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Featured/ Frugal Tips/ Meal Planning

Keeping a Tight Grocery Budget

Earlier today I was interviewed on the CJME Morning News radio show here in Regina on how I am keeping my grocery budget in check despite rising food costs.  A study out of Dalhousie University is predicting that the average Canadian family will spend $420 more a year on groceries next year as food prices are expected to rise. $420 a year may not seem like much, but let me list all the discretionary fun things I bought this year for $420 that I would have to give up next year if the $420 had to go to food instead:

  • a pair of Ugg AND Sorel winter boots (I bought these online on Black Friday)
  • a Scotch advent calendar (I bought this for my husband on his birthday)
  • a Peg Perego car seat for my baby
  • a newborn photoshoot

 

Personally, I would rather try to be frugal where I can so that I can spend some of my hard earned money on fun things and enjoy life once in awhile.

To elaborate more on some of the tips that I shared on the radio and in the news article on how to control your grocery budget:

  • Meal planning – for the majority of us, the protein is the central focus of every meal so I recommend meal planning around what protein is on sale. Buying steaks when they are on sale and planning to have steak that week or freezing it to have steaks later is more economical than having a craving for steak one day and running out to the grocery store to buy the meat and all the fixings at full price.
  • Eliminating food waste – Meal plan to use up leftovers. There are so many times I’ve made a roast chicken for dinner one night and had a couple of drumsticks leftover that ended up sitting in the fridge for a week before I had to throw them out. Now, I meal plan for a couple meals in advance – if I’m making a roast chicken tonight, then I’m planning ahead that I’ll be making chicken caesar wraps or chicken salad sandwiches tomorrow using the leftovers.
  • Having a repertoire of “go to” recipes – Make note of what meals your family loves to assist with your meal planning. For example, if I see ground beef on sale I know I can make my shepherds pie or meatloaf.
  • Loyalty programs – Most of us are creatures of habit and usually shop at the same grocery store, so take advantage of whatever loyalty program your favourite grocery store has. Most grocery stores have some sort of points accumulation program that you can redeem for discounts off your bill. And most will also have loyalty cards and digital offers that track your spending and give you specific discounts for items that you purchase the most!

A little time and attention can help you save both time and money at the grocery store. I probably spend an hour every Thursday evening with the flyers for the coming week and plan my grocery shopping and meals. However, that one hour upfront saves me from wandering aimlessly through the store as I go with a detailed list and a plan of attack. Also, because of my careful planning, I only grocery shop once a week. I’m saving time as I rarely have to head to the store to pick up that one thing that I need right away. As for money, I used to spend $600-$700 a month on groceries. Thats just insane for a family of two adults! Ever since I started paying more attention to my grocery bill, meal planning and sticking to a cash grocery budget (no debit or credit for groceries), our grocery costs are now $500 a month. That’s a tangible $100-$200 that I’m saving!

I could talk about meal planning and frugal tips all day! If you have any questions or ideas to share, please leave me a comment, email me at culinarycents@gmail.com, or find me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (links to my social media accounts are on the top left corner of this site).

Here is the link to the article: http://cjme.com/article/1033101/new-regina-mom-uses-strict-budget-sacrifice-combat-concerning-food-prices

 

Frugal Tips/ Life

Free Baby Product Samples for New Mom’s!

I am currently on two weeks of holidays from work, and I specifically chose these two weeks in August for two reasons: 1) to watch non-stop Olympics all day and 2) to start organizing the nursery and getting ready for baby. I have 11-ish weeks to go before this baby arrives, and I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed with all the things that we need to purchase still. I mean, we all know about the big stuff, right? Like crib, changing table, car seat, stroller, etc. But there are so many little things as well – pacifiers, bottles, bath products, formula, wipes, diaper cream, etc. For the big ticket items, you can easily search online for product recommendations and friends and family are more than willing to share their favourite brands with you. But for the little items, how are you supposed to know what type of product your baby will like?

I guess the makers of baby products realize that there are a lot of options out there for the new mom, so I’ve found a few stores and brands that provide free samples to the new mom so you can try them out on your little one before you commit to a product. I’ve subscribed to probably half a dozen mailing lists and baby clubs over the past few months, and a couple of the free baby packages have arrived! I thought I would share with any mom’s-to-be who are reading my blog.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Products

One of the baby packages that I signed up for was the Johnson & Johnson take along pack.

Johnson's Baby Take Along Pack

To sign up for this package, you just need to go to www.healthyessentials.ca and sign up. Once you’ve signed up, click on the link to update your profile. On that page, there will be a question about whether or not someone in your household is expecting a baby. Answer the questions and update your profile. A few weeks later, you will receive a coupon in the mail for one free Johnson’s Baby Take Along Pack. I took my coupon into Shopper’s Drug Mart, found the Johnson’s Baby Take Along Pack in the baby aisle (retail value of $6.99), took it up to the cashier with the coupon, and I got it for free! The contents of the Take Along Pack include baby wash, baby lotion, baby shampoo, baby powder, and Penaten diaper cream.

Johnson's Baby Products

London Drugs

If you sign up for the London Drugs newsletter, you can get a free Welcome Baby Package (retail value of $9.99).  Just go to www.londondrugs.com , and sign up for the Welcome Baby Package. A coupon will be emailed to you, and you just take that coupon to the Customer Service desk at any London Drugs and redeem for your Welcome Baby Package.

London Drugs Welcome Baby Package

The contents of the package include: Aleva Naturals baby wipes, nursing pads, Lanolin cream, diaper cream, a Mother’s Milk tea bag, a package of Kleenex, an Almay lipstick, and various coupons for baby products at London Drugs.

London Drugs Welcome Baby Products

I have so much to do and buy over the next two weeks, but I am loving these free samples! I can’t remember all of the baby clubs and mailing lists I’ve signed up for over the past few months, but I will keep everyone updated as the products arrive. Hey, wait a minute! This post has nothing to do with food or groceries – does this make me a mommy blogger now?! 🙂

Frugal Tips

My Favourite Couponing App Ever – Checkout51!

If you’ve known me for any length of time, then chances are good that you’ve heard me rave about the app Checkout51.

Checkout51 is an online couponing app that allows you to claim cashback on certain purchases. Every Thursday, Checkout51 is updated with a new list of offers. If you purchase any of the items that are on the list of offers that week, you just need to upload your receipt by taking a picture of it, and the specified cashback amount is added to your account. You need to upload your receipt for that week before midnight on Wednesday, because once the next week’s list of offers is out, you can’t claim an old receipt from last week anymore. Once you hit $20 in your account, you can cash out and they mail you a cheque!

I have the app on my iPhone but I think it’s available for Androids as well.

Now I can already anticipate some of your questions and doubts:

The offers are probably for things that I wouldn’t normally buy in the first place. 

Not true! Checkout51’s list of offers include a lot of commonly used household items as well as food products. You can go online at www.checkout51.com and see what the current offers are right now.  But as an example, I’ll show you the offers that I took advantage of this week.

Checkout51 offers

 

It’s just a scam. As if they would send you a cheque that easily. 

They absolutely send you a cheque that easily. Here is my cheque for $28 that I received the other day.

Checkout51 cheque

I received this cheque in the mail within two weeks of me cashing out. Sadly, I did not do anything exciting with the money. I went for a walk at lunch, cashed the cheque at the bank, and then bought myself a bottle of prenatal vitamins as I had just run out the night before.

It’s not worth my time. 

Taking a picture of your receipt and uploading it to Checkout51 takes less than a minute, I promise. I often snap a picture of my receipt while sitting in the parking lot of the store before driving away.

Since joining Checkout51 about two years ago, I’ve earned $223! That’s nothing to sneeze at!

Checkout51 Total Earned

Unless otherwise specified, you can combine your use of Checkout51 with paper coupons as well. Just a couple of weeks ago, I bought a bag of dishwashing tabs at Walmart for $4.94. I had a $3 off coupon and a $1 cashback on Checkout51, so the bag of 20 dishwashing tabs cost me $0.94! I was very excited about this, as evidenced by the text to my husband.

Checkout 51 text

 

He’s usually not that excited about my couponing, I think he was being sarcastic.

At the risk of sounding dorky, I will admit that I am excited every Thursday morning to open my Checkout51 app to see what the new offers are. Sometimes I even check the app first thing in the morning before I roll out of bed.

Does anyone else love this app as much as I do? If you’re not using it, what are you waiting for? Download the app from the App Store and give it a try. I’d love to hear about the deals that you get too!

(And no, this is not a sponsored post. I just love Checkout51 that much!)