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.


  1. My in laws lived in Alaska for 10 yrs.... talk about sticker shock with grocery prices when they lived there.They still have the picture they took of a POUND of hamburger at $9.99
    The price you saw for GOOD running shoes is about what it runs here. It's NOTHING to my grandson or one son to spend over $150. I wear orthotics, my ins doesn't pay much so I have to save up for it. My son in the Army wears them also. Army pays for his for his boots but he has to pay for his civilian shoes ones. You are being frugal. I had to toss flour awhile back... spent over $200 replacing it..OUCH

    1. Yes, I am discovering shoes with orthotics are not cheap! I have been wearing the new shoes around to break them in and I am very happy with them - and you are right - I definitely notice a difference with the orthotics. My main thing now is that I don't want to buy very many shoes as I am afraid of my shoe size changing again. After 2 pregnancies with crazy swelling and weight gain (then weight loss), my feet went from a size 8 to a 9 or 9 1/2. My fear is that it will increase again after/if I have a third baby. For now I have my shoes with orthotics (which I am trying to save for work), a pair of Birkenstock's for outside, an indoor pair of Birketstock's (the dr recommended this), an old pair of Crocs for outside if it is wet, and I am wanting to buy another pair of running shoes to use for exercising because I do not want to get the really good ones all sweaty and gross. I stand on my feet all day for my job so I am trying to keep my best shoes clean and beautiful for that. Time will see how this plan works for me!