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.


  1. It sounds like you have a great grocery plan. It always seems like all the staples run out at once, doesn't it? And, if I go stock up, and am sure I have every food item in the world, something basic runs low:)

    I had not purchased sugar for a year or more, so needed some to make jam. I sent my husband, admonishing him to not buy 50 pounds this time. Guess what? Yup. I have 50 pounds. But, he's right. It was so much cheaper that way--just a few dollars more for 50 than it would have been for 25lbs. So, I won't have to buy that again for a long, long time.

    1. It is so true - all the staples do seem to run out at once! 50lbs of sugar makes me think of canning season (well, Jam Season as you said)...that is the time of year when we go through soooo much sugar!

  2. Followed you from Brandy's Prudent Homemaker site and it is so interesting to see a post with our Cdn. prices listed. I am very envious when I read the prices that our US friends pay for milk & eggs etc - it just doesn't work here.
    I mostly shop No Frills but I check other flyers each week and will go elsewhere for a good price. METRO had a couple of items that made a trip out worthwhile today - Heinz canned beans for 2 for $1.50 (cheapest I've seen them anywhere for ages) and European brand frozen fruit for $2.88 - I have to travel on the TTC but managed to stock up a bit on both.
    I am on my own and I'm now trying to stay at around $150/mth (not counting meals out) but I'll see how it goes. Don't need to buy any meat this month and I have quite a bit of butter and cheese already so I can concentrate on produce & stocking up on any specials.
    Do you use a PC Plus card? I do find that it's worthwhile and in the past 2 years I've had over $300 worth of free food. Right now I'm just saving up all my points and I'll use them for a pre-Christmas (and bad weather) stock up.

    1. I agree. Sometimes it is hard to think of what is a reasonable grocery spend when I think about American food prices. I do use a PC Plus card. I just really started using it this year. Since I am on mat leave I have been doing a lot more shopping at No Frills because there is one close to my house. When I work I tend to shop at a different store that is closer to my employer and my child's daycare. I do really like No Frills for the price matching and the already low prices, plus they carry all the President's Choice products.
      That is a great price for the European frozen fruit.