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 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?!  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 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 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...