Archive for the ‘Budget Tips’ Category

Time to start anew

Ok, so after starting a new job, falling in love with my Blackberry only to have two break in the first year, I have upgraded to an IPhone 4 and, yes I am in love.

So the question remains, can I blog more frequently now that I have this amazing tool?

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The beauty of No-Recipe Recipies

Nothing is more chaotic than real life, take mine for instance. Starting a small business is crazy, so much of your time is eaten up by one aspect of the business or another; while I’m not complaining (having work is better than no work), I’ve had to rework my life once more.

The key for me is flexibility, yes some days I want to get creative and build beautiful, tasty meals from one of my cook books, however the reality is that sometimes I don’t have the time to think that far ahead. In times such as this, I fall back on the no-recipe recipies, to make fast, affordable meals that don’t stress me out.

Last night while battling the computer gods, I decided on grilled chicken ceasar sandwiches. By grilling the SuperStore no-name Chicken breasts on my new grill, and adding cesar dressing, parmesan and grilled onions with a side of asparagus cooked in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan, I was able to eat a tasty, some what healthy meal in under 30 minutes.

If anything, not having a recipe inspires me to be creative. So the next time you’re strapped for time and don’t know what to cook, open up your pantry and experiment with what you have inside. It doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive or time consuming, you just have to use your imagination.

The Art of Shopping

Navigating the Grocery Jungle

I’m probably one of a few women who dislikes shopping. While I enjoy new things, I’m too overwhelmed by the shopping experience. I don’t enjoy crowds; and because I am cautious with my money I like to take my time, making me a self-conscious shopper.

So I created some rules for successful grocery shopping. What makes a successful grocery trip? If I leave the store in a relatively short period of time, not ready to tear my hair out, within or under budget, without forgetting a critical item, I consider myself successful.

Rule 1: The early bird survives the experience.

Early mornings are my favourite time to shop. Any time before 9am you should have shorter line-ups, a quieter store, fully stocked shelves, and none of those people who suddenly stop in front of you expecting that you can see their break lights.

Rule 2: Preparation = Success

As with most things in life it’s always best to go prepared. My shopping list is written in a purse sized, spiral bound note-book which is easy to carry and sturdy enough to write on. I have my list on one side and an adding column on the other and a mechanical pencil. Without a list you run the risk of forgetting something or overspending, it is also handy to have on hand for comparison shopping and your household budget.

Rule 3: Who says you would never use math in real life

When counting I round-up to the nearest dollar and add between $15-$30 to my total to account for the taxes. This just helps me to be sure that I am staying within my budget and won’t be surprised by the total when I get to the till. I also like to refer back to these when I’m planning my shopping list so I can budget accurately.

Rule 4: Don’t be rash, use cash

When budget shopping if you have a tendency to over spend, I recommend that you take what you want in cash, and leave all cards behind. With credit or debit cards it’s so easy to ‘forget’ your budget, and nothing is more embarrassing than to realize that you have gone overboard when you get to the till.

Rule 5: Eat first, shop later

Shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster, trust me. Instead of following your list, you will be tempted by the pre-manufactured dinners, junk food and boxed meals. These are filled with preservatives and while they may be great time savers they are not really worth the money. If you mix some low quality items like these with meats and fresh vegetables they aren’t so bad, but all in all I vote NO.

Rule 6: I used to hate to shop alone

I have a girlfriend who will not go shopping unless her boyfriend goes with her. She dislikes shopping and likes to have him for both company and someone to help her carry heavy items. I learned not to long ago that I prefer to shop alone, if my boyfriend comes with me he does nothing but push the cart and sigh, oh, and ask if we are done yet. I like to take my time, I like to follow my list and I like to be able to back track if I forget something without having to hear about it.

To all of those stressed out mom’s dealing with crying kids in the cereal aisle, buddy up with another mom and take turns shopping, you will be so much more relaxed, and at the end of the day that is so much more important than being Super-Mom.

Rule 7: One is the nicest number

While I like to support local economy and shop at local small businesses, I have to admit that one large shop will save you more time and money than a few or many small shops. Some times it will be cheaper to visit more than one store, but most often than not if you are shopping at multiple stores quality is your main concern.

If you like the one stop shop then I suggest the Real Canadian Superstore. While the produce and meats are not as high quality as Save On Foods or IGA, you will have more options, and a better price point on just about everything. Coupled with the fact that they deal with everything from clothing, health and beauty, home and garden, books, office and automotive supplies, grocery and pet items, you can’t find a better selection anywhere.

Rule 8: Grab you headphones let’s party!

Shopping doesn’t need to be a dreaded event, I like to take my mp3 player with me. I have an upbeat shopping play list that helps me to make this chore fun and relaxing. Give your self a break from the house. If you are prepared, shopping will be a breeze and you can go for a walk, listen to some music and enjoy some time out of the house.

Bon Voyage!

Necessity is the mother of invention

Like many out there, I live on a budget, and often from paycheck to paycheck. It’s easy to see that you can save money by cooking at home, but that often takes quite a bit of leg work and most of us don’t have that kind of time.

To be truly efficient in the kitchen one must be dedicated. I’ve realized over the years that in order to live a less stressful life, I need to be more organized. While I was working full-time I struggled with things like meal planning and shopping on a budget. To be consistent with that is difficult so I looked for short cuts.

Meal plans are great, and I love the idea of going onto a website and finding it all in one place, but then the question becomes where do I buy all of the stuff and how much is it going to cost? Sometimes they say ‘budget’, but that is only if you have a fully stocked cupboard. While many of them are directed to American Consumers and might not apply to us up here, I’ve yet to find one that I could use and that featured recipes my family would enjoy.

So I’ve decided to create my own meal plan, partly to help me stay organized, but also to offer anyone out there, a map through a really handy cook book. One that features real, simple, tasty food for those of us who might not have a huge food budget.

With my meal plan you will get a shopping list of all the things you should need. I might leave out small things like salt, ketchup etc, as those are items that we stock up on.

Take some time to go through the front section of the cook book regarding your pantry. Before a shop it’s a good idea to pull out or check out what you have so that you’re not spending money you don’t need to, but also to ensure that nothing can be thrown out and to remind yourself of what you need to use before it goes bad.

Every time I go into my fridge and see vegetables going bad or throwing out left overs I hear my mother say something about the starving children in Africa in the back of my mind. I hate to waste food, and if at all possible we use left overs some way, some how.

The shopping list contains most of the items you will need to create 3 meals per day for 3-4 people. The prices you will see are current prices from The Real Canadian Superstore. I find that this is the most efficient place for me to shop, the prices are near to the best you will find and for most of their products the quality is decent, if not quite good.

I did a poll once on my Facebook asking where people liked to shop. The consensus was that Superstore was great for dry, canned, hygiene and household products, while Save-on-Foods was cheaper for pharmacy items and had a better quality meat selection. Safeway had the best service etc, etc.

I choose to do the bulk of my shopping at Superstore to save myself both time and effort. If the meat is not the greatest quality, I’ll opt for a roast that I can season and shred for sandwiches or ground beef I can turn into a chili or stew. Use what’s available and in your price range and play with spices. See our Tools of the Trade section for more on spice racks.

The only exception to my Superstore purchases would be my vegetables. I like to support my local economy and find that most local, family run green grocers have a great selection of fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and very inexpensive. For $25.00 I can purchase the fruits and vegetables that we will need for a 14 day period. I would greatly suggest sourcing one out in your area, this will reduce your budget, support your town and give you great tasting seasonal greens for your meals.

So check out our first Meal Plan and Shopping list and get ready for Karen’s Shredded Pork Donairs.