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...


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


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.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Great Grocery Project: Mid May Update

When did May become the craziest month of the year??

I feel, and I have been reading this on many other blogs too, that this month has been insane.  And it's not over yet!!  Busy, busy, busy.

So far this month I have spent $200.00 on groceries.  I am saving the full breakdown at the end of the month - but this feels pretty good because there are only two weeks left before the end of the month.
I had to post though, because there is just too much stuff going on!  Lots of money saving adventures...

How have we saved money so far this month??
Blackberry Ginger Ale - Yes!!!
Earlier this month, Canada Dry launched a new product - Blackberry Ginger Ale.  I wanted to try it, but we do not drink a lot of pop.  I found the "baby cans" in a six pack at Giant Tiger for $2.25.  I bought it.  I tried it.  I loved it.  And the aesthetically pleasing.....
Baby Dove Tip to Toe Wash
I belong to the Shopper's Drug Mart Optimum Rewards program, which I have written about extensively and which saves us about $800-$1000 a year.  Sometimes I get free samples or coupons for free things in the mail.  A few weeks ago, the above sample arrived.  A perfect little travel size of Baby Dove Tip to Toe Wash.  This came just before we were about to leave on vacation so I was able to bring it for my boys' baths.  I also received a different sample of lotion (for mom) which I brought along too.  Win!!
Mother's Day Gifting
Mother's Day came and went and we gave our gifts to the women in our life.  This is an example of one of the gifts I put together.  This gift included a canvas tote "Life is what you make it" from Chapters Indigo - it was purchased at almost 65% off its regular price and using Ebates.  Inside the bag were two full size Martha Stewart Bath Towels, purchased at more than 50% off from The Bay, again using Ebates.  The Crabtree & Evelyn lotion and body wash (I wrote about them last month) were purchased at 50% off because they were in a Christmas tin.  I simply removed them from the tin which I will use for other gifts at Christmas.  Finally, the Stuart McLean Vinyl CafĂ© was purchased at Costco - it wasn't on sale but it was a good price and I knew my mom would love it.  She did.
Clothing Haul
I shop for clothes and gifts (in an actual store, not online) only about 2 or 3 times a year.  The cheapest way to buy clothes is to buy them second hand.  I am not going to get into why I do not buy second hand clothes - but I just want to say that it is not because I have anything against them, or look down on them - we buy many items (just not clothes) second hand and I am very happy to accept hand me downs.  I think I have a really good system for buying new clothes at amazing prices that I pass down between my kids, and also to nieces, nephews, friends, etc.  OK - now that we have that out of the way...
Before Easter I had purchased some needed items from Gap Kids and Gap Factory Outlet for which I earned some Gap Cash.  However, even though there were additional items I needed I did not want to spend the GapCash unless really necessary or I could come up with other income.  I tried to sell some items on Kijiji to get the cash.  No luck.  Then, my mother-in-law generously gave each of my son's $50.00 at Easter.  Perfect!!  Since the clothing was for them anyway, I knew it would cover the cash I had to output in order to maximize the Gap Cash.  On the first day it was valid, I went to the Gap and gathered up every clearance item I could find that fit with my shopping list.  After all was said and done - I purchased:
1 beautiful winter parka for my son (this alone was regularly $119.99, on end of season clearance for $19.99)
3 pairs of pants
1 zip-up sweater
3 pairs of shorts (not everything is shown in the picture above)
1 polo shirt
1 pair of Disney pyjamas
For all of this, I spent $5.00 of my own money.  Not bad.

I also used my Cash for the Gap Factory Outlet.  There was able to get 5 pairs of pants, 1 bathing suit (top and bottom for my son), 3 t-shirts, 1 long sleeve button up shirt, and a zip up sweater.  All children's items.

After adding up both trips and calculating everything - the average cost per item of clothing was $6.50.  If you take away the money my mother-in-law gave me that number drops even more.

Our trip...
We also took a four day trip over Mother's Day weekend to visit my grandparents in Windsor, Ontario.  We had not been there since last July, and it was their first time meeting our youngest son.  We used points from our BMO World Elite MasterCard to book our hotel (2 rooms x 3 nights at the Hampton Inn & Suites), making it FREE.  Zero out of pocket for the hotel.  We brought all kinds of snacks and food and bottled water to eat on our 5 hour to get there and at the hotel as needed.  Our first night at the hotel was our treat night - we ordered dinner in and spent $50.00.  The rest of the weekend we ate all our breakfasts at the hotel breakfast, and our lunches and dinner at my grandparents.  I did go to the grocery store and buy food to make dinner one night at my grandparents - but I am not counting this as a trip expense - it was just something I wanted to do for them.  We also visited nearby Amherstberg (a beautiful little town on the waterfront) where you can visit Fort Malden National Historic Site for FREE if you have the 150 Canada Parks Pass.  There is also a beautiful park beside the National Historic Site (which itself is very beautiful and well maintained) where there is a large play area and splash pad for children.  We drove along the waterway and treated ourselves to 2 frozen lemonades and 1 snack size smoothie from McDonald's for our son (Total cost: $5.00).  If you have a parks pass, you could also visit nearby Point Pelee but we did not have time to do this.  Hopefully we can visit this on another trip.  We spent a great deal of time enjoying our hotels salt water pool.  We brought many of our sons toys and his kickster bike so that he could play outside at my grandparents.  We did stop at McDonald's for lunch on the way home - specifically so my son could run around the play area as the weather would not allow outdoor play at a rest stop.  All in all - our 3 night, 4 day trip cost us $75.00 (not including gas).  Not bad!!!!!

The rest of this month is going to fly by...

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: April Recap

This month saw many, many expenses.  Such is life.  They were almost entirely unrelated to the grocery bill, but I will write about some of our savings at the end of this post as usual.

I tried to sell some things on Kijiji this month.  I find I just never have luck getting rid of stuff unless it is a big ticket item (like an appliance).  My hopes for a sale have not materialized, but I want to get these things out of my house so there is a box sitting by my front door waiting to be delivered to the charity shop.

One thing that has been on my mind this month, and frustrating me, is the high cost of basic food items in Canada.  We have bounced around all over the world for the past decade for my husband's job, and I haven't been to anywhere in the industrialized world where basic food items cost as much as they do in Canada.  American readers must read how much we spend on groceries and think that we are not being so frugal, but....we are.  The truth is that groceries cost significantly more in Canada than in the United States.  Why is this?  There are a few reasons.

1.  Climate.  Unlike in the U.S., there is nowhere in Canada (except in greenhouses) where produce can be grown year round.  We simply do not have the climate for it.  Although Canada produces beautiful, wonderful food - it only does so certain months of the year and there are many food products that simply do not grow here at all (see: oranges).  Much of our produce is imported for 8 months of the year.

2.  The exchange rate.  When our dollar is low (or lower like it is right now, as opposed to a few years ago when it was more or less at par with the US Dollar) - things here cost more to import.  This is simple economics that can have a huge impact on our grocery bills.

3.  Canadian Agricultural Rules - This has been in the news quite a bit lately.  Several industries in Canada are protected by quota and marketing boards - these industries include dairy and poultry.  This results in higher prices for consumers.  Much higher than what our counterparts pay in the States.  A recent National Post article discussing these quotas said that basic food items in Canada cost 2 -3 times more than in other industrialized countries.  Ouch.  This is a major factor in our household grocery bills.  (Note: this is not to slam Canadian farmers - Canadian food production is tightly regulated and the quality of our home produced food is excellent - but we are paying a premium for it).

4.  Populations of scale.  There are only 35 million people in Canada.  This is a fraction of the US's population in a country roughly the same size geographically.  Canadian consumers just don't have the economic clout Americans do.  More people = more products = more competition.  Adding to that, there are many remote areas in Northern Canada where the price food is much higher than in places like Southern Ontario, owing to transportation costs.

These are a few of the main reasons why groceries here cost more.  Now....where was I?

Oh yes....

How much did we spend on groceries this month?
This month we spend $436.04 on groceries.

What did we spend it on?
Beverage = 0
Bread = $29.50
Dairy = $129.05 (see note above about the price of dairy here)
Frozen Food = $7.41
Meat = $26.80
Pantry = $94.67  This was so high this month because there was a large recall across Canada on flour and a few other grain related items.  I had to throw out what I had in my house - in addition because so many items were recalled, the supply of potentially uncontaminated flour was minimal and I paid about two times as much as I normally do for this product.
Prepared Food = $4.16
Produce = $104.87  Again, you can see my note above.  As I mentioned last month, we have been eating a lot of grapes which drives up the grocery bill pretty quickly.
Dip or sauce = $3.49

What did we do to save money this month?

1.  I redeemed a coupon that came in the mail for a FREE tube of Colgate toothpaste (a new product they are launching for sensitive teeth) from Shopper's Drug Mart.  No purchase necessary.  This toothpaste retails for $7.99.  We use toothpaste for sensitive teeth anyway (Pronamel) so this was a real win!

2.  As a result of two pregnancies where I experienced massive swelling my feet have changed size and they are not going back.  I have also had some other foot related issues that the pregnancies brought about (although according to my doctor are not the root cause - just bringing out underlying issues that already existed) - long story short - I had to get orthotics.  Thankfully my benefits plan covers one pair of orthotics.  Because it only covers one pair, I wanted to get a new pair of shoes for when I return to work since my job involves me being on my feet all day.  Friends, have you shopped for shoes in a retail store lately?  I have not gone shopping for new running shoes in a none-outlet or clearance centre for over a decade.  I did not have time to go to a clearance centre before the appointment, so I went to the mall.  My eyes almost popped out of my head when I realized that most high end running shoes are now retailing for $180.00+++ a pair (also note - this is in Canada - running shoes are one of the items that tend to be significantly cheaper in the States).  After getting over some serious sticker shock, I found a lonely clearance rack of shoes.  There, sitting almost hidden on the bottom of the rack was a beautiful pair of Asics Metarun black and onyx shoes in my size.  I was looking for a black pair that at least look a little bit fancy since we do not typically wear this type of shoe for work.  This shoe's regular retail price is $330.00 a pair.  They were on "clearance" for $119.99.  I realize this is still quite a bit - but alas, works shoes.  The sales guy was telling me how great they are for running - and I had to tell him I had no plans to ever sweat in a pair of shoes that cost this much.  I am hoping to find a less expensive pair of Saucony shoes for actually exercising in when I make a trip to the outlet mall in May or June.

3.  This month, I rearranged all our storage bins of kids clothes.  After my first son, clothes were just getting piled away as he grew out of them and were not necessarily sorted by size.  This has been somewhat problematic with Baby #2 because I have trouble locating certain items.  We seemed to be experiencing a major shortage of sleepers, and I thought I was going to have to go buy more, however after completely unpacking and resorting three years worth of little boy clothes I discovered we have lots of sleepers and no shopping trip was needed.  WIN!!!!  All of the clothes are now sorted by size and will be put away by size regardless of when Baby #2 grows out of them.  All of the bins are carefully labeled to keep everything organized.   If we have a Baby #3 we will be ready!!

4.  I booked a vacation using gift cards.  Not sure if I should really be claiming this as a "save" since it is not of my own doing - but we received some Best Western gift cards as a Christmas gift - and there is a Best Western sort of in the middle of nowhere about 2 hours from us that has a small (but perfect for preschool kids) indoor pool.  The rates at this hotel are extremely reasonable - so I booked 2 nights at this hotel over the American long weekend at the end of May - and we still have some gift card money leftover.  Because we have an infant and a 3 year old, we either need to get a suite or two rooms - the sleep times are just not coordinate yet and try telling a 3 year old to be quiet.  Even when he is quiet he wakes up his brother.  I discovered it was cheaper to book 2 King bed rooms than it was to book a 2 room suite.  My husband gets US holidays and I am maternity leave, which allows us to travel at some of the less-peak times.  Our son will be soooo excited for this.  I will write more about our trip when we take it.  This year we are only doing free travel (so either paid for by gift cards or with points that we have, or staying with family) and I am planning to write a series about it as we go along.

5.  I redeemed $200.00 worth of Optimum points at Shopper's Drug Mart on a bonus points redemption day.  Normally you redeem 95,000 points for $170 worth of product, but on this day I was able to get an extra $30.00 worth of FREE stuff.  What did I pick up with my $200.00 point redemption?
-4 packages of 6 Bounty paper towels
-2 packages of Huggies Little Swimmers
-2 greeting cards
-OFF! Family bug spray
-1 box of Milupa infant cereal
-1 container of Neostrata Oil Free Moisture Infusion
-1 package of BBQ spice rubs (a gift box to go in a birthday gift for my brother-in-law)
-1 tube of Neutrogena face scrub
-1 bottle of Tide Free & Clear (24 loads)
-1 400ml bottle of La Roche Posay Lipikar Baume AP+
-2 bottles of Cranberry Raspberry Juice
-2 bottles of Tropicana Lemondae (a treat!)
-1 lb of butter
-2 dozen eggs
-1 box of Pirate Oatmeal Peanut Butter cookies (also a treat!)

The best part about this redemption is that even though I redeemed the points in April, it was on April 29th so all of these things will be put to good use in the month ahead - May.

Well that is the report for this month, we will be away for 2 weekends in May for family events so the spending this month will be a bit different.  Looking forward to what May has in store for all of us.