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 Liberté 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.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Money Saving Tip: Sale Whale!

This week I came across a relatively new Canadian website/App to help you save money on grocery and household items.  Having explored other related Apps and websites let me just say that I really, really like this one for a number of reasons.

First - what is Sale Whale?  Sale Whale is a Canadian website (also available to download as an app) that helps you compare grocery flyers.  By entering your postal code and your desired shopping radius, all the flyers for the stores in your area are pulled up for you.  Very cool.  Especially because it even includes the Warehouse Coupons for Costco.

What makes Sale Whale extra special? 
A few things:
1.  When you click to the view the flyer for the store, you do not get a page view of the flyer.  I love this because it makes it particularly easy to scroll through items, in particular on your mobile phone.  You can go through the entire flyer by item, or you can filter it so specific categories like Baby, Meat, Dairy, etc.

2.  You can create a customized sale alert list, that allows you to specify by brand what you are looking for.  For example, I set up email alerts to notify me of great sales on Natrel Milk, Philadephia Cream Cheese, Cracker Barrel Cheese, etc.  The list of things you can add to your alert list is extensive and the element of detail is bonus.

3.  Brand Search.  At the bottom of the website (I don't know why it isn't at the top), there is a BRAND tab.  If you click on the tab, it allows you to search by brand name for deals that are available that week.  I tried this out with a more obscure brand (La Roche Posay) and it did work - in fact it pulled up a current Optimum bonus points deal that Shopper's Drug Mart is offering with the purchase of La Roche Posay products.

4.  Front page deals:  On the homepage, there is a brief pull of some of the top "Front page deals" from various flyers in the area.  A great way to quickly see some of the week's top sales.

5.  Catch of the Week Blog: One of my favourite features, on the blog section of the website there is a Catch of the Week series which highlights the top 5 deals on particular food items (cheese, butter, coffee, etc.) in an area for that week.  This blog is done for major metropolitan areas like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.  A really great feature.

I love paper flyers and I read them for my preferred stores weekly, but Sale Whale is a fantastic website that has already made my weekly grocery planning easier.  Check it out and save!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Great Grocery Project: September Recap

Now that September is over, I have had sometime to go over all of my grocery data for the month.  September, October, and November are typically big spend months for me, as this is a time of year when there are many good sales on staple items (think holiday baking and gatherings) to take advantage of.  That is why I want to analyze our spending for an entire year, so that we will see how everything works out over an annual period.  Some months (like September) we will spend a lot more than others.  Having said that, there were a few things that significantly increased our grocery spending this September....let's recall:
a) our oven was broken for just over 2 weeks
b) half of our house is currently gutted as are completing a major (unanticipated) renovation
c) due to some pregnancy related health issues, I have had to purchase some food items I would not normally be spending money on.

So, without further delay, our total grocery spend for September was:

Where did we shop?  The breakdown is as follows:
Michael Angelo's $218.67
Metro                    $150.53
No Frills               $105.02
Costco                    $83.96
Food Basics           $51.33
Coppa's                  $39.11
Longo's                  $36.87
Shopper's Drug Mart $4.00

What did we spend our money on?
Our biggest spend was on produce: $167.04.  This is quite a bit.  I spent a lot of money in September on Honey Crisp Apples.
I love them.  I really, really love them.  But they are so expensive, usually $3.99 or $4.99 a pound.  I splurge and buy them when they are fresh and in season (September/October) but after that it is back to the less expensive apples.

We spent $106.98 on pantry supplies this month, which is right on track as it is a big stocking up month.  I stocked up on things like canned pineapple, stuffing mixes, tea, baking supplies, etc.

We spent $98.30 on meat.  In September I start stocking up on frozen turkeys when they are on sale for $0.99/lb.  I will buy a few more in December when they do on sale again before Christmas.

Next up, is dairy on which we spent $92.66.  Our family drinks a lot of milk.  We consume quite a bit of dairy when you consider cheeses, yogurt, and milk.  Unfortunately these items are just pricey in Canada.  We purchase most of our dairy at Costco, where I find the prices (particularly on cheeses) are the best.

We spent $47.35 on prepared foods which is just fine with me given that we had no oven for several weeks.

Rounding out the spending for September was $42.92 on beverages, $33.74 on bread, and $11.00 on frozen foods (vegetables).

Money Saving in September:
The biggest money saving this month (aside from shopping the sales) came from three things:
1.  Ebates - This was not grocery related, but we ordered a number of items for our renovation through Ebates and earned about $50.00 in cashback.

2.  Shopper's Optimum - I redeemed $170.00 worth of Shopper's Optimum points to purchase some needed household and cosmetic items.

3.  Shopping the Reduced Grocery Items - At one of my favourite grocery stores there is often a great selection of reduced items.  Whenever I am in the store, I make sure to check out the areas where the reduced items are kept.  This month I got some great deals on produce, meat, and premium orange juice.

So where does that leave us?

There are three main areas where I want to significantly reduce our spending next month.  Two of them should be straightforward, the third a bit more challenging.  I want to spend less on prepared foods (easily done now that our oven is fixed).  I want to spend less on beverages (easily done as the big spending was due to some health issues for which I need to buy certain beverages), probably only $10.00-$15.00 maximum instead of over $40.00.  Finally, bread.  I would love to make all our own bread from scratch, but I just do not have the time.  Making bread is not difficult, but you do need a few consecutive hours for mixing, proofing, and rising.  At this point I know it would be unrealistic to start trying to make all my own bread, but my new goal is to make our own bread at least once a month.  Maybe twice.

And so, we will see where October takes us.