham my mom gave me. The key ingredients in this were a can of red beans ($1.19), about half of the napa cabbage I bought the first week ($1.70), plus some assorted vegetables and miscellaneous stuff from the pantry like pearl barley. The other meal was a rice casserole with mushrooms and chicken breast, for which nearly every ingredient was either from my mom or had been languishing in the freezer. Between these two meals I was basically set for the rest of the week and then some.

I had a couple of other random meals here and there, again made mostly with existing ingredients. Dinner one night was a grilled chicken wrap and the next was Japanese white stew (made by my sister with ingredients she bought). As a result I was able to freeze more of my prepared food than usual, which is another nice investment in future weeks.

I did a small shopping in the middle of the week which came out to just over $40. Most of this was bulk goods that I’ll be using in the coming weeks (canned tomatoes, brown sugar) as well as some fresh produce from the bargain shelf and a large carton of eggs.

I finished off the huevos rancheros add-ins that I had made for oatmeal the week before, and alternated between sweet (brown sugar and yogurt) and savory (goat cheese and chicken sausage) throughout the rest of the week.

Japanese practice reflection

Last night I had my first-ever proper Japanese conversation practice session with a couple of members from the 日本語と英語 discord server (one native speaker, one fellow learner). It was a lot of fun and I feel encouraged by the outcome; I’ve often felt like all the input I’m getting was doing a great job of helping me develop strong comprehension skills, but not making a huge difference for my production ability. After this practice session, I feel more like my conversation ability is trapped in my head and just needs a little help getting out, like a rusty faucet that needs some encouragement before it can be turned on and off easily.


The biggest thing I noticed is that I rarely had to think hard about the words I wanted to use, but when it did happen it was like my whole brain had shut down. Since we were trading off languages, I was able to fall back on English to keep the conversation going, but I would obviously prefer to move past that.

Since I’ve never really had a proper conversation before, this was also the first time that my typical speech mannerisms had a chance to manifest in Japanese, which was pretty interesting. In English I tend to say stuff like “I guess” (when describing my opinions), and in Japanese I found myself using かな at the end of a lot of my sentences.

One moment I thought was kind of funny was when we were talking about another member of the server and I was asked for my opinion; my answer of 悪いやつじゃないと思う got a laugh out of our native friend and a response of “you’re talking just like a Japanese person!” Just a fun reminder that there’s more to language than just grammar and vocabulary.

Problem areas

Numbers have always been a pain point. More audio immersion would probably be a big help in this regard. At one point I was trying to report on the temperature (-5c) and accidentally said マイナスごじゅう instead of マイナスごど, which got a very surprised reaction. I feel like I made a similar mistake a little later, forgetting to use 回, and then again using ~人目 instead of ~番目 when describing my siblings.

On a number of occasions I found myself suddenly using polite forms (ですます, or saying はい instead of うん or そう) just for one sentence in the middle of a casual conversation. I’m not sure why certain phrases seemed to come out naturally in polite mode but it’s something I want to work on of course.

One more thing that sticks in my mind as a bit of a “regret” is that there were some words I used where I feel like a similar but subtly different word would have been a better fit. As one example in particular, I was asked “why take two trips to Japan instead of staying the whole time” and my answer was 仕事があるから. I feel like 仕事があるし would have been a more natural response in this case, but I thought of it just a moment too late. On another occasion, I was asked if I had heard of something, and I said 知らない at the same time as our native friend said 分からない. Obviously her response would have been more natural.

The last thing I’d like to work on is also a bit of a curiosity. I occasionally found myself code-switching back to English, but only for specific words. One repeat offender was that I would intend to say けど at the end of a sentence, but it would somehow become the English word “though” on its way out of my mouth; another was that I would occasionally just add “so…” at the end, but not with any particular Japanese word in mind, just an example of English brain taking over.

All in all, I feel like it went pretty well and I’m excited for the next one.

Fitness progress

In addition to my normal routine I mixed in a lot of weight training (curls and tricep extensions). I also upped my protein intake a fair amount. While visiting my parents I spent some time in the VR set I bought my mom for Christmas, which is always a surprisingly strenuous workout, and helped my dad throw a cord of wood into the woodshed.

This week’s exhaustion test:

  • Pushups: 82
  • Situps: 70
  • Squats: 46

I wanted to break 80 pushups this week so I’m happy to go over. Situps saw a nice boost too.

I’m kind of disappointed at the change to my squat max but I decided not to push myself too hard. I did manage at least 67 at some point during the week but when the time came to take the test I had to give up early. I’ve probably been punching above my weight for the past couple of weeks and this will put me back at a lower level of the program so I can build up a bit more slowly.

Meals this week

This week’s shopping was pretty minimal. I’m still planning on leaning pretty heavily on the dry and canned goods from last week, plus remaining frozen ingredients that will be carrying me for quite some time. The only thing I really needed to pick up was eggs, and I wanted to restock on green olives since I had run out making fisherman’s eggs last week. I swung by the discount produce shelf and grabbed a cucumber for salad, plus a big package of green beans that I’ll be using as a side dish throughout the week. As a treat, I got a couple of greenhouse tomatoes (for salad and maybe a tomato sandwich or two), plus a bag of mandarins to make up a fruit slot. Finally, I got a bag of coffee beans since I recently ran out. In total, I spent $35; a little more than I had planned on since this is a light week, but it’s really not very much and the unexpected extras will be a nice addition to my meals.

For one reason or another, I still had a few meals’ worth of chickpea curry left from the week before. I might have misjudged just how many meals it actually made. Rather than trying to finish it off early in the week, I decided to use it for one more dinner and then freeze the rest in serving-sized containers. It’ll make things easy in the future if I’m caught without enough time or ingredients to cook, or just give me a chance to add some variety to my lunches here and there.

I’ve decided to make jambalaya for my dinners this week. The original plan was to make some kind of side dish with beans and tomato sauce, but finding the big package of green beans for cheap changed my mind. I’ll be preparing them pretty simply; just blanched with some olive oil, chopped garlic, and red pepper flakes. At $3.41 for the package it’ll be running me about $0.48 per meal; a bit pricey all things considered but the jambalaya will be significantly cheaper to balance it out. The breakdown per serving would be something like:

  • Andouille sausage ($0.71)
  • Brown rice ($0.20)

…and that’s pretty much it. Again I’m leaning pretty heavily on freezer staples, so I’m only counting ingredients that appear on the receipts from my recent shopping trips.

I ended up getting a couple of meals for free due to my parents being in town for a few days (a nice dinner out at an Indian restaurant) and my sister making meatballs for dinner one night, both of which led to some of my prepared food being left over. As with last week, I’ll be freezing it into individual servings so I can fill in gaps in the future.

For breakfasts, we’re sticking with oatmeal. About half of the days I went with a huevos rancheros-inspired dish with baked black beans ($0.18 per serving, plus the cost of two eggs and one serving of oatmeal of course) and pickled red onions. The rest was a simple combo of brown sugar and greek yogurt.

As much as I’d love to eat fisherman’s eggs every day, mercury intake is an important consideration. I only ate it on Thursday (my biggest workout day of the week), using three eggs to make up for a missed day.

Fitness progress

This past week was my first week home after my recent trip to Japan, during which time I did no exercise at all (aside from walking around for a significant portion of each day). On Wednesday, after my sleep schedule had more or less stabilized and I felt basically recovered from the travel, I did a quick exhaustion test to find targets for my three exercise types, and these were my results:

  • Pushups: 48
  • Situps: 35
  • Squats: 40

It’s a pretty sad downgrade from my previous best, but not awful, all things considered. I ended up having only two proper workout days this week, but even so my numbers have improved:

  • Pushups: 79
  • Situps : 56
  • Squats: 64

New records across the board! Squats continue to see the slowest progress but I feel very good about the +11 to my max pushups.

With these numbers, I’ll be on week 5 of the program for both situps and squats, and week 6 for pushups (repeating until I reach one set of 100). Both pushups and squats will have me in the highest difficulty slot, and for situps I’ll be in the middle.

Meals this week

Right after I made my first post in this category, I went off to the store to get a batch of groceries to set things in motion. The total came out to just over $67, which is slightly over my ideal weekly budget ($3 per meal x 3 meals per day x 7 days = $63). However, this also included a big bag of brown rice which will probably last me the rest of the month, as well a bunch of canned goods that I’ll be using across the next couple of weeks. I could have held off on buying them but I figured I might as well save a trip if possible.

This shopping trip also didn’t include much in the way of fresh vegetables. I did buy a cabbage and carrots to make salad with, but I do have a decent stock of frozen veggies to work with already, plus some onions and potatoes remaining in the pantry. These kinds of irregularities will stabilize over the weeks of course, but the goal isn’t to hit some magical number, just to be efficient and frugal, and using what you’ve got is a key.

My first big meal this week was a butter-chicken-inspired chickpea and turkey curry. I basically winged the recipe but I had previously made a similar by Adam Ragusea so I had a rough idea of what to go for. Eyeballing it, I probably made about six servings. Not including the spices and vegetables I had on hand at home, the price breakdown per serving is something like:

  • Canned chickpeas ($0.41)
  • Canned tomato ($0.20)
  • Ground turkey ($0.46)
  • Brown rice ($0.10)
  • Greek yogurt ($0.20)

$1.37 per meal for the rest of the week, for a total of $8.22 for all my dinners. Not bad at all.

I ate oatmeal for breakfast throughout the week (I bought a container of quick oats that seems to be listed wrong on my receipt, but the result will be that I get 30 meals for about $0.07 each). I don’t like to eat sweets very often so oatmeal has never been a very appealing choice, but I suddenly remembered Oat Shop, a restaurant near me that had a wide variety of savory oatmeal on the menu (now sadly closed). I fried myself a couple of eggs ($0.33 each), mixed some soy sauce and vinegar with my oats, gave it a dash of hot sauce and away we went. The next day I was feeling like something sweet and mixed in a spoonful each of greek yogurt and brown sugar. The standout of the week was pretty decadent, with some goat cheese mixed into the oatmeal and fried eggs and some bulgogi beef from the freezer on top.

For lunches, I made stir-fry with vegetables and meat I had cluttering up the freezer, along with some cajun red beans I had previously made and frozen in individual portions. My lunch today was fisherman’s eggs, featuring one full can of tuna and two eggs for a total of about $1.91 and a major chunk of my protein for the day, doubling up on eggs because I forgot to eat them yesterday. Dinner will also have a nice cabbage salad on the side.

Next week I’ll still have some of my chickpea curry left over for dinners and I’ll still be working my way through freezer stuff. Haven’t decided what to prep for dinners but I probably won’t have to go shopping at all.