Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Places I Love: Thornhill

One of the things I love about living in Toronto is that I can quickly get to various communities that have unique offerings.  One of my favourite GTA communities is Thornhill.  I love Thornhill for many reasons, but what I am going to tell you about today is the food.  Thornhill is home to a significant Jewish population, hence it is a good place to find a variety of Kosher, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European food items.  One of my favourite places to shop in Thornhill is Sobeys Kosher Market.  It is what its name suggests - a largely Kosher Sobeys.  I love it.  It has been recently renovated and so it is very clean, very fresh, and the in store lighting is really nice.  We are not Jewish, so I do not need to get Kosher meat - but if you do this is the place to go (You may also be interested to know that in the same plaza there is a Judaica store, a Kosher restaurant and a Kosher Second Cup).  I go to this store for its excellent and well priced selection of cooking spices (some of which are pictured below).  Perez spices are some of my favourite to use when cooking and the selection at this store is excellent.  There is also a great selection of horse radishes, beet radishes, sauerkraut, pickles, and fresh bakery items at the Kosher Sobeys.

Moving right along, just around the corner from Sobeys Kosher Market is one of my favourite bakeries: Amadeus Patisserie.  The confections here are incredible.  Amadeus even imports its butter from France.  My personal favourite from Amadeus is the Pistachio Delight.  Simply magnificent!  There is a small eat in cafĂ© at the patisserie as well.

Finally, if you are anywhere along Bathurst Street I highly recommend stopping at one of the many What A Bagel locations.  Here you will find the freshest bagels in the GTA.  Pick up a dozen along with fresh cream cheese in a variety of flavours and you will be very popular!  Also - they have rainbow bagels for the kids.

If you are looking to do some shopping while you are in the area the Promenade has a good selection of stores, although I mainly stick to Gymboree when I am there.

And there you have it.  A few places to stop and eat if you find yourself in Thornhill.  Personally, I think it is worth the trip.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Friday Night Dinner Project: Chocolate Cream Pie

Last week, I made this delicious recipe for "Thank Goodness It's The Weekend Chocolate Cream Pie" from Bonnie Stern's Friday Night Dinners.  It was AMAZING.  Somehow it tasted even better after it had been sitting in the fridge for 48 hours.  This is an incredibly yummy, very rich pie.  You can find the recipe here.  You will not regret making this tasty treat.

I used bittersweet chocolate, although you could also use semi-sweet.

Mmmmm look at all that chocolate cream.

1 cup of whipping cream, 1 tbsp of icing sugar, and 1 tbsp of pure vanilla extract.  YUM.

My husband and I ate the entire pie in 48 hours.  Probably not good for the waist line.  But hey.....the chocolate is high in iron, right?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: January Recap

It was a relatively uneventful month around here.  We all had the flu, so we may have eaten a bit less than normal.

The total grocery spend (value) in January was: $263.12.  

The total cash spent on groceries was: $218.12.
The difference between the two numbers is because I used points to get some groceries at Shopper's Drug Mart.  The value was slightly more, but I lost one of my grocery receipts this month and it was never found.  I used a gift card for those purchases though, so it would not change the cash spent amount.

My biggest spend this month was on Dairy - a total of $60.49 (this includes milk, yogurt, and cheese).

I didn't do anything supercrazy to save money this month - I just really avoided going grocery shopping unless I was completely out of something that I wanted.  I didn't really read the fliers this month because I didn't want to spend any money stocking up on things (and we are already pretty well stocked).

At the moment my freezer and pantry are full, full, full of stuff.  My fridge on the other hand is almost completely empty.  As a result, I am anticipating the bulk of my spending in February will be on dairy and produce.  Once again, we will be trying to keep the spending to a minimum this month.

I am going to be trying some new recipes with items on hand this month, hopefully I will find some good ones that I can share.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: November and December

Hello friends!  Things have been a little crazy around here with the new baby (Chunkeroo! or Squisheroo!  Love him...) and the massive renovation, but I am finally getting around to posting my November and December numbers.

My total grocery spend for November & December combined was $756.29, or about $378.00 per month.  I took advantage of some great sales to stock up on a few things, and we also hosted a family Christmas dinner.  We are really feeling the money pinch this year, so I am trying to keep my January grocery spending to under $100.00 cash (I may, and already have, used some gift cards I received for Christmas to purchase some groceries - when I do my January update I will distinguish for you between the value of goods I bought and the cash I actually spent).

I am still tracking what I spend by food category, and by store, but instead of *yawn* boring you with those numbers this month I am going to share with you some great money savings that I had in November and December.

Money Saving Tips:
#1 - In November and December I redeemed $510.00 in Shoppers Optimum points.  Yes!  Amazing!  I was able to stretch my Optimum points even further than normal by doing two things:
1. On the  Black Friday weekend there was a redemption special, where if you redeemed 95,000 points you got 40,000 points back.  I did this twice, in order to get 80.000 points back.  Yes, this was an incredible deal.
2.  For one of these bonus points redemptions I used Ebates, and it was 10% Cash Back.  So -I redeemed $170.00 worth of points, my total owing was $4.10 (after the redemption) but I also earned $17.00 cash back (not to mention the 40 000 bonus points).  I actually MADE money on this points redemption!!!!
Most of my points redemption were used for Christmas gifts, pantry food items, cosmetics, and diapers.  Just to give you an idea of what $170.00 can get you at Shoppers, here is what I got with my most recent point redemption:
4 boxes of Pampers diapers (large)
4 large backs of toilet paper (12 rolls)
2 boxes of 400g Cheerios
1 small jar of Tide Liquid Detergent (this is to go in a baby shower gift)
1 Herbal Essences shampoo bottle
1 President's Choice Frozen Shrimp Ring
2 bags of Cavendish hashbrowns
4 packages of pasta (macaroni, penne, spaghetti, and fettuccine)
1 4 litre milk (1%)
6 cans of Campbell's soup
2 large bottles of President's Choice Cranberry juice
2 x 12 large eggs
1 small bottle of Fiji water
1 small bag of Lay's potato chips

Wowzers that is a lot.  The total pretax value of these items was $171.09.  I redeemed $170.00 worth of points and paid $12.40 cash to cover the taxes.  Did I mention I love the Optimum rewards program???

Where was I?? Oh yes, what else did we do to save money...

#2 The freezer!  We hosted a family Christmas.  My sister-in-law graciously offered to bring a lot of the food since I had the baby and our house is under renovation - so we cooked a frozen turkey we already had on hand (it was delicious) and they brought the rest of the food.  We had our Christmas on December 31st, so we did appetizers, turkey sandwiches, and desserts instead of the usual full turkey dinner spread.  Everyone was happy with this.

#3 DIY gifts.  For almost all of the adults on our Christmas list this year I made large gift baskets.  I bought the baskets themselves from the Salvation Army, and I filled them with delicious treats.  About 50% of the contents I made (delicious jams, sauces, preserves - because I love canning) over the summer, and the other contents I purchased at rock bottom sale prices right before Christmas.  For the non-edible contents, I used various gift items I purchased throughout the year at great prices.  The baskets looked beautiful if I say so myself!  Each basket had its own theme.  For example, the basket for my sister-in-law's family included things like Hot Chocolate, glass bottles of Ginger Ale, popcorn, coffee, tea, roasted nuts, a Davy Crockett DVD, a magnetic notepad, etc.  My father's basket included a cheeseboard, a Chuck Hughes cookbook, dark roast coffee, pistachios, etc.  I had lots of fun making the baskets and I know the retail value to buy similar baskets premade would be well over $150.00 each, whereas the cost of making them myself was significantly less.

I think I will leave it at that for now.  We are planning on having an extremely frugal January
 2017, so I will keep you posted on how things go this month.  I also have a few new recipes I plan to try this month from my Friday Night Dinners project.  Wish me luck!

Programming Note:  If you want to follow along, I really recommend subscribing to this blog.  Unfortunately I just can't commit to regular posting, so the best way to keep track is to subscribe.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last Minute DIY Christmas Gift

Hello friends, it has been a few weeks.  I have been busy with the new baby, but I will be posting a Great Grocery Project update soon.

In the meantime........are you on a tight budget and looking for a quick last minute DIY Christmas gift?

Then this post is for you!!

Note:  If you are not a canner, (ie. you do not have supplies on home for home preserving) this gift can become pricey pretty quickly.  However, if you have canning supplies on hand....this is the last minute DIY gift for you....*drumroll*


It is so easy to make - easier than jam even!  Just keep in mind that your jars need to sit for 24 hours.....so you have until about 10am on the 24th of December to whip this up (depending on when you do your Christmas).

Head on over the Bernardin website for this wonderful recipe - I like to substitute 50% of the water with pulp free orange juice.  Trust.  It's delicious!!

This recipe is quick to make and tastes excellent with any poultry.  You will be the hit of any dinner if you bring a long a little jar of this homemade goodness.

MONEY SAVING TIP:  If you live in Ontario, Metro has bags of fresh cranberries on sale this week 2 for $5.00.

PRO TIP: Cranberries can be frozen and used later to make this recipe.  So if you don't have time to do it now - you could always buy $5 or $10 worth of cranberries and stick them in the freezer to make cranberry sauce for an Easter turkey.....just saying.


Monday, October 24, 2016

The Great Grocery Project: Part 3

The end of October is slowly (or quickly) approaching.   After going through a pile of receipts this morning and updating my grocery tracker (also known as an Excel spreadsheet), I thought it might be time for an update.

You may recall that September was a pretty big spend month on groceries in our house.  We came in just shy of $700.00.  So far this month the grocery tally is less than half that amount, with our current October grocery spending sitting at $323.51.  Although I have done a bit of stocking up this month it is much less than in September as the sales are not as plentiful.  I expect our next big spend month will fall between late November and early December as holiday sales come out in full swing.

How have we saved money so far this month?

Aside from shopping the sales...

Our big savings this month came from redeeming our annual cash back cheque at Costco.  I love Costco.  Last year when our membership was up for renewal, I decided to go with a regular membership instead of the Executive Membership.  Partway through the year it became apparent that I should have stuck with the Executive Membership, so I renewed it at a pro-rated amount.  And so, this month I used our annual rebate coupon (which was for $84.04) in order to get the following:

A large box of Quaker Quick Oats                                                  $6.99
A large bag of Kirkland semi-sweet chocolate chips                      $12.99
24 pack of Nano Iogo Yogurt Drinks                                              $10.89
2x454g Salted Butter                                                                       $2.95 each
3x454 Unslated Butter                                                                     $2.95 each
3x500g tubs of LibertĂ© Vanilla Greek Yogurt                                  $9.49
Large Parmesan Cheese                                                                   $10.49
2 x 4L 1% Fine Filtered Milk                                                           $4.79 each
1 x 4L Homo Milk                                                                            $4.95
2 x 12 large eggs                                                                               $5.19

It was fantastic being able to pick up all of these things free of charge.  We have decided that this year we are going to renew with the Executive Membership for the entire year - we will see if it turns out to be worth it.  Costco is aggressively expanding in Canada and in many cases I find their prices are becoming even more competitive.  In addition, they are starting to carry more and more products that we use in our house.  For example, Costco recently started carrying Dove's Men Care deoderant/antiperspirant in packs of 5 for just under $15.00.  This is an excellent price.

The next few weeks I will be trying to keep the grocery spending pretty low....and we will see the full breakdown at the end of the month.  In the meantime I am starting to turn my attention towards some DIY Christmas gifts which I am looking forward to sharing with you soon...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Recipe Share: Cranberry Oatmeal Maple Muffins

The season is upon us for fresh cranberries.  Do not limit yourself to using fresh cranberries only for cranberry sauce!  Recently I had some extra fresh cranberries on hand, and I decided to try out this fabulous recipe for Cranberry Oatmeal Maple Muffins.  They are incredibly moist and delicious.  I love them!

This recipe is published in French, over at one of my favourite recipe finding websites.  I am reprinting a translation below.

1 1/2 cups of all purpose or whole wheat flour
1 cup of quick cooking oatmeal
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
1 cup of sour cream (5 or 14%)
2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 cup of canola oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 cup of maple syrup
2 eggs
2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tbsp of maple sugar or brown sugar

Step 1:
Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, and salt.  Cut or chop cranberries and set aside.

Step 2:
In 2 cup liquid measuring cup, mix together the baking soda and sour cream.  Allow to rest and expand.

Step 3:
With an electric mixer, combine oil, eggs, and maple syrup.  Mix well.  Gently add and mix the expanded sour cream.

Step 4:
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing carefully with each addition.

Step 5:
Mix the cranberries with the maple or brown sugar, then fold into batter.

Step 6:
Add batter into paper filled muffin cups.  This recipe will make approximately 20 muffins.  Cook for 20-25 minutes.