Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Great Grocery Project - Mid August Recap

We are just a few weeks away now from the end of the Great Grocery Project's inaugural year.  The next post in this series will be a major, and I mean MAJOR, recap of a full year of grocery spending in our house.  Yikes.

So far in August, I have spent $464.56 on groceries.  Just over $150.00 of this was entirely spent on produce (in particular blueberries) that were frozen for the year ahead.  The Dairy category this month was also a big spend because I was completely out of butter - I picked up 6 lbs of butter at Costco for $3.65 a pound, which is about as cheap as you are going to find it in these parts, aside from the increasingly rare $2.99/lb sale.

Other things I picked up this month included Lean Ground Beef on sale at No Frills for $2.77/lb.  I bought two large packages.  One package was used to make a meatloaf and 10 frozen hamburger patties - currently thawing for tonight's dinner.  Another package is in the freezer.

When I did my massive produce run to a local farm I picked up a dozen corn on the cob (which is actually cheaper at most grocery stores).  I made Southern Style Creamy Corn, which I love and I find this stretches the corn more than just eating on the cob (which is also amazing).  Creamy Corn is served as a side with fish, poultry, beef, pork - pretty much any protein including baked beans.  I also serve it with Baked Beans and cornbread.  My favourite is setting aside 3 cups of the Creamy Corn to make Corn Chowder which is very economical, delicious, and provides yet more meals derived from a dozen cobs of corn.

I was also (finally) able to pick up a 10kg bag of flour at Costco.  They had been out of stock for quite some time as a result of the E coli recall that stretched across Canada.  We tend not to think of flour as a raw agricultural product, but it is.  This story received widespread coverage across Canada, in particular because a toddler became extremely ill after consuming raw flour.  Now, all flour packages have a HUGE warning label on them warning you not to eat it raw.  This is a bummer because what fun is making cookies and cakes if you cannot eat the dough???  Alas, I finally have a good supply of flour.

How have we saved money this month?

1.  Vacation  - We have just been on a family holiday.   Virtually no spend holidays this year mean keeping it simple.  Nobody has complained about this.  We went to stay with family for 6 days and we just relaxed (as much as you can with kids), visited with a few friends, and did lots of swimming.  One day we picked up some treats for everyone at a grocery store (we got pizza, watermelon, raspberries, a cheese ball with crackers, some freshly baked goods, etc.) and we spent $40.00 on that.  I went out for breakfast with friends one day and spend $7.00 including tax and tip.  We allowed our son to pick out one book for himself to read (he can't read yet - but loves to look through books) on the way home, this cost $8.00.  So - all in our 6 day vacation (not including gas) cost us $56.00.  In case you are wondering - I did volunteer to bring groceries and cook - but our host - my mother-in-law did not want us to do that.

2.  Free Fruit Tray  - I went to visit some friends from university for lunch, and there was a fruit tray leftover.  My friend and her husband were leaving that night to go on vacation, so she sent me home with the fruit tray.  Great snacks for everyone!

3.  Garden Harvest - It was looking doubtful, but I have finally been able to get a harvest from my garden.  We have been enjoying zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini bread, green beans, yellow beans, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and soon we will have beets as well.  Hurray!!!  I found a new recipe for chocolate zucchini bread in the current issue of Ricardo that uses much less sugar than my current recipe, so I am looking forward to trying it.

4.  Cereal Clearance - We (generally) do not eat cold cereal because it is not filling and very expensive.  I do keep a box of Cheerios on hand for snacks when we go to the park, but this tends to last a loooong time.  I was in Walmart one day and they had Maple Cheerios and Canada Day Fruit Loops (all special editions because of Canada's 150th birthday) on clearance for $1.00 a box.  This is very, very cheap.  Even on sale, these boxes would be typically $3.00 a box in Canada.  I bought 3 boxes and we have been enjoying them as special treats and snacks.  And this also reminded me how not filling cold cereal is.

5.  Ebates and Sephora - I ordered foundation from Sephora via Ebates in order to earn cashback.  I also ordered my 3 free samples - perfume samples and blush.  I love high end perfumes - I have never bought a bottle in my life - the free samples keep me going!!

6.  Parks, parks, parks!!  We continue to hit up parks all around us.  I have been trying to get my boys outside for 3-4 hours every day and it has been awesome.  And FREE!!!!!!  It is a bit of a hassle packing a picnic and loading/unloading the car most days, but it is so worth it.  Outdoor play is like therapy.  As long as it's not too hot!

7.  Anniversary - We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.  There is something I really want to get for my husband, but it is not in the budget right now.  Instead I got a special treat from Amadeus Patisserie in Thornhill (the absolute best).  It was a fraction of the price - and incredibly delicious.  This is the one place where I would choose purchasing over making from scratch.  Hello - St Honoré, Cheesecake, Pistachio Delight.  Yes!!  Wait.....these were for my husband.....not me.......

That is all I have time to write for now.  I will be posting another update on our renovation shortly as soon as I can.

Flour Warning

The best desserts.  Ever.

Produce Haul

Tray freezing for bagging

Monday, August 7, 2017

Ravings and Ramblings on a House Overhaul: Part 1

Readers know, because I have been mentioning it on and off for literally the past year, that we have done a massive renovation on our house.  There was no step by step follow along or regular updating on the endeavor, but now that it is (almost) completely finished I am going to share a bit about it.  This will not be your typical DIY post - but if anything I can rant about  share helps someone else with their project, that would be fantastic...

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...

A few years ago I wrote a small primer about our little house, which you can read here (Nutshell Recap: After searching high and low in the GTA we bought a house in 2012 which we managed to find for well under $500K, which if you live in this area you know is very hard to do).  When we bought our house we were debating between it and one other option, which cost significantly more but was a larger house.  In the end, we went with the lower priced house knowing that if we wanted to make improvements (or if we had to) we would be in a better financial position to do so.  We have never regretted this decision.  Not even for one second.

While living at this house we have done a few improvements (like renovating our main bathroom which was so poorly designed and small that we could barely walk through it without touching both sides of the wall in some spots).  We also did a major exterior renovation (also known as landscaping!) which was the best money I think we spent on our house.  It increased ourliving space, did wonders for the curb appeal of the house, and increased the amount of time we spent outside playing with our kids exponentially.  The other work we did to our house was superficial, largely painting rooms and furnishing them.  We redid the closet in our master bedroom.  We turned one of the rooms into a guest bedroom and upcycled furniture where we could.  All of these projects were done a few years ago, and not part of our current renovation.  Fast forward to 2016...

One day in August 2016 I walked down to our basement and discovered the floor was damp, but thankfully not flooded.  Noooooo!!  I knew, immediately, that if this was water coming in from the outside as opposed to a plumbing problem coming from upstairs we would be looking at a minimum $25,000.00 in repairs - and that would just be for interior weeping tile.  I will spare you all the minute details - but yes - in the end we had water coming in from outside (this is a common problem in older houses in Ontario) and so we had to gut our entire basement, have an interior weeping tile installed and then restart from almost scratch.

This involved:
-all new flooring, insulation, drywall
- new cabinets and sink for the basement wet bar (also so it can easily be converted to a basement apartment for resale)
-we completely rebuilt a basement bathroom.

We also had to replace our roof, the pump in our septic tank (not the source of the basement leak, but it died and needed to be replaced), and one of our sump pumps.  And this is just for the basement.

This unwanted project fell into our lap when I was about 30 weeks pregnant with Baby #2.  By the time I was 31 weeks pregnant I became very, very ill and was pretty much bedridden for the rest of my pregnancy.  The baby arrived early, but not preterm, when our house was in complete shambles and our basement was gutted.  While we were doing our renovation, we rented a storage cube which became infested with mice and the company refused to allow us to claim any damages.  This was so infuriating and I don't want to write much more about it because I still get angry when I think about it.  This meant we were out about $3000.00.  Let me just say this: Never use Cube-It.

I wish that I could say this entire situation was handled with grace and ease...but no.  It was very stressful and some days I was miserable (just ask my husband).  Nonetheless, I was reminded of a few important lessons:

1.  Sometimes it doesn't matter how smart you are with money, life happens.
We have been very careful not to take on any non-mortgage debt since we got married.  We did take on a car payment after my husband was in a car accident (his car was a write-off but he was unhurt) and we had to suddenly replace a vehicle, but otherwise we have no "consumer" debt.  Knowing that I was going to be on maternity leave, I saved up a significant sum to cover some major expenses we knew were coming up and some slush money.  All of this went up in smoke when we had to do all this unplanned work to our house.  We had to take on some debt.  Now, it is "house debt" but it is still debt and you know what - this is alright.  It is not ideal, it is not what we would have wanted - but this is life.  Sometimes these things just happen and are beyond our control.  I cannot allow myself to be constantly stressed because we had to stop water from creeping into our basement.  We will get it paid off and life will move forward.

2.  Careful research is the key to saving money on a home renovation.  Do not rush.
What I found over and over again during this massive project, is that I was able to save significant amounts of money by carefully researching all of my options.  Time and time again taking some extra time to investigate something, read up on something, or get an additional quote paid off.  And that does not mean we always went with the cheapest option - we always went with what we thought was the best long term option.


Now - where was I?
Oh yes, in our basement...

Floorplan: We made no changes to the footprint of the basement.  This is the easiest way to save money.  As soon as you start moving plumbing around.....big money!

Flooring: We went with carpet and professional grade plank vinyl.  I would have done the whole basement in the vinyl but it was more cost effective to do the split.  If you have not investigated vinyl flooring in years - I highly recommend it.  It is highly water resistant, cost effective, resilient, and the look of it has come along well.  I know many food based businesses who are using the professional luxury vinyl now as their main flooring.

Do what you can, not what you can't!
We did all of the demo and removal of junk ourselves.  For everything else we hired a contractor.  Normally we would do all the painting ourselves (this is our first time hiring a painter), but because of my health issues during pregnancy it was not a possibility this time.  Hiring a well-researched professional, especially for electrical and plumbing work is key.  If you do not know how to do it - don't!!


These pictures are in the house's current state.  In Part Two I will discuss the bathroom renovation (it needs its own post).  In Part 3 I will talk about the upstairs/main floor of the house.  In the final part I will show the final product in all of its glory.
Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring


Luna Frost Countertop with Top mount sink
Countertop: Here is reason # 1 while I will probably never be featured on a DIY or reno blog.  HGTV will never call me.  I like laminate countertops.  Don't get me wrong - I love the look of stone countertops (and we do have stone elsewhere in our house) - but I just do not understand spending thousands of dollars on a countertop.  It is just a countertop.  I am an avid cook and I have never said to myself, "Gee....you know what would make this food taste so much better?  If it was cooked on an expensive slab of Carrara marble."  Never!  I have never, in the middle of a major canning session, said "Oh this Blueberry Maple Pecan Chutney would be so much easier to make if I had a gigantic quartz island."  Friends, it just hasn't happened.  And so, for our basement countertops I bought Luna Frost (1849) Laminate countertop made by Wilson Art.  It cost $640 installed.
This guy likes the countertop

Solid Wood Open Shelving, just waiting to be staged...

Basement Wet Bar
Cabinetry:  Due to the space we were filling, we knew we would be best suited to get custom cabinetry.  We did get solid wood cabinets and shelves - but we may not have done this if we did not have a personal connection which enabled us to get them at wholesale prices.  To save money we got open shelving for the uppers and no upper cabinets.



This is what we have so far.  More to come soon...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: July Recap

This month we spent a total of $298.89 on groceries.  Reasonable for these parts (the average monthly spend for a household of 4 in Ontario is $700).

What did we spend it on?
Beverages - $2.97
Bread - $22.29
Dairy - $104.57
Frozen Foods - $5.94
Meat - $16.99
Pantry - $26.08
Prepared Food - $27.00
Produce - $73.56

We spent more on Prepared Foods than normal this month because we were without a kitchen for a period of time and I had to buy some prepared foods.

As usual, dairy and produce top our list of expenses.  If you live in Canada, you know why.  If we found ourselves in dire financial straits I would have to give up a cheese and milk.  At the moment I do not need to do that, and I am not willing to do that.  You may be surprised to hear that while I am on maternity leave and my income is reduced by over 50% I am actually spending less on dairy than we typically do.  My husband and I both come from European/francophone backgrounds and well...CHEESE.  We eat a lot of it - brie, swiss, goat's cheese, etc.  It is a huge cultural thing for us - and also the main reason why we keep our Costco membership (these cheese are significantly cheaper at Costco than at other stores).  We have not been buying very much of these cheese this year.  I remember when we first moved back to Canada from Europe and we were going to a party - I volunteered to bring a cheese tray.  HOLY SMOKES!!!  I had completely forgotten the price of cheese here versus Europe.  What would have cost us about 10-15GBP in the UK cost us over $60.00.  I digress...

I did stock up on some produce stuff that I froze this month (mainly grapes when they were on sale for Canada Day).  In August, I plan to buy and freeze blueberries (my favourite).  I cannot get enough blueberries.

Next month will mark the end of my first year of tracking every single penny of the grocery spending.  I've always had a food budget - but I have never really tracked exactly what and where it has been spent.  So you can brace yourselves for some super detailed analytics coming up at the end of August.  Is summer almost over?  Say it isn't so...

What did we do to save money this month?

If you missed my mid-way update you can catch up here.

Otherwise....

1.  Rebate - I got a rebate cheque for $40.00 which I had sent in for when I purchased contacts a few months ago.  Hurray!

2.  Ebates - I had to make a few small online purchases - I used Ebates for all of them to earn cashback.

3.  Price Match and Flyers - I am still price matching at No Frills and finding it is definitely saving money every month.

4.  Not driving around to a bunch of stores -  I just pick one store for my shop every week and if I can't get it there - too bad.  It would have to be a crazy good deal for me to make an extra trip for something.

5.  Not spending.  The wardrobe is getting pretty sketchy - but summer is almost over and I know that when the fall weather comes I will have more clothes I can fit back into.  I have been wearing my US Army shirt....well....a lot......

6.  Asking the Key Questions  - We have been doing a major renovation on our house for almost one year now.  I am happy to say it is pretty much done and will get its own post shortly.  Every time we have done something I have asked - is there a way we can do this for less money that will still have the desired result without compromising value?  Well - once again last week this type of questioning saved us several thousand dollars.  Sort of.  We didn't have the several thousand to spend - so we were looking into other options and found something that only cost about $150.00.  Winning!

7.  Packing a lunch and snacks - We have been using out Tupperware and Rubbermaid water bottles like crazy.  I am packing picnics every day I leave the house with my kids.  It usually isn't anything fancy - just fruit and peanut butter wraps (typically).  Sometimes I make cookies to bring.  But this totally stops me from getting stuck without food and spending money.  Instead, I have been able to treat my oldest son to a snack size smoothie from McDonald's and he loves it.  It is a fun and enjoyable little treat.

8.  Outdoor play -  Getting my kids outside for hours every day is helpful for us in so many ways.  As long as weather permits we get out in the morning for a few hours.  We go to the park, visit animal farms (FREE ones), bike on a little path, play with the rocks in our backyard, and hit the splash pad.  If the weather is not cooperating (too hot or storming) we go to the mall (but not to shop!) and visit the activity time at The Disney Store, walk around, look at the window displays.  There are also a few great (FREE) indoor playgrounds in our area that we visit.  I especially love these because my youngest son is not walking yet but is very mobile and he loves crawling around on the indoor gym mats.

9.  Arts and Crafts and DIY Gifts -My oldest enjoys colouring, painting, and making stuff.  I always stock up on school supplies (crayons, pencil crayons, markers, glue, construction paper) in August and September and I have a little craft drawer in our house.  I have been tapping into this drawer quite a bit lately and my son has been "drawing" on his sketch pad during hot afternoons and rainy periods.  I also picked up a few things for myself (for DIY gifts) and I am going to be experimenting over the coming weeks with some project ideas I have for Christmas gifts.

10.  Revisting Old Recipes  - There is a cookbook I love Qu'est-ce qu'on mange?  It is part of a series put out by a women's farming association in Québec.  Somehow in one of our moves the book got lost.  I can't tell you how many times I have thought about recipes from this book and wanted to make them.  A few months ago my aunt emailed me out of the blue, also asking for a recipe from this book that I used to make (Crab Bisque - SO GOOD).  What I love about this book is that the recipes are delicious, easy to follow, and most of them are very economical.  Food is such a major part of French Canadian culture, and with long harsh winters and a short growing season les Québécoises are experts at making incredible meals with few supplies or on a budget.  To make a long story sort of short - I ordered a new copy of this book a few months ago.  Like most thing from Québec (sorry, Québec you know I love you and I miss living there so I am just going to say this), the ordering system was about 25 years behind and so I had to literally post a cheque with my order number on it and wait patiently for my book to arrive.  The book is here!!   I am so excited about this because I am rediscovering so many fantastic recipes (for example a salmon oatmeal loaf) that are healthy, budget friendly, and delicious.  I am so looking forward to making and enjoying these dishes again.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful July - and that your August is filled with good reading, good food, and wonderful times with family and friends.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Go Ahead: Hold your baby!!!

OK. I am just putting this out there for any new moms who might be feeling mom guilt (it's everywhere!).

Before I had my first son I didn't think too much about the snuggles. After he was born, he needed lots of snuggles. And I wanted to hold him and snuggle and bond as much as possible. I felt guilty about this. People made me feel guilty about this (he is almost 4 now and he had no troubles adjusting to full time daycare or daycare naps at 13 months). 

When I had my second son I felt physically and mentally compelled to continue the snuggles, although it is a bit different as all babies have their own needs. Again, I was feeling like this must be a problem. 

Then, I had an epiphany. I was being so foolish. If I am lucky, I might live to see my babies reach 55 or 60. Of those 60 years, there will only be one....ONE where I can cuddle and snuggle my babies as much as I want to and as much as they want to. Why would I feel like I am doing something wrong by spending this special time with my baby? Have I ever said to myself, "gee, I wish I had alphabetized my cookbooks when Boy #1 was a baby instead of cuddling him". No!! Have I ever thought "wow I really hugged Boy #1 too much as an infant "?  NO!!!

More and more research is showing the benefits of lots of physical touch for infants.  You cannot spoil an infant!!! (Although you can spoil a child - but not from cuddles!).  I never wore either of my kids, but I feel like I sort of did for the first three months just from holding and cuddling them.  It is hard to explain how I felt compelled to be close to them.  It wasn't a philosophy I adopted - it just felt like it was what I needed and what they needed.  I also - brace yourselves - rocked Boy #1 to sleep every night until he was just over a year old.  He needed it.  Boy #2 has not been rocked to sleep one single time.  It's not his thing.

It is sad that everyone tries to tell other moms what to do.  New moms should feel confident.  If it is working for you and your baby - embrace it!  Love it!  Don't listen to the sanctimommies.  
Babies need our love and every mom(and dad) has their own way of bonding and communicating with their child. All that to say - new moms do not feel guilty about snuggling your wee ones. This opportunity will not come again.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: Mid July Update

Well, here we are in mid-July already.  So far this month I have spent $190.00 on groceries.  I do not plan on spending too much more, as I am fully stocked and just did a big shop for the coming weeks (except for milk and cheese).  I still have a frozen turkey on hand, some cooked frozen meat in the freezer, ground beef in the freezer, some frozen fish, and lots of beans.

The Great Grocery Project started one year ago in September - so after next month I will be doing a monster recap and breakdown of our yearly spend.  Of course, I plan to continue this project for a second year.  Since I have been off work for almost the entire year I was tracking (first on medical leave after complication during pregnancy, then on maternity leave) I need to continue for a second year and see how being back at work impacts the numbers and where we can make improvements.

I tried a new product this month that I am really enjoying.  Oikos Super Grain Greek Yogurts (available in Canada).  I am very fussy about my yogurts.  I really enjoy these - especially the Peach Super Grains and the Berry Super Grains.  I will be watching for sales on this product.

How have we saved money so far this month?


By not doing anything!!! We have been enjoying simple days at the park, the splash pad, on the bike trails, and around our house.  I picked up some "treats" on clearance at Walmart - sidewalk chalk and 1L of bubbles on clearance for $1.00 each.  A $5.00 spend will provide us with hours of fun.  I also allowed my son to pick out one thing at Walmart (within reason).  He picked a box of Crayola pencil crayons on sale for $2.77.  He has spent literally hours playing with them and drawing sweet nothings in his book.  Did you know that pencil crayons can also double as Superheroes and Super Villains?  Heroes in the right hand and villains in the left.  One apparently can colour over the other with green goo (also known as Green Pencil Crayon).

I bought some cardstock on clearance at Walmart for $4.00.  I plan to use it as I try to start making some of my DIY Christmas gifts.  I am hoping to start working on these in August.

Someone handed down a box full of books and Brain Quest cards to us.  Again, hours and hours of entertainment.  We have read Curious George Gets a Pizza about ten times a day for the past week.

I ordered a 1L Tupperware water bottle for my husband as his bottle needed replacing.  I also got a little treat for my son's Christmas or birthday gift (have not decided yet).  A Donald Duck water bottle.  It was on clearance for over 50% off.

This month I have done lots of reading (I am a prolific reader but find it hard to do with an infant).  I have been "napping" with my son so we can snuggle before I have to return to work.  Typically while he naps I am reading.  I have read several books that I received as gifts, but I do lots of reading online.  I love reading The Prudent Homemaker and Tablet Magazine.

Books I have read recently include:
The Undoing Project

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Wearing the Green Beret

The Nazis Next Door

Infidel

All of these books were excellent reads (if you're wondering) and they all express many different viewpoints and life experiences.  I didn't really care for some of the political slant to The Undoing Project (just didn't agree with it - but I still enjoyed reading the book) and my eyes kind of glazed over at some of the math stuff - but it is a fascinating biography and absolutely worth reading.  It is by the same author who wrote Moneyball, Michael Lewis.

I have a pile of books just waiting for me to read them - but I am not sure when I will get to them next.

Well we will leave it at that for now.  It is naptime, ie....reading time.   Have a wonderful week!!


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Popular Posts Round-Up

Are you new to Life Freedom Family?  Welcome, and thank you for stopping by.  We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you.

Maybe you are sitting around on a rainy summer day and looking for some inspiration...
here is a sampling of our most popular posts for your browsing pleasure:

Chocolate Cream Pie

Shopper's Drug Mart Optimum vs. Costco Executive Membership

An Affordable, DIY Guest Bedroom

Total (Affordable) Closet Overhaul

The Friday Night Dinner Project, Midway Point

The Easiest DIY Headboard (For Real)

Entertainment Unit Upcycle

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Giving Birth

A Note for the Husband of a Breastfeeding Mom

Rosh Hashanah Dinner Menu (Friday Night Dinner Project)

So fix yourself a glass of Rhubarb Lemonade and enjoy these posts!  Feel free to share them with a friend....
Thank you for stopping by!


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Fantastic Advice from Supreme Court Justice John Roberts

I have sat through many, many graduations and heard a lot of boring speeches.  This one, given by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts at his son's graduation is worth reading.  I especially love this part:

Once a week, you should write a note to someone. Not an email. A note on a piece of paper. It will take you exactly 10 minutes. Talk to an adult, let them tell you what a stamp is. You can put the stamp on the envelope. Again, 10 minutes, once a week. I will help you, right now. I will dictate to you the first note you should write. It will say, ‘Dear [fill in the name of a teacher at Cardigan Mountain School].’ Say: ‘I have started at this new school. We are reading [blank] in English. Football or soccer practice is hard, but I’m enjoying it. Thank you for teaching me.’ Put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and send it. It will mean a great deal to people who — for reasons most of us cannot contemplate — have dedicated themselves to teaching middle school boys. As I said, that will take you exactly 10 minutes a week. By the end of the school year, you will have sent notes to 40 people. Forty people will feel a little more special because you did, and they will think you are very special because of what you did. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: June Update

This month I spend a whopping $482.36 on groceries.  Wow.  That is a lot (but still less than the average $750/month that the Canadian household of 4 people spends).  Why so much?  Well, typically my biggest spend months of the year are June, July and October.  Why?  In the summer I am stocking up on Ontario grown produce for freezing and canning, and in October a lot of pantry and baking supplies are on sale.  There are two main reasons for the big spike this month:

1.  Produce - I spent $90.00 buying 3 flats of strawberries.  This works out to about $2.50 a pound if you are wondering.  I read about people getting strawberries for .99/lb in the States, but that just does not happen here.  Even the Pick Your Own in the GTA is typically $2.25lb.  We ate a great deal of fresh berries, but I also froze many to use in smoothies and baking.  You can also use frozen berries to make jam at a later date.  I am not sure how much canning I am going to do this year, although I typically do quite a bit.




I also bought about $15.00 worth of grapes to freeze because they were on sale for 0.88lb.  That is the lowest price I have seen on grapes in years.  It was a Canada Day special.  Frozen grapes are great for smoothies, but they also make a nice snack on their own.


2.  Essentials Stock up - I was just out of many things this month like flour, sugar, brown sugar, cheese, eggs, butter, milk, cream, etc.  Those things add up pretty quickly.

What did we spend all that money on?

Produce - $205.91  See note #1 above regarding the produce.  After tracking every penny of our grocery spend for 10 months now, the emerging pattern is that produce and dairy are typically the biggest expenses.  We are slowing expanding our garden in hopes of reducing this expense a bit more.  We definitely do not live in a climate where we can produce year round produce at our house.  

Dairy - $103.19 We were out of everything this month - cheese, milk, cream, eggs, butter.  If you are reading this from another country and wondering why we spend so much on dairy here is an idea of what things cost in Ontario:
Milk - Typically $4.97 is a good price for 4 Liters of milk.  You used to be able to get milk many places for $3.97 for 3 liters but this is less common now, and not possible at all if you purchase fine filtered milk.
Butter - The regular retail price of butter here is about $6.99/lb.  I never pay this.  Costco used to sell butter for $2.85/lb but I have not seen this price since before Christmas.  Even at Costco butter is now $3.99/lb.  Metro had butter on sale this week for $3.33/lb so I went to pick some up and it was completely sold out.  Not a single pound of butter left in the store.
Eggs - Shoppers Drug Mart used to regularly sell eggs for $1.88 or $1.77/dozen as a loss leader.  The cheapest they sell them in our area now is $1.99/dozen.  Sometimes I am able to get cartons of 18 eggs 2 for $5.00.  That is a good price for eggs here.
Cheese - A good sale price for cheese here is $3.97 or $4.44 for a 450g block.  Any type of specialty cheese here is expensive.

We could lower our grocery bill by cutting dairy, but it is not something I am willing to do.  We drink milk and I cook everything from scratch so we keep a lot of these dairy staples in stock.  This is just the cost of living in Canada where the dairy industry (and poultry, and other agricultural staples) is controlled by a quota system which makes the prices significantly higher.

Pantry - $91.64  This was just a restock of many baking essentials like flour, sugar, brown sugar, etc.

Beverages - $22.35  This is more than my usual almost zero spend.  The reason for this is I attended several social events where I was bringing the beverages.  The good news is I was able to price match on Orange Juice for several brunches, saving about $15.00.

Prepared Foods - $16.90

Dips - $5.99  Sabra Hummous.  I just have not found a hummous recipe that I like as much as this.

Frozen Foods - $5.98

Going forward:
Over the past few months, I have been collecting recipes for various bread items such as naan bread, croissants, specialty breads, etc.  As time permits, I am going to start working through these recipes to see if we will be reducing any of our bread costs.

I have lots of food on hand as we start the month of July, so I am not expecting our spend this month to be even close to what I spent in June.

I continue to cook almost everything we eat from scratch (as always).

Some of the recipes we made this month included:

Gourmet Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies from an old Cooking With Mickey cookbook.  This is a delicious cookie recipe.  The next time I make it I am going to sub in Herhey's Carmael Sea Salt Chipits for some of the chocolate chunks.

Slow Cooker Refried Beans from The Pioneer Woman.  I have been trying various Refried Bean recipes in my CrockPot, and I really like this one.  Refried beans are healthy and great to use for various meals - I served these to make Bean Burritos, Beans and Rice, and then as a side dish (dabbed with BBQ sauce) with Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes (see below) and mixed vegetables

Museum Pasta Salad from The Prudent Homemaker.  This is a refreshing salad for a hot day and it easily made with turkey.  I did not have rice vinegar or sugar snap peas on hand - I substituted apple cider vinegar with a bit of sugar and frozen peas.

Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes from Ricardo.  Creamy and delicious - hands down the easiest scalloped potatoes recipe you will find anywhere.  When I do not have evaporated milk on hand I just use Half and Half Cream instead.

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars - from The Pioneer Woman.  You could make these to use up any type of jam.  I used blueberry.  They were quick, easy, and yummy.

Naked Strawberries and Cream Cake - You need to purchase the current issue of Ricardo to get this recipe - you can find a similar one here - but it is not the same recipe

I also made a Curried Pumpkin Apple Maple Soup - I could not find the exact recipe online and do not want to reprint without permission, but if you search it you will find many similar recipes.

What did we do to save money this month?

1.  Price Match - I price match when I shop at No Frills.  It is simple and easy and saves me money relatively often.  I also buy a lot of discounted bread (50% off) and throw it in the freezer as soon I get home.

2.  Ebates Cheque - I got an Ebates cheque.  I used half of it to buy groceries, and the other half to contribute towards a retirement gift for a colleague.

3.  Snowsuit Purchase - My eldest son has been wearing his snowsuit for a few years.  I stretch at the use as long as possible - but he is a preschooler - they grow!!  At the end of the season I looked everywhere trying to find the same snowsuit on end of season clearance but with no luck.  I was even phoning the outlets to see if it was coming in or if they had it in his size.  No luck.  I had almost given up, but then I had to travel to Vaughan to pick up something so I stopped in at Vaughan Mills.  In June.  Wouldn't you know they had just received a large shipment of the desired winter parka and snowpants in my son's size.  This saved me about $170.00 before tax on both items and the snowsuit will hopefully last at least 2 seasons.  Then, they get handed down to the next son.  My tip is to get the downfilled snowsuits if you live in a very cold climate.  They do cost more, but I find I can make them last for more seasons because they are not as bulky as other ones and allow extra room for layering when they are a bit big, but then are warm enough that you don't need the layers and they start to get a bit snug.

4.  Careful Research - There were a few items I had to buy this month (which never feels like you're saving money), and I was able to save a few dollars by carefully researching my purchases.  We had to buy a new carseat for my youngest son.  Son #1 lasted in his bucket seat until 13 months.  Son #2 is growing like a weed and only lasted 6 1/2 months in the bucket seat.  Bummer.  Carseats generally don't go on crazy sales because it is such a necessity that retailers don't need to steeply discount them.  They are generally the same price everywhere.  After carefully researching, I was able to find the seat we wanted (Diono Radian RXT) for $40.00 less on Amazon than anywhere else.
We also had to get a mirror for our renovations.  I checked some second hand places but could not find what I was looking for.  We are on a deadline so I set myself a budget of $50.00.  This is very little to buy a brand new, large, hanging mirror.  I just kept looking until I found one.  I finally found a mirror on clearance at The Bay (online).  It was reduced by over 50% to $54.99.  In addition to this, I had a coupon code for an extra 15% off (essentially no tax if you live in Canada), and it was 5% cashback from Ebates.  Every little bit of savings helps.

5.  Just say no!  I really want to buy some clothes.  I have been pregnant or breastfeeding, or both, for 4 years+ at this point.  With both pregnancies I gained over 60lbs.  I lost all the weight after my first pregnancy, and have about 10 pounds left to lose from pregnancy #2.  Throughout all this I have purchased very few clothes because....weight up....weight down......massive swelling.......shoe size has changed......I'm a human marshmallow and then I am not.  My face however seems to always look like marshmallow....I really hope this goes away once I stop breastfeeding and childbearing for good.  Anyway - the end result is that I literally have not one single pair of summer shorts left that are not athletic wear.  All my shirts are stretched out.  I have some really cute sundresses I could wear - but they do not work while breastfeeding.  I cannot bring myself to buy any new clothes when I know that in a few months I will be in a totally different size again.  It is very tempting though.  In the end, I bought myself a really cute, plain, versatile shirt dress from Old Navy for $15.00.  Every time I have to go somewhere this summer I have worn this dress over a pair of capri leggings so that I can lift it up a bit to breastfeed without flashing everyone.  It will work until the weather will accommodate me wearing jeans, which I do have several pairs that sort of fit.  Anyway, I have decided that it is my priority to get a good haircut this summer (I have not had a good haircut for one year now) so I will be putting my money towards that.

And that is our little roundup for June.  It was a busy, productive month with loads of rain.

I am looking forward to enjoying amazing Ontario fresh food during the month of July.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Three Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Buying Less

Are you looking to save money on groceries but not quite ready to become a total frugalista?  Perhaps you recently decided to monitor your spending more closely, or you are interested in becoming more frugal but you are not quite ready to start making all your food from scratch and radically change your eating habits.  That is ok.  Sometimes becoming more frugal can require major lifestyle changes, but it can also come in small, simple changes to your regular habits.  Consider the following tips a gateway on your journey to smarter spending.

Save Money Without Buying Less By:

1.  Price Matching
If the idea of flipping through a zillion fliers and then holding up the line at the grocery store does not sound like your idea of fun, I do not blame you.  Price matching does not have to be a burden.  It can be easy and rewarding.  Not only will it save you money on groceries, it will save you money on gas and time when you are not running from store to store trying to get the best price.  Find a store where you can price match with a few other retailers.  My local No Frills will price match with Metro and Walmart.  Three flyers.  That is doable.  If it is not on sale at one of these three stores, I likely can wait to purchase it until it is.  I circle everything in the fliers that I want to price match and put all these items on the counter first when I go to check out.  Being organized makes the price matching go very quickly and it does not feel like a burden at all.  Price Matching saves me, on average, about $10-$12 per week.  A friend with a large family told me that she saves about $50.00 a week by price matching.  This is a big savings without you having to change what you are buying or eating.

2.  Join a Rewards Program
Does your supermarket offer a rewards program?  Is it worth switching to get one?  I try to get double rewards on all trips to the supermarket.  Most of my grocery shopping is done at Costco (where I have an Executive Membership), No Frills (where I have PC Plus), or Shoppers Drug Mart (Optimum Rewards).  You can read about Costco Rewards vs. Optimum rewards by clicking here.  In addition to this, I use my BMO World Elite MasterCard to earn points.  Everything spent on groceries is tracked, and I pay off my MasterCard every two weeks to make sure that I never pay interest.  Every year I redeem approximately $1000.00 in Optimum points.  Many rewards programs also send specific coupons to you that are tailored to your shopping habits.  This is the first year I started using PC Plus so I cannot say yet how satisfied I am with that rewards program, but I will update on that later.  Most major food retailers in Canada offer some type of customer loyalty program - you should join one.

3.  Shop at a Discount Grocer
Discount grocers carry many of the same products as non-discount grocers, but typically at a lower price.  Think No Frills versus Loblaw, or Food Basics versus Metro, FreshCo. versus Sobeys.  Buying the same things, but at a different retailer can save you money every time you go to the store.  Every time.  Without changing what you are actually buying.  If you are a produce or meat snob (I can confess to sometimes being like this), you can always purchase these particular items at a different location.  However, after trying out various locations I found a discount grocer with a fantastic produce section where I am more than happy with the quality and selection of produce and they price match produce sales at other stores.

How much money will all this save you?  It is hard for me to give an accurate estimate for #3, but for #1 and #2 combined I know that I am saving roughly $1500.00 - $2000.00 annually.  That is not included the reward points I get on my MasterCard which we use for travel.

So what are you waiting for?  These three simple things, with no changes to what you buy, can start you on the path to saving thousands of dollars every year.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Getting rid of stuff? Try a Curbside Giveaway

Minimalize.  Declutter.  Organize.  Offload.  Tidying.  The blogosphere is abuzz with tips and tricks on how to get rid of "stuff" in one of the latest lifestyle trends.  Who doesn't want to be tidy?  I am all for getting rid of unnecessary stuff that brings no joy to your life (to borrow a little phrase from Marie Kondo (no, I actually have not read her book).  When I think of being tidy it makes me feel good.  Everything clean.  Everything tidy.  Everything in its place.  On the other hand, when I hear "minimalist" I start to feel like this is the virtue-signaling of domestic dudes and divas.  There is nothing wrong with having stuff.  There is nothing wrong with having very little stuff.  The trick is to find the equilibrium point for you and your family and then to not feel guilty about it.  If you have kids, you know how hard it is to not accumulate stuff.  If I go down to my storage room I have about 12 bins (4 years and multiple sizes) worth of little boys clothes, toys, and necessities.  Why?  Because they are being handed down from one son to the next.  When I know that we are done having kids - GOODBYE BINS - oh that will be such a great day for decluttering, and such a sad day for this mom, knowing that there will be no more little ones in our house to wear the one piece snowsuit, or Blue Shark tilly hat I love so much.

Wait, where was I?  Oh YES......getting rid of stuff.

If you have much to rid of, you could always do the obvious:
a) Kijiji
b) Yard Sale
c) Donate to a charity shop
d) Freecycle if you live in the UK

but have you ever considered a curbside giveaway?

This week, I traveled to York Region to pick up some materials for our renovation and I saw some very cool signs posted around advertising a Curbside Giveaway Day.  What a great idea!  I love this.  Residents are asked to put out whatever they are getting rid of (not garbage!) with a sign marked "FREE" by 7am on Curbside Giveaway.  That's it.  Presto.  You can browse the neighbourhood and take what you need, then at 5pm residents are asked to remove any leftover items from the curbside.  The town provides a list of way to dispose of any remaining unwanted items.  I love this because it is so simple, so straightforward, so FREE.  This is a community building activity.  If you have a bunch of things you are looking to get rid of, why not consider organizing a Curbside Giveaway day in your own neighbourhood or community?
Giveaway Posters from York Region




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Delicious Ideas for Celebrating Canada 150

Reading cookbooks or cooking magazines is one of my favourite, and most relaxing, pastimes.  Do I get to do it very often these days?  No.  Nonetheless, I found a few minutes recently to take a look at two publications made in honour of Canada's upcoming 150th birthday.  If you are looking for some inspiration in your summer kitchen, I highly recommend these two reads:

Recommendation #1: Ricardo

Regular readers know that I think Ricardo is one of Canada's culinary treasures.  My mom buys me a gift subscription to his magazine every Christmas.  The current issue has beautiful feature articles on the Canadian food industry and recipes to match.  I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable on Canadian food, but I learned a lot reading this issue....like that Maille gets its Mustard seeds from Canadian farms, or that Canadian lentils are shipped worldwide.....


The issue features amazing (although not necessarily frugal) entertaining ideas like how to put together a beautiful seafood platter, planning ideas for a summer pool party, and an amazingly versatile strawberry cake recipe.  If you are a Canadian food lover, I would say this issue is a must-read.  You can visit Ricardo's website by clicking here.



Recommendation #2: Foodland Inspired
If you are looking for a more frugal (Read: #moneysavingtips) option, you can pick up a FREE copy of the summer issue of Foodland Inspired at your local Foodland.  But you don't even have to go to the store, you can access a Free online version of the magazine by clicking here.


Like the current issue of Ricardo, this issue of Inspired focuses on Canada's upcoming birthday celebration and has loads of great recipes for your summer parties.  Recipes include: No Bake Cheesecakes (pictured on the cover), Nanaimo Coffee Crisp Cake (um, yes please!!), Spice Rubs, Apple Coleslaw, and more.  It also features entertaining ideas, including a Ice Cream Bar spread that I found particularly well done.  What makes this issue really great is the wide variety of recipes.  Check it out - it's free!!!!!


This is an idea I wish I had thought of!  Read the magazine to learn more.

If you have never tried Nanaimo Bars (a Canadian specialty), you will want to try this recipe -but you might have to ask a Canadian friend to send you some Coffee Crisps in the mail!

So what are you waiting for?
Check out these two great reads, and get started on your summer party planning!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Money Saving Tips: Start your Christmas shopping now!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the gift cupboard at our house.  Every year, I try to finish my Christmas shopping by Labour Day Weekend.  Is this because I am super organized and have too much time on my hands?  Er....no!  I try to finish my Christmas shopping by Labour Day every year because I find this is the most cost effective way to give gifts to those who are important to me.

I love gifting.  I have written about this before - I genuinely enjoy curating a gift for somebody.  We give gifts to quite a few people, totally by choice, and it is a pleasure.  So why do I shop so early and how does this help reduce costs?  Read on!

Lowering the holiday spending...

1.  When you are in a rush, you typically spend more than you meant to.
This is the same thing as going to the grocery store in a panic or on an empty stomach.  If you are rushing around the week before Christmas, fighting the crowds with your To Do list a mile long, it is highly likely that you are going to overspend and buy more than what you need.  When you start early there is zero rush, and you can enjoy the process.

2.  Starting early allows you to plan ahead for any homemade gifts you want to prepare.
I am a big fan of DIY gifts - and these are often things that need to be planned in advance. (For some previous DIY gift ideas I have featured on the blog click here and here.)  There may be specific items you need to create your masterpieces, and starting early allows you to watch the sales and get the best price.  You may want to freeze fresh strawberries now to make beautiful preserves for Christmas.  You may have a furniture project (please note if you are giving a large piece of restored furniture I strongly recommend giving the recipient a head's up....), you may be wanting to dry herbs from your harden.  Whatever the case may be - planning ahead allows you to not be rushed.  Make a list of items you will need for your DIY projects and start gathering them when you can get them for the best prices.




3.  End of season inventory clearance means excellent prices on winter or previous years' goods (especially March-June).
This is one of my favourite things about shopping early.  Many seasonal items are on steep, very steep reductions at this time of year (March-June) as stores try to clear out their inventory from last year and make way for the new items.  Recently, I was able to purchase toys reduced by 75%.  I have been able to purchase winter pyjamas up to 80% off.  Check online and in stores, but there are always excellent deals to be had on previous season merchandise.


4.  You can keep an eye out for deals on specific items and watch the sales.
Once you have an idea of what items you may need to purchase, you will be able to carefully monitor fliers, e-mail flyers, and websites for deals on these specific items.  You will not be in a rush to purchase them, and it is highly likely if you start this early in the year you will find what you are looking for on sale before the holidays start.


5.  Allows your to accumulate points and rebates for use on last minute purchases.
As I pick up various items throughout the year, I try to maximize and points earned through redemption programs and cashback through E-bates.  A great option is to save up these redemption points and use them if you need to purchase any last minute items before the holidays.  Personally, I like to redeem my points for household and grocery items during the holidays.  It allows for some wiggle room at a time of year when money might be tight, or when unexpected expenses are popping up.

6.  Back to School Sales on Craft Items
One thing that I love to do for the many kids on our list is
give gifts that they can create stuff with.  The absolute best time of year to get deals on school and craft supplies is during the Back to School shopping season.  There are amazing deals to be had at this time of year, especially if you live in the States where Back to School seems to be taken to a whole new level.  If you are an early shopper, taking advantage of these deals could result in significant savings for your Christmas gift list.  Think markers, pencil crayons, crayons, glue, scissors, paint, etc.



But how do I stay organized?

Well, this is great you might say, but how am I supposed to stay organized if I am shopping 6 months in advance?  Being organized is key, otherwise you will forget what you purchased and probably buy things you do not need after forgetting you have little Joey's Christmas gift safely tucked away in the back corner of your closet.  Here is how I stay organized:

1.  Gift Journal
I have a gift journal at home where I record every gift I have for each person.  It allows me to remember what I gave someone from year to year, and also to know what I have on hand to give them for future holidays.  It is just in a simple notebook.  Keep it simple.  In addition to this I have......(see below)

2.  Handbag List!  (or on your phone!)
Once I have started gathering gifts, I keep a running list in my purse at all times of things I still need to pick up and who they are for.  I might see a great deal on something one day - I check my list - if it is on the list...perfect!...I will pick it up.  If it is not on the list........it does not get purchased.  This eliminates needless and wasteful spending.


The best reason to shop ahead:

Lowering your stress level!

Yes, shopping ahead and being organized will help you lower your expenses, but what could be better than lowering your stress level at the holidays?  While other people are running around like crazy, ringing up the credit card bills and making silly purchases that are not needed.....you can enjoy time at home sipping hot cocoa and watching White Christmas while wrapping your thoughtfully selected and carefully purchased Christmas gifts.  That is something to look forward to.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Warm Weather Recipes

It is a beautiful sunny weekend.  Are you looking for something delicious to make?

Here are a few of my favourite sunny day recipes:

Rhubarb Lemonade

Marinated Goat's Cheese, serve with a baguette - fabulous!

Greek Salad

Friday Night Dinner Project: BBQ Dinner (especially the Coleslaw, which I love!!

Simple Summer Pasta - this is a great recipe if you are already harvesting cherry tomatoes from your garden

Turkey Salad (also read about why I love frozen turkeys for stretching our humble dollars!)

Rhubarb Pudding Cakes - yes, you can finish up all that yummy rhubarb from your garden!


And there you have it.  A few recipes to inspire your weekend menu...
Enjoy!


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: End of May Recap


Well, this month has definitely been our busiest month of the year (so far).

It was so busy, that I already posted a mid-way update a few weeks ago.  May 2017 will also go down in history as the month I discovered Rhubarb Lemonade - an amazing way to use up your abundant rhubarb, whether fresh or frozen.

I have to start off this monthly recap with a little note about what will likely be our biggest money save ever.  Ever!  Without going into too many details (all will be revealed in time haha), we are likely going to be selling our house in 2018.  To prepare for that, we thought that we needed to do a major renovation on our main floor and kitchen (we live in a bungalow).  This renovation was not for us, although I'm sure we would have enjoyed it, but strictly for resale purposes.  After getting the quotes and the renderings for the project we met with our realtor.  He came to our house and we went over the plans and cost with him.  His response was: "Why do you want to do this???  Your house is already worth X."  Long story short: we thought the renovations would be necessary to get our desired value for the house in 2018.  Our realtor said our house was already worth X and the renovations (although we would get our money back from them) would not be worth the cost and stress.  He suggested a few changes which we are now in the process of making, but they are a fraction of the cost of a full blown renovation on our main floor and kitchen.  So....hurray!!!  This is why it is always critical to research every angle of a project before beginning.  This saved us so much money and stress.  Now we are focusing on getting these smaller projects done - I will try to update along the way if possible.

Now that we have that out of the way...

groceries!!!

In May, we spent $356.20 on groceries.  I am really happy with this.  
Especially because I did some stocking up at the end of the month.

What was all this spent on?
Produce = $84.25
Dairy = $58.57
Meat = $58.74
Pantry = $44.08
Frozen Food = $31.93
Bread = $24.20
Prepared Foods = $13.89
Dips and Spreads = $9.57  (this is hummous - which I have tried to make but have yet to find a recipe that I enjoy as much as Sabra Original Hummous and Fontaine Beet Hummous)

You may notice we spent ZERO on beverages this month.  Hurray!  (I count milk as Dairy just in case you are wondering).

How did we save money in the second half of May??

1.  Price Matching and Reduced for Quick Sale - The BIG Power of Small Savings


No Frills Bill
Twice this month I had great finds in the Reduced for Quick Sale shopping department.  The first was at another store, where I was able to pick up some bread (the kind we normally buy), crackers, and cheese at great reductions.  Score!!  The second time was just last week.  I went to No Frills to pick up a few things.  The No Frills where I shop will Price Match with Metro and Walmart.  I always bring both flyers with me when I go to the store.  Delissio Pizzas (which I don't typically buy - but which are very nice to have in the freezer for those emergency days) were on sale for $2.99 at Metro.  This is $3.00 off per pizza.  Also Breyer's Natural Ice cream was on sale $3.99 which is about $3.00 off as well.  I picked up 4 Delissio pizzas and 2 tubs of ice creams.  Price Match Savings = (4x3) + (2x3) = $18.00.  While I was in the store, ground beef was on sale for $2.77/lb which is about as cheap as it gets here.  However, I didn't want to pick any up until the following week....that is until I saw several packs of Lean Ground Beef an extra 30% off the sale price (Reduced for Quick Sale).  I picked up 3 packs, for a total additional savings of $12.69.  I picked up some Banana Chocolate Mini Muffins (I broke the golden rule of frugal groceries and went shopping when I needed a snack) reduced for quick sale (saved $1.50).  Finally, there was an unadvertised in store special - frozen turkeys were on sale for $0.77/lb.  This was a GREAT deal and I picked up two small turkeys for $8.00 each.  I also used a $10.00 coupon (I ordered it through Pampers Rewards) for a box of diapers. Excluding the turkeys, from Price Matching, coupons,  and Reduced for Quick Sale on this one shopping trip I was able to reduce my bill by *drumroll* = $42.19 before tax.  So let's round up to $45.00.
Let's just imagine that you were able to save $45.00 off your bill once a month.  That would be $540.00 a year.  That is a pretty significant savings.  Now, let's just take this one step further for some math fun........if you live in Canada and you have kids....imagine you took that $540.00 a year and deposited into an RESP account for your child.  This $540.00 would automatically become $648.00 (deposits into RESPs are topped up 20% by the government, maximum individual contribution of $2500/annually, for the first 14 years of a child's life).  If you were able to save $45.00 a month off your grocery bill and put it into the RESP for the first 14 years of their life, starting tomorrow, you would have $9,072.00 when they turn 14 and that is not accounting for any investment growth of interest.  That is nothing to laugh at.
OK, let's move on.

2.  Cheap Travel
We had to take another trip this month.  I know, I know, this girls claims she is frugal but she has taken TWO trips in one month.  It just worked out that way.  We had to go see my grandparents, and then we had to attend a baby shower for someone who is like family to us.  All out of town.  For our second trip we brought snacks with us.  I used a portion of the reduced meat to make meatball sliders and brought a whole bunch with us, among other things.  Breakfast was free at the hotel.  I always fill up my son's cup with milk at the end of breakfast and put it in the room fridge after breakfast.  We used gift cards that we received as a Christmas gift to pay for the hotel.  We brought all of our own food except for the pizza we ordered on Sunday night (hotel tradition).  We had lots of fun time in the pool as a family.  Son #1 and my husband had a fun day together when I attended the shower.  At the shower they gave out strawberry plants as a favour.  They were in beautiful pots with a sign on them that said "Watch Me Grow."  This was such a great idea for a baby shower favour!  We are going to plant ours in our garden.

3.  Christmas Shopping
A Graduation Gift
My mom texted me one day to tell me there was a 60% off sale at MasterMind Toys.  I had to pick up a new bath toy for my son (his were disgusting and full of black mold, I am a terrible mom....I know....) and while I was there I picked up one or two small things to put away for Christmas.  That night I went home and was thinking.  I realized the sales on quality children's toys were excellent and I would not find these kind of deals again before Christmas.  I decided to go back the next day.  Well, that turned out to be a great decision because the next day prices were reduced by 75%!!  I was able to finish almost all the Christmas shopping for the 13 kids (including our own) we buy for at Christmas.  I am thrilled with what I was able to get and the prices were unbeatable.  (Watch for an upcoming post about why I try to finish all my Christmas shopping by September).
Super fun Christmas Gift
I was also able to order a few things online from Chapters (using Ebates) for Graduation gifts and Christmas.  Hurray!

4.  Coupon Book
Recently, I wrote about needing ALL new shoes because of postpartum feet changes.  The shoes at the mall were so much money I almost choked (I only bought one pair at the mall because I needed them for my orthotics fitting).  I finally made it to the outlet mall and I was able to find a great pair of Asics for $75.00, which in Canada is a great price for quality trainers.  In addition, the mall was giving out free coupon booklets to members of my profession.  I found a coupon in the book for an additional $5.00 off.  Every dollar counts!!!

I gave almost all of my shoes to the Salvation Army.  I also put a box of boots (brown leather, black leather, winter, etc.) together for my friend's daughter.  She is going to keep what she wants and donates the rest.  I hope that my shoes go to good homes - they were all quality shoes and in excellent condition.


I hope you all have a wonderful month!!  Enjoy the beautiful weather.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Recipe Share: Rhubarb Lemonade

Did you know Rhubarb Lemonade is a thing?  Neither did I, until Margaret (who runs the blog Approaching Food) mentioned it in a comment thread over at The Prudent Homemaker.

How did I not know about this???  After reading about it, I found a fabulous recipe for it from Ricardo Cuisine (one of Canada's culinary treasures) and decided to give it a try.  It did not disappoint!!!

I am so excited to make this recipe for parties, my kids, their friends, family dinners.  It is so refreshing and a great way to use up fresh or frozen rhubarb.  I used some frozen rhubarb I still had in my freezer from last year's crop.

Water and sugar boiling

Eventually, you end up with this.....

My 600g of frozen rhubarb

Boiling rhubarb, with sugar and water mixture

Straining

Lemon
Lemons.  They just make everything smell fresh and clean, and like summer.
Ready to be chilled.
Here is my strained rhubarb-water-sugar mix in the pitcher with the lemon juice.  The recipe recommends you chill for 4 hours - but I found it was not cold enough after this.  It was good and cold after about six hours (will vary based on your fridge temperature), but I found the flavours actually tasted even better the following day.
Rhubarb Lemonade
A tall glass of Rhubarb Lemonade with frozen blueberries thrown in.

How beautiful would this be in a tall, clear, glass pitcher?  Or in a punch bowl?  

Get Ricardo's Rhubarb Lemonade Recipe Here.