Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Great Grocery Project: October Recap

This post is coming a bit late because I needed to regroup after losing our freezer.

Yes, we lost everything (over $1000.00 worth of food) that was in our upright freezer - packed full of a year's worth of fruit, meat, pastry, and other food supplies.  How did this happen?  We had a contractor doing work on our house.  I specifically told them to make sure the freezer was plugged in before they left.  When I came home, I put my hand on the freezer to make sure it was cold (it was, but obviously just still from when it had been plugged in).  I looked at the outlet, it *looked* like it was plugged in.  A week later I went to get something out of the freezer, when I opened the door.....everything was ruined.  Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the plug had not been shoved all the way into the outlet.  I was very upset (obviously).  My call to the contractor has not been returned and we will obviously never be using them again.  Lesson learned (several actually).

This was a huge blow for us both time wise and financially.  Nonetheless, we soldier in.  There are far worse things that could happen.  As a result, I am making a change to my Great Grocery Project.  I am not going to be tracking my per category spending this year.  It is just going to be so far off the norm and our menu is being significantly reworked in an effort to minimize the financial impact of losing the freezer.  I am unsure about whether or not we are going to work towards refilling it at this time since we might be moving in the coming year.

So, moving on - in October we spent $497.68 on groceries - much more than I wanted to spend but such is life.  A large portion of this was spent replacing a few things that were ruined, but also on a birthday party open house we had for both our sons (very fun!).  We actually had a very economical celebration, but I also bought pickles and olives and specialty cheese for the party which adds up quite quickly.

I like to keep kids events as simple as possible and I also wanted to serve one of my son's favourite foods.  Our menu was simple but delicious:
A grilled cheese buffet (brie, cheddar, etc., caramelized onions, apples, various condiments)
Crudités and dip (the classic French Onion Soup mixed with Sour Cream)
Pickles and Olives (wide assortment)

For dessert, my son and I made a Rainbow Bit Cake the morning of the party - he loves cooking.  We also made Molasses Ginger Cookies.  In the weeks prior to the party, I made over a dozen miniature cheesecakes (in 250ml Mason jars) and froze them (in the freezer that was not ruined).  On the day of they were served with optional toppings like crumbled Oreo, Strawberry Maple Sauce, Peach Rum Sauce, and some fresh fruit.
You can find the recipe for these individual cheesecakes here.  (Very simple to make!!!)
Individual Cheesecakes without topping
The birthday party was great and simple.  My mother in law brought her coffee maker and coffee since we do not have one (neither of us drink coffee).  Everyone commented on what a nice, relaxing party it was and how much they enjoyed the food so that made this hostess very happy.  I do love a theme party, but I really felt my kids do not need that yet.  I would like to do this when they can be more involved in the planning.  Somebody asked me "well don't you have a theme for the party?"  "Yes," I replied, "the theme is BIRTHDAY."

Recipe Share:
Since I have been reworking the food plan and adjusting everything accordingly, I have been lining up and trying loads of new recipes.  Not all recipes are good.  It has to be really good for me to make something twice.  Twice this week I actually had to throw out some new snack recipes I tried (they were very bad!!!).  However, there are a few fantastic recipes I tried this month that I want to share.

1.  Our Best Blueberry Muffin Recipe
This recipe is from Crosby's molasses.  It is fantastic (truly) and there are many variations of it that you can make.  I used the lower sugar amount every time and they are fantastic.  I love having a muffin, some cheese, and some fruit for breakfast most days so this recipe will definitely be going in the rotation.

2.  Broccoli Cheese Soup
Via The Pioneer Woman, this recipe is a fantastic base for creamy soups.  Having tried many of these soup recipes over the years, this one is a favourite because it requires no broth (unless you want to thing the soup - but I did this using broth one day, and water another), instead relying on milk (which I always have on hand).  The first time I followed the recipe exactly - it was great.  The second time, I used cauliflower and red pepper instead of broccoli, I omitted the cheese and only added it as the soup was served.  It was still fantastic.  This soup recipe will be used over and over in our house.

What did we do to save money this month?

Besides the usual (making everything from scratch, etc.), we focused on simplifying whenever possible. 

1.  Christmas Gifts - I finished wrapping all the gifts for children (we buy for quite a few) and made note of any missing items.  This ensures that no unnecessary extras are purchased and allows me to keep careful track of who is getting what.   There was one additional thing I needed to purchase for a child, and I did so this past weekend so I can cross all the kids off my list and know that their gifts are packed and ready for action.

2.  DIY Gifts - I finished up some gifts, and gathered the final materials needed for the remaining gifts that I need to make.

3.  The Charity Shop - A visit to The Salvation Army was very productive and I was able to get several needed items.  I wrote about some of them here.

4.  Optimum Coupon  - I got something in the mail from Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum Rewards.  I love free things I can actually use - and this little gift included a 20X the Points coupon, a notebook, some pencils and an eyebrow brush.  Everything was put to good use.
Optimum Gift Package

This Christmas canvas has been mailed.  I was sad to see it go.

A gift basket that was made (by me) for a friend - Italian Themed

6.  Photo Gifts - As part of Christmas gifts for my mother and mother in law, I making photo albums of family photos.  This is a gift they will love (who doesn't want photos of their grandchildren?) and it is economical.  I was able to get one photo album 50% off at Michael's, and I found the photo album below brand new and still in its packaging at The Salvation Army.

7.  Enjoying the outdoors  - I took my kids to as many outdoor farms and activities (all free) as possible in October.  There were lots of great events on for Halloween and we took advantage of as many as possible.  I love visiting local farms where our kids can play outside and then picking up a healthy snack (usually fruit) while we are there.  I also went hiking a few times with my youngest - which is a bit of a nightmare because he wants to be able to go on his own all the time - but it is so worth it.  

A walk in the woods cures many ills

8.  Swimming lessons  - I wanted to sign my son up for private swimming lessons but they are very expensive and I could not justify the expense at this time.  I decided to sign him up for lessons during the day, knowing that these classes are usually smaller in size (and literally 25% of the price of private lessons).  Well, I got very, very lucky.  Only one other person signed up for my son's class, and they have not shown up for a single lesson.  So, my son (who I feel really needed private lessons at this stage for his own emotional well being) is getting private lessons for the not private lesson cost.  I am just thrilled that he is going in the pool with his teacher.  That would be enough for me - but he is actually developing his water skills as well.  This has been a total blessing.

9.  Pickle Jar - I saved a Gherkin pickle jar to use as a pencil/pen holder.  I really liked this shape of it and I love keeping pens and pencils in clear glass jars where they can be on display at all times.  These are the things a person who loves the written word gets excited about.

10.  Halloween Candy  - We do not get many kids, and I did not want to end up with a bunch of leftover junk food that we do not need to eat.  I bought the large boxes of chips at Costco (not the Halloween ones but the regular individual bag ones) when they were on sale.  This way, any leftovers could be used for a little treat on days I take sandwiches to work. 

Going forward...
November is the final month that I will be off work.  My baby is easing into full days at daycare.  My older son is already going 4 days a week.  I am prepping for going back to work.  The stress is mounting, but so is the excitement.  I will be spending as little as possible on groceries this month.  I know it is going to fly by.  We have my son turning 4, my mother in law's birthday, my mother's birthday shortly after, American Thanksgiving, loads of appointments that I am trying to get out of the way before going back to work, and general life busy - ness.  Or business.  I will be making my final Christmas gifts (yes, I will share when they are done).  I am also trying to exercise more this month.  Wish me luck.

Have a wonderful week everyone.  Thank as always for stopping by...


  1. So sorry about losing all that food in the freezer - you are much calmer about it than I would have been!
    You are certainly well prepared for Christmas and for going back to work - it's too bad that you aren't able to stay off until the New Year.
    I got two more Christmas presents this week and hope to get my cards by the end of the week. I don't have much to buy - mostly friends - but I do like to get cards mailed off to overseas friends and family.

    1. I was not so clam when it happened, but I am over it now. The snow this morning is really making it feel like....Christmas is kids are bouncing off the walls : )

  2. Losing all the food in the freezer hurts. I have never lost everything all at once, but have lost all the food stored on the door when it was left open. What hurts me is my wasted time spent growing, weeding, harvesting, blanching and then bagging. I look at a bag of ruined okra and see all the work that went into getting it into the freezer. It is devastating. So sorry.
    Jeannie @ GetMeToTheCountry

    1. Thanks Jeannie. It was very frustrating - but we are moving right along now. I agree - it is the wasted time that is incredibly frustrating.